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 2)

by Djinn





Seven Years Ago


She walked next to Liam in the food court and liked how he wanted to get the lay of the land before choosing his food. Surveillance, even if it was just to not miss your fav foods, was a good habit to have.


He dropped his arm over her shoulder as they walked. He didn't even seem aware he'd done it—certainly hadn't made a production of it. She'd hated when Chakotay had done it, but not him. Why? How was it different?


Maybe because Chakotay was always trying to steer her to her best and most evolved self, even when it came to food, and Liam just seemed to like having her close.


"Oooh," he said, stopping in front of the Tashavan restaurant. They had a few two-person tables inside and a long counter with the stools far too close to each other for singletons. "I've always wanted to try this food. Is this place good?"


"I don't know."


"Because it doesn't sound appealing enough to have ever gone in?"'


"Because they won't give tables to a single person and I hate sitting that close to people at a counter with my back to the food court."


"Don't they do take out?"


"Not to rangers." And the guy who owned the place was the one who made it clear she wasn't welcome. "Or maybe it was a Borg thing."


"Are you saying they were mean to you?"


She realized that was exactly what she was trying very hard not to say. What a big fierce ranger she was, cowed by some fucking food flingers.


He seemed capable of seeing past her walls though. "Oh, fuck that." And he headed them toward the place before she could say no. When the host came forward, he stared her down and then turned to Liam. "I'd be happy to sit you at the counter, sir. Your companion however..."


Liam said, "My guess is your food is iffy and your service sucks. Am I right?"


She bit back a laugh.


"Sir, I assure you, Tashavan cuisine is the finest in this quadrant."


"Well, yeah, the food on Tashava is. But anyone can open a Tashavan joint here and say it's good."


The host bristled.


"Honey, I have a feeling this is not a place we'd enjoy." He turned her and whispered, "So many other choices. So many."


As they walked away, she asked, "Why did you do that?"


"Because they were mean to you. And it's a known fact that Tashavans are a 'welcome one, welcome all" species. These ones are either the douches of their planet or not really Tashavan."


She leaned against him for a moment, then said, "I don't need you to fight my battles."


"I know. But it pissed me off." He went silent, then a few strides later asked, "Do you want me never to do that again?"


"I'm not saying that."


"What are you saying?"


She shrugged and suddenly felt overwhelmed. She was used to being alone here, finding what she wanted, eating it in the open if she felt like her enemy list was low, and then going back to her ship with the leftovers. She felt exposed, both physically to everyone around them and emotionally—afraid that he would figure out she'd kind of forgotten how to be with people she wasn't hunting. That she was semi-feral these days.


"So what's your favorite place here?" he asked, tightening his arm around her as if reading her mind and knowing she was about to run, about to leave him. He murmured, "Stay with me. I know it's hard to be vulnerable. But I really want to be with you here, eating food you love."


"I really want that too." She took a few long breaths. "I have several places I prefer. I get containers from each, eat what I want, and have the rest for leftovers."


"Lead on."


She chose the food, he carried the trays, except he ordered some extra stuff so she ended up with the third tray. At her look, he said, "I like to eat."


"I do too. But this is a lot of food."


"Well, we're going to be on the ship some of the time, right? Keeping up the ruse." He winked at her, then leaned down and kissed her—nothing serious, just a sweet little peck. "We'll get hungry."


"All true. I've never had these roll things you picked out. If they're horrible, that's on you."


"You should always try one new thing. But everything else can be old favorites. That's what my dad used to tell me. Of course then he left us and married someone else and moved to Luna to start a new family and I never saw him again, so not the best guide for life choices."


"How old were you?"


"Nine. Old enough to remember. Young enough to still really need my dad." He shook his head as if throwing off the memory of his father. "Fortunately my mom is amazing."


They found seating that didn't make her feel too exposed and then settled in. The rolls weren't good. She felt vindicated and he said, "Yeah, those are going in the trash. But not everything new can be a winner."


She thought but didn't say that he sure seemed to be. Jesus, how lonely was she that he was worming his way in this fast?


"Mmm, this stuff though..." He held out his fork and she took the meat delicately.


"That's probably my favorite of everything we ordered." Eventually she'd dish some up but right now she was just enjoying having someone across the table from her. Someone who wasn't another ranger or a client who was paying her.


She kept her guard up for trouble even though she was having a fun time with him, and assessed him, so open to her but there were times people got too close to him and she saw a reaction—but couldn't tell if it was due to his trauma or if he naturally watched his back.


She stopped eating way before she normally would have and he stopped too.


"Is something wrong with the food, or do you not want to get full for a nicer reason?" His smile was easy, unthreatening—and sexily hopeful.


"The latter. Unless you prefer food to sex?"


"Maybe if I were starving." He laughed at her expression. "Oh, you mean right this instance. No, sex definitely wins. I'd do a little dance but then you wouldn't let me back on the ship."


She thought she probably would, but didn't want to encourage dancing, so just gave him a stern look.


"Right. No dancing like a big doofus. Okay then, let's pack this up and get back to the ship."


She laughed at his efficiency. He handed her the tray with the rolls and said, "You may toss these and say 'I told him so' as you do it. It will give you a big happy, I know."


"You are such a goof."


"Dipshit from Chicago. Have you ever been there?"


"No. Earth isn't really my favorite place."


"Sad. Chicago's the best."


They recycled their trays and flatware, tossed the soiled items and food into the reclaimer, and headed back to the ship, with enough food for the next few days.


He put it in the stasis units as she set all the appropriate alarms for when she was asleep on the ship.


He turned to her and his face was serious. "If I was out of line being all protective, I'm sorry. Sometimes I act before I think."


"Nobody gets protective of me out here. It's a nice feeling."


"That's a crime. Someone should be looking out for you. Always." He smoothed back her hair, then kissed her, a light kiss that turned deeper, hungrier as they went. She pushed him to the bed—to her bed—and began to take his clothes off as he returned the favor.


"I really like you," she said as she pushed him back and climbed on top of him.


"I really like you too," he said between kisses, between pulling her down and nipping her neck and shoulders, between using those amazing hands of his to make her crazy.


When they finally lay sated, she realized her personal communicator was beeping with the message sound. She pulled it over and lay against him as she played the message that had come in while they'd been otherwise occupied.


It was Riyala. A woman she paid to try to find digital traces of Bjayzl. A woman who over time had become a friend.


"Ooh, pretty," he said. "Do I have a rival?"


"No." Then she realized what she'd said and glared at him.


"Can't take it back."


She hit play and Riyala was her normal effervescent self. "Sev, I may have found her. Give me a few more days and I'll know for sure. We'll celebrate. You're buying. Talk soon." Then the connection stopped.


This news made the night perfect.


"The woman on the wall? That's who she's talking about?"


She laughed and nodded. "I've never been this close. In almost ten years."


"That's a lot of your life to give to her."


She pulled back. "You found the booby trap. She planted that recently. I'm not the only one giving this thing oxygen. But the idea that it could actually be over..." She smiled. "I know this isn't really your thing, but trust me. Finding her would change everything for me."


"Then I guess I'm a big fan of that." He pulled her closer and stifled a huge yawn. "Because I'm a big fan of you."


She thought the news would make her wired the way it used to, but he was rubbing her arm and she curled herself into him and fell right to sleep.




Two Years Ago


The ship was bucking and he worked feverishly with Hansen while Ohk tried to get Olawn breathing again. Several junior engineers had also taken hits from the overloading panel but they were just shaken up.


He barely had to think about what instrument he needed and Hansen had it in his hand, or sitting for him on the floor if she was working on one of the arcing circuits too.


"Ohk, tell me she's okay."


"Just give me a minute, sir, and I will."


He glanced back and Hansen said, "Give her a minute, Liam."


"Fine." He went back to the circuit, assessed where she was on the thing she was doing and waved in a junior engineer—a new ensign, just out of the Academy. "Okay, you're going to help me. Don't touch anything I don't specifically tell you to touch. Don't reach in to help me unless I tell you to. And if Hansen needs something, help her too. You ready?"


She nodded.


"Good. Okay right here, press down but do not, not, not get near the blue wire."


She did and he started to work.


"Arcing," Hansen said suddenly, and he was happy to see the ensign yank her hand out at the same time he and Hansen did. "What's your name, Ensign?"




"Welcome to Titan." He grinned.


She grinned back in the open way of her species.


"What do we do with an arcing circuit?" He sang it to her like a sea shanty.


"Cut the power to it," she sang with a lovely lilt.


"What if we can't cut the power to it?" Hansen did not sing her part and he glared. She rolled her eyes.


"Party pooper," he said.


To'ha'vo grinned then said, "If you can't shut it down, turn it down?"


"Ooh, someone was paying attention in class that day." He nodded for her to put her finger back where it had been, saw Hansen put hers on the same place for the circuit she was working on and quickly made the adjustments between the two. The arcing stopped. "Fingers off."


He had his tool free at the same time as they yanked back their fingers. They all waited to see if the arcing would begin again. When the circuits appeared stable, he took a deep breath and said, "Ohk, status of my chief engineer?"


"Alive. Stable. And she says she's sick of that brand of panel."


"Beauty of the lowest bidder: shitty workmanship is ensured and we will never be out of a job. We're good here. Whoever needs treatment, get to sickbay."


He turned back to the panel. "All right. Who's ready to see what's really wrong with this thing?"


To'ha'vo raised her hand.


"That might have been a rhetorical question, Ensign," Hansen said gently. "It's very hard to tell with him."


"Don't listen to her. I love your enthusiasm." He pushed aside some wires and said, "Hold those back, Hansen."


She did, using the rubber gripper.


"Now," he said to To'ha'vo, "what do you see?"


"I think it's more what I don't see. Shouldn't there be a capacitor?"


He took another look past Hansen's hands and realized she was right. "Well fuck me. There should be. It's not what's causing this. But there damn well should be."


"I'll get it." Hansen was off.


"You're impressing me, Ensign. What else do you see?"


She took her time, didn't seem inclined to jump in with an answer just because she was getting nervous with him waiting. "What is this?" she asked, pointing to what was, indeed, the problem area.


"What say we find out?" Then he whispered to her, "Good call. I think you're going to like it here."






Seven sat next to Liam once he was comfortably settled on the floor, and they both stared at the dead changeling. The lights dimmed some more and he laughed and said, "Never let it be said I don't take you nice places."


She loved hearing his laugh, moved a little closer, and he sighed and said, "Fuck, Hansen. What a goddamned mess, huh?"


"It really is. I won't lie, though. The worst thing was being locked away from you. I hit your door panel and it was a shock when it didn't open even though I saw you take my access off."


"Is that why you sat on the chime?"


"I needed you. And you know I don't like to take 'No' for an answer." She snuggled in closer to him. "We could use some of that cannabis about now."


He laughed and then moaned. "Things still hurt."


"I'm sorry. Is this hurting?" She snaked her arm over his chest very carefully.


"No, it feels good." He sighed and rested his head against hers. "I hated how formal we were, when we were finally working together again, to find the changeling. We work together so well."


"I hated it too."


"I didn't hate how you took out that changeling."


"No one kills you but me."


He laughed hard then said, "God damn it, Hansen. It hurts to laugh."


"Sorry." She kissed his cheek.


"What's a little pain during possibly our last minutes? What do you think the odds are of this plan working and the engines recharging and us getting out of here?"


"I don't know." She hated how tentative she sounded.


He must have too, because he turned her to him and kissed her, slowly, tenderly, as sweetly as he ever had. "I will love you till the day I die, but I still may put you up for court martial."


She knew he wasn't going to. He was just saying that to get her back up so she wasn't morose in what might be their last minutes together.


So she played along. "I know. I'll love you from the stockade. Maybe you can visit."


He laughed. "Bring you a file in a pie."




"It made more sense when cells had metal bars and not force fields."


"Ah." She went in for another kiss, and it was so nice that he let her and she could just lose herself in him for a few minutes. "If I die here, with you, that's okay with me."


"Same. But I don't want you to die. You're just...you got such a late start at this whole being human thing."


"I really did." She chuckled softly. "Only you would say that."


"If something happens to me, be happy."


"Stop it."


"I mean it, if—"


She kissed him again to shut him up. Then she grabbed his face and shook him very gently. "Nothing is going to happen to you."


"Or you."


"Or me. Court martial or not, we leave this ship together."


"We can't promise that."


The air was getting thin and they were using it up arguing. So she sighed and went back to kissing him. They'd be found like the couple in Pompeii. Dead but together forever.


He didn't seem to mind, just kept kissing her.


"Warning, life support is offline," sounded and he sighed and shook his head and made sure she was looking right at him before saying, "I love you, Seven."


"Thank you." She could feel the tears falling as it got harder to breath. "I love you, Liam. So much. I wouldn't trade the last two years for anything."


His eyes were very gentle as he nodded, clearly trying not to use up oxygen.


Suddenly the lights came on, and she laughed and he grinned as she said, "We did it."


"I guess we did."


She helped him up, got his cane, and then pulled him to her. "Say my name again."


"You know I'm not going to. I thought we were dying. I thought I owed you that much. But we're not dead so..."


"God damn you're annoying."


"I know. I learned it from you." He grinned and kissed her roughly this time. "Let's go up and see what they did to our bridge."


She found the space babies beautiful, but found the fact that he was still here, looking over at her, even more beautiful.


He moved closer. "These space squids making you happy?"


"I could be happier."


"Yeah, me too. Let's go."


No one questioned her helping her wounded captain back to his quarters. But once she got him into them and onto the bed, and saw how much pain he was in, she said, "We didn't think this through."


"Hypo's in the nightstand drawer. Ten ccs."


She found the hypo, set the amount, and let it go into his neck.


"Oh, yeah, that's better."


"Still, I'm not crawling on top of you and you're not in any shape to be crawling on top of me."


"I think I have proven my fingers still work. You used up all our air in there talking so your mouth still works." He laughed at her expression. "You did. We were running out of air and you still needed the last word. Many of them."




"So. If you want to, Miss Chatterbox. I'm game."


She laughed. "God, you're a dick."


"Yeah, but I'm your dick."


"This changes nothing about my potential court martial, I suppose?"


"What kind of officer would I be if I let a blowjob change my mind?" He smiled as she crawled onto her side of the bed and began to undo his pants. "No, I get to do you first."


"You're the captain." She switched to undoing her own uniform.


"Yeah, right." He laughed as she found a way to lie close enough for him to do what he wanted without straining anything. "Tell that to some sucker who doesn't know you, Captain Hansen."


She was writhing before she could get out a smart-ass retort. There was a point, when he'd been so hurt by what she'd done, when things looked so grim, that she hadn't thought they'd ever do this again.


It felt like heaven that they were.


She tried not to scratch him as she arched and cried out. Then she lay still, breathing hard before starting to roll toward him.


He pushed her back. "We've got time. Catch your breath. Let me just look at you."


"Same old me."


"Yeah, but mine. Nothing but goddamned trouble. But mine."


"Of that there is no doubt."






Seven Years Ago


He woke up in her bed with her curled against him. It was a rare chance to really look at her without her getting uncomfortable, and he was struck by how innocent she looked when she slept.


He didn't think she really belonged out here. But then he wanted to think that because he wanted to tell her to forget about being a ranger, that there were other options. He could think of several, including his mom's company.


It was stupid and it was rushed and it was so unlike him. He took a long time to fall even a little, let alone this hard—especially after Laurel. They'd been engaged for so long and never able to pull the trigger even though on paper they were perfect. Their break-up had hurt and it had been a rocky one, full of reconciliations and then more goodbyes. Until the last one stuck.


These days he usually just found people who were looking for the same thing he was: no ties, no worries, just a little fun for a night or two.


But this felt so different.


And with a fucking ex-Borg. Life was laughing at him.


She rolled into him, making sleepy morning noises that he found utterly charming. He ran his nails lightly down her back, the way she loved, and her sleepy noises turned to happy moans.


"Good morning."


"Good morning." She pulled away enough to lift her lips to him, to kiss him sweetly, as she ran her hand through the hair on the nape of his neck, the way he loved.


This was new too. Kissing as much as they did. Usually he and his partner of the moment skipped that and got right into the sex. But with her it was a delight to spend time doing nothing more than acting like a teenager with his first girlfriend.


"Do you trust me?" she whispered when they finally eased away from each other.


"I do."


"There are some beautiful places out here in the far reaches that no one from Starfleet ever sees. I can show you."


"Yes." He snuggled into her. He loved this idea but honestly he was so into her that if she told him she wanted to show him the most dangerous cesspools, he'd have been in. Way over his head, but in. "Do we have to leave right this minute though?"


Her grin was beautiful. "Nope." She kissed her way down his chest. "What did you have in mind?" She was at his naval, looking up at him with a gloriously impish smile and he said, "I leave that to you. You're very creative."


She rolled away, leaving him—especially certain parts of him bereft. "Well if you want me to be creative, I'll need some quiet time to plot something out—"


Then she giggled, actually fucking giggled, as he said, "Come here, you," and pulled her on top of him. "Forget creative. Be dull. Just fuck me."


She laughed and leaned down, kissing him, her smile light and happy and he thought probably an expression those patrons in the bar where they first met would have bet money she couldn't make.


He loved that she was showing him this side of her.


"I am going to take this slow, though." Her voice was low and sultry.


"You will never hear me complain about that." He met her eyes, didn't look away and neither did she, and he was pretty sure that this was not her style just as it wasn't usually his. Long, soulful glances while inside a partner weren't part of his repertoire but with her, it felt essential.


But then he felt it starting, the climb to heaven and he said, "Oh, Baby, slow's not working—or it is but I'm going to... Let me help you." And he found her with his fingers—fingers she'd said last night she was going to have bronzed, until he'd pointed out that bronzing them would ruin the mobility, and she'd laughed and said most men would just take the compliment.


And then she'd said but he wasn't most men.


And that was the greatest thing she could have said.


And now he was using his non-bronzed fingers to take her over the cliff, her cries free and wild as he couldn't hold back anymore, finally closing his eyes as he came because there was no way to keep them open when he was overwhelmed with physical sensation—and so much emotion.


She stretched out over him, nuzzling his neck, and said, "Good morning to us."


"Fuck, yeah."


He could feel her shaking as she laughed.


"Did you want something a little less uncouth? Like"—he put on a very spiffy British accent—"'Oh, my, yes, that was quite splendid.'"


She was still laughing. "No, I just want you. And 'Fuck, yeah' was, I think, vintage you." She rose enough to see his face. "How did you hear about me? Know where to find me?"


"You're just asking that now?"


"Yeah. Because I'm gonna send whoever it was some flowers."


"Awww. That's so sweet." He smoothed back her hair. "It was one of the ten. They were obsessed with you, getting free, coming back with Voyager. When I said I was going to try to find Neumann, they all thought you'd be the only ranger I could really trust."


"An ex-Borg." She sounded so surprised.


"We're traumatized, but we can see the difference between you and the Borg in general—plus you went through much worse than we did. We don't hate you."


"I wish others felt that way." She gave him a quick kiss then urged him out of bed. "I need coffee." She padded naked into the galley, he could just see her moving around.


"I need a shower," he said.


"We both do."


"Are you saying I should wait for you so we can take one together?"


She laughed. "You have seen the size of my shower, right?"


"Good point."


"Go now. I'll shower when you're done." She brought him in a cup of coffee. "While you're in there, I'm going to figure out where I want to take you." She looked so excited about that.


It made him question how such a sweet woman could live this life...and do it so well but utterly alone.




Two Years Ago


Seven noticed Esmar going very still at her station so she nudged Liam and pointed with her chin.


"Everything all right there, Esmar?"


"We're being hailed. By the Viceroy. They're asking to transfer a passenger."


"Who's the passenger?" Seven asked. That ship only ferried VIPs around and they were a pain in the ass so this news was as non thrilling to her as it was to Esmar.


"Admiral Janeway, sirs."


Well, fuck.


Liam stood and urged her up. "Tell the Viceroy we're ready to receive the admiral and we'll meet her in the transporter room. Mura, you have the conn."


As they walked, he said, "You saw her at Command, right? While you were in OCS?"


"Uh, no."


"Was that her doing or yours?"


She looked down. "Mine. She wanted to get together."


"Jesus, if she had to come all the way out here just to get you to talk to her..." He shook his head.


"Liam, it's complicated."


"Mmm hmm," he said as they turned into the transporter room.


Kathryn was just stepping off the padd. "Liam Shaw, finally I get to see your ship in action."


"Kitty-cat," he said so low the transporter tech couldn't hear them. "Welcome aboard."


"You know I hate that name. Seven, don't call me that. Ever."


"I won't. And yes, he's great with using names we hate." She smiled a big fake smile at him.


He rolled his eyes. "Why don't you take the Admiral to her quarters, Commander. I'm sure you two have lots to catch up on. You really want a tour, Kathryn, or you just here for the blue steak?"


"The latter. But I won't say no to a tour if you really want to give me one."


"I'll let Hansen do it. See you at dinner, then." He pulled out his padd, hit a few keys, and said, "Guest room one, of course. Only the best for my mentor."


"It's good to be the queen." She grinned at him. Then she turned to Seven. "Lead on. And you, Shaw, get back up to your chair where you belong."


"Aye-aye, Admiral."


Seven was quiet in the corridor and Kathryn didn't force a conversation, but once they got to the guest quarters, she said, "Sit down, Commander."


"Oooh, rank. Scary." She walked to the view screen instead.


"God, you're annoying." She joined her at the view screen. "Should I assume you two are together?"


"Not if it hurts him."


"What if it hurts you?"


"I can survive anything. Proved that as a ranger."


"Running wasn't the answer. I would have found a way to get you in."


She glared at her. "They were going to allow you to resign, Kathryn. Over me? After all you did for us, I wasn't going to let that happen. Chakotay and I were imploding. I knew he wanted you—another reason to clear out, give you two space to get to know each other again."


"My aren't you the saint?" She strode away, going to the replicator and ordering two cappuccinos. "I assume you still drink this?"


"I do."


She walked over and handed her the mug. "For the record, I don't mind if you and Liam are together. I think the world of him."


"Not a surprise."


"No. I guess not. But then you know me."


"I used to."


"Oh for God's sake, just say what's on your mind, Seven. This sniping is driving me crazy. What am I guilty of? Not coming out and dragging you away from the rangers?"


She looked down. "No. But that doesn't mean it wasn't hard. I was so alone out there."


"You chose that life. I'd have welcomed you back, found you a place."


And she imagined how much delight Bjayzl would have taken in destroying anyone close to her if she'd come back. "I had things to do. Monsters to chase."


"Icheb's murderer to execute." She took a deep breath. "Where does that side of you come from, Seven?"


She laughed, a bitter puff of air. "From you, Kathryn."


They held each other's eyes and Seven was ready to argue if Kathryn tried to deny this was her influence, but then she sighed.


"You grew up so fast." One side of her mouth went up, the sardonic smile that Seven actually loved the best.


"I know. I fucking suck."


"Your language's gotten worse hanging around with Liam." She reached out, laid her hand on her cheek. "Just tell me the two of you are happy."


"We are. I—I love him. I mean I've said that before about people. But this time it feels different."


"Explain Musiker to me then." She lifted an eyebrow.


"She and I came together during a difficult mission. Emotions were high. She's a wonderful person, a friend I'd die for. But we weren't meant to be in love."


"If you were ready for love, why not seek Liam out instead of turning to her? Do you know how upset he was when he came back from Risa after seeing you with her?"


"Do you know how upset I was when I saw that he was back with his former fiancée?"


"Oh so you were keeping track of him, even before you offed the wicked witch of the outer reaches."


She turned away. "Of course I was. And that fiancée was gorgeous."


"And she was temporary. Someone he could never make it work with before and wasn't going to make it work with after you, but she wanted to try. I think he was lonely and tired of waiting for you. And for the record, I'm relatively sure he'd prefer you to her any day. You're gorgeous too, Seven."


"No, I'm an ex Borg. I've been human—fully human. I know how differently I was treated."


She frowned, clearly not following.


"With Picard."


"Oh. God. I don't want to know. I'm just glad you're clear of him. He has his core group and then there's the rest of us."


"That's not true."


"Really? Did he call to congratulate you on this appointment?" Her face said she already knew the answer. "Probably doesn't even know—that's how much attention he pays. Until he needs something. People say I'm a user...they should meet him."


It was fruitless to argue this with Kathryn. But Picard was retired. How plugged in to the grapevine would he be?


She knew she was just giving him an out. Because he'd saved her when she was done with her mission, when Bjayzl was finally dead. And when Seven had nowhere to go because she knew by then that Liam was back—temporarily but she hadn't known that then or she would have stormed in and challenged Laurel to a duel—with a woman he looked happy with, that he once wanted to marry, might have again.


She'd known it when she beamed down to kill Bjayzl. She hadn't cared if she came back from that mission.


She still didn't know how a single disruptor hadn't hit her. The universe had a nasty sense of humor, apparently.


Or maybe not caring was the secret to survival. Grim and mildly horrifying. But probably also true.


"Now you've gone to a mental place I don't think I want you to be. Come back to the present." Kathryn's voice was soft, and it reminded Seven of the good times on Voyager and how well this woman really did know her. "I came out here specifically to see you, Seven. I miss you. Sit down and tell me about your ship."


She looked at her helplessly.


"Please sit. I want to hear everything. Starting with how Liam is as a captain—how did I do as a mentor?"


"You did great." She took a sip of her cappuccino and began to talk.






He was sitting in his chair contemplating what Ro was doing to Picard and Riker, when Hansen walked off the lift and came to sit next to him.


He smiled at her, which he could tell confused her. "Up to no good while you were not in your assigned seat?"




"Figures." He liked that he didn't even sound surprised. Showed growth on his part, he thought.


"Why am I walking around free when Picard and Riker are being held for questioning? Why are Ro and her security goons not even looking at me funny?"


"Oh, gosh, did I forget to put your name on the report?" He took a deep breath. "This is your first posting, and they used you, duped you. They're old, ready to go, but I'm not going to let them destroy your future."


"You're protecting me?"


"Yeah, well, seven years ago you were going to help me find my friend when you didn't have to. And I pay my debts." He turned so only she could hear. "Even if I weren't crazy in love with you, I'd do it."


She met his eyes with a soft smile.


"Plus, nobody's acting right. The security officers are being weird—even for security officers. I assume you stashed Jack somewhere?"




He laughed. "Dipshit. Yes or no?"


"Yes. Sort of. And you're really not as mad at me as you were?"


"I'm mad. And I'm hurt. And you will no doubt get to experience what that means over the next few weeks while I process what happened. But...it's over, so let's let it be over. And good riddance, to those two."


The lift door opened and Riker walked out.


Jesus, the man was like a bad case of athlete's foot. Just when you thought it was gone...


"Picard?" Hansen asked as she walked to him, and Shaw got up and followed because he was not letting her have alone time with them and being asked to do something stupid like spring Picard from holding or some other such bullshit.


"Being questioned." He glared at Shaw who gave him a neutral smile. Steal his ship and twist his woman's mind and see what you get—the fucking brig, that's what. If the brig were not a brig but the bridge, and if Riker appeared to be in any actual trouble, which he really didn't. Like he'd said—something was way off.


A little while later Picard showed up.


Well, this was disappointing. Starfleet justice was actually fucking blind. "Fastest court-martial I've ever seen."


Picard looked panicked—for him. He wasn't exactly an emotional free-for-all when it came to facial expressions. "Captain Shaw, you must listen carefully. We must run."


"Run?" It was clear even Hansen thought this was bullshit. Hey, they were making progress. "From what?"


"I don't have time to explain. But Starfleet is compromised and so is that ship."


This time even Riker looked at him like he was nuts. Maybe this day was looking up?


Picard continued and the panic was gone, now he seemed certain. "It's all so much worse than we thought."


Certain like a crazy man. This ended now. "Security."


"Belay that." Riker said.


"Don't you dare." Although he could understand the security officers being confused. The dance card for who was in command kept changing.


"Captain, please. You must trust me." Something in Picard's voice shook him, something that hadn't been there before. A look, a shared spark of trust, he didn't know. God damn it, was he falling prey to Picard's mind-fuckery, now?


Seven moved over to Esmar's station, sat with a sigh, and met his eyes. "Your call," she mouthed.


He closed his eyes.


Then she said, "Captain, we're being hailed."


"On screen."


It was Commander Ro. In her shuttle from the looks of it.


"Ro," Riker asked, "are you all right?


Shaw felt his stomach somersault as he saw the resignation in her eyes—he'd seen the same thing on those that were left behind on the Constance. "They know. My security team was just beamed off. They planted an explosive on my shuttle."


"Beam her out of there, now," Riker ordered.


Hansen tried, and she was good with a transporter. If it could be done, she'd do it. "There's some kind of inhibitor on the shuttle blocking her signal. If she gets closer, we might be able to get a lock on her."


"Ro, turn back toward the Titan. We need you to get closer." Riker had the voice of someone losing a friend, and Shaw swallowed hard. What the ever-loving hell was going on?


For a moment Ro seemed frozen. "I don't have time to disarm it."


La Forge said, "Sir, she's moving away from us."


"Ro, what are you doing?" The pain in Picard's voice was tangible.


"Jean-Luc, it's up to you now. You finish what I started."


Hansen looked back at them. "She's heading for the Intrepid's port nacelle."


"Ro, don't do this."


She was resolute; Shaw could see that, respect that. He hoped if he was ever in her position, he'd do the same, be as calm. "I'm giving you what you gave me all those years ago. A fighting chance."


"Ro, I... I do see you. Everything. Forgive me. It's only now. Ro?" Picard sounded beyond broken hearted.


And then the connection cut out as the screen switched to an exterior shot that lit up as she piloted her shuttle near enough to her ship to have the explosion hurt it too. What the fuck?


"Intrepid is raising shields," Mura said. "They're arming torpedoes."


Hansen turned to them. "We're being ordered to surrender."


"Surrender?" He knew he sounded incredulous. He didn't care. What the fucking fuck was wrong with everyone? "Why?"


"Don't you get it?" Riker asked, in a very tired but knowing voice. "We're being framed for what just happened. By the Changelings masquerading as officers aboard that ship."


The other ship rose up, locked on.


He honestly didn't know what to do. He didn't have a safety plan for his own people shooting him out of the sky. There were no regs for this—except for the one where all of Starfleet was compromised. Shit—was all of Starfleet really compromised?


Riker broke his trance. "Shaw. We need to run, now. "


"I can't turn this entire crew into fugitives."


"Most of our crew was transported onto that ship," Seven said. "You engage with it, and you engage them."


She thought he was thinking of engagement? That was what she would do, not him.


Picard walked toward him. "If we don't run, Ro will have died for nothing. And many more will follow."


"Captain Shaw... Liam... if you still can't trust us, fine." Riker actually sounded reasonable. "At least trust your own eyes."


There was no other call. And he made it. And he made it with the command presence and authority his people on his ship—few as they were at this point—would need from him. "Red alert. La Forge, get us out of here the second the warp core comes back on line."


He hit the all-ship announcement button. "Battle stations. Head to your nearest designated post and prepare for further instructions. All nonessential personnel, return to quarters. Starfleet has been compromised. Emergency order 7-6-2 alpha now in effect."


He took a deep breath, wished Hansen were sitting next to him instead of having the relics by his side. "Helm, hard to port. Evasive maneuvers."


Hansen said in a way calmer voice than he would have managed on his first posting if a fellow ship was about to fire on his ship, "The Intrepid is giving us one final warning.


"Warp drive on line in ten seconds," La Forge said.


"Intrepid targeting," Mura said. "Torpedo bays hot."


"We've got to go." Riker sounded panicked.


"Warp core on line." La Forge sounded fine; Shaw was so proud of her.


He kept his voice calm, so she'd know he was with her. "Let's get out of here."


And she got them away before the torpedos could reach them.


Riker said into the silence, "They're coming for us."


"Yeah. But who, exactly?" How bad was this mess they were in?


Trust Riker to answer. "Everyone."


Picard got up and walked into the ready room, as the doors closed behind him, Hansen walked over and took his place.


"It's going to take me a moment to catch up to what we just did," Shaw murmured.


"I'll go see if he's okay." Riker got up and went into the ready room too.


Shaw sat very still, then felt Hansen's hand on his and he opened his fingers and linked them with hers. He didn't care if anyone saw them like this. "Fucking A, Babe."


He heard her sniff and looked over at her. "Hey," he said, brushing a tear off her cheek. "Did you know Ro Laren?"


"No. I'm just proud of you. Of Mura and Sidney. Maybe of myself. I don't know what's happening either."


"Are you scared?"


She frowned. "We're alone and we're outgunned and we don't have a plan."


"That was pretty much business as usual for you, right? In the rangers." He grinned and squeezed her hand. "Not afraid then?"


"No. At least we're on the run together. Would suck to be on different sides."


He checked the others, and Mura and La Forge were looking at their screens so he kissed her quickly and then stole another one. "That it would."






Seven Years Ago


The climb to the crater wasn't difficult but it was long and Seven listened for signs that Liam needed to stop as she used her flashlight to show the path.


Fortunately he was in great shape and followed along easily in the darkness. They'd gotten up super early to make this hike and when they reached the top of the path, there was no one else there and still plenty of time to find the perfect spot.


The planet wasn't quiet, lots of night creatures calling out even though night was about to give way to day. She and Liam stood facing where this world's sun would come up, her leaning against him, him with his arms around her, his chin on her shoulder.


This was the third place she'd taken him. First they'd gone to the falls on Maraven IV and swum in the crystal clear mountain lakes. The next day they'd eaten in the gemstone caves of Gamma Nu, feasting on some of the best blue steak she'd ever had in a private cave off the main area that was filled with the blue-grey stones this world was famous for. They'd caught the candlelight in the most amazing way, the brilliance making it seem like they were eating inside a blue diamond.


And today, Jura.


His padd went off and he said, "How much time do we have? It's my mom."


"About ten minutes. Do you think she'd like this?"


"Standing in the dark listening to this world's version of frogs?" He laughed. "Yeah, probably." He answered, "Hey, Ma. Say hi to Hans—Seven." He dialed down the brilliance on the screen once she'd waved to his mother.


"What are you two doing? Because if you answered the phone in the middle of...well, you know, then you're a dummy."


"I'm not a dummy. Also we're fully clothed."


"I'm well aware things can happen when you're fully clothed, Liam Daniel."


"Liam Daniel," Seven said with a smirk, remembering how her parents let her know she was in trouble by calling her Annika Maja. "Oh man, you got the middle name treatment. That's bad, right?" He nodded and she laughed, then said to his mom, "We're on Jura."


"Oh, are you there for the Naurukeets?"


Seven was surprised she'd heard of them when Liam hadn't. "Yes. You want to stay on and listen? Not sure how much will translate but if you turn up your volume all the way...?" She checked the time on her padd. "About six minutes till they do their thing."


"What is their thing, exactly?" he asked.


"I'm not telling you. Patient he is not," she said to his mom.


"Oh, tell me about that. And he made the hike all right?"


"I'm in great shape, Mom. But hey, thanks for making me look bad in front of my girl." The light of the padd lit up his frown. "Are you going to kill me for calling you that?"


"No. I'll let it slide."


"She's a keeper, Liam. Letting your bullshit slide already."


"Ma, stop."


"Fine. Well, I'm glad he got up the path without walking into a nest of those Nabilla spiders."


"Spiders?" he said. "There are nests of spiders here?"


"We passed three of them, "Seven said. "I didn't think you needed to know."


"Good call, honey. Liam's not the most outdoorsy boy. Unless an engine is outdoors and then watch him go."


Seven grinned.


Liam glared at her. "You should talk? You spent how many years in a metal cube?"


She conceded his point. "And then in Voyager but at least there was the holodeck. I think that's why I look for these kind of places, why I keep coming back. Things I missed in my earlier years." She made an apologetic face. "Listen to me go on."


"It's nice," Liam and his mom both said together.


Seven heard the first crystalline peal and said, "They're starting now." She adjusted his hold on the padd to give his mom the best view of the sunrise as all around them what sounded like crystal bowls of varying frequency and intensity and pattern began to sound.


She closed her eyes and smiled as the sound went straight to her bones, filling her with both calm and a euphoria she'd never felt matched. She checked to make sure his mom's connection hadn't dropped. She was still there on the screen, listening, her eyes closed, a blissful smile on her face.


It lasted only about five minutes, the song giving way as the light grew stronger.


"Wow," Liam said softly, and she realized he was wiping his eyes. "They should bring trauma survivors here. That sound cuts through." He turned the padd and she saw his mother was crying too. "Ma, you okay?"


"Oh my is right. Seven, thank you."


"Are you all right, Admiral Shaw?"


"For fuck's sake call me Abigail." She wiped her eyes. "I feel like that sound opened me up and yanked out some shit I have not been dealing with."


"What kind of shit? Dad shit?" Liam sounded immediately protective.


"No, honey. Just life shit." She studied Seven. "You're not crying."


"Oh, believe me. I have been here many, many times and the first visits, I was a mess."


"I won't pry into why. Thank you for sharing that with me and now I'm going to let you two go. Liam, I was going to give you crap for extending your leave but I can see why you did it. Have a good time."


"By, Ma," he said and cut the connection. Then he turned to her. "Most people wouldn't be thrilled to share this moment with a guy's mom."


"Well, I'm not most people."


"That's for damn sure." He pulled her to him, hugging her tightly, then kissing her very gently. "The first time you came here. Was it after your son died?"


"Yeah. I was so busy hunting his killer I'd forgotten how to mourn. Almost pushed him out of the picture. The Naurukeets reminded me why I was chasing her in the first place, what I'd lost."


"But no tears this time?" He cocked his head at her, clearly trying to get a read on why he and his mother had been so moved and she was dry eyed.


"Liam, I'm happy." She smiled at him, half grin half laugh. "I can't even tell you the last time that was true."


"Oh, well, that's okay then." He dipped down the little bit of space to get to her lips again—she loved how well they fit together. Then he rested his cheek against hers and said, "In fact, that's perfect."




Two Years Ago


He lay in bed with her after a great dinner with Kathryn. They'd both been too full to make love but Hansen lay cuddled against him in a really relaxed way.


"You and Kathryn okay now?" he asked into the comfortable silence.




He waited for more but she wasn't giving it to him. Until finally she said, "She knows a part of you that I don't."


"Well that's because you weren't here." He tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice. "I haven't pressed, haven't wanted to ruin what's been so nice, but why didn't you come back for me? What did Raffi have that I didn't?" He hated how hurt he sounded.


"I was on Earth just before I found Bjayzl. I wanted to see you—from a distance, clearly, but I was just so lonely for you. And you were with Laurel."


"How did you know who she was?"


"I did some digging, found the engagement announcement in a Chicago paper from when you were young."


"She and I circled and circled the runway, and just could not land the ship." He studied her. "But you thought we were together?"


"You were kissing her when I saw you two. Passionately. That's not what someone does with a person who means nothing."


"Well..." He laughed. "On Risa it can be."


"You weren't on Risa. You were also holding her hand, looking at her the way you used to with me. You seemed happy. I was shattered but that's what I wanted for you. To be happy and safe."


He sighed and pulled her in.


She nuzzled into him as she continued, "And then a few months later I got my chance to get Bjayzl, and I met Raffi and I thought I'd lost my chance with you and she filled in the spaces that were so fucking empty. Until she didn't. Because as beautiful and loving and giving as she was, I'd been trying to fit a Raffi-shaped love into a Liam-shaped hole."


"I did the same thing with Laurel. We were always so comfortable with each other but it was friend comfortable. I tried to add the things you and I had. Deep things. Thought maybe I just hadn't tried hard enough with her, that I needed to be there for her the way I was with you, to show intent—be intentional. But with her, I couldn't be. Not for long. She's happily married now. That last time was what we both needed to really walk away for good."


"Kathryn said you were really hurting after Risa, seeing me and Raffi."


"Yeah, when I told you about that I left out the part where I came home early. Got really drunk with her and Chakotay at their place, poured my sorrows out, which must have been very strange for him since he dated you too." He laughed softly. "Kathryn heard a lot of my pain. And she had her own around you."


"I know. Raffi, when things were really going downhill, once called me a pain magnet. Like life just wasn't right for me if I wasn't adding drama and hurt." She kissed his cheek lovingly. "I am sorry for the time we lost."


"Life happens the way it happens. That's what my therapist always tried to tell me after Wolf 359. That all the other decisions, other directions, I could have taken, those were for some other Liam Shaw. And who knows if those were better journeys or not than the one I was on. 'Live the life track you're on,' was one of his favorite sayings."


"I like that. And I love that my life track is with you now. I'm happy, Liam. And I want to make you happy."


"You do. You really do."






It was strange for Seven to see Raffi, made more awkward when Raffi immediately clocked that something was off beyond the crazy situation they were in.


Seven tried not to read hope in Raffi's eyes. She tried and failed. She knew she wasn't giving much back and as soon as she could, she scooted away, back to Liam, sitting in the chair next to him and saying, "Raffi's here."


"Oh, yeah, that's perfect. Let's add an ex. Should I call up Laurel?"


"Don't be stupid. You're better at this than I am. Can you...make it clear to her that I'm with you while leaving everyone else in the dark?"


"Sadly, yes, I probably can. Wouldn't it be easier to just, oh I don't know, talk to her?"


"Don't be logical. It's annoying. And you know I'm as shitty at talking about my feelings as you are a shot."


"True that." He shook his head and murmured about arrested development and that she was lucky he was still crazy about her.


She rolled her eyes as she got up and followed the others into the ready room, him following behind her, telling Mura he had the conn.


They managed to get seats next to each other, at one point he had his hand on the back of her chair and she could feel how territorial it was.


She thought Raffi noticed it too.


As the briefing wound down and others started to get up and leave the room, Liam murmured, "Hold back. Let her come to us."


The room was nearly clear except for them and Worf and Raffi, and Worf was studying them, but then Raffi smiled up at him. "Give me a second to catch up with an old friend."


"As you wish." He left them alone, the door swooshing shut.


"Last I checked, Captain Shaw, you were not an old friend."


"Actually, I'm her old friend. Older even than you."


Seven felt Liam's arm shift from the back of her chair, to directly on her back.


Raffi seemed to be fixated on it. "Oh, my God. This is the guy you thought you saw that day at Command."


For his part Liam played dumb. "Not sure what you mean."


"Right. Of course not." She leaned in. "But you went and fell for By the Book Shaw so how exciting can it be?"


"It's true she did. They also call me Shaw the Boring."


Raffi gave him a mean smile. "And Stick Up His Asshaw."


"Oh, that's a good one. The last part is all one word, right?"


She ignored his question. "So I guess it's not as fun as it could be. Since you're so by the book." She nodded to his arm around Seven's back. "Territorial displays are great but when they aren't backed up by more..."


"You know what they say about assuming." His voice was even, yet also very possessive.


And then they had the mother of all stare downs, while Seven sat quietly, trying not to laugh nervously as it got more and more ridiculous.


Raffi finally blinked and turned to Seven. "I was hoping to catch up. I guess that idea's out."


"I guess so. You have your thing. We have a ship to run." She felt his leg against hers, supportive.


"But a bit of time before you have to run." His smile was again untroubled. "You're welcome to sit on the bridge and talk. I'll even make myself scarce."


"I've got a mission to plan with Worf. You two get back to making sure we don't fly into a star."


"We have a great crew that does that. We just kind of sit there. Next to each other. For hours." He made it sound very sexy.


Raffi didn't melt against his "sitting the chairs is like sex" assault. "Sounds dull. I've gotta go." And she turned on her heel and walked out, the doors whooshing shut behind her.


"Were we mean?" Seven asked softly, feeling like they were.


"We could have been meaner." He leaned back. "But you could also have just talked to her."


"That never goes well. I clam up and she goes the other way verbally."


"Fine. And look—we have the whole damn ready room to ourselves. Just like old times."


Before they could reach for each other, Picard and Riker came in. "If you don't mind, we'd like to have the room."


"My ready room is your ready room—apparently." He rolled his eyes at her and they went back to their chairs.


He sat for a while but jiggled his leg and then stood up in a rush. "I've got to go see what fresh hell L'Daren is putting my engines through. You okay here?"


"I'm fine. Go, I know you won't be satisfied till you check over his progress."


He didn't come back until the La Forges were ready to leave, and then he was the most adorable mess she'd ever seen him become as he pretty much melted in Geordi La Forge's presence.


She and Liam were falling back into their old patterns and it felt like the best times on the ship, the two of them working as one. Their working conversation terse but neither minded—it was their shorthand and it saved time, which saved lives.


The Daystrom team was beamed back and Seven felt a huge sense of relief that Raffi was all right. She knew her feelings toward her were complicated but she didn't want her hurt.


They bought a robot back with them.


But not Riker. Vadic had him.


"Shit," Liam said, sounding like he actually cared. She knew the soft core of him—the man she'd seen cry more than once—was one reason he'd built up the asshole exterior.


"It was a high risk endeavor," she said, trying to use logic to give comfort and knowing she was failing even as the words came out of her mouth. "Losses were to be expected."


"I know. But he was finally starting to grow on me."


She settled her hand over his. "I know. Me too."






Seven Years Ago


He lay in bed with Hansen sitting the other way, and he was giving her a foot massage as he read something Starfleet needed him to look at, even though he was on leave. She said she was going through files, checking statuses on things she'd worked before. Seeing if they were still open.


He suspected she was on the same two pages going back and forth so she could completely surrender to his hands.


He did give one hell of a foot massage.


Finally he finished, left his retina scan along with a scribbled signature, and put the padd into his pocket. "What are we doing today?"


She looked down.




"The thing I put on the schedule. It may not be appealing."


"Let me be the judge of that. What is it?"


"It's a wildlife reserve. You get in a flitter and—"




"You'd say yes to anything with me."


She wasn't wrong. He was falling. Harder and faster every day. And being with her was so easy, so comfortable.


And so damn sexy.


"If you know I'll say yes to anything with you, why are you worried?"


"Good point." She put aside her padd and crawled up to him, kissing him, but in a way designed to give comfort, not turn him on in a crazy way. "Okay, let's go."


They hailed a taxi-flitter at the port, took it to the reserve, and spent over an hour on the park's flitter, zipping from area to area so they could see the animals. Once they got off, they found their way to a concession stand near a small petting area, ate the local variant of an ice cream cone, and watched the kids play with the mostly farm animals—as a far as Liam could tell anyway.


Hansen leaned against him, her head on his shoulder.


"Was there ever a time," he asked softly, "when you wished Janeway had left you in the collective?"


"No. It was easier, I won't lie. But I like being free."


He kissed her slowly because he loved that answer.


"Kathryn knew the Queen would renege on their bargain once our common enemy was defeated. So she had no choice but to disable me. My fate was sealed the moment the Queen picked me to lead the group."


"Which is why you're afraid you're a sleeper?"


She nodded.


"Had the Queen done that before? Sent you out?"


"Quite often. Never for something this important. But I knew her voice well. I was probably a natural choice."


"Knew her voice well. What does that mean?"


"I always believed she talked to me more than most of the other drones. But I'd grown up hearing her voice in the maturation chamber. Educating me—or indoctrinating me, I guess, depending on your perspective."


He tried to imagine what that might have been like. "Was she kind to you? Did she feel like a mother?"


"My parents were so focused on their project, I sort of disappeared into the background. I had to fight to be noticed and generally I didn't do that. So to have the Queen pay so much attention to me probably soothed a part of me that was still there, even if I, as a drone, was unaware of it. But once I met Kathryn—once I saw another mother on the ship and how she treated her child—I realized neither my blood mother or the Queen were any kind of role models for a maternal figure."


"Do you crave it now? That kind of love?"


"If I did, I have a poor way of showing it. Kathryn has tried to find me, tried to get me to call. I've resisted."




"Fear of what she'll do this time if she sucks me back in and they still won't let me into Starfleet. She threatened to resign the first time—only me removing myself from the situation put an end to that."


He could feel her change, her tension against him, the way she looked away. "That's not really true. It's noble as fuck and I like it, but it's not true."


"You don't know that."


"Yeah, I do. What's the real reason you stay away?"


"She's my failsafe," she whispered.


"Go on."


"She's the one person who can save me from all this—or so I want to believe. But what if she's not? What if I did take her call and found out there's not one damn thing she could do for me? That my bright shining beacon of hope is nothing more than a person who's gone on with her life and is just taking care of a few loose ends?"


He didn't answer, felt like she had more to say.


"What if I really am alone? I can't bear to find that out, so I leave her where she is, in a box, alive but not alive, my mother but not my mother. I guess someday I'll find out. And if she's not, it'll kill me."


"Then don't take her call. Let her be Schroedinger's Janeway. I like you here, alive, with some hope left in you."


She took his hand. "I like watching you with your mother. The rapport you two have. The love and respect that is so clear. It seems...uncomplicated."


He thought about that. It certainly had not been an uncomplicated life for his mother, without his father in the picture, but she'd made it work. "For me, it was. She was my mom, the amazing engineer, who would save me from everything."




"But I think she spent a lot of my childhood hiding her pain from me. It's why I wanted to know what kind of shit she was dealing with when she cried after the birds. I don't want to be the little kid that just takes her for granted, you know?"


"I do. Did you come home to her after Wolf?"


"Not at first. I didn't want her to see how affected I was. But eventually yeah, and caught a shitload of grief for not including her in my pain. She's really the greatest woman..." He smiled, just thinking about it.


"You're lucky." She was watching the children with a lovely smile on her face.


"Have you ever wanted one?" It was out before he could call it back and he was mentally kicking himself because she'd been a mom, and her son was dead.


But she smiled gently at him and asked, "I assume you mean a baby I give birth to who then grows up?"


"Yeah, that's what I meant. I know you were a mother to Icheb."


"I had a friend on Voyager. A young girl. She was delightful. I loved spending time with her." She turned to him. "But no. I never wanted one of my own. I think...I think that might have been a major issue between Chakotay and me. The irony being he's with someone even older at this point and unlikely to have kids. But priorities change when the chemistry is right, I guess." She took his hand. "You?"


"No. But I feel like I have a ton of kids. All the newbies that come in and out of engineering. Sometimes it feels like I don't have enough wing to take them under."


She smiled. "I think you do. I imagine it's ever expanding."


"If you say so." He pulled her up. "Is there more to do here or can we go back to the ship and get a little nasty?"


"We have done this place." She let him pull her up, wrapped her arm around his back before he dropped his arm over her—a first for her. "Now let's do each other."


"Oooh, excellent parting line." He saw the line for the flitter was double what it had been when they arrived. "Looks like we came at just the right time."


She smirked.


"Is everything I say going to be taken as a sexual thing."


"Given why we're going back to the ship...?"


He laughed. "Point taken."




Two Years Ago


Liam's family home was quiet and he lay snoring softly beside her. It had been a busy day, meeting his cousins and aunts and uncles.


Seven got out of bed carefully, not waking him, and eased out of the bedroom as she pulled on her robe.


She padded down the stairs, found Abigail in the kitchen, staring out the window, her face reflected back in it. "Quite a day, huh?"


"Quite. He's out."


"Yeah, these things exhaust him. You did well though." She turned and held her arms open, and Seven went into them, feeling her close her in with the embrace—so safe, so warm.


"I fucking told you: when, not if." Abigail's voice was soft and sweet and if Seven's mom were alive, she hoped she would sound this way. "So nice to have you here."


"So nice to be here. I'm sorry it's such a short stay."


"We made it work. And there'll be other stays." She let her go and walked to the kitchen table, Seven took the chair next to her.


"How are you doing? Starfleet treating you well?"


"Well, Liam is. And the ship is amazing. The crew—I love most of them." She let her enthusiasm for where she was now fade, so Abigail could see the real her. "I was losing hope out there. I came back to Earth to see him and I saw him with Laurel. It hurt so much that I went right back out and I'm not sure how I survived."


"But you did. And you found the monster? Slayed it?"


She nodded. "And then—because I thought Liam was lost to me—I found someone who might have been right for me if I wasn't already in love."


"He told me. I was so mad at you. Did you really think he'd choose Laurel over you? That girl is a sweetheart but forever they are not."


"They looked solid though. I didn't know." She took a deep breath. "I lost hope so I took the next best thing." Which was so unfair to Raffi.


"So did he, I think—when they got back together. But it didn't last. Good thing he saw you were available. And that he had such a great slot to fill. Maybe fate was finally on your side?"


"That's a lovely thought. I was giving up hope on that too. The offers I had weren't thrilling until his came."


"Well here's to good timing, then. And Seven, if Starfleet ever makes you feel less than, I say fuck them. My company always has an opening for you."


"Even if I'm not with your son?"


"I will deny I ever said this but yes. You'd be an asset either way. But I'd rather you stayed with him."


"Yeah, I figured that."


"What are you two doing?" Liam's voice was soft as he stood barely lit.


"Did you wake up alone and get scared?" Abigail's voice was teasing.


"Yes. And my nightlight's gone." He was grinning, in the way of an old game lovingly played.


"Well, yes, because that room is a guest room now. And there's still a nightlight."


"But it's not my nightlight. That I had forever."


"This is what you're going to be dealing with, Seven." She grinned and shook her head. "Your nightlight, if you want to take it to your ship, is in the closet in the box marked, 'Liam's shit he can't be fucking bothered to go through.'"


"That's a lot to put on a label," Seven said with a laugh.


"Do not defend him, young lady."


"Still not young."


"Still younger than I am." Abigail rose. "Liam, take your better half back to bed. I'm beat."


Once they were back in the room, he went through the carton in the closet that did indeed have a label that said that and found the nightlight. He swapped it in and said, "That's better."


"Are you going to go through the rest of the stuff?"


"Oh, fuck no." He laughed. "Can't give her the satisfaction." He stalked back to her, his mood playful. "If we're very, very quiet..."


"It's your family home."


"And we are going to fuck in it."


At least the room didn't share a wall with his mom's. They decided the bed was too squeaky and did it on the floor, spending more time laughing at how quiet they were trying to be than actually fucking.


But she didn't mind a quickie. She'd take anything fate would give her when it came to him.






He lay on the floor and knew he'd failed. Not just at containing the threat but at preparing Hansen for this. All she'd had to do was blow the lift. Only...they had no protocol for that. No quick switch to detonate the main lift. He'd never given a command like that in the whole of his career. Never taught her how to destroy parts of the ship other than the most perfunctory lesson on setting a self-destruct for the ship, which he never expected either of them to have to do.


Now he was suddenly wondering if he knew the actual steps, could bring himself to blow his beautiful ship and all his people up if it came to that.


If he couldn't, how could she?


He was asking her to bypass her heart and enter a series of commands that were counter to everything in her. Because at her core, she was another Kirk. She'd hit the no-win scenario only once and it was with her son. Just like Kirk.


And Kathryn had shown her what it was to be a Starfleet officer. Kathryn who managed to merge caring for a crew with kicking risks in the teeth just to see what they'd do. His style was so much safer, but he'd gotten to Hansen too late.


He should have shown her how to do it. He should have drilled it into her. He should have made it clear that he didn't matter.


He should have seen this coming.


How could he have seen this coming?


A tear dripped down his face as Vadic talked.


Anger at himself morphed into anger at Seven because he wouldn't have had to show her how to blow the lift—how to kill him in it—if she hadn't fucking betrayed him.


Another voice, deep inside, whispered that he wouldn't have been able to blow the lift if she'd been in it. He cut off that voice mercilessly.


Another voice suggested she'd never have been faced with this impossible choice if he'd paid attention to the downed changeling he'd assumed was dead, if he'd fired and fired until there was nothing left, not just shot and moved on.


She'd fired once and the La Forge changeling had died. Why did his get back up?


Because she knew how to kill and he didn't, that's how. But he did and he hadn't done it. Head tap, head tap, head tap. It'd been drilled into him at a small arms course he'd taken to try to get better at shooting. But how do you head tap a puddle of goo? Then again these changeling didn't turn into goo when they were downed—he should have shot again and again and again until the thing was fried.


But it had been down. It had been down and he'd made down equal dead and now...


And now Vadic was on his ship, in his chair, and Hansen...Hansen might be killed because she couldn't kill him.


Pain rushed over him. He closed his eyes for a moment, thought back to the relative peacefulness of their earlier possible death, his lips on hers, the air dissipating, their last words loving ones.


Why hadn't they died then?


This was going to get ugly. There was just no way it wouldn't. Once again, she was so naive. She had failed him.


Or he had failed her.


Either way, it really didn't matter. They were fucked.






Seven Years Ago


She lay, breathing hard, coming down from where Liam had just sent her. They'd spent the day playing on a beach and she was just a tiny bit sunburned as was he, and her hair was full of salt and she just felt...complete.


Like if the shuttle blew up and it all ended today, that would be okay with her.


He rolled over so he was on his stomach, watching her, his fingers gentle on her face, stroking back her hair.


How could he make this cramped little shuttle feel like a paradise?


"Come back with me," he whispered.




"Come back with me. These places you're showing me are great, but they're not you. You're a tourist as much as I am. You don't belong out here. Please come back with me."


She pulled him down to her, kissing him gently, then more ferociously, pulling him on top of her, into her. "Call me Seven."


"Only if you come back with me." He kissed her over and over, little kisses with "Please?" between each of them.


"But you'll be a captain."


"And you'll be my port. My mom's company—she does the coolest things. I'll probably work there once I retire. Probably take it over for her eventually. Come back."


She could tell how serious he was. "I'll think about it. In the meantime... Fuck me."


"We're not fucking anymore. We're making love." He moved slowly inside her and kissed her deeply, tenderly.


"Say my name."


He grinned and thrust hard. "Come back with me and I will." Then he thrust again and again. "Please?"


She could tell he was trying to hit a spot he knew she liked, could tell it was working, the climb beginning, the lovely feeling of energy building, energy that would explode. As she came, she said, "Maybe."




"I have to think about it."


"But you will think about it?"


She wrapped her legs around him and urged him to resume what he'd been doing. "Go hard."


"Whatever you want, I will do."


And he went hard and it felt so fucking good. And as he came, as his eyes screwed shut and he froze for a moment, calling out, she considered what it might be like to have this all the time.


Or some of the time. He'd be on a ship. Not there for her all the time.


But still, they'd be together.


But couldn't they do that from here? She could keep looking for Bjayzl and he could be a captain.


He eased off her and she heard disappointment in his voice as he said, "You've already decided not to."


"Long distance could work."


She saw in his eyes that wasn't what he wanted. But it would be long distance no matter what she did. He wouldn't be anywhere for long if he was on a ship. She'd lived that life. She knew.


She studied him more carefully. Realized it wasn't that he didn't want to do long distance, he didn't want to do it with this version of her.


The ranger.


He'd sought her out because she was that—why was it suddenly not good enough?


"It was a nice idea, Hansen. Made for a great orgasm." He sounded like he was trying to make it not a big deal.


"I'm not saying no. I'm just not saying yes, either."


"Sure. I get it."




Two Years Ago


He stood beside Hansen at the graveside, and he felt a deep pain fill him as the coffin was lowered, even if this death wasn't on his conscience. It was still a former member of his crew and a dear friend. That the accident had happened on someone else's ship didn't lessen the pain.


Hansen had barely gotten to know Commander F'shara. He'd been Shaw's deputy head of security for years. Had just transferred off to take the security chief position on Excelsior. Had been so excited.


They'd had some very old Scotch to celebrate, two old warhorses saying goodbye the old-fashioned way.


He closed his eyes as Captain Benbassat read the "Starfarer's Elegy." Teared up as he always did at the end—especially when Benbassat's voice broke. He felt Hansen's hand on his back, high up, giving comfort as anyone might. He leaned into her, willing to take the comfort from her the way he might not from anyone else.


They moved under a tree after saying goodbye to the family, and waited for Benbassat to leave his crew and come over.


"Pour one out," he said, once he got to them. "We're going to find a place to drink and have lunch. You're welcome to join us."


"Pour one out for us. We're due back on the ship, heading out again." He looked at Hansen. "You know Rick?"


"No. It's a sad pleasure."


"Nice way to put it. Ranger way to put it, right?"


"Yes." She sounded tense, like she was waiting for him to give her shit about that.


"Apt," was all he said. "I barely had gotten to know him."


"He was great."


"I believe you." He clapped Shaw on the shoulder gently, then said, "Nice to have met you," to her and walked back to his people.


"I hate this part of the job." He turned and walked off, secure she'd follow him and she did, then she took his arm once they were out of sight of the others. "Do you mind if we just walk here a while, babe?"


"It's fine. It's a beautiful place."


He nodded. "He waited so long to become head of security. Barely had it and then...he's gone. Nothing's certain."


"No. Nothing is. Icheb should have outlived me. But he didn't." She pulled him down to her, kissed him gently. "I'm sorry, Liam. He seemed like the nicest man."


"He was." He knew he was tearing up, didn't care. She wouldn't judge him for it.


He pulled her in more tightly and they walked for a long time in a gentle silence through the gorgeous cemetery before he finally called for beam-up.






She could feel his disappointment in her, his frustration with her, his anger at her without even turning to look at him. Vadic had them standing shoulder to shoulder in a line and she'd put her and Liam next to each other. And Seven could feel his emotions pulsing off him like she was an empath.


When Vadic said she was going to take his chair with her, he turned to Seven, glared at her and her own frustration rose, so strong she wasn't able to counter it. Even though she knew the crew needed them to be calm—to be role models.


His glare destroyed every modicum of control she had. "Don't give me that look. I won't apologize."


His eyes held no comfort. "You should have blown the turbolift."


"But I didn't." And would it have even mattered? The bulk of the changelings had come in through the ready room, obviously using the back lift. And—even if that weren't true, she wouldn't have done it because he'd been on the lift. And there was no way in hell she could blow him up. "And I'd make the same decision again. I draw the line at trading lives." Especially his.


"You are a Starfleet officer. You don't have the luxury to only make choices that feel hunky-dory."


She scoffed.


"Everything has consequences."


Who did he think he was talking to? She'd given him up because of the fucking consequences. "Consequences like saving your life?" Then—and now.


"Commander Hansen—"


God damn it, could he not even use her name now, when it was all going to hell? "My name is Seven of Nine."


He lowered his voice. "Consequences that haven't happened yet. Not just to you or me, but to the entire ship."


He turned away from her, and she wanted to pull him back, wanted to tell him they could do something—anything—to stop all this, but he was right.


There was nothing they could do.


Until it became clear Vadic planned to kill the bridge crew one by one. While the rest of their crew—hers and Liam's, what they'd built—were dying on the decks below them. Dead already perhaps on Intrepid as soon as they beamed over.


No. No, this was not going to happen this way. She tried, she tried to get them to pick her for the first shot, to make herself the target but she was jerked back into line by changelings. Told to stand down by Liam, his fear for her so clear, overriding his fear for anyone else.


So she waited, like the rest of them, sheep to the slaughter, and the sparks of T'Veen's remains wafted over her as Vadic ordered her to let the ship know what had happened.


Her anger threatened to send her straight for Vadic's throat but another feeling overruled it.




Why her? Why not make Liam do it as captain? Why did Vadic look at her like she was different?


But in a good way?


She forced herself to breathe, to push the anger down, to think, to plan, to find a way to protect Liam and the rest of the crew.


Even if it meant she died trying.






Seven Years Ago


He and Hansen danced on a patio in a cloud city outside what was supposed to be the best bar in the city. There was a live band further down the space, playing gentle music that had enough of a tempo to keep time to.


He wanted to freeze this moment, her in the white sundress she'd pulled out of a closet full of weird outfits she said were disguises. Him in the closest thing to a suit he had with him. She had a comb holding one side of her hair back, the other side flowing freely.


She was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen and he felt great being her date here.


She smiled at him lazily, leaning her head on his chest, and said so low he could barely hear her, "I wish we could just stay here."


"Me, too."


"But you have to go be a captain."


Before he could say something that would completely spoil the mood, his padd went off. It was his mom's chime and he was going to ignore it, but Hansen pulled it out of his pocket, and answered with a gentle, "Hi, Abigail."


"Wow, you two look lovely."


"Your son cleans up well. Check out this view." She panned the camera around so his mom could see the view from the city.




He took back the padd. "So, Ma, is there a place for Hansen at the company?"


"Liam, don't put her on the spot like that." She turned the padd. "Forget he asked."


"He's a hard grader, Seven. If he thinks you belong, then you probably do. Also he's going to be taking it over eventually so if you don't work out, he'll have to deal with it." She frowned. "Why does he call you Hansen? Should I be calling you Hansen?"


"No," they said at the same time and laughed.


"You keep calling me Seven, Abigail. It's what I prefer. Your son's just a dick."


"Takes after his father sometimes."


"Oh, right, like I didn't learn how to annoy people from you?"


His mom just laughed. "Are you coming back to Earth, then?"


"Well, he has to. Or he'll be AWOL."


"And you?"


He could tell exactly when she felt overwhelmed by the question, and eased the padd away. "Ma, they're calling us for our reservation. Talk later, all right? Oh, wait, you called me, was something wrong?"


"Nope, just thought I'd make sure you weren't planning on homesteading out there and forgot to tell Starfleet. Enjoy your meal." The connection died and he put the padd back in his pocket.


She frowned at him. "You didn't have to lie to her."


"I'm sorry I put you and her on the spot. Mostly you, though. She's used to it, and taught me how to say 'No' in the most annoying way possible."


She still looked less than comfortable.


"Is it bad I want you to come home with me?"


"Not bad, no. Just maybe not practical. And I have to wonder if you want me to change. If you're...embarrassed that I'm a ranger." She actually took a few steps back from him. "Because we could do this with me out here. I'd be more likely to meet up with your ship from here than Earth at times. But you don't seem to want that and—"


He pulled her to him, kissed her to shut her up. "I want you safe. I'm not embarrassed. I'm scared shitless that something is going to happen to you."


"I can take care of myself. I've been doing it for years."


"I know. I didn't say it was logical but it's how I feel. I want you somewhere safe. But if you think you need to stay here, then we'll make it work."


She looked up at him as if he was lying.


"We'll make it work."


"Do you mean that?"


"I do. I have to go back obviously. And I don't mind a sexy 'au revoir,' but a real goodbye would kill me. I'm...I'm in a place I wasn't sure I'd ever be. I'm just...gone over you."


She smiled. "And we could try?"


"Yeah. Absolutely. If that's what you want?"


Her answer was one of the best kisses she'd ever given him.




Two Years Ago


Seven felt the cave closing in around her, even though she wasn't claustrophobic. And she found how close Liam was to her annoying. "Move over."


"I can't move over. These caves are really small."


Which was why they were in one and the rest of the landing party were scattered by twos in others. The storm had come in fast and they'd had to take cover wherever they could.


But the sound of the wind was driving her nuts. She knew it would set them off, blowing at a decibel level known to cause humans to lose their cool, but knowing that didn't make him any less annoying as he took up most of the shelter.


"Maybe next time you'll tell me when T'Veen says a storm is imminent." He sighed dramatically.


"I shouldn't have had to tell you. Her update was to both of us. Maybe next time you won't have your commbadge turned off."


"I didn't mean to. I'm not sure how it got turned off."


She wasn't sure how it got turned off either. Obviously they could be turned off if silence was needed for operational security, but it took a combination of commands to do it. "Do you really think I wouldn't tell you about an impending storm? I was shocked you didn't react."


"Well next time I don't, assume my commbadge is off."




"Fine." He adjusted, pushing her harder against the wall of the cave. "And it's not like you never make unilateral moves, keep shit from me."


"You're going to bring that up now?"


"Why the fuck not?"


"Because we're here, together. Who cares what I did?"


"I do. You hid shit from me. You decided my fate without a single thought of asking me what I wanted."


"And I'd do it again."


"I know you would. That's why I thought you didn't tell me about the storm."


"How in the fuck is not telling you about a storm the same thing?"


Their commbadges clicked.


"What?" they both said.


"The storm will be over in three point four five minutes," T'Veen said. "Also, you are on an open channel to the bridge."


"Oh, of course we are," Liam said.


They hit their badges as one.


Then he hit his again, and said, "Thanks for the update. Shaw out."


"Did we say anything that..."


"I don't think so. It'll just be one of our many arguments."


She started to laugh. "At least the wind makes people annoyed instead of other things. On an open channel."


He smiled. "Way to find the silver lining."






He charted every time Hansen looked at him. He wasn't sure if she was even aware how often she was doing it. Was she seeking reassurance, or was she angry at him? Did it matter?


T'Veen was gone. But it wasn't fair to blame her for that. They should never have let Vadic and her changelings board. They were everywhere, could go anywhere.


And even if she'd blown the lift, even if she'd succeeded in killing Vadic, the others would have come through the ready room. And who was to say that only Vadic could lead whatever this mission she was on was?


Did they miss their chance? Or was there never a chance to begin with?


And now Vadic was going after Mura, and Shaw contemplated jumping her, but then the lift door opened and Jack walked out.


He wasn't sure if he was relieved to see him or if this spelled the end of everything. Would Vadic keep any of them alive once she had him?


Jack was at least trying to make her play fair, holding some kind of device, urging them to get up to the ready room.


He made sure Hansen was with him, then felt rather than saw her stop—no goddamn it. She was turning around, going back out to the bridge. "Hansen, what are you doing?"


She turned, her resolve infuriating and terrifying, and the door shut before he could get to her but not before he heard her say, "Accepting the consequences."


He could do nothing but pace relentlessly as the doors hid the sounds of what was going on.


Until they couldn't. Until the lights came on and a new voice sounded over the intercom, and he heard the evacuation hatch opening.


But she was still out there.


He froze, murmuring, "Fuck," and knowing he couldn't try to open the doors to the bridge no matter how much he wanted to because it would kill everyone, suck them straight out of this room.


He wasn't even sure the ready room doors would hold against the vacuum, so he had the crew get away from them, hunker down with a wall between them and the emergency hatch.


He couldn't bring himself to do the same though.


If she was still out there, she was going to die.


And so was he if the doors failed.


And then it stopped, and the only thing he could silently repeat as he waited was, "Please. Please let her have been off the bridge when the hatch opened. Please let her have been off the bridge when the hatch opened."


And she must have been, because the doors opened and there she was. Unharmed. Beautiful as fuck.


And gently triumphant as she said, "Captain Shaw, may I present your ship back."


He wanted to grab her, hold her, kiss her—or possibly strangle her.


He settled for pushing past her, shaking his head, then calling out, "Stations! We're not done yet."


He sat in his chair and made sure his console answered to him, then he let himself breathe as his people did their thing. He was even glad to hear that Riker and his team were back on board.


As Hansen came to take her place next to him, he said before she could sit, "Commander, you take this one."


He could feel the rage pulsing off her as she walked a few steps toward the view screen, and goddamn but it was glorious watching her. "Lieutenant Mura, target the Shrike."


"With pleasure, Commander."


"Give it everything we've got. Fire!"


Fucking A. The ship was toast—it sure went up fast when its shields were down—and finally their bogeyman was gone.


And Hansen was goddamned magnificent.



Continue to Part 3