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 3)

by Djinn





Seven Years Ago


She and Liam were in the grand bazaar on Sierra Longo, when her padd chirped. She saw it was Riyala and picked up. She knew Liam was viewing from off screen but didn't care. "Hey."


"I think I found her." Her smile was full of profound satisfaction. "I need to show you what I've got, Seven. See if you think it's for real."


She knew she was beaming, couldn't pull the smile back if she tried. "If you think you did, then I bet you did."


"I don't trust this line. Meet me tomorrow?"


"I can do that. Our usual spot?"




"See you then." The connection went dead and she smiled up at Liam, laughing when he picked her up and spun her around a little. "We don't know that it's anything. She's gotten false leads in the past."


"I don't know her, but she looked pretty damn pleased with herself to me."


"She did, didn't she?" She pulled him to her, kissed him soundly. "I know I'm getting all excited about the idea of killing someone, but the shadow she has cast on my life... You have no idea what it would mean to be free of her." She touched his lips, tracing the huge smile on his face. "I could leave."




She nodded.


"Well, I'm usually a peaceable type but I'm all in favor of you finding this woman and putting her in the ground. Or however they handle dead bodies out here."


He pulled her close, kissing her cheek frequently as they walked the bazaar. She found herself mesmerized by a shop full of scarves and shawls. The fabric was super soft and super sheer.


Liam picked out a lovely purple one for his mother, then began to layer some of the longer ones over her.


"What are you doing?"


"Imagining how these would look without clothes under them."


"Everything would show through."


"Yeah, everything sure would." He piled a few more on until he was happy with the effect, then handed them to the shopkeeper and began to haggle. And he did it well—at the start of this little vacation he hadn't been good at it at all.


When they got back to the ship, Seven calculated their flight path, engaged the privacy screen, and said, "We can play for a while but then we need to get going."


He eased her clothing off and began to layer the scarves around her. He clearly didn't like the result because he pulled two off and redid them.


"Seriously?" She began to take off his clothes but he said, "Nope, not yet."


He went out to his normal seat and said, "Okay, come walk by me. Slowly."


She did, trying not to laugh. She'd taken a quick look in the mirror. The scarves looked beautiful but hid nothing.


He stood and told her to hold still, while he took the top scarf and began to unwind it, then did the next one, and the next one.


"You're going to be sorry you didn't let me take your clothes off."


"You are not wrong about that." He started to laugh. "And of course you had to say something about it."


"Take them off now, so we won't be interrupted later with doing that."


He did and she bit her lip lightly as he pulled the rest of the scarves off her. She picked one up and used it to capture him, pulling him to the bed.


His expression changed as he lay down and pulled her on top of him. "You're amazing."


"No, I'm not."


"Yeah. Yeah, you are."




Two Years Ago


He rushed down to sickbay, not caring who was in his way, sure they would get out of it—and they did.


T'Veen was waiting outside the main entrance, and she physically stopped him as she said, "Sir, she is going to need you to be calm."


"How many times?"


"Sir, embrace tranquility."


"How many times did she flatline, T'Veen?"


"Seven. But Ohk has her stabilized. She is in surgery." She let him go. "You can see her when she is out of surgery. I know it will be difficult to wait. I know what she means to you, sir."


He met her eyes and saw by the look of compassion in hers that she did know.


"I fully understand love even if I gravitate toward logic." And why wouldn't she, when she was part Deltan?


"I know." He took a deep, steadying breath. "How bad is it? What the hell happened? This was supposed to be an uninhabited world."


"And it is. A pirate base is by its nature temporary. And mostly abandoned, in this case. They left one sentry behind and the weapon she used cut across the commander's midsection. Multiple organs were affected."




"She will be all right. But the surgery will be long."


"And the base?"


"The pirate was subdued. The base is being dismantled by a large contingent of rather irate security officers. Commander Hansen is a popular first officer. As you well know. We did not know we would need a security detail on such a mundane survey mission."


"Security is mandatory."


"We both know the commander considers herself to be sufficient to fill that role—from her ranger days."


He closed his eyes. "Yes, we both do know that. Next time, don't let her get away with that. And I'll read her the riot act."


T'Veen raised an eyebrow.


"Once she's safely out of sickbay. I'll be very supportive until then."


"Ohk will comm us when Commander Hansen is ready for visitors. I am hungry. Come eat with me, Liam, and I will regale you with tales of T'Vara."


"She still on Delta?"


"Oh yes. She is embracing that aspect of our heritage with all of her considerable energy."


He looked at the sickbay doors. Sitting in there would drive him crazy and then he'd drive all the medical staff who weren't in surgery crazy. "Okay, tell me stories about your twin. But they better be funny."


"If you'd rather, I can recount the argument you had with the commander over an open channel. That discussion could be interpreted so many ways—all of them humorous."


He let her lead him off. "Yeah, yeah. You kept that channel open on purpose."


An elegantly raised eyebrow—and a twinkle in her eyes—was her only response to the accusation.






Seven sat next to Liam, trying not to look at T'Veen's empty station. She heard familiar footsteps and met Raffi's eyes.


"Take a load off, Commander," Liam said, his voice gentle as he gestured to the seat to the left of him. "Join those of us who are not invited into my own fucking ready room."


"Yeah, that bites." She sat with the weary sigh Seven recognized from their time together—she was exhausted. "We should be in there."


"Preaching to the choir, Musiker."


"Indeed." Seven touched Shaw's hand. "It's hard not to feel...used."


"Told ya," he said.


"You did," Seven said softly. "I should have listened."


"Look," Raffi said very quietly. "You two obviously have things to work out, and, Captain, you really need a good pass of a regenerator. I'll stay here, comm you guys if they ever come out and want to share some actual information with us."


Seven leaned out so she could see what expression Raffi had on, how much saying this might be hurting her.


She didn't look hurt at all. "You're serious?"


"Yes. Go. Who knows how much time we have left. If I were still with you, I'd be pulling you off the bridge."


Liam's standing. "Mura, you have the conn. Commander Musiker is here if you need anything."


"Yes, sir."


For a moment, Seven didn't want to leave, but then Esmar said, "You guys, go. He's all bloody."


She gave them the sweetest smile she could. "You're right he is. We'll get that fixed." She swallowed hard, visibly. "I'm so sorry about T'Veen."


Mura turned to meet her eyes. "You didn't shoot her, Commander. Vadic did."


Esmar nodded.


"Come on, lets go," Liam murmured, leading her to the lift, pulling her close once the doors closed.


She could feel herself about to lose it and he whispered, "Not yet. We don't know who's in the corridors. They need to see something other than us crying."


"Right. Okay." Fortunately, there was no one in the corridor so she could let the tears fall as he palmed them into his quarters.


"Computer, restore Commander Annika Hansen's access to these quarters."


"Access restored."


They tore off their clothing and he pushed her onto the bed, kissing her as she cried—as he did too.


"Is this disrespectful to her?"


"She was Deltan as well as Vulcan. She'd totally see the logic of love amid grief." His tears fell onto her face, and she touched his forehead, the wound. "Later. Fix me later."


And then he was inside her and she was wrapping her legs around him and neither of them stopped crying, and it was messy and fast and almost violent until they were lying shuddering, together. He rolled to his side and held her in a death grip while they mourned. Not just T'Veen, so many deaths.


He kissed her slowly, tenderly, and she felt as if all the anger between them was flowing out of them with the tears. "I couldn't have blown the lift either. And it wouldn't have mattered because—"


"They took the back lift too."




"There was nothing we could do, short of blowing up the entire ship."


"There really wasn't." He stroked her hair and smiled, an exhausted smile, and a sad one.


And she smiled back the same way. "Somehow we're still alive."


"I'm sure Picard will come up with a new plan to change that. This may be our last time together. Seven."


"It's all right. It's all right if you don't want to call me that."


"Seven, Seven, Seven, Seven. I'm sorry they didn't get your name changed. It seems like maybe now there are bigger fish for Starfleet to fry than that."


"Oh well. It was a short career so let Annika Hansen live it. Seven of Nine is here with you, not worrying about how she's known or what her legacy is." She blinked furiously, feeling tears starting again. "I have never and will never loved anyone the way I love you, Liam Shaw."


"I have never and will never love anyone the way I love you, Seven of Nine, my beautiful, beautiful partner in this stupid adventure."


She laughed and reached over him to get the regenerator out of the nightstand. "We need to get back up there. You have blood in your hair. Shower once I get this healed."


"Take one with me. Everything's probably our last time. We'll make it fast but I...I don't want to shower alone."


She understood how he felt completely. "Okay."






Seven Years Ago


He and Seven were lying in bed, feeding each other the fresh berries he'd found at the bazaar the day before. She nearly nipped him several times until he told her, "No biting the hands that feed you," and she pouted but it was all pretend.


She crawled over him to get off the bed, and got coffee for them both then got back into bed. "I don't want to do anything today until we meet Riyala. I just want to enjoy this last day before I track down Bjayzl."


He thought he could hear the unsaid part. "Before I start a new life with you." He hoped that was the unsaid part anyway.


They made love leisurely, took a nap until early afternoon, and then got dressed and headed out to the bar. He followed Seven in but didn't see anyone who looked like the woman he'd seen on her padd screen.


"That's weird. She usually gets here first." She pushed past some people to the bartender. "Riyala?"


"She was here a while ago. I don't know where she went." He went back to filling orders.


Hansen frowned and Shaw could almost see her switch from the open woman he'd been spending time with to the ranger. "Stay here."


"No." He followed her into a restroom, then the other. Both empty.


As they turned to go back in, Hansen's attention was caught by something on the door. She walked over and read the note. Then she said, "Fuck," and slipped outside.


He hurried to the door; the note read, "She found me, I found her. You're still in the dark. XOXO Bjayzl."


He didn't want to go out to the alley but he did.


Hansen was staring down at a woman who was clearly dead. There was blood everywhere and she was cut up so badly he couldn't honestly tell if it was Riyala.


Hansen didn't say anything as she leaned down and picked up a padd that was lying away from the body. Her mouth got tighter the more she looked at it.




"Wiped." She threw it into a reclaimer bin and then pulled him after her as she jogged out of the alley, slowing once they hit more populated areas, taking them back to the shuttle.


"Should we be running away? Won't they think you did it?"


"That place has no surveillance except out there. Bjayzl wanted it clear I didn't do this."




"Because this is fun for her, Liam. Because she's a fucking monster. Have you not been paying attention? Did you not see the note?" Her voice was raw, furious.




"Whatever Riyala had to show me is gone."


"What about her place? She'd have back ups."


"They knew we were meeting. When and where. They also probably know where she lived. Which is more than I did." She sounded tired of his questions, tired of...of him?


"But we can ask around."


"Bjayzl will leave nothing to chance. Riyala's place is no doubt empty and spotless." She turned into the port and stopped at a ship a few down from theirs. "Lafe?"


A kid came out.




He nodded. "Two men. Your ship kept them out though."


Shaw knew he was missing a shit load. Who the hell was this kid? Was he on Hansen's payroll?


"They beamed up from there or I'd have followed them."


"I don't pay you to follow people. Especially now. Lay low. It's dangerous to know me."


She hardly seemed to be aware that Shaw was even with her. Once they were on the ship, he forced her to turn, to look at him.


"She butchered her, Liam."


"I saw."


"Just when I think I've got her." She was looking at him in a way he couldn't read. Like he was a problem maybe?


She opened a hidden panel and pulled out a shit-ton of weapons and began to stash them on herself. "Stay here. Do not leave. Do you understand me?"


"Where are you going?"


"I don't know. Out." She tossed him one of the guns. "It's set on stun and wide beam."




"Don't let anyone in. Not anyone." Her voice was panicked but firm, and he pulled her to him, tried to hold her but she fought him off. "I don't have time for that."


And then she was gone.


And he was locked in—he heard her engage the security measures—to a suddenly very claustrophobic ship.


Hours later, when he was about to go out of his mind with worry, she came back. She was covered with blood but when he reacted, when he moved to help her, she held up her hand and said, "It's not my blood."


Her knuckles were bruised and they and her hand implant were also bloody.


"What did you do?" He met her eyes.


And was looking into the eyes of a stranger. "I did what I do. I couldn't find the men. I couldn't find what Riyala had been working on. I couldn't find anything."


She peeled off her clothes, jammed them in the refresher, and took a shower. When he came out, when he tried to get her to lie down, to rest, she pointed to the bunk beds.


"You're kidding, right?"


"I don't want to sleep with you tonight." It was like the light he'd seen inside her had been switched off.


"Hansen... Seven—"


"Don't. Don't use my name against me." She stalked out to the helm, seemed to put extra security measures in place, then crawled into her bed and turned her back to him.


He lay down on the bunk bed, and at one point he thought he heard her crying.


But if he had, there was no trace of it in the morning.


"Get packed."


"We're leaving?"


She was avoiding looking at his eyes. "Maybe. At any rate, we need to be ready. Just...get packed."


He did what she said. It was easier than arguing.


For the first time since those first few days, he felt off balance—and very unwelcome—around her.


And he couldn't help but notice he was the only one packing.




Two Years Ago


Seven sat with Ohk in the lounge, trying not to miss Liam.


Trying and failing.


"He'll only be gone a few days," Ohk said, rolling her eyes. "I for one am enjoying the ship with you in charge. You say 'No' with way less frequency."


"He doesn't say no to you very often."


"That you know of..."


Seven laughed. "True." She leaned back. "Did you and he ever...?"


"Oh, God, no. He's like my brother. My very cranky, potty-mouthed brother." She smiled in a funny way.




"I just would have bet a lot that he'd never break the fraternization rule. And yet you show up and it's out the airlock." She made a face. "I know, you don't say you are and he doesn't say you are but I know you are. And I could pretend but I'm a crappy liar. Also I like him this way...happy. Even if it hit him like a thunderbolt apparently."


"He and I met five years ago." Although even back then it had been fast—for both of them. She smiled a little thinking how easy it was being with him, how simple happiness seemed when he was around.


"Wait, what? He never told me this." She had the look that said Liam was going to get a talking to. "On Earth or...?"


"When I was a ranger in the outer reaches."


"Oh. Wow. Yeah, that explains a lot." She took a long pull from her beer. "A lot, a lot. Care to share the story?"


"No. Ask him someday. It's probably more his story to tell."


"Seven, you can't tease me with a star-crossed Ranger/Starfleet love story and then not tell me any of it."


"We ruined each other's lives." It wasn't untrue. If they'd never met, would they have been happier for those years apart?


"No way. He does not look at you like a woman who ruined his life."


She tried to bite back the smile. "And then we didn't. But briefly there was some ruining." And for five years after that. Knowing the other one was out there but not being able to have. "He'd check up on me every so often. Some private detective would come nosing around to make sure I was alive and I'd know who hired them."


"But you didn't do that to him?"


"I pretty much was the private detective. I did the checking up on him myself. Did you know Laurel?"


She nodded. "How do you?"


"Never met her. Saw them together once. Made some assumptions. Lost some time." But could Raffi really be counted as lost time? Seven would do anything for her, short of staying with her romantically. She thought Raffi would do anything for her too.


Not that they were talking anymore. But maybe, someday, they would again.






He left Seven working with security to get an exact body count and clean up any changelings and went up to the bridge, sitting down next to Raffi. "They still in there?"


She nodded. "You guys good?"


"Yes. Thank you." He turned to her. "I'm sorry, for the bullshit territorial display earlier."


"She put you up to it, right? She's not big on talking—or not to me anyway. Not anymore. When did you two meet?"


"Seven years ago. I was looking for a friend and I heard she was the best ranger. And..."


"And you met her and fell in love instantly. Been there."


He laughed softly. "She's um, she's doing clean-up, getting body counts. If you want to go find her. Talk to her."


"It's tempting. But, ultimately, probably a super bad idea. If she's got a nice little post-sex glow on, I'll just make it fade."


"What happened? I mean, it's none of my business but if I can avoid it happening to us..."


"Well, either we ran our course, she can't commit, or you happened. Maybe her heart was never mine to have, only she didn't know it yet." She leaned back, stretched her legs out. "Did you wait for her?"


"No. Well..." He thought about that. Did Laurel count as waiting? "Maybe I did."


"I can't even tell you how much better it makes me feel that there might have been this epic love story between you two. One that was interrupted by fate but still got in the way of my epic love story with her. Rather than me simply not being able to make a relationship with her work." She laughed.


"I'd find that comforting too."


The lift door opened and he and Raffi both looked over. It was Seven.


"And she appears."


"Of course. Her timing is often impeccable."


Seven walked over and studied them both. "Are you getting along?"


They both nod.


"Are you talking about me?"


"Wow, the ego on you." He laughed and looked at Raffi. "Like we have nothing better to talk about."


"Seriously, Seven. Get over yourself."


Seven laughed in what seemed like relief and sat next to him. "It's good to have you here, Raffi. I know I'm shit at ending things, but you're my friend and I miss you."


He smiled. Nice olive branch.


"I miss you too. I even kind of approve of this idiot."


"Hey." But he smiled. Her olive branch was just like his would have been if he were the one extending it.






Seven Years Ago


As Seven led a subdued Liam into the bar, she pulled every bit of her ranger persona on around her. Her walk changed, her expression. In this place Bjayzl had assets, possibly even the same people who'd killed Riyala.


She had to sell this.


"Hansen, why are we back here?" He sounded hurt. Had since last night, when she'd made him sleep on the bunk bed, let her tone grow cold, and refused to meet his eyes.


She had to convince him to go, and to do that, he'd have to be hurt. And she had to convince Bjayzl that she'd only been using him, not that he meant as much as he did to her.


Bjayzl couldn't know that she loved him. Was crazily, totally in love with him.


"It's the scene of a crime. Pretty much a steady state for me. Don't tell me it makes you nervous, Liam." She laughed and it was the meanest laugh she was capable of. "Two Danalan whiskies. We're celebrating."


The bartender put the glasses up and poured from the bottle. "Congratulations then, Ranger. I hope it means you'll be leaving. You're bad for business."


"Oh, I'm not going anywhere."


Liam just stared at her, confusion the only emotion on his face.


"But this guy is going home. And that's what we're celebrating. End of my little break from being a ranger." She put her drink down and snaked her arms around him, moving in a way that was more overt than she'd normally do, more aggressive too—less respectful. "You were more fun than I expected. You gave me what I needed. Better than any holodeck character, that's for sure. A chance to...pretend. That I was normal—because you are so very much that." She forced her eyes to be hard, to be cold. To make normal sound bad, boring—not at all what she wanted.


To be a total fucking bitch.


"Hansen?" The level of hurt in his voice nearly killed her. "What are you doing?"


"Oh, wait. You... No." She laughed, a faux startled laugh, an amused one, a hideous one that made fun of him even as she appeared to enjoy it. She could see the hurt building up in him and almost quit, almost pulled him to her, told him she was acting.


But then she pictured Riyala again. Cut up like Icheb and superimposed those cuts on Liam. Knew it was too much to even contemplate.


He could not get hurt. The only way to protect him was to humiliate him. This had to be done.


"You poor sap. You thought this was really something, didn't you? I won't lie. I had a ton of fun with you. You're great in bed and you're funny. And it was nice to be wanted that bad—to be with someone nice for once. But...this?" She gestured to the both of them. "There's no us, Liam. You were a diversion. A vacation. And now, I'm back on the job, and I have the bitch who killed my son and my friend to hunt down. So basically, you're in my way."


"What is this?" His voice was so quiet, so terribly hurt.


"This is me saying: 'Thank you for a wonderful time but get the fuck lost.'"


"No. You felt this."


"Oh my God, if I'd known you were going to be this clingy, I'd have picked someone else to be my boy toy."


Lafe came in with Liam's bag and she made a big show of paying him, like he didn't normally work for her. Then he skedaddled the way street urchins for hire generally did.


"Bye," she said as she handed Liam the bag. "Have fun being a captain."


He stood frozen, studying her and trying, she was sure, to see through this, to see all the way to the part of her that was in love with him.


For his sake, she had to make the way impassible. "Are you resisting getting the fuck out of here?"


"I am. Hansen—Seven?"


"Don't you know yet, Starfleet? Resistance is futile." She walked over to one of the women sitting at the bar—a woman she suspected worked for Bjayzl and probably had a hand in Riyala's death because she looked way too interested in this—and she had yesterday too. "I'm in the mood for something softer now. Men are fun for a break but not really my thing long term." She let her smile turn seductive, dangerous.


She let her smile break his heart.


He still didn't move.


The woman pulled her in and kissed her. "I've got a room if you want to...?"


"Oh, I want to." She turned as the woman slipped off the stool. "Are you still here?" she asked him, making sure her voice held the maximum level of disdain. "God, get a clue. We're done."


Then she let the woman lead her out and over to the hotel, and up to her room.


It had a view of the bar. She saw Liam walk out, his bag over his shoulder. He looked up, as if he could sense her watching him, and she backed away from the window.


There was a pain in her chest and a sick feeling in her stomach. If she ran after him, she could catch him, stop him, explain everything.


And put him in so much danger.


Too much danger.


She closed her eyes and when she opened them again, he was well down the street heading toward the spaceport, walking to the opposite end from where her ship was parked, to the terminal.


To his future and safety.


The woman came up, kissing the back of her neck, and Seven pulled a hypo from her pocket and injected her. "We had a wonderful time."


"We had a wonderful time."


"We laughed over how that guy I was with thought it was serious."


"We laughed over how that guy you were with thought it was serious."


"We went to bed. You slept so well. You woke up refreshed. You will report to Bjayzl that I'm back on her trail. Pissed as hell but refreshed after using the gullible Starfleet officer."


The woman repeated that then lay down and fell asleep.


It was hard not to make her pay for the role she'd no doubt played in Riyala's death. But this had to get back to Bjayzl: that she and Liam were done, and he'd meant nothing to her.


It was the only way she knew to keep him safe.




Two Years Ago


He found her in the gym, beating the hell out of a punching bag. "You're mad."


"No shit."


He noticed people had mostly cleared out. He couldn't blame them, a pissed off Hansen was a terrifying thing. A few stalwarts were running on treadmills with earbuds in.


"L'Daren won't work out."


"You don't know that. Olawn and I are in agreement."


"Yes, two engineers who can't read body language to save their lives."


"Hey, it's an engineering position. Who better to choose the next Chief of Engineering?"


"Yes, God forbid the person who knows when people are lying gets a say."


"You don't know when people are lying. You just pretty much think people are and are ecstatic when proven wrong.


She hit the bag so hard he thought it might fly off the mount and into the wall.




"Now is not the time to use that name."


He pitched his voice lower. "Ba—"


"And don't Baby me either. How about this? You think L'Daren is so great, you manage him. I'm washing my hands of it."


"That's not how that works. As first officer, you're going to get all kinds of people thrust on you and you have to manage them."


"And you know that from your copious service of zero years, zero months, zero weeks and zero days as a first officer?"


"Oh, that's just low." He wasn't sure what the fuck to call her and he sure as shit wasn't going to call her Seven when she was being such a bitch about this. If he and Olawn thought L'Daren was the right person for the job, why couldn't she just accept their greater experience in engineering? And, for that matter, longer time as goddamned humans? Now if they wanted to hire a fucking Borg, she'd be the expert for sure.


She kept punching the bag, not looking at him, not talking.


"Okay, I'm going to let you work this out on the bag. Should I assume you don't want to be on any future interview panels?"


She stopped the bag. "No, you shouldn't assume that. I'm pissed off about this one. I've done them before without being this mad and I'm sure the future ones will be fine. I just don't understand how you two didn't see what I was seeing. A guy overstating his abilities. But whatever. I'll see you later."


"At dinner?"


"Fuck you, Captain Shaw."


"I do love our little chats, Commander. I'll see you after dinner then."


"I didn't say no to dinner."


"You said 'Fuck you.'"


"To you, not dinner." She looked around, even the treadmillers had fled. "Wow, we cleared this place out. Why does that happen?"


"Because you're terrifying when you're mad."


"And yet here you stand, making me more mad."


"Yeah, well, I'm an idiot."


"Hey, something we agree on today." She took a vicious swing at the bag.


"So, I'm confused, dinner or not?"


"Yes, are you not listening?"


He still wasn't sure but he decided to leave before he pissed her off beyond the ability of the gym equipment to soothe her.






She felt her. The Queen. The pain in her head, the sounds screaming through her. That old familiar feeling of belonging, only now it felt like she was being suffocated.


Seven of Nine, you will be my next vessel. Do not resist.


And just like that she was back on the Artifact, plugged in, Queen Annika as Narissa had called her.


This time she would put a phaser to her head. This time she would not be taken, not reassimilated.


Her destiny was not to be the goddamned Queen.


Liam's voice calling her Hansen actually steadied her. The queen called her Annika. "Annika still has work to do," she'd said before letting Seven go on the Artifact.


Two more reasons to hate that name if Narissa and the Queen used it. Only she hadn't thought it through. She hadn't realized the queen no longer thought of her as a drone, no longer deemed her Seven of Nine, Seven of anything.


She was a meat sack waiting to become the monster any Borg Queen inevitably was.


Well, fuck that.


She threw off the pain, the voice, and she ran with Liam, with the others, even though the voice kept trying, until they got in the lift and Liam touched her hand, murmuring, "You okay?"


His gray eyes, his calm strength—it was enough, the link she needed to keep her from looking back to the Borg. She wasn't that anymore, no matter what the fuck she wanted to be called. She took a deep breath and pushed the Queen out of her and suddenly there was silence just as when the Queen let her go in the artifact.


She should have questioned why the Queen would have done it back then. But it was followed by the Jurati time paradox. She'd thought...she'd thought the Borg were gone other than what Agnes had created.


But, no. "It's the Queen. The Delta Quadrant Queen. But she was destroyed. Admiral Janeway—the other one—she did that."


Liam moved closer to her. "Focus on me."


She met his eyes and nodded. "I'm all right. Just not a voice I ever wanted to hear in my head again."


"Amen to that." He touched her shoulder, squeezed lightly and she leaned into him. "So are you a sleeper?"




He grinned at her. "Good."


She saw Riker watching them, a knowing look on his face. She stared him back down fearlessly. What was he going to do? Report her for fraternization?


Especially when everything was becoming increasingly chaotic around them. Firefights on Deck Four, the Excelsior destroyed by other Starfleet vessels, mass assimilation of the young and strong—and impressionable.


Their wonderful crew. Lost now.


To a threat she'd stupidly thought was over.






Seven Years Ago


He couldn't believe how unrelentingly lonely and depressed he was, how much he was missing Hansen. And how he felt so stupid for feeling something this strong for someone who clearly couldn't feel the same thing for him.


But it felt like she had. And in the cloud city—the things she'd said. It had felt so real. How could he have misread it that badly? But he must have because she didn't seem like that good an actor.


Things turned wrong so fast, went downhill—fucking snowballed. He'd seen an avalanche once, the way it rolled and skipped down the hill, gathering snow on its way until it hit, covering everything in its wake.


That was how this felt, like everything was muffled, like he was barely alive. Even if he'd only known her for a couple weeks. He'd been back longer than that and still it hurt like hell.


His terminal chirped, a blocked number but he answered it quickly, hating the hope he felt surging. "Shaw."


It was her.


"Hi." Her tone wasn't cold—he expected it to be cold or mocking, like it had been in the bar. But it was gentle.


"Hi." He knew he sounded wary. He believed firmly in the "Fool me once, fool me twice" doctrine.


"I just wanted to check on you."


"Fuck you."


"Liam, I'm sorry." Her voice was the one of their nights, wrapped around each other, loving, connecting in a way he never had felt before. "Please tell me you're all right."


"I'm here."




"And I'm not doing great."


"Personally or professionally?"


He wanted to tell her it was none of her fucking business, not if she didn't want to be with him. He wanted to tell her that it was her fault for sending him away. But he just settled for shaking his head. This pain was his; he'd keep it inside. "How are you? You look like shit." And now that he really looked at her, he realized she did. Dark circles, her hair was dirty.


"I know I do. It's why I had to call, why I had to...explain. Even though there's a danger to that. This is killing me."


"It killed me first so I win."


"I know." She reached out, seemed to be tracing his face. "You start your captain training soon, right? Something else to focus on."


"Yeah." He took a deep breath. "Eventually gonna get assigned some fucking mentor who won't fucking like me and that'll be so fucking fun."


"Maybe you'll get a good one."


"No, Hansen, I'll get someone who takes one look at me and says, 'Why are you here? Who thought you were captain material?'" Shit. He shouldn't share this with her, not when she'd pushed him away. But her voice, so gentle—her questions, sounding so sincere.


He trusted her. Despite everything, he fucking trusted her.


"You'll make a great captain, Liam."


"Right. Sure. Look, did you need something or are you just calling because it's fun to torture me? To dangle what I can't have in front of me?"


"I called to make myself feel better about how I treated you." She looked down. "And I need to tell you something. To explain why I did that. Bjayzl didn't kill Icheb." She met his eyes, the connection such a good one that he could see the pain on her face.


"So that was all a lie?"


"No, very little of it was. She kidnapped him. She brutalized him—for profit. Borg parts are worth a lot of money. She cut out his implants without anesthesia while he was awake."


He closed his eyes, trying not to imagine the hell Icheb must have gone through. Then he was back in that alley, seeing the body of the woman he'd seen on Hanson's padd. "Riyala was cut up."


She nodded. "On purpose. The cuts were—I think they were the same. I panicked. The thought of Bjayzl doing that to you. But let me finish the story. Bjayzl didn't do it herself—her doctors did—but on her orders. I killed them. Icheb was still alive when I did that. But dying. Only slowly."


He got it then. He got what she'd had to do. "No."


"He begged me. So I put my weapon against his heart and I shot." Tears filled her eyes. "And I was mostly dead myself afterwards. For years. I did my job, I searched for her, and then I went to sleep. Half a person—no, probably less." She touched the screen. "And then you showed up. And for a while, I forgot to be dead inside. I forgot that she could hurt me. I was so happy with you that I lost sight of what she could do to you if she figured out what you meant to me."


She pulled her hand away. "But then she reminded me when she hurt Riyala, who was hired to help before she became my friend. She did that to someone I barely cared about. What would she do to you? If she hurt you, if she killed you, I would die all the way."


"You could have told me this. We would have found a way."


"That's just it. There can't be a we. There is no way other than her thinking you mean nothing to me. That you were a good time, nothing more. If I ever track her down, if I ever put her down—I can find you, if you want?" She looked down and said in a broken voice, "But I'd understand if you don't want that."


"You can't let her control you this way."


"Tell that to Riyala. I talked to the coroner. She was alive when the cutting took place."


He felt sick.


"Now I have two deaths to avenge. I won't make it three."


"Seven, my mother has resources. I could come out, resign from Star Fleet, bring some bodyguards."


"No. I'll get you killed. I need to know you're out there, on your ship, being the best of us, safe and keeping others that way. Even if you find someone else—that's okay, Liam. I just need to know you're alive. And thriving."


"Seven." He could see her surprise that he was using her name. "I can't thrive without you. Best I'll do will be surviving."


"You say that now, and I get it. I do. Because I feel the same way. But if you find someone—someone normal—and they make you happy, don't look back. Just run toward happiness."


"I love you. I'm not going to be looking."


"Don't. Loving me is a losing proposition."


"I will never believe that. Let me convince you—"


"No. I have to go."


"At least let me call you."


"This number won't work after tonight. I'm sorry. I meant none of the things I said in the bar. I knew you'd never leave me if I didn't convince you that what we had meant nothing to me. So I had to be mean. I had to lie. But, Liam, you were the opposite of nothing, the time we spent together was so special. I'll never forget it."


"You're letting one woman become your bogeyman. You're letting her ruin our lives—our future. We could be amazing."


"Yes, we could be. But she's not just one woman—she has enormous and scary resources and people and a hard-on for hurting me. I promise you that wherever I go, whatever I do, she'll find the ones I love and destroy them." She traced his face on the screen. "Never think I didn't care. Never think our time together didn't mean everything to me. Goodbye, Liam. I hope we meet again someday."


"Hansen, no." But she was gone. He tried to call her back but the connection came back with "Number Unknown."


He closed his eyes and tried to imagine what he would have done if she'd told him the truth at the bar. Would he have cared that he might be in danger?


She was right; he would never have left her.


And she was also right that he'd have been of little use to her—how the hell could he protect her?


But at least she cared. She wasn't with him; she might never be with him, but she'd said she cared for him.


Even if he was well aware that saying you cared for someone didn't mean you were in love with them.


In fact, it might mean you weren't.




Two Years Ago


He woke up to silence, began to panic immediately but then saw her face. She held him down, mouthing, "It's okay."


"Why are you doing that?" Then he realized it wasn't just her he wasn't hearing—it was nothing in sickbay. No chirps or alarms or the monitors on the biobed.


"Concussion grenade," she keyed into a padd and showed him. "Temporary hearing loss. Temporary." She nodded over and over, as if she could make the fear go away.


"Are you sure? Am I talking really loud?"


She nodded but then shook her head. "I am sure," she said.


"How long will it be this way?"


She keyed in: "Can you just lie down and not ask questions?"




Then she keyed in: "How about waiting until Ohk's here? She'll explain it better than I can."




"Too. Fucking. Bad." Her patience was clearly gone but then he saw that her makeup was smeared and he said, "Wait, was I dead?"


She refused to answer, just sat, tight lipped.


And suddenly Ohk was there, forcing him to look at her, scanning him and before he could ask anything else, shooting him full of something that made him very, very mellow.


Then she left him with a pat on the shoulder.


"Did I fucking die?" He knew his tone was way better because she nodded. Then keyed in, "But only flatlined once, I have you beat."


"Not a contest I want to win anyway. When will my hearing come back?"


She held up fingers, two of them then four. And said, "Days."


Shit, two to four days.


He realized his face itched and reached for it but she shook her head.


"Fuck, is my beard okay?"


She shook her head very sadly but then she keyed in, "But it will grow back. There's nuskin on the right side and we figured you'd want the left to match."


"Good call."






He kept looking at Hansen, assessing if she was going to turn Borg but she seemed herself. The loss of Excelsior hit her the way it should.


"How is he even broadcasting over comms?" she asked.


That was a really good question.


And he knew the fucking answer. "Oh, 99 Delta. It's a maintenance channel. Wait, wait, wait." Yes, there was a place to save anyone who wasn't changed. But they just had to take control of it first. "Computer, change destination. Maintenance Deck."


"Changing destination to Maintenance Deck."


"There's nobody posted down there," he said, formulating his plan in his head.


Riker got it. It had been his ship, too. "No guards, no drones."


"There may be a repair shuttle." But first they had to lock it down and get anyone still alive to safety.


"That's our way off," Picard said, and before Shaw could stop him, he hit his commbadge, announcing to the entire fucking ship, Borg and all, "Everyone, wherever you are, however you can, head to the sub-level maintenance corridor immediately."


And there went their element of surprise.


Fuck this asshole.


But then, when the lift door opened, it was just Picard's people waiting. Where were the older members of his crew? They couldn't all be dead.


Could they?


Or had Picard only called his people and to hell with Shaw's?


But that didn't matter because some of the younger members of his crew arrived, guns blazing and he and Seven fell into the rhythm they usually saved for engineering or holodeck games.


Fire, duck, fire, duck. With the added element of getting people into the shuttle.


"Picard, go!" He leaned out, knew as he did it that it was stupid, as the shot hit that it would be the thing that ended him. As he fell, he knew it was worse than a flesh wound, worse than the fall on the bridge, than being worked over by changelings.


He wasn't coming back from this one.


"Captain!" Hansen yelled as Picard cried out, "Shaw!" Wow, wasn't he Mister Popularity suddenly?


Hansen was running to him, was kneeling on the floor with him—goddamn it, what was she doing? "No, Captain. Picard go!"


And he smiled slightly. She was calling him Captain because he was her captain not Picard. Not Kathryn. Only him. And he wasn't going to lose her this time to Picard. Even if he should. Even if she should go with them. She'd be safe if she went with them. Raffi would take care of her.


He tried to say it, to get the words out, but there was too much yelling.


And she was staring at him with tears in her beautiful eyes.


And he was in pain but her hand cradling his head was gentle.


And he was weak: he didn't want to send her away because he didn't want to die alone.






Seven Years Ago


She felt his loss like she'd shared the ship with him for much longer than she actually had. It was so quiet and there was no energy without him, it felt so dead—she felt so dead.


She missed the way he'd touch her shoulder as he walked to his seat, the way he played with her hair and scratched his back.


She missed his kisses, and him inside her, and the sound he made when he came, the sounds he made her make when she did.


She missed the little snores when he slept, the way he'd pull her to him even when asleep, nuzzle next to her, in a way she'd told Chakotay she hated because it was too warm and too close and too much.


With Liam, it wasn't close enough.


She often lay down on her bed in the middle of the day just so she could smell his scent on the sheets, on the pillow.


But it was fading.


She read through the open cases, took easy ones, tracking down someone who'd skipped out on their family or embezzled from an employer. Over and over, trying to lose herself in the work but knowing better than to take something truly dangerous.


She was afraid this time she might walk into the disruptor beam.


She helped one person at a time. Making a difference, if only a small one. But it was the only difference she could make.


Until she felt more herself, more in control, and then she called Kathryn.


"Well, this is a surprise."


"I know."


"How long has it been?"


She shrugged. "I have a favor to ask."


"Yes, Seven, it's fine if you skip the pleasantries and just jump into it after all these years. Given that, I don't know that I'm inclined—"


"Fuck your hurt feelings, if that's where you're going with this."


Kathryn's expression changed, her eyes narrowed. "So I couldn't get you into Starfleet. At least I tried. But now you're off in the middle of nowhere, and every time I get a good number for you, you ignore my calls and change the number."


"I know."


"But you're not sorry."


"Fine. I'm sorry." She rolled her eyes.


"You're not. What's the favor, Seven?" She looked like she expected it to be one she could say no to immediately. Something unauthorized like information or weapons.


Instead she asked, "Do you still mentor new captains?"


Confusion colored her prickliness. A glint in her eyes as Seven zigged when Kathryn no doubt thought she would zag. "Yes."


"Do you get to pick who you want?"




"Pick Liam Shaw."


She leaned back. "Never heard of him."


"Look him up. I'll wait." It was important that she keep her voice even, her manner brusque but not rude. Kathryn could run all over her if she showed even a chink in her armor.


Kathryn sighed but seemed to be pulling something up on her main terminal. "Huh." She met Seven's eyes. "Why?"


"Because he's a truly good person. Because he needs your brand of support—the kind that reaches in and yanks out all the skills a person needs to have to prosper on a ship as a leader but didn't know they were capable of."


"That sounds painful, Seven."


"Sometimes it was. It was also beneficial." She leaned in. "I've never asked you for anything. All these years. Now I am. Please request him as your mentee. But don't tell him I had anything to do with it."


"Does he hate you or something?"


"Or something."


Her smile was knowing. "I was lukewarm on who I was going to pick so okay. Liam Shaw it is."


"Thank you." She was about to hit the button to end the connection, when Kathryn said, "I miss you."


"Sure. I miss you too."


"Don't do that. Don't act like it's something you say that means nothing. I do actually miss you. It's a different time, a different world. Things could go differently for you."


"You know that? Or you hope that? Because, I'll be honest, hope is a worthless currency."


"I will never believe that."


"Spend a few years out here. You will."




Two Years Ago


He lay with Hansen in their bed, holding her as she played vids for him. Kathryn had sent them from the archives. She'd pulled together all the footage of Icheb as a memorial.


"I can't believe it's been fifteen years." She touched the screen. "This was sweet of Kathryn."


"It really was." He didn't tell her that Kathryn had checked with him first, wanted to know if this would be a beneficial thing for her or if it would hurt her too much to watch. He'd gone with beneficial, and despite her intermittent tears, he thought having her boy back, if only this way, was something she appreciated.


"Oh, look. I love this."


He laughed along with her, then cuddled down a bit, snaking his hand over her stomach and just being quiet while she watched.


It finished up and he said, "I'm sorry."


"Me too. If it happened today, I might be able to save him."


"Doesn't that depend on whether the Jurati nanoprobes are only a few years old or date back to when you got them in the twenty-first century?"


"Yeah, I guess it does." She sighed. "Everything else went back the way it had been. I suppose they did too."


"But you don't know."


"No. I've had no call to use them. I mean we came close with that concussion grenade but Ohk brought you back the traditional way." She put the padd on the nightstand and then cuddled in closer. "I'd still try to save him, though. If it hadn't happened fifteen years ago."


"You never told me how you killed her. Or maybe I was afraid to ask."


She pulled him to her for a kiss. "I would have liked to have made it slow. But I had very little time and I thought for sure I was going to die. So I made sure she went first."


"And then you didn't die."


"Nope." She touched his face gently. "Had to get to you. Only you were with Laurel."


"Had to get to Raffi."


"Not then. But yeah, at the end of that mission with Picard. Then I did." She turned on her stomach. "If I'd just shown up when you were with Laurel, what would you have done?"


"I'd like to be romantic and say I'd pack her bag and then take you to bed but I'd have been wary after all those years. I'd have probably arranged to meet you later. Not hurt her. Not hurt our relationship if you weren't back for good. Not hurt myself." He closed his eyes. "Big chicken, here."


"No. That makes sense."


"I thought about you so often. This one time, I was on Luna and I swear to God this woman I saw from the back was your height, your build, with your hair. She walked up to this guy and kissed him and I was so fucking angry. But then she turned around and it wasn't you."


"But you were still angry with me, weren't you? Even once you knew that wasn't me?"


"Yeah, I was even more pissed. That you could make me feel all the things I felt in that moment and not be with me." He realized he was getting a little angry and said, "This isn't the day to discuss it."


"Maybe it's the only day. I made a choice. For both of us. And you had no say."


He nodded.


"And I'd do it again to keep you safe. But if they let me go back to any point of my life, I'd go back to the moment I was the woman who was with Bjayzl and not tell her about Icheb, and kill her quietly and make her disappear so no one knew what happened, and watch my son go back to Starfleet."


"Good plan."


"I'm not done yet. And then I'd find you."


He smiled.


"Where would you have been fifteen years ago?"


He thought back. "Utopia Planitia shipyards."


"I'd have been there then. Stalking you until you fell for me."


"Well that would have taken a hot minute." He pulled her to him, kissed her gently. "Any universe, any situation, I'll always fall in love with you. I may not tell you about it, but I always will."


"You'll be a dick."'


"Count on it."


She smiled. "But you'll be my dick."


"Count on that too."






Seven let Raffi cover her, tried to help Liam but the wound was too bad. She let him give her the ship, let him use her name in front of Raffi, but inside, she was dying with him.


Only Raffi was keeping her alive.


She settled his head down gently. Alive. She had to stay alive.


It was his only chance. His death could not defeat her. Not if she was going to resurrect him.


She hoped to hell her nanoprobes were up to the task.


She needed Ohk. Even if there were a fuck-ton of Borg crew in her way. She couldn't do this on her own.


The next hours passed in what felt like a strange melding of the automatic movements of a drone and the instinctual reactions of a ranger. Working with whoever she could find, creating her own little collective, hoping that Picard made this work.


It had to work.


She needed to get down to Liam—and need was the right word, a physical necessity. But so far that area was untouched. He should be safe. Dead, but safe.


And then it was over, and she let go of Sidney, hugged anyone else who looked like they needed it, then told everyone to take their stations and yelled for Ohk and several security guards as she gave Raffi the conn.


"Seven, what are you doing?" Raffi asked.


"The one thing that being Borg is good for." And then the lift doors closed and it was the longest ride down to the maintenance deck. And he was cold but she made the security officers lift him, carry him gently to sickbay as she briefed Ohk.


As she let her draw her blood. As she added the concoction of drugs and vitamins the Doctor had come up with after that first time they tried this, the mix that made the cure take without constant infusions.


As she watched it go into him, she tried not to worry about the Jurati factor. The Jurati Queen was still Borg. This blood was only two years old even if she'd been reassimilated in the 21st century.


This had to work.


She and Ohk stared at the biobed monitors. No activity. No activity. No fucking activity.


"Liam, please. Please don't leave me."


A beep sounded. Then another. And another.


Ohk scanned him and said, "He's alive." She laughed through tears. "That worked. And he's alive."


She walked to him as Ohk moved out of the way, leaned down, kissed him gently then said, "I have to take care of our ship now." But for just a minute, she put her head on his chest, not caring that blood was no doubt getting all over her hair, and listened for his heartbeat.


"Raffi to Seven. We need you, messages coming in from, well, everywhere."


She kissed him again and ran out, hitting her commbadge. "On my way."






Seven Years Ago


Shaw sat in the anteroom of Admiral Janeway's office suite. He'd expected to get a run-of-the-mill mentor, not a living legend.


A living legend connected to the woman who'd sacrificed everything for him. Well, everything but vengeance.


"Captain Shaw? You can go in." The executive assistant nodded toward the door at the end of the corridor, now open and showing a stunning view.


"Thanks." He walked down and sat where Janeway told him to.


"So, Liam Shaw. I'm looking forward to getting to know you."


"With all due respect, Admiral, let's cut the crap."


She didn't look offended; she kind of looked delighted. "Whatever do you mean?"


"We both know why you're my mentor. Tall, blonde, formerly Borg. There's no way in hell you'd have picked me—and the committee made sure I knew you picked me—without her asking you to."


One side of her mouth went up, a sly smile that he felt himself gravitating toward. "Do you know how many favors she's asked of me since she's been a ranger?"


"I'm guessing zero."


"Do you know how many of my calls she's taken, when I finally find a number that works?"


"Also zero?"


"That's right. Then out of the blue, there she is, calling me, not taking no for an answer. And it's not for herself. It's for you." Her smile changes, to a full one. "Seven of Nine has very few friends and if you make the group, you're something special." She leaned in. "I think you're something more than a friend, though, aren't you, Liam?"


He could feel the tremor in his left hand going, looked down at it like it was a traitor. Saw that she had followed his gaze.


"I grind my teeth at night. Clench my fists. Have to wear a night guard and wrist braces to bed. Very sexy."


He laughed at the way she said it, the way she rolled her eyes.


"Fortunately Captain Chakotay loves me despite how often I've hit him in the head with the reinforced part of the brace."


He laughed again. He'd worn a brace like that. Had hit himself in the head.


"Seven won't let me in, either, Liam. But she sent me you. A fascinating present. And one I can help. I came up through the science ranks, not command track. I know what you're facing. And I know all the tricks to make it easier to find your way."


"With all due respect, I'm not sure I'm worth your time."


She let that hang in the air, and he could imagine it flying all the way back to Hansen, a slap in the face to her, to what she'd seen in him, to the man he'd been with her.


"She thought you were worth it. How about you don't prove her wrong? I always thought Icheb would be her legacy in Starfleet. Maybe not. Maybe it's you. Being the best captain you can be because we're going to make that happen."


He swallowed hard, was blinking like a fool.


"Oh, Liam, believe me. I have cried over her too. She's so infuriating to try to care for. In any way—as a friend, as a mother, or as more."


He nodded, getting himself under control. Finally he could say without breaking down: "I miss her."


"So do I, Liam. So do I."




Two Years Ago


Seven found Abigail in the garden and sat on one of the benches, watching her work.


"Exciting time for you," Abigail said with a wry smile. "Watching me move dirt around."


"Fortunately Voyager never had home leave, because I would never have had a place to go. Now I do. I don't need excitement. Not when I have a home."


Abigail's smile was brilliant. If she was tearing up, Seven couldn't tell because of the sunglasses she had on. "I've never seen Liam happier."


"I'll take that as a compliment."


"Do you ever miss your other life? The freedom?"


"No." Then she laughed. "God I sound just like you two."


"You really do. Bad influences."


"There you two are. Are you talking about me?" Liam came out with three beers and handed them around.


"Yes, darling, all we have to do is talk about our precious boy. For fuck's sake, Liam. No, we're talking about Seven."


"One of my favorite subjects." He sat next to her and put his arm around her. "You know you could hire a gardener, Ma."


"No, I didn't know that. Thank fuck you're here, son, to tell me these gems of wisdom."


Seven just laughed. "It relaxes her."


"That's right. See, she gets it."


"I don't. I'd hire a gardener."


"See, my girlfriend's on my side."


"When is she going to be more than a girlfriend?"


Seven busied herself taking a long pull from her beer.


Liam didn't seem to find the question off putting. "When she says yes."


Seven rolled her eyes. "You haven't asked."


"Because you don't want me to yet."


"This is true."


"I do know you."


Abigail turned, stretched her legs out and relaxed for a moment. "But you're going to ask, right?"


"Ma, do you want me to do it right now?"


"No. Jesus, I raised you better than that." She lowered her sunglasses and glared at him over them. "How unromantic would that be? He proposed because his mommy told him to."


"Pretty damn unromantic," Seven said laughing as she often did when these two went at it.


"When I do it, it'll sweep you right off your feet."


"I doubt it," both she and Abigail said. Then they laughed.


"The shit I put up with." But he sounded like he liked it. Like he liked it very, very much.






He woke up and he was in sickbay, wounded all over but he was—fuck, was he alive? How the hell was he alive?


Seven. Seven and her nanoprobes.


A nurse by his bed said, "Doctor Ohk!"


And she was there, by his side, scanning furiously.


"What happened? Did we fucking win?"


"We did. Sort of."


He could feel himself fading in and out. "What day is it?"


"That's not important."


"What aren't you telling me? Hansen—Seven? Is she okay?" But he was alive so she had to be. Or she had been—long enough to give him the nanoprobes. But might not still be. "Tell me she's okay."


"She's okay. She's going to be even better when she hears you're awake." She was going to hit her commbadge, but he reached up, stopped her from connecting with it. "Liam, what the hell?"


"Not yet. I'm not ready to see her yet. I don't...I don't feel right."


"Well, you were dead. It sort of follows."


"No. She can't take one more thing. Make sure I'm all right." He could feel his eyes closing. "So fucking tired."


"Liam, stay with me." Her voice was growing distant.


As the world went black, he heard her say, "He's crashing."






Seven Years Ago


She punched in the code for Liam's mother and waited, sure it would go to the message queue since she was calling from a blocked number, but just when she was ready to give up, Abigail answered.


She looked at her a long time before she said, "Hello, Seven."


"Hi." Her voice was shaky. She cleared her throat—as if that was going to help. "Does he prosper?"


She could tell Abigail was considering how much to say, whether she was going to say anything at all.


"I know I don't have a right to ask that."


"You really don't."


She nodded. "Okay." She reached for the button to cut the call.


"He does. He's actually enjoying learning to be a captain. Sure has a great mentor."


"Oh? Who is it?"


She laughed bitterly and said, "You're very good at pretending you had nothing to do with who he got, young lady."


"I am far from young."


"Well, you're younger than I am. And I'm not falling for your distraction. Did you ask her to be his mentor?"


"Ask who?"


She sighed. "Fine, we'll let that lie."


"Is he...is he seeing anyone?"


"Oh, you care?"


This time she didn't try to run. She just nodded.


"If he is, they don't matter. He's really busy—and I think he misses you." She had a look on her face Seven recognized—the look of bemused disappointment Kathryn used to wear sometimes. "Why? Why do this to him? He's in love with you."


"I know. It's why I had to do it. I had to make him leave me."


"Look, I know Starfleet has—for bullshit reasons known only to them—closed the doors to you. And while I might have had enough sway to get you in when I was Deputy Chief of Engineering, I don't now. But as owner of Dravida Industries, I can get you out of the rangers. We're doing cutting edge stuff. I meant what I said. There's a place for you here, Seven."


"I appreciate that more than you'll ever know. But did Liam tell you why I sent him away?"


"He said you were too fucking afraid—of someone in your past—to be with him. Details I did not get—and believe me I tried."


"That's a radical oversimplification of the story." She kept her face as gentle as possible.


"Do you love him, Seven?"


"I do. But I didn't tell him that because if I had, he'd probably come back here and try to drag me back. And that's why you have to hear what I have to tell you."


"All right. I'm listening."


She took a deep breath. "There was another ex-Borg brought back on Voyager. Icheb."


She nodded. "I remember him. I never met him but it was unusual, an ex-Borg at the Academy. And he did so goddamn well."


"He really did. I was proud of him. He was still a youth when I met him, and I was...I felt like I was..." She met her eyes. "His mother." She took a deep breath. "He was my legacy." She knew her smile was bitter.




"A woman I thought I could trust got close to me. I let her get close—didn't see the threat. But she was a very, very bad person with a very, very long reach. And all she really wanted was me for my Borg parts. But before I knew that, I told her about Icheb. She captured him. And then had her doctors remove his implants while he was alive without any sedation."




"I got there before they were done. I killed them all. And then I..." She stopped, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I wanted to get him out of there, get him to a hospital. But they'd taken too much from him, he was dying but slowly, and he was in so much pain." She forced herself to stop looking down, to meet Abigail's eyes. "He asked me to kill him and I did. I killed my child."


She shook her head. "No. That fucking monster killed him. You gave him release."


"Well, that's certainly how I try to spin it." She could feel the rage building. "This woman will die once I find her. But she's powerful and she's smart, and I haven't been able to find her—even if I have caused her pain on the business side—and when Liam and I were together she killed a friend who was helping me. A non-Borg friend but she had her cut up the same way."


She saw Abigail get it, saw dismay turn to something worse.


Seven exhaled slowly. "Can you imagine what she would do to your son? To you, if you hired me? How much pleasure she would take in destroying anything I love? How much pain you would both be in? I can't put him or you at risk. I can't be with him until I find her and stop her for good. And I don't know how long it will take. I've been looking so long..."


Abigail's fire seemed to leave her, she reached out to the screen. "Oh, Seven."


"If he knew how much I love him, he wouldn't be able to move on—I've learned that much about him. He loves with his whole heart."


"As do you, I think."


"I didn't used to think so. But maybe I do. I know he probably thinks I'm hellbent on revenge. That it's more important to me than him. But he'll never understand the real reason. He's not a father, he can't understand what we have to be willing to do for our children. As mothers."


She nodded. "You're right."


"And I think he would fight for me."


"I think he would too."


"He's not a fighter. I mean he's not a doormat but a warrior he isn't, and especially not against someone like this woman and the enterprise—the resources—she commands. So, this was better. And if he forgets me, then maybe I deserve to be forgotten. And if he finds someone that seems like they might stick, encourage that. I don't..." Her voice broke, a strange high note that sounded like a wounded animal. "I don't want him to be lonely. It's horrible to be this lonely."


She was crying but she let Abigail see, wanted to make sure she understood that she loved her son so much she'd rather he be with someone else than lonely waiting for her or at risk with her. "I just want him to be happy. And safe."


Abigail took a deep breath. "I think maybe I'll just encourage him to throw himself into his new job."


"Don't give him false hope. I haven't found her yet. I may never find her."


"Okay, but here's what I have to say to you."


She braced herself. Whatever Abigail wanted to say, however harsh, she deserved it.


"You find this monster, Seven, and you kill her, and then you come home. To us. Your home is with us because I've seen my son with you and I haven't seen that version of him since Wolf 359. My boy was back. The one who could be happy. You made him happy. So kill that bitch and come home." Her expression was fierce. "Jesus, that's not what I would normally say to someone I hope will be my daughter-in-law someday but this is a fucking strange world we live in. I guess I'm bloodthirsty, but I stand by my words."


"You sounded very fierce."


"I did, didn't I? And I mean it. Find her, kill her, come home."


"Right. I'll do my best." It was trite but she was trying not to break down completely, so trite was the best she could do.


"Well, I'll check on you from time to time—"


"This is the last time I'll use this number."


"Seven, you can't just cut yourself off."


"I have to."


She sighed. "Then I guess I'll see you when you and my son find each other again."




"No, darling. When. Because, you see, I have faith. So it's fucking when, not if. You be careful out there." Abigail started to cry and that made Seven cry harder. "Honey, please. I'm not without resources, I could hire security—"


"I can't let you do that. But it means the world that you want to."


"Seven, just listen. We're all smart and we can figure this out. Just let me talk to—"


"Goodbye," she said in a voice beyond broken as she cut the connection and erased the number.


Then she turned on every alarm she had on her ship, shot herself full of a very strong sedative, and cried herself to sleep.






Two Years Ago


He had his arm around Hansen as they walked into Kathryn's building. "How long has it been since you've seen Chakotay?"


"A long time."


"Be nice."


"How nice do you want me to be?"


"Well not that nice." He laughed at her expression. "I like the guy. Don't freeze him out. As you occasionally do."




"Yes, you." He smiled at the concierge, who said, "You're expected, Captain Shaw. Have a wonderful evening."


"Thanks, Marcella."


"Wow, how much time did you spend here?"


"A lot." He called the elevator, hit the button for the top floor, and then had to give a voice and retina scan for it to accept the command.


"Of course she has a penthouse."


"No, she has the penthouse." The door opened into the anteroom and Chakotay was waiting, a big grin and an even bigger back-slapping hug for Shaw. "About time you came 'round, Liam." He turned to Hansen. "I know you." His smile was sweet and welcoming and she fell under the assault as Shaw figured she would.


But not too hard because he did not want these two getting back together.


They looked uncertain, so he pushed past them with a muttered, "Hug already. Jesus." And walked into the hall, calling out, "Here, Kitty-cat."


"She hates that, Liam." Chakotay sounded resigned though.


"I know." He walked into the kitchen and grabbed Kathryn up into a tight hug.


"Just for using that name, no wine for you. And I had the most exquisite Malbec, too."


"Fine, I'll never call you that again."


"Don't believe him," Hansen said, as she came up behind him, her hand on his back for a moment, and then she was being hugged as Kathryn beamed at him over her back. "It's great to see you both—and this place. Wow."


"Let me show you around." She put her arm around Hansen and led her off for the grand tour.


Chakotay came to stand next to him. "I remember a version of you crying at this counter over her."


"Yeah, me too. Thanks for indulging me, man. That was over and above considering the history."


"Ancient history at this point." He took the bottle Shaw had brought. "Not Malbec?"


"It's a Bonarda a friend turned me on to. Similar enough to Malbec to be comforting, different enough to be interesting."


"I look forward to trying it." He put it on the counter and turned to watch Kathryn and Hansen out on the balcony. "Thank you for getting them talking again."


"That was Kathryn, not me. The age old answer to what happens when immovable object meets irresistible force. It moves. Toward the force in this case."


"Who can resist her charms?" His smile was indulgent. "God knows I never could. But Seven was a different kind of loss for her."


"The daughter she never had?"


He nodded. "She missed her more than she'd ever say."


As they came back, Kathryn said, "Sit down at the table, you two. Food's in stasis and waiting for us."


He went immediately to his normal seat, but saw Hansen look at him funny. "What?"


"Assigned seats?"


"Hey, some of us were here enough to get an assigned seat."


Chakotay smiled and pulled out the chair opposite Shaw for her. "This is now officially yours. Sit."


She did. Then Kathryn joined them and Chakotay poured the wine before taking his seat.


"I know." Shaw watched Hansen's face.


"You know what?"


"That you arranged all this. Me and Kathryn, mentee and mentor. Yet another unilateral move on your part, but unlike when you kicked me to the curb to protect me, this one was really, really nice. And I'd like to make a toast. To Seven of Nine, for bringing us all together."


She seemed incredibly pleased he used her name. "To you, for being worth bringing into the fold." Then she turned to Kathryn. "And to you, for never not trying to find me, to talk to me. I know I was difficult."


"Difficult I can manage. You were impossible, Seven."


"But here now. To family," Chakotay said, with a very sweet smile.


They drank to it and the wine was amazing. "Need the details on this, Kathryn."


"Oh, damn it, Liam. You were not going to get any of that for calling me that stupid name."


"Why does he call you that?"


"Because I called him a Mopey Mutt more than once."


"Oh, then, his isn't as bad because it lacks the derogatory adjective."


"Great point. Thanks, Babe."


Her smile was easy and untroubled. "I'll always have your back, Liam."


"It may be bleeding from stab wounds you placed there, but you'll always have it."


"If I want to stab you, I'll stab you in the front. Also, why would I need to when we sleep with a knife-rack ready to impale us at any moment?"


"Wait, what?" Kathryn looked at him. "Please tell me she's kidding."


"I put the museum putty down."


"Oh, like that's gonna hold it if things get rocky."


"Well, things don't get rocky on my ship. Best safety record in the fleet."


"That is true," Chakotay said. "Kathryn should we start dishing up while they argue? I have a feeling they can go on forever."


"Officer thinking, Chakotay. You two tell us when you're ready for food."


"Fuck arguing. I'm hungry."


"I am too." Hansen grinned at him. "Arguing makes me hungry."


"Among other things."


"Please stop talking," Kathryn said. "I think I preferred them apart."


"Definitely." Chakotay grinned at him to make it clear he was kidding.


"Nyah, you're just jealous of our fucking epic love story."


"No," Kathryn said with a scorching look at Chakotay. "Actually, we're not. But if it makes you feel good to think so, go right ahead."






She walked into sickbay and Ohk met her at the door. "He's alive?" Panic shot through her at the expression on Ohk's face.


"He is. But...he kept crashing. We got him stable. But...it could have been so much worse, Seven."


"What could have been worse?"


"He doesn't remember past your home leave, just before..."


"Just before Picard and Riker showed up?"


Ohk nodded, then looked away. "But he's in perfect health otherwise. He knows who he is, where he is. And who he loves." She rubbed Seven's shoulder. "You can go in. I've got him in a quarantine area so it would be less confusing for him than the main ward, where everyone was talking."


"His logs? They would help."


"I thought of that. But Starfleet is rapidly making everything about this thing classified. Redacted. Like all of it. It's just basically all redacted."




"Go in to him. He's been asking for you and I'm out of reasons for why you're so busy. I think he thinks you broke up with him."


She laughed, but it was in a semi-hysterical way. "Okay. You're sure you can't restore his memories?"


"What's in there is what's in there." She looked away. "I wish..."


She swallowed hard. "Okay, I know you've done your best for him."


"And he's alive."


"And he's alive." She walked into the quarantine room, and he looked up at her and gave her his best grin. "Hey, babe. So, uh, I was dead?"


She pulled a stool over so she could sit right next to the bed. "You were."


"You used the handy dandy Borg nanoprobes, huh? Good thing you got a recharge from Agnes, after all."


"Yes, I guess it was. And don't worry, you won't turn into a Borg." She watched his face: there was no reaction to that statement and she felt a pang of both sorrow that he couldn't remember the mass assimilation, but also relief.


He didn't have to know what she'd done. Not at the gut level that he'd felt it. Even if she told him about it, it wouldn't hurt the same, would be abstract.


She could feel part of herself pulling away from him. The part of her that was open and honest and...free to be whoever she wanted with him now that they were together. If she didn't tell him, didn't make him understand how bad what she'd done was—how much it had hurt him—it would eat at her and ultimately at them.


She'd lose him. After finally getting him back. Twice.


She looked away and took a breath that was far too ragged.


"Hey, did my Mom say something to you when we were home? I know you guys talked a lot and we were joking about getting married. If she upset you somehow..."


"I love your mom. She didn't upset me."


"But she said something."


"Only nice things. Like that she'd never seen you happier."


"And yet you haven't even kissed me? And I was dead. So you'd think you'd want to."


She met his eyes, buried her face in her hands, and burst into tears.


"Not the response I expected over a kiss."


She just cried harder.


"Hansen, fucking A. What is going on?"


Excuses, easy ones, raced through her mind.


She could tell him she was just so relieved he was alive.


She could tell him it had just been so hard, what had happened—a thing that conveniently couldn't be told to him now.


She could tell him any number of things, and they'd all be true but they'd also be goddamned lies.


She stood, moved up so she could kiss him, but her guilt made it an almost vicious kiss. "I betrayed you, Liam. I chose Picard over you, was insubordinate and unilateral the way you hate, and I didn't trust you enough to tell you what I was doing. I love you more than anything, but I hurt you so badly."


"Is that why I got shot?"


She nodded. "Ultimately, yeah. What I did ended up being the right thing—for everyone who wasn't killed." She frowned. "I just didn't do it the right way. I should have gone to you and made you trust me. Made the decision together to change our course to the Ryton System. But I didn't. And I'm so sorry. And you can't feel it, because you don't remember, but you should hate me."


"Hate's a little strong, isn't it?"


"No, it's not. And if you decide to stay with me, once you know what's happened—if I can get your logs, I will, or if not, then I'll tell you everything, in order, despite it being no doubt close hold or eyes only or whatever special classification they're going to put on it. I will make you understand. And if you still want me in your life, then you don't ever, ever have to call me Seven. It's okay." She swallowed hard.


"So if you had it to do over...?"


"I'd do it so differently."


"You mean you'd let those two relics sleep in their fucking bunk beds like I intended and then you'd pull out all the stops in bed with me, until I agreed with you and we went together and asked Picard why it was so important to find his goddamned ex?"


She froze, then she said in almost a growl, "Ohk lied," and rose, but he grabbed her arm, the way he had all those years ago in the bar, surprising her with his grip strength once again, and pulled her back down.


"Do not take it out on Ohk. I ordered her to tell you I had amnesia. I had to know. What you'd do if you had a chance to wipe it all away. Especially when you've shown me you like to bury shit—how you had to kill Icheb, not talking to Raffi, hell, things I probably have no clue about because you're very, very sneaky. I had to fucking know if you'd tell me the truth."


"You're such a dick."


"I know I am, Seven. But I'm your dick." He scooted over and lifted up the covers. "Now you can be pissed off or you can take off those boots and get in here. You look beat."


The old her might have stormed off. But the old her hadn't, at the end of the day, believed she had anything to live for. Not after Icheb. She'd gone on living out of sheer stubbornness, never with a feeling of hope.


But hope was looking up at her, and hope had a lopsided smile and gray eyes that seemed to be shifting to blue and then green as the light hit them. And hope had his beloved voice, murmuring her name, "Seven, Seven, Seven." After so long, he said it so easily, no impending death lying ahead of them to force him to. He just wanted to.


Hope—and a future that wasn't lonely—lay ahead of her, if she was just brave enough to reach for it.


And he seemed to know it. "I'm so sorry, Baby. I'll piss you off a thousand ways from Sunday, no doubt, but I will never do that to you again. I promise."


She didn't question, she didn't argue, she didn't try to get away from him. She left the Seven who would have run behind, left the ghost of that woman standing as she moved to him, the hurt child she'd been for so long slowly turning into mist and stardust as she toed off her boots and let him pull her into bed.


He covered her up carefully, then kissed her more tenderly than she thought he ever had. "I'm sorry, Seven. That was cruel."


"But you had to know?"




"You're lucky you died and I was heartbroken and am inclined to forgive."


"That's not what makes me lucky. Having you, loving you—that makes me the luckiest guy ever." He pulled her against him and wrapped his arms around her.


For the longest time, they stayed like that, wrapped up in each other, their breathing synced, his fingers writing nonsense symbols on her back and arms.


Then he kissed her forehead and laughed softly. "Oh and Picard stopped by. He's apparently telling anyone who'll listen that I'm a rockstar."


She laughed into his chest.


"I know you met with Tuvok. I know you made captain even if you haven't got the pips yet. And I know you're getting this ship."


"You know a lot for a guy with amnesia."


"I also know you're going to boot L'Daren as quickly as you can."


"That will feel so fucking good." She smiled. "And..."


"And, we should take advantage of all the love we're going to get from Starfleet, get married, and ask for a tandem tour on your ship. Same rank so there's no conflict in that sense. I'll keep your engines running true and make sure no exes booby trap anything."


"Well my most current ex is probably going to be first officer so... "


"I approve of that. Raffi seems great. But other exes then. You don't know what Chakotay might have planned."


She laughed at the thought. "Wait, did you say you wanted to get married?"




"Do I get a say in this?"


"I guess." He kissed her forehead. "Is the idea repugnant?"


"Yes, terribly." She was laughing as she said it. "Fucking dipshit pretend amnesiac, this is not the way to sweep me off my feet."


"Are you saying no?"


"You haven't even asked a question."


"I love you, Seven."


Using her name against her, saying it so low and so sexy was so unfair. "Fine. I'll marry you. But not before we're both captains officially."


"Fine by me. See, swept right off your feet and into my hospital bed." He sounded like he was getting sleepy. "Thank you for bringing me back."


"I think I stayed alive through the battle just so I could."


"Yeah, we're going to talk later about how you're never going to sit with your back to the enemy that way again. No matter how badly I'm hurt."


"Yes, sir." She closed her eyes and snuggled in.


She was almost asleep when the door opened and Ohk peeked in. She whispered, "Are you going to kill me?"


"No. He said he ordered you."


"He did. It was really important to him."


"I know. I promise I'll take any revenge I plan to wreak out on him, not you."


"Okay. Sleep well." And she turned the lights down and left.


"Revenge?" he asked softly.


"Go to sleep. I'm not going to pay you back until I get over being thrilled you're not dead."


"How much time will it take before I annoy you."


"That, Liam, is up to you."


'Yeah, I'm screwed." He didn't seem unduly concerned despite his words, since he closed his eyes and was soon softly snoring.


She watched him for a very long time, then lay her head on his chest and let herself be lulled to sleep by his snores and the beautiful sound of his heartbeat.




Back to Main Picard Page