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.

Captains and Commodores: Vignettes

by Djinn



Chapter 1: Payback's a Bitch


Shaw had his arm around Seven as they waited in line to be announced at the Admiralty Ball. He thought this was utter nonsense—it's not like they were fucking royalty. But there was one person here who he really wanted to know that Seven of Nine, not Annika Hansen, was in attendance. And that she was with him and had his protection—such as it was when he was elbow deep in flowcharts and she was off doing captainly shit.


God, he loved his fucking flowcharts. The number of process bottlenecks and single points of failure on any given ship was truly staggering. After the last briefing, the CinC had given him an extra person just to wrangle the flowcharts.


Seven hadn't been thrilled about that since she'd had to give up another room—but it was only fair considering he'd been running a fucking hotel when Picard moved his family and crew onto his ship.


"Why are you squeezing me so tightly?" She lifted an eyebrow and patted his hand where it lay on her shoulder.


"No reason." He leaned in and kissed her.


She kissed him back but she rolled her eyes at him when he pulled away. "Is this why we're here? So you can prove I belong to you?" She was talking low, no one else could hear them even stacked up in this stupidly pretentious line.


"Not entirely. But yeah, kind of." He grinned, so happy they could be open like this, that he could have this amazing woman at his side and not worry that he was breaking any regulations.


She laughed but then her smile faded. "Janeway will be here."


"With your ex."


"I prefer to think of it as with the man who was always with her even when he was with me."


"I like my version better. Yikes."


Finally they were at the door, and he scanned the room quickly, finding Janeway and watching her closely as the poor schmuck stuck on door duty called out, "Commodore Liam Shaw and Captain Seven of Nine."


Janeway turned and glared.


Oh, yeah. This was going to be so much fun.


"Fuck, Liam, she's mad. What if she tries to un-nix your nix of her nix."


"I actually followed that. Sev, I don't want you worrying about this all night. So let's go beard the lioness."


"Let's not and say we did." But she had to come because he had her hand in a death grip and he knew she would not want to look like he was dragging her.


He had to give Janeway credit. She didn't let it look like he was coming to her. She strode out and met them halfway, Chakotay behind her with a smile that could mean anything.






"You know Captain Chakotay?"


"By reputation only. And you know Captain Seven of Nine."


"Curious that the name was approved."


"Is it? It says right on the personnel record who rejects or approves amendments."


"And you would know," Chakotay said, "being the Process King."


"Is that what they call me? So cool."


Janeway stood a little straighter and stared him down in a way he was pretty sure most people crumbled under in no time.


He just stared back as blandly as possible.


"If I undo what you've done—because I don't agree with it. Sorry, Annika." She turned to her for a moment and gave her an "I'm so disappointed in you" look. "Then I will make sure you can't undo what I've done."


"I bet you would too. But, here's the thing. The last time I was in the CinC's office briefing him, he was just tickled pink at the job I'm doing. All the things I'm uncovering. You'd be amazed. He's so pleased with me, in fact, that once I finish the fleet, he wants me to keep going. Starbases, Quartermaster, the Academy. I'll be busy until I retire at this rate."


"Your point?"


"Well, I was thinking that I should probably start with Personnel or the admiralty."


Seven actually snickered next to him.


Janeway on the other hand did not. "Meaning...?"


"It's funny what admirals spend money on. Isn't it?"


She had no answer.


"And of course funny can mean so many things. Like truly amusing or pretty fucking irregular. Bordering on illegal. The coffee purchases alone... I mean, it's one thing to requisition them the right way. Another thing entirely to have Jamaican Blue Mountain and Kona delivered regularly."


She stared him down and he stared back. Just when he was beginning to wonder if the woman ever had to blink, she turned to Seven. "Well, I'm so glad you got your name issue resolved."


"So am I." She leaned into him. "My hero." Then she turned to look at Chakotay. "So nice to have a man you can really count on. Who puts you first."


"Well, I've always had that," Janeway said, moving slightly so she was between Seven and Chakotay.


Like she hadn't always been.


"Yes, I know you have, Kathryn." Seven looked up at Shaw with the most sensual smile imaginable. "We need drinks."


"We so do. Nice talking to you both." And he put his arm around her and led her off.


"Holy fuck, Liam."


"Yeah, there was not one single part of that conversation that wasn't fun."


She chuckled. "Did the CinC really say that?"


"Oh, fuck yeah. You lie to that woman only if you're an idiot."





Chapter 2: Solace


Seven was on the bridge laughing with Raffi over the wording of a memo from Command when she saw Lieutenant Garcia from Liam's staff step off the lift.


His staff never came up here—he barely came up here.


She was on her feet, murmuring, "Raffi...?"


"Yep, I've got the conn."


And then she followed Garcia back onto the lift and to Deck Five, where she'd put their quarters and Liam's office.


As soon as they got off the lift, Garcia said, "This may be nothing."


"You don't come up to the bridge for nothing. What happened?"


"We were all in a meeting. The commodore got a text message and he just went perfectly still. Then he got up and told us he wasn't sure when he'd be back. And that was three hours ago. I asked the computer where he was. It said in your quarters."


"What did he look like?"


"Shaken. I'm used to him being either laughing or pissed off. This was different."


"Okay. I'll find him."


"Ma'am, please don't tell him we told you. He trusts us. He might not if—"


"If he knew you cared about him enough to worry? I think he would like that. Don't worry. I've got this."


"Thanks." She turned and went back into the conference room the team used.


Seven took a deep breath and walked down the corridor to the quarters she shared with him. When she palmed in, the quarters were pitch black. "Computer: Lights, ten percent."


He was sitting on the bed, hunched over the way he used to sit the big chair, like there was a problem in front of him he needed to solve, an engine he needed to fix.




He looked up at her and held out his padd. She walked over and took it, reading the text on it.


Liam, I'm so sorry about your Dad.


Commodore, my deepest condolences.


So sorry to hear about your father.


"I—I don't understand."


"Yeah, well you and me both. My fucking asshole step-siblings somehow forgot to tell me my old man was dead. Funeral is today."


"Would you have gone?"


He made the laugh that was his mostly bitter/barely amused sound. "Anyone else would have told me they were sorry."


"Anyone else probably doesn't know how you feel about your father or your siblings."


"True that." He held his hand out to her. "My staff called you?"


She reached back and let him pull her to him. Then she crawled onto the bed and around to his back and hugged him to her. "They care so much."


"Yeah. I know. I should have told them to just take the day off. In memory of him." The last part was said with so much sarcasm it hurt.


"Would you have gone?" she whispered.


"I don't know. I would have liked to have had the chance to decide. But that's what life is—was like with him. I never had any fucking agency for anything. And the thing is—the thing is, Seven, that I'm sitting here with a dead dad and the only person I'm missing is my mom." His voice cracked on the last word and she pulled him further onto the bed, making him lie down, curling in next to him. "I just want my mom back. I've spent my whole adult life just wanting my fucking mom back."


"I'm sorry," she said so softly it was almost only breath.


He turned and buried his head in her shoulder and cried, and she held him, and said, "I know. All my life I've wanted parents who wouldn't have put me in jeopardy. Who stayed home and let me just be normal. But we're not normal."


"I know." He wiped his face. "I'm not gonna cry for him."




"I'd probably be just as bad as him, if I were a dad."


"No, you wouldn't. You are a dad. For a lot of young officers. I've watched you with them. You care more than some parents."


"But I'm a dick."


"Yes, but not always." She kissed his forehead. "Do you want me to stay with you? I can tell Raffi it's a family emergency."


"It's not, though. If I didn't have nice friends and colleagues, I wouldn't even have known. It was just a gut punch. A reminder of what I didn't have."


"I get that."


"I know you do. You understand me." He pulled her in and kissed her and she let him, let him pull off her pants and his and pull her onto him. "But before you go back to the chair, remind me of what I do have."


"You have me, Liam." She moved the way he liked best, the way that always got him—and her—off quickly.


But he stopped her. "No, go slow."


"Okay." So she went the way that prolonged things, for both of them.


"Tell me the fairy tale of us."


She laughed and said, "Once upon a time, there was a damaged prince and a broken princess. They had managed to fight off all the evil things that had caused this damage but they were alone. And then one day a magical coffee-loving admiral decided to recommend to the prince that he choose the princess as his first officer."


"Your metaphors are so mixed." He thrust up hard and she moaned. "Keep going."


"The prince was a dick." She moaned again as he thrust up. "The princess was reckless. Together they were fire and storm."


"And magic."


"Yes, and magic. But one day, the princess betrayed the prince."


He stopped moving.


"She did a favor for a man she owed one to and it hurt the prince and then it killed him."


"Jesus, this is a downer. Did she at least save him?"


"No, a nurse did that. She was off keeping his ship and his people safe the way he'd taught her to."


"Oh, that's better." He started moving.


"But she didn't see him for a while. He was hurt and moved to a special hospital. She could have saved him with her blood but she knew he wouldn't want that."


"Wait, what?"


"My nanoprobes. Back on Voyager, I saved someone." She was still moving very slowly. "I knew you wouldn't want that. The Borg inside you."


"Thank you for not doing that to me." He pulled her down and kissed her. "I love how well you know me. Do the prince and princess live happily ever after?"


"They do. They love each other so much."


He pulled her down for an even longer kiss. "Should the prince and princess get married?"


"Ask me that, if you feel like it, on a day you're not processing so much."


He rolled so he was on top. "Are you saying no?"


"No, I'm saying ask that on a day when you don't feel this bad, when you don't need to forge connection this badly."


"Seven, do you want to marry me?"


She realized he needed her to answer more than he needed his question to be something they actually took seriously. "Yes. But you'll have to ask me again when—"


"When I'm not a fucking emotional basket case? I got that part. And you'll say yes?"


"I'll say yes."


"Okay then. Permission to be a little rough?"


"Permission granted." She wrapped her legs around him and pulled him down for a kiss before lying back and enjoying what he was doing.


And while he said he wanted it rough, he didn't really take it that far, made sure she came first—he was so generous, even when heartbroken.


As they lay still, she brushed his hair back and asked softly, "Are you going back to work or do you want me to tell your staff you're dealing with a family thing?"


"Would you?"


"Yeah." She kissed him and just enjoyed being with him. "You don't have to ask me again by the way. I get that might have been the grief or the pain or just sex and a silly fairy tale talking."


"We are not a silly fairy tale. We are an awesome fairy tale."


She laughed.


"Would you want a ring?"


"I have seen too many people get ring avulsions."


"Me too. Not something I want for those gorgeous hands."


"And my left hand is already pretty busy."


"Can I just tattoo across your neck 'Liam's.'"


She burst out laughing. "No."


"Wow, that even sounded like me."


"Yes, you're a terrible influence." She kissed him gently. "But tattooed rings would be nice. If and when..."


"Understood. I won't ask again until we're both in the right place emotionally."


"Okay." She gave him a quick kiss and found her pants, pulling them on. "Check my hair? Do I look like we just had sex?"


He called for lights at twenty-five percent. "The front looks fine. Let me see the back."


She sat up and he said, "You're good. Beautiful as every, my captain."


She smiled and kissed him tenderly, then got up.


When she reached the door, he said, "I would have gone."


She turned to look at him, giving him the most supportive smile she knew how. "I know you would have."



Chapter 3: Baggage


Shaw sat fuming in his seat on the shuttle. His team had elected to find seats nowhere near him, which was wise of them. It should not be this hard to get from one starbase to another to meet up with the Enterprise, have a night with Seven, and then grab his shuttle to Earth in the morning.


But it was.


Storms that the shuttle from the Gideon had to fly around, then mechanical issues with the Starbase 4 shuttle, and now a pilot that seemed determined to take the scenic route for reasons Shaw was not sure of. He wanted to push him out of the seat and take over but he couldn't—the cockpits were impenetrable.


Now he wasn't just late, hadn't just lost all the time he could have spent with Seven after three weeks away on four different ships, he was afraid he'd miss his shuttle to Earth. He had to brief the CinC and he did not want to be a no-show.


Especially when it wasn't his fault that any of this had happened.


His padd lit up with a text from Seven, WRU?


He ignored it. This was how it had been with Leanna before she left him. The amount of time he'd had available for her had never been enough.


His padd lit up again and he turned the thing off and pushed it into his bag. He was not even going to be civil if he answered her and she didn't deserve that.




Seven was in her ready room, staring down at her padd—how hard was it to answer a motherfucking text?


Her combadge chirped. "Crusher to Seven. Captain, I can't stall this guy forever. How much time do we need?"


"I don't know. He's not answering."


"Hang on a sec," Jack said.


She looked over at Raffi. "What does that expression mean?"


"He's just like you. You wouldn't answer texts either when you were pissed off."




"Just calling it like I see it."


Another chirp, Jack was back. "The shuttle's gone. But I know the schedule and well, give me one of our shuttles and close your eyes to some irregular flight paths and I can get him there."


"Done. Get back up here. Thank you."


"You've got it."


Raffi just started to laugh. "Oh to be a fly in that shuttle."


"Jack's doing him a favor."


"That will not stop them from arguing."


Seven sighed. "No, it probably won't."




Shaw rushed off the shuttle after telling his team to take their time—they'd used the down time in the shuttle to make sure he had everything he'd need for his meetings.


He had a great team and he tried to show them with a smile that he really appreciated their efforts. Then he booked it to the transporter room.


Seven was waiting for him when he materialized on the Enterprise's transporter pad. "Why didn't you answer my texts?" she asked as they hurried down the hall.


"Look I'm sorry we won't have time together. I know that sucks. I know I suck."


She whapped his arm. "Dipshit. I needed to know how far away you were. I was asking for ETA to try to get the shuttle to hold."


"You can't get a shuttle to hold." He followed her onto the lift and pulled her to him quickly, kissing her almost frantically.


She pulled away when the doors opened and hustled him toward their quarters. "Jack Crusher can. But you wouldn't answer so we didn't know how long and now it's gone."




"Yes. Next time answer my texts. But..." She palmed open their door and he saw clothes folded on the bed—everything he'd need and a clean uniform hanging on the closet door.


She started to take off his uniform.


"Seven, we don't have time for sex."


She pulled him to her, squeezing his cheeks almost painfully hard. "Go take a fucking shower while I repack your bag. Then Jack is going to bend the laws of physics or find a transwarp portal or something—I truly have no idea what—and get you to that shuttle's next stop so you will make your meeting on time. But not if you stand here and whine about things I'm not even asking for."


"Oh. Right. Okay." He stripped off his clothes and took the world's fastest shower.


She had his bag ready when he came out. As he pulled on his uniform, he saw that she'd even refilled his toiletries.


He pulled her in close for a very quick kiss. "Thank you. I'm sorry."


"You're welcome, It's okay. Have a good meeting."


And then he was hurrying down the corridor to the shuttle bay and—God help him—Jack Crusher at the helm.




Seven kind of collapsed into the chair.


"He get off okay?" Raffi asked.


"Is that a double entendre?"


She laughed. "Yes, but I didn't mean it to be."


"Crusher to Enterprise, requesting clearance to launch."


"His logged flight pattern is beyond irregular, Captain" Sidney said.


"Way to narc on your boyfriend, La Forge." Raffi laughed as Sidney made a face and turned around.


"Seven of Nine to Crusher. You are cleared to launch. Godspeed."


"Shuttle is away, ma'am." Sidney turned to look at her. "Super irregular."


"It's for the commodore."


"Oh, okay then." She turned back.


"I'm sorry you didn't have any time with him," Raffi murmured.


"He'll be back. We'll have time."


"Then why are you pissed off?"


She gave Raffi the look.


"Oh, right, you're not going to bitch about him to me."


"I'm really not."


"Are you going to bitch about him to him? Communicating wasn't really your strong suit."


She sighed.


"Just calling it like I see it."


"Yes, I know you are."




Shaw got his bag stowed and put his attaché with all his padds and projection bots at his feet as he took the copilot's seat.


He looked at the logged flight plan. "Uhhh?"


"Do you want to make your meeting or don't you? I'm barely going to make it back to the ship before it heads out as it is."


"Then, do your thing, Crusher. God knows you did it for years as a criminal."


"That wasn't all I was."


"Right." He leaned back. "I'm pretty sure I pissed your captain off."


"You? Piss her off? Never." He just laughed as he pushed the shuttle into a higher speed. "You ever surfed?"




"With a ship, I mean? It's like being a soaring hawk. Find the right eddies of energy and let them artificially increase your speed."


"There's a reason people don't do that. It's haphazard as fuck." And haphazard led to ships being where no one expected them. Which led to crashes.


"I'm good at this. Relax." He turned the shuttle a tad and the thing started...bouncing. There was no other word for it—and Shaw was starting to feel more than a little sick.


"You ever pilot?" Jack asked.


"Not my thing."


"But you know how?"


"Of course I know how. I just take no pleasure in it."


"You'd rather be fixing what pilots break than driving what you've built."


"Yes." The bouncing stopped and he realized Crusher had been distracting him so he wouldn't throw up. He checked their progress and they'd made up time without pushing the shuttle past its capability. "Impressive. Dangerous as fuck. But really goddamn impressive."


"I really am good at this, Commodore. As you said, a life of crime."


"Thought it wasn't all crime."


"Well, the fun bits were." He grinned unrepentantly and then shifted the shuttle's course—no doubt toward the next eddy.




Seven was drumming her fingers when Sidney said, "Shuttle approaching. And home."


"Then let's get out of here before Janeway notices we're not where we're supposed to be."


"Yes, ma'am."


As their replacements came in to start beta shift, Raffi said, "Want to grab dinner?"


"I want to talk to Liam before he falls asleep."


"You're going to talk to him on a crowded shuttle? Great plan."


"He has a cabin. Jack managed to convince them not to give that away when he was a no show. Money may have changed hands." It was why he had a special counselor's discretionary fund—and why his accounting was so damned creative.


"I don't want to know."


"Same." She walked to her quarters and sat at her terminal, punching in Liam's code.


He answered immediately. He looked exhausted. "Hey." His voice was soft and sweet.


"I wanted to catch you before you went to sleep. Did Crusher do anything I should put him on report for?"


He laughed. "Yes, but it was for a good cause so I'm not going to give you any info."


"Good." She studied him. "What was really going on? You seemed to think I'd be mad at you. I was mad at the people who were making you late. I was mad at you for not answering me so I could help make it better."


"I get that now."


"But before?"


"Leanna—the last person I dated—"


"The one who you only knew had broken up with you because she started dating other people?"


"That's the one. She had issues with the amount of time I was able to give her. Basically she wanted all my free time. She'd come out to meet us when we had shore leave and be pissed as fuck if there were group activities that I couldn't leave and/or didn't want to invite her to. If this had been her, she'd have been mad at me for fucking up our time together. Not helping me get away again the way you did. Which was, by the way, amazing and I know I didn't say a very good thank you. So thank you."


"You're welcome. I wanted to support you."


"I'm not used to that." He seemed to be studying her. "Raffi was supportive, wasn't she?"


She nodded. "It's why I want her at my back."


"Then why did you guys break up?"


"She wanted everything. And so fast." She looked away. "Chakotay wanted so little once the first flush wore off. She wanted too much."


"I believe I asked you to marry me not too long ago. You told me you'd say yes. Were you just trying to get me through my dad's death? Because marriage is wanting a hell of a lot—some might say too much."


"Do you expect me to change once we're married?"


"No. Well, yes, because you'll have a tattoo you don't have now. But not otherwise."


"She wanted me to be different—more open, more communicative. More hers, I guess." She touched his face on the terminal. "Her damage and mine, they bumped up against each other all the time. Does that make sense?"


He nodded. "I feel like our damage holds hands and skips down the lane. We don't, because we're cold and aloof. But our damage does."


"I don't feel cold and aloof when I'm with you."


"Yeah. Same."


"And that's why I'd say yes. Because I like who I am when I'm with you. And I like who you are when you're with me."


"I'm sorry I let old baggage get in the way of you helping me. I won't make that mistake again."


"And you'll answer my fucking texts?"


"Yes, Sevvie."


She laughed at the name. "How many ways are you going to mangle my name?"


"How many times did I not call you by it when you wanted me to? That many ways." He touched his screen. "I'm beat, babe."


"Then go to sleep. I love you, Liam."


"I love you too. Thank you for loaning me Crusher. He's got some skills. They are terrifying, but they're real."


"Good to know. Have a good briefing. We're off to ferry some diplomats around."




"Not. Good night." She cut the connection. Then she hit her combadge. "Seven to Raffi."


"Raffi here."


"You eat already?"




"I can go now."


"I'll see you in the mess in five."


She peeled off her uniform and pulled on casual clothes. Unlike Liam, she almost never ate in her dining room unless she had official guests. She opened up booking it on Jack's suggestion—people used it for team building, for table-top games, for dates. She didn't care. Why let the room go to waste? And it seemed to increase morale.


Raffi was waiting for her outside the mess. "I see you talked to him. You get a certain look when you do. I won't lie—I would have killed to see that look."


"I know. I'm sorry."


"Don't be sorry. The me that is your friend is thrilled that you're happy."


"The me that is your friend wants you to be happy with someone."


"Yeah, in time."



Chapter 4: Downtime Doodles


Seven was lying on the bed, reading her padd when the door opened and Liam walked in. "Ah, the wandering hero returns."


"Fuck me." He put his bags down, shrugged out of his coat, kicked off his boots, and joined her on the bed. "I did not sign up to be in combat on this gig."


"And yet there you were. Filling in for a wounded chief engineer while simultaneously creating flowcharts for the console that sparked and dictating process improvement ideas to your staff."


He laughed and pulled her to him. "Right, it happened just like that."


She kissed him for a long, long time, expecting him to undress her, but he just pulled her in close and sighed. "You okay?"


"I really didn't expect to be in combat again so soon." He kissed her forehead. "I'm fine. Nothing to worry about. It just feels good to be home."


"On your ship."


"No. With my woman. I don't care where we are. If you're there, it's home."


'Sometimes, Liam, you are so very charming."


"Yeah, well, even a broken clock is right twice a day."


"Unless it's a 24-hour clock. Or perhaps not a human timepiece."


"Jesus, picky picky." He laughed and pulled his padd out from his pocket. "So the ride back from the Saratoga was long, and I was bored, and I thought, why not do something fun?"


She reached for the padd, but he pulled it back. "I realize this is an iterative process—if you even like these. You might want to have an actual artist do it, not someone who dabbles."


"Liam, show me the padd."


He handed it over and she went very quiet as she studied it. It was clearly the design for a band ring. He'd pulled it out flat as if the ring had been cut and then straightened out so the whole design was apparent. There was a flower like she'd worn behind her ear their last day in Belize, a knife like the one she'd thrown during that first game of Slice, a piece of meat—"Is this blue?"


"Yeah, for the something blue part."


She laughed. But then she ran her finger over the last bit. A very ornate "LOML" and smiled.


"I'm sure it's true for me. Not sure if I'm the love of your life."


"You're an idiot then." She pulled him to her and kissed him. Then she studied it. "I'm not sure about the steak."


"Well, we can work on it. Like I said, it's an iterative process." He scrolled the padd back one image and she started to laugh. "Or there's this option."


First was a drawing of her ass as someone might have seen it from outside when he was taking her against his friend's sliding glass door the night of the starbase ball. "Nice."


"Yeah, real classy."


"Is this supposed to be Tom?" She pointed to a figure lying on the ground with a knife in his forehead. "Are you bad at portraits?"


"No, but I did this after the serious one and if something happened to the shuttle, I didn't want the last thing someone found on my padd to be Tom Paris skewered."


"Good thinking."


There was an intricately scrolled "Fuck you," "No" and "Hansen" with that name crossed out and "7 of 9" put in its place. "Nice. Really sums us up."


He laughed and tried to take the padd away from her.


She pulled it back. "If you moved the steak to this one and gave me your ass instead of mine, I'd get this somewhere else on my body."


"For real?"


"Yeah, I think it's hilarious. And it's us too. We're not just sappy in love. We're handfuls."


"Where would you want it?"


"I'm thinking hip, where underwear covers it. I don't want to share this with everyone."


"I'd put it on my upper arm. I'd also redraw Paris so it's clear who it is. But I do suggest we think about both before we end up at some ratty tattoo parlor after too many whiskies getting full sleeves of this masterpiece."


"Good call." She gave him back the padd and nestled into him. "I missed you."


"I missed you too. So...do you consider this an emotionally fraught moment."


"No." She looked up at him so he could kiss her, knowing what he was going to ask her.


"Are you going to say yes?"


"I don't want a wedding. Maybe a party, on the ship, for our friends. But no fancy stuff."


"Or...we could get the tattoos, have a starbase chaplain marry us, and see how long it takes for people to notice. I assume you're keeping your name."


"Seven of Nine Shaw would be a weird name."


"Seven of Nine anything would be a weird name."


She conceded that.


"You still haven't said yes. Will you marry me, Seven?"


"Yes. And I like the idea of just doing the ceremony and the ring tattoos and seeing how long it takes them. That will amuse us both greatly."


"It really will. On three, who do we think will figure it out first? One, two, three."


"Raffi," they both said.


And then he frowned. "Maybe you should tell her ahead of time. Once we pick a day. If I were her, I'd be hurt if you did that to me."


She nodded. "I agree. What if she offers to be a witness?"


"Might give her closure? Or she might challenge me to a duel when we get to the 'speak now or forever hold your peace' segment."


"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."


"Says the woman whose head will still be attached to her body." He laughed. "We're going to be married." He looked so pleased she had to kiss him.


When they finally pulled away, she reached for her padd and said, "I may have been researching tattoo parlors. Starbase Six has this artist. They specialize in miniatures, like rings." She showed him the portfolio.


"Ooh, I like this. We get our design set for the real band, see what they can do with our gag one if we decide we really want that one on our bodies and not just as art we can put up on the wall, and then we can set the date."


She nodded.


"I like that we were both thinking about this."


"I do too." She pushed him to his back. "I want you to know that I feel so fortunate that we're together like this. I know it's probably not going to be forever. But at some point, I'll come to Earth if that's where you are. I love being captain, but there are other things I'd like to do too."


"Like what?"


"The Academy. I love working with the ensigns. They're so eager. Or going back to science. Maybe getting a degree. I don't know: it seems like the future's kind of open, you know? When before it was nothing but closed doors."


"I love that. But I'd like you and me on this ship for a nice long time." He pulled her on top of him. "Why are we still fully clothed?"


"Because sex is not all we are."


"Excellent answer." He began to take off her clothes. "But it is something we enjoy."


"On that you'll get no argument."



Chapter 5: Warriors


Seven slipped onto a barstool next to Liam and ordered a rye.


"Don't turn around but our Klingon friend is back again."


Not for the first time she wished that Ten-Forward had a mirror behind the bar and not the swirly blue backdrop. "He's with Raffi?"


"Talking intently. Never breaking eye contact."


She realized he was watching them in one of the mirrored bottles on the shelf. "They are no doubt talking battle tactics." She took a healthy swallow of the rye the bartender set down.


"Yeah, but here's the thing. You know I know all the schedules since I'm on and off ships so much. There are four ships that could have taken him where he's going—he mentioned where when I said hello—with minimal further connection issues. Taking us? He has to take two shuttles back the way we came to get back on track."


"You mean...?"


"He's not here to ride our passenger train. He's here to see her."


She swiveled her stool so she was facing out and leaned back against the bar. She did this a lot so she could say hello to whoever was in here—see if there was anyone sitting alone who looked like they might need an ear—so it wasn't going to give them away.


She studied the two of them while maintaining the "Captain being casual" air. Then she swiveled back around. "I don't think either of them know that's what he's doing."


"You know, we didn't know that was what we were doing until we played Slice. We have a room reserved tonight. I'd be willing to let them have it if you would?"


She started to laugh. "Who knew you were such a matchmaker?"


He just laughed. "And if they come out the same as they went in, then he just likes her company as a friend or maybe they really are discussing battle tactics. But I'm a pretty good student of people."


"Yes—yes, you are."


"So let's go give them our reservation."


"I will fumble this. It will be obvious what we're doing."


"That's why you have me, my love. For the devious shit."


They got refills and acted as if they were just heading for one of the booths that was on the other side of Worf and Raffi, and of course it was only natural to stop and say, "Hello again, Worf."


"Captain Seven of Nine. I hope I am not wearing out my welcome."


"Not at all. You're always welcome."


"Hey, maybe they can use it?" Liam said as if they'd never talked about the holodeck.




"Our holodeck reservation. For Slice."


"I do not understand why a cooking program has such a high rating." Worf made a disgusted face.


"Same," Raffi said.


Seven had never told her about the game, what emotions it inspired in her and Liam when they played it, what they did when it was done to work those emotions out.


Liam smiled easily—he lied so well sometimes. "Oh, no, it's a knife game. So much fun. I did something to my back or we'd be trying to kill the old high scores."


Seven bit back a smile. He meant she was going to try to kill his high score. They tended to take turns surpassing each other.


"These games never live up to reality," Worf said.


"Oh, this one does. But I can see how you might not want to take it on. I mean, how embarrassing would it be for the leaderboard to say: Liam Shaw, Seven of Nine, and then, somewhere way down...Raffi Musiker and Worf."


"It would not be somewhere way down. Not with a bladed weapon."


"If you say so. I get being prudent, though. You've got a reputation to uphold." Liam actually patted him on the shoulder.


"We shall play this game and we shall obliterate the scores you two hold."


"Worf." Raffi looked at Seven suspiciously. "We don't have to."


"Honor demands it, Raffaela."


"Well, if you're sure, let me switch the reservation over to Raffi—there we go. It's at eight. Enjoy your drinks." And he put his arm around Seven and led her to a booth in the corner.


"You want to bet on whether or not they have sex afterwards?" he asked with a twinkle in his eyes.


"No. She's my friend. And besides you'd pick yes and I'd lose."




Shaw was finishing his workout, watching as Worf and Raffi did some sort of Klingon Tai Chi. Another week, another appearance of Mister Tall, Dark and Bumpy.


"What do you make of that?" Crusher said in his ear, nearly making him let go of the weights he was pulling up and down.


"Jesus, Jack. A little warning?"


"Sorry. I'm just so intrigued with that."


"I do not gossip about crew members."


"We're not your crew. So you can."


"Fine, I won't gossip about any crew members."


"It must piss you off."




"That those two now have high score in Slice." With an evil laugh, he moved off to a different machine.


Yeah, yeah it did piss him off. Seven and he were going to take care of that tonight.




"So," Worf said, as he sat to the right of Seven in her dining room a week later, "you two have yet to best Raffaela and me at Slice."


She shot Liam a warning look as he took the seat across from her and Raffi took the chair to her left. She'd had the table set up in a four-person arrangement so no one would be too far away.


Worf shared a look with Raffi that was light years beyond warm. Seven had to look down at her food to hide her smile. Then she peeked at Raffi, who was holding up her glass to him and saying, "We make a good team. But then we knew that."


"Indeed, a team of true warriors can best a pair of dilettantes any day."


"Excuse me, did you say...dilettantes?" Liam had the tone he got when he was getting spun up instead of being the spinner.


"I did. You disagree, Commodore?"


"Call him Liam, Worf," Seven said softly.


"Well, yes, Worf, I do disagree. You know the game accommodates four players right?"


"You wish to play Raffaela and me? I do not suggest that."


Liam looked over at her. "What do you think, Sev?"


She considered before answering. "I am curious where we stand head to head."


"As am I." He checked his padd. "Sadly the rooms are all in use tonight. "Give us some warning next time you're here—I assume there will be a next time?"


The look Worf turned on Raffi was scorching. The look she gave him back was also really fucking hot.


"I'd say that's a safe bet," Seven said, as a surge of happiness, tinged with just the tiniest bit of jealousy, filled her.


"Well, next time we'll reserve a room." Liam put his padd back in his pocket.


"And you will crawl at our feet begging for mercy."


"You're not going to be hunting us. Although that would be an interesting twist."


"But not one that's going to be in the newest release. Which arrives next month, I think." She smiled at Liam; he hated what was coming in the new release.


"Care to elaborate?" Raffi asked.


"They're changing the scoring procedure. A kill will be worth varying amounts. If you kill with one strike, it's five points. Two strikes, three. More than two, one."


"In other words," Liam said, "They're rewarding recklessness."


"In other words, they're rewarding me." She grinned at Liam. "He's fuming."


"I agree with him. A warrior must know when to take the glorious path and when to use prudence."


"What he said, Seven." Liam glared at her.


"On the other hand," Worf said, as if this was a hugely important philosophical discussion. "Only someone who cannot kill with one strike would truly dislike this rule change."


"I can kill with one strike."


"Perhaps when it does not matter you could. But now when it does? Will you fold under the pressure?" Worf's voice was good natured, the teasing gentle.


"Guess, we'll see."


"Indeed." Worf took a sip of his wine. "This is delicious. Far superior to the bitter mead Admiral Picard routinely sends."


"God, I love you, Worf. Marry me?"


"I am afraid I am spoken for, Liam." Then he seemed to realize what he'd said and looked at Raffi almost in panic. "I mean—"


"He means he's in a new thing and doesn't want to piss off his new partner by saying he'll marry a dipshit."


Liam laughed. "That's okay, Seven's going to marry me."


Shit. This was not how she envisioned telling Raffi.


"For real? You're marrying each other?" She made a face Seven couldn't read but she was pretty sure it was not abject heartbreak. "Okay, then."


"I will stand up with you, Liam Shaw, if you have no friends to do that for you."


"I have friends."


Seven lifted an eyebrow at him.


"I have friends, babe. Jesus fucking Christ. I've been a little busy doing my job and keeping you happy to go socialize with them. Except the ones who are on the ships I've been to for my job, and then we hang out." He looked semi upset. "I have friends."


Raffi patted his shoulder. "Of course you do, Liam."


"Goddamn it, I have friends."


She turned back to Seven. "Are you doing a big wedding? Floufy gown? Veil over your face?"


"No. The implants would snag the lace. We're going to get tattooed rings and do a simple service with a chaplain and then see who notices that we've got the rings. But I would have told you ahead of time and in a more graceful way than just happened."


"Well he did just ask Worf to marry him."


"Yeah, that'll teach me."


"I believe you are well suited," Worf said way more gently than she expected. "And it explains a great deal of your dynamic when we first met."


"I was pissed at her when we first met. She chose your Admiral over me."


"Yes, but you were in love with her. I have known great love." He didn't look down but straight at Raffi. "I have fortunately not been betrayed by the one I loved."


"I didn't mean to betray him."


"That is something. I guess." He did not sound convinced. "And it would appear he has forgiven you. There is a way you both look at each other that makes it clear how strong a unit you are. Par'Mach'kai."


"It means...beloved, only stronger and bloodier." Raffi smiled at Worf.


"Mates," he said without looking away from her. "Well matched. Warriors through and through."


"Unafraid to commit. Or speak of things that bother them."


Okay that was directed at her, but Seven decided to let it go since she clearly could commit and communicated well with Liam. She glanced at him and he gave her the sweetest smile imaginable.


"Unafraid to let time take it's course, to let their paths wander until they, in due time, found each other again."


"You're like on the ship every week," Liam said as he cut into his steak. "How much wandering did you really do?"


She laughed and said, "You're interrupting the great love saga these two are telling."


"Indeed he is." Worf turned to her. "It is a shame he does not compose love sagas for you."


"Oh, he does. In his own way." She grinned at him. "He's quite the artist. His love sagas are done with ink."


He grinned.


"Less fulfilling but acceptable." Worf gestured toward the steak with his knife. "This is delicious."


"We aim to please." Liam glanced at Raffi. "Your spiffy new mate won't eat blue meat."


"It's disgusting."


"It's delicious." Seven smiled. "Perhaps when we beat you in Slice, we should make a bet you have to eat some blue steak?"


"Perhaps not."


"We will win this bet, Raffaela. Perhaps the captain should eat gagh."


She met Liam's eye and he winked. "I can do that." Meaning she could actually do that but they probably would just think it was bravado. Liam knew better.


"Then it is settled." Worf went back to eating.


Raffi turned to her and said very softly. "Married for real?"


"Yeah. That really wasn't the way I wanted to tell you."


"You suck at having uncomfortable personal relationship convos with me. This was probably the best way it could come out."


"I'm glad you see it that way." She tilted her head toward Worf. "So...you happy?"


Her smile was instantaneous. "I know it's weird."


"It's no weirder than being with an ex-Borg."


"You're right. It's actually less weird than that." She laughed gently and took Seven's hand. "I'm not sure what this is, but I'm happy."


"Then I'm happy too."




Shaw staggered down the path after Seven. They were both sweating and he could hear the labored quality of her breathing.


The computer sounded off: "Score is Worf/Musiker 400 to Shaw/Seven 180."


"How is that even possible?" he asked.


"They keep helping us. We'd have been dead fifteen minutes ago." Seven sounded as demoralized as he felt.


"Why not just let us die?"


"To better stomp us into humiliation?"


A knife flew over both their heads and Shaw heard a groan then the sound of a body hitting the ground. "We don't need your fucking assists."


"You are welcome, Liam," Worf said. "Please try to keep up."


"I hate him, Seven. I hate him so much." He finally gave up and collapsed on the ground, and she fell to her hands and knees and crawled to him. "They are so much better at this than we are."


She snuggled in next to him.


"They're going to run us over when the path resets to this direction."


"On the plus side, it's the only time we'll be ahead of them." She kissed him gently. "We had the highest score until this. That will have to be enough."


"Maybe once the score changes and you go nuts with the single stroke kills...?"


"We'll beat them, you mean?"


"Yeah." He rolled on top of her to protect her as Worf and Raffi came charging down the path, leaping over them like two graceful deer.


"They are pretty together," Seven said.


"Yep." He realized they were both staring at them in the same way. "I don't think I'm into multiples."


"Me either, but they look really good to me right at this moment. This game..."


"I know. Let's never play it with them again, okay?"


"Yes. Absolutely." She pulled him to her and kissed him in a way that was neither tender or gentle.


As footsteps sounded again, he rolled them off the path and heard Raffi yell, "Oh, sure, pretend you got distracted by each other so you can say we didn't skunk your asses."


"Raffaela, it is not a warrior's way to gloat."


"Well, fuck that."


"Your language has deteriorated since you have been on this ship."


"That's my fault," Shaw yelled as they ran out of sight. He brushed back Seven's hair. "That's all my fault."


With a grin, she rolled them further off the path and they just lay, cuddled together, letting the counter roar up for the other two.


"I guess it's gagh for you, babe."


"On the bright side, we will not be wasting a cut of delicious beef."


"I love how you always find the silver lining." He kissed her, little soft kisses that made her smile.


"Forfeiting is not the warrior's way," Worf said in a disappointed tone as he and Raffi ran by again.


"Yeah, well, fortunately we're not warriors." He kissed her. "I'm so sorry I got us into this."


"It's okay. I actually thought we'd do better at this. But we both suck compared to them."


"Yeah, yeah we do."


Footsteps again. "The computer has obviously decided you are out of the game since it is giving you no opponents." Worf stopped for a moment. "Or do you need a hand getting up?"


"Worf, this is my ship and if we want to lie here and wait for death, there's nothing you can do about it."


"Very well." And he was off again after Raffi.


"At least we know you and I are still equally skilled."


She laughed. "And my friend is happy and this will only make her happier."


"Yep." He felt like he could breathe again. "You want to finish out the game."


"Yes, damn it. You?"


"Yeah, we're not quitters. That was a just a little snuggle break." He forced himself to his feet and held out his hand, pulling her up once she took it.


They were immediately hit by two holo-knives in the heart.


"And we're done."


"Level complete. Game over. Score is Worf/Musiker 550 to Shaw/Seven deceased (score before death: 178)."


"Even the computer's laughing at us," Shaw said as Worf and Raffi came into view. "We're going to go collapse now."


"As you wish. There is time on the room?" Worf looked at Raffi and it was clear where his mind was going.


"Computer, transfer this room from Liam Shaw to Raffaela Musiker for duration."


"Transfer complete. Thirty minutes remaining."


"Don't do anything we wouldn't do," Shaw said, as he put his arm around Seven and tried not to look utterly defeated as they gave Worf and Raffi the room.


"You should have kept the room and made us a jacuzzi." Seven sounded put out. It was her favorite way to recover from the game.


Well, her second favorite way...


"A hot shower will have to do."






Seven wandered into the mess the next morning and saw Raffi sitting alone. She got her food and then joined her. "I just saw Liam and Worf off. Was surprised you weren't there."


"Do you think I'm rushing into this?"




"You rushed into it with Shaw. Marriage after what? The time we've been on the ship and a bit before? I know you were in love with him when he died—you turned your back to the shooters. You didn't care if they got you."


She hadn't told Raffi the whole story. It hadn't seemed important—or maybe she just wanted to keep it for her and Liam. "We were together for a little over a year while I was his first officer."


"Seven of Fucking Nine, how could you not tell me that?"


"It wasn't something we planned. The opposite actually." She looked down. "It was off ship only. No exceptions."


"But you fell in love?"


She nodded.


"Wow. Okay, suddenly you and him make a lot more sense."


They ate in silence for a bit and then Seven said, "You were with Worf, working the intel side."


"But I didn't know it was Worf till right at the end. Not like we sat up nights sharing secrets and dreams for the future." She stared down at her breakfast. "I really like him, though."


"Just like?"


"I don't know. Okay, no, not just like, but you know me. I leap before I look. What if this is the worst idea ever?"


"I guess you haven't noticed the way you two look at each other? I have. It made me happy. And it didn't."


"For real? We've got that look?"


Seven nodded. "If you don't think this is going anywhere good, you need to tell him. I think he loves you."


"I think I might love him too." She squeezed Seven's hand. "And I said goodbye to him in my quarters. It's how he prefers it." Her smile was very, very naughty.


Seven laughed. "Then I will quit worrying about you."


"Yeah, worry about yourself. Marrying the Process King."


"You know he loves that nickname, right?"


"Oh, no, I didn't. Of course he does." She rolled her eyes. "He is so not the man I'd have picked for you."


"We're actually a lot alike."


"Right. He came up through the ranks. You're this prodigy."


She frowned. "I was a drone who worked her way up to tertiary adjunct."


"What does that even mean."


"It would take too long to explain. Suffice it to say it's like...petty officer or sergeant. It's why I was sent to oversee things on Voyager." She smiled. "As for the intellect—my parents were eccentric geniuses, so maybe I come by it naturally, but I also have a lot of assimilated knowledge inside me—more of it than regular drones because of my position. How much of it is me? How much of it is from being Borg?"


"I never thought of it that way. Just assumed you were born a brainiac."


"I was a bright child. But I have nothing to judge myself against. School was with my parents, never with other children. I have no idea where I stacked up against my peers."


"Well, you know now. You're exceptional." Raffi gave her a sweet smile. "Only not, it turns out, at Slice."


"Fuck you."


"Sore loser."


"Annoying winner."


Raffi just laughed. "I really love being here with you. Thank you for trusting me to have your back despite...everything."


"There is no one I would rather have at my back. Truly."



Chapter 6: Losses


Shaw finished the post-mission brief with his team in their conference room on the Enterprise, then texted Raffi. I'm done. Is she back yet?




Sighing, he rode the lift up to the bridge, and Raffi got up as soon as the doors opened, giving Mura the conn while motioning Shaw into the ready room. He loved that Seven kept his tradition of making the replicator and goody table available to the crew. He grabbed a cookie as he asked softly, "Doors open or closed?"


Raffi closing the doors was his answer.






"You have no idea where she is?"


She made a face at him. "Computer, where is Captain Seven of Nine?"


"Deck Seven, location not static."


Raffi sat down heavily in one of the chairs and grabbed a cookie for herself. "She's on this weird walkabout." She met his eyes. "Did she tell you what happened?"


"No, I had to hear that from you. Were you on the mission?"


"No. But Jack filled me in. She did nothing wrong. Nobody did anything wrong. Unusually heavy rains in the area months ago had made the hillsides more prone to slide. She saved two people."


"But three others fell to their deaths?"


She nodded. "She thinks she didn't warn them enough—to watch for loose ground."


"That's not really something you plan for." Three deaths. That was a lot of weight for a person who took everything to heart, who at times doubted her place in the center chair even if she'd never probably admitted that to Raffi.


He knew. "I hoped—and this is going to sound awful—but I hoped that she'd count T'Veen as her first loss. That she'd be spared this because she'd already gone through it: first person dead on her watch."


"She's had plenty of dead on her watch, Liam, in other capacities. Just not as captain. I can't get through to her. Not as a friend and not as a former lover. And as her first officer, she just wants me to stay on the bridge—run things while she obsesses or whatever she's doing." She took another bite of her cookie. "I can't believe I'm saying this but I think she needs her captain back. Can you still be a dick?"


"That's not really a skill you lose."


She smiled grimly. "Then make her listen to you. We can't have her doing this every time we lose someone. And...her capacity for self-indulgent self-flagellation is pretty fucking high for such a bright star."


"Not a side I've seen of her to be honest."


"Trust me. I have."


"I do trust you. In some ways you know her better than I do, Raff." They sat in silence for a few moments, and he got them coffee and handed her another cookie as he took one too. "Has she called the families yet?"


"No. Starfleet Command gave her the option of being part of that or having them handle it. I'm not sure what she chose—I think she might have told them she'd get back to them. What did you do?"


"I called them myself."


"What should she do?" She sips her coffee. "I think if she lets Starfleet do it, that would be a cop-out that would start grating on her."


"I agree. This isn't something you can just push away. Sometimes there's nothing you can do other than be kind, be loving. Did she know the crewmen?"


She nods. "Enough to talk about them personally to their next of kin. If that's what you mean?"


"It is what I mean. That's easier, to be honest. Harder on you because you lost someone you know but it makes the call easier. The hardest are when they're newly transferred on, when you have no idea who the person you just lost was." He sighs. "I'll go find her and give her the man she can take this out on."


Raffi rose and put her hand on his shoulder. "I think you stopped being that man quite some time ago. I've never told you this but I can tell how happy she is with you. I don't get you two." She laughed gently. "But I can see that it works. And you're a lot nicer than I thought you were initially."


"Yeah, don't spread it around. My rep as an asshole has saved me a lot of bullshit duties."


She smiled ruefully, walked to the door, and opened it, heading back down to the chair.


He sat in his old office with the doors open and finished his coffee before heading out to find Seven.




Seven walked, never stopping, going from deck to deck, lift to lift, nodding at every crew member she passed, looking for the sign—one indication that they knew.


She'd gotten three of their colleagues—perhaps their friends—killed.


But they just nodded back, some murmuring greetings.


Why weren't they mad at her?


She rounded a corner and Liam was leaning against the bulkhead. She turned on her heel but heard bootsteps, hard and fast. And then his hand on her arm, turning her around.


"Our quarters. Now." His voice was sharp, curt—the voice he used with her after she betrayed him.


Yes, the voice that punished—that was what she wanted.


She looked up at him and said, "No." Daring him—she would dare him to make her obey.


His voice dipped dangerously low, his face devoid of expression. "That was an order, Captain."


She lifted her chin, stared him down, but he didn't blink. Finally she pushed past him hard enough that he was knocked out of her way and went to the lift. His steps behind her sounded... Fuck, she wanted them to be angry but they didn't sound that way.


She stopped before she could activate the proximity sensor on the lift.


His breath was warm on her ear as he nearly growled, "We are going to our goddamn quarters, Hansen."


The name hit her like a slap and she elbowed him sharply but he'd moved back so she was striking air.


"I'm not that dumb, Hansen."


The lift opened and she walked on, glaring at him as he followed her. He stood across the lift from her, which was probably prudent on his part. All her pain was turning into rage and if he said that name one more time...


"Deck five," he said, his voice perfectly normal as he never took his eyes off her.


The lift stopped and opened and she charged off, stomping to their quarters, and throwing him against the wall as soon as he'd followed her in and the door had closed. "Fuck you!" She tried to hit him but she had no energy behind the blow and her hands ended up just settling on his chest. "Fuck you, Liam."


He pulled her close, bundling her up in his arms. "Were you negligent, Captain?"


"Fuck you."


"Answer the goddamn question. Were you reckless? Did you put them in harm's way? Or was it just a goddamn fucking accident?"


She fought to get away and he released her immediately. Pacing though their quarters, she began to recite the series of events. Over and over, so he would understand.


He sat down in his favorite chair and just listened.


After she'd gone through it enough times and was standing, staring at the view screen, at the stars streaming by in their wonderfully predictable way, he asked very softly, "Were you reckless?"




"Were you in some other way negligent?"




"Then as fucked up as what I'm going to say is: these things happen, Captain Seven of Nine. And how you deal with the aftermath says as much about your leadership as how you deal with it when the tragedy occurs."


And then he stood up and walked out of the room, murmuring, "I'll be in my office if you need me."


She watched the stars for a few more minutes, then sat down at the desk and punched in the code she'd memorized. The Casualty Assistance Officer answered.


"Tell me how to do this," she said softly.


"Okay," the young man on the other end said. "It would be best if we did it together—I'll serve as a resource for them going forward."


"All right."


"I find it helps if I break the news and as much as we can say about the death, and you provide something personal, show them you knew their loved one."


She nodded. "Can we start with Daku? I knew her best."


"Of course. That's an excellent idea."




Shaw heard his chime go off and said, "Come." He was expecting Seven but he got Raffi. "Fuck."


"No. I'm just on a break. She's back in the chair."


He closed his eyes and smiled. "Do you know if she called...?"


"She did. The CAO helped."


"Yeah, they're great. If you ever need to be the one to do it, make use of them."


"I will. How did you help her?"


"I wasn't sure I had helped to be honest. Part dick, part person who cares. I guess?"


"I was hoping for a secret formula that would work for me too."


"Sorry." He stood up and pulled her in for a hug. "I realize this is weird."


"Really super weird." But she finally relaxed into him.


"Please don't report me for inappropriate hugging. I just—I just appreciate you involving me in this. Looking out for her." He let her go.


"Well, you're a dick but you're a damned useful one." She leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. "And we both love her. So there's that."


"Yeah, we both do."


She left him and he went back to work, losing track of time as he filled out after-mission and expense reports.


A chime startled him. "Come."


Seven smiled at him. "You going to work all night?"


"Fuck. What time is it?"


"Dinner time." She held her hand out and he pulled her into his lap, studying her. "I'm all right. Thank you. And—I know Raffi probably sicced you on me."


"She loves you. And she was right to do it."


She snuggled against him. "Making that first call was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. It got easier, but not much."


"It never will. It never should become something easy to do." He wrapped his arms around her. "I'm sorry I called you Hansen."


"Situational leadership: do what's needed at the time for that specific person."


"Yeah. But I hurt you."


"It was for my own good. And the good of others." Her stomach growled. "I really am hungry. I skipped breakfast and lunch." She held him still with her hands on his cheeks and kissed him deeply—a promise of a very nice night to come. "Can we eat in?"


"Yes, we can."