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.

Dissociative States (Part 2)

by Djinn





He sits in the ready room, staring down at the technical specs of the tech the Jurati Borg are offering. It's intriguing, what it might be able to do.


It's just him and Raffi and the captain in the meeting. This is all close-hold, which is why he's reading the specs off the captain's data table and not from the comfort of his own office as he would prefer.


"Analysis?" She looks particularly Borg the way the table light is hitting her, casting a greenish glow onto her.


He tries to ignore it. "This could really change some things."


"I concur." She looks at Raffi. "From a data side?"


She shrugs. "There are plenty of ways for her to hide malicious code in this. There will be programs coming with the equipment. But why would she? Agnes held the border during the Borg incursion. She could have joined with those who saw Starfleet at its weakest. Easily taken over."


The captain nods. "And yet she didn't. She protected us."


A fact he didn't know until this meeting. A fact that should make him feel better about having a Borg ship potentially warping into Earth orbit.


But it really fucking doesn't.


"Admiral Janeway made it clear that Agnes asked for this to be used on the flagship and indicated that all three of us should be her interlocutors on this."


He frowns. "She asked for me by name?"






"You're chief engineer on the flagship. And the finest engineer in the fleet who is not flag rank."


"Flattery won't get you anywhere."


"It is a fact, not flattery." She meets his eyes. "I understand you prefer to have more time to assess options. But we need you on this mission."


"On this—you mean on her fucking ship? Howzabout you two go, do the Borg equivalent of a happy former crew mates reunion, and I'll stay on the ship and figure out the best way to integrate this?"


"That's really not an option, Liam, if the captain needs you," Raffi says softly. "And if I'm reading this right, we can't just beam over to her ship without what she asked for. It's..."


"Undiplomatic," the captain finished for her.


"Right. And she's not like the other Borg, Liam."


"She's not creepy as fuck?"


"She's not as creepy." Raffi makes the face that says, "Just go with me on this."


Hell to that.


The captain gets up and starts to pace. "I want to trust her."


"I don't," he says. "For what it's worth."


"Noted." She turns to Raffi. "Where do you fall on this?"


"Does her vote matter?" He's feeling panic rising and hates it. Can't he just be with his fucking engines doing the fucking job he fucking loves?


"It doesn't. But I am curious."


He can tell Raffi's torn. She meets his eyes and makes a face that he's learned means: "I'm sorry but..." and he sighs. "I feel like we owe her. Like I owe her. She saved you because I asked her to."


"I agree."


"I am not beaming over to a Borg ship." He knows both of them are staring at him but doesn't look away from the captain. "No."


"I understand your hesitation."


"No, you fucking do not. You were one of them so of course this feels hunky dory to you."


"Liam." Raffi's voice holds the note of her about to be super pissed off.


He ignores her. "There is no fucking way."


"Captain Shaw, I am giving you a direct order. You will accompany us."




"Or you will find yourself off my ship."


"Oh, gonna get your girl Janeway to do it? The same way you found yourself on my ship? Nice parallelism."He can see his words hurt her.


"It is. Elegant, even. I was not, however, aware you knew of that."


"It was in my personal logs. You think my language is colorful now...you should read the me of then."


She stares him down until he finally looks away. "Raffi, if you wish to continue to enjoy his company on this ship, I suggest you convince him."


He scoffs.


She moves closer and leans down, her face so near to his he draws back in his chair until he can't anymore—he will not roll his chair away: that would be a clear surrender. Because there's nothing sexual in what she's doing—it's pure threat. "This is your one allowed time to defy me."


"I gave you way more than that, Hansen. Then again, you betrayed me and got me killed."


Her lips tighten but she doesn't move back. "You were more generous than I will be. One chance. Do it again, and I'll get another engineer to be chief on this ship. Is that clear, Captain?"


Raffi isn't saying anything, which tells him this isn't the usual Seven of Nine she can easily cool off.


He looks away. "Could you back up please?"


She does, standing up, staring down at him with disdain clear by the way the side of her mouth goes up. "Is that clear, Mister Shaw?"


"Crystal, Captain."


"Excellent. And if you call me by that name again, I will put you on report. Brief him on the Jurati, Commander. Somewhere other than here. I have a call to make."


Raffi is up and motioning toward the door. He takes his time and she shakes her head, so he drops the attitude and follows her out. She leads him to the lift and once the doors are closed, says, "Hold lift," then slams him into the wall and glares at him.




"Are you fucking crazy? She has bent over backwards to not make things awkward for us and you can't sack up for a mission she needs you on?"


"It's the fucking Borg."


"I understand having bogeymen. I really do. But get the fuck over it. She would never—and I do mean never—put you in danger."


"Because she loves me?"


"No. Because that's who she is. She takes care of people." She pushes him off her when he tries to hug her to bring down the weirdness. "Resume lift."


"I'm sorry?"


"I'm not the one you need to say that to. Just shut up and let me get you ready for this."


"In your quarters?"


"In your office." She is not smiling.


And she still isn't by the time she finishes briefing him and leaves to go find the captain.




Raffi rings for admittance, expecting the doors to open on Seven's voice command but instead she comes striding out of the ready room. "Not interested in a heart to heart." She walks past her and takes her chair.


Mura and Esmar seem to be studiously pretending that they can't hear every damn thing being said.


"The Jurati Borg will be here shortly. Is he ready?"


She nods.




"He's sorry."


"Yes, I'm sure he's sorry he might have upset you. I doubt he gives a flying fuck about apologizing to me." She gives Raffi the sideways glance that means she's really furious.


"Yeah, okay, that's true."


"The Shaw I knew would not have acted that way. This one is..."






She doesn't, but she knows Seven sees the irony. "Would you really transfer him?"


"If he ever treats me like that again, then yes, I really will." The look she gives Raffi is the same one she saw at the end of their relationship—when Seven was just over everything. And now, unlike then, she pretty much can't blame her.


"His trauma..."


"I'm well aware of his trauma, Raff. I'm apparently the living embodiment of it." She relaxes just a little into her chair. "And now I'm asking him to step into the belly of the beast. I do know what I'm requiring from him."


"Okay." She decides to try to change the topic. "Janeway's got everything set up?"


"She called Agnes while I was on the comm. The Jurati ship will be here shortly."


"So she was close when she sent in the request for a meeting?"


"She was not. But distance is a small thing when one is Borg." She looks as emotionless as a Vulcan.


Raffi wants to shake her. "Are you okay?"


"Of course I am. I love being reminded how my former captain didn't want me." She glances at her. "You knew?"


"He may have told me."


"Yes, I imagine there are many sweet nothings like that between you—perhaps he whispers them in your ear after climaxing?"


She decides to let that one lie. Seven is hurt and when she's hurt she can be mean. And as mean goes, that wasn't actually that bad. She sits, pulling in as much zen as she can, trying to channel Worf.


"I'm sorry," Seven finally whispers.


"I know you are. If I'd known he was going to react that way I'd have pre-briefed him. Then again, I'd have had to have been pre-briefed." Which Seven hadn't bothered to do.


Should she have? If she'd wanted Liam effectively managed, shouldn't she have? Then again, jumping through hoops to effectively manage one member of the crew isn't what she should have to do.


Liam should have trusted Seven. Or Raffi, if he couldn't his captain.


"I told you it was close hold—and I was on a deadline to get back to her. And as I said, the Shaw I knew would never have acted like that."


"But the Shaw you knew had been a captain for several years. You really don't know what he was like when he first started out as one."


"Oh, I think I do. I'm serving with him. And I don't like him any better than he likes me."


"Seven, give him a chance."


"I did. He took it. He has zero chances left. I hope you made that clear to him?"


"I didn't have to. You did. Way to be terrifying by the way. No Queen could have done it better." Oh, shit, why did she say that?


"Nice. Very accurate if you were aiming for something vital." There's so much pain in her voice that Raffi reaches out but she whispers, with a razor edge to her voice, "Touch me right now and you'll be leaving the ship with him."


She drops her hand. "I'm sorry. We're all just on edge."


"Is that what it is? Or are you finally choosing sides? His." She stands up. "You have the conn, Commander. I'll be in my ready room until the Jurati arrive."


She strides away and Raffi is left kicking herself for making things worse, not better.




Seven doesn't speak to Liam or Raffi as she walks up the steps to the transporter. She turns and waits for them to get into place before nodding to the transporter tech.


The Jurati ship reminds her in no way of a cube. She feels a huge sense of relief at that. She glances at the other two. Raffi looks curious. Liam looks like he's going to throw up.


She can feel the Borg all around her. Feel as in the way she used to, and it's the most welcoming experience imaginable as the voices gently surround her with whispered calls in her mind of Welcome and You're home.


She feels herself relaxing into it, even as she knows she mustn't.


"Seven of Nine. Our child." Agnes looks as she did when they last met her on the Stargazer and she's smiling. Then she turns to Liam. "And our newest member." Her assimilation tube suddenly deploys.


Seven's only dimly aware of Raffi hitting her combadge, calling for beam-out for all three of them, and then disappearing.


By herself.


Liam seems frozen. And looks terrified. So much so it breaks Seven out of the stupor she's in, making her hit her combadge and say, "Emergency beam-out now!"


"They can't." The Queen advances on him.


Seven inserts herself in between them, pushing him back. "Why not?"


"Because after you used your nanoprobes to revive this one, we had to install extra security measures to protect our collective. No one with Borg blood can be beamed off this ship unless we drop our new secondary shields. And we don't want to."


"A logical precaution to take." Seven would have done the same in her place. "But that does not explain the assimilation tube."


Agnes cups her face. "Child, you gave him our blood. He is part of you—part of us, and we can fix him. Put him back the way he was. Don't you think we can feel your pain since you lost him? It screams to us."


Yes echoes in her mind. So many voices. So much support and sympathy.


"Shaw, can you speak?" She pushes him back again with her body, getting him out of assimilation-tube range.


"I can."


"Do you hear the voices?"


"No voices. More a sense of...pressure. In my head."


"Stop doing that to him," she says to Agnes, who merely cocks her head and narrows her eyes. "As you wish."


"It's stopped."


"Put your hand on my shoulder so I know no one's taken you."


He does it without arguing, holding on so tightly she's sure she'll have a bruise.


"Seven of Nine, we can find the missing five years within his mind. They are nothing to us, as you well know. Moreover, if we finish his assimilation, you will be together in a much more fundamental way than just what the physical would offer."


"That's not how being Borg works. I remember how it was. It was total connection with no individual will, the opposite of romantic." And even if Agnes could bond her the way she says, she remembers what happened to the mini-collective she made, how desperate they were to escape each other by the end.


"Yes, but we have adapted and transformed. We offer something truly new—more akin to a Vulcan marriage bond than assimilation. We have discovered that love—the kind that is due to true connection—is a powerful bond."


"And a great marketing tool, no doubt. Since you rely on voluntary members. Or so you say."


"It is true. We do not force anyone."


"Yet you want to force him." She moves as Agnes does, always keeping herself in front of Shaw, feeling his desperate hold on her increase in strength.


"The Liam Shaw that loved you would let us have him."


"Pretty sure he wouldn't," Shaw mutters and she has to agree with him.


"Was the tech just a ruse to get him?"


"Not a ruse. The tech was an offer we always planned to make as soon as the original Borg were eliminated. But it was convenient to also be able to help you. He will be much more capable of integrating it without issue if he is one of us."


"Please. No." He whispers it and he sounds nothing like the Liam she knew. He's gone beyond scared to terrified. She knows if she looked, his left hand would be shaking with tremors.


And she forced him to come. Because the Queen asked for him and she just did what she was told.


And because she wanted to. To make him do one damn thing.


As payback?


"I'm so sorry, Liam," she murmurs and he squeezes harder then eases up.


She focuses on Agnes, putting all the gravitas she has worn the last few months as captain around her. She will meet Agnes one queen to another. "My Liam Shaw is gone. This Liam Shaw is now here. He has value and I will not trade his life for the one that is lost. He does not want to join your collective. Unless you have changed your mission statement, forced assimilation should be anathema to you."


"It is. But we can reach the Shaw that loves you. He is not lost, just hiding. He will not say no."


"You don't know that." She moves back again. Pushing him farther away from Agnes. "His life is not mine to barter with. Nor is it yours to decide what version of him he will be. This is what is."


"How very Vulcan of you. Your friend Tuvok has rubbed off." She smiles. "We can feel how angry you are. You refuse the voices."


She can feel them, the pressure Liam spoke of, but she is refusing them access to her.


"You do not trust us now. What will it take to make you trust us again?"


"Let him beam back to the ship as he is. Do not alter him. He has free will. He chooses the life he has now, don't you, Liam?"


"I do." His voice is shaking but he lets his death grip on her shoulder ease.


"Very well. The shield is dropped."


Seven hits her combadge. "Seven to Enterprise. Beam Captain Shaw up now. Raffi?"




She hears Liam being beamed away, feels the lack of his touch on her shoulder. "Have Ohk compare his scans to the ones the transporter logged when we beamed down. If anything has been altered, I want to know it."


"Aye, Captain."


"Let me know the results as soon as you have them. Seven out."


"And now what?" Agnes asks, her face impassive.


"We wait."


"What will you do if we have changed him?"


"Kill you."


She laughs softly. "You tried that. You ended up bleeding out on the floor of our ship."


"Until Raffi asked for my life."




"So I owe Raffi. If I am part of you, then you also owe Raffi."


"Do lovers owe debts?"


"I don't know but it's irrelevant. She's Liam's lover now. She will prefer him as he is. She and I aren't lovers, therefore I owe her. As do you. Do not do anything to change him. If not out of obligation, then as a favor to me?"


"We honor no obligation from your debt to Raffi. But, as a courtesy to you, we will not touch him. We cannot undo the damage done, though, in this encounter. His trauma screams but his trauma is not with our collective."


"It is now." She can feel defeat rising up in her. Then her combadge chirps and she hits it. "The results?"


"Identical to when he left. He's fine, Seven. But...not all right if you get my drift."


"Understood. Ohk will know what to do for him. I think you should stay with him. I will conduct the discussions with Agnes alone."


"Is that wise?"


"I'll be fine. She was just trying to help. Without asking first." The downside of pairing as impulsive and emotional a person as Agnes with as powerful a being as the Queen.


"Understood. Raffi out."


She feels a huge sense of relief. He is unharmed. And Raffi won't let anything harm him.


"We knew you would do that—reject our offer," Agnes whispers, her smile completely different.


"Then why do it?"


"It needed to be done."


"To hurt me? Or to make me want to stay because we both know the voices felt good to me and I'm so...?"


"Lonely? Neither. Both. And more."


"It's nice to see you've upped your ability to speak in riddles."


Agnes smiles in a way that seems genuinely amused. "We have missed you, Seven."


"You can prove that by limiting the bullshit from here on out."


"Your language has changed. His influence, we think."


"I swore as a ranger." Only not as many f-bombs.


"Perhaps. Come, we will show you the tech. Or do you prefer to pretend to have a discussion over whether or not you wish to accept such a grand gift from us?"


"Pretense is inefficient."


"Finally, something we agree on. Perhaps today will be a success, after all."






Liam lies on the biobed, trying not to hyperventilate, trying not to hear Locutus and see the Constance destroyed as he floated away in the life pod. He's holding Raffi's hand tightly and she's rubbing his arm, watching him closely.


Protecting him.


He tells her what happened. Wants her to know what the captain did for him—for them.


"It doesn't surprise me, Liam. She's generous and kind."


"And brave and loyal." He finally understands what he saw in her, why he recommended her for promotion.


She fucking saved him. And she didn't have to. Moreover, not saving him might have given her what she wants.


Ohk comes out with a hypo.


"I don't want to sleep."


"I know you don't, Liam. But your body needs the rest. Your flight or fight hormones are raging. This will help calm them and you."


"I don't want it." He pushes her away with his left hand and knows she can feel how badly it's trembling as he does it.


"Liam, let her help." Raffi turns his face gently so he has to look at her. "Please. I'll be right here if you have a nightmare."


"Yeah, and I'll be inside the nightmare." But he nods to Ohk and hears the hiss of the hypo. Then the bliss of the drugs.


Drugs he realizes Ohk would probably not give to Raffi unless it was life or death. Raffi is so much braver than he is.


So is Hansen.


He smiles. "Damn good drugs, Doc. Learned a bit or two from Crusher, huh?"


"I'm perfectly capable of mixing my own pharmacological cocktails, Liam." She watches the biobed, and he knows his numbers must be coming down because of how her expression changes.


He looks at Raffi. "I'm not a warrior."


"That's okay. Not everyone has to be."


"But you would have fought."


"No, not Agnes. I begged, when it was Seven's life on the line. I couldn't fight Agnes. She was too strong. So, see, not always a warrior."


"I love you, Raffi." It's the first time he's said that to her—why is it the first time? Life is so damned short and he can't wait on these things anymore.


"I love you too, Liam. But you're also very stoned so I won't hold you to that."


"I'm going to tell you again when I'm not high." He closes his eyes and is gone.


But a moment later he wakes and he's back on the Jurati ship, and the Queen is coming for him, but then a figure in a hood with swords comes between them, slicing off her assimilation tube, then putting a sword through her heart.


"Raffi," he says, but the ship changes to the Constance and it's Locutus in front of him, telling him resistance is futile and there are so many drones with him, all with tubes extended.


But Raffi doesn't hesitate and she takes them all down. And then she turns to him and he realizes it's not Raffi.


Hansen pushes back the hood and says, "We're not going to the Ryton System this time."




But another Queen comes striding out and she stabs the captain through the back and the tube erupts out of her chest. "Mine first. Mine always," she says as Hansen falls to the floor.


He looks up at the Queen. But it's not the Queen anymore. It's him. Older him because he's sadder and clearly disappointed as he leans down and pulls a knife he recognizes as his from Hansen's back.


"Did you have to do that?" his older self asks, just before he jerks awake.


Sickbay is quiet. Raffi's sleeping in a chair by his bed. He can see the shift nurse working at a desk, isn't sure which doctor is in the office but the light is turned down and he hears the sound of keys being tapped.


The doors hiss open and he turns. It's the captain walking toward him, but she stops as soon as she sees he's awake.


"I thought you'd be asleep," she says so softly it's almost not even audible.


He waves her over and she moves slowly, as if afraid she'll trigger him? "It's okay," he says just as softly. It feels familiar, this way of talking.


This way of talking...to her.


"I just wanted to make sure you were okay. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I should have listened to you when you said you didn't want to go."


"Well, you never do listen to me so..." He frowns. "I'm not sure why I said that. I don't mean to be an asshole. I really want to say thank you. I was terrified. And you saved me. And I know that the choice wasn't easy."


"Actually it was. I've always wondered what I would have done with Tuvix. I guess now I know."


"Am I supposed to understand that?"


She shakes her head.


"Would the old me have?"


"No. It's a Voyager thing."


"Oh, okay."


She backs away. "I'll let you rest. I'm just glad you're okay." And she hurries out.


And he stares at the doors for a very long time after they close behind her before finally closing his eyes and going back to sleep.


He doesn't have another nightmare.




Raffi wakes and sees Liam is gone. "Computer, location of Captain Shaw."


"Captain Shaw is in the gym."


He's been in the gym a lot since the meeting with the Jurati. She calls up the security feed that probably nobody is aware she knows how to get to and sees he's on the rowing machine. Sometimes it's the punching bag, other times the weight machines. She closes out of the feed, not liking that she's feeling the need to spy on him, but she's worried about him.


He has nightmares every night. He won't tell her what they're about. And sometimes, he'll just stop in the middle of telling her something and frown. Not like he's lost his train of thought but more like something's interrupting it.


She's pretty sure it's his memories. But she's not going to ask. Not going to force him to tell her anything.


Because it might not be memories. It might be the trauma, and he is going to the counselor, has one from his past trauma with the Borg. He's working the program. The way he's supposed to.


His hand is shaking a lot more though. And there's a sense of heaviness to him. Their sex is sometimes more frantic than fun, him seeking comfort after he wakes up from another nightmare.


But other days it's like it was. His quirky grin, his loving touches, his lips on her, his jokes making her laugh. Those days are getting less frequent though.


And he hasn't told her he loves her, the way he said he would once he wasn't stoned. She tries to keep that from hurting, but she can't. And she won't say it first, won't make it so he has to say it back.


She gets up and takes a quick shower, hoping he'll be back by the time she's ready to get breakfast but he's not.


So she goes to the mess and sees Sidney and Jack and eats with them.


When she gets back to her quarters to brush her teeth, he's coming out of the shower. "Good morning."


He gives her the smile she loves the best. "Good morning."


She finishes up and kisses him before heading to the bridge. He'll get something at the mess that he can eat on the run. What he's often done, he's told her.


She wonders if that was true of Captain Shaw too.


Seven is in the chair looking at her padd when she arrives on the bridge. "Do you remember a Margo Sinchon?"


"No, who is she?"


"She says she met us on the Stargazer. She's applied for the science officer position."


"Doesn't ring a bell." She pulls up the Starfleet record. She's hot. No way she'd forget.

"I think one of us would remember her." Seven sighs and puts the padd down. "This is the third applicant for a job on this ship who's lied about us meeting."


"Or meeting us really means we were on the same ship and we passed in the halls. No way we'd forget three people."


"I don't understand the logic of saying that. I will never trust them now. Especially for a bridge position." But she's typing something in.


"Asking her how we met?"


"Yes. It's possible you and I were off our game on the day in question."


"Unlikely but possible."


She leans back and puts the padd down. "I cannot wait to get the hell away from Space Dock and underway. But now with the Jurati tech upgrades, we'll be here even longer."


"I know. Sucks. You have tons of leave. Why not go somewhere?"


"I spent years in the Rangers going many somewheres. Solo travel is overrated."


"I think you were also visiting some pretty shit places."


"You have a point." She closes her eyes. "There is a leadership class one of us could take."




"Yes. But eventually we'll have to do it. Liam wrote me so many waivers to get out of those."


"Mister By the Book didn't think you needed the training?"


"I think it was more he thought he could train me better."


"That I buy. Did he?" Should he have done that? Did he want her around or just not tainted by other schools of thought—less by the book ones?


"I don't know about better, but he certainly trained me. I know my way around the regs."


"Woo hoo," she says laughing.


"And how important it is to protect your crew. For a long time he had the best safety record."


"They should not count anything that happened during the Borg crisis."


"They're not. But anything before assimilation day, they are. So all the shit with Vadic..."


"That's really not fair."


"Preaching to the choir, Raff."


"Have you talked to him much since the whole Agnes thing?" She doesn't think she has, but is curious.


"Not much. I apologized more than once for what happened."


He's not talking shit about Seven anymore. But she saved him. So he damn well shouldn't.


"How's he doing?" Seven's voice is sad, as if she knows how he's doing.


"Depends on the day."


"I'm sorry."


"What were you supposed to do? Agnes asked for all of us. We had no reason to think she'd do that."


"I know. I wish I understood why she did. Other than to be my Borg fairy godmother, offering to give him back his memories."


They sit quietly for a moment, then Raffi says, "I'm not sure I would have said no."


Seven swats her. "Bullshit. You'd fight like hell to protect his right to be himself. It's who you are."


"Who we both are."


"Damn straight."




Seven's sitting at her desk catching up on personal comms when she hears a weird chirp and the doors to her quarters open. Liam is standing at the doorway, staring at her. "You didn't take my access away."


"What the hell do you think you're doing? I'm calling Raffi." She reaches for her combadge.


He steps in. "Hansen, don't."


For a moment rage fills her—she told him what would happen if he called her that again. But then she looks—really looks at him. At how still he's standing. At how serious his expression. At how haunted his eyes are. "Liam?"


He walks around the room, then turns to her. "I uh... Things come into my head, memories...but fragments."


He turns and points at the bed. "You found that funny. But why is a bed funny? We never shared it, right? Never laughed in it. That's what you said—we weren't lovers."


"That's right. But your knife rack was on the shelf, on the side you slept on."


"Did I want to die?"


"I often asked you that." She studies him. "Your knives are in the boxes the quartermaster delivered."


"I know. I unpacked and put the rack on my desk. That's where I always keep it. How could I sleep with it right over my head? It's not even that well balanced." He walks over to the shelf, where she has only Icheb's uniform shirt, neatly folded, the blood hidden. He touches the insignia almost reverently. "I feel sad about this. I don't know why."


"Because you know that uniform probably was worn by someone. Not everything is a memory. The Liam Shaw I knew was perceptive and sensitive to his crew's pain."


"Whose was it?" Then he holds his hand up. "No, don't tell me. Maybe I'll remember someday."


"Maybe you wont. You've been through a lot. I put you through a lot."


"Technically the Queen did. You protected me. Protected a member of your crew. The way a captain should. Keep them from getting hurt. From getting..."


"Assimilated," they both say together.


She realizes he's trembling violently and hurries to him, easing him to the chair he used to sit in when she had to bother him in his quarters. "It's okay."


"I didn't really want to be a captain. Did I ever tell you that? When you were my first officer?"


"No. And you did it so well. The ship ran smoothly. The crew was happy. I...was happy. And I'm kind of a hard grader."


"Me too. What grade would I have given myself at the end?" He meets her eyes. "I've read the logs. I kept trying to get back to being by the book when Picard and Riker—and you—were pushing me to be more. Even before then, I said it all the time but that's not me. I mean it is me when we're talking working with engines—the book will save your life. But in life?"


"For what it's worth, you seemed comfortable living life by the book."


"But how did I get there? And why am I not that now? I've been so busy looking at the time I spent with you. It's never occurred to me to look at logs from the other years. When maybe...I changed. Wasn't such an asshole."


"Well, for what it's worth, I really liked the asshole. Except the name thing."


He meets her eyes. "A little more than like." He takes a deep ragged breath and lets it out. "And I'm sorry about the name thing."


"Do you want something to drink? Water or...?"


He shakes his head.


"Does Raffi know you're remembering things?"


"Not yet. Although she's noted my change in temperament. Chalks it up to the trauma from the Jurati. But that's not my trauma."


"No. I am."


"What if it's not you? What if it's me?"


"Liam, you've been through a lot. Both at Wolf 359 and the Borg Crisis and then what happened on the Jurati ship. Your trauma is the Borg. And I'm Borg. Not even ex-Borg if Agnes is to be believed." She looks down.


"If you were truly Borg, you wouldn't have defied her. She's your Queen—if you're really Borg."




'What if I have amnesia not because of the nanoprobes not working right or the trauma of the day, but that I just miss when I was happy? When I was...light? Engines are my passion and I stupidly let them move me up to the bridge." He sighs. "Why would I ever want to be a captain?"


She shrugs because she doesn't know. He didn't seem unhappy to be a captain when she knew him.


Finally she says, "If you and I are the only ones who really know what's going on, and if you want to stay where you are—where you're happy, I can ask Agnes to take those memories away forever. I think she could do that. If it would be easier to just be Liam Shaw, Engineer. If you want a happy life with Raffi—and I know you two are happy."


"I'd have to be Borg."


"Maybe? Maybe not. I'm not sure. But if I am one, then she's entirely hands off. This is the first time I've ever heard them in my mind."


She's careful not to touch him, even though she wants to hug him and hold his hand and make sure he's all right—or maybe it's more that she wants to know that this part that's just a little bit hers is really there.


She continues, "But she might be able to do it without assimilation. I don't know. Anyway, I can ask, if you want?"


"I don't know what I want."


"If you just want to pretend your memories never came back, we can do that too. We've done a pretty damn good job of avoiding each other. Should be easy to maintain."


"I don't want to lie to Raffi." There's a note in his voice, a "how could you even suggest that?" kind of thing.


And it pisses her off because she's trying to help him. To give him ease and peace and a life with Raffi. Even though she wants to push him down and crawl on top of him and kiss him until he never wants to leave her.


And he forgets all about Raffi.


She pushes that thought away. "Then how do you want to play this?"


"First, I'm going to tell my girlfriend the truth. Then, I guess, I just go back to refitting the engines and see what else comes back." He frowns as he turns to her. "Do I have your permission to talk to people who served under me? I don't mean talk casually, because obviously I do that now. But find out how they felt about me, what kind of captain I was? How I changed? How I changed—or didn't—them?"


"Of course you can."


"And I'll review those earlier logs. I was so fixated on you. But...maybe...that was wrong." He meets her eyes, reaches out very slowly as if she might swat him away, and traces the implant over her eye. "This terrified me. Now it doesn't. I don't know why though."


"Why did you come to me first?"


"I'm not sure." He pulls his hand back.


"Okay, well maybe you should go back to your girlfriend before she finds you here?"


He stands. "Yeah. Thanks, Captain."


"Good night."


He nods and heads for the door but turns just before it opens. "I don't know what's going to happen. But what I do know is you really don't trade lives. And I admire the hell out of you for that. Thank you for...protecting my free will."


"I'll always protect you."


"Unless you're betraying me." He makes a sheepish face. "Sorry, you don't deserve that."


"No, I probably do. Goodnight, Liam."


"Goodnight, Cap—Seven."






He's coming out of Seven's quarters when Raffi exits the lift. She stops and narrows her eyes and he smiles, but knows it's only a partial version of the smile she's used to getting from him.


"I was looking for you."


"I was in there." He points behind him.




"Can we do this in here?" He gestures with his head to her door and she says, "You know how to get in there."


He looks at the entry panel.


She walks up, studying him with a frown. "Or do you not want to be the one to open it?"


He slams his hand onto the panel.


"Whoa," she says as the doors open. "Sorry I asked." She walks in and he follows her.


"So you were in Seven's quarters...why?"


"Because I'm remembering bits and pieces."


Her face falls.


"I wanted to know if I could try to figure out what kind of captain I was. Talk to the people who served under me."


"And that couldn't be done in her ready room?"


"We didn't do anything, Raff." He sits on the bed. "You're my girl."


"Which of us are you trying to convince?"


He can feel a darkness inside him, like the inverse of a sun, breaking through with a rise of shadows rather than light. He's afraid this is who he became before. "I like the old me better." He looks up at her, and his hand starts shaking again, and he grabs it with his other hand, to stop this fucking goddamn tremor.


"Hey. Hey, it's okay." She moves close enough that he can pull her onto him, hold her tightly, and they kiss lovingly.


She's so damn sweet.


"We could take leave." She says it quietly—so quietly that he thinks it's so he can ignore it.


But he meets her eyes and shakes his head. "You know ski jumpers—how they can't change their minds mid track?"


She laughs and nods.


"I feel like I'm mid track. I better work on the landing."


"Yeah." She eases off him. "If you think you'd rather be in your quarters for tonight or longer and are just afraid to tell me...?"


"You're my girlfriend."


She smiles, half pleased, half wary. He doesn't blame her.


"I'm sorry, Raffi. I don't think I'm the same guy I was before we beamed down to the Jurati ship."


"I know. But you don't have to be the same guy. You're you and I like you."


"I like you too. So much." He told her that he loved her before. He does remember that. He can't bring himself to say it now, though. Not if it might end up being a lie.


"Let's go to bed. I'm really tired."


He thinks she's just giving him an out but she does appear to be wiped. She's asleep a few minutes after curling into him.


It takes him a long time to finally follow her into slumber.




Raffi finds sitting next to Seven to be super weird so she gets up and says, "Gonna do more of my familiarization walkabouts."


"Good idea." Seven looks as happy to see her go as she is to leave.


She heads down to sickbay, finds Ohk in her office. "Can we talk? In private? Nothing medical."


"Sure." She hits a button on her desk that closes the doors. "What's up?"


"The Liam that we've been seeing lately. How true to life is he? I mean if we went back five years, is that who we'd see?"


She nods.


"You and he. You go back even further, right?"


"Yeah, way back." She leans in. "We used to hunt together."


"Like, with guns?"


Ohk laughs. "No, in nightclubs. We were each other's wing person. Although we pretty much had the same taste in women so sometimes it was a competition. Especially if the woman went both ways." She gives Raffi a very friendly smile.


She can feel herself turning red. "Stop it."


"Okay. Did not mean to make you uncomfortable." She seems a little worried.


"Relax. Not going to write you up—or tell Liam you were hitting on his girl." She sighs. "I guess I'm trying to understand how this guy—this super fun, super funny guy—turned into the Shaw I met." And didn't really like.


"It wasn't overnight. It was a hard adjustment for him. Going from something he could do in his sleep to something where everything needed to be answered in fifteen seconds. He was so stressed. His humor became...sporadic. And then it because...harsh. We never go out anymore to clubs. He just...he just kind of went inward."


"Just because of a job?"


"It didn't play to his strengths. I mean he made it play to them—he kept mentoring people even though most captains leave that to their department heads and the supervisors lower in the chain. He'd be down in engineering when he couldn't stand it. The commander was with him half the time during her tenure." She looks panicked. "Well not half the time but a little."


"It's okay. I want to know what I'm up against."


"Up against?"


"He's getting his memories back."


"He did not tell me that." Suddenly Ohk is one hundred percent doctor and Raffi loves how the silly/sexy act falls off and the professional takes over. "How much?"


"Fragments. Bit and pieces. But...I see it. I see him changing. And I guess I wonder who owns the parts that were hidden."


Ohk doesn't answer.


"Because I think it's probably her." She looks down.


"If he goes back to what he was like, he won't be the same guy. The lighthearted guy who you're with. Who you clearly really, really like. If that helps?"


"So you think a Liam with all his memories will choose her?"


"I don't know. They have this bizarre chemistry. And...they're on the same wavelength so much of the time. Like they have their own language."


"I saw some of that. Before he died."


"But now's there's you and you're the wildcard. And I think Liam knows how special you are."


"She's special too."


"I guess. If it were my choice, I'd choose you."


She smiles at her gratefully. "Too bad it's not your choice, then." She gets up.


"And I'm getting Liam down here for a full work-up."


"Do not tell him I told you."


Ohk pretends to zip her lips.


"Thank you. For everything."


"I didn't do anything."


"You were full of info. And you listened. That's not nothing."




Seven sits with Jack and Sidney in Ten-Forward, trying to ignore that Raffi and Liam are on the dance floor.


Her discussion with him has left her shaken—and way less copacetic than she had been.


Sidney follows her gaze and makes a face. "Why aren't you mad?"


"Mad? They are adults."


Jack mumbles something about getting refills and hightails it to the bar.


"Big chicken." Sidney leans in. "So...once upon a time I really liked this guy. Only he didn't know I was alive because he was totally into Alandra."


"Let me guess: she didn't go out with him because you were more important."


"No, she totally went out with him. But I should have been more important. Sisters before misters, right? She's your friend."


"I am not discussing this with you, Sidney."


"Is it because you dumped her?"


"I did not dump her. How much have you had to drink?"


"Not that much. I just want to know why you think you can't be mad?"


"Why do you care?"


"Because I just spent an hour this afternoon with Liam explaining why I wasn't mad at him for turning me into a Borg. As if he did that. My freakin' boyfriend did."


Jack is at the table with glasses but immediately turns and heads back to the bar saying, "Oops, he gave me someone else's order.


Seven laughs. "Now you've scared off said boyfriend."


"He always comes back." She leans in. "I really like Raffi. I'm not trying to cause trouble. It just occurred to me that I don't know why you're not mad. Is it because you feel bad that you let Picard and Riker steal the shuttle?"


Seven closes her eyes. "Sidney, I'm going to go now."


"Why?" Raffi asks as she and Liam come off the dance floor. "Hey, I've got an idea. Why don't you two dance?"


"I was just leaving."


"Yeah, umm, it's okay. " Liam is stumbling over himself to let her out of the booth but Raffi doesn't move.


"Are you afraid to dance?" Raffi's staring her funny.


"Stop pushing."


"Let it breathe, as you used to tell me. Why? Enquiring minds want to know why a dance isn't a good idea?"


She meets her eyes. "Get out of my way."


It goes very quiet around them.


"Raff, come on." Liam actually eases her out of the way. "Sorry, Captain."


"No problem. I'll tell Jack he can come back, Sidney." She gestures to the booth. "Please, you two, take my seat."


And then she is heading to the bar, where she tells Jack, "Please get over there and keep any of them from following me."


"On it."


She doesn't look back but she can hear Jack and Raffi arguing.


"Why aren't you mad?" keeps repeating in her mind.


Who the fuck says she isn't?






Shaw is in his office when he hears the slight stomp that means Seven is in his domain. The sound doesn't grate on his nerves the way it used to.


She stands in his doorway. "Got a minute?"


"Sure." He motions to his guest chair and she smiles and says, "I've been sitting. I'll stand."


"I don't remember that but I must have felt that way a lot too."


"You did. You walked around quite a bit. You were a captain who was seen by his crew. I'm not sure I am."


"Well to be fair to you, we're in space dock and most of the crew isn't on board."


She laughs. "True."


"Are you warming up for a talk about how fucking weird that was the other night in Ten-Forward."


"Actually no. But now that you mention it, it was weird." She turns and he's struck by how blue her eyes are. "Is she okay?"


"I think so." He's being careful. He doesn't want to be disloyal to Raffi, but it was really fucking weird. Why in God's name would she want him and Seven to dance?


"Okay, then we'll just chalk it up to a weird moment and forget it." She walks over to his idea board. "What's this?"


He gets up and walks over to her. "New ideas on the left, things we hate on the right."


"Lots of different handwriting."


"Yeah, anybody can come in to scribble on it." He's watching her face. "I take it I didn't have one of these in my ready room? Or elsewhere on the ship?"


"If you did, it was before my time. Maybe it got unwieldy. Or people were assholes." She laughs and he finds the sound so different than what he'd imagine—it's almost a cackle. "The Rangers had a suggestion board for a hot minute. The things that came in on that were just unreal. They put together a newsletter with just those and we all got a good laugh."


"I didn't realize the Ranger were that organized. A newsletter and everything?"


"It was one Ranger. She couldn't hunt the way she used to so she was pretty much Mission Control for the rest of us." She looks down. "She liked me. I have no idea why."


"Looked out for you?"


"She did. She's gone now."


He hears something really off in her voice so he asks the question he normally wouldn't. "How did she go?"


"Disruptor to the head. The Ranger way." For a moment, she is gone, and he thinks it's to somewhere very dark. Then she seems to mentally shake herself and walks forward and starts to read the boards. "These are actually useful."


"Yep. We're holding them until the refits and Jurati upgrades are done. Some might go away. Some might get worse. But we're on the job."


"So I see. And that's why I'm here. I know we already have one daughter of your hero on board but how would you feel about having Alandra La Forge in engineering?"


"Does it mean that Geordi gets to come visit her and I might get to talk to him more. He was so friendly that day at the reception."


"It's possible." She grins at him.


"Serving with your sibling, though. How's Sidney going to take it."


"They'll be in different sections. We had sisters on Voyager. They were twins, even worked in the same section. They were attractive and very popular."


"Till you got there." He realizes what he said just as she laughs in her normal more restrained way—he wants to hear the cackle again. "Sorry, that was rude."


"I don't mind. And sadly you aren't wrong. That fucking outfit they put me in. I understand the purpose but they could have given it a jacket. Something to make it look like I was part of the crew."


He isn't sure what she's talking about so he just shrugs.


"Sorry, it's getting easier to forget you've forgotten." Her smile is easy and free of blame.


"Oh, hey. I have a question." He reaches for the padd on his desk and brings up the music player. "I have this memory fragment. Dinner, you, me, Picard and Riker. I can see me drinking wine. I can see you eating blue steak. I have a plate of it too but I'm talking."


"Verbally eviscerating would be the correct term."


He laughs. "Yeah, I was a dick. But I don't remember being a big fan of Chopin. And I do remember other classical pieces I like. So why did I play this during that dinner?"


She smiles. "I think you wanted me to know that I wasn't part of what you were tearing apart. It's one of my favorite pieces."


"Do you know any of mine?"


She nods. "'In the Air Tonight' by Phil Collins."


"That drum."


"Yes, you made me a believer in that song. It's on my playlist and seems very lonely amid so much classical, but I play it when I'm really angry and working out."


He lifts an eyebrow. "Have you been playing it since you brought me back to life?"


She laughs in a sheepish way. "Yes. Possibly on repeat." She shakes her head at his laugh. "But for classical music, your favorite is Borodin's Nocturne from his String Quartet Number Two. So sad."


"So romantic."


"Yes, you always said so. I only heard pain."


"And you never hear the discord in the Chopin piece." He frowns. "It's so weird. Shit like that just comes to me now. But it's just these little pieces. I don't, for instance, know when you told me the Chopin was your favorite piece. Or if I discovered it was because it was always playing in your quarters when I had to bug you when you were off duty."


"It must be frustrating."


"It is. But also getting bits back feels right." He turns and looks out the windows of his office, into engineering. "Only I can feel myself changing."


"How?" She hasn't turned and he's grateful for that.


"Like I remember working on the nacelle, the changeling that looked like Sidney coming in, and I was fucking terrified. And then you just blew it the fuck away."


She does turn, leans against the wall watching him. "I had no idea you were terrified. You played it very cool."


"Yeah, that's the problem. I see those moments and I'm so fucking cold."


"Compared to what you came back to life as, yes. But there is a comfort in a person who's not given to extremes. And everyone knows you care."


"And you liked me, right?"


"Yes, but I'm not exactly a roaring bonfire when it comes to personal warmth."


He laughs out loud. "We make a great pair."


And wow, that was so the wrong thing to say. But she just smiles and says, "We were indeed an effective command team."


"Thank you."


"Words are tricky. They can mean so many things."


"Yeah. And I think I started using them as weapons—like all the time. But before, I was light. I was happy. I saw the funny in things. Now sometimes all I see are problems. Things to be addressed before someone gets hurt."


"You had the best safety record in the fleet. That came with a cost." She shifts and he gets a whisper of perfume as she moves.


He puts those thoughts out of his mind and goes to his desk. "So Alandra, sure. When can I expect her?"


"I'll arrange it with personnel."


"Wouldn't Raffi normally do that?"


"This came through channels."


"Well luckily it was a good one this time. Remember Murrow?" He frowns. "Who the hell is Murrow?"


She smiles gently at him. "A pain in our collective asses. Which I should feel bad about saying because he was shot by the changelings during the boarding."


"Where did he serve?"




"Was he blonde?"


"He was. You can visualize him?"


"Only from the back. Maybe that was the best way to see him—leaving."


She cackles and he thinks she probably did that a lot when he caught her off guard that way. "I imagine it was. Well, I'll let you get back to it."


"Okay." He meets her eyes, is having a hard time forcing himself to look away.


She doesn't look away for a very long moment, then she turns and leaves.


He wants to go with her. To talk about other things he's remembering. Fragments of life.


But he doesn't. Because he doesn't trust that his motivations for wanting to spend time with her are wholly innocent.




Raffi's in her bridge chair reading old department reports on her padd, trying to familiarize herself with everything that goes on when the lift opens and Liam walks out.


He gives her the sweetest smile and she asks, "Came to visit your old stomping grounds?"


He walks to the captain's chair, touches the screen, hit a combo of buttons and the resolution improves. "It keeps resetting to the default which is too damn small." He meets her eyes. "Another memory."


"Yay." She knows she sounds half hearted. She doesn't mean to, but every step toward the man he was is, she's afraid, a step away from her. "What are you here for?"


"I need her. Trying to make sense of something."


"Something in engineering."


He smiles gently. "No something in my head. From our time—hers and mine, not yours and mine." He makes a face. "Not making it better, am I?"


She's acutely aware of how still the rest of the bridge crew has become. How important how she answers will be. "Don't be silly. Go and fill in the blanks."


He grins and is gone. She goes back to reading—or pretending to be—as she tries to listen in. Seven keeps the door open unless she's in a meeting or pissed off.


She hears laughing. Even his laugh is changing. Becoming more restrained—older. Five years shouldn't make that big a difference but it does. Or maybe it's the weight of those years, the responsibility of them?


She hears him coming back, his footsteps on the stairs sure and quick—muscle memory possible. Not necessarily that he remembers how many times he must have exited that room. How it would have been Seven sitting in this chair waiting for him, not her.


"All good?" she asks as he stops by her.


"Yep. Lunch? Noon?"


"Our usual booth?"


"Yep. See you then." His smile is the one she loves, his voice not holding any deception.


She gives it a few beats, lets his absence register, the bridge crew go back to normal, and then she gets up and walks up the stairs into the ready room, not seeing the point of handing over the conn when she's right there, doors open and besides they're in space dock.


Seven is smiling. It's a smile Raffi used to love. Now...knowing Liam caused it, not so much.


She looks over at her. "Hey. What's up?"


"Just fun seeing him up here, huh?"


Seven's look instantly closes down. "Meaning...?"


"Whoa, someone's defensive."


"I know you when you're on the attack but pretending to be innocently making observations."


"Yeah, I guess you do." She crosses her arms over her chest as she moves closer. "You like that he's coming back. Your version of him."


"I do. I see no reason to lie about that."


"What if it hurts me?"


"What if what you've been doing with him hurts me?"


"And here we are. The mutual hurt society." She looks down. "How long before I lose him?"


"Raff, he came to ask me if he actually insulted the Vulcan ambassador or not. It's hardly sweet nothings."


"Why would he insult the Vulcan ambassador?"


"Because he was snooty about the engines during a tour."


Raffi starts laughing. "Man, he loves those things a little too much."


"Agreed." She stands and walks around her desk. "He's with you. Him getting his memories back won't necessarily change that. But I feel like if he wants help, I need to help him. Are you suggesting I shouldn't?"


"No." She meets her eyes. "I'm just super jealous when he does. And...worried." She lets that hang in the air for a bit. "And you're not rushing in to tell me not to worry."


She shrugs in the way Raffi has always hated, because it comes with this very tired look, as if she's saying, "What answer do you want me to give?" without actually saying it.


"Okay then. I'm going to go back to the chair."




She turns, but then she turns back. "Do you ever think of Elnor?"


She looks sincerely confused at this turn in the conversation. "Think of him how? I know he was not on the Excelsior when it exploded if that is what you mean? I was relieved to hear he was not on that ship."


"Do you consider him your son?"


"I think we're all surrogate parents for him. He's like an eager puppy sometimes."


"Nice image. And that's not what I asked. Do you consider him a son?"


She sighs. "No. But I know you do."


"I kind of thought that—for a while at least—we shared him."


"Yeah, I can see that."


"That's not something you see. That's something you feel."


"I mean I can she how you would think that. Moreover, why are you picking a fight over this? I had a son. He's dead because, unlike with yours, an omnipotent being didn't bring him back." She has the panicked look when she's feeling rage combined with the need to cry.


"You're right. I'm sorry. I'm just... I feel like everything's falling apart."


Her eyes are hard as she goes back to her desk and says, "Welcome to my world, Raff."




Seven is eating a salad in the booth she prefers, one that gives her a little privacy when the mess isn't crowded. She sees Liam come in and busies herself with eating. She doesn't want to appear to be luring him over while Raffi is away for a week of first officer training, but if he comes on his own...


A moment later, she hears his footsteps coming toward her. "This seat taken?"


She looks up and smiles. "No."


"Then I would like to take it."


She gestures for him to sit. "Must be weird for you having Raffi off the ship. You guys eat lunch together a lot."


"Yep." He spends some time getting his hamburger set the way he likes and she laughs as he takes the onions off and the pickles.


"I like the little bit of flavor—"


"But not the things themselves. Yes, I remember."


"I'm remembering so much now. Things are coming in by chunks. Not fragments anymore. One day I go to bed and the next I remember my first weeks on the ship as captain."


"That's good. Right?"


He looks up at her, his eyes serious, no smile.


"Or is that why Raffi decided to take the training now?"


"She doesn't love that I run things by you. But you aren't the only one I do it with. Mura's been here all five years. Ohk, too. If it's the first three years, I go to them."


"A logical division of expertise." She spears some lettuce then puts her fork down. "I can't help that I was a big part of your life for two years. Just as you were mine. We were a team. It's unfair for her to resent me for that."


"I think it's more that every memory back is a step away from her—or that's how she's choosing to see it." He eats for a while, obviously using that as an excuse not to talk. Then he looks back up, meets her eyes. "I remember Clahada."


She almost forgets how to breathe.


"I remember how fucked up the shuttle was. And I was freaked at the idea of hanging out with you alone. Your implants bothered me, your intonation bothered me."


"Everything about me bothered you."


"Pretty much, yeah. And then we got to working. And I told you about my mom. And you told me about your son—and that's who that uniform belongs to on your shelf. And we just kept working like we'd been doing that for such a long time."


"I finally felt like I...fit with you. You were so easy to work with. The way you did things made sense—the order, the efficiency. The easy way you divvied up tasks. And the way it was no big deal that we were covering all this emotional ground—our histories—as we put the shuttle back together. It just seemed natural to share."


"I agree. It was the first day I didn't resent Janeway for sending you to me."


"I wish I'd known that you didn't want me."


"What would you have done?"


"Refused the assignment. Made her put me somewhere I was wanted—if such a place existed."


"I'm glad you never knew then." He notices her water is empty and gets up and hurries to fill up the glasses. He knows she likes lots of crushed ice in hers—or he did know that and then probably forgot it but now apparently remembers because her glass is full of it.


"Craving ice is—"


"A sign of anemia. I know. I'm fine. I just...when I got out of the collective—"


"It was the first food you really enjoyed. Only it's not really food."


"Which we had an argument over."


His smile is easy, uncomplicated—and so wonderfully familiar. "Find a subject we can't argue about." His smile fades. "See, there's a problem with all this. If Raffi walked in right now, she'd be upset. In her place, I might be too. Because feelings are coming and I'm not the kind of guy who plays around on his partner."


She looks down. "If I've—"


"You haven't done anything wrong. But I do need you to do something for me. A favor."




"Not yet, but once I get it all back, I may want to go back and visit Agnes."


"The Jurati Queen. Who tried to assimilate you. You want to visit her?"




Why would he want this? Other than to do what Seven offered when he first started to remember. Erase his memories—and her—after all?


She can feel herself shutting down, the good humor fading. "Why?"


"Because talking to the crew is getting me somewhere on figuring out what kind of captain I was. Whether if was a life worth remembering. But I have this guilt and I need help with it that a therapist can't give but I think Agnes can."


The only thing Agnes can do is give him release from this. "You're sure?"


He looks down. "I know, compared to how it felt to be an engineer, I'm far from the happy guy I was."


She swallows hard and tries to keep the pain pushed down.


"Hey, no, you look like you might throw up. Don't. It's—it's just that I need her to sort of be my guide as I discover this."


"I can see how that would be attractive. Especially when you care about Raffi."


He frowns. "I just want her help. I'm not planning on doing something drastic." He frowns. "Unless..."




"Unless examining my life shows me what a waste of space I was. Wouldn't you rather have a happy engineer than a morose guy who remembers everything?"


"You were many things, Liam Shaw, but you were never a waste of space. Or a waste of anything."


"You didn't answer the question part of what I said."


"Well aware. And no, no I wouldn't. But this has never been my choice." She starts to get up, reaches for her tray.


He effortlessly grabs her wrist, the way he has during so many arguments, the way she has too. They do not allow the other to storm off. "Coming back to life wasn't mine, Seven. You gave me this life but I get to choose what to do with it."


"And how much of it you keep?"


"And how much of it I keep." He moves his hand so she has to put the tray down, then tangles his fingers with hers. "Please let me have the freedom to do this. Please ask her to help."


"I'll call her now." She pulls her hand away. "I'm afraid I've lost my appetite."


She doesn't cry as she walks to the lift, as she rides it to the bridge, as she shuts the door to her ready room and makes the call.


"Hello, Seven." Agnes's voice seems particularly soft.


"He wants your help."


"We feel his pain. We will help him in any way we can." She stares back, assessing.




"Do you not wish to place parameters on how we can and cannot help him?"


"Of course I wish to. But I will not."


She looks so proud of her. "Truly you are the best of us. Let me know when he needs us and we will be there."


She doesn't cry when she cuts the call, or when she gets up to go stand staring out at the controlled chaos that is space dock.


She thinks she is out of tears for Liam. This is his choice. He will make it and she will live with it.


Whatever he decides.



Continue to Part 3