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.

Love Language (Part 3)

by Djinn







You're on your way to the transporter to space dock when you hear, "Hansen?"


You turn and see a commander heading toward you.


She does not look pleased. "You're Hansen, right."


"I go by Seven of Nine now."


You can see the effect that name has on her. "How very Borg of you. Where the hell is Liam?" She's holding a padd with one hand, tapping on it a bit frantically with the other.


"He's a communicator's call away." You aren't sure who she is or why she needs Liam. But it isn't as if he's hiding.


"His comms are restricted access. And I can't get up to his ship." Again the tapping, and she can't meet your eyes.


You decide not to tell her it's not his ship anymore. "I have no idea why his comms are restricted. As far as the ship, you're not crew. It's not as if I can waltz onto any ship I like."


"With all due respect, you shouldn't be able to waltz onto any ship ever, Commander." Her tone lacks any note of respect.


It's really time to have Liam pin on your extra pip. You can't bust this woman's balls for not calling you the right rank if you're not wearing it. "What is it you need from him exactly?"


"The job you stole from me to start with."


You let your eyebrow go up. "I don't follow."


"Oh you think he wanted you for first officer? That he didn't have someone—me—picked out before the powers that be told him to take you?"


You try not to let the fact that you did think that he chose you show on your face. "I don't even know your name."


"Rose Addison. Nickname Nine of Ten." Her eyes are hard, her mouth set.


"The Constance?" You feel your heart sink—was this really the person who should have been in the side seat?


"Yeah, I'm sure it was an insignificant destruction to a Borg, but that ship was pretty damn important to me and Liam and the other eight."


You could tell her you were still in the Delta Quadrant when all that was happening, but you doubt she'd see the distinction. You were Borg. That's all that will matter. "I'm going to the ship now. If you need to talk to him, you can come with me and do it there."


"Why are you even still on it? After what happened with the Borg."


Fuck protecting her feelings. "Because I'm the new captain. If you want to come up..."


"Right, I want to be stuck on one of those tiny shuttles with you. Just send him down. I'll be in the O-Club." She turns and walks away.


You take a deep breath and then walk to the transporter. There's no line for it or the mini-shuttle from space dock to the ship.


You find Liam in your room, and he looks up and smiles, but his smile fades as he studies you. "What's wrong?"


"Rose Addison wants to see you. She's waiting in the O-Club." You stare at him and he narrows his eyes. "She doesn't like Borg. Especially not ones who took her job."


"Oh, for fuck's sake." He closes his eyes.


"So it's true? She was your first pick?"


"No, she wasn't my first pick. She wasn't even my second, third, or fourth pick. But the Constance people—we're supposed to support each other. I couldn't just tell her she didn't make the cut."


"So you told her that I took her job? That's not you. You're the king of the hard conversation."


"She would have gone ballistic if I'd told her I wanted an ex-Borg over her."


"You never had trouble telling me 'No' at every turn. Why not her?"


He meets your eyes. "She was fucking married to my cousin Mary. Do you know what that would have done to family holidays when she greeted me with 'Here's the asshole who didn't pick me for a job'?"


"I wouldn't know. I don't have a family, remember? And based on that, I guess I still won't. Even being with you." You turn on your heel and leave, nearly running down the corridor.


He's running after you, and he finally says, "Goddamn it, Hansen. It's in the fucking red. Stop."


You immediately hurry to him, watching his gauge intently until it goes back to yellow. Then you say, "Fuck you, Liam."


"I wanted you. Over every other person that applied. That's why you have the job."


You study him to see if he's being sincere. You see no indication he's not. "Go on."


"She fucking hates Borg. But I said she was married to my cousin. She's not anymore because my cousin can spot crazy faster than I can, God bless her. And Rose is just this side of certifiable. Some of us moved on from Wolf 359—others, not so much." He sighs. "We kind of rotate who's got Rose duty. It's not my turn to watch out for her. Thank God."


"Wait, did you restrict her access to you?"


"She's like a raving loon, Seven, when she's off her meds. Most of the time she's fine but this latest incident must have triggered her. I did restrict access because—and I know this might be hard to believe given my attitude—but I pretty much have moved on. When she wouldn't stop calling, a friend in communications put a special code on my stuff, made it look like what I'm doing is real hush hush. Yes, I'm a fucking coward when it comes to this. But the ten of us..."


"I get it. But I guess I won't be going to any of your reunions."


"Why not? You were instrumental in helping to stop the Borg. Fuck them if they can't make the distinction."


"You would take me?"


"It would be my honor. Only, and I'm sure you're going to be crushed at this news, we don't have reunions anymore. Surviving that isn't something we want to celebrate—or get drunk and bitch about. All except Rose." He takes your hand. "The O-Club?"


You nod.


"Let's go then."


"I need you to pin on my pip so she'll call me captain."


"You're the one that put off the ceremony until I was well enough. I can't do it informally. See, it's biting you in the butt like I said it would."


"'I told you so' is an extremely annoying thing to say to me right now."


He pulls you close and kisses your cheek. "If she's capable of being reasoned with, she'll call you captain by the time I get through with her. I promise."


He leads you to the transporters and has the tech beam you directly back to Command. It's not standard procedure and you look at him in surprise when he heads off down the corridor. "You're pissed. I'm pissed. Not in the mood to wait for one of those damn shuttles."


You bite back a smile.


He takes your hand as you enter the officer's club. It's just after the shift change rush so the place isn't packed. You see her in a seat by the window.


A server comes over to you but Liam tells him, "We're not staying. Just here to say hi to an old friend."


He hasn't let go of your hand and he squeezes it, then draws you with him to her table. "Rose, this is Captain Seven of Nine. She was my first officer and now she's captain."


You're glad he's leaving out how he's working for you now.


She looks up at you as she taps on her beer bottle. "So I'd have been captain if she hadn't stolen my position?"


"She never stole your job because it was never your job to begin with. I didn't want to rock the family boat by telling you that you weren't competitive." His voice is the same tone he used with Picard in the dining room. Implacable covered with a coating of reasonable. "You haven't been able to reach me because I didn't want you to. It's not a conspiracy or whatever else you dreamed up. Just a code I put on my comms to keep your calls from going anywhere but voicemail."


"I see." She looks at your clasped hands, and the tapping intensifies as she begins to laugh very quietly, but in an almost hysterical way. "You're fucking a Borg? Of course you are. That's how she got my job? Because you're fucking a goddamn Borg."


"Watch the tone, Commander. Easy enough to drop you down a pip. God knows I have a full inventory of the skeletons in your particular closet."


She looks utterly betrayed and you almost feel sorry for her until she mutters, "You've been fucking assimilated. This is how they get back in. We didn't win at all. You're taken and then she'll take another and then it all just starts again."


You hope to hell Liam doesn't mention Jack to her.


Her tapping has turned to knocking, harder and harder on her thigh, and you murmur at the nearly sub-vocal level you two perfected when you were a command team, "Liam..."


He lets go of your hand and crouches down. "Rose, you're not sounding good. The invasion was hard. I get that."


"We never got away. That's the thing, Liam. We think we got away, we ten, but we didn't. We didn't and we never will."


He looks at you and you nod. Without him saying, you know he's going to take her to Medical. You can see the concern in his eyes, the signs that this is not what he's used to from her.


It hurts, to see the legacy of what you once were. Not that you caused it, but that distinction is lost on most. You were part of a collective that destroyed eleven thousand lives in one battle.


"Let's settle the tab and go for a walk, Rose. Just you and me." As he helps her up, he mouths to you, "I'll see you on the ship."


You nod and hurry away, so she won't have to see you or your implants. So he can get her some help.


But you don't go up to the ship. You wait for him outside the transporter room and it's a long wait.


When he finally rounds the corner and comes toward you, he gives you a tired smile. "You didn't have to wait."


"Yes, I did. That's my legacy, too. That's why you called me Hansen. To isolate that part of me. To protect me, maybe. To protect yourself and others, definitely."


He nods.


"I can't explain why I need to go by this name."


"You don't have to explain it. I've seen how much I've hurt you by not using it. Whether I understand it or not, I'll honor your choice."


"Seven's easier than Seven of Nine, isn't it? Even La Forge couldn't do the whole name."


"In her defense Commander of Nine would have sounded sort of odd. Commander Seven sounds cool." He pulls you to him, not seeming to care that you're in a corridor in Command. "I'm tired, babe."


You check his gauge. It's almost orange.


"I'm tired too. Let's just go to bed."


He nods and lets you lead him into the transporter room. You ask the tech to send you straight to the ship.


He doesn't even question it.






You wake to a pinging on your padd. You sent Janeway a note before you went to bed, while Seven was in the bathroom. You told her Seven needed her pip sooner rather than later.


The answer is there. "1500 today in my office. Ten guests max."


"Mmm," Seven moans as she wakes. "Who's texting this early?"


"Your promotion ceremony. 1500 today in Janeway's office."


She rolls over and stares at you. "You commed her?"


"Sent her a text last night while you were taking your makeup off."


She looks like she can't decide if she's pleased or not that you took this on without her asking. Then a smile breaks through and it's a sweet one. "Thank you."


"You're welcome." You lean down and kiss her. "You can have up to ten guests. Who do you want? I'm doing the pinning so I need to be one of them."


"Raffi, Ohk, the Doctor." She stops, looks stuck—and sad.


"Tell me what you're thinking."


"I should invite the Voyager people. My family." She says the last word with so much bitterness you want to pull her to you.


"Sometimes found families don't last past the situation. Do you want my suggestion?"


She nods.


"You don't have to pick ten. I mean you could include Jack and the La Forge sisters but then what about Mura and Esmar? If there aren't any other section heads you want to invite, then stick with just the four of us."


"Okay." She's staring down at the covers and you wait, giving her the space to say whatever she needs to. Finally, she whispers, "You could fill ten seats easily."


"Well, family usually comes."


She swallows hard, "But even without family, and even without the Constance ten, could you fill them?"


"Yes, but I've been in Starfleet longer than you have. And, to be honest, a lot of them would be people I'd served with but aren't that close with now. They'd be my Voyager friends."


"So should I invite them?"


"Only if it feels right."


"I don't want to get a bunch of declines if I ask them to come."


Your heart goes out to her. "Then I'll just tell Kathryn the four of us, okay?"


She nods, but she's still staring at the covers. Finally she asks, "Am I making captain too soon?"


"Do you believe I'm a fair evaluator?"


She meets your eyes. "Of course."


"Did I not recommend you for captain?"


"Maybe you just wanted me off your ship?" She's laughing as she says it though, which you like.


"Easier ways to make that happen. I could have just transferred you off. I would have had to explain why to Janeway, but still..." You pull her to you. "This thing with Rose got you rattled?"


"She's not the only one who looks at me like I'm the enemy."


"I know. And I'm sorry." Usually she's not this vulnerable, would never let it show that it hurts her. "I believe in you, Seven. I'm willing to serve under you."


"I didn't give you a choice."


You laugh out loud at that idea. "Toots, have you met me?"


She starts to laugh.


"What would I have said to you?"


"No." She's does a very good impression of you, which is ruined by her cracking up. She pushes you to your back and kisses you for a long time. "No, no, no, no, no."


"That's right. I'd have said no. So there's your answer." You reach for your padd and check the chrono as you do—you have time before she has to leave. "Let me send the names to her and then we can play."


Her smile is the sweetest one she has, the one you probably love the most. "Yes, please."






You're in the ready room, looking at pictures of Liam's parents on the terminal. You can see the resemblances, how he got his eyes from his mother and his cheekbones from his father.


They look like nice people. You will never find out though. They died two years ago, very close together. You remember how sad he was, but you'd just taken the post, weren't close enough yet to talk much about it.


"Hey," Raffi says as she comes in to use the replicator then seems to see what's on your screen. "Why are you looking at Liam's parents?"


"How do you know who these people are?"


"You really have zero interest in the game room, don't you?" She grins. "After poker, Liam took me to see the schematics for the table because I had thoughts."


"I don't understand the allure of this table."


"I know you don't, sweetheart. We love you anyway."


You roll your eyes.


"Anyway, he has a big poster of them framed: Oona has a huge pile of chips and is saying 'Raise,' and Conor has five left and is saying 'Fold.'"


"I don't get it."


She sighs very dramatically. "We sure didn't fall in love with you for your sense of humor."


"My sense of humor is fine." You go back to studying their pictures. "Did he tell you about them?"


"Honey, if you want to know about his parents, ask the man who actually knew them."


"He doesn't talk about them. And I don't know if it's because it's too painful or because they wouldn't like me." You close the picture of them and bring up the report you should be working on.


"There's a third option, dingbat."


You exhale loudly and look at her. "Elaborate."


"You have a...problematic relationship with your parents, the memories, the history, the fact that you might have passed each other in the Borg hallways and not known it. Maybe he thinks you'd just rather not hear about them. He's surprisingly sensitive for an engineer."


"He didn't make captain on his looks."


"He might have." Then she seems to realize what she said. "Not that I think he's good looking."


"You do."


She is blushing and you love that. "Maybe a little handsome."


"Well, he thinks you're gorgeous. You can both admire each other when meetings get boring."


"Wouldn't you rather we admire you?"


"Yes, but everyone needs a change of scenery."


She laughs and you say, "See, nothing wrong with my sense of humor."


"Except when it comes to poker. Hey, I got the invite for your ceremony. I guess I get to actually be in the same room with Janeway?"


"I guess you do. She doesn't bite."


"You. She doesn't bite you."


"She won't be biting anyone." You look longingly at your empty coffee mug and the replicator.


"Fine, I'll get you a refill. Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you. I saw Liam in the mess getting coffee."


"Yes, it's his first day back on caffeine and he's only allowed one cup per day. I hope he made it a good one. And that he doesn't let it sit until it goes cold. He does that all the time."


"At least he doesn't let them sit around until the coffee residue gets moldy."


"That was one time."


Raffi sets down your mug. "Anything else while I'm up?"


"No, I'm good, thanks."






You lead the group down to Janeway's office suite. The Doctor is saying something to Ohk and Raffi that has them laughing. Seven is at your side, asking, "I don't have to say anything, right?"


"You are not required to give a speech."


"Okay good."


You don't tell her about the video you sent Kathryn, one that you put together while you were still stuck in sickbay once you knew Seven wanted you to pin on her pip. It killed time and made you laugh—and also made you tear up at times as you went through the common area footage.


"In the conference room," Kathryn's assistant says, and as you walk in you see that the room is full of her former crewmates from Voyager.


Seven stops and says, "Oh," in a voice filled with wonder and you look at Kathryn, who bows her head very slightly with a "touché" expression.


Seven's Voyager family. All in one place. For her. Maybe they'd have come even if you hadn't given Kathryn shit about not being there for her. Maybe not. Either way it makes Seven's day more special and you love that.


You see her swallow visibly and put your hand on the small of her back. She pushes against you, but she doesn't cry as she says, "You're here."


"Did you think we were going to miss this?" Admiral Torres says as she walks forward and hugs Seven tightly. "Congratulations, Captain."


"Let's get that pip pinned on and then you can call her that." Kathryn indicates for people to take their seats and when Raffi tries to take a seat in the corner, she says, "At the table, Musiker. I don't bite."


"I told her that." Seven says as she goes to stand next to Kathryn.


"Seven..." But Raffi moves up to sit next to Ohk.


"It is my extreme privilege to host this ceremony for the promotion of Starfleet officer Seven of Nine from Commander to Captain. Captain Shaw, if you would...?"


She moves out of the way and you face Seven. Trying to bite back the goofy smile that keeps threatening, you pin on the pip, and say, "Congratulations, Captain Seven."


"Thank you, Captain Shaw."


There's hooting and applause, and hugs all around. The assistant rolls in champagne and finger food and once everyone is seated again with a glass and food, Kathryn toasts Seven and then says, "We wanted to show the kind of seamless and graceful command-team synergy that earned Seven her captaincy."


"I had plenty of downtime in sickbay after she brought me back to life." You hit play on the remote and the video starts with a long shot down a corridor with suspenseful music you pulled from a 20th century thriller about a shark. As the video pans in, it's apparent that you two are arguing. Then there is one of you in line the mess. You two are arguing again. It obvious you are swearing, it is also obvious she is not.


"This is before my potty mouth started to rub off on her." You look at Seven. "Do you remember what we were arguing about?"


"Whether mayonnaise is horrible or delicious."


The room seems evenly divided.


More arguing, this time with audio. The amount of things you could find to argue about is truly staggering and each one is stupider than the last, which only makes people laugh harder.


Then there is a shot of you both throwing back whiskey shots in the lounge. While others are dancing or just relaxing. You are both clearly angry. And both clearly swearing.


"Who won?" Raffi asks.


"I did," you and Seven say at the same time, but then the picture shifts to you both passed out on the bar and Mura and T'Veen forcing antitox into your mouths.


There are snickers though the room.


"It was a tie," Ohk says. "We let them sleep it off there. First time they went that many hours without arguing."


Then there is a montage of you and her working together in engineering and other parts of the ship, which you've set to the music of a movie about a boxer in Philly. You love this part because it actually shows how seamlessly you two could work when it was for a common goal and required no actual talking.


Then it shifts to more arguing, and then a time when you two sparred in a box-off for charity and she totally took you down with about four punches. The next shot is one you took from your personal logs of you cleaning your knife.


Everyone roars.


Then the music goes quiet and there are shots of just her, her face gentle, working with younger crew, laughing with the bridge crew, doing something science-related with T'Veen. She looks warm and loving and approachable in all of them.


She looks beautiful too. It wasn't hard to find shots that was true of—it would have been harder to find bad shots of her.


"The crew love her. They could not be in better hands. It was an honor having you as my first officer, Captain Seven."


"It was an honor being your first officer, Captain Shaw."


Then the music turns almost slapstick and fades away to about five minutes of her asking something and you just saying, "No," often to very dramatic eye-rolls.


Everyone is laughing so hard they are in tears by the time it winds down.


The picture fades out and she wipes her eyes and says with a laugh, 'Thank you."


"I was bored so..."


"No. Thank you, Liam."


"You're welcome, Seven."








You're at lunch the next day, wearing your new pip, enjoying the extra cachet it seems to bring, the different way people react to you now that you're a captain to anyone who knows what the insignia mean.


You know they are acting differently—it's not just you viewing yourself differently now that's your rank's visibly official.


Your padd chimes and you see a text from Commander Addison. We need to talk. A crushing need. I'm in medical—psych holding. You're not on the visitor's list for reasons I'll explain. Be creative. Don't bring Liam.


You stare down at the screen. Then type in Understood.


You've lost your appetite and only have ninety minutes before your next meeting. You recycle your lunch tray and hurry to medical.


Various personnel direct you through the workings of the center until you get to the psych hold area. Those staff are less accommodating.


"I'm sorry but you're not on the visitor's list." He's checking a terminal, not any kind of temporary list. Addison did not put you on for a reason.


You spin the reasons you can think of that could have anything to do with Jack's mother. "Am I listed on the complaint that resulted in this psych hold?" There has to be a complaint if she's on hold. Liam must have referred her to Starfleet Medical, not just physically helped her get there. A huge difference in a disciplinary—and bureaucratic—sense. You learned about this when you were taking the training for being a first officer.


The man sighs but looks through the record. "Yeah, yeah you are. As an aggrieved party. But we need your confirmation for that. Let me get a padd and you can just—"


"I'd like to talk to her first. Before I do that. I mean...it's not insignificant to confirm this, right? It will hurt her?"


He nods.


You let your hand stray up to your eyebrow implant. "I know her history. I lived through what happened just like she did with this latest Borg bullshit. The last thing I wanted was to be taken again by those animals. Seeing me—she might have thought...that I was..." You look down. "It's not easy needing these implants, you know? To be marked forever as something other than human."


It's especially not easy now that you had a taste of what life was like without them.


He nods and his expression changes—your can tell he sees her as more than just a nameless patient. "She's on her last strike here. She'll be retired on disability if you sign."


You're pretty sure it's against medical regs that he told you that. "Well, then I really need to talk to her. Please?"


He looks around then leads you down the hall and to a room. At the door, he gives you a small device and tells you to press the red button if you need help or the green button when you're done and ready to leave.


Then he opens the door and leaves you alone with her, closing it behind you.


Addison's on her bed, sitting cross legged and playing solitaire on her padd. "They don't let you have much more than personal comms and games when you're in here, but sometimes that's all you need. Thank you for coming."


She gestures to the couch by the window and her voice and mannerisms are completely different than the woman you met. You understand how this version of her could make commander. She meets your eyes and you see determination, not hysteria.


You know that look. You saw it in the mirror after Icheb died, once you got over the initial emotional storm when Bjayzl disappeared and you had the need for vengeance but nowhere to execute it.


"First, I want to apologize. I'm obviously back on my medication, and I know what I said was completely out of line. I have a reason, but not an excuse. if you're interested."


"I wouldn't be opposed to hearing it."


"I lost someone on the Excelsior."


You close your eyes, remembering that ship's last moments.


"You understand—I can see that. The relationship was new. She and I were just feeling our way along. But...it was really good. And really good's been in short supply." She shows no indication of lying. Her pupils are stable, her breathing seems normal, there is no flushing, no hand movements to distract, no hard swallowing and she's not looking away.


"I'm sorry."


"I guess—no, I don't guess, I did spiral. I let myself spiral. I just...didn't care. And then I saw you in the hall and everything came rushing back, two timelines superimposed on each other. Nothing but loss at the hand of the Borg. But you're ex-Borg and I know that. You were a victim too." She looks down. "Like I said: it's a reason, not an excuse. I really am sorry."


"You said we had a crushing need."


Her expression changes and she shakes her head as her eyes widen. "I don't know what you did to that Admiral, but she apparently has access even into psych hold records. She wanted to know all about our encounter. She wanted to help me."


"Help you? Help you how?"


"By getting rid of you and therefore blowing any complaint you had against me out of the water. She talked a lot about how the Borg had stolen her son and now you were too. Frankly, she might belong in here too—seriously obsessed with her kid. But yeah, she's tracking you. Anytime you show up on someone's medical record, she'll know and be looking for ways to use that against you. It's why I didn't put you on the visitor's list. And as far as I know her reach doesn't extend to regular comms." She pats the padd.


"I see."


"Anyway, I told her everything was a blur and to come back in a few days, when the meds have had a chance to work. But, if you officially refuse to sign Liam's complaint, I'll be released tomorrow, and hours later I'll be off to my next assignment, which is in archives because no one wants me in a job where I need to have someone's back. I can't hurt anyone there and I'm unlikely to be triggered. Win win."


Before you can say anything, she says, "And if you ever need information that's a bit difficult to get through normal channels—well, I'll owe you, won't I?"


"I was a Ranger. You know that, don't you?"


"The Admiral may have mentioned it. She obviously does not think highly of them and I guess thought that might make me think less of you. I, on the other hand, have had only positive encounters with the Rangers—a few of the ten of us are Rangers. And as I remember, information is a form of currency in that job."


"It is indeed." You don't even have to think about this. "Good luck on your new assignment, Commander."


You turn but she says, "Liam's going to be furious with you for overriding him now that he's finally grown a pair and quit covering for me. He must really love you."


"Captain Shaw will get over it."


You hope.


You push the green button and the same staffer lets you out. "I do not wish to confirm the complaint."


"You're sure?" But he looks happy. Again, he strikes you as liking Addison, not wanting her to be drummed out on medical reasons.


Or are you just telling yourself that because it's what you want to think? And does it really matter? "I'm sure. Show me what to do to close this out."


He pulls out a padd. Makes a notation on the record, and you see you are now affirming you have no complaint, that you are not backing up the originator—Liam.


You hold it to your eye and it's done.


Beverly will see it. And she will know that this time she's lost.







You're reading the records of the new engineers you and Seven are bringing on when you hear, "The Doctor to Captain Shaw."


"Shaw here."


"I've been studying your stats for the past few days. I'm pleased with what I'm seeing and I'd like you to add back higher content alcohol if you're so inclined."


"I am for sure so inclined." You've been jonesing for Scotch since he told you that you couldn't have it, and Seven put the bottle that Jack first brought you in the linen closet a few days ago, no doubt anticipating this.


"In moderation, of course. Also, I'd like to meet tomorrow in the holodeck to assess your energy levels on various gym equipment. I think we can get you back in there but only on the machines that don't over-stress your system."


"That's great news. What about...?"


"Nothing has changed on the intimacy front. I'm sorry. But as the old song goes..."


"Two out of three ain't bad?"


"Precisely. The Doctor out."


Life is looking up. Even if you can't bend Seven over the desk and take her the way you think both of you want you to.


Or not yet anyway.


You go back to reading and then a message pops up from Starfleet Medical.


You stare at the screen in disbelief. Seven just countered your complaint. Rose will be free to go.


"The Doctor to Captain Shaw. Again."


"Shaw here."


"What is going on? Your vitals are all over the place. Surely it was not the news of impending hard liquor in your future?"


You look down at your gauge; it's into the red.


"Are you in distress?"


"No, Doc, I'm pissed."


"Then I suggest you find a way to calm down. Or we will have you back here so we can help you calm down. Do you understand?"


"Fuck you, Doc."


"Liam, you've been doing so well. Please just follow the program. Keep it in the yellow."


"Fine. It'll be down in five. Shaw out." You close your eyes and start the meditation rituals that you learned in therapy. Not the five things for anxiety; this is one for rage.


Clear the mind, not expand it. Be one with the universe, not outside observing it.


Goddamn Seven.


No, breathe. You have to just breathe. If she did it, she had a reason. She's logical that way.


No, she's reckless.


No, she's not. She always has a reason. It might be a stupid one, but she always has one.


You peek at your gauge. It's orange but that's not good enough.


To transform the rage you have to remember the other things you feel about her. You think back to yesterday, to the look on her face as she watched your video, how afterwards she asked you for a copy of her own and you caught her watching it this morning and laughing.


The gauge is better but not perfect. So you think of how she looks when she sleeps—how peaceful. How nice it is to wake up with her—how unexpected that it's been so easy to share space. At how much the two of you trust each other.


But does she trust you? If she did this?


Can you trust her?


Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.


You look at the gauge. It's still way up but in yellow finally.


You know it's going to be difficult to argue with her the way you used to if you have to watch this fucking thing the whole time.


If she hadn't brought you back to life, you wouldn't have to watch it.


If she hadn't brought you back to life, you'd be fucking dead, so that's a ridiculous thought.


You hear a cheep from your padd, one that means some updated schematics have come in. Thank God, something else to think about.


You lose yourself in engineering designs for the rest of the afternoon.






You walk into your quarters to find Liam sitting on the bed, a glass of scotch in his hand and the bottle Jack brought next to him.


"Are you cleared for that?"


"I have no fucking idea." But you can tell he's lying.


You can also tell he knows the complaint against Rose has been dropped. "Well, congratulations on another milestone."


"Fuck you, Hansen."


Oh, you get this Shaw. You haven't seen him since watching the video reminded you of all the times you two argued—and how you don't anymore.


This was no doubt inevitable.


"I had my reasons for countering your complaint."


"What will you say if asked why your name was on it in the first place? And then why you changed your mind? Someone may ask."


"That on the evening in question, I'd had a little to drink. That afterwards I thought maybe I had misread what happened. That I couldn't in good conscience be sure I hadn't said something that triggered her."


"Oh, for fuck's sake." He glances at his gauge and closes his eyes. You can see it's in the orange.


You get a glass and walk over to his side of the bed, pouring yourself some of the Scotch, then take a long sustaining swallow as you walk back around to your side. You put the glass on your nightstand and curl up into him with your head on his lap.


"That's fucking unfair. You know I love when you lie like that." He's already playing with your hair, which you love, which is why you also love to lie like this.


"Beverly Crusher was in to see her."


His hand in your hair stops.


"Your Rose is a clever girl. She didn't tell her anything. Wanted to run things by me first." You pull his hand to you so you can see the gauge. It's actually going down from orange to yellow and you know why: you've just given him a joint problem that you had to solve for the both of you.


A problem that is not going to go away.


"And now Rose owes me, if I need information from the archives. Where she won't be able to really hurt anyone even if she does go off her meds. Well, except old records."


"You'd be surprised where you can get from the archives." But he sounds resigned.


"Liam, she lost someone on the Excelsior."


"Let me guess: she didn't give you a name? And it was new, right, so friends and family if asked would have no idea they were together?"


You look away.


"Yeah, I've seen people do that. Hell, I've seen her do that, right after we all got home, and she couldn't get settled without spiraling."


You flinch at the word—but it's no doubt a common one for those who struggle with mental health. Just because she used it with you and now he is too, doesn't mean she was playing you.


It also doesn't mean she wasn't.


"Kathryn can and will look the other way about our relationship. But Crusher could blow it up so much that she can't. Could get you transferred off."


"Then I'd retire. And travel a lot to be where you were."


"No, I'd quit too."


"You can't fucking quit now that you've made Captain." His gauge goes up into the orange so you whisper, "I know. Play with my hair."


He does, not saying anything, but it relaxes both of you.


Enough that you can say, "Liam, I don't want one of my first acts as captain to be going after someone who has PTSD from Wolf 359. Who had a problem with my Borg heritage and the fact that she thought I took her job—because you let her think that. And I can't help but wonder why you finally pulled the trigger on this when you and the other eight have let her slide, have covered for her, right?"




"I feel like this started with the Borg and you were going to let it end with one. I mean it's great that you want to nut up and all, but why do I have to be the villain?"


His gauge shoots up to red but then immediately goes down. You glance up at him and he has his eyes closed when he murmurs, "I'm sorry."


"She's a woman legitimately traumatized by the Borg whether or not her story of a lover on the Excelsior is true. I just got where I want to be. I have you here too. Please, please, let me enjoy it. Let me enjoy us. Crusher is watching for me, gunning for me, even, but her reach is limited and we've got the fucking flagship, Liam. Just...let this go. It's what's right. If she fucks up again..."


"It'll be someone else's problem. Like it always is."


He doesn't say the phrase you've come to hate since you became a first officer and therefore a manager, but you know he's thinking it: Pass the trash.


No one is trash. Or if they are, deal with them as they need. But this is not something you started and you will be damned if it's something you'll finish.


He's silent for a long time. "Fucking Crusher better be worth this."


"You know he is." You sit up so you can take another sip. "This is really good."


"Yeah, he buys good booze." He pours you both more. "I don't like this. But I can live with it. I have for a long time." He studies the gauge. "I really hate wearing this thing. I really would rather have had an argument like we used to have. Being this fucking reasonable is for the fucking birds."


"I know." You reach down and take his hand and he squeezes gently. "The last time I talked to Beverly, when she was going on about how Picard needed to get to know his son, I was struck by something. They remind me of my parents."


He grunts in the way he does when he's seeing something in a new way and doesn't like it.


"My grandmother sued for custody when I was just a toddler," you say so softly he can ignore it if he wants.


But he turns to you, says, "What?"


"I found out everything I could about my family when I was in the Rangers and had access to all kinds of information I couldn't get when on Voyager. She didn't want me with them, felt it was unsafe—the risks they took, and this was before they got to the Delta Quadrant—and not a way for me to thrive."


"You could have had a normal life."


"Yeah, or a more normal one at any rate. But the courts and Starfleet let me stay with them, let me go out with them on the ship it gave them. I don't even remember her—as far as I can tell my parents kept me away from her after she did that, which was when I was two. She's a long-dead face on a page of a report. But she loved me enough to fight for me. She tried. She just didn't have enough firepower."


He sighs.


"We do. So long as we're careful. Rose Addison is a problem we cannot afford to have if we want to give Jack a fighting chance at a normal life with friends and people who love him for the right reasons. This is more than me, and it's more than me and you." You realize you're crying and wipe your face roughly. "I'm sorry I didn't support you."


"I should have told you I'd done the referral. I thought..."


"You thought I'd go along. When have I ever...?"


He starts to laugh. It's a slightly hysterical laugh but it's a real one. "Fuck me. When have you ever?"


"Can I ask you something else?"


"Yeah. Of course."


"Why do you never talk about your parents? Raffi knows more than I do."


"Raffi comes to the game room." He sounds put out and you realize he's hurt that you've taken so little interest in it. "It's going to have a theater too. You can watch stuff with me."


"I'm sorry. You can show me it. Maybe later, after dinner."


"Okay. Yeah. It's not much yet. Just ideas."


"And a poster." That you don't get the humor of but that's okay.


"I wasn't sure you'd want to hear about my family—not when yours, the blood one and the Voyager one, were problematic."


"I do. I even want to meet the relatives you still see. When we're ready for that."






"Okay. That might be a while. They can be a lot. I don't mean just for you. I mean for me, too."


You smile and nod, cuddling into him, then you both sit quietly for a long time, sipping Jack's whiskey, lost in your own, no doubt complicated, thoughts and memories.








You're in engineering, cleaning out some of the stuff the last chief engineer left in the office. It feels great to be down here, now that the Doc has authorized you to work wherever you want, not just in sickbay or your quarters.


And you're cleared for the gym. Way more of the equipment than you expected, so long as you watch your gauge.


You hear footsteps approaching, then Jack is at the door, in street clothes.


"Don't you have class?"


"We're off today."


"Well, unfortunately, I'm not or we could play something." You turn to look at him—his expression is off but you're not sure how. "What's wrong now?"


"Seven's gone, right? At Command, learning to be a captain and all that?"


"Far as I know."


"Can we go talk to Raffi?" He's dead serious and he's got the same look he had when you were bleeding out and he was holding your hand and apologizing.


"Yeah, sure." You walk to the lift, trying to get a read on him, but he's locked up tight. When the lift opens onto the bridge, you see Raffi's in the ready room and head over to her. "Got a minute?"


"For you guys, I've got a whole bunch. What's up?"


Jack steps to the door and hits the button to close it, then sits at the table.


Raffi looks at you, the question clear from the way her eyebrows go up. You give her back your look of "Beats me," which she seems to fully understand.


She gets up and walks to the table, waiting till you sit to ask, "What's going on, Jack?"


"I had lunch with my mother. She's..." He sighs. "She's furious with Seven. I don't know what happened but—"


"She got in the middle of something that didn't concern her, that's what happened." You let your tone and expression tell him just what you think of that.


"I do concern her, Liam."


"This wasn't about you." You turn to Raffi. "It wasn't anything about the ship either, if she hasn't shared an incident with a woman named Rose."


"She hasn't." Raffi laughs at your surprise. "She's private. Your shit is going to stay your shit."


"Oh. Good. Except if she does share, does that mean it's so bad she can't be private?"


"Pretty much yeah. If I know, you're fucked."


"Guys, can we get back to my mother and Seven?" Jack stands up and starts pacing. "Am I really worth this? Seven's going out of her way to make sure I get to be on this ship but maybe it'd be better if she didn't." He stops and touches the view screen. "Haven't all of you done enough for me?"


"I'm aware of some of the twists and turns of securing one Jack Crusher a posting on this ship," Raffi says gently. "Would you rather be on some other ship?"


"She wants me on Earth."


"Ah." She stands and walks to him, not touching him but standing very close. "You know, your mother may have decided she wants that, but that doesn't mean you have to want it. She may think you need to do A or B or C but if you want to do D, that's not her call. Don't you think she's inflicted her decisions on you for long enough? It's a failing of parents—to expect our children to make up for our bad decisions. To...adjust. To...adapt. To be reasonable and accommodating when we weren't."


You think this is no longer about Beverly Crusher.


"Let me tell you something, Jack Crusher. I would have killed to have Seven fight for me. If she wants to fight for you—if she wants to stand up and give you the choice she never had—then let her." She smiles very gently at him. "Let her."


He turns to look at you and you nod and say, "This fight may not be just about you. If you really don't want her fighting it for you, then let her know. But if you do want it and are just afraid she'll get hurt, don't be. My money's on her. And you've got Raffi and me and a hologram who can probably go damn well anywhere, and it frightens me a little to think about it so I don't, plus I like him." Okay that went off track. "My point, and I do have one, is this is your call. What do you want?"


Raffi nods.


"No one's ever asked me that before. No one's ever cared what I wanted." He sits at the table. "I don't mean she was a bad mother. She was a good one."


Raffi makes a noise and you both turn to her. "She was as good a one as a person who kept a child on the run and hiding from every friend she had as well as his father for twenty years—or more if you hadn't run into trouble—could be."


"But she had reasons."


"We always have reasons. Mothers can be wrong with very good reasons."


"So can fathers," you add just in case Picard tries to weigh in on this whole thing about Jack's posting. But you don't think he will. He'll be thrilled that his son is on an Enterprise. And you think, even after everything he asked the rest of you to do for his son, he will still be distant. It's just how he is.


And that's probably what's driving Beverly crazy. Seeing him content to let his son enter Starfleet and embark on his life and never seriously get involved. She may be trying to make up for twenty-years worth of knowing exactly how he'd be but hoping otherwise.


"I want to be on this ship," Jack says. "I want to be with you guys and Seven and Sidney. I want to cross train in all the departments and learn what I'm good at and know that not one of you gives a rat's ass whose son I am. That if you tell me I'm doing well, it's because I am. And if you tell me I'm screwing up, it's because of that too—not some grudge over me being the fucking Borg Prince." He closes his eyes. "I want to be here."


"Then let her fight for you," you say as gently as you can.


Raffi sits down next to him. "But you're not helpless in this. Your mother wants you on Earth why?"


"To spend time with my father." His eyes are still closed and he sounds defeated.


You see where she's going and smile at her over his head. She knows Picard better than any of you and you can tell she thinks he'll be a shit dad just like you do. "So...do that. Try."


"What?" He opens his eyes and looks at you like you're nuts. "He's never around."


"Exactly. So make him be or make sure she knows you're trying and he's not there." Raffi sighs. "JL is my dear friend but some of this has to be on him. Maybe he'll surprise us all, who knows? I mean how hard have you tried?"


He shakes his head. "Not hard."


"So try a little harder so that whatever happens, you can turn the temperature down on your mother's anger. You can try to get to know your father and save Seven a career's worth of an enraged Beverly Crusher." She grabs his shoulder and shakes him gently. "Don't let this all be on us."


"I'm not really used to being the master of my own destiny."


"Well, get used to it," you and Raffi say in tandem.


"Wow. That was scary." He grins though. "Well, I guess I'll get on that. Find out where my fucking father is and get to know him."


Raffi pulls out a padd and looks something up. "He's somewhere called Port Townsend. Lecture should begin in a few hours." She hits a few more pages. "Looks pretty. You'll enjoy it even if you're too lame to find a really famous man in a relatively small town that he's booked to speak at in a public forum."


"Very subtle. Thanks." He takes a deep breath and then pushes his chair out. "Okay, this is me off to find dear old dad." And he heads out.


"Leave the door open," you say before she can and she grins.


"Shaw, you and I make great parents." Her smile fades. "I don't know how much Seven's told you about my family."


"Nothing. Like you said, she's private and your shit is your shit."


"I was an addict. I fucked everything up. My son didn't want to be around me—wouldn't let me see my granddaughter. I'm very lucky that a very good friend made sure my family knew I'd changed. That I'd made a difference during the Borg thing. Because before he did that, I thought I'd lost them for good."


"I'm sorry, and not, since it worked out."


She nods. "If I had known at any point during my association with JL that he had a son that he wasn't allowed to see, I would have tracked Beverly Crusher down myself. I do love JL...and also I would have projected."


"I get that."


"But I don't know if he'll be a good father."


"My guess is no."


Her smile is a pained one. "That would be mine too. Hopefully he surprises us. For Jack's sake."


"And for Seven's. She does not need this shit."


"On that, we are agreed."


"And are we going to tell her about this little meeting?"


"What little meeting?"


You laugh. "Okay, I'm going back to engineering. Call if you need me."


"I won't need you, Liam."


"That I believe."







You're holding Liam's hand as you walk to the bar Jack wanted to meet at. Liam's not dressed in all black because Jack ordered him not to be, which both amuses and confuses you. "Why are we meeting Jack?"


"How would I know?"


"He said you knew."


"No, he said you knew."


You stop and put your head against his chest. "Fuck, Liam, what is he doing?"


He tips your head up and kisses you and then wraps his arm around you as he gets you walking again. "I have no idea. But it's a really nice bar and he said he's buying. I think we should not ask where he gets his funding."




They round a corner and see Jack pacing in front of the bar. "There you two are. Excellent. And you look casual and not like a hit man, Liam, well done. You look gorgeous as always, Seven. Please don't mention the ship's name change—I want to surprise him with that later. Okay? Right. Let's go in." He's pushing you in the door where Beverly and Picard are waiting. "We're all here now if you have that table waiting," he says to the host.


You're relatively sure money has changed hands before you got here given how fast the host seats you and the waiter gets your drink order as he brings an assortment of appetizers you haven't had a chance to order.


Jack's seated you and Liam on one side of the bar table and his parents on the other and he's at the end, between you two. "This is a perfect night to get some things straight. But first, should we tell them how gorgeous Port Townsend is, Father?"


"Oh, Seven, you must take Liam there. It's astoundingly beautiful. Mountains and water. We had the best time just walking along the beach by an old lighthouse." Picard is grinning like the happiest man alive, and Liam does not seem at all surprised.


"I've heard it's nice," is all he says.


You look at him and he shrugs and gives you the smile that he thinks is innocent but isn't.


"We're taking Mother there next weekend, in between lectures."


"I'm looking forward to it." The look she gives Jack is warm as can be. The look she gives you is not. You give her one as cold back.


"Okay, yes, that," Jack says. "That's what we're here to discuss."


You both look at him in shock.


"You two are my favorite women on the planet. Please don't tell Sidney that and eventually she might supplant you both. And you need to know that so you understand that I'm not choosing sides so you really need to stop with this...war thing you have going on."


"I'm not—"


"Mother, I'm still talking. I know the idea of me actually running my own life is a foreign concept. And I admit I've been pretty lax in taking the reins. I've just sort of floated because that's what we did. And that was fine—back then. I'm not criticizing. But now, we're not in that life. You're in Starfleet and I am too, and I want to be on a ship like all of you are or have been. I want to be on her ship. Not least because I think I should have a chance to serve with the woman I'm falling in love with so she doesn't end up marrying the wrong guy and I have to wait forever to be with her and then she runs off with my kid."


You see Liam nod and Picard says, "Good thinking, Son."


Jack take a deep breath. "I know you all want the best for me. I know you all have and will protect me. But I hope you also want me to be happy and I can't be happy if you're at war."


"Are we at war?" Picard asks Liam.


"You and I are fine."


"Oh, that's a relief. Thought I'd missed something."




You glare at him and he wisely leaves it alone.


Beverly sighs. "I want you on Earth, Jack."


"And I hear that. But...I've done my life your way for twenty years. And now it's time to do my life my way."


"I think that's right," Picard says with a sage nod.


"But on Earth." Beverly's voice is one he's probably heard a thousand times and never been able to say no to.


"No." He almost sounds like Liam saying it—you're impressed. "On. Her. Ship." He sits back as the drinks are set down and grabs an appetizer. "Discuss."


You look at Beverly. She looks at you. Neither of you blink.


Finally, Liam waves a hand in between you and startles you both into glaring at him. "Ixnay on the stare down. He said to discuss, not eviscerate each other with your eyes."


"What exactly is the problem with him being on the ship?" Picard asks, looking at Beverly in a way you have to admit is very sweet.


"I want him to get to know you."


"Well, he is."


Jack nods happily, still munching on appetizers, no doubt so he won't have to speak.


"But for an extended period. Here with us."


"Not to restart an argument that didn't go that well when we had it on poor Liam's ship, but we've missed that part. He's a young man, not a child. He's got a life to live and I'll figure out a way to fit in it. And he'll figure out how I fit, won't you, Jack?"


Again more happy nodding, more appetizers being eaten. You realize you're not really having to say anything either, so you dig into the chips and dip while Liam snags a slider.


"But I want to give you what I took away from you. And she won't let me."


"She? You mean Seven? Why, I can't think of a better person for him to be with. Who else is going to understand what he's gone through with the Borg?"


Jack hits you under the table so you nod and smile, then eat more chips.


Picard takes her hand. "Beverly, you're at Starfleet and that's wonderful. I imagine you missed it a great deal. But why should a man of Jack's brains and talents be stuck on the ground with us? When there are stars to be sailed?"


You think that's the wrong thing to say when she tears up and not in an "I'm so touched by your most current poetic drive-by" way. But then she looks at you and the hardness is gone.


You put your chip down.


"Promise me you won't let him join any interdimensional travelers."


"That is not on my list of things to have him do."


"And that you'll protect him."


"I think she's proven that," Liam says softly. "I think we both have." He puts his hand on your knee, a gentle squeeze for support, and you put your hand over his for a moment.


"And that we can visit whenever we want."


"Mother. Seriously?"


She sighs, and it's a beautiful sound to you, because you know it's a sigh of surrender. And you feel relief flood you because you don't want to start your first tour as captain with an admiral—especially this one—gunning for you. There are enough people who don't like you out there without adding to the list.


You lift your glass and hold it out to her. "Peace?"


She rolls her eyes but clinks softly. "Peace."


"Well, that's wonderful. Liam, isn't that wonderful."


"It is indeed, Jean-Luc."


You look at Jack, who's clearly very pleased with himself. Rolling your eyes but unable to bite back the smile you know is way more affectionate than you ever thought it would be for him, you ask, "So what else did you and your father do today?"








As you and Seven walk back to Command from the bar, her relief is palpable.


"Jack surprised me," you say as you wrap your arm around her and pull her closer.


"He sure did." She rests her head on your shoulder as she pulls out her padd. "The holodeck's open? You want to...?"


"The grotto?"


"The grotto."


"Yes. You realize we're getting very spoiled with everyone gone, right? Just thinking we can snag a holodeck whenever."


"Well, you're the engineering genius. Book us a standing weekly reservation. We can have a guaranteed date night."


You lean in and kiss her. "Will do. Or you could, with that little button there."


"It's more fun having you do it."


"Then I will. Any preference for day of the week?"


"Nope. You decide."


You take your padd out and reserve a weekly slot on Tuesday, because in your experience the weirdest "need this at once" requests from Command come on Monday, Thursday and Friday. And the poker people have already asked for Wednesday. "Done, Tuesday night, 10 to midnight. Good?"


Her smile is incredibly sweet. "While we're in there tonight, I um, I want to talk about Rose before we put this thing with Beverly to bed. Not specifics—I don't care about the details of your relationship unless you want to tell me—but theoretical."


"Sounds like a talk I don't want to have."


"I know. Which is why you'll be inside me when we have it."


You start to laugh. "I will, will I?"


"Yes, it's very hard to run away when you're enjoying being inside me." She leans up, whispers in your ears, "And when I have my legs around you and when I'm squeezing..."


"Seven, wait until we're up there. Do you have any idea what you're doing to me?"


"Yep. I do." She sighs as you pass the transporter station you beamed down to. You can go from Starfleet to an outside point, but not vice versa. You know why and you know she does too, but you agree that tonight you would just like to skip the security steps and be inside her already.


You eventually get beamed up to space dock and onto the mini shuttle to get you to the ship. Then you go directly to the holodeck and shuck off your clothing and dive into the water. She dives next to you, so much more graceful and at home in the water than she was when you started.


You love that.


You follow her into the grotto and push her up onto your favorite bench, and then slide into her, groaning as she wraps her legs around you.


You kiss for a long time and you start to move, but she says, "No, hold still."


"Baby...come on."


"After the conversation."


"I may not want to after." Then you feel her squeeze down on you so hard it makes you throw your head back. "Fuck, okay. Let's talk." You push her hair back and study her. "You want to know how I could let Rose's behavior go for so long and suddenly need to do something, right?"


She nods. "And also how you could not take her calls like that."


"I told you: I'll destroy anyone who tries to hurt you. I mean I obviously wasn't going to kill her but..."


"You would have killed her career." At your look of confusion, she says, "I don't think the guy working in the psych department was supposed to tell me this, but you only get so many complaints before you're out on medical disability. If I'd signed, she'd have been out."


"I didn't know that. They don't tell you when you make the referral and lodge the complaint." You look away, but she gently eases you back so you're meeting her eyes. "You think I'm brave, Seven?"


She nods.


"I'm not. But..I am a survivor. So I have all kinds of coping mechanisms to make it look like I'm strong. And okay, maybe my natural curiosity and my need to keep people safe makes me strong, makes me meet things head on. But when you get to anything related to Wolf 359, to the ten of us..."


She holds your face gently, stroking your cheeks. "You're not brave?"


"I'm the opposite of brave. Look at how I handled Picard when he first showed up. Do not think I haven't replayed what happened, thought about how different it might have been if I'd just sacked up and met him and Riker with you—we were good back then. We were in sync a lot of the time. What if I'd been there with you instead of hiding? What if they'd read us in from the beginning? What if we'd gone in knowing all the facts, not constantly having the tables turned? We never got that chance because I hid. Just like I hid from Rose."


She swallows hard, but she doesn't stop stroking your cheeks.


"But when she hurt you—and I saw that you were hurt, that you thought maybe I hadn't picked you and it is so far from the fucking truth. I had no alternate pick when I sent your name forward: it was just you."


She pulls you to her and kisses you hard, squeezing down on you while she does it, then eases back and says, "Go on."


"I had to act. Finally I had to. And I maybe overdid it. I know it's unusual for me to overreact when my feelings get engaged." You laugh, a self-deprecating sound because you do, at least, know yourself.


She laughs too, but gently. "But you did. For me?"


"For you. I don't always think straight when it comes to you, Seven. I never really have."


She nods. "Of the ten of you, where does she fall in terms of emotional damage?"


"She's not the extreme end because we lost some to the Rangers—they just couldn't work within Starfleet regs and protocols anymore, but she's close. I'm, I guess, somewhere in the middle but on the healthy side. There are some of us who just moved on with their lives. Got help—or didn't—and just let it roll off. I envy them."


"I don't think you should. At least not the ones who didn't get help. My therapist says trauma that's pushed down is the most dangerous kind. Maybe they haven't dealt. Maybe they've just built a box for the memories and it's not pretty inside."


"Gangrenous? Stinky?"


She nods, then smiles and says, "Please don't go on with the descriptors."


"Okay. You still like therapy?"


"I really love it. I've never had someone who wasn't invested in my actions to talk to before. And Kathryn, for all she did for us, didn't prioritize mental health."


"There's an old saying that there's no atheists in foxholes. Survivors have an addendum: there's no shrinks in there either. They're all waiting for you back at the mobile field hospital or more likely at Command. I believe Kathryn approached getting you through the Delta Quadrant as a war. She needed her troops marshaled and combat ready, not examining their war wounds. She needed you in the foxholes."


You watch her face as she processes that.


"I'm not saying that's right, though. But for her, it may have been the only way she could keep going. Deny, deny, deny."


"That's for sure. If she'd stopped denying Chakotay, he'd have been with her, not me when we got home."


"Who would you have been with?"


"I'm not sure I would have been with anyone. Harry and the Doctor both had feelings for me but I didn't return them. Other crew members had crushes, I guess. To be honest, if B'Elanna hadn't been with Tom, and if she swings that way, which I'm not sure to this day that she does, I think she might have been of most interest."


"You like the girls. Since I do too, I can't blame you."


"It wasn't because she was female. It was because of all of them on the ship, other than Kathryn herself, she challenged me directly so often. Her brain moved nearly as fast as mine. And she was an engineer, which apparently, I have a weakness for." She grins at you and you kiss her and thrust because you can't not, and this time she doesn't stop you so you reach down and help her along too.


You go slow though, because that's how she's squeezing you and she's kissing you so tenderly, touching your face as if memorizing it with her fingers. When she finally comes, she's clutching you and off the bench and you're holding her. Then you feel yourself going and just ride it out as she holds on to the side of the pool, her legs wrapped tight around you the only thing keeping you upright.


You can tell she doesn't want you to pull out so you ease her back to the bench and kiss her for a very long time. "I love you so much."


"I love you too." She plays with your hair, and you close your eyes because you love it when she does this. "The last session I asked the doctor if I should be on medication. She said no. That I just needed someone to talk to since I've never had that. Were you ever on meds?"


"I was, but probably not when you'd expect. It was when my parents died, one after the other. One I might have gotten through, probably by being there—long distance but still there—for the one left. But with both of them gone...? And I'm one of those rare Chicago Irish kids who's an only child. I was foundering. Remember when I was always in my ready room?"


"I do. I was worried about you, but I'd just come on board."


"There were nights I'd stand outside your door in the middle of gamma shift and somehow I knew that if I just rang that chime, you'd let me in. That you'd understand. Icheb wasn't in your file, but I felt it—your loss, I guess."


"But you never rang my chime."


"I never did. What would life have been like if I had? That's something else I think about when I'm feeling like I wasted our time."


"If we weren't together, it wasn't our time."


"Easy to say."


"No, it's not. But I think it's true. This is our time, Liam. And I'm so happy with you. I feel so safe with you. And I know you understand how much that means because I think neither of us takes safety for granted."


"I think you're right."


She rubs her nose against yours and you laugh. She is whimsical so rarely that it always charms you when she is.


"Anything else you want to hash out?"




"Just for the future, I highly recommend hashing shit out while I'm inside you."


"I told you that it would be nice."


"Did your therapist tell you to do this?"


"Oh, God, no. I think she would view using sex as a tool for keeping you in the room as a terrible idea. But you and I tend to approach things in the same way. I figured if it sounded good to me, it would to you too. And she doesn't have to know everything, right?"


You can feel yourself coming back. "Right." You see her also realizing you're coming back. "Do you trust me?"


"You know I do."


"I want to go harder. I trust you to tell me when to ease up, but I want to take you and I want to take you hard." You frown at how that sounds. "Is that appealing?"


"That you want me so badly you're willing to get creative to circumvent the restrictions placed on us by biology and our doctors? Yes, that's highly appealing. Also, I want you that way. We don't normally talk about past lovers but..."


"It's okay. Tell me whatever you need to so I know what you want—what you need."


"I used to try to get Chakotay to do that, take me harder. He always acted like I was going to break. It was frustrating. I had to do it, from the top, which he allowed because it was me doing it."


"But you wanted it to be a two-way street?"


She nods. "The thing is, I'm relatively certain he probably does take Kathryn that way. He saw her as a goddess. A strong woman. I don't think he has ever fully understood what I'm capable of."


"Maybe that frightened him. Maybe he couldn't."


"But you're the one with the Borg trauma and you don't appear frightened."


"Your ferocity is yours, Seven. It's human, not Borg. It's driven by love and loyalty and wanting to make a difference. That's not Borg. That's the antithesis of Borg."


She smiles softly.


"That never will scare me. Not ever."


"And you collect knives."


"And I collect knives." You take a deep breath. "Have you ever...with them?"


Her pupils immediately dilate and you smile before she can answer. "No. But I'd like to."


"Okay. I would never hurt you. Or not permanently, not deeply. We'd need a regenerator."


"I have a field one from my Ranger days."


"Fuck, that's sexy. Knife-play is also...kind of dark."


"Liam, we're kind of dark."


"I know, but I think of sunshine when I think of you, not night, not shadows. I know we're both broken, but I also know you're the only thing that's ever come close to fixing me."


"I love that." She wraps herself tighter around you and whispers in your ear, "You can do anything you want to me. I'll tell you if I don't like it."


"Same applies for me."


"Okay then." She moves your arm a little so the gauge is in view, and then says, "Fuck me the way you want to." And she stops squeezing, giving you control.


Just hearing her say that is almost too much so you kiss her more roughly than you normally would, but she's showing no sign of not liking it. In fact, she bites your lip and holds on when she wants to take a peek at your gauge. "Resume," she says as she lets go.


You know you have to maintain some level of control. You cannot just let go or the gauge will go up too fast. So you start slowly, thrusting harder as you go, harder than you have up to now and you bite out, "Where are we?"


And she says, "Yellow. Harder."


You look at her, really look at her, this gorgeous woman who's chosen to share your life and you do go harder, and then harder and even harder and before she can tell you to stop because it's too much on the gauge, you are coming and it's glorious and you know she's not coming with you but you also sense she doesn't care. That this is what she wants right at this moment: you getting off the way you both have wanted you to.


You're breathing heavily and she's rubbing your back and telling you to breathe, just breathe.




"Nope, just orange. And now...yellow." She smiles at you in the sweetest way. "I think that was barely where you wanted to go—where you could go."


"You aren't wrong. But all I could do tonight. Give me time and an all clear, though, and yeah, that could be more." You pull her to you and adjust her so you can kiss her while you're playing with her—and not in a gentle way. You want her to understand how it feels to get what she's wanted this whole time.


You don't let her escape your lips as she comes violently against your fingers, as she cries out into your mouth, and she's clawing your back in a way that will most definitely leave marks.


"Holy fuck," she says and you have to check the gauge for yourself but it's fine. Her smile is amazing, one of delight, one of discovery.


It strikes you that maybe you're not both doms. Maybe she just had to take that role to get the least bit close to what she really wanted. You look forward to finding out. "You okay, Seven?"


She nods and says, "That's what I've wanted. Not all the time..."


You kiss her gently. "Of course not. But some of the time, for sure?"


"For fucking sure." She laughs and it's a wild sound you've never heard from her before. "Thank you."


"Oh, baby, no. Thank you."








You're cuddling against Liam on the grass next to the pool. You feel boneless but you keep mentally gnawing something he brought up.


"What's going on in there?" He kisses your forehead and you pull him down a bit so his lips land on yours the next time.


You have never felt this close to him. You have never felt this safe, either, knowing that the key threat to the happiness of you both is, if not neutralized, at least pacified for now.


He pulls away gently. "Seven?"


You shake your head.


His expression changes and you read disappointment. "Sometimes, things we think we wanted can feel good in the moment but maybe...shake us. And not in a good way."


"No." You stroke his cheek. "That's not the case."


"Did I hurt you and you don't want to break the mood by telling me? Because that's not good. You have to tell me if I hurt you."


"You did not hurt me." You pull him down so you can whisper in his ear. "It's not me I'm worried about."


He rolls to his back and pulls you on top of him. "Explain."


"The knife play."


"If you're having second thoughts, we can forget that. Everything is just a suggestion. A thing on a menu we can order or not."


"But that's the thing. I'd like to order it. It sounds fun—and weird—but fun. Only..." You take a deep breath. "I've learned a bit about triggers. That I don't have that many actually, I'm just kind of easily pissed off. Which, to be honest, I find reassuring."


He laughs and says, "Yeah, I found out the same thing from my therapist. It was reassuring. I guess because I control how pissed off I get, as this little gauge has shown us."


"Right. Exactly." You touch his face, the cheekbones you love so much. "But there are real triggers. Like, say, having been stabbed multiple times, the last being by the Jurati queen, before she impaled me in multiple places to reassimilate me."


His face immediately changes. "And you were assimilated as a child. Do you remember...?"


"I do. It was this tube coming at me, it's quick, the tubes are meant to slide in like they're going into butter, but it's sharp and then it's a puncture and then it's worse."


"Oh, fuck me, Seven. I'm an idiot. Yes, let's play with sharp objects after you've been impaled and stabbed—multiple times." He touches your face like he's afraid you're going to run away. "I'm so sorry. I know better. I got carried away."


"I don't want to say no to you though for something I might like. But I'm afraid I'll react badly and hurt you."


"How about this? I won't inflict knife play on you and you won't inflict Wolf 359 reenactments on me. I don't ever want to hurt you—or to be hurt by you. I don't ever want you afraid of me. These kind of games, it's such a fine line that you have to navigate. I just think...we'll find another way to play with knives. Maybe we can kill a bunch of people in one of the hologames, like the new zombie one everyone is playing. Guns don't work, you have to impale their heads."


You lift an eyebrow at him. "I have to assimilate them?"


"Oh no, you're going for the kill. It's just good violent fun."


"Oh. That does sound agreeable."


He rolls a little so you spill off him and are lying on your side, then he moves so you are facing each other. "You assimilated people while you were a drone?"


"Many." You hear the resignation in your voice. Why lie? You did it; you had no choice.


"We've talked about Unimatrix Zero, but you've never told me what it was like to be a Borg drone. And I can understand why given my triggers. But...I'd really like to know."


"Are you sure? Most people just want to hear that it was horrible and move on."


"It wasn't horrible, though, was it?"


"No. It wasn't really anything if you're talking strong emotions. The Borg actually have emotional dampeners. Mine had to be removed before I could be with someone, really feel anything as powerful as love. Feeling it with the dampener engaged caused me to shut down."


"Like an overstressed engine."


"Exactly." You study him. This does not seem to be triggering him in any way. In fact, he seems interested the way he is when he studies your implants.


"It was an easy way to live, Liam. There's nothing but a sense of belonging and your purpose. Which is both programmed into your daily life but you can be selected for special tasks by the Queen."


"You were."


"I was. Probably because I had been hers for so long. In a maturation chamber for five years. Very different than those taken as adults." You cuddle in next to him. "It's easy to be a monster when you have no conscience, when you have no concept of morality, of a society's particular rights and wrongs. I could feel their fear and anger and pain as I assimilated them, but I honestly believed our way was better." You shake your head because now you don't, but you don't blame the person you were. You couldn't possibly have been any other way.


You pull back so you can meet his eyes. "That's always going to be a part of me. Some people can't ever see past that."


"I know. But I can." He's thinking, the lines between his eyebrows are visible, the way they get only when he is deep in an engineering problem.




"I'm just considering how what you want to explore sexually might be tying back to that feeling you had, when things were simple, when you were told what to do." He cradles your cheek. "That is not a judgment, just a statement."


"You're as perceptive as ever. You know I don't normally yield."


He laughs. "I have video proof."


"But for you, I want to. Sometimes. Sexually."


"Any more caveats before I reply?"


You laugh. "No."


"I think before we really dive into anything, we need to know what our triggers are. Weirdly, I think playing games like that zombie thing will show us. Stuff comes out in hand to hand—or knife to head—that doesn't any other way. We're not always aware of what's going to set us off." He smiles at you and loops his leg over your hip, holding you in place. "But I already know quite a few things you like that don't trigger anything but yummy feelings in you. I'm more than capable of extrapolating. We'll find our way."




"Oh yeah." He smiles. "You want to find our way right now, don't you?"


"I do. I want—I need—to know I'm okay with this. That what I felt in the pool was real."


"Okay." He adjusts so your leg is over his and then his expression changes, becomes harsher, the captain who was so pissed off at you. "Hansen," he says it with a combination of lust and anger in his voice and you feel it, the excitement you felt before, and some small part of you settling down, settling into him the way you used to the Queen.


But you're still you: the woman who seemed to live to piss him off, so you say, "Sir. I won't apologize."


He has to bite back a smile. "When do you ever?" He jerks you to him, closer, then he's inside you and you wrap your leg around him more tightly as he murmurs, "Good girl."


He gently pulls your hair so you have to ease your head back, giving him access to your neck, as he thrusts hard but slowly, telling you how you're going to make it up to him, how you're going to come so big for him.


You smile as he moves, your breath speeding up, and he says, "You like that idea, Hansen?"


"Yes, sir." You try to rub yourself against him but he pulls more harshly on your hair and you stop. "I say when you get to come. Understood?" He seems to drop out of the role play and you can tell he's assessing you so you smile at him and kiss him quickly and mutter, "I'm fine. Fucking get on with it."


He has to stop, has to put his head against your breasts, and he's shaking as he laughs, and then you start laughing as you whisper, "That wasn't very submissive, was it?"


"It fucking wasn't. But it was absolutely you." He is still laughing as he pulls you into him, as he thrusts harder and harder and you remember to glance at his gauge but it's fine.


You start to grind against him and he physically pushes you back and says, "What did I say?"


"You say when I get to come."


"That's right." Again he's watching you, and his smile grows. "But you think you might also like to be the one in charge of that."


You frown in confusion. "You're not incorrect."


"This is going to be fun, Sev. I promise."


"I trust you."


"And I trust you. Now shut the fuck up until I say you can talk." He's pushing you over, onto your back and holds your arms over your head as he goes harder than he has before. You can see his gauge from where he's holding you and it's orange but low orange.


"Tell me you love me."


"I love you."


"Tell me you want to come."


"I want to come."


He shifts and he's rubbing you just right as he moves, and you can feel yourself going. "You have my permission, Hansen. I want you to come while I'm fucking you."


The words and that name should not be a turn on, but they are and you're gone, and he's pumping into you, calling out as he goes too.


It takes him a little longer to get to yellow than you expect but he's burrowing into you, not done moving, so you squeeze him until he moans and lies still, murmuring things you can't really make out in the sweetest voice you've ever heard him use.


"One time's an occurrence. Two times a pattern. I really like this, Liam."


"I know you do. I can feel it. But there's more to us. I can see it in your eyes, the cogs already going in that beautiful mind of yours. What you want to do to me."


You laugh and nod. "But not tonight."


"Oh, God, no. You'd put me into the red in seconds. The idea of being...yours. It's attractive to me. And that's not usually my thing." He kisses you, almost a nip, and you kiss him back the same way. "Alpha to alpha."


You understand wolves so you smile. There isn't an alpha male in charge, there's an alpha pair in charge. "At this point in my life, I wouldn't let anyone else be my alpha."


"Believe me, I understand that."








You wake, unsure why you're suddenly so vividly alert, and then you hear Seven.


She's crying.


"Computer, lights twenty percent," you murmur and the lights go up as you turn to her.


She's fast asleep. And crying. "Seven." You gently nudge her, stroking her hair, trying to wake her up the least jarring way possible. "Baby, it's okay. It's okay."


She hasn't had a nightmare about you dying since she started therapy. You wonder what prompted this one.


She opens her eyes and stares at you, confusion in her eyes. "Liam. You came back."


"No, you brought me back. It's okay because you brought me back." You kiss her gently and she holds on more tightly than usual, her leg coming up as if she's trapping you. "Bad dream?"


She has her head buried in your neck and moves so her lips are over your ear. "This wasn't your death."


"Well, that's good. What was it then?"


"We came back from the grotto, from...all the things we did. We went to bed. And when I woke up, all your stuff was gone. Everything. And you'd left a message on the terminal for me." She starts to tremble and you pull her closer. "You called me a murderer. You told me you could never love me. And to leave you alone. But I didn't..." Her breath is ragged and she tries to pull away.


You only hold tighter. "Tell me."


"I went to your quarters—the game room. Only they were quarters now, and you ignored my chime the way you always used to. Until finally you didn't." She goes very still and pulls her leg off you.


You let her go so you can see her face. She looks shell shocked. "Baby, I'm right here. I didn't do whatever happened. What did happen?"


"You called me a fucking Borg bitch, and you grabbed me by the hair, and dragged me to the bed, and slit my throat. And then you just watched me bleed out. Which, if I think about it, took an unnaturally long time. Also there was no arterial spray."


"Maybe I hit the jugular."


"No, I'm pretty sure you hit the carotid. The blood was bright red." She wipes her eyes and starts to laugh. "Why is talk like that comforting?"


"Because it's us." You gently kiss her face, removing the last traces of tears. "It sounds like your brain was processing things we talked about and some of the things we did." You kiss her, forcing her to open her mouth to you, letting her feel how much you want her. "I'm not going to leave you. And even at my most annoyed with you, I have never called you that. Not even in my head."


"Really? Because I might have if I'd had to deal with me." She touches your mouth, tracing it. "The idea of losing you..."


"I had one the other night where you went back to Raffi. I tried to convince you to include me but was denied."


She laughs. "You just want Raffi instead of me and are afraid to tell me that." She rolls to her back and pulls you on top of her, playing with you, taking what was already pretty ready and making it totally so.


"You're right. You do nothing for me anymore." You slip into her, going slow, keeping it tender. "I love you. I'm not leaving you—not voluntarily anyway."


"You don't know that. People change."


"Yes. Look at us, having to communicate instead of just fight." You glance at the gauge. "I didn't use wolf talk by accident. I feel like you're my...mate. My one true mate. And wolves mate for life."


"So do crows." She has a strange look so you stroke her face as you thrust slowly, as you bring her along with you.


You run your finger along her eyebrow implant. "You're so beautiful, Seven. With this. Do you understand that? It's just part of you, part of what I love."


She wraps her legs around your waist and kisses you fiercely. "If you're ever going to move out, do it to my face."


"The only things I'm moving out are what are going to be in the game room. I'm using one section as an office, with an auxiliary terminal. Two of us sharing this terminal may someday prove a problem."


"True." She moves her legs, pushes you off her, rolling you to your back and climbing on top of you. "You are not leaving me."


"Yes, ma'am." You smile as she takes your wrists and holds them over your head then nips your neck. "Never leaving you."


Then she lets you go, sits up straight, and stops moving. "Use your hands on me. Make me come."


"Are you punishing me for what dream-me did to you?"


"Maybe." She starts to touch herself. "Fine, I'll do it."


You shove her hands out of the way and says, "I'll fucking do it."




You laugh. "I'l fucking do it, Captain." Then you do exactly that, making her moan, making her clench down, making her call out, then she sits very still as she lets her breathing come down and you grin because you know she's well aware how close you are. "Bitch."


"See, you will call me that."


"I did not add the modifier."


"That's true." She moves just a tiny bit and you moan. Then she holds still again. Her smile is gorgeous and playful and light years away from what you woke up to.


"Please," you whisper.


"Please what?"


"Please let me come, Captain."


"Well, Ensign Shaw"—you cracking up at your sudden demotion makes her start to laugh so it takes a moment before she says—"I'll consider it. Why should I?"


"I'm very obedient."


"That is not what your supervisor says."


"Well, he's jealous because I'm fucking you."


"You are not fucking me, Ensign, I'm fucking you."


"My bad." You thrust up to see what she'll do.


Immediately she has your arms back over your head and you glance at the gauge just to make sure this isn't too much, but you're in the low orange. "I say when you move and how. Do not move. Not at all." And then she starts to grind and slide while holding you down—you forgot how fucking strong she is—and it's just the best feeling, letting her fuck you, not moving, feeling yourself getting closer and closer and then you can't be still.


You're coming and she whispers, "I'll let your lack of control go, Ensign. This time."


"Thank you, Captain." You grin as you look up at her, as she slides her hands down your arms so your fingers are entwined. "What did you think? Being in charge feel good?"


"Yeah. For you?"


"Oh, fuck yeah. But I like the other way too."


"Me too." She kisses you tenderly as she slips off you and cuddles in, checking your gauge as you wrap your arms around her. "It's the middle of the night."


You check the chrono, then kiss her forehead. "Go back to sleep. Dream of me in a nicer way. My sweet captain."


"My sweet former captain." She kisses you, then closes her eyes and is out a few moments later.


You watch her, hoping she won't go right back into the dream, and she doesn't seem to. So you give in to how good you feel—and how tired—and drift off to sleep.






You're escorted into a training room with a bunch of other captains. The room is full of your CMOs. You see Ohk and smile.


A facilitator who looks like her jaw should be sprained from how big she is smiling says, "Okay, Doctors, let's get started."


The CMOs all get up and join their captains while the facilitator opens up a sliding wall and a room filled with a large buffet and two-person tables is available to you.


Then she pulls one side of the sliding wall closed so you can no longer see the buffet and motions captains and CMOs in, two by two, staggering the entrance significantly.


You only see the others when they cross past the closed part of the wall to the open area to secure a table.


You and Ohk are about midway down the line but you have not moved in a good ten minutes. "Why is this line so slow?"


Ohk looks sheepish. "I can't tell you."




"Well, yeah, once we're seated and all. But, uh, don't tell the facilitator I did."


You start to tap your feet. This kind of exercise—and it must be one or it would not take this long for captains and CMOs to get their goddamned lunches—drives you insane.


Finally you and Ohk are called and she follows along behind you. It is a strange combination of food, but you see some favorites and grab those then head off to get to the table.


You see the facilitator watching you with what seems like surprise and side-mouth to Ohk, "Why is she staring at me that way?"


"Later. Pick a table in a back corner so we can talk freely."


It's where you would naturally pick. Force of habit after so many years with the rangers: never leave your back to the room. You sit and dig into the first dish, which you have not had in some time, and Ohk seems to be waiting for you to react to it.


You finish chewing and say, "Now you're staring at me."


"I've eaten with you. I know you don't love everything."


"No, I have spent years figuring out what I do and don't like." You frown. "Why does that matter?"


"You didn't even stop to really look at the food. You just took some and we were off."


"So did you."


"Yeah but I knew what it was."


"So did I." You see her surprise and realize that is why the other groups—some of whom are still waiting to go—were taking so long. "Ah. These are supposed to be unknown dishes."


You scoff the way Liam does and she laughs in what you think is recognition.


"Ohk, they show a distinct lack of imagination if they believe an ex-Borg wouldn't have an encyclopedic knowledge of dishes of any culture assimilated. I don't have sense memory in many cases, but I certainly know what goes into the dishes. I picked the ones I knew I liked and ignored the ones I don't or wasn't sure of."


Ohk begins to smile. "Thank God. I thought you were being reckless."


"I often am, as I'm sure Liam bitched about to you ad nauseam when I was first officer. But not about food." You assess her food and then point to one of the items on your plate—an Andorian stir fry of meat and vegetables with a smoky sweet sauce. "Try this one. I think you'll like it."


She spears a piece with her fork and doesn't hesitate, and you like that. She trusts you. And then she says, "Oh wow. I'll be right back." And she is hurrying to the buffet.


"Ohk, you had your turn," the facilitator says, clearly thinking that will stop her.


It doesn't. She dishes up quite a lot of the stir fry onto a new plate and takes her sweet time doing it. Then she walks back slowly as if she's not in trouble.


You laugh as she sets the plate down. "Ballsy."


"Hey, it's food. We can share this. I have a feeling you won't like the way they fix the K-ur-tam."


You're just discovering that, and you discreetly spit out the piece you took. "It is nearly impossible to ruin this."


"And yet they managed." She spoons more of the stir fry onto your plate and then puts the rest on hers. "Okay, so I kinda think I'm not supposed to do this, but we were asked to fill out this questionnaire—just for ourselves, no sharing with the facilitator—about our captains. It was supposed to show us how well, or not, we know the person we might be relieving. I want to talk about it."


"All right."


"Education. I said: Borg U and the School of Life."


You laugh and nod. "Oh and also the School of Hard Knocks." Most of the rangers claimed to have gone to that one.


"Ooh, I love that. Okay." She smiles. "Favorite hobby: Liam."


You laugh. "What about before I was involved with him?"


"Uh, pissing him off?"


"Accurate. That will probably resume once you take that monitor off him."


"Nyah, he's the happiest I've ever seen him."


"Do not underestimate our ability to argue."


Her smile is devious. "I may have a copy of that video. So funny."


You know your smile is very sappy. "I love that he made that for me."


"Like I said. Happiest I've ever seen him." She scrolls down on her padd. "Oh, this one. Favorite music genre."


You keep your expression even.


"I think you're like our former captain. Classical."


You nod. "What's my second?"


Ohk narrows her eyes and starts to laugh. "I think—and it's only when you've been drinking—really maudlin country western."


"Yes. Damn, you're good. You realize I know none of these things about you."


"Well, you don't have to relieve me. You don't need to be so worried about my baselines."


"Ask the Doctor about the time his ethical subroutines were disengaged." You study her. "You two are okay?"


Her smile is a little bit wicked. "Okay, I'm not going to say you were an idiot not to give photonic love a chance, but girl, you were an idiot. The man is talented. So. Very. Talented."


"I don't want to know. I think of him as a father."


"Just as well." Her smile gets bigger. "So....talented."


"Yes, I'm getting the picture. What about other areas? You two are...compatible."


"We really are. He has almost as much need for alone time as I do. And we just seem to...click in our general sense of superiority over everyone—except you and Liam and Raffi, of course. And maybe Jack—I think he might have unplumbed depths. Anyway, yes, it's great. Thank you for getting him a post."


"Technically, since he's an independent contractor, I just had to secure funding, which is much simpler." You nod at her padd. "What else was on the list?"


"Favorite novel. I don't see you as reading fiction."


"You are correct. I tend to read nonfiction." You look down as you say it.


"Wait a minute—what secret vice are you hiding?"


"I loved comic books when I was young. I still do, especially mythology and fairy tales."


"Ooh, a hidden side to you. Favorite myth?"


You smile. "'Rainbow Crow.' It's a Lenape legend. My parents' ship was called the Raven. They raised me on every legend there was about corvidae. 'Raven Steals the Sun,' Odin's ravens, the Morrigan and Badb and their birds." You smile, remembering the bedtime stories—some of them probably not meant for children your age.


"Are they your biggest regret? That's one of the questions too. I thought maybe it was, that you never saw them—I'm assuming you didn't once you were assimilated."


"You assume correctly. No, that's not my biggest regret." Bjayzl is. Telling her about Icheb, letting her see your child as a commodity she could maim and not a person she should respect. Your biggest regret is something you did, not something you didn't do.


But you will never tell Ohk that.


She meets your eyes, hers gentle, just waiting. And then she nods and says, "Okay, that's a line I don't cross."


"Thank you."


"No problem. We all have our secrets. This one won't come back to bite us in the ass, will it?"


"No, the people involved are dead."


"I'm sorry."


"Be sorry for one of them. Rejoice that the other is gone." Your voice has gone flat but you think she is reading a world of emotion in it anyway.


"How long did it take you to kill that person?"


"Too long. Thirteen years."


"That's persistence. And dedication. Not bad traits for a captain."


You let out a breath of air, your version of a bitter laugh, and she's heard you do it enough times around Liam in the old days that she smiles and goes back to the padd.


"Would you know all the answers to your questionnaire for Liam?"


"Yeah, but I served with him when we were young. We always remember things about old friends."


You nod. You remember any number of details from those who served on Voyager. "You said he's happy. Do you think I'm good for him, though? They may not be the same thing and I'd like to know where you stand."


"You want honesty?"




"Okay. I worry a little. You and he are very wrapped up in each other right now. And, maybe, someday, it'll be a distraction. Or a choice that you make that hurts someone else instead of him."


You don't look away.


"Or..." And she sounds just like Liam and you think she knows that because she is grinning. "It may work the exact opposite way. Maybe you've always been two people who care about keeping others safe but aren't necessarily all that concerned with their own longevity. I mean you have survival instincts clearly. But...did you have something to live for before?"


"Not like this."


"And the same is true for him. I happen to think a chief engineer who is personally incentivized to keep the ship in tip-top shape is a damn good thing. And I'm not really that concerned about distractions for you because I saw you, remember? On the bridge, the day he died. The day part of you did too, but you led us.


"Seven"—she laughs but she has tears in her eyes—"we were the oddest bridge crew I've ever seen and I was terrified, but you weren't. And Raffi wasn't. And I know I'm super late in saying this, but I would follow either or both of you into hell if you asked me to. Because that day, when I was so scared, you weren't—or if you were, I had no clue. And I knew what you and I had both lost, I knew who was lying dead decks below us. But you never gave up. And then you brought him back. My friend. One of my best fri—" Tears are falling freely now and she wipes her face.


The facilitator is heading toward your table with a concerned look so you stand and get between her and Ohk.


"Is she all right?" the facilitator asks.


"Some of the food she selected was too hot for her. Could you please get her a tissue?" You have your ranger look on your face, not your Starfleet look, but the facilitator smiles at you in a way you recognize from Kathryn: manipulative, but also...proud of you?


"Look at you, Captain Seven. Protecting your own. It's amazing what instincts this exercise shakes loose." She winks at you and says, "Tissues are in the little green boxes on the tables."


"Oh. Thank you." You wait until she is gone and then rejoin Ohk who has already found the tissues and is blowing her nose.


"Thank you, Seven."


"You'd do it for me, right?"


"I would. I wouldn't be half as terrifying, though." She frowns. "She wasn't afraid of you, though, was she?"


"She was not. Clearly there is more required of these facilitators then we assumed."


Ohk laughs. "Maybe they're all Section 31?"


"I would not be surprised. Some of the training I have taken could be used as torture."


"Same. Can I ask you something totally off topic so I can get us to lighter ground?"


You nod.


"Do you really not like poker?"


"I really don't. When I was a ranger, there was someone I occasionally saw for, well, you know?" Sex, it had only ever been for sex.


She nods.


"He would have people over—I hesitate to call them friends—and the games would go all night. Much latinum was lost. And then he'd want to borrow some from me. We didn't last long. I was gratified to hear that your group wasn't playing for anything more valuable than chips." You look down. "Does it hurt Liam that I'm not there?"


"Maybe a little. But he'll get over it. It's healthy for couples to have their own things."


"I'm showing interest in the room, now, though. In the theater area."


"He'll do that up right. He's got a creative side in addition to the engineer's touch with the tech."


"Yes, he is creative." That comes out all wrong and she starts to laugh. "I will spare you the details."


"Someday, a year or so from now, when we're really drunk, maybe we'll share some of the secrets about our men."


"Who are also our friends." You make a face. "And we are both private." You smile when she nods. "I seriously doubt it."


"Yeah, me too. But it's a nice thought."








You're sitting in your office in engineering with Jack, after hours, playing backgammon. You've been playing for a while and the lead just keeps switching because you're so evenly matched.


You think Jack wants to ask you something because he looks up with almost a jerk then seems to chicken out. "What?"




"No, you want to ask something but...aren't. Why? You afraid you'll piss me off?"


"No, it's not that. It's just..." He takes a long pull from his beer bottle. "It's just so fucking stupid that I have to ask this. But it's not like I had a whole lot of good role models for it...until now."


You lean back, forgetting about the game, and study him. "Just ask it then."


"How do you know when it's more than lust or affection? How do you know when you're in love with someone?" He doesn't look away and you nod, to let him know you're thinking.


"Well, I recently told someone I'd give engineering up for Seven but I wouldn't give Seven up for engineering. And engineering has, historically, been my great love."


"But you've had people, right?"


You roll your eyes and he laughs. "Yes, I've had my share of relationships."


"So what makes her different?"


"It's how I feel when I'm with her. Like...I'm simultaneously on fire and settling down like a cat in the sunshine. I feel safe with her. And I don't let my guard down with that many people. But it's different for everyone. I don't know what you need to feel from your person. Settled, maybe? Free to lead? Supported? What are you lacking? Because I think our best partners complement us."


He nods and seems to be considering. "My parents have passion and they have this intellectual thing going. But I don't know that it's really love. I don't know if the closeness they're enjoying now can last. I mean I hope so, obviously, for all our sakes, but especially for my mother. But I just don't know."


"Are you afraid you don't love Sidney?"


"She's my first real relationship other than when I was in London. I had a brief thing with a girl there." He looks down and you sense he's holding something back.


"Jesus, Jack, you're not fooling me. Just say what you want to say."


"I've spent twenty years not doing that, Liam. It's...well, it's kind of an adjustment to learn to." He starts to laugh. "Which would shock most people because I never fucking shut up, right?"


You grin. "Yeah, but there's talking and then there's saying something."


"Right, okay, well, I went out for drinks with some guys from the OCS class and talk turned to sex and it was all..."


"A bunch of bullshit about scoring and hotties and 'yeah, dude, way to go'?"


"Pretty much. I mean I was doing it too because I'm aces at blending, but why wouldn't they just say what they really felt? I saw it in a few of them—in their eyes, you know? Like they had more to say on the subject but were afraid." He takes a long breath. "You never talk shit about Seven."


"Well, that's primarily because she would hurt me if I did—or Raffi would on her behalf."


"Don't deflect. Why don't you? Liam, I'm fucking jealous of your refractory potential and I'm in my prime sexually. Yet you have never let on whether you two are doing it once a week or eight thousand times a day. You never comment on how hot she is or isn't once you get to know her. What would you have done at that table with those guys?"


"I wouldn't have talked about her. Not like that. Not with guys that just want to posture and shit. My dad used to tell me that we're defined as much by the company we keep as what we do. He was mainly trying to keep me from a bad element in Chicago when I was a teen, but he was not wrong."


"So you wouldn't hang out with them?"


"Well, you don't want to be an outsider unless that's how it's already feeling. So yeah, you sort of have to hang because they're your cohort and you need to be on good terms. But you do not need to overdo the personal time with them. And ask the ones you saw a spark of decency when it comes to their relationships out for drinks and see if the talk isn't a little different."




"But for the record, and I have this from Ohk, who knows all, it's not just men who want to skip over the deep shit and just act like love is a game. It's not a game. It's...fundamental to our happiness on this plane. It doesn't have to be romantic. But you have to go deep at some point or what is the point of living?"


"But when do you know you've hit the right point in your life to take the dive?"


"Look, it took me how long to find the one? But I have friends who met their life partner in fucking high school. It might have taken some of them a while to circle back to that person, but eventually they did. Do you enjoy being with her?"


He nods.


"Are you honest with her? Is she honest with you? Games suck." Then you smile, remembering Seven's demotion of you. "Sometimes."


"Wow, that smile. I would kill for that smile."


"Yeah, well, fall in love in your fifties—after you've been resurrected with Borg nanoprobes that make you feel like a fucking teen—with the woman you secretly loved for two years."


He laughs but then his smile fades. "I'm kind of afraid that I'm rushing it because I want...stability."


"Does she seem to mind?"


"No, she just gives me a lot of shit about being her ball and chain."


You laugh. You remember how Sidney navigated the social scene when she first got here. You always watch your new ensigns to make sure no one is causing a problem in the ranks. "She doesn't fall easily. A lot have tried. Few have gotten past a first date as far as I can tell. If she likes you and you like her, just go with it. One or both of you will figure out if it's not working, and I think you'll handle telling the other person in a decent way. In the meantime, enjoy it. You're both smart and nice. Where's the harm?"


"I serve with her. Or will."


"The old me might have lectured you on working relationships and not shitting in your own nest, but..."


"But death changed everything for you?"


"Yeah. It really did. I think...well, you heard me that day in the holodeck. I kind of was waiting to die in some really fucked up, elemental way after Wolf 359. I survived and some would say I found my way and thrived. But...I wasn't really alive until Seven brought me back. Or maybe until I faced your father and realized he wasn't Locutus. And that...he was as much a victim as Seven was. If I could forgive her, why not him?"


He nods. "You never seem to hold it against me. What I did."


"Jack, I never will. So much was stacked against you." You shake your head. "It was in your fucking genes. How do you fight that and not go insane? You managed. Until you couldn't. Maybe finally breaking free of all that shit will be your moment to start living, to find your way, to be the man you want to be, not what anyone else expects you to be." You grin at him. "I'm looking forward to seeing who you become but I already like who you are."


"Thanks. Don't tell Sidney I asked. I don't want her knowing I'm a..."


"Big uncertain doofus? Ruin your image?"


"Seriously would."


"Mum's the word."






You're with Raffi and Worf and Elnor in a restaurant on the waterfront. You can tell Elnor is thriving in Worf's tutelage and how happy that makes Raffi. You mostly sit back and smile as the three of them catch up.


It makes you happy that Raffi has her own little family unit here—even if there's no romance, or none that you've noticed. And a family unit free of the years of pain her blood family comes with.


Sometimes it's nice to build new bonds. To start fresh. To feel protective of someone the way you do of Jack.


"So Seven's with Shaw now," Raffi says to Worf.




You cock your head at him in your best "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" way.


"He is quite different than Raffaela."




"Not necessarily for the b—"


"Please choose your next word carefully." You let him see the side of you he probably hasn't, the ranger, the person who can fight—who can kill. Not that you're going to do either of those things with him, but at this table, with these three warriors, you need to establish your bona fides in the "being threatening" column.


"He is an unexpected choice."


"I don't disagree with that. Serving with someone can change how you see them."


His look changes, softens. "I have experienced that more than once."


You wonder if he counts Raffi in that group. It's not your business anymore if he does, but still you sneak a look at her. She doesn't hide when she's in love.


You don't see the signs that she is. You think Worf may be more a brother to her—as well as a mentor.


"Are you happy, Seven?" Elnor asks with a sweet smile. He has always charmed you, and it is easy to give him your most open smile and nod.


"It's fairly disgusting how happy. He's even...nice." Raffi laughs gently. "And, uh, kind of cute. I guess I can see it."


"Still," Worf raises an eyebrow at you. "You could have Raffaela."


"Let it go, Worf." Raffi grins at you in a gentle way. "I know when I've lost."


"You are first officer of the flagship, Raffi. In what way is that losing?" Elnor's eyes are full of pride for her and you laugh gently.


"He speaks true." Worf lifts his glass. "To the command team of the new Enterprise. May you guide it with honor."


You all lift your glasses in return.


Later, as you and Raffi walk back to Command, you ask, "Am I hurting you by having you on the ship? Is it selfish of me to ask you to do this when I've walked away from what we had?"


"You're not hurting me. I won't lie. I miss you—I miss us. But, I think I might always to some extent. And I see what you've got with Liam. Maybe it's because it snuck up on you, but it's tight and it's solid. And if it's selfish of you to want me here, it's not like it's hurting me. This is a prime posting."


"And you're my friend." You sound terribly uncertain and hate that.


"I am, Seven. No matter what else we are or aren't, I am definitely your friend." She pulls you in for a moment, her arm around your shoulder and you lay your head against hers.


Then she lets you go. "Elnor's doing so well."


"Worf is good for him."


"Yeah. I think he'll be a much better person to follow than JL or me. Worf will keep him alive."


"You would too. If he were on the ship with us."


"Maybe. But he'll have room to spread his wings with Worf. I'd...worry."


"It's not a crime to worry about the people you love."


"I know. But it's really nice not to have to. I have five hundred crew to worry about—and get to know."


"It's a really fun job, Raffi."


"I'm counting on that."


"And I had a dipshit for a captain."


"Whereas I have...?"


You laugh. "I am many things, but I am not a dipshit." Or at least you would like to go on thinking that.






You're in the lab that Seven has dedicated to the Doctor, showing him and Ohk the plans and walking them through the locations of the holoemitters so he won't have to use his mobile one if he doesn't want to.


"The extra soundproofing?" Ohk asks as if she's fooling anyone that that's really for mission reasons. This is also going to be the Doc's official quarters and you know what they'll be up to.


"It's above and beyond. For all our sakes." You roll your eyes at them both. Who do they think they're dealing with here? You have seen everything at this point. "Oh and your special instrument shelf that needs to be able to hold the weight of several people? Please don't tell me what you plan to do on that."


The Doctor immediately looks affronted. "Well, Liam, it's for instruments. I'm sure there are times you wish you had a staging area that would keep them handy but not compromise the field you're working in."


"Wow, bullshitting and looking insulted are definitely two of your skills, Doc. The fact that it's the perfect height for, well, lots of other things has nothing to do, I'm sure, with your very precise dimensions."


They both grin at you and shrug innocently.


"You two deserve each other." You go over a few more things on the plans, then ask softly, "Have I forgotten anything, Doc?"


"You have not. This will be an exceptional space for me." He smiles at Ohk in a way that you can't read. "Do you want to tell him or should I?"


"Liam is a hands-on type of guy. Let me just..." She reaches for your arm and pulls an instrument out of her lab coat pocket. With a few moves, she has the gauge off your arm.


"For fucking real?"


"Cleared for everything, my friend. You are officially released." The Doctor is beaming at you.


"Oh my God." You are grinning like an idiot but you don't care. "Any fucking thing I want to do?"


"The world is your oyster, Liam. Go nuts." Ohk is laughing at you, but it's the best kind of laughter. You know how worried she was when this started.


There are small holes welling a little with blood where the device was attached to your arm, and she reaches for a regenerator but you say, "No, I mean, yeah, stop the bleeding, but I want the scars. I may incorporate them into a new tattoo, something about Seven."


Both she and the Doctor have identical expressions of distaste.


"You guys that against tattoos?"


"It's just so..." She looks at the Doctor and he says, "Permanent."


"And I guess I won't be best man at your wedding anytime soon."


"You guess right," she says as she smiles at the Doctor in a way you have never actually seen her use on a man she's spent more than a few nights with. The look is so full of pure affection and regard, and it makes you happy.


Love isn't any one thing. Their love language works for them. For however long they want it to. And they both seem totally fine with that concept.


"I think this calls for a celebratory drink, don't you? Shift's over." Ohk takes your arm and his and marches you out of the lab and to Ten Forward.


You proceed to get super buzzed and end up trading funny stories from your old ships with the Doctor and her. He's actually the funniest of all of you. Go figure.


And then you and Ohk pop antitoxes because neither of you like to be seen out of control in the corridors, and she heads off with him while you go back to your quarters, beyond excited to show Seven that you—and she—can do whatever the fuck you want to. Including argue.


But that's not where you plan to start.






You're rushing down the street, hurrying to get to Kathryn's place, trying not to cry. She's not expecting you and you hope to hell she and Chakotay aren't entertaining.


They live in a concierge building so you're stopped and the man has to call up to see if anyone's home. And then he's motioning you to the elevators and the button for the eleventh floor is already lit.


You take deep, ragged breaths as the lift slows and when the doors open, you aren't sure where to go.


But then you see Chakotay and he walks down to you and takes a long look and says, "You need her?"


You're afraid you'll cry if you answer so you just nod.




You nod again then follow him down the hall to a door he palms opens. A big red dog with beautiful long hair greets you and Kathryn is not far behind it. "Maddie, be nice."


You crouch and let the dog lick you, but then Chakotay puts a leash on her and says, "We're going for a nice long walk. Good to see you, Seven."


And he's gone and you're alone with Kathryn.


"Let me get us both drinks. What's your poison? It looks like you need a double."


"Can we just sit?"


"Of course." She takes you into a living room with a stunning view of the city and sits on the couch. You know you should take one of the chairs, but instead you sink down on the lush carpeting, put your head on her knees, and break into harsh, painful tears.


Fucking Borg bitch.


Liam wasn't wrong. You were processing. Not anything he would say but what you've been hearing from some of your supposed peers at subvocal levels for weeks now. What tonight, when you were out for drinks, you heard at full volume when two fellow captains had a little too much tequila.


Fucking Borg bitch. Where do you get off being a captain?


You're so tired. What more do you have to do? And how is it even fair that you're wearing implants and Picard and this woman and Jack aren't. They've all been assimilated in one way or another.


But only you have to bear the evidence.


You have never, ever, sat like this, with your head in her lap, with her hands on your head. The way a mother should—and she is your mother. She ripped you from the people who had stolen you and gave you a home, gave you love, gave you time and space to become who you should have been.


"Is it Liam?" she asks. "Did the nanoprobes...?"


"No, he's fine. He's wonderful."


"Okay." She goes back to stroking your hair and you get yourself under control. Your tears stop and your sobs soften and you pull the Kleenex you grabbed from the bar's restroom before you stormed out from your pocket and blow your nose because you're an ugly fucking crier.


You push yourself up long enough to sit next to her on the couch, perching sideways so you can look at her. "When will I have paid for being Borg? When will I cease to be a fucking Borg bitch? How long before I actually deserve to be captain?"


She doesn't answer quickly, just studies you and smooths your hair back from your face, her look so soft it nearly makes you cry again. "Maybe never. Is that too long?"




She nods as if this is not an unexpected answer. "You owe Starfleet nothing, Seven. Absolutely nothing. If they can't get past it, if they can't see how exceptional you are, leave. Liam will go with you—he can pretty much retire whenever he wants—and he's with you in a way that is so beautiful and reassuring to me. I know he'll protect you. So go do something else, anything else, that feeds your soul and makes you smile. Move to Risa and sit by a pool and drink fancy cocktails with crazy umbrellas."


You laugh at the idea.


She smiles and it's a sad one. "You don't owe anyone anything. Not Starfleet, not me. No one. And being a captain...if that's not what you want, don't do it. Because it can eat you alive." She swallows hard.


"What if it is what I want to do?"


"Then do it. And fuck everyone else. We have all these junior officers who were turned to Borg drones waiting for someone to understand them. You understand them. Picard can't, he wasn't a simple drone. His son can't either. I can't—it was always...twisted when I was part of it. But you're their example—if you want to be. And whoever called you that—are they going to call all of those junior officers that too? Because like it or not, nearly fifty percent of the fleet has now been assimilated. Is also ex-Borg. They may not show it on the outside, but their scars are deep and they're—as a cadre—suffering from the implications of what they did, what they saw on that day. You're not alone, Seven. You're not exceptional in that way anymore. But you are exceptional in another way: you're the way forward. For all of them."


She's tearing up. "Let them see you. Let them see what I fought to bring back. I just wish I had taken better care of Icheb." A tear drops, then another. "So you weren't alone."


"No, Icheb's death is my fault. Not yours." You hug her and she hugs you back tightly and you see Bjayzl before you, the utter lack of remorse. "And actually, it's not the fault of either of us. The blame lies one place: on the monster who killed him."


You ease away. "You got him here safely. He should have been safe in Starfleet, would have been if he hadn't been helping me. But that's who he was." You swallow and whisper. "I had to kill him. He was in so much pain. He begged me."


She doesn't say anything, just nods as more tears drip from her eyes, as she too begins to need a Kleenex because she isn't a pretty crier either.


You hand her one and she takes it. And then she puts her head in your lap and you stroke her hair.


"I don't know exactly what you're going through, Seven, but do you know that I'll never get another ship? What people say behind my back? I'll never be trusted after the things I did to get us home. Oh, I can run the fleet, I can do that, but God forbid they reward a captain who would do anything to keep her crew safe and get them home with another command—with a ship that would make her heart happy and not just her ego."


"I'm sorry."


"As am I, but it is what it is." She sits up, and then stands. "What is your poison these days?"


"Bourbon. Neat."


She stands and gets it, and you get up and walk to the floor-to-ceiling windows and take in the view.


She joins you, handing you the glass. "I'll just have to live vicariously through my daughter."


It takes you a moment to realize what she's just said, then you turn to her. She's holding up her glass.


"Your daughter who was involved with your lover?"


She makes the annoyed face you've been getting from her since you first met her, when you were a drone saying no to her as often as Liam said it to you. "Let's not analyze the idea into the ground, Seven. And if the idea of being my daughter is unappealing—"


"It's not. It's...lovely. And it's how I've always felt." Only before, you two were not in any position to put it into actual words.


She lifts her glass to you. "To seeing life through a view screen and not windows like these. Fuck them all."


You smile and clink your glass softly against hers. "Yes. Fuck them all."







You're sitting at the desk when Seven comes in. She's later than normal and she looks like she's been crying. "You okay?"


She walks over to you, lets you pull her into your lap and kisses you rather ferociously. You taste bourbon and the vanilla of antitox.


"Not that I don't love your energy, but I'm gonna take that as a maybe."


"I'm good." She traces your lips. "Actually, I'm better than good."


"Well, then, I'm glad to hear it. Busy day?"


"Crappy day, to be honest. But...I talked to a friend about it and I got some clarity." She studies your face as if she's reading way deeper than just skin. "Let's go to Risa. Lounge by a private pool. Drink cocktails with silly names in stupidly garish glasses with big umbrellas and chunks of fruit."


You don't even have to think. "Okay."


"I think a week. Can you do a week of nothing?"


"I'll be with you. That is not nothing."


Her smile is luminous. "I love that." She kisses you more tenderly this time, then cuddles in, rubbing her fingers through your hair the way you love. "Will you make the reservations once you're cleared for travel and...everything?" Her smile turns wicked. "You're better than I am at knowing what we'll need—what we'll like."


"I will. And..." You hold your arm up and her face lights up with the purest joy you've ever seen.


"You're free? You could leave me at any moment if you want?" She looks astoundingly happy at that idea and it makes you laugh. She's so charming sometimes in how she approaches life.


"I could. Pack and be gone in seconds."


"Oh, Liam, I'm so glad." She kisses you and it's ferocious again. "You do realize, you're not fucking leaving me at any moment, right?"


"I do, babe." You laugh as she snuggles into your neck. "When do your classes end?"


"Never. Just let me get through Wednesday and then book the trip. What are they going to do? Fucking court martial me for taking leave?"


You shrug because you're really not sure. It would never occur to you not to push the trip until you were completely done. "If they do, I'll retire and we can live on Risa."


"Or wherever. As long as I'm with you, it's home."


"Exactly." You grab a padd and start scrolling as she watches. "This is my favorite place there. The pool is amazing."


She glances at it and laughs—it's a lot like your grotto. "Ah, the model for our love nest appears. Have you gone there with other partners?"


"No. I picked up people there, as one does when one is single."


"That's okay then." She cuddles back into you. "Book it."


You check availability. "We can get it in two weeks." And then, just because you do not want her to derail her career for a stupid fucking tiki drink, you check her schedule while she's busy kissing your neck to make sure she's not going to miss anything crucial.


The shit she'll miss she can make up. Or potentially test out of since she took the First Officer's Course so recently.


"I've booked it." And you book a cabin on the shuttle rather than regular seats. You two deserve it.


She leans back and her smile is mischievous and open and wanting. "We should test things here before we go. In our grotto. Don't you think?"


You check the schedule for the holodeck. It's free. Jesus, you really are getting spoiled. You're going to miss the availability once more of the crew starts reporting in. "Done."


"Well done, Ensign." She grins in a devilish way.


"Thank you very much, Hansen." You know your smile matches hers. "And Seven...?"


The playfulness fades, and she waits for what you're going to say.


"Thank you. For bringing me back."


Her expression is everything you ever wanted when you used to think of her. Sweet, generous, kind, and strong—she'll never let you fall.


And you'll never let her fall.


And together, you'll make a difference. To someone somewhere. You really don't care where but for right now, Starfleet feels right. The people around you are the ones you want to make a difference to. "I love you, Seven of Nine."


"I love you too, Liam Shaw."




Back to Main Picard Page