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.

Two of Two (Part 1)

by Djinn





He's floating, above his body, watching Seven cradle his head, her back to those shooting at them.


He wants to yell at her. "Turn around. Watch your flank." But Raffi's got her back, giving her time.


She needs time with him? He hates how happy that makes him.


She leans in, and he finds himself drawn down, listening as she says, "I'm not done with you yet, Liam Shaw."


And then she's laying his head down softly and telling Raffi to go and they run for the exit.


He watches her until she is safe, and then the assimilated crew leave and he's alone.




Waiting for the white light or the tunnel or someone dear to him to show the fuck up.


Nothing. It's dead quiet, and he's still floating, watching as his body seems to become less and less...him. He's never sat this long with a corpse. Figures his first time would be with his own.


"Fuck me!" he yells, just to prove to himself he still can. "Fuck me."


Suddenly he thinks he hears a voice, sweet and creepy all at once, like two voices superimposed on each other. She'll be back for you, Two of Two.


"Who are you?" He turns, takes in the whole of the space. Nothing. "Where are you?"


Still nothing.


Did he imagine the voice? Is this all death is: floating and hallucinating?


Well, fuck that.


He tries to leave, to follow Seven and Raffi, but he can only get so far away from his body before he's snapped back.


"Hey, I get that you're probably really busy and all, but I'm like super fucking dead here!" He's not sure if he's talking to God or the voice, but come on!


This is just the perfect shitty end to the shittiest of shitty weeks.




Seven waits until contact has been made with the Enterprise and her crew have taken their places. Then she gives Raffi the conn and says, "Ohk, you're with me."


As they get off the lift and head toward where she left Shaw's body, she sees two young security officers looking more than a little unsure about life and snaps her fingers. "With me. Now."


They fall in line, looking grateful to have a purpose other than killing their older colleagues.


"Where are we going?" Ohk asks softly.


"Something I need to do." So long as the body is still there, so long as the area didn't burn.


She sighs in relief when she sees Shaw is where she left him. "Pick him up," she tells the two security officers. "We're taking him to sickbay."


Ohk scans the body as they walk then touches her arm. "Commander, we need to take him to the morgue."


"No, we don't. I'll explain once we get there." And hope to shit that when the Agnes-Queen reassimilated her, she left her with enough robust nanoprobes to do for Shaw what she did for Neelix all those years ago.


As soon as they reach sickbay, she goes to work, scanning, looking for the levels that will say this will work.


Barely. But maybe.


"Please let this work," she says softly as she hands the scanner to Ohk and explains what she wants to do.




"Hey, wait a goddamn minute," he says as he listens to Seven tell Ohk about giving him Borg blood. "I have a say in this."


Resistance is futile.


"Where are you coming from?"


Again, nothing.


While he was distracted, Ohk has pulled Seven's blood and is doing...stuff to it. He's an engineer, not a fucking doctor.


"You're sure about this?" she asks Seven.


"I'm not," he says, getting really close to her ear.


She doesn't hear him.


"Do it."


"Seven, let's talk about this."


The hypospray hisses, nothing happens, then he feels himself being yanked down and down and the world goes black.




Seven watches Ohk work. She's told her everything the Doctor learned about this procedure, the ways he improved it so by the time Neelix left the ship, he didn't need constant nanoprobe boosters from her. She can only hope it works.


You've been alone long enough.


She freezes, glancing around the room, trying to figure out where the Agnes-Queen is.


And why the hell she didn't step in to stop all this.


Not our responsibility. But you are, first of our children.


She walks away from the biobed, far enough that no one will hear her and says, "You can't have him."


We have you. You're giving him our nanoprobes. So we think we can. The voice is more Agnes than it is the Queen. The lilt, the little note of teasing. Take the win, Seven.


And then Ohk is calling her, and Shaw is sitting up, the security officers trying to restrain him as Ohk says, "Sir, you're still bleeding."


"Fucking nanoprobes, Seven?" He meets her eyes. "Seriously?"


Then Ohk injects him and he lies back down, a silly smile on his face. "And for the record, I'm not done with you yet either."


"Prep surgery," Ohk says to one of the other doctors, who is looking as uncertain as the security officers did.


There's going to be a lot of therapy needed after this. Seven can't imagine what it was like for them. She matured in a chamber, had been Borg by indoctrination before she ever heard the Queen's voice other than as a far-off murmur—or took a life.


For a moment, she is alone with Shaw. "You're going to be okay. And it's over."


"I know. You came back so it must be." He smiles and touches her face in a way she's sure he wouldn't have done if he wasn't so doped up. "Who the fuck was talking to me though? She called me Two of Two."


"That will take some explaining."


"You're damn right it will." He runs his finger over her eye implant. "Am I going to start growing these?"


"They are not grown."


"You know what I mean."


"That is not what happened the last time I did this." But it was with a different Queen's nanoprobes. One less invested in what she did once freed of her collective than the Agnes-Queen seemingly is.


"Okay, sir, let's get that chest wound repaired." Ohk meets Seven's eyes. "I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes."


"You're not the one with Borg blood, Doc." He glares at Seven but it's a half-hearted one.


"Did you prefer being dead?"


"Fuck you, Commander."


She pats him on the shoulder before the doctors move him to the surgical gurney. "Yes, I'm happy you're alive also."




Shaw drifts in and out. He knows his heart was repaired but he feels really fucking strange.


Ohk is there as if she knows he's not doing well. "Your body is having to get used to the nanoprobes. Seven said this would happen for a while." She injects him with something that makes him feel more human. "I'm going to have to monitor you and I'm transferring you to Starfleet Medical as soon as I can—provided their facilities are in better shape than ours are." She studies him. "You okay?"


He nods.


She gets closer. "You neglected to tell me that you and our yummy first officer were, ummm, close." She's got the teasing look he remembers from their very first tour together. "She's very invested in you."


"Yeah, well, I'm awesome." He gives her the look that has always meant "No way in hell I'm telling you," but she doesn't back down. "Okay so maybe—just maybe—things have changed a little."


"Be still my heart. Does this mean I can stop trying to find you a suitable Trill mate?"


"It was you or nothing."


"Yeah, right. If it was me or nothing, why'd you set me up with your best friend."


"So he wouldn't end up married to someone who couldn't stand me and would make him stop hanging out with me. Mission accomplished."


"Maybe we can start double dating."


"Don't get ahead of yourself. Raffi's still in the picture."


"My money's on you. If you can remember to turn off asshole setting before you interact with her." She frowns and scans. "Shit, if I didn't love you so much, Liam, this might not be worth the effort." She hurries away, does something with her hypos and comes back to shoot him up again.


"Okay that one burns."


"Can't help it. Your system is just..."


"Over-fucking-whelmed with Borg bits?"


She scans again. "Something like that. But you're alive. I don't care what's inside you if it means I don't have to attend your funeral." She leans down and kisses his cheek, whispering, "I'm really glad I didn't know you were dead. I just thought you were trapped on some other deck."


He pretty much was. Just as a disembodied spirit. But he takes what she said in the spirit it was meant. "I'm glad you didn't know either."




Seven can't get back down to sickbay; there is just too much to do, too many comms to answer, too many freaked-out junior officers to simultaneously console and bolster.


But she has called down every half hour to the point where Ohk now just picks up, says, "He's adjusting," and hangs up.


Adjusting. That is not the same as recovering. Are the Agnes-Queen nanoprobes not up to the task?


"You okay?" Raffi asks. "And what exactly has you so distracted."


"I may have brought Shaw back to life."


Raffi mouths out what she just said. "Yeah, that's what I thought I heard. What exactly does that mean to you? And do you think maybe you need a little break? Some food. You could be dehydrated..."


"Stop humoring me. There is nothing wrong with me. We used a procedure the EMH once used on Voyager. My nanoprobes." And a great deal more time monitoring than Neelix needed—the Doctor had told her that would be the trade-off for not needing the boosters. The initial adjustment phase would be rockier and require constant supervision.


"Ohk to Seven."


She hits her comm badge. "Seven here." She does not want panic to show in her voice but is afraid it does. Why would Ohk call her unless something has gone terribly wrong?


"I'm transferring him to Starfleet Medical. They understand what's required. If you want to see him off...?"


"I'll be right down." She gets up but Esmar calls out, "Commander, Starfleet Command for you."


Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. "Ohk, I can't. Tell him...tell him..."


"I'll think of something nice. Go do whatever you have to." The link goes dead and Seven has Esmar route the call to her ready room.


She has to steady herself for a moment on the stairs and imagines he was just beamed off. That somehow she felt it.


But that's ridiculous.




Shaw wakes, sure he will still be in the ICU, with five thousand monitors set up to go off when the least little thing changes, but he's in a room—a nice private room.


"Ah, you're awake." A bald man he's never seen before is looking very smug from the chair next to him. "I knew my new method would work."


"Your method?" He blinks a few times. Wait, he does know this guy. The EMH from Voyager.


"Seven of Nine must think very highly of you to do this. But I must say I'm curious how she recharged her nanoprobes. They would have degraded considerably since we resurrected Mister Neelix."


"I have no fucking clue what you're talking about. Other than the Borg blood thing."


"Just as well. Probably over your head."


"You're an asshole."


"What's the old saying? It takes one to know one." He gives Shaw a look he doesn't understand. "You talk in your sleep. A lot. Mostly about her."


Ohhhhh—the look is jealousy. "You care about her."


"I do. And she cares about me. As all friends do."


Shaw can tell this is utter bullshit—this guy was friend-zoned. No way he chose that lane on his own. "So I guess I owe you a thank you. I mean if you haven't gone and made me a Borg." He can still remember that voice.


"Nonsense. Nanoprobes are what keep the drones in such good health even if they look like death warmed over."


He studies the EMH. "Why are you here? Other than to gloat?"


"She asked me to be here. To make sure you're okay."


Ohhhh, man, that had to hurt. "I'm sorry?"


"Well, yes, I am too. But also not. The man resents you but the scientist relishes seeing his work used to such good results." He stands. "She wanted to be informed when you woke."


"She's here?"


"Don't you sound eager? I guess it's mutual then?" He manages the most disapproving look Shaw has ever received and he's been on the receiving end of plenty.


To appease the guy—but also because he really isn't sure what the hell is going on with him and Seven—he does the shrug-head shake that always got him out of trouble with his mom.


It works on holograms too. "I will let her know you have stabilized and are awake. I'm sure you can understand that I'd rather not be here for the happy reunion." His tone doesn't change even though Shaw can see something in his face, something...heartbroken.




He turns.


"Thank you."


"You're welcome. If you hurt her, I'll hunt you down and kill you."


"Great bedside manner."


"You have no idea, Captain."




Seven hurries to the room the Doctor said Shaw is in, fingering the new pip on her collar as she goes.


She still can't believe Shaw recommended her for captain—and months ago, not in the heat of the battle, not after they'd forged a new understanding.


He believed in her even then?


She peeks in the small window to make sure he isn't busy with someone else, but he's lying in bed reading. With a knock, she enters.


He puts down the padd. "Well, Captain, aren't you a sight for sore eyes?"


"I think I could say the same for you, Admiral. Even if you are out of uniform." She's suddenly unsure what to do. He didn't ask her to bring him back.


"Seven, get over here. You're giving me a neck crick."


She drags a stool with her, wants to be at the same level, not in the cozier but lower armchair near the corner of the room. "How are you feeling?"


"Like a new man." He lifts an eyebrow at her. "I was dead, Seven."


"I had the power to change that. And I waited until the crisis was over. This time I did blow the lift."


"Pffff." He reaches out for her left hand, rubbing his fingers over the implant.


She can feel his fingers everywhere.


"Am I going to develop one of these?"


"You are not Borg." She expects him to stop stroking her hand.


He doesn't.


"I heard the ship is in for repairs, thank God. Long past due."


She nods. If he hasn't heard about the refits, about the name change, she's not going to tell him.


"Oh, come on, Seven." He presses up hard on her palm for a moment, then goes back to stroking. "You think I haven't heard they're changing a perfectly good ship to yet another Enterprise?"


"I was not sure you had. And I knew you would react that way."


"What do you think of it?"


"I think it is unnecessary. The Titan earned her name. But, it is not up to me."


He gives her a lovely smile and she feels as if they are fully on the same page. Possibly for the first time ever. "Nor to me. Picard wins again."


"Yes, so it would seem."


"Well, let's not let him take any more of our time. I found out that I'll be released tomorrow. Providing nothing weird happens between now and then."


"Weirder, you mean, than you caressing my hand?"


"Wasn't aware you minded?" He does not look up as he lets her go.


"I don't," she says so softly he can ignore her if he wants.


He meets her eyes. "So, Captain Seven of Nine, would you like to go out to dinner with me tomorrow? I assume they have you at a desk at Command between the refits and all?"


"They do."


"You only answered half my question."


She laughs. "You noticed."


"You save a man's life; you're responsible for him, Captain."


"I know. What happens when you bring a man back from the dead?"


"He pays for dinner."


She lifts an eyebrow.


"Fine, he pays for many dinners."


"Oh, you think they'll be many?"


"Ohk told me how many times you checked on me."


She knows she is blushing. "I was concerned for a fellow crew member."


"Yeah you didn't check on anybody else that much." He is laughing at her.


"She told you that too?" She and Ohk might need to have a word about privacy.


"She's a good friend of mine. And she used to tell me what a shit I was to you. To stop it. To call you by your real name. She was your champion."


Or maybe she would put her in for a commendation. "I see."


"Are you ever going to say yes?"


"What will people think? A captain and an admiral?"


"Well, I'm an admiral for the engineering section, nowhere near operations so nowhere near your chain of command. And frankly, what are they going to do? Drum me out? No conflict then. Kill me? You'll just bring me back."


"There is a limited time that I can do that. The nanoprobes must have been near a Queen relatively recently."


"Yeah, you're going to have to tell me that story. Because I asked and you never left the ship to go have a confab with this Queen." He suddenly starts to laugh. "Oh wait. The weird shit on the Stargazer, right?"


She nods. "We may be part of her collective. I...hear her at times."


"So she was what I heard when I was dead, I guess. I was just...hanging around and then...this weird voice. Joking, also super creepy."


"Yes, that is her. The regular queens do not joke. Or if they do, only they think the joke is funny." She knows she has still not answered his question and meets his gaze, allowing her smile to change to a more seductive one.


"I will not ask again, woman."


"Fine. You may buy me dinner."


"I'll swing by your room. You're staying at the Visiting Officer's Quarters, too?"


"Yes. Room 48. I have meetings late. I should be home by eight."


"I'll see you then."


As she turns, he murmurs, "Hey" and pulls her slowly to him. "You know there's this crazy custom of kissing after a date. Will they, won't they, who takes the lead? It's torture. And unnecessary, if you get my drift...?" He looks unbearably cute staring up at her, waiting—hoping, she thinks.


"Understood." She leans in and is halfway to him when he pulls her the rest of the way. She feels a tingle as their lips meet, a feeling of coming home.


It is a very, very good kiss.


"Thank you for saving my life, Seven," he murmurs as he lets her go.


"Thank you for recommending me for captain. Tuvok showed me the holo."


"I'm an asshole but I evaluate fairly. I stand by what I said."


"I love what you said." She kisses him again, until she hears a low cough and realizes a nurse has come in. "I will see you tomorrow, Liam."


"Yes, you will." He puts such a seductive spin on the words that she knows she is blushing again.


She has not been this easy to embarrass since the early days on Voyager.


"Captain Seven?" The nurse is smiling. "I just wanted to say, well, you're a hero of mine. I followed all the tabloids when you first came home. And now with the Borg. Thank you for what you did for us."


"He did it too."


"She's already thanked me by not subjecting me to lime jello."


"Ah, good. And you're welcome."




He's changed five times. A suit, jeans, his fucking uniform with the new admiral's insignia, some insanely comfortable leisure suit from Kanda IV, and finally all black.


He looks like a hit man.


Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, he's been dressing himself for years. Why is he suddenly incapable?


He checks the chrono. Seven thirty. He has time.


His comm badge chirps. "Shaw here."


"It is Seven. I got back early. Where are we going? I have no idea what to wear."


"Tell me you changed five times."


"Why would I do that?"


"Uh, no reason. I thought somewhere nice. But not so nice we need reservations because I wasn't sure if you'd maybe run late."


"Or early. Wise."


"What do you want?"


"Anything. I skipped lunch. Nice places make you wait."


"That they do. So, let's just do the Wharf. Casual. Okay?" And he can lose the stupid hit man look.


"Yes. Perfect. What room are you in."




"I will see you soon."


He leaves the black t-shirt on, pulls on some jeans, a beaten up leather jacket that he knows he looks cool in, and some boots. He's ready by the time his chime goes off. "Come," he says as he gets his hair to stand up just right.


He looks at her in the mirror as she stands in the bathroom doorway.


"Why are there so many clothes on your bed?"


"I'm not a slob. I wasn't sure where we were going either." Sounds better than saying he wasn't sure what would impress her the most and not make him look like he's trying too hard.


"Next time we should decide beforehand." She walks into the bathroom, ducks under his arm as he works on his hair, and is standing so damn close to him he moves so she won't feel what effect that has on him.


"Uh, boundaries? Also, you're interfering with a work of art here."


"Mmmm." Her smile is one he's never, ever seen before. He's in love with it. "Carry on."


"I can't concentrate when you're right there."


"You managed to concentrate when I was sitting right next to you."


"Yeah, that was a little different."


She moves in, snaking her arms around his waist.


"Seven, for the love of God, take pity on me. If you want to eat, you cannot do this."


"I've waited this long to eat. I can wait a little longer." She pushes his jacket off and begins to undo his jeans. But then she frowns. "Unless you don't want to...?"


"Oh, God, no, I want to. Want is not an issue here."


"Then perhaps you should get my jeans off or do I have to do all the work?" Another frown. "You are medically cleared for this, right?"


"I am." He pushes her jeans and underwear down, lifts her onto the bathroom counter, and kisses her.


"Are you not a man who likes breasts?"


He pulls away and starts to laugh. "I love breasts. I especially love yours. And I'm saving them for after dinner." He plays with her hair. "I see more than just boobs when I look at you. For the record."


"I like that about you." She is wrapping her legs around him, pulling him toward her. "I like it so much. During much of my time on Voyager I felt like boobs with legs."


"Remember that feeling. Make sure nobody on your ship feels objectified that way." He's serious and he stops her legs to let her know it. "Everyone deserves respect. I know that sounds hypocritical considering I kept calling you Hansen, but I hope I never ogled."


"You never did. You may, however, now."


"You're damn right I may." He lets go of her legs. "And uh, carry on with what you were doing, Captain. Far be it for me to get in the way of your initiative."


"Maybe I don't want to anymore?" But she is tightening her legs again.


"I could understand that." He reaches between them, finds the right place, watches her eyes close and her mouth open. "What can I possibly offer you?"


"Not a thing, sir. Please get inside me but also keep doing that."


"Bossy, bossy. Jeez." But he obliges.


And it's fucking heaven.


When they are both breathing hard, leaning against each other, she asks, "Can we stay in and order room service?"


"Oh, sweet Jesus, yes."




She's in a robe she found in the closet, clearing off his table when room service arrives. She moves away, forcing herself not to push the server aside to get to the ribeye she's ordered.


Sex with Liam has just made her hungrier. He laughs at her expression once he closes the door behind the server. Pulling her close, he says, "I'm sorry I made you wait for dinner."


He turned out to be quite a fan of her breasts. And of her riding him. And of leaning her over the table and taking her while pretending to make a log entry. He kept having to hold his hand over her mouth as she laughed.


"Since you are as adept at giving pleasure as at taking it, I'll forgive you."


"Good." He kisses her, a quick, sweet kiss, and then pulls off the food cover over his plate. "There it is."


"Why do you like blue steaks?" she asks, running her hands over his bare chest, then she puts her hands in his jeans pockets and pulls him closer.


"They taste amazing."


"The color though."


"Yeah, you get over it once you've tasted it."




He nuzzles her for a moment and she feels...safe. This whole time she's felt so very safe. She usually feels extraordinarily vulnerable the first time with a new partner.


Then again, he is full of her nanoprobes and maybe, on some elemental level, her body knows that?


"I would love to keep kissing you, but your stomach is growling." As they sit, he says softly, "I didn't expect this. Us. This way. Tonight."


"Would you rather have waited?" She knows some people judge.


"Nope. Really would not have. I've wanted this for months. So considering how long we've worked together, that's a lot of waiting in my book."


"I like your book. I like you, Liam Shaw. Admiral."


"Never expected that."


"I'm so happy for you. I didn't expect to become captain. I resigned before Tuvok showed me your holo. He denied my resignation."


"I should hope so."


"I thought I didn't fit the mold."


"You don't. Keep not fitting the mold. It's a good look."


"You're just saying that because we've had lovely orgasms together."


"How long have we served together? How often do I mince words?"


"Rarely to never."


"Well, there you go. Keep being you. I happen to love you." He stops. "I mean—"


"It's all right. If you do, I mean. I know it's a figure of speech as well. You might not mean that you—"


"Seven, shut up. I said it. I meant it. Maybe some day you'll say it. Or was that what 'I'm not done with you yet' meant?"


"You heard that?"


"Yeah, it was so weird. Floating. Nothing like they say. I just felt...like I was waiting. Me and that weird-ass voice."


"Maybe you knew you weren't done living? Or maybe she did. I don't know how far the Agnes-Queen's power stretches. She is not...typical. And she understands love. And pain. And loss."


"She called me Two of Two though. Not two of N."


"Did you want more in our collective?"


"No, but doesn't she?"


"In all honesty, we are not part of her collective. Not in the traditional sense. But maybe she saw this coming. Us. You dying. Me bringing you back. For myself. Because I don't want to live without you. Not now—I do love you but I'm not sure my love is what anyone wants."


"What do you mean?" He reaches for her hand and she reaches back.


"I mean the love people want seems to be all encompassing. Settle down, give them all of me. I...I can't."


"I'm not gonna ask you to. You'll be on my ship."


She glares.


"You'll be on your ship," he says with a laugh. "And I'll be here. And I hope you'll be my girl as you explore the stars and I do engineering stuff again." His smile is untroubled. So satisfied with where he is—she thinks he has never looked that way as captain of a ship. Even if he was a good one.


"Are you saying you want to be exclusive?"


"Yeah. I mean, how free do you need to be?" He isn't asking in a mean way. He looks curious.


"I would like to be part of us. A collective of two. While I wander the stars with the others. Your crew, my crew, the ones who will come. They will all matter to me. But I will be 'your girl' while they do. I do love you. We just need to get to know the hidden sides of each other."


"We've made a damn good start."


"I agree." She looks down. Is she blushing again?


"I love when you do that, You never flushed on the ship except when I'd enraged you."


"You move me."


"Well, you move me right back."


They are staring into each other's eyes like idiots. But she doesn't want to look away. She wants him to understand she can be constant even if she doesn't want to be hemmed in.


He finally looks away. "Your ribeye's getting cold."


"I don't mind that."


"Me either." He takes a drink of the wine and makes a face. "What the hell is this?"


The label is facing away from them both. She turns it and starts laughing. "Do you want to know what it is?" She turns the bottle so he can see.


"No. No, no, no. I will never get away from that man."


She is already up and to the comm terminal, ordering Malbec. "We can pour that down the toilet if it makes you feel better."


"It really, really will. So far you're a stellar girlfriend."


"Have you had a lot of those, Admiral Shaw? Girlfriends?"


"What makes you think I only do women, Captain Seven?"


"Intriguing. So many layers to you. Almost as many as there are layers of clothes on the floor."


"I'm sorry. Next time you can hang them all up before we fuck."


"Next time we will know where we are—or are not—going." She thinks about what he said earlier. "Changing clothes might indicate you were nervous."


"Of course I was nervous. But now I'm not. This feels right."


She shoots a glance at the clothes again.


"I'll pick them up before we go to sleep, all right?"


"Fine. I like order."


"Yeah, so do I. Next time warn me you're going to seduce me and we'll need the bed and I'll make sure to get everything off it before you get here."








Shaw has his uniform on and is finishing up his hair. He let Seven go first in the shower thinking she'd need more time but she lets her hair air dry and her make-up routine is amazingly fast. So she went on a breakfast procurement run to a bakery it turns out they both adore while he showered.


He hears the door open, and she calls out, "They were out of chocolate croissants. I got you almond."


"What were the other options?"


She walks into the bathroom and puts a cup of coffee—fixed exactly the way he likes it—down next to him and then wraps her arms around him, nuzzling his neck. "What difference does it make? If there's no chocolate, you always pick almond."


He turns and pulls her closer. "This is true. I just wasn't sure you knew it."


"I know everything. Now kiss me or I'm eating both of them."


He kisses her for a very long time. "Mmm, such dire threats." He'd kiss her forever if it wouldn't make them both late—and him on his first day as a muckety-muck.


She frowns as she takes in his bare collar. "Where is your insignia? Or is there a ceremony you forgot to tell me about?"


He starts to laugh. "The ceremony was in my hospital room. My uniform was my open-in-the-back gown—thank God they didn't make me stand up. Admiral Cavenaugh—my favorite boss ever back when he was just a lieutenant commander—did the honors."


"Do you wish it had been more formal?"


"Oh, fuck, no." He opens a drawer and shows her the insignia. "Gorgeous, isn't it?"


"It is. May I do the honors?"


"You may, Captain. Provided you don't do them so sensuously you make us both late."


"Me? Sensuous?" Her grin is amazing. But then it fades and she is serious when she pins on the insignia.


She steps back when she's done and salutes him, even though there's no protocol for saluting inside a bathroom.


But he salutes her back because he knows why she's doing it.


Then she leans in, kisses his cheek, says, "I'm going to remove those from you later, Admiral Shaw, along with everything else you're wearing," and leaves him with a smirk he really likes. He hears the sound of plates being laid out, then quiet that leads to a mumbled curse—she must be reading in. Morning bad news sucks big when you're the captain. Even if your ship is in spacedock being worked on.


She calls out. "I need a position name for Jack that could let me have him doing anything but sounds mission critical. Command is questioning if I'm the right ship for him."




"I'm serious."


"So am I. They won't see it coming." He can tell she's not amused. "Special counselor to the captain always works. I once had a captain get his girlfriend on the ship with that one. His wife was not thrilled. He was a shithead."


"I won't be sleeping with Crusher."


"Yeah, good to know."


"Okay, I'm going to try it." There is a long silence and he goes back to getting his hair just right. Then she laughs. "They said okay."


"I told you. I do know how Starfleet works." He walks out and sits next to her, happy to see she's clearly snagged the coffee from room service since she's got a pot sitting on the table. He pours himself another cup then tears into the croissant.


It's chocolate.


And she's laughing.


"Fuck you, Seven. Lying to a man about his croissant. Terrible, terrible person."


"Yeah, yeah, you big baby." Her laughter is infectious, her grin easy and light.


The morning after can be so awkward. This is the opposite of that. Domestic fucking bliss with Seven of Nine—who'd have called it?




Seven sees Raffi and steels herself. She always assumed it would be her dealing with Raffi and someone new, not the other way around.


But Raffi just looks at her, makes a face as she sort of snort-laughs, and says, "Okay, then. Not who I'd have picked but you're a free agent," and they fall into step as they head to the design studio where they're going to look at options for the new quarters and common rooms.


"Is he good?" Raffi asks, a teasing note in her voice.


She isn't sure if she should answer.


"Seven, I'm your friend and your first officer. I have a right to know. He's a total dick in my book so at least tell me he made your toes curl."


"He's good."


Raffi glances at her. "And not such a dick by your expression. You've got that happy look that says you feel at home."


She knows she didn't wear it very long with Raffi. Or with Chakotay. They both wanted so much from her. She'll love them until the day she dies, but she can't be what they want without changing who she is at her essence.


Liam seems to like who she is at her essence. She suspects he may also be the same way. He's too attractive to be single by anything other than choice. "It's nice. So far." A gift to Raffi, that maybe this too could end. Which it could, but...she kind of doesn't think it will.


Not just because of what he expects—or doesn't—from her. But the nanoprobes, what she's done for him. How sleeping with him is easy, falling asleep quickly rather than her usual first-night inability to get comfortable.


In some sense he is her and she's him.


But she isn't going to hurt Raffi with that.


"The crew never got to say goodbye to him," Raffi says softly. "Several have told me they'd like to throw him a party. Do you know where he'd want to go?"


"I can ask."


"Or I can. You know...to make it less weird?"


She takes Raffi's hand and squeezes it. "Thank you."


"Hey, I want you to be happy. I won't lie and say I wouldn't rather you could be happy with me. But we tried and it didn't work. And...this is a good look on you."


"And eventually you'll have me all to yourself in space."


"And eventually I'll have you all to myself in space." She laughs in not an entirely nice way as she turns toward the office the design group is in. "Although I'd lay odds he's the kind of man who can figure out ways to get where the ship is to see you."


Seven thinks that's probably true.


"Ah, Captain, Commander, I've got the samples pulled so we can go through them." The young designer—clearly a civilian contractor—is impossibly chipper.


In front of them lie swatches of fabric. All dark red and navy blue. The woman explains things Seven has no understanding of, and she glances at Raffi to see if she's getting any of this. Or if she can tell any difference between the red or blue swatches.


"Okay then," the designer says, "I'll give you some time to get to know these and then you can tell me which you want."


"Wait," Raffi says. "These are all the same color, right?"


"Oh, yeah." The woman laughs. "You only get a choice in the fabrics."


"Oh, thank God," Seven mutters and Raffi laughs as she says, "Got it. Thanks."


Seven picks up some of the blue swatches and says, "Why are we here?"


"So you can put your stamp on the refits."


"My stamp in identical blue fabric." Although one of them does feel softer to her. "Maybe we should just figure out which ones will scratch less after a full shift and call it a day."


They were rubbing the three top picks along their cheeks when the designer comes back.


"The scratch test. Good plan." She points to one of the blue and one of the red. "These fabrics don't hold smells. The others might."




"Butt smells," Raffi mutters so softly only Seven can hear her.


"You know not everyone has the same level of hygiene or basic biology and..."


"Those two are fine."


"Great. Okay then, let's move on to the laminate choices."


"Ooh, laminate." Raffi rubs her hands together as she makes a face at Seven as soon as the designer's back is turned. "Laminate, laminate, laminate—I love some quality laminate."


"Stop it. I'm sure the laminate choice is important and should be made with—" She can tell the grain is slightly different but other than that, they are all the same color.


It's going to be a very long morning.




Shaw's sitting in his room, reading the last year's worth of status reports from all over his department. Cavenaugh said they would help him catch up on what's been going on in the engineering world while he was busy being a captain.


He has a nice buzz going from drinks and dinner with his peers. God, he loves that word. Peers, meaning it's not all on him. He doesn't have to make his highest priority keeping everyone contained in a duranium hull surrounded by the frigid vacuum of space safe.


His chime sounds and then the door opens before he can respond. He turns to see Seven, looking tentative. It's not a look he likes on her. "Hey, Captain. Why are you loitering there when you could be inside?"


"I...I just got back. Should I have gone to my quarters? Called you from there?" She's not coming closer and so he holds his hand out and when she's close enough, takes hers and eases her over to him.


"You should do whatever the fuck you want to do. If coming here first is what you want to do, then I think I'm a very lucky boy."


There. The close-mouthed smile that gives way to something more free. She lets go of his hand and straddles him. "You are a lucky boy."


"Don't I know it."


She leans in and kisses him gently. He can tell she's not trying to seduce him tonight so he just wraps his arms around her and follows her lead.


When she pulls away, she cocks her head and studies him. "You had a good day."


"I did. It was really good." He strokes her hair—he loves her waves so damn much. "Yours?"


"Remind me to delegate meeting with the design team next time a ship I captain is in for refits."


"Oh, fuck me, yes. I had to help my captain with that on the tour before the Titan. It's like: come on—everything's been picked and you're having me choose between Seems Comfy Number One and Seems Comfy Number Two?"


"Yes. Exactly."


"They want you to think you had a say in the look of your ship."


"I grew up on a Borg cube where we stood to sleep and the color scheme was gray and green with accents of red and mist. I'm the wrong person to ask."


"Everyone is. But just go with it. There'll be a lot of shit you have to do that you wonder who the hell thought up this fresh hell." He nuzzles her, enjoying the warm feel of her skin, the gentle fragrance of the perfume she puts on so lightly you have to be this close to her to smell it. "I'm glad you wanted to come here."


"Yeah?" She begins to scratch his back and he leans in so she can have full access. "It would be efficient to let my room be for meetings with crew, for laying out schematics, for—"


"Yes, you can have half the closet and drawers." He grins up at her. "If, that is, you were about to suggest you move in here."


"It's only been a day. Is it too soon?"


"It hasn't just been a day. We've sat next to each other for a long time, letting this build up." He closes his eyes as she moves her hand up his neck and into his hair. "Do you think it's too early?"


"Yes. No. I don't know. It was so easy this morning. It was so easy last night. I want more of that."


"Okay, then." He pulls her to him, kissing her deeply. "Besides I'm only slated for these quarters until I find a place of my own. Do you want to help me look?"


"I'm willing to go, but you don't need me there. As I said, I was perfectly happy with the equivalent of an overly humidified boiler room and a stand-up bed."


He laughs. "Still, if you're going to use my place as your primary address, you should have some say. What one thing would you love to have in an apartment building that you never have."


"A pool. I love to swim."


"Me too. Indoor okay?"


She nods and relaxes against him, her head on his shoulder, as he tightens his arms around her.


"So Raffi called me. Is it true the crew want to throw me a goodbye/promotion celebration? Or was she just pranking me out of spite?"


"No, it's true. They hate they didn't get to say goodbye. She asked me where you might want to hold it. I had no idea."


"She and I worked it out."


"Are you going to tell me?"


"You'll find out when she send out the invites." He laughs at the annoyed sound she makes. "Speaking of food, are you hungry?"


"Not really. Lunch was so late it was basically dinner."


He realizes she's falling asleep and lets her, holding her and trying to read his padd. She wakes suddenly and seems unsure where she is.


"You're exhausted."


"I know. And you kept me up last night."


"Me?" He makes a face of mock horror. "Who was it who kept crawling all over me, making my naughty bits come to life?"


"I think you have us confused."


"Nyah, I like my version better." He kisses her slowly—nothing passionate. Gentle and sweet. "Go to sleep. I've got stuff to read."


She nods and gets up, pulling her clothes off, and throwing them over a chair before crawling into bed.


"What happened to liking order, darling?"


"I know you'll do it. And I'm so tired." She sits up just enough to be able to meet his eyes. "It's all catching up with me—how much we did, and then incessant meetings or running to approve this and that aspect of the refit. No real break since we got home. I don't sleep all that well usually. But here—here I feel safe." Then she frowns. "And 'darling'? Really?"


"You prefer I call you Bitch Face?"


"Those are my only two options?"


"Tonight, yeah."


"Fine, darling, I'll put up with that archaic endearment."


"Oh, you know you love it." He loves the sweet little smile she's wearing. "You want to get up the same time tomorrow?"


She groans. "I'm meeting Raffi for racquetball at 6."


"I'll wake you at 5:45 then." Fortunately the VOQ has tons of amenities, including a huge health center. Raffi is staying here too.


"You're a good boyfriend," she murmurs into the pillow as she turns to sleep on her side.


He feels unreasonably pleased at that idea.




Seven wakes to the alarm, Liam spooning her from behind.


"Computer," he says, his sleep-grizzled voice blowing against her neck, "Five more minutes."


"Affirmative. You have two 'five more minutes' remaining."


"Good morning," he murmurs, tightening his hold on her, his lips moving down her neck to her shoulder. "Sleep well?"


"I did. Second night in a row. I was dead to the world in the regeneration chambers, but as a human, sleep and I have been uneasy allies."


"But not here?"


She can hear the unsaid, "With me," and turns to face him. "Not with you. Sleep seems to love me here. But not the most exciting second date for you. I come in and go right to sleep."


"It wasn't our second date."


"Oh, it wasn't?" She is smiling, a wide unintentional smile she couldn't wipe off if she tried.


"Nope. Just second day in the 'We share a bed now' phase. I've been dating you for months. Just...neither of us knew it."


She laughs and pulls him to her, kissing him gently. "I think if neither of us knew it, it's not dating."


"Then it's day two of us having the same fucking Borg nanoprobes in our system and choosing to make that mean something. Whichever. And for me too—sleeping with you is a dream when I normally hate sharing a bed." He kisses her far less gently than she did him. "Now, which story is more romantic? Bio-buddies or lovers without knowing it?"


"Fine, we were dating."


He's smiling in a way she thinks she might never get tired of. "Seven, this isn't just about sex for me. That you can come in here and be honest and say you're tired and just go to sleep while I'm rattling around the room half buzzed—that you feel safe, here, with me, after how I treated you? That's everything to me." He traces her cheek with his finger. "Every damn thing."


"I"m really, really glad I brought you back."


"Me too." They kiss for a long time, long enough for him to have to use his second "Five more minutes."


She pushes him to his back. "I have to get dressed and down to the gym. How do you feel about quickies?"


"I love them. I'll be thinking about it—and you—all day." He pulls her on top of him, loses himself in her and she does the same.


It's freeing. They're not trying to draw things out, to make it a night to remember. Just basic connection, pleasure taken almost frantically.


When she collapses on him, he rubs her back and says, "Yep, going to be replaying that in my mind during any meetings that are on the boring side."


"Just don't accidentally moan."


"Never. I have loads of self-discipline. Look how long you sat next to me and never realized I wanted you."


"It's true. Or maybe I'm just clueless."


"That is very possible." He laughs when she mock punches him. "I don't care. We're here now."


"Yes. We're here now."






Seven is sitting in her quarters with Raffi and Ohk. She probably shouldn't be amazed at how quickly the VOQ staff turned a glorified bedroom into a working office with a conference table. They have to constantly meet the demands of all sorts of life forms.


Still, it's amazing, and a lot more comfortable than the cubicles they've been allotted at Command. Cubicles that barely fit another chair, much less two, and have zero privacy.


They're going over the billets they have control over. She's come to terms with the fact that some assignments are going to be made by Starfleet Command and she'll just have to live with them. Others, though, are up to her, and she doesn't want to only have her perspective on this. Raffi and Ohk each bring such different outlooks to the task she can be sure that every angle is considered.


Her terminal beeps, the alert for a text message, and she leaves the conference table with its mountain of padds from personnel to answer it.


It's from Liam. Cavenaugh having clambake this weekend. Be my date?


She keys in: What does one wear to a clambake?


Dress uniform.


She knows this isn't right so just waits.


Not going to fall for that? Casual. Have the other two-thirds of the Titan Trio take you shopping if you're unsure.


He has coined that name even if the ship is no longer called that. She doesn't mind. Yes, I'll go. Now leave me alone. Some of us have work to do.


Ouuucchhhh. Shaw, out.


She goes back to the table and glances at Raffi, who immediately looks up and says, "What? Was that bad news?"


"No. I'm apparently going to a clambake. I have no idea what to wear. Can you help me"


"Did Liam say we could shop and make you try on all sorts of unsuitable things?" Ohk is having way too much fun with this.


"He did not mention unsuitable items."


"I'm game. I have a date this weekend and could use some new stuff." Raffi says it without a trace of meanness but still Seven feels a pang. She knows they're over. She's already moved on. But still, it hurts when something that was once so beautiful dies.


But they have this. And there is no one she would rather have at her back, not even Liam.


"I served with this person," Ohk pushes a file toward her. "Total sociopath."


Ohk can find the good in just about anyone so Seven takes this comment seriously. She looks at Raffi, who shakes her head the way she does when the person is an unknown, then notates the file with a rejection.


"Ooh, this one though." Raffi pushes a file to her. "I served with them when they were an ensign. So smart. So sweet."




They finish the rest up quickly and then Ohk is calling up the catalog that will send items to the room's replicator to try on. She starts laughing and shows them a picture of an extremely skimpy bikini.


"No," both Seven and Raffi say as one.


"Spoilsports. Okay, how about this?" She starts selecting items without showing either of them after asking for Seven's uniform sizing code. Items begin appearing.


Then she turns to Raffi. "I get to do you too."


"Uh uh."


"See if you agree with what I got her and then answer." She waves Seven toward the replicator. "Go try those on."


"Who's the captain here?" Seven says with a groan as she goes to get the items.


"When it comes to fashion, I am."


She changes quickly, has to admit the clothes are functional, comfortable and attractive without being revealing.


Raffi gives her a wolf whistle as she walks out, the way she used to when they were together, and Seven laughs. "It's just shorts, a tank, and a sweater."


"And you look amazing." Raffi turns to Ohk. "I wouldn't have picked that color for her. You are good at this. Okay fine, first date, known this person a while, reconnected, purely exploratory coffee maybe into dinner if things go well." She glances at Seven and gives her a sheepish grin.


"I am happy for you. I hope it goes well."


"Are you a dress person?" Ohk asks as she peruses the catalog.


"Only if I have to be."


"Okay then." She shows something to Raffi, who nods, and items start appearing in the replicator. "If you both weren't so goddamned gorgeous, this would be a much harder task."


Seven goes into the bathroom and quickly changes back into her uniform, folding the clothes to take up to Liam's, then let's Raffi have the bathroom.


As they pass, Raffi stops her, "We're okay, right?"


"I'm a little bit jealous."


"Yeah, me too."




Shaw is in his office when his assistant Lieutenant Naima peeks in. "A Commander Musiker is here to see you. No appointment. You busy or not?" He will say whatever Shaw wants. Make up the most outstandingly believable lies as to why Shaw isn't available.


He freaking loves this kid. "It's fine. Send her in."


"Aye, sir." He opens the door wide and says, "You can go in."


She saunters in the way he expects. He's got what was hers and he can imagine how that feels.


"Is this where you tell me if I hurt her, you'll hunt me down and kill me? Because I already got that lecture from a hologram."


"The freaking bald guy? He told me the same thing. I wanted to tell him, 'You're never going to get her so back off, buster.'"


"Right? He's so gone on her."


"One hundred percent." She laughs softly. "But yes, I'm going to tell you that and remind you I may have a Klingon at my back when I come."


"Jesus. Way to unnecessarily up the ante." He waves to a chair. "Sit, unless you just came to threaten me. Which I will also accept."


She sits. "Nope, got questions about the party. Mura thinks we should invite your family. Having had a rather err complicated relationship with family, I did not want to do that without checking with you."


He appreciates her checking. "They seriously want to go all out on this—for me?"


"They love you. I agree it's very hard to understand why." She is grinning as she says it so he laughs. "But yeah, they seriously do."


"I'd love to have my parents there. My brother Aiden is on Luna doing God knows what. My sister Janet will probably come. Do you want me to ask them."


"No, just give me their contact info."


He forwards her the data for his parents and sister, but he stops on his brother.


"Sometimes we can't make things better," she says softly, as if reading his mind.


"I said some really asshole things to him."


"You? Asshole? Noooo." She smiles gently. "Did he deserve them?"


"He damn well did. He was taking advantage of my parents. At a time when they did not need that." Why is he telling her this?


"Yeah, I was that person. Is it drugs?"


He wishes. He thinks that would be easier. "Gambling. Always owing money to the wrong person."


"You gotta let him get clean on his own for reasons he considers worth it. You can't make it happen. And you do not want him at this party."


This isn't what he expects. He studies her. "But...shouldn't the kind thing be to reach out?"


"Not if he hasn't changed. Not for something like this—a day just for you. If you really want to get to know where he is, reach out for lunch some day, just you and him. You have credits up the yin yang now, right? Get thee to Luna." Her smile is so gentle, her eyes full of sympathy and support.


Seven left this gorgeous, wise woman?


Then again he does not know the whole story. One sweet moment of support doesn't define a person.


"Thanks. I will. And...thank you for doing this."


"You mean a lot to Seven. I'll admit, I don't completely understand it. You were a total dick to her about her name."


"I won't argue."


"But she was happy on your ship despite that. I could tell and it perplexed me."


"I did respect her. Just not the way she really wanted me to. But...I've never had a better first officer." He can hear his voice break and coughs to hide it.


"Oh my God. You're a great big softie."


"Shut up."


"Big gooey cookie man."


"Shut up, Raffi. Do not tell her."


"I won't. Let her find out in her own time—if she doesn't already know." She gets up. "Okay, I need to get back to work. My boss is a tyrant."


"Yeah, right." He laughs softly. "She's going to make a great captain. And you're going to make a great first officer. I know you'll always protect her. I saw that when I was dying—you didn't leave her when you could have."


"I'll have her back. I will always protect her."


"Are you going to try and get her back while you're doing that?"


She shrugs and gives him a silly grin. "Better keep her happy, Shaw."


He thinks she is very serious. "I plan to."




Seven is more nervous than she's been in a long time as she follows Liam up Cavenaugh's driveway. She can hear laughter and music coming from the other side of the house—the waterfront side.


"Relax. This is just a bunch of engineers."


"I'm not one."


"I've read the Voyager logs. You did a little bit of everything." He turns to look at her, walking backwards. "Did I tell you that you look amazing?"


She stops and he walks back to her. For a moment, she feels panic and runs her hand along the implant over her eye. "I wish there were concealer for this."


"I don't." He leans in and kisses it. "I want you here. With me. My fucking girlfriend. Cavenaugh is going to grill you unmercifully because I've never, ever brought a date to one of his parties. And the rest are just going to be so jealous of me."


She laughs. "I think you overstate."


"Maybe. But if I want to believe that every single individual in there is jealous of me, let me, okay?" He puts his arm around her shoulder and leads her around back rather than going up to the front door.


"Liam Shaw." A lovely older woman is putting her arms around him and giving him a kiss on the cheek. "And be still my heart—have you brought someone with you finally?"


"I have. Carolyn, this is Captain Seven of Nine. Seven, Carolyn Cavenaugh, our hostess and my west coast mom.""


"Oh, Seven, you got the Enterprise." She jabs Liam in the ribs gently. "Don't pout. All things change. Even ship's names."


"Didn't have to."


Seven sees a man nearly as tall as Liam barreling down on them. "So, I had to see it with my own eyes. My protege finally brought a date to one of my shindigs." He takes her arm. "Come, I must tell you all his secrets." Once he gets them clear of Liam and his wife, he says, "And also introduce you. It means more if the Admiral does it."


She reads a lot of unread messages in that one sentence. "Understood, sir."


"Off duty you can call me Paul. My boy's never looked happier."


"Do you consider him a son?"


"I do. Which means you better not hurt him."


She likes how protective he is of Liam. "I brought him back to life."


"Yeah, I read about that. Fascinating."


She frowns.


"I head a division that works hand-in-glove with Starfleet Medical. I read about a lot of things you might be surprised at."


"Like torturing changelings?"


"Oh, my, don't you speak your mind? And shields down, Captain. I'm not Section 31."


She knows she's turning red. "I'm, sorry. I had to watch one of those changelings kill a friend of mine while I did nothing. I'd really like to talk to whoever thought making them the way they were—and all the horror they endured—was a good idea."


"Because it damn well wasn't a good one. I hear you. Now, are you done venting because I am not introducing you around if you're going to blame everyone here for what one very dark place has done."


She meets his eyes. "I'll be good."


He smiles gently. "I can see why Liam likes you. Not afraid to speak your mind about things that matter. Plus you raised him from the dead." He winks at her.


She laughs. She can't help it.


"You want a drink before we enter the fray? Take the edge off?"


"Yes, please."


"Excellent answer. You'll fit in here just fine."


Meeting everyone isn't as stressful as she thought it would be. Perhaps it's because Cavenaugh is making it clear how invested he is in her. She finds it charming that he's willing to do that for Liam's partner.


Eventually Liam finds her and eases her away from an incredibly boring captain and chief engineer.


"Thank you," she says once they are clear of them.


"Nobody deserves more than fifteen minutes with them. Their ship is a slow transport but you'd think it was a prototypical warship the way they talk."


"Every captain loves their ship."


"That is certainly true. And I think every engineer may love that ship just a tiny bit more." He studies her. "You didn't argue. You okay?"


"I may have accused your mentor of being part of Section 31."


"I'm sure he took it in stride."


She can't argue that.


"If he were sore, he'd tell me about it. Trust me on that." He puts his arm around her waist and says, "Clams soon, then we can go. I've been grilled relentlessly by Carolyn about what being dead was like—she's something of a spiritualist."


"Did you tell her about the Agnes-Queen."


"I thought it best to downplay the 'I may be Borg' angle."


"A wise choice." She touches the implant again. If only she could.


"Seven, stop it. You're who you are because of them. And I love who you are."


"I saw how I look without them though, on a very strange mission with Picard. Smooth skin. Never assimilated. I was...beautiful."


"You're beautiful now. And what we go through makes us who we are. It's what my therapist always told me. We can't undo it, we can only learn to live with it."


"Chakotay used to say something similar: not over or around, but through." She rests her head against his shoulder. The sound of surf in the background is soothing. "Can we walk on the beach before we go?"


"Anything you want."




Shaw's working on a report when his communicator sounds. "Shaw, here."


"It's Ohk. Can you come down to Starfleet Medical? A certain young man of our acquaintance who's been jammed into the Academy mid-semester had a bit of a kerfluffle and came in to get patched up. He could use a good dose of Liam Wisdom, I think."


She thinks he can help the son of two admirals with his problems?


"I'm super busy."


"Please." One word. Said only as she can say it.


He sighs and says, "Be right there." Closing up the report, he walks out of his office and to Naima's desk. "Don't schedule anything for the next hour, okay?"


"Yes, sir." Naima never asks why and he loves that about him. He just does whatever asked with a bright smile—unless a smile isn't appropriate.


"Naima, did you ask for this job?"


"I did. I'm never going to get on a ship being an admin type, and they wanted me out on a starbase but I saw that you had an opening... My cousin was on the Titan the first couple years of your command. She speaks so highly of you, sir."


"The Titan's not what they want us to call it anymore, Lieutenant."


"I know. But I bet it feels good to hear it called that."


He smiles. "You're not wrong. Okay, I'll be back as soon as I can."


"You have an hour and fifteen minutes. I would not recommend missing your fifteen hundred. Admiral Torres-Paris is half Klingon."


"Admiral Torres-Paris is a living legend. I would sooner miss, well, anything. I'll be back in time."


And he's off, cutting through corridors most people don't know about and getting to Medical fast. Ohk is waiting in the lobby.


"I get why you're here." He knows she's picking up shifts at Medical when she isn't needed by Seven. "But why am I?"


"Because he's a sweet kid who didn't ask for what happened to him. Because you're the best person to talk to him. He knows you give zero fucks about, well, most anything having to do with the feelings of a Picard/Crusher spawn."


"You are not wrong about that."


"I'll patch him up once you're done with him. He thinks we're super busy here, a lie but since nobody else on staff wants to deal with him, it probably seems true."


He frowns.


"What? You thought he'd be the golden boy? Far from. Now please, go talk to him. Room four."


He knocks and opens the door. Crusher sees him and frowns.


"Your doctor thought you might need an ear."


He thinks Jack is going to argue but then all the starch seems to go out of him and he lies back on the biobed.


"Nice shiner on your eye. By the way you're moving, I'd say someone kicked you in the ribs, too. I hate people who kick when a man's down."


"Yeah, me too."


He pulls a stool closer to the bed. "So, what's going on?"


"Well, I am almost universally hated. Either because I'm taking four separate year's worth of officer protocol and regs concurrently and didn't even start this adventure with everyone else, but mid semester. Or because I'm the Borg transmitter from hell. Or because they think I got into Starfleet solely because of who my parents are."


"You left out one."


He frowns.


"Your winning personality when you're being a cocky son of a bitch."


"Oh, right. That. There was some of that." He shifts and grimaces. "Fucking wankers and their regulation boots. Why are the toes reinforced?"


"Because someday they will save you from having your foot crushed—or you'll be the one kicking." He sighs. "I can't help you with the nepotism part."


"Great, thanks."


"No, I mean nobody can. Only you can. You prove that you're not just that. And that will take time. And remove any chip you may have over how you got in off your shoulder."


"I have no chips."


"You're right. You have a fucking log. Moving on. The whole Borg thing. Your old man did the same thing—with no goddamned biological imperative pushing him along—and he came out okay. So did Seven. I suggest talking to them. Pick their brains on survival skills for when that thing rears its ugly head. I don't think having been the Borg Transmitter is going to be an easy legacy, but I also don't think it'll be one that lasts forever."


"You called Seven Hansen, though. You never let it go."


"Yes because I'm an asshole. The kind of person you will no doubt run into. I would not have, however, beaten you up for it. And I don't think that you were in a fight over the Borg or who your parents are. So were you too cocky or did you get an answer right before the assholes who got handpicked for the Academy could even open their mouths?"


He's staring at him like he can't believe he understands. "Little bit of both. Well, honestly, it wasn't just one answer. I have lived. A lot. Running makes you wise. And when pushed..."


"You push back, only with your mouth in this case. Smart ass extraordinaire." He leans back and smiles. "You've gotta learn to tame that."


"I'm not going to stop being me just because they feel threatened."


"I came up through OCS. Had to do some classes at the Academy because the regular OCS professor was on sabbatical. Usually they keep the two separate. It was unpleasant in the extreme. These asswipes, so green behind the ears, acting like I was beneath them because I didn't start my career as an officer." He meets Jack's eyes. "The only way to win is to obliterate them academically. And stay out of trouble otherwise. Because the powers that be will only go to bat for you if you have a correspondingly spotless record on the non-Academic side."


"That's why you're a walking talking dictionary of regs and protocol."


"It's one very big reason, yes." He leans in. "Look, kid, I want to punch you when you're being an ass, and I actually kind of like you. Tone it the fuck down."


"And if they corner me?"


"Make some fucking friends. It's hard to corner someone who doesn't lack back-up."


Jack is studying him in a way he's not sure he's really comfortable with. "You had to do all this Academy stuff after Wolf 359, didn't you? When you were beyond fucked up and full, I imagine, of rage—and guilt? You really do understand."


"I really fucking do, Jack."


"And what if no one wants to be my friend?"


"There's a guy in the gym. Not a trainer, a janitor. He used to coach mixed martial arts fighters. He'll help you learn not to be afraid to fight back. I imagine some of your insane fighting skills disappeared with the queen?"


"Yeah. And I grew used to depending on them. No one would have jumped me this way before." He looks down. "What's his name?"




"No last name?"


"Just tell him I sent you." He gets up. "You ready to go back? I'll go find Ohk."


"Yeah. Is...is she going to tell my Mom about this?"


"If she were, she'd have called her, not me."


Jack laughs softly, a puff of air more than sound, but he's still looking down. "I know you don't give a rat's ass about me."


"I really don't."


"So, will you be my unofficial mentor? I have one assigned. but his daughter was turned Borg so..."


Fucking assholes at the Academy. They couldn't check that? "Sure. Why not?" He tilts Jack's chin up so he has to look at him. "Quit being an asshole."


"Coming from you...?"


"It's great advice. Now, young man, I have an admiral who I idolize almost as much as La Forge to go meet."


"You're a weird man, Liam Shaw."


"Coming from you...?"








Shaw walks into his quarters and sees Seven at the table working. She looks comfy in a t-shirt he's pretty sure is his she's wearing as a nightshirt.


She smiles in a predatory way he's not used to and gets up; he can't help but admire her legs. "Admiral, I believe that when I pinned on that insignia, I said I was going to remove it, and every other piece of your clothing."


"You did say that. Our schedules have sucked lately though." He starts to walk toward her and she holds up a hand.


"They don't suck tonight. So stay right there. Don't move." She drags a chair over to him and puts his hands on the back. "For support. This may be...more stimulating than you expect."


He turns to look at her and she gently stops him, her mouth on his ear, "I said not to move."


He lets her ease him back to looking forward, swallows hard when he feels her fingers at his neck, removing the insignia. She carries them to the chest of drawers and puts them in the top drawer then walks back.


He expects her to make short work of his uniform. She's proven more than adept at that in the past. But instead she gently undoes his jacket and pushes it off his shoulders, easing his hands off the chair and then placing them back once she's slipped the sleeves off him. She very carefully folds the jacket, her eyes never leaving his as she does it and places it on the chair.


"Seven," he says, wanting to place her over the table, to take her uniform off much more quickly.


"Shhh." She moves behind him, but doesn't touch him, talking so softly he can't make out the words, just the loving tone of her voice. She goes from one ear to the other, her breath warm against his skin. The back of his neck tingles.


Then she touches under his shirt, and he almost comes out of his skin. "Fuck, Seven."


"Shhhh." She pulls up the bottom of his shirt and murmurs, "Arms up," and when he complies, pulls the shirt very slowly off him. He doesn't wait for her to tell him to grab the chair; he has to in order to stay standing.


She moves around front again and slowly folds the shirt, sniffing it as she does, making a happy sound. "I love your scent, Liam."


When he starts to answer, she holds her finger to her lips. Then she crouches, pulling his pant legs up just enough to unzip his boots, to ease them off, then his socks. She puts then under the chair.


She gently tugs on his uniform pants from the bottom, murmuring, "These need to come off."


He absolutely agrees. But instead of rising to unzip them, she moves around to the back of him, running her fingers so lightly over the back of his legs that it makes him tingle again.


"If you like this, moan for me."


He gives her the best moan he can make.


"Excellent." She moves up to his bare back, her fingers barely touching down, and he clenches his fingers into the chair at the twin sensations of relaxing shivers and wanting to fuck her so damn much.


She reaches around and unfastens his pants, letting them fall to the ground, lifting his feet so she can pull the pants free. Again she walks around him, her eyes never leaving his as she folds his pants and puts them on the chair.


Then she stares at him, her tongue running lightly across her lips, her eyes as intense as he's ever seen.


"You can do the rest," she says, turning away and leaving him in his underwear, gripping the chair so hard he thinks he might put a hole in it. She turns and gives him a seductive smile. "Or did you want more?"


He is on her before she can turn around, and she is squealing with laughter as he rushes her to the bed, pushing off his underwear, yanking up the t-shirt he realizes she has nothing on underneath, and then he is inside her, taking her harder than he ever has, and for a moment he worries she won't like it.


But her smile is knowing, is one of a woman who has wound him up like a top and now wants him to spin out.


So he pulls her arms over her head, sucking on her neck, leaving a mark she'll have to go to Ohk to get rid of, as he thrusts.


She's writhing under him, telling him not to stop, please don't stop, and if he could, he would do this to her forever, but forever isn't possible. He does get her over the hill, calling out wildly as he doesn't let up on her arms, as he says, "I love you. I love you so much."


And then he is going and somehow she has gotten loose and is holding him, whispering, "I have you. I have you," as he comes apart in her arms.


He is shaking as he collapses on top of her and rolls so they are on their sides, holding her to him with leg and arm so the connection isn't lost. They are both breathing heavily.


"Too much?" she asks as she studies him, stroking his forehead gently.


"Oh, fuck no." He isn't sure he can stand though. "Maybe not something for every day since I think I might be useless the rest of the night."


She laughs and kisses him deeply. Then she touches her neck.


"Yeah, there's going to be a world-class hickey there."


"Jerk." But she is leaning in, sucking hard on his neck and when he says, "I have important meetings tomorrow," she says, "I have a field regenerator. I'll fix our marks in the morning. Let me play."


It's almost too much but he does let her because he'd pretty much let her do anything. Once she's done and his neck is stinging in three places from her marking him, he asks, "Would you like me to do this scenario back to you someday? In a way tailored to be what you will respond to?"


She nods and her smile goes shy. A far cry from the woman who just combined domination and ASMR and their own anal retentiveness when it comes to putting their clothes away into such a stunning sexual sharing.


"I'll get my thinking cap on then." He traces her lips, then the implant. "I fucking love you, Seven."


"I fucking love you too, Liam Shaw."




As they lie together, eating finger food she got from the replicator, Seven watches his face, trying to figure out why that was so fun.


She and Raffi didn't tend to play a lot of sex games.


And Chakotay...


Liam nudges her for another sweet potato fry and she feeds it to him with a grin. "You're quiet? You okay? If that was something that freaked you out, we don't—"


"I'm not freaked out. I'm just...assessing why it was so good with you when that kind of game failed so spectacularly with my first lover and me. Then again, I knew at that point he was in love with someone else..." She looks down. "Actually, he always was, from the moment we started. I just thought..."


"That you could change him. Love him enough that he'd forget the other person. Been there." He grabs a strawberry, dips it in sour cream and brown sugar, and holds his hand under it as he brings it to her lips. She knows it's so they won't get brown sugar all over the bed. She loves him for that. They are both so particular about things.


People sometimes don't take that kind of need—for order—seriously. Think it's an issue rather than a bonafide necessity.


"Do you miss him?" he asks.


"No." It's true. When she walked away—or more accurately when they walked away from each other—she thinks neither of them ever looked back.


"Do you wish you'd never been with him?"


She considers that. "I wanted someone else. They didn't want me back. Given that, he was the next best choice to usher me into sexual awakening after being Borg. He was kind and sweet."


"Sounds sort of boring."


"It was and the thing is, he was the leader of a Maquis cell. He shouldn't have been dull. I have a feeling if he and the person he loves"—who is the same person she loves but she's not going to tell Liam that—"ever get together, he won't be boring. That for her, he'll be everything."


He clearly doesn't know what to say to that.


So she goes on. "I've had quite a few lovers since. Most of them didn't mean a damned thing to me."


"Until Raffi?"


She nods.


He nuzzles her neck in the way she loves. "She took you the rest of the way."


"She did. I finally understood what all the fuss was about. What love could be. But we fell apart anyway."


He eases away and seems to be studying her. "Are you worried we'll fall apart?"


"It's all I've known, Liam. Endings."


"Except that time you said 'Fuck you' to endings and brought me back." He smiles in such a beautiful way she has to kiss him.


"I couldn't lose you."


"You couldn't walk away?" He pulls her closer and plays with her hair, and she moans because she loves it when he does that. "I wanted you to leave me, to be safe in that shuttle. I was more than willing to die for you so long as you kept on living. I know you hate trading lives but I would have traded mine for yours. Me, a man who has spent his whole career after Wolf 359 avoiding risk like the plague. I followed you into it—this whole fucking adventure. I couldn't let Picard put you at risk without me there to keep you safe."


She lifts her lips to him and he kisses her, sweet and tender. The same way Chakotay touched her but with Liam it's different because she knows he can also touch her like he did earlier, as if he wants to tear her apart and then put her back together the same way she did him.


She has come to realize that everyone has some damage, but not everyone is damaged in the same way. Or even in complementary ways. She and Liam's baggage is enough to fill a whole closet, and yet it's a harmoniously blended one.


And very orderly.


She laughs, and he says, "What?"


"Just thinking of how well packed our baggage is."


He doesn't ask her to explain, just smiles with a twinkle in his eyes and says, "Damned straight."




Shaw's intercom rings and he answers. "Yep?"


"Your afternoon's cleared out," Naima says. "Admiral Jenkins was called away on a personal emergency. Did you want me to try to book anything else?"


Raffi's words about Aiden have been playing in his mind since they talked. "Yeah, book me some personal time. And uh do I get to skip the lines at transporters?"


"That you do. Look for the line that says 'Authorized personnel only.'"


"That's mighty vague."


"On purpose. They can let anyone they like skip the lines that way. But admirals automatically get to."


"Provided I know the right line to get in.


"Just exactly."


"You can take some personal time if you want."


Naima laughs. "I have shit to do that will get done tons faster if you're not here, sir."


"You never swore when you first got here."


"Well, fuck." He laughs. "Guess you're a terrible influence while also being a great boss. Enjoy your afternoon, sir. I'm going to grab some lunch." And the line goes dead.


Shaw considers for a moment, then calls his sister.


"What's wrong?" She looks panicked.


"Nothing, Jan, Jesus."


"You never call. I thought something bad had happened."


He decides not to tell her he's already died so technically, the worst has happened. "No. I'm just...I've been thinking about Aiden."


"Why?" Her expression changes, shutting down. "He's on Luna. Let him rot there."


"Are we sure he's still gambling?"


"Does a bear shit in the woods?"


"Not if he's constipated."


She laughs. "Still a stupid answer."


"But not untrue." He looks away. "I'd really like him at the party."


"He'll ruin it."


"What if he doesn't?"


"You mean what if he acts like our big brother again? The one who looked out for us? The one who was smart and we wanted to be like?"




"Not gonna happen. But go check for yourself. I can see you're fucking stuck on this." She looks to something off screen. "I have to go. I'll see you in a week. That Raffi is a looker. Understand why you're gone on her."


"Oh, no, she's my girlfriend's ex."


"Is your girlfriend as pretty as she is?"


"She is."


"And she chose you over Raffi?"


"They were done."


She laughs. "That makes more sense. No way she'd choose a dipshit like you." Her smile is gentle. "I look forward to meeting the real girlfriend if this is how her ex looks after you." She cuts the connection and he rises, heading for the nearest civilian transporter. He could probably use the Starfleet one but he doesn't really want to have this appear as anything official because it's not.


It really is more because he just wants his big brother back. Janet knows him too well.


The line for the transporters is super long, but he sees the sign pointing to an area for authorized personnel only. The person at the door takes in his insignia and lets him through.


Well, this fucking rocks.


He's on Luna in mere moments and heads to the hotel that was the last place he heard Aiden was working. He told his parents he was assistant manager; Shaw finds him in the hospitality area in the basement, folding towels.


He's already wishing he didn't come.


"Liiiiii-am." Aiden launches himself at him, sloppily hugging him, smelling like whiskey and a shortage of deodorant.


"Jesus, Aid."


"What? Oh don't look at me like that. I had a great night last night. Run like you would not believe. Paid off my debts, I did. Didn't have time to shower before work."


"Or sober up apparently. Antitox not sold here?"


"For your information, I was perfectly sober when I reported to duty. I just decided to celebrate with my favorite bartender. She's sweet on me. You know how it is."


And he does. His brother was the one who all the girls liked, all the boys wanted to be like. He was great at sports, got good grades. Looked out for Liam and Janet.


He wants that brother back—has wanted that for decades though.


"Come have a drink with us. These towels can fucking wait."


"No, I just thought I'd say hello. I'm here for a meeting. Have to go now or I'll be late." He turns to go.


"Oh, sure you do, big man."


"Aid, stop."


"Might want to pull that stick out of your ass before you do. Must make it hard to walk. Admiral." Aiden circles around him, gets in his face. "What in hell did you ever do to earn that particular honor? Other than say, 'Yes, sir, no, sir, how high, sir?'"


"I fucking died, Aiden."


If he expected that to bring him his brother back, he was an idiot. Aiden bursts out laughing. "And look how temporary that turned out to be. Little Liam. The perfect fucking brother. Comes back Borg-broken and manages to put himself all together. Unlike some of us. You think I don't get that when I call home. Why can't I be more like you?" He's so angry he's spitting when he's talking. "And now you've risen from the fucking dead like Christ Almighty? There'll be no shutting them up now."


Shaw takes a step back. He doesn't mean to. But it's instinct. His big brother protected him. This one is as likely to take a swing at him as anything else.


"Oh, yeah, that's right, you big coward. Run off to your meeting. Thanks for stopping in to gloat over how much better you've got it."


Shaw turns and walks as fast as he can without it being actually running out of the hotel and to the transporter station. He heads for the special lane and the guy at the door takes one look at his expresssion and doesn't say anything, just opens the door super fast and lets him through.


When he's back in San Francisco, he heads for the VOQ, straight to Seven's room. He knows she's in there, with Raffi probably. Sort of hopes he finds them doing something they shouldn't so it puts the perfect shitty finish on this fucking shit day. He hits the panel for access without announcing himself first.


Seven is at her desk, and is standing as soon as he comes in, reading something on his face, her voice gentle as she says, "Liam?"


He turns to Raffi who's working at the conference table. "Get thee to fucking Luna, you said."


Her expression changes to one of such genuine sympathy and understanding that he's afraid it will break him.


"Baby, give us the room," she says to Seven, and he thinks she uses the endearment without thinking, not to hurt him, just to get her to leave them alone.


 Seven looks at him. "Liam?"


"I'll be up in a minute. I'll tell you everything." He turns away, clenching his fists.


She walks over and grabs his hand and holds it up. "What is going on?"


"Seven, go upstairs and wait." This time Raffi sounds Klingon. Like Worf probably was with her.


And Seven lets him go and leaves.


He walks to the window and looks out over the garden area four floors below them. "He was everything to me. I wanted him at my party."


She moves next to him, puts her hand on his back. "I was him. I hurt my family so much. And no matter what they said or did, it didn't matter. It's not you, Liam. You have to keep telling yourself that. It's not you."


He sniffs hard, blinks furiously. He isn't a little boy—or the wreck that came back from Wolf 359 who needed his brother more than anything. "I know it's not me. But that doesn't mean it doesn't rip me apart anyway."


"If you need to cry, and you don't want her to see, this is a safe place. But, if I were you, I'd go up there right now and let her see this part of you. I hid shit from her. I'm not sure if she knew it on a conscious level but she did on a subconscious. If I could do it over...but I can't. I can help you though."


He turns and pulls her into a tight hug. "I'm sorry you lost her."


"Except you're not."


"Yeah. Except I'm not." He lets her go.


"Someday, maybe, he'll be ready to change."


"Or he'll piss off the wrong person and get killed."


"Or that." She pats his arm. "Go find Seven."


He doesn't have to look hard. She's waiting for him in their quarters, a look he can't entirely read on her face.


He walks to her and pulls her into a tight hug. "I have a brother. He's addicted to gambling. I keep hoping..."


She squeezes him tightly, a show of support he can feel all the way to the parts of him that are pushed away, the scared boy who needs his brother.


"I thought maybe he'd be okay enough to come to my party. Raffi tried to tell me. She told me to go see him later, but I did it now because even after all this time, I want him to be proud of me. He's not proud of me. He's not the brother I need."


"I'm sorry." She pulls him to her, kisses him gently. "I'm so sorry."


"The people we love most. They stab so deep."


"I know." Her voice breaks. "I really do know."


And the care, the way her voice is ragged, undoes him. He just buries his face in her shoulder and cries. For himself, all the versions of who he has been without his brother, all the lonely, frightened versions.


She gets him to the bed, cradles him as he sobs. Says nothing as she holds him with hands and a heart that are so strong, that will keep all the bad things away if he just lets her.


"I'm sorry I let Raffi send you away."


"Don't do it again."


"I won't."




Seven leaves Liam sleeping and goes back down to her room. Raffi turns and take a deep breath as she walks in.


"Did you do that to help him or to hurt me?"


"Not everything's about you, Seven."


"My question stands."


"I did it to help him because I understand—because I put my own family through the same thing. If he didn't loop you in on his trauma, that's not my problem. Or his, even. Some things we don't share until we have to." There is no deception in her voice and her expression is calm. This is not the Raffi she first knew but the one that Worf molded.


And Seven trusts this Raffi more than she did the old one. "Okay. Sorry. I had to know." She looks away and mutters, "Because he's mine."


Raffi moves closer. "Not all of him. That's what you used to tell me. Not to throw our history back into your face but—"


"Fuck you."


"Wow, he is rubbing off on you. Your language is considerably worse than before you became his first officer."


"I know." She sighs. "And...you're right. I'm sorry. I just..."


"I know. Chakotay had his secrets and I had mine and maybe you thought Shaw didn't. But we all do and his isn't something he was hiding just from you. I really don't think he ever talks about his brother. It's just Mura wanted to invite his family, and I wanted to check and make sure that was okay because I know how it goes when its not. And things came out."


"Okay. It's just... You hit a...a trigger point. After Chakotay and I started seeing each other, Janeway would find her way to where we were, tell me to 'give them the room.' He never contradicted her. Never told her to go away and he'd come find her later. He just waited for me to clear out. I should have known then that he was never going to be mine."


"Shaw is head over heels for you." Raffi takes a deep audible breath. "And I think you are for him too. So I can see how that would hurt. I won't—I won't do that again to you."


"Thank you." She heads for her desk.


"Oh and Jack Crusher called for you."


"Did he say why?"




She goes to her terminal and finds his number at the Academy and punches it in.


He answers immediately. "Hi. Could I talk to you? Somewhere that is not the academy grounds."


"Come to the VOQ. There's a garden in the back that's really pleasant."


"Can I come now?"


"Yes." She hangs up and looks at Raffi who shrugs. "He sounded...off."


"Off how?"


"I'm not sure. Why don't we call it a day?"


"Sounds good. My granddaughter is coming for a sleepover." Her smile is radiant.


"I'm glad." She touches her hand for a moment—trying to show she's truly happy for her, that they're okay now—then leaves to meet Jack.


He's walking very fast, and he has the expression that usually means something is troubling him. Liam told her about going to Medical to talk with him after he got in a fight, how he's an unofficial mentor to him now. He also told her Jack might want to pick her brains about something but had left it vague and she'd been too tired to follow up.


"Thank you," Jack says as soon as he sees her, and she leads him to a secluded part of the garden. He sits but then is immediately up, pacing.


But not saying anything.


"You're making me dizzy."


"Do Borg get dizzy? I was one—you'd think I'd know."


Ah, now she understands. "They generally don't. And you were not a common drone. I was. So our experiences will be different."


"But coming out of that, being ex-Borg? Is that different?" He finally sits. "Will it get any better?"


"At the academy, you mean? That's why you didn't want to talk on campus?"


He nods.


"When I was given my commission, I went through OCS. So did Liam, when he converted. Why didn't you go that route. I think it would have been easier for you."


"I wanted to. Believe me." He doesn't meet her eyes. "But my father thought I would enjoy the academy. Build a network of trusted peers the way he did."


She sighs: Jean-Luc at times bathes too liberally in nostalgia and fails to see what's right in front of him.


"Jack, you demonstrated more than once that you can operate independently from your father. Why not do that now? Why allow him to dictate how you become Starfleet?" She imagines it is not too late to change over, although it will mark him as even more special if he jumps around again in ways that are not customary.


"Because they're happy." He says it so quietly she almost doesn't hear it. "My mother and him. And for years..." He looks away.


She waits, not wanting to cause him to think better of whatever he wants to tell her by speaking into the silence.


"All those years, hiding out—from him. For me. Because of me. But she loved him. Our ship was like a shrine to Jean-Luc Picard. His playlist. His logs. The mementos. That was all she had of him because of me." He closes his eyes. "She wanted me to do OCS. She would have fought him if she'd known I wanted that too. I...I didn't want them at odds so I chose to do what he wanted. She let OCS drop."


"So you're stuck at the academy—for their sake?"


He nods. "With a bunch of people that I turned into Borgs. The changelings got to the Academy transporter."


She looks down.


"Luckily they didn't have weapons. Or the codes to get to them. The adults locked everything down, locked them in the building." He laughs, a self-deprecating sound. "I'm super popular with the faculty too."


"It's only been a few months. Give it time."


"Why? Why do they get to hold this against me?"


"Because you went to the Queen. You chose to go. You could have come to me if you couldn't talk to your Father. But you didn't. You just...ran away. Right into the place the Queen wanted you the most."


"Real comforting, Captain."


"I'm sorry. Did you want me to hold your hand and tell you everything's going to be all right. Look in the fucking mirror, Jack. You have no sign of being Borg. Eventually, this will fade and no one will remember."


"Someone always remembers. Shaw remembered my father's time with the Borg." He stands and starts pacing again. "You think because I have no implants that I have no scars?"


"I think they're better hidden."


"It's not my fault you were a common drone." She can hear the faintest trace of the Queen in his voice and it chills her.


It seems to scare him too. He sits and puts his face in his hands. "I'm sorry. Seven, I'm sorry. It comes out. I think she's gone and then..."


"Do you miss it?"




"No. Do you miss it?"


He looks up at her. "Yeah. Yeah I do. And no. No, I don't because everything she told me was a lie. I thought I was there to make a real change. She just used me to kill people." His hands are shaking. "I missed her every day of my life growing up—missed the connection of the collective—and it was all a lie."


She sits next to him, not comforting him, not touching him. She doesn't want him to turn that need to her. He has to find his own way. And if he can't, then she will try to call the Agnes-Queen to her. To give him an option for connection that would be less a lie.


Finally, he takes a deep breath and stands, pulling down his shirt. It's so like his father that she feels a pang. "Thanks for letting me vent."


"It does get better. The more you find friends who value you for who you are—who don't care about your past. Sidney—"


"Haven't I hurt her enough?"


"If she's reaching out, and you're not reaching back, then you aren't as smart as I thought you were."


He meets her eyes. "I turned her into a Borg."


"And maybe she needs to talk about that—to you." She stands and puts a hand on his shoulder. "Don't shut out the friends you do have."


He nods but she's not sure he's acquiescing so much as just trying to get her to shut up about Sidney. "Do you ever wish Janeway had let you rejoin the collective?"


"Not lately, no." Not for decades. "But at first, I fought being human. I understand the pain you feel. It does get better." She gets him moving toward the exit. "And talk to Sidney. She's strong and smart and loving."


'I'm only one of those things."


"I think self-pity is making you sell yourself short, Cadet Crusher." She smiles gently at him. "Now, if you'll excuse me, an admiral is waiting for me."


"He's a lucky man."


"It's mutual luck. I hope you find the same thing someday."


She watches him leave and then takes the elevator to the fifth floor and palms herself into their quarters.


Liam is sitting up in bed, drinking something amber. "I came looking for you. Saw you with Crusher. He okay?"


"No, but only he can make it better."


"Yeah, that's pretty much what I told him too."


She grabs a glass and the bottle of scotch he's left on the table and sits next to him, pouring herself a generous helping and refilling his. "It's ironic. I told you I ran from people who wanted everything from me and then got so mad that you had kept your brother from me."


"I keep him from everyone. Raffi found out by accident."


"I know. She explained."


"We all have secrets, Seven. They can't all come bursting out at once."


She nods. Then very softly, she says, "The person I loved and the person Chakotay loved was the same person. Kathryn Janeway." She meets his eyes. "My mentor. My mother figure. My...unrequited love. And eventually...my enemy, I think. I took him away from her and took myself off the playing field too. I ruined everything for all three of us."


"No you didn't." He pulls her in close. "How long have you been away from him? Janeway has been single this whole time. You think a woman like that just sits around and lets the man she truly wants—or the woman—get away from her? If she's not with him and she's not with you, then she doesn't want either of you. Not enough."


It hurts, his wisdom. But eventually, it may also heal.


She reaches up and pulls him down to kiss her. "If I didn't love you, I wouldn't care."


"I know."






Seven wakes and reaches for Liam but he's not in bed. Opening her eyes, she sees he is at the table working, a pot of coffee next to him, with only one cup.


She sits up but says nothing. He doesn't react other than to take a slow sip of coffee and go back to his padd.


"Good morning," she says, keeping her tone neutral.


"Morning." He doesn't look her way still.


She knows this version of him. She served with this version of him for far too long.


The fucking dick is back. She can't really say she's surprised, not after his openness the night before. She's just not sure she's in the mood to deal with this Shaw.


She gets up and pulls her robe around her, then grabs a cup from the top of the chest of drawers and sits, pouring herself some coffee, not looking at him as he works. "Do you want to talk about it?"


"About what?" He still isn't looking at her, and she wants to grab his chin and force him to meet her eyes.


She doesn't. "About why you're not in bed."


"I woke up."


"About why you're ignoring me, then."


"I've got something to finish."


"Or you've got some champion-level backpedaling to do."


Finally, a reaction. His mouth tightens.


"Do you blame me—for the sex we had, the way it opened you up—for you wanting to visit your brother? For how badly it went? Do you consider that my fault?"


She can tell he has a hundred sarcastic answers ready—but not for that question. Instead he just looks down and reaches for his cup. It shakes as he holds it.


She resists the urge to put her hand over his, to try to make it better. "We said we couldn't be everything to each other. I guess i just thought there'd be more to you than this." She rises, taking her coffee with her to the bathroom, and showers quickly, barely putting on makeup, just wanting to get out of this room that used to be so welcoming and now feels colder than a Borg cube.


He doesn't look up as she pulls on her uniform and leaves. She grabs food from the dining room buffet and takes it to her quarters.


Ohk is there, and looks up. "Can I camp out here today? I've got reviews due and if I go to Medical, they pull me in for every little thing."


"Sure." She sits and tries to eat but ends up pushing the plate away. Fucking Liam and their fucking romance—she has things to do that don't include obsessing over why her boyfriend has reengaged asshole mode.


"You okay?"


"Just peachy." It's something Janeway used to say, with the deepest sarcasm imaginable.


"What did he do?"


"He who?" She tries to make her voice sound professional, like they could be talking about any he, not the one she's sleeping with.


Not the one who is this woman's very good friend.


"You seem upset."


"It's just a personal matter."


"Yes, which is why I asked what he did."


"Again, which he?"


Ohk sighs and leans back. "I know how he can be when he cares."


"I wish I did." That is out before she can call it back and she desperately wants to.


"Silent treatment or striking out verbally at you?"


"The former."


"Did something happen yesterday?"


"I should not be discussing this with you."


Ohk just smiles gently. "Who better? I know him. I'm getting to know you." She walks over and takes an orange slice off Seven's abandoned plate. "I ask again, did something happen to make him go silent running?"


"His brother. Liam paid him a visit."


"Oh, man, you must be making him happy. He hasn't seen Aiden in a long time. And Liam tends to run on what he's feeling. For him to want to build a bridge, the water he's building it over has to cease to be scary."


"So I made him feel too secure? Too trusting? This is my fault?" She pulls the plate back and grabs a strawberry.


Ohk smiles in a way that Seven thinks means she wanted that to happen, for her to reclaim her meal.


"Well played."


"Like I said: I'm getting to know you." She sighs and walks to the window. "Has it occurred to you that he's maybe just now realizing what it means that you're going away? That he'll be left behind with siblings he has distant relations with at best and parents he tries desperately not to worry."


"We went into this knowing that."


"Yeah, but he hasn't been with anyone for so long. Not serious, like he seems to be about you. If he's opening up to you, that's probably terrifying for him."


"It's not easy for me either."


"I know. And he knows that. So he feels worse that he's going to hurt you. This may be a preemptive strike. Finish it before you get too deep."


Seven turns to study this woman who knows her lover so much better than she does. "He's done that before?"


"No. I've never seen him like he is with you. I never thought I would. He's so...guarded. He feels so much but he'll be damned if he lets that out."


"So what am I supposed to do?"


"I don't know. You're the one he's in love with—so whatever you do, it'll be your way."


"He cried." She hates how her voice breaks. "He let me see that."




"Kiss of death?"


"No, I think it just scared the shit out of him. Letting you in that far. Did it scare you?"


"No. It made me feel good. Connected." She is going to cry if she talks about him anymore. "I have work to do. I can't spend the day worrying about him—about us."


"Understood." Ohk walks to the door. "I'm going to get more fruit before the buffet closes. You want anything?"


"No, I'm fine." She isn't though. And she has no idea what she's going to do about it.




Shaw gets in late. Seven is not in the room. Her things are still there so she hasn't moved out because he's being such a dick.


Although his favorite whisky is gone. As are the cashmere throw he likes to put over the two of them when they cuddle on the bed, his lucky mug, and god damn it, she took his custom pillow too?


He can guess where she is and wastes no time stomping to the elevator and riding it down a floor to her quarters. He's still on the door so she can't be too mad.


She doesn't look up from where she's curled up on the couch, the throw over her, drinking the whisky from his mug, his pillow behind her back. "I took all the things you like better than me. What do you know, it worked."


He sits down next to her and takes a pull from the bottle.




"Considering the places our mouths have been on each other, I don't think it actually is." He sighs and shifts so he's pressed in next her. "My pillow, Seven? Really?"


"I could have burned it. But that's not my style." She covers him with half of the throw. "You want to tell me why I'm persona non grata? Why I have to steal your favorite things to get you to talk to me?"


"I'm getting in so deep."


"Too deep?" Her voice is so tentative, it makes him feel even more of an asshole.


"Maybe. Not what you wanted, after all?"


"I'm not the dick who can't speak a civil word."


"Yeah but you're leaving."


She pulls some of the throw off him. "You left me first."


"I fucking died. Give me a break." He finally turns to look at her. "Do you really think I wanted to be the man who cries over his brother being exactly the way he's been for fucking ever? How sexy is that guy? How fucking commanding?"


"For your information, he was very sexy. And as for commanding, that's not something you have to be all the time. I think you don't like anyone to see your weaknesses—your vulnerabilities." She hands him the pillow and pulls the throw off them and folds it's up. "If you prefer living a solo life, I'm not going to get in the way of that." She grabs the bottle and pours more into his mug. "But I'm keeping the hooch and the stupid-looking cup."


"It's a mug. And it's not stupid looking."


She pushes the pillow and throw at him. "I'll get them to make this up as a bedroom again. Ohk and Raffi will just have to use their cubicles. I'll tell them it's your fault they have no privacy." She throws the whisky back in an impressive swallow.


"Stop it."


"I'm not the one treating you like you don't even exist." Something else Janeway did to her after she took up with Chakotay. If they met in the corridors outside his room, she would just walk right by as if Seven didn't even take up space on her ship.


He takes the mug from her and puts it on the table, tosses the bedding to the end of the couch and pulls her on top of him so she's straddling him. "I'm sorry, okay? I didn't expect to feel so much so fast."


"Neither did I but you don't see me running."


He brushes back her hair. "I think we've proven you're the brave one. The loyal one. The captain. My captain." He pulls her closer so he can kiss her.


She resists and he lets her go immediately but she doesn't crawl off him, in fact she ruffles his hair. And there are tears in her eyes. "Liam, I worked under a woman who ran hot and cold depending on how deep the latest mission had cut her, how much vulnerability she had shown, how badly off track she had come to not getting us home. I can't do it again. You love me? Prove it. Be brave."


"What if I'm not?"


"What if you are and you'll only find out if you try? I understand that you've been a survivor for so long. Thriving was not anything you maybe considered. Consider it. With me." She leans in and kisses him almost viciously. "This is irony: you're the first man I've wanted to give everything to and you don't want it."


"That's not true."


"Then fucking prove it." She slides off him. "Now get off my couch."


"Are you coming to bed later?"


"I don't know. Take your pillow. I know you sleep better with it. I'm keeping the throw, though."


"And the whisky?"


"Yes, and your stupid mug."


He starts to laugh. "How about you bring all those things with you upstairs?"


"Why would I do that?"


"Because I want you back, in my room, in my life, in my arms." He eases her up. "You never left my heart so no danger there."


"Your heart is a cold place sometimes."


"I know." He pulls her to him and this time she does kiss him, tenderly and lacking any desperation. "But yours isn't."


Continue to Part 2