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 2)

by Djinn





Seven is lost in thought, navigating the halls of Command by instinct, when she rounds a corner and nearly runs into someone. "I'm so sorry." She meets the eyes of the person she nearly took out.


And forgets how to breathe.


"Hello, Seven."


"Hello, Admiral."


Janeway's smile is knowing. After all this time, Seven should be able to call her Kathryn, but the name won't cross her tongue—not when there was a time she wanted to whisper it in this woman's ear in her bed—and besides Janeway hasn't told her to use it, not in years.


She's got the look Seven used to hate, the one that followed sleepless nights and too much caffeine and a life-or-death threat or five. "So, the Enterprise, huh? Rarified air, Captain Seven."


It should sting but there's something she can't quite believe in her voice. Janeway envies her?


"It should have stayed the Titan. We both know that."


"Are you questioning Command's decision to rename it?"


"Aren't you?" But she can feel it, the sense of not being able to win no matter what she says. If she'd said she wasn't questioning it, there would be a condescending "Of course not." This isn't how their relationship used to be. Where is the warmth? The woman who took her from Borg to human with such care? "What did I do?" It's out before she can call it back. Out probably because she and Liam spent the night talking once he got her back upstairs with his favorite things. Once he'd properly made love to her and told her he was sorry enough times that she finally told him to stop saying it.


It's out because she wants to trust this woman the way she trusts him—the way she once did trust her. "Why do you hate me?" There is such raw pain in her voice she just wants to turn and walk away, but she forces herself to stay, to reap the consequences of daring to ask.


"Hate you? I don't. I never have. Why do you hate me?"


"I don't. Why would I?"


"We both know why. His name is Chakotay and he shares my bed these days."


If her words are meant to hurt, they don't. Seven feels a sense of relief that they found their way back to each other, that she didn't irreparably harm three lives—three chances for happiness.


Janeway frowns. "You didn't know—and from the look of it you don't care. So the rumors are right. You're with Shaw."


"Now. Not on the ship." It's suddenly very important to her to say that. He is out of her chain of command. He is a new admiral. He cannot influence things in her favor unless she decides to transfer to engineering.


"Hackles down, Seven. He's just not who I would have seen with you."


"Who would you have seen with me?" She's staring fiercely. If she could squeeze the right answer out of her former captain, she would. Just once, she wants Janeway—Kathryn—to admit it should have been them together.


But it's not to be. She can see it in Janeway's face before she says, "I'm not sure. Just not him." But there is something else in her face, something...broken and longing.


Seven doesn't think she would have seen it when she was younger, hadn't lived enough to understand it. And Liam is right: her heart isn't a cold place. So she says, as gently as she can, "Have I ever thanked you?"




"Saving me. Your patience with me. Your belief in me. All the things you did for me." She holds out her hand, she will not hug this woman, she will also not fold her arms over her chest and hide from her.


She will meet her, one captain to another. "Thank you."


Janeway's smile is surprisingly gentle. "It wasn't hard to do all those things for you, Seven. It wasn't hard at all." She takes Seven's hand.


And that is all she will ever get from her. This moment, the heartfelt if lacking declaration, and the soft touch of her skin on hers.


The old Seven would have wept. The new her...the new her is glad she's with a man who knows how to feel still. Even if it scares the living crap out of him.


She lets Janeway pull back first. Keeps her smile open but neutral, expecting nothing more. Happy to have laid her personal bogey man to rest finally.


"You'll do great on the ship, Captain. I'm so proud of you."


"Thank you, Admiral."


"Kathryn, Seven. Kathryn."


It's too little too late but Seven says it anyway, with as much love as she can. "Kathryn."




Shaw is eating lunch when Ohk sits down across from him, setting down a tray full of food—where does she put it?


She looks at him sternly.


"Don't start. She and I patched things up."


"Did I say anything?"


"You don't have to. You've got that look you always have when I've been a dumbass to her."


"Fine. And good. I like her for you. She's..."


"A damn sight warmer than I am." He digs into his salad.


"I was going to say she's oddly sweet. Under that force of nature barely contained by sheer willpower exterior." She hands him a cookie and he doesn't say no. "Patrick wants to meet her, you know?"


"I know. I'm not ready for that yet. He can be a lot. The three of us can be a lot. She might run for the hills."


Ohk laughs. "You're not wrong. But somehow I think she won't." She focuses on eating so he does too. If she wants something in particular, she'll get to it eventually.


He looks around, not sure why, and sees Seven come into the cafeteria. She raises a hand in greeting but then makes their shared signal from years on the ship for "meeting imminent." He nods and turns back to Ohk.


"Do you do that a lot? Just know she's in the vicinity?"


He nods. It was how he found her in the gardens with Crusher. How he would have found her in her quarters if he hadn't known that's where she would go.


"Do you think that's the nanoprobes?"


"I've always been aware of where she is." He sees her smirk and pretends to glare at her. "But yeah, it's stronger now, after that."


"Do you ever feel like you're sharing your body with her?" She's trying to sound way too casual and he studies her.


Oh, shit, this isn't about him. "Did they call you up?"


She nods. "It's just the long list for now. I haven't even been called back for compatibility screens—they're going by the ones they did when I was young."


"Shit—is that what you want now? To be joined?" She never wanted that in the past. He thinks of Patrick, what it will mean to him to not just have his wife but all those other hosts and a big-ass symbiont running things.


"No, actually, it's not. But if I'm the best fit..." She takes a quick drink of water and he thinks it's to mentally regroup—she's clearly upset.


"But you opted out, right?"


"I did. But...it's Dax."


"Fuck me."


"Yeah. I can't go into why the host might change, obviously, but I know they're trying everything they can to help Ezri." She just stares down at her food. "I do not want to be Dax. They overshadow everything—they're a living legend."


"You have the right to keep your body yours. They can't force you, right?" How can Trill stay in the Federation if they could?


"No, they can't. But...the council can make it very uncomfortable to go home if I don't do what they want."


"You always have a home with Patrick. And if he proves a dud, which he won't, but just so you know—you always have a home with me. You're the sister I always wanted but never got."


"Janet's not that bad."


"An admirable summary of her." He reaches out and touches her hand. "I mean it. Don't do anything you don't absolutely want to."


"Hopefully it won't even be an issue." She whispers the next part, "Except I was told by someone who thought I'd be excited about it that I was the best fit."




"I know."


"I think you should tell Seven. She knows better than anyone what it's like to be joined. What it's like to fight for being just herself. Or are you telling me so I'll tell her?"


She sighs and shrugs.


"I can tell her...but I think maybe you should. She likes you."


"Exactly why I don't want to tell her I might be...well, not me if I do this. If I even get to stay on the ship as that. There's no way the great Dax will want to be a lowly doctor."


"Hon', he's been lowlier than that. Ezri was a junior counselor if I remember what you told me."


"Yes, when they joined. She's a far cry from that now." She looks so miserable that he holds his hand out.


"Personal communicator. I know you always have it. Hand it over."


"What are you going to do?"


"I'm going to be brave for you, my dear friend, because it may be the best first step to being brave for myself. I'm going to call whoever I need to and tell them you are out. Nope. Not doing this. Fuck them."


"Maybe leave off the last part." She does get the communicator out, but she holds up her hand and says, "I'll do it. Don't tell Seven this was even an issue, okay?"


"Once I witness you getting out of it, I won't."


She punches in a code and gets rerouted several times through what is clearly increasingly important levels of the Trill symbiont bureaucracy because her voice becomes more and more respectful.


She takes a deep breath as she waits.


"Tell them you're pregnant."


She glares at him. "We are thinking about trying."


"I'll be the godfather, right?"


She's about to answer—probably with some smart-ass comeback—when her mood shifts and she says, "Minister Dolom. I didn't expect to be talking to you."


She goes quiet for a long time; the minister clearly knows why she's calling. And is saying a lot to change her mind.


Finally, she says, "Those are all excellent points for why I should. I appreciate you taking the time to explain all that to me." Her expression changes, grows stormy. "Sir—sir. Sir!" She actually yells the last "Sir," frustration evident.


People around them turn in their chairs. He motions for them to mind their own fucking business.


"I wasn't saying yes. In fact, I'm saying no. I opted out once." More silence on her part, more yakking no doubt on the minister's, but Shaw can tell her resolve is growing. "Sir, I agree that I was young when I did that. But I'm not young now. I'm saying 'No' and if you have any answer but 'I'm sorry but I understand,' I'm going to take this up the chain here. As far as I have to. Please don't make this harder. Give Dax to someone who actually wants them."


She makes an "I can't believe I just said that" face and crosses her fingers. "Yes, yes, sir. I appreciate that. Yes, I will do my best to represent Trill well. Thank you, sir. Goodbye." She puts the communicator down and says, "Holy shit, Liam."


"How's it feel? To be free?"


"Pretty fucking good." She meets his eyes. "I'm not sure the old Liam would have done that for me."


He makes a disparaging face. "Don't give Seven credit for every good quality I have. Of course I would have. But, I do know what it feels like to be free—or more free than I've ever felt with anyone before. So...she can have a tiny, eensy weensy, bit of the credit."


"I love you, Liam Shaw. Next to Patrick, you're my best friend in the 'verse."


"Right back at you."






Seven walks into their quarters and finds the lights dimmed, candles on the table, and roses being handed to her. "You? Traditionally romantic?"


"I know, it's scary, but just go with it."


There's low music playing and he pulls her into his arms. He clearly wants her to cuddle close and dance.


"I am holding flowers, Liam. With thorns."


"I did not think this through." He dances her over to the chest of drawers where a vase with water sits and she gently drops them in. "Now, woman, put your arms around me and dance."


She does so, enjoying how solid he is against her. "What's the occasion?"


"It was a really good day. Did you not have a really good day, my lady?"


She moves closer and nuzzles him, then whispers into his ear, "I conquered a dragon. Well, a personal dragon. And the dragon didn't know it had been conquered."


"You conquered a fucking dragon. I love that."


"Did you also conquer something."


"Someone else's dragon, but still, yeah. Feeling pretty good about it." He grins and stops dancing, tracing her face, then kissing her deeply.


"We should conquer dragons every day."


"Yes, we should." He begins to take off her jacket.


"Won't the waiters get an eye full when they come in with our food?"


"Food's here. Food's in stasis. Food can wait while I ravish you."


"What kind of food."


He laughs. "You're supposed to be overcome by the idea of impending ravishment not asking about the damn food."


"What kind of food, Liam? Is it blue?"


"You need to taste the blue steak—you will forget it's blue. I'll blindfold you if it helps. Come to think of it, I'll blindfold you anyway if you ask nicely." He is grinning.


She takes his uniform jacket off. "I'm not eating blue steak."


"Yeah you are. You know how I know? Because I'm going to call you chicken shit if you don't. Chicken." He makes outlandishly foolish chicken sounds that make her laugh.


"I am not chicken. I'm prudent." She lifts her foot so he can take off her boot.


"Yeah, we'll see. But tonight, you're in luck, because it's not even steak, Seven. It's a surprise."


"I see. Explain." She rips his shirt over his head and he says, "Easy on the hair, baby." Then he laughs and it makes her laugh and they're dancing around, her with one boot still on and him with no shirt and the sweetest openness in his expression.


"I had the computer analyze our replicator orders over the course of our careers, compile anything neither of us has tried but that gets at least a median score of six by humans of varying diversity and then make a list and choose four dishes at random for us to try, leaving out anything similar to dishes we've ever rated lower than three."


"I approve of this methodology. However, you forgot food allergies."


"I didn't. Neither you nor I have any." He does the multiple nose tap along with sneer that she has determined in Liam-speak means "Take that."


"I see."


"I figure one of them will be a winner. And I have no idea what they are." He pushes her down onto the bed and pulls her other boot off, then her pants, then her underwear. Her top is still on.


"And again I question your commitment to my breasts."


"And again I tell you to let me do what I want." He slowly pulls up the front of her shirt, easing it over her head, but telling her to keep her arms inside the sleeve. "Sit up for a sec," and when she does, he slides the shirt down her arms, wrapping it twice, then lying her back. "And I want to do this. Is that okay with you?"


She nods.




She frowns slightly at the correction but says, "Yes."


He slips the cups of her bra down and under her breasts. "Still questioning my commitment?"


"I am not."


"Good girl." Then he moves from one to the other, sucking the way she's showed him she likes, the way that excites her.


But not as much as what he's doing with his fingers. She could easily slip out of the t-shirt but she likes how it feels to be this much his to do with as he likes.


"You are so fucking beautiful, Seven. So, so, so fucking...mine."


She thinks he's going to kiss her but he's just watching her, so closely, his fingers going faster, and she can't look away until the wave hits her and she's crashing down and down and she can hear him whispering in her ear, "That's right, baby. Come for me."


She's breathing hard when she finally opens her eyes.


"Can I take you this way? Now, right fucking now?"


She nods and he says, "Words. Always words when we play these kind of games. It's important."


She kisses him quickly, then says, "Take me right now or I'll put you on report."


"It doesn't work that way," he says as he moves over and pushes into her. "But I love your enthusiasm." He's going amazingly slow when she thought he would take her fast and hard. And he's watching her so carefully, smiling as he reaches between them. "Don't look away."


And she doesn't. Not as he builds them up, and not as he takes first her over again and then follows, calling her name out as he comes.


He rolls and pulls her onto him, easing her hands out of the shirt. "We both know you could have gotten out of that."


"Yes, I chose to stay that way."


"Did you like it?"


"I did. And you did when I made you hold the chair. Is that something that both of us should like?"


"Should?" He pulls her down and kisses her gently, then nips her neck. "There are no shoulds in this. Just what we do and don't enjoy."


"I enjoy you." She kisses up his cheek, his lovely high cheekbones, to his forehead. "I love you. I trust you."


"I love and trust you too." He starts to grin when her stomach rumbles. "The question is, do we trust the computer?"


"Let's see." She starts to reach back to unhook her bra and he makes a face. "You want me to leave it on?" He nods like a little kid, making prayer hands. "With the cups like this?"


"If there's a God, yes."


"Well, you're in luck. The god of boobs is blessing you." But she pulls her panties back on. If he gets to wear his, she's going to wear hers.


He disengages the stasis hold on the food cart and they put the dishes on the table. "Computer, what are we having for dinner?"


"Lamb Vindaloo, Ropa Vieja, Dungeness Crab Crepes, and Chicken and Waffles."


"You can have that last one. I don't like waffles."


"Computer, why did you choose a waffle dish if one of us doesn't like waffles."


"There is no score for waffles from either of you."


He mock glares at her. "That'll teach us. I thought if I never ordered it, it would assume I didn't like it. But then I'm letting an empty value equal two things: dishes we should try because we've never had them and things we'd pay not to have because we hate them."


"We should go through and make sure things we truly dislike are rated."


"And they say we're not exciting people living on the bleeding edge of romance." He is laughing at her.


She cocks her head. "It's your algorithm. With x meaning two different things. I merely want to refine your work."


"Refine away, baby." He takes some of the lamb and the rice it came with and tastes it gingerly. Sweat breaks out on his forehead after the first few bites. "Oh yeah. This is good. Do we need to limit spiciness level?"


"Not for me."


"You really are my dream girl."


She dishes some up for herself and tries the crepe. "I enjoy crab."


"Dungeness, though? You've had that?"




"So you haven't rated the things you like either? Now we've got empty set equaling three things."


"I really respect how much that distresses you." She leans in and kisses him. "Thank you for this. The algorithm may be iffy but the idea was first rate." Then she kisses over to his ear and bites down gently. "And so was the sex."


"Just keeping my woman happy so she doesn't leave me."


"Doing a fine job, Admiral Shaw." She is curious about the second item. "Computer what does ropa vieja mean?"


"In Spanish: old clothes."


"Uhhh," Liam makes a face. "Not so sure about that one."


"Again, big baby. Eater of blue steak but scared of this." She takes a bite and says, "Oh, no, you're going to like this." She holds out a forkful and he gingerly takes it, then goes, "Yum."


"Yes very yum. You did good."


"Other than the waffles."


"Well, yes, but who can say no to fried chicken? I'm going to save it for lunch tomorrow. There's enough for me and Raffi." She glances up at him as she puts it back in stasis. "Is that an issue?"


"Which part? Because I'm fine with any combo of that. I'm just going to eat this lamb and the stinky clothes."


"Old clothes." She laughs when he mouths "old clothes" back at her. "Try the crab."


He does and shrugs. "Kind of bland."


"Yes, after that firestorm masquerading as lamb it is. Eat it first."


"We should have the computer assign a rating for hotness so we know what order to try."


"Reasonable. I'm taking this bra off. It's not comfortable this way."


"Oh fine. But no shirt. If I'm naked up top, so are you."


"That's not how it works in public."


He grins, an adorable grin that makes her laugh. "We're not in public."


"Fine." She slips her bra off and breathes a sight of relief—it was really starting to pinch. Which she'd put up with if it turned him on during sex, but not for any other time. "But if I drop any hot sauce on—"


"I'll lick it off. Eagerly. Wherever it falls."


She laughs and takes another crepe: she really does adore crab.




Shaw is sitting in a corner of the cafeteria replaying a meeting in his head. So many hierarchies at Command at this level. The actual ranks, then there's who you know, then there's who you know knows. It's exhausting keeping track of it but he's treating it like an engine schematic with multiple system layers all calling to each other. Eventually he'll get his diagram to the point where he can navigate without thought.


But for now he's still in the data gathering phase. Speaking of which, he inputs "0 of 5 stars for carrots, raw or cooked." He isn't going to end up with chicken and waffles again if he can help it. He inputs a few more hated foods and then a shadow falls over the screen.


"Am I interrupting?" The voice isn't one he recognizes so he looks up. Oh. Him. Weird. "I'm Captain Chakotay. I heard you were with Seven, Admiral Shaw. May I sit?"


"Free planet last I checked."


He smiles in a way Shaw can't parse and then says, "Yes, sometimes it is." He sits gracefully, like he's made it his mission to move through the world leaving as few ripples as possible.


"Is this where you tell me if I hurt her, you'll hunt me down and—well, you get it? Because I've already had that lecture from a hologram and her latest ex."


"A hologram?"


"Oh, you didn't know your old photonics doctor was in love with your girlfriend, Captain? Points off for not reading the room." He takes a sip of his coffee and studies Chakotay.


He's gotta admit. The tattoo is cool, and to move with such grace takes self discipline, which can make a guy stellar in bed, but he seems too...placid for Seven. Or at least the Seven Shaw knows.


"I just want to make sure she's all right."


"Seems to me the easiest way to do that would be to ask her. Since you're asking me, I think that's not what you want to make sure of." He smiles in the way that seemed to really piss off Riker and Picard, hoping it works for this numbnut too. Before Chakotay can respond, Shaw leans in. "So, you were with her after she left the collective?"


"That's right."


"The way Seven explained things to me, Borg drones have a dampening mechanism in their brains, basically had to be removed to allow her to feel anything romantic in a strong and real way."




"Sooooo, what do you estimate her emotional age was when you started dating her? I'm thinking about fourteen."


Chakotay's face becomes stone. "She was a woman."


"Yes, her body was. I've seen the ridiculous 'uniform' she was given. She's tried to explain the function of it but even she gives up eventually. I'm sure the men loved it. Gorgeous young woman, ripe for the plucking." He leans in. "Maybe not just the men. Maybe some of the women loved it too?"


"Quite possibly." It's an art to keep your voice that even.


"I feel really fortunate to have gotten the woman, not the girl."


"As I said, the Seven I knew was a woman."


"I think we are doomed to disagree on that." He doesn't look away so Chakotay finally does. "Rumor is you're with Janeway now." Seven hasn't told him that yet; he's heard it in the halls of Command. "Long torch. Really long."


"Perhaps you shouldn't dissect things you have no knowledge of."


He holds up his hands. "Just making conversation. I'm not the one who wanted you to sit here."


Chakotay leans in, and Shaw sees the first evidence of the man who Janeway would respect, of the wolf under the nature-loving lamb. "If I'm with Kathryn now, and I am, perhaps you should tread carefully."


"Or you'll tell her that I'm a mean bully who pissed all over your 'I care about Seven' schtick?" Before he can reply, Shaw leans in and points up. "So many cameras in this room. People have no idea. One of my first jobs when I enlisted was to maintain them. They keep the video forever. And the video of today would show you coming to me. There's only one thing we have in common, Captain. You really want the woman you finally landed to find out you were enquiring about Seven of Nine? Because if you threaten me again, I'll make sure she knows." He leans in a little closer, "Once you've died—and I mean for hours, not just minutes—and been reborn, it gives you a whole new lease on life, a whole new way to view the world. And the people you care about. And the people who used them when the person they wanted wasn't available."


Chakotay's eyes go stone dead. "This didn't have to be unpleasant."


"I disagree. If you'd been on my ship—if anyone on my ship had touched her when she was emotionally a fucking child—I'd have keel hauled you." He doesn't try to hide the menace, or how much he loathes this man. "I don't care if you loved her or not. Show some fucking restraint."


"I did nothing wrong."


"You just keep telling yourself that. Now, I suggest our paths never cross again. I'm not going to tell Seven you asked about her. If you want to, go for it. I'd love to see how long you last in a ring with the lion she's become."


"I have friends who could easily find the skeletons in your closet."


"Have at it." He doesn't break the gaze and Chakotay is the first to look away.


Chakotay leans back and looks out the window. "I don't like that you're judging me this way. You have to understand that the Delta Quadrant was a different place."


"Oh so don't judge your behavior because you were in the middle of nowhere? You're Starfleet or you're not." He knows that will strike deep, being a maquis after all.


"Admiral Shaw. I concur that I hope our paths never cross again."


"Finally something we agree on." He watches Chakotay leave. He moves with the same grace out of the cafeteria, and many people say hello to him. More than say hello to Shaw.


That's okay. He didn't ask for Chakotay to barge into his lunch break. To pretend to give a rat's ass about Seven. To want anything other than to make it clear who got there first.


When she was emotionally a fucking child.


Shaw will never, ever forgive him.




Seven is putting out the fried chicken when Raffi comes in. "Room for one more?"


Seven looks up and sees the most adorable child in Raffi's arms: her first time meeting the granddaughter. "I don't know. Does she like chicken and waffles?"


The girl beams at her.


"I guess she does. Then yes we do. Liam ordered a lot."


Raffi walks over. "Peanut, this is your honorary Aunt Seven."


They share a look, and Seven can tell Raffi is thinking about how she might have been her grandmother for real instead of a fake aunt. She gives her the gentlest smile she can.


Then Raffi lets the girl go play after replicating some toys and a coloring book to keep her busy.


"I didn't know you'd have her today."


"You and me both. Family emergency of some kind. I didn't ask because well things are still a little weird. History is history and it takes time to replace it with new things like trust and the fact that mom is reliable now."


"They left her with you. I'd say you've won the war on being reliable. If babysitting can be considered winning."


"You don't think it is?"


Seven looks down. "I understand how much it means to you." She wonders how she would have felt if Icheb had settled down, had a family, made her a grandmother. Would she have the same radiant smile Raffi is wearing today?


Is it even worth asking when he is gone and not coming back? When she had to kill him to save him from the pain he was in, when she executed his murderer—his torturer? That chapter of her life is done and best not revisited.


She goes back to work as Raffi gets the food out of stasis and says, "You hate waffles."


"It is a long story. The chicken is excellent."


"Yeah, they do a lot of things right at the VOQ." She gets her granddaughter settled with her food, which she digs into quite enthusiastically and then says, "Have you and Liam started hunting for new digs?"


"Not yet. I think we both like it here. But he'll have to. His temporary lodging allowance runs out soon."


"So you're going to move in with him?"


"Until we leave." She glances up and sees Raffi look away. "This is not news. Is something else wrong?"


"No. I just remember when we were thinking about doing that."


"I know." She touches her arm gently to let her know she remembers too, but lets go quickly to make it clear it's in the past.


"I was talking to JL. He and Beverly are having trouble already..."


"Have they split up?" She knows she sounds far too eager.


"They're on their way to it. Again, from what I understand. You don't have to sound so happy about it."


"I'm agnostic as far as they go. But I think it might be good for Jack."


"Sure, having mom and dad split up is great for a kid."


"He's not a child. And he wants to help them make it work. To the detriment of his own Starfleet experience. If he knew it wasn't working...that would take some of the pressure off him."


"Where are your loyalties, Seven?"


She studies Raffi—is she serious?


"My loyalties are to my crew. Of which he is likely to be one, if Command ever fully approves his assignment. Picard and Doctor Crusher have danced this dance multiple times. A child between them didn't change their basic compatibility."




"Do you want me to pretend to be sad? I'd never even heard Picard speak of her prior to her and Jack coming aboard the Titan."


"I forget how aromantic you are."


She doesn't think Liam has any complaints but she falls back on her old standby from when they were together. "I'm sorry. You know how I am."


And this was why she and Raffi—and earlier she and Chakotay—couldn't make it. Because "I'm sorry. You know how I am" is not something you should have to say over and over again to someone who truly loves you. If you do, they don't like how you are, only the illusion of you they made up in their heads.


Raffi puts her hand on her shoulder. "I do know how you are." Then she goes to eat chicken with her granddaughter.


Seven's terminal pings and it's Liam. ToY it says, his shorthand for "thinking of you."


She keys back, Am I aromantic?


Aromatic? Only in the best way.


She laughs. Read it again.


Oh, no. Jesus no. You don't win BGE by being aromantic.


Best girlfriend ever. It comes with no trophy but lots of sex and an as yet still iffy algorithm for dinner dishes. TY/GTG His acronyms really do save time. So much longer to key out "Thank you. Got to go."


He sends a smiley face.


"Was that Liam? You get a certain look."


She nods, her smile gentle.


"Yeah, I thought so." She goes back to eating, pouring maple syrup over the child's waffles.


Waffles. She has not yet rated them for the computer. She inputs "zero of five stars" for them, and also for mashed potatoes. She knows everyone else seems to love them but they make her gag.


She is enjoying this data cleanup work to make Liam's algorithm work better. The food it has been giving them isn't always to their liking, but it's fun trying new things. Or more accurately, it's fun trying new things...with him.






Seven is working on her terminal in her quarters, when a text appears from Liam.


Can you clear your schedule for like right now to go look at a place?


She has a free afternoon so she blocks out two hours just in case he's decided he wants to be out of town. I am yours for the next two hours.


I think you're mine for a bit longer than that. But if you're free for the next two hours, that works.


She holds off replying, wondering if what he said will dawn on him and then laughs as he sends her "Mine" being a relative expression of course. I'm on my way. See you soon.


ILY. She sends it back so he'll quit worrying about calling her his. She is, and they both know it.


She meets him in the VOQ lobby and he starts talking right away, talking really fast and not looking at her, the way he used to on the ship when he was going to tell her something she wasn't going to like.


"They've had other interest so we have to decide today."


"What's wrong with the place?"


"Possibly two things. But I want you to get a feel for it before I tell you what they are, okay?"


She laughs but nods, and then is charmed when he takes her hand as they walk. "Why, Admiral, we look like we might actually like each other."


"I know. Weird, right?" He grins at her, and it's such an open and loving expression it makes her grin back and squeeze his hand.


It's not lost on her it's her left hand he's holding. He doesn't even appear to notice the implants unless he's in engineer mode and trying to figure out how they would have worked. Which she indulges because he's very sexy when he's in engineer mode.


Some of her best memories of him are when he was in engineer mode and she was helping him, and not just the last time, with Picard on board. They tended to find a lovely detente when they were doing something that didn't require them to get along, only work well together.


In her experience, that's far harder to find—someone you work well with—than someone you get along with. She always valued it; it may have been the reason she never requested transfer and he never booted her off.


There was respect for each other's abilities if not the whole person.


"What the hell are you thinking about? You're squeezing so hard." He is laughing though, so she can't be hurting him.


"Us. Back on the ship. How much I liked working with you sometimes."


"I always knew the kind of officer I had working next to me, Seven. Even if I was a jerk. I knew you'd have my back to hell and beyond. So when you..." He takes a breath and shake his head. "Bygones."


"No, when I sided with Picard. It was a betrayal."


"Yeah. I was so hurt and as we know I apply turbo to my asshole mode when I am." He turns them down a street that's just one block from the Command campus.


The thing wrong with the building isn't its location, that's for sure. "You're not hurt about it anymore?"


"You had an older loyalty to him. I get that. He...he believed in you." He stops in front of a building.


"Yes, when nobody else did and I—wait, weren't we here the other night?"


"Yeah, this is Ohk's building. And that's problem number one."


She meets his eyes, mentally rewinding the other night with Ohk and Patrick. She had fun—did they not? Did she not act all right and he's emb—


"Hey, where'd you go? If it's that much of a dealbreaker to be a few floors up from them, I get it. The three of us are a lot. A lot a lot."


"A dealbreaker...for me? I really enjoyed them. I was afraid that maybe they didn't enjoy...me."


He pulls her closer. "Are you serious? I loved having you there and so did they." He kisses her, in full view of, well no one at the moment but he normally saves his affection for private. "I had fun. And for the record, I've never brought anyone over for them to meet. Well, other than that one time, which taught me never to do it again."


She pulls him back to her and kisses him. "There is no problem with being in the same building with them. In fact, I like the idea that you'll be near Patrick when Ohk and I aren't here. You can keep each other out of trouble."


He makes a face. "Well..."


"Fine, you can have each other's back when you get into trouble."


"There she is again: my dream girl." He pulls her into the lobby and asks for someone named Alyssa. He hasn't dropped her hand and when the young woman with a padd shows up, clearly intent on leasing them a place, he tells her to show them the pools first. "Plural," he whispers to Seven.


She laughs. "Overachiever."


"I know. It sucks to be this perfect."


There is a half indoor, half outdoor pool on the same level as the lobby. There are lanes taped off for the serious swimmers but otherwise the rest of it appears to be free swim.


"It gets busier at night and on weekends, of course," Alyssa says as she leads them to an elevator and then punches a button that says "U3." "The gym is on U1, quiet rooms are on U2, and then we have this floor." She leads them off the elevator.


Liam squeezes her hand as he turns to Alyssa. "Can I show her this one alone?"


"Of course, Admiral Shaw."


"Thank you." He opens the door and as it slides open, it hits her: the warm humidity.


The passageway from the door to the pool is curved concrete, looking like it was dug out rather than created that way. And then they enter the main area. She stops dead.


"Am I right? Does it remind you of a cube? The gray concrete and black chairs and green neon that serves I have no idea what purpose except to look cool." He's watching her intently and she nods. "There's a bunch of hot tubs back in that corner. And some saunas you can reserve."


"Well, this is definitely not one of the problems."




She leads him back to Alyssa, who looks down at their still-clasped hands and grins at her. Then she takes them up to the tenth floor, to a corner unit, where the view is gorgeous. "It's not the view either."


"That it is not." He leads her onto the balcony. "Amazing, huh? It even has a forcefield. So nothing can fall off."


"Like if someone puts a wineglass on the railing?"


"Sure, that would be one of the things that wouldn't fall off."


She lets go of his hand and abandons Alyssa, moving through the apartment at her own pace. He stays with Alyssa, talking...she's not sure about what and she doesn't care. She's just trying to find the second problem.


She can't. The apartment is lovely. It even has enough extra rooms for them to both have small offices and still have a guest room.


"So we allow two max," she hears Alyssa say to him as she walks out to rejoin them.


"Two people?" she asks.


"No, two pets." She smiles broadly. "I'm going to let you two think about it for a little bit. Just palm the door when you leave and it'll alert me to meet you in the lobby." And then she's gone, leaving them in this amazing place.


That takes... "Pets?"


"I'm assuming no allergies means to cats too?"


"It does. I am not allergic to them."


"Do you like them?"


She shrugs.


"But you don't not like them, right?"


She laughs and says, "I have little experience with cats. You want a cat?"


"No. I want two. Because I'll be traveling a lot to find my woman who will eventually be out on a ship. And one cat would get lonely when I'm gone."


"Oh, that's why you had such interest in the balcony forcefield."


"I want them to be able to come out with us without having to worry they'll fall to their death the second I look away." He's studying her. "We don't have to get them when we first move in. But we should get them while you're still here, so they're ours, not just mine. And I don't necessarily want kittens. Let's find two that nobody else wants."


"Is that a metaphor for us?"


"No. Well, maybe, but an unintentional one. Kittens are like ferrets that purr: they're conked out or they're going nuts, generally while you're trying to sleep. Adult cats, though, they sync right up with your schedule."


"I didn't know you liked cats."


"I love them. Grew up with them. Haven't had one since I've been in Starfleet. Not allowed on ships, unless of course you're Picard's favorite android and then you can have one."


"There there." She looks around the area. "Where will they defecate?"


"Yeah, that's not how we're going to talk about the litter boxes."


She laughs as he leads her to the utility room where the refresher is and more than enough room for however many litter boxes you need for two cats. "Fine. And I love this place. I want to live here with you. I want to know that when I'm gone, you'll be safe and happy with your friend and our cats."


"Not alone."


"Yes. Not alone." She pulls him to her and kisses him tenderly. Then she whispers in his ear, "And so many rooms to have sex in."


"Seriously. My goddamn dream girl."




Shaw is sitting at his desk when Ohk storms past a valiant Naima, saying, "I know he's in there."


Shaw laughs because there is no stopping her when she has that tone. "Let her in, it's okay."


She stands in front of his desk, and Naima closes the door, mouthing, "Sorry."


"Sit down."


"No. I don't have time. Jack Crusher was in again. This time they kicked him hard enough to break ribs. He asked me not to tell you the last time it happened and I didn't, but this is too much. Help him."


"Help him how?"


"Does Buchanan run OCS or doesn't he? I think we both know why I can't ask him to intervene."


"And this is why I told you not to burn bridges when you leave a relationship." Needless to say, the first friend he tried to set her up with did not go as well as Patrick did.


"I know. You're right. And I've learned not to. But in this case, I can't rewrite history. Go get him transferred to OCS. Those Academy assholes are not going to let this go."


"It may take two to tango in this case. He can be a mouthy jerk."


"I know. But when did that mean it's okay to break a rib? Next time it may be his neck. And why? He didn't choose what happened to him."


"Technically he did. He stole a shuttle and chose it."


"I mean he didn't choose his parents. To be the transmitter." Her communicator chirps and she hits it way too hard. "Ohk here."


"It's Nurse Fomura. Your patient in room four is asking how long."


"Right. On it. Tell them five more minutes." She hits it again with less vigor to cut the connection. "Please?"




"Thank you. I love you." And she's out the door and gone.


With a sigh he walks out to Naima.


"Sir, I am so, so sorry."


"Oh, you can't stop her. Anymore than I'd expect you to get in front of a shuttlecraft that wants in my office."


"Thank you, sir. But it's my job to stop her."


"Yeah, well, good luck with that then. Fortunately she can patch you up after she barrels right through you." He paces the anteroom. "Can you work your magic and get me some time with Admiral Buchanan?"


"Let me see." He's typing fast and laughing at whatever comes back, and then asks, "How's now?"


"You are a god, young Naima. Nothing but glory ahead for you."


"Remember that at eval time, sir."


"Oh, I will. Ask my girlfriend about my evaluation mojo." Okay that sounds so bad. "I mean, she wasn't my girlfriend back then."


"It's fine, sir. I get it." He starts laughing. "My cousin might have told me you and your first officer didn't seem overly tight. Guess she was wrong?"


"She was actually not wrong. But things change." He heads out, trying to figure out what to say to convince Buchanan to get Crusher into OCS.


It's a short walk from engineering to admin, and Buchanan's assistant tells him to go right in.


Buchanan gets up and enfolds him in a solid hug. "Ten of ten, it's been forever."


"Too long, nine of ten."


"Those names don't wear too well now, after what happened."


"No kidding."


"And hey, what about your lady friend who goes by actual numbers." He lifts an eyebrow. "I saw you two in the cafeteria the other day. My God, Liam, I haven't seen you look so happy since before that godawful day."


"I know. And it's an ex-Borg making me that happy. She's...amazing."


"I'm happy for you. We'll have to have you over for dinner. Amelia is always asking about you now that you're back. I've been neck deep in meetings or I'd have reached out—why did I let them convince me to take this rotation? Admin is one long meeting that just moves rooms as far as I can tell. But if I want to show I'm fungible enough for my second star, I needed to leave engineering. And I didn't have a pretty ship to captain to do that."


"Well, I didn't expect to have one."


"But you liked it?"


"I did. To a point. It was a lot of responsibility. And the end was a complete shit show. I actually died."


"For real?"


"Yeah. It was temporary, though." He makes a self-deprecating face. "Devil didn't want me."


"Why would he take one of us Chicago lads when others are available. We're way too much work."


"Right." Shaw sits and takes in the room, all the memorabilia of a career that started like his did. "Do you go home much?"


"Nyah. I think I've gone native here. And Amelia hates snow so..."


"Yeah, same." He meets Buchanan's eyes. "So, I have a favor to ask."


"Ask away. Way I figure it, I owe you at least two."


"There's a kid at the academy. Should have been OCS. Place is hell for him. Can you move him to OCS?"


"I don't get in the middle of cadet issues."


"He's a civilian transfer."


"Then why's he at—" His expression changes. "Liam Shaw, no. Not the Prince of the Borg."


"Yeah, that's not a name that really helps his situation."


"You'd have been the first to use it. You'd have fucking improved on it."


And he has, in his head, all kinds of versions he doesn't share with anyone. "Buch, please?"


"It's almost mid year. And my understanding is that Command wants him out on a ship with this year's class."


"Yep. But you know they don't care how he does it." He leans in. "Remember when we were in OCS together and so fucking bored? We spent all of Smith's class writing a new syllabus for accelerating the stupid process for those who weren't coming in cold?"


"Liam. We essentially made it boot camp." He starts to laugh. "Which I could use to make my mark here. And start with him."


"Admit it: it gives you a bit of a hard-on thinking of running basic on Locutus's son, right?"


"I won't lie. It kind of does." He shakes his head. "But that was for folks like us. Enlisted turning officer. Already served, knew the ropes, the minefields."


"Just get him up to speed to mid year and then run him out the rest of the way with the regular class."


"Why him? Why are you championing him?"


"Because he's smart. Cocky as fuck, but so were we back in the day. He's got so many skills under his belt from twenty years in the nowhere lands with his mother."


"Uh, some of that was criminal activity."


"Like we never caused a little ruckus back home? And look at us now: admirals." He leans back. "He didn't ask for this. You and me, we signed up for shit when we joined Starfleet. Plenty of Terran enterprises that needed engineers but we wanted to be Fleet. So yeah, Wolf 359 was not what we'd bargained for, but it was always a possibility. He didn't sign up for this. And he's being punished for playing the role his genetics forced him to play. Give him a chance, run him hard but don't abuse him. He'll pay you back."


"I suppose you want to get him out of the Academy housing too? Into mine?"


"You got a spare room? I'll go get him right now."


"I haven't said yes yet."


"You haven't said no either."


"You're the hardest grader I know, Liam. You really want this kid saved? After what his dad did to you and your ship?"


"I really do." He waits, meeting Buch's eyes until he sees the capitulation.


"Okay then. I've got some instructors that could be more fully employed. I'll get them working on our new 'accelerated catch-up bullshit because Liam Shaw wants it and I owe him' course. But now you owe me. One favor."


"One favor."


He turns to his terminal. "Room seventeen in the lodging is free. Bring him on over. I'll let Commander Garcia know he's on his way."


"Thank you."


"Tell your boy not to make me regret it."


"I will. Thank you." He gets up and heads out of Command to the Academy main building, where he stops at the check-in and asks them where Crusher is.


"On medical leave in his room, sir. Do you want me to call him down."


"Nope, I'll go up there. Point the way."


He fucking hates this place. Had never felt more unwelcome in his life. It's with a great deal of pleasure that he strides down the halls to Jack's room, his insignia like a personal forcefield. No one can say he doesn't belong, not with stars on his neck.


The door is open, as if Crusher is trying to make a point. Come and get him, maybe?


He's sitting on the bed, facing the door, and looks up at Shaw. "Hi."


"You're transferred to OCS. I got you a room over there so grab everything you love. You're moving."


"I didn't ask for that." There's a sound Shaw recognizes in his voice. Pride mixed with utter misery.


"You really want to stay here? Give me one good reason that isn't your fucking father."


"I can't. I don't belong here. I'm starting to think I don't belong in Starfleet. My fellow cadets tell me that often enough—with their words when they aren't beating me in rooms with the cameras disabled."


"Belay that shit. You belong here. Just not here here. This place...this place sucks. Now pack up your shit and let's go."


Crusher is up and his bag filled in mere minutes.


"I guess years on the run pay off when moving?"


"You could say that. Also, if I cared about it, why would I bring it here?"


Shaw rests a hand on his shoulder. "You're gonna be fine now. The head of OCS is my friend. I made this happen so I am personally going to make what these dicks did to you seem like child's play if you make me look bad. Understand?"


Crusher's smile is brilliant. "I do, Admiral."


"Well, let's get you settled somewhere you can actually thrive. It's going to be a crash course to get you up to speed to join the class midyear. So...no bitching about it being hard."


"No bitching, sir."


"And try to limit the smart ass."




"At least excel so how good you are makes up for having to put up with you."


"That I can do."


As they walk out of the room, a cadet seems about to say something cutting, then sees Shaw. "Admiral," he says, then turns and walks away quickly.


"I call that one 'kicker'." Jack's voice is starting to sound better, more like the young man Shaw first met.


"Let's get the fuck out of here. Place makes my skin crawl."


"Mine too. Glad I'm not the only one."


"You're not, Crusher. Believe me, you're not."






Seven can't believe the bartender is already shouting out last call. She's been having so much fun with Harry and Tom and B'Elanna she hasn't even paid attention to the time.


"So you haven't told us much about your new man," B'Elanna says as Tom gets up to settle the bill. When Seven shrugs and makes a silly face, B'Elanna laughs. "I don't think Chakotay's a fan of his."


"Have they met?"


"I'm not a fan of him and I haven't met him. Any guy that gets you." Harry makes a silly face at her that once would have been uncomfortable but now is just teasing. He's head over heels in love with his wife and new baby and has spent a not insignificant amount of time telling them about the two.


She turns back to B'Elanna. "I'm seriously asking: have they met?"


"Ask your man about it. From what I understand, he's rather...protective of you"


Before she can answer, Seven is suddenly slammed forward and there's a muffled, "Oh, my God, Captain, I'm so sorry."


"Cadet, you are out past curfew." B'Elanna's voice is as cold as Seven has ever heard it—and she's heard it cold. "And you're stupid drunk. And your uniform is a mess."


"Admiral, I'm so sorry. I forgot my antitox and..." He pushes off of Seven's chair and tries to stand but then falls back down, his hands grabbing for purchase on her jacket, which she's hung on the back of her chair.


A moment later two apparently sober cadets rush him and pull him away. "We are so sorry, sirs. It will not happen again. He's just...missing someone. Taken away too soon."


Seven motions for B'Elanna to let it go.


"Fine, get him some antitox and get back to the Academy. Not necessarily in that order." Once they're gone, she turns to Seven. "When did you get all warm and fuzzy? You really must be happy with Shaw. I really like him by the way. Had a meet and greet with him a bit ago."


"Did he get tongue tied?"


"He did."


"He only does that with his heroes. So you must be one of them."


"Well, I can't say I mind." She stands as Tom comes back. "We'll have to have you two over some night before we lose you again to the stars."


"I look forward to it. He will be beyond thrilled." She grins and grabs her jacket, following them out and heading back to the VOQ as Harry goes with them toward the waterfront. She has no idea where they all live but he mentioned living close. Maybe in the same building, the way she and Liam and Ohk and Patrick will be doing in a very short time.


She lets her mind wander to the new place, to what kind of furniture he might have in storage—she's got nothing, but he says he has enough for the bedroom and an office from the last time he had a ground tour. So that means one of them will need to furnish the other office and the guest room. She hopes he'll take it on. The time with the designer convinced her she really doesn't care enough to be entrusted with these things.


One of Two, pay attention. Behind you.


It is the Agnes-Queen but Seven doesn't know how she's here. She turns though and looks behind her. The three cadets from the bar. The one is still stumbling so clearly they had no antitox to give him. Hardly a threat.


But she crosses the street anyway.


They do too.


She turns to face them. "Boys, what's going on."


"You dropped this, ma'am," the drunk one says, holding up something. "When I fell on you it must have come off."


She looks down; her communicator is gone. Every hackle she has goes up. These cadets left the bar before Seven did. Why would they go back when it was closing? How would they find her communicator?


A much simpler answer is when the drunk one slammed into her, when he was right next to her jacket, he took it.


And without a communicator, she can't call for help.


This was planned.


She lets them get closer because she wants to see their expressions. But not too close.


She knows the look she sees on their faces. Not for the human part of her, but the Borg. Pure hatred. "You said you lost a friend."


The drunk one slurs out, "Didn't say it was a friend."


"No. No, you didn't. So you're Crusher's tormentors, huh?" She reaches down, to the knife she's never stopped keeping in her boot—the knife that saved her life more times than she can count when she was a Ranger.


"Ooh, scary. One woman and three of us. All equally armed." They all pull out knives.


The drunk one has a daqtagh and he's waving it around as he says, "Crusher wasn't the only person who doesn't belong at the academy. The owner of this lovely thing is another. One less Borg bitch, one less Klingon pig. I wish we could have taken the half-breed admiral with us but she's married to Starfleet royalty. You're not though." He trips but rights himself, slashing out stupidly with the knife in a way she could easily counter.


She checks the street. There is no one out and she's not sure how the cameras work in this area so she takes off, running will be the easiest way to shake them if they're not good runners.


They are, though. Better than she is, in fact, even the drunk one.


They fan out as she's breathing hard, surrounding her, herding her to an alley.


Fine, it will give her something at her back, make it harder for three to get to her—they have no idea who they're messing with. Although she's relatively sure there is no surveillance here. They probably picked it for that.


It's been a long time since she found herself in a knife fight. Three to one might be tough odds but she's only counting the drunk one as a quarter of a person based on how he keeps tripping.


One of the others slashes down at her, not seeming to realize a jab would be much harder to parry than what he's done. She grabs his wrist just behind the knife and twists, backing into him hard, taking the knife from him as she brings her leg up and back, and kicks the side of his knee as hard as she can.


He screams.


It takes so few pounds of pressure to break a knee, something this boy will live to remember.


She ignores the drunk and goes for the other, jabbing at him with both knives in quick succession until she makes contact, against his ribs but she pulls back before she does irreparable damage. These are cadets.


And then she feels it, the daqtagh sliding in like butter to her abdomen, the boy she thought was drunk moving like a dancer. He sounds perfectly sober as he says, "Starfleet doesn't need people like you."


She grabs his hand before he can pull the blades out, keeping them in her and pulling her own blade across his throat. "No, asshole, Starfleet doesn't need people like you."


She kicks him away and lets go of the knife in her belly. The beauty of this knife's construction is it stays in until pulled out. It's the second strike, the withdrawal, that does the damage, the extended blades ripping as they go.


So she has to leave it in, no matter how strong the instinct is to pull it out of her.


"You fucking killed him," the boy with the broken knee says as his friend, bleeding from his wound helps him up.


"And I will kill you both if you don't get out of here." She should disarm them. She should find her communicator on the dead one and call security and hold them for questioning.


But she's bleeding internally even if she's not bleeding out. She doesn't have much time. If these boys just waited, she'd die as they watch.


So she can't let them see that's the case. She takes a step toward them. "I made his death fast. I'll make yours so slow you'll have ample time to think about every horrible thing you've done to another person." She channels everything inside, all the rage, all the hurt, all the disappointment that this kind of hatred still exists.


And they leave. They turn and leave as fast as they can.


She takes a step, then another. The third hurts so bad she falls to her knees close to the dead cadet and starts rifling through his uniform for her communicator.


It's not there.


She tries to see if it fell anywhere close but her vision isn't right and she's so tired. And then she's collapsing, but even though it wrenches her hip, she falls back on the side opposite where the knife is, so it won't get ripped out from the impact. So she still has some chance.


She wants to think she has a chance.


She hurts and she's breathing hard and she's pissed—so fucking pissed—that this might be the way she dies.


Think of him. Two of two. We'll wake him up. But you have to call him. With what's inside, One of Two. With what makes you the same.


It doesn't make sense but she does what the Agnes-Queen says. She thinks of Liam, of how it felt to watch him dead, then not. Of how it feels to be with him, waking up, holding hands, having sex. Find me! she screams in her mind to him.


And then she passes out.




Liam is dreaming. He sees Seven, a knife going in her, pain, so much pain and...rage.


Two of two! Wake up!


He sits up on the bed, reaching for Seven, but she's not there. He's not in his pajamas, not under the covers. He fell asleep waiting for her to come back from her night with some of the Voyager crew.


The image flashes again, the dagger going in. "Where is she?"


You know. You can feel her. We gave you two something new. Something powerful. We would have told you eventually. But we didn't see this coming. So now she's dying, and we're too far away to save her, but you're not. Use what she gave you—what we gave you both. Find her with your blood.


He's up and pulling his boots and jacket on and running out, taking the stairs, running toward town, and hitting his communicator as he goes. "Shaw to Ohk."


It's late. She and Patrick are no doubt sleeping. He doesn't care, He hits it over and over as he runs, following a path his feet seem to want to take him on. "Shaw to Ohk. Shaw to Ohk. Shaw to—"


"Ohk here."


"It's Seven. She's hurt. Can you grab your med kit? Can you meet us?"


"Meet you where?"


"I'm not sure. I'm...I just think I know. I'll get you beamed over once I find her. Just be ready. Shaw out." He's glad he goes to the gym. He's glad he does as much cardio as he does weights. He's glad he didn't eat a big meal because the longer he runs the sicker he feels.


We're losing her.


"No, no, we're fucking not." And he finds a second wind, and then a third, and he can't even see because sweat is pouring down his face, but he's following the pull of her blood.


Even though it's getting weaker.


He can feel her differently though, like she's close even as the connection between them dies. "Seven!" He runs past an alley and everything feels wrong so he turns, nearly falling, steadies himself on the wall of the building and scrapes skin as he does. She's lying on the ground next to another person and he hits his communicator. "Shaw to emergency services. "


"Emergency services."


"Beam Doctor Ohk to my location. She's standing by."




He's running to Seven before he hears the transporter whine, feeling for a pulse—there's not one. "Do I do CPR?" he yells back at Ohk—he's afraid he'll dislodge the blade if he does.


"No," and she's down next to him, shoving him out of her way with her hip, applying cardio stims to Seven's chest, then scanning. "I've got a pulse."


"Shaw to Emergency Services. Four to beam up."


"Four?" Ohk asks, as the transporter takes them.


"Her attacker.' He leaves her with Seven as soon as they've materialized on the pad and goes to the other person. A cadet. He knows him. It's the one Crusher called "Kicker." And he's dead, slashed from ear to ear. Bled out.


This was fucking personal. To the Borg—Jack and Seven—and maybe to him for getting Crusher free. If the kid weren't dead, Shaw would kill him for this right fucking now.


"Extra scanner?" he asks Ohk because he knows she always has one.


She hands it to him without asking why, their rhythm perfected over so many missions. And he starts scanning the cadet, not because he wants to save him, but because he wants to identify him. He has no cadet insignia, no name plate, no communicator. Those things are all in his bed at the Academy, making him look all tucked in for the night—room checks aren't done by eye anymore, but by tech. Leave the tech in the room and you appear to be there.


This kid snuck out to do this.


He felt safe doing this.


Cadets who can bully with impunity have connections. He's probably Starfleet royalty. And his family won't be happy. They'll try to turn this on Seven. He's seen it happen. So he'll log every single thing he can think of into this scanner and then keep it safe.


"There were two others. Wounded when I let them go, knee broken and a stab wound. The knife in me belongs to a Klingon cadet they were trying to frame," Seven says, and he turns to meet her eyes, profoundly glad she's awake and can talk. "You found me?"


"Baby, I will always find you." He looks at the petty officer running the transporter panel. "Can you pinpoint her communicator, Mister...?"


"Rosario. Affirmative. It's near where you all were. Beaming it back now."


"Bag it for evidence."


"Yes, sir."


He meets the man's eyes. "You lose anyone in the Borg attack?"


"No, sir."


"Okay. Good." He walks over and hands him the scanner. "Keep this safe too. Chain of custody is going to matter. I was one of you before I got all fancy. Chief petty officer Shaw."


"Understood, Admiral. No one will get these until a case is opened." He holds out a container and Shaw drops the scanner into it. The container closes around it and Rosario drops it and the communicator in a similar container into a slot. "Out of my hands now."


"Good. You did the bare minimum, here, got it? For your own good. That kid lying dead may be connected."


"Got it, sir." He gives him a smile Shaw imagines he also used to give to officers who came up the hard way and let that be known.


"I'm ready to transport her to Medical, Liam. They're standing by."


He hurries back to Seven. "What can I do?" He knows she'll understand. She worked the ugly side of things for too long not to.


"I can ID them. Put someone you trust on my room."


But he doesn't command a crew anymore. His staff is Naima and while he's aces on a terminal, he wouldn't stop a bad guy for long. "I don't—"


"I know a few Simkins, sir," Rosario says. "They're always looking for OT. Never need to sleep or pee. They can stagger duty. She'll be safe 24/7."


He laughs. Simkins are fucking huge. "Yes. Perfect, Rosario. Thank you. Have them report to Doctor Ohk."


"On it."


Seven tugs on him. "Get Tuvok. More people than me need to know who they were. He needs to meld with me just in case."


"There is no just in case."


"Liam." She meets his eyes, hers full of pain but also resolve.


He has never loved her more. "Okay."


"The Agnes-Queen led you to me?"


"The Agnes-Queen woke me. You led me to you. Or our blood did."


She frowns. "That's not a Borg thing."


"She said it was something new."


Ohk glares at the both. "Guys, figure it out later. We're leaving. I'm taking the body too, Liam. I do not want it disappearing." Ohk pushes him back with a mouthed, "She'll be fine," and calls for transport, and she, Seven, and the body are gone.


He sits back for a moment, exhaustion hitting him.


"Sir, can I beam you anywhere?"


"Find Captain Tuvok. And Rosario, I do not forget my debts. If you ever need anything..."


"Thank you, sir. Captain Tuvok is expecting you. Do you want to stand before I beam you over?"


"No—yes" he says as Rosario is about to take him at his word. "I can stand."


But he actually can't—he's running on empty after using whatever the fuck that was that led him to Seven.


Rosario runs out to help him then makes sure he will stay standing. "Here," he says, pushing something into Shaw's hand. "It's not easy to stay awake on this shift sometimes."


Shaw doesn't care what kind of stim it is, he pops it in his mouth and lets it dissolve, energy filling him—energy he knows he'll pay for later. "I don't want to clean you out but how long will this last?"


"A few hours at best." He digs a bunch out of his pocket and gives them to him. "Don't worry about it. I've got a jar stashed."


"Of course you do. More favors I owe you. Now get me to Tuvok."


Rosario hurries to his station. "Energizing."


Shaw closes his eyes and leans into the rush of the pill, trying not to think how close he came to losing Seven.


Trying and failing.






Shaw materializes in front of an open door.


A Vulcan woman motions him in. "I am Tuvok's wife T'Pel. He is just getting dressed. You look like water would be beneficial."


"Yes, ma'am, it would." He's conscious of the blood on his hands, hopes he hasn't tracked any in. "Could I wash up?"


"Of course." She leads him to a small bathroom and then goes to get the water.


He looks like absolute shit. And he's feeling that way again too. He pops a stim just as she comes around with his water. "Thank you."


"Those are not worth the price generally. Stims, yes?"


"It's been a hell of a night." He forces himself not to chug the water: he is so damn thirsty.


"So it would seem."


"He always take this long to change?"


She lifts an eyebrow. "You have the impatience of a Klingon, but I sense that may be due to the urgency of the situation and not your character."


"You sense right. Someone I care about was attacked."


"Are they all right?"


"I think she will be." He looks down. "She has to be." He will be nothing without her. He's made peace that he might lose her when she's in space, but he will not goddamn lose her on their home planet to fellow Starfleet members.


"Admiral Shaw." Tuvok's very voice makes him feel safer.


"Captain Tuvok. It's good to see the real you and not the changeling."


"I concur. I was speaking with Doctor Ohk. She would like me to do the mind meld now that surgery is over, so I will be leaving you in more capable hands for your search of the Academy."


"My search of the—"


There was the whine of the transporter, and then he hard the raspy voice of Chakotay's better half. "The Academy. For, if I remember right, a cadet with a broken knee and another one that's been stabbed. Is Seven all right?"


He turns to look at Janeway. "I think so. I've got a guard on her room."


"And I've sent my very good friend who you seem to intensely dislike to stay with her. He's on leave right now so he'll add another layer of protection. Do you object?"


"Actually no. The more the better. Even if it's him."


"Good. I must say, you gave him a great deal to think about."


"He told you?"


"Oh, Liam—I can call you Liam, right? Chakotay and I are past secrets. Also you threatened to tell me he'd met with you, and he hates to leave threats just hanging out there. Have you told Seven you talked to him?" There is such a knowing look on her face that he looks away.


"Well, he no doubt will. He's bound and determined to apologize for taking advantage of her." She turns and nods to T'Pel. "I'm sorry we're invading your home."


"I am used to it, Kathryn."


She touches T'Pel on the arm and the Vulcan does not seem to mind. "Janeway to Rosario, beam Captain Tuvok to Starfleet Medical."


"Aye, Admiral."


Tuvok disappears, and Shaw breathes a sigh of relief that someone other than Seven will know what happened tonight.


"Lovely young man, Rosario. I've known his mother forever." She winks at him. "But my was it hard to get details out of him. He's very loyal to you. Speaking of details, do you know which cadets we're looking for?"


Shit, he should have found that out. He's so fucking tired it's getting in the way of thinking straight. "One sec." He hits his communicator. "Shaw to Crusher."




"Why are you awake?"


"Because I'm not ancient like you. Oh, wait, that's the kind of thing you want me to say less of, right?"


He sees Janeway smirk and says, "We'll talk about that later. I need the names of the cadets who were bullying you."


"Sir, no. Things are great now. Let's let bygones be by—"


"Jack, this is Admiral Janeway."


"Oh." He actually sounds impressed. "Hi?"


"Hello. Now, I know the last thing you want to be is a tattletale, but three cadets just attacked Seven of Nine and we think they might be the same ones who harassed you."


"Bloody hell."


"Yes, exactly. We need names, and we need them now."


"James Martin, Cameron West, and Shep Timmons."


"Thank you." She waits as Shaw inputs those name into a padd she hands him. Pictures come up—Shep Timmons is the one in the morgue. "We're going to need you to make a statement about the bullying. Will you do that?"


"Yes, ma'am."




Shaw remembers what Seven said about the knife. "Is there a Klingon they've been bullying?"


"There's one Klingon I've seen at the Academy. He's tougher than they are put together, so I don't think they probably have. But they no doubt make it a hostile environment for him."


"No doubt." He shakes his head.


"I'm sending a security officer to take your statement, Jack. Her name is Lieutenant Andreas. After she's gone, I want you to be careful—watch your back."


"I'm actually good at that."


"He is," Shaw says, realizing he has completely lost control of this whole thing and feeling more than a little relieved about that.


He gratefully accepts another glass of water from T'Pel as Janeway contacts Andreas and gets her on the way to Jack, orders a contingent of security officers to meet them at the Academy, makes sure Chakotay was allowed into Seven's room and that Tuvok arrived safety, and then asks for beam-out to the Academy.


He has to admit: she's impressive. He can see why Seven would fall for her.


They arrive outside the Academy and there are no security officers yet, so she studies him.




"You're not really what I pictured for her."


"I imagine I'm an improvement over her being with the man you wanted."


She laughs. "Oh, you slam it right back like it's a good game of tennis. Do you play?"




"You're lying."


He is. He has no idea how she knows that though.


"And yes, I'd prefer Chakotay with me."


"May I ask a personal question?"


"You may ask. I may not answer though." She gives him one of the most engaging smiles he's ever seen. Shit, no wonder her people followed her through hell and came back still liking her.


"Were you in love with her?"


She meets his eyes. "I know she was with me. And there was a version of me, from a future that never happened, who tried to tell me I was. But...no, I don't think I was. Don't get me wrong. I loved her like a mother, like a fellow traveler, like a proud mentor, sometimes like a sister. Until..." She shakes her head.


"Until she and Chakotay...?"


"I got them home. That's what I tell myself, Liam. When I look back and regret." She laughs in a self-deprecating way. "But now I don't have to. I went and found my true love but I can't say more about it because it's close hold."




She is studying him again, and it makes him very uncomfortable. "Do you blame me? For letting him have her?"


"I do."


"Oh, my, game, set, and match with that smash. But shame on me for giving you such an easy lob to hit."


He smiles and shrugs.


"It's over. I can't undo it. And honestly, I was too hurt to think that much about it. I thought any reservations I had about them together was due to my own pain. So I did nothing."


"So she won't be getting an apology from you, I guess?"


"No. But I'm here, aren't I?" She glances at him, the smile back in place, a twinkle in her eye. "I'm helping. After years of avoiding her, maybe there's still time to make things right."


"Maybe there is."


They're saved further soul searching—or more likely her grilling him on something equally uncomfortable—by the arrival of the security officers.


"With me," she says and he has to admit she's impressive as fuck. The first living legend that lives up to the hype.


He falls in step with her, the security officers behind them, and they march into the Academy and scare the shit out of the poor schmo on graveyard at reception.


"I want you to give us the room numbers of James Martin, Cameron West, and Shep Timmons. And make it snappy." She takes a deep breath. "God I loved this place."


"That makes one of us."


She laughs. "It's not all like this ugliness. And there are lots of officers you served with—that you gave glowing recommendations to—that prove it."


"I know."


"I glanced at your file. You have your own reasons for hating the Borg."


"I never beat anyone up for it. I never stabbed a senior officer and tried to blame another cadet I didn't like just because he was different."


"I know. Neither did I. And I've had more than my fair share of encounters with them. These cadets aren't what Starfleet is, Liam. We get them out of here. No matter who their parents are."


He knows they both are fully cognizant of who their parents are. He might be in over his head trying to take them on. But he's got the woman who brought her crew home from the goddamned Delta Quadrant working this.


Those parents are fucked.


And so are Martin and West, who are pretending to be asleep, blood seeping into West's sheets despite the field dressing he clearly applied himself. Martin is an arrogant asshole until Shaw gives his knee the lightest little tap and then he just starts crying.


"You boys disgust me," Janeway says, then tells security to take them to the holding facility.


"Ma'am, their injuries?" the lead security officer says.


"Oh, are they hurt? I hadn't noticed the limping or the seeping stab wound." She glares at the man. "I'll send a doctor to you. We do not want them at Medical right now."


"Yes, ma'am."


As they beam out, she says, "Shall we go to Starfleet Medical? See if this emergency has made our respective lovers reconsider their status. I can see a fun future with you—I love a man who speaks his mind."


He breaks out laughing. "I am that, Admiral."


"Call me Kathryn. And we both know that's not going to happen. You seem horribly smitten to the point where you may not have noticed you're dead on your feet. And I am sadly, for you, taken. But I would love to get you on the court for a game or two. I bet you have a devastating shot no one can return."


He does. It's a forehand drive, that runs right down the line and looks like it's going to be out or long but drops down in bounds in the corner every time.


He isn't going to tell her that though. "Maybe."


"I may also have one."


"Then this should be interesting...Kathryn."


"I totally agree."




Seven feels Tuvok withdraw from her mind and sighs in relief. If anything happens to her, this is on record with a Starfleet officer beyond repute—and removed from petty squabbles between high-ranking Earth families.


He looks down at her with the same kindly regard he has always shown her. "I regret that this happened to you, Seven."


"I know." She could feel his concern for her in the meld. "Go home. I'm sorry we woke you."


"You know I do not need as much sleep as a human."




"I should tell you that Captain Chakotay is outside."


"I know. He popped in before you got here to tell me he was on guard duty—but he's not, I think, as much of a deterrent as our extremely large friend out there." Ohk has closed the blinds so the massive Simkin is now out of sight but still so very comforting.


"Indeed. Shall I send Chakotay in?"


She nods.


Tuvok touches her cheek. "I felt other things in the meld. That you are content in a way I have never felt from you before."


"I am."


"It is not just the promotion."


"No. It's not." She smiles, thinking of Liam, that he found her—he just found her.


He nods, in seemingly perfect understanding, and then opens the door and lets Chakotay in, closing the door softly behind him..


Chakotay takes a deep breath and asks, "How are you feeling?"


"Like I've been stabbed but survived." She holds her hand out to him and he takes it. "I know you're with her now. I'm happy for you both."


He squeezes her hand. "I, uh, may have approached your new beau in the cafeteria."


Ah, that was what B'Elanna had been talking about. "And...?"


"And he does not beat around the bush."


She laughs. "He sets the bush on fire and then stomps any remaining bits to cinders."


He laughs, his smile the dear one she first fell in love with. "Yes, yes he does. You should see how hard that stomp is when it's concerning you. He loves you the way you should have been loved from the start. I...I shouldn't have pursued you."


"Well, I pursued you too."


"And we both know why we did that. Starts with 'J' ends in 'Y.'"


She nods.


He sighs. "You were so young emotionally."


She looks away. "I wanted you."


"Yes, well, maybe that want should have gone unfulfilled. Maybe I took advantage of you before you were really ready. And I'm very sorry for that."


"Is that what he told you? That I wasn't ready?"


"Emotionally yeah. Don't you agree?"


She has thought of this—what she would tell that version of herself if she could travel back. To wait—most of the time she thinks she'd tell her to wait. But Chakotay was a perfect first lover, so there's still a part of her that would argue for him. "I guess I probably do agree. But he wasn't there. He wasn't one of two people who were in love with someone who was never going to allow herself to love them back. We rushed and we failed just as fast, but we had reasons."


"They weren't good ones. Not really."


"No, but the feelings were real. I remember how heady it was to be in love." She squeezes his hand gently as she says, "Or to think I was. I'm just glad we can still be friends. That you'd want to protect me. But what will she say?"


"She was the one who sent me. I think...I think she has her own set of regrets."


"I would hope so." It's harshly said but she means it. For her sake and for his.


The door opens suddenly and Janeway strides in with Liam following more slowly.


"Oh, maybe there is hope for us, Liam. Here they are holding hands. What'll it be next? Footsie?"


Liam walks to her, easing Chakotay away rather than shoving him, and she commends his self-control. Then he studies her, running his hand along her hair. "You're okay?"


She nods. "Did you find the other cadets?"


"We did." Janeway smiles at her and it's the old smile, the smile of the times before Chakotay was her lover, when this woman's approval meant everything.


"Thank you."


"You're welcome, Seven."


Liam yawns. "I didn't really do much. She's running this circus now."


"That's not true. You found me. I don't understand how."


"I don't either. And I don't care. I just...I'm just glad you're okay." He's starting to cry and she knows he doesn't want the others to see it so she pulls him down and kisses him.


When she lets him up, he's in control and he mouths, "Thank you."


"You're welcome," she mouths back. Then she puts her hands on his cheeks. "You're exhausted. Admiral—Kathryn, if you could..."


Janeway pushes Liam into one of the two overstuffed armchairs and when he complains, quite effectively tells him to shut it. "We're going to play tennis when this is all over, Liam and I. You and Chakotay will be horribly bored."


"Just say okay," Chakotay says with a laugh, and she says, "Okay."


Ohk comes in a moment later and scans Liam.


"I'm fine," he says, trying to brush her off.


Seven thinks he looks light years from fine. His hands are shaking the way they do when he's exhausted. His color is horrible.


By the noise Ohk makes, she agrees. "Too many stims, my friend. I'll be right back." She's gone for a moment, then back with a hypo and a blanket. "Nighty night, Liam."


"No, wait, I have to pro—" and then he's out.


Ohk scans him again, seems satisfied with what she's seeing, checks Seven and says, "You're doing great. Sleep now." Then she leaves.


"He really does love you, Seven." Janeway sits in the other comfortable chair, leaving Chakotay the stool.


"You two don't have to stay."


"I know that. Now, go to sleep. Rest is crucial to healing."


"At least get a more comfortable chair," she tells Chakotay, and then looks over at Liam who is moaning softly. "And can you get him another blanket? He only makes that sound when he's sleeping if he's cold."


"I live to serve, my ladies. Anything else you two need?"


"Coffee. You know how I like it."


He smiles at her in a way that makes Seven very happy for them both. "That I do."


And then they're alone. She and Janeway.


"I'm relieved you're okay, Seven."


"I'm fine." She hates how her voice breaks.


"I'm sorry I let so much time go by, that I've been distant. I know...I know I could have intervened. Gotten you into Starfleet sooner."


It feels so good to hear her say that. That she did know. That she chose not to. Not that she forgot Seven but that it was the opposite.


"Maybe it's okay, maybe now is my time."


"Oh, now is definitely your time." Her expression turns serious. "You're going to have some problems with Shep Timmon's family. His father is well placed and his mother was an admiral. I want you to know, I will intervene this time. I'm not letting anything get in your way, Seven."


"Thank you." She blinks hard, trying to hold back the tears that are threatening. "I killed him without remorse. But he did stab me."


"I'd have done the same in your position."


"You wouldn't be in my position."


"No, I wouldn't." She gives her a rueful smile. "Your boy here is an interesting one."


"He really is."


"I'm happy for you."


"I'm happy for you too."


The door opens and Chakotay comes in with Ohk, who settles another blanket over Liam. "Coffee for us and a lovely sedative for the patient, I think." He hands Janeway a cup and kisses her forehead.


Ohk holds up the hypo. "Ready to sleep?"


"Wait, one sec." She listens to Liam, his moaning gets quieter and then stops. He's finally warm enough. "Okay, now you can."


There is the soft hiss of the hypo, Ohk's warm hand on her shoulder, and then she's gone.


When she wakes up, Liam is still asleep in the chair and Chakotay's in the armchair reading with a pot of coffee next to him.


He looks up when she moves enough to rustle the sheets and says, "Good morning."




"Kathryn's handling things as only she can. The area of the city you were in doesn't have surveillance but there are enough personal cameras we were able to copy vids. The story is quite clear. You were targeted and attacked."


"How did you get the videos this fast?"


His smile is very mysterious. "I have my sources."


She decides not to ask. "Thank you."


"You never have to thank me, Seven."


"Mmmm," the grumpy sound is music to her ears. "What did I miss?"


"We all had sex while you were out, Shaw," Chakotay says with a laugh.


"Fuck you."


"He seems himself. I'll give you two some privacy." He actually puts his hand on Liam's shoulder. "There's coffee left if you want some." Then he goes out to the waiting room.


"Oh fuck him for being nice."


"Yeah, he sucks that way." She smiles at him in what she knows is a completely unfiltered way. "Kiss me."


"Bossy." He walks over and holds up his hand when she reaches for him. "First, how do you feel?"


"I'm fine. Now kiss me before I call him back in."


"Jesus fucking Christ, woman." But then he's kissing her and it's a good kiss even if both of them have had fresher breath. "I thought I lost you."


"I was so pissed that I was going to die now. When I'm finally really happy."


"I love that you're really happy. I love that I'm really happy too." He kisses her again and then the door opens and Ohk coughs dramatically. "Fine, fine, she's all yours."


He pours some of the coffee and sits back in the chair. "Thank you," he says to Ohk.


"Yes, thank you." Seven smiles as Ohk scans her.


"You know you never have to thank me. I love you guys."


"Am I out of the woods?"


"You are so far out of the woods, the trees are not even in evidence."


Seven smiles at her. "Then go home and get some sleep."


"I really need some. This was way too much excitement for my blood. But you've got some interesting friends."


"Yes. Yes, I do."






Shaw's sitting in the waiting room, eyes closed, nursing a cup of coffee and trying to fight off a wave of depression. He brought this on Seven. Getting Crusher away from the cadets was the right thing but was it the smart thing?


They weren't the only ones who felt that way.


Has he just put a huge flashing target on her back from others like them?


He tries to concentrate on his breathing, find his center, nothing is working.




He opens his eyes to see Naima with a tray loaded with padds and breakfast. "How is she, sir?"


"She's going to be fine." He hasn't told Naima much. "How far does the news of this go?"


"All the way, sir."


"Great." He rubs his eyes. "Just great."


"Pretty sure that's on purpose, sir. It started at the top and Janeway's admin is like a triple sealed airlock when she doesn't want to say anything. If she let the information out on the whispernet, it's because the admiral wanted her to.


"But why?"


"Maybe so people know not to fuck with Captain Seven in a knife fight." He frowns. "My language really is getting worse, isn't it?"


"It really is. I feel very proud at this moment, passing on what matters to the younger generation." His smile fades. "What if the next one isn't a knife fight? What if they just bring a phaser instead?"


Naima puts the tray down on the empty chair between then and says, "Liam, stop it. The Admiral wants it known Seven is under her protection. That's a good thing because she scares the fuck out of a lot of people. And she also wants it known that even if Seven weren't under her protection, she's likely going to kill all or some of whoever tries to hurt her. The memes of the Simkin on the door aren't hurting. There are a bunch of them and they are way too clever to have been made up by anyone but her EO."


"Who's her EO?"


"Tom Paris. He makes the best stuff—I have a whole folder of it saved."


"Can you show me? Nick?"


"I can." Naima beams as he does, and the smile only grows as Shaw laughs harder at each one. "I know you didn't tell me I could call you Liam."


"You brought me breakfast, Nick. When I didn't think to ask and I'm so fucking hungry. I think that more than earns first-name rights." Shaw picks up the plate and starts eating—the eggs taste way better than the normal ones. "Are these...?"


"Katarian, yes, sir."


"Those aren't on the menu normally."


Naima starts to laugh. "Well, they're not on the regular menu."


"There's a whole support underground I have no idea about, isn't there?"


"Yes, sir." He's suddenly all business. "I don't like the idea of you in the VOQ. Too many people can come in without being noticed. I know you've leased the apartment."


"Just waiting for the quartermaster to release my furniture." Which he's taking his sweet time to do.


"Yeah, that's taken care of. It's being delivered this afternoon. And the Simkins volunteered to move things around once they arrive if you just tell them where you want stuff, you know in case the movers are spies that want to bug your place."


Shaw laughs. "You're getting in deep, kid. The place has been empty for days since we leased it. If it's going to be bugged, it's already happened."


"Oh, good point. Well, the Simkins are super nice and they really want the OT. They're also willing to escort the captain to her office and back."


"You mean be bodyguards? And not unobtrusive ones." He's laughing.


"They love overtime so much. I guess never sleeping can be sort of boring. And they have no vices or hobbies as far as I can tell. They work and then they just...are."


"I feel like they should have names. Not just be the Simkins."


"Oh, they do." He shows him the padd. The names take half the page. "The one with the missing eyebrow told me he just goes by Tai. The other one is Miyo."


Good to know. He commits that to memory. "Are they any good at interior design?"


"I think you can hire a designer for that, sir."


"You don't know, do you? I finally found something you don't fucking know."


Naima hangs his head in mock shame. "I'll find out. And get samples of their work. I have no idea what Simkins consider comfortable." He motions to the padds. "I've answered what I could, the rest you'll have to. I've also cleared your calendar for the next three days. Everyone but Admiral Lao was nice about being cancelled. You might want to watch him."


Shaw laughs. "Lao's a dickwad. Totally normal behavior for him."


"Ah. Good, then."


"I appreciate all the spycraft, Nick."


"I know I'm going overboard but it's for you."


"Have I told you how glad I am that you wanted to work with me. Probably the only one."


Naima looks at him like he has two heads. "Sir, there were twelve applicants for this job. And that was just the shortlist."




"You have the best safety record in the fleet. And that's even after the whole Borg thing. You don't put people at risk. You're known for being fair. Okay, sure you and Captain Seven provided good theater, but she is also known for how well she treated everyone."


"But I'm not warm. I'm a jerk. A lot of the time."


"I don't happen to think so, sir. But even if I did, I'd rather serve under a cold guy who keeps me and my friends and family safe than a super friendly one who gets people hurt or killed." He puts a hand on Shaw's arm. "I don't think you understand how many of us are fans of you. How many people will be looking out for both you and Captain Seven without you ever knowing it. Especially those of us who went to the Academy and fucking hate what those asshole cadets did. That is not who we are."


Shaw's about to cry again. God damn it.


"I'll give you a minute, sir. And for the record, cold people don't tear up when its appropriate. They're...just cold all the time."


He laughs. "I'm really glad you got the job, Nick."


He hands him a tissue he pulled out from God knows where. "Me, too, sir. Me too."




Liam and Chakotay are both sleeping in the overstuffed chairs as Seven reads. Her valiant protectors. Finely tuned snoring machines.


Tai pops his head in. "You got a minute, Captain?"


"Do you have more ideas for my office?"


"I do."


Seven's not sure why Liam is having the Simkins doing their decorating, but they are super enthusiastic and pair weird things in interesting ways, so she's game. Besides, they seem to have made protecting her their only priority. Only fair to give them something to do that seems to give them true pleasure.


"First, how do you feel about orange."


"I actually love orange."


"Oh good. Many humans don't." He brings in what he calls a "mood board" and settles it in front of her.


She studies it. It's nothing she would ever pick but the colors make her happy. "Huh."


"Good huh or bad?"


"I like this."


Tai starts explaining the concept, how the fabric will stand up to cats, how the different colors are meant to inspire creativity without being too energetic—the sage green being apparently the calming element. Seven is lost but she loves Tai's energy so she just goes with it.


"What is your actual job, Tai?"


"Oh, Miyo and I are in security."


"Do you have any desire to be on a ship?"


Tai doesn't meet her eyes. "We make people nervous in close quarters."


"We're in close quarters. I'm not nervous. Also you didn't answer my question."


"Yeah, we both want that. But we have to be assigned together. And together we make people doubly nervous so..."


"You know I have a ship, right? You two have been standing outside my door for hours, Miyo moved in Liam's furniture, and you're decorating our place."


"Oh, he's helping."


"My point is, I like you both. I have a ship. I'm the captain. Do you want to be on it?"


"You're serious?"


"Yes, and I don't mean as my bodyguards. As security officers. On the Enterprise."


Tai looks like he's won a lottery. "That would be a dream."


"Excellent. I will add you to the roster. We're about eleven months out from our shakedown cruise after the refits are done."


Tai looks overcome. Seven moves the mood board just in case he starts crying. "And I like this. Let's do it. Does Liam have you working on the living/dining area?"


"No, Miyo's doing that, the kitchen accessories, and the powder room. I have the utility room and the guest bedroom and bathroom—do you have a mood you want for that? I was thinking restful and welcoming."


"That sounds appropriate."


"Great, I'll get on it. I can tell Miyo about the ship?"


"You can tell Miyo."


He beams at her and leaves her alone, but only for a moment. Raffi walks in looking pissed. "Dead? Seriously?


"Don't give me that look. I wasn't going to interrupt your first family trip."


Raffi seems about to say something cutting, but then she looks behind her at Liam and over at Chakotay. "What is their role?"


"They're protecting me. Which you can see is a strenuous job requiring razor-sharp reflexes." She starts to laugh. "I'm fine. They're just...well, to be honest, they may be having some sort of a pissing contest."


"What, to see who can outnap the other?"


Seven shrugs and says, "Give me a hug. I really was dead for a minute or so."


"Damn it, Seven." She envelopes her and whispers what a pain in the ass she is and how she'd never forgive her if she died for real.


"Shaw didn't mention there was another woman," Chakotay says and both of them roll their eyes as they pull apart.


"I'm her ex."


"Oh, so am I."


"Yeah, I know who you are."


"You have me at a disadvantage."


"And let's keep it that way."


Seven sighs. Pissing contests all around, it seems. "Raffi, Chakotay, Chakotay, Raffi Musiker."


"Ohhh, that Raffi." He grins in a way that's usually impossible to resist.


Raffi manages. "It's bad enough I have to deal with Shaw. But this one too?" She turns back to Seven. "You're sure you're okay?"


"Yes. Did you come straight here from the transporter?"


"Yeah, the big guy outside is watching my bags."


"That's Tai. He's going to be in security with his brother Miyo."


"I don't mind that. Simkins are awesome."


"Did you have a good trip?"


Raffi's whole demeanor changes. Her smile is beautiful and happy and everything Seven wants for her. "I had a really good trip."


"I'm so happy for you. I really, really am."


Raffi leans in and kisses her on the mouth, a gentle kiss, nothing romantic. "Damn you. No dying."


"You're sure you're the ex?" Chakotay says, humor coloring the words. "You don't see me kissing her."


"That's because I will kill you if you try." Liam stretches. "Hi, Raffi."


"Hi? How come our girl almost died?"


"Raffi, ask him how come I didn't. He found me. I had no communicator. I was in the city. And he found me."


"Is this something to do with the Borg blood?"


"We think so. And Agnes may have done something to it." She makes a face.


"Say no more. I can't even imagine what kind of queen you end up with when you pair the mad scientist with a pissed-off Borg."


"Not that bad, actually." Liam gets up. "I need a shower."


"No," Raffi says, leaning in, "you're okay."


"Did you just smell him?" Chakotay asks. "Are you sure you're not all together?"


"We're sure," Raffi and Liam say in unison.


Raffi studies Liam, patting him on the arm and saying, "You've looked better."


"Don't I know it. The hair alone..."


"Yeah it's missing its usual...




"That's one way to put it."


He surprises Seven—and she thinks Raffi too—when he pulls her in for a tight hug. "You'll have to take care of her out in space. You want some of the Borg blood, just in case?"


"No. Thanks." She pats his back until he lets her go. "I think you're punchy."


"You are not wrong. I need a walk." He looks at Chakotay. "You want anything? I'm going to hit the cafeteria."


"If they have any of those maple bars...?"


"Ooh, yeah. Okay be right back. See ya, Raffi."


She looks at Seven and mouths, "They get along?"


Seven lifts her hands in their old sign for "I don't know. Weird, right?"


"His party's on Saturday. Should I try to reschedule?"


"Don't be silly. I'm being discharged tomorrow. Our new place is ready."


"There will be cats," Chakotay says, not looking up from his magazine.


"There will? Why am I so out of the loop?"


"Maybe you're not the favorite ex, after all?"


"Why are you even here?"


"Because this is where Kathryn Janeway wants me." He looks up and gives her a patently false smile.


"That's actually a really good reason. Okay I'm going to leave before she shows up." She glares at Seven. "You will fill me in eventually on what really went down in a way that does not feel like a French farce?"


"I promise."


She watches Raffi leave and then turns to Chakotay. "Really? How do you know about the cats?"


"I have my sources." Again the mysterious grin. "Or maybe I heard Liam talking to the Simkins about cats. So she's gorgeous. You left her for him?"


"No, we were done."


"Still..." He waggles his eyebrows and she laughs, and his smile changes to a real one."You inspire such loyalty, Seven. It's good to see."


Liam comes back in with a plate loaded with maple bars and a side of bacon. She decides not to ask.


"This is genius," Chakotay says, rubbing his hands together.


"I know, they just go together. And..." Liam pulls out some kind of small pegged board and a deck of cards.


"I love this game."


"Right? I am going to kill you."


"Not if I skunk you first."


Liam comes over. "You want any of the food?"


"No. I'm sleepy. Play your game, whatever it is."


"It's cribbage." He leans in and kisses her way longer than is really necessary. She's laughing when he finally pulls away.


"Child," she murmurs.


"Damn straight. My girl. Mine." He kisses her again, this time a quick peck and says, "We'll try to keep it down. Sleep well."


They are quietly arguing about whether they are going to play muggins, whatever the hell that is. She falls asleep to the sound of cards being shuffled and taunts being exchanged.








Seven wants to get out of the hospital bed, but they won't let her except for "supervised" walks and nobody has stopped in lately to take her on one because she's being such a pain in their ass about pushing up her discharge from this afternoon to right now.




He's in immediately.


"I want to talk about the design meeting. And walk. Can we do that together?"


He rushes to help her out of bed.


She pushes him off—or tries to—the Simkins are nearly unmovable. "Mister Miyo, I'm being discharged in seven hours, please desist from helping."


"Aye, ma'am." He moves back, but she can tell he's keeping a close eye on her.


She pulls the robe she made Liam bring her around her so no one gets more of a view of her backside than she intends. She understands the concept of the open-in-the-back hospital gown from the care perspective, but the practicality of it for therapeutic walking is nonexistent.


The Simkins have been assigned to her transition staff, which means they are her transition staff. But they're so willing—and creative—she doesn't mind the lack of any other personnel. And she knows they absolutely have her back if she gets cornered in another alley. They consider bodyguard one of their "other duties as assigned."


And they actually want to meet with the designer. They have a list of dozens of things that should be on her ship that aren't currently planned for.


And they have opinions on some of the changes made to the items she and Raffi initially chose. Strong opinions.


Seven almost pities the design staff. "You're ready to go on this design thing?"


"Yes. How much authority do I have to push back?"


"How much do you want?"


He laughs. "All of it. For the design stuff anyway. We want to know that if we fight for something, they won't just go to you and you'll countermand what we said."


"Has that happened a lot to you?"


He nods. "We tend to get in the weeds. We exhaust people and they don't have the energy for us so they just say yes and then run to our supervisor."


"I was often told I was exhausting when I was transitioning from being a Borg drone. It was difficult to prioritize what was truly important over what wasn't."


"Exactly. Everything we've got on our list is in the design and accommodation codes."


"It was a difficult lesson for me to learn but life is often nothing but a series of negotiations."


"You sound like a Ferengi, ma'am."


"Except that I want everyone to come out ahead, if possible. Don't win the battle and lose the war because they won't deal with you again."


He thinks about that. "Okay."


She hears familiar footsteps—foot-stomps is more like it—coming down the hall.


"I'll take over from here, Mister"—Janeway looks at Miyo's eyebrows and smiles—"Miyo."


He stands even taller—it's a gift to remember names the way she does. "Yes, ma'am. Thank you. I have a design meeting to get to."


Janeway nods and laughs once he's gone. "They're so eager. I had a pair on my first command."


"Thank you for transferring them to me."


"I believe everything has been put to bed on those cadets, officially. But I want you to have protection just in case any of the families can't let it go. And...they weren't thriving in their current assignment. Admiral Lao..."


"Is a dickwad."


"That's Liam speaking, not you."


"Yes, but is he wrong?"


"No. I imagine he's not wrong that often. He's an intriguing man. Such a contradiction."


"He is."


"Smart. I expected someone less agile intellectually. Because of his adherence to regs over the years. But he's so creative. You know how I love that."


She nods and then is surprised when Janeway takes her arm.


"I am capable of walking on my own, Kathryn."


"Indulge me."


The old Seven would have made way too much of it. The new her is just going to enjoy it for what it is. An olive branch. A moment of nostalgia. Something new, perhaps? True friendship, between two mature women, not a woman and a girl. "Very well."


"He may end up on my staff someday. Would that bother you?"


"No. But he's really happy in engineering right now. Let him be? For a while at least."


"I love how much you look out for him. This is quite definitely a well-balanced relationship."


"Unlike me and Chakotay, you mean?"


"Or you and me. The relationship that never was. We've never talked about it, Seven."


"We don't have to talk about it now." She wants to pull away but Janeway seems to realize it, is holding on just a bit tighter.


"I think we do. I knew how you felt. Just like I knew how Chakotay felt. And I did love you but not the way you wanted. Maybe, if he hadn't carved out his territory in my heart first, if I hadn't needed to get us home so very badly. Maybe I could have seen you as more. But I doubt it...you were like my daughter, Seven. I was so proud of you. How far you came. How far you've come now. And how far I know you'll go."


She swallows hard.


"Can we put that behind us? Can we be friends, do you think?"


"Yes." And for the first time, she feels that part of her starting to settle. The last bit of her that couldn't catch up to where she is now—who she is now. "I would like that."


"I'm glad." They walk in silence for a moment, then Janeway says, "I don't actually understand it, but Liam and Chakotay have become...friends of some sort?"


"It's very competitive. They just seem to..."


"Bring out the annoying little boy in the other?"


"Pretty much. Although sometimes it's not annoying."


"No, sometimes it's not. Speaking of ill-mannered boys, the cadets and their parents tried to claim you attacked them outside the bar, where there are conveniently no cameras because the owner thinks he gets more business without them. They said they were chasing you because of that. That everything that happened after was self defense."


"I was with the others outside the bar."


"I didn't say that they tried to claim it successfully. Also I may have noted that you underwent a mind meld. And that if they indeed acted in self defense, they wouldn't mind undergoing one too. I imagine the other acts they have no doubt perpetrated on people they don't like ran through their little pea brains. Self defense was dropped. They're going to be courtmartialed and tried for assault, battery, malicious wounding, attempted murder, and anything else the JAG can think of. And not just against you. Ohk documented the injuries Crusher sustained as if she knew her data would be used in an inquiry."


"She's like that. Intuitive. Proactive. I really like her."


"I can see why. And her reports are meticulous. We think other victims might come forward also once they realize it won't be just them." She turns them so they are headed down another hallway.


"Thank you. For taking this on."


"Leaving aside that it's you that was hurt, this enrages me, Seven. Starfleet is better than this and there have to be instructors at the Academy who knew this was happening and didn't bother to investigate. Or maybe didn't want to. I'm having Admiral Buchanan run an internal investigation for me. He's doing interesting things with this crash catch-up course he's designed and Crusher is piloting."


Seven allows one side of her mouth to go up, loving that Liam helped two people when he moved Jack.


"So I approve of your doctor and your boyfriend. You're going to have to explain Raffi to me, though. You know she stalked me, right?"


"Those charges were dropped."


"She. Stalked. Me."


"She won't do it again."


"Oh, I bet she would. For you. For the crew. For anything she thought worth it. At any rate, I'm willing to let it go." She sighs. "We owe her a great deal. She helped save us from the Borg. At great risk to herself and to her relationship with her family."




"You trust her implicitly? Having an ex as you're first officer can be tricky."


"I trust her with my life, my crew—everything. And we work well together. "


"Well, that's what counts then." They are coming around toward Seven's room and Janeway whispers, "One more lap?"


"Yes, please."




Shaw watches as Seven walks around their apartment. It's lacking any furniture other than what's in the bedroom and his office and the small dinette set the Simkins are going to replace with something much cooler, but it's his and Seven's, and it's just them in it, no staff, no intercom, no beeping of monitors.


She walks over to him and pulls him down to kiss her. He lets her deepen the kiss only so far.


"I'm not going to break? Or is it that I smell bad?"


The guilt that what happened to her is his fault hasn't gone away. It's interfering with what should be an amazing homecoming, their first day here. "Neither."


"Then why are you keeping us at impulse power? Ohk cleared me for warp."


He knows that. Ohk told him that too, probably because she knows he feels responsible.


"Timmons saw me that day I rescued Jack, moved him out of the Academy."




He looks away. "And I took his toy away. So maybe he targeted you on purpose."


"Liam." She grabs his cheeks, pulling him down, so he has to look at her. "They weren't targeting anyone except the poor Klingon they were trying to frame. It was just dumb luck that had me in that bar when they were there. Or maybe it was good luck. I did stop them. Not, obviously, without dying in the process, but what if they'd picked on someone who couldn't defend themselves? They'd still be out there, hurting people. On their way to becoming horrible officers." She shakes him a little. "This is not your fault."


"They really weren't after you?"


"No. Once they saw me, then yeah, but they didn't come there to find me. Why didn't you just ask me about it?" She pulls him down for a kiss, and he lets her in all the way, pushing her against the wall gently.


"I was afraid to, afraid to tell you I'd let you down, that I hadn't kept you safe." He nuzzles her neck. "I was dumb."


"You were very dumb. Next time talk to me before you get mired in something, okay?"


He nods.


She eases away. "I do need to shower, though. I feel so grungy."


"Oh, sure, start something and then..."


"You could shower with me...?"


"Yeah, we know how that goes. And Ohk will kill me if we slip and end up re-injuring you."


"You're just going to be really paranoid about me for a while, aren't you?"


He nods. "I almost lost you."


"Fine, I'll shower alone. But then you and I are going to have a meeting of..well, not minds."


He can't hold back the smile. "Okay."


He pours himself a glass of Malbec and goes out to the balcony, which the boys have furnished. And damned nicely—the furniture is attractive, practical, and super comfortable.


While he waits for her, he sends them the first payment for their "Design Services." All the other things he's had them do, he can chalk up to regular OT, but not furnishing his own place. They insisted they were going to do it for free so he had to tell them if they didn't send him an invoice, they were off the job.


Such nice kids. He's glad they'll be with Seven. He knows they'll do anything to protect her.


She's out not too long later, her hair damp, face scrubbed, no make-up, wearing sweats and a crop top showing the unmarred skin over her belly where she was stabbed. "Just in case you get all nervous about me. See, good as new."


He pulls her into his lap and buries his face in her hair, rocking slightly.


"Now you know how I felt," she whispers as she rubs his back. "Losing you."


"Wasn't a club I wanted to be in." He looks up at her. "My God, you're gorgeous. No artifice. Just you. I love you so much."


She kisses him slowly, not asking for more than this and he's grateful, he wants to go slow, wants to love her the way she should always be loved.


She leans over to pick up the wineglass and takes a sip, then holds it to his mouth. "We're connected in some way that isn't Borg, Liam."


"Or if it is, it's new."


She nods as she puts the glass back on the table.


"I was kind of serious about giving Raffi the Borg blood."


"Well, first she doesn't want it. And second, I don't know what it would do in a healthy recipient."


"And third, I might lose you to her."


"Or maybe you two would fall in love." She smiles gently.


"Or maybe all three of us..." He makes the silliest hopeful face he can muster and she laughs and kisses him again, harder this time, clearly ready to get out of impulse and go to warp.


"Shall we retire to the bedroom, my lady?"


"Yes, please." She grabs the wine and slips off his lap, and he follows her into the room, not in the mood to play games or be rough or have her tease him.


He pulls her to him gently, easing off her clothes, then his own, whispering her name over and over as he lies down and pulls her on top of him, already ready for her, moaning at the connection, at the way she feels as she rides him excruciatingly slowly.


They lock eyes, not breaking the gaze until she begins to come and throws her head back, calling out his name. Then he says, "Look at me," and holds her hips, moving her, murmuring her name and "I love you" and "don't leave me, don't ever, ever leave me" as he loses himself in her, thrusting up, crying out.


She collapses on him and he wraps her in his arms, kissing her hair, until he realizes she's sobbing.


"Hey. Hey, did I hurt you?"


"No." She's kissing him and his face is wet from her tears. "I'm sorry. Why is this hitting me now?"


"Maybe because you don't have to be brave anymore, or fight, or be on guard. You're safe, and sometimes safe is the scariest thing of all." He crushes her to him, sensing she needs to be nearly a part of him, and she shudders in his arms as she lets go and cries in a way he's never seen her do.


He wonders if she's crying for more than just this. A lot of things have happened, a lot of burned bridges maybe rebuilt. Her life...given back to her in more ways than one.


She finally lies still and he eases his grip on her. "I love you, Liam."


"I love you too, Seven." He holds her gently until she falls asleep on top of him, until she rolls off him and he pulls the covers down and gets her under them and pulls them up over them both, never waking her.


She turns and cuddles against him, her hair still damp, smelling like the tropical flowers of her shampoo and the lemon of their soap.


"I love you more than anything," he tells her, and then he lets go and falls asleep too.


Continue to Part 3