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 4)

by Djinn





They wander Rome a bit before heading home and falling into bed. Seven's dreams are of Liam, walking away from her, into a very bright light.


She wakes up gasping.


He isn't in bed.


Without consciously thinking about it, she reaches for him with her mind, and then...there.


"I'll be right back," he answers as if she called out to him with her voice. "Just making us coffee." He comes back into the bedroom and hands her a mug.


"Did you sleep?"


"Not much. I've been in my office thinking. And I'm ready. Do Borg Queens sleep? Is there a protocol for calling her?"


"No, but she can wait a little while." She takes a sip of the coffee then puts it on the coaster on the nightstand. "Get back into bed."


"Mmm, yes, ma'am." He puts down his mug and shrugs out of his robe.


"Everything off."


"You're still wearing clothing."


She pulls her nightshirt over her head and slips her panties off, then folds them and sets them on the floor.


With a grin, he pulls off his boxers and t-shirt. "What did you have in mind?"


She lies down and rolls to her side, facing away from him. "Spoon me. Close your eyes."


He does what she says—as least as far as spooning her goes. She has no idea if his eyes are closed or not.


"We're on the ship. Before Picard. You're the captain still. I'm your first officer. Something has happened. A gas, a virus, a drug. Who knows? We are in your bed. Naked. Spooned together this way. You wake. But you do not know if we've had sex."


He doesn't seem to need more than that. He lets his hands roam the way they might if he thought he was waking up with a partner he expected, and she moans quietly and pushes back against him.


He's already ready for her. She loves how he responds to her.


"What the f—Commander?" He tries to pull away but she captures his arm, murmuring, "Mmmm?" as if she is still partially asleep.


His hand is resting on her breast and she turns over in a way guaranteed to make her nipple slide under his hand. Then she lets her eyes widen. "Sir?"


"Commander." He looks conflicted, the old name clearly on his lips but he's unwilling to use it, so she nods. Yes, that is the right thing for this. "Hansen?"


She pulls the covers up a bit. "Did we...?"


He doesn't look away. "I don't know. Can you...are you all right?"


She frowns, as if trying to determine whether she is. "Oh."




"I think... Yeah, I think we did." She leans over to get her nightclothes, letting the covers slip off her, knowing she is giving him an excellent view of her backside.


She hears him take a ragged breath in.


She pulls the covers back over her, starts to ease the shirt on, but he says, "Don't."


"Why not? You can't stand me." She can almost feel the distance that used to be between them, is losing herself in the role enough she feels she'd be able to call up tears at the wasted potential that was them.


"It's...it's the opposite, I'm afraid." He looks away. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have—you can get dressed. If you want."


"If I want? What would you do if I didn't? Tell me how I don't measure up? Put me on report?"


The look he gives her is pure helplessness, and she loves how it makes her feel, loves playing this out, how it might have been if they'd realized what they could have had before it was too late. "I don't want to put you on report."






"What do you want to do then, Captain?" She doesn't look away—back then she had to look away so often, afraid of what she might see if she looked too deep: how little he thought of her.


"If I do it, you'll put me on report." He gives her a wry grin.


She lets the nightshirt fall between them and pulls the covers down slowly, exposing her neck, then breasts and he's following the sheet with his eyes. She's uncovering him, too, as she goes, and the evidence of his desire is clear. She meets his eyes and says, "You want me?"


"So fucking much." The words are less spoken, more said in a desperate exhale. He moves closer. "I know I've been..."


"A dick."


He nods. "I'm sorry. I..." He touches her face, runs his fingers over the implants as if it's the first time he's ever touched them. "I want you so damn bad."


She guides his mouth to her breast, then arches up as he sucks, as he moves to the other breast, as he strokes up and down her body with his hands. As he moves up, hands on her cheeks so she can't get away, kissing her so tenderly—the Seven she was wouldn't have believed this Liam Shaw could exist.


She's ecstatic he does.


She pulls him on top of her, never stopping kissing him, and he's inside her, moaning, fucking her so slowly it's damn near torture. He lets go of her, easing away to watch as he disappears inside her and then comes partially out, in and out.


She reaches between them and he says, "Yes, I want to watch you touch yourself."


"I think of you when I do." Would she have given him that back then? She's not sure, but it was true—she did think of him she was alone in her bed.


"I think of you too."


It's too much, the way he's looking at her, the way she can feel the past so close to their present, the love that was always there even if neither of them knew it.


"I love you, Seven. I've loved you for so long." He pushes her hand aside, takes over touching her.


And she's gone, clawing at the sheets, thrusting up into him and he goes faster, taking his own pleasure as he says, in the vicious voice of those days, "Say it back, damn it."


"I love you, Liam."


And he's gone, saying her name, over and over. The name she had to wait until he was dying to hear.


And then he collapses on her and she wraps her legs around him so he can't get away. "Thank you. I don't know why I needed that, but I did."


"I will always give you what you need." He strokes her hair off her face. "And I liked it. It felt like..."




"Yes. Exactly." He studies her, his eyes so gentle, his smile unworried. "I've worked my whole life for where I am, and some of it was pure hell, but I'd give it all up for you."


"I understand. You will always come first for me too."


He rolls off her after giving her a sweet kiss and sits up, drinking his coffee as he seems lost in thought.


She's content to roll on her side and watch him. When he finally comes back to her, she puts her hand on his leg and asks, "Do you want me in the room with you when you contact her?"




She swallows hard. That role playing won't be anywhere near as fun as this was.


In fact, it may not be role playing at all. She remembers what Vadic said to him, about his Starfleet psych profile.


She can't deny she's afraid of where he might take them.


But she'll support him. She'll play the role he needs her to. No matter where it leads.




He makes sure Seven will be on screen but not the focus when they're talking to the Queen and then he punches in the comm codes they were given as the Queen's reps. He gets a Jurati he doesn't recognize. "I need to speak to the Queen."


"Of course, Two of Two."


Well, that's disturbing. He thought that was just a pet name the Queen used for him, not that the other members of her collective would call him that.


A moment later, the Queen appears on the screen. She gives him what for her is probably a warm smile. "Two of Two." She turns to Seven. "One of Two."


Seven doesn't correct her and he's glad. They need the Queen to think of them as a collective, her collective.


He doesn't waste time with pleasantries. "You've thrown a huge monkey wrench into our plans."


"We are aware."


"Seven belongs on the ship."


"Then join her there."


"That isn't how Starfleet works. Admirals don't work on ships except under very special circumstances. Moreover, if our lives are in danger by virtue of simply being physically separated, we could put others at risk too. Starfleet might consider her a liability in that role and move her. All the work she has done to get where she is, all the time waiting to even be accepted by Starfleet much less appreciated and promoted, will be for nothing."


He can't tell if he's getting through, the Queen looks as calm as a glassy lake.


She studies him and then gives him a minuscule smile. "You are impassioned and highly intelligent. Make the case for you being with her."


"I can't. Because then I'll lose. If they put me on that ship, they'll bust me down to captain or possibly commander. I've worked my ass off to get from enlisted to a fucking admiral. Fought my way back from"—he swallows in a way that is as obvious as he can make it—"it can't be for nothing."


"We regret this choice is difficult."


"Difficult? It's horrible. Seven's more than earned being a captain. And yet she's getting her reassignment request papers ready. For me—she'll give up the mother-fucking Enterprise for me. Because she has no choice. It's been taken from her. By you."


"Starfleet could be made to see reason. If you were convincing enough."


"You don't know that." He allows panic into his voice. "Do you?"


He finally sees uncertainty underneath the veneer of serenity.


"I can't allow her to have everything taken away from her. Not when I could stop it."


"You cannot stop it. If you are separated, you will die."


"Yeah, I got that message. But now, I need to know about some other options."


He can feel Seven stiffen beside him, senses her turning to look at him, and sees the Queen glance at her when she does.


Her voice is less assured. "You have only the two options: join One of Two on her ship or she stays with you on Earth."


"As I said, those don't work for us. She loves me too much to ask me to go backwards and I love her too much to let her give up her destiny."


He sees something cross the Jurati Queen's face. She doesn't expect them to want more than this? "What other options are there?"


"What if I went into stasis?"


"For how long?"


"Well, obviously the whole voyage—there are centers on Earth for this purpose. We'd have to figure out the relationship when it was done. If she even wanted me by then, which honestly she might not." He glances at Seven and she looks down. "She might get lonely. Raffi might look mighty enticing."


"Stop it," Seven says, clenching her hands, and he's not sure if she's acting or not.


He's not sure if he is either when it comes to this.


"You would have to be in stasis on her ship. Even in hibernation, she would know you were still alive, just not near her. And the distance would, as we've discussed—"


"Yeah, we know. Kill us. But on her ship? Starfleet isn't going to allow that. You think they're going to dedicate resources to keep me alive, to have people check on me after every skirmish. To worry if their captain has her mind in the game or is distracted by her sleeping lover? It would have to be on Earth."


"Unworkable." She sounds angry.


And he believes he knows enough now to talk about the unthinkable. He mentally apologizes to Seven before asking, "What if I wasn't alive? What if I was dead?"


The Queen stares at him without comment. Seven shifts in her chair and murmurs, "Liam. Stop."


"I mean I should have died, right? Should have stayed dead—would have without Seven's and ultimately your nanoprobes. I'm living on time that was never mine to begin with." He pauses, stares unrelentingly into the Queen's eyes. "So long as I'm in near enough proximity of Seven when I end things, she would be fine, right? She could go on with her life, live her first, best destiny."


"Liam, stop."


"Her best destiny is with you, Two of Two."


"Not when it hurts one of us and what we've worked for."


"But you are in love."


"We are. I've never, ever felt this way. I actually am looking forward to how this connection you've given us will develop. But...well, sometimes love is sacrifice."


For a moment he thinks he's won, but then she leans back, her eyes narrowing. "You would not do this. The human compulsion is for survival. It is why assimilation of your species has failed."


He sighs. He saw this as a possibility—that she wouldn't take his threat at face value—but he hoped she would. "I want to show you something." He hits a key, sends the file he uploaded earlier, before Seven woke, directly to her.


He remembers the darkness after Wolf 359, the confusion, the overwhelming guilt that he was alive when others weren't.


Eleven thousand others.


The Queen is looking down, reading quickly. His psych profile. PTSD. Survivor's guilt. Fits of anger, aggression. Insubordination. Failure to follow basic regs. Depression. Anxiety. And...


Attempted suicide. He can tell when she reaches that part by the way she flinches.


"I did that out of pain. Imagine what I would do out of love." He looks at Seven. "I failed when I tried then. I think I knew there would be you. That it would all be okay once I met you. And it is. It is. This wouldn't be that. I don't want to go. I don't want to leave you."


She touches his face, and he can tell she doesn't know if he is bluffing. "Don't do this."


"He will not as we will not answer his question." There is suppressed panic in the Queen's voice.


He gives in to the frustration filling him and yells, "You have to! Even if we weren't talking of me doing anything on purpose, we deserve to know the risks of what you've done to us: if one of us dies while in proximity to the other, will the other also die? If I get hit by a flitter crossing the street, will she die? How the fuck can we plan if we don't know? What kind of leader are you if you won't take care of your people—won't keep them safe?"


"We will not answer this question." She is shaking her head, appears more agitated than at any time in the conversation.


He takes a chance that he's right. "Which means...we don't die in that case or you'd answer. For our safety, to reduce risk-taking behavior on our parts, you would answer. But it's clear why you won't." He looks at Seven.


"One dies, the other goes on." She stares at him and then whispers, "Alone." She looks at the Queen. "I do not wish to live alone. Your have given me this and now you'll just watch him die..." She shakes her head. "I'll go too." She looks down and murmurs, "I'll go too" over and over again.


The Queen actually leans forward, touching the screen in a distressed way. "Do not take this step."


"Why the fuck not?" His voice is angry because he's pissed at what he's doing to Seven. She's not acting. He can feel it in the deepest part of him. "What choice are you leaving us?"


"Do not take this step, Two of Two—One of Two, do not. I will consider solutions."


"You mean that?"


She nods. And he realizes she looks extraordinarily shaken. Did Agnes ever consider ending it? Is that pain she once felt seeping up into both of them?


He takes Seven's hands and realizes hers are shaking as badly as his are. "Can we trust her?"


"I don't know."


"You can," the Queen says. "Do not do anything. We will find a solution." She cuts the connection.


Seven doesn't let go of him. "That was an act, right? You wouldn't?"


"I might throw myself in front of a blaster for you, but I wouldn't leave you like that. We still have solutions—they're just not ones we like. I needed her to feel it though."


"I think she did."


"Was it right? To make anyone feel that?"


"I don't know." She tries to let go and he resists. "I know I didn't enjoy reliv—feeling it."


"Seven, did you ever consider it?"


She doesn't answer.


"Baby?" He's found she can't resist that name, not when he says it with the care he feels for her, the tenderness she brings out in him.


She meets his eyes and nods.


"After Icheb?"


Her expression is haunted. "When I couldn't find his murderer. I looked and looked, but she was in the wind. Or worse, it was like she'd never existed. All traces wiped. I...I was drunk one night. I was going to do it but I passed out. I was in a bar and someone stole my gun. I...I was pissed and I went and found the thief. I killed them instead of me. And I buried Icheb's memory in my heart and resolved to wait, as long as it took to find her. That was my whole life plan. Revenge."


"I'm so sorry."


"Picard gave me something else to live for, after I found her and killed her. Raffi did, too, but it was him first, including me, needing my help. Feeling a part of something again. I know you questioned how I could side with him. But that's why."


And something he didn't realize was still bothering him—her loyalty to Picard and why—finally settles down, finally gives up and says: "This is right—let it go."


"I've never told anyone about that, Liam. Not Raffi. Not even the Starfleet shrinks. Only you."


"I'll protect your secret." He pulls her into a gentle hug. "I wish you didn't know what this much pain felt like."


"I wish you didn't either. But we wouldn't understand each other so well if we didn't."


He imagines she is absolutely correct.




Seven is cuddled on the couch with Liam when "Janeway to Shaw" sounds.


He reaches over for his communicator. "Shaw here."


"Sorry to bother you on your day off, but I just got a message from the Jurati Queen's staff. She wants to have a call with us tomorrow morning around seven."


"All of us?" Seven asks, a note of hope in her voice, smiling when she sees him grin and cross his fingers on both hands.


"Yes. She said it was urgent."


"Roger that, Admiral." He sounds more than a little smug and she hopes Janeway won't notice.


"See you then. Enjoy your day. Janeway out."


He just stares at the communicator and she puts her arms around him and whispers, "Do you think we're going to be on that ship together?"


She won't say the name, doesn't want to jinx it. But it's what she wants and it's taken her watching what he was willing to do—how deep he was willing to go to keep her in the big chair—for her to realize just how much she wants it.


But still, if it doesn't work, she'll take an Earth position and enjoy exploring her birth planet with him in a way she's never felt comfortable doing before.


He turns and buries his head in her neck. "I hope so. I don't know how in the fuck she's going to do it, but I really hope so."


She strokes his back. "I'm so antsy. Let's go somewhere. I've hardly spent time on Earth. Is there someplace you haven't been that you want to go?"


"Yeah, there is. Dress for walking. And layer for weather like here."


They change and are out the door quickly, the walk short to the transporter station. The line is long but he takes her hand and does a retina scan to bypass the line. She doesn't hate his transporter privileges.


"Antigua Guatemala," he tells the operator and a moment later they are stepping off the pad into a beautiful square with fountains and trees, surrounded by buildings that seem to be frozen in time. She sees mountains in the distance, tall and gorgeous.


"Those are volcanos."


"Are they going to erupt?"


"Hope to fuck not." He laughs at her expression. "No. At least I don't think so. We'll have plenty of warning."


"We won't be buried here like Pompeii? Imagine what archeologists would make of my implants?"


"A ceremonial modification of some kind." He smiles and pulls her close enough to kiss her. "The street food is supposed to be amazing."


"Well, we do live to eat." She rests her head against his shoulder as he gets the lay of the land, his arm draped easily around her. She can already feel herself relaxing, the sound of the fountain, the laughter of children, people hawking souvenirs—just being with him as he leads them off to the first cart, as they eat some kind of stuffed pepper that is delicious.


They finish at an ice cream shop with crazy flavors. "You trust me?" Liam asks her with the look that he usually wears when he's talking about blue steak.


"Most of the time."


"Way to hedge." He points to one that's brown. Chocolate probably. The proprietor makes two cones and they walk into the plaza to enjoy them, sitting under some trees, watching kids play football.


She licks the ice cream—it's not chocolate. She's not sure what it is but it's delicious. "So spill."




"Mmm, I think I taste dates."


"Yes, you do." He closes his eyes as he finishes his. "The other flavors?"


"No idea."


"Tobacco and aged Guatemalan dark rum."


"That sounds so wrong. Also, we must find this rum."


He nods as he crunches his cone. "I really want the queen to get us both on that ship..."




"But I could see days like this, exploring, just having fun. It wouldn't be the end of the world. Far from it."


"I agree. But it's not my first choice. You've made me realize that."


He makes a face. "You knew that."


"I resigned as I was being promoted, remember? I wasn't sure I belonged much less with my own ship."


He starts to laugh.




"I was standing at the door to the ready room, when the evacuation door opened, when you yelled at Vadic before she was blown out."




He laughs harder. "You don't remember what you said?"


"Get off the bridge."


"No, you said, 'Get off my bridge.'"


"I did?"


"You did. You were kind enough to say it was my ship when you gave it back to me. I remember that because it was so striking, the ownership and then the return. It's your ship, Seven."


She smiles, considering that moment. When she finishes her cone, he stands and holds out his hand and they explore, museums and shops, churches and little hidden streets. When they are finally winding down, they go back to the ice cream shop and ask him where to get the rum he used in their cones. He points them to a small shop on the way back to the transporter station.


Cradling the bottle as they leave the shop, Liam asks, "Ready to head home?"


"Yes. Thank you for today."


"Thank you for being my date."


"We're linked, remember."


"You always have a choice, Seven. I will never forget that. And if I do, you have my permission to give me a rash of shit over taking you for granted."


"You know I will." She laughs, pulling him down to her, their kiss quick but sweet. "I like it here."


"I do too. I like the idea of discovering new places with you. Here or on some other world. It's a win for me either way."


"Same." And she realizes that whatever the Queen does or doesn't do, she and Liam truly can build an amazing life together wherever they happen to land.




Shaw and Seven walk down the corridor to Janeway's office. He feels great, at peace with whatever happens. He's with the woman he loves and he's done his best to get her where she needs to be. But if that fails, they'll prosper here. It's a big planet and she's seen so little of it. It's a joy to show it to her.


Marjorie tells them to go on in. Paris is sitting in a corner, out of sight of the big comm screen and where he could easily leave the room if Janeway needed him to get something or someone. He nods to them and points to chairs at the table.


Janeway leaves her desk and sits at the head of the table. "What do I need to know? There's always something when she wants you two involved."


He details the issue as succinctly as he can and she looks at him like he's her worst nightmare.


"We're sorry we didn't tell you sooner," Seven says into the silence.


"He's not." She's not wrong and he doesn't apologize. He meets her eyes and she finally shakes her head and says, "You picked one who can play the damn game, Seven, that's for sure."


Marjorie appears at the door. "Ma'am, the queen is on the comm."


"Patch her through to the wall terminal." She turns to look at the big screen as the Jurati Queen fills it. "It's a pleasure to see you again so soon."


"We have felt the pain of our children."


"I beg your pardon?"


He has to hold back laughter—he's not the only one who can play the damn game.


The Queen looks at him, then at Seven. "We can see by their expressions that they have pre-briefed you, Admiral. Please don't waste our time."


"My apologies." She doesn't sound at all apologetic. "Quite the conundrum you left them with."


"Indeed. We foresee difficulties convincing you that Admiral Shaw should be on Captain Seven of Nine's ship."


"Smart cookie."


"We would like to incentivize his assignment there."


"Could you be more specific?"


"We offer the infusion of Jurati technology."


"With all due respect, Starfleet already has deployed many Borg upgrades to our systems. My ship had a lot to do with bringing that tech home from the Delta Quadrant." She could not sound more "Been there, done that, got the t'shirt" if she tried—Shaw admires her style.


"With all due respect to you, Admiral, we are not offering classic Borg technology. We are offering the technology we have created over four hundred years, devised by individuals who were allowed to be innovative, to work with others in their fields within our collective—and outside of it—on a cooperative basis to create systems you have never seen the like of."


Shaw has to work to keep his mouth from falling open. He and Seven are worth this much to the Queen?


"I see. And you'll just give us those?"


"As a gesture of thanks for being brought in as full members. We are aware the timetable was accelerated. But we do have a condition: the tech must be deployed as a test case, it must be on the Enterprise, and Admiral Shaw must head the project on the ship."


"You want him to be chief engineer of the Enterprise?"


"No, that would be a waste of his talents. We would expect he would be the right individual to judge how best to meld this tech with that ship. We assure you, he will be too busy planning and testing to attend to routine maintenance."


"We have other engineers who would be eager to serve in this role."


"Unacceptable. It is him or no one."


"I see. How do we know you even have the tech?"


"We have just sent you a summary of the various technologies. If you wish to have other engineers look it over, we understand. But we will only deal with Admiral Shaw once we are in agreement."


"One second, let me see—" Janeway's mouth does fall open. "This is a considerable upgrade. The time it would take to incorporate all of this..."


"Is considerable. We imagine the Admiral might need a staff of his own on the ship."




"Please let us know how you wish to proceed." The connection goes dead.


"Well, my, my." She does something and Paris looks down at his padd.


"Holy..." He does something and a moment later "Torres to Janeway" sounds.


"Quite the haul, isn't it? We would have killed for this in our Voyager days, B'Elanna."


"We killed for less."


Shaw tries not to let any dismay show. He's so glad he was not on that ship.


"Is Shaw there?"


"Right here, Admiral."


"You can't say no to this. Just in case there was any doubt. You will be on that ship. And you'll report to me."


"Uh, okay, if you think that's the best use of my talents."


His padd beeps and he looks at the information the Queen sent. "Holy fucking shit."


"Your language is atrocious."


"He grows on you, B'Elanna," Seven says with a smile.


"If you say so, Seven. Excuse me while I read this all the way through and salivate. Shaw, I want a plan for implementation and a staffing request by day's end. Torres out."


He looks at Seven. "Sorry, honey. Guess your boyfriend-free jaunt is kaput."


"Well, it's a big ship." She's trying to hide her smile but he thinks only he can tell.


"Oh you two are so obvious." Janeway leans back in her chair. "I'm surprised she would be so... generous."


"We may have foretold a compellingly dark future for us if she didn't help. Anything to keep her experiment going, I guess."


"I guess so," Janeway says, looking at her padd again. "You'll be a busy half of her experiment."


"I think you're all missing the point," Paris says softly.


"Enlighten us. Tom."


"There are two ways to add to a society: by force or by the free will of those joining. The original Borg chose the first method, but the Jurati have followed the second. Which means they need to tempt new members. And perhaps affiliates, such as Shaw and Seven. I don't think they're an experiment, I think they're prototypes."


Janeway frowns. "I'm not sure prototype is preferable to experiment."


"I don't know. Let's see how strong that bond grows. I imagine there are any number of people that might want that level of connection to each other even if they didn't want to commit fully to the collective—or be romantically involved. It gives the Jurati access to more knowledge, footholds into societies that might otherwise reject their overtures if they don't have to physically join with the collective to benefit from an alliance. These two are, well, brand ambassadors."


"The last of the great romantics." Janeway rolls her eyes and turns back to Shaw. "I know you said you asked for her help—or steamrolled it out of her, whichever. But this is right up your alley. As the Queen must have known it would be. Who would care more about improving a ship's defensive capabilities, sensor range, targeting and tactical systems than you, Liam? The Admiral with the best safety rating in the Fleet?" She leans back in her chair and smiles.


"That's true. I do like this."


"And you'll be independent and not writing Seven's review, so you can continue your relationship without a conflict of interest." Paris makes a face at Janeway. "Romantic enough for you?"


"You have your moments." She looks at Seven. "You're being very quiet."


"I'm just happy."


"Good. While he's getting his project prospectus and staff request ready for B'Elanna, I guess you'll be figuring out a space plan for how to house them. There's only so much room on that ship." She lifts an eyebrow.


Seven laughs. "I suppose you want it by end of day?"


"That I do."


"On it."


"Dismissed, you two."


As they head for his office, he can't hide his smile—a big goofy smile. "That fucking worked."


She leans in, the way she used to on the ship when she was telling him something close hold. "I want to fuck you so much right now."


"I think I have a half hour free. Unless Naima scheduled something. Can you be very, very quiet while we be quick?"


"I can."


He walks into his anteroom and stops at Naima's desk. "Anything on my calendar for the next half hour?"


"No, sir, it's still free."


"Keep it that way, okay. We'll uh, we'll be in a meeting."


Naima makes the sort of choking noise that usually means a suppressed laugh. "Yes, sir."


Seven heads into his office but Shaw stays at the desk. "A while ago you said you'd never be on a ship. Would you like to be?"


"Sir?" He looks confused. "Oh, you're asking seriously?"




"Who the hell needs an admin assistant on a ship?"


"That's not a yes."


"Fine, yes, I do. I'd kill for a spot on any ship, even a trash barge."


"I've got way better than that to offer you. No promises yet. But...odds are really good."


"Wait, you're going to be on a ship?"


He points to his office and mouths, "On her ship."


"Oh my God," Naima mouths back. "The mother-fucking Enterprise?"


Shaw nods and does some stupid "I'm so happy" miming.


"Yes. Count me in. Please. Now, go. Don't keep her waiting. I will definitely hold all your calls, sir."


"Good man."


He closes the door and grins at her.


"You were recruiting while I was waiting to have sex with you?"


"I know. My priorities are seriously fucked up."


"Mmm, I don't know about that. Now please, Admiral, fuck me like you mean it."


He undoes her pants and pushes them and her underwear off then lifts her onto his desk. "Thank you for trusting me."


She waits until he gets his own clothes undone and then wraps her legs around him, pulling him into her. "We are going to get to do this all over my ship, Liam."


"Well there should be some boundaries. Not on other people's desks." He thrusts hard and she moans softly. "Not in the mess. Not in a shuttlecraft unless you're damned sure you've got the tinting turned up all the way on the windows."


She laughs. "You can make a list. Have it to me by the end of the day."


"Yeah, right. I'll tell you later, at home, when we go over all the places we've ever thought about doing it when we were on the ship the first time and too stupid to realize we both wanted each other."


She kisses him deeply. "Acceptable."






Shaw lies in bed, trying not to toss and turn since Seven is sleeping so peacefully.


The plans are done and submitted, they worked through the evening, bringing in Raffi and the recently named chief engineer Commander Takahashi—the woman he would have been kicking back down the ladder if he'd gone for that option, a woman he respects deeply—to collaborate on timetables and staffing needs, space plans and security issues.


Janeway told them not to share the fact that distance apart could kill them. The official story is Liam knows the ship better than anyone so he's the right one to guide this project. Somehow she and Paris have made their proximity restriction a thing not just close hold but classified. Ohk and Raffi were read in but no one else was. It's a weakness enemies could exploit and Janeway doesn't want that.


He asked Naima to attend the meeting to let them know if they were forgetting anything admin or support related. The Simkins somehow captured all of it as the five of them brainstormed what they needed—the boys had ideas of their own too, which Seven and he both encouraged them to voice.


It was a good meeting. They accomplished what they needed to. Their problem is fucking solved. And he is fucking exhausted.


So why can't he sleep?


He gets up carefully so he doesn't wake Seven and goes out to the balcony, staring out at the city lights, letting his feelings wash over him as he tries to figure out which one it is that's keeping him up.


He feels slightly sick to his stomach. The way he did every time he treated Seven like an enemy on their ship. Every time he called her "Hansen" and saw the name go through her like a punch to the gut.


He knows what this is.




Checking to make sure Seven is still asleep, he goes into his office and closes the door, then sits at his terminal and punches in the code for the Jurati.


The Queen answers herself this time. "Two of Two." Her voice is soft, welcoming. "You need more from us so soon?"


He swallows hard. "No. I—I want to make sure you're okay."


"Why would we not be?" She is staring at him intently.


"Because I took us to a dark place. I..." He can't finish—is ashamed to finish.


"You played us."


He looks down.


"You played us for her. Out of love."


"I'm sorry," he whispers. "If the Agnes part of you ever went through that and had to revisit—I'm so sorry." He knows his eyes are tearing up but he looks at her, so she can how much he regrets this too.


"Pretty soft inside, Mister." The voice is different, single not the echoing sound of two. Her smile is radiant, almost letting him see the lovely young woman she was underneath the Queen she has become. "It's just me for the moment."


"I'm sorry."


"I know. And I had been there. But I'm not now. None of those we take in will ever be that alone again."


"You erase it?"


"They have the choice. Deal with it in an environment of support and love. Or leave it behind and become something new. We never know what choice they will make. I chose both obviously."


"I maybe buried mine. Work and forward progress were everything, keeping people safe became an obsession, but it never left me. And when Vadic..." He closes his eyes for a moment, hearing that hated voice, the mocking sympathy, how she knew his pain and hated him for feeling it instead of hating the pain for once overwhelming him.


"We do not think you have buried it any longer. It is part of you, accepted. You are a good man, Liam Shaw."


"I want to be. Seven makes me better."


"As you make her better. And, for whatever it's worth, we intended to share the tech with the Federation eventually."


He feels a huge surge of relief. "Doesn't make what I did right though." He brushes his eyes angrily.


"We know." She leans in, touching the screen as if outlining his face and then leans back. And just like that she is the Queen again. "We thought Two of Two would find what she needed with Raffi. It was Raffi's pleas that moved us. Her emptiness calling to ours. But they did not last. Just as the love she who was Agnes experienced never lasted." She seems to be listening to something inside herself. "All right, to be fair, one of them might have endured if she had not killed her lover."


He lifts an eyebrow.


"Against her will, under an order from a mind meld."


"Oh. Yeah, Seven told me about that."


"Do you wish to thank us?"


"Yes, I do. What you've given us—not just Seven and me, but the whole Federation—will save countless lives."


"We know. We find that an optimal outcome for our new extended collective." She goes quiet, watching him with infinite patience.


He isn't sure what she wants him to say.


"What have you learned through all this, Two of Two?" Again her voice is infinitely gentle. "It is there. Dig deep."


He thinks to what Seven had them do in bed, the intimacy that never was. The...forgiveness, the grace. "If I had just once done what I'm doing with you right now with Seven when she first came to my ship, it might have changed everything. If I'd just asked her if she was all right after dealing with me at my most manipulative..."


"But you did not. And she loved you anyway. And you loved her. We felt it the moment your blood merged. We knew that you would both do anything for the other. We did not make you that way. But it is why we helped you remain in the between state when you died."


"We know that now, that what we feel isn't forced on us. But the time we lost, time we'll never get back..."


"That is time that was never yours to begin with." She seems to lose focus, then is back. "We must go. We are approaching a new world. We hope to learn much, to share much, to find new children."


"I'll let you get back to it, then. You don't need me crying in my beer to you."


"We are always here for you, Two of Two. We are here for One of Two also, but she will never trust us this way."


"Can you blame her? She knew an alternate you who wasn't so nice."


"We do not blame her. We only love her. We want the best for her."


"Instead she got me." He laughs at his joke then looks down, unsure if he should have.


"It is all right to hide such strong emotions in humor. We do not mind."




Seven is feeling great as she walks to the VOQ, to the quarters that still serve as her office. She stops at the dining room and gets a selection of donuts for whoever's in the room.


When she opens the door, she sees Tai and Miyo working at the table and Raffi standing at the window looking out.


"I brought donuts."


Raffi doesn't turn around but she does say in a tone that sounds more Klingon than Human, "Boys, give us the room. Take the donuts. I don't want one."


"I do," Seven says, grabbing an old fashioned to go with her coffee and a chocolate one because that's Raffi's favorite and she will want one eventually.


The boys are waiting, looking to her for confirmation, and she loves their loyalty. She nods as she passes them the plate, and they file out, discussing which donut to eat first.


"Let me get my coffee." She goes to the pot they installed in the room some time ago, a pot that would make enough for all of them without running out too fast.


Raffi hasn't turned.


Seven sits at the table and takes a bite of her donut, enjoying the hit of sugar, the immediate counterpoint of the bitter as she washes it down with coffee.


"Were you going to ever tell me?"


"I'm not having this discussion with your back, Raff." She pushes the chocolate donut toward the middle of the table, so Raffi can reach it from whatever chair she chooses. Is there some Klingon protocol for maximum advantage at conference tables?


Raffi finally turns and sees the donut and a smile threatens. Seven can tell it pisses her off that she's about to smile so she doesn't say anything, just keeps eating her donut.


Raffi finally takes the seat next to her and pulls the donut toward her. "Fuck you for knowing my preferences."


"I know. I'm a total bitch for that." She finishes the donut and wipes her hands on the napkin. "Was I ever going to tell you what?"


"That you two are so linked you could die if you get too far away from each other?" She bites into the donut. "Also that explains what a raging bitch you were on Luna."


"Raging? Really? I was cranky."


"You were beyond cranky."


"I didn't know that there was a reason. I really do dislike training classes. I thought it was just that." She hates to add this but she thinks she has to. "And I was missing him. You weren't wrong that it was our first time apart and I was a little adrift."


"Well now you have him on your ship. And I can't even complain about it because if this tech does even half of what it seems like it will, it'll be amazing."


She wants to touch her, to put her hand over hers, but is afraid it might mean too much. "I'm sorry."


Raffi shakes her head and goes back to eating her donut.


"You never gave up, did you? On me, I mean? On us?"


"I thought once we were out there, away from him, from whatever magic spell he had you under, that you'd remember what we had, how good we were." She laughs and it's a bitter, ugly sound. "I thought you'd wake the fuck up."


"I am awake." She's more awake than she's been in a long time. And that's not Raffi's fault.


To the outside observer, they probably should have worked. Both damaged in their own ways. Both lonely.


But there was nothing to ground them once they didn't work. Not even their trauma. Raffi's stems from self-destructiveness, from fear, from not feeling good enough.


Seven's from outside forces, starting with her parents, inflicting trauma on her. She could have avoided that perhaps if they'd just let her stay on Earth. But she'll never know.


And she craves family. She had one with the Borg, dysfunctional as it was. She's been trying to build another one since she became comfortable on Voyager, but they keep getting ripped away from her. Raffi had a family and lost them through her own actions. She wasn't thrown away; she didn't lose her son to death, but to her own desires. She walked away to things that called her more deeply: drugs, alcohol.


Seven doesn't judge her for that; she loves her too much. But she can look at this rationally. She can see that her need for family and Raffi's lack of that wasn't a good match. That now, with Liam, with Kathryn back in her corner, with Jack as whatever he'll turn out to be to her, with the ship and even with this new collective, she finally has what she's wanted all along.


She finally belongs. She finally can build something. She can finally let Icheb go with love and live the way he would have wanted her to. He only ever loved her for her. He would have hated how she gave up on life, on happiness.


"I chose you as my first officer. Someone without our history might have been a better choice, but I trust you, Raffi. I'm in awe of what you and Worf accomplished. I want you at my back when shit gets real."


"Not Liam?"


She laughs softly. "He's not exactly a warrior. He fought a changeling and ended up in a turbo lift beat to shit. He died in a shootout at—well, you were there."


"He kept looking back when people were shooting at his front. Stupid."


"Maybe you could train him? Make him smarter about how he takes on threats?"


"Why? Is he going to be on away teams?"


"No, but for me. So I don't worry that someone will try to take him. It's why they classified the fact that..."


Raffi's look softens. "If training him keeps you alive, then yes. Can I make it mandatory? Boss him around some?"


"Whatever works." She does reach out, does lay her hand on Raffi's. "I trust you."


"It's a good thing I like him when I'm not resenting the hell out of him."


"Yeah, it is."


Raffi gets up and walks to the door, opening it enough to ask the boys, "Did you eat all the donuts?"


"No, that would be rude."


"But you wanted to?"


"We did."


She grabs one donut—a maple bar—and says, "The rest are yours."


"Do you still need the room?"


"Yeah, go eat them outside in the garden. Get some fresh air." She closes the door. "We can split this one." She pulls a knife out from—somewhere and cuts it neatly in half.


"Should you really use a knife that nice on sticky baked goods?"


"I can use it on whatever the hell I want." But she does take it to the kitchen to wash off and comes back drying it with a towel. "So if we're really, really done. What do you think of Takahashi?"


"She was flirting with you so damn hard."


"Right? I thought at first I was imagining it."


"No, she's into you."


They eat in silence for a bit.


"She's super cute," Seven says, going to refill their coffee.


"Yeah, I sort of have a thing for blondes though." She smiles gently at Seven as she sets her cup down. "Guess I need to get over that, huh?"


"Or just find a different blonde."


"Don't be logical. I was being all wistful and cute."


"I know." She kisses her on the forehead. "I do love you. Forever and always. You are my friend. And you are my partner in running the ship. And we are going to have many adventures together."


"Same. A girl could get a worse deal."






Seven walks into the apartment and finds Shaw, still in uniform instead of his sweats and t-shirt waiting for her at the door. "You felt me coming?"


"No, I set an alarm for when you palmed into the main door."


She finds that reassuring. She is not ready for them to be quite that linked. "And why did you do that?"


"Because I'm in the mood for fun and games. But if you're not, just say so."


She pulls him to her and kisses him, deeply, lovingly, then slaps him on the ass. "I'm not saying no, but I'm starving."


"I may have been counting on that. Indulge me?"


He so rarely asks her that, so she nods and follows him into the dining room where four plates all with chafing dishes over them sit on a stasis board.


"And if I'd said no?"


"We'd have just eaten dinner. I always plan for no. God knows I've said the word to you enough times."


She grins and says, "Yes to fun and games." She looks at the windows, can tell he's set them for max privacy. "So we're doing this here?"


He nods as he eases her out of the way and then lays a huge towel out on the floor—she grins because they both hate sticky food spills—and sets two of the chairs on top of it with their backs facing her. He has her stand between them, holding on to the top of each chair, giving him full access to her front and back.


"Can I speak during this?"


"Oh yes."


"Can I move?"


"Only when I say so. And I want a promise from you. No rubbing against any part of yourself or me to get yourself off if you get frustrated. You don't come until I want you to."


She narrows her eyes, looking at the chafing dishes with more suspicion. "Liam."


"Every single thing on this table is delicious and you already do love it or I know you will love it. And you will eat it if I say so."


"And if I don't."


"Then the game ends and I guess if you're feeling unfulfilled, you'll just have to go take care of that all by your lonesome somewhere I can't see."


"If there is blue steak under one of those dishes..."


He is grinning. "Do you agree to my terms?"


"I have a feeling I'll be in the bedroom taking care of myself. But yes."


"Do you promise to follow my directions? Do you trust me not to hurt you?"


"Yes, damn you."


"You are not the most submissive sub, I have to say that."


"I know you. That's why."


He laughs and moves to her front. "Do not let go of those chairs. If you feel like you might fall, you tell me. Understand? If it's too much?"


"I will."


"Close your eyes."


She does and feels him moving against her, his lips on her cheek, then kissing over her brow implant, then down her nose, finally to her lips. They kiss a long time, and he supports her, keeping her steady.


He lifts one of the chafing dishes and she sees tropical fruit, chopped small. "Since that was an amazing kiss and your stomach is growling, I am going to let you eat a little." He brings the bowl over and uses a toothpick to spear a piece of mango.


It is the perfect ripeness and she smiles. He feeds her a piece of pineapple, more mango, and then papaya. Then he goes to the table and lifts another dish. Satay, with peanut sauce and he carries over a skewer and the dish of sauce, dipping the chicken in and feeding it to her then eating some himself.


"I love this."


"Me too." When the skewer is clean, he puts his finger in the sauce and holds it out to her. "Suck it off and look at me when you do it."


She pulls his finger into her mouth, enjoying the tanginess of the sauce as she does her best to turn him on with the way she is sucking.


"Fuck me, Seven."


"Is that a command?" She laughs because she knows it's not.


"Smart ass." He moves around to her back. "Just for that I think you do not need to be so fully clothed." He reaches around her, undoing her pants, pulling them and her underwear all the way off. "Step out of them."


She does and he moves them out of the way. Then he stands behind her and doesn't touch her.


She starts to look back, and he says, "Nope. Stay still."


She moans, and it's not planned. The feel of him behind her, watching her, and then...his hand on her waist makes her knees buckle but he has her.


"Baby, you like this. I love that you like this." He reaches around and begins to rub, the way she can't resist, the way that always gets her off quickly.


She can feel the orgasm starting and then he stops and says, "Not just yet."


He goes to the next dish, and lifts it. It's caramel pork, a dish she thought she'd hate but instead loves. But he had to coax her to try it.


He brings the plate over and holds a piece out to her but says, "Don't take it. It's mine."


She can smell the spices, the sweet savoriness of it. Her stomachs grumbles and she whispers, "Please?"


"You didn't even want to try this." He pops the piece into his mouth and chews, groaning in exaggerated pleasure.


"I was wrong."


"Yes, you were." He holds out another piece and says, "Wait." Then he runs it over her lips and finally says, "Eat."


She almost bites his finger as she takes it


He laughs. "Did I forget to say no biting?"


"You did."


"Well, shame on me." He pulls her to him and kisses her quickly. "I love you. No fucking biting."


"Fine. Be that way." There is one dish left and she says, "Also, fuck you, Liam."


He moves around to her back, begins to stroke her again. Getting her closer and closer and then stopping. Kissing her neck as she comes down, reaching under her shirt to rub over her bra, then going back down, getting her hot.


Over and over, so close.


"Baby, I want to let you come. I want to hear you calling out. But..."


"Fuck you, Liam.'


He goes to the last dish and pulls the lid off. The blue steak. With the sauce he likes on the side. It is not cut but a knife and fork are ready on the plate.


"Fuck, fuck, fuck." She is about to let go of the chair, to finish herself off before he can make her do this, but he says, "Nope. You promised. Stand the fuck still. Or let go and leave and do that somewhere else." He's watching her with a strange look. Like this means more than just fun and games to him.


"I hate you." But she grabs the chairs tightly and closes her eyes. "Just make it fast. And a tiny piece. Minuscule. A nano-piece."


She can hear him cutting, and then the swish of the meat through the sauce.


"Just smell it first." He holds it under her noise and she's sure she's going to gag.


Wait. That smells...like barely anything. It may not be good but surely it can't be bad.


"This meat is so subtle."


She opens her mouth before he tells her to, pulls the piece off the fork and he says, "Don't chew, just hold it in your mouth."


It's not good, it's not bad—it's nothing.


"Okay. Now, chew."


She takes the first bite into it and there is an explosion of flavor—some amazing combination of savory and sweet and umami. She keeps chewing and it just gets better.


It's the best steak she's ever tasted.


She swallows and opens her eyes. "More."


He's grinning so happily at her it makes her laugh. "My sub's getting downright bossy." He moves around her. "You want more steak, you behave. If you want more of that, you need to tell me when you're about to go so I stop. You got it?"


"Uh huh."


He lets go of her and pulls the dish closer, cutting off a piece that he eats slowly in front of her. Then he cuts another, holds it between his teeth and offers it to her.


She takes it gently and bites into it, sure that it won't taste as amazing the second time.


She's wrong. She moans as he walks around her, working her as she swallows, as she rests against him, as she can feel it building. "There."


He stops immediately. "Good girl." He cuts her another piece of steak, then another. She's in heaven. Then hell as he has two for himself. The steak wasn't big to begin with.


She realizes by the way she's tingling as he touches her again that she cut it too close, she almost came and she can tell he knows that.


"If you come before I say you can, I'm eating every bit of that steak myself. Do you understand, Captain?"


"Yes, Admiral." He barely touches her when she stops him, almost riding his hand since he leaves it on her this time but managing to stop herself.


"You're stopping an orgasm for the steak you mocked."


"I promised I wouldn't get myself off."


"Oh, that's rescinded. You can do it if you need to. But I haven't said you could yet. So you're losing the steak if you do. Even if I'm touching you like this." He begins to work her hard and she actually jerks back.


His laugh is so annoying. "You'd rather have this steak than an orgasm. Admit it."


"I'd really like to do both. Please?"


"Oh, baby, look at you asking so nicely." He cuts up the rest of the steak, then tells her to let go of the chairs and lets his pants and underwear drop to the floor. He kicks them away and pulls one of the chairs over, sitting down, pulling her on top to straddle him, and she sinks onto him, unsure if she should move, if he will let her come.


He feeds her another piece of steak then takes one, then thrusts up into her. "This is really beyond satisfying for me."


"Fuck you, Liam." But she stays still, opening her mouth when he wants her to take some meat, moaning at how good it is. "Why is it so delicious?"


"It's something about how it's raised. I'll admit, I didn't want to delve too deeply and destroy the magic."


"I don't blame you." She eyes the last piece.


"If you can manage to get me off without coming first, you can have it. Otherwise it's mine."


She loves a challenge, begins to move, trying to squeeze him just right, hit the angles so he feels it but she doesn't. But he's gotten her too hot, too ready and she's calling out, clutching him, bearing down so hard he begins to thrust harder and harder, pulling her hair slightly, murmuring, "Mine, mine," as he comes.


She's not sure if he means her or the last piece of steak. And she starts to laugh that she doesn't know and that it even matters to her. As he comes back to her, she kisses him, laughing as she does, telling him he's crazy and she loves him and he won, damn him, he won.


"Come for me again and you can have it." He touches her and she's so sensitive she tries to get away but he's holding her down with his other hand. "Just trust me."


It's too much, too intense, and she's sure this won't work. But then he starts to touch around the area he'd been focusing on, allowing his finger to swipe back over the part that was too sensitive every now and then.


It stops being too sensitive.


She's feeling the climb being again. "Please don't stop."


"No intention to."


And then she's going again, clawing him, this orgasm part fire and part pain and part ecstasy and he's kissing her and saying, "I've got you."


She collapses into him, breathing hard, wanting to let him know how much she loved that but unable to form words.


"Sometimes," he murmurs, "when you're that spun up, once isn't enough."


"Tear the piece in half. You deserve some for playing me just exactly right."


He reaches over and grabs the meat, holding it in his mouth, letting her tear off part of it, not seeming to care that her piece is way bigger than the one he's left with. "I told you it was good. Believe me next time."


"I will."


He holds her face between his hands. "I mean it."


"I know you do." She stays on top of him, alternating eating and feeding him the last skewers of satay and the caramel pork and finishing up with the fruit. "We should fuck and eat every single night."


"We'd get tired of fucking." His grin is infectious.


"You're right. But we'll always have food."




Shaw is waved into Admiral Torres-Paris's office by her admin. The Admiral turns to him when he walks in—no pretense about being too busy answering a comm and making him wait, and he likes that about her.


"Sit down, Admiral. May I call you Liam?"


"You may." He likes that about her too. They are both engineers.


But he knows better than to assume he can call her B'Elanna.


"You're known for your ability to speak your mind without sugarcoating anything. I am too. So I'm just going to assume we can start our professional relationship that way. No games, no small talk. Even if I recognize that small talk was pretty much all our meet and greet was when you were first promoted. Times have changed."


"Yes, ma'am, they have. And I'd appreciate a relationship like that."


"Good. I have to know: are your loyalties split?"




She laughs, and it's a good look on her, makes him relax. "Oh, my God, you're as good as Janeway is at pretending not to have a clue what someone is talking about. Too bad for you I came up in Starfleet under her."


"I really am unsure what you're talking about." Not because he doesn't understand what she means but because his loyalties are in question if Seven is in danger but he's not going to say that. He thinks she means the whole Borg thing, but he wants to know for sure before he gives her a potentially new thing to worry about if she does mean his relationship with Seven.


"I worked with my husband. I know what it's like to have someone you love relying on you."


"She won't be. What I'm doing is not day-to-day ops. I'm figuring out how best to assimilate—if you'll pardon the term—this new tech into our systems. And I assume—but correct me if I'm wrong—that you'd prefer I run shit by you before I actually install something Jurati on Seven's ship."


She laughs. "I would prefer that. Both as your boss and a fellow engineer."


"Then I'm pretty sure we understand each other."


"Well, then, I'm glad we got the simple part of my initial question out of the way. Now, where do your loyalties lie when it comes to the Borg?"


"I didn't even know I was Borg—or Borg adjacent as I prefer to think of it—until a short while ago." Not a lie. He can hold her eyes until the sun explodes on that one.


She sighs. "Liam, I'm sure you know I'm only half Klingon. I know what it's like to live with mixed drives."


"That would be Seven, not me."


"Okay, you're right. But I also was Marquis and then had to be Starfleet. Chakotay decided that for me." As he begins to answer, she holds up her hand. "And...I've been Borg."


He waits, unsure where she is going with this.


"Do you know about Unimatrix Zero?"


He nods.


"We had to be assimilated—we had a counter agent to preserve our individuality, but I remember what it felt like before that kicked in. To be part of something like that. For someone who dropped out of the Academy..."


"Did you hate that place too?"


She lifts an eyebrow.


"I know it's not the point, but I had to go there for part of my OCS. It was pure hell."


"Agreed. Yet another reason to like you. But answer my damn question, Admiral Shaw. Kathryn really could have warned me I'd be dealing with a version of her with a beard and far less charm."


"I have charm. Get to know me at least." He laughs. "Okay, fine, here is your fucking answer. I played the Borg Queen to keep Seven and I together. Because..." Shit, classified stuff gives him a headache.


"I've been read into your special circumstance."


"Is that what we're calling it? Nice. Anyway, I played her but afterwards I called her back and apologized for doing it. Because I went to dark places, and I took her and Seven along with me when I did it." He holds up his hand when she starts to speak. "I realize this is too much information. But I want you to understand who you're putting on that ship with this tech. I didn't do all those dirty deeds to ensure I could get frisky with my woman whenever I wanted. I did it because Seven belongs in that center chair and I did not want Starfleet deciding the easiest way to deal with our 'special circumstance' was to assign her to some desk job near me. She earned it. Serving under me alone is worth the chair—I treated her like shit."


"Wow. Okay." She smiles at him. "I actually really love that."


"Well, I'm fair. It's what she deserves."


"But you're serving two masters."


"I'm serving three. Seven is captain. Four if you count Raffi—she's gonna make sure I know who's second in command on that ship." He smiles ruefully. "And five because you know Janeway is going to poke her head in every so often to see how things are going."


She laughs again. "Yes, she probably will."


"Will she tell you first?"


"Who knows."


He laughs at her long-suffering expression. "I promise I'll reach back if anything important was said."


"I appreciate that. I realize you seem to have your own relationships with the Admiral. I assume it was because of that night when Seven..." She looks down. "I wanted to call security on that cadet. Seven was in such a good mood—and honestly I'm not used to that, so thank you for whatever part you play in her current happiness—and told me to stand down so I did. But I do feel guilty."




"She died. I stopped in to see her at Medical and she tried to downplay it, but she died."


"Yeah, she did. But it wasn't your fault. And if they hadn't gotten her then, they'd have gotten someone else some other time. Maybe not have been caught after that—or the next time, because there would always have been a next time. Besides, what would security have done to a cadet who had just drunk too much and had high-placed parents?"


"Not a goddamned thing in my experience. Bullies often prosper."


"Yeah. Well, these three didn't. Please don't blame yourself."


She meets his eyes, seems to be judging him for sincerity. Finally she nods and says, "All right. I won't. Thank you—it's been bothering me."




Seven and Raffi walk together down the path to Command.


"So lunch with Janeway? Off campus even. Should Liam be worried?"


Seven laughs. "No. If she is taking me off campus it's because she wants to talk about something she doesn't want others to hear."


"Right, like how she wuvs you and missed you." Raffi can't keep a straight face. "Okay, maybe not. Maybe she just wants to talk about your weird-ass connection with the dick."


Seven sighs.


"Oh, I can't call him that? You did. The few times we talked between breaking up and seeing each other again."


Seven isn't sure closing the door firmly on reconciliation was the best thing. Raffi was apparently holding back on "All the things that pissed me off about us" when she was still trying to get her back. "I know. But, please? Don't?"


"Oh fine." They walk into Command in silence and Raffi turns off to go to her meetings, leaving Seven alone.


She's lost in thought as she navigates the corridors when someone checks her hard with a shoulder and says, "Fucking Borg bitch."


She turns and sees three people, all walking away from her at a normal speed. They do not appear to be together.


She is not sure which one said it to her.


Borg bitch.


For a moment, she is back in that alley, fighting for her life, feeling the knife slide into her gut.


Her communicator chirps. "Shaw to Seven of Nine."


She realizes she is breathing far too fast, feels as if her heart is racing and backs into a side corridor that is blessedly empty of people. She's holding her gut, where the knife went in, where she had to stop Timmons from dragging it back out of her.


"Shaw to Seven of Nine."


She closes her eyes, tries to focus on her feet, solid on the ground, her back, tight to the wall. It is one of the grounding exercises Tuvok taught her when she was overwhelmed in the early days.


"Seven?" Liam. Here, in front of her, not just on the communicator.


He doesn't touch her, though. Seems to understand she is fighting for control. "Captain Seven of Nine?" His voice is that of her CO, the man who she sat next to, the voice demanding an instrument that she already had ready when they worked on an engine.


The voice that stands for comfort. For calm. For control. "I'm all right."


"What the fuck just happened? I thought you'd been attacked again."


"You found me."


"Of course I found you." He moves closer, lifting her hand off her gut. "You're not hurt."


"No. Someone ran into me—on purpose—called me a 'fucking Borg bitch.' It's what Timmons called me. A 'Borg bitch.' I..." She wants nothing more than to lean into him, to feel his arms around her. "I don't know what this is."


"I do. Believe me, I do. It's PTSD. More specifically, this is a panic attack. And it's not going to go away—it's going to happen someday when you can't afford to freeze—if you don't get help." He moves closer. "Ask me how I know?"


"What kind of help?"


"A psychologist. Troi seemed nice. Also discreet. Off the record."


"Is that what you did? Went to someone outside of Starfleet?"


"No. And look where it got me. On a file Vadic had access to, to announce to my whole fucking bridge crew that I'm a mess."


"I'm sorry she did that. For whatever it's worth, no one on our crew cared. They knew who you were."


"Thank you. But don't evade the advice while you're comforting me. I didn't like what I just felt—it was so familiar, believe me. I don't want that for you."


"I'll reach out to her. I promise. But I've got to get to Kathryn. She's expecting me—we're having lunch."


"Okay." As she turns to go, he says, "Seven?"


She looks back at him. "I'm fine. Thank you for coming. Did I pull you out of a meeting?"




"Would you have come if I had?"


"Probably. I thought you were hurt."


"I'm sorry."


"Belay that. It would hurt me way worse if I didn't come and you were hurt. Got it?"


"Got it, sir." She makes sure the corridor is clear, pulls him to her and gives him a fast but very thorough kiss. "I love you."


And then she hurries off, back down the corridor, before her day gets even worse by being late for Kathryn.






Seven picks at her lunch as she listens to Kathryn, trying to force down the memory of her panic in the corridor.


"Seven, you could at least try to be interested." Kathryn is watching her with a gentle look, the caring one of the woman she first met, who wanted to take care of her after ripping her from everything she'd known. "I've tolerated being kept out of the loop when it comes to Liam and your special circumstance, but this seems like something else. Won't you tell me what's wrong?"


She wants to. She doesn't think Liam would recommend it. But part of being a captain will be learning to figure out how much to put in reports and how much to leave out.


She meets Kathryn's eyes. "I was in the hall, someone ran into me—hard, the kind of shoulder check that's not accidental—and called me a 'Fucking Borg Bitch.' It's...it's shaken me."


"I'm sorry. Do you know who it was?"


She shakes her head. "I turned, there were three people walking away from me. They all looked like normal Starfleet personnel." She takes a ragged breath. "How do I tell? How do I know who hates me? They just look like people."


"I wish I could tell you there was a way. Some tick or habit that would be the big flashing sign of 'Here stands an asshole.' But there's not. Hate is..." She looks down and sighs. "It eats into you."


"How would you know? You were a star. You got us home. You made admiral as reward and you've continued to climb." She makes a face. "I'm sorry. I snapped. I didn't mean to."


Kathryn smiles gently. "Do you think everyone I got home loved me—or even liked me? Do you think they didn't sell their stories? All the horrible things we had to do—that I chose to do? I guess you haven't heard the rumor that the reason I made admiral so quickly was so Starfleet could ensure I never, ever captained a ship again?"


"That can't be true."


"On my good days, I tell myself that. On my bad days..." She takes a deep drink of water. "On my bad days, I see the Equinox and Tuvix, I see you, lost and alone in a way you'd never been before. I see hiding away from the crew in the dark. I see Chakotay looking at me like it's time for a coup. I see the Doctor, somehow holding his tongue, when he could have relieved me a hundred times." Her smile grows wistful. "He came to me, after he looked after Liam. Do you have any idea how he feels about you, Seven?"


She isn't sure how they've gone from Kathryn outlining her sins to the Doctor. "I know he's fond of me."


"Fond. Oh, Seven." She looks down. "My point, if I let myself dwell on this, is that I know what it's like to walk down the hall and hear someone whisper, 'Murderer,' in your ear. Or 'Psycho.' But I also recognize that being called out for what you did is a far cry from being hated for who you are. And I'm sorry. You've gone through enough and I hoped, after the inquiry and court martial of those cadets, that this would die down."


"As did I."


"They had friends. Parents. And the Borg attack still looms large in people's minds. I'm sure it doesn't make it better for someone determined to hate you for being ex-Borg that you're going to be captaining a ship."


"No. Probably not."


"And that's what I really wanted to talk to you about. The ship. And...Liam."


Seven tenses, not wanting a lecture on propriety or regs or whatever else Kathryn is going to bring up—whatever she used to keep Chakotay safely in a box all those years.


"Oh, my, you must think I'm going to lecture you. I haven't seen you so stiff since you were first liberated from the collective."


"Kidnapped, technically." She smiles to lessen the sting.


"Yes, but I like my version better. It, like so many other repaintings of memory, lets me sleep at night."




"I was going to tell you not to hide this thing with Liam. He's not in your chain of command. Let yourself be happy—and let your crew see it."


"Many of them saw us before."


"And probably already knew what you two didn't. The crew sees everything—understands it before we do, a lot of the time. Let them see a captain who's not afraid to love, Seven. Let them see you're just like them."


"And for the ones who were assimilated, I am."


"That's true. No one will understand what they've gone through better than you." She grins and Seven can tell she's said what she wanted to—anything else is just them, being friends, something she never thought they'd be again in the darkest days after taking up with Chakotay. "They have an amazing crème brulee here—shall we split one?"


Seven grins. "Let's."




Shaw is sitting outside eating lunch, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air—especially now that he'll be back on a ship full time. He finishes his sandwich and closes his eyes, just enjoying the sensation of the breeze across his face, the warmth of the sun-drenched table he chose.


"Got a sec?"


He opens his eyes to see Jack standing at the other side of the table.


"Sure. Sit."


"Can we walk instead? I have to get back to class."


"Okay." Shaw recycles his tray and trash, and they take a path that is the long way to the training section of the building. "What's up?"


"Your dad mentioned Aiden. I didn't realize you had a brother you don't, well, interact with."


Shaw waits, unsure where the hell this is going.


"How do you... I mean I get that you actually know your brother so it's not like you've never met him or anything, but how do you tell yourself it's okay to never see him?"


"Jack, no offense, but how is this any of your business?"


"I have a brother."


"What? Where was he during the—"


"Yeah, that's the thing. He's some kind of...hell, I don't know what he is exactly. A traveler, my mother said."


"So...he backpacks, hangs out at Goa and Phuket?"


"Not that kind of traveler." Jack stops walking, but begins to pace around, making Shaw dizzy. "My point is not what he is but how he is. My mother said she saw him while she was off world. But I've never even bloody met him. I mean he's my brother, shouldn't I know him?"


Shaw isn't sure how to answer. He waits to see if Jack has more to say about it but when Jack stays silent, says, "Look, you have a brother who might disappoint you if you met him, but you don't know that. He's like...Schroedinger's Sibling at this point. Good, bad, both, neither. I have a brother who's a piece of work, who hurts me, and who I occasionally forget that about and reach out. To my fucking detriment."


"So you're saying keep the box closed?"


"Closed, locked, double wrapped with polystrand straps to make sure it stays shut, maybe buried at the bottom of the ocean."


Jack laughs.


"A sibling who can't be bothered to have met you is not a sibling you need. He could kick the sand off his flip-flops and come see you."


"Okay, he really isn't a vacationer type traveler. He's some mystical force for good traveler. Time and space aren't barriers blah blah blah."


"For real?"


Jack nods.


"Then he could really get his ass over to see you, couldn't he?" He gets them walking again. "My advice: stick to the people you know care about you."


"Like you and Seven?"


"Yes. And I will deny ever saying that. And we're not the only ones. You and Sidney enjoy the river with my dad?"


"It was amazing. She was charmed by your dad. I won so many points. I may win fair lady's heart yet. And I love your dad, too. I hope that's okay."


"My dad's a gem. If you didn't love him, I'd have serious doubts about your judgment."


"Thanks. He's hosting the whole OCS class for a team-building camping trip."


Of course he is. Shaw shakes his head at how generously his dad will reach out. Then again, Shaw's probably not the only one missing Aiden. His dad has a son who's actually within easy reach of Earth but doesn't see him. Maybe Jack is filling a gap that's not just missing grandchildren?


If so, good for him.


Jack's voice drops, the way it does when he's being serious, "I know you probably hate sappy shit, but I'm going to miss you when I ship out."


"No, you're not."


"No, really, I am. I know I come off as self-centered and cocky and like I don't need anyone, but I really will miss—"


"I'll be on the ship."




"Don't spread it around. It's a special project and has nothing to do with day-to-day ops."


"Are you a spy?"


"Why the fuck would I be a spy?"


"I don't know. You just made it sound really spy-like." Jack is actually beaming. "So you and Seven are really happy?"


"I could be on her ship without being with her."


"That's not an answer." He studies him. "You're so happy. You're mad about her, head over heels."


He sighs. "This assessment of my level of happiness is going to have to end because here is the door and if you don't put a move on, you're going to be late."


"Wouldn't want that." He's walking backwards, laughing as he talks. "You being on the ship is the best news, Liam." Then he turns and runs into the building.


Shaw laughs to himself—he can't help it, the annoying little Jack-ass is, well, endearing.




Seven walks back to Command with Kathryn and then heads to Starfleet Medical, to a special unit they've built for their EMH program.


The Doctor heads it. He's sitting at a desk, looking the same as he did on Voyager. No signs of aging.




He turns and his smile ratchets up so many notches when he sees it's her—she feels her stomach drop. How could she not have seen what was in that smile? "Seven. What a surprise. A pleasant one at that." He stands and walks to her. "Are you all right?"


"I am."


"And your beau? You and he are...?"


"We are." She makes her voice as gentle as she can.


"Mmm." His whole manner changes; she can see him pulling back anything resembling hope. "Well, then I guess you don't need me for him."


"No. I just...wanted to see you."


"I can't imagine why. It's been how long and the only time you've been in contact has been to monitor your lover."


"He wasn't my lover at the time."


"Oh, Seven. Out of the mouth of babes. He was. You just didn't know it yet." He turns away from her.


"I'm sorry I didn't reach out. I...I lost myself more than a little."


"I understand. Life gets in the way of so many things." His terminal beeps. "I'm a little busy. If there's nothing else..."


"Were you in love with me?"


He stops and takes a moment before he turns. "No."


But she can see the truth in his eyes, now that she's older, now that she's loved people and lost people, and knows what different kinds of pain look like. "Are you still?"


"I said I wasn't."


She moves closer to him. "Okay. But if you are and I ever did anything heartless because I didn't know, then I'm sorry. I'm really sorry."


He lays his hand on her cheek. "You'd never hurt me, Seven."


"Not on purpose."


"No, not on purpose." He smiles gently. "I like this woman you've become. How strong you are. How you return a look instead of looking aside or down."


"I've had an...interesting life."


"Yes. From the moment you were born, nothing but."


She nods. "Well, I better let you get back to it..."


"Hypothetically, if I had been in love with you, and I'd told you, would it have made a difference?"


She takes his hand and squeezes. "I don't know."


"That's such a kind way to say 'No.' You haven't changed."


"Neither have you. My dear, dear friend."




Shaw's in his office when Seven comes home and finds him, leaning down to put her arms around him from the back.


"Long day?" he asks.


"Yeah." She smiles as he swivels out and pulls her into his lap and kisses her slowly. As he eases away, she curls into his neck.


"Any more panic attacks?"


"No. And I made an appointment with Troi."


"Good." He pushes her up and turns off his terminal. "If we're going to cuddle, and I do want to, let's go get some use out of the furniture the boys worked so hard on." He tries to assess her mood as she goes into the bedroom to change out of her uniform. "You hungry?"


"No, they had donuts at our last meeting."


"Dinner of champions, there, hon'."


She laughs. "I've decided humans are obsessed with donuts." She comes out in one of his t-shirts and shorts. "This is new?"


"Yep, I'm now buying myself shirts I want to see you in." He grins. "Come here."


She snuggles in next to him. "I want to talk about the steak. The fun and games last night."


He pulls away so he can see her face. "Was that too much? I know things can seem fun when they're happening but upon reflection—"


She puts her hand over his mouth and he kisses it. "All of it was fun. In fact, I want blue steak for dinner tomorrow. But...there was something else going on, wasn't there?"


"Just playing with my girlfriend."


She moves so she's lying down with her head in his lap, staring up at him, running her hand over his arm. It's a boss move on her part because he can't resist how open she is, how...his. "You were serious about something. I just don't know what it is. Help me understand."


"I just..."


She waits, and he loves her for that.


"I keep thinking of all the time we wasted. If I'd just once told you I was sorry. Just once treated you like a friend and not the person I couldn't even respect enough to use the name you preferred." He can see she's trying to tie this back to the blue steak—it's a winding road and he understands why she's not getting it. "I want you to trust me."


"I do."


"I want the you of back then to trust me." He laughs. "Jesus, that sounds stupid when I say it out loud."


She lies, untroubled as she stares up at him, her hand still soft on his arm. "I did trust you back then. But you hurt me all the time."


"I know. Is that why you tracked my whereabouts early on? To avoid me?"


"You knew I did that?"


He nods. "Came across it once when I was helping out with a system upgrade. Wasn't looking for it, but saw that you had an alert set for me and couldn't figure out why other than to avoid the fuck out of me."


"You never said anything."


"Pretty fucking awkward. 'Uh, Commander, not to be all into your business, but why don't you want to be where I am?'"


She laughs softly. "You had it backwards."


"How so?"


"I was trying to figure out what you did when you weren't on the bridge or in your ready room. But not to avoid you—I was trying to find something that maybe we could do together."


"Oh, you were stalking me?" He grins.




"I fucking love that. Only now I feel even worse for them—the us of back then. We should have just fucked."


"We still can. Fun and games can happen in a holodeck, not just here." She rises enough to pull him down to her for a lopsided kiss.


"I'm gonna think on that." He has her sit up so they can lie down together—nice of the boys to think of that when they got them the furniture, although they may have just been sizing it for themselves.


She pushes him back into the cushions and kisses him deeply. "The past is gone, Liam."


"It's not, though. It colors the present. We found that out this morning when we were in a side corridor reliving the recent past. If we can rewrite it, even a little, smooth over the things that hurt the most—honor them, I guess. I think it will help us now and in the future."


"You're unusually non-linear tonight. I find it very sexy. And very comforting." She rubs the back of his neck and he sighs. "That's generally how I find you. Unbearably sexy, extraordinarily comforting. The one I've waited for without knowing I was."


"Damn good thing since you might be stuck with me what with this whole Borg link." He pulls her closer but doesn't try to escalate. He just wants to hold her, to be with her. To appreciate the gift he's been given.


She cuddles against him and closes her eyes. "I love you. I'm so glad I saved you."


"All the times."


"Yes. All the times."






Seven walks into the conference room at Command she reserved for this meeting with T'Vara. Raffi is already there, reading something on her padd.


Seven puts down her coffee. "You're early."


"You're not. You feeling okay?" Raffi grins and then holds up the padd. "Why are we doing this here and not at our regular digs?"


"Because..." She can't answer that, not truthfully.


"Ah, the 'because' rationale. Always a winner." Raffi sits back. "I know the history—sort of. What am I missing? Why aren't we just saying yes to her?"


Seven walks to the window, trying to block out visions of Vadic, her mocking voice, the sound of Esmar weeping, of Mura talking about his son, the click of the changeling's weapon, the sparks flying from T'Veen's disintegrating body, the sudden gap where she had stood showing her Vadic's sadistic enjoyment of the moment as she forced her to announce T'Veen's death. She lets out a ragged exhale and prays Raffi doesn't notice.


It's a stupid prayer. What god would answer her when she believes in none?


Raffi moves next to her. "No one told us how she died. Worf did not think it was a good death, though."


"She was executed. It should have been me. Or I should have blown the lift. But I didn't—I couldn't."


"Why couldn't you?"


She meets Raffi's eyes. "Because Liam was on it."




"Could you have blown it? If I was on it?"




"You answered so quickly. Is that to spare my feelings or because you're sure? Tuvok used to say to me that the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the one."


"Tuvok doesn't love the way we love, I guess. Or maybe he's not the type who thinks there is always an alternative."


"No such thing as a no-win scenario? Tell that to T'Veen." She stares at the door. "Her twin sister will be a constant reminder of what I did wrong."


"Or a constant reminder that sometimes there is loss. Just because we think there are alternatives, doesn't mean there are. But we've got to keep trying to find them. Let's...give her a chance, Seven. Where would either of us be if someone hadn't?"


Raffi's right, as she generally is. It's ironic: somehow she has become more zen and rational and Seven the emotional one. "Okay."


"Look I know I have not exactly been the poster child for positive coping mechanisms. But maybe see someone about this guilt over T'Veen. I'm afraid it's going to eat you alive."


She smiles. "Yeah, I'll add it to the list of things to talk about."


"Is that sarcasm?"


"No. I actually have an appointment with a counselor."


"Oh. Good."


"Yeah. I wonder how far she'll want to go back. Can we start with my parents taking me to the fucking Delta quadrant?"


"I think you can probably start anywhere you want. Just don't start with me, okay?" She gives Seven the half wry half unsure smile that always charms her.


"Why not? You're one of the good parts of my life."


The chime sounds before Raffi can answer but her smile grows even sweeter as Seven says, "Come."


T'Vara comes in and she looks nervous. The way Seven felt when Liam first interviewed her. Like everything mattered on the words that came out of her mouth. When he'd already found her Borg backstory intriguing enough to put her at the top of the list.


"I'm not my sister," T'Vara says before she sits. "I can't be my sister."


"Your sister is gone. I miss her but I can't change that. Please sit." As T'Vara does, she says, "I blame myself for her death."


"I blame the bitch that shot her."


Raffi's eyebrow goes way up.


"I'm not as Vulcan as my sister. Got a lot more of the Deltan expressiveness."


"So I see." Raffi glances at Seven with a smile, then starts off when Seven nods. "Now that we've got the issue of who's to blame settled, I'd love to find out who you are. First off, why should we want you on our ship?"


T'Vara smiles and launches into it.


She's enough like T'Veen that it's comforting, and enough not like her that listening to her speak doesn't hurt the way Seven thought it would.


A few minutes in, she realizes they've found their chief science officer.




Shaw is about to go to lunch when his terminal pings. It's Janeway.


"I've reserved us a tennis court, we'll have lunch after. I checked with Naima to make sure your calendar was clear."




"Forgot your tennis whites? Don't worry, they'll loan you something at the gym. Also a racquet. I'll see you on court four in five minutes."


"Ten. Jesus."


"Eight. Don't keep me waiting, Liam."


He gets up and walks out to Naima.


"She told me not to say anything, sir."


"Who do you work for?"


"It's Admiral Janeway, sir. Nobody says no to her."


"Fine. I'm off to court four. If I come back wounded, this is on you."


"Yes, sir. Good game, sir."


"It's a match, you want to win the match."


"Whatever, sir. Respectfully." He grins.


Shaw refuses to look like he's visibly hurrying, even if he is walking faster than normal. He gets to the gym, changes into the standard issue workout shorts, socks and t-shirt and is handed some shoes made for the lateral moves of tennis when he gets to the tennis area. The woman working there seems to size him up and hands him a racquet that feels good.




"Enjoy losing, Admiral."


"We'll see." He saunters out to court four—tennis is part theater after all. Especially with the woman he's about to play. "Nice of you to ask me first," he says as hits back one of Janeway's practice serves.


It goes right down the forehand line, dropping in nicely. Yeah, he's still got it.


"I needed a break from my job. Beating you seemed enticing."


He practices a serve to her and she hits it back, the same fucking shot he did, right down her forehand line across the court from where he's standing. Then she laughs. "Torres told me you and and I were too alike. Let's not tell her we have the same secret shot, okay?"


"Deal. How's your backhand?"


"Weaker than it was when I played regularly. But strong enough to not use both hands."




"Enough chit chat. Let's play. You can have service since I coerced you into this."


"Okey dokey." He bounces the ball a few times, then tosses it, hitting it right into the net. "Oops."


He sees her relax. She will expect him to go easy on the second shot now that he's fucked up the first.


He doesn't. He slams it hard and it aces right past her. He knows he's grinning way too widely.


But so is she. "Oh, Liam. You make me wish I were single." Then she laughs as she moves to the other side.


"Fifteen-love." His next serve goes too soft and he's moving to the side, ready for her forehand drive.


She smacks it back to where he'd been and he barely returns it with a lame backhand, which she slams past him.




"Don't analyze, play."


"So says the scientist. I prefer play but analyze."


"Yes, you would. Serve already."


"Fifteen all." His serve is solid but not fantastic and they get a decent rally going. She tries to go to the net on him and he lobs it over her, which she returns barely and he slams it past her fast. "Thirty-fifteen."


His next serve is a loser, dropping easily and she again goes to the net, dropping it close to the net on his side so it bounces twice before he even gets to it.


"Do you ever come to the net?"


"If I think it's worth it. Also, play and find out. Thirty all."


Finally, a lovely solid first serve that looks like it will be out but drops in and goes by her.




"Thanks. Forty-thirty."


"Don't assume you've won this game, Liam."


"I pretty much assume nothing when it comes to you, Kathryn."


She smiles in a knowing way at his use of her name, seems to be waiting like a coiled snake for his serve and hits it straight down the line. Even though he knew it was a possibility, he misses it. "Deuce," she says.


"That's my line."




He sees Seven come in with Chakotay and sit at a table overlooking the courts. "You didn't say our sweeties would be watching."


"No, I sure didn't. Serve."


He does, and gets the point and the advantage. But his next serve she's right back on him and after a short rally, she rushes to the net and manages to overhead a lob that should have cleared her.


"Deuce," he says.


The next advantage goes to her, but he fights back. Deuce again.


And again.


And again.


He hopes whatever she ordered for lunch is worth the wait.




"He's giving her a run for her money," Chakotay says as he leans back.


"Is he? They just seem to be calling Deuce over and over."


"I'd say they're evenly matched."


"Should we be worried? Are they going to run off and get married?" She grins as she asks it, and nods for a server to fill her water glass. "Also, I'm hungry. Can we get some bread or something while we wait?"


"Of course, Captain."


She smiles.


"I remember how it felt to hear that rank for the first time. So good."


She nods. "Can I ask you something? Actually two somethings."


"You can ask me as many somethings as you want."


"First, did everyone know the Doctor was in love with me?"


"No." His face does something funny. "I was out of the loop on that one. But I was busy pursuing you so why would I want to know that?"


"Good point." She waits while the server puts down some rolls and butter Chakotay tells her has honey mixed in. "Yum."




"What is the hardest thing about being captain?"


"Having so many amazing people looking to you, expecting you to know what to do, to make the right call."


"What's the easiest?"


"Having so many amazing people ready to help you make the right call."


"You were always so much more hands on than Kathryn."


"I know by the time you came aboard, we were a truly blended crew. But that's not how it started. I was the leader of the maquis. If I wanted to be a good first officer, I had to get to know everyone. I had to make them feel they could trust me. I had to get around the ship, you know?"


She nods. "I don't want to be a captain that just sits on the bridge."


"Then don't be." He leans in. "On another subject—unless you had more questions?"


"No, you go."


"I have a friend heading the group doing the Titan refit. They plan to put the new name on tonight. I can get you a shuttle if you think that's something Liam might want to see."


She nods and holds up her hand. "Seven to La Forge."


"Hey, Captain Seven."


"Hello, Sidney. Can you pilot a shuttle for me tonight at Spacedock?"


"Can I bring the idiot?"


"I assume you mean Jack?"


"Oh, you know another idiot I might bring?"


Seven laughs. "You may bring him." She looks at Chakotay and mouths, "Time?"


He keys something into his padd, then it chirps with a reply. "Be up there by eighteen hundred. Shuttle waiting at spacedock."


"Meet Liam and me at the main transporter room at seventeen forty five."


"Aye, ma'am. See you later."


"Seven, out."


He smiles. "I like your way with her."


"She welcomed me before anyone else did. An exceptional young woman."


"Who's the idiot? Jack...?"




He almost snorts his water. "That's amazing." His grin is the one she first fell in love with, but now it just makes her feel settled, accepted and glad they can be friends. Then he looks out at the game—or more accurately duel—still going on and says, "For the love of God, Seven, they're never going to get out of this first game. Go get your man and make him fold."


"Why should he fold?"


"Because we both know she won't and I, for one, am sick of bread."


"Good point." She walks to the railing, catches Liam's eye, and waves him over with her finger.


"But, honey, I'm winning."


"No he's not."


"I will leave you, Liam, if you don't concede. I'm hungry."


He walks off the court, tossing the ball to Kathryn. "I'm done. Can't lose her. You win. Whatever." He climbs the stairs up to where Seven is standing and pulls her in for a kiss.


When they pull away, she says, "Keep your calendar clear for tonight. I have a surprise." She gets closer to him. "Not sex."


"Well fuck that," he whispers back, but he's laughing as he loops his arm around her. "You won, Admiral Janeway. I cede to the superior backhand."


"But I didn't win. We didn't get past the first game. Endless deuce. Oh, Chakotay, if I didn't love you, I might leave you for him."


He just rolls his eyes and pulls Kathryn in for a kiss that Seven thinks is supposed to be short but then they sort of get lost in each other. She looks at Liam and he laughs and says, "Uh, you two could get a room or something."


"Shut up, Shaw." Chakotay winks at him. "Okay, can we eat now? Next time throw the game, man."


"This is a player who will never throw a game." Kathryn winks at Liam.


Chakotay doesn't seem surprised. "I think she has your number."


"Yeah, yeah, I'm an open book."


Kathryn nods. "You didn't go the net other than for a few slams. You hate risk."


"News to no one. And despite that, I still held my own. You on the other hand lived at the net."


"It was more a timeshare." She grins. "And me liking risk is also news to no one." She shares a look with Chakotay. "We should see how you and Seven play. Venture into doubles maybe."


Chakotay and Seven make excuses for why they can't play, trying to outdo each other with: "Fallen arches," "Athlete's foot," "Old war injury," "New war injury," "Banned from play for cheating," "Banned from play for assimilating the line judge."


"Fine, fine, don't play." Kathryn leans back and smiles at Seven and Liam. "I'm actually sorry you two are going to be on that ship."


Shaw laughs. "You have months to figure out how to beat me."


"I just want to get to game two."


"Yeah, that would be nice. Deuce sucks."


"That it does."


Their smiles are so easy, it makes Seven warm inside. She glances at Chakotay and thinks he's feeling the same way.




Shaw follows Seven to the transporter room, is surprised to see Sidney and Jack there. "What's going on?"


Lots of smiles from Seven, zero info. She whispers something into Sidney's ear, making her smile and nod.


Jack seems to be as clueless as he is.


Seven walks to the transporter chief and whispers something, and he nods with a glance at Shaw.


What the everloving fuck are they doing?


They materialize at one of the auxiliary spacedock transporter hubs. He looks around and realizes they are near the little zip shuttles used to ferry people to and from ships.


"This way, sir." Seven waves him into one of the tubes and onto the shuttle.


Sidney takes her place and punches in something, then says, "We're good to go, Captain."


Jack sits next to her and asks, "Go where?" But Sidney doesn't answer.


"Whenever you're ready." Seven takes Shaw by the hand and leads him to the side view screen—this shuttle is clearly designed for tours since there are screens on all sides. "I hope you like this. Or not like—but find it..." She sighs. "I may have made a big mistake. Fuck Chakotay."


"Your language really is getting worse." He laughs as he moves her in front of him, holding her and resting his chin on her shoulder. "So why are we here?"


"It's the ship—they're changing the call sign and name tonight. I thought it might be closure but if you don't want to be here to watch, we can turn around now."


"No, this is right. I say goodbye to my ship, you say hello to yours."


She turns and kisses him, then slips back around.


"Coming into view, sirs."


And there she is. His lovely ship. He sees the maintenance workers in their enviro-suits coming out onto the bridge. They start with the call sign, covering up the NCC-80102-A with basic gray. Then they move to the name.


"Goodbye," he whispers. "You were the best ship."


He feels Jack's hand on his arms, hears him say, "For whatever it's worth, I don't understand why they're renaming her."


"You know the story of the Titans in mythology, kid?"


"I know but..."


"All things end. Give over to the next generation." He holds on to Seven a little more tightly as the new call sign is laid down: NCC-1701-G. "And G is the seventh letter of the alphabet. I like the symmetry."


Seven laughs, a gentle puff of air and presses her head against his cheek. "Do you want to see, Sidney? I'll relieve you."


"No. I loved the Titan."


Shaw realizes she's crying. He lets go of Seven and walks over to Sidney, putting his hands on her shoulders and squeezing lightly. "It's still your ship. The same you've flown so true for me. The name change doesn't change that. You and her, you speak the same language."


"Yes, sir."


"Go look at your familiar new ship." He takes the helm of the shuttle and Seven joins him as they let Sidney and Jack have the moment. He squeezes her hand. "Thank you."


She nods and he realizes she's about to cry too.


For once, he's not the softie. "So many memories."


"Memories we'll replay."


"Memories we'll rework."


She squeezes his hand then lets go.


A moment later, Sidney comes back and says, "Go say goodbye, sir."


"I already have, kiddo." He gets up and lets her have the helm but stays in the front, looking away from the ship that is no longer his command—but will still be his home. He sees Jack staring at the ship—it's as much his legacy as anyone's.


Seven smiles gently. Sidney sniffs and wipes her eyes. Jack turns to him and says, "So that's that." His smile is apologetic.


"Yep. That's that."



Continue to Part 5