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 5)

by Djinn





Shaw is walking back to his office from the morning status meeting when he sees Geordi La Forge enter his office with Alandra in tow.


He hurries down so Naima won't turn them away and Geordi looks strangely relieved to see him. "Do you have a moment, Admiral Shaw?"


"Liam, please." He turns to smile at Alandra. "Great article in Engineering Quarterly.


She smiles and murmurs, "Thank you."


He turns back to Geordi who's saying, "Liam, it is. And please, call me Geordi." He motions for Alandra to wait and follows Shaw into his office, then closes the door. "I need your help."




"Well, you might want to wait until you've heard what it's for."


"As I had to have made clear when I was stammering all over you on the ship, you're pretty much my hero. So tell me what you need." He motions to one of his guest chairs and sits down at the desk.


Geordi sits and sighs. "I didn't do right by Alandra."


"Her article would say differently."


"I know, but I held her back, I kept her with me, and it's killing her chances. Well, that and the fact she has no interest in doing basic ship maintenance, which is where she'll be slotted as an engineering ensign. If she manages not to alienate the interviewer as she's done in the last few." He sighs. "Unlike Sidney, who more than understands how to be a team player, Alandra is..."




"Distant. Or not here at all—her head is"—he points to the ceiling—"somewhere up there when the rest of the room is looking at sea level."


'Are you saying she needs a job where she can be theoretical?"


"I am. But who's going to offer that to an ensign who's only worked at the Starfleet Museum?"


Shaw smiles and holds up his finger in the universal "wait" sign. Then he turns to the terminal, pings Torres-Paris. That article you recommended I read. The author of it is sitting in my anteroom. Looking for a position.


I'll be right there.


He stands and says, "I'm going to have to ask you to leave."


Geordi looks confused but follows him back out to the anteroom, then Torres-Paris comes barreling in and he smiles. "Hello, B'Elanna."


"Geordi. As nice as it is to see you, you are not the reason I rushed down." She holds out her hand to Alandra. "Your article two issues back in Electronicity was riveting. Not to mention the one in Engineering Quarterly."


"You read my stuff, Admiral?"


"Yes. His office. Now." She motions for Shaw to come too, which considering it's his office, is only fair. Is she going to let him sit at his desk?




He pulls one of the spare chairs over and situates himself in the middle.


She doesn't waste time on pleasantries. "What is it you want to do with your life, Ensign La Forge?"


"I want to improve things. Safety and efficiency. I want to..." She looks down. "Frankly I've been told not to say what I really want."


"Why?" Shaw asks, wrestling back some of the control of this interview for a member of his staff.


"Because at my rank it's off putting."


"Let me guess. You have zero interest in maintaining because you're an originator?" Torres-Paris smiles. "I know a little something about that."


"Yes, ma'am. They keep offering me the same position on ships. I love ships, don't get me wrong. I'd love to be on one. But not..."


"Not in the engine room," Shaw finishes for her. "You're not a grease monkey?"


"That's the thing. I can be. If it's when I'm creating something. My mom used to get so mad at me for wrecking my clothes when I was little. But a grease monkey making sure the pistons are all aligned the right way in an existing system? No."


He looks at Torres-Paris and she pulls out her padd, seems to be copy/pasting part of the Jurati tech summary into a new doc, and then hands it to Alandra. "What do you make of this?"


As Alandra reads, she mouths to him, "Sensor upgrades."


Nothing too sensitive. Probably the most straightforward of any of the new tech. Once one wraps their head around it, which he and the Admiral did one afternoon over drinks in her office.


"Holy..." Alandra looks at them, her face aglow. "So many factors to consider but...how fun would this be to try to add to existing Starfleet tech?" She hands the padd back.


"I don't know how much fun it will be, because I won't be doing it. Admiral Shaw will be. On a ship."


"I'm seething with envy, Admiral Shaw."


"Well, seethe no more, young one. For we have vacancies on our staff for those who think this kind of job will be fun not scary as fuck."


"Language, Shaw."


"Oh that's all right, ma'am. I swear like a marine...in my head, anyway. Mom and Dad don't like it when I swear for real."


Shaw laughs. Of course she does.


"You want to work for us?" Torres-Paris asks.


He coughs rather obviously.


"Fine, you ask her."


"You want to work for us, Ensign La Forge?"


"Aye, sir." She looks at Torres-Paris. "Aye aye, ma'am."


Girl knows how to manage up. He won't ding her for that.


"This is all close hold. And we'll need you to sign this NDA stating you won't talk about the tech in specifics. If asked you'll be assigned to the Enterprise on a special project."


He watches her to see how it will sit with her to be assigned with her sister. But the immediate joy on her face makes it clear it's a good thing.


Torres-Paris leans in, her face super serious. "You can't discuss this with your dad. I know that will be hard."


"I understand, ma'am. Permission to squeal quietly before I go back out to him?"


"Ask him, he's your boss."


"Squeal away, ensign."


She does, but in such a restrained way he can see how different she is than Sidney.


He looks forward to getting to know her.




Seven stretches out on Ohk's amazingly comfortable outdoor lounger and listens to Liam and Patrick inside. "What are they playing?"


"Some video game. They're like little boys when it comes to that. I'm so happy he has you so I have someone to talk to."


"How was the medical conference?"


"Serene as hell. So nice to get away if only for a few days. I got Liam's dad some fancy flies he can put on his fishing hat. Have you been fishing with him yet?"


"No. I don't think I'll be good at it."


"It's fun actually. We should all go sometime before we ship out."


"Okay." She sips her wine and stares out over the view.


"You're really chill. Are you exhausted or happy?"


Seven smiles and looks over at her. "You can't tell the difference yet?"


"Nope. But I'm learning. I do know you're feeling something."


"I'm exhausted. I had a therapy session today. Someone said something hateful to me in the hall at Command and it triggered something."


"What kind of something?"


She knows she's not just talking to her friend anymore, but to her doctor. "It took me back to the night I was stabbed."


"I'm sorry, Seven. But that's totally understandable. You died."


"This is my first time in therapy. Given how screwed up I've been at times in my life, that's sort of amazing."


"It's really useful. I went when I was young and didn't want to be part of the symbiont program even though I was a great candidate. At first it was to try and figure out what was wrong with me for not wanting it. But then the doctor vouched for me, and I kept seeing them. They really helped me."


"I'm hoping that's what happens here too." She looks down. "Stuff came out. Not stuff I meant to."


"Yep, that usually happens. But if it comes out, it means it needs to."


"That's what my therapist said too. She's very...insightful. And she's been doing this a while. I...I trust her."


"Trust is everything."


"It really is."


Ohk shifted so she was facing her. "You know, I'd sort of given up on Liam ever finding anyone. He'd date—I mean he's gorgeous, right? Of course he dated. But trust? That was never there. And it was so key for him. I watch you two, and it makes me so happy. You make him so happy."


"He makes me so happy. I feel like I'm where I belong when I'm with him." Then again they have a Jurati link helping that out—she's not discounting the love she feels for him, but she knows that is enhancing their experience in ways they probably don't even understand.


"I can't believe he's going to be on the ship. I mean I feel bad for Patrick, stuck here alone again. But...I'm happy for you two."


"Maybe we could get Patrick on—"


"Belay that. He has no desire to be on a ship. Hates them in fact. Unrelenting space sickness doesn't help."




"Yeah. Physician heal thy spouse, right? But we've worked it out."


"That's good then."


"Ladies," Patrick says, pulling Ohk up and into his arms. "We wish to dance."


"Ugh, no." Seven shakes her head.


"Not even in the living room?" Liam pulls her up and studies her. "Nope, not even that. Guys, my lady here is too tired to be up but doesn't want to make us end our evening. So I'm going to do it for her." He puts his arm around her and says to Ohk, "Where are the flies?"


She goes into the kitchen and brings out the package. "Tell him to send a picture of his hat with some of these on it."


"Will do."


Seven yawns once they are out the door and to the elevator, and he says, "You had your first session today, right?"


She nods.


"I remember my first session. I was fucking wrecked after it."


"I didn't expect to say some of the things I said. And Troi...she can tell what's bubbling, you know?"


"Yeah, that must make it interesting." The elevator comes and they ride it to their floor. "Well, I will refrain from ravishing you then and let you process."


"I'll miss the ravishment, and I doubt I'll process much. I'm so sleepy."


"I'm tired too. Let's be boring old people and go to bed early."


"We'll never be boring, Liam."


"So you're saying I'm old."


She laughs. "Yep. Ancient. So unattractive." Once they get in the apartment, she pushes him against the wall and kisses him for a long time. "Just have no interest in you at all." Then she takes him by the hand and leads him into the bedroom?


"You go first, baby. You look like you're about to drop." He points her to the bathroom where she takes off her makeup, brushes her teeth and then grabs the latest of his shirts she's commandeered as her nightshirt. "If I'm asleep when you come out, I love you."


She's not quite asleep when he crawls into bed so she rolls into him, enjoying how he's stroking her hair as she easily drifts off.




Shaw walks down the path to the training center, hoping he can catch Jack before the OCS class beams out to the cabin. They're still in the classroom but it doesn't look like the instructor is actually teaching so Shaw opens the door and walks in.


Everyone stands.


Fuck. He forgets he's an admiral some of the time. "At ease." He looks at the instructor. "I'm looking for Crusher."


"He's in his regular class but he'll be here soon. Or if it's urgent, you can go to him. It's just down the hall, room one four three."




"Thanks for your family hosting us."


"I'm kind of Jack's mentor." He says it very softly.


"He kind of told me that." The instructors smiles.


Shaw leaves him and goes down the hall to find Jack. He hears the entrance to the building open as he heads down the hall but doesn't look to see who it is. When he gets to the right room, he sees Jack packing his stuff up. "Hey, caught you in time."


The instructor nods at him as he grabs a pack and heads out, no doubt to join the others. "Don't want to hold you up, but I was hoping you could give this to my dad." It's the packet of flies Ohk gave him. "Be sure to tell him they're from Doctor Ohk. Tell my dad she wants pictures. He'll know what she means."


"Got it." Jack gently pushes the packet into his backpack, then slings it over his shoulder and walks to the door with Shaw.


A dark-haired woman blocks it, then a more familiar face. "Ah, Jack, I wanted you to meet Laris."


"Crusher, come on!" sounds from down the hall.


"I didn't know you'd be in town." Jack sounds torn as he looks at Picard.


Liam decides to step in. "Jack needs to go."


Laris backs off, and Shaw can tell she's deeply aware they could have called first.


"Go? Go where?"


Jack says, "OCS team building trip."


Picard makes a scoffing sound. "You don't need that. I thought we could go to dinner, the three of us."


"He more or less organized it, Picard. He has to go." Shaw moves around Jack, using his height and heft to make Picard back up, clearing a path for Jack to hurry off if he wants to make a graceful exit.


He does get past his father and Laris, but then he turns, pulls out the packet, and says, "I'll be sure to give this to your dad." And then he is gone.


Fucking A—a shot to the heart of his father.


"I don't understand what's happening."


"Simple, Admiral. OCS trip. Fishing. Water. A cabin owned by my uncle. My dad is hosting."


"Oh, you're like a sponsor?" Laris is clearly trying to make this all better.


"Not really, no." His words are snotty but he keeps his tone gentle—this isn't her fault.


"Then you've apparently adopted my son?"




"Seven to Shaw," sounds from his communicator, saving him from trying to explain any more than that.


"Shaw here. An old friend is too. Say hello to Admiral Picard."


"Oh, hello, Admiral. Liam, your mom called. She wants Jack to tell your dad to pick up some of that blackberry jam she likes."


"Okay." He steps out in time to see Jack, and catches his attention long enough to give him the instructions.


Jack gives a thumbs up and runs outside to catch up with the group.


"Why can't she just call him?" Seven asks.


"An excellent question," Picard mutters and Laris smiles uncomfortably.


"Because they have an agreement that nothing except an emergency interrupts fishing. Blackberry jam is not an emergency."


"Interesting workaround." There is a silence but he can practically feel Seven's mental gears working.


"Don't do it," he mentally sends her. "Do not fucking invite them—"


"Maybe Admiral Picard would like to come over for dinner?"


Fucking A. So much for being linked.


"He's with a friend."


"Our table can handle four, Liam."


"Yes. Yes it can. Admiral? Laris, was it?"


She nods.


"Please, be our guests?"


He can tell Picard is about to decline, when Laris grabs his arm and says, "Yes, we'd love to. Wouldn't we, Jean-Luc?"


"Oh, yes. I cannot wait to see how well this dinner goes. Our first one was so...memorable."




He hears Seven laughing. "I'm home now. Any requests for the replicator because nobody here cooks."


"Not blue steak," Picard says with a shudder.


"Oh, but that's delicious." Laris smiles the smile of those who know.


Shaw finds himself warming to her. How does Jean-Luc capture these intelligent, vibrant women? And a Romulan at that. One of life's eternal mysteries.


"Three blue steaks and...?"


"Halibut. The way La Sirena made it."


Seven makes an approving sound. "That was good. See you soon." Her voice is so sweet, and Shaw reminds himself that he owes this man a debt, for giving her something to live for, for making sure Shaw could meet her, could fall in love with her. "Wait. Halibut sounds good. Make mine that too."


There is a stunned silence from Seven, then she says, "Okay. See you soon. Seven out."


Picard is looking at him suspiciously.


"What? A man can't change his menu order when something else sounds good?"


"Well, I'm not sure I'd live to see the day when you would."


"We have a flitter waiting," Laris says, clearly trying to create a new vibe.


"Great." He follows them—he has to let them take the lead on something or Picard might die of frustration.


It's a short ride to the apartment, and when they get upstairs, Seven gives Picard a long and very sweet hug. "How are you?"


"Truthfully, I'm wondering why my boy is so involved with your man."


"We're forming a new Borg collective and he glommed onto it."


"Very funny."


She shrugs and meets Shaw's eyes.


"Nicely done," he murmurs as he walks by her toward the table. "Jean-Luc, I was a bit of an ass about the wine the last time we dined. I will defer to you on what you'd like to drink with our halibut and their steaks." He's resigned to having Chateau Picard and he'll drink it with a smile.


But instead, Picard leans in. "Have you ever had Rinolto Pinot Grigio?"


"I have not."


"It's sublime with halibut. I find our Chardonnay at the Chateau overpowers the fish."


"Pinot Grigio then. And for the ladies?"


"Laris is fond of Malbec. Whatever your favorite is, is fine."


"And I"—Seven takes Shaw's arm and turns him to the kitchen and the replicator—"will take some Chateau Picard in honor of our guest."


"Ah, my dear, you flatter me."


"She really fucking does," Shaw mutters and Seven whaps him softly.


He takes care of ordering the wine from the replicator, even consulting with Picard over the temp he likes his Pinot Grigio at—for once they're in agreement.


Seven gets the food and sets down the halibuts then gets the steak for her and Laris. "I just recently fell in love with this. It's the third time I've had it this week."


"Jean-Luc hates it when I have it at home."


"Well you can come here anytime to have it." Seven smiles gently. "It's nice to see you again."


"And you my dear."


Shaw takes a sip of the wine—it's fantastic. The halibut is amazing too.


"Good?" Picard's tone is different—friendly.




"Well. My, my. We agree."


"It was bound to happen eventually."


Seven puts her hand on his leg and squeezes gently.


"This Malbec is delicious. Excellent choice, Liam." Laris looks out the window. "And this view. I confess, I do miss the city sometimes."


"We had hoped to take Jack to dinner somewhere with a view."


"Maybe call first. He's in demand."


Seven's squeeze this time is no longer gentle. He ignores her.


"We wanted to surprise him."


"That didn't go well the last time you tried. Is there a problem with calling ahead I'm not seeing?"


Her grip is now so painful he's going to have a bruise.


Picard sighs and shakes his head. "I guess...I guess I wish we had the kind of relationship where I could just drop in and surprise him." He smiles and Shaw sees the man he caught glimpses of on his ship, during the crisis. The man he thought he might like. "I'm guessing that you do have that kind of relationship?"


"He's a really good kid. He's easy to look out for, Jean-Luc. And...I'm not his dad and I'm not a legend—and I'm not using the word sarcastically this time." Seven's grip on his leg eases. "He doesn't have to worry about impressing me."


"Or me. I'm already impressed with him."


"Does he know that?" He keeps his tone as far from sarcastic as he can.


"I don't know." He looks down. "His mother and I thought we could make a family for him." He looks over at Laris, takes her hand. "I'm sorry to talk about that."


"Don't be silly."


Picard gives her such a sweet look back, and Shaw thinks he might actually have a chance of making it with this woman. "I'm trying too hard to be spontaneous because I can't give him the family he craves."


"Perhaps Liam and Seven are. So we don't have to. You can forge something else with him." Laris smiles at them, and it's clear to Shaw that she very much understands how often Jack looks to them—but Seven did say she was ex-Tal Shiar so there's probably lots of stuff she knows if it's about her man or his son. "Jean-Luc, you can create something just your own. He can meet me some other time." She goes back to her steak. "This is excellent, Seven."


"It's Liam's code. I can't claim credit for that."


"Well then"—she lifts her glass to Shaw—"here's to you."


Picard nods. "I said some harsh things last I saw you."


"Yeah, but..." He laughs gently. "We've never had what you'd call a great relationship."


"Or even a good one, when it comes right down to that."


"Exactly. It's fine. We're fine. Good halibut, good wine, beautiful women at our sides. That's a lot."


"And my son. Who I do know you will take excellent care of."


He nods.


"And next time, I will call ahead and make sure he is free." He lifts his wine glass. Glancing at Seven, he says, "To friends," then "to loves" to Laris, and to Shaw he says, "And to someone I never properly thanked. Thank you. For everything you did. I may not like you very much most of the time, Liam, but I do appreciate all you gave."


He laughs, resists commenting on the history of their shitty relationship, and instead just says, "You're welcome."






Seven carries out two glasses of cognac to the balcony and hands one to Picard before sitting down in the loveseat opposite him.


"Where are Laris and Shaw?"


"Geeking out over his knife collection." At his confused expression, she says, "Sometimes, Jean-Luc, it's better not to ask. Simply to ignore."


He laughs. "Understood. I have to say, Seven. This was a surprisingly pleasant evening."


"It was."


"I know you didn't coordinate your invitation with him beforehand."


"He went along." She smiles in a way she knows is completely untroubled. She's seen Liam when he's not on board—this was not that man.


Picard's smile is the gentle one, the fond one that won her loyalty and the part of her heart that craved family. "You have always been like me, Seven. One foot out of a relationship before it's barely begun."


She shrugs.


"That Seven is gone. The one I'm looking at seems very much at home with her man."


"I am. He's a really good man. I want you to know that. I don't just mean a rule follower, or someone who doesn't put people at risk. I mean truly good. Other than his swearing." She laughs. "Which is rubbing off on all of us."


He smiles. "Leaving him behind will be hard then."


She debates whether to tell him the truth. But she needs to stop doing that: the fact that Liam will be on her ship is open knowledge. It's why he'll be on it that's not. "I won't have to. Starfleet is planning a special project. On my ship but totally outside the chain of command. He's running it."


"Please tell me it's not Section 31."


"No. It's engineering. Geordi's daughter Alandra will be working with him."


"That's wonderful. You get one, he gets the other." He gets a mischievous look. "Am I imagining things or is my son interested in Sidney?"


"Oh, he is."


"Is she interested in him?"


She smiles then laughs. "She'll probably tell you no. But you saw them together—they work so well—and the way they look at each other when they forget that they're arguing about something...?" She looks down. Did she and Liam ever look like that? Is that why "Get a room" was such a popular bridge saying? "Maybe they'll give you grandkids."


"Oh, my goodness. I'd never considered that. I hope I'm a better grandfather than father."


"You've barely started being a father. Give yourself some grace. You didn't even know you had a son, unlike me." She swallows hard. "I thought, someday, Icheb would marry, would have children—my grandchildren."


He reaches over and pats her hand.


"Laris, we should not have left them alone." Liam grins at them. "Cognac? Excellent idea." He looks at Laris with a raised eyebrow and she murmurs, "No, I'm fine," and then goes to sit in the chair next to Picard as Liam goes to the replicator.


"Had enough of the knives?" Seven asks, relieved to change the subject.


"Oh, he's got an amazing collection. I tried to palm one."


Seven laughs. "He knows everything in his collections. Trust me, there is no sneaking something out."


"And she's tried." Liam hands Laris a glass of water and Seven knows it's so she doesn't feel left out, then sits next to Seven, putting his arm around her and she leans into him.


"So you'll be on the ship, I hear?"


"Yep. This one can't get rid of me." He gives her a quick kiss on the cheek. "Rumor is she's looking for blackmail on Janeway so she can get her to kill my project. Wants to be free to enjoy herself out there. You have any dirt on Kathryn, Laris?"


"If I did, I wouldn't tell her." She is laughing softly.


"Even just on her tennis game would be okay—and that you can tell me."


Both she and Picard look confused.


"Ignore him."


"It's what she does on the regular." Liam leans into her, his sigh the one that he makes when a night is winding down and he's enjoyed it. "I'm glad you suggested this, my lady."


"He loves calling me that," she says when she sees Picard's surprise. "There's a knight in shining armor somewhere in there." Also so many other things, but Picard and Laris have no need to know how many role plays lie open to her.


Picard stares out into the night. "This view really is lovely."


"I'd like a place in a city. Paris, perhaps? Just a little pied-a-terre in the Marais." Laris smiles. "Have you two been?"


"Once. I went alone. It wasn't fun." Seven can feel Liam rubbing her back as he says gently, "We can change that."


"You should. It's the most romantic city on Earth, you know." Picard smiles gently at her. Then he finishes his cognac and looks at Laris. "Shall we call it a night, my dearest?"


"Yes. Thank you so much for the dinner and the company." She gives Seven a hug, then one to Liam. Picard also gives her a hug but does a rather awkward handshake/elbow pat with Liam.


Which, if she's honest, is probably an improvement over any of their other interactions.




"How tired are you?" Shaw asks as he closes the door behind Picard and Laris.


She starts to laugh. "Fun and games? Tonight?"


"A Titan moment."


"I'm listening."


"Seeing Picard's hand on your arm reminded me of Cresta IV."


She starts to laugh. "Oh my God. The chancellor from hell."


"He would have given me his entire planet if I'd just given him you. You were being so patient."


"Did I have a choice?"


"No. But I want to rework that memory. How I felt at the end of that mission. What I wanted to do to you—what I'd have never done then. But now...?"


"Uniforms on, then? The old ranks?"


"Oh, yeah, baby. We're doing full-on cosplay."


She laughs as they go into the bedroom and pull on their uniforms, changing their rank insignia.


"I'm going to go in my office. We'll pretend it's the ready room. Give me five minutes to submerge myself in this memory."


"I'll do the same. This is the after-mission wrap?"


He nods.


"As I remember it, it was mere seconds and then you told me we were done. Even for us back then, it was odd."


"And you're going to find out why. I uh...I'm going to act like the me of then."


"It wouldn't be a memory if you didn't." She pulls him close and kisses him sweetly. "I trust you."


"Pick a safe word."




"Yeah, we both need one." It's just a good idea, especially if they're going to delve into potentially painful things.




Fitting. He'd choose something similar. "Constance. You still have that regenerator, right?"


She laughs a little nervously. "I do. See you in five minutes?"


He nods and goes into his office, closing his eyes and trying to remember everything about that mission, seeing Seven's pained smile as she humored the Chancellor, as the Chancellor touched her without asking, as Shaw sat by and did Jack shit even though he was pissed that they needed the minerals Cresta IV had in abundance so badly it gave this man leave to disrespect his first officer.


He thinks this is probably not going to be what Seven expects.


Or at least, not at the start.


He hears her knock, says, "Come," and turns as she walks in.


"It is time for our mission wrap-up. Do you wish to write the report for this one or should I?" Her voice is the one of old, when she never knew what she was going to get back from him and she kept herself rigidly professional.


"I will." He exhales raggedly and she looks at him in surprise. "Or maybe you should. Maybe you should write about the captain who couldn't be bothered to stop that asshole from harassing you?"


Her eyes widen. "He was annoying, not threatening."


"Nevertheless." He looks down. "I hated what he was doing to you. The disrespect."


She laughs and it's a bitter sound. "This from the man who won't call me Seven? That's rich."


He loves this—she zigged when he thought she'd zag.


He gets up and walks toward her. He's not sure what kind of look is in his eyes, but it makes her back up a step, then another until her back is against the door.


He gets close to her, but stops short of invading her space. "Seven, I didn't like what he was doing to you."


"Why not?" She takes a step closer, is invading his space but she doesn't reach out to push him or touch him in any way, just stares up at him. "Why would you care? You don't even like me."


"I do, though. I know I haven't been good at showing it."


"Good? You've managed to convey the reverse."


"I know." He reaches out slowly, so she can back away, but she doesn't. Tracing the implant over her eyebrow, he whispers, "I feel so much for you. I cared that he was touching you not just because it was insulting to you but because..."




"Because you're mine." He tips up her chin. "Or am I wrong?"


Her pupils are dilated, her lips separate as she stares up at him.


She's not saying he's wrong so he leans in, to her ear, whispering, "I wanted to do this. To show him you were not for him. Never for him." He leans in and sucks on her neck, catching her as her knees buckle, pushing her back against the door.


She moans as he sucks harder. Then he pulls back and eases her hair back so he can see the reddening spot where his mouth was.


He moves to the other side of her neck, sucking even harder, running his hands down her back, but stopping at the small of her back.


"Ow," she says, but it's not the safe word so he keeps going, a little harder and she wraps her arms around him and pulls him in more tightly.


He eases away. This mark is angrier looking, will bruise spectacularly. "Are you mine, Commander?"


"Commander what?"


He smiles as he traces her lips. "Commander Seven. Seven of Nine. My Seven." He goes to near her throat and begins to suck again.


She suddenly pushes him off, spinning him so he is against the door. "If I belong to you, then you belong to me." And she is pulling him down, her mouth on his neck, sucking viciously and he says, "Oh, fuck me." It hurts so damn good.


He pulls her hand off his neck, pushes her uniform sleeve out of the way and begins to suck on the inside of her elbow. She stops what she's doing and pulls him off her arm, then kisses him.


He pushes her to his desk, hiking her up as they continue to kiss, mouths opening, tongues exploring. He pulls back and strokes her hair back, kissing the implant by her ear and then whispering, "Say my name."


"Liam." She wraps her legs around him, pulling him tight to her, feeling how hard he is—God damn he wants her so badly. "Why are you so mean to me?"


"I don't want to be. I'm sorry. I wanted to hit him. I swear it."


"You'd have ruined everything."


"Yeah, so I just sat on my fucking hands while he pawed at you."


She pulls him down so she can suck the other side of his neck, and she's gentler this time. When she finishes, she kisses it over and over. Then cuddles against him and he wraps his arms tightly around her.


Her voice is so soft he has to strain to hear her. "Do you think he'd do it now? Now that we're marked. I'm yours. You're mine. Do you think he would dare?" Her pupils are so dilated he can see only a little blue.


He moves his hands up to her neck, pressing in on the marks he made. "No. He'd know better."


She eases away and meets his eyes. "If you're mine and I'm yours, shouldn't you fuck me?"


"I really should." He pulls her pants and underwear off, pulls his own off even more impatiently.


She brings her legs back up, pulling him in, reaching down, positioning him and saying, "Inside me. Now."


"Yes, ma'am, Commander Seven."


It never gets old, pushing himself inside her, feeling how wet she is for him, how hard she can bear down. "Oh, fuck, Seven, wait, wait, wait."


And she stops moving, breathing hard.


"I want it to last. Our first time."


"The only reason it needs to last"—she bears down as hard as she's ever done to him—"is if it's also our last time. And if that's the case, stop now."


"You want more than this?"


"I think I just made that clear. Do you?"


"Do you know how many ways I've thought of fucking you in this room alone?"


"No. Show me another."


He pulls out, eases her off the desk and turns her, bending her over his desk, pushing back in and thrusting hard then stopping and reaching around, touching her.


She groans loudly.


"Shhh, we don't want the bridge crew getting curious."


"Turn up the fucking soundproofing."


"TitanComputer lock door and turn up the soundproofing to one hundred percent."


There is no response from the home computer since he phrased it the way he did, and he goes back to touching her. "You can be as loud as you fucking want." He doesn't thrust because he's afraid he'll come so he works her relentlessly and she is gone, pushing almost violently against him, until he can't stay still anymore, and is coming right after her.


"Are you all right, Commander," he asks her so she'll know he isn't done yet.


"I'm wonderful, Captain."


"Do you want to know another thing I think of doing whenever you're briefing me?"


"I do."


He lets her up and pulls up her pants, fastening them then standing still while she returns the favor.


"Brief me on our latest mission." He sits back down.


She stands, her arms clasped behind her back. He lets her talk for a moment, then stands and walks toward her, laying his index finger on her lips and she freezes.


"I want to feel your lips moving against my finger. You have such beautiful lips. I'm still listening, carry on."


She continues and he moves his hand so three fingers rest on her lips. Her pupils dilate again and he smiles that she likes this. He's also smiling because she's giving him one hell of a good briefing.


"Whisper the rest in my ear, I want to feel your lips on my ear." He leans his head to the side so it will be easy for her to reach him.


The combination of her warm breath on his ear, the brush of her lips against his skin, her deep voice, so sexy even as she recites the minerals they can expect to get in trade is driving him crazy.


Then she says, "There are other places I could put my lips, Captain."


"I wouldn't want to assume anything."


"Would you like me to put my lips"—she slides her hand down his front and then under his pants to grasp him—"here?"


"Yes, please."


She lets go of him and goes to his chair, sitting and patting the desk. He moves to her and she undoes his uniform, pulling it and the underwear off him, then has him sit on the desk.


"This really is the perfect height." Her smile is wicked.


"You've...thought of this?"


"You're not the only one who sees potential in this room." Then she's on him, licking and kissing and grasping just right as she takes him, her head moving as he strokes her hair gently, as he says, "Seven, yes, yes," over and over.


She's got him back so fast and he doesn't feel the urgency of the first time so he just enjoys what she's doing to him, until finally he pulls her up and trades places with her, kissing her deeply before he sits, tasting himself on her.


"It is the perfect height." He licks gently, just trying to tease her at this point, and then he moves to her thigh and marks her again, sucking hard as she cries out in pain but doesn't call stop. "You're fucking mine."


She pulls him up, into her, and he takes her harder than he usually does, and she's calling out and telling him, "Captain, I love you."


And then he's gone, clutching her so tightly he's worried he'll hurt her, but she isn't complaining. "I love you. I love you so much," he says as he finally stops moving.


They are both breathing hard, and he realizes she is crying. "Baby, did I hurt you?"


"No. No, Liam. It's just..." She kisses him as desperately as she ever has. "I can feel it. It's as if that me...she doesn't hurt as much." She holds his cheeks. "Are you okay?"


"I am. Both this me and the me from back then."


"You couldn't have stopped the Chancellor. We needed those minerals."


"I could have told you though. How uncomfortable it made me. How mad I was for you."


"Well, now you have." She holds him, her legs wrapped around him and he relaxes against her. "I love you so much it scares me."




She reaches into her jacket pocket and takes out the regenerator and holds it up to take care of his neck but he stops her.


"I want to wear mine till morning." He grins at her. "I really want you to too. But you don't have to if they hurt. I know I went hard on you."


"I can wait too. See what kind of masterpieces we created."


He laughs softly. "Will you keep the one on your thigh? Let it heal naturally so I can see it and get really turned on?"


She rolls her eyes. "If you insist."


"Best girlfriend ever." He kisses his way to her ear and whispers, "And I don't mean just because of the hickey. Thank you for doing this, for committing."


"Anything worth doing, is worth committing to."


"True that."






Shaw can tell Seven is bored by the way she keeps leaving her office and going to the kitchen. It's been a long week and he thought after their impromptu dinner party last night, she'd crash the way she does sometimes, puttering around not really accomplishing anything or napping happily with him, but that's clearly not happening.


He puts down the padd he's reading and says, "Seven, what's the matter?"


"Are you done reading?"


Is one ever really done reading? He decides that's too existential an answer to give, especially considering her mood. "For now. You want to do something other than work on this gorgeous Saturday morning?"


She nods.


He waits for clues as to what she wants to do, but she's not giving him much. "You want to stay where it's day or go somewhere like Paris? We could catch the sunset from the Eiffel Tower."


"Yes. I would like to remake that memory." She meets his eyes and he doesn't love the look in hers.


"Or...we could go to Hawaii. It's earlier there so we can steal hours and sleep in tomorrow to make up for it. Swimming, tiki drinks, sand between our toes."


"No. Paris." She's saying it like she's declaring war.




"No. Paris. Hurry up or I'll go without you."


"You won't get far without my handy-dandy line privileges. Transporter's going to have a wait."


"You're right. Get up." She walks over to him when he doesn't get up fast enough, pulls him off the couch, and says, "Let's get changed and get out of here."


"Hey." He catches her by the arms. "Everything okay?"


"Why wouldn't it be?"


"Because you want to run out of here with us looking like we've just had our first teenage make-out session." He touches her neck, and she flinches when he presses in on the second hickey he made. "This one is gorgeous by the way. I did good."


"Fuck." She goes into the bedroom and he follows her, takes the regenerator without comment when she hands it to him and goes to work on her. She checks her elbow but he didn't have time to do much there.


"You want me to do your thigh?"


"You said you wanted it to stay."


"I do. But I'm having a hard time reading what you want at this moment."


"I was quite clear. I want to redo Paris. Now give me the regenerator so I can do you."


He hands it over and goes quiet while she works, trying to reach with whatever let him find her the day of the panic attack, attempting to read her mood.




"You're not usually this quiet, Liam."


"I'm honestly a little confused."


She meets his eyes and shrugs. "I just want to go there, okay."


"To redo...something?" He strokes her hair. "We can't redo everything. You and me—we're here, we're solid, we can play until we feel better. But the world, Seven...it's not necessarily on board with what we want."


"Fine, then you go to Hawaii and I'll go to Paris." She pulls off her sweats and the crop top she's wearing and pushes past him to the closet. She doesn't waste time, just pulls on jeans and a black sweater.


He gets in front of her before she can storm past. "Okay, we'll relive, but you don't drive this bus, not in the mood you're in."


"Fuck you."


It's the first time she's ever said it that he thinks she might mean it. He moves aside and waves her past, not looking at her, knowing his mouth is set in a tight line.


"I'm sorry." She pulls him down to kiss her but he jerks away. "Liam. Please."


"What happened in Paris?"


"What difference does it make? Why can't we just go."


"What happened in Paris?"


She closes her eyes and whispers, "Raven. Raven-raven-raven."


"Baby." He pulls her in and holds her. "Let's go somewhere else then."


"No, I need to show you. I doubt things have changed. But...you'll have to follow. Like you're not with me. When we get to the place, I mean."


"Okay." Even though she's making zero sense, he gets dressed quickly and puts his arm around her as they walk to the transporter station. "Which station in Paris?"


"Golden Triangle, 8th Arrondissement."


They step off into the early Paris evening, and she leads him down the street and to what looks like a high end boutique.


"It's still here—after all these years."


"We're you hoping it wouldn't be?"


"I don't know." She's staring at a red dress in the window.


He can imagine her in it, wants to do more than imagine. "Will you try this one on for me?"


She laughs and it's a horrible sound, so full of anger and pain. "That is the question. Wait a few moments so it doesn't look like we're together." Then she goes in.


He waits and walks in, hears the woman behind the counter say, "Again, I'm sorry, madame, but we have nothing for you here."


She turns to look at him. "Even the same shop owner." She looks at the dress, turning her back on the woman, talking so low he moves closer just to hear her. "I came in here after Voyager returned." She moves closer. "I've been ogled since the Doctor turned me back into...this. I thought...I thought maybe I was beautiful. But in here, I learned that I wasn't." She meets his eyes, hers are flat. "That short time without the implants...I could have come in here then. She'd have let me try it on then."


"I'd like you to leave," the woman says.


"What exactly is your problem?"


"Liam, no."


"Monsieur, I will call security."


"Knock yourself out." He realizes Seven has just left the store and gives the woman his best glare before following.


He catches up with her and takes her hand, checking out the windows they pass as she says nothing. Finally he finds one that has clothes he'd like to see her in and says, "Go in this one."


"Why? So I can be refused service again?"


"Because you don't know why that woman wouldn't let you try anything on. You're a scientist. Would you accept an experiment with only one piece of data?"


She laughs, a short puff of air more than an actual laugh, but it's a start. "No."


"There's a plum dress on the mannequin to the right of the door. You see it?"




"I want to see you in it."


She shakes her head. "It'll just be the same thing. I'll just feel ugly."


"Channel the she-wolf that I know is inside you and walk into that place like you own it. Like you're the captain of the motherfucking Enterprise. Got it?"


She looks like she might bolt.


He takes her by the shoulders and says, "Hansen, got it?"


He can see the automatic anger that was her response every time he called her that. Then the anger fades and she smiles and lifts her chin. "Got it." She turns and opens the door and a bell tinkles as she walks in. He counts to twenty and then follows her in.


She's nowhere to be seen and the plum dress is off the mannequin.


"You are looking for a blonde, perhaps?" A woman comes out and winks at him. "I have some other things that would look beautiful on her. Do we have a budget to work from? She was not sure."


He'd love to say money's no object but he's not stupid. So he names a number he'd rather stay under and she smiles and says, "I can work with that." And then she is gathering a bunch of dresses and taking them into the dressing room. "Your man has given me a very generous budget."


Seven comes out as the woman hangs the other dresses. The plum dress fits her perfectly, tight in all the right places. "It's too expensive."


"She's knows our budget." He stands behind her as she looks in the mirror, turning this way and that. "Maybe that other woman lost someone at Wolf 359. Maybe it's appointment only—some of these places are. Maybe she hates tourists. Maybe she's just a prime bitch."


She meets his eyes in the mirror. "Maybe."


"It's for damn sure a fact that you look amazing in this dress and would have in her dress too. But who wants to give someone like that business?" He leans in and kisses her cheek. "We are taking this one for sure. I'm sorry she made you feel..."


"Ugly. She made me feel ugly." She turns. "But I guess, I let her. All these years. I never sought another data point. I've ordered my clothes to the replicators—I don't shop like this. Ever."


"Well, maybe that should change. Although I like what you order so..." He grins at her. "Go try on the light blue one she took in. It's going to look amazing with your eyes."


"It's formal length. Why do I need that? I'll be in dress uniform if I need a formal."


"You don't know that. I had a tux on the ship for places where a uniform would have been out of place."


"I have never seen you in a tux."


"Well play your cards right, sister..." He's happy to hear her laugh.


She goes back into the dressing room and comes out a few moments later in the blue dress.


He forgets how to breathe.


"It's all wrong, I know."


"No, no it's not. You're—my God, Seven, you're just stunning."


She turns red and he loves how happy she seems.


"This one and the plum one," he tells the salesperson.


The woman has a very mischievous grin. "You still have a little room in the budget you set for me. If Monsieur wishes, we have some lovely lingerie."


"I wish."


"Why do I need lingerie?"


"You don't. I do."


"Does Monsieur have a favorite color?"


"Whatever she wants."


"This one you should keep, my sweet. Generous men who don't impose their preferences are worth their weight in gold." She eases Seven into the dressing room, then turns back to him. "No peeking for you. Go outside and wait while we finish up. Oh and give me the address to send these to unless you are going right home."


"We're not."


As he signs a bill for the amount he stated, she leans in and whispers, "What is your favorite color for lingerie?"




"I thought it might be." With a wink, she shoos him out of the shop.




Seven sits next to Liam, sipping champagne in the lounge of the Eiffel Tower as the sun begins to set. She hasn't told him yet but the salesperson convinced her to wear the red bra and panties she threw in as a bonus to what Seven had selected.


She feels very decadent wearing such nice things close to her skin. Also very sexy sitting here, knowing what he'll find if he were to undress her.




"What what?" She grins at him. "Thank you. I let the moment define me. Conducted analysis with only a single piece of data and didn't even know I was doing that."


"Why did you have to go alone? Where was Chakotay?"


"He was working. At Starfleet. They forgave a maquis leader but couldn't find it in their hearts to let in a human who'd never asked to be turned Borg. I was already feeling rejected when I walked into that shop. I just wasn't feeling ugly until I walked out." She exhales, replaying how the other woman treated her—how welcome she had felt. A valued customer who happened to have implants, not a hated Borg. "A few doors down—how different life would have been if I'd walked in there first."


"Life is like that. Small choices, big changes." He reaches out and takes her hand. "And I had nothing to do with her being nice to you."


"I know. She smiled the moment I walked in." She leans over and kisses him gently. "And when I walked out wearing..." She lets her sweater slip off her shoulder, just enough so he can see the red strap of her new bra.


"Oh, come on." He's grinning like a fool.


"Thought you should know. Reward for putting up with me—for not running."


"Why would I run?"


"Sometimes I get like that. Angry and picking a fight."


"You do know who you're talking to, right? Jesus, if you could put up with me as long as you did, I can put up with the few times you go a little off." He pulls her back and kisses her. "Although you could show me a little strap again, because I'm so nice and all."


"Nope." She backs away with a teasing grin. "And the sun won't be down for a while."


"When we get home, Seven..."


"Yeah, yeah. Promises, promises."


She sees a man with a basket passing out roses to the women in the lounge, making a grand production of choosing the right color.


He gets to her and says, "My dear, there is only one color for you." He hands her one that's so dark a red it's almost black on the tips of the petals. It smells amazing.


"Thank you."


He nods and walks to the next table.


She leans back into her chair. "This is a great way to finish Paris. This lovely flower. The bread and strawberries we just polished off, this lovely champagne, and—"


"Teasing me?"


"No, being with you. Enjoying the sunshine. Feeling...beautiful."


"You know when you look the most beautiful to me? When you're wearing my t-shirts as a nightshirt."


She smiles.


"Not that that means I don't want to see the red goodies you're hiding from me."


"Oh, I fully understood that." She laughs then hears him keying in something to a padd she didn't even know he'd brought with him. "What are you doing?"


"Leaving a review for that first place. 'Treated like shit. Saw a rat.'"


"Don't. Let's just...let it go."


"You sure?"


"Yes, smell this flower instead."


He smiles and puts the padd away after showing her he was only typing into his calendar.


Then he takes the rose and smells it. "Wow."


"I know."


He holds the rose up to her as if it's his drink. "To conquering demons."


"To your very generous budget."


"Well it was that or buy a new knife."


"You don't need a new knife."


"Yeah, you say that now but—" He frowns. "Seven?"


She can see he's been grabbed by a transporter beam. "Liam?"


And then, before she can throw herself on him so she's taken too, he is gone.






Seven stands staring at where Liam was sitting, frozen.


But only for a moment. She turns and motions over a server, then points to the far side of the lounge. "The flower guy. Is he usually here?"


"Yes, every sunset."


"Thanks." She walks toward the flower guy and decides not to use her Ranger persona, since this guy is legit and probably wouldn't be hanging around handing out roses if he knew his role in whatever was happening. She will be the captain. "Excuse me," she says. "The flower you gave me. Where did you get it?"


"Your brother said it would make you happy—that it was your favorite." He points to a table in the far corner where a family of six are sitting. "He was there."


"I don't have a brother." Unless one counts every male drone, which she isn't going to. "What did he look like?"


"Not like you."


"Do you mean the Borg implants?"


"No, I mean your coloring. He had dark hair, dark eyes. Same skin tone."


"Do you have a padd?"


He digs his out and hands it to her.


She searches for the news item and shows him Timmons' father.


"No, but if this guy were younger..."


She searches for Shep's older brother Cooper. "Him?"


"Yes. Was there something wrong with the rose?"


"You could say that. In the future, stick to your own inventory." She's moving, down the stairs because she's not going to wait for the elevator, hitting her comm button then stops as it chirps, moving to a corner of the landing she's on so she doesn't block anyone.


The comm badge chirps again, letting her know it's standing by for her command. Anyone in Starfleet would have used the tracker in her comm badge to get her and not Liam. They wouldn't have needed a rose.


This isn't Starfleet. Timmons' mother may or may not be involved, but she didn't reach back as a retired admiral to find people like whoever bumped her in the corridor, who called her a Borg bitch.


This is personal. Which means she needs to make it that way too. "Seven to Raffi."


It takes a second, but then Raffi says, "What's up?"


"Are you alone?" She says it in the way she would as a captain making sure her first officer isn't with someone who might overhear something sensitive, not as a former lover who cares.


"Hang on." Raffi's voice is all business. She gets it. "Okay, now I am."


"I'm in Paris. The Timmons took Liam. But they were after me."


"Are you okay?"


"No, I'm not okay they took—"


"I mean how far did they take him?"


Oh, of course. Do they know they could kill them both if they just take him far enough? They must not. "He's on Earth."


"I'm beaming you back."


"Wait, what?" But the comm line has gone silent and she waits, unsure if it's smart to bring in more people to this. And then she feels the tingle of the transporter beam and she is standing outside the alley where she was stabbed. Raffi is already there. So are Tai and Miyo. And then Jack beams in.


"Raffi, what the fuck?"


But Jack is turning to her, "I felt something. I thought it was you, thought you were hurt. I commed Liam and he didn't answer. So I commed Raffi. But you're fine so...Liam?"


"You're supposed to be at team building."


"Fuck that. Where's Liam?"


"Timmons' family took him. I think they were after me."


"Well, fuck that, too."


She walks over to Raffi. "Do I want to know how you got us all beamed here?"


"You really don't." She starts to scan the alley. "I thought they might come back to where it happened." She looks at Seven with the look that means she's getting nothing. "They've disabled his comm badge."


"He had a padd with him. A rose with some kind of tracker."


"I'm not getting anything that's saying it's him. I really thought if they're making it personal, they'd want it near where their son died."


Seven nods and starts to walk away, but then she feels something—just a little ping inside her, like she feels when she hears him come home. "He's not here, but I think he's close. Everyone be quiet."


They all go silent and she tries to find him but it's just a sense of him, not a location—how the fuck did he find her in this alley, in the hallway at Command with nothing to go on?


"Tai, Miyo, can you walk with me?"


They hurry to her and she leads them into the alley. "I understand why you can't be separated for tours. But...can you feel each other when you're not together, if something happens?"


Miyo says, "Yes," but Tai says, "With effort."


"Which is it?"


Tai looks at Miyo, then says. "I was the first to draw air into my lungs during the birthing. I am what's called the origin twin."


"I am the following," Miyo says. "If something happens to Tai, I will know it immediately. And I will find him. I will always find him because I need to."


"But it's harder for me. I don't have the same need back. I have to want to find him. Not out of obligation but because I am his brother and I love him."


That makes sense and seems to be close enough to her and Liam's situation. "How? How do you do it?"


"I have to feel what I love about him. Think of everything that makes him someone I want to be around not just have to be around." He frowns. "You think you can find the Admiral this way?"


"It's complicated but yes."


"You have always found us comforting when others don't. Perhaps I can help you." Tai takes her hand, engulfing hers in a grip that's reassuring and warm. "I will ground you. Close your eyes. Find him."


She goes back to the beginning, when she first realized she loved him, a year before the mission to Fellaran, rocketing through memories, through times she cried because she couldn't seem to reach him, through times she almost thought she had made progress with him, stopping to feel, to remember, how it felt to save him, more than twice. She had his back in other firefights. Always made sure no one could hurt him.


She tried to be the best first officer, to anticipate his needs.


She remembers how it felt to watch him die as she held him after they actually had forged something, how it felt to know he would live, that he loved her too.


She smiles as she replays the first time they made love, the amount of time he spends on his hair, the way he looks when he tastes a dish they end up hating, the way he smiles at her after fun and games, the love and support she felt from him when she told him about Icheb, and the same just a few hours ago when he solved a problem that has haunted her for decades.


She feels him. And she laughs and keeps remembering, sinking into the couch with him the first night they got it, dancing with him in the kitchen when he came back from a night with Patrick gently buzzed after a fun new game they had played.


She says, "Someone hand me a padd with a map of the city" as she keeps going, his face when he doesn't want to wake up from a nap, the soft expression he gets when he talks to his mom and dad, how excited he was that he was able to help his idol out and get Alandra in the bargain.


The love that always shows when he interacted with his crew. The patience he shows with Jack.


A padd is thrust into her free hand and she opens her eyes and lets go of Tai's hand. She scrolls, feeling her sense of Liam ebb and flow depending on which way she goes, until she has triangulated the area and then begins moving in closer until—she taps the building. "He's here." She looks at Tai. "Thank you."


"Of course. We love you and him."


Raffi takes the padd from her and does something Seven can't follow. A schematic of the building comes up.


"Whoa, can anyone do that?" Jack asks.


"No," Seven and Raffi say together, and she laughs softly as she closes her eyes for a moment, imagining how pleased Liam would be with her, the pride she would see in his eyes because he always believes in her. Because he loves her. Because he's hers and she's his.


For a second she can feel his heart beating, steady, not frantic, and can hear him murmur in surprise, "Seven?" Then it's gone.


She opens her eyes and points to a wide open space in the back of the building. "Here. He's in this room."


"All right, then," Raffi says with a feral smile. "Let's make a plan."


Seven's content to let her take the lead on this. She's the one with the intelligence background.


And Seven's done the thing only she could do: she's found him.


Planning is finished when her communicator chirps and she hits it, "Seven here." Everyone else goes quiet.


"Emergency Services here, Captain. Call for you, ma'am."


"Route it through."


"Aye, ma'am. ES out." And then there is another voice. "I believe you are missing something."


"I believe I am."


"He's unhurt. I don't blame him for this. He's a good man, saved my wife's life once with his quick thinking in engineering. He's obviously been brainwashed by you, by Picard's Borg spawn. I'll let him go, but only to you."


"That makes it sound like I'll be leaving with him."


"We both know you won't. Do we have an agreement? Your life for his?"


She told Liam she didn't believe in trading lives. Looks like she lied. "We have an agreement." She looks at Raffi who is doing something with her padd and then nods.


"Then let me know where you are and I'll beam you over."


"I'm where your son died."


"That would have been a poetic place to kill you. But unfortunately loud noises would be heard. And poetry is overrated. Stand by."


She sees Raffi's worried look and mouths, "You've got this," then lets Timmons' transporter take her.




Shaw sits bound to a chair with zip ties, watching Timmons as he works the controls for the freight transporter. The chair is bolted into the ground and has transport inhibitors attached to it. He can't move it and his wrists are getting torn up from trying to slip through the ties.


"I'm sorry about all this, Admiral Shaw. But you'll be free of her influence soon enough."


He thinks Timmons means it. That he honestly believes he is somehow under some kind of thrall to Seven.


Which okay, they're linked and distance may kill them for a while, but he's not under any fucking thrall. He loved her before nanoprobes ever came into the picture.


And she loves him. He felt her panic when he was taken. And just now he felt the love, the immense certainty that she was right next to him even though he could see it wasn't true.


Until it is, and she materializes between him and Timmons.


"Ah, the woman who killed my son." Timmons lifts a weapon and shoots.


Shaw's yell is drowned out by the sound of the gun. A gun—not a phaser, not a disruptor.


She doesn't fall, but she clutches her arm and blood starts dripping slowly from beneath her fingers.


"These are very small bullets. I ordered them special just for you. I've practiced so many hours. I can hit a target wherever I want from much farther away than this. I know exactly where to shoot to drag this out as long as possible. You'll beg me to kill you before this is done."


He thinks that's unlikely, but is relieved Seven doesn't say the same to Timmons. She clearly isn't interested in escalating.


"You said you'd let Liam go."


"And I intend to. After he's seen you die."


"I will hunt you down," Shaw says.


Timmons shrugs in a way that tells Shaw he plans to go far, fast and probably out of Starfleet controlled space.


"Mister Timmons, I understand your pain. I had a son and he was murdered."


"Then how could you murder mine?"


"Because he was trying to kill me. He and his friends."


"All such good boys. Just trying to keep Starfleet pure."


"I'm human." Her tone is gentle and Shaw tries to figure out where she's going with this.


Then he hears something in the hallway—a sound that is overshadowed by gunfire from Timmons' weapon.


Another shot in the arm, more blood dripping.


Then he shoots again, and this one goes into her side, and she cries out and bends over, taking rapid steps back.


Rapid steps that bring her closer to Shaw.


Another shot to her shoulder and she takes another step back, toward him but at an angle—she clearly doesn't want a shot to hit him. Then Timmons puts one in her leg, near the knee and she falls.


"What a big man you are," a familiar voice rings out and Jack strides into the room. "Shooting a little drone when you could have me, the Prince of the Borg. She may have been the hand that brought your scum of a son down, but I'm the voice that turned him Borg."


"Jack, get out of here," she yells, but Jack gets between her and Timmons and says, "Where's your wife in all this? Or wait, maybe she has some integrity, eh? Maybe she knows her son was a piece of shite."


As Timmons shoots at Jack, Seven crawls quickly to Shaw, leaving a trail of blood behind her, pulling her knife from her boot and cutting the ties around his legs then moving to his arms.


"Aren't you a piece of work," Jack says, laughing. "At least the way she killed your son, it was fast. I'd have done it slow, cut him up with his own knife—or wait, it was someone else's knife. No matter, blades are blades and he'd have been crying like a baby when I got done."


"Jack, shut up," Shaw yells then hears Seven says, "No, focus on me. Get your limbs working—we're going to run for it in a moment."


He shakes out the pins and needles as inconspicuously as he can, then looks down as she slips the knife back into her boot. "Is that my knife?"


"I like it better than the one I was using."


"How did you get my knife without me knowing it?"


"Because you have too many fucking knives." She hits her communicator, "Raffi, go."


Phaser fire rains out of the hallway door, causing Timmons to duck and Shaw pulls Seven to her feet and they run toward those firing.


Shaw turns once they're safe in the hallway and sees Timmons drop the gun and pick up a disruptor. He fires at Jack point blank.


Jack disappears.


"No!" But he cuts off his yell as he sees something fall—is that a mobile emitter?


"So touching that you give a shit I just died for you." Jack pulls him and Seven back as Raffi and the Simkins resume firing at Timmons.


Shaw realizes what he heard in the hall was them, putting down Timmons' security force. About a dozen guards lie in a pile down the hall. All unconscious. The one at the top is Timmons' son Cooper—Shaw was wondering what had happened to him.


"You do not want to be in a choke hold with one of your boys, I'll tell you what. You will lose." Jack turns to Seven and inspects the wounds. "I'd do better with a scanner but I think it's safe to say no arteries hit. How many shots was he going to fire? It would have taken hours to die this way."


She makes a face. "Thanks for that, Jack."


"Hey, I was very brave for you. Running my mouth off like that." He winks.


"I appreciate the cover your hologram gave me. And for you actually sticking to the plan."


Shaw feels a surge of pride. His girlfriend and her ex and his protege and the two boys he loves like little brothers fucking rescued him.


But then the weapons fire intensifies and pride turns to concern. "Should we be helping Raffi?" he asks as the Simkins lay down cover for her and she advances into the room.


Seven leans hard against him. "Do they look like they want our help?"


Jack takes a peek. "Considering she just stunned Timmons, I'd say no."


Seven groans and shifts and he pulls her closer and gets their backs to the wall so he can support her better. He sees a flash of red where her jeans were punctured by the shot that went into her side.


She looks down. "Yeah, that expensive underwear is no doubt ruined."


"Blood doesn't show on red."


"Actually it does," Jack says. "Dries brown."


Shaw reaches out and whaps him. "Could you let us have this?"


"Fine. Sorry." Jack wanders in to help Raffi and the boys. Or more accurately watch them as they wrap this up and call Starfleet security to take Timmons into custody.


"Raffaela," a deep voice behind them sounds. "Admiral Timmons had no knowledge of this." Worf nods to Shaw and Seven and then goes into the room. "This would not have been the area I would have chosen to stage an attack from."


"Well, you weren't here, were you? Besides, we got it done."


Worf walks over to where the holo-Jack fell. "But you ruined another emitter. These are not cheap."


"Blah blah you have a budget now so shut up blah blah."


Shaw laughs. "We should have them over for dinner."


"Let's not." Seven leans on him even harder.


Worf approaches them. "Captain Seven of Nine, my sword is at your disposal."


"I hope you come with it, because I'm not that good with swords."


"Then I will be sure I accompany it." He takes in how Seven is leaning on him. "Captain, you should be seen by a doctor."


"I heartily agree."


He hits his communicator and someone answers only "Destination?"


"Starfleet Medical. Admiral Shaw and Captain Seven of Nine."


"Got it."


"Be well. We will clean up here."


Jack saying, "Wait, I want to go with them. Clean-up's not my strong suit," is the last thing Shaw hears before the transporter takes them.






Seven lies back on the biobed as Ohk scans her. Everywhere the bullets went in are throbbing.


Ohk turns the scanner off and says, "You know that we don't give frequent flier points, right? So these visits here really need to stop."


She laughs softly. "How bad is it?"


Actually this one in your arm missed an artery by millimeters. You would have bled out."


Liam looks over. "What?"


"No gunshot wound is safe. Even with little bullets like this." She pats Seven's shoulder. "But it did miss, so you're not critical and there are three cadets who fell while rock climbing who are, so it's going to be a wait. Just chill out here and let Liam lecture you on the stupidity of allowing yourself to be shot."


"In her defense, she did rescue me."


"For which I am eternally grateful. Just next time, clue me in on the plan so I can at least be there to treat the wounded."


"I'm sorry. Next time we have to rescue Liam, you'll be the second person I call."


"Sure I will be." She rolls her eyes and then walks away.


"She's really annoyed," Liam says.


"Yeah, I got that." She sighs and lies back.


"How did you know?"


She turns her head to look at him. "Know what?"


"That he wasn't just going to kill you the moment you beamed in."


"I didn't know and to be honest when you were first taken, I was afraid he would kill you to hurt me. But as Raffi was planning, after I had found you, I approached the problem more rationally. If I could have killed Bjayzl slowly, the way she did Icheb, I would have. The only reason I killed her quickly was because I was under attack and I was more afraid she'd disappear again than I was disappointed I had to end her life without making her suffer first."


He doesn't seem to be judging her as he nods.


"Timmons had plenty of opportunities to take me out for killing his son if he just wanted me dead. He could have hired a professional and not gotten his hands dirty at all. But he knew I wasn't going anywhere. He had time. To get it right. To take his time. To do it himself. The way I would have."


"Still, he could have really hurt you. It might not have been small bullets aimed well. Or kind of well." His face becomes haunted and she thinks he will be thinking about how he almost lost her again.


"Liam, he had you. I had to get you back. If you prefer to think I wasn't being altruistic, consider what would have happened to both of us if he had taken you off the planet."


"I have thought of that." He sighs and gets up, coming over to the biobed, perching on the edge and taking her hand.


"We thought he'd take you to the alley. But he said it would be the wrong place because loud noises would be noticed. 'Loud noises,' not screams from being tortured. And a scream from a disruptor is abruptly cut off—sometimes you hear nothing." She remembers T'Veen's silence, the surprise of the moment.


He doesn't comment.


"You disagree with my plan?"


"No. I disagree with you putting yourself in danger."


"Liam, it was you. End of story. What would you have done if I'd kept the rose, if they'd taken me the way they wanted."


"I'd have called Raffi. And Kathryn. And the boys. Probably not Jack."


"Oh we didn't call him. He felt my distress."


He seems to be processing that then shakes his head. "Well, shit. He better not be bonded to you because I am not sharing."


"He might have felt yours had the situation been reversed. And I'm not sharing either so we're safe." She lifts his hand, twines her fingers with his then feels a surge of pain and winces.




"Yeah, clearly I've been hanging out with you too much." She lets go and puts her arm down until it stops throbbing. "Jack doesn't know why he felt it. Doesn't know that according to the Agnes-Queen he's part of whatever we are."


"Are you asking me if we should tell him?"


She nods.


"I don't know. I assume he's not going to die if we go on vacation to Risa?"


"No. It's not that kind of link. I don't believe I could find him if he were hurt. I certainly never felt anything when he was getting beaten up."


"Yeah, me either. So it's a distant link?"


She nods.


"He's going to be on the ship. I guess we can see if it gets stronger or if this is all it is. An occasional sense of something wrong." He looks down. "I could ask Agnes."


"She is no longer Agnes—calling her only that can lead to dangerously underestimating who she is and what she's capable of."


He just sighs and gives her a look that seems sad.


"You disagree?"


"I do. And she doesn't seem to mind me calling her that."


"Wait, you've talked to her? Since we talked to her together?"


He nods. "I know you don't want anything to do with her. I get that. I guess maybe I shouldn't either, but she's interesting. And I've had questions about some of the tech. The history, how she came up with this stuff. It's amazing—the collaboration.


"You are full of surprises."


"Yeah, says the woman who stole my knife. So forget about Agnes, let's talk about the that."


She rolls her eyes. "I lost mine the night of the attack and you have so many. But I'll give it back."


"No keep it. It looks better on you." He grins. "But...how do you get that thing through transporters without tripping the weapons alert?"


"Ranger trick. I can't tell you."


"Did you wear it the whole time on the ship?"


She nods with a smile she knows is more self satisfied than it should be.


"Damn, that's sexy. Also you could seriously have blown some of our 'no weapons' missions."


She shrugs.


"This is a whole new Titan memory I didn't know we had. But maybe one to save for the ship, for the holodeck."


"We could do it here, there are holodecks to rent."


"Yeah but there is no real privacy on those. Trust me, I know this." He laughs softly. "And we're going to want privacy because I really want to see you use the knife on some bad guys. Or Picard. Whichever."


"Not Picard."


"Fine. But bad guys for sure. Show me what you can do. And then we'll..." He waggles his eyebrows dramatically.


She laughs. "There is a dark side to you, Liam Shaw."




"My dark side likes it. A lot."




Shaw is back in the cushy arm chair watching Seven sleep. He hears a soft tap on the window to the room and sees Raffi, so he gets up quietly and leaves Seven in peace.


Raffi peeks in the window. "Is she...?"




"Are you...?"


"Thanks to you."


"And her. I'm not the one who took bullets for you." She meets his eyes. "I also wouldn't have wanted to be the one who tried to stop her from doing that. She...she really loves you." She looks away.


"I can't even imagine what you're feeling right now." He keeps his voice as gentle as he can. "I know what I'd be feeling in your position, I don't know that I'd be so gung ho to help the person who replaced me."


"She asked. I answered. I will always answer her. She's my captain and my friend."


"Well, I really appreciate that." He can tell she doesn't want to talk more about this so he asks softly, "How many more people are going to try to kill her?"


"Worf's people talked to the families of the other cadets. They had nothing to do with this. Neither did Admiral Timmons who was appalled at what her husband and son did. Hopefully this is the end of it. Although I would not count out her ability to piss off the people she meets once we're all on the ship."


He laughs softly. "Yeah, I wouldn't either. Still, people here, some of them, they hate the Borg."


"You changed. Maybe they can too."


He frowns. "I never hated her. I chose her."


She lifts an eyebrow. "She called you a dick more than once when she and I were still talking."


"Well, that's because I was one. But I never hated her." He walks to the window. "I thought she was like me. A victim of the Borg."


"She was a victim of the Borg." She laughs in a small puff of air. "So then why won't she go by Annika Hansen?"


"Yeah. I don't care anymore. What she is. What she calls herself. She is who she is. And I really like that person over and above any other feelings. I respect her." He turns to her. "And I respect you, Raffi. More than you'll ever know."


"Back at you. But I will kill you if you hurt her."


"Of that I have no doubt."


"So you're scared?"


"Little bit, yeah."


"Good." She pats his shoulder and then she goes in and takes the chair while he gets them some food.




Seven breathes a sigh of relief when the flitter pulls up in front of their building. It's late and they wanted to keep her overnight, but her vitals are good and she wanted to go home. She opens her door before Liam can run around to do it and help her out like she's an invalid.


"I'm fine. Next time I get bored on a Saturday, remind me of this one. I'll happily go back to work."


"No, you won't." He opens the door for her to the apartment lobby and stops when the concierge calls to them. "Oh, our package from the boutique."


He carries it as they ride the elevator up and walk down the hall. The red lingerie is gone, cut off her by the surgical team and she's wearing hospital issued undergarments, which are just like Starfleet issued and entirely what she's used to.


She does have an ivory lingerie set in the package the boutique sent but she doesn't want to deal with it tonight and takes the package from him once they're in the apartment. "I'll hang these up."


"You okay?"


She nods and goes into the bedroom, unfastening the package, hanging up the plum and blue dresses and just staring at them. So much to happen in one day.


"Can I come in?"


"It's your bedroom too." She turns and looks at him. "Don't look in that package though. Some night, when I haven't almost lost you, I'll want to tease you with what's in there."


He smiles and walks over to her. "Are you sure it's not when you haven't taken bullets for me. Am I worth that, Seven?"


She pulls him down to her and kisses him, a sweet kiss, not trying to escalate it. "You are."


"Are you hungry?"


"No. Are you?"


"No, Raffi and I ate while you slept."


"She was there for us." She realizes he has blood on his sleeves. But when she pushes them up frantically, his skin is fine.


"Hey, no, it's okay. I tried to get out of the zip ties. It didn't work. But Ohk fixed me up while you were in surgery."


"I didn't even notice."


"That's because you had actual bullets inside you. Stop it." He begins to pulls off the clothing the hospital gave her to replace the sweater and jeans. "Indulge me. I just want to make sure you're all right."


She lets him, finds it comforting as he checks her, running his hand over the nu-skin, asking her if anything hurts. She laughs as he pulls out a t-shirt he's told her she absolutely cannot commandeer as a nightshirt and pulls it over her head. "You're sure?"


He nods. "That's a thing. You're not." Then he changes quickly into sweats and a t-shirt, and leads her out to the living room, sitting on the couch, easing her down so she's cuddling with him. "If you had died..."


"I didn't."


"But if you had..." He swallows hard.


She turns into him, snaking her arms around him. "I know—if you die..."


"We have to promise. Right here, right now. The other goes on. We do not give up. That's how we honor this love." He strokes her hair, laying kisses down where his hands have been. "Do you promise?"


"I promise. Do you?"


"I do." He tips her head up so he can kiss her, and she shifts to get more comfortable.


"I just want to do this. I just want to kiss you."


"Okay." He's so gentle with her, his lips touching down lazily as he plays with her hair, then rubs her back.


They've never done this. Kissing with no intention to go further and she loves it. How close she feels to him. How sweet he can be—and how strong, even just doing this.


"You found me," he whispers at some point. "Didn't you? It wasn't tech, it was you. You found me?"


"I did."






Shaw is with Seven on the pool deck, enjoying a warm day. They've turned the double-lounger to face the sun, both have sunglasses on as they hold hands, relaxing on this first day of the weekend.


"Well, don't you two look cozy."


He feels Seven flinch and laughs. "Jack, I know you don't need to be here."


"I do, though." He actually sits down on the edge of the lounger next to Shaw.


"This is for two people, not three," Seven says.


Shaw takes his sunglasses off and studies Jack. "What's wrong?"


"There's an open house at Chateau Picard I have to go to."


"You're right. That's a terrifying shitshow. A few people at a winery, big whoop."


"No, my father's invited everyone."


Seven laughs softly. "Not us."


"I mean in the neighborhood in France. And I think it's to show off his new heir."


"Heir to that. Wow. I wish I could say I was full of envy, but I'm not." Shaw is still not seeing the problem. "Do you not know what to wear or what?"


"No, I...I want you two to come with me. I don't know anyone there. My presence has been demanded and..." He looks away. "Could you just do me a solid and come?"


Seven leans over and kisses Shaw then pats Jack on the hand. "You can have Liam as your plus one. Raffi and I are taking her granddaughter out for ice cream so I will happily get to skip this."


"Baby..." He could go for ice cream. He'd rather do that.


"Okay. Yeah. Just Liam. That works." Jack has turned up his pain-in-the-ass pleading look to high.


"Your father won't like this."


"I don't care. I just want some fucking support." Jack looks down. "I'm sorry. Look, Laris guilted me into this. She's super hard to say no to. And now I'm stuck and I just...I just need a friendly face."


"Uh huh. They're going to think we're dating."


"I could do worse."


Shaw grabs Seven's arm and pretends to cry. "Can I please have ice cream with you and Raffi and the kid?"


"No. Go get changed. Do not wear what he's wearing."


Shaw realizes that he and Jack are dressed alike again. What the fuck? "Sometimes you are not the world's best girlfriend."


"Uh huh. Enjoy the wine." She actually laughs as she says it, then puts her head back and sighs in what sounds like a really happy way.


"Do not fall asleep out here."


"I won't."


She will. She does it every time he leaves her out here. She adores the sunshine. Probably a result of having so little of it as a youth. So he gets up and pulls a shade screen over to protect her, then grabs her padd and checks to make sure she set the alarm. She did.


"Anal much? Jesus." Jack snaps his fingers in a really annoying "Hurry up" way.


"I'm going to change."


"You look fine."


"We are not going dressed alike to your father's open house." He leaves Jack with Seven, changes quickly, and goes back down.


Jack is lounging next to Seven. They're both asleep.


"Oh, for fuck's sake." He taps Jack on the head and once he's up, they walk to the transporter hub, skip the line—which Jack loves—and appear at the nearest transporter hub to the chateau. A flitter flies them the rest of the way.


Shaw takes in the beauty that is Chateau Picard at night, lanterns and fairy lights spill light gently onto the grounds. "Holy crap. This is quite the spread." And there are a shit ton of people mingling around tables. He suddenly understands why Jack might be nervous.


"Here he comes. Look natural."


What does that even mean? Shaw is going to look like he always does when he sees Picard. Himself only slightly more hostile.


But before he has to explain why he's here, Laris swoops in saying, "Liam, so good to see you," and has him moving away from Jack and his father.


"Whoa, nicely done."


"Well, I know why Jack asked you here, but Jean-Luc won't understand." She leads him to an upper terrace and into the house, where she pours him a glass of...not Chateau Picard.


"This is my favorite Malbec. Have you tried it?" She turns the bottle and it's one that's super hard to get.


"I love that. But aren't we supposed to be—"


"Drinking Chateau Picard? We are, but we're not going to. Because, Liam, I actually like you." She laughs softly. "I can get way with this because sadly Romulan tastebuds are not refined enough to enjoy a wine as sublime as Chateau Picard."




"And you can get away with it because you're you."


"Not bullshit."


She takes him out to the terrace and they sit in chairs that look ancient but are really comfortable.


He can see Picard, his arm around Jack's shoulders, animatedly introducing him. Jack is smiling, looks relaxed. "He didn't need me."


"Not now that he's here. But to get here, he did." She sighs almost wistfully. "I can't wait to see what he grows up into. These Picard youngsters are extraordinary."


"There's more than one of them?"


"Renee Picard. An ancestor of Jean-Luc's. My great aunt knew her. I'm told I look just like my aunt." She smiles in a way he can't really read. "Or, maybe, I was made to. To be appealing when it mattered."


"How much have you had to drink?"


"Not much." She turns to him and seems to be reading his very soul. "Agnes says I can trust you."


"You talk to Agnes?"


"I do. She's fascinating. And we did not see her coming. Or what she'd bring."




"Those who watch." She smiles mysteriously at his expression. "This is going to be frustrating. I'm not telling you much and I'm going to talk in circles. But...you're the closest one to him. And I know you'll take care of him. And if you ever need help with that, consider me a resource. Think of me as a...supervisor." She smiles again in that mysterious way.


If it were anyone else, he'd think she was hitting on him. But she seems deadly serious. "What am I missing here, Laris?"


"Some assignments are done out of duty and others are done out of love. I think the latter is preferable."


He gives up trying to figure out what the fuck she's talking about. "I think you broke into the hooch way before this shindig started."


"Very possible." She sips her wine and smiles.


"Can I ask you something that's absolutely none of my business?"


"Why do I stay with Jean-Luc?"


"Good guess."


"I had my soulmate, Liam. I had my Seven. His name was Zhaban and part of me died when he did. But we were here for a job and that didn't stop just because his heart did. I had to keep doing it. It was easier to do it this way, close to the source. And...I am fond of Jean-Luc. Even if I'm not the one he loves—I know he sees my aunt when he looks at me."


"You are making zero sense. Other than losing the love of your life, for which I am very, very sorry." He frowns. "How do you know Agnes?"


"It's not important. Please forgive my ramblings. I just needed...I just needed to talk to a kindred spirit. Someone who cares as much about Jack as I do."


"You barely know him."


"I know. But that doesn't mean I haven't watched him over the years." She meets his eyes and he realizes she is absolutely sober. "Liam, you're a man who should not be here. And yet you are. I don't know what your future will bring, but if someday you are like me, mourning the loss of your love, I have a place for you. A job."


"Do you know something? What's going to happen—to Seven?"


"No. We protect the tapestry of history, not the individual threads unless they are crucial."


"Seven's not crucial?"


"Be glad she isn't. There's freedom in being insignificant to the great scheme of things."


"She fucking helped stop the Borg. That's hardly insignificant."


"For you, no. For the Federation, no. For the universe, well... Let's just say we take a much broader view."


"Are you saying you're some kind of..." He shakes his head, unsure what to call her.


"We watch. We knew what Jack was, his Borg blood, the plans of the last Queen, and what he would set off."


"And you did nothing?" He's not sure if he should even believe her at this point. Is she all there?"


"You have your prime directive; we have ours." She touches his hand and he feels suddenly muddled like he's had way too much to drink. "You will forget this conversation until you need it. Like, say, if Q shows too much interest in Jack. Jean-Luc thinks Q's dead but he's so linear in his thinking."




"I am depending on you to keep an eye on Jack. You will know if things are beyond your ability to help him and you will contact me. Do you understand?" There is something in her voice that practically compels him to say, "I do."


She touches his hand again and he feels a small shock. For a moment he feels light headed. Then it clears.


What were they talking about? He shifts and she turns to him, her expression untroubled.


"You can see why this is my favorite spot on the grounds," she says with a smile. "We can just sit here like old friends, drinking our wine, not even having to talk."


"It's a lovely view." Except that Picard is climbing the stairs with Jack. "Hi, Jean-Luc." He says it in his most sarcastic way.




"Call him Liam," Jack says, glaring at his father.


"Of course. Liam." Picard rolls his eyes and Shaw laughs—at least they're honest with each other. "Has Laris given you the tour?"




"Then let me. Darling, would you introduce Jack to some of your friends?"


She gets up and takes Jack by the arm. "I'd love to."


Shaw follows Picard through the workings of the chateau. He might not like the wine but the enterprise is impressive.


"I want you to try this. Laris convinced me to try my hand at something new a few years ago. It's just now coming to fruition." He opens a bottle and pours them both some. "I'm not sure why you're here, Liam, but if Jack wants it, then I'll honor it. Cheers."


"Cheers." He steels himself to pretend to like the wine. But it goes down nicely with notes he loves. "Is this..."


"Malbec, yes. This area is perfect for it, just not something I ever was interested in growing. Until Laris brought it up because she loves the varietal so much. And here you are: a Malbec man. Quite the coincidence."


He has a weird feeling. Like maybe it's not. Only he's not sure why he thinks that.




"It's delicious." He smiles in a way that is in no way false.


Picard looks delighted. "I think so too."




Seven hears Liam in the kitchen, then he comes out to the living room. He came back happier than she expected from the adventure with Jack. Even brought home a few bottles of a Malbec Picard made. And was complimentary about it.


She's relaxed after a day with Raffi and her granddaughter. Had time to think before Liam got home. One thing keeps popping up. Something she wonders how Liam will respond to if she wants to play out the past.


Will he lie to her because he loves her?


He leans down and kisses her. "You're quiet tonight."


"I need to run something through with you. Not a Titan Memory exactly, not something I want to redo. This is a...Titan hypothetical. Something I very nearly did. And I'm not sure what you would have done."


He sits down next to her. "Okay. You want us in uniforms or...?"


"No, just sit there. This living room is your quarters. You're dressed casually because it's after hours. The night after the Fellaran mission."




She stands and moves to the other side of the room facing him. "I've come to your door. It's late. I don't even know if you are up." She can imagine his door, was there so many times for debriefings and the informal dressing downs that for some reason couldn't be done in his ready room. She raises her hand as if ringing for entry.




She meets his eyes. "Sir."




She swallows hard at the name, but it's what he would have called her back then. "I wish to request a transfer."


She can see she's taken him by surprise. She said she was thinking of doing this and it's true—and that seems to hit the Liam of today hard.


"Sick of me riding you?"


"That's not the reason."


He looks at her the way he used to, not saying anything, and just like then she rushes in to fill the silence. "I have grown close to a fellow crewman. I believe it compromises my judgment. I have put that crew member first when I was ordered not to."


"You're involved with somebody? Since when?"


She meets his eyes. "I am not involved with anyone. It is perhaps an exaggeration to say I have grown close. It is more truthful to say I have developed feelings for this individual. Feelings I am relatively sure are not returned."


"Tell me the person and I'll put them on a different shift. You're too important to me as my first officer to have you leave." He stares at her as if waiting for more of the point.


"I don't want them on a different shift."


"You're not making this easy, Hansen. I'm trying to help—"


"The person is you, sir. On Fellaran, you told me to leave and yet I could not make myself. I know this is unwelcome information. I understand how unprofessional this is. But...I may put the crew in danger."


She can see him pause, can see the Liam she loves creeping into the past.


She wants him to stay in the past, needs him to be that man, not this one.


Then his expression changes and he stands and walks to her. "I'm your captain. Push down those feeling and I'll see you in the morning." He walks back to the couch. "Request denied."


She almost laughs. He's playing this as if it's a game of chess. Or maybe cribbage. She's not big on games but she knows he has brought a new parameter into this by denying her request. "Then I'll resign."


He turns around. "Are you fucking serious? You'd give up everything for...me? I'll put you on a different shift and—"


"No. I'll have my resignation letter to you by morning." She turns to go.


"Hans—" He takes a ragged breath. "Seven of Nine. I don't want you to go."


She turns slowly. "Why not? You don't approve of me. I know I'm not cut out for this. Not Fleet material."


"Who the fuck told you that? Because it wasn't me." He walks to her, staring at her like she's an idiot. "I challenge you, sure. I tell you when you've fucked up because I know you'll learn from that, and won't do it again—accidentally anyway. God knows you've never met a rule you didn't want to break. But you are Fleet material."


"Thank you, sir. But I think it's best if I resign."


"No, I'll get you a transfer. I have a friend who's looking for a first officer." His voice trails off. "Don't abandon your career over this. Starfleet needs you."


Hearing him say that. It feels good. It feels right. That he'd let her go, that he'd have looked out for her this way. "That will be fine."


"You don't even know what kind of ship it is."


"Does it matter?" She turns as if heading for his door. "I just can't do this—with you, working so closely."


"Wait." When she doesn't stop moving, he's hurries to her, grabbing her arm, saying, "Seven, damn it, wait."


She stares at where he's holding her and he lets her go. But he's staring at her helplessly and she sees it: what she missed all those years ago. The love that was always there. Before nanoprobes, before Picard and changelings, before Fellaran even.


He touches her hair and his hand is shaking. "You're my first officer. The regs say..."


"I'm well aware of what the regs say. I also know how much you value those regs."


"They keep people safe."


"People? Or you?" She meets his eyes and waits.


When he doesn't answer, she turns, hand reaching for the imaginary door panel and feels him grab her, turn her, pull her into his arms, holding her tightly. "You can't leave me."


"Why not?"


"Because I'm in love with you. And I don't know what the fuck to do about it other than being even more of an asshole to you than I've already been."


"Well it must work because I'm in love with you too." She strokes his face. "Will you let us have this?"


And suddenly he's her Liam, not the one of back then, and he's looking at her helplessly.


"It's okay," she says softly. "Just answer."


"I'm not sure what that me would have said."


"Yes, you do. You would have said no."


He closes his eyes and nods. "Would you have left?"


"Not if I knew you loved me."


"Would have been really fucking awkward though."


She laughs. "Like that wasn't our steady state?"


"You really were going to do this? Ask for reassignment?"


"I was at your door that night. I just never rang for admittance. When it came down to it, I didn't want to hear the answer if you didn't care. And you were spending a lot of time in your ready room. If I just didn't say anything, we could go back to normal—eventually." She takes his hand and sits down on the couch with him. "I had the transfer request forms filled out, though, and I'd sit in my quarters, finger poised over the submit button. And every time I'd close it back up and save it as draft. I guess I can erase it now, huh?"


He laughs. "Yeah, a captain transferring off her own ship is super weird."


"Thank you for not answering as the you of now. The one who I think would have kissed me, would have made love to me."


"Damn straight I would. But...I'm not him, not that me. So much has changed. And not just the two of us. Starfleet almost ceased to exist, we sort of have a son, I'm kind of Borg."


She smiles. "All true."


"I'm really glad you didn't ring that bell. It wasn't our time to figure this out yet."


"No. It wasn't." She tells the house computer to set windows to max privacy. "I have a reward for you, for being unwilling to lie just to make me happy."


"Where is this reward?"


"Pull off my shirt and shorts and you'll find out."


He does and then he stops, a sweetly lecherous expression on his face as he takes in the ivory lingerie she got in Paris. "Oh, man. So pretty."


"I wasn't sure if you'd like the color but I did."


He's sliding his hands over the decadently soft fabric. "I love it." Then he unhooks her bra. "I love it even more off you."


"This is why I questioned the need for this. It's highly impractical and not, frankly, all that comfortable. And now it is off me."


"Baby, you don't ever have to wear this out or on a mission. But even if I'm taking it off you, I'm very much enjoying this lingerie. So it will always have a place in our private times."


"Fine." She eases up so he can slip the panties down her legs. "I seem to be naked."


"Yes, you do." He has her lie across his lap and begins to play as she looks up at him.


"I feel very exposed."


"You are. To me. Naked in so many ways. And I know this is just the start for us. I can't wait to get on that ship with you. To see the great things you're going to do. To discover what a fucking rockstar captain you're going to be." He is playing her just right and she's writhing, looking up at him, finally calling out as she comes. "And you're mine."


She takes a minute to enjoy the buzz. Then says, "Take your clothes off."


He does as she says and she straddles him, sinking onto him, then asking, "Preference?"


"Fast. Hard. No mercy."


She kisses him first, a tender kiss, and then she goes hard on him, knowing he'll tell her if it's too much. He's calling out her name, telling her how beautiful she is, how powerful, how much he loves her.


And then he's coming and his words no longer make sense. She kisses him and strokes his hair as he shudders.


"So good. You're amazing. Rode me like a captain."


"Like you're the captain or I am?"


"Yes." He laughs and pulls her in, holding her tightly. "I love you, Seven of Nine."


"I love you, too, Liam Shaw. Thank you for choosing me as your first officer."


"Thank you for not putting in that transfer request."


"Or sharing unpleasant truths."


"The fact that you were in love with me would not have been an unpleasant truth. Just...inconvenient."


"Yes, I understand. Back then, even if it made things very strange, I would have enjoyed hearing you say it back."


"And you will, when we're playing with the memories, fixing things. I just didn't get the feel that's what you wanted tonight."


"You know me."


"Yeah, I do."




Shaw holds a hand out to help Seven out of the flitter. For once she doesn't act like it's weird that he wants to do this, probably because she's not used to wearing a formal gown. It's the blue one they got in Paris and she looks amazing in it.


He grins as he looks at her hair. She was debating putting it up and he convinced her to go with just pulling back some of it, letting the rest cascade down. The Seven who wore her hair up and blown out straight belongs to another time—this is his woman, the one who lets her hair air dry with lovely waves.


Then again, this is some kind of Voyager reunion so maybe an updo would have been more in keeping. He's not sure why the invite so specifically said civilian black tie, but it's kind of nice to have an excuse to get gussied up in something other than mess dress.


The group cleans up nice. There are people he doesn't know, but everyone gives him a big smile when they see him with Seven.


Well, everyone but the Doctor. But that's okay—Shaw wouldn't be grinning at him if the tables were turned.


"Have I told you how handsome you look?" Seven leans into him.


"You have not. Quite remiss of you, my gorgeous lady." He takes in how the blue of her eyes seems hyper bright with the dress as accent. "I'm glad we bought this dress."


"So, now, am I." She follows him to where Torres-Paris and Paris are.


"Admiral, Captain."


"For God's sake, Liam, you can call me B'Elanna. And him Tom."


He grins.


"Any idea why we're here?" Seven asks. "I mean we've never had a reunion this formal, right? Unless I just wasn't invited..." She looks very uncomfortable at the thought.


"Stop that, Seven. There were just the picnics when we first got back. When you were still with..." Tom trails off.


"It's okay. We all know she was with him." Shaw pulls her close. "And that is over."


"So over." She surprises him by kissing him gently. Not that she's not affectionate with him in public, but these are her old shipmates en masse.


Although he expected a bigger crowd for a reunion. This seems to be the senior staff and then some random others.


"Naomi Wildman," Seven says to a young woman, pulling her in for a big hug.


The woman holds her for a long time, then turns to Shaw, a suspicious look on her face. "Who's this?"


"Admiral Liam Shaw."


"Is he a serious thing?"


"Not a thing, kid."


She laughs. "The question stands."


Seven nods. "I'm afraid so."


"Treat her right or—"


"Yeah, yeah. I've heard the threats, trust me."


She laughs. "I probably wouldn't do anything. Not really my style. But you should know Seven was one of my favorite people growing up. She made me who I am."


Seven's smile is effortlessly happy. "And you made me who I am, Naomi. Your friendship was incredibly important to me."


Suddenly there is the squeal of a PA system not working right and he grimaces and shakes his head—B'Elanna is doing the same thing. Test it before you start—why is that such a hard thing for people to get?


They turn to see Kathryn and Chakotay standing on the little raised stage that the band is on, next to the dance floor. They both look...somber.


"We're so glad to see you all here. And looking so lovely," Chakotay says. "But..." He looks down and shakes his head, and Kathryn eases him out of the way.


"We know that you're all aware Chakotay and I have been together. And, well, we didn't want you to hear about this from anyone else first. This relationship just isn't working for us."


He looks at Seven in confusion, and she whispers in the near inaudible level they perfected as a command team, "Is this normal? Throwing a party for a break-up?"




Chakotay leans in to the mike. "We thought, after all this time, that taking it slow would work. But...it didn't. Which is why we're no longer dating."


There is a silence in the group, Shaw can tell no one is sure what to do.


Then he realizes both Chakotay and Kathryn are trying not to laugh and he starts grinning.


"So we got married," they say together.


There are whoops and applause and everyone is laughing. He looks at Seven and she is beaming—she's moved on from both of them and it makes him feel so light inside.


The way he did before Wolf 359. When life seemed full of possibilities.


"We won't bore you with the details of the wedding," Chakotay says.


"It was short."


"Or of the honeymoon."


"It was not."


"But we wanted to celebrate with you." He looks at Kathryn.


She smiles back at him and Shaw can imagine what it was like for their crew to watch this, to know how much emotion these two had tied up in each other.


How hard that might have been when it all fell apart.


He feels Seven take his hand and is glad she never told him, that they waited—even if he had to die first—to find out that love was waiting.


Then again, their crew were all aboard the "Get a room" train so maybe they were showing more than they ever knew.


Thoughts for some other day.


Kathryn smiles at each of them in turn. "You're our dearest friends. And we wanted to share this with you. And give us all a chance to dress up like civilians and dance and just enjoy each other." She turns to Chakotay and they kiss, a gentle short kiss, but it's clear how much emotion is in it. Then they step down and the music starts back up.


"I guess you two are next," Tom says as he and B'Elanna walk over to congratulate the happy couple.


"Are we?" he asks softly.


"A few months ago, I would have said no. Now...who knows?" She smiles at him, so free, so untroubled at the thought.


"Yeah, who knows." They walk over to Kathryn and Chakotay and give them the appropriate amount of grief over the subterfuge and congratulations on the marriage.


Then they hit the dance floor, and he relaxes into her, secure that he's with someone who loves him with a ferocity and truth that will never betray him. She might annoy him at times or confuse him, but mostly he thinks they'll just enjoy each other. The way they do now.


It's not all passion or fun and games.


He honestly loves being with her. He likes her so much.


And he's also sure, after surveying the room, that he's with the most beautiful woman here. Unnecessary to happiness but a lovely bonus.


They've danced to a lot of songs when she says, "I need something to drink."


They get champagne and roam the little tables set up with amazing appetizers talking to people as they go. They finally end up on one of the couches scattered across the room and Seven cuddles into him and hums along with the music.


He loves her voice.


He sees the Doctor approaching. "Would it be all right if I ask Seven to dance?"


"I don't control who she dances with." He leans back and murmurs, "It's fine," just because this isn't a scenario that's come up before and he wants her to know he's not going to get weird about it.


"I'd love to." She takes his hand and they go to the dance floor.


Kathryn walks over and sits down next to him. "Very magnanimous of you. You must be super secure." Her voice is full of mischief.


"Don't make trouble, you."


She laughs. "I think it's in my nature to do that."


"I'd be threatened if I didn't know how long she's been saying no to him."


"That's certainly true." She puts her head on his shoulder. "She looks lovely, Liam. So happy. This is all I ever wanted. My people, happy and safe."


"And you. Happy with him."


"Yes. And me, happy with him."


There is a low cough that is not entirely friendly. "Kathryn, do you think cuddling with Seven's man is the best look?"


"You can sit on his other side and do this and we can really create confusion."


Chakotay laughs and does it, cuddling up to Shaw.


"You two are so fucking weird." But he won't lie. This is kind of sexy.


Seven looks over the Doctor's back at them and just starts laughing.


"Well, she's clearly not bothered by our threesome." Kathryn gets up. "Chakotay, will you dance with me?"


"Always." He kisses Shaw on the cheek. "I'll be back to you later." Then he laughs and slaps Shaw on the back.


B'Elanna walks over and sits down next to him, kicking off her sandals. "I hate high heels."


"Yeah, me too."


She laughs. "So, are you bored enough yet to let them dance and we can talk about what Alandra suggested for the deflector shield?"


"Oh, my God, right? I had never considered that."


"I know. Me either. All this in her brain and yet she sits in meetings like a stone. You have to get her to open up."


"Maybe her brain doesn't work like that. Maybe she needs to process offline. Not everyone can solve things in their sleep."


"Look at you. All protective of our little prodigy." She leans back. "I can't wait to see what we do with this tech. Seven's going to have the most amazing ship in the fleet when we're done."


"And the safest." That's still so important to him. That he can keep her—and everyone else—safe.


"Yes. But also maybe the fastest, the most agile, the most efficient. It gives me tingles just thinking about it." She laughs. "I know I'll be at Command but I'm not going to be hands off on this. I'm afraid I'm part of your team whether you want that or not."


"Wouldn't have it any other way."





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