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.

Unrelenting (Part 4)

by Djinn





You're walking down to the CINC's office because Kathryn refused to talk to you over comms about whatever it was she wanted. "Be at my office at noon. I'll have lunch brought in," was all she said in the message she left in response to the message you left.


The office is actually a suite of offices, all of them with gorgeous views. You stop at the reception area and one of the lieutenants working there asks you to please sit.


Even the guest chairs in the waiting area are super comfortable. Rich fabrics, just padded enough without making you sink into the chair so much it's not easy to get right back out.


"Captain Seven?" The lieutenant is back. "She'll see you now. Let me take you down."


You don't even get to walk the way by yourself? Wow. Power and then some.


Kathryn is working on her terminal while an ensign from food services lays out what looks like a lovely lunch on her conference table. You are relieved to see it is only set for two.


You are also not relieved. You've managed to avoid any significant time with Kathryn even as you managed to stay in touch once you finally got into Starfleet.


The ensign leaves, Kathryn is still typing her message, and that leaves you to either sit or wander, and you choose the latter. This may be a power play and you don't want to fall for it.


"Sit down, Seven. I'll just be a moment."


"Enjoying the view. Can't blame anyone for that." There, volley back.


You hear her laugh softly and she gets up and says, "Please, join me."


"When you put it that way..." You hurry to sit where she's indicating, and you see she's picked your favorites from your days on the ship.


You eat for a bit, and she asks you easy questions and you ask her even easier ones, and you're enjoying just spending time with her after so long but you're also on alert, because she can switch at any moment to the captain and not the friend.


When you've both finished and are working on individual crème brûlées, she says, "Explain your relationship with Councilor Alara. I've seen her—pretty woman. Your type, I imagine."


You start to say she's not, but Kathryn holds her hand up in the old way of "Let me finish before you mouth off at me," so you stay quiet.


"I know she was with Liam. I know you're with Liam. Now she wants to use my auditorium, and her latest communication mentioned you as being someone who could vouch for her. Are you being used or are you three involved?"


You sputter your coffee. "Her? Fuck no."


"Well, that was quite a visceral reaction. I'm pleased because she's garbage." She studies you. "Is Liam still with her?"


"Liam never really was—well, he had sex with her but..." You sigh. "Do you not know what your intel people are doing?"


"I do now. I didn't then. Seven, why didn't you come to me when Worf pulled him out of Medical? I'd have found him. I'd have stopped whatever stupid thing they thought they were doing. Starfleet has no business in any of this—we have to stay out of Federation politics. They should know that."




"Worf and your fucking ex, my stalker. And if you were trying to show me how little you thought of me, taking up with her was a wonderful way to say, 'Fuck you, Kathryn.'"


"I didn't know about that when I met her, and I imagine for her it wasn't something she wanted to tell your protege. I only found out about it when I got access to her personnel record after I selected her as my first officer."


"Okay, well, maybe that's how it went."




"How would I really know? It's not like you spend any time with me? This is the first time...other than when you need something." She pushes her dessert away. "What did I do? Other than not want you?"


"It's what I did, not what you did. Fell in love with him."


"With Chakotay? You did?"


"Not at first. That was just desperation, I think, on both of our parts to get free of how we felt for you. But later, once we were off the ship. I did. He never did with me though. It was always you for him. And that wasn't a huge surprise to me. I could have let him go a lot sooner than I did, but I was feeling stubborn. I should have let him go... You were threatening to resign on my behalf and I was holding on to the man you do actually love. You're with him now, right?" At Kathryn's nod, you say, "So that's between us, isn't it? He's between us."


"He doesn't have to be. I'm willing to let that go if you are. At the end of the day, you wouldn't let me resign. You pulled your application and disappeared."


"Was that a relief?"


"I won't lie. It was. I was hurt. I'm not now. And now is what we need to talk about." She refills your coffee from the carafe on the table and then her own. She takes her time screwing the lid back on and you think she's marshaling her thoughts. Finally, she meets your eyes and says, "There is no way in hell I'm letting that woman use the Starfleet Auditorium to spread her hate and fear."


You swallow hard. Not because you're disappointed. Because you're not. Because she's right, and Picard and Kirk aren't.


"And I can guess who put her up to it. I doubt this was her first choice of venue."


You drink a long sip of coffee so you won't have to answer.


"Seven, I get that you think you owe Picard something. But don't you think whatever he might have done for you is well past paid?"




She looks shocked at your answer. "Hmmm. I know all about the 'android' Kirk too. That section reports to me like any other."


"Then you know that section is the whole reason the Borg Queen could take over Starfleet. Their stupid experiments with the changelings."


"Why do you think they appointed me as CINC? Someone who had no ties to the Dominion War? I'm well aware. At least you weren't in any danger—from assimilation. From your junior officers eliminating you, yes."


You haven't told another soul this, why Vadic thought it so fitting you witness whatever she was going to do with Jack. Why you were fighting off the Queen—how you would never have been able to if Agnes hadn't claimed you first. So you whisper, "I heard her. Telling me I'd soon be mother to all of them. When she took my body to replace the one you destroyed. Older you."


"Oh, Seven. That isn't in the reports."


"Because she couldn't do it."


"Because of the Jurati?"


You're not surprised she knows of that. But you doubt Agnes told her. Knowing Picard, he shoved it in his report not thinking about what it would do to you if it were known. "Are you going to kick me out because I'm Borg again?" Panic fills you at the thought that you might have nowhere to go, to call home, to have to wander the way you did before.


Although Liam will come with you. And that settles you right back down. Whatever happens, you know he wants to be with you.


"You're Jurati, if that, not Borg. And the Jurati are members of the Federation. So...what's the problem?"


You wait to see if she's going to tell you what the problem is but she just sits quietly and you finally mumble, "No problem."


"Which leads us back to this asinine debate. They can have it. They just can have it somewhere else. Starfleet cannot be seen to be even entertaining the idea that humans-only is a valid option."


"Don't you have to allow both sides to speak?"


"No. We're not the media. And even they don't need to do that when one side is sane and the other is batshit crazy. And evil. They're evil. Samantha Alara is evil."


"She changed sides."


"Out of expediency and because her pride was wounded. Do you think she wouldn't change sides right back if she found a way to control that group—whoever the hell they are?"


"I don't know." You didn't ask Alara that. You should have. "Maybe."


"Over the years, I like to think that our work together was more cooperative than that of superior to subordinate. But I want to be clear here. This is an order. You and anyone on your ship is to steer clear of them. That means you and Liam and Raffi—"


"She's involved with Worf. I can't make her stay away."


Kathryn rolls her eyes. "Fine, but she doesn't pull you into this."


"If she needs help..."


"Give me a different answer than that, Captain."


You can hear the threat in her voice.


"If she needs me..."


She hits her combadge and says, "Janeway to Torres."


"Torres here, Admiral."


"How many requests do you have for Shaw?"


"No," you mouth.


"Five. All great opportunities."


"Any of them near the Enterprise?"


"Only if it flies by on a mission. Did you decide to pull him off the ship?" She sounds excited at the thought.


You feel true panic.


Kathryn looks at you and mouths, "Your call, Seven."


"Hands off. Not involved. Me or Liam." You can't speak for Raffi, but you won't help her. And you hope Kathryn doesn't know about Miller. And if Picard pulls Jack in, well...


But you and Liam are out and you're okay with that.


You just hope he'll be too.


"Still mulling it over. But don't wait on me if you have others to fill those slots."


"Roger that. Lunch tomorrow?"


"Can't. Day after?"


"Perfect. Just sent you the appointment since I know you'll forget."


You feel it then: the jealousy. This should have been you, casually making lunch plans with a fellow admiral. This should have been the life you led.


Icheb would still be alive. Or if not, you wouldn't have had to kill him. He wouldn't have died like that.


"You know me too well. Janeway out." She looks at you and seems surprised by what she sees. Standing and pushing her chair away, she swivels your chair so you're facing her, pulls you up, and hugs you. "I'm sorry, Seven. For this. For everything."


You realize you're crying.


"It's okay. I'm not going to take him away if you just steer clear of Picard and Kirk and Alara and your ex and my head of intelligence."


"You and the others were my family. Why would Starfleet be so stupid?"


"I don't know. They let Musiker back in."


"And ex-Maquis."


"I know." She holds you tightly, the way she used to do before things became awkward for you. "I'm so sorry. About everything that happened. But I'll do whatever it is to keep you safe and for now, that's keeping you away from this cockamamie plan."


You laugh, because it is stupid.


"And I know Agnes is involved too. Not sure how and I know you won't tell me. Do not let her bully you into this. Liam is on the line."


"I owe her my life."


"You don't owe her his."


"I do actually. The nanoprobes don't work unless they're fresh."


"Seven, stop arguing with me."


"I'm not. I'm just providing the counterpoint to your statement."


"Well stop that too."


"He and I could both resign." You don't love that option but it is one that's available to you.


"And do what? Hang out on Risa—you'd be bored in a month. You belong on that ship. You know it, Liam knows it, and I know it."


You look down.


"Consider this, Seven. Those positions B'Elanna talked about are plum ones. But I could also take him away and give him a shitty one."


"He'd retire."


"And still not be with you. You tell your friend Picard you're out." She lets you go and goes back to her desk.


You stand, feeling both relieved but also diminished. What right does she have to run your life this way?


Other than as CINC, over Starfleet resources? She actually has a ton of right in that sense. But this feels personal. And it's been so long...


"Seven, stop overthinking this. You can have Liam on your ship or you can help Alara. The choice is simple." She meets your eyes and hers are gentle when she says, "Dismissed, Captain."




Jack walks out of class and sees Liam leaning against the wall. "Unexpected," he says by way of greeting.


"I need a partner in crime. You game?"


"I thought I was out of this?"


"Yeah, well, I can't use Seven for this one. Are you in or do I need to find someone else?" He's already walking away.


"No, I'm in." He hurries to catch up. "What kind of crime are we doing?"


"Extorting the Commander in Chief of Starfleet."




"Chicken out if you want, Jack. She did something shitty to Seven and I'm going to clear that the fuck up. I need a witness."


"Why me?"


"Because, for reasons known only to my probably seriously addled mind, I trust you. And so does Seven."






"Okay." Being trusted is such a rare thing that he actually craves it. Being trusted by these two—who should rightfully hate his guts? Even more precious.


Liam seems to know a lot of shortcuts through Command, but Jack knows to not comment. They are in some back area where it's clear no one but maintenance workers go, and then they are in a lift, riding up to the top floor.


Where the big dogs live.


The lift lets them out and he can tell they're in the maintenance area again but then a door lets them out into what looks like a huge group of offices.


"Sacred ground of the holy brassiest of the brass, kiddo." Liam has a smug look on his face.


"Holy shit. We just bypassed all the gatekeepers, didn't we?"


"Do not piss off someone who started as a grease monkey. We know all the hidden passageways."


"I'll remember that."


"I know I don't have to school you on the first rule of staying somewhere you want to be but really don't belong?"


"Act like you do belong." He pulls out his padd and says, "Ready for orders, sir."


Liam grins and then the expression is gone, and he looks harried, the way Jack expects a lot of the brass look. As they walk down the entirety of the corridor toward Janeway's office, he is keying in bits of what Liam is barking out at him.


A lieutenant at reception looks at them as they pass when Liam says, "The admiral needed it yesterday, Ensign. Why isn't it done?"


She shoots Jack a sympathetic look then turns around.


The rest of the way is a cakewalk. Janeway's office is open, and she looks up as Liam walks in. He waits until Jack follows and then closes the door. "Hi, Admiral."


"Liam Shaw." She turns to Jack. "And my, my, my."


"I get that a lot." Jack decides to be cocky and a little flirty, and she laughs in a way that tells him she appreciates it.


She hits an intercom and says, "Tom, can you come in here please?"


"I have my witness, you want yours?"


"Just exactly, Captain."


A captain who must be Tom opens the door and says, "Why is this closed?" Then he sees them. "Oh. Hi." He ignores Liam and says, "I'm Tom Paris. You're Jack. Wow, I didn't think any son of an admiral could cause more trouble than I did in my time, but you managed. Thank you for taking the trophy off my desk." His grin is easy, his tone more teasing than mean.


"You're welcome?"


"You two can stand over there. Liam and I need an unencumbered field of play for this. I assume we're talking mutually assured destruction?"


Jack moves back with Tom, who's fiddling with his padd, as Liam lays his own padd on her desk and says, "Doesn't have to be."


"What's this?"


"Read it."


She does and her face doesn't change. "So. You threaten to retire. Big whoop."


"I retire, you can't blackmail Seven into behaving. Using her fucking loneliness against her. Goddamn low blow."


"I'm protecting her. I'll protect you too. You stay involved with this group, and I'll remove her from command. I'm an equal opportunity player."


Jack forgets how to breathe.


Liam picks up the padd, changes pages and slams it down in front of her. "Fun fact: old engineers were the most likely force to fuck with the Borg Queen's plan. They were killed first. You have a serious lack of them. I'm one. You really want to lose me?" He leans in. "Or the first daughter of the Jurati? The Jurati who really don't need the Federation and have some amazing tech I'm just itching to go work on. Imagine Seven and Agnes teamed up. They'd make these two boys look like amateurs when it comes to causing trouble."


Jack is trying to memorize every single thing Liam is doing, how he's phrasing things, the good humor hiding a deep, dark threat.


"Picard already got you killed once, Liam. Do you want that to happen again? Do you want Seven dead?"


"No, but we're part of this. We're finishing this with our partners in crime."


"Does Seven know you're here?"


"No. She's terrified you'll move me just because you can. Again, low fucking blow, Kathy."


"I hate that name."


"Somehow I knew that."


Tom leans into Jack and murmurs, "Your money on him?"


Jack nods.


"Interesting. Word to the wise: don't bet if you don't know the landscape."


The landscape at the moment is the two of them having a huge stare-down. Jesus, are they human? Someone blink already.


Liam finally does. But Jack wonders if that's a strategic play. His eyes aren't watering or anything.


She leans back in her chair. "Fine, but you—and Picard both, I'll leave it to you to tell him—are to make it clear you do not in any way speak for Starfleet. And you're not using my auditorium."


"Yeah, I thought that was a stupid idea anyway."


"Kirk's or Picard's?"


"Does it matter?"


"Not really." She looks over at Jack and Tom. "Tom, get him whatever information is releasable to help them in this."


"Okey dokey."


"It would be easier if you just gave us the names of who's behind this movement."


"That's the thing, Liam. We don't know. Alara is a figurehead. Nothing more. Do you really think a debate will bring them out of the shadows?"


"No, but it'll maybe change the hearts and minds of the people they need to follow them."


"Hearts and minds are changed over time, not all at once. Not from a stupid debate between a synthetic legend and a clone."


Jack frowns. Wait, Kirk's a clone now? Not an android? Will Liam even explain this once they leave?


"And me. They want me on the stage too. God knows why."


"You're an idiot, that's why. But it's your life. Let's hope Seven's nanoprobes are up to pulling you back to this mortal coil twice. It's never been tried—bringing back the same person twice." She glances at her screen. "I've got a visitor with an actual appointment. So Tom will see you out."


"Admiral?" Liam's voice has changed, grown softer.


She looks up at him.


"Invite us over. Or if not us, her. Don't let this be how you and Seven leave it. She'll never say it, but she needs you back in her life."


"Does she?" Her voice is really soft and Jack sees the woman behind the admiral.


"She does. Please? I know there's all kinds of bullshit between you and Chakotay and her, but if I can work things out with Jack's dad, you can work things out with Seven."


"I'll check with Chakotay and find a night we're free to have you both over. Happy?"


"Thank you, Kathryn."


"Finally, a name I actually go by." She hands his padd back. "I did not, however, say you could use it."


"I know." His grin is super annoying as he takes his padd back, but Jack thinks also pretty irresistible.


She just rolls her eyes. Much like Seven does—maybe she learned it from Janeway?


Liam stashes his padd and follows Tom out.


Once they're in the corridor, Jack says softly, "You're the only person who would refer to the great Jean-Luc Picard as 'Jack's dad.'"


"Did it on purpose."


"I know. And it wasn't for me, more that you really don't love my father. But still, it felt super good."


Tom hands them over a surprisingly meager file and Liam sighs. "Come on."


"Sorry. This is what I've got that I can give you."


As Liam leads Jack out the front way—probably so he doesn't give away his secret tunnels—and bitches about how useless the information Tom gave them is, Jack softly asks, "Can I make a point that's going to piss you off?"


"You? Piss me off?" He laughs. "Go ahead."


"It seemed like you were angry at her for blackmailing Seven. Aren't you sort of doing that to her? And you came here without Seven, fighting her battles?"


He stops and Jack braces for a cutting reply, but he seems to be considering his response. "You're not wrong. But Seven spent her formative years post-Collective having this woman make decisions for her. Then she was on her own with no one to look out for her. Now Kathryn thinks she can just jump back in like she never let her swing in the wind for all that time? It's bullshit. And Seven won't strike back—not at her."


"The same way I never did at my mother even though a lot of the time I hated our life."


"Exactly. I'm fighting for her because I love her but also because she deserves to have someone do that. I'll tell her what I did. If she gets mad at me, then I'll deal with that too."


"She's not going to get mad at you, Liam. We grew up the same. Sometimes parents are the monsters—and they aren't under the bed. They're right in front of you, making your life hell and it's out of love. Having a champion to tell them to take a breath, back the fuck off? What I wouldn't have given for that."


Liam puts his hand on his shoulder and squeezes. "You have it now. Thanks for being my second on this."


"Oh. were you going to duel?" He laughs. "I'm imagining she'd win."


"For sure. I'm good with knives but not a fucking foil."


"I'm good with one. It was an elective offered in one of the many schools I attended."


"I'll keep that in mind if dueling comes up." He walks him back to class and says, "It wouldn't hurt for you to get to know Tom Paris. Nothing that man doesn't know. And he seemed to see a kindred spirit in you."


"You mean to get information out of him?"


"No, Jack. I mean as a friend." He rolls his eyes and motions for the instructor, Commander Smith, to come out because class has already resumed.


"I needed to borrow him, Commander. You weren't in the room when I came or I'd have cleared it with you."


"No problem, Captain."


Liam nods in the terse way that a captain does when he borrowed someone for a very important thing, and then strides off.


"Get back in there, Crusher. I know you can't wait to learn about regulations on gifts and fraternization."


"Top ten things I want to learn."


"Oh, shut it." But Smith is smiling. He actually seems to like Jack, unlike so many of the others who hold him personally responsible for the Borg invasion.




I grab lunch with a friend I haven't seen for years, finally both of us on Earth at the same time. It's sunny out and we eat in the courtyard of the cafeteria and catch up and he tells me he's happy and I tell him I am too, and for both of us, that's a huge fucking change.


I'm feeling super chipper as I beam back to the ship, as I walk down the corridor to Engineering. I haven't even sat down before my combadge sounds: "Seven to Shaw."


"Shaw here."


"My ready room. Now."


I smile. Another fucking bingo square?


But then I walk into the room and she's at the table and she says, "Close the door and sit down."


I do what she says. I can't read her. Is this a game or real?


She meets my eyes; hers are hard. No fucking game, then. Then she brings up a video and plays it so it's facing me.


"You two can stand over there. Liam and I need an unencumbered field of play for this. I assume we're talking mutually assured destruction?"


I realize Tom took the video. Why she had them move back. Un-fucking-believable.


She turns the video off. "Your mouth is open. It's not a good look. You may know way more than I ever will about Starfleet, but you know shit about Kathryn Janeway. And no one in their right mind ever calls her 'Kathy.'"


I look at her. Her eyes are even harder. I rush to fill the silence but she holds her hand up.


"You'll get your chance to speak, Captain Shaw. But right now I'm going to talk and you're going to listen."


"One question before we start. Where does that video end?"


"At you ordering her to ask us over for dinner. We have a date on that by the way. Oddly, it's the same day as the debate. When Kathryn told Alara the answer was an unequivocal no on the Starfleet auditorium, it turned out she had backups reserved for this Saturday, just in case. I guess that's what makes her a councilor and us just military wonks: all that sexy pre-planning."


I want to answer that Seven's way better at that kind of thing than Sam is, but she holds up her hand again and this time there's anger in her eyes. "You had no right to pull Jack into this with you. He's not yours to play with."


"He enjoyed it."


"Of course he did. Because this is what his mother made him into. A troublemaker out of desperation. And you're just fanning the flames." She stops talking for a moment, but I don't jump in. "Just like I was made a fucking Borg by my parents before I was ever assimilated. Do what you're told and don't talk back while we do this wildly stupid thing. Well, guess what? Other than the idea of you being transferred off, I liked that Kathryn didn't want us there—loved the idea of staying as far away as we fucking can from Alara's stupid debate."


She leans back but I honestly can't tell if she's done so I stay quiet. This is a side of her I've never seen. It's the captain I knew she could be. But it stings that it's directed at me.


"I'm not going, Liam. For three reasons. The first is that Starfleet has no business getting involved. Why Worf thought this was a good idea is beyond me and I don't envy him the talking to he's going to get from Kathryn."


"The second?" I ask, unwilling to cede control to her any longer.


"I'm fucking Borg. I've seen how my presence can fan flames and I'm not going to be used to do that at Alara's event."


"And the—"


Again the hand goes up. Again I shut up. "But the most important reason is that if this is a set-up or if the security isn't air tight, I can't bring you back to life if I'm dead too. But—and this is a huge but—I don't know if I can bring you back to life this soon after doing it the first time. You still have nanoprobes in your system. Is helping Alara really worth risking your life?"


I don't know if she wants me to answer. I just stare at her.


"What exactly are you going to say that's going to change hearts and minds? That you're finally okay with two humans who used to be Borg? That you've deigned to address one of them by the Borg name she preferred?"


I can feel the rage pulsing off her. The same rage as the moment in the line-up for Vadic. But then it eases, and I know it's because that's not who we are anymore, and I relax."I haven't really thought through what I was going to say."


"You're just going to wing it? Why?"


When I don't answer, she laughs in the most derisive manner possible. "You had so much to say about legends and grandstanding. And now you're suddenly one of them? You need to be in front of a literal grandstand...for her?"


"It's not for her."


"Then for who? It's sure as fuck not for me." She looks away. "I tried recalling Miller. He fucking refused to abort. He's working for Agnes while he's on leave—direct quote."


I close my eyes. "He just wants to make a difference. After what happened—what he did."


"I know why he's doing it, Liam. It's why security isn't bringing him back to me in restraints for a nice long stay in the brig for insubordination."


I can't help it. I smile.


"God damn you, don't start on me. I know it's poetic justice. I feel the irony in my fucking bones, okay?" She gets up and paces. "I would really like to go to dinner with you at Kathryn and Chakotay's place. I've missed my family for so long. I'd like a way back in. But if you want to go to the debate..."


"I don't have to speak. But...I should help Geordi with the force field. And Raffi with the video system safeguards."


"So long as you're back in time here. If I go without you, it won't be good for us."


I can tell she's serious. "You'd break up with me over this?"


"You told her we were going to move to Agnes's ship. Wow, how fun. Just what I want to do. Live on a fucking Borg ship."


"With me though." I close my eyes so I can't see her roll her eyes. "Yeah, okay, not the best idea. But it worked."


"It didn't work. She sent me the video because it really was mutually assured destruction. You never, ever want to play chicken with Kathryn Janeway."


"Yeah. I'm starting to get that." I'm also pissed as hell—but at Janeway, not at Seven. "I'm sorry, Captain. It was presumptuous."


"I'm saving the video because I do like how stupidly brave you were being. And your words were great. Just don't ever do that without talking to me first." She holds up her hand before I can say it. "Yes, I know. What I did with Picard without talking to you first is coming back to haunt me. I get that, believe me." Her eyes soften. And she stands up and walks around the table and leans down to kiss me.


"You're not going to do that at the end of every disciplinary meeting, are you?"


She laughs. "If I do, it's not your business, Captain Shaw."


"Yeah, it is. It's Liam's business, anyway." I smile up at her. "And uh at the risk of ruining what is a very nice moment, I have to disagree about Jack. He's as much mine as he is yours."


Her eyebrow goes up precipitously. "Oh my God, are you serious?"


"Yep. I get that you're his soul sister with the weird-ass childhoods and the Borg thing but I am the big brother he never had. And I take that seriously."


"And what a fantastic big bro you are. You took him to poke a tiger in an unlatched cage."


"Yes, yes, I apparently did. But he enjoyed it. And Tom seemed to like him. I think they might find common ground."


"Jack doesn't need Tom in his life. Jack is Tom. Tom squared is like matter and antimatter dancing a tango."


I laugh because that's a great image. "So, am I back in trouble?"


"Are you still speaking at the debate?"




"Prove it."


I pull out my padd and comm Sam.


She answers immediately. "Liam, I hope this isn't a business call?"


"'Fraid it is. I'll be able to help with set-up but your traveling tour of old, previously dead starship captains will have to be a duet not a trio."


"Not happy to hear that."


I let that hang and meet Seven's eyes.


"But I get it. We'll be setting up starting at noon."


"See you then. Shaw out." I put the padd back in my pocket.


"You are no longer in trouble." She sighs. "I didn't envision my first serious discussion with a crew member on their conduct was going to be with you."


"Yeah, me either, strangely enough. For what it's worth, you did great."


"Yeah? I was really pissed in the middle there."


"Oh, believe me. That came through." I smile at her, the most tender smile I can give her. "I love you. I'm not thrilled to be chewed out, but I am thrilled to have a captain who's not afraid to do it."






We are sitting in silence with the Collective, enjoying the feel of the other minds joining with ours in the Ritual of Unity. It is not something we invented. Our children enjoyed the practice and chose to give it a name so that all who join will know it is a stage that awaits them as they acclimate and contribute.


As always, we can focus on a multitude of tasks, even if at the moment we are only doing this. But the sound of the comm chime we assigned Jim brings us out of the unity circle instantly.


We feel the Collective's knowledge that we have left the sharing. They are untroubled: they know we have many duties, some of which respect no rituals or preferences.


It is not Jim who is on the terminal but Jarred. "What is happening?" we ask, and there is a note of panic in our voice that would not have been there before we brought Jim into our life.


We do not regret this caring, exactly. But it is inconvenient and will lead to nothing. Perhaps it will be a relief when this mission is over and our partnership is ended.


"Oh, no, Jim's fine. But he wants to talk to you too once I'm done. Said it would be easier to just use the same call." He grins and says so softly only you—or Data if he is in the room with them—can hear him. "I think he was looking for an excuse to call you."


We do not understand this. Jim needs no excuse to call us. "What is wrong, Jarred? Before you said that, you looked concerned."


"Oh, yeah, well, see I sort of, um..." He takes a deep breath. "Captain Seven tried to call me back to duty and I basically said no, that I was working for you while I was on leave. But she could cancel my leave and then I'd just be AWOL. So, uh, I might need a home when this is all over."


"Why would she recall you?"


"She and Shaw are done working on this. That's all I know."


Instantly we reach out for her, the way we used to when we were new as one being, when we were without children other than Seven, when we were lonely for our first. We are sure she was never aware how often we reached out, across time and distance, finding her lonely too.


Which was a surprise after we saved her on Raffi's behalf—but also on her own. We have both always loved Seven in our way.


As our Collective grew, we reached out for her less and less. We let the link between us grow over like an old path, covered with vegetation, no sign of it even existing until raw need called it back—the other Queen's attempted takeover of Seven and then Liam's death and rebirth.


We were through her during all of it. We were so proud of her.


And now we feel her—and we smile. Because she is not just our first child, she is becoming her own Queen. We feel her power, her confidence growing, and we know that someday we may welcome her into our collective Queen to Queen, maybe even watch her take some of our children off to start a new hive—with Liam by her side if the two of them realize that much longer lives await them if they join with us.


She did not assimilate him with her nanoprobes—she did it with her love. It would take only a prick of the tube to bind him to her—and all of us—forever. But that is not an issue for now.


We have processed this in the short time Jarred has waited and we smile and say, "Of course you have a home. But she will forgive you. She understands misplaced loyalty." We grin at the idea of her own loyalty to Picard coming around to bite her. It is how we learn as Queens. By pain and by success and sometimes the two are linked.


"Okay, thank you and I hope so." He looks off screen and then as he's pushed out of frame, says, "There's someone else who wants to talk to you."


And she is there. Alara. We do not show a single shred of emotion. Even if what we feel is annoyance.


We will not address her first so she is forced to say, "Uh, your majesty?"


"Yes, Councilor?"


"I thought we should meet."


"And now we have."


"I mean in person."


"Why would we do that?" We do not understand this woman. She has Jim—what does she want with us? Or is it our collective she wants?


"You're a power in the Federation. And I don't think you realize quite how powerful. I think, with the right guidance, you could be a force for whatever you wanted."


There was a time, early in the Borg history, when multiple Queens existed, when we were rivals, when we made alliances and waged war on others. This woman would not have even deserved a warning before we destroyed her—so small is she. "We are satisfied with the role we play now."


"But, perhaps, I'm not satisfied with the role I play. I think an alliance between us could benefit us both."


"We think it would benefit you. We do not see what you bring to us that we do not already have. Unless you would like to send us the names of the leaders of the movement you so recently turned on? That would be of use."


She looks down. "I don't know who they are. I have one person I deal with."


Small, pretty pawn. We almost feel sorry for her. Except that in the analogy we have chosen, a pawn may, under the right circumstances, become a queen. And we see she wants that.


She has taken our king, she will not take us. "We will consider it," we say even though we will not. Rejection causes anger and anger causes reactions and we need her under control. Let her think we will take her request seriously.


"Sam, come on. You're going to be late." Jim's voice, annoyed, pushing her out of frame the way she did Jarred. Looking at her sternly and saying, "Go."


"You could come."


"Big no on that." Jim sounds frustrated. We take comfort in that. Perhaps their relationship is not without turbulence.


He watches for a moment, then turns back to us. "I'm sorry. She didn't tell me she was going to do that."


"It is fine. Do you prosper?"


"No. Ag, I can't get that kid out of my mind."


We see he is serious. That it is hurting him—the idea that another Kirk is out where he cannot find him. We understand this. It is, in its way, a collective also. We might feel the same way in his position. "We will do some discreet digging. Perhaps we can find the location of the child."


"Yeah? You'd do that for me?"


We look down. We do not want him to see there is very little we would not do for him. "Of course. It is the right thing to do."


We expect him to sign off but instead he tells Jarred to go for a walk, waits and then says, "Okay the room is finally just mine." He seems to relax in front of our eyes, and we realize he looks tired. "Did you know Liam and Seven were out? He's helping us set up tomorrow but that's it."


"Not before Jarred mentioned it."


"How do you feel about that? I thought they were with us?"


"Perhaps the presence of the Councilor was too much for Seven."


"I don't mean they were with all of us. I mean with you and me. I felt like we gelled—mutual understanding and all that. A team." He lets out a puff of air, frustration rampant in the exhale. "How do you feel about that? Don't tell me how Seven might be feeling."


"We are relieved she is out of it. Liam by extension. We have taken steps to protect you and Jarred. But we have not for her, and she cannot resurrect Liam a second time. Not with our nanoprobes so fresh in his system."


"I trusted them, Ag. I don't trust..."


"You don't trust Alara?"


"She's trying. But her motives... Politicians are aggravating. They have platforms not values. And platforms can be deconstructed and reconstructed at will depending on the wind."


"And you have always been driven by the need to help. It is one reason we value you so highly."


"Value. You could just say you like me."


"We could. But is it wise? You are there. We are not." We resist sighing—it is what Agnes would have done, but not the Queen and in this, Agnes is happy to defer.


"I just want this to be over. Stupid plan." He seems to see us bristle. "Not yours. Hers. The debate. Infiltrating if she'd actually been connected would have been a great plan."


We smile because yes, it would have been. A pity she was nothing more than a pawn, barely moved on the board—nowhere near being promoted to Queen.


But still, she has our king. We strive not to let the feeling that prompts show on our face. "Is there anything you need before tomorrow?"


"No, we're good." He touches the screen and we are unsure why. "I miss your ship."


"You miss any ship. You enjoy the stars when you are among them, not below."


He laughs. "That I do. Thank you, Agnes. Not matter what happens tomorrow, it's been fun being alive again. Kirk out."


We sit for far too long staring at the now dark screen. Then we rise and consider what we can do for Jim on finding the infant.




They walk out of the CINC's office. Chastened? No. Pissed? Quite a lot. Or Worf is. Both Picard and Sisko gave him wide latitude to take care of Klingon political matters while simultaneously serving in Starfleet. How is this any different?


Raffi is just relieved Janeway didn't bring up the whole stalking thing.


They are also both playing back how Janeway phrased her final statement. "If I see either of you at the debate, there will be consequences. But I'm sure you have plenty of other things to do with a Saturday night."


"She said nothing about the afternoon set-up," Raffi murmurs as they ride the elevator down to the floor Worf's office is on.


"No, she did not. I believe she is one who would cover all the bases. She does not wish to see us at the debate, so we will not be at that. But we will do whatever we can to help beforehand."


"Did you know Liam and Seven were out?" She didn't and that hurts. She and Seven are talking so little.


"Liam does not clear his actions with me, Raffaela. I have lost control of this situation."


"Did we ever have control of it? Maybe she's right? Maybe this wasn't our conspiracy to fix?"


They look at each other, both assessing how many times they have been right in the past when few or no one believed them.


"Nyah," Raffi says and Worf echoes the sentiment with a nod.


Myriamna has lunch laid out for them. "Figured you'd either be celebrating or possibly packing your things. This could have served for either." She gives them both the fondest grin and they feel better because she loves them, no matter how small Janeway made them feel.


One fairly tiny woman. With a backbone of steel and words that cut like knives. Worf respects that even if he did not like being taken to task in front of his woman. Raffi respects it too, but mostly she just never wants to be called into that room again.


They notice there are place settings for three. Myriamna laughs at them. "Either way, hurray or goodbye, do you think I wouldn't be part of it?" She puts her hands on both their shoulders, like they are her kids, and then sits down with them to eat.




Data watches Admiral Picard interact with Alara on the surveillance cameras. It has not gone unnoticed how much she looks like Ro Laren. The gentleness with which the admiral treats her, the easy way they have of talking—Data understands it but is still concerned by it.


"You trust her?" Miller asks.


"I do not."


"Yeah, me neither. But he does. Why?"


"It's possible he sees something in her that isn't really there. Another person—a lost person." Data turns to look at Miller. "Or perhaps he really is reaching part of her the rest of us—other than Kirk—are not. She does seem softer with him—or am I imagining?"


"You're not. She's soft with those two and that's about it. She doesn't like me much. It was nice to get out of the apartment, honestly, and come with you to this."


"One more day and we will be done."


"Yeah, but what will we have done? A debate is hardly the end. It's just..." He shakes his head. "Isn't this all a little pointless, Data?"


"The first wave that hits a rocky shore might think that. But over time the water cuts through stone."


"Wow, you've been hanging around Kirk too much. Those were some pretty words." He laughs and Data nods that this may be the case. "But you're also right. Some things take time. It's just...how do you know when you're done? It seems like no matter how much we expand, how much we include—there's always someone else to hate."


"That does seem to be the case. Perhaps it is not feeling hate that is the problem. Perhaps it is letting hate rule you? Keeping you away from the things you might not hate if you understood them better."


"I think about what the Borg did to me and I hate. I hate Jack Crusher for his part in it—don't tell his dad."


"I will not. You are not going to harm Jack Crusher, are you?"


"No. But I hate him."


"You realize he was no more willing in this than you were. He was a victim too."


"I know. Logically I know. But still I feel hate." He points out someone on the screen.


Data realizes it is not someone who was in the room before. But the person checks out as a late addition. "Perhaps the trick is not to escape the hate you feel but find a way to work with him despite that. You seem very fond of Agnes, yet she is Borg."


"I know. Weird, right?"


"Emotions often are."


"Yeah, you can say that again. Like I'm not sure what I'm going to face when I finally go back to the Enterprise. Captain Seven has been so nice even though I killed Captain Shaw but now that I've basically defied her...?"


"I confess I find her perplexing. And not friendly."


"No, she is. She's just..."




Miller laughs. "Yeah, more weirdness. But she's tough, you know? But then she can give you this smile that just lights up the room. And I don't mean in a sexy way 'cause women aren't my thing. Just...she shines so brightly when she's happy with you."


"I will have to take your word for it. She has never, I'm afraid, been happy with me."


Miller pats him on the back. "You can't charm everyone, buddy."




You come into your room and find a huge vase of peonies.


Liam is lying on the bed. "I palmed myself in. First time since I died. Figured we've been making up for long enough. Did I presume again?"


"You did not." You kick off your boots and climb onto the bed to cuddle with him. "Pretty flowers. Did I miss the card?"


"There isn't one. I couldn't possibly put everything I feel for you on one little card."


"That's a really good answer." You kiss him, losing yourself in him.


"Do you like the color?"


She laughs. "They're white. That's technically the absence of color." She nuzzles him. "But yes. I love white flowers."


"I thought you might. Pink was just to ordinary for you, my lady." He smiles as you kiss where his beard ends, little pecks that tickle him. "What kind of flower would you get me?"


"You like getting them?"


"I do."


You think about all the things you know of him, how he thinks, how he moves, what interests him on a mission, what doesn't. "You're very drawn to good smells."


"I am." His look is approving.


"Lilacs. Or maybe lily of the valley. Honeysuckle. Plumeria. Tuberose. Not gardenia though—too strong. And none of those fancy lilies that smell like dead meat once they've been in your room a few hours."


He laughs. "Did someone give you those?"


"Chakotay loved them. I detested them." You frown. "I never told him though. Just reinforced him giving them to me and then tossed them as soon as I could."


"Well, just so we're clear, if I ever give you something you don't like, tell me."


"What if it's a family heirloom? Or stupid but you love it?"


"Fucking hell, Seven. You are stripping the romance right out of this." But he's grinning so you're not worried. "Tell me. Tell me gently. But tell me."


"Okay. Works both ways."


He nods and pulls you into him. "I'm tired. I was in meetings all day. Sitting like that, forced attention. Sucks."


"Agreed. We are people of action." You show just how much action by shifting to get comfortable and closing your eyes.


"Damn straight, we are," he says as he yawns. "Nap before dinner?"


"Yes, please."


He kisses your forehead and turns so he can wrap his arms around you. You're half asleep as he murmurs, "I love you, Seven."


"I love you, too, Liam."






I go through five security guards on my way to the backstage. Private security, though, not Starfleet, and I wonder if Sam's contracted for them privately or if the group sent them. In which case we're fucked.


No, not we. I'm out of this. I know Seven's relieved and I should be too. But I'm still pissed off at Janeway. Should make for a great dinner experience tonight.


I know Seven really wants this. And I fucking asked for Janeway to give it to her. So why am I being such a little bitch over this?


And then I see Jim and Geordi laughing over something they're doing and yeah, that's why. I don't want to be a legend, but I do want to work with my idols.


Seven may not have any idols. I wonder what that's like?


And who am I kidding? Her idol is the woman who recorded our conversation to protect her. I wonder if Jim would have done that? I used to think Janeway was a female Kirk but now I'm not sure.


"Liam," Geordi says when he looks up. "Good to see you again."


I break out into my stupidest goofy grin but I can't help it.


"Come look at this. We're missing something."


I doubt that's true but then I get to where they're trying to anchor the forcefield shield thingie, and yeah, this is fucked up. "Jesus, who wired this? Salvador Dali?"


Jim cracks up and I grin again because I just did that: made a man known for his wit laugh.


Go me.


"We'll miss you tonight. But I completely understand why you've been pulled." Jim smiles gently, in a way that let's me know he's not holding anything against me.


"Just glad you're here for this part." Geordi motions for me to pull some wire bundles apart and there it is. The thing we need. "Got you. Now how to modify that plug."


"I brought my 'the homeowners did the remodel themselves' tool set."


Geordi grins at me. "God love you, Liam." He takes over holding the bundles and I open the bag and bring things out until he says, "Yes, that one. I haven't seen one of these in years."


"You never know what you'll need until you don't have it." My mentor when I was just a grease monkey in training taught me that.


"Amen," both Geordi and Jim say.




You try to focus on your work but you can't. You'll relax when Liam and Raffi are back on the ship. Or when Liam tells you Raffi left with Worf, since she's been spending most of her off time at his place.


You miss her. But maybe this is what it's going to be like now? Even once you're free of space dock and she's sleeping on board every night. You sat next to Liam for the first few months and it was awkward until you found your rhythm.


Bad example though. Your rhythm was to fall in love.


Chakotay sat next to Kathryn even when he was furious. Shit, love there too. Kirk would be no help—he was in love with his first officer too. Maybe you should ask Riker how he navigated things?


You think of how pumped up the man would get if you bypassed Liam and went to him and immediately decide you'll figure it out yourself.


"Hi," you hear from the door and turn to see Jack.


"Are you ever in class?"


He laughs. "It's Saturday."


Yes. Yes, of course it is.


"My father invited me to the debate. They're setting up now, right?"


You nod.


"You want me down there? Keep an eye on things?"


"I can't ask you to do that."


"You're not. I'm offering." He comes in and pulls a chair from the table to your desk. "You've gotten really protective. I have a mother already. Be the cool big sister who's not afraid to lead me astray and let me find my own way back."


"That sounds like a terrible big sister."


He laughs. "Yeah, well I have limited experience with good role models. The most stable force in my life may have been the Borg Queen."


You laugh because that's possibly true for you too. "I'm not going to say yes, please do this for me. But if you're already going to be there—and I pity you listening to them rehearse—and you want to keep an eye out on things..."


"Liam and Raffi."


"Yes, those things. Then that would be great."


"You told me you were bringing me on board as special counselor to the captain."


"I did tell you that. I also told you to keep that to yourself."


"Which I have done. But...seems to me this is exactly the kind of thing that a special counselor would do." He leans in, a mischievous grin on his face. "Seems like just about anything could be covered in the 'other duties as assigned' portion of that job description."


"I don't want you in danger."


"Eh. Danger and I are old mates."


"Just be careful."


"I will."




They arrive after Liam, which pisses Raffi off. She told Worf they didn't have time for sex.


Then again how tense would she be if they hadn't? He normally does know when to work off stress that way and when to use the time for other purposes like sparring or meditation.


She'll miss him so much when she's on the ship for real. This is a gift, being able to spend so much time together.


Worf thinks of the call he got from the CINC this morning while Raffi was showering. It was succinct.


"I think we both know I'm going to be micromanaging the hell out of you. I don't know if you will thrive under that regime."


"Agreed, Admiral."


"Seven could use a head of ships services who isn't afraid of her. It's a slot she hasn't filled yet and asked me for a recommendation. I know you've been there done that as far as being on an Enterprise goes, but you might have reasons to want to be on the ship?"


"I might. What reason would you have for me to be on that ship other than Commander Musiker?"


"Seven and Liam, as much as they argue, tend to see things the same way. You and Raffi—and I do like the effect you've had on her."


"I had no effect. She is an honorable woman who—"


"Yes, yes, fine. You and your zen had nothing to do with her not giving me the willies anymore. Fine. At any rate, you bring a new perspective. I think you'd be a good fit."


"I will consider it."


"Good. I'll need to know first thing Monday. Take the weekend. Talk to Musiker."


"And Captain Seven? How will she feel?"


"Leave Captain Seven to me."


Raffi glares at him as he bumps into her. "What is wrong with you? We're late because of you."


He pulls her into one of the auditorium seats and says, "If it were possible to serve together, would you want to?"


"You mean give up the first officer assignment?" She never thought it would be hers but now that it is, she doesn't want to.


"I do not." He feels like he should just tell Janeway to shove the position she's dangling and let this go... No, he must be brave and face this. It is possible Raffaela only wishes to be his lover on an intermittent basis.


Her expression changes. "Do you mean you could be on the ship?"


He nods.


"Does Seven know that?"


He shakes his head.


"Janeway suggested this?"


He nods.


"What slot?"


"Head of ship's services. I would report to both you and Seven, so it may be...irregular when it comes to fraternization. But as the captain is sleeping with her chief engineer, she cannot say much."


"Plus you're still sort of a contractor, right? You're reactivation contract is all full of caveats."


He nods. He feels proud of the loopholes he left himself for how and when he could leave if he did not like working with so many people to report to after the freedom of his previous position.


"She's just going to have a ship full of captains to try to boss around then."


"You are saying yes?" He feels a joy he has not known since Jadzia became his mate.


"I'm saying yes." She starts to laugh. "You realize Seven may be livid. Do not tell Liam."


"I am not a fool, Raffaela. Even if I am in love with you past the point of reason."


"Awww, Worf."


They kiss and there are catcalls and whistles from the stage. Liam yells, "We're ready to work on the video, Raffi, if you ever come up for air."


A few moments later they hear the seat next to them being pulled down and Jack's annoying voice, "Yeah, this is what we want to see. Two cultures, brought together by love, willing to let everyone—or wait, just the other fools involved in this venture—witness their willingness to...merge."


"Go away, Crusher," Worf says, only it's more of a growl. "Or I will flatten you in mortal combat."


He doesn't go away.


"I can assign the worst duties imaginable as part of your cross training once you're on the ship full time."


"See, that's what makes a great first officer. Knowing how to motivate people. Carry on, you two."


And he is gone and they stop kissing and both feel a weight off their shoulders. The weight of goodbye. They've each said it too many times.


Now they won't have to.


Worf sends Janeway a text saying he accepts. She sends him one back that simply says she's pleased and to leave it to her.


They both devoutly hope Janeway can manage Seven as well as she thinks.




Jack stops at the stage and looks up at Liam and Geordi and the Kirk...clone? He never did get closure on how that happened. "Safe to come up?"


"Yep. But the stairs are around back," Liam says.


He scoffs, sets the portable med kit he used to carry everywhere onto the stage, then pops up the same way he would get out of a pool. All three of them groan.


"I remember being that young," Geordi says.


"I don't." Kirk holds his hand out and pulls him to his feet. "So you're Picard's son?"


"Guilty as charged." He knows he's studying Kirk way too closely.


"Section 31 cloned me from the remains your father left lying around."


"In my defense," his father says, appearing from offstage like some Shakespearean headliner, "I put a cairn over you."


Kirk just sighs.


"All right, I may have let the clean-up team handle your body the way they always do on that kind of thing. But the cairn was lovely." He looks at Jack. "He was stuck under the catwalk and the stones would not have lined up as nicely if I'd piled them on top of him."


Jack nods in the most noncommittal way he can. "So you two rehearse yet?"


"Oh, no," his father says and Kirk echoes that.


"Just going to wing it? The orator Gods giving it their all straight out of their bums?"


"Well, when you put it like that?" Kirk laughs. "I don't see a lot of you in him, Jean-Luc. In fact, he could be me when I was young."


"I've been told that a few times actually."


"Oh, he's my son." His father looks at him with such pride it makes Jack want to stand up a little straighter.


Kirk winks at him. "My son didn't look a thing like me. Still meant the world to me."


"What are you doing here so early?" Liam studies him. "Seven took off the ball and chain?"


"Maybe I manage her a bit better than you do, mate." He grins in a way sure to infuriate Liam.


But Liam just gives him a smile that Jack thinks only men who are super good in bed have and says, "Yeah, I don't think so."


He's going to wear that expression someday. If Sidney ever acts as if she actually likes him when they're in public. She's managing him like a champ even if he's pretty sure she has no complaints about his technique—or affection.


Just like Laris and his mother are managing his father. Probably runs in the family like that receding hairline he hopes holds off for a bit.


He hears someone else coming up the stage the way he did and knows it's Worf and Raffi.


"Okay, no one else do that, because we are going to test this baby out." Geordi looks over at Data. "You want to do the honors?"


Data nods and steps off the stage, landing gracefully. He pulls out a weapon that looks more like what Jack used to make mischief with than Starfleet issue.


"Okay, we're live. Everyone to the right side of the stage."


Jack sees most move to Geordi and the audience's right but some move the other way. Drama kids never die. "He means his right. Stage left."


"Thanks, Jack." Once everyone is over, he says, "We're hot, Data. Give it a quick test."


Data fires at the empty side of the stage, and some kind of shield absorbs the energy.


"Try a more prolonged burst."


Again, success.


"Max power?"


Data turns the weapon up and fires. Again nothing gets through. He picks up something off the floor and chucks it super hard at the shield. "In case they are using projectile weapons."


The thing burns up in the shield.


"Okay, we're good."


Jack feels eyes on him, the way he used to when he was on the run, and turns to search the stage. He expects it to be Alara giving him the stink eye for being the Borg Prince, but she's talking to his father, and they look so comfortable together it shocks him.


But then he realizes another ensign is glaring at him. He walks over. "Hi."


"Hi." The guy is beyond stiff.


"You look familiar."


"I was on Titan. I shot Captain Shaw. Because of you."


Jack feels sick. And suddenly Liam is there, a hand on his shoulder and one on Miller's. "My two fav ensigns. Miller, gotta admire the balls of defying your captain."


"How mad is she, sir?"


"She'll get over it. As, you can tell I think, I got over any aggravation with this young man." He squeezes Jack's shoulder. "And you."


Miller nods tightly.


"Play nice is what I'm saying. In case that's not clear."


"Sir, yes sir."


"Don't do that. It's just junior officer speak for 'Fuck you too, sir.'" And he's off to help Raffi, and Jack is left laughing and sees Miller laughing too, but kind of against his will, if Jack's reading him right.


"For what it's worth, I'm really sorry," Jack says, keeping any edge of glibness or sarcasm out of his voice.


"I know you didn't ask for it."


"But you hate me anyway? Yeah, I get that." He decides the best thing to do is what his father did in the holodeck, after Liam's gut wrenching story about Wolf 359. "It's all right. I understand."


And he leaves so he won't make Miller uncomfortable and goes to sit next to Worf on the floor. "Teach me to meditate?"




"Oh, come on. It'll do wonders for me. My father will be so pleased."


"Your father is sufficiently pleased with me as it is."


"Oh, come on."


Worf takes a long, dangerously loud breath.


"Crusher, come help us." Raffi shakes her head at him.


"You're saved by your woman, I guess," he whispers then gets up to go help her and Liam as Worf exhales just as dramatically.


He's just so damned fun to fuck with.




Alara watches them all working, taking in how they are almost a collective themselves. She thinks she would have done well in Starfleet. She thinks it would have given her the grounding she needed to be...normal. Good.


Not afraid all the time.


She sees that Jim is in his element and is happy for him. He's bored in her apartment.


He's bored with just her for company, seems to perk up whenever Miller or Data show up. But she doesn't take it personally. Unlike with Liam, Jim's not going to hurt her.


Unlike Liam, Jim sleeps in the guest bedroom. And always has.


And she was so sick of the Kirk android, it never occurred to her to try to seduce the living legend—the Don Juan of Starfleet.


And he doesn't seem to be that. She thinks when he does love, he loves deeply, because he's told her about Spock and Edith—although she thinks Edith was more an object lesson in how to make a difference in a more positive way. But he trusted her with that.


Any affection he gives, any flirting he does, is just him. Is just his nature.


Her eyes turn to Liam. Girlhood crushes never die. Even if he has barely glanced her way.


"How are you doing, my dear?" Jean-Luc asks softly and he seems to know exactly who she's looking at.


"The heart most say I don't have is a little broken. But I think he was never mine to begin with."


"I think you're right. You'll find someone who loves you for you and when you do, it will be glorious." He links his arm with hers and leads her offstage. "Let's let them work. I'd love to have you over to the Chateau."


"And your women? Will they love it?" She laughs at his expression. "Jean-Luc, they have to hate me."


"Well... Hate is a very strong word." His smile is rueful. "I'd love for you to meet them. I'd love for you to be part of our family."




"I think sometimes you look at me and you see your father. And sometimes when I look at you, I see someone who was like a daughter to me. Someone...I let down. I didn't see who she was because I was so busy trying to make her what I wanted her to be."


She holds his arm a little more tightly.


"I lost her just before you lost your father. So maybe we're both looking for something in the other that we'll never find in anyone else?"


She blinks back tears. "I wish my father could have met you. The man—not the bogey man who haunted him."


"I wish that too. If I could go back, do things over, reach out instead of carrying on as if nothing had ever happened..." He sighs. "But that wasn't me then. I carried on. Introspection, emotions. Not my strong suit. Although I'm trying to get better."


"All I did was look inward. And feel. Maybe there's a happy medium?"


"I think we find it when we're on the Federation Council floor. Your resolution the other day was brilliant. I loved the way you handled how the Andorians would otherwise have used it to their advantage."


"You were quick to second it. We're confusing everyone with how well we work together."


"I know. Isn't it fun?" He looks like a mischievous little boy and she grins at him in what, she's afraid, is the same way.


"They have no idea what they've unleashed, Jean-Luc."


"No, they do not. And I for one, can't wait to see what we accomplish. I know we won't always be in accord, but you'll have my respect. And my affection."


She makes sure no one is looking, then kisses him on the cheek. "And you mine."




Data stands in the seating area of the auditorium, assessing the stage for any vulnerabilities the others might not have seen.


Kirk comes down the stairs and joins Data, standing with his arms crossed over his chest. "Any advice for the guy pretending to be an android pretending to be me?"


"No. You have been effective so far in the few interviews you have granted." It required creativity, and input from Kirk and Alara, to respond to whoever is controlling the android—or what's left of them in the cordoned off area of Data's mind—and convince the handler less publicity would be better than more.


"If anything happens to me..."


Data knows what Kirk wants. "I will try to locate the infant."


"Thank you. Work with Agnes. And...let her bring him up. If you could be a godfather, that'd be great."


Data does not ask why Kirk would wish Agnes to raise the child instead of Alara—does not have to. "Will I be godfather if you do survive?"


"Hell, yes."


Data smiles. This man makes one feel special. Data understands why that would have spoken to Spock, even if at times it might have been against his will—his desire to embrace logic.


"You would think, after all the androids I've mind-fucked over the years—no offense—that this would be a cake walk. But..."


"Just be yourself. The android was designed to be as much like you as possible. Trained on videos of you, interviews. If you cannot be you, then who can?"


"But I may be blinking too much."


Data smiles. "That can be programmed as well. And was, so the android would not subconsciously set people on edge."


"So just be myself. Or...the old me. I'm not really that me anymore. I'm a baby too. If you don't count the sixty years of memories." He grins, the smile he is famous for, and Data knows he will do fine.


"I believe the steps Agnes has taken to protect you will be sufficient for the day, but I would be most remiss if I did not tell that it has been an honor to work with you."


Kirk put a hand on his shoulder. "And to be my friend."


"And that."


Kirk starts to turn away then stops. "You met Spock once, right?"


"I did. We had several opportunities at that time to talk at length as we worked."


"Did he mention me?"


Data takes a nanosecond to recall everything said, how Spock softened when discussing Kirk. "He did. I asked what you were like." Then, in Spock's voice, he says, "Words would be incapable of expressing what James T. Kirk was like. Or the impact Jim—the captain had on me. My life would have been...incomplete without him in it."


Kirk is very still, and Data wonders whether using Spock's voice was wise—or kind?


But then Kirk looks up at him, tears in his eyes, and nods. "Thank you, Data."


He pulls himself together before Data's eyes, rubbing his eyes, pulling down his jacket in a way that is different than how Admiral Picard does it, and saying, "Okay, now we just wait for showtime."






Alara stands at the moderator's podium, facing the crowd—not a big one to her surprise. She'd feel a little hurt at that if she didn't find it a good sign. Maybe people are losing interest in hate?


The people that are in attendance are wiping their eyes. Jean-Luc and Jim are taking turns telling stories from their past missions where working with people unlike you turned out for the best. Or went horribly wrong but in the funniest ways.


They'd started the debate disagreeing mildly, then the more Jean-Luc, talked, the more Jim would say, "Actually, you're right and that reminds me of..." And they were off down memory lane.


Her handler will be furious. Not just at their android Kirk, and as she glances back at Data she can tell they are pinging him—only they think it's their own android—by the way he looks back at her and nods. But also at her, for not moderating the two. Not getting them back on track.


She's making a choice, God help her. It's a lot scarier to choose being good than choosing to be nasty was.


Suddenly there are gasps from the crowd and she turns as an admiral she recognizes from the support group she attended for people who lost loved ones in the Borg attack steps onto the stage.


With a weapon.


"You're the cause of all of this," he yells and fires at Jean-Luc.


The podiums are in a line so it's just a step to get between the beam and its intended target. A step some might not make fast enough, but she does. Because she would have done this if Starfleet had ever given her a fucking chance.


And then there's only pain as she falls backwards and Jean-Luc catches her and Jack rushes from offstage to help.


Jim steps between all of them and the admiral. "Put the weapon down." He motions for Miller to move closer, to close the gap.


She sees Miller look at Jack, and then he does what Jim says.


"You shoot me, he shoots you, Admiral."


"I brought extra," the admiral says as he pulls out another weapon.


Fuck. They are so fucked. Alara tries to get up. "Jim, no."


Jack eases her back down as Jean-Luc cradles her head on his knees and tells her to listen to his voice, just listen to his voice.


Things are going a little dark. "I'm sorry I called you the Borg Prince, Jack."


"You're not the first and you probably won't be the last. I'm over it."


"See, my dear. Everything's fine. Let my boy work on you and forget everything else."


Easy for him to say.




You're digging into dessert, your hand on Liam's thigh when Kathryn says, "So the head of ship's services... I made a selection for you."


You feel Liam tense under how hard you're suddenly clenching his thigh. "I asked for input, not for you to do it."


"I know." She stares at you blandly, the old look of "Let me have it, I dare you."


"More coffee?" Chakotay asks and when no one says anything goes into the kitchen.


"Do I want to know who it is?"


"I don't know, do you?"


Now you feel Liam's hand on yours and his is shaking—you think the only reason he would get a tremor in this kind of situation is that he's pissed for you.


"Stop playing games with her," he says, and his voice is the one he used to use on you when he'd just had it.


She meets his eyes. "My, aren't you protective? But then we knew that."


Chakotay must be picking the goddamn beans himself because how long does it take to get himself a refill? You really think he'd be useful in this conversation right about now.


"It's Worf," Kathryn says as she goes back to her dessert. "Rules on fraternization are apparently going out the window on your ship. And I'm aiding and abetting."


You sit very still. "Why him?"


"I'm impressed with his new sense of zen. Add that to his other capabilities and you have everything you need as a support chief."


"And another captain to manage." You squeeze gently to let Liam know you're okay with him being on the ship.


"It's the flagship. These things happen."


"I just want to make sure that I understand what you're saying. You're not suggesting him. You're appointing him. Without even asking for my opinion?"


"Benefit of being the CINC, Seven."


"What other positions are you going to fill?"


"None that I know of. It's your ship."


Chakotay finally comes back in and he's got a fresh pot so you forgive him as he refills everyone. "Kathryn knows that interfering in your first command is overreaching and setting a bad precedent for how you two will work in the future. But in this case, it was necessary." He walks back into the kitchen, you assume to put the pot back.


"What he said."


He comes back out. "And she's sorry." He sit and grins at you.


"Not really." She rolls her eyes. "Seven, Raffi will be happier with him there. You care about her well being. And I think you'll find he offers some dissenting views from those of your current and ex lovers."


Liam chokes on his dessert and washes it down with water. "She and I disagree all the time."


"Yes, I've read your logs. You argue and then one of you does what the other one wanted. It's all sound and fury, signifying nothing."


You take a deep breath and let it out slowly. "And if I refuse?"


"You won't, Seven." Her voice is calm and kind—and implacable as fuck. "Now, tell me all about the Jurati ship. How does it differ from a cube?"


You want to get up and storm out, dragging Liam behind you.


You want to leap across the table and tell this woman she can't make decisions like this for you. Even if she's been making decisions for you since she stole you from the Collective.


You want to stay silent and let her sit in what she's done.


You do none of those things. Instead, you tell her about the differences. Liam squeezes your hand and chimes in. Chakotay smiles gently, as if understanding what you're feeling.


And Kathryn sits and takes in the information but you know at her core, she's assessing you and her and the relationship between you—in all its permutations.


Just as she always has done.




Jack glances at Kirk and Miller—he saw the moment as Miller was looking at him when he was forgiven. When Miller stepped in to become a living wall with Kirk between the shooter and the rest of them.


Jack keeps half his attention on what's going on and half on what he's doing for Alara. This is pretty much how he and his mother practiced medicine during their more lively missions so it's like falling off a log.


"Admiral, I don't know what's happened to you." He and Miller take a step forward, then another, moving as one. "But we're going to take those weapons from you now.


"The real Kirk wouldn't say something so patently stupid. It'll be a pleasure ridding the world of one more synth." And he fires at both Kirk and Miller.


A field flares around them, with enough green that Jack feels something familiar in it—something welcoming. A field that seems to not repel but absorb the weapons.


A field that has to be Borg.


"Remind me to thank Agnes when we get back, Jarred." And then Kirk punches the admiral—pretty damn hard considering he's an old guy—and he goes flying back. "And these enhancements don't suck either."


Miller hurries to get the weapons and put the admiral in restraints.


Data comes out from offstage. "The security officers who should have been on duty are gone."


Alara groans. "Assholes. Paid them too much for them to betray me."


"Us," Kirk murmurs as he kneels next to her. "Try getting used to saying 'us.' It goes so much further with people."


"Fuck you, Jim. And you couldn't have brought personal shields for everyone?"


"Only had two, ma'am," Miller says as he and Data guard the entrances to the stage. It's clear the shield between them and the audience is working. Some people have rushed the stage—mostly, Jack thinks, to help—but can't get through.


Danger, as usual, is going to come from the one place they thought was safe.


He can tell Alara is starting to let go and he doesn't think the wound is bad enough to give up yet. The angle she'd been at when she stepped between his father and the shooter, may make all the difference in outcome.


"Sir, keep her with us," he whispers to Kirk. "I've got this." He goes back to work.


"Talented son you've got there, Picard."


"You have no idea." The pride in his father's voice makes Jack work just a tiny bit faster—and he's already going super fast.




Two people are halfway across the planet from the debate. They have chosen to not stay in town, to embrace this new life being offered them.


They lie in bed in a resort in the mountains, sated after a hike and good food and even better sex, and it's only when alerts start coming in on both their padds, that they look at each other and laugh because you can take the people out of intel, but you can't take intel out of the people.


Then they turn on the video screen.


And watch all hell break loose.


"Should we have been there?" she asks softly.


"It is immaterial now. We were not." He takes a deep breath.


"There's an Earth saying: Not my circus, not my monkeys."


"But we started this. I started this. This is my circus."


She rolls onto him so she's blocking his view of the screen. "No, it's the circus of whoever runs this godawful group. The cowards who use other people's pain but won't show their faces."


"Picard would not have been involved but for us."


"No? He was going to join the Council no matter what we said. And Alara looks like Ro Laren. Of course he would have tried to win her over based on what you've told me of their relationship. A chance to redo mistakes, to take the road not taken. That's the kind of thing JL can't resist. And we had nothing to do with Miller or Kirk or Jack or Data being there."


He loves that she makes it their problem not just his.


"No. That is on Agnes."




"Still, I feel they are my monkeys, even if I am willing to let responsibility for the circus go."


"I know. It's why I love you."




I'm sitting with Kathryn on the balcony as Seven and Chakotay clean up. The bourbon she's given me is amazing but I'm still so pissed off about Worf that I can't form words to tell her that.


She swirls hers, the amber liquid catching the strings of golden light that wind through the railings. So whimsical—not what I expected.


"You've got to let go of emotion and use your head, Liam," she finally says. "Do you have any idea what a bored Musiker with a cause is like?"


I have to admit I don't.


"I do." She leans in. "I'm not going to give you details. But she wouldn't have been my first pick for Seven's first officer." She holds her hand up when I try to say something and I see where Seven learned her tactics. "The dynamics between a first officer and a captain, once they've crossed a line but then walked it back, can be very...toxic." She meets my eyes.


"You and he...?"


She nods. "Seven has no idea as far as I can tell. Please don't tell her. But...I'm sparing you that. Raffi and Worf are new. Add distance from him and proximity to Seven and they could fall apart—and she could seriously annoy you, I promise. Assign him with you and you suddenly have a dynamic that might well be magical. For your state of mind as well as the good of ship."


"Plus you don't want to have to deal with him here. Running wild as head of Starfleet Intelligence."


She laughs. "You said that, not me." She studies me. "Did you and Seven...?"


"No, but I would have asked her out as soon as we weren't in each other's chain. I wasn't sure if she would have said yes."


"Well, you're clearly an idiot. She's utterly gone on you."


"Not the first time I missed signs. I'm always amazed when someone likes me back."


Her smile is gorgeous. "I don't know why. You're a good looking man, Liam Shaw, with a quick mind and wit, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the regs."


"Wasn't aware following regs was your biggest concern in life."


Her grin is dangerous and I like her so much for it. "They're not. But I do like to know which of them I'm breaking."


It's impossible to stay mad at this woman.


"Are you going to forgive me for Worf?"


I nod and hold up the glass. "This is amazing."


"A little distillery Chakotay and I discovered in Colorado." She looks out over the city, the fairy lights reflected in her eyes. "It's fun to discover things together after so many years apart. Don't forget to savor the moments, Liam."




Seven comes out with a glass of her own and I can tell she doesn't want to take one of the chairs, so I pull her onto my lap.


"Oh, God. Young love."


"You're just jealous," I say as I kiss Seven. It's not a deep kiss, nothing too much. Just us reconnecting—just me showing her support. "The bourbon's good."


She nods and then gets up and moves over to the chair next to me.


Suddenly I hear Chakotay yell, "Guys, get in here."


We all hurry in and he has the main video screen on. It's the debate—and shit has hit the fucking fan.


"What the fuck?" I ask.


"I'm not sure. I got an alert," Chakotay says.


I frown and look at Seven who is also frowning. "You got an alert? We didn't get alerts. Did you get an alert, Kathryn? Nope, you sure didn't because we were right there with you." I take in the expression on her face—or really more in her eyes, if you know how to look. "Oh my God. Let me guess: Meet the new head of Starfleet Intelligence?"


"You said that, not me." With a grin, she motions for Chakotay to turn up the volume.


I can tell Sam's on the ground. I can see Jack's working on her and Jim's talking to her. Picard is supporting her head. Miller's on guard in front of them all, facing not the crowd but the backstage area. Data has the other side.


A video of what happened plays. I see what has to be Jurati tech protect Miller and Jim from the fire of two phasers. But Sam didn't have it, Picard either.


And I wouldn't have...


I feel Seven's hand steal into mine, her murmured, "You might have been..."


I tighten my grip on her. "Yeah, I might have been."


"Thank you for coming here, Seven, instead of going there," Kathryn says. "I couldn't have stood to see you hurt that way."


"Hey, I'd have been the dead or wounded guy," I say as they hug.


Chakotay gives me a wry smile and a shake of a head and mutters something about mothers and daughters.


I let it go.


I can hear Jim's talking to Sam. "Sam, look at me. There's a time for a hero to die, and this is not yours. You have more to do. Your have so much more to do." He looks at Jack who nods and says, "Keep talking to her."


"Crusher's a doctor too?" Kathryn asks.


"Crusher's a little bit of everything," Seven says. She sounds so fucking proud of him and I feel that too.


"Why is the feed not cutting out?" Chakotay turns it up a little more.


"Because we ensured it wouldn't." I share looks with all of them. "It seemed a good idea at the time."


And if she just changed sides by saving Picard, well, maybe it was. The footage will be viral by midnight.


I can barely hear her say, "Jim, I've done bad things."


"But you're not going to. Not anymore. This was your big first step." He gently cups her cheek. "I believe in you, Sam."


"As do I, my dearest," Picard says prompting Kathryn to ask in a super snotty voice, "What's their deal?"


"No clue," I say. "Last I knew she was calling for him to be put to sleep."


"Yeah, that's what I thought." Chakotay pours out more bourbon as we all get comfy on their sectional and watch as first responders arrive on the scene.


"Are they wearing Starfleet uniforms?" I ask.


Kathryn slips her padd into her pocket. "Now how would they have known to get there?"


We are all staring at her.


"I wanted us clear of this bullshit, but I'm also fully aware that pretending to be first responders would be a great way for Alara's group to take them all away in one fell swoop. I'd rather that didn't happen. If not for her or Kirk or Picard, for young Crusher. I like what I saw of him."


"And Miller's a sweetheart," I say.


"If insubordinate." Seven still sounds a little peeved.


"Yeah, poor you." I laugh at her as she rolls her eyes. "You're going to find out what it's like to manage, well, you."


"No, you are, because Miller's in engineering."


"I meant in general."


"Oh, yeah, that's probably true. Worf and Raffi alone..." She glares at Kathryn but not with much heat.


I pull her in closer. "They'll save our lives and you know it, Sev. I sure as shit won't. Unless it's technical."


"You did break a tractor beam with the ship." She grins at me and I see pride in me—like, at my daring, not for some more normal reason like my high sarcasm rating.


"Didn't think you noticed." I look at the others. "She was not happy with me. And vice versa."


"How can you not notice someone flying their ship into a tractor beam?" Chakotay asks. "Even if you're on the outs."


"We did that. Hundreds of times." Kathryn sounds like it's not a lie.


Until Chakotay cracks up and she does too. "Okay, no, that is pretty awesome."






Laris holds up a bottle of something neither Worf nor Raffi recognize. "This is one of my experiments. Seemed like the right occasion to bring it out. Lots of effort but we'll see if it turns out good or bad."


"Ouch," Raffi says, and sees Beverly biting back a smile. "We...did stuff."


"Yes, stuff." Laris smiles at her so prettily she almost can't be mad.


"Well, how much were we expected to accomplish?" JL asks. "Even the conspiracy in Kirk's time wasn't just the three that Valeris named."


"Oh, I know." Laris pours out a small amount into JL's glass, and Raffi washes him swish it as Laris walks over to her and leans down, murmuring, "I have the most delicious pomegranate infused sparkling water. Just nod if you want some."


She nods and Laris is off.


JL is doing the sniff and taste thing that wine lovers dig so much. Wine was never really Raffi's poison so she doesn't feel like she's missing out. A moment later, Laris sets a glass down for her and goes back to her seat.


"It's delicious." Picard smiles at them and Worf worries this will be more of the bitter mead. "Enjoy our Laris's bounty. What an excellent addition to the line-up this will be."


He gets up and pours everyone but Raffi a glass but squeezes her shoulder as he passes.


Worf takes a tentative taste, sure he will not enjoy it. But it is...good. Not blood wine but then what is?


"Oh, Laris, this is exquisite." Beverly leans over and kisses her right on the mouth. "So talented."


"I'm glad you like it."


"Love it. Not like." They're staring into each other's eyes so intently that both Worf and Raffi wonder if Picard is actually part of this. He's busy tasting the wine, eyes closed, mouth set in a beatific smile and totally ignoring what's going on beside him.


"So is it just you two who are together?" Raffi asks and immediately feels Worf kick her. Why can't she let this go?


Laris laughs. Beverly laughs. Picard opens his eyes and winks at her.


And she looks at Worf who just says, "Please let it go, Raffaela."


Laris is flushed from her wine being a hit or maybe just from making out with Beverly—Raffi's not sure but she looks super hot. Until she says, "So...just to sum up: you all accomplished pretty much...nothing?" Her expression isn't mean, her tone isn't sarcastic.


It's as if she's fact-checking, not criticizing.


"Samantha is alive and on our side. I've invited her to brunch on Sunday," Picard says and Worf wonders if she will be added to the harem—now Raffaela has him speculating. Most annoying.


"Were you going to tell us, Jean-Luc?" Beverly asks.


"I believe I did. You two might want to listen to me more and make out less."


Raffi makes an "Oh, no, he didn't" face at Worf who chokes on his wine.


JL looks very smug. "At least Samantha enjoys my presence."


"Jean-Luc, you took forever picking either of us. We solved it for you. If you get left out from time to time—well, that's on you." Beverly grins at him. "And we love you."


"Yes, we do."


"Well, that's fine then." He looks at Raffi with a very strange smile—like he might actually be in charge of this group after all.


Worf believes he only thinks he is, but wisely keeps that opinion to himself.




Jack roams the ship looking for Raffi. He finds her in the gym and she glares at him as he says, "I want to clear the air."


"For choosing sides? Hey, at least you picked two of the command team to protect—now they can protect you." She turns her back on him as she goes to another machine to work on.


"I'm sorry I lied to you."


"No, you're not. You're sorry that lying to me may have made me reconsider if I'm in your corner or not."


He thinks about that. "Yeah, that's probably more accurate."


She laughs. "I used to be a pro at the 'get myself out of trouble with no actual contrition' apology." She goes back to working out.


He waits.


"Was there something else?"


"Are we okay?"


"I don't know, Jack. Are we?"


He sighs. Oh man, she can play this as well as he can. He drops any pretense. "Okay, one con artist to another—have I lost your support?"


"Did you ever have it?" Her expression doesn't change.


"Really? You don't want me on the ship?"


"Did I say that?"


"Bloody hell, Raffi. Stop answering my questions with other questions."


"Sucks to be fucked with, doesn't it, Crusher?" She laughs at him. "We're fine. Lie to me again and we won't be."


"What if the captain tells me to?"


"Fine. But if Liam tells you to, not fine."


He sighs. He can envision plenty of scenarios when Liam forgets he's not captain of anything other than engineering and tells him to do something on the sly. Well, he'll just have to not get caught.


"You are not saying okay, Crusher."


"I know."


"Wow, your dad wasn't wrong. You really are loyal to the walking dick."


"He just goes by—"


She holds her hand up in an unmistakable order to stop talking so he does. "I guess we'll play this day by day."


"I'll lie for you and Worf too."


"To them? Really?" She scoffs.


"Well, to anyone but them."


"Yeah, great."


"You know like if, for instance, you were throwing Worf a surprise party and needed someone to lie to him to keep him occupied till you were ready for him to show up. I've proven I can lie to him."


"Uh huh."


He can see he's not getting anywhere. "Why do I feel like you and my mom are sharing notes?"


"Because we may be, you little shit. I'm a mom too. I'm wise to your ways. Seven may think you need protecting, but I think we need protecting from you." Her smile is teasing.


"Yeah, yeah." He gives her his saddest look. "I'll let you get back to it. Maybe try the punching bag instead of taking it out on me."


"Oh, poor lil' Jack. Can dish it out but he can't take it."


"Yeah, yeah. You got me." He backs away then turns, hurrying off while he still feels like he's in the win column.




You find Raffi in the mess eating a sandwich and sit with her. "I didn't love how this worked, Raff. You with Worf. Me with Liam. We accomplished nothing."


"That's not true. We've got people backing away from the ideology. We've been tracking the hate speech on the socials. It's way down."


"The ones behind it are still out there though. And I wonder—if we'd worked together—would we have done better?"


Raffi puts down her sandwich. "Yeah, I guess I wonder that too." She sighs gently. "Do you still want me for your first officer? If you've rethought this and want him..."


"Him?" You see her look away. "Oh, you mean Liam? God no. I want him in engineering where, when he tells me something, it'll be for the good of all of us and the ship, not just to annoy me."


"Okay that's great, but not a ringing endorsement of you wanting me to be in the role." She's still not meeting your eyes.


"Raff, there is no one I want at my back but you. This adventure—well, it was batshit at times and let's not do anything this way again, okay? Let's talk to each other before we let Worf put someone undercover or we send someone off to the Jurati." Although Miller's thrived in Agnes's care, so you're not really sorry you did that. You know he'll be an even better officer once he finally comes home.


"Let's not have anyone break into Daystrom Station. Rule number one." Raffi grins at you. "That place gives me the creeps."


You laugh. "I like that. Rule number two: lovers are off limits for undercover ops."


"Seconded. Except mine probably lives for those. Oh well, in general."


You grin and start eating. "Rule number three: we can tell each other things. Just because we got out of the habit when we were breaking up doesn't mean we can't be actual friends. I don't want to be just your ex."


"And my boss."


"Right. The things I loved about you, I still love."


"Aww, Seven, that was downright mushy. As much as I hate to say it, the dick is a good influence on you." Her smile is real and untroubled, and for the first time you feel as if the two of you might stand a chance at a solid friendship, not just the bond of ex-lovers who still respect each other.


"And Worf has been for you. I've never seen you more comfortable in your own skin."


Raffi's smile is downright lecherous.


"No details though."


"Right, I don't want to know how Shaw might or might not make your toes curl." Her grin is mischievous and sweet and you nod and say, "Same."


"Do you buy Alara's change of heart?" Raffi asks softly.


"I'm not sure. Jim and Picard and Liam all seem convinced but—"


"They're boys. And she's gorgeous."


You can't bite back the cackle and it makes her laugh that way it always did.


You think about it beyond the dumb men meet beautiful woman thing. "I mean she's a politician, right? She's going to swing the way it makes sense. And maybe now being a humans-only asshole doesn't make sense?"


"I guess time will tell. And as we work to find who's behind this, maybe she'll turn out to not be as over the Borg invasion as she claims."


"Yeah. Time will for sure tell." You get up. "In the meantime, I want cookies. One or two?"


"Two. Gonna live large today."


"Thrill seeker." But you take two also.




Alara is in the park, walking slowly, enjoying the air. She feels...free.


She does not, however, feel safe. She did before. Hate was like that personal shield Jim had. People who hate are way scarier than people who love—and if you all hate together, well, it's heady. She can't lie about that.


But it's also ugly. And you have to lie to yourself. You have to blame everyone else and she's tired of doing that.


A text shows up on her padd from Jean-Luc. Just wanted to make sure you hadn't forgotten about brunch at the Chateau on Sunday.


Wouldn't miss it. She wishes that wasn't a lie as she sits on a bench and listens to the birds.


A man sits on the bench next to her—no surprise since he called this meeting. "This isn't over."


"It is for me." She knows what will happen. Isn't surprised when he pulls out a phaser.


She will die the same way her father did. She imagines that's a Starfleet-issued weapon. They'll try to make it look like a conspiracy on the other side.


No brunch for her. She's astoundingly sad at that thought.


"Excuse me," a dark haired woman says as she hurries over to them, her accent vaguely Irish. "I'm dreadfully turned around. Which way to downtown?"


The man eases the weapon back into his jacket and starts to answer, only to have the woman pull out a hypospray and inject him.


She smiles at Alara as she brushes her hair behind her very pointed ear. "Do you have any dietary issues we should know of for brunch? Jean-Luc always forgets to ask."


Alara realizes the woman is the Laris that Jean-Luc talks about. A Romulan. Saving her life? "Uh, no. No allergies or anything."


"Great. Now, we're going to keep what happens next to ourselves, aren't we?"


"Are we?"


"My, don't you have spice. I like that." She tips up the man's chin. "So much ruckus and plans and silly people doing silly adventures when all we really need to know is who is in charge of your group." She glances at Alara. "When you want it done right..."


"Do it yourself."


"Bingo." She slaps the man not terribly gently. "Names. Now."


She's holding a padd and as he starts spitting out names like they're vomit, it's recording.


There are less of them than Alara expects. And not who she expects. But maybe that's the point. How many of these people are even true believers instead of just those who hope to profit off fear and pain and hate?


Laris leans in and asks the man, "Anything else you really don't want to tell me but have to?"


"I'm blowing up the Enterprise after I kill this defector."


"Have you already set the explosives for that operation?"




Alara studies him. "He's not carrying them."


"No, he's not. Where are they?"


"Spacedock. Locker 36 in the workers area."


"Does anyone else know they're there."


"No," he says.


Laris looks around then pulls out a disruptor and fires, and the man disappears in a flash of sparks.


"Are you going to kill me now?"


"Why would I ask about your dietary restrictions if I planned to kill you?"


"You might have just been making small talk to keep me from running."


"True. You're a smart woman." She pockets the disruptor. "And no, I'm not going to. I'm going to find the people on this list and give them the same drug, make sure we haven't missed anyone, and kill them all."


"Wow. What are you going to do tomorrow?"


Laris laughs. "That did sound a bit pompous. But I do have to act fast. Can't risk any of them getting spooked."


"Can I help? You'd have to go to them, and that will waste time, and you might get picked up by surveillance, but I could ask them to come here to us, where this is no surveillance or my handler wouldn't have picked this spot to meet." She smiles. "Jim said I needed to start atoning. This seems like a good start."


Laris's smile is only with one side of her mouth, very dangerous, also amused. "Let's do it then."


"Oh, and I know I said no dietary restrictions, but I don't love mashed potatoes," she says as she texts the first person on the list. "Just in case you were planning Coquille St. Jacques."


"I wasn't but duly noted. I can't abide them either. It's the—"


"Texture," they both say together.


"He's in a meeting now. Will be here in an hour. You want me to try someone else or wait?"


Laris points to one of the other names. "I think she's the most likely to know any others your handler didn't."


"Agreed. And if they arrive together?" she asks as she texts the person Laris picked.


Laris looks like she'd welcome that.




"Tal Shiar. Former. Do you like duck?"


"Love it." She gets an answer back. "On her way. Do you really trust me?"


"Jean-Luc does. That's good enough for me."


"Pfffffff." She laughs at Laris's expression. "I'm a politician. Do not try to bullshit me with platitudes like that. What have you got on me?"


Laris just smiles. "My grandmother was an astoundingly good judge of character. I inherited some of that from her."


"Maybe it only works when dealing with Romulans."


"She didn't live among Romulans. She lived here."


"That must have been lonely. Also way to go, Starfleet Intelligence."


"Oh, it was well before Starfleet and she wasn't here as Tal Shiar. Something much more...universal."


"I forget how long your people and Vulcans live. That's probably hard if you lose those you care about."


"It is." Laris looks a little lost for a moment. Then she seems to mentally shake herself. "I'm going to pull the same routine of little lost lamb."


"There's a reason it's a classic."




She leans back as Laris retreats to wherever she was hiding and waits. Should atoning involve this much killing? Should it bother her more that she's fine with it?


Oh well, not like she's pulling the trigger.


She's really looking forward to Sunday; she hasn't had duck in ages.




Data sits with Kirk in an out of the way bar. Data knows Kirk is not ashamed of him, just trying to keep a low profile in case Section 31 decides to reclaim him—or figures out he's going to come for the child. Data's staying with him until he's safely off planet.


"May I ask you something, sir?"


"Of course. And, Data, how many times do I have to tell you to call me Jim?"


"More than you have apparently." Data waits to see if Kirk will have a comeback, because he often does and it is often humorous. But he's quiet.


"I would like to serve on the new Enterprise but I hesitate to broach this with Seven of Nine."




"I am unable to interpret that." Data waits for more.


"Why do you want to be on that ship?" Kirk is looking at Data like he already knows the answer. "And believe me, I get it. I do."


"It's home," Data says softly. Even though technically home could be with Soji and the others. Data had initially considered staying for a while after taking the Kirk android there but it didn't feel like home.


"Let it be someone else's home. Don't do what I did—or what I let my crew do. Homestead."


"You were highly effective together."


"Yes, but whose destiny did we steal by never giving up those seats?" He motions the server for another drink as he throws back the one he has. "I could never let go. And maybe I wasn't supposed to. But if Seven doesn't want you on her ship—and I don't know if she does or doesn't—then don't force it."


Data nods.


"Data your future is limitless. And I have to tell you, I think you're missing the obvious answer."


"I am unsure how obvious it could be if I fail to see it."


Kirk smiles gently. "Ask for a small ship."


"To serve on?"


"To captain. Get a bunch of these junior officers struggling to fit in after being assimilated and make them the most effective crew Starfleet has ever seen. I've watched you. You don't just follow orders. You lead. Miller followed you without question."


The idea is outlandish. Starfleet would never approve. But Data has misjudged humans before. Perhaps they would—if Data asked."Would you be my mentor? Unofficially, of course. But someone I might call if I need counsel?"


"Only if you call me Jim."


"Then I will ask for a ship. And see what Starfleet says. And if they say no that will be my first call to you. Jim."


Kirk laughs. "They aren't going to say no. Even this far out of it, I still know how things work."


Data does not doubt that.




I'm unpacking the robes and other goodies I bought when Seven comes in to our quarters from meetings at Command that ran way too long.


"Did you get food at least?"


"Yeah, they brought in food from my friends' restaurant. I may have subtly suggested that."


"Hey, they shouldn't be known for just their safe house." I wink at her. That feels so long ago even though it wasn't. Our first time.


"What's this?" she asks.


"Close your eyes."


She doesn't. This is so not a shock.


"Baby, please. Close your eyes. You get to be my dress-up doll for a half hour, okay?"


"Get to be. You mean have to be." But she sighs and asks, "Do you need me naked?"


"Yes, please." I love how helpful she is when the eye-rolling stops. She strips off her clothes, moves closer to me, and closes her eyes.


I take the robe I got her out of the package and wrap it around her. It's a wine so dark it's almost brown and it looks perfect on her. "Okay. You can look."


She looks down. "Not the color I expected."


"You thought I'd go with red or black?" At her nod, I laugh. "So predictable."


She walks over to the mirror. "This is gorgeous. And it's warmer than I expected. I'm always cold in the one I have now."


"Silk is great for that. Okay, come back."


She rolls her eyes. "How many robes did you get?"


"Only one other. For me—well, not just me." I hold up the navy blue one I got for us during sex and pull it on.


She laughs. "It's way too big on you."


"Yes, yes it is. Come here."


She walks over and goes into my arms and I wrap it around us as I kiss her. She goes soft in my arms, and I love how she can do that, let go of everything and be so fucking present. "Okay, I approve. But there are other packages."


"Patience, grasshopper."


"Tom used to say that. From a show he watched."


"Tom and I may have watched that show together." I really should have noticed him videoing that meeting. Lame moment on my part.




"That's for me to know and you to find out. Maybe."


"There's a whole side of you I think I don't know."


"You are not wrong. Okay robe off, and close your eyes."


She does what I say, and I toss the robe onto the bed and take out the first of the negligees I bought. It's a teal so dark it's almost black. It has teeny straps and I say, "Arms up."


She does it, and I let the negligee slide down her curves.




She looks at me instead of the negligee and smiles. "Well, you clearly like it." Then she reaches over, rubbing the part of me that likes it best. "A lot."


"You're a vision. Go look."


She does and she takes her time, admiring the fit, I think. "This is beautiful. And the color's perfect. Could I wear it as a dress?"


It's just this side of sheer. Backlit, it would be sheer. "Hard no to that."


She cackles. "Yeah, somehow I knew that would be your answer." She comes back and closes her eyes and puts up her arms as I pull the blue one off and replace it with a dark brown one that is lace in all the right places.


She walks to the mirror and glares at me. "They got where the lace goes backwards."


"No, no they did not."


"I don't like it. You said to say if I didn't like a gift."


"The robe was a gift to you. But if you think these naughty nighties are for you, you are so, so wrong. And you can't veto my gift to myself."


She laughs as she studies it. "Fine. I do love this color. Not what most would think of as sexy."


"I may have seen pics of you in your ranger outfit. I may want you to wear that outfit for me sometime."


She nods as if of course I do. I can tell she knows that won't be for a regular interlude. Something a little more creative. "Will I get to arrest you?"


"Oh, yes."


"Manhandle you?"


"If there's a god."


Again the cackle, and it makes me smile as wide as I can. "Okay last one. Come back here. And if this one looks like I think, I'm going to be fucking you in it."


"Oh you think so, do you?"


"I do." I lean in and kiss her as I ease the brown nightgown off her.


This last one was a splurge. It's cut like a Grecian goddess dress. A one shoulder golden-ivory silk with gold accents. I put it on her and forget how to breathe.


She opens her eyes and studies me. "It must be all wrong. You never have nothing to say."


"It's not all wrong." My voice is serious, no teasing. I want her to see how goddamn beautiful she is so I put my hand over her eyes before she can look down and ease her over to the mirror. Then I let go.


She's staring at herself and I know she sees it too. "Oh, Liam. Are you sure I can't wear this one as a dress? It's so damn pretty." She turns to look at the side pleats, then puts her back to the mirror and looks over her shoulder. "I have never felt better in a dress."


"It's not a dress."


"Then have one made for me that looks like this. Then, and only then, can you do whatever nefarious deeds you want to do to me in this one."


"That seems more than fair." The company also does custom evening wear so it won't be hard to get this made for her. "Now, my goddess..." I turn her so she's staring into the mirror, into my eyes this time not at herself. Her smile is gorgeous and open and so damn loving, and I feel every part of myself settle down and settle in. I love this woman more than I can probably ever properly express. "Let's play."




We wait with Jarred for Jim to arrive at the docking area. He walks out, puts his arm around Jarred, and seems to be giving him some kind of pep talk.


Then Jarred hurries over to us and to our shock hugs us tightly. "Thank you for everything. May I come back someday? If I need a break?"


"Of course." We are confused. He was not supposed to leave until Jim did.


He eases away and heads to the shuttle, which pulls out.


"He did not take his things."


"He'll replicate what he needs when he gets back to the Enterprise."


We frown. "How will you leave?"


"I made alternate arrangements." His smile is light, untroubled. These arrangements must involve Samantha Alara. "Well, mission done, not sure we accomplished anything."


"Hearts and minds are not changed overnight. But Alara's defection was as impactful as your and Picard's stories."


"Yeah, she came through when it counted." His grin is fond. We can tell he thinks highly of her.


We ignore how much that hurts. "We have a surprise for you. A gift."


He smiles. "Is that why you ordered me to court? I was about to set off to cause trouble." He winks, as he always does when he speaks of things royal. We have tried to explain it is queen of the hive, not of the realm, and we know he understands it, but still, he jokes.


If we were not losing him, we might be amused. We turn on our heel, saying tersely, "Come."


He hurries to catch up with us. "Not a dog, Ag."


No one will call us by that name when he is gone. That is probably for the best.


"I've got a gift for you too. It was by the water feature near the herb garden. Smells different than the bush near the gazebo." He pulls it out of his pocket. "Got a little crushed but it's the thought that counts, right?"


We smell the sprig of jasmine and close our eyes, lost in the lovely scent. "Yes, this is it. Thank you."


"You're welcome, Ag. And my present is..."


"This way." We lead him to our chamber and stand aside once we cross the threshold so he can see the crib, the infant inside.


"Oh, Agnes. Is this...?"


We nod.


"But how?"


"The guardians of the child crashed into a power station when the control panel of their flitter went haywire." We see he understands we engineered that. "The conflagration was localized but large. The bodies were burned beyond recognition. We beamed out the child just before the crash and beamed in a reasonable facsimile rich with your DNA."


"Not a real child?"


"No. But close enough if they run tests."


"So this is...me? Like I'm me?"


"No. He is too young for them to download the same memories you have into him. He will grow and develop in this time, according to what he's taught and the stimuli around him. He has all your traits, but he is his own person. Not James T. Kirk perhaps but whatever you and Samantha choose to name him."


He frowns at that but goes to the crib, smiling at the child, then picking him up gingerly.


"He will not break."


"I know but I didn't expect this. How old is he?"


"Six months but he came out of the vat the same time as you did."


He looks so delighted, we know we did right.


"We regret that we could not destroy the code. And they no doubt have back-ups of it, even if we could. But this we could do for you."


"Thank you." His smile is beautiful. We wonder if this child will also have this same radiance or if life experience gave it to Jim. The ultimate test of nature versus nurture.


It would be interesting to observe. We doubt Samantha will allow that given her antipathy toward all things Borg—we know her desire to meet us had nothing to do with forgiveness of our origin.


We find the sight of Jim with the infant painful and walk toward the view screen. "Your speech to her, to keep her fighting for life, was almost more rousing than the one you gave the crowd."


"Was it?" He walks over and the infant—so used to us after days in our care—leans toward us, gurgling in a way we find impossible to resist, holding his arms out so we ease him away from Jim. "Or are you just a little jealous?"


"We do not get a little jealous."


"No?" He holds out his arms for the baby, but he stays with us, running his tiny fingers over our face, seems fascinated by the darkest of the veins on our cheeks. "Does that mean you're a lot jealous?"


We thrust the baby at him, careful not to hurt the child, and say, "Take him and leave. Your humor is not appreciated."


"That wasn't humor." He carries the baby but back to his playpen, not out of our chambers. The baby crawls to a rattle one of our people made him. "Six months old and crawling already? Early milestone. I was still talking to Carol when David was this old. He didn't crawl till he was eight months old."


We are unsure why he is telling us this.


"I'm not with Sam, Ag."


"No, not at that moment."


He strides toward us, and we force ourselves not to take a step back. "Not in any way. I didn't have to seduce her. She wanted to help. We never slept together."


We are unsure what to say.


"So, see, I was already on my way back when you said you wanted to see me."


"You did not stay on Earth long."


He laughs. "I never do. Give me this view any day over what Earth—or any planet—offers." He takes us by the arm. "Were you jealous?"


"We knew why you would do what you would do with her. And she is beautiful."


"There are all kinds of beauty. Antonia looked a lot like her. The Nexus gave me her because by the time we ended she bored the crap out of me, and that was how it needed me. Calm. Nearly emotionally comatose."


"Your point?"


"I'm not into politicians or women with so little experience. I like scientists. I like a partner I can talk to after sex. That's the best part, when the barriers are down. When it's just the two of us." He moves closer. "Or do you not like sex?"


"Both of us do."


"We really need to work on that duality thing, Ag."


We would argue with him but he is kissing us, and it has been four hundred years since we have kissed anyone anywhere but on the forehead.


He eases away, and his grin is amazing. "Well, well, the lady doth know how to kiss."


We laugh because the gentleman also knows how.


"I frankly can't wait to see what else you know how to do."


We whisper one of the things we enjoyed as both Agnes and the Queen.


"That is exactly what I'm talking about. So, you want to raise a baby together, Ag? I wonder what I could be like if I was raised to make a difference the way the collective does. This baby will be remarkable, I bet, and I can be some kind of ambassador for you if you want." He frowns. "No assimilation though. For either of us."


"We know that, Jim."


"You haven't said yes."


"You haven't stopped talking."


He laughs. "Got me there. I'm just...excited to see you."


"We may be excited to see you. And we are very fond of this infant."


"And it's not lost on me that he adores you. Not unlike how Miller does. Or me."


We are not sure what to say. We had no plan for this eventuality. His future with Samantha Alara seemed so clear.


"This is the part where you say you adore me too." He's grinning again, and the grin draws us in now that he is not leaving, now that he is holding us so gently, his fingers running lightly over our skin.


"We...care for you."


"Weak. So weak. But you're out of practice—I do get that." He kisses us quickly then picks the child up. "What shall we call him?"


"Jamie." It is what we have been calling the infant when it is just the two of us.


He smiles. "I like that. He's going to look just like me so naming him after me makes sense. Let's not burden Jamie with Tiberius as a middle name though. How about Jurati? James Jurati Kirk? When we need an alternate nickname, we can call him J.J."


We know our smile is too wide, too happy, too much.


He does not seem to agree, appears instead to approve. "I'll take that as a yes."




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