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.

You Complete the Heart of Me

by Djinn



Seven stood at the Eradication Day podium as Agnes frantically worked from her laboratory to get a lock on them. Picard held his phaser up to the Queen, not moving the way the crowd wanted him to do and as her...husband behind her started to mutter.


Then Picard was firing and he acted as if she should fight too but with what? She didn't have a phaser. She had high heels and an uncomfortable suit.


And then there was the tingling of the transporter, and she saw Picard and the Queen whisked away.


But something on her fought back against the transporter lock, as her friends escaped and she...she was left.


"Seven!" She could hear the panic in Raffi's voice.


"Go," she whispered. "Get this done. Set it to right and I'll be back there when you finish."


"You don't know that. Time travel isn't an exact science and you might be stuck here until here doesn't exist anymore," Agnes said.


"Not helping, Jurati." Raffi sounded beyond pissed. "Send me back there."


"No," Seven said. "Just go. I need to find a way to survive here until you get the universe put to right."


Her husband—holy shit why hadn't she bothered to look up his name—rushed to her. "Your personal transporter inhibitor worked."


He had a look of pride. Of satisfaction. Even of "I told you so."


She took a risk and gave him the most grateful smile she could muster. "I'm glad I followed your advice."


He looked at her in surprise.


"I can admit when I'm wrong. Not my preference but..."


He laughed and she relaxed.


"What will they do with a Borg Queen?" she asked as if she didn't know but she wanted him focused on her, not on her friends.


"A very good question."


"And Picard. A traitor?" She pulled every bit of disdain she'd ever seen Kathryn wear. Every bit of disappointment.


"We will find him. And you will kill him."


"And I will enjoy that. In the meantime, let me reassure the people." She had to buy the rest of them time.


Pulling her jacket down the way she'd seen Picard do more than once, she turned back to the podium. "The Confederation endures. The work of a traitor will not change that."


There were only mild cheers. She had to think: if she were an evil version of herself, what would she say? She allowed a smile to play on her face. "Picard will pay with his own blood for this insult to all of us. To everything we are. There is nowhere to hide." Except the past, a place she hoped he and the others were already headed to.


The crowd seemed to like that better.


She had to get them still more engaged, though, and get her husband and his men distracted. "And one of you will stand beside me and pull the trigger when we capture him. Who steps up? Who will help me put down the traitor Picard?"


The crowd rushed the platform and her husband pulled her back and said, "What in hell are you doing?"


"Saving face."


"By creating an angry mob."


"We already had an angry mob. I'm just making sure they don't turn on us."


He muttered something that sounded vaguely like surrender.


"I've located the ship," a guard with a tricorder yelled, and she felt her stomach drop—she'd just offered up Picard to this mob of crazies.


But then he looked confused. "Now...it's just gone."


"Cloaked?" her husband asked.


"No. I can screen for that. They were headed to the sun and then they...winked out."


"I suggest," a new voice sounded from the back of the stage, "that I get the president to her safe room while you do damage control."


"Thank you, Captain Shaw." Her husband eased her around.


She saw a tall man in military uniform, human, bearded and gesturing for her to join him.


She walked toward him, her voice as haughty as she could make it. "Shaw, let's get going." She would have to figure out a way to incapacitate him before they got to the safe room.


But he was so...solid. He clearly worked out. And she felt very...human at the moment.


He seemed unwilling to walk ahead of her, kept to her side instead. "Nice night for a moonlit stroll."


"Not really."


He pushed her into a side corridor and slammed her against the wall. Normally she could have pushed him off easily, but normally she was part Borg. "My Annika Hansen would have known the proper response to that."


He had his forearm resting across her throat, pushing in, making it difficult to breathe if she moved. "What did Gordon do to you? Or is this your own choice?"


"Who the fuck is Gordon?"


He frowned. "Gordon, your husband Gordon and since when do you fucking swear? You told me there are no swear words in Swedish."


"That's not true." She remembered some Swedish but not the way she should. Not the way an assimilated version of her would: fluently. All that Borg knowledge—all the languages she understood—seemed lost unless it had to do with her direct life experience.


This was so confusing.


"Did I learn Swedish from my parents? Are they famous?" She met his eyes and saw only anger-tinged confusion in his. "Were they assimilated?"


"No. They were the ones who got us the information about the Borg that allowed us to destroy them. They're the reason you're president. Well, and you're easy on the eyes and brilliant and way too good at whipping up a crowd."


He looked ready to kill her so she said, "The trauma..."


"Trauma my ass. You've been through way worse than that. Who the fuck are you?"


She sighed. "I'm not your Annika."


"Like I fucking said."


"I know. But I am Annika Hansen. I don't understand why I'm even here." She relaxed against the wall to take some of the pressure of his arm off her.


To the side a familiar voice sounded. "What caused the change in plan? And why do you have the 'president' against the wall?"


"Tuvok. Thank goodness you're here."


Shaw eased up on her throat and looked at Tuvok in confusion. "My Annika and Tuvok have never met."


For operational security, no doubt. And because Tuvok, being non-human, would be in particular danger in this hellscape of a reality. "He and I served together. In my reality. Tuvok, you're Vulcan and your wife is T'Pel and you play kal-toh. And you have children—"


Shaw's arm was back against her throat, his other hand tangled in her hair pulling it back painfully. "Do not speak of his children."


"I'm sorry. I meant no disrespect," she said, trying to get her leg up to knee him in the groin because he was hurting her, but he was standing too close.


"Liam, let her go." Tuvok moved to her. "There is no occasion I can imagine our Annika trying to knee you, well, there."


"Yes. Tuvok, we're logical creatures you and I. Meld with me and find out I'm not lying."


"You know of the meld?" His eyebrow went up precipitously.


"You've done it before. To help me. You'll see that."


Shaw shook his head. "Meld later. Whoever the fuck she is, we need to transport out of here before Gordon realizes she's not in the safe room and that I'm not guarding the door. Our cover's blown to shit thanks to you." He glared at her.


"Hey, you could have left me on the podium instead of yanking me out of there. In fact, it would have been the smarter thing to do."


"She is not wrong, Liam."


"Fuck that. Beam back now. Discuss my motives later."


Tuvok activated a communicator and started to call for beam-out but she said, "No, there's a transport inhibitor on me. I don't know where."


"I can fix that." Shaw pulled a knife out and cut her clothing off her.


"And now I'm naked."


"Kick off your shoes."


She did. "And barefoot. And it's cold what with the being naked part. You really think the inhibitor is in my underwear? Or are you just in the mood for a peep show?"


"Nothing I haven't seen before, Annika." He nodded at Tuvok. "If this doesn't work, the inhibitor's in her blood and that's going to get real problematic."






"You two please..." Tuvok called for transport and she felt the tingle of the transporter, but this time she went with it. And ended up in the empty corner of a room filled with people working on terminals. All of whom looked up but seemed entirely unconcerned at a naked president beaming into their midst.


What the fuck was this reality? She just wanted to be with Raffi and the others—that was the only place that felt like home.


Until Shaw surprised her by pulling off his jacket and wrapping it around her.




"You're welcome." His eyes met hers, then he looked away as if burned. "Let's find a quieter place to do the meld."


He was gentler with her now and he glanced back as she rubbed her neck. "I've got a regenerator in there too."


"It's probably fine."


"Let's not leave it to chance. Provided you check out with Tuvok. If not, I'm going to use my knife on your skin this time."


"Wow, you're a dick, Shaw."


He laughed. "That actually sounded just like my Annika." Opening a door, he led her and Tuvok into a bedroom.


She sat on the edge of the bed and Tuvok sat next to her. Before he brought his hand up to her face, he said, "This will not hurt."


"I know. I told you: we've done this before."


"We have not, though."


"Look and see." She pulled his fingers to the meld points. "Would your world's Annika know where they go?"


"She would not." He frowned slightly as he initiated the meld. "And you have...pathways. Created by...me but not me." He spent a bit more time gently doing something in her mind and then eased out. "She is not from our reality."


"I'm from a better one."


"Indeed. We were colleagues. Not autocratic president and escaped slave."


"And what was I?" Shaw asked as he ran a regenerator over her throat.


"If you are there, she does not know you."


His face fell in a way that touched her. He actually really loved the Annika of this world.


"So if she's here, where the hell is our Annika?" Shaw asked, pacing.


"I do not know," Tuvok said. "But if her friends succeed in their mission to restore a world that is better, we will cease to exist." Tuvok looked at Shaw. "We need to get her out of the city, keep her safe until reality shifts so she has the chance to get back to hers."


She sat back up. "I'm sure you saw there was debate over whether or not I'll return when they do. If you're concerned with keeping me safe, do you believe I can get back?"


"It would stand to reason, especially with the X factor of an omnipotent being causing all of this."


"But where the fuck is our Annika?" Shaw was beginning to look super pissed.


"She's existed a day at best," Seven said in frustration. "Any of you."


"From your perspective, yes," Tuvok said, his voice less patient then her own would have been. "Or we have existed since the point of divergence, in the twenty-first century. Which means—"


"You've led complete lives. From your perspective."


Tuvok nodded. "And our Annika Hansen is...gone. Replaced by you." He turned to Shaw. "I grieve with thee."


"She's not fucking dead. She's just..." He looked at her as if she'd done the deed herself. "She can't be dead."


Tuvok's voice was very gentle. "It is the most logical answer. This Annika Hansen displaced her."


"I didn't mean to." She looked at Tuvok. "Displaced isn't dead. She might return if I get back to my people." She frowned to let him know she fully understood if she were to get back to her people, this entire reality would probably cease to exist.


"So you think I'll get a romantic second with my wife before we're unmade? Is that what you're saying?" Shaw just shook his head. "My wife who I haven't held in my arms in months. My wife who sent me to fucking China for a year to get me out of the way when she first was elected."


She suddenly understood why he referred to her "husband" the way he did, as if Gordon weren't.


"You were needed there," Tuvok said. "I helped make that decision."


"She was fucking Gordon while I was in China. For a goddamn year and then...now. As his wife."


"She has been intimate with him far longer than that, Liam. She had to attract him. He was her assignment. Or part of it. She was prepared to do it."


"What if she liked it—liked him?" He kicked a boot into the wall.


Not hard enough, she noted, to damage the wall though. He had self control even when hurt and grieving.


"I spent some time with my—her—the original Annika's husband. I doubt seriously when given the choice between you and him, she would choose him. Unless you are a dismal bed partner."


"Which I'm not."


"There you go."


Shaw looked at Tuvok, his eyes welling. "She was distant the last few times I talked to her, though."


Tuvok actually sighed. "We do not know that she..."


"Switched sides," Seven said softly. "You think she was going to betray you?"


"We were not sure but have been taking steps to distance ourselves from any location she knew. There is a chance that our Annika grew too fond of being president. Was there any indication in the speech you were given that she was going to say the words, 'Let this day never come again'?"


"No, but that doesn't mean she couldn't have just inserted it when she felt it was right."


Shaw glared at her.


"Seriously. It's what I would have done. Also, if I were her, I'd have rounded you all up quietly if I'd really changed sides. And killed you as the pre-show before the Borg Queen."


"Jesus." Shaw laughed though. "That is what she'd have done, though."


"But how much," Tuvok said very softly to her, "is because you are like her instinctively and how much is because of the life you led? The things you went through?"


"This is all scintillating, but we have to get her out of the city," Shaw said from where he stood at the window. "Are you coming with us, Tuvok?"


"No. I am going to formulate a way that, in case this Annika is stuck here, we can use her to our advantage."


"Trust you to try to find the silver lining even when we're caught in a fucking shitstorm." He began to go through his closet. "She left some clothes here." He motioned her over. "Take what you need."


"Underwear would be a good start."


"Sorry about that."


"No, you're not. You enjoyed cutting everything off me." She touched her hair, running her hand down her waves. "I'm surprised I still have hair left."


"I love your—her hair. Fuck, pronouns are a bitch." He turned and opened a drawer on a dresser. "Here you go."


He and Tuvok both turned their backs and she found what she needed in the drawer and pulled it on, then stared at the clothes in the closet unsure what to pick. "What colors won't stand out here?"


"Browns. Tans. No gray or black or red. Too military." Shaw walked over and seemed to touch her back without thinking, then said, "Shit, I'm sorry."


"It's okay." She and Raffi were in one of their off again phases when the mission started, and it had been a while since anyone touched her.


And his hand felt good.


He quickly handed her a pair of brown pants and a beige t-shirt along with a brown leather jacket. "There are socks in the drawer underneath the one with the underwear."


As she went to it and grabbed a pair to put on, he tossed her a pair of low heeled tan boots.


He studied her. "That hair...much as I love it, is a problem when you're going to be deemed officially missing." He walked to the side of the elaborate headboard and pushed on a combination of areas, and a large drawer slid out. It was full of wigs. He found a brunette one that would hit at her shoulders and grabbed a hair tie. "You know how to put one of these on?"


"Yes." She'd done it a lot when she was a ranger. She took the hair tie and quickly got her own hair skinned tight and up in a bun, then pulled the wig on top.


With a smile, he adjusted it and said, "Looks good on you. Can you do contacts?"


"Not easily. The ocular implant—" She laughed—when would she stop thinking of herself as Borg? "Umm, actually, sure."


As Liam left the room apparently to get the contacts, she looked over at Tuvok and smiled. "A lot of things are different. I used to be as strong as you."


"The Borg were a fearsome foe. Many of my people were assimilated, used as the first line of defense and then destroyed once they had served their purpose. My wife and children were among them."


"I'm so sorry."


"It is why I resist. Or one of the reasons."


She nodded understanding as Shaw came back in. He had a pair of dark brown contacts and gently put them in her eyes after disinfecting his hands.


For a moment, all she could feel was foreign bodies in her eyes, but he put some drops on top of them and her eyes felt normal. "Close your eyes for a few minutes to allow the contacts to absorb all the gel."


She heard him doing something in the bathroom, the sound of a small machine of some kind. When she opened her eyes, he was back with her but his eyes were brown like hers and he'd shaved off his beard.


"There's a color discrepancy where the beard was."


"I know. Can you...?" He handed her some make-up. "Let me get changed out of this uniform first."


He didn't seem to care if she was watching as he changed into dull-colored clothes that resembled what she'd seen in the crowd. His body was anything but dull and she forced herself to stop looking and focus on the floor.


He laughed as he moved back to her and tipped her chin up. "Too heinous to look at for long?"


"Right." She rolled her eyes as she smoothed a small amount of foundation on his face. "I liked the beard."


"I did too. Made me stand out because I looked so dashing." He laughed in a gently self-mocking way. "Time to not stand out if we want to get you out of the city."


"Thank you. I know you don't have to."


"If Tuvok believes you, then I believe you. He's never steered me wrong."


"Me neither. And I look like her so you..."


"Yeah. You do and I do and let's not talk about that."


"Okay." She smiled as she blended the edges. "There, can't even tell. I miss your real eye color though." But she knew they were way too striking a color to not be noticed.


"Right back at you." He swung a bag over his shoulder. "Last step and it's gonna hurt like fuck. but I'll go first." He injected something into the top of his hand, and then did the same for her.


Searing pain that started in her hand but began to shoot all over her body was all she knew as she sank back down on the bed and breathed through it. "Genetic modification?"


"We can't have you coming up as Annika Hansen on the ID checks. Or me as Liam Shaw."


Tuvok walked over with a scanner and checked them both. "John Carter and Tara McMasters. Be careful."


Shaw handed her a padd with info on her new self that she quickly memorized. Then he gave the padd to Tuvok. "Be careful yourself, old friend."


Tuvok met her eyes. "I hope your friends succeed. And if they do, I hope you are reunited with them."


"Thank you. For risking..."


"There is no risk. If called to, we were prepared to die today to fan the flames of rebellion."


"Still..." She tried to put everything she felt for him in a look.




"Let's go," Shaw said. "While they might still think you're in the safe room." He led her away from the big room they'd beamed into and down several sets of stairs into what seemed to be a tunnel running under the city.


"I don't remember this being here. Then again, I didn't really spend much time in San Francisco." Only long enough for Starfleet to tell her "Oh, hell no."


And Raffi had wanted her to settle here with her and Elnor. During one of their on again periods.


Shit, she suddenly missed Raffi so fucking much. Was it her fault that she could never find it in her heart to fully commit? Stay with her?


And would she be missing her this much if she didn't feel so off balance? This was another reason she stayed away; she thought it was unfair to use her when she was off her game and then leave again when she was back on. Raffi deserved better.


"We won't be in these tunnels for long. Just need to get to the transit station."


"Tunnels don't bother me. But I have no money."


"Got you covered." He grinned. "I'm actually good at this."


"I'm getting that." She thought of all the times she'd gone undercover as a ranger. "I am too, although not probably at your level."


"How many languages do you speak?"


"All of them. Well, all that the B—" But that wasn't true anymore. "Fuck."


"Your mouth is as bad as mine. My Annika wasn't that way." He laughed. "So basically just Standard and some Swedish."


"Maybe some Spanish." From when she'd merged the holograms on La Sirena and had spent an extended time listening to that language.


"Let's just stick to Standard. I don't speak either of those."


"Standard will make us stand out less?"


"If there's a God."


"There is no proof there is one."


"Don't fucking say that. It's like you're tempting the universe to prove there is one and he's pissed at us."


"That may be accurate. Given who sent me here. He is...god like."


He stopped in front of a stairwell. "This is it. You ready Tara McMasters?"


"Ready John Carter."


The climb was long but they were both in good shape. They were barely breathing hard by the end. He stood at the door and said, "This opens onto an alley. We go left, then left again out of the alley. The transit station is on the right. Do not—and I mean not—panic at the number of guards there will be. That's normal on a good day and Eradication Day with a snafu is far from that."




"We'll pass the genetic tests until the injection wears off, but facial recognition is still a problem. You can game it though. Keep your—"


"Face down but not obviously so, no staring at the ground, move around so you look natural, and laugh. Most facial recognition programs learn from images with serious expressions not the distortion that comes when we are laughing."


"Right." He cocked his head. "You're more street smart than she is."


"Yeah, well, I was never a president. Far from it. And my parents weren't famous. They were idiots."


He looked surprised at her tone.


"Can we go?"


"Yeah, sure." He opened the door a tiny bit. The alley was clear so she followed him out, and then to the street.


She was glad he'd warned her of the guards. He took her hand, probably so he wouldn't lose her in the press of the crowd, but it felt good.


"You're really nervous," he murmured. "Your hands are sweaty."




"No worries." Someone near them was passing around a joint and he took it, taking a long toke, then passed it to her and wordlessly told her to take some too, which she did then passed it to the first person who reached for it.


She thought he expected her to cough some like some rank newbie. This was one way Rangers passed the time. Cannabis was part of the monthly pay. She usually saved hers for using as payment with snitches but sometimes, when she got too lonely, she used it.


And now it was bringing down a heart that was racing in a way it never would have when she was part Borg.


He pulled her closer, his arm around her. "Old pro at that, I see."


"You too." She wrapped her arm around his waist. "Fuck, this is insanity."


"Nope, just the transit after a presidential extravaganza."


"Gone bad." She could see the flitter-train up ahead.


"Shit," he said, and she saw a group of guards looking their way.


She'd always found the best way to hide was to do it in plain sight so she let go of his waist and grabbed his hand instead, pulling it over his head and began to dance. "Follow my lead," she said as she turned to the person next to her and grabbed her hand.


The woman did the same to the guy she was with and he grabbed someone else and soon there was a group of them dancing into the station. She let go of the woman and pulled Shaw into an embrace, then once the dancers were far enough ahead and the guards far enough behind, started walking normally again.


"Uhhh, that was awesome."


"Just doing my part."


He pulled her closer, still walking with his mouth close to hers as he said, "You're part is awesome." Then he started to laugh. "I think our pot was laced with blue dust."


"I have no idea what that is." But as soon as she said that, she had an almost irresistible urge to kiss him. "Oh. That kind of blue." She moved even closer, snaking herself around him as they got closer to the train. "Maybe we won't stand out at all if we're clearly into each other."


"The 'kiss so we look like we're involved and not doing something wrong' is the oldest trick in the book."


"So you're by the book?"


"Procedures, safety protocols—they keep an organization like we have safe." His lips were on hers as he talked, and she pulled him the rest of the way to her.


He might be into rules and regs but he was one hell of a kisser.


"Get a room, you two," someone yelled as they were pushed into the car and found their way to the back, never letting go of each other.


"What stop do we get off at?" she asked since she had the better view of the route map.


"East Fortune."


"Quite a ways from here."


"Thank God for that." And he pushed her harder against the wall and kissed her in a way that told her he'd been holding back before.


She knew he wasn't thinking of her but when he moaned, "Annika," she whapped him gently. "Tara, remember. Or call me Seven. It's a cool nickname, right?" Only would Gordon remember that name? Agnes had certainly been memorable in her weirdness.


"Seven," he moaned and went back to kissing her.


She liked the sound of him saying her name so much she decided not to worry. She sank into his kiss and tried to think of Raffi the way she had when she'd heard the door open in the presidential suite, someone coming in. Raffi would be worried no doubt for her, giving everyone shit about leaving her. It only seemed fair to think of her while he was kissing her thinking of his person.


But she wasn't sure she'd be doing it if he didn't already have an Annika Hansen of his very own.


And this was why she and Raffi were so on again/off again. Because Raffi felt like Seven was the one, wanted to settle down, settle in. Wanted Seven to share her thoughts and her desires and well, everything.


And no matter how hard she tired, Seven felt something inside her pushing back.


Was she fundamentally incapable of committing after being freed from the ultimate—and non-consensual—commitment with the Borg?


Or was Raffi just not the one?


And why did this guy feel so much like he might be? That was madness—he was in love with her doppelgänger, not her. If he made her feel good, it wasn't her he was doing it to. Not in his mind, anyway.


"Where's your head?" He pulled away and studied her. "Or is the dust wearing off on you already?"


"It's not. I have a person too. But...it's potentially as confusing as yours may be to you."


"Mine didn't used to be confusing. I loved her. She loved me. But then she sent me away. And she's cold now. So fucking cold." He ran his hand down her cheek. "You're not."


"No, I'm not. But...this isn't the real me." She touched over her eyebrow—still so weird not to feel the implant there, not to notice the slight pull when she frowned. "I feel free."


"You are. And I'm going to keep you that way." He went in for a quick kiss, sweet like a promise. Then he just held her close and let her watch the map as he nuzzled her neck.


It felt so damn good.




Once they got off the train in East Fortune, they doubled- and tripled-backed more than once to make sure no one was following them.


Finally, he palmed them into what looked like just businesses and led them down several flights of stairs to the sub basement.


The hallway was lined with doors and he opened the last one.


"No easy out here," she said.


"Nope. No easy in for people coming after us either." But something in his voice was off.


He liked tunnels. She'd wager this place had access to one. No way he'd stay in a room with no escape route. She kept that thought to herself though.


The space was clean and set up like a studio apartment. There were multiple stasis units and she glanced into one expecting food but saw medicine of some type. Vials and vials of it. She saw the drawers were labeled with medical things and that there were several fold-up cots hanging on the wall as well as folding chairs. "This is some kind of field hospital."


"It pulls double duty. It's far enough out that we're not crossing cameras every five minutes but close enough in that everyone doesn't know everyone else."




"We do have food in this one." He patted an upright stasis unit. "Cold beverages." He opened a wall cabinet. "Hooch and the stuff that's shelf stable. You hungry?"


"No." Between the blue dust that seemed to be getting stronger instead of wearing off, and feeling overwhelmed by what was happening, she was anything but hungry.


"Yeah, me either." He shook out his arms and rolled his shoulders. "I don't know why I had to take a toke."


"I didn't hesitate either. We were blending. And honestly, I really was nervous—it helped me calm down and not call attention to us."


"Way to rationalize. So how long do you figure your people will need to do whatever it is they're going to do?"


"It's time travel. Not an exact science." And they didn't necessarily know what the inciting incident for everything to go to shit was.


"Ballpark it for me. A day? A week? A month?"


She shrugged. But when he seemed about to say something, she held her hand up and said, "I think if it's not fixed in a week, it's not going to be fixed." She wasn't sure why she thought that, but given the skills Picard had at his disposal through the people he had with him, what the Queen might do, and with Q added in, she couldn't see this taking longer.


He stretched out on the bed. "I'm trying to figure out if we need to cut and color your hair or not. If we stay here the whole time, then no. The wig's enough. But if not..."


"Can we wait? See what happens?"


"It's fine with me. I love your—her hair." He sighed. "The completely pathetic thing is that I think, even if she was still on our side, which I'm not sure of now, we were over. She'd moved on."


"You don't know that."


"Gordon didn't do anything to make you think you two were super close?"


"Kind of the opposite. And no one on the staff made any kind of overture that might lead me to think she was having an affair."


"What if the affair she was having was with herself? With...power? The chance to come out of her parents' shadow and be the one that counted?" He sighed and pulled out a padd from his pocket, picking a piece of classical music that rang out softly—and was very familiar.


"Oh. She had this as the music she got ready to. It came on automatically with the morning greeting. Maybe she did that to remind herself of you because it's your favorite...?"


"Yeah, no. I have it on my padd because it's her favorite." He laughed, a soft puff of air, a bitter sound that made her feel bad for him. "And still I want to fuck her—I mean you, in her body—your body. Fuck."


She slipped off her jacket and put it on the coatrack behind the door, then pulled the wig off and set it on one of the bureaus. She undid her hair and let it fall around her. "It sounded like it's been a long time since you were with her."


He didn't take his eyes off her as he nodded.


"My girl—it's been a while for us too. And the dust is making me..."


"Yeah, it's not giving up without a fight."


She crawled onto the bed. "Or at least without a fuck." She lay on her side watching him. "If you want to, I mean?"


"Oh, I want to."


"You don't have to think of me when you..."


"That's really nice of you, Seven."


"You can call me Annika, too. Least I can do for you given how you're helping me." She felt like a cat in heat and barely held herself back from rubbing on the covers. "Also I really fucking need this."


"And it's not like we've got a packed schedule other than lying low."


"We've got the lying down part covered." She rolled to her back and he followed her, kissing her, then easing off her clothing and his own.


He was about to press into her when he stopped and asked, "You said girl. Have you been with a guy before?"


She loved that he asked. That he cared he might hurt her. "I have. Thank you for worrying about that. And if it helps, I'm super ready for you."


"Music to my ears." He pushed inside, one long thrust and she gasped. He felt so fucking good inside her, and she wrapped her legs around his waist and moaned as he began to move.


She saw uncertainty fill his eyes and said, "I won't talk. Just close your eyes and pretend I'm her. It's okay."


And he did close his eyes, but she didn't. She watched his face until she couldn't anymore because she was coming, hard and fast and raking his back with her nails.


With the nails on her left hand too—not the implant that she'd have had to worry might actually really hurt him.


He was smiling at her, kissed her gently in a way that left her unsure who he thought he was with, then he closed his eyes and got back to it, going harder at her urging, coming loudly.


He collapsed against her and she kept her grip on him with her legs, unwilling to let him go just yet. To not be with him.


"Aren't I heavy?" he whispered in her ear.


He felt heavier than she thought he would have if she'd still been ex-Borg but not too heavy. "I like it." She ran her nails lightly down his back, touching just for a moment, then pulling them back up, and felt him shiver. "Not good?"


"Oh, so good. My Annika—she isn't big on..."


"The after part?"


He nodded.


"The cuddling and stroking and grooming that serve to bond a couple."


His smile seemed hurt. "That's how she used to put it. As if understanding what it was designed for made it something to not be done." He stroked her hair off her face. "I think I was always the one who loved more. Even before we realized the role she could play. And I call her my wife but the marriage wasn't valid. It was officiated by someone who wasn't an ordained minister or justice of the peace in some vain attempt to make me feel better about letting her go, about her seducing Gordon."


"Why him?"


"He's a kingmaker."


"I haven't spent enough time in traditional organizations to understand what that really means."


"He was friends with everyone—or had something on them. Same difference in politics. He saw the daughter of two of our greatest heroes and ran with it—and her." He was clearly trying to get off her so she let him. He rolled to his back and stared up at the ceiling. "Do you think he slept in her bed?"


"Do you want lies or the truth?"


"Couldn't you just say no? Fuck."


"He was gone when I woke. But it was clear someone had shared the bed with me. And he came in as if it was his room too." Also called her "his love" but she would leave that out for Shaw's sake.


"I fucking just cheated on her."


"Well, technically—"


"No, no 'well technically.'" He got off the bed and began to pace. "I've gone all this time with her being with him and never, ever... And then you show up and..."


"There was the dust."


"Yeah, thanks. I could have taken a cold shower to get over that. I wanted to fuck you. I still do."


She was relieved to hear it. The first orgasm had taken some of the urgency off but not all. But she wasn't sure if she should even broach it.


He was mourning a woman who looked just like her, who might not be in love with him any more, and who might even have been planning on betraying him.


"Maybe I'll take the cold shower." She started to get up.


He stalked back. "Don't you dare. I mean unless you want to—that sounded super aggressive on my part."


She pulled him back down to the bed, to lie next to her, to let her stroke his chest and watch him relax just a little under her touch. "This is confusing. You know me. I don't know you. But I'm starting to. I think you're a good man, Liam Shaw."


"My Annika cared more if someone were useful or connected, not good."


"Then maybe let's let her be the only Annika, not 'your' Annika. And I'll just be Seven?"


"That would probably be less confusing. But it makes it worse that I'm cheating on her with Seven and not another Annika."


"You seem like a man that can handle ambiguity—and complicated situations—quite deftly." She kissed her way down his body. "I can also handle those things"—she encircled him tightly and began to move her hand—"as well as others quite well."


"Fuck. Me. If you put your mouth on me, I'm gone."


"Let's test that theory." She took him in, careful not to apply too much pressure, controlling how much pleasure he was getting, how close he got. "Do you want to come like this or inside me?"


"Whichever you want."


"I asked you first."


"I'm trying to be polite here, Seven." He thrust up into her hand.


"So am I, you jackass. Oh fine." And she took him back into her mouth and finished him that way.


He was not quiet.


As he drew her back up to lie next to him, as he kissed her very sweetly, she said, "I assume the soundproofing is excellent in here? There might be screams from a field hospital."


"You assume correctly. Which is good because I just made a hell of a lot of noise. And 'Jackass'? Really?" He laughed and for the first time she felt as if he was with her completely, that she wasn't a ghost of his version of her.


"Sorry. Arguing you with you seems..."


"Natural. Yeah."


"Did you and she?"


"Not really. But I was always trying to become indelibly written in her heart, you know? Arguing seemed counterproductive."


"I find it refreshing. I like someone who can hold their own with me."


"So do I." He trailed his finger down her body. "I will return the favor but right now I'm feeling very lazy so my fingers are going to have to do."


"I don't care how you get me there, so long as I arrive."


"Good to know. Do you ever fake?"


"What would be the point?"


He dipped two fingers inside her, then eased them out, twirling them in just the perfect place. "See that's what I think too. I mean if I think I got there you doing this, for example."


"You are."


"I know but if I wasn't, and I thought I was because you let me think that, then this would be one of my go-to moves."


"Exactly, perpetuating the disappointment and dissatisfaction into infinity." She was arching as he added more fingers to the mix. "Faking is counter effective. I'd rather just say it's not there at the moment."


"Like right now. Totally not there."


She was clawing at the covers. "Absolutely not doing a goddamn thing for me. You suck."


He laughed as he took her the rest of the way, as she cried out as loudly as he had.


She rolled into him and he held her close and said, "I really like talking to you."


"I really like talking to you too."


"But you're a shitty lover, Seven."


"Sadly so are you, Liam." She leaned back to judge his expression and he was smiling very broadly. "Should I be calling you John so I don't fuck up later when it matters?"


"I guess, plus it will make it less her."


"You realize you named yourself after a famous fictional character, right?"


"Duh. But those two names are also two of the most common for men who look like me."


"Good point." She tried to assess if the dust had worn off any. "I'm still horny."


"Yeah, me too. That was damned good stuff."


"I'm also getting hungry."


"That's from the pot. Or possibly because you haven't eaten."


"I had some coffee."


"I am a shitty host then." He got up, pulled some fluffy white bathrobes out of the closet and tossed her one then pulled the other on himself, then began to assemble a plate for them. "You want water or booze?"


"Water, I think. I don't want to mix."


"Good call."


He brought back the food and water bottles and they shared it in a companionable silence but she knew he was studying her. "You're so like her but so not."


She touched over her eyebrow again, making sure the implant hadn't come back. "Yeah, I'm different."


"Bad scar or something?"


"Yeah, or something." She didn't want to bring up the Borg when this Annika hadn't been assimilated.


She just wanted to enjoy not having his eyes stop at her eyebrow, at her cheek, at her hand, and now that they were naked at all the other places she had implants.


She was gloriously free of them. "It feels really good. I was self-conscious about it."


"You don't have regenerators where you're from?"


"It was a medically necessary device. Had to stay."


"Ah. That's why you said that about the contacts." He studied her eyes. "These dissolve in forty eight hours. I may see those baby blues again, I guess."


"And yours. Gray?"


"I'm not sure. Usually I just say green. Gray sounds pretentious."


She laughed. "They're pretty whatever they are. But I hope I don't see them." Except then...


He fed her a piece of cheese. "Yeah, I know. Don't think about it. Except your girl...? You don't really talk about her."


"She wants a lot from me. More maybe than I can give. Or could, in my reality. Here...who knows what I can give?" She gave him the sweetest smile she knew how. "She's a woman I'd trust at my back any time. I'd die for her, she'd die for me. But...romantically..." She sighed.


"Was the sex not good?"


"It was great. It was the other times, when I was expected to settle down."


"Ah." He had a knowing look—like it was going to be her fault no matter how much she explained it. And given his experience with this world's Annika, maybe it was her fault.


But knowing that and being a different type of person were two different things.


She drank some water to avoid having to answer. He didn't press her once she put the bottle back down.




They were toweling off from a shower together—a very long shower together—and she stood in front of the full length mirror on the back of the bathroom door and just looked at her body.


He came up behind her and pulled the towel away from her, dropping both it and his on the floor, then he began to nuzzle her neck while watching her in the mirror, touching her, all over.


Chakotay used to do this and it made her massively uncomfortable. She would inevitably distract him away from any mirrors.


But now she just watched as his hands moved over her skin. "This body is so beautiful."


"I've always thought so." Then he frowned. "You said that like it was a new thing. Did you have medically necessary devices other places than your eye?"


"Yeah." She turned and looked over her shoulder at her back. "Here too."


"Jesus. What happened?"


"When I was six, I was ass—" She couldn't tell him, not when the experience with the Borg was so different here.


"Assaulted?" He stopped moving, met her eyes in the mirror. "At six?"


"Not like that. Not sexually." But hadn't it been sort of? Her reproductive system had been removed. She'd had her emotions dulled by the inhibitor. She'd been shut in a maturation chamber, the queen's voice the only company she had until she'd fucking imprinted on it. "But yeah, they hurt me. This Annika never lived through that."


He pulled her close, not kissing, just holding her. "I'm sorry that happened to you."


"Thank you. Most people back where I'm from, they see the marks and implants, they see the remnants of what was done to me and they hate me for it. They associate me with the ones who did it."


"And you want to go back to this reality?"


"Not at the moment I don't." She grinned up at him, then slipped back to face the mirror. She'd enjoy this while she could.


"My Annika was uncomfortable with us doing this. The mirror had become an enemy."


"Why? Her body—my body, I mean."


"I know. Pronoun hell. But yeah, her body—all of her—was gorgeous. But all she saw were the signs of time passing. When she was young, she was paraded around after her parents, then became a beauty queen. She was part of the 'famous for being famous' crowd for what she looked like as well as who she was. But all she'd fixate on was a wrinkle or a skin tag or some other sign her body wasn't what it had been."


"I guess we're never really happy?"


"You seem pretty happy right now." He said this as he dipped his fingers inside her.


"I thought you said the dust had worn off." Hers had. This was just him doing this to her.


"It has. But you haven't." He lifted her onto the counter, kissed her deeply as he slid inside her. "You make me feel young again, Seven."


"You make me feel that way too."


Suddenly Liam froze and she saw a gray bearded man open the door. "Isn't this charming?"


His voice was recognizable. "Q."


She felt at a distinct disadvantage. Liam was pressed against her, had been fully inside her when he froze.


"Don't move, Seven of Nine, I'm not going to hurt you. I just have to figure out what to do with you. You were not supposed to stay here."


She put her arms protectively on Liam's shoulders. "Do not hurt him."


"Wouldn't dream of it." He leaned against the far wall, one leg up, studying his fingernails and muttering to himself.


"Are you...okay?"


"Hmmm. Oh, yes. Just running scenarios. Gets harder when you're as old as I am. I knew what I was going to do with you, but that transport inhibitor has really thrown a wrench into things. Then again, you don't really look like you're missing your ex."


"Don't you dare hurt her either."


"No I need her. And I thought I needed you for the necessary consolidation of two others. Oh but nanoprobes and her son—equally compelling argument, perhaps more so to potentially lose him twice if he fought with her—yes, that's fine then. You're fine where you are, Seven of Nine. Just—don't get too fond of this place." He winked and he was gone, the door shut and Liam started moving again.


She let out breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. What the fuck?


"Hey, where'd you go?" He studied her face, slowing his movements, starting to ease out of her.


"No. I'm right here." She wrapped her legs around him and pulled him back to her. If she took Q at his word, she would not be staying here—and here would no doubt cease to exist. She needed to enjoy Liam while she could. "I'm right here. Please don't stop."




They'd been lounging around the apartment for two days. Talking now more than having sex. About everything and nothing. Just...enjoying each other.


She thought she'd ceased to be any kind of stand-in for his Annika. That he was interacting with her as a unique person. Even when their eyes went back to normal and he saw the blue of hers—and his Annika's—he seemed to like being with her.


Right now they were sitting up in bed, enjoying very old scotch and he was telling her what all his tattoos meant.


"Did you have any on your other body?"


"No, I thought the implants were adornment enough." She rolled her eyes and he laughed gently.


"Would you get one on this body? I mean...if you stayed?"


"I don't know. What kind should I get?"


"I know what the selfish me would say."




He reached down and pulled her right arm up, then held it next to his and drew over where their skin came together. "A Claddagh ring, half on me, half on you, pointing toward the heart because that means you're taken."


She looked away. "And which Annika would you be marrying this time?"


"Yeah, I guess that's a really dumb idea, isn't it. You've known me barely forty-eight hours and I'm already trying to lock that down."




He shook his head. "No, Annika would never mar her flesh with something like a tattoo. Well, maybe for cosmetic purposes but not for just fun. I'm proposing this to Seven."




"I can make temporary ones for us. You want to be silly and try it?"


She laughed and nodded. He got up and dug through the same closet that the robes and other clothes were in, and came out with a little device. As he sat back on the bed, he said, "Hand me my padd."


She did then curled into him as he brought up the image of the ring, told her the crown, heart, and hands stood for loyalty, love, and friendship, and explained the different ways to wear it.


There were really elaborate versions and more simple ones, and he let her pick one in the middle. Then he set it for two people, used the machine to measure the area of their arms and he adjusted it down a bit. "Too big is tacky."


"Right." She laughed softly.


"Shut up. Master at work." He made some final adjustments, then held it over their arms. "It only takes a second. Will last about a month unless we use a special solution to take it off."


The machine dinged and he pulled it away.


"Wow, that's so much prettier than on the screen." She pulled her arm away, saw that even the half on her arm was still pretty if definitely incomplete.


"Pretty fucking indulgent of you to let me do that. But then you know you're going back, don't you?"


She met his eyes, trying to keep her expression Vulcan-blank.


"You were with me in the bathroom and then suddenly you weren't. You mentioned an omnipotent being. Did they..."


She shrugged, refusing to answer.


"Again, you'd just say no if I wasn't right." He let the machine slip to the floor and then curled up into her. "It's kind of a relief, in a weird way."




"Well aside from not wanting to say goodbye to you just yet, I've never felt..." He was tearing up.


"Hey. No, it's okay."


"No, I mean, this just never felt right. Like I was living a life I shouldn't have been, you know? It's why I joined the rebellion. There has to be a better way."


"There is. And I'm sure you're part of it."


"You don't even know me in your reality."


"I know but—"


"Promise me you'll find him. Promise me that."


"What if he's married? Has kids and is happy?"


"What if he's not? I'm not saying bust up his happy home if he's really got it good. I'm saying make sure he's not alone. Because...I feel things for you. Things I actually believe are reciprocated, unlike with my Annika. She'd have been bored of all this talking after the first few hours."


"Well, she also knew you."


"No, I don't think she actually did. You may know more."


She loved that he was giving her that. Wanted to give him something too. "The implants I talked about. I was assimilated as a child by the Borg. Rescued but I'd been with them too long. The doctor had to keep some of the implants."


"Well that makes a lot more sense why people would look at you as part of the problem." But he didn't seem to be pulling away. "Why'd you tell me now? Other than I'm going to cease to exist in not too long?"


"Because I don't want to lie to you anymore. And that was the only lie I've told you."


"Your girlfriend's going to want you back, isn't she? From what you've told me, she really loves you. So you probably won't be looking the me of there up. And that's okay. Whatever makes you happy. I think maybe you haven't had a lot of that in your life. Little things really seem to make you happy."


"You're not wrong." She looked down, thought about what he'd said. "I don't know what I'll do. But...I also don't know what I won't do, if you get my drift."


"So maybe you'll look me up?"


"I will find you. But whether it's for romance or not, I'm not sure. If, that is, I don't die here with you. That omnipotent guy may not need me. Great romances are built on mutual tragedy, right?"


"That's for the birds. I want you alive. Alive and happy in a universe that makes sense. And the next time you're in front of a full length mirror, look at yourself. Really look. I bet you'll see something beautiful looking back."


She pushed him to his back and crawled on top of him. "I'd rather see you."




They were just falling asleep when it happened. Drowsy beyond their ability to fight sleep, not after running from the city, and the drugs, and all the sex and communing with words.


She could feel things shifting and looked at him in panic. He smiled in the most fearlessly gentle way imaginable and said, "I could love you so easily."


"I could love you so easily too." She dashed away tears that were making it hard to see. "Maybe I won't go. Maybe I won't go. Maybe I won't—"


There was a flash, a long spinning moment of darkness and motion in all directions at once that somehow did not rip her apart. And then another flash and she was in a room—a classroom of some kind.


She looked down, saw two things at the same time: her Borg implant on her left hand and the sleeve of a Starfleet uniform.


Everyone around her was frozen.


"Hello again, Seven."




He didn't appear, and his voice was softer than before. "I need you with him for a very special reason, but no rule says you can't get on that ship a few years early. Consider it a parting gift and apology for dealing with Junior. Make a good impression, Commander Seven of Nine."


"Wait. Raffi...?"


"Is preoccupied with Elnor nearly dying and how the Jurati Queen saved him. None of that will make sense to you, but..."


"The Jurati Queen?"


"You really were supposed to be there. She and Raffi look very strange together but they do share a son now."


"Raffi's with Agnes?"


"Something like that. Oops, class is about to start. Pay attention, child." And then there was the sound of a finger snap and everything around her came to life.


"Our next presenter is Captain Liam Shaw. On admin day we like to bring you some of the people who actually are in the field using the rules and regs rather than just writing and quoting them to you. Captain Shaw of the USS Titan, everyone."


Everyone stood as he walked in and she followed suit.


"At ease." His voice was subtly different. "You too, Commander Seven of Nine."


She realized she was still standing and quickly took her seat. How did he know her name?


And she really was a fucking commander? Q hadn't just been yanking her chain? She could not bite back the grin.


His talk could have been dry—probably should have been—but he was funny in a way the other Liam wasn't. Confident instead of beaten down by life and the woman he loved.


But then he brought up a regulation that made zero sense to her.


"Why does that regulation exist, sir?" she asked.


"Such a great question. Any ideas?"


Her classmates were throwing ideas around, all trying to find the positive side of the regulation, but she shook her head and he smiled at her. "Commander, you disagree."


"It's meant to slow an officer down. Limit recklessness. Did you write it?"


He laughed out loud. "I did not, as a matter of fact. But I do love it."


"What if recklessness is required?" She felt as if it was just the two of them, no one else in the classroom.


"How would you get around it?"


"I'd find a reg that contradicts it." She realized she had her Borg-enhanced memory back. "Like forty five slash ten."


"Ooh, interesting chess play. But what if you couldn't use that one?"


"The Vulcans have one that would work. So do the Klingons." She grinned. "Or I'd just do it and ask forgiveness later."


"I bet you would too. How would you rewrite this to be less limiting?"


She considered and realized her classmates were looking back and forth like they were at a tennis match. "I don't think I would. If an officer doesn't know the regs that contradict or at least ease you into not doing it, then maybe they should be corralled."


"You're only saying that because you know all the regs."


"Not all of them—I have gaps for any added after I left Voyager." She hoped Q hadn't rewritten her personal history too much. "I'm saying it because while an officer can't be afraid to try to manage chaos when it erupts, it's a pretty shitty steady state."


"That it is." He grinned at her and she felt a pang at how much she loved the grin, then he somehow turned his attention back to everyone, so seamlessly it was as if the two of them had never gone conversationally offline.


She sat back and enjoyed watching him, learning from him. And at the end of the class, as her classmates filed out for a break, he turned to the instructor and said, "I'm going to borrow Commander Seven for the next hour. Hope it's nothing pressing she'll be missing."


"You're fine," the instructor, whose name she had no clue about, said.


She grabbed her padd and followed him out. "Sir?"


He turned. "I need a first officer, Seven—mine just unexpectedly decided to follow her spouse to his assignment rather than the other way around, which is what she told me when I hired her."


"Oh." She saw Q's hand in that.


"I'm also a survivor of Wolf 359."


His nasty, mean hand in it. Fuck.


"Oh." She looked down, thinking of the promise to the other Liam. This was going to be the shortest quest in history. "I understand, sir. I'm sure there are other qualified candidates and I'm—"


"Stop whatever bullshit you're going to say. You're a victim too the way I see it. You were taken at six. You had no fucking say. Why you hang on to the name of your kidnappers is beyond me, but it's what you joined Starfleet with, so I'll honor it. You want the job or not?"


"Why me?"


"Are you telling me you're not qualified?"


"Of course not. I'm super qualified."


"Glad your ego is well developed."


"That's a fact, not ego. I didn't come up through Starfleet." Did she? Shit she wished she knew how much had changed.


"Well aware. I've read your file. You bring a lot of experience from the rangers."


"Most people call that baggage."


"I'm not most people, Commander."


"No, I know that, Li—Captain Shaw."


He eased her out of the main corridor and into an empty side one. "We've never met, right? When we were younger, drunk at a party?"


"We've never met, sir." In this reality, she silently added.


"Then explain this." He gently pushed up the right sleeve of her uniform.


The tattoo was still there. Only it didn't look temporary anymore.


"I had a dream. A crazy ass old man who goes by Q told me Commander Seven of Nine was going to be my new first officer. To enjoy our new matching tattoos. And to not bother worrying about fraternization rules because we look really great together naked. And for the record, I don't usually remember my dreams in that much detail. And when I woke up, I found this." He pushed up his left sleeve. The other half of the ring. Also way more than temporary. "I did not have this on my arm when I went to sleep. Even with the newest tech, tattoos still need some time to heal. They itch like fuck when they're new. This doesn't."


She traced the ring. "Love, loyalty and friendship."


"And we're both taken given the placement. This is kind of a lot, I won't lie, and you're fucking lucky my Gram raised me on romantic fairy tales full of magic and destiny."


"And happy endings?"


"And happy fucking endings." He cocked his head and looked—really looked at her. Somehow seeming to see past the implants, all the way to her soul. "This feels right. And I'm not an impulsive man. Is this crazy?"


She made sure the corridor was still empty, then pulled him down to kiss her.


It was a great fucking kiss. Like the other Liam, and not. More sober somehow. More open too—less him holding on to try to keep her and more him discovering her with no other Annika in between them.


She pulled away and stared at him. He stared back, a beautiful smile starting.


"Not crazy at all, Liam." She grinned at him. "I'd love the job. And if you do worry about fraternization rules, if that's a bridge too far, I can wait."


"After that kiss? And when Q visits you in your dreams, you should probably do what he says, don't you think? I do know who he is."


"I really do think you should."


"I'm on leave other than your class today. Ship's in for some quick repairs. You want to blow off the whole day? Go get some dinner. Get to know each other. See if this is crazy right or crazy stupid?"


"I think that sounds like an excellent idea."


He pulled out a padd and sent a message to her instructor—Commander Givens. Good to know.


"She's fine that I'm stealing you for the whole day. O Club or off campus?"


"O Club." She wanted to do this right. Take it slowly. Let him lead. And she thought he'd respect that choice the most.


"Good call. If you impress me, I'll take you up to the ship for a quick tour." His tone made it clear that was really what he meant, it wasn't a clever way to get her to his quarters.


"If you impress me, I'll let you."


"You've got things backwards, Seven. I'm the captain, glory be to me." He laughed and she laughed at the familiarity of the sound, and the new infectiousness of it, a lightness that came from living in a world that was not horrible all the time. "You have to impress me, Commander."


She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah. We'll see about that."


"Jesus, is there nothing you won't argue about?" Without even waiting for her to answer, he said with a laugh, "Wait. I know the answer to that already. No."