<-- back to part one
Yunho turned to face his new communications officer, a young Bajoran who had introduced herself as Hyoyeon. “Ensign?” he questioned.
“We’re being hailed, sir.”
“The message is coming from a colony six light years away at Rigas II. They claim an aggressive pathogen has destroyed all their crops and killed off their livestock. They need food and supplies.”
“Contact them and let them know we’re on our way.”
Yoochun swiveled around in his command chair to gave Yunho a dashing grin. “You see, this is why I joined Starfleet. I love being the knight-in-shining armor.”
“You mean you love attention.”
His first officer grinned cheekily at him. "'Attention' sounds so selfish, Captain. Can't I just love saving my fellow man?"
Yunho grinned at him and shook his head in fond exasperation before flipping through his notes on the Rigas II colony. Yoochun's swagger was to be expected. The son of a highly decorated Starfleet admiral, he'd been flying around space since before he could walk. Exploring new planets, meeting new species it was as much a part of him as his flesh and blood was.
"No one has ever questioned your 'love' for your fellow man," he teased, keeping his voice low. He didn't want the rest of the crew to hear him picking on his first officer. "I heard you've been trying to 'save' the doctor."
"Is that okay?"
Looking up from his work, he wondered at the ambiguous tone of the commander's question. "Only if you're serious about it," he answered firmly.
Yoochun grinned boldly. "Of course, Captain. I'm always serious about love."
"You're in love now?" Yunho laughed.
“I'm always in love, Captain," Yoochun sang. "All this world needs is love. That's how we're going to defeat the Borg it seems."
Yunho frowned. "What's that supposed to mean, Commander?"
"Our friend One of Five has moved out of the brig, into sickbay and now, he has his own crew quarters. Next thing you know, we'll make him ship mascot and give him his own chair on the bridge." Yoochun's voice dropped bitterly. "Not bad for someone who was kidnapping and murdering people only a few months ago."
Yunho was aware of the many officers on the bridge who'd turned — some surreptitiously, others not so — from their stations to see his reaction to Yoochun's words. He met Jinki's worried gaze, causing the young ensign to fluster and whip his attention back to his station. He wasn't oblivious to the mumblings of his crew about his apparent leniency in regards to Jaejoong, but he wouldn't tolerate his own second-in-command throwing them right in his face.
"What and where Jaejoong goes on this ship is my responsibility, Commander," he said after a tense moment. He kept his voice calm and firm. "It would serve you well not to question it in front of the crew. Understood?"
Yoochun had the good sense to look embarrassed. "Understood, Captain. I just hope that thing doesn't betray all the faith you've put in it."
Yunho didn't answer. Instead, he turned to Hyoyeon. "Contact the colony and tell them we're on our way." He leaned back in his command chair before turning back to face Yoochun. "You will lead the away team."
Yoochun nodded. "Yes, Captain." He rose from his seat and made his way to the lift. Before he'd completely escaped the bridge, however, Yunho called after him.
"Have the leader of the colony beam aboard first. I want to to meet him myself and make sure his team is doing a sufficient job at protecting their supplies from further infection." He thought for a moment before looking over at Yoochun thoughtfully. "Have Jaejoong meet us in the transporter room as well, Commander. I think his previous … experiences would be a help down on the planet."
Yoochun opened his mouth to argue, but quickly snapped it back shut when Yunho turned to glare at him. The reprimand in his eyes was clear: Do not ever question my decisions in front of the crew again. The lesson had been noted.
"Aye, sir," he replied. The doors closed and the turbolift whisked him away at a mercifully quick speed.
Rigas II was a small, but prolific colony located on the second planet of a binary star system. The planet was well-populated, full of natural resources and, for the most part, had a mild, temperate climate suitable for agriculture.
It also lay far away from the immediate protection of Federation space, and its people weren't too keen on outsiders. It would be a challenge helping these people, because, while they needed the Federation's aid, they didn't necessarily welcome it.
Yoochun groaned at the list of supplies the colony had requested. It was a dizzying list of dozens of types of seeds for crops; fuel for their ships and machines; medicines and other chemicals. He'd spent the entire evening taking inventory of the ship's own stock of supplies before coming to the realization that it would take days to replicate and replenish the settlement to capacity.
He tapped at his comm badge. "Jaejoong, report to the transporter room."
"Acknowledged," came Jaejoong's quick reply. A few minutes later, he arrived, cocking his head when he saw Yoochun. "We aren't familiar with you."
Yoochun glared. "I'm second in command on this ship. That's all you need to know." He handed over the PADD with the list of supplies needed by the colonists. "How's your chemistry?"
The other man nodded. "We are proficient."
"These are the medications the colonists need. When the head of the settlement beams up, ask him which ones he needs immediately, then get to work creating them in the labs. Understood?"
"The head man is ready to beam up, Commander," the crewman working the transporter informed him.
They watched as the a tall, lean man beamed aboard the ship. He was Human as far as Yoochun could tell; with sun tanned skin and scraggly, sun bleached hair. Dressed in simple farmer's slacks and a cotton button down, the phaser rifle holstered to the side of his hip was the only sign of his role as head man in the colony. As the energy of the transporter beam faded away, he gave a cursory glance at the ship and the two men standing in front of him. Yoochun cleared his throat and moved forward to introduce himself.
"Hello," he greeted. "I'm Cmdr. Park Yoochun and this is Jaejoong."
"I'm Park Eeteuk," the other man grumbled, stepping off the transporter pad. "It's about time someone got here. We've been requesting help for weeks."
"We just received your message a few hours ago," Yoochun frowned.
Eeteuk scoffed as he examined the transporter room. "The bureaucracy of the Federation is no surprise to any of us." He halted in front of Jaejoong and eyed his civilian clothes suspiciously. "Your captain didn't want to waste any other officers on us, I suppose."
The doors swooshed open and Yunho strolled in, still tapping at his notes. "Jaejoong is are more than capable of assisting you," he replied, never looking up from his notes.
"Captain," Jaejoong greeted in relief. "We are glad you're here." Yoochun rolled his eyes.
"Captain," Eeteuk sneered. "Thank you for finally joining us."
Yunho looked up and regarded Eeteuk coolly. "I apologize for my absence, but I'm certain my officers welcomed you properly."
The colonist brushed the comment off with a sniff. “We've exchanged pleasantries. I was just noticing the interesting scars your friend has here,” Eeteuk said pointing at Jaejoong.
“We were assimilated,” Jaejoong stated. At that, a sneer of disgust flashed across the governor's face and his hand went for the phaser clipped to his hip.
In an instant, Eeteuk had withdrawn his weapon and had it aimed directly at Jaejoong.
Frowning, Yunho rushed to stand between Jaejoong and the gun. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he questioned. He was not about to allow anyone to raise a weapon to member of his own crew, especially not while they were on his ship. “You’ll keep your phaser secure while on board,” he ordered.
“What are you all doing with this thing, Captain?”
“He’s a member of my crew and you’ll treat him with the same amount of respect you'd want me to treat a member of your team. Understood?”
“You expect me to work with that murdering piece of trash?”
"Watch your tone," Yunho warned. "He's here, as is the Commander, as is the rest of my crew, to help you and your people. I'll say this again and it'll be the final time, lower your weapon."
The silent standoff between the two men lasted a moment longer, before Eeteuk huffed and lowered his gun to his side. He didn't holster it, however.
"Never thought I'd see the day when a Starfleet captain would defend a Borg," he muttered.
"He's not Borg. He's Human, just like you and me."
Eeteuk laughed cruelly. "There's no way in hell he's like you or me," he spat. "These things are like cockroaches, Captain. If you see one, that means there's hundreds more lurking about."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"Exactly what it sounds like. There are no individual Borg. If he's here, you can bet the Collective will find him and destroy all of you. It's just a matter of time until he leads you right to him."
"We no longer have any connections to the Collective," Jaejoong interrupted calmly.
Eeteuk turned to stare at him, his hatred plain on his face for all to see. "Then who the hell are 'we'?"
Yunho raised his hand in a silent order for quiet. "You've made your objections to Jaejoong quiet clear; however, he will assist my crew in helping to resupply your people. That is, of course, unless you feel like waiting another four months for another Federation ship to make it this far."
Eeteuk glared daggers at the young captain, but not before stealing a desperate glance at the boxes of cargo already stacked nearby. It was amazing the things desperation could do to a man. "Fine," he uttered bitterly. "We'll accept your gracious charity, Captain. But keep your pet on board. I won't be responsible for his ... safety if he were to run into any of the other colonists.”
"Fine. Cmdr. Park will help lead the efforts on the planet. Is there anything else you'll need from my ship?"
Darting his eyes back and forth between Yunho's stern face and Jaejoong's worried gaze, Eeteuk grunted before shaking his head no.
"Good. Crewman," Yunho began, not ever looking away from the sour-faced civilian, "beam our guest and Cmdr. Park down to the planet. The sooner we get started, the sooner we can leave these fine people be."
He turned to leave before the other man could respond. Grabbing Jaejoong by the elbow, he led him out of the transporter room and into the wide corridor of the ship.
“You’ll have to stay on the ship,” Yunho told him. “We can't risk anything happening at the colony.”
Jaejoong nodded. “We understand.”
“Look," Yunho ran a frustrated hand through his hair, "I’m fairly sure you won’t do anything, but …”
“Don’t worry, Captain. We understand that people dislike us. We are beginning to get used to it.”
Yunho gave a sigh. He felt the urge to try and comfort the other man, but he knew it was useless. No matter how ignorant Jaejoong was of Human behavior, he wasn't stupid. "Did Cmdr. Park give you any orders?" he asked instead.
"Yes. We're to go to the labs and replicate medication."
Yunho nodded. "You should get started then. The techs will assist you and I'll come check on you in a few hours."
"Yes," he turned to leave, but hesitated a moment. "Thank you, Captain, for sticking up for us. We hope you won't regret assisting us." He gave Yunho a shaky smile before turning and hurrying down the corridor.
Captain's log, stardate 45122.5: It's been two days since we were first contacted by the Rigas II colony, and while Cmdr. Park and Jaejoong work together to restock the colony's supplies, I've allowed the members of the crew to enjoy a short shore leave. I hope the other colonists on the planet are more welcoming of our presence than their leader.
"I can't believe it's been weeks since we've been off that rocket ship," Junsu said. He stood and stretched, enjoying the warmth of the planet's two suns as they shined down on him. Officers and colonists bustled about the center of the settlement as supplies began to be beamed down from the starship. Junsu had come down as well to see if there was any assistance he could provide the colony's doctor — and cure his own case of cabin fever.
Yoochun laughed and shielded his own eyes from the bright light as he checked his list of what was still needed. "Sick of us already, Doc? I know that tin can gets stuffy sometimes, but we were only up for a couple of months."
Junsu wrinkled his nose. "It felt longer. I hate space. Give me rocks and dirt any day."
Yoochun chuckled. "You must have been real upset when you learned Starfleet was based in space."
"I knew. My brother never stopped talking about it. He wanted to be a pilot before deciding that space would be more exciting. I was supposed to look after him." He kicked at the ground, scuffing his shiny black uniform boots. "Guess I didn't do too good a job, huh?"
"Don't blame yourself for being unable to stop the Borg."
"I can blame myself for being too chicken to follow after him. If I had entered Starfleet as an officer instead of a doctor, I could have been with him on the Melbourne when it was attacked. He wouldn't have had to face it alone."
"Then where would you be, Doc?" Yoochun asked seriously.
When Junsu didn't answer — instead running his eyes past the stacks of boxes of food and medication that stood taller than him — Yoochun decided to let the topic drop. He would make sure to keep an eye on their young doctor, however. Yoochun had been around Starfleet long enough to see what regret and grief could do to a man. The doctor seemed level-headed enough not to do anything rash; but then again, he'd thought the same thing about many officers he'd known, some of whom decided to end their own pain by aiming a phaser at their head.
"Where's Jaejoong?" Junsu asked suddenly, interrupting Yoochun's mournful contemplations. "I bet this settlement is a lot like the one he lived in with his parents. He should come see this."
"The colony's leaders seemed to suggest that it would be in his best interest to not step foot off the ship."
"You can't be serious? He— we're all here to help and they have the nerve to make threats?"
"I'm surprised you're surprised, Doctor. You've seen how rough a time he's had on the ship."
Junsu frowned again. "They terrified him, Commander. It was uncalled for."
"You really care about that thing?"
"It kind of comes with the territory," he said with a sheepish grin. "You bring someone back from the brink of death and you start to get a little invested in their well being."
"Is that all it is?"
"He's a good kid. A little lost. Confused, maybe."
"He's not a kid," Yoochun said gently. "He may not understand us, but he's not stupid or innocent, Doc."
Junsu went silent again and Yoochun turned to see him looking up at the deep purple of the planet's sky. He sighed to himself. He and the doctor needed some new topics of conversation. Conversations about about Jaejoong and the Borg usually end with Junsu brushing Yoochun off.
"Come on, Doc," he began again, voice bright. He came closer to the other man and knocked their shoulders together playfully. "Tell me something about yourself that has nothing to do with killer aliens, your patients or medicine."
"There really isn't much to tell," Junsu shrugged. "I was born in the capital of the United Korean Peninsula."
"As were a lot of the people on board," Yoochun said with a grin.
"I have two parents back on Earth."
"Again, as do most of the people on board."
Junsu flushed. While he wasn't the most socially adept person on board, that didn't excuse why he always found himself sounding like some kind of naive idiot when he was with the commander.
"I sing," he blurted out finally. That got the officer's attention and he turned to smile brightly at Junsu.
"Really?" he drawled. "Are you any good?"
"Not really, I mean, I'm okay, I guess. I studied music a bit early in school before deciding to switch to medicine."
"That's a big change."
"I did it for my brother."
Yoochun sighed to himself and gave the doctor a rueful grin. It seemed that they could only converse for only so long before they ran into one painful topic or another.
"Well, I'd like to hear you sometime," he offered gently.
"We could arrange a ship-wide talent night," Junsu said with a laugh.
"I wouldn't mind that at all. It'd be nice to see you outside of that medical lab coat." He leaned close, the air between them growing warm as a bright pink blush bloomed across Junsu's cheeks.
"I don't look all that different," the doctor sputtered.
"Doctor," a voice interrupted harshly. Yoochun jerked straight and Junsu's face flushed a deeper shade of pink before they both whipped around to find Changmin approaching them.
Eyes widening in concern, the young officer came closer to study Junsu's face. "Doctor, your face is extremely red. Are you ill?"
"No!" Junsu squeaked, taking a step back from Changmin's penetrating gaze.
"Have you been overexerting yourself?"
"Changmin!" Yoochun said before Junsu could answer. "Why are you here?"
"I came to see if the doctor needed assistance. I didn't expect to fine him in need of aid himself."
Yoochun rolled his eyes. "Don't you have some security stuff you could be doing?"
"Well, Commander, I'm giving you some. Go check in with the ship and make sure there are no incoming hostile ships."
Changmin raised an eyebrow in confusion. "Are you expecting there to be any hostile ships, sir."
"Do it," Yoochun snapped. "That's an order."
Changmin's eyes darted back and forth between his fuming superior officer and the ship's doctor, who seemed intent on looking everywhere but him. "Yes, sir," he answered after a few moments. "I'll report back to you with my findings."
"Never mind that. Give your report to the captain."
"Aye, sir," Changmin said skeptically. "Would you like for me to find you when I'm finished?"
"No, Commander. Just go. Now!"
Changmin gave a nod of assent and turned away with a final look between the two flustered men.
Humans, he thought with irritation. It's a miracle their species ever concentrated on anything long enough to achieve warp flight.
Human ships were so poorly designed, Jaejoong reflected as he made his way down one twisting corridor to another. Highly inefficient. He turned down another hallway and was frustrated to find there was nothing on this level of the ship but crew quarters.
"Jaejoong to the captain," he began, tapping at his badge. "Where are you?"
There was no answer. He fought against his rising panic. He is on the ship, he reassured himself. We are not alone. The captain is on the ship.
If only he could figure out where.
“Computer, where is the captain?”
Captain Jung is on the bridge.
That would be a problem. Jaejoong wasn't allowed there. “Where’s that?”
The bridge is located on deck one.
"Show us how to get there." Panels located in the walls of the corridor began to blink and a single arrow flashed pointing him in the direction of a nearby turbolift. He boarded and felt as the lift carried him to the uppermost deck of the ship. When the doors opened, he looked out at the brightly lit bridge of the ship. A large view screen stretched from the floor to the ceiling in front of the helm station. Sitting alone, tapping away at the helm station's screen was Yunho.
At the sound of the opening lift doors, he swiveled around in the chair and frowned disapprovingly at Jaejoong.
“I thought I told you that you weren’t allowed up here," he snapped.
Jaejoong looked at him innocently. “You said we weren't allowed on the bridge. And we are not on it; we’re on the turbolift.”
"You knew what I meant."
"We were alone. We needed to find you."
Yunho shook his head. "Well, you found me." He stood up from the helm and walked past his command seat to the security station near the back of the bridge. Jaejoong watched as he continued his work, traveling from station to station and noting the data.
Annoyed at the feeling of eyes following his every move, he turned to Jaejoong. “Are you really going to just stand there and watch me?”
“There’s no one else to watch.”
“Isn’t there something else you could be doing? Regenerating? Working?”
“We have completed both. The lab techs have beamed down to the surface with the medications we replicated.”
With a sigh, Yunho ran a hand across tired eyes and waved Jaejoong over. “Well, come help me with this then instead of just staring.”
Jaejoong stepped off the lift hesitantly and slowly made his way across the small bridge. “What are you doing?”
“Basic diagnostics. We’ve been in space for a couple months now. I just want to make sure everything is holding up.”
“Wouldn’t it be more efficient to have members of the crew do this?”
“Maybe,” Yunho looked up and gave him a grin. “But sometimes it’s fun to go and mess with things myself. I don’t get many opportunities to work with the ship.”
"These tests seem uneventful, Captain. We don't understand how you can enjoy them."
"Really, Jaejoong? I would think this would be the one aspect of Humanity you'd understand. An appreciation for technology. This ship is our home. It allows us to travel and see things we'd never be able to see. It can be ... humbling to be allowed to play with something so powerful."
"This technology is not made to be recreational, Captain," Jaejoong scolded. "They are sensitive tools that should not be 'played with.'"
Yunho chuckled and gave Jaejoong a rare playful smile. "Understood, sir," he teased. "It was just a saying, Jaejoong. But in my defense, do you even understand the concept of entertainment?"
For just a moment, Jaejoong felt as if he should have been bothered by the comment. He had been Borg, a member of one of the most powerful and knowledgable species in the galaxy, and this mere Human was questioning his understanding of a concept as basic as pleasure. But the look that had flashed across Yunho's face, the way his normally stern face seemed to relax and the ease of which he spoke to him was enchanting. He'd never felt more comfortable on the ship than he did at that moment, sitting on the bridge, examining an ops station with the crew's commanding officer.
"We enjoy things, Captain," he replied instead.
"Oh, really? Well, tell me what you've come across that you enjoy?"
"How very Borg of you," Yunho said with a smirk.
"Working makes us feel productive. We enjoy that feeling."
"That's a good reason."
"And we enjoy the doctor's voice. It helped us cope when we were first disconnected from the Collective."
"Understandable. Is there anything else?"
Jaejoong studied the grinning face of the man in front of him. His enhanced senses could pick up on his relaxed heart rate and his calm breathing. Those responses were much different than the typical fearful reactions he generated from members of the crew. Yunho was treating Jaejoong the same way he did other members of the crew; he was treating him like he was Human. He'd even called him such when the angry colonist had balked at his presence in the transporter room.
"You, Captain," he said suddenly. "We enjoy being with you."
Yunho looked up at him, a startled expression on his face. It was inexplicable, really, this man's near dependency on him, and he still wasn't used to Jaejoong's habit of speaking so honestly. He frowned as he considered this.
Jaejoong fretted, resenting the fact his words had chased away Yunho's easy demeanor so quickly. He'd never understand Human interactions, he lamented to himself. "Was that a bad answer?" he questioned.
Taking a moment to collect his thoughts, Yunho shook his head. "No, not bad. Just ... interesting."
"Humans can enjoy people," Jaejoong offered in defense. "We read this in the information the doctor has provided us and have spoken to your second officer about it as well. This is what friendships are based off of. Humans form friendships with people they enjoy being around."
"Yes, Jaejoong. Friends are people that you like."
"What kind of person do you like?" Jaejoong asked. "Do you like us?"
Yunho wasn't comfortable with the level of attention Jaejoong was beginning to show him. It wouldn't do for him to be so attached to him, not when he'd be leaving for Ceti Alpha VIII in a little more than a year. "Why are you so interested in what I like and what I do?" he questioned. "You barely even know me."
Jaejoong cocked his head as he considered the question. "You are our favorite Human and we are learning about Humanity. Whom else should we be interested in?"
Yunho couldn't fight the blush that rose to his cheeks. "Favorite?" he repeated. "That's ... um, surprising. What about the doctor?"
"We like him, too," Jaejoong replied after a moment. "We just like you more."
Yunho dropped his gaze, appearing to be more interested in the computer's system analyses popping up on his monitor screen than the uncomfortably blunt confessions of his newest crew member. He couldn't stop himself from finding out more, though. "That doesn't make sense. The doctor has done much more for you than I have," he reminded him.
"We know, Captain," he answered softly. "But, you intrigue us. We've hurt you, but you still help us and protect us. You're kind to us. After our incident with your crew, we appreciate this even more. We like the doctor, but he studies us like a science experiment. You don't."
"The doctor just has a lot of hopes pinned on you, Jaejoong."
Yunho shook his head. "Not the way he does. He wants you to succeed in regaining your humanity because he's worried about how well he'll be able to help his brother if he ever finds him."
"Why do you want us to succeed?" Jaejoong asked, eyes curious.
That stumped Yunho. He'd never really given much consideration to Jaejoong's future progress as a Human. He didn't really even know what 'success' for him would mean.
"I'm not sure I do," he said softly. Jaejoong gave him a wounded look. "What I mean is, I don't think I know why myself."
Jaejoong stared at Yunho in confusion. "Then why are you helping us?"
"I'm not entirely sure," he admitted. "Maybe because ignoring you wasn't working."
Jaejoong frowned. "Why would you want to ignore us?" Yunho looked up at him, a meaningful look in his eyes, and gave no answer. "Because we hurt you," Jaejoong said, answering his own question. "Everything comes back to the fact that we hurt you." He looked away.
“Well, you didn't specifically," Yunho offered somewhat lamely. "Jaejoong, I've been meaning to ask, what's the reason you refuse to use the word ‘I’?”
“We do not refuse. We still don’t fully understand the word.”
“‘I’,” Yunho began. “You use it when you’re referring to your individual self, your own wants and needs.”
“When would we ever do that, Captain? We were a part of the Collective, and now we are a part of this ship. Our individual wants and needs are irrelevant.”
"No, not at all. You have a life that is yours now, Jaejoong. You can make your own decisions on what to do with it, who to keep company with, what to eat, what you enjoy." Flicking through the data screens, he kept one eye on Jaejoong as he talked. "Like me for instance. I'm Jung Yunho. I'm 28 years old. I'm captain of the USS Valiant. But, I'm also a scientist. I like Korean, Japanese and Italian food. I enjoy music. I'm my parents' only son and I have—" he stopped abruptly, a look of sadness flickering across his face before he met Jaejoong's gaze and smiled sadly.
"What?" the other asked.
"Nothing. I would have normally said 'I have a younger sister,' but I don't. Not anymore."
"Because of us?"
Yunho nodded. He turned back to the flashing monitors of the ops station, hoping the burning sensation in his eyes would pass quickly. It took a moment, but he quickly got his emotions back under control. He could feel the weight of Jaejoong watching him as he resumed working.
“You’re staring again.”
Jaejoong fidgeted. “We want to ask a question, Captain, but we aren’t sure we should ask it.”
“Because we don’t wish to cause you pain.”
Yunho looked over to see Jaejoong looking at him with worried eyes. “A question can’t hurt me too badly," he reassured him. "Go ahead.”
“You said the Borg hurt you. Took away your future. What did you mean?”
The other man didn’t answer right away and the silence stretched for so long that Jaejoong assumed that Yunho was going to ignore the question. He jumped slightly when Yunho began to speak.
“They killed my fiancée,” he said plainly. “The woman I was going to marry.”
“But you were not killed.”
“No, I was not killed. But I had always wanted to get married, Jaejoong,” he answered with a sigh. “When I first met Jihyo, I could picture our life together so clearly: We'd get married, have children, grow old together." He paused to take a shaky breath. "But then she was gone, blown up by a single Borg cube. And now …” he shrugged and his voice grew softer “now, I don’t know what to do. It took me so long to find someone, to find her, but now I’m alone again.”
“We are also alone, Captain,” Jaejoong murmured quietly. “We understand. It’s difficult to adapt.”
Looking up quickly, Yunho wanted to retort that there was no way Jaejoong could understand what he'd gone through. He'd barely been Human long enough to fully understand what he'd even lost, much less be able to relate to Yunho's pain. The accusation died on his lips as he watched Jaejoong fiddle with the technology on his wrist nervously. As awful a family the Collective probably was to Jaejoong, they were all he had known. And now they were lost to him. Worse, the implants that still remained in his skin — and the way of thinking that still prevented him from seeing himself as his own person — would only serve to keep him isolated from Humans, as well. Not an actual Borg, but not quite Human. He was, in fact, all alone.
"Yes, it was difficult," Yunho replied.
"How did you handle it?"
"Not well. I was a mess for months after,” he continued. “I was half dead, working during the day and drinking myself into a stupor at night. Changmin was the only one who knew what was going on.”
"No one else knew that you were suffering?"
"No. Everyone else I knew — my parents, my fiancee's family, friends from Starfleet — they were all mourning their own losses. It was easy to hide my pain from them."
Jaejoong sighed and looked away. "That's what scares us most about being Human, Captain. We could be in trouble or in pain, and no would know because we would be alone."
"That won't happen."
"It happened in the cargo bay. They would have hurt us if you hadn't come."
"But I did come," Yunho reminded him. "And someone came to help me before it was too late, too."
Jaejoong's brow furrowed in concern. "'Too late?'"
“When things were at their worst, I used to think how much easier it would be to just take a shuttle and fly it into the nearest Borg cube. I'd end my own pain and take a few of the bastards I hated out with me.”
“What stopped you?”
“Changmin pretty much told me how big of an embarrassment my ‘overly emotional histrionics’ would be to the memory of Jihyo and the rest of my family, and how happy I should be to have survived. He has a way of making me feel guilty for any display of humanity." Yunho shrugged before continuing. "He also made me realize it wouldn't have worked. The Borg would have stopped my shuttle and simply assimilated me before I would have been able to do any damage."
"He is correct." Jaejoong watched as Yunho continued his work and noted the other man's depressed mood. Awkward and uncomfortable with the turn in the tone of their conversation, he searched his mind desperately for something to say that would bring the smile back to his face.
“We would never have assimilated you, Captain,” he said after a moment.
Yunho gave a pained laugh and shook his head. “You might not have, but One of Five would. You would have done whatever the Collective told you to do. We both know this.”
Jaejoong frowned. The image of Yunho assimilated — his skin ashen and Borg technology embedded in flesh — flashed in his mind's eye, causing him to shiver in disgust. To picture the other, who'd he only known as Human and wholly independent, as an unwilling conquest of the Borg nearly made him ill.
“We … the Collective would order us to assimilate you, but we would resist. We would hate them for forcing us to do it.”
“As much as I appreciate that, Jaejoong, that wouldn't have stopped them. What you want doesn’t matter. You and I don’t matter. That is why we have to find a way to defeat them.”
Jaejoong felt a heavy dread in the pit of his stomach as realized the truth of Yunho's words. For decades, he’d followed the will of the hive mind because he had known no better, had no will of his own. He’d only been left on his own with his fledgling humanity for six weeks, but, surprising even himself, he’d come to treasure parts of it. Like, for instance, the opportunity to sit alone with another person and to have all their attention solely on him.
“We don’t know how that’s possible, Captain,” he said finally in a near whisper.
"I don't either," Yunho admitted sadly. "But, we can't let that stop us from fighting. And who knows? Maybe you know something that may help."
He knew something, all right. He, more than anyone on the ship, knew of the crushing power the Collective wielded. The technology they possessed was nothing compared to the power they had over trillions of unfeeling drones. Even if it weren't Jaejoong, another drone could easily assimilate him, unaware and uncaring of how important he was to this ship. To Jaejoong.
He sat and allowed Yunho to work in silence as he wracked his mind for something, anything, he could say that would provide some sort of hope, but it was then, as he searched his own mind, that he was aware of a familiar voice.
Or rather, voices.
Scanning grid 888. Negative.
"Captain, do you hear that?" he asked, panicked. He jumped up, away from the ops station and searched the bridge desperately. He rushed over to the communication station, hoping that some signals were merely crossed and the ship was simply picking up static.
Scanning grid 889. Negative.
"Where are we?" Jaejoong nearly shouted.
"What are you talking about?" Yunho rose to follow Jaejoong as he paced the floor frantically. "You're on the bridge."
Scanning grid 890. Negative.
"No," Jaejoong demanded. "We, we." He flailed his arms, motioning toward the ship. "What grid are we in?"
Yunho ran over to the navigational controls at the helm. "We're in grid 891. Why?"
Scanning grid 891. Target found.
"We have leave!" Jaejoong insisted. "We must leave now!"
"Jaejoong," Yunho ordered. "What's going on?"
We have found the Federation starship USS Valiant. Present location: Grid 891 at 233-mark-124. We will pursue and assimilate.
He had heard variations of this phrase thousands of times in his lifetime, but for the first time ever, the words caused him shake in fear.
"Jaejoong?" Yunho turned to see the other man staring off into the distance, a stricken look on his face. "Jaejoong!" he repeated, shaking him slightly. "What's wrong?"
Jaejoong turned to face him, eyes wide. He cocked his head slightly, giving Yunho the impression he was listening to some far away voice. "They're coming," he said softly.
"The Borg, Captain."
Yunho's stomach dropped and his blood ran cold with fear. "You can hear them again?" he asked, backing away.
"No," Jaejoong answered quickly. "But we can ... sense the Collective. They know the Valiant's here, Captain. And they're coming for it."
A/N: There you go. I couldn't leave things all happy and feels and fish. I had to have them chased down by intergalatic zombies. *sighs* Do you all want to know why updates take so long? Because I fret about stuff you all don't even care about. LIke would there be Bajorans in Starfleet. See? None of you care.
Another video. Because this story is nothing more than an excuse for me to fangirl about Trek. Here's the Borg Jaejoong's whole character is based off of, and he's the cutest Borg you ever did see~