elles_letters: (Perfect fit!YunJae)
[personal profile] elles_letters
Chapter 7: The Chase

<-- back to part one

As Yunho sat on the dark bridge of his adrift ship, he cursed Jaejoong's name. He cursed himself as well, for realizing way too late just how much faith he had put in the other man. He could hear Yoochun kick at the wall in rage, and he was suddenly grateful for the darkness. Grateful that none of his crew would be able to see how ashamed he was for failing to protect them — or how heart broken he was that Jaejoong had failed him.

He didn't have long to suffer, however. Even through his grief, Yunho could hear energy buzzing through the air. It was only a moment later that a bright, white flash from the view screen nearly blinded him.

"Shields are back online," Changmin reported, relief evident in his voice.

Yunho flew back into his seat as the ship jolted and broke free from the beam. He could feel the shifting of the ship as it suddenly picked up speed.

"What's he doing now?" Yunho shouted.

"He's tapped into the main propulsion system and has taken over the engines," Yuri reported. She sounded tired and exhausted. "We're traveling at warp 8.9. ... Now, we're at warp 9.2. ... 9.5! ... 9-point ... I have no idea anymore, sir, the computer can't keep up."

"Where's the cube? Put it on screen." The ship appeared, and, at first, loomed as large and intimidating as ever; but second by precious second, it seemed to fall a bit more behind. They were actually outrunning it. Happiness so heady that it nearly made him laugh out loud coursed through Yunho. By some amazing miracle, Jaejoong had scraped together enough energy to push them further and further from the cube's reach.

"Sir," Jinki piped up. By the look on his face, he wasn't sure if he should be celebrating or crying. "We can't keep going at this speed. The ship will fly apart!"

Yunho turned to look at Jaejoong. Tubules still imbedded in the helm's station screen, he made no effort to slow them down.

"Do whatever you can to hold us together," he told Jinki. At Jaejoong, "Our ship won't be able to withstand this for much longer, Jaejoong. Can you slow them down?"

Instantly, Jaejoong snapped a hand at Changmin. "Set your phasers to 934-by-803 and fire," he said flatly.

Changmin looked to Yunho for permission. "Do it," he ordered. Changmin nodded and soon sent six phaser shots flying into the upper-left corner of the cube.

"Again," Jaejoong demanded. "Keep firing until we're out of phaser range."

"Sir," Changmin said turning to Yunho, "that spot doesn't seem to be of any tactical importance."

"I think we can trust Jaejoong's knowledge of Borg vessels, Commander," Yunho shot back.

Without another word, the Vulcan fired all the ammunition he could — phasers and torpedoes — pummeling the spot Jaejoong had instructed him to hit. As a surprisingly large explosion boomed off the corner of the cube following the last phaser strike, and the cube's flight became jerky and fitful before slowing to a complete stop. Yunho watched as the cube grew smaller and smaller on the view screen, not daring to breathe until it had been lost in the sea of stars.

He turned to look at Changmin. "Status of the cube?"

The light of the security station monitors cast a gold glow on Changmin's face as he scanned the nearby vicinity. "The cube has halted its pursuit of us. I'm not picking up any other Borg vessels in the area."

"I can't believe it," Yoochun said next to him. "We got away."

"Thanks to Jaejoong." Grinning and dizzy with relief, Yunho stood and moved to place a hand on Jaejoong's shoulder. The other man yelped in surprise and snatched his tubules out of the helm computer screen. The ship lurched to another rough stop, sending everyone falling to the deck.

"Geez, Borgy," Yoochun groaned from where he lay underneath Changmin. "Be a bit more careful." He pushed the Vulcan off him and rose to his feet.

Yunho went over to help his officers stand and to view Changmin's tactical read-outs for himself. "Keep scanning until we're out of range of their sensors," he instructed Jinki. "And you," he said to Yoochun, "show a little appreciation."

"This is the second time in as many months we've had a cube after us. I'd appreciate it not happening again."

"You and everyone else on the ship."

"How did they know we where we were?" Yoochun asked Jaejoong.

The Borg shrugged. "They scanned and found us," he replied evenly.

"Are you sure you didn't tell them?"

"Jaejoong was with me on the bridge, Commander," Yunho interrupted. "He couldn't have told them anything."

"As we just learned, he doesn't need anything special to communicate with them," Yoochun said lowly to Yunho. He glared up at Jaejoong. "Why are they looking for us?"

Jaejoong shrugged again, tongue-tied in the face of the officer's aggression. "We don't know," he finally spit out. "We don't know what they're doing or why. We can just ... hear them. And only if we concentrate hard enough."

"Can they hear you?" Yoochun demanded. "Have you been communicating with them this whole time? Are they going to pop up at the next stop we make? Because there's not way I'm risking it. Not for you."

"Now is not the time to argue about this, Commander," Yunho told his first officer softly, placing a firm hand on his shoulder. "The fact of the matter is, Jaejoong just saved our lives."

Yoochun closed his eyes and gave a frustrated sigh before bowing toward Yunho and heading for the turbolift. "Thank you, Jaejoong," he said, voice strained and bitter. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to head down to engineering to make sure your 'help' didn't cause irreparable damage to our ship." The lift doors slide quietly shut as Yoochun was carried him away.

Yunho sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He was long overdue for a talk with his first officer; he'd wait until tempers and emotions had calmed down. Turning back to reassure Jaejoong that everything was fine, he found the Borg watching him with wide — and suspiciously red — eyes.
+++

Yunho had just changed for bed when the chime at his front door went off. Late-night guests weren't completely unexpected. As captain, his door was pretty much open all night. Add the adrenaline that was still racing through his veins after their near-assimilation, and Yunho wasn't even entirely sure why he'd bothered to put on his night clothes.

“Come,” he called. The door whooshed open to reveal Jaejoong standing in the corridor. He smiled warmly. “Jaejoong? Come in.”

“We are disturbing you,” the other observed.

“Not at all. How can I help you?”

Jaejoong hesitated a moment outside the door. Then, seemingly gaining his courage, he meet Yunho's gaze and took a few brave steps into his quarters. The door slide shut behind him.

"We didn't contact the Collective, Captain," he said without preamble. "We don't know how we were able to sense them before, but we can't now."

"Yes. You said so on the bridge. I believe you."

"Your first officer does not."

"Yoochun tends to be distrustful. It's his nature. I can say for a fact, however, that he is very happy with today's outcome."

“Were you pleased with our actions on the bridge today?”

“Are you kidding?”

Jaejoong frowned. “We would not make a joke about something so serious.”

“Jaejoong, if it weren’t for you, we’d all be drones now. You saved this ship and saved the crew. Your actions on the bridge were exemplary.”

"You're not angry at us for taking control of your ship?"

"I ordered you to help us, and you did. There's nothing to be angry about."

Jaejoong considered this with a frown.

"Is that all?"

"We ... We heard them, Captain," Jaejoong said softly. He twisted his fingers nervously around the implants in his wrist. "We thought we were becoming Human. Why could we ..." His breath began to quicken and he staggered unsteadily on his feet. Yunho reached out and led him to his couch.

"Easy," he said gently, pulling him down to sit beside him. "I'm not angry about that, either. I don't know how you were able to hear them, but I suspect it has to do with the fact the doctor couldn't remove all your implants."

"We felt as if someone had intruded on our thoughts."

"I understand how frightening that could be."

Jaejoong looked over at him in annoyance. "You understand? No, Captain, you can't understand. You have no idea what it’s like being a part of the Collective."

"I understand your feelings, Jaejoong, even if I don't know," Yunho soothed.

Jaejoong paid him no attention, instead continuing his panicked rambling "We wouldn't hurt your crew, Captain. We wouldn't hurt you. But they ... we heard them, their thoughts. They would have damaged you badly. Not just you: the doctor, your commander, the Vulcan Changmin. We cannot allow them to be drones."

"You need to calm down," Yunho said, voice firm. "The Borg are dangerous, but we escaped and it's over now.”

"No!" Jaejoong shot up from his seat. "It's not over. They're still out there. What if we run into them again?"

"Then we'll escape them like we did today."

"You must go back."

"Excuse me?"

"You must take your ship and your crew back to your own space. It's safer there."

Yunho shook his head. "I'm not letting the Borg chase us away."

"You have to!" Jaejoong stomped his foot. "Do you know what would have happened to you if we hadn't been on the ship?"

"But you were, Jaejoong, and I'm so grateful you were."

Jaejoong scoffed at this, his breathing growing more and more agitated. "Grateful?" he nearly wheezed. "You’re grateful?! There is nothing to be grateful for, Captain. This escape is temporary. If they decide they want you, the Collective will search the galaxy for you. We will not be able to help you outrun them forever. They have technology you and your crew can't even begin to imagine."

"Calm down," Yunho ordered, standing and attempting to placate his frantic visitor.

"We are one. We are no threat. We’ve told you this before!"

“Jaejoong — ”

“Humans are so naive. Next time, they will assimilate your ship and they will destroy you. You are lucky we were able to hear them, hear where their defenses were weakened. That wasn’t all we heard. We heard them analyzing the ship. They know your weaknesses. They know they can destroy you, and we ...,” Jaejoong’s breathing hitched as he fought the emotion that choked him, “we ... we were afraid.”

Without thinking, Yunho pulled Jaejoong into a hug, locking the other's arms to his sides. Of course: Fear. That explained Jaejoong's irrational response. He was swinging back and forth from anger to desperation faster than Yunho could keep up. It was painful to hear.

Everyone on the bridge had been faced with the knowledge that the Borg could have easily killed all of them, but only one could actually hear them as they contemplated it. It was the same one who lacked the emotional strength to deal with it, and it had been the one he'd ordered to remain on the bridge.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. He pressed his nose into Jaejoong's hair and gave him a squeeze. This mess was his fault. It was true that Jaejoong's expertise had saved them all, but he should have had some idea of how traumatizing it would be for Jaejoong to come face-to-face with his captors again. “You're right. We're all so naive. We need to be more careful.”

Jaejoong seemed to go slack in his arms and he tightened his grip around him. “We are useless like this, Captain," he murmured, sounding drained. "We can’t even protect our own mind.”

Yunho didn't reply; instead, he held onto Jaejoong for a bit longer, absentmindedly rubbing small circles in his back. He could feel an implant running the length of Jaejoong's spine, and he mourned silently for the Human who had so much taken away from him. A few minutes later, he released him, embarrassed by the liberties he'd taken in touching the other man.

"Ah, Jaejoong," he cleared his throat and took a few more steps back to regain his composure. "It's been a long day," he said. "You really need to get some rest."

Jaejoong nodded, but didn't make any moves to leave.

"We froze, Captain," Jaejoong said softly. "We heard them and we ... we didn't know what to do. A month ago, when we were sitting in your brig, we would have welcomed them. And we have to admit that hearing them again today, it was terrifying but ... it was also a relief.”

“A relief?”

Jaejoong turned and slowly began to pace the small room. “We have spent these past few weeks lost, Captain. We’ve been locked away, physically assaulted and snubbed. We doubt our own words every time we speak, afraid that we’ll say something that will offend you or your crew. It's been a struggle, and when we heard the voice of the Collective, we ... we had order. It was familiar and we felt at peace."

“What are you saying?”

“We can’t be alone, Captain,” Jaejoong said in a rush. His eyes were red but still dry. “Please. We’ll rest like you asked. We'll sleep. We’ll sit in the corner, but please, don’t send us back to our quarters ... alone. We need to be near someone ... someone who reminds us why it’s good to be Human.”

"Okay," Yunho agreed. He reached out and took Jaejoong's arm and lead him back to the couch. Settling him down, he went to the linen closet in his bedroom and returned with a pillow and a heavy quilt. He placed the pillow on the arm of the couch and draped the blanket over him. "Just rest, okay? I'll be in my room if you need me." He ordered the computer to lower the lights and turned to leave.

"Captain?" he heard Jaejoong mumble. "Stay? Until we lose consciousness."

"Jaejoong, I don't think— "

"It will not take us long," Jaejoong argued. "Please?" Noticing Yunho's hesitation, he sat up on the couch. "In the quiet, we sometimes think we can hear them. If you're nearby, we can blame any noise we hear on you."

Yunho scoffed, but slowly moved to sit at the end of the couch, careful of Jaejoong's feet. He leaned back, resting his head on the back of the couch, and closed his eyes. He felt the cushions sink as Jaejoong settled back down.

He looked ahead, watching the streaks of starlight fly past his window as the ship hurtled forward. A familiar sense of self-disgust — the one that had occasionally haunted him during those painful few days right after his sister and fiancée's death — took over his thoughts. What was he doing out here? What were any of them doing out here? Jaejoong was right; Humans were naive. No, he thought bitterly. It wasn't naivety that drew them out here; it was arrogance, which was much more dangerous. As much as he hated the Borg, he had thought he also understood and respected just how powerful they were.

And yet, here Yunho was, risking his and the lives of his crew in the name of exploration and discovery. They'd barely survived today — they wouldn't have if it weren't for the former drone on board — and he still had the audacity to try and convince Jaejoong they could handle what was out here.

He was a fool.

"Tell us about Earth," Jaejoong spoke up suddenly.

Shaking himself from his thoughts, he nudged Jaejoong's foot playfully. "I'm sure you know more about Earth than I could ever tell you."

"Only what the Collective deemed relevant," he answered softly. "We want to hear what you think is relevant."

Turning to look at him in the darkness, Yunho frowned. "Why?"

"We are curious why you'd leave it for this."

Earth. He pictured the planet — blue and inviting — and felt a twinge of homesickness. He realized he hadn't been back in a nearly a year. You haven't had any reason to go back, a bitter voice spoke in his mind.

"Earth is my home. And yours too, I suppose. I was born there. My parents are there. It's what we were defending at Wolf 359, when the Borg ... hurt me."

"Would we like it?"

Yunho shrugged, before remembering that Jaejoong couldn't see him. "I'm not sure. There are billions of people on Earth. All of them individuals, many of them who probably won't like you. You might be overwhelmed at first. But there are also beaches and sunsets and rain and animals and plants and trillions of other beautiful things."

"Beauty is irrelevant, Captain. It serves no purpose."

"Hardly. Beauty is pleasing, it makes Humans feel good. When something is beautiful, that means it's healthy, it's alive. My favorite thing about Earth is that there's water everywhere. No other place I've been in the galaxy has as much as it does. Changmin hates it. As I'm sure you know, Vulcan is dry and arid — basically a giant desert. But on Earth ... we have oceans, rivers, lakes, glaciers, clouds, rain. Water is everywhere and it's beautiful."

"We aren't sure we'd enjoy that," Jaejoong murmured sleepily.

"Humans need water, Jaejoong. We can't go long without it. And not just for drinking. We wash with it, cook with it, cool ourselves with it. It can be dangerous, though. During the summers, my father used to take us to the beach. He taught both me and my sister to swim of course, but my favorite thing to do was to get in the water, lie back and just float."

"The density of the Human body is less than that of seawater. Floating would be more efficient than swimming."

Yunho grinned. "Efficient," he was learning, was Jaejoong for "good," "fun" or "pleasurable." Efficient, it seemed, was as complimentary as the Borg got.

"Much more efficient," he replied. "I could just enjoy the feel of the water, the warmth of the sun, without having to think about where I was going or what my limbs were doing. One summer, I wasn't paying attention and I drifted nearly half a mile from the shore. I panicked and tired myself out trying to swim back to shore. I couldn't make it all the way back on my own and my father had to come out and tow me in. My mother was scared to death."

"You could have died."

"I could have," Yunho agreed. "But that didn't stop me from going out the next day and spending the whole day in the water. Same thing out here. I've had some scary run-ins, but I always come back. " He picked up the edge of Jaejoong's blanket and ran his fingers idly over the weave of the knit fabric. "I don't know what I can say that will convince you it's good to be Human," he began softly, "but I can say you are becoming a good one. You fought to save us, even though you were scared. You've tried hard to fit in, to help us, to accept us even when we haven't accepted you. I think ... I'm proud of you."

Yunho surprised himself with the declaration, but thinking back, he had been happy to see how well Jaejoong had adapted to life on the ship. At first, he just thought it relief that Jaejoong hadn't turned out to be a threat to his crew, but that didn't explain the way he'd felt when Jaejoong had remained on the bridge to help them fight nor did it explain his disappointment when he thought Jaejoong had betrayed them.

He had grown to trust the other man and Jaejoong had proven himself worthy of it. He had been a better Human than Yunho had been at Wolf 359, he realized bitterly.

He looked over in the darkness and listened for the sounds of Jaejoong sleeping. When he recognized the tell-tale slow breathing, he stood up and made sure that he was snug underneath the blanket before heading to bed.

It took Yunho hours to fall asleep that night. He dreamt about the Borg — something he did about two or three times a month. This time, however, for the first time, he could see the faces of the drones. They were his family. His mother and father were there. His sister and fiancée were there. Even Jaejoong was there. In the dream, he didn't cry or rage over what the Borg had done.

Instead, he knelt down and begged forgiveness for what he hadn't.

+++

Jaejoong awoke to the sound of food cooking and Yunho humming. He sat up and followed the sound, shuffling into the quarters' small kitchen.

"Good morning," Yunho greeted him. He gave an amused half smile before motioning toward Jaejoong's head. "Nice bed head you've got there."

Jaejoong patted his head. He could feel tufts of his black hair sticking out, but saw no need to fix it. "What are you doing?" he asked instead.

"Making breakfast. I've decided the main bridge crew could use the morning off."

Jaejoong watched as Yunho puttered around the kitchen, observing as he sliced and prepared some bread and fruit, placed it on a tray and handed it to him.

"Mind helping?" Yunho asked. Jaejoong held onto the platter, unsure of what Yunho was asking of him. The captain motioned toward the small dining area of his quarters. "Set it on the table."

Jaejoong did and settled himself in one of the chairs. Yunho joined a few minutes later with a tall carafe of juice in one hand and a plate bacon in the other.

"Here." he sat down and piled a piece of toast, some fruit and a slice of the meat on a plate in front of Jaejoong.

Looking around at the table setting, Jaejoong gave him a questioning look. "Chopsticks?"

Yunho grinned. "No need. Go ahead and eat."

Jaejoong seemed to sag in relief at this before picking up his toast and ripping a piece off. He popped it into his mouth and licked the butter off his fingers.

"Your appetite seems to be growing."

Jaejoong picked up a strawberry and studied it. "This food is much more practical, Captain. No unnecessary tools to impede our eating process."

"You're going to have to figure out how to use utensils at some point."

"Then we'll wait until some point."

Yunho laughed, and they ate in companionable silence. He watched as the other picked curiously at his food. He had no idea what to think about this man who'd single-handedly delivered them from the Borg's grasp. Who could apparently tap into the ship itself and make it do things even Starfleet engineers thought it impossible to do. Who had come to him last night and cried that he still wasn't entirely sure if he wanted to be Human.

That moment on the bridge, when Jaejoong had for all appearances given in to the voices of the Collective, had shaken Yunho more than he wanted to admit. The thought of Jaejoong — eager and honest Jaejoong — being lost to the will of the Collective left him feeling sick with fear. He wanted Jaejoong to be Human, he realized; but more than that, he wanted Jaejoong to want to be Human.

"Have you found a reason?" he asked him suddenly, a strange case of butterflies causing his breakfast to sit uncomfortably in his stomach. "Your reason why it's good to be Human," he clarified when Jaejoong looked up at him. "I ask because you worried me yesterday. For a second ... I actually thought you were going to help them assimilate us."

"You don't pay attention, Captain," Jaejoong replied with a shake of his head. He poked at a piece of melon on his plate. "We've told you our reason many times already."

"Have you?" Yunho asked, throat tight. "Remind me." He needed to hear it. They'd come so close to losing Jaejoong during that battle. He needed to do whatever it took to keep that from ever happening again.

"We told you while you were working on the bridge and last night before we went to sleep," Jaejoong replied, arching the eyebrow hidden behind the implant above his eye. "It's you. We wish to be Human for you."

Jaejoong's words from last night came echoing back in his head. "Someone who reminds us why it's good to be Human."

Jaejoong wanted to be Human for him. That's how he found the power to fight off the Collective. Mouth dry and heart racing, Yunho looked up to see him staring at him, face bright and happy. Yunho could feel his heart swell in his chest. "I'm why you saved the ship?" he asked, unable to keep the note of awe out of his voice.

Biting into a piece of bacon, Jaejoong nodded. "We saw your face and it reminded us that we couldn't let them hurt you … I won't let them hurt you."

Oh, Yunho thought dumbly. He didn't notice Jaejoong's use of the word "I." What he did notice was how soft his hair looked in the ambient lighting of his quarters, and how bright and how easily he smiled. Jaejoong was lean to the point of looking frail and yet, he had protected Yunho and his crew from one of the strongest forces in the galaxy.

Realizing how shamelessly he was staring at Jaejoong, he ducked his head and busied himself with his breakfast. Head still spinning from Jaejoong's most powerful admission yet, Yunho realized Jaejoong had been wrong. He may have been one, but he was a threat.

Just not to the crew.


















A/N: This chapter did not come together the way I wanted, so I'm not sure how I feel about it. (I may hate it. =|) Yunho, why are your emotions so complicated???

I realized how many people didn't know anything about Trek, so I made this thing~

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