elles_letters: (Perfect fit!YunJae)
[personal profile] elles_letters
Beta: [livejournal.com profile] ligerliger
Rating: R/NC-17 later
Summary: Captain Jung Yunho of the USS Valiant wants nothing more than to take his ship out into deep space and leave the memories of Earth behind; however, when he and his crew come across a destroyed Borg cube and a drone in need of help, he finds himself battling old demons and unexpected emotions. In the end, it’s the drone, struggling to remember what it means to be human, who teaches him about forgiveness, healing and maybe even love.
Warnings: Violence and language. I just wanted to write a story about the Borg. OTL Fic takes place in the TNG/DS9/VOY-era.

chapter one | chapter two | chapter three | side story one | chapter four | chapter five | chapter six | chapter seven | chapter eight | chapter nine



Chapter 9: A Healing Touch

Changmin knew.

It wasn't hard to figure out how he knew (the Vulcan was a logical man and had been one of Yunho's closest friends for almost 10 years), but what was proving difficult, was figuring out his current behavior.

Changmin — cool, rational, sensible Changmin – had been staring him down on the bridge all morning. The Vulcan's stoic demeanor was intimidating even when he was in a good mood. Whatever mood this was made him seem downright terrifying.

“Does Changmin seem creepier than normal to you today?” he’d asked Yoochun, leaning close to the other man. He looked back furtively to see Changmin watching him from the corner of his eye while he spoke with a ensign in security.

Yoochun shrugged. “I think he's always creepy.”

“He’s been watching me all day today.”

Yoochun smirked, but didn’t look up from the readings at his command chair. “Just ask him what's up. It's not like you can embarrass him.”

No, but the inevitable discussion that would follow would definitely embarrass Yunho. While he hadn't acted like a complete fool on the beach (at least, he hoped he hadn't), his behavior toward Jaejoong could certainly be classified as inappropriate. He'd just come to realize his own feelings of affection toward the former drone. He wasn't ready to have to defend them to a critical Vulcan.

"I need to clear my head," he muttered, rising from his chair. "Yoochun, you have the bridge."

He strode to the turbolift, nodding at his officers, while doing his best to avoid meeting Changmin's gaze. Riding to the lower decks, he took a deep breath and collected himself. He'd go to the dining hall, he decided. Get some coffee and maybe take the time to visit with other members of the crew. He'd forget about Changmin and his new eerie staring habit.

He might even make a point of checking in on Jaejoong, he thought as he strolled down the long corridors of the ship to the crew's mess. He was a member of Yunho's crew, after all, and he wouldn't ignore him just because Changmin disapproved.

He would, however, try to ignore the fact that the Vulcan had apparently followed him off the bridge.

The sound of Changmin's even, unhurried tread quickly grated on his nerves, though. Yunho sighed and turned to see his friend walking calmly a few yards behind him, hands clasped behind his back.

"Commander," he greeted.

"Captain," the other replied.

"May I help you with something?"

Changmin took his time coming closer, studying Yunho from head to foot. "We have a problem, Captain."

Yunho bit back the instinct to snap back No, we don't. Changmin would see any emotional response as further evidence of whatever theory he'd been mulling.

"What are you talking about?" he replied instead.

Changmin cocked his head. "These past few days you have been paying an increasing amount of attention to Jaejoong."

"Excuse me?"

"You've begun to allow him on the bridge when you're working, you've questioned the doctor about his health and vitals, and you've begun to take more and more of your meals with him."

"Are you stalking me, Min?"

"It's a small ship, Captain, and I am in charge of keeping it secure."

"Is commenting on my behavior part of keeping it secure?"

"That remains to be seen."

Yunho frowned and crossed his arms over his chest. "What are you getting at?"

Changmin watched him carefully. "Are you okay, Captain?"

"I'm fine; I'm just busy. We were nearly assimilated, in case you forgot," he answered. "It was … alarming."

Changmin nodded in agreement. "Very much so. Is that why you've become obsessed with Jaejoong?"

"I'm hardly obsessed," Yunho retorted. "And Jaejoong has nothing to do with anything. If — and that's a big 'if' — you've seen me paying more attention to him, it's because he's the only person on the ship with the expertise to help plan future defenses against the Borg."

"'Expertise,'" Changmin repeated with a frown. "Is that why he spent the night in your quarters?"

Yunho gaped at him. "Who told you about that?"

"Yoochun informed me."

"How did he know?!"

"Jaejoong told the doctor, who told him. They are both worried about how close you're growing with him."

"We're not close," Yunho groaned. "And even if we were, I don't see how that's any of your business."

"We are your friends."

Yunho sighed. Admitting his friendship with Yunho was as emotional as Changmin got. This was apparently a pressing concern for all of them. "He needs help — a lot of help. So, I help him, as I would anyone else on this ship."

"They are concerned for him, as well."

"Why?"

"He is very attached to you."

"I'm one of the few people on board who actually talks to him."

Changmin shook his head. "It's more than that. He favors you. He's told me so himself."

"Jealous?" Yunho asked cheekily.

Changmin stared at him evenly. "Not in the slightest."

"You're the one who told me to help him find his Humanity."

"I certainly didn't think you would take that to mean you should sleep with him."

Yunho slapped a hand over Changmin's mouth and pulled him into the nearest empty room, which turned out to be the unoccupied hydroponics bay.

"I didn't sleep with him," he hissed. "He slept on my couch, I slept in my bed. We woke up and I made us breakfast. That was it."

Changmin arched an eyebrow at him. (Damn those eyebrows, Yunho swore.) "That was it?"

"I hope you don't think so little of me as to imply I would have tried something with him."

"Nothing physical, perhaps. But something ... substantial occurred."

"Nothing happened," Yunho lied. "Nothing at all."

Changmin pressed his lips into a thin line. "I hope so, Captain. For both your and Jaejoong's sake."

"Is that all, Commander?"

Changmin watched him a moment, eyes unreadable. "There's one other thing. The anniversary is approaching."

Well, that wasn't what Yunho was expecting. "What? What are you talking about."

"It's been a year since the Battle of Wolf 359, has it not?"

Yunho paused, converting the current stardate to the Earth calendar. "You're right," he mumbled softly. "I guess ... I just lost track." An easy thing to do. On the ship, away from the natural signs of the passage of time — sunrise and sunset, and the changing seasons — it was easy for days to blur into weeks and weeks to blur into months.

"Do you expect your emotions to distract you from your duties?"

"Changmin," Yunho replied, annoyed.

"Humans put a lot of emphasis in commemorating horrific events they experience." The Vulcan frowned to himself. "A custom that seems extremely unproductive, if you ask me. I may not experience grief as you do; however, I do understand how the anniversary of the day you lost your family could be a painful thing."

"I can handle the anniversary fine, Min. You don't have to worry."

"Vulcans don't worry, Captain. It's pointless. We simply ... observe. And then prepare for all possible outcomes." He nodded farewell to Yunho before leaving to return to the bridge.

As Yunho watched him, he tried to convince himself that the warning he'd heard in Changmin's voice was all in his head.

+++

Yoochun longed for the day he was promoted to captain. There was something infinitely satisfying about being in control of so many moving parts: the crew, the ship, the strange new worlds. Starfleet was made up of some of the smartest minds and the most advanced technology in the galaxy. And he wanted to help lead them.

That isn't to say he disliked working under Yunho. He was an excellent captain and one of the better officers that Yoochun had served with. He knew his crew and his ship well and worked hard to make sure both were in top condition. That was why, Yoochun supposed, he was taking such good care of the former Borg drone.

It had been risky to agree to keep the thing on their ship, but it had paid off. Unfortunately, Yoochun didn't see any benefit in allowing him to trail after Yunho like some sort of lovesick puppy. He shook his head at the thought. He wasn't really sure what bothered him more: Jaejoong's clear attachment to the captain or the fact that Yunho was doing very little to dissuade it.

"Commander?" Hyoyeon called to him nervously. Yoochun looked, distracted from his thoughts, to see her hesitating outside the door of the open turbolift. His brow furrowed in confusion, and it wasn't until he stood that he was able to see the reason for her wariness: Jaejoong looking out from inside the lift and scanning the bridge crew expectantly.

"Jaejoong," Yoochun began, "what are you—"

"He's not here," Jaejoong interrupted. He fingered the implants on his wrist as his eyes flitted from one curious face to another.

Yoochun came closer, giving Hyoyeon's arm a comforting pat. "Who's not here?"

"The captain." A worried expression crossed Jaejoong's face as he took a step off the turbolift. "We can't find him."

Yoochun briefly considered reminding the other man he wasn't allowed on the bridge before deciding it wasn't worth it. "He's not due on the bridge today. Was he supposed to meet you?"

Jaejoong shook his head. "No. We— I just need to find him."

"Did you ask the computer?"

"It won't tell us. It says we don't have access to that information."

Yoochun frowned and went over to Changmin's tactical station. The only reason the computer would refuse to tell Jaejoong the captain's location would be because Yunho didn't want him — or anyone else who didn't need to know — where he was. Checking to make sure there were no security or medical alerts, he turned back to the worried former drone.

"Jaejoong, if the captain needs privacy, the best thing you can do is let him have it."

"But —"

Yoochun raised a hand, cutting him off. "Wherever he is, he doesn't need you whining after him. He can take care of himself. Understood?"

Jaejoong frowned, shaking his head. "What if he's hurt? What if he needs us? What—"

"Jaejoong," Yoochun interrupted, voice firm. "Do you understand?"

Jaejoong looked up to see the members of the bridge crew eyeing him warily. It wouldn't do to have the commander any more suspicious of him than he already was. He'd never be able to find Yunho if Yoochun decided to lock him in his quarters for the rest of the day.

"Understood." He nodded. He backed into the turbolift and waited as Hyoyeon cautiously stepped on.

"Jaejoong," Yoochun called out right before the doors slid shut. Jaejoong stuck his arm out to keep the doors from closing. "The ship would alert security and the doctor if he was hurt. When he comes back, I'll tell him you were looking for him, okay?"

Jaejoong didn't seem to get much comfort from that, but gave a short nod of acknowledgment. "Okay."

As the doors slid shut, Yoochun rolled his eyes in annoyance. The puppy had become a hunting dog, he thought wryly, and for a moment, he pitied the man that had become the object of a Borg's affection. If Jaejoong was still anything like the rest of the Collective, he wouldn't stop until he got his man.

+++

Jaejoong did not like eating (or simply being) alone. So, when Yunho didn't show up in the dining hall to meet him for lunch, he reacted as calmly as he could. He simply ran out the dining hall before searching the ship bow to stern for the other man. He'd waited outside Yunho's quarters, searched the labs and public areas, and walked laps around the ship keeping an eye out for him coming or going in the corridors. The bridge had been his final hope.

With his technology, Jaejoong could have easily hacked into the ship's computer system and tracked down the captain himself. But it was impossible to do without being detected, and he wasn't willing to snap the fragile trust that Yunho and the crew had in him.

He clenched his fists in frustration. These humanoids, he had learned, were a lot more crafty than he had originally thought. Something had been distracting Yunho and, while it appeared that both Junsu and Changmin knew why, neither of them would tell him anything.

He had tried observing Yunho for himself, watching him on the bridge and requesting his company as often as he thought he'd be able to get away with it. And while the captain had been as welcoming as ever, his behavior was becoming more guarded and more confusing. For every smile the other man gave him, there were many more puzzling looks and quickly-ended conversations.

And today, he was missing completely.

In his wanderings, Jaejoong found himself in front of the wide double doors that opened to the large holodeck. The last time he'd been the suite, it had been programed to resemble a large Earth beach.

He listened outside the doors for a moment. Whoever was inside wasn't relaxing on a beach, that was for certain. Through the heavy doors, Jaejoong could hear the sounds of ship alarms and phaser fire. He dismissed it and was considering where to search next, when he caught the final words of an all-too-familiar hail.

Resistance is futile.

Without another thought, he ordered open the doors and burst into the suite. He found himself on a smokey bridge, red alert sirens blaring and Starfleet officers swirling around him as they rushed to their stations. He panicked when he realized he couldn't find the the source of those words.

"Computer, freeze program," Yunho's voice shouted from somewhere in the hazy darkness.

Jaejoong whirled around to see the captain frowning at him from a small engineering station located toward the back of the bridge. He noted with some surprise that he was wearing a green science uniform instead of his usual red command one.

"Jaejoong, what are you doing here?"

"I was looking for you."

"Well, you found me. Do you need anything?"

"We … I was concerned. We were supposed to eat."

"I got busy."

Jaejoong frowned. "You're too busy for us?" he asked softly.

The question pricked at Yunho's conscience. "Not just you," he replied. He stepped away from his blinking engineering station and made his way closer to the other man. "Something came up, Jaejoong." He sighed and ran a hand through his mussed hair.

"This?" Jaejoong asked. He took in the destroyed bridge and the panicked state of the frozen holocharacters. "We thought Humans used holodecks for recreation. This doesn't look enjoyable." He turned to see the massive cube on the ship's view screen. Giving a strangled gasp, he reached back for Yunho's hand and clutched his wrist tightly.

"Relax," Yunho rushed to say. "This is all a hologram. Fake. They can't hurt you; they're not the real Borg."

"Not real? Why would you create a program with them? Is this a training simulation in case we run into them again?" Jaejoong looked around the larger, unfamiliar bridge and shook his head. "No, that can't be it. This is not the Valiant."

"This is the bridge of the USS Kyushu."

"We don't recognize the name of this ship."

Yunho nodded and turned to look back onto the wrecked bridge. "Not surprising. It was destroyed in battle."

"Battle?" Jaejoong repeated. A moment later, a look of both panic and anger crossed his face. "You are re-living the day we hurt you," he accused. "Why?"

Yunho looked away, face burning under Jaejoong's searching gaze.

"A lot of things have been on my mind these past few days, Jaejoong. A year ago, I was hurt by the Borg. And now they're trying to hurt me, hurt us all, again. I just … I wanted to see if things could have been different."

An uncharacteristic scowl marred Jaejoong's face. "Different? How?"

"I was just thinking about ... about the other day. About you and how you saved us all. I have to know. I have to know if I could have done the same."

"No." Jaejoong glared. "You couldn't have."

"I didn't try, Jaejoong. There may have been something I could have done."

"And if there were? What good is it to know about it now?"

Yunho ignored him and returned to his command console.

"You survived. That's all that matters."

"I should have done more. I was so focused on saving my own ass. I should have died protecting them."

"No," Jaejoong said, an uncharacteristic edge to his voice. "Your death would not have solved anything."

"Jaejoong, I was responsible for them. I brought them to the ship. I—"

"No, Captain! None of that is reason enough for you to die."

Yunho looked up, face hard. "I have to know, Jaejoong. You can either help me or leave."

Jaejoong knew he couldn't leave. He couldn't leave Yunho alone to replay his devastating run-in with the Collective. He didn't understand why the other man was doing this to himself: bringing up old pain and punishing himself by criticizing his actions on that day.

"We'll— I'll help you," he answered. "What do you want to me to do?"

"Just do what you did last time," Yunho ordered as he studied his read-outs. "Stay there and watch what's going on. Let me know if you see any way I can improve our ship or disrupt theirs."

Straightening, Yunho resumed tapping away at his station. "Computer, resume program."

The deafening blares of the ship's warning system returned and shouts rang out throughout the holodeck. Jaejoong struggled to regain his balance as the floor seemed to move about underneath him.

"This is surprisingly ... realistic," he shouted at Yunho. The captain nodded, still studying his screens.

"The program was created using the final data streams received from the Kyushu before its destruction."

Jaejoong slowly made his way over to where Yunho stood, grabbing on to nearby railings and command stations in an effort to keep his balance. The bridge of the Kyushu was nearly triple the size of the Valiant's and his progress seemed to take forever. He'd almost grabbed onto the large engineering console when a burly and stern-faced holocharacter came up from behind him to scowl at Yunho.

"Lieutenant!" the man nearly spat, "we could run away from them faster than this! Get us more speed."

"Lieutenant?" Jaejoong questioned. He studied the man closer and saw he was wearing captain's pips. Glancing back at Yunho, he was surprised to notice only two pips on his collar.

"I was a lieutenant in engineering when I served on the Kyushu," Yunho mumbled to Jaejoong. He turned his eyes up to acknowledge the angry holocharacter. "Trying, sir. The engines are already at their limits."

"I don't care if you have to get out and physically push," the holocaptain snapped. "Just make this thing go faster." He stormed away, rushing to badger the obviously panicked holocharacter stationed at tactical.

"You can't outrun them," Jaejoong offered simply. "The Valiant was only able to after I manually took control of its systems. An older and less-advanced ship would have no hope."

Yunho smiled bitterly. "This is about the time when I realized that."

The bridge shook, and Jaejoong could barely hear a woman shout that their shields had failed before a large explosion rocked the ship. He fell to the deck, grappling to try and stay upright. Jaejoong didn't think he could take much more of the noise. In the midst of the chaos, the voice of the computer rang out, issuing its warning with an inappropriate calm.

Warning: Anti-matter coolant leak in warp core. Core breach in five minutes.

"Computer, freeze program."

Blessed silence fell over the bridge and Jaejoong looked up to see Yunho, head bent and eyes closed. He remained like that a second longer before suddenly lashing out and hitting his console in frustration.

"The same damn thing," he muttered. "I've played out this scenario over and over and it always ends the same: our shields drop and our engines get destroyed."

Jaejoong took a cautious step closer. "It is the only result. This ship is not a threat to a fully functioning cube. It would have been easily neutralized."

"'Neutralized,'" Yunho repeated the word bitterly.

Jaejoong looked away from the hard scowl that Yunho now wore. The anger on his face reminded him too much of the captain he was when Jaejoong first came on board. He jumped slightly when Yunho punched the console again.

"I have to find them," Yunho mumbled to himself. "If I can't save the ship, I have to find them." He shot away from his station. "Computer, resume program." The head-splitting noise began again. Jaejoong covered his ears with his hands and hurried after him.


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