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.

Dissociative States (Part 1)

by Djinn





She rushes down to sickbay, to Ohk who is no longer on the bridge helping her defeat the Borg, but with Liam, found safe on the maintenance deck where they left him.


Well, dead. But not burned, not sucked out into space from a hull breach during the firefights.


She knows the formula for the nanoprobe injection by heart. The Doctor and she perfected it over the years, to make it work without needing the constant infusions from her. She's already sent Ohk the instructions but she's been repeating them over and over again in her head to keep herself from screaming at the brass who keep calling, who have kept her on the bridge.


Raffi finally took pity on her. Said, "Go to him if you think you can save him."


She always has her back.


She stops when she sees him on the biobed. No vitals beeping, and everything she loved about him is gone. The vibrant energy he kept so rigidly controlled.


Until he didn't. Until he let her in little by little. Even as they argued, even as he called her reckless and she called him hidebound, they were falling.


They never kissed. They never danced. They never made any promises for what might come next.


But she loved him. And she knows he loved her.


And now she can get him back.


Ohk takes her blood, adds the special ingredients to the mix, shoots him with it, and they wait.


Ohk takes her hand as they wait. She knows. She's Liam's oldest friend and CMO—her job is to watch the command teams—of course she knows how they felt about each other.


And then there's a beep. And another. And another.


Seven feels as if she might pass out. She wants to cry, to yell, to kiss him, to thank whatever deity looks out for those victimized by the Borg.


He opens his eyes and smiles at Ohk. "Hey, you."


"Hey, you." Ohk is crying. "It's good to have you back, Liam."


"Did I go somewhere?"


Seven feels a pit forming in her stomach.


He looks over at her and his reaction is immediate. "Fucking Borg on this ship!"


"Liam, it's Seven."


"I don't care what time it is. What the fuck, Ohk?" He looks right at Seven and says in the coldest voice she's ever heard from him: "Who the fuck are you?"


"What stardate is it, Shaw?" She is afraid to use a rank. Afraid that she'll confuse him more if she picks the wrong one.


He can see the pips on her collar; she can tell he's logging her rank, that she's Starfleet not Borg. "Apologies, Commander." And then he tells her the stardate.


From five years ago, right before he took over the Titan. Right before he made captain.


She tries not to let the dismay show. "Thank you, Commander Shaw. Doctor Ohk, a word?" She has no idea what rank Ohk would have been then—although normally she would have better recall of personnel records.


She's just so thrown.


"This is not part of the process," she says as soon as they get into Ohk's office.


"It could be dissociative amnesia. Brought on by the trauma."


"Dying is traumatic. Neelix was dead for eighteen hours and was fine. All memories there."


"That you know of."


"No, he was himself. He was with us after, for long enough to notice any gaps. There were none." She closes her eyes. "There is an X factor."


The Jurati nanoprobes might be inherently less stable. Or they might be too old to work correctly, if they aren't as old as the few years since she was reassimilated but actually dating several centuries.


"Dissociative Amnesia will usually resolve over time. If the trauma is removed—"


"What if I am the trauma? The first thing he said was—"


"No. He got over that. We both know he was crazy over you. He was just too by the book to make a move until you were out of each other's chains of command. I do believe this will break. Therapy will help. We've got a ton of counselors for the crew who were turned. They can work with him too.


"So in your medical opinion it's safe to keep him here?" She knows she will lose him if he is transferred off. She wants him on the ship, but she doesn't want to hurt him further than she already has.


"It's the best place for him. He worked the refits. He'll see that when he gets to engineering. And we're down engineers. All over the fleet."


"I will talk to Admiral Janeway. See if we can get him assigned here while he recovers. She may wish to speak with you."


"And I'll back your play. I would never let him be hurt, even for true love." She gives her a supportive smile. "You should probably go. Let me ease him into this."


It kills her to leave but she does it.






"You're down here a lot." Shaw sees the captain turn, her expression one he can't quite read. She could be Vulcan the way she controls her expressions.


"I know. Does it bother you?"


"I'm not sure. Probably depends on why you're down here. Is it because I was forced on you and you just don't have the heart to tell me?"


She actually laughs—almost a snort of laughter. "Yeah, no. I asked for you. Ohk and I thought this would be the best place to be—the last familiar place with familiar people—who now probably aren't. I realize that too. But if your memory comes back..." She looks down. "Has Starfleet given you access yet to your personal logs?"


He nods. The new passcode came a week ago, after three days in sickbay being watched like a hawk by a weirdly subdued Ohk.


"Have you read them yet?"




For a moment, there is a look of pure nostalgia on her face.


"What? What did I say?"


"You said no. Just the one word, so very clear. You said it a lot to me. When I first reported." She turns away, walks to the view screen. "Is this weird for you? Being on this ship?"


"I know I was going to get it. As Captain. But now..." He frowns. "Tenses are weird when you've lost five years. I mean, I was Captain, but I can't remember that so it feels like I will be, only I won't because I was and now you are."


She laughs. "That sounded like vintage you. Painting yourself into a verbal whirlpool, you once called it."


"Sounds about right."


"We don't know that it's permanent, the amnesia. If it's dissociative, an effect from the Jurati nanoprobes..."


"Them being unstable, you mean?" He frowns.


"Untried. I contacted the Queen. She is—was a friend. Tenses are also problematic when dealing with the Borg. She has not used nanoprobes to bring anyone back because she saw the danger to her collective if that ability was seen as a skill that could be exploited by those less scrupulous than she."


"Than a Borg." He tries to hide his disdain—and fear—but can see he fails when she looks away.


"She is not classic Borg. She is something new."


"So you've said. Still confusing." He moves closer to her to see what she does, if she'll back up or not.


She doesn't.


He's not sure he likes that.


"Were we...? Are you down here because we were...together?"


"Even if we were, it would be unethical for me to impose my needs on you when your memory is compromised."


"What kind of needs?"


Her eyebrow goes up, her smile is shy though. "Not those kind."


"So I'm not your type?" Shit, his mouth sometimes works faster than his fucking brain.


"I didn't say that."


He laughs, knowing he's going to let his mouth win again. "So I am your type?"


"I didn't say that either." She smiles, an open mouth smile and it transforms her face. He can almost forget she's Borg. "You—the Shaw that I knew—and I were engaged in a rather intricate dance of argument and attraction."


"Argument? You seem so logical."


"Appearances can be deceiving. You really should read your logs."


"When I'm ready." He turns back to the console. "These were upgraded after I worked on them five years ago. But I see my handiwork on top of the upgrades."


"Yes, you were down here frequently. I assisted."


"Show me you actually can find your way around down here." He leads her to the panel he was working on when he first heard her footsteps. "What was I working on and why?"


She gently moves wires aside and indicates exactly where he was working. "I am unsure. But it was here."


He sees the implant on her hand, so close to his hand, and moves away slightly. "I'm improving my improvements."


He can tell she's caught his motion because she pulls away, puts both her hands behind her back, in a casual parade rest way. "Why? They are going to upgrade these—you are going to."


He knows she's pulled strings to keep him on this ship, to keep him in a place he feels useful and knows his way around.


He should be grateful, but he thinks she did it for herself as much as she did for him.


"Right, but the upgraded components aren't here yet, and we could get called out, and wouldn't you rather have a more safe and efficient and powerful engine if that happens?"


"We are in space dock. Half our crew is on home leave. Most of the other half in training. The ability of this ship to respond to any call is, as the Shaw I knew would say, fucked."


He laughs.


"Have you been moderating your language on my behalf?"


He nods. "You're so formal." Stiff, really, except the few times she smiles.


"Ah. Fascinating that you find me so now. You found me reckless before."


"Yeah? Huh." He can't see it. She's so...careful around him. Which he's actually grateful for. If he was into her, he can't remember it.


If he was into her, he has a little bit of trouble believing it. Sure, she's hot as fuck, but she's a goddamned Borg.


She meets his eyes. Hers seem very sad. "I think you're working on the engines because you were bored."


He nods: she really does know him. "Good call."


She smiles tightly. "I will...let you get back to it."


"Thanks." He feels the same surge of relief he always does when she goes away.




Raffi sits in the lounge nursing her cola and lime. She can smell the booze all around her, misses it if she lets herself dwell on it, but chooses not to dwell on it.


"This seat taken?"


"What are you doing, Shaw?"


"So I guess we weren't friends?" He studies her glass as he slips onto the stool next to her. "Let me guess: our relationship is complicated?"


"Not really." She glares at him. Why won't he go away? Her glare can cow everyone but Worf or Seven.


"Fill me in? You're new to the manifest, new to this ship. Maybe as in the dark as I currently am?"


He sounds...oh, fuck, he sounds helpless but in a smart way, and she's powerless against that. "Fine. We barely know each other. But I think my ex was in love with you."


Normally she wouldn't be this blunt, but she knows Seven is hurting because he doesn't remember the rapport they had. May never remember it.


He seems to have to parse that. "If the captain is your ex, that will make this way less complicated. I can only keep track of so much."


"I think that's actually a lie. You kept track of a hell of a lot in the short time I knew you."


"But you didn't like me."


"Were you not listening? My ex. In love with you. When I still want her."


"Should you be telling me that? She hasn't said that. Only I guess this isn't like time travel, you're not going to screw up the timeline if you tell me shit I can't remember. My peace of mind, maybe, though."


"You seem like a straight shooter. I'd want to know the actual terrain I'm navigating, not some prettied-up version that wouldn't hold my weight."


"I'm with you on that. Was I in love with her?"


"Seemed like." She turns. "I mean here we are talking about her."


"Okay to be fair, you brought her up."


"Oh, I did, didn't I?"


He nods and tells the crewman acting as bartender he'll have what she's having.


"It will not give you a buzz."


"My request stands," he tells the kid and gives her a stern look. "I don't care what you're drinking or why—unless you think I should know."


"I'm sober. Now."




"Why? I seem like a train wreck?"


"You seem like a warrior. Nothing's going to get in your way."


She frowns. "Are you remembering that?"


"Oh, no, I saw you in the gym the other day with the Klingon guy. Worf, right?"




"Are you and he...?"


"He's like my sensei. I guess."


"Not a boyfriend? Or do you just like females?"


"That, Captain Shaw, is for me to know and you to almost certainly never find out." She laughs at his look. "Why are you asking?"


"You're interesting."


"Did you miss the part where I said that my ex was in love with you? Gorgeous blonde, exotic hardware."


"I didn't miss that, no. I just...I don't know how I feel about that." He meets her eyes and for a moment she is stopped by how gorgeous his are.


She can tell he is looking at hers too. "Oh, fuck no. No, no, no."


"What? We're just sharing some space, drinking our"—he takes a sip of the drink the bartender puts down—"colas, and getting to know each other. Two newbies working out our place on this ship." His voice is low and sexy and she wants to stay and listen to it but she downs her soda and says, "I have to go."


And then she gets the hell out of the lounge and away from the very confusing man she used to think was an asshole but now is coming off as very much her flavor.




Seven sits in the mess with Raffi, trying to pretend her friend is not acting totally weird around her again.


She thought they were over this.


But then Shaw passes them and he nods to her but says, "Hey, Musiker," in a way more friendly way.


And she feels a sinking sensation in her gut.


"Shaw," Raffi says as if she couldn't care less but she isn't meeting Seven's eyes.


"Are...are you two?" She holds up her hand. "No. Forget I asked that. This is none of my business."


"Well, it's your ship."


Just as Voyager had been Kathryn's, and she'd watched this same thing go down only with no handy amnesia to blame it on. She'd refused what Chakotay offered.


Seven's relatively sure that Shaw wouldn't have refused her once the mission was over and he wasn't in her chain. But that Shaw...


That Shaw is dead. And may never come back.


For the first time since she brought him back, she feels a wave of the hopelessness she used to feel as a ranger. When joking about putting a disruptor to your head was a normal day.


"Honey, nothing is going on. I won't let it. I know you were..." She leans in. "I know you loved him. I saw you when he died, remember."


"But he died. And this Shaw is alive and has no idea who I am. Other than Borg. And...I don't think he likes that part." She remembers his look, in sickbay and more recently at her hand implant, the quickly cautious way he moved away. "I don't think this Shaw likes me very much—as a person. I'm fine as a captain. I think." She needs to stay out of engineering. She needs to give him space. "If you want him, he's yours."


"Seven, shut up. I'm not interested."


"You blushed when he said your name. I know that blush."


Raffi looks down. "It's just he has cool eyes and a sexy voice."


"Yes, he does. I suggest you find out what they're like—what he's like—when he's not working. One of us should know if he's fun to hang around with." She smiles as gamely as she can.


"Seven, he may get his memories back."


"And he may not. I'm giving you permission."


"You fucking idiot. I won't lie. He's hot as fuck. But you're who I want."


And suddenly she was Kathryn, who no doubt heard this from Chakotay before he started pursuing her. "You know I can't. We have this—you as my first officer—and I love this. If we get together and don't work again—if I lose this too?" She knows her voice is the one Raffi heard far too often after her reassimilation. The anger of not being human anymore. The pain of having tasted how it felt to not be Borg. The way she was lost in her own life, unable to find her way, until Picard and Janeway somehow got her into OCS.


And she ended it with Raffi to follow that dream. A dream that left her on the floor of the maintenance deck as the man she loved died in her arms.


And Raffi had her back. She needed Raffi at her back more than she did in her bed.


"Baby, it's okay." Raffi's voice is that of one damaged person to another. The voice is the one she uses when she's afraid Seven's on the ledge. "I've got you. I always have got you."


"Just be my first officer. Do whatever you want with him. I'm serious. Just don't stop being my friend."






Shaw sees Raffi working out and walks over. "No Klingon today?"


"No. You want to give it a go?" She sounds a little pissed at him. "Grab a stick-sword and we'll fight."


A wise man would say no, but he's game. He likes knives and while fancy swordplay is a bit beyond his largest knife's—and his—capability, he really just wants to get to know her. If this is how he needs to do it, he will.


"'Kay," he says as he snatches one of the wooden practice swords and she's on him before he can barely get set up square.


Fucking A, she's good at this. It must pay to work out with a goddamned Klingon.


For the first few minutes, he's mostly using his stick as a shield, blocking blows, until he starts to see she's dropping her shoulder a little and manages to do more than protect himself, actually pushes her back a tiny bit.


"Oh, the boy does have some moves." She's laughing and she hasn't even broken a sweat.


He grins back. "I'm better with knives, honestly."


"Yeah, sure you are."


"There's a holodeck game..."


"I bet you say that to all the girls. It's like your version of come up to see my etchings."


"Except that I could make etchings with the knives I have—if, that is, I knew how to etch. Artfully, I mean. I can scrawl out a message but it won't be pretty."


She laughs again and he counts that as a win. "Well, when we need to write SOS on a rock, you're our guy."


"Better to burn that in with a phaser. Easier to spot than a little tiny knife line."


"Never argue with an engineer."


"Got that right." He realizes she's been taking it easy on him when she scoops the stick low and swipes him off his feet. "Oof, Commander. Way to remind me who's boss."


He wonders if she's like that in bed—in charge or not? He gets the idea that she'd be like him—a fan of control. That control may be the only thing that keeps them sane—or sober in her case.


"Quit looking at me like that." She says, punching straight in with the stick, a move he barely defends against.


"Like what?"


"Like I'm the gazelle and you're the hungry lion."


"Everyone knows it's the lionesses that hunt."


"And then the dick male lion crowds in and makes them wait for what they caught. Not how my pride would work."


"I bet not." He knows he's grinning like a fool and doesn't care.


"Stop flirting with me."


"Is it making you uncomfortable?"


She laughs. "I'm in charge of you, remember? The power dynamic goes from me to you. So if you were making me uncomfortable, we would be having a very awkward conversation about sexual harassment and how not to do it."


"If I were..."


She swipes his legs out from under him again. Thank God the pads are super thick because his body is five years older than he remembers.


Fuck—he hopes everything still works.


"You're making this super confusing." She holds her hand out and he lets her pull him up.


"Why? I like you. You're letting me play in your sandbox and I've watched how things work in here—who uses what equipment, how long the wait is—for quite a few mornings." He doesn't want to come off as a stalker; he really is just trying to figure out how this new ship works. "People leave you alone to work out in peace or if they don't, they only bother you once." He moves closer. "But me, you let in."


"Just wanted to see how you fight."


"Uh huh." He smiles and can see she's noticing how lopsided his smile is when he gives a full one. He doesn't use it much for that reason. "I know, I know, it's crooked."


"It's actually cute."




"I did not just say that."


"You pretty much did." He winks and makes a clicking sound—sees that she gets that it means "Gotcha."


"Well, it won't happen again."


"If you say so." He grabs his towel and says, "Thanks for the lesson in humility," with as sweet a smile as he can make.


He can tell she likes it. "Thanks for being so chill about it."


"I like to learn things." He leans in, pitches his voice very low. "What makes people tick. What they like, don't like. How they like it. You know, engineering stuff." He laughs gently as he takes a step back. "See ya round, Raff."




Raffi is with Sidney and Jack in the holodeck ten-forward, looking for Seven but she hasn't been coming in lately. She turns her attention back to Jack. "So OCS must be lax if they're letting you out this early to play." She grins at him. "Or did JL pull strings and get you half-day kindergarten?"


"Very funny." He makes a face but he actually sounds amused.


They get along, which should be a shock to her, but she adores his father and the apple doesn't appear to have fallen that far from the tree.


She sees Jack react to something and then feels a warm hand on her shoulder, a low voice saying, "Scoot over," so she does because even though Shaw's not captain of this ship, he still sounds like he's in command—of a holographic ten-forward, in this case, but that's better than nothing.


"Sure, Shaw. Join our table, it's fine."


"You've been avoiding me," he says to Jack. "I see you in the corridors and you fucking run the other way." He looks over at Sidney. "I feel like I know you."


She beams but then the smile fades. "Because of my dad. Not for me."


"Well, soon it'll be for you. We're shipmates, right?"


She grins and Raffi can see the sadness in her smile. She was a Borg. She's part of what killed her captain and left him without five years of memory—well, that was Seven going off half cocked probably, but still, all the youngsters had a hand in this.


God, she's glad she was too old to be assimilated.


Shaw smiles. "I'm a Geordi La Forge fan from way back. He posted pics of you girls on his socials. You're stationed at helm so you're—"


"I know, I know. Nothing like him."


He laughs and Raffi glares at him but he doesn't look like he's making fun of her. "He was helm, on the Enterprise-D, right? Before he switched to engineering. And he was good at it."


She beams and Raffi sees something settle down in the girl. "No one ever remembers that part. Including my father." Then she looks down. "You said that to me when you picked me for the helm. That I took after my dad. I would have followed you into hell from that moment forward."


"Way I heard it, you did." He gives her the softest smile and then turns to Jack. "You and I are fine. Just so we're clear."


"But it's my fault you can't remember anything."


"Look I've been reading my logs."


Raffi tries not to react. If he's reading his logs he's got to have seen how he felt about Seven. But he's here, not with her.


"And I've talked to Ohk, because she and I go way back and I trust her more than anyone on this ship at the moment. I know what happened to you wasn't your fault. And I know that I, as captain, made some choices. Some might say I died a hero."


"I would," Raffi says gently. A hero who shouldn't have been within fifty meters of a shootout, but still, he'd died so others would live.


"And it's not your fault the captain brought me back. And that her nanoprobes weren't entirely up to the challenge."


The way he refers to Seven as just the captain: it's professional. But cold. Not the way the Shaw she watched put his hand on Seven's chair during her briefing would ever have done. That Shaw was fucking territorial, laying down scent.


This Shaw...he really doesn't feel anything. Other than maybe respect. She hopes he feels that.


Seven deserves it.


"Anyway, Jack, we're going to be on this ship together if the rumors are true and I've got no use for bad blood. Now, if you want to hate me for trying to turn you over to Vadic or to security, that's up to you. Seemed like a dick move on my part."


"You didn't end up doing either of those things, Captain. And no, sir, we're square."


"We're off duty. Call me Liam." He looks at Sidney, "You too."


"What if you change your mind when you get your memories back?"


"Still won't be your captain. I think in here it's fine if you want to call me by my name."


She can hear the holo-band tuning up and smiles at this latest addition Seven's made—on Jack's advice, she thinks. The place was sort of oppressively quiet or way too loud with no in between.


She wonders if Shaw likes it—and what the old version of him would have thought.


"You want to dance, Commander Musiker?" he asks as if reading her mind.


"What? I don't get to be on a first-name basis with you?"


"You do if you want to be. Didn't want to assume."


The song that starts is one of her favorites. "You better not stomp all over my toes, Liam."


He slides off the seat and holds his hand out to her. "I promise nothing, Raffi."


"We'll stay here and keep our booth safe," Sidney says softly.


"We can switch off so you get some time with your honey," she says with a grin as she lets Shaw pull her to the dance floor. "That was really nice of you—making peace."


"Just being honest with them. And seriously, he was fleeing whenever he saw me—and he had this completely panicked look. He's just an ensign. I don't want him scared of me. Life's too short and the career's too long."


"I think you might be a much nicer man than I thought."


"Or just much wiser." He laughs at her expression. "Okay fine, I'll take nicer."


He's easy to dance with, a great height for her, and she likes how he holds her. He talks softly enough that no one else can hear them, but loudly enough that she doesn't have to strain. And he's funny. He's really fucking funny.


Oh shit. She's in trouble with this one.


And it's going to hurt Seven.


Who told her to go ahead.


And who hurt her not too long ago. Leaving with so little warning—so little explanation.


"What are you thinking about? You got really tense?"


Man, he's perceptive. "I feel guilty. I'm dancing with you, and the woman I thought I wanted back would rather be with you than me, but you don't seem to want that. Do you?"


"She's interesting. As...a captain. But...I don't." He swallows hard. "The Borg thing bugs me. I won't lie. And she's cold. And kind of dead inside. And you're this live-wire." He laughs and pulls her a little closer. "I just feel good when I'm with you."


"She's kind of dead inside because she was with you when you died. I think the part of her that loved went with you, when you came back and couldn't remember the time you two had."


"She said we weren't lovers."


"That doesn't mean you weren't in love."


"That's true. But if we were, shouldn't I feel it?"


She has no answer for that.


"Raffi, I'd have never picked a Borg first officer."




"Whatever. I'd have never. Not after Wolf 359." He whispers into her ear. "And my personal logs say I didn't. That I had another person picked out but our esteemed head of fleet ops overruled my selection and put her protege in. Not caring how I might feel about having any kind of Borg-adjacent personnel on my ship."


"Does Seven know that?"


"I don't know. If I ever told her—if he ever told her, the me I was—he must have done it right for her to still care. And he didn't put it in the logs. He was careful." He frowns. "I was—God, pronouns are a fucking bitch. I can tell how he—I felt about her but I don't feel it now."


She doesn't know what to say. Except, "You realize everyone under twenty-five is now Borg adjacent right? Ex-Borg."


"I know it. But I didn't live it." He taps his head. "Not in here. You can tell me that all you want. But I'm not going to feel it unless you show me."


"There are videos of the public areas."


"Everything Borg related has been redacted."


"I can still get it for you. If it helps you relate better to her? It's important as chief engineer that you relate better to her. That you feel...loyal to her. I care too much about her to let you not see who she is—and what she did for us that day."


"Okay, I'll watch it if you watch it with me. In my quarters, over dinner. I usually drink Malbec, but I can choose something non-alcoholic if it bothers you."


"You don't have to stop drinking just because I have. And is that the only way I can get you to watch the footage?"


"It is."


"Fine. I'll let you know when I get it. I have to go through back channels."


He shakes his head. "Or you'll just go to your workout buddy who is now head of intelligence."


She laughs because yeah, that is what she's going to do—and man, even with five years missing, Shaw is still so plugged in. Where did he hear about Jack's assignment? It wasn't from her and she's relatively sure it wasn't from Seven either.


Which is why she needs to get the footage—he has to start building some kind of relationship with Seven. And not just for efficiency's sake. She's worried about Seven's state of mind if he shuts her out completely.


Worf will give the footage to her when she explains why it matters. Hell, knowing him and his new zen insight, he'll probably know why it matters without her saying.


"So I should expect you for dinner tomorrow night then? Say about seven?"


"Fine." She settles into just dancing, enjoying the easy way he moves, the light grip on her, until she sees Seven at the bar.


Seven who gives her the sweetest smile and lifts her glass to her.


Seven, whose heart may well be breaking, only she will never, ever let on.


Because she's got Raffi's back too. No matter how much it hurts.




Seven dials the numbers for Kathryn's private line and is relieved when she picks up. She wasn't sure how to address what she needs to talk about in a message—or even if she'd be able to. Without, that is, breaking down.


"Seven," Kathryn says with an easy smile but the smile fades and she asks in a hushed whisper, "Is it Liam? Did something go wrong?"


"He's fine. His memory of the last five years is still...gone, but he appears to be in perfect health otherwise." She looks down. "I need to ask you a strange question."


"Okay. I live for strange questions from you."


"How did you do it? How did you watch Chakotay and me and not..."


"Oh. Ohhhh. Who...?"


"Raffi." The name comes out as a semi-hysterical puff of air, a bitter laugh at how fucked up this is—and how familiar.


"Oh. Shit. I know you like to emulate me but this is not the way." She made a sympathetic face. "Why aren't you fighting for him?"


"How? This Liam doesn't know me. And despite me not being able to stay away from engineering, he doesn't seem to be all that interested in getting to know me. We lack the rapport we built as captain and first officer."


"And he and Musiker have rapport?"


"Technically, without his memories, he's as new to the ship as she is. They are in the same cohort. And she's beautiful and kind and smart and strong—and human. Fully. And given his history at Wolf 359, I think that matters."


Kathryn swallows visibly. "I used to think about how much younger you were than I. How much more attractive you'd be to Chakotay than I could ever be. But then you two fell apart and I got the man I let slip away. In the end, I got him."


"A rousing pep talk, Kathryn." She rolled her eyes.


"I'm doing my best."


"I know you are. But how did you handle it before you got him back—it had to hurt and...?"


"You love them both, right? You want the best for them? And you're the captain now. What they can offer each other may be tantalizing beyond your ability to fight. Especially given what you won't offer Raffi—or what Liam may no longer want if he can't remember why you're so remarkable." She meets her eyes. "I'm sorry, Seven. I honestly do know how much this hurts."


"I don't think I'll be getting him back. It's been long enough that Ohk's getting a certain look. Like we're past the point where the memories should have returned."


"You could do what I wouldn't. Fight dirty. Put one of them on a different schedule. Make life a living hell for both of them."


"Why didn't you do that?"


"Because I loved you both. I wanted you to be happy. I know you're kinder than I am. You always have been. If I couldn't do it to you, there's no way you will to them."


She let out a puff of air, a bitter laugh of agreement. "Can I ask you one more thing?" The thing she never asked Liam. The thing she never wanted to know. "Did he pick me?"


"Seven, that's immaterial."


She feels a sinking in her gut. If he had, Kathryn would just say so. "You overruled him?"


She seems about to make up a colorful bit of Janeway bullshit so Seven says, "No. Tell me the truth."


"Yes. I overruled him. And he was furious. Until he wasn't. I knew the moment you two started to gel."


She does too. The mission to Clahada. They'd had to fix the shuttle, a two-person job because of the amount of damage, but he hadn't wanted to let her help at first. Until she showed him she was good at it. It took a long time to fix, though, even with both of them working really efficiently. They let down walls, they talked about a lot of things as they passed tools back and forth and made a broken thing whole.


Clahada might as well have never happened if he couldn't remember it. "I'll just leave them alone." She swallows and it's a hard swallow, so hard it hurts as hopes and dreams disappear with the action.


"I'm here if you need to talk."


"Thank you. I love you. I don't know if I've said that enough. I'm sorry I disappeared for so long."


"I love you too, Seven. I'm always here for you." She looks to her side and sighs. "Except when duty—or the CINC—calls."


"Go do your job, Admiral."


"Same to you, Captain." Her eyes are soft and full of sympathy. "Janeway out."






He's watching the video, drinking his wine and letting Raffi work them through the day.


The weirdest part of all of it is he can see it. He can see that this version of him is hyper aware of where the captain is at all times. The way he gets only when he's in love.


He can tell that she's just as aware of him, only she's like a completely different person. "So much energy, so much...life to her." He meets Raffi's eyes. "Even once I'm dead."


"She was fighting," Raffi says, "to save you. To stay alive so she could resurrect you. It was only you."


"I don't see it."


She rewinds, points to how the captain is kneeling on the ground. "Her back is to the shooters. She would never, ever do that. When you fell, she didn't care about anything else. Even bringing you back to life later was not something she was thinking about at that moment. You were down, she was down. Can't you see it?"


"I do see it. But she gets up. And the deck I was on could have been destroyed. She would have moved me if I was all she was thinking about."


"Trust me."


"I do but what I'm saying is I see more." Because she's more than going through the motions and he fast forwards through, stopping to point out anything he sees that says what a good leader she is. The way she brought those people together—a fucking cook at the helm? Ohk at comms? The hug for Sidney once it was done. That wasn't her trying to get back to him and nothing else. That was her being a good leader, taking care of her crew, triaging what she could and could not afford to do.


He watches it three times then nods and says, "I can see why you love her. I can see why most of the crew seem to. Maybe I'll grow to like her too. This has—this has been really helpful. She's definitely earned my respect. I say that sincerely."


She slides a holodisk to him. "I may have stolen this from the ready room. I have to get it back there before she notices it's gone."


He hits the button to play, watches the officer review he left for her. Holy shit if one of his section chiefs left a review this emotional, he'd chew them out and make them redo it. "He really was in love with her."


"No, you were."


"No, he was." He hands it back to her. "And she keeps it near her. Watches it?"


"I don't know."


But of course she does. It's all she has left of him—of the other him.


Fuck, this is confusing.


"Have I made it worse, Liam?" She sighs as she pockets the disk and looks down. "I never know when to stop pushing. Ask anyone who knows me."


He tips her chin up. "You are trying to help your friend. Your ex who is still somehow your friend—I never fucking managed a civil aftermath, much less serving as an ex's first officer. You clearly love without limit. And I really, really like that."


"I hate how much I like that you like that. I hate how attractive I find you. I hate how comfortable you make me feel." She shakes her head. "I feel like I'm taking what's hers."


"But he wasn't because they didn't. Right?"


"As far as I can tell, they never did. You're by the book."


"Pretty much, yeah. Fraternization forms are a pain in the ass and I don't tend to date people I serve with."


"So what is this?" She lifts an eyebrow.


"Well, I'm a new man, right? Reborn. I guess the new me—if he sees someone truly exceptional—breaks a fucking rule here or there."


"I feel like you and Seven have switched bodies."


"I don't know whether to say I'm sorry or be glad that I'm the one who's more fun now."


And he knows that's what is missing. This captain of his, the current version of the woman he just watched on the footage kicking ass and taking no prisoners: she doesn't appear to have any fucking fun at all.




Raffi walks into the ready room, sure Seven is here—she can smell her perfume—but not seeing her.


"Did you show that to him?"


"Where the fuck are you?" She turns and sees she's sitting on the floor, going through the cabinets of a closet Raffi didn't even know was there.


"Did you show that to him?" Seven asks again.


"I did."


"Why? It's mine."


"It's his too. He made it."


Seven looks over at her, her expression tired. "You bite back when you're in the wrong."


"Like you don't?" She walks over and sits down on the floor next to her. "What is this?"


"I have no idea. I'm not sure what all this shit is."


"Is now the best time to go through it?"


"Is there something else to do?" She sounds defeated.


"Come get dinner with me."


"Why did you show it to him?"


She knows Seven won't stop asking. "Because you love him. And you miss him. And I can see how much both of those things are eating you alive."


"Have you guys...?" She shakes her head. "Don't answer me when I ask things like that. It doesn't matter what you have or haven't done."


Raffi is intimately familiar with this version of Seven, knows what she needs even if she's not sure she'll let her help her. She eases her down until her head is in her lap, and as she strokes her hair, she says, "We haven't done anything."


"You danced. More than I ever got." She curls into her. "Is he a good dancer? You two looked really good together."


"He's a really good dancer."


"You like him a lot, don't you? Just be honest, it's okay."


"I really do, Sev. I showed him the officer review so he could see how he felt about you—to stop this. Any idiot can see how he felt about you."


"And if I know my Liam—or any Liam—he saw it. But he didn't feel it. Not anymore."


She doesn't answer; she can't bring herself to give Seven more pain.


"When it's bad news, you always stay silent, Raff."


"I know." She can't argue; Seven knows her too well for that. "Tell me to stay away from him and I will."


"Kathryn never told me to stay away from Chakotay."


"Yeah but I'm the Chakotay in this. I want you more than him."


"I don't think she told him to stay away either."


"You guys imploded. Not sure you're giving me much with that analogy."


"I'm really not." She laughs softly, the way she used to, when she was trying to be comforting and failing utterly. "If I just said yes to you..."


"It would be wrong. Because you don't want me. You want him. And if you said yes to me, it would just be to keep me away from him."


"Yeah. Don't tell me if he's a good kisser, okay? Or that he's good in bed."


"Oh, he'll probably suck in bed."


"I have watched that man's fingers dance across the most fragile wiring and never make a wrong move. I don't know how he is with his dick, but I can guarantee he'll be a wizard with those digits."


Raffi laughs, almost against her will. "So you don't want to know or you do? I know how you like to be proved right."


"No, I don't. And yes, I do. And no, please don't tell me."


"Well, we may never get there."


Seven rolls to her back and stares up at her, her eyebrow and the implant rising precipitously. "Raff, come on. It's me."


"Pfff." But she's laughing because it is Seven and she knows what happens once she gets too far in. "This is so fucking weird."


"On that we agree."




Seven walks to the transporter room, expecting to see Raffi but it's Liam in his dress uniform waiting by the stairs to the pad.


"Musiker to Seven of Nine," her combadge sounds.


"Seven here. Where are you?"


"I've got a migraine. I tasked Captain Shaw to go in my place since you need a senior officer to accompany you to the membership ceremony and reception—it's representational only for both of you so no prep required. Problem solved."


"You have a migraine? You were fine when I saw you last night."


"Yeah, that's not how migraines work."


Seven sighs because it's not. And Raffi did get the occasional one when she was with her.


"Ask Ohk if you don't believe me. She gave me some medicine of the non habit forming kind along with instructions to sleep it off for a day. Not going to argue with her."


She looks at Liam, lifting an eyebrow in their old sign for "Is this bullshit or not on Ohk's part?" before she can stop herself.


But he shrugs. Apparently that look translates to a Shaw that doesn't know her just as well as it did with her captain.


"Fine. Feel better. Seven out." She hits her combadge with rather more force than necessary and says, "Apologies. I don't doubt your abilities."


"You were just surprised. Me too."


"Yes. Exactly."


He smoothes his uniform. "Got more chest candy than I remember."


"I leave it to you to find out why."


"You don't know the story of each?"


"I know the ones you got when I was your first officer. The others, no." She climbs the stairs and can feel that he's behind her, their old positions reversed. "Energize," she says to the transporter tech.


She leads Liam off the padd and asks, "I take it Commander Musiker did brief you on what this is for?"




"Do you have any questions?"




This time she doesn't hear the echo of her Liam. She's trying not to anymore.


Her Liam is dead.


"Excellent. As she said, our role is purely representational."


"Roger that."


She used to say that to Liam when he'd pissed her off by saying something so basic it was insulting. She sighs and says, "Sorry. I may be overcompensating. This is..." She stops. "This is difficult for me. It's hard to mourn the loss of a friend when the friend's younger twin is standing next to you."


"Technically the majority of me is not younger."


"One could argue without the mind, the body would be meaningless."


"One could. Not sure why one would?" He makes a funny face. "Is this the arguing thing?"


She smiles gently. "Almost."




She turns to keep going but he touches her shoulder, stopping her so she turns back.


"I'm sorry I can't be him."


"There is no reason for you to be sorry. The potential that was Liam Shaw has been preserved. The good you will do. The lives you will no doubt save. The difference you will make."


"The captain I will no doubt annoy."


"That also. All preserved. If I lost the man that became my friend, then so be it. It was an acceptable loss to get the rest of Liam Shaw back."




"I am...accustomed to loss, if that makes it easier?"


"I don't think it does."


"Raffi is trying very hard to give us time together. I think that means she cares about you more than she thinks is right. Because she's loyal to me, and a good friend. But I'm all right. Grief is difficult but I won't ask either of you to mourn with me." She blinks hard to try to clear the tears that are threatening without also ruining her makeup. "Come on. We'll be late if we sit here airing our feelings."


He follows her and his expression is thoughtful as they sit in the auditorium. She can tell he's not really paying that close attention to the ceremony but she doesn't care.


This is confusing. For all of them.


Later in the banquet hall, she asks him, "Would you like to become reacquainted with Admiral Janeway?" She can tell by the way he is trying to frame an answer that he doesn't. "Go, mingle. Or eat. The food's usually really good. And they have the Malbec you like." She winces. "I'm sorry."


"It's not a bad thing that you're being caring."


"If you say so. I do not want to make you uncomfortable."


"Is that why I never see you in engineering anymore unless I call you down?"




"Thank you."


"I realize I make you uncomfortable."


"But I understand why you're here—in Starfleet, I mean. And why a captain. I'm sorry for what I said when I first woke up. I'm learning. Give me time to get used to it."


"You have all the time in the world. I did give you that and will continue to." She turns before she starts crying and heads to Kathryn, who takes one look at her and leads her out with B'Elanna taking flank as if it's a military operation. They go to the outside seating area where it is not so brightly lit.


"It's all right. I'm not going to lose it."


"Honey," B'Elanna says as she passes her a tissue. "You already are."




"Do you need a break from the ship for a while? Tom and I have a house in La Jolla. It's on the beach. It's amazing and big. We'll be there next weekend. You can play with our grandkids and—"


She can tell B'Elanna realizes where that thought will take her and tries to regroup but she nods and say, "I should have had some by now. Icheb should be married and happy as a father. I destroy everyone I care about."


"I'm not sure whether to get you a drink or let B'Elanna drag you to La Jolla today while I tell Shaw he can find his own way home." Kathryn looks truly concerned.


She smiles gratefully at her. "Bourbon. Neat. Double. I won't be sober, but I won't be weepy either."


"Will you be pissed off?" B'Elanna asks gently. "I enjoy that version of you far more than this."


She laughs. "Yes, I may be pissed off."


"So I really should tell Shaw to head up to the ship on his own." Kathryn frowns as she peeks inside. "Never mind. He's chatting up Commodore La Forge. To be a fly on that wall."


"Geordi saw him die. He might be the one chatting Liam up."


"Like I said—oh to be a fly. Now you two find a table out of the way while I get us some drinks."






They've settled into a rhythm. He's begun work on the refits. The captain leaves him alone unless he asks for her and a few times he has, to show her something new. She seems to understand the engines well enough to be briefed on major upgrades.


Not that she probably hasn't already read about them. But there's a big difference between reading about them and actually seeing them in place.


She never fails to surprise him at how much she knows, how easily they work together.


But she's very quiet when they work. He's tried a few times to break the ice but she doesn't seem willing and he wonders if this is how she and he first became close enough to let down barriers.


Something she is clearly not wanting to do. Although he thinks it's for Raffi's sake. Not because she doesn't like him.


She's trying not to get in the middle of what's happening for him and Raffi.


Which at the moment is just dinners and hanging out and working out. But he likes taking it slow because being with Raffi is easy and so much fucking fun.


And now the captain is going to the beach to be with friends. She'll be off the ship and he thinks that's the perfect time to move this forward.


If Raffi wants that too. She can be tricky to read. But he thinks that's less about her and more about the captain. How strange this is for Raffi that she's spending time with him. Instead of one of them spending time with her ex.


On the other hand, Raffi's dropped her barriers and is affectionate in public, not afraid to stand close or put her hands on him. Almost territorial—the lioness with her mate.


Only a pride has multiple lionesses so that's probably a shitty analogy. But she's so fierce it works for him so long as he doesn't overthink it.


He hears her coming into engineering. She finds her way down here a lot and he smiles at her step and doesn't slide out from the panel he's working under.


She coughs in the teasing way that says she knows he's ignoring her. He imagines if it were the captain, she'd grab a slider and pull herself under the panel to talk to him and to see what he was working on.


Not Raffi's style.


"Shaw, you ever going to come up for air?"


"Oh, did you need me?" He slides out with a grin for her. "Hi."


"Hi." She worries at her lip—a tell that she's nervous. "So Seven's off the ship this weekend. Starting tonight."


"Oh, is she?"


"Stop. I know you know. Somehow you always know everything."


"All secrets filter down here." He winks at her and she laughs. "You wanna do something?"


She nods.


"Our normal or something new?"


She nods again, an adorable smile playing at her mouth.


"Just to be clear, you want to go steady, right?"


She bursts out laughing. "God, you're corny."


"You like how corny I am."


She blushes and he loves when she does that. "I do actually. It's...unexpected. The you I first met was light years from corny."


"The me you first met sounds like a total dick."




He laughs as he gets up and takes her hand, pulling her into his office and setting the privacy to max. Then he pulls her into his arms and says, "You want to move forward? That is what you're saying, right?"


She reaches for him, her hands soft on either side of his head as she leans in, as her lips touch down, as her mouth opens to his.


It's their first kiss and it's amazing. As she pulls away, he starts to grin and says, "I'll take that as a yes."


"Yes, I want to." Her smile is so sweet and mischievous that he has to pull her to him, to get another kiss because one just won't do. "Dinner," she says, when he lets her up for air. "My quarters."


"You got it. Time?" He can see her falter so he says gently, "We can play that by ear. Ping me when you're ready." He knows the time will be once the captain is off the ship.


He hates asking this but he does it anyway. "You sure? If we have to wait until she's gone, should we be doing it at all?"


"We don't have to wait. And in the future, we won't. I mean unless you're so bad in bed I never want to spend time with you again."


"That works both ways."


She laughs. "But for our first time... All things considered about this crazy situation, yeah, I want her off the ship before we do it. If you're not okay with that then—"


He shuts her up by kissing her again. He's more than okay with it. He loves how ethical she's been with this, how hard she's worked to help him and the captain forge some kind of bond.


And he loves that she doesn't want to screw over a friend. And doesn't need revenge on an ex. She's an amazing woman and he'll wait for much longer than she's asking if needed.




Raffi practically falls rather than rolls off Liam. It's because he's made her laugh again. She's never laughed this much having sex.


She doesn't understand how Seven left out how much fun her captain was. When Raffi and she were still talking, after she first reported, she called him a lot of things, all of which implied he had a stick up his ass or a hard-on for regulations.


That is not her experience. "Did you want to be a captain?"


"No. But I was told I'd gone as far as I could go in engineering. Which is clearly bullshit because witness me here, as a captain, in engineering." He kisses her hand. "With you."


"But that's a special circumstance. I think they were probably right."


"I like my version better. I guess because I can't imagine having to...represent the Fleet, you know? Be in charge of, well, everything. As an engineer, I'm in my world, the world I know like the back of my hand, and you can dump me down into any group of engineers from any planet, and we'll find a way to communicate. Because we all love our engines."


She curls into him and nods. "But you don't feel that way with a group of captains?"


"Well, I don't remember. But I can't imagine I did. You now how it is: there's the command track and everyone else."


"Yeah, I do know how it is."


"I wish I'd met you five years ago, Raff. I bet I would have been smitten."


"Oh, no, you would not have been. I was a mess. Living in the desert. Feeling betrayed by everything and everyone. Dishonorably discharged."




"Yeah, me." She sighs. "It was hard. I'd lost everything. But JL got it back for me."






"Fucking Picard? Locutus of Borg saved you?"


"Whoa, watch the tone. He's dear to me."


"I know he is. But I don't get it."


"Just accept it, okay? I love that old grump."


He laughs softly, more a puff of air than actual sound. "Okay." He pushes her hair back. "Can I make it up to you." He wiggles his fingers and she begins to chuckle.


Seven was not wrong about the magic in his fingers. He's super talented with all the other pertinent parts too.




Seven sits on the beach, drawing mathematical symbols in the sand. She's enjoying B'Elanna and Tom's family, but she still feels like an outsider. The only adult here with no partner, no children.


She hears footsteps and turns, smiling when she sees it's Naomi Wildman. Pushing herself up, she hurries to her, pulling her into a fierce hug.


"I've missed you," Naomi whispers.


"I've missed you too. My little sister."


"And sometimes daughter."


She frowns.


"You didn't know I thought that way about you?"


"I didn't. I like it if it's true. Or did B'Elanna tell you to say that to cheer me up?"


"I wouldn't lie about something like that—not even to cheer you up." She takes Seven's arm and gets them walking.


"Are you here with your family?"


"No, we're in LA visiting my in-laws and, well, I needed a break from them and my husband and my kids. So I jumped at the chance to come to this 'one-day team-building exercise.'"


Seven rolls her eyes.


"Oh, is that not what this is? If I'd said reunion, no way I'd have gotten out of the house without the ball and chain and the rug rats." Her grin is unrepentant and infectious.


Seven laughs. "You are as incorrigible as you were when you were young."


"Oh, I'm way worse." She leans her head on Seven's shoulder. "Why would B'Elanna want me to cheer you up?"


"I've lost someone." And now he's really gone—she knows what he and Raffi must be getting up to. Raffi was way too interested in when she was leaving for the beach. "Someone I loved."




She nods.


"I'm sorry. I can't imagine not having Ricky there when I come home even if I'm a little tired of being cooped up in his family home with him and the kids right now."


She wants to tell her that Shaw's still there, only not. But it's going to take too long and she doesn't feel like using up their time on it.


On something that's never going to change.


"Tell me what's happening with you. Or are you buttering me up to get a position on my ship?"


"I'm happy where I am. But I'm thrilled for you." Naomi sighs. "Took them long enough to let you in, but man did they see what they had once they did."


"I had a very good captain. He saw what he had. I wasn't even sure if I fit, but he was."


She smiles gently. "Good captains are the best. I know you'll be one too."


"I hope so."




He walks into the lounge with Raffi and tries to steer her away from the captain, but she gives him what he's come to think of as "the look."


"Must we?"


"I want to sit with my friend. And if we don't act like it's a big deal, neither will she."


"Yeah, you say that now."


She just sighs and walks away from him. He can either find other company or follow his girlfriend to her ex. And kind of his ex. If you squint.


He won't squint.


The captain looks up, her smile guarded. "Hi."


Raffi sits down on a loveseat, leaving room for him if he sits close. He loves that choice rather than the two chairs on the other side of the captain—what it says about them as a couple.


"You got some sun," Raffi says. "Good time at the beach?"


"Very. An old friend I haven't seen in a long time was there."


He immediately sees this isn't great news to Raffi. "Unexpected reunions are the best," he says as cheerily as he can.


The captain sort of frowns at him but says, "Indeed."


"How good a friend?" Raffi asks.


"Like a baby sister to me. Or possible a daughter. I am unsure."


He's not sure how someone can be unsure of that kind of thing. But then maybe the captain's just having a little bit of a hard time with the whole being human thing.


He looks down, ashamed of how he's making her the enemy. It's easier to do that than admit he knows this has to be hurting her and just doesn't give a shit. Not when he's so happy with Raffi.


He decides to tell his funniest beach story to try to break the ice. Raffi is laughing at it. The captain is giving him the kind of smile that says she knows she's expected to laugh but doesn't see the need.


"Who needs refills?" Raffi asks, "I want another cola."


"There's root beer."


"Since when?"


"Since I ordered it for you." She smiles so fondly it immediately ticks him off.


"Wow, ordering a beverage for one person. What a great use of ship's resources."


Raffi turns and glares at him. "I'm the person, dipshit."


The captain cocks her head. "Also Jack asked around at my request and root beer was the most requested addition to the soda roster. Win, win."


"How very James T. Kirk of you."


She laughs but it's not a friendly sound. "You used to tell me I reminded you of him."


"Well I'm consistent at least."


"Okay," Raffi says. "Gonna go get us our refills."


He wants to go with her but knows she'll kill him if he does. Once she's gone, he says, "You're not laughing at my funny story. Everyone laughs at that story."


"Raffi laughed enough for both of us."


"I guess your version of me wasn't funny, huh?"


"Actually he was. It's just I'd never use the word 'callow' to describe him."


"Ouch. And great payback for comparing you to Kirk, I guess. Fucking callow?"


She laughs and this time it's real. "I'm sorry. Your story might amuse me more if you weren't..." She stops and shakes her head.


"Sleeping with Raffi instead of you? Or is it that Raffi's with me instead of you?"


"You know what else you're consistent at?"


He shakes his head.


"Being a dick."


He laughs. "Ouch again. Man, verbal squash with you is fun." And he realizes he actually means it. He smiles, the full smile, and she looks down. "I guess you didn't see that smile much? Old lopsided happy me?"


"I saw it more than you might think. I was...taken by surprise is all." She meets his eyes. "If you and Raffi are happy, then I'm happy for you. I mean that sincerely. No matter how much personal pain I might also feel at the way things have turned out. She's my friend and you seem to make her happy."


"Is this where you tell me if I hurt her, you'll kill me."


"If you hurt her, she'll kill you."


"True." He gives her a more subdued grin. He likes to give as hard as he gets, but he's not into causing undue pain. Not when she's clearly trying.


"What did I miss?" Raffi asks as she sets down the glasses.


"More beach talk," he says and the captain nods.


"Big liars."




Raffi watches Seven navigate the party thrown by the brass for new command duos. She looks effortless doing it, almost Vulcan in how restrained she is. But not unfriendly, she does smile, even laughs.


"What are we watching?" a dear voice asks her. "Are you back together with her, Raffi?"


"JL. Didn't expect to see you here." She hugs him. "Are you here alone?"


"Yes. Both Laris and Beverly are unhappy with me at the moment."


"You're dating both of them?"


"Well, it's complicated."


"At the same time? Like all three of you...?"


"Oh, heavens no." He takes her arm. "I see you're watching her with that same old look. Are you two back together?"


And of course he's totally out of the loop. "Do you not talk to Jack?"


"I do. About his classes."


"Wow. Way to go deep, JL."


"We're finding our way, Raffi. Don't judge." He snags some water glasses from a passing waiter and hands her one. "What does Jack know that I do not?"


"That I'm dating Shaw."


He seems at a loss for words. That's fair.


"When he was brought back, he had amnesia, lost the entire five years he was a captain. He's...not the guy we met."


"Interesting. He was not really a person I gravitated toward."


"No shit." She laughs at him. "I actually think you might like this one. He's funny."


"Oh, that Shaw was funny too. Like a dagger coated with acid, but an amusing one."


"Yeah, no dagger, no acid. Just a lot of fun."


He smiles but something's off . "Well, if you're happy."


"I am. What's the look for?"


"I just thought I saw some sparks between him and Seven."


JL actually noticed that? How strong was that chemistry if it got him to perk up and say, "What's this?"


"You're not wrong. But...this Shaw doesn't know her. And his affection for the Borg..."


"Say no more. Well aware." He smiles as Seven sees them and walks over.


"Hello, you," she says, then looks surprised when he pulls her into a hug. "Oh fuck, Raffi. How much did you tell him?"


"Not enough to warrant a hug."


"I've been there. That's all I'm going to say."


"Really, JL? The person you loved died saving someone he hated, and then you brought him back, but he couldn't remember you and decided to date your ex instead? You've been there?"


"Well, no."


"An admirable summation," Seven says with a laugh. Then to JL, she says, "Ignore her. I know you're being empathetic and the situations don't have to be identical."


"See, Raffi. Seven and I understand each other."


"Yep. Yep, you sure do. Speaks volumes about both of you." She decides to go mingle for a while and let them catch up.




Seven is retiring for the night after a "getting to know you" session in the lounge with some of the newer crew in the life sciences department. She sees Raffi's door open and she walks out.


"Wow," Seven says as she takes in the black dress and high heels. "You look stunning. You'll have him eating out of your hand."


"He might already do that." Her smile is gentle and teasing and it doesn't hurt as much as it could.


Seven knows Raffi's doing her best to ease them all into this. It's not her fault she and Liam still can't ever take the easy way.


"Have fun." She turns to go into her room.


"Hon', are you okay?"


"I am." Her voice doesn't break, she turns back to Raffi and knows that her eyes are clear, her expression unruffled. This is grief complicated by heartache and it fucking sucks, but she is not its prisoner.


And she will not let it destroy her relationship with one of her dearest friends.


"Seriously, have a good time."


Raffi pulls her into a hug and then hurries off. She watches her for a moment, then goes into her quarters.


There's a message pinging on her terminal, so she walks over and plays it. Kathryn and Chakotay both seem very tipsy and are at the La Jolla beach house. "Come down here."


She checks the time and then comms them. Chakotay answers and he's clearly sitting in bed reading.


"What happened to the revelers?"


His smile is sweet, the one she remembers falling for in the first place. "We got old, took antitox, and came home. Kathryn filled me in. How are you?"


The gentleness of his voice almost undoes her. "Not good."


"I can't even imagine how hard this must be for you."


"It clearly was not meant to be. He's with my friend now."


He makes a face. "Been there. Not fun."


"No it's not. She is also my ex."


"You do love complications, Seven." He is laughing at her but sweetly.


"I do, don't I?"


"Is that Seven?" sounds from off screen. He laughs and nods. "Are you moping?" Kathryn asks, still offscreen but her voice, as always, cuts through.


"I'm not. I'm dealing in the most positive way I can."


"Meaning what?" Kathryn cuddles in next to Chakotay so she's on screen. "Beating a punching bag to death?"


"Yes. But on the holodeck where I leave no evidence and no one has to clean up the sand."


They both laugh. "Very adult of you," Kathryn says. "Seriously. How are you?"


"Tired of being asked that."


"That's actually progress. Hard as it is to imagine." She seems to be considering something, then says, "Chakotay thinks this is a monumentally bad idea but you do know there's someone who would kill to spend time with you. And as far as I know murder is not in his programming."


Chakotay rolls his eyes at the same time she does. "I told you what her reaction would be."


"At least she didn't organize a surprise date for us. Invite me to dinner and oops, there's the Doctor."


"She probably wants to. But she knows I'll nix it. And I do the cooking around here."


"Yes, out of a replicator. What a chef." Kathryn studies her, eyes narrowing. "Don't rule him out is all I'm saying."


"I know what it feels like now to have the kind of chemistry that—I know what you two have. I want that."


"Or nothing?" Chakotay asks, and she knows it's because he was missing what he had with Kathryn when he was with her. And at the end, they both knew it and it was an easy goodbye, friendly even.


She nods. Fire can't be replaced with anything but more fire. And she will never have that with the Doctor. Besides, in may ways, she considers him a father.


"Fine," Kathryn says and she does sound resigned. " But if I meet someone I think might work for you—give you what we have—may I set you up?"


"No," both she and Chakotay say together.


"Oh, you two. Way too much alike." She turns and is off the screen and the light behind him goes out.


"I guess she told us." He touches the screen gently, the way he used to when she was upset and he was out on a mission. "Good night."


"Good night."


"Good night, Seven," Kathryn says just before the connection cuts out.


She always has to have the last word—and, as always, it makes Seven laugh.






Shaw is in his office when the terminal chirps with the tone for a personal comm. Shit, it's his father again. He's let his dad's calls go to message each time, not wanting to deal with trying to explain.


He hits the "Accept Call" button and says, "Hi, Dad."


"Oh, you're there." He looks to his side. "Come on, he's there."


He has no idea who his father is talking to. Hopefully not his Uncle Ed. "Dad, I'm kinda busy here and—"


He shuts up because it's a woman sliding onto the couch next to his father, sitting very close and beaming at him. "Liam, we were so worried."


His father has...a girlfriend? His mother's been gone less than a year. "Who the fuck are you?"


Her face falls and his father frowns deeply. She gets up and leaves.


"Son, what's got into you?"


"What's got into you? Not fidelity, that's for sure. Who the fuck is that?"


For a moment he thinks his dad might yell at him but then there's something else—something worse. A fear of some sort. "Oh, they told us your kind could hide anywhere."


The woman's voice sounds from off screen. "Cut the connec—"


The screen goes dead.


What the ever-loving fuck? He tries calling back but just keeps getting sent to the message function.


Well, fuck his dad and whoever that woman is.


A few hours later, he hears the familiar stomp of the captain. Great, the perfect ending to a fucking weird day.


She stands at the door to his office and just stares at him.




"I just got done preventing a pair of Starfleet Security officers from arresting you for being a changeling in hiding."


"Why do they think I'm a changeling?"


"Because your father doesn't know you have amnesia and couldn't figure out why you didn't know who Carolyn was."


"You know who she is?"


"Of course I know who she is. We hosted your family here the last time we were on Earth." She sighs.


"Did you explain to my dad?"


"Did I explain what? That you were mean to your soon-to-be stepmother because you'd died and we forgot to tell him after we brought you back to life minus five years of your memories?"


"So that's a no." He stares down at his desk. "My mom's been gone—for me—less than a year. When did he take up with this Carolyn?"


"A year ago. Which means your father was alone for nearly five years before finding someone else."


"Technically you don't know he was alone."


"Technically I do because you told me he was. It's why we were hosting them. You approved of her—you worried about how lonely he was before she came into his life."


"Fuck. I hate this."


"Would you rather be dead? I can call Security back."


He laughs because her delivery is fucking perfect. "No. Fuck. What do I tell him?"


She crosses her arms over her chest. "That you were injured—I'd prefer you not tell anyone about the nanobots and so would Starfleet. That you have amnesia and have lost the last five years. And that you're very sorry. And you should be sorry because she seems like a delightful woman."


"She's not my mom."


"She's not trying to be. But your father loves her. Would you rather he were lonely and in the woods duck hunting with your Uncle Ed?"


"Fucking A. How much did I tell you?"


"A lot apparently. Please call your father back so he doesn't take this up the chain past where I can contain it."


"Fine. Fuck." He meets her eyes. "I'm sorry. You shouldn't have had to deal with that."


"I did explain to Security that for you, your mother's death is a fresh grief. You reacted as anyone would have given the circumstances."


"You're letting me off the hook."


"There is no hook. This is...complicated. If you need any other information—actually I don't know that I'll have it—but you can ask." She turns and walks out.


"Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck." He waits until he's sure she's gone to call his father back and explain and then apologize to his future fucking stepmom.


While his heart still hasn't healed from the loss of his real one.




Raffi grins as they walk down the boardwalk, enjoying shaved ice and the lovely heat and real air. Liam has his arm around her and he keeps trying to get her to try his shaved ice, which is cherry and she hates cherry flavoring—she loves the actual fruit but the flavoring tastes nothing like it.


They pass a shooting range where the guns are all lasers and he says, "Want to?"


"Uh, no. I saw you die doing that."


"Oh. Right. Yeah, okay." He keeps them moving. "Did you feel anything when I died?"


"Who doesn't feel something when a fellow fleet member dies? But I barely knew you. And you..." She shakes her head.


"I what?"


"It's ironic that I'm telling you this when your arm's around me, but you spent most of the time making it clear that Seven was with you."


"God, I was a dick."


"No, you were in love. She was in love. You guys had a thing—it was undeniable. To me at least." And the bridge crew. She knows they are confused—and possibly disapproving.


"She and I don't have it now."


"I know. Like I said. It's like you two switched bodies or personalities or something. She was all reckless and lively, and now you are. Lively, anyway."


"And she's shut down."


"Not with me. Alone, I mean. She is when I'm with you and we're interacting with her. But...if that's what she has to do to be as gracious as she's been, then I'm okay with it." She leans into him. "She's spending a lot of time with her old Voyager crewmates. And for so long she didn't, felt like an outsider even. So that's actually really great."


"And gets her off the ship, which I like."


"Can you try to be nice?"


"No, I'm a dick. You all tell me that." He laughs and kisses her.


"About her you definitely are. I thought by now you two would have found common ground."


"I don't think either of us really want to try doing that."


"I know and it kind of pisses me off. But—"




She wraps both arms around him as they walk, and he stops and pulls her to the front, kissing her, seemingly not caring that people are having to walk around them.




"But if you build too much common ground with her, you might realize what you're missing. And that might leave me out in the cold." She feels weird saying it, like admitting what she's afraid of will make it come true.


The fact that he could get his memory back and not want anything to do with her is suddenly her greatest fear. And that scares the shit out of her.


"I don't want to be with her."


"I get that. You're mine. You're her Liam minus five. But over time, once we're finally out of space dock, you'll have to deal with her. You'll see what she's like. How nice she is, how smart. How pretty."


"She's never going to be appealing to me. Not with those implants."


"Come on." Anyone who doesn't think Seven is pretty is blind.


"Sure, she's hot. But hot doesn't equal appealing. It's just a thing you see and say, 'Sure, technically fuckable.'"


"So she's...fuckable but not appealing?" She laughs at his expression.


"I didn't say she was fuckable by me."


"You kind of did."


"No, on the hotness scale, she's up there. But the polarity is reversed. Like we're magnets but instead of positive/negative that attract, we're the same polarity so we repel."


"You think you're going to lose me in engineering babble, but instead you're just digging yourself a bigger hole." She tries to hold back a smile but can't.


"Yeah, that was a stupid one. Okay, how's this. I see her, I don't want to fuck her. I see you, I do." He waggles his eyebrows and nods in a really goofy way.


"Fine. Very basic."


"Basic is good. Less chance for misunderstanding."


"That's true." She gets them walking again.


"Did she tell you about the thing with my dad?"


"No, what happened?"


"Hmmm, I would have thought she'd have told you. Since Security got involved."


What the hell? "Now, I'm all ears."'


"I'd rather not rehash it, if that's okay."


"So she gets to know but I don't?"


"There is no right way to answer that question without telling you the whole thing."


"You aren't wrong."


"Okay, dad called, I answered because I was tired of dodging him, and I find out he's with this woman who I don't remember him being with because for me my mom hasn't been dead that long. I don't explain why I can't remember so he decides I'm a changeling and calls Starfleet Security, who come to the ship and the captain talks them down. And then she tells me to basically figure my family shit out. But the thing is...she knows the recent stuff more than I do."


"Then ask her about that stuff."


"I don't want to. It's my stuff."


She takes a long, steadying breath. Sometimes his love of arguing gets super old. "You need to get over this. Are you sure you're not avoiding her because you're remembering things, maybe feelings you had for her?"


"My dad would not be reporting me for impersonating his son if I was remembering things." He takes a deep breath and moves her to the side of the boardwalk. "Can we not talk about her?"


"You're the one that asked if I knew."


"I know but I thought she'd tell you. Because I fucked up and I thought maybe she liked keeping score."


"She's not like that. Look, I've been in enough therapy to recognize that your trauma and cognitive dissonance are running headlong down a really annoying path that leads to Seven being the enemy. When she's not. She's the victim."


"I'm the one who died."


"Yeah 'cause you can't talk and shoot without turning around and leaving yourself open."


"Oh, so that's what you thought. That I'm a shitty fighter?"


"Uh huh. Before I realized you'd been hit and then I felt bad for being judgmental."


He laughs.


"And then I just felt bad for her. She held you as you died—does that mean nothing to you?" She takes a step away. "We're hurting her. I'm hurting her."


"Then let's leave. There are other ships."


"I'm not abandoning her."


"I'm sure Janeway knows—so go to her and tell her this is hurting her protege or daughter or whatever she is to her and to transfer us off before we do more damage."


She just stares at him. "One of the reasons I have a dishonorable discharge is for stalking Janeway."


"Oh." He starts to laugh. "For real?"


"Yes, and shut up. We're not leaving her. Or I'm not—you can if you want."


"Wow. No hesitation. You pick her."


"You would too if you were in your right mind." And she strides off and when she feels him reaching for her turns and says, "Don't" while walking backwards to make sure he sees her expression.


He holds up his hands and stops. "I'm sorry. I know I'm being an asshole. I know it's not fair to her. I feel...I see how sad she is, and I feel guilty sometimes. Like it's somehow my fault that I can't remember anything about being a captain." He reaches out for her and his left hand is trembling "Like how bad a captain do you have to be to want to forget all of it? Why not just my time with her? Why all of it?"


She moves closer.


"Raffi, you think I don't ask myself if this is about me? About how, at my core, I thought about myself—my own worth—when I died?" He looks down at his hand and grabs it. "I don't have any control over this."


She's not sure if he means his hand or the trauma or the amnesia or just life in general. But she doesn't like what she's seeing. "If you want off the ship, I'll make sure it happens. No penalties. A clean start with new engines."


"No. That's my ship. I feel it in my bones." He meets her eyes. "I'm going to shut up now, and look around until I find something fun and get really fake-excited about it because I just can't do this right now. I want an unexamined life, okay?"


She knows she's showing him how much she understands by the sympathy in her smile, the softness of her eyes. "All right."


He looks down the line of kiosks, finally puts on a fake smile and says, "Oooh, crab cakes. I love those."


"Me too." She takes his hand and walks with him to the vendor. They wait in line and she pulls him to her and kisses his cheek. "I'm sorry, Liam. For all of it."


"I know. I wish I were stronger. I'm not, I don't think. I think maybe I'm broken."


"We're all broken, Liam. Every damn one of us."




Seven walks into Kathryn's outer office and is waved through by her assistant.


"Sit down and read this," Kathryn says, handing her a padd.


She takes the padd and sits at the conference table, frowning as she reads. "The Jurati are offering tech? Which they had to have had this entire time."


"I know." She comes over and sits down across from her. "When I pushed back on the timing of this, the Queen said this was a synthesis of decades of innovation and integration. That they weren't willing to give it to us while it was still possible for the original Borg to capture the data by assimilation."


"There is logic in that. And Agnes was somewhat paranoid."


"Yes, the Agnes factor is what throws me in all this, Seven. The Queen I think I sort of understand, but Jurati...?" She leans in. "What was she like? At her core, do you trust her?"


"It's irrelevant. She's no longer just Agnes."


"But would you trust Agnes with your life?"


She considers it. Much of the harm Agnes did was against her will—or apart from her will, the same way it was for Seven when she was a drone. Commodore Oh overruled her will.


And Agnes was kind and charming and made Seven laugh at the oddest moments.


Most importantly, Seven would be lying dead or assimilated fully if Agnes had not interceded, convinced a Borg Queen to bend. And Borg Queens might pretend to bend, but to get one to really do it? Agnes was exceptional.


"Yes, I do trust her."


"Okay then. Keep reading. She specifies personnel to be involved in the transfer." Kathryn gets up and says, "What's your poison these days?"


"Bourbon, but it's a bit early, isn't it?"


"It's five o'clock somewhere." She laughs at Seven's expression. "But I meant for a caffeine hit. How about tasting what Tom Paris has done with the humble raktajino?"


"Fine." She reads quickly, assimilating data the way she used to people, and then she stops cold.


"I see you got to the fun part. I understand asking for you and Raffi—you were both her friends or at least associates."


"We were her friends."


"But why Liam?"


"She is quite specific about which ship will test her tech."


"She certainly is. Yours."


"No. The flagship—the primary ship. Of the current remaining active-duty senior-officer engineers, where would he rank?" She lifts an eyebrow.


Kathryn rolls her eyes. "You know where he does. And not just because we lost a hell of a lot of engineers in the Borg invasion."


"This isn't just Agnes asking for we three. This is the Queen too. There's a reason her ship was Unimatrix One." She takes the mug from Kathryn and sips. "This is delicious. Tom missed his calling."


"He missed so many callings. The man's a menace, he's so talented." She takes a sip and studies Seven. "So the Queen wants the best and Agnes wants her friends."


"Too simple. To fully understand the Jurati Queen you have to find what the synthesis of those two would be. It's often not what you expect."




"Liam—Shaw will not want to go to the Borg ship."


"Well aware. I'm not sure I'd want to go if I'd lived through Wolf 359 the way he did." She leans in. "But he has to because I want to try this tech out. We lost things during the Borg crisis that Starfleet won't even talk about. And the Jurati held our border."


Seven nods.


"I've had a select group of experts assess the threat of bringing this in. They all agree it's worth the risk."


"Well worth it. But he will resist."


"Have you ordered him to do anything yet?"


"I haven't. But he isn't the best engineer in the Fleet because he sits on his ass. If it needs to be done, he gets it done. There has been no need for discipline." Thankfully, for it might look like retribution for forgetting her.


"Well, Shaw was known for being by the book. The book says—"


"Captain Shaw was. But I've spent some time reading the official logs of his previous COs. He didn't serve with captains who understood engineering the way you or I would have. He was considered by them to be indispensable but—"


"No, let me guess." Kathryn laughs. "Arrogant? Impossible to control? Certain she—I mean he—knew the right path no matter what others might say?"


"Very funny. And, unfortunately, yes." She takes another sip. "I would like the recipe code for this."


"You'll have to ask Tom."


"Of course I will." She smiles. "The Liam of now is so different. And I don't understand how five years can change someone so much."


"It's not the years. It's the job. It's what he had to do as captain." She smiles in a very nostalgic way. "You met me years into our voyage home. If you'd met me when I first made captain, when I was still believing that Starfleet meant everything and that surviving—getting home—would not become the only thing..." She stops and shakes her head. "I was a scientist. I operated by a set of procedures. Oh, I was quick on my feet—it's what got me into command. But...I changed, Seven. In ways you can't imagine."


"Chakotay knows that. He still loves you."


"Yes, but he went off with you at the end of the voyage, didn't he? He didn't wait for me. The way I thought he would." She looks down.


"I'm sorry we hurt you."


"As Raffi is no doubt sorry she is hurting you. But life goes on and some hearts need company more than waiting for the 'one.'"


She nods. "I'll tell Shaw he must come, but he'll push back."


"And you'll push back harder. Your first test of command will be on your former captain. A man you frequently called a dick during that first year. Seems like poetic justice, if you ask me."


"Appearances can be deceiving."


"I have faith in you. So, I'll tell the Jurati we're ready for them?"


"He does better when he's had time to process difficult asks. That has not changed. I will get back to you when I've spoken with Raffi and him."


"You have three hours."


She rolls her eyes.


"I'm doing you a favor by giving you a deadline. Trust me on that."


"I know you are. I'll be in touch shortly."


"Get him on board and I'll send you Tom's recipe myself."


"The raktajino isn't that good. But this"—she indicates the padd—"is. I assume I can download it to my data table?"


"I would think so. I can't imagine Shaw had the default of that be 'Share with Starfleet' or even with anyone else on the ship."


She laughs. "No, I can't imagine that either."



Continue to Part 2