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 3)

by Djinn





"Hello, Liam Shaw." Agnes indicates a chair for him to sit on and takes one as well.


He should be completely panicked meeting with her alone, but he's not. He feels at peace. "Do you do that normally? Sit?"


"Yes. To be frank, the part of us that is Agnes finds it disconcerting to hang from the ceiling."


He laughs at the image. "Like a spider."


"Precisely. The other part of us listens to her because we do not wish to put off potential recruits with behavior that is easily modifiable."


"That's what I want to talk about. Behavior. Mine."


"Too vague. We will need more to go on than that."


"I need to know if what I did—how I behaved—from the time Picard showed up on my ship to... If..."




"If what happened was my fault. If so many people—people I love, that I was in charge of and was supposed to protect—died or are now dealing with the trauma of what they did when they were assimilated because of me." He puts his head in his hands. "I know that sounds stupidly self-centered."


"One pebble can create a ripple that touches all shores."


"Exactly." He meets her eyes. "Can you spin the scenarios?"


"Variables changing? If this, then that?"


He nods.


"We can. We cannot see the future as such, but we can predict likely end results of a change in behavior."


"And I could see that? Live that?"


"We can share our process with you, the experience." She shifts in her chair. "What if we told you that we could only do it if you were fully Borg."


He doesn't hesitate. He's thought this through. "I'd let you assimilate me. But...I'd rather not."


She smiles. "And we know that. You have Borg blood. That is all we need to establish a link. A temporary one in this case."


He nods.


"Do you wish to tell your captain or first officer what you are doing?"


"I really don't. They're weirded out enough by me wanting to come here alone to talk with you."


Her smile makes her look actually amused. "The part of us that is Agnes appreciates that. She often 'weirded' them out with her behavior." She stands. "You wish to do it now?"


"I do. I just...I just really need to know."


She walks over and says, "This will hurt but only for a moment."


He waits for it, feels the tube slipping out from her to his neck, then into the skin, puncturing.


This would be how assimilation feels.


"You are doing well."


"I'm highly motivated."


"Your individuality is strong. As is your character." She withdraws the tube and sits. "Where would you like to begin? Which decision would you like to change?"


Her voice is sounding both in his ears but also in his head, direct to his brain. And it feels...surprisingly good.


"What if I put Picard and Riker in the brig as soon as they arrive on my ship and confine Seven to quarters?" It's the thing he often wishes he did.


He sees it in fast motion, them in the brig, Seven pissed off in her quarters. And then she's broken herself out and she's giving them the shuttle even sooner. Only she goes with them and he watches the shuttle launch. And the Shaw of that scenario. Fuck, he turns the ship and goes back, leaving her. "No."


"This is an unlikely scenario to occur because at your core you trust her, so we are puzzled why you chose it. But if you did choose it, there is a fifty-two percent likelihood that your pain at her betrayal would lead you to abandon the three of them to their fate."


The rest plays out quickly. Without him to stop the tractor beam, the others are captured, Jack is assimilated, Picard and Crusher and Riker are killed, and the invasion on Frontier day goes forward.


"What happens to Seven?"


An image appears, Seven but not, hanging from the ceiling like a fucking spider. "She becomes the maimed Queen's new vessel."




"Not how we would put it, but yes. Disconcerting for her as it would not be a shared experience as we have in this body. And disconcerting for us, because once the queen got her, she would know we exist—would feel our vitality."


"That Queen didn't know you were here?"


"Part of us is that Queen. Time travel and alternate dimensions make confusing alterations to history: unexpected additions and deletions to the collective. If the changelings knew of how strong we were, they did not tell the Queen."


"I knew about you—but I never took you seriously until you tried to assimilate me. So they had to have known. Maybe they considered you too..." He doesn't want to say it, doesn't want to insult her when she's helping him.


"Insignificant. Yes, that is what we think too. And as we did not interfere, perhaps they were right." She looks down. "We are young. And...a hybrid collective. We allowed such things to exist in the Delta Quadrant. Watched them to see if they would flourish or not. If they would add any additional distinctiveness to what we had already." She waves a hand as if signaling she's done talking about this. "Your next variable adjustment?"


"I let Seven do whatever the fuck she wants. Just check out." Sadly, he thinks this is the next most likely. The same way he checked out from dinner. He'd do it with an "on your head be it" type of attitude.


"Interesting. And highly likely given you chose not to welcome them aboard your ship and only held the dinner to appease her." As she says it, the scenario begins to play in his mind. Seven stays on the ship this time, but when it comes time to snap the tractor beam...she doesn't know how. And she fires with the same gusto she did at the end only the portal weapon sends it back to them.


The Titan is destroyed. He sees escape pods going but the Shrike shoots them all apart.


"She was reckless," he says, horrified by even a theoretical destruction of his ship. "And none of us knew what the portal weapon could do."


The assimilation proceeds again, the Borg win. Crusher and Riker and Picard are assimilated this time, possibly because Seven wasn't there to start a fight?


Now the scenario he dreads seeing. "I don't storm out of dinner. I ask them why. I listen. I help them."


"Multiple versions of this exist once you decide to help. The most likely is that you send your ship rather than a shuttle in to get them. We will play it slowly."


The scenario starts, him not being a dick at dinner, animated discussion, Seven not mad at him or he at her. Working together, finding the Eleos before the Shrike can but not that much sooner than Picard originally did.


The Queen arranges the scenario at that point as if he's in a sports bar with multiple vid screens. He sees one where his ship is destroyed at once. Another where they launch shuttles into the nebula. Another that goes much as it did when they were hiding in the Nebula.


In no case do they get away.


In only two cases is the outcome different than the Borg assimilating Starfleet and that is one where Jack took his own life and one where Shaw has the ship self-destruct. Without her Vox, the Queen settles for stealing the cloaking device, and destroying ships as she comes on them, leading to her finding the Jurati.


And using the Agnes Queen as her new Vox. Starfleet is once again assimilated, just much later than originally planned.


"A single pebble can create ripples that touch all shores, Liam Shaw. You did what you thought was right. And, in this case, it was."


"It's not... It's not my fault."


"It is not. In fact, your actions enabled the chain of events that saved Starfleet—and ultimately us. We are grateful."


"Except that's just at the beginning. What if I hadn't notified Starfleet once I got away from the Shrike?" Ro might not have died. The bulk of his crew wouldn't have been beamed onto the Intrepid, the older ones killed, the younger ones saved for assimilation.


Again the multi-scene set-up in his mind. Again he sees his ship explode over and over. There are a few where they survive to reach Daystrom and the museum, but they require him to act so out of character he can't see them happening.


"I'm not asking the right questions."


"You are."


"Find me ones where we win."


Instead he feels her withdrawing from his mind, and there is a strong sense of absence once she's fully gone. "Why? To be able to do so, as you saw here, means it is someone who barely resembles you making the decisions. Can we do it? Yes. Will we do it? No."


"Why not?" Frustration makes his voice rise, break even.


"The scenarios matter only if they are likely to have happened. And your actions are highly predicated on prior behavior. If we believe you would not take a given action, why show the outcome? Even if it exists, it is unlikely."


"Because the cat's alive or dead. Once we open the box. So let's open the box. All of them."


She smiles. "We both know you are asking us for scenarios involving multiple cats, all with different temperaments, all with agendas and different boxes in some cases. The cat cannot simply be alive or dead. It is complicated." She touches his hand and normally he'd pull back but now he finds it comforting.


"This was a multi-years plot, Liam Shaw. Well planned. Well executed. But ultimately not a success because of you and Picard and Seven of Nine and Raffi and...even the willingness of her Vox to withdraw once assimilated." She smiles gently as she trails off. "The lives lost are not on you. You played your role as only you could."


He's having trouble seeing her and he's not sure why. Then he realizes he's crying. Hard. He holds his hand up to his face, but his left hand is shaking so badly he's afraid to wipe his eyes with it.


"May we comfort you?"




She stands and pulls him to her, and he rests his head against her abdomen the way he used to with his mother, and she hums a melody that isn't anything his mother would have done but it's soothing anyway.


He weeps into her shirt, as she kneads his shoulders and hums and tells him he is fine, he is perfectly fine the way he is.


"I want Seven," he whispers into the soft cloth of her shirt. "I love Seven."


"We know. Raffi also knows this. She is ready to let go of you. Let her. A clean slice will reduce the harm to her."


"I like her so much. I don't want to hurt her. She was exactly what I needed but now..."


"We understand." She tips his head up to look at her. "Would you like to hear the voices Seven heard? Just for a moment? To know what she might someday consider home."


"Wouldn't I have to be assimilated?"




"Then yes."


And just like that, pouring into him are voices upon voices. There is so much support and love and...hope. This collective is full of optimism for the future. They know they will make a difference.


And then it all goes quiet.


She brushes the tears off his face as he says, "Thank you," over and over.




Raffi sits with him in his quarters as he tells her what Agnes showed him. She can feel the change in him, the acceptance he seems to have, the calm assurance.


She thinks this is the Shaw Seven fell in love with, the man she first served with. Calm and thoughtful. Bent a bit by responsibility but not broken.


Not even now that he knows his part in all this because he accepts it.


He's holding her hands and his left hand isn't shaking.


She can feel her tears starting and he pulls her to him, crushing her to him. Saying over and over, "I love you."


And she knows he does.


But she also knows that she isn't the person he's in love with.


And to be honest, the Liam Shaw she wanted to be with...is gone. He's been gone for five years. She should never have met him but she has and she's choosing to see that as a gift rather than a curse.


She eases out of his grasp enough to meet his eyes. "I will always love you. I will die for you. I will kill for you. But this you isn't the one that I'm in love with."


"I know."


"And this you isn't in love with me."


He nods and she loves that he won't say it. "But I don't want to hurt you." He has tears in his eyes. "I really don't."


"And you won't. Because we're not just lovers, we're friends too. Just like Seven and I are." She cuddles into him. "And she's been so lonely without you. I'll be happy not to be hurting her anymore."


"You didn't hurt her. You were more than fair, more than kind. I hurt her." He swallows hard. "I was a dick."


"Yeah, you were. But, she'll forgive you. She probably already has."


He nods. He looks over at the bed and frowns, she thinks, at not seeing his cashmere throw there.


"I moved the stuff you'd brought over back to your quarters while you were with Agnes. And I took you off the door."


"You were that sure?"


"Yeah. I do know you now. I had faith you'd find yourself." Although Seven's off the ship and she thinks her friend is not sure, not sure at all. "And my highest self wanted you to."


"Even if that means we'd lose each other."


"I'm not going anywhere. Neither are you. No loss, just a change in status." She kisses him lightly on the lips, not a sensual move but a benediction, a wish of good fortune with her friend.


A goodbye even if they will still see each other every day.


Then she pulls away and says, "Go to her." She makes her voice the one that scares men like Riker. "Now."


He isn't scared of her and she loves that. "Thank you, Raffi."


"Go on. Git." She smiles, her best smile, and she's not actually sure how she's doing it except this man is now one of her best friends and he belongs with another of her best friends.


He stands, then turns and leans down and kisses her forehead before walking out. She gives him enough time to get to Seven, and then she gets up and walks down the hall to Ohk's room praying she doesn't have company.


Ohk opens the door, takes one look at her, and says, "Oh, honey." Then she pulls her into her quarters, curls up with her on the bed, wraps a really soft blanket around them, and holds her as she weeps for both her lost loves.




Seven wanders the back corridors of Starfleet Medical until she finds a small office. She's stayed away from the Doctor, but if Liam might ask Agnes to wipe his memory, maybe it's time to consider what Kathryn said, to give the Doctor a chance.


Or at least figure out if there's anything at all there. It's been years since she's seen him. How does she know what she'll feel?


She takes a deep breath and rings for admittance.


The doors open and the Doctor is standing at them, clearly surprised. "Hello, stranger."




He pulls her into a hug and she lets him. She does love him.


Even if she's never going to be in love with him—she's sure as soon as he opens the door. When she feels what she always feels for him: overwhelming gratitude for how he shepherded her in her human journey and affection for the man himself.


Affection, not passion. Not the kind of love she feels for Liam.


She wouldn't leave her back open to shooters for the Doctor.


She's not sure she'd have done it for Raffi. And she hates that thought. And maybe it's ironic that Raffi will end up with Liam if he does ask Agnes to wipe his mind.


And there'll be nothing left for her.


"Are you all right, Seven?"


She shakes her head.


He moves aside, motions her in. "Kathryn may have filled me in. I think she had some hope for us. I, however, did not. I know you don't think of me that way."


"I wish I could. I know you'd be good to me."


"I would be. But chemistry is hard to manufacture. Impossible I daresay." He pulls out a stool next to a drafting table and she sits as he takes the one where he's clearly been working.


"What's this?"


"I'm playing with design. I have a flair for it, as it turns out."


"May I?"


"Of course." He doesn't move so she has to lean against him to see the plans.


She expects it to be of a medical device or some kind of holographic aide, but it's a...park. "This is beautiful."


"I keep entering design contests. My last took third. I'm hoping this one might win." He looks up at her. "There is a theme. See if you can guess it."


She studies the placement of the various areas, the way things flow, the colors of the flowers when she drills down, the areas that are clearly planned, the areas that are more wild. The way there are places for children and tables that look like they would be good for games in the park like chess or backgammon. There is a place just for dogs and other similar pets.


"No guesses?"


"No. But I'd like to be there."


"Hmmm, I may have to work on aligning more with the theme. I didn't take it literally."


"Don't judge by me. I'm not at my best. The man I love is possibly having his memory wiped of his time with, well, me." And three other years but she doesn't care about those as much.


"Then he's a fool, Seven." He stands up and pulls her into another hug. "He's the biggest fool of all."


She pulls away, runs her hand down his face, and then leans in, kissing him.


He kisses her back but then he pulls away and is frowning. "I expected something more." He frowns deeper. "There's no...fire."


"I had to try."


"You didn't feel fire, did you? I suppose I could try again, if you did."


She laughs and shakes her head. "Never change."


"I don't think I'm capable of changing."


"That's bull, and we both know it. Give me another shot at this design theme. Do you have a visualization of walking through it?"


"I do." He hands her the VR glasses and she's suddenly in the park, and birds are singing, and she hears water although she doesn't remember seeing a water feature. Even though there aren't any people that she can see, there are voices and the sounds of children playing.


"Oh. This is escape." She pulls the headset off. "And it's meant to be experienced this way, not for real."


"Very good. It's for long-term patients. Those who can't wander at will—especially those with no family. The system allows them to put familiar faces into the park with them. Or even pets. Not unlike a holodeck. Or they can use the random option and make a new friend."


"I think it's beautiful. The water—why no fountains? The sound is there but no actual water, unless I missed it."


"No, you didn't. I like the idea of the water being there but hidden—it's a risk, though. I'm not sure the judging panel will appreciate it but I really feel that it's the right choice."


"It's beautiful."


He beams at her. "It means the world that you think so." He sits back down. "May I ask you something that may cause you pain?"


"I think it's only fair."


"This man you love. What's he like?"


"He's solid, physically but also temperament. He's calm and he doesn't react the way I do, rushing off into shit before thinking. He used to call me 'Ready, fire, aim Hansen.'" She laughs at the thought.


"I have heard you are quite the shot."


"Oh, I am. But he meant, you know, reckless."




"He knew every regulation by heart and he knew which of them were stupid and had the most creative workarounds you've ever seen. Instead of being insubordinate he was so smart, so clever.


"And he cared about his crew. He had the best safety record. And he loved mentoring the junior officers. I mean loved—it recharged him. I found it exhausting but he thrived on it."


"Is he a strong man physically?"


"Yes. Very."




She closes her eyes and nods, seeing his face, the beard she thinks makes him look so sexy, the cheekbones so sharp they seem like they could cut, his crazy smile, his beautiful eyes, the voice she has fantasized hearing in her ear, in her bed.


"I hope someday I'm wearing the look I see on your face. That someone can mean that much to me."


She opens her eyes. "Do you meet a lot of people here?"


He gets a funny look, then leans in. "For the last design contest, they did the awards in person. The woman who took first is...well, she's exceptional. We had the best conversation. I didn't pursue her because—"


"Of me?"


He nods. "But now that I know you and I have no sexual chemistry, I think I'll call her."


"I think that's a great idea." She touches his face. "Sexual chemistry or not, you're still one of my favorite people and I love you."


"And I love you, Seven."




Shaw rings for access to Seven's quarters, is about to give up like he did earlier, then hears her soft, "Come," and walks in as the doors open.


She's sitting cross legged on the bed, dressed in sweats and a tank top. Her hair is piled on top of her head in a messy bun her face is fresh scrubbed.


She looks so fucking beautiful to him he can't stand it.


"I came earlier. You weren't here. And you uh...you took me off the door." It's shitty to admit he tried to get in that way but he likes truth and so does she.


"It seemed like it was time." She looks down.


"Were you with someone?"


She glares at him. "How is that your business? Mister 'I Might Wipe You Out of My Memory for Good'?"


"I just go by Liam now." He grins when she smiles in a way that is so clearly against her will. "I think it's my business because I fell in love with you on that mission to Clahada. And I should have just fucking told you then." He swallows too hard, so visibly. Fuck, his hands are sweating so he wipes them on his jeans. "Did you fall in love with me then, too?"


"I think so, yeah." She isn't looking away. "But you forgot me."


"I am so sorry for that."


"What were you really having Agnes do?"


"I needed to know how things would have turned out if I'd made different choices. And...I was willing to be assimilated to find out. And I knew you wouldn't let that happen, which is why I didn't tell you everything."


"You didn't."


"I think you'd feel it, right? If I was assimilated?" Wouldn't she?


"I don't know. I don't completely understand her or her collective."


"She really helped me." He moves to the chair that was always his favorite and sits. "We worked through so many scenarios. And...the crew suffers no matter what. Assimilation happens no matter what. It wasn't...it wasn't my fault."


"How would it be your fault?"


"For not listening to you, for not listening to Picard and Riker at dinner. For calling security the minute we got back. But no matter what I changed...it was hard to find scenarios that led to any kind of happy-ish ending. And they weren't very true to me, who I am, what I'd really do."


"So you're at peace?"


"I am. And...Agnes is amazing." He laughs. "How fucking ironic is it that a Borg Queen is helping me get my head on straight, helping me unbreak my heart, know that all those youngsters aren't traumatized because of me."


"Pretty fucking ironic." She seems to be taking in what he said. "So it really wasn't me? It was...guilt?"


He nods. "And now I'm here. I understand that you might not want me anymore... I mean how fucking stable am I, right? Can't deal with the last five years? No problem, just forget them." He looks down.


"What about you and Raffi?" Her voice is trembling and he looks up as he says, "We're done. Friends, but done as anything else."


"And you and me?"


"That's up to you, Seven."


"I betrayed you."


"And I accept that."


"No forgiveness?" Her tone is suddenly hard.


"None needed. You and I were...players on a chessboard. We moved the way we were supposed to. And we won the game. But we bruised and clawed each other a bit in the process."


"We did. And then you died."


"Some players were forfeited. It doesn't mean they didn't contribute while they were there." Like T'Veen and himself. Working hard to make a difference until their time ran out.


"And which player on that chessboard were you?"


"I don't know. Chess isn't really my thing. But I know what you were."


She rolls her eyes. "Let me guess: the Queen?"


He smiles gently. "Well, yeah, but you're also the King, Seven. You're the goddamned fucking King. You're awe inspiring and you're relentless and you've handled this with so much fucking grace. I know I've hurt you. I know what an asshole I've been."


"And I know what an asshole you'll probably continue to be. Because dick is in your DNA." She gets up and walks to him. "What do you want, Liam? Why are you here?"


He looks up at her, feels no need to rise, to be at her level to fight back. There's nothing to fight over anymore—not that they probably won't find reasons. They seem to thrive on arguing. "I want you. Seven of Nine. My beautiful captain. If I have to work for it, that's fine. I can do courtship."


"What if I don't want you anymore? What if it's too big a risk?"


He thinks about it. "Come on, Hansen. You know you love a challenge." He grins, his full mouthed one, the lopsided one, and she is moving toward him, and he's pulling her down so she's straddling him, and they are kissing.


For the very first time.


For a very long time.


Until he realizes she's crying.


He pulls away and kisses her tears. "I'm so sorry. I'm so deeply sorry."


She rises enough that he can ease her pants and underwear off, then she pulls his off, and he pulls her back down, onto him, and he's into her and it's bliss.


She's trembling in his arms and tears stream down her face as she moves, so damn slowly it's almost torture.


"I'm so sorry, Seven. I love you so much."


"I love you. I wasn't okay without you."


"You did great though. You're amazing." He pulls her even closer to him, kissing her, holding her, as she continues the slow movements, as if she can't bear for either of them to come, to be...finished.


"I'm not going anywhere." He nips at her playfully. "Unless you tell me to get out. Then I'll leave but under duress because here is where I want to be."


She laughs and bears down and he groans. "You'll say anything while you're inside me."


He stops her movement and his own, wants her to really hear him. "Me? I say what I mean, you know that. And what I mean is I want to be yours. I want you to be mine. I wasn't forgetting you. I was forgetting me. And the enormous guilt that overwhelmed me as I stood there shooting, even before I fell. All my junior officers. Assimilated. So many of my older crew dead. And I thought it was my fault. So I gave you the ship and I died and somehow, when I woke up, I'd partitioned that whole thing off, so that everything that made me that man was gone and only the fun engineer remained."


She's starts moving again but is listening, watching you as you talk.


"Agnes made me whole."


"And Raffi."


"And you. Your patience with me. The grace you showed. I know I keep using that word but...it means something special. It's...priceless how gentle you were with me. When your own heart was breaking."


She stops moving and he doesn't try to take over. Just waits as she hugs him, her lips on his neck, and he hugs her back just as hard. "Liam, I've spent my whole life since arriving in the Alpha Quadrant running. You're the only thing I've ever wanted to stay still for."


Then she lets go and starts moving almost viciously, watching him, her expression half loving—and half angry—and he can't blame her. He lets her go and feels himself responding to her the same way he used to respond to their arguments.


Like they're fire and lightning and other things terrifying and damaging and ultimately undeniable. And capable of dancing with each other, loving each other—when no one else is.


She starts to breathe heavily, her eyes wild as she stops and cries out, as he holds her and says, "That's it. Let go. My beautiful, beautiful Seven."


And then she's collapsed against him, breathing hard, her forehead resting on his shoulder as she starts moving, not so viciously this time.


He can feel himself losing control. "Look at me."


She does, and she doesn't look away as he clutches her, as his breath catches and he's going, calling her name out—the name she prefers, that she wanted to hear from him and now she finally will—and it makes her smile.


And then she holds him, his cheek against her breasts, the shirt wet from her earlier tears.


"Am I home, Seven?"


"We're both home, Liam."




Raffi wakes in a bed that smells of unfamiliar perfume, wrapped in a blanket that isn't hers.


"Hey," a soft voice behind her and she turns and sees Ohk sitting in a chair reading. "You want coffee?"


"That'd be nice."


She gets up and walks to the replicator and there is a definite sway in her walk, the shorts fitting exactly right. When she turns around and meets her eyes, she laughs. "Did I not say the old Liam and I had exactly the same taste in women? These are my best shorts. I hope I'm wearing the hell out of them."


Raffi laughs as she sits up and takes the mug from her. "You did say that and yeah, you are."


Ohk sits by her on the bed not touching, just comfortingly close. "If it's any consolation, I'm really going to miss that Liam Shaw. This new one, the captain—I mean I still love him, and I'll gladly serve under him or with him or whatever the future brings. But...I really liked having the goofy engineer back. My crazy friend. My partner in crime." She wipes her eyes. "Shit. I hate crying."


"Yeah, me too. So they're probably..."


"Yeah. They probably are. Especially since they both just logged in as on leave for a mental health day."


"For real?" Seven never did shit like that for her. "True fucking love." She wants to throw the mug but it's not her mug and not her room. She sips the coffee instead. "Can't wait to face the bridge crew. Did I tell you Sidney asked how I could do it? Take my bestie's man. She asked Seven first and got nowhere."


"She didn't." Ohk laughs. "Okay, yeah she did, but she's being too binary in this. I'm Trill and we don't tend to look at things quite so this or that. You're Seven's friend. You're also her ex. And I think the part of you that is her friend is the part that went out of your way to not make it hurt as badly as it could."


"That's a nice thought."


"The ex though. She was pissed. Do you want to tell me why?"


"Why should I?"


"Because I'd like to know who exactly it is I'm going to be pursuing."


"Oh, you're going to be pursuing me?"


"Yeah? How long has it been since someone who's not ultimately dark and damaged chased you?" She grins as she touches her cheek. "So, ex stuff. Lay it on me. I won't judge."


Raffi realizes she wants to. "When I met her...it was like a lightning bolt. Instant attraction. And she was as rough and tumble as I was and just as smart." She stops, remembering how good it was.


Until it wasn't. "The thing was, I kind of thought we shared a son."


Ohk looks confused.


"She had one. If you ever go into her quarters, you'll see his shirt on her bed's shelf. He was killed. Not my story to tell. But there was this young man, Elnor, and I loved him—and still do, he's fine. And I thought she did too. Until I woke up one day and the ship she used was gone, and when I commed her, she was back doing her Ranger job."


"Well, vacations end."


"She just left, Ohk. Everything was perfect—I was in a good place and we had him and she just left." She wipes her eyes, hating that this still hurts. "She'd come back, but never for long. I finally gave up thinking we could have a home together—a life that was just us."


"It must have been hard to keep to sobriety."


"It was. It really, really was. But I did. Elnor got into the Academy and I went back into Starfleet and that was another thing, she could have tried but kept saying no. And she never told me that Starfleet had rejected her years before. I found that out after I was back in."


"So communication wasn't her strong suit?"


"Not with me. And then there was this crazy mission we were on when I did find that out. I mean fucking bonkers." She remembers how happy Seven was without the implants. How little she needed from her, how she fit into that world in ways Raffi never would.


How she left her at the bar and went to make friends with strangers rather than spend time alone with her.


"She was happy, but we weren't. And then she was dying and then she wasn't. Because of Borg nanoprobes" That Seven probably would have refused if asked. Even though she used them on Liam. "And that was because of me. I asked for the Jurati Queen to save her."


"This is getting super confusing."


"I know. Sorry." She takes a long sip of coffee. "And then life went on, and I went back to my ship, and she went to OCS and we just...ended. Slowly. Over comms that went nowhere."


"I hate that. Have the courage to end the fucking thing, right?"


"Right. Liam did. I respect him so much."


She cocks her head, "Do you not respect the captain?"


"As a captain, yes. As a friend, I'm pretty sure yes. As a lover, oh hell no."


Ohk laughs. "Neither would I."


"So I'm thinking all right, whatever, she's ex Borg and she's fucked up and she's never going to be a prize package for commitment. But then I come here and I see her with him. This woman who cannot—will not—commit to me. And all I can see between them—even though they are so pissed at each other—is forever. They were rock solid together."


Ohk lets the statement hang for a long time before saying, "That had to hurt."


"You have no idea. I had her back, though. Through it all. And his. I stayed on this ship when she told me to go with the others."


"Thank God. I don't think we would have made it without you. Transporting them all off the bridge using phasers to do it? That was brilliant. And very hot."




She nods, her smile easy and uncomplicated. "You had a lot to resent her for. Is she ever in touch with your boy?"


"No. But to be fair to her, he's super loyal to me and..." She shrugs.


"She hurt you so he's mad at her."


"He's Romulan."


"Oh, fuck. Say no more." She laughs. "You've led a very interesting life."


"Since she brought Liam back, she's reached further back, to her Voyager family. Which is probably good for her. But...I don't fit there. I never would have. The Seven I was with wouldn't have either." She takes a deep breath. "And now she'll take him and her Liam will be fine because he's with her. And that's how I'll console myself. My Liam is gone. But it hurts because I really liked Liam from five years ago."


"And he loved you. I heard him say it."


"He didn't say it again."


"No. Because that Liam was disappearing." She sips her coffee.


"Ugh, I want a mental health day too."


Ohk squeezes her shoulder. "I think you should walk onto that bridge and sit in your chair and do your work like always and if anyone looks at you sideways, ignore it. Fuck them all. They don't have to understand why you did it. You do. I do. Liam may or may not, but he's a boy so who cares?"


Raffi chuckles.


"And I think Seven knows. Because she didn't fight it. Maybe she thought it was poetic justice."


Raffi considers that. "I don't actually think she's that introspective. She probably just thought she screwed up the nanoprobes."


Ohk laughs. "Maybe so. I don't really know her that well."


"She was your first officer."


"Yeah, but we're not close. Which is probably a good thing if I succeed in convincing you that a Trill girlfriend would be way better than an ex-Borg one."


"You're forgetting Liam."


"The Liam you were with disappeared five years ago. That was just...sensor remnants you were with."


"Jeez. Grim."


"Yeah, sorry. Sometimes I go dark."


"That's not a turnoff sadly." She checks the time. "I have to go get ready. Thank you, for the bed and the ear and the coffee and the huge boost to my ego. If you're just kidding around, that's fine."


"I don't actually kid around when it comes to that. I hate games. But if you'd rather I backed off, I can pretend I never said anything about how incredibly attractive I find you. How funny and smart and giving and warm and...?" She gives Raffi the sweetest damn smile. "Should I stop?"


"For now. But...later?" She shrugs and tries to make it a sexy one. "I'm intrigued."


"You're also heartbroken and I recognize that. But if you want to get dinner with me, just hang out, see how that feels—if there's chemistry...?"


"How about tomorrow night. Tonight I might need a good cry."


"You're on."




Seven lies next to Liam as he tells her about hearing the collective, watching the emotions play across his face.


"Is that what being a traditional Borg was like? Such joy and optimism?"


"No. The traditional Borg have emotional repression devices. If your emotions go beyond a certain level, your system shuts down."


"Yikes." He traces her eyebrow implant, then the one on her hip. They've kicked off the covers during their lovemaking and she shivers, so he reaches down until he finds the sheet and pulls it up and back over them, pulling her closer as he does it.


She feels like she can't be close enough to him, anything he wants to do is fine with her, anything she wants seems to be fine with him. She kisses him, lingering, sensual kisses that bring life to what he said was dead from overuse and he laughs as he rolls her to her back.


"You're magic." He plays with her, his fingers as wondrously skilled as she thought they would be. His tongue just as lovely, and then before she can come, he's inside her, moving just right, hitting all the right places and she is gone, and he keeps going, watching her, kissing her until he can't because he's going too.


They're playing hooky and neither one cares what anyone thinks. She knows she probably should but she's tired of sitting in the chair when the ship isn't going anywhere. So she closes her eyes and breathes him in as he eases off her and pulls her in so she can fall asleep in his arms.


She wakes and is unsure where she is. The room is filled with mist and she sees Liam at the foot of the bed. He's pulling on his clothes and whistling a tune so jaunty it pisses her off.


"What are you doing, Liam?"


"This was fun. But, uh, ultimately a mistake."


She rises to all fours, turns and launches herself off the bed, at him, clawing and biting and saying, "I hate you. I hate you right now."


A shake wakes her up. "Seven," Liam says and he's still naked and still in bed and she scuttles back and stares at him.


"Fun dream, huh?"


"Fun is fucking overrated." She crawls off the bed, goes into the bathroom, and locks the door.


As she sits on the floor, she hears him outside, knocking gently, then saying, "Sev, maybe let me in?"


She allows the door to open a sliver, so she can see him when he slides down the wall and sits on the other side of the door.


"What's going on?"


"I'm pissed. You son of a bitch." She glares at him but thinks the sliver she's allowed isn't giving him the full expression so she opens it more so he can get the full effect.


"You'd rather allow me access so I can how PO'd you are than maintain safety."


"Safety—when is anyone safe really?" She sighs. "In my dream you were out of bed, getting dressed, and I think going back to Raffi—done with me, in any case."


"Not a great dream. I wish I could give you nice ones. Maybe you should have chosen the courtship option?"


"Fuck you."


Her cursing him out seems to be reassuring and he slides close enough to put his fingers on the door and she puts hers over them.


"Did you fuck her before you broke up?"


"No. We haven't for a few days. Not since I told her I wanted to see Agnes. And she had my stuff moved back to my place by the time I got back from the Jurati ship."


She frowns and turns to look at him, to make sure he's not making that up. "She knew you were through?"


"We both did. We just weren't ready to call it yet."


"Do you know where I was, you dipshit? I went down to visit someone who's been in love with me for years to see if there was any chemistry. Because I thought you were wiping me out of your mind."


"There wasn't chemistry, was there?"


"No, there wasn't chemistry, but that's not the point. You need to talk to me. Include me."


"Seven, I was in a very weird spot. I don't think we'll be facing the same thing."


"Oh, really? Let's talk about that dinner with Picard and Riker. You tell me you're going to throw dinner for my friends who you left me to deal with alone. And then you make a fucking fool of me without any warning."


"I played the Chopin. You said so yourself."


"That's like asking forgiveness instead of permission. Because you didn't want to talk to me."


"You weren't exactly talking to me either when you gave them my fucking shuttle."


"I loaned it to them."


"Yeah, well, it never came back, did it?"


She starts to laugh. "Very, very long-term loan."


"Open this fucking door."


"Open it yourself, Mister Engineer."


"I can't. You took me off the access list."


"And the door panel is inside the bathroom."


"Well..." He stands, pulls a knife out of his boot, and begins to cut through the wallpaper.


"What are you doing?"


"Opening the damn door." He does something and the door whooshes open. "Come back to bed."


"I'm hungry."


"You have a replicator. Tell me what you want and I'll get it for you."


She shakes her head.


He crouches down in front of her. "Do you want to go out?"


She shakes her head. "I want you all to myself."


"Same here." He sighs, grabs her under the arms and hauls her to her feet, orders a glass of crushed ice and pomegranate juice, and hands it to her. "I think your blood sugar's low."


She takes a sip, the pomegranate perfectly in the middle of tart and sweet as she chomps the crushed ice gently. "Get us stuff we can eat in bed."


She walks to the bed and sees he's staring at her, watching her walk away from him rather than getting food.


"That was an order, Mister Shaw."


He laughs. "I fucking love you. But my God you're a handful."


"Oh, like you're easy?" She takes another sip of the drink. "Thank you. This is what I needed."


"I do know you, Seven." He orders them a plate of food they can easily share in the bed and sets it between them, then lies down. "Seriously, are you all right?"


"This was hard. Being noble is for the fucking birds."


"Kiss me."


"No. Feed me."


He laughs, seemingly accepting he will be subject to her whims for a little while. "Fine. Let's start with this." He holds out a slice of cheese.


She debates biting him, decides not to. She's afraid she'll do it too hard and doesn't want to interrupt their play day by having to take him to sickbay or digging out wherever she put her dermal regenerator.


He rolls his eyes. "Do I have to say not to bite."


"Today, no. In the future...?"


"Good answer."






He wakes to find Seven already up and in the shower. She left the door open, he hopes that means she won't mind sharing the room while he takes a pee.


"Good morning," he says, wanting to join her in the shower but she has the look of someone who's in there because she has to be, not because she wants to be. "Unexpected meeting?"


"Yes. They want to talk about a new science officer." She puts her hand on the frosted shower door as if reaching for him and then pulls it back and finishes up.


He's touched but he knows he's also a little needy. She doesn't entirely trust him and she can do the exact opposite of what he expects. He knows that from experience.


"Who do you want? And is it okay that I'm leaning against the counter watching you shower like a big perv?"


"Yes, it is okay. If there's a day it's not, I'll tell you." She is soaping up and that visual alone could fuel fantasies for a good year or more.


"Who do you want for science officer?"


"I have no preference. Raffi doesn't appear to. I'm worried..."


"You're worried..."


"That they're going to try to foist Data on me. He's so fucking annoying, Liam."


He laughs out loud. "Wow, the woman with mechanical implants doesn't like androids."


"I don't mind androids. And I'm fully cognizant that he saved our lives with Vadic. But...not the science officer I really want."


"T'Veen has a twin sister."


"I know. I talked to her. She's not interested."


"How bad was your sales pitch?" And also was it while she was in the middle of what he'd put her through? She probably hadn't been overflowing with captainly joy. "Do you want me to go call her. Change her mind?"


"Yes, please."


He pulls on his clothes, goes to the terminal, and gets connected right away. "T'Vara."


"Liam Shaw. The man who gets shot and comes back." He can hear the "unlike my sister" part loud and clear.


Maybe asking T'Vara is a monumentally bad idea.


"Are you here to recruit me? Your captain—is she your captain now? I'm super confused. She said you were in engineering but I'd already made up my mind I didn't want the position and sort of tuned her out."


He wants to laugh because she's so different than T'Veen, who would have followed the conversation no matter how ticked off she was.


"I can see how sitting in her seat would be an unpleasant reminder for you. It might be weird for everyone here too." Even though everyone on the bridge knew T'Vara for her frequent visits when the ships were in the same place—and enjoyed the intellectual sparring matches she and T'Veen engaged in.


She's always been easier to read than her twin was. He can see sadness but also the unwillingness she's always had to do anything the Vulcan way, wanting to embrace the Deltan part of her heritage far more than T'Veen ever did. "I'm glad you understand."


"And I can totally see how it would be intimidating. You know. To follow that act. Step into her shoes. T'Veen was—well you know: amazing."


It's wrong to play her, but he always wanted to get her on his ship and T'Veen had been all for it. Trouble was, T'Vara wouldn't take beta shift and he wouldn't agree to let them switch around all the time.


Twins were a bit of a pain. "Okay, then. I'll let you go."


"Wait. This Seven of Nine—she's going to be a good captain?"


He gives her a smile he knows is unequivocal. "The best. Totally different than me, though. Woo boy." That's the other selling point. T'Vara always considered him stodgy. A fact she told him to his face, not something he learned from her sister. "Gonna be a way different vibe with her and the new first officer, and she's amazing too."


Seven is standing at the bathroom door, out of range of the cameras on the terminal, toweling off, watching him manipulate with an amused look on her face.


"Okay, well, take care, T'Vara."


"Wait. I'd like to put my name in the hat. There is a hat, yes?"


"Well, it's a big fucking hat because it's got lots of names in it, but I could put a good word in with the captain for you. She loves to follow my guidance."


Seven actually lets out a cackle then backs into the bathroom, and he can hear her laughing.


"What was that noise?"


"I'm pet sitting a bird. The Annikeet. New hybrid designer bird. Part Canada goose, part lorikeet."


"Oh." She lifts an eyebrow. "That pairing seems unlikely."


"Gene splicing."


"They will put anything together these days. I will wait to hear from Captain Seven of Nine, then?"


"Yep. And T'Vara, I really am sorry. I miss T'Veen so much."


She touches the screen. "As do I. T'Vara out."


"An Anikeet? Seriously?" But she's smiling as she comes out in her uniform. "You're very quick on your feet when you lie. I'm going to have to remember that."


He pulls her close and kisses her deeply. "I will try never to lie to you. We both like honesty, right?"


"Will you promise never to manipulate me?" There's a look he doesn't like on her face.


"No more than I always have. You asked me to talk to her."


"I didn't ask you to play games with her. She has a broken heart."


"And here will be a very good place for it to mend. Also, she will keep us all safe because like T'Veen, she's an excellent science officer. I personally want her on this ship."


"I'm not sure if that makes it better or not. Just...promise me you'll try a more direct approach when you want me to do something before you manipulate, okay?" She glances at the chrono. "I have to dry my hair."


As she rushes back in to use the dryer, he sits at her desk, thinking about what she's saying.


Then he walks into the bathroom once the dryer goes off and asks, "Did Raffi manipulate you?"


"Guilt trip central. In the most logical way imaginable." She meets his eyes in the mirror.


"Did Chakotay?"


"No." She puts on some lip balm, and says, "I'll see you later," then hurries out of the room.


He goes back to his quarters, takes a shower, and considers whether or not what he did to T'Vara was underhanded.


He did play her. But it will benefit the whole.


He decides he can live with that. But he will have to be careful how often he tries that shit with Seven.


Better to know that now than later, after he's pissed her off so many times she will be less inclined to forgive him.




Raffi's in the main cafeteria at Command, thinking about the things her therapist said, when she sees Jack come out from the food area to the dining. He holds his tray and walks slowly, as if he isn't the reason people were assimilated—as if a lot of people in the cafeteria don't know it.


She admires the hell out of him. She'd be popping into the grab-and-go to get her meals for the foreseeable future if she were he.


He sees her and she motions him over to her table.


"Are you on a tight deadline for class or would you like to sit?"


"We let out early. I uh, I'm just doing this because I feel the need to show the bullies they can't intimidate me."


"Then sit. And let them see that they don't just screw with you, but with your unofficial mentor."


"You're my mentor?" He grins at her and she sees bits of JL and Beverly in his face, but mostly she just sees Jack.


"Am now." She gives him the warmest professional smile in her repertoire. One that hopefully will say to the jerks: "Back off."


"Thanks." He sits and the starch seems to go out of him a little. He's a good actor but she can tell he's feeling what's going on.


"Have you seen a therapist?"


"Deanna Troi ran away from me my mind was so scary. Yeah, no thanks."


"There are others. Really good ones."


"And how do I know that they didn't lose someone because of me? That they won't mind-fuck me as payback?"


"If I find you one who's clean of all that, will you go?"


He thinks about it and nods. "It'd be nice to talk about this to someone who doesn't give a shit at the end of the day. Who's just doing their job."


"Consider me on it." And she'd ask Ohk, who is way better connected in Starfleet Medical than Raffi expected. "How are things going with your dad?"


He completely closes down.




"He's your friend. I'm not going to..." He shakes his head and seems intent on his sandwich.


"Look, kiddo. I just got out of a session where we talked about how drawn I am to cold, unattainable people. He's one of them—only not in a romantic way. Well, I might have had a little crush when I first started—anyway not the point."


He laughs and seems to relax. "Things are kind of...superficial. He loves to tell stories. He doesn't always ask a lot about me, though."


"That's just old people in general." Shit, did she just say that? So rude.


But he laughs and says, "Yeah, I think you might be right. I went to one of their poker games. If it wasn't nostalgia porn for when they all served together, it was people telling—some admittedly very funny—stories. But it's sort of like they're all on transmit mode." He frowns. "Which given I was the transmitter, I guess I fit right in."


"I think they receive too. They're just so used to having information thrust at them from each other that they may not be in the habit of digging for it. And if you're anything like me, the minute I think someone doesn't want to know, then I make it doubly hard for them to get to what I actually want them to know because I'm hurt, and I shut down."


"Same. Nice to know I'm not the only one. Peril of life feeling very alone."


"Amen. I used to live in the desert. Not off the grid but damn near. Paranoid—or so I'd been told. I was actually right but does anyone say, 'Hey, Raff, sorry we didn't listen?'"


"Peril of being a Cassandra." His look is sympathetic and she wonders how many times growing up he saw things happening but couldn't stop them because no one would listen. "So are you saying I need to be one of them? Just tell him stuff and see if he can hear it?"


"I am. Try it a few times. If it gets you nowhere, then you know it's not the approach, it's him. But it might get you somewhere that I think you really want to be."


He nods thoughtfully. Then he leans in. "Can I ask you something that is none of my business?"




He nods. "You guys are over now that he's got his memories back, right?"


"Yeah. The way I'm choosing to look at it is that I was actually making progress. Going for a straight up happy, fun guy. Now we have to disregard that he was an amnesiac who could get his memory back and if he did would not be that guy."


"And that he was with the captain."


"They weren't lovers."


"Oh come on. Even if they weren't sleeping together, they were together."


She looks down. "And you're wondering how I could do that to my friend? I know your girlfriend wonders."


"I think she's going to let that go now. None of her business." He looks a little fierce and she feels a pang of relief that maybe someone is on her side. "She's your ex, too."


"I'm not going to discuss this in any detail with you. But yeah, that complicated things. But it's uncomplicated and Seven and I are fine—"


"No, you're not."


"Fuck you, we are too."


"So you've talked to her since she and Liam...?"


She looks away, out the window to the fountain in the courtyard. "I'm not sure I see the point."


"Do you know where the line is between her being your friend and being your ex?" At her look, he raises his hands. "Don't kill me with those laser beam eyes. I'm just asking. Because I'm not sure I would."


"Well, yeah. Of course I do." Doesn't she? Shit, does she?


He has a very self-satisfied grin on his face.


"Oh shut it."


"I didn't say a word." He points to the sliced pickles on her plate. "You going to eat them?"


"God, growing boys. Why do I always end up with you?" She indicates he can take the pickles.


As he munches happily, she asks the thing she really doesn't want the answer to. "Look, I was an ops officer on a bridge."


"Which ship?"


"Excelsior," she says. "Anyway, I know how much of the dynamics between captain and first officer rub off on the bridge crew, how much they hear. How much they...judge."


"No one's judging you. They're just a little confused is all."


"They wanted her with him." She says it as the fact it is, not a question.


"Yeah, I guess. They were fun to watch fight from what I hear."


"And the crew felt safe with them."


"They feel safe with you and Seven also. I think it's that they think they can't enjoy the tension between you two the way they did with her and Liam. Because sexual tension is fun but angry tension isn't."


"I'll work on it." Although the tension takes two to create and she's not sure if Seven will work on it or not.


But she'll start building bridges. Because Seven sure as shit won't be doing that. Not after she was so careful not to make waves while Raffi was with Liam. She backed away and now the bridges Raffi builds will have to be longer and stronger if she wants her friend back.


And she does.


But maybe first she really should figure out where the lines are between friend and ex lover.




Seven smiles at the announcement on her padd. Naomi Wildman was promoted and Tom and B'Elanna are throwing a party at the beach.


The invite says, "Families and plus ones welcome."


Her hand hovers over the accept button. To help them plan the right amount of food and beverages, the invitation app will ask her how many in her party and normally she puts one but now...?


"I'll be in engineering," she tells Raffi, and the look on her face must be dark because she asks, "You okay?"


"Yes. A confusing social engagement. You know how I relish trying to read between the lines."


Raffi nods. She's been gentler lately, reaching out to help, not running off the bridge for more walkabouts the moment they are sitting next to each other. "Go," she says in an easy way, waving her off.


She rides the lift down, walks the corridors, wondering why saying she has a plus-one now isn't easy.


Liam is working with two ensigns—Alandra is one of them—and she smiles. He turns and looks at her then points to his office with a questioning look.


"If you're in the middle of something, I can come back, or you can come up when you're done."


"These two would probably love a break from me yammering on." He grins at them. "Take thirty. Let those brains rest. Get some caffeine, walk around, read your mail: whatever works for you. We'll resume where we left off."


They both hurry off—Alandra shoots her a happy smile. She was excited to be assigned here and Seven's glad.


Sidney seems fine with her sister being on the ship.


Liam is studying her expression as he waves her into his office and closes the door. He leans against his desk, while she pretends to read the idea board.


"What's up?"


"A dear friend has been promoted. The Voyager crew will be gathering this Sunday at Tom and B'Elanna's beach house to celebrate." She does not meet his eyes.


"And you don't know if you want to take me?"


She nods and turns so she can meet his eyes. "They know I was in pain. The main ones—the ones who matter the most to me. It might be too early. Whiplash."


"For them or for you?" He doesn't sound angry.


"Probably for me." She takes a deep breath. "I don't entirely trust you not to hurt me."


"I think that's understandable." He moves closer to her, but not unprofessionally close. "You spent a lot of time with them while Raffi and I were together, right?"


"I did. They were my...sanctuary. My support."


"Then maybe I don't need to be part of that. Not yet, anyway. Maybe not ever." His voice changes at that.


"Not ever would mean I don't ever trust you. That will destroy us."


"I think you're right."


"Everyone had someone. I didn't. And that would have been all right if I hadn't also been in love while being alone." She moves just a little closer. "If I hadn't wanted you to be there so fucking badly." She meets his eyes and they just gaze at each other for a long moment.


"I can wait, Seven. Go enjoy yourself." He frowns "The no-chemistry guy won't be there, will he?"


She shrugs in a playful way that she sees he likes—is probably relieved at.


"Well, then, that sort of changes things."


"Does it? You'd fight for me?"




"He's a hologram."


"Gonna be hard to connect if he doesn't want a punch to land, but okay."


"He's also not a fighter."


"Well, neither am I." He grins at her. "Unless you count arguing with you." He calls for privacy and the windows darken.


He smooths her hair off her cheeks and kisses her gently. "I'll go if you want me to or I'll stay here if you want me to. Your call."


"The Liam I knew—the Liam I betrayed—he wouldn't hurt me. But I did betray you and then I lost you and then I lost you again even though I'd brought you back. And I'm not sure I can deal with one more loss."


He wraps her in his arms, rocking slightly. "Then I think it's incumbent on me to make sure that you are very, very secure with me."


"But I still want to argue."


"I think that's a given, hon'."


She laughs. Then she pulls him down and kisses him far more viciously than she intends to. She runs her finger over his lips when she pulls away. "I'm sorry. I think I'm really mad."


"You're human. Of course you're really mad."


"It's really deep though. I push things that hurt me—my parents, Kathryn when I took Chakotay from her, Icheb's death, my reassimilation—way down."


"We all have baggage."


"But I'm a really good packer. It's vacuum sealed and on the lowest shelf."


"Would you be willing to meet with Agnes? Us together. Open up. See the damage we both know about each other—only really feel it?"


"She's created a monster. And yes. Maybe we can go to her. I'd like to see the collective in action. The weekend after next? I'll call her, see if we can stay over?"


He nods. "In the meantime, go to your party and have a good time." He kisses her quickly then restores the windows to normal privacy levels.


He smiles at her guilelessly and she says, "I think I'll put your name down as my plus one. If you want...?"


"I want."


"Okay." She glances out at engineering. No one seems to be watching them but after years on the bridge, she knows how carefully people can observe without appearing to. "I'll let you get back to it before I ruin your reputation."


She realizes Raffi might have been down here. The privacy might have been set on for her too.


He wisely does not mention that.






He's in his quarters, at his desk with Seven as he shows her the various ways he—and B'Elanna and Geordi: everyone seems to want to be part of this even if from a distance—plan to integrate the Jurati tech into the engines. He reaches for another padd just as his terminal goes off.


He sees it's his father and answers it, pulling Seven into the frame.


Carolyn isn't on screen and he immediately feels bad. "Dad, I remember everything. If Carolyn's there, have her come back and I'll make a total fool of myself apologizing."


"You were mean, Liam," sounds from off screen.


"He was mean to me too if it's any consolation," Seven says and Carolyn peeks around and says, "Oh, thank goodness you're with him. He really must be back to normal."


"I wasn't mean to you, Seven. I didn't know you." He knows he sounds pissed because his father gives him a warning look, and his father is a master at how not to annoy the fuck out of his woman.


"He was a dick," Seven says, resolutely facing the screen, not him.


Carolyn makes a face. "Well, I believe her, young man."


He gets an enormous kick out of how he'll always be young man to her even when his hair goes completely gray. "Yes, ma'am. I'm very, very sorry. In my defense, I'd lost five years."


"Yes, your father explained. But..." She takes a deep breath as she sits next to his father. "Well, bygones as they say, right?"


Seven raises an eyebrow and he gently elbows her. "Do not escalate this, darling."


She laughs at the twist he's put on the endearment. He likes that laugh. It sounds like the before times, when they argued and laughed and did everything except what they probably should have, rules be damned.


"So you're sure he's not a changeling, Seven?" Carolyn has called Seven by that name even when he was calling her Hansen. Don't see why you need to call her by a name she hates when we're in private, she'd said, and Seven had given him a significant look of agreement.


"I'm really not a changeling, Carolyn. Ask me anything.


"Who's going to win the fifth at New Arlington?" his father asks with a grin.


"One of the ones you didn't pick." It's an old joke between them.


"A changeling might have overheard you two talking." Carolyn has always been the tougher of them. "You once told me that you thought Seven had the most beautiful...?"


"It better not have been breasts," Seven mutters, then says a little louder. "And eyes are so predictable."


"Soul." He glares at her. "Like I don't have depths? Jeez."


Carolyn grins. "I knew he was in love with you when he said that. Boys only talk about souls when they're really gone."


"So do I pass? Am I me?"


Carolyn nods. "I'll forgive you. The you of five years ago had just lost your momma. And I recognize how hard that would be on you."


"You're a good woman, Carolyn." He frowns. "Did you guys need something?"


"Just to make sure my boy wasn't a goo-person." His father grins. "Seems like you're not. Hope the fact that you're sitting that close means he's with you, Captain Seven."


"I've taken him on a trial basis."


"Excellent thinking. Keep him on his toes." Carolyn waves to both of them and cuts the connection.


"She's so good at that," Shaw says with a grin. "Usually Dad just hems and haws and can't find a decent way to say goodbye and hang up to save his life." He turns and says, "Kiss me."




"Because I said so. Jeez." He pouts until she moves in and kisses him, a nice, long, extremely arousing kiss."


"She said to keep you on your toes. I just did." She crawls on top of him, straddling him, but not making any move to take off clothes, just kissing him, only now its gentle, connective kisses. And he kisses her back and lets her set the tempo, the mood.


He'd be happy kissing her for hours. "I was forgetting so much more than just being a captain. You. Them. The good things I've actually done. Not being a dick when she came into his life was a big one. He was unsure how I'd feel about him moving on."


"You're a good guy at heart. It's why I fell for you. The prickly exterior, the gooey inside, the oh so brilliant brain."


"And my dashing good looks." He's laughing as he says it.


"They certainly do not hurt."


He knows he has to address something before it becomes a festering wound between them. "I could have called you Seven."


She lifts an eyebrow but remains silent.


"At first, when I felt like you were shoved down my throat, I was going to be damned if I'd call you by a Borg designation."


"But later?"


"Later, I was just being stubborn. And I didn't want to admit how big an asshole I was being."


"I knew what an asshole you were being. You have a mind like a steel trap. If you'd wanted to call me Seven, you would never have made a mistake when the situation called for actual rank and designation."


He looks down and nods. "I was being a dick."


"Shocking." She runs her fingers over his face, gentle but not loving exactly. "It's things like that coupled with how vicious you were with telling me you hadn't picked me that make me wary."


"You were sending me to a Borg ship."


"Raffi trusted me. You should have."


"I would have. But I wasn't me then."


"When I showed up here, I knew you weren't a huge fan of the Borg. Kathryn had told me you were a survivor of Wolf 359—but nothing more. Just enough to make me careful. But I thought...I thought you were the one captain who was giving me an actual chance. And...you weren't."


"You shouldn't have found out that way."


"I didn't. I asked Kathryn right after I brought you back."


He loves that she'll give him that. Not make him feel more of a schmuck than he already does.


She has tears in her eyes but she blinks them away. "But I already knew deep down because I tried to resign before Tuvok showed me my review. I knew in my gut that you didn't believe in me."


"But that review—"


She kisses him hard, shutting him up, then eases up, her hands in his hair. "I'm still talking."


"Sorry. Go on."


"And then I saw your review. You did believe in me."


"I did." He smooths back her hair. "I really, really did. That's why it hurt so much when you..." He doesn't want to talk about the betrayal.


"We need to be honest going forward. If I'd known how you felt about me—Liam, a review isn't the first time I should know you considered me captain material."


He rubs his eyes. "I know. I was in love with you. I wasn't sure how you felt. I knew I was being a dick about your name. I was trying to not make you uncomfortable so I kneejerked the other way." He laughs softly. "I guess honesty would have been nice. If not about how I felt—because that really is a can of worms and what if it had been unwelcome—then about how I felt about your potential. The amazing officer I knew you were."


"It would have meant the world coming from you. Picard and Janeway are dear to me, as you know, but they are..."




She grins as she nods. "You're a cautious man. You understand how to motivate people beyond 'World is in peril, onward into hell!'"


He laughs at that, a bark of true amusement he couldn't call back if he wanted to. "Yeah, that's not one of my catchphrases."


"I want to be somewhere in the middle. I want to inspire a cook to take the helm—"


"Still can't believe you did that." He shakes his head in pure fucking admiration at her chutzpah.


"But I want to keep people safe too. Always look out for them. Never forget who's making this big, beautiful ship work."


"I think—I think you'll be that. I very much want to watch as you do."


She kisses him tenderly then slips off him back to the chair, and he brings up the schematics. Without missing a beat she studies it, then points to one of the weirder things B'Elanna wants to try with the new tech. "What the hell is this?"


Just before launching into the overall premise of what they're doing with this, he kisses her and says, "You really are the perfect woman."




Raffi wakes to her terminal going off. It's Elnor and she grins at him. "Hey, you."


"Hey, you." His smile is as sweet as ever. "Our ship got called back unexpectedly. I'm here if you want to get together."


"When and where?"


"Uh, now and wherever they do the best breakfasts."


She laughs. "I just woke up. Give me ten to shower and get to Command. Where are you?"


"Sitting outside in real sunshine."


She laughs. She knows his favorite spot. "I'll be there in a few."


Then she realizes she isn't sure she can be. She comms Seven. "Raffi to Seven."


"Hey, Raff."


"Elnor's in town. I know you'll be off tomorrow. Can I—"


"Go. I've got things. Take the day."


"Thank you."


"Tell him hello from me."


"I will." She cuts the connection, takes a quick shower, pulls on something comfortable, and heads out.


She finds him on the hill outside Command, sitting on a bench, his eyes closed, but he says, "I heard you coming." Then he is up and hugging her tightly.


She hugs him back with just as much gusto. "How are you?"


"I'm good." He's already turning her toward the path to town.


"And starving apparently."




She laughs. How does she get all these growing boys in her life? She walks with her arm around him, laughing as he tells her a funny story about his supervisor, who he idolizes.


He never seems to mind that she's so hands on, so...clingy.


She lets him go when they reach her favorite diner, and the proprietor grins at her as she leads them to a nice booth.


"How are you, Raffi?" he asks once she's gone.


He doesn't know about Liam. She never told him and now she finds it interesting that she didn't. Did she know? Even then? That being with him was only a temporary thing.


"I'm good. New post seems awesome. Interesting crew. Seven..." She falters there and mentally kicks herself.


"Seven is Seven." He smiles at the server as he puts down coffee and takes their order.


"What does that mean? Have we ever talked about how you think of her?"


"How I think of her...?"


"Okay, I'm assuming you think of me as sort of a surrogate mom. Is that a stupid assumption?"


"No. You know it's not."


"Okay, then what about Seven? Was she a mom too?"


"Seven is my friend. But she's...distant. Kind of hard to know. But I like her. Just...not for you."


"Wait, what?"


"You need someone who's head over heels crazy for you, Raffi. She's never going to be that."


"Do you think she might be that for someone else?"


"I'm not exactly an expert in love." He grins at her.


"Answer the question."


"Yeah. But I think it would have to sneak up on her. Like someone she served with maybe. Who she's sort of forced not to run out on."


She laughs. This boy sees everything.


"Yeah. She may have found exactly that."


"Then I'm happy for her. She was always kind to me. What about you?"


She thinks of Ohk. How cool she's playing it. How fun she is. How they spent a day together shopping the boutiques in San Francisco, trying on clothes, buying some of them.


It was something Seven would never have been caught doing. She grabbed what she needed if she was in a store and trusted it to fit—and it usually did—or she replicated it. Raffi thinks her aversion to shopping is partly because she views it as a waste of time and partly because of the Borg implants and how people react to them.


The Annika Hansen of that horrible alternate timeline probably loved shopping.


"There's someone on the ship. In medical. Which is conveniently not my purview to manage."


"I'd like to meet...her?"


"Yes, her. But it's new.


"I'd like to meet her—when you're ready for me too."


"I'd like that too, Elnor."




Seven is tired of waiting for Liam so she walks down to his quarters and rings for access.


"Come," he says.


She finds him in a pair of shorts and no shirt. "You're missing half your outfit."


"I know." He sounds harried and she knows she's made him nervous about going to B'Elanna and Tom's.


"It's just a beach day."


"Mmm hmmm." He's shifting hangars back and forth and she finally takes pity on him and pushes him away, picks out a dark red t-shirt with some crazy logo that he wears all the time, and says, "This is you. Also you look hot in it."


"Thanks." He slips it on. Toes on some flip flops and slips on a pair of sunglasses. "Did you put on sunscreen."


"Yes." She's wearing capri pants and a tank. Nothing fancy. That's really not her style. She walks to the door. "Ready?"


"You don't care if I have sunscreen on?"


"If you asked me if I did but hadn't put it on yourself, you wouldn't be the smart man I know."


"Good call."


She turns around and walks out, and he hurries to catch up with her. "Okay, this is starting out well."


"We were supposed to leave ten minutes ago. But you couldn't choose a shirt." She settles her sunglasses on her head to keep her hair back until she needs them.


He stops. Her first inclination is to just keep going but she knows he won't come if she does that.


So she stops and turns to face him. "I'm nervous too. Can we please just go?"


He nods and they start walking again. She has pre-briefed him on who's going to be there if he doesn't already know them. She's not in the mood to dick around with the spacedock shuttles to the central transporter and just has the tech on duty beam them to the La Jolla station.


She can tell she's throwing him with her mood and reaches out so he can take her hand if he wants to. He does, and then he swings it slightly and laughs as she slips her sunglasses on while they walk to the flitter stop and ride it to the stop nearest the beach house.


"I love it out here. A friend of mine grew up here. We used to surf." He pulls her closer, drops his arm around her.


She lifts her face to him and he kisses her gently. "I promise to be nice to you at this party."


"Don't lie. You promise to be you. That's what I signed up for."


She stops and strokes his face. "Yeah, that's probably more accurate."


She hears footsteps coming up fast behind them and doesn't think, just puts herself between him and the noise, pulling the knife out from her boot.


"Whoa," Kathryn says. "It's just us, Ranger Woman."


Chakotay is laughing so hard he can barely walk. "A new side of you." He holds out a hand to Liam. "Chakotay and you must be the infamous Shaw. Gotta be nice to know she'll protect you."


Liam is laughing too. "Ready, fire, aim Seven."


"Oh, that's a good one," Kathryn says. She studies him then looks at Seven. "Tell me everything's good and I'll make sure he's welcomed by one and all. Tell me he's a shithead and this will be the longest day of his life."


Chakotay nods ominously.


"Everything's fine."


"And if it's not," Liam says, "we'll deal with it. Admiral."


"Someone's got balls." She takes his arm. "I deeply respect that. The house is just ahead. Let me introduce you around." And they're off leaving Seven with Chakotay.


"Is everything all right?"


"It's getting there."


"You never protected me like that." He's grinning in the sweet way he has, the teasing that never hurts.


"In my defense, I wasn't a ranger then. I would now."


"I know." He holds the gate open for her to enter the compound and they hear music and laughter.


Soon she is surrounded by people she loves and new people attached to people she loves. She meets Naomi's family and Harry's wife and even The Doctor is there. With a very pretty woman by his side.


"Seven, this is Riko, the other designer I was telling you about."


"It's nice to meet you."


"Same. What a beautiful place."


She's pulled away, given a drink, handed food, finds her way to Liam and leans into him so they won't be separated as they find a place to sit on the deck.


Some of the kids grab surfboards and head out to the water and he puts down his food and asks the entire group, "Are they all used to the ocean?"


Naomi says, "Mine aren't."


And then he's running and she's so used to following him she does it too, and he yells, "Kids, hold up."


And amazingly they do.


"Nice boards," he says and B'Elanna's and Tom's grandkids beam. "Shaka, am I right?" And he makes this weird hand signal and they do it back to them. "Okay at the risk of being a buzzkill, I gotta know if you all know how to spot a rip current."


They all just stare at him.


"Because you're running right for one." He shows them how the water is darker than the surrounding water because it's unbroken, the waves seemingly disappearing between two normal areas of water. He walks them down the beach and shows them another area, this time with breakers but the water is really cloudy. "That means the water is running out even though the waves are coming in. It's grabbing the sand and taking it with it."


He walks them to the water's edge and starts drawing on the wet sand, lots of arrows and how to let the current carry them out instead of fighting it, how to swim parallel to the shore until they can get back in, how it won't tow them under, that panicking is the worst thing.


And he makes it in language they can hear, with such good humored energy that she can tell they are totally taking it on board.


Then he walks them up and down the beach, making them point out any rip currents until he's apparently satisfied they'll be okay and says, "Okay, go nuts. Yell for us if you need help."


He holds his hand up and every one of the kids gives him a high five and then they're into the water. He doesn't turn away, just stands watching them, and she moves next to him.


He takes her hand without ever looking away from the kids.


"I love you so much right now, Liam Shaw."


He squeezes her hand, then lets it go to do a wolf whistle for a particularly long run by one of the grandkids.


Tom and B'Elanna call out from where the property meets the sand. "Is everything all right?"


Liam turns to them. "How long you owned this house?"


"Five months."


"Ever lived on the ocean before?"


"A lake," Tom says as B'Elanna shakes her head.


"Yeah, okay, we're going to have a discussion about rip currents." And then he's taking them down to the water and doing diagrams in the sand and walking them on his "spot a rip current" test.


Seven stays on the dry sand, enjoying the warmth as it envelopes her feet, as she feels arms sneak around her waist, a chin on her shoulder, and Naomi whispering, "Oh my God, he's just yummy."


She laughs. "Yes. Yes, he is."






Shaw's kicked back on a double lounger with Seven sharing it as they watch the sunset from Tom and B'Elanna's deck. The party has dwindled down to just the bridge crew and Tom hands him another beer then says, "Lightning round on Shaw."


"Oh, goody," Kathryn says rubbing her hands together.


He rolls his eyes as Seven says, "I don't know what that is."


B'Elanna rolls her eyes. "It's an Academy thing. A stupid one." She gives him a look of support. "But it's been called."


"So it shall be answered," he says, remembering the response.


"Why'd you never call her Seven?" Kathryn asks.


"'Cause I'm a dick."


No one seems to have a counter to that except laugher.


"Why'd you forget someone that amazing?" This from Harry.


"Because he lost five years," Seven says. "Jeez, cut him some slack."


He points to her and says, "What she said. Only you're not supposed to answer for me but I greatly appreciate you being supportive."


"I don't claim this game. I'll play it how I want."


He pretends to be demonstrating a prize on a game show. "I give you Seven of Nine and her overall approach to life."


Again so much laughter, and he checks to make sure she's okay with that but she's grinning in a silly way—because it's fucking true and they both know it.


"Favorite place to vacation?" Chakotay says, lobbing him a softball and he grins at him and says, "Anywhere Seven is."


"Ooh, points for romance." Kathryn laughs.


"Which of us are you most afraid of if you hurt her?" B'Elanna asks with a seriously amused look.


"Uh, her, to be honest."


Seven laughs and he can feel her body vibrating against his as she hugs him. "Damned straight."


"What are your intentions toward our Seven?" the Doctor asks, and everyone goes quiet.


"You don't have to answer that," Seven says quickly.


"No, I do. And it's simple: I want to make her happy."


There's a mutual sigh of "Awww" from the group.


"For how long?" Kathryn asks.


"For as long as she lets me."


Kathryn grins at him and mouths, "Good answer."


"How's it going to be working for her—shoe's on the other foot?" Chakotay asks, winking at Seven.


"Interesting." He laughs when she makes a scoffing noise—he also knows she's rolling her eyes.


"What one thing would you like to redo if you were granted that ability?" Tuvok asks, with a raised eyebrow, carefully not saying anything too personnel related while that's definitely what he's asking.


"I'd make sure she knew her value to me as a fellow officer and a member of my crew."


Tuvok nods in an approving way.


He thinks they don't know that he remembers all the ways this game can be played, so he suddenly says, "Reversal. On Seven."


"What?" Seven says, looking around.


"Now you're in for it," Tom says laughing.


"Most annoying habit of our captain here?" Shaw asks with a grin.


"Thinking she knows everything when she doesn't." B'Elanna laughs as she says it.


"Refusing to accept that I do often know the thing." Seven is laughing too and he doesn't have the heart to tell her that technically she shouldn't be answering back.


Then again she won't give a fuck so...


"Sweetest moment you've ever seen with her?" Shaw really wants to know this and hopes Chakotay doesn't volunteer something sexual.


Chakotay winks at him in a way that tells him he's on the same wavelength and wisely going to stay silent.


Kathryn grins. "That's easy. Watching her with the kids. Naomi, Icheb, the ones who elected to stay in the Delta Quadrant."


The rest nod.


"I'm sorry you didn't get to see Miral grow up," B'Elanna suddenly says even though it's not really the game to comment on answers. "I'm sorry that more of us didn't threaten to resign when they wouldn't let you in. That was bullshit and if I could do the one thing over that Tuvok asked, I'd have fought harder for you."


"You were ex-Maquis, B'Elanna," Seven says. "You were on shaky ground too."


"Nevertheless. I feel like shit about it. We all lost touch with you. And we're not going to let that happen again."


Shaw meets Tom's eyes and they share a smile—this must have been what Tom was hoping for when he called for the game. There are layers to this prankster and Shaw loves that.


"Hey," he says to Seven as he realizes she's crying.


"I'm sorry. I'm just..." She tries to get up but he holds her down—and she's stronger than he is, so if she's letting him, she doesn't really want to run.


He kisses her cheek and whispers in her ear, "Let them do their penance. And it's okay to cry when they do."


She moves so she can kiss him, a short but loving one. Then she turns and says, "Thank you, B'Elanna. I guess I wish that too, but that time is gone, and now is all we have. And we're here, and we're together, and this idiot's with me." She laughs through her tears. "And...I'm happy. I'm really fucking happy. But for God's sake no more of this game, okay?"


She laughs a tiny bit hysterically as he pulls her to him, so he says, "Game is over. Who seconds?"


"Seconded," Tom says with a surprised grin.


Did he not expect him to be good at this game—and know all the rules? Him? Rules and Regs Shaw?


Seven cuddles into him, her arm over his middle and he wipes a tear off her face.


"It feels good," Kathryn says softly. "Being together like this. I'm happy too."


There are echoes all around the deck, and he smiles at them all as Seven stares up at the stars and blinks her eyes.


As she's trying to gain control, he says, "I suppose now we move on to spin the bottle?"


Napkins are thrown at him and he laughs.


Tom walks over to bring Seven some tissues and whispers in his ear. "Mood lightened? Mission accomplished. You're an interesting man, Liam Shaw."


"Right back at you."


"I foresee many nights on this deck." Then he leans in closer. "Only with Scotch. Good stuff."


"You're on."


Seven murmurs, "Are you two planning an affair?"


"Yes. You and B'Elanna are on your own," Tom says to her with a laugh, then goes back to sit next to his wife, who he is clearly crazy about even after all the years they've been together.


That's what Shaw wants for him and Seven. The long haul.






Raffi is in Ohk's quarters, sitting cross legged on her couch as Ohk tries dresses on for a medical awards banquet.


She has her hair down and her make-up smoky and looks so damn hot. "What exactly are we judging these on because as far as I can tell you look amazing in them all?"


"I want to look award worthy."


"But sexy or not sexy?"


"Slightly sexy is fine. But I don't want that to be the overall message."


"I like the bronze one. It hugs in all the right places but it's pretty demure with the cleavage and slits. And it looks amazing with your eyes."


"Bronze it is." She goes into her bathroom and changes back to everyday clothes, carrying out the many dresses she's modeled. "Thank you."


"You're welcome. Did you change in the bathroom because that's what you like to do or because you didn't want to parade in front of me in your underwear?"


"Probably a little of both," she says as she jams dresses into her closet in a way Seven never would have. Then again Seven owned very few things so her closet was a pretty wide open space. Raffi's pretty sure Ohk couldn't get the doors on hers closed if she tried.


Ohk sits next to her on the couch. "Are we at the changing in front of each other stage?"


"Some friends do that."


"Or everyone does in those godawful communal dressing rooms."


"I hate those."


"Same." She moves closer to Raffi, but sitting sort of diagonally so it's an easy sort of closeness. "I haven't even kissed you yet."


"Well aware."


"Oh, snippy reply. Is there a timetable I'm not staying in sync with?"


Raffi laughs. "No, it's just...I haven't wanted to be the one to make the first move." Which is sort of amazing because she usually jumps into relationships way too fast: witness both Liam and Seven.


"Do you want me to? I get mixed signals, I won't lie." She leans her elbow against the top of the couch and settles her head against her hand.


"I guess I have a question."


"You can ask me anything."


"Maybe it's more a statement. I'm afraid of getting involved with you and then having you change like Liam did."


"I have all my memories."


"But what if you get more? What if you're joined."


"Ohhhh." Understanding dawns and Raffi sees no discomfort—no defensiveness—just a willingness to explain. "I've aged out of the candidate program. And I wasn't a great candidate to begin with so even in an emergency, I wouldn't be their first choice."


"Oh, good."


"But I guess there's a non-zero chance it could happen. Poor Ezri didn't expect to be the next host to Dax. Are you willing to risk it?"


"I can't really answer that with nothing to judge by...physically. I mean you're so much fun to hang out with, but that could be as a friend and not more. So really without you kissing me, I can't—"


Ohk leans in, her lips soft on hers, her hand on her neck warm and rubbing in just the right way. When Raffi opens her mouth, she doesn't hesitate, but her tongue isn't too forceful or too sloppy: it's perfect. She finally pulls away and Raffi says, "You're really good at that."


"I really am." She laughs at her expression. "You also are really good at that." She runs her hand down Raffi's cheek. "I'm in no rush, but any time you're ready for more than just kissing, let me know."


"I'm ready."


"Then come on, lady." She stands and pulls her up, kissing her as they move to the bed, slowly taking her clothes off, getting to know her body as Raffi does the same. It's so calm—but not in a dull way, in the opposite of a frantic and tortured way.


It's nice and uncomplicated and then Ohk is doing things with her mouth and fingers that are light years from uncomplicated and she's gone.


And Ohk's grinning like crazy when she comes down. "I thought you might like that."


"Were your fingers like this?" She moves them into the position she thinks Ohk had them in.


"More like this." She adjust her fingers, which hurts a little, then kisses them. "My turn?"


"Oh, shit yes. But be patient, my fingers might cramp."


"I'm hyper flexible in my joints—that's how I can do it."


"That explains a lot." She kisses her way down Ohk's body, tries to do what she did but has to stop because her fingers do, indeed, cramp. That's okay, she has her own special moves and she does one on her and can tell it's taking her by surprise since she probably expected a repeat of what she just did.


She's not quiet when she comes, and she pulls Raffi up and kisses her and says, "Holy shit. You'll have to show me that."


They lie snuggled together, kissing gently and then less so as passion ramps up again, their various special moves and positions sending the other into heaven.


There's a lot of laughing. And it's not the almost bitter laugh that Seven has so often, it's just amusement and affection and really everything Raffi's been craving since Liam got his memories back.


Only she might not have known she craved it if she hadn't been with him. Tortured souls with dark pasts were more her speed before him.


It's an interesting thought. That maybe he was a gateway to a healthier place, not a romance that ended prematurely. Gateways are things you go through, not hang out at.


Ohk taps your forehead. "Big thoughts?"


"The biggest." She smiles, and knows it's uncomplicated and lacking in the neediness that used to drive Seven up the wall. "I really, really like you."


"I really, really like you too." She cuddles in and yawns. "You going to stay the night?"


"Is that all right?"


"It's preferred but I don't want to presume."


"Do you want to be my girlfriend?"




"Do you want to be exclusive?"




Raffi kisses her. "Then presume away."




Seven holds Liam's hand as they walk back to the flitter stop with Kathryn and Chakotay. Harry and his family are spending the week at the beach cabin and the rest of the bridge crew already left.


Kathryn winks at her then says, "What do you think, Chakotay? Did Liam pass?"


"If he didn't, I don't know what you have to do to earn that distinction."


"Not be a dick perhaps?"


"At least not to our Seven."


Seven's biting back laughter, wondering how long Liam will let this go on without comment.


"Gosh, I love when people talk about me like I'm not here."


That long.


"Oh, are you still here, Liam? Our mistake." Kathryn's voice is full of mischief, the way it only gets when she's with someone she likes.


That matters to her. That this woman likes the person she's with.


"So, I'll do?"


"Yes, Liam, you more than held your own. But it's why I sent Seven to you. Who else was going to keep her both in line and enthused?"


He puts his arm around her as he says, "Wait. There were others you could have sent her to but you chose me? Mister By the Book?"


"Yes. She was my gift to you."


"Not unlike when the Greeks left that big ass horse for the Trojans." Seven starts to laugh and holds onto him more tightly. "Surprise. Your gift is a pain in the butt."


"No shit." He pulls her closer and kisses her forehead. "Some fucking gift, Admiral."


"I'd say it worked out swimmingly."


"If you leave out the part where Shaw died," Chakotay says with an apologetic grin.


"I am leaving that out. And that wasn't part of the gift. That came from the Picard side of her family not the Janeway."


Shaw laughs. "That's for fucking sure. I'd have probably gone to the Ryton System if you'd asked me, Kathryn."


"Well, I should hope so. I'm head of Fleet Operations."


"True, but even if you weren't."


"Aww, you do say some sweet things. Or are you just that afraid of me?"


"Little of both?"


"Honest, too," Chakotay says. "Seven, I like him."


"Thank you."


"Oh, he's all right I guess." Kathryn is laughing. "In a pinch he'll do. I'm sure I could set you up with someone better though."


"She may be right," Liam says to her.


"Fuck that."


"Well, he's certainly rubbed off on your language. Most unseemly."


"Oh, like you can't drop an f-bomb when it suits your purposes, Kathryn." Seven rolls her eyes at Liam and he chuckles.


There's a huge group of drunk students at the flitter stop. They are rowdy—not in a dangerous way, more an annoying one.


"I'm too old for that kind of nonsense." Kathryn pulls out her communicator and slaps it on her t-shirt. "Janeway to Rockwell."


"Rockwell here, Admiral."


"Be a love, Samuel, and beam Captains Seven and Shaw directly to the Enterprise and Chakotay and me to East Waterfront."


"You've got it, Admiral."


"Ah, the perks of command." She grins at them as they are beamed away.


They appear on their own transporter pad, the tech smiling at them. "Welcome back, Sirs."


"Thank you." As they exit the transporter room, Seven feels Liam easing his arm off her shoulders and grabs him so he has to stay.


"Sending a message this way, Sev."


"It's a message I'm fine with sending. You did say you wanted to make me happy. This makes me happy."


"Then this is what we'll do."


"Today was fun."


"It was a lot of fun. Thank you for taking me. I know you didn't have to."


"Thank you for going with me. I know you didn't have to also." She pulls him to her and wraps her arms around his neck, kissing him slowly and as sensually as she can.


"Holy shit, woman. You can't just do that in the middle of the corridor and expect me to be presentable for the walk to our quarters."


She knows her smile is wicked. "Think unsexy thoughts, I guess, Captain Shaw."


"With you right next to me. Impossible."


She really loves that answer. "Remember that pancake thing they made us eat on Surefa? How bad it smelled and it tasted just the same but to not eat it would have been an insult so we had to."


"Oh, my God. That thing was..." He looks down. "A boner killer. Good job, you."


She laughs. "I thought it might work."


"Shared memories—even of the heinous kind—are very useful."


His smile is so sweet she wants to pull him back to her and kiss him, but she doesn't want to have to think of something equally gross to turn him off again, so she minds her manners until they are safely in her quarters.






Shaw sees Raffi in the mess and takes his tray over to the booth she's at. "Expecting anyone?"


He knows she's seeing Ohk now. Knows and approves. Is happy for both of the.


"Seven gonna allow you to eat with me?"


"Seven doesn't allow me to do anything." He puts his tray down and slides in. "What's got you in a mood?"


"Thought I was going to see my granddaughter in a few weeks but they've postponed the trip back to Earth. Just feeling cranky about that I guess."




She nods.


"You're a little hard to find. I looked on Monday and you weren't here at the normal time, so Tuesday I came early and still no joy. Today I tried late and here you are." Ohk normally works through lunch so he doesn't think it's because of her.


"I guess I was trying to avoid this—giving Seven another reason to feel bad or mad or...something."


"Seven won't care if I eat lunch with you."


She just smiled at him like he was a big dumb fool.


"I'm serious."


"I know you are. It's adorable. So the Voyager crew—were they everything they're cracked up to be?"


"Yeah, it was fun. I guess you never...?"


"Well being the Admiral's stalker..."


He laughs before he can call it back. "Oh yeah. That." He thinks of how Kathryn put it, that there was a Janeway and a Picard side of the family.


Raffi is on the Picard side. Even without the stalking issue.


And he would have thought he was a neutral in this but then Kathryn said she sent him Seven—that she picked him out of other captains. So maybe he's part of the Janeway side too now?


"I had kind of an epiphany the other day," Raffi says softly.


"Epiphanies are good. You want to tell me about it?"


"The time I spent with you—maybe it was more than just a relationship that was doomed from the start. Maybe it was there to help me make a change."


He's intrigued. "What kind of change?"


"I have a history of being drawn to tortured souls. People as dark and damaged as I am. And in a way you without your memories fit that because of how you were reacting to Seven. But the rest of you...you were..."


"Fun." He sighs because he can remember how he was, how light he felt—when he wasn't around Seven anyway. How fun life had been before he let them promote him out of engineering.


"Very fun. Very...light."


He gives her the most gentle smile he can. "You think that's why you're with Ohk? Because you can be now? You're choosing the road less traveled by?"


"I do. I have no idea if it will last. If we're ultimately going to be compatible or not. But I'm having fun and she's having fun and that's sort of a revelation to me. A relationship doesn't have to be full of drama to make you feel complete."


He laughs softly. "I just want you to be happy, Raff. If it's with one of my oldest friends, then win win for me."


"I'm not sure how Seven will feel about us double dating."


He frowns. "You guys are friends. Why wouldn't she?"


"Oh, you mean because she has you now? She won so it's all fine?" Her tone isn't mean, more curious. "The thing is..." She shakes her head. "I think the thing is I need to talk to Seven about this part, not you."


"So I won't suggest double-dating?"


"Does she even know I'm with Ohk?"


He shrugs. Seven hasn't mentioned it but that doesn't mean she doesn't know. She might think mentioning their mutual ex will only rain on their currently very nice parade.


"Yeah, that's what I thought."




Raffi feels as if she's coming out of her skin sitting next to Seven without dealing with the issue she wants to deal with, so she murmurs, "Can we talk?" She doesn't need to add "in private" because there is no one else on the bridge—everyone's in training or leave and even if they weren't, Seven would probably assign them elsewhere since there are too many repairs and refits going on to have people at their stations possibly mucking things up by hitting the wrong button.


"Of course."


"Someone asked me recently if I knew where the line was between being your ex and being your friend. They didn't think we were actually friends." She stands and begins to pace. "I wanted to fight back, say we were. But...are we?"


"You're in the seat next to me, Raff." She says it as if that's the end of the story. First officer equals friend.


"Who else were you going to pick? And I know you—you would want to pick your own first officer."


"I trust you."


"Because you know me."


"Yes." Seven looks impatient, the way she always did when Raffi wanted to talk about the relationship.


"But that's because we were lovers, not friends."


Seven stands and walks over to the science station. She does that a lot, and Raffi thinks the spot represents more than where T'Veen sat—and soon her sister will sit. It's a place where she can indulge—or hopefully work through—her own personal guilt.


She turns and stares at Raffi, and the look isn't pleasant. "I'd have never taken up with a person you loved. Never."


"Right, because not screwing around with a current or former partner is what a friend does."


"That's right."


"But I didn't even know about him. We barely talked once you got into Starfleet. If I were your friend, shouldn't I have known about him? If I didn't know about him, should you even be mad that I was with him?"


"So I'm the bad guy no matter what?"


"Maybe there isn't one. But here's the fact. You were with me and you could never stay put. I'd begin to relax into us, begin to think what we had was deep and actually included friendship, and then you'd be gone again."


Seven looks away.


"How do you think it felt to come on board this ship—missing you as much as I was? Excited to see you again? And quickly realize you'd fallen for Shaw? The asshole who wouldn't even use your name? I gave you everything in my power to keep you happy and you fell for him. You would have died with him if I hadn't stayed."


"I know." She is looking down, holding onto the chair next to her with what looks like a death grip because her fingers are turning white.


"We're not friends, Seven. We're exes."


Seven sits down heavily in the chair and stares at the main view screen.


Raffi walks to her, crouches down and puts her hand on her knees. "I want to be your friend. I really do. Let's start now. Admit the romance is over—and yeah, you clearly already know that but I need to do it. Admit that there is a huge gap between being strangers and being two ex lovers still willing to die for each other, and I think we both would do that. And that gap is friendship. And for the most part...we don't have it."


Seven puts her hands over hers.


"I took your man because I wasn't your friend, not because I was. The part of me that is your friend is the small part that tried to make it hurt less for you."


Seven nods.


"Do you want to be friends? Or do you just want to be colleagues? And I promise I'll be the best colleague I can if that's all you want from me?"


She can feel that Seven's hands are shaking on tops of hers.


"Raff, before you, there were only one-night stands and people who were horrible. Bad choices piled upon more of them. You were so good for me. You helped me..."


She stands and pulls Seven up with her, into a hug. "I was your gateway to a healthier relationship. It might be easy to mistake that for friendship?"


"I have other people I could ask to be my first officer. People on this ship even. You're the only one I thought of. Because even if you were some kind of gateway, you are my friend, but it's possible I don't really understand what friendship is. No one could leave Voyager and most people held their problems with someone else in because they knew it was going to circle around that ship forever." She laughs softly. "Except B'Elanna, who is like me. Thinks it, says it."


She hugs Raffi tightly then pulls away. "How do two exes become friends then, oh wise one?" There is a note of sarcasm in the title but it wouldn't be Seven if there weren't.


"Take all the good things between us and build on it. Have fun with each other. And—God I can't believe I'm saying this—double date."


"You're seeing someone? Shit, a friend would have known that."


She resists the urge to make a sarcastic comment, just nods.






"Oh. Well at least we know our partners will get along."


"That's not why I'm with her."


"I know." Seven rolls her eyes. "Can we..."


"Wait on the double dating? Oh hell yes. I am so not ready for that. But...eventually?"


"Yeah. Eventually it could be really fun."




Seven sits at her desk, staring at Agnes's ship on the screen. It's in orbit around Earth as Agnes and her engineers meet with Liam and his team—as well as B'Elanna and Geordi—to go over plans for the tech being shared. They've had two days of productive meetings.


But the ship is also here so she and Liam can...share.


She hears him shift in bed, then sit up. She makes no attempt to hide the screen from him.


"Second thoughts?"


She turns to look at him. "I'm not sure how far I'll let you in. My default has been to run."


He pats the bed next to him and she goes to him, cuddling in. "Me asking for us to go to Agnes to help us was sort of a Hail Mary thing. I thought you were slipping away from me before we even had a chance."


"Because I wasn't sure if I could trust you?"


He nods and kisses her. "When swimming in cold water, there are two ways to get in. Take a running leap or walk in. Walking in is harder, you have to get used to the cold a little at a time, and you have all that time to rethink. But leaping is dangerous—what's below? Are you really ready for how cold the water might be?"


"Having Agnes help us is leaping?"


He nods. "I'm willing to walk in. After the party at Tom and B'Elanna's, everything changed for me. I felt like we're...solid. Am I wrong for thinking that?"


"No." She smiles up at him. "I've spent a lot of time leaping off the dock. I'd like, just once, to take my time. To enjoy the journey because as far as the destination—I'm already there. I'm with you."


His smile is so beautiful she has to kiss him.


"There's another issue I see with doing it, with letting her unite us." She pulls him down to her, on top of her, wrapping her arms around him. "That kind of unity...you can get lost in it. And then to have to give it up. What's left might not feel..."




She nods. "Also we might not want to leave."


"Yeah, I thought of that. To hear the collective and you at the same time..." He starts to laugh. "The Liam Shaw of five years ago wouldn't be worried he might voluntarily become Borg." He kisses down her body. "Maybe when we're much older, when the physical becomes harder to do, maybe then we let her give us that?"


She arches as he reaches the magic spot. "Yes. Much, much older."


He knows exactly what she likes and he's giving it to her, no games like they sometimes play, no making her wait for it until she thinks she'll go crazy, just generous and loving and everything she's ever wanted.


As she comes, he pushes into her, pulling her legs up around his waist, taking her hard, and then harder when she urges him to.


He doesn't look away, his smile a dangerous one, but his eyes gentle, and then he's going and she catches him as he falls, holds him as he breathes hard into her neck.


"I love you so fucking much, Seven." He pulls away and kisses her tenderly.


"You're mine."


"I am."


"I love you."


He runs his hand along her cheek. "I know." He starts to grin. "Yesterday, Agnes told me you would elect not to have her help us."


"She's not psychic. I told her I was having doubts as to the necessity or potential impacts of that kind of unity." She rolls her eyes.


"I told her the same thing." He frowns. "Should we have told each other first?"


"We just did."


"Yeah, but..."


"She's like our confessor or therapist or something. It's not like we ran it by everyone on the ship before we talked to each other."




"Still, yeah. Maybe next time, we start with each other. Now that we know it's not scary to trust."


He eases off her and pulls her to cuddle against him. "Not scary at all."




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