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 PG-13.

Life After

by Djinn



The officers' club was nearly empty, but then it was two in the morning on a weekday. Shaw walked over to the bar, ordered a glass of Malbec, and walked to one of the tables that looked out on the water.


During regular hours, these tables were never free so he slouched down and enjoyed the view while he had it.


He wondered how Hansen was doing on his ship. Only his ship was gone—she had the Enterprise and that felt right to him. He'd be the last real captain of the Titan. Let Hansen be recorded instead in the storied history of ships named Enterprise. She'd more than earned it.


He supposed he should get used to calling her Seven in his head but two years of referring to her as Hansen was going to be a hard habit to break.


Then again, did he really need to? He'd given her his ship and the recommendation for captaincy, and she'd given him nanoprobes that had brought him back to life. It was a fair trade no matter what they called each other.


He kind of missed her. He doubted that she missed him, not with Raffi at her side—and possibly in her bed. He wasn't sure they were together, but he was certain that if Hansen wanted her first officer to also be her lover, it would happen—regulations be damned. And she had Crusher there to make her laugh in ways he never would have Shaw. And she had the crew there to make sure everyone stayed safe and the ship flew true.


And he was in engineering again. It was why he was here so late. Working with line engineers on ways to prevent what happened with the Borg virus from ever happening again.


He was making the Fleet safer. Not from the Borg, perhaps, but from the next big threat. And there always was one.


And it was heaven. Being a captain had been wearing. This...this was like falling off a log only without the uncomfortable crash into water or less forgiving ground at the end.


It felt good. He felt good.


Only...it was a little lonely. He was used to having people around. It was why he'd come to the club instead of going straight home to bed. Hoping for company—but obviously at the wrong time.


He took a look around the club, to see who the other night owls were, and saw Admiral Janeway looking back at him from one of the other tables by the window.


Kathryn had to be here? Fuck.


He held up his glass to her without a smile, then turned back to the view.


A moment later she was sitting in the chair next to him. "Liam."




"It's been a while."


"It's been three days." Their meet and greet had been brief and cordial.


"That was business. This isn't."


"Oh, you mean since we had anything personal? Yeah, it's been a while." He tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice. His track record with women from Voyager was pretty iffy.


Although B'Elanna was a great boss. So maybe it was just Hansen and this woman.


This force of nature.


Who had ended up in his bed after one rather raucous winter holiday party and left an indelible impression.


He clearly hadn't.


"How's Seven?" she asked softly.


"Thriving, one presumes."


"You're not in contact with her?"


Did having her blood running through his veins count? He preferred to think of it as a simple transfusion rather than an injection of Borg tech. "Not really. She's"—he made the gesture for "up there" with his hands.


"Do you wish you were still with her?"


"I like my new job."


"That's not what I asked, Admiral."


He smiled. He liked his new rank too. "If I were to be with her, that would mean I was on the ship. Being captain was a privilege and I'm glad I did it. But I'm an engineer at heart. This is where I thrive. She was born to be in the center seat." And he truly believed that. Or he'd have never recommended her for captain.


"Good to hear."


"It's nice that you still are concerned with a member of your crew."


"I didn't mean it was good to hear about her. I meant it was good to hear you're not pining for her."


"Well, technically, I didn't say that." He grinned at her. This is how the whole hook-up at the party happened—their ability to banter as if it was ping-pong played by two particularly vicious competitors.


"No, I guess you didn't. Are you?"


"Yes, that's why I'm here drowning my sorrows in my beer."


"Your beer is wine."


"My beer-wine."


She laughed. "You're not in love with her? I'd heard rumors?"


"Well, if anyone is an expert on how to be in love with one's first officer...?"


"Ouch." She waved a server over and said, "Get us another round, Calvin?"


Of course she knew all the servers by name, and let a brilliant smile follow her command.


He waited for the man to be well clear of their table before asking, "So you're saying you're not in love with Chakotay?"


"I'm saying we gave it the college try and it didn't work. But, and I think it's important for you to hear this, that was well after you and I had our...encounter."




"Meaning the Janeway of now wouldn't have left in the morning without saying goodbye."


"Well it certainly made any expectations I might have had die. But then so would a glass of ice water to the face, which might have been kinder." He didn't give her a smile to let her off the hook.


He'd woken up to find her gone. No note. No comms after.


"Back then, I thought eventually I'd get him back. So I used people who seemed fun and amenable to a night of pleasure. You were one of them—but I...felt something with you and it frankly terrified me. And I had the feeling you felt something too."


She wasn't wrong.


"Of all the people I used, you're the one I regret having done it to."


"How many times have you pulled out that line? Sounds rehearsed." He smiled at the server who put down a fresh round, mostly so Kathryn could see he was capable of the expression, just not for her.


"Yes, well, I've thought of what I might do once you were back here."


"Is this about Hansen and Chakotay? Some weird revenge thing? Because I was never with her and I'm pretty sure she's not into me." He was being deliberately vague. He wasn't going to out Hansen's relationship with Raffi to the head of fleet ops if Kathryn didn't already know about it. "Or are you trying to make Chakotay jealous? Is he due in here at any moment?"


"Wow, you don't think much of me." She leaned back, appearing unconcerned despite her words. "I can understand that."


They drank in silence for a moment. Then she said, "You had just taken the center seat of the Titan and I was in fleet ops. What happened was rife with conflicts of interest and I liked you—I respected you. I didn't want anyone to think you were getting ahead by having slept with me."


"Okay, sure. Thanks then." If what she was saying was true, then maybe it made sense. If you also coupled it with him never having been the one she wanted to be in bed with in the first place. He wasn't sure he bought that she'd had any kind of feelings for him, though. "So you and Chakotay? Why'd it fizzle?"


"I'm not sure I want to tell you. I'm not sure I see the point." She glanced at him, her mouth going up in the one-sided way that he found alluring and infuriating at the same time.


"Humor me."


"I will if you answer one question. Are you in love with Seven of Nine?"


"No." He might have been in love with Annika Hansen, but she didn't actually exist. And it was a harmless infatuation because he never slept with people on his crew. And even if he did, she was so new to Starfleet he would never have saddled her with that innuendo.


She laughed. "Nothing more to add?"




"Fine. He and I fizzled because we're too different. He's gentle, even though he was the Maquis, and I go for the jugular, even though I was the quintessential Starfleet officer. Once the initial passion wore off—and it did take awhile—we were left with that. We fought differently. We went after things differently. I hurt him. He stewed rather than giving it right back." She stopped and took a drink. "I'm being very honest with you."


"I believe you."


"Do you like that I am."


"Yeah, it's just dandy." He sighed. What did she want him to say?


"So, would you like to get dinner with me some night?"


All he could remember was waking up, reaching for her because he definitely had felt something that night. Reaching for her, hoping to rekindle the connection—and finding no one.




"No." He took a last sip of wine and rose. "I'll get the bill."


"It's okay. I inflicted my presence on you. Only fair that I do it."


"Yeah, actually, it is. Goodnight, Kathryn."


"Goodnight, Liam."




Janeway sat in the auditorium with Tom Paris for the mandatory ethics refresher.


"Holy God, do they make this more boring every year?" Tom asked as he shifted in his seat.


"We have to set a good example."


They were talking in the near sub-vocal level they had perfected over the years. He'd had one assignment away from her when they first got back to the Alpha Quadrant, but had been her exec the rest of the time, rising as she did.


She knew there were rumors. The rumors were wrong and as long as B'Elanna knew that, she didn't pay them much mind.


"Setting a good example would have been us sitting in the front," he said.


"We don't have to set that good an example." She smiled and glanced down and over, where Shaw was sitting.


Tom followed her gaze effortlessly. "Who is that?"


"Admiral Shaw."


"Oh, from Seven's ship."


"Not how he'd phrase it." She grinned but didn't turn her gaze away. He'd actually said no to her. She knew he'd been interested in her that night they'd gotten together—interested in more than just sex. She'd hightailed it out of there in the morning because of that.


Because she'd been waiting for Chakotay, for the right time to come around for them.


She hadn't really thought she'd hurt Shaw. He hadn't really acted hurt so much as just...guarded the other night.


This thing with Picard—then dying. He may not have told her about the nanoprobes but she knew. She was head of Fleet Operations. She knew a hell of a lot. All of that had to have affected him.


"If I promise I'll ask B'Elanna to have him—and you—over for dinner, will you quit staring at him?"


She turned to him and frowned. "Is this bothering you for some reason?"


"Yes, because I want to play hangman."


She rolled her eyes but nodded.


He quickly sent a text message to B'Elanna who was sitting near the front.


Unlike the two of them, she really did like to set a good example. Janeway could see her stiffen when she read the text but she didn't turn around.


A reply came back. Fuck up my new admiral and you will both suffer the consequences.


"Is that a yes?"


He nodded as he typed in Understood.


Janeway smiled in satisfaction. Liam Shaw might think he'd gotten away from her. But she wasn't going to give up after just one try.


Tom suddenly elbowed her. "You might want to pay attention to this section."


It was on sexual harassment.


She rolled her eyes at him but she did pay attention. Shaw wasn't in her chain anymore. This was peer to peer. Yes, she had more stars but they were both Admirals.


And if he really seemed uncomfortable at dinner with Tom and B'Elanna, she would leave him alone in the future. No matter how fun it was verbally sparring with him, she didn't ever want to cross the line.


She took the padd from Tom and entered her favorite six-letter word into the hangman program.




She put it in the fourth spot and then let him run out the rest of his chances with other vowels and frequently used consonants.


No one ever guessed Phlegm. And she saved it for days she wanted to make a point.


She was smarter than the average bear. Tom shook his head, changed the language to Klingon, and entered a word.


She glared at him but had to bite back a smile. So quintessentially Tom Paris: if you can't win the game you're playing, change the rules.


Truth to tell, it was pretty much her style too.




Shaw rang the chime at B'Elanna and Tom's apartment, holding a bottle of his favorite Malbec as a host gift. He knew they liked the stuff, unlike how Picard had just given out his own homemade dreck and acted like it was something special.


He needed to let go of his anger towards Picard. But the man hadn't even bothered to thank him. For dying. For letting him use his fucking ship. For...any of it.


Tom opened the door, smiling at him warmly. "Liam Shaw, I presume?"


"Guilty as charged."


"Please..." He moved aside to let him in and Shaw saw Kathryn sitting on the couch with B'Elanna. "Oh, we love this one," he said, as he took the bottle Shaw was holding out. "What can I get you? We're drinking Scotch."


"That's fine."


"Hello, Liam," B'Elanna said with a grin he never had to try to interpret. She either liked you or she didn't as far as he could tell. If she liked you, you got a variety of smiles. If not, God help you.


"Hello. And wow, Admiral Janeway. Twice in one week." He glanced at B'Elanna and saw her look down.


Fucking Kathryn, forcing her minion and his boss to further play this out.


"Yes," she said, "I'm a sucker for B'Elanna's cooking."


"Liar." B'Elanna rolled her eyes and got up. "Speaking of which, I'm going to go check on it."


"I'll help you," he said.


"And leave our esteemed admiral with no one to talk to?"


"We can give her Tom."


"She's sick of him. Go sit down, Liam. I know you can hold your own."


He took the glass Tom handed him with a mouthed, "Sorry," and went to sit across from Kathryn.


"What can I say, Liam? I didn't like how things ended. And B'Elanna truly does provide the most amazing meals even if she outsources them." She grinned. "I thought neutral ground might be nice. Two happy adults supervising us." Her smile revved up a notch. "Although they seem to be hiding out in the kitchen."


"Can you blame them?"


"No." She caught his eyes and didn't look away. "You don't trust me."


"I don't trust anyone."


"But you especially don't trust me."


"Let me rephrase: I actually do trust those who've earned that trust. So I guess I have three categories. Those I don't know and therefore don't trust, those I know and trust, and those I know and do not trust."


"And where does Seven fit? I read the reports. She betrayed you."


He could feel his expression tighten.


"And yet you did not, when asked, rescind your promotion recommendation."


"She deserves the big chair."


"So she's someone you trust?"


"I didn't say that."


One side of her mouth went up. "I didn't betray you. We made no promises. We'd never even met before then. I left earlier than you would have liked."


"You seem to feel bad about it, bringing it up again. So maybe you did betray me?"


"We both knew what we were doing."


He had to concede that with a nod. It probably wasn't her fault that being with her was like working on a live circuit with an ungrounded tool. Exciting as fuck but ultimately foolish.


'What did you make of Picard?" She sounded serious and he narrowed his eyes.


"I was at Wolf 359."


"I know. I'm not asking what you made of Locutus. I'm asking what you think of Jean-Luc Picard. I want an honest assessment."


He tried to read her expression.


"I'll start, Liam, if this is such a hard question for you. I find him rather...sad."


"Well he's happier now. He has a son."


"I pity his son."




"Because he's cold. The man would freeze a normal person to death."


He leaned in. "Did you and he...?"


"God no. I like fire in my men, not ice."


"You think I have fire?"


She cocked her head and shot him a look that was so clearly "Come on," he had to laugh.


"Okay maybe a little fire."


She narrowed her eyes. "It's why you're so still. You're afraid to show anyone how much of an inferno is going on underneath that tight exterior."


He had to concede that with a nod too.




He sighed and gave it a moment of thought. "His crew is his family. They clearly are devoted to each other. But..." He frowned. "He's so detached. And I don't mean cold. I mean...it's like he just sort of floats the currents of his life and then grabs onto the shore when he needs to and wants everyone to gather on his island. Even if it's light years from where he or anyone else should be. But it's him, so of course they all do it."


"Do you think we could have stopped the Borg without him doing exactly that?"


He'd thought about this; Hansen had certainly argued that it had been the only way. "I don't know."


"Seriously? You go through all that he put you through, and you're willing to say that maybe he was right?"


He nodded grudgingly. "I'm by the book. I'd have had the ship in its place for Frontier Day. Jack might have been captured even earlier by the Queen, the invasion better organized, changelings undetected." Except that Admiral Ro had been on it already. So maybe not. "I'm not sure. I'd love to say that it would have been okay without Picard and his yahoos showing up. But I can't."


Her smile was very gentle. "I like that about you. I know how much you must resent him. And yet...you're honest and you're fair."


"At the end of the day, that matters."


"Yes, it does." She took a long sip of her drink. "For what it's worth, I don't think we would have survived without him. As much as it pains me to say that because of what it says about how naive we were to let the Changelings and the Borg get so far. We owe him."


"No, we don't. He didn't get courtmartialed or whatever you do to retired admirals. His son is now on a ship after abbreviated training. His people prospered career wise. No one owes anyone anything."


"So if he came to you with a problem...?"


"I might listen to it. But if it was something I could just say no to and boot him the hell out of my office—yeah that would feel good."


She laughed.


Tom walked in and sat down on the couch between their chairs. "Well, you two are actually talking like mature adults."


"Give us time, Tom." She grinned at Shaw and he found himself returning the smile, even while he tried to bite it back.


Damn the woman and her live-wire charisma.




Janeway walked down the corridors of the Enterprise and nodded at the passing crewmen. She entered a lift and rode it to the bridge.


Seven was in her ready room. Musiker—the woman who had stalked her and even now had a hard time meeting her eyes—had the conn. "I'll be in with Seven."


"Yes, ma'am."


She could have told the other woman to relax, that it was water under the bridge or some other such platitude, but she didn't feel like it. But she did smile as gently as she could.


Seven looked up and smiled. "Ship passing muster?"


"You know it is." She closed the door to the ready room. "I need to know something."


"Okay." She got up and moved to the replicator, getting them both coffees before sitting down at the table and gesturing for Janeway to sit across from her. 'What's up?"


"We never really discussed Chakotay before or when it was happening. That caused some tension for us that didn't need to be there and that I never want to have again. So I need to know: would I be stepping into something if I pursued Liam?"


"Liam?" For a moment, she looked seriously confused. "Oh you mean Shaw? I've never called him by his first name. Does that answer your question?"


She laughed. "It would if he wasn't so by the book. You could still have feelings for him without ever calling him by his first name. You did save him."


Seven took a sip of coffee, clearly weighing how much she wanted to say. "Obviously he's very attractive. And he believed in me. But...that shocked me. Did Tuvok not tell you I tried to resign before hearing what my fate was going to be after the Borg invasion?"


"No, he left that out."


"Well, I did. Shaw's recommendation took me by surprise. Our rapport was there but haphazard. I won't lie and say there weren't times I wasn't attracted to him, but..."


"But you were his first officer."


She rolled her eyes. "Coming from you...? And also, given what I'm going to tell you is the real reason, I don't think that really matters to me. Raffi has prior claim on my heart."


"You're sure?"


"You're not going to lecture me on being with my first officer?"


"I'm really not." If she'd just said yes to Chakotay in the Delta Quadrant, they would have been over each other and he could have moved on to Seven and not caused her to blow up a friendship. On the other hand, being trapped with an ex on a ship for an undetermined amount of time might not be a recipe for success.


Pff, things happened when they were supposed to. She had to look at it like that.


"So, you like him?" Seven was almost laughing at her.


"I knew him before you did. Found him...interesting."


"Because he's the first man who could hold his own with you?" Seven did laugh this time. "He can cut with words as precisely as he does with a laser cutter."


"I know. It's very attractive."


"Is it, Kathryn? Really?" She shook her head. "Acid burns aren't really my thing."


"Which is why you and I would never have worked out."


"Plus you prefer men."


"Yes, I do." She sighed. "So I won't be ruining this friendship we've managed to rebuild?"


"No. If you can catch him, you're welcome to him."


"If... What's he like really? I'm only seeing him when he's guarded."


"That is him. He's guarded. I think if you can get past the barriers, then you'll see the parts of him he keeps hidden."


"Did you get past them?"


"A few times. We were constantly arguing about my name, and I knew he had issues with the Borg, so it made it hard."


"I guess I'll leave out that I was briefly assimilated."


"Probably wise. He's...funny. Really funny at times. He cares about his crew—so much I think it was a burden for him. He likes blue steak."


"You say that like it's some kind of dealbreaker. That stuff is good."


"If you say so."


"Is he kind? Is he soft?"


"Do you mean is he another Chakotay?"


Janeway laughed and nodded.


"I really don't think he is. But there is a gooey center. I've just never seen it—only had tantalizing hints of it." She smiled. "When you find it, let me know how gooey it is?"


Janeway liked this new Seven, sharing secrets like they were two schoolgirls but fully capable of blowing an enemy out of the sky. "Have I told you how proud I am of you?"




"I am. And maybe you can include Musiker in our dinner tonight? So I can get to know her as something other than my stalker?"


Seven laughed. "For real?"


She nodded.


"I will. Thank you, Kathryn. For asking me first. I should have done that..."


"That's time long gone. And you were so young. We're here now. Doing it better this time."


"Yes. Yes, we are."




Shaw walked into his office and saw a bottle of Malbec sitting on his chair. The card said, "I've arranged a tour of the vineyard for Sunday. If you'd like to come let me know. - K."


She'd given him her direct comm code so he punched it in and typed, Do you even like Malbec?


Do you think I would give up one of my few free days to tour a place that makes something I don't love?


To achieve an objective? Yes.


You think so little of me?


On the one hand, sacrificing for the cause is admirable. On the other, pretending to like something you don't just to get a guy? That's sad.


I adore Malbec.


Fine. See you Sunday.


If it wasn't a winery he'd always wanted to visit, he might say no.


Or if it wasn't Kathryn Janeway, he might say no.


That it was both of them, how could he not say yes?


His assistant came in and updated him on calendar changes.


He found it very hard to concentrate. Shit, what power did this damn woman have over him? Maybe he should call Chakotay and ask for tips?


Or not. Chakotay had bored her. She hadn't come out and said it quite like that, but he could read between the lines and get the gist of it.


The rest of the week went by quickly and before he knew it, it was Sunday and he was waiting outside the transporter stop that was midway between their two apartment buildings. He sat on a bench with his eyes closed, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air and just generally not being on a ship.


"You look peaceful."


He opened his eyes. She was in white pants and a gauze shirt with a red cardigan over it and sandals. He'd never seen her dressed down. She'd been in uniform when they'd hooked up and the other night at B'Elanna's since it had been right after work.


"Do I meet with your approval, Liam? You'd think you never saw me naked." She held out her hand. "Although I am a good deal older than I was then—and I'm older than you."


"You were older than me then too."


"Yes, but I wasn't this old."


"Kathryn, women like you never get old. You just get more dangerous."


She laughed as she took his hand and pulled him to his feet. "Well played, sir."


"Just being honest."


"So some torches burn a long time?"


"Didn't say I was carrying a torch." He followed her into the transporter station and to the area where they could cut the line due to rank.


"Didn't say you weren't either."


A few minutes later they were stepping off the padd in Mendoza, Argentina. The air was dry and not terribly hot and she hailed a flitter to take them to the vineyard.


"It's been years since I was last here," she said as they rode out over the gorgeous countryside.


"Yeah, same. I love Buenos Aires."


"Me too. The tangoing alone." She smiled at him in way that was only half seductive. "I used to come here with Mark—my fiancé when I disappeared. He married someone else."


"I'm sorry."


"I'm not. He's happy. Who wants to wait forever—and we didn't know we'd back in seven years. It sounds long if you weren't on the ship but we thought we'd have decades to go. We were lucky to get back when we did." She had a strange look on her face. "Or I made our luck—a different me anyway."


He wasn't sure he followed her.


"Let's just say, temporal hijinks were had."


"Ohhhh. Really? So it wasn't luck?"


"I make my own luck, even when I'm really really old." She laughed gently. "I can't really talk about it. But...for some reason I wanted you to know that little bit of it."


They arrived at the winery and followed their personal tour guide, who was also the manager of the outfit, learning and tasting and having generally a good time. Their host left them on a lovely deck with a view of the vineyards, with a flight of wines and delicious finger food to go with them.


"To lovely company," she said raising her glass.


"I'll happily drink to that." He closed his eyes as he sipped the wine. "I like this one from the highest elevation. It's a little more somber."


"I like the juicier one. They're all excellent though."


"I agree." He studied her. "Why are you pursuing me?"


"Is it unwelcome?"


"Answer the question."


"Because of all the men I've known, you're the cipher. And you continue to be. I ran for my life that morning because I wanted to be with people who would not make me give up a future with Chakotay. You scared the shit out of me—your depths have depths."


He laughed. "Some of my depths are scar tissue. I had some tough years after Wolf 359."


"I can understand that. But most of that cipher is you. B'Elanna adores you. I can count on two hands the number of people that's true of."


"Well, she's a hero of mine."


"Am I?"


"No, Kathryn. Heroes don't run like hell. They stay and fight. Even if they're shitty at it and get shot and die and have to be resurrected with Borg nanothingies." Wow, way to make it into his story.


She looked down. "I know. But things happen when they're meant to, maybe." She sounded like she was trying to convince herself as much as she was him.


"What's really going on?"


"I saw you in the cafeteria when you first came back. Before our meet and greet. I felt... Well, I felt. Period. I haven't for a while. I work. I travel and give lectures. I have dinner with friends. I go to dinner with men who ask me but I feel...nothing. I thought...I thought maybe that's it. Maybe I can't feel that kind of interest anymore. Maybe I've had my quota of romance and sex and love." She smiled softly, a wry expression he found both sweet and poignant. "And then I saw you and I felt...alive again." She shook her head. "It's not fair to impose that on you. I know that."


"I think I should decide what's fair to me or not. You know I'll tell you."


"Oh, I know you will. Words are your speciality."


"Oh I don't know that that's my real speciality. Think back." He laughed as he remembered that night, making her arch, cry out.


She actually blushed. "Well, okay, but doing things really well with your tongue still covers words."


"Accepted." He tried another one of the wines. "Mmm, this one is nice."


She tried it. "That is good. It's like my favorite and your favorite found a way to compromise. To incredible result."


"Is that a lame-ass metaphor for us?"


"No, it was commentary on the wine. Not everything's about you, Liam." She tried not to laugh and failed. "I'll have to work on my metaphors. I'm used to people letting me spout off without critiquing my words."


"I'm used to people getting mad at being critiqued."


"Oh, I like someone who can keep up with me."






Instead of going back to San Francisco, they ended up in Buenos Aires, in a cafe drinking coffee watching some dancers on a walking street demonstrate the tango for a group of tourists. Janeway watched the way they moved, the sensuality of the dance, and smiled.


"It's like sex with music." Liam laughed. "And I can't dance for shit."


"To be honest, I'm not sure I can anymore either."


"I've always found it easier to dance with someone I've slept with. Is that weird?"


"Not at all. You obviously consider dancing intimate and maybe intimidating? Easier to do with someone you've already let your barriers down with?"


"I'll buy that." He reached out and took her hand. "For what it's worth, I've never forgotten that night."


"But you moved on."


"Mmm, did I? I've had some relationships but not serious ones. Friends with benefits more than true partners. I've been told I'm difficult."


"No. You?" She laughed and was gratified when he smiled. "Well, I've been told that too." Chakotay had said it, at the end. She didn't want enough, or didn't want the right things.


Always lacking.


He squeezed her hand. "What are you thinking about? Your whole energy changed."




"Ah. They suck generally. Unless it's one of those relationships that just sort of peters out."


"No. This was with big bangs." She frowned. "Big bangs we both caused, trying to get the other one on our respective pages when our books weren't even the same genre."


"Nice image. I like that one."


"Well, thank you." She let go of his hand. "I hate to do this. But I've got an early call in the morning."


"No worries." He paid for the coffee, then took her arm as they walked to the transporter station.


Just before they got there, she stopped him and said, "Just so you know, from here on out, it's up to you. If you want this, you woo me. I won't chase you. I know...I know this might be uncomfortable for you and I don't want that—"


She had to shut up because he'd pushed her against the wall and was kissing her. And it was the kiss of all those years ago, before she'd had her dream come true and found it wanting, before she'd felt the vitality slipping away in every portion of her life except her career.


She wrapped her arms around him and gave in to what she was feeling.


When he finally eased away, he grinned and said, "What were you saying about giving up control? Because uh right." He laughed and touched her cheek gently. "That was as good as I remembered, by the way. In case you were wondering."


"I'm glad."


He waited and she started to laugh. "Or..."


"Oh, is this where I say you were also as good as I remember?"


He nodded.


"Better, Liam. Even better."