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.


by Djinn



There's a little cafe where I spend my day, and I wait and I wait and I wait. There's a bar by the sea, where I wait to see, if you'll stay, if you'll stay, if you'll stay.


Poetic, I admit. I'm working on my verse. Nothing else to do here when I'm off duty.


Oh wait, I'm not on Chaltok IV. I'm not waiting for a man I probably knew deep down would never come find me.


Did you really think I would just sit and...pine? Is that what you think of me? Is that all you think I am?


I was Tal Shiar. To be honest, no one who was Tal Shiar ever stops being it. So let's start again.


I am Tal Shiar. If a man fails to show up at a bar on Chaltok IV—no matter how lovely it is there—I don't just sit around waiting.


I go find him.


I fully expected him to die on this mission. But he didn't.


I fully expected Crusher to die from the wounds she so clearly was suffering from on her communication. But she didn't.


Given that they both survived, I fully expected to find them together.


And I did.


I've been following them around San Francisco for a week. I've always been good at this; they have no idea I'm here. I expected this too. Jean-Luc can be lazy when it comes to security.


She, on the other hand, has clearly spent those twenty years away from him on the run. She looks around too often to have lived in safety. She sits with her back to a corner of a cafe while he blithely turns his to the door.


I might like her, in some other life. After watching her for a week, I do respect her.


I didn't expect that.


What I also didn't expect was to find them with their son.


He even looks like the two of them melded together. He's got a lightness that is Jean-Luc on his best days, after perhaps too many glasses of his own wine. But he also chooses his chair wisely as if safety is paramount.


Jean-Luc looks happy. As if an adult child can fix all the things that were wrong between Crusher and him. Although, to be fair—and I am that—he and she never interacted after he confronted his past, after he made peace with abuse and abandonment.


And I'm wise enough to know that I would never have been in his bed if he had. And if he'd known where to find her.


Instead of choosing me as a substitute.


I didn't know at the time I was a substitute. I would never have settled for that. I thought...I thought it was love. That it would endure.


That I would give him the new adventure he said he craved.


I was a fool. But from the cautious look of Crusher as she interacts with him, she too has been a fool for this man. She looks every bit a woman in love. She also looks like she has her bags packed for when this love affair inevitably falls apart. Again.


I don't know if I hope for her sake it does or doesn't. It won't make any difference to me.


I come first or not at all.


He could woo me from here to the rose forests of Falla VII and I would still say no.


This is my last day to do this. The last cafe I will sit in while watching them.


I know there is a difference between satisfying curiosity and obsession. Between seeking closure and seeking revenge. I will leave before my thoughts turn too dark.


Oh, you think I'm not capable of that? That love would stay my hand?


When will you understand? I was Tal Shiar. Just because you only ever saw my viciousness used in service to Jean-Luc Picard does not mean it could not be a glorious weapon of revenge if I were in the mood to cause chaos.


But I am not. I haven't the energy for it.


They get up and I dip my head down, appear to any looking my way that I am enthralled by the book I have brought with me but haven't read a word of. There are so many brunettes on this world that Jean Luc will not notice me.


I feel his step through the threshold like a knife in my heart.


Why couldn't he have recognized me? A man who loves would have.


I turn to get up and see her standing behind me, leaning against the wall of the cafe, arms crossed.


How in the hell did she sneak up behind me?


"He has pictures of you in the house," she says, her voice more pleasant than the one I heard on the distress call.


The part of me that is angry wants to let loose, wants to pummel her into the wall, out the door, to lie at his feet. To say, "See. See what happens when you treat me so dishonorably?"


But she moves to take the chair across from me, letting me keep the corner, giving her back to the room. A gift—from one dangerous woman to another.


"He had none of you."


"I know." She studies me and I give her the same examination back. She will not win this if it turns into a battle of eyes, of who can stare longer. Then something breaks on her face. "Did he contact you at all? Tell you what happened?"


"Why would he contact me? I was his servant."


"You were more and I know because I've seen the expression you're wearing now for the last twenty years when I looked in a mirror." I see the caution in her again. The...fear.


She wants him to have made this right. To have treated me well. To have acted with love and consideration and some basic human emotion.


She wants that so she can have faith in him to be good to her.


At last a revenge that will only hurt him. "He did not."


She closes her eyes, but her mouth doesn't turn down, her brows don't knit—she is not surprised. "I'm sorry."


"But it's what you expected, isn't it?"


She shrugs in the most beautifully ambiguous way.


"Are you happy?" I will give her this. The opportunity to drive the dagger deeper into me and claim something good for herself.


"We're a family."


"That is not an answer." I respect her more for it though. Both because it is the truth but also because she could have lied and hurt me and chose not to.


"It is the only answer I can give." She meets my eyes and it is I who looks away first—I have seen her expression also in my mirror. "I'm sorry, Laris."


"Do not be. This was a reminder to guard one's heart around sharks."


"He is not a shark. Sharks have too much intention. He wounds without a thought."


I don't expect this from her. She isn't trying to hide a pain that she clearly has hidden from her son and Jean-Luc. "I'm sorry then for you, Beverly Crusher. Or is it Picard now?"


"No. It never will be. I love him but I'll never fully..."


"Trust him. I understand. Believe me." Under different circumstances she is the type of woman I would very much want to be friends with.


"But he loves his son."


"Yes, because he is a novelty. Give it time." Bitterness spews out from my words and I regret them immediately.


She seems unfazed by my vitriol. "Jack will be on a ship. Out of reach." Her smile could be Tal Shiar. "He will never get enough of him."


My smile is also Tal Shiar. "You understand him much better than I ever did."


"I understand him better than anyone." She pushes her chair out. "If you ever need us, we're at your disposal."


"I don't think he would say that."


"Then if you ever need me, I'm at your disposal."


"Thank you. I expected to dislike you."


"Ditto. But we're sisters of a sort. Linked by him."


"A rather unpleasant collective." I use the word on purpose.


She doesn't flinch. "Yes. Yes it is."