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.

Unrelenting (Part 3)

by Djinn





You're in the quarters you assigned Liam just in case anyone from Alara's group checks on him. You expect he'll barely use these quarters but even so, he deserves his own space—it's not like you two haven't had your share of monster arguments when you weren't involved. You expect there may be more in your future—no couple escapes them unless one of the couple is biting back everything that hurts just to keep the relationship going.


You pace as he gets his stuff unpacked. Truth to tell he never really packed—it was you who did it when you moved into his former quarters. Packed it up and gave it to the quartermaster to hold until he asked for it. You would have left his stuff in your quarters if you'd had any hope he was coming back.


But back then you didn't.


Was that how Raffi felt? Waiting for you, hoping you would come back, knowing you wouldn't? Not giving up until finally she did all at once, taking the position on Excelsior and taking Elnor with her once he graduated the Academy?


Did either of them realize how much that hurt you? To come home—only for a few days but still—and find the place occupied by someone else.


You think now she wanted to provoke you into realizing what you were missing out on. To shock the system with a blow so hard that you had to admit she was what you wanted.


Instead you did what you always used to do. You ran away from the hurt. The only time you couldn't was with Liam, being trapped the first few months, being captivated the rest of the time. Wanting to impress him, wanting to get more of the moments when you two were so in sync it took your breath away.


You realize Liam has stopped what he's doing and is watching you. "I'm fine."


"The fact that you said that before I could even ask is proof you're not. You're just deflecting. I have a PhD in reading Seven of Nine reactions by now." He walks to you and pulls you into his arms. "What's wrong?"


"I want to run a scenario by you. I want to know what you would have done."


"Okay. Let's try one of these." He goes to the couch and sits, opening one of the bottles of Malbec you had waiting for him in a welcome home basket. "You want some, right?"


"Yes." You take the glass and sit near him but far enough away not to crowd him—not to make him feel he has to answer a certain way.


"Am I pretending to be Raffi by any chance in this scenario?"


You laugh, a soft surprised puff of air. He really does have a degree in reading you. "Yes."


"Okay. But, you realize this may not make me like you better, right?" His expression is even. This is him, telling you that you don't have to do this, but if you do, he's going to judge you fairly.


You've come to depend on him for that. Even if it pissed you off a lot of the time.


"I think it's important that you know what happened."


"Okay then."


"Can I kiss you first?" You're suddenly super nervous.


"No, just talk." He takes a sip. "Oh, this is a good one. Thank you."


"Your regular wine guy said you'd love it. It's new." You nod to let him know you realize you need to shut up about the wine and get to the point. "Okay, so what she said wasn't a lie. I met her after I killed Bjayzl, as you know."


He nods because you've told him about that. All about Icheb. Before you two were involved even. It's such a seminal moment in your life, you wanted him to know.


Maybe it was your Wolf 359? The day you traded hope for bad coping skills and revenge.


"Raffi was kind and sweet and smart and so tough. She made me laugh. Other than Bjayzl, who was a tragic choice, most of my lovers when I was a ranger were just friends who I fucked, you know? Other rangers, people in ports I visited often but not enough to settle down. Nothing serious. Some not so great in the long run. Most just scratching an itch."


"Okay. Does she know all this?"


"Yes. And before that was Chakotay. And...I always knew Kathryn came first. She did for me too—you're not wrong she'd be my cheat if cheats were allowed."


He pouts but also has a "Told you so" look on his face.


"But when it was clear she wasn't going to let either of us in, it just seemed natural to turn to him and vice versa. But...I started to feel things for him. Things I thought he felt back. Don't get me wrong, he was kind and fun and good in bed, but it was so empty when it came to going deep because at the end of the day he loved someone else and there wasn't room for me." You swallow hard. "And Raffi knows about that too."




"So, I have Raffi. But Icheb is really in my head after killing Bjayzl. Like he was when I first lost him. It was like I'd put him in a box for all those years and stuffed him in a storage closet decks away from where I was. So I wouldn't feel anything when I couldn't avenge him." You take a sip of wine. "I missed my son so fucking much, Liam."


He's sitting quietly, just listening, his face the one that isn't judging yet.


"And ultimately it was my fault he died. I trusted Bjayzl with the information. And I had to kill him."


"You didn't know what she'd do with that information."


"Still...that guilt will ride along with me until I die."


"Just out of curiosity, will T'Veen's death?"


"No, does it for you?"


"Yeah, if I was the reason you couldn't blow the lift."


"Even if I had blown it—and by the way it's not like there's a 'blow up lift' command on any bridge panel—they also came in through the back of the ready room, from the back lift. They'd have still gotten in and been leaderless. They might have killed all of us. Who knows what would have happened if Vadic hadn't been in charge? If you hadn't been there to calm me the fuck down—what do you think I would have done if I'd lost you? How reckless do you think I can be?" You know. You walked into a hail of weapons fire after you executed Bjayzl and didn't care what happened to you.


If you'd had to kill Liam the way you'd had to kill Icheb...


"Come back from wherever you just went." His voice is tender.


You meet his eyes.


"It's okay, Seven."


"I have so much darkness inside me, Liam. And I embrace it. That was one fundamental difference between me and Raff. She tried to escape it, I just dove deeper."


"I understand completely. And thank you for what you just said about that day on the bridge. I haven't ever thought of the situation that way." You can see he appreciates being able to. "I took us off track. Continue."


"So, I'm missing my son, she has family she will not shut up about that she lost because of actions I'm not going to go into but were ways to escape. And she's honest about that too. But her family is right there—they're not dead, just estranged. And I try to convince her to let us both go visit her son and his wife, but she won't. And I think it's because of how he rebuffed her—how she didn't want me to witness that happening again, to maybe think she wasn't the best thing that could have happened to me."


You're being careful to not specifically talk about her addiction. That's her business, not Liam's, and it was never a problem between you. "And then she got Elnor. You know who he is?"


He nods.


"He glommed onto Picard—I guess he'd adored him as a child and then Picard sort of..."


"Forgot about him? Wow another son he lost track of? Can it be?"


"That's not fair. He didn't know about Jack."


"Okay. Fine."


"Anyway, Picard died—sort of—and Elnor needed someone to love him and Raffi needed someone to love and they stuck like glue. And that's what I stepped into, all while missing my son."


He's sitting very still.


"She got him into the Academy and she wanted me to settle in with her but she was going back to Starfleet. And she didn't know I'd been rejected so she kept pushing me to apply."


His brows furrow. "Why didn't she know?"


"I never told her. Not until later."




"I don't know why, not at first. But once she was being let back in...after having some sketchy things on her record that I will also not go into, but when I had nothing negative on my record and wasn't welcome, it hurt." You look away. "She'd started talking me up to people. Maybe...maybe I could have gotten in if I'd put my wounded pride away, but I was damned if that's how I was going to get in." You laugh. "And then later that's exactly how I got in—with Kathryn and Picard pushing for me. But neither of them wanted anything from me."


"I get that. Believe me."


"So things got bad. I wanted to be an outsider by choice, not because they rejected me. I did retreat to Rio's ship and I did crew it with only a hologram. I went back to being a ranger, it was what I knew how to do. What I was good at."


His lips tick up and you ask, "What?"


"I think you liked it because it let you work out your energy—and maybe anger—while being in full control of your time. That's not a judgment, just an opinion. I've seen you when you're fully occupied and I've seen you when you're bored. You don't do bored well. I can't see you just waiting at home for her."


"I did it for a week. We were fighting in three days."


He nods but says nothing.


"I've told you some of the parts about the dark future." You had to after what Agnes said, calling you President Hansen. "I left out that Elnor was killed."


He frowns. "He's alive. He was interviewed with all the people who got off Excelsior before it was destroyed."


"I know. She got her son back because Q gave him back, because one of our party decided to stay in the past and he had just enough energy to give a gift."


"Did he know her?"


"No. But he knew me. And he was watching us, I think, as we worked to fix what had been broken in the past. I could say he brought Elnor back for Picard, but I don't think so. I think he felt bad for Raffi—because of me."


You can see you've confused him. "Q was all about tests, Liam. When I didn't have the implants...I changed. I didn't want to be with Raffi. I was basking in the fact that people liked me, strangers let me in. I felt alive in how they looked at me, the open smiles that went all the way to their eyes, the...admiration."


"That's completely understandable."


You love how supportive he is. But what's not understandable is that you left her standing at the bar at the reception—knowing how hard that would be for her—alone, looking so beautiful, while you talked to a group of strangers just because it was such a rush to have people like you on sight, not back away. You didn't even kiss her until you had the implants back. "I would have died after our fight with the Borg Queen in Agnes's body, except that Raffi begged her to save me, and Agnes interceded and convinced her to try a new way, and that's how the Jurati Borg were born. I was the first assimilated. But..."


You stop because this is the part you've never been able to square unless you lay it at Q's door. "I was saved but not assimilated. I was reborn but my implants were exactly the same as they were before. I looked in the mirror and I saw what I had been and then I knew—I'd failed Q's test. So she got her son back and mine stayed dead."


"Baby, no."


"Q knew me primarily because of his son. In his twisted mind there would be logic—justice—in that."


"But Elnor had just died though, right? Icheb would have been dead for over a decade."


"Don't be logical. I wasn't back then. I owed her my life though. I knew that. I kissed her and she was happy. I only wanted her once I had the implants back, once I felt half a person—but she was happy with that."


His eyes tell you he understands. "Part of you hated her for that."


"Part of me did. She wanted to know what it meant that I'd kissed her. I told her to let it breathe. Who says that after a long delayed kiss except someone who's not really back?"


"Jesus. And she took you back?"


You meet his eyes. "You wouldn't have, would you?"


"You want to make her the bad guy for loving you? For giving you a break since you were, for the first time in your adult life, not Borg?"


"No. I just want to know what you would have done. Would you have let me kiss you?"


"In the moment, I might have. Probably would have. But that would have eaten at me over time. I would have left you before you could leave me again."


You love that answer. You feel something inside you settle down at that answer.


"She didn't, Liam. She thought she could change me." You're sitting so still it's as if you've turned into a statue. You keep your eyes on the wine, on the floor, on anything but him.


"Do you want my opinion?" he asks very gently.


You turn to look at him. "Yes."


"Were you friends first?"


"Not really."


"So you were thrown together by circumstance. You found happiness for a while. It sounds like maybe you never talked about your problems, maybe talked around them?"


You nod.


"After Wolf 359, I started dating another survivor—not of our ten, from a different ship. We had the same inciting incident for our trauma so you'd think it should have worked. Only, it didn't. Because she fought her way into a shuttle off a boarded ship and I milled around with everyone else until ten of us were shot into space on an escape pod. I had survivor's guilt because I'd done nothing. She had guilt over what she'd been willing to do to get her and her section free. Our traumas didn't match." He takes a sip of wine. "I wanted it to work though. Even as I was telling her she couldn't possibly understand me and my pain."


You close your eyes and nod. "Part of me will always, always love her. But part of me will also always love Chakotay. And Kathryn. I'm not in love with any of them anymore." You meet his eyes. "It's different with you." You realize you're crying and wipe your eyes almost viciously.


He doesn't move to comfort you. "I know it is. You—this relationship—it's different for me too. I feel...safe. But I also feel like I'd do anything for you. Anything. And that's new for me. I usually retreat."


She nods. "Me too."


"Can I ask you a question, Sev?" When you nod, he says, "Are you sure you want her for your first officer? This hasn't been a stellar show of teamwork."


"I know." You sit still again, so still, so you won't have to ask yourself why you do want her when this has been such a cluster fuck. "She brings something that I don't have. Intuition about people. A way of looking at things I don't have. But she can translate what she sees, what she notices, what she's found out to language I get. And I can do the same. She has my back."


"Why, though? If she had your back because she loved you, have you ruined that with what you said in the restaurant?"


"I don't know."


"Do you have her back?"


"Yes. No. I don't know." You look at him helplessly. "But I didn't have yours, either, did I? With Picard."


He scoots over and pulls you to him. "We had our hiccups before we gelled. My advice, if you want it, is to give her another chance. But only one. She betrays you—us—again, and you find a new first officer."


"You gave me more than one chance. I gave you more than one chance too. I can't keep score, Liam. She's my pick or she's not."


His smile tells you he approves of that answer. "So which is it?"


"She's my pick."


"Okay then. Maybe try to work on actual friendship? You two were beyond awkward when she showed up on Titan."


You nod. "I didn't want to let her in because I was afraid she'd want more. She tried but not that hard—didn't want to get hurt probably. And who can blame her?"


He nods.


You lean into him. "You don't think I'm a bad person? For leaving her over and over?"


"I'm not really in a position to judge. I left that woman I spoke of over and over too. She just kept wanting to try again, try harder. Like we could find happiness if we just looked hard enough."


"It doesn't work that way."


"No. No it doesn't."




Alara is texting with Jean-Luc on a burner padd he got her. She can hear the Kirk android moving around outside her office but it does not come in.


It is used to her getting texts at all hours. She has set the alerts on this padd to match those of her regular comms so it won't notice any difference in these conversations.


I have Geordi working on this. So far, he's not found a way around the alarm feature but he'll keep trying.


She knows it's the height of irony that Picard is helping her try to find a way to turn off this fucking android. But ever since she tried to turn it off through the regular head switch—and earned herself a cuff from it—she's had a fire inside her to get it out of her life.


It had taken five sessions with a regenerator to hide the bruise and that had been a light blow. She had no chance if it ever wanted to really hurt her.


Trying to turn it off had also set off alarms somewhere because she'd gotten a call from her handler. "Do that again and see what happens."


Her padd pinged again. Don't lose hope, my dear.


Trying. Send me some, if you have any to spare.


I will. PO


She laughs at the sign off. Picard out. Her father used to sign off that way only with DO for Dad.


She goes back to work—at least there's always something to lose herself in. Especially now that she's seeing her role as something more than just a way to vent. There's actual governance to be done.


And she's finding she likes it. She's good at it. And the fact that she and Picard see eye to eye more often than not is throwing everyone else off. They laugh about it sometimes when they walk in the garden.


She's about to turn off the terminal and go to bed when she hears the strange hum of a transporter and Picard's android Data plus another Kirk are suddenly standing in her office. Both of them put their fingers to their lips and she notices the Kirk has his hand on a phaser.


She hopes it's set on stun. "Please tell me Jean-Luc sent you, Data."


"Why would Admiral Picard send us?" Data looks at the Kirk who shrugs.


"I don't really see how having another of these Kirk things around is going to help. Unless maybe you're not going to wallop me if I try to turn you off."


The Kirk grins in a way the android in her living room has never managed. His eyes are amused—true amusement. "You tried to turn it off?"


She walks to him. "You're..."


"The real deal. Only your sensors won't know that once I my cybernetic enhancements are decloaked."


"I understood very little of that." She looks at Data who is watching her in confusion. "Did Jean-Luc not send you? As hope?"


"It would appear that things have changed a bit since Data left Earth. You want us to help you?"


"Yes. I'm sick to death of being a prisoner in my own home. Of having to account for every hour. Of being used. Of being scared." She swallows hard and knows Kirk is taking note of that. "I don't know if you're really Kirk and frankly I don't care. If you can get rid of that thing, I'm all in to help you because I'm a Federation Councilor but at home, in public, anywhere but at work, I'm a goddamn slave."


"You do not need convincing?" Data sounds terribly confused.


"I was prepared to be very charming." Kirk is smiling but she sees what looks like relief in his eyes.


"I've had my fill of charming Kirk. Be the Kirk who mind-fucks robots—you were good at that, right?" She looks at Data. "Present company excluded from the mind-fucking."


"Of course, Councilor."


"Call me Sam. Look, if you try to turn that thing off, an alarm goes off somewhere in conspiracy hell central."


"I have a work around for that. We need your assurance that you will let this Kirk step into the role."


"You want to blow up the humans-only conspiracy? Be my guest. In fact, I'll help. They're a bunch of people who won't even show their faces running my life this way and using other survivors' pain and fear to fuel their cause. They're parasites. And I'm done with them."


"You know you can't tell them that, right?" Kirk smiles at her in a gently leading way.


"Well I wasn't planning on announcing it, no. But if there's a way out of this, I want it."


Data pulls out a padd and begins to work on it. But Kirk just stares at her, assessing, she thinks.


It's not her looks that he's assessing. She knows he's taken in how pretty she is, processed it, appreciated it even. He's looking deeper.


He sees who she is in a way Jean-Luc never will. It's not entirely comfortable because seeing is knowing what she's capable of.


"I won't turn on you. My future is everything to me. I've found something I'm actually good at. I want to be free to be good at it in my own way, not theirs."


"That I believe." His smile is gentle.


"Captain, I am prepared to impose hard shut down on the Kirk android, and engage your enhancements. Any instructions will be routed through me to respond to so the process should be seamless and trigger no alarms."


"And if it does?" she asks.


Kirk hits a button on his uniform. "Jarred, you still there?"


"Yes, sir."


"Stand by for emergency transport if this goes wrong."


"Yes, sir."


Data does something and they wait. Then he indicates she should go look and she opens the door and sees the Kirk android frozen in the living room. "It worked," she whispers.


"And I am getting the ping back that would set off the alarm if it were interrupted. I believe we are fine." He scans Kirk. "You are reading as an android."


"Just what I never wanted to be." He and Data share a wry smile—clearly this is a joke between them that she doesn't understand.


"Just to be safe, I suggest you stay in unless they order you out."


He nods. "Sorry, Sam. You're stuck with a Kirk 'android' just a while longer."


"I'll survive. Just get me my life back and you can stay as long as you want."


His grin is immediate. "No one saw you coming, Sam. Silly them."


Again she feels totally seen. And this time she doesn't feel judged for it.


He looks at Data. "Note for Agnes. Next time, check the landscape."


"And the other players." Data frowns. "She sees so much, yet not this."


"She's not omnipotent, not perfect." Kirk seems very far away. "And shifting sands are sometimes seen best from close up, not from the sky."


Alara has no idea what they're talking about, but she doesn't care. She just wants her life back and if this is how she gets it, she'll put up with a few conversations she doesn't understand.


"Councilor Alara, I will not be far. Sir, if you need me..."




Data calls for beam out and disappears with the Kirk android.


"Well, here we are, Sam. Fortunately, I'm great at improvising when a plan goes kaput." His smile is wry.


"You'll explain what you are—who?"


"I'm James T. Kirk. The second coming." He rolls his eyes. "Religion was never my thing. The second chance, how's that?"


"A clone?"


"A clone. Memories intact. Don't ask how or who did it."


"Pfff. How I don't care about but who...? Only one place to look: Section 31."


"You are a very clever woman, Samantha Alara." Then he reaches over to her face, pushing her hair away very gently where the android hit her. "Let me have a regenerator. You missed a spot."




Two lovers lie entwined, passion worked out, frustrations with others bleeding out with the expression of love for each other.


Two lovers lie quietly even though Raffi wants to talk about Seven and Worf understands she might need to.


When she finally shifts in his arms, he says, "You are processing what Seven said?"


"I should be done processing it by now." She truly believes that. How can this woman still haunt her? They were together such a short time if you count the actual moments sharing space and not the time spent trying to repair, to rejoin, to release.


"There is a place for you with me if you decide you do not want to be her first officer." He knows she will reject the offer. But it will jump start the conversation she needs to have.


"Why would I decide that?" She does not ask him if he thinks she should and he loves that about her. She is her own person.


He would want nothing else.


"I do not think you should decide that necessarily. But...I worry you lack the rapport required for a captain and first officer." And he has seen several at this point. The easy rapport of Admiral Picard and Riker. The fierce loyalty of Sisko and Kira—although he knows they had prickly moments before he got to Deep Space Nine.


"I worry that too sometimes. She's changed so much since she put a Starfleet uniform on. Why would that change her?"


"I think it would be beneficial to consider her three different people. The one who was with Janeway was perhaps Kurzon Dax. The one who was with the Rangers was Jadzia. And the one allowed into Starfleet suddenly and without warning after wanting it then pushing it away?"


"Was Ezri." She smiles, loving that he is putting it in such terms, making this about both of them instead of just her problem. "The residual sentiment." The way he said it has stuck with her. She shifts so she can really see his face. "How did you work with her—after having loved her?"


"I had to admit the woman I loved was gone. I had to admit the new woman was in love with someone who not only was not me, but also was not someone I particularly liked or respected."


"Wow. This really is that. I do not like Liam."


"Unlike with Bashir, who I am not sure truly loved Ezri for herself but rather for the fact that he never got Jadzia, Shaw only sees Seven of Nine. His Seven of Nine."


"His Ezri. He never knew the Ranger."


"No. She is yours."


And that feels good to her. That some part of Seven is only hers, never Shaw's.


"They're solid, aren't they, Worf?"


"They are. For whatever reason, they work."


"Why do you think I don't like him so much?" She laughs and nuzzles into him and he pulls her close, not minding that she is working the last of Seven of Nine out of her heart.


True love leaves splinters sometimes. They do not all come out at once, no matter how deep you dig to find them.


"I know that whatever you feel for her does not impact what you feel for me, Raffaela."


"I love you, Worf."


"I almost wish you would leave her, leave the position, be with me. But I will travel, I will see you once the ship launches. You will never be alone so long as we trust, as we reach out."


"Very zen, big guy." Her lightness relieves both of them. It is how they started.


"How tired are you?" he asks.


"Who said I was tired? I was just giving you a break, old man."


"I will show you an old man," he says as he pulls her on top of him and goes to work on her shoulder.


He will repair it in the morning. For now, she will let him mark her however he needs to.






Alara walks with Jim through the gardens and see's Jean-Luc surprise when they get close to him.


"Councilor Alara," he says carefully, not giving what he no doubt thinks is the android any respect.


Ironic, given how he championed Data, but she loves the loyalty he's showing to her. Although it may just be caution, but she prefers to think the disrespect is in defense of her.


She glances at Jim and then looks around as he looks down at a miniaturized tricorder she's pretty sure is not Federation tech. Unless you count the Jurati as Federation, which she's not entirely ready to yet.


Jim hasn't come out and said it's the Jurati, but what other Agnes could pull him and Data into working together? And get past Section 31 defenses?


It probably wouldn't hurt Alara—if this plan, or what Jim's told her of it so far, really works—to make nice with the most powerful player in town. And make sure her contribution here is known. She'll ask Jim about the chance of meeting Agnes when they get home.


"We're clear," Jim says and his expression changes and he says to Jean-Luc, "No hello for me? Pull me out of the Nexus, have me play on the rusty monkey bars to stop a madman until I make like Humpty Dumpty, and this is all I get?"


She can see Jean-Luc's confusion change to a more delighted version. When he looks at her for confirmation, she murmurs, "Clone. Not android."


"With all my memories. Right up to the end." He smiles as Jean-Luc walks toward him, shakes his hand while patting his elbow, then steps back and says, "How?"


"Next time cremate my body before Section 31 can find me."


"Preaching to the choir there, my friend. They do seem to love to collect us."


"If Liam had stayed dead, he'd probably be in there too."


Jean-Luc immediately frowns and takes a step back. "Liam's on the other side."


"No," she says, "he was never on the other side. He was playing me."


Jim nods, quick to back her up, which she loves. "But she forgives him, don't you, Sam?"


She laughs because he's so much more fun to have around than that fucking android. "Yes, I do. I eventually need to get around to telling him and Seven of Nine that."


"So you're working with Liam...?"


She can tell Jean-Luc's being super careful—no doubt so he doesn't give anything away.


"Mmm-huh." Jim is taking a deep breath. "Night blooming jasmine somewhere here."


"Yes, yes, over there by the gazebo. Are you working with Liam's handler too?"


"Don't know who that is and pretty sure Liam is an independent contractor in this."


Interesting. He's not mentioning Data or Agnes to Jean-Luc.


Are these people actually working together? Or are there multiple efforts going on with zero coordination except for what she's doing here? Starfleet working at cross purposes with itself and other agencies has been a problem before and something the Council has set to deal with next term. Now she sees why.


Jean-Luc doesn't look convinced yet. He takes out the scanner he told her Beverly made him carry to make sure there's no poison in his food or drink—and to check for changelings—and scans Kirk. "I hate to break it to you, Sam, but he's coming up android."


"He's not an android."


"I'm not."


"And yet this thing says you are." He takes a step back.


"Agnes works wonders with tech. So does your Mister Data." Jim laughs at his expression. "Age has seriously upped your suspicion level, Picard. She thought it might once she gave me this tech. She said if I call you, 'Mister' and tell you that she's still being brilliant, that might convince you."


"And what did Data say."


"Something insightful and full of contractions, which he uses blissfully. I remember when Spock finally got the hang of those." He looks wistful for a moment.


"I admit I am confused. But I'm going to trust you."


"Good. Because we have a lot to talk about."


She starts to walk away, sure they'll want privacy for this, but Jim says, "Sam, where are you going? You're pivotal in this."


She looks at Jean-Luc, her eyebrows raised in a question.


"I'm more suspicious of him than I am of you, my dear. Please, join us. Or rather let's let him join us."


She laughs and takes his arm as they trail after Jim, who seems to be obsessed with finding the jasmine before they get down to business.


He's so much more fun than the android, but still a little weird.




Jack gives Sidney a kiss as she gets ready for her shift and heads straight for the mess. Even if Seven and Liam aren't there, he can snag some breakfast.


Liam and Seven are there, in a back booth, looking very comfortable with each other. Well, thank fuck, because he put up with the third degree from four annoying grown ups and one scary one.


Of all of them, his criminal side respects Laris the most. He was never taken in by her admittedly very sweet way with his parents—he tries not to think of what they're all doing. It's sort of, well, disturbing frankly. No kid should have to think about their parents having sex, even if said kids is grown up and said parents are really old.


Actually the really old bit may make it worse.


He grabs some food and walks to the booth, deciding it's safer to shove Liam over with his hip than his captain. "So, being on holiday for the first time—how was it?"


He starts eating immediately because he's found it's harder for people to kick him out if he's doing that. Also, if they do kick him out, he'll at least have gotten some of his meal.


But they better not kick him out. He had their fucking backs.


Well, until he didn't.


"Way to squeal, kiddo," Liam says softly.


"It was Laris. Have you met her?"


Liam gives him a stern look but Seven, to his shock, says, "No, he's right. It's hard to keep anything from her. Plus, former Tal Shiar are terrifying. Even more than current Tal Shiar. It means they survived to retirement."


Jack nods at her. "See, she gets it."


"Fine but we weren't on vacation." Liam digs into him with his elbow. "Can you go sit on her side?"


"No," both he and Seven say together.


"So what's the plan? I assume you didn't go all the way to Starship Borg to come back with no plan."


"You're out of it, Jack," Seven says. "Stand down for now."


He pouts. Shit? He's out of it?


Liam seems to register his disappointment. "Not saying you're done done. Just you're our ace in the hole. For sneaky stuff." He seems to think about that. "That doesn't involve Laris."


"Besides, Raffi and Worf will look to you first thing now that they know we trust you."


"Can I ask the stupid question?" He finishes his food and pushes the tray away.


"Did you just inhale that or was chewing involved?" Liam looks impressed.


"You try living on the run. You never know when your meal is going to be interrupted. And can I? Ask the stupid question?"


"I doubt it's stupid." Seven sips her coffee as she studies him.


He glares at her because that's not a yes, and they both know it. So he just blurts it out, "Why didn't they know? It seems stupid to have you guys working one side and those guys working another and me in the bloody middle, is all."


"It's not optimal, I'll give you that." Liam hands him his mug. "If you're going to hijack half my side of the booth, at least get me more coffee. Black. French roast."


Seven hands him her mug. "Same, Ensign."


He rolls his eyes but grabs his own mug and fills them all up and hurries back before they can ditch him.


Seven sips thoughtfully while Liam finishes his breakfast.


"Are you guys okay, at least? I mean you look okay but maybe I interrupted a break-up breakfast."


She smiles in the way he loves, the way she first did when she was showing him the ships. "We're fine, Jack. And we do appreciate your help."


"Mmm hmmm," Liam says, still stuffing his face.


"Now," she says, leaning in with a laugh. "You're always up here—and they seem to look up to you for reasons known only to them—anything I need to be aware of with the crew?"


"At least someone recognizes how amazing I am. And no, but I'll let you know if you do."




I'm working with Seven in engineering, and it's like the best of the old times, when she and I put aside whatever argument we were having and worked together on the engines. We pass instruments back and forth like always but now there's a softness in our tone that I love.


We're under a panel and she laughs softly then leans in and kisses me. I'm fine until she starts using tongue. "Sev, not all of me is under the panel. If you're going to do that, there's going to be evidence."


She laughs again and goes back to work. "Did you ever think of doing that when we used to...?" She's talking very softly; no one else will hear us.




"Me too. It was like I could feel your energy, how close we were lying, and I wanted to touch you so badly."


"And now you can. Just...not while we're under here if you're going to take it much further."


"There's not room to take it much further," she says with a grin.


"I hear a dare in that statement. Too bad this room's never empty."


"We could recreate it in the holodeck."


"Will lack the sense of danger being caught here will bring. But yeah, I wouldn't be averse. Just bring a regenerator. I'm too old not to have immediate relief for pulled muscles."


Another laugh is my answer.


Suddenly my combadge chirps with the tone that means it's from a Federation official, not Starfleet.


"Fuck," Seven says, not even going for under her breath. "Her?"


I shrug and answer it. "Shaw here."


"Liam, I need to come up and talk to you."


"On the ship?" I look at Seven who frowns.


"I'm bringing my android. If he were human, he'd be thrilled at seeing this latest version of his ship. We'll need your captain too."


Seven's frown grows deeper. I know I'm frowning too. "When did you want to come up?"




I look at her and she nods, and I can tell her mind is already whirling. "We'll meet you in the transporter room. Shaw out."


I pull myself out from under the panel and she follows me. As we walk down the corridor, I say, "Data said she appears to have switched sides."


"And he's got the android so unless she hasn't switched and the clone Kirk is dead and this actually is a new Kirk android, maybe Jim just wanted to see the ship."


"Maybe. Do we know why Data has the android?"


She looks like she knows but she just shrugs. I decide not to press. I'm still trying to figure out the whole Sam changing sides bit.


We arrive at the transporter room just as they're beaming in. She steps off the padd and Jim follows her but he immediately veers off to inspect the room, the panels, then knocks on the walls the way I'd do, just to see how thick they are. This is the real Kirk—or as close as we get with a clone.


"Give us the room," I say to the transporter tech, forgetting I'm not captain anymore until Seven laughs in a softly critical way.


"Old habits die hard."


"Yeah. And here's an old habit of yours right in front of me."


Sam's expression doesn't change. "See, the old me would be pissed. The new me understands how much you must hate me." Sam has her hand out to Seven. "I know you have no reason to trust me."


Seven doesn't reach back. "I really don't."


"How's this? I figured out Liam played me. And that he engineered getting back to you and made it look like he was going to be working for us, but I've asked him for no information. And I've told no one that he's not really on our—their side. He's on your ship, and I presume in your bed, and no one's after you. Because you can trust me."


"Or you told them to wait to take care of us until you say."


"Or that. But why would I come up here with a non-android Kirk if that was the case?"


"I did ask her to bring me up here, Seven. Couldn't resist seeing your Enterprise." He grins. "Tour? And then talk? Jean-Luc and I have an enhancement to the plan."


"Picard's part of this?" I ask. Fuck, I'm totally going to die if I participate.


Jim just laughs and pats my arm. "Lighting doesn't strike twice."


"That's bullshit and you know it. Lightning strikes multiple times in the same spot because the spot is a freaking natural lightning rod. Picard is that."


Jim just laughs. "I like you so much, Liam." He takes Sam's arm and heads out of the room.


"I guess they're giving us the tour?" Seven takes a deep breath. "We had a plan, Liam."


"Well, it's Kirk. Plans can get a little loosey goosey."


"Which you hated about Riker."


"I did say that, didn't I? Well Riker's no Kirk, Sev."


She looks up at me with affection. "He's no Shaw, either."


"And he's definitely not a Seven of Nine."


"We should go catch up with them."


"Yeah, yeah we should."


The tour is longer than I expect, especially given how much glaring is happening at Sam. The glares start for Jim but he's showing so much undeniable enthusiasm for the crew and the ship that the hostility can't be sustained. So they seem to double down on Sam.


"I don't understand the purpose of coming up here. We could have come to you with far more stealth."


"I'm not looking to be stealthy," Sam says and there's a new note in her voice, a note I kind of like. "Every time I defy my handlers by voting with Picard—and you can check my record to see how many times I've done it—they instruct the 'android' to punish me. Having been hit once already when I tried to turn off the damn thing, I'm glad Data is intercepting those instructions."


"And you'd regenerate away the evidence if you were punished." Seven sounds skeptical.


She nods. "This is me saying my biggest 'Fuck you' yet to them. Coming up here. But you notice I'm not giving an 'I've changed my mind' speech over the intercom."


"Yes, I have noticed that."


"Because I can only go so far in my little bids for freedom. Until we expose them. And that's what Jim wants to talk to you about."


"Well, go yank him away from his nostalgia tour or whatever this is, and let's go to my ready room." Seven looks at me as if I'm somehow to blame for all this.


I wasn't the one who brought Kirk back. But I guess it's hard to blame Agnes when she's not here?


But I am the one who goes and gets him and murmurs, "Do me a solid, Jim. My woman is not happy to deal with yours."


He looks confused for a moment then says, "Oh, you meant Sam. Well, by all means let's not get Seven any more riled up than she already is. You've got a handful with that one, you do realize that right?"


"No, I thought she was a meek little lamb."


He laughs and we join Seven and Sam who are not talking. I can tell Seven would rather knife Sam in the gut than talk to her.


I can also tell she's going to exercise restraint. She may be a handful, but she's not a stupid one.




You lead the group onto the bridge and see Sidney immediately bristle and shake your head before she can get up. With a quick movement of your hands you tell her to turn around.


She does, but Jack jumps up from the third chair. "You four need adult supervision?"


"From the Borg Prince?" Alara's voice is snotty as hell. "No."


You laugh bitterly. So much for some huge change of heart. If it wouldn't put Jack in potential danger, you'd bring him in just to piss Alara off. "We're fine." With a lift of your eyebrow you ask him what the fuck he's doing on your bridge, sitting in the chair that you do intend to be his but haven't told anyone that yet, not even Liam.


He, as always, reads you perfectly. "I was just leaving."


Mura turns around. "Orders, Captain?"


They're in space dock. What orders does he expect you to give? But Alara may not know that and he's probably trying to make you look more crucial at this moment than you really are. "Carry on with the old ones."


"Aye, ma'am."


Esmar's look should be burning a hole through Liam's back.


"Kova," you say almost inaudibly but she'll hear it—she hears everything. You fold down your fingers and lay your palm over your heart. It means "Trust me," in Jalaran, which you know they speak.


They turn back to their console. With a deep breath, you turn and lead the way into your ready room, gesture for everyone to take a seat, and then close the doors behind you. You do not offer them refreshment.


You see amusement in Jim's eyes when you sit down. He understands fully your message. Sam doesn't appear to be paying attention.


"Before we start," you say, "tell me again why we should trust your conversion. Especially after your snotty-ass comment to Crusher."


Alara meets your eyes. "You're just upset because this one"—she points at Liam—"was fucking me with great abandon when you would have rather he'd been fucking you."


"I won't deny that. But my mind is also capable of determining that your leap to our side of the issue is both quick and without an inciting incident."


She shocks you by laughing, almost hysterically. "No inciting incident? Try losing your autonomy. Try living with an android that threatens you and even hits you once."


Jim nods. "I cleaned up the bruise."


"I did most of it," she says.


"But you missed that part under your scalp." His look for her is fond.


What pheromone is this woman putting out that they all get so fucking fond of her so fucking fast? It sure doesn't work on other women because you just want to leap over the table and take out one member of this asshole humans-only group.


"Boo hoo," you settle for saying.


You see something in Alara's eyes and think it's respect. "I want my life back. And I want my new life—my new career, at which I'm finding I'm quite good—back."


Behind her Jim nods slightly, meeting your eyes.


Alara is just ramping up. "These assholes have one handler who manages me and their android—who is now, well, wherever Data put it—to keep me in line, a prisoner in my own place when they don't need an arm ornament for it. I haven't even been let in the organization I'm schilling for? Well, fuck that. I either matter or I don't, and in this case, I don't, so I want out. Because as I'm sure you're aware, the enemy of my enemy is my ally."


You lean back in your chair. "Finally, something that rings true. A self-centered reason."


"I'm a politician. And I'm finding I enjoy it. But not with hobbles and blinders on. I want to be free."


You look at Liam and he nods, the nod that he used to give you when you sent him an unspoken question of "Can we trust this person?" And his answer was yes.


"So what's the plan? I mean we had a plan, but why and how is it different?"


Alara looks at Jim, who leans in. "Jean-Luc and Sam and I have been talking. We all agree we're at a critical point. Far enough away from the invasion for people to want to go back to their lives if they didn't lose anyone. Far enough away from a human-only Earth to pick off some of the ones still holding on off, if we can just reach them."


"What did you have in mind?"


"A debate between Jean-Luc and myself. Only...I will seriously go off script. But..." He takes a deep breath, "We need Liam up there too. He staffed his crew with non-humans but his antipathy for Locutus is well known."


"By Starfleet. Not by the general public."


"Yes. That's where we'll hold it. The Starfleet auditorium." Jim grins in a way you don't like. "But it'll be beamed out everywhere. And that's also where Liam comes in. Working with LaForge and Data to make sure the comms can't be cut and there's a force field across the front of the stage so we can, well, avoid getting killed when they realize what we're doing."


"Have you cleared this with Starfleet?" Liam sounds his most "Captain Regulations."


"We will, Liam." Alara gives him a hard look. "Did you hear the other part. Keeping us safe?"




"I'll be moderator."


You can't help it. You snicker. "Your two lovers versus Picard?"


"Only we'll all make a bid for peace, for a return to inclusion, to working together."


"To IDIC," Jim says quietly, his look very far away. "Spock would approve."


She pats him on the arm and you check to see if Liam is the least bit jealous; he doesn't appear to be.


Liam turns to you. "Data's good, but we've got our own hacker here. Someone who can make sure they can't cut the signal."




"May as well bring them in too. It's time."


"It's long past." You turn to Alara. "And what am I doing while you play pretend debate?"


"Frankly I don't give a shit."


"Sam, be nice." Jim makes an apologetic face. "Jarred's going to be security on the stage with us. But we'll need you and Raffi, is it?"


You nod. "And Worf."


"And Worf to watch the crowd, guard the backstage area. We're still working out the details. We'll get them to you as soon as we have them."


Liam says softly, "Sam, you plan on leaving Miller alone?"


"Don't worry. I'm not after him anymore. I really don't feel like avenging the man who played me."


"Do you feel like killing the man who did?" Liam sounds less concerned than being on a fact-finding mission.


"No. I got to live out a fantasy. And your affection may have been fake but your passion wasn't. You're really good in bed." She looks at you. "Isn't he?"


You don't answer—primarily because Liam's hand is tight on your knee.


"Okay, before you two lovely ladies kill each other, let's call this meeting over." Jim stands, practically pulling Alara with him. "Seven. Liam. A pleasure as always. And we'll get you the plans as soon as we have them."


You get up and watch them go to the lift, not turning away until they are in and the door closes. "Seven to transporter room."


"Roshi here."


"Let me know as soon as Councilor Alara and her companion have beamed off."


"Yes, Captain."


"You want coffee?" Liam asks as he goes to the replicator.




"Roshi to Captain Seven. They're gone, ma'am."


"Thank you. Seven out." You close the door, turn to Liam, and say, "Computer, lock doors to ready room."


He starts to laugh as he puts his coffee down. "Fuck."


You stride to him, pushing him hard against the wall, holding his hands up over his head, using more of your strength than you usually would.


"Am I yours, baby? Is that what you're not so subtly trying to tell me?"


You tighten your grip.


"You know what the beautiful thing about you is, Seven? That no matter how pissed off you are, you'll never hurt me and you'll never force me? Will you?"


"No," you say but you don't let go of him.


And then he surprises you, not trying to get away, but using his body to move you back enough to turn you so your back slams against the wall. "You think they can hear us out there?"


"I don't know. To the best of my knowledge you were never doing this with anyone in here when I was in the second seat."


He kisses you viciously as you hold his arms up and tighten your grip. "I need my arms if you want to fuck."


"No, you don't." You hold on to his wrists with one hand and pull down his pants and underwear with your other, then you pull down your own as you ease him down to lie on the ground and get yourself positioned but hover.


You're holding him down with two hands again. "Give me permission."


"You have my permission to fuck my brains out, my lovely Captain."


And you slide down and you know he expects you to go fast and hard but instead you go slow, and you lean down and kiss him gently. As you let go of his hands and he pulls you closer, you say, "You fucked her, but I'm the one you love."


"You are indeed." He has the laziest smile on his face and you kiss the sides of it, then up his cheek to his brow, all while riding him slowly but inexorably. You can hear his breathing speeding up and he reaches between you and begins to play.


"I can go hard if you want me to, Liam? I sort of set that up and failed to deliver."


"That's okay with me. I know why you did it. And I know why we're doing it this way now. And I fucking love you. Whatever way you want to do it."


"I love you too. I wanted to kill her."


"I know. I've never had anyone so close to murder on my behalf."


You laugh because he's just delightful, the way he can cut through the tension, the pain, with humor that doesn't cut either of you in the process.


"How soundproof is this room?"


"No clue."


"I'm about to come."


"Me too." And he puts his hand over your mouth and you put yours over his and you end up needing it first as you writhe with him inside you, and then he's going. He kisses your hand as he comes down and you roll off him and lie on the floor next to him.


"Bingo square marked off for that. 'Fucking Seven in my ready room.'" He grins at you and you nod and say, "Same here."


"You're everything to me."


"You're everything to me too."






The ship is quieter than Worf expects. He never spent much time on Picard's ship when it was in space dock. Preferring to visit his parents, go back to Klingon on a quasi official mission, or take required training or personal leave.


A quiet ship this big, if he is honest, gives him the creeps.


Raffi loves the ship this way but even she is getting bored. Or maybe it's just how weird it is right now having to sit next to Seven—or not sit next to her. Seven spends a lot of time in her ready room.


And now both Worf and Raffi have been invited to that ready room, and neither knows why. Seven was not forthcoming. Shaw is on the lift with them as they ride it up after coming from Worf's apartment—Raffi rarely sleeps on the ship anymore.


He's annoyingly chipper, and Worf glares and Raffi asks softly, "Is this what serving with you is like?"


"Just looking forward to the showdown in the ready room corral." His grin is almost blissful. "Time to end this two teams bullshit."


Raffi looks at Worf and he is frowning. As the lift doors open, she expects Shaw to push past them, but he seems content to trail behind, a strange smile on his face.


As the ready room doors open, Jack is rushing around getting food on the big table. Worf notices his favorites. Jack grins and says, "Fortunately, my father knows what you like for breakfast." He winks and says to Seven, "Anything else you need, Captain?"


"No. Thank you." Her voice is warm and soft and it's clear how fond she is of this boy. Not for the first time Raffi wonders what kind of mother she was to Icheb. Not for the first time she also wonders why she couldn't be like this with Elnor.


Although Raffi didn't leave a lot of room, not once it was clear Seven wasn't going to rush in to be his other mom.


But it's clear she loves Picard's son.


The doors close and the atmosphere changes without Jack's slightly manic energy. Seven gets up and indicates the two seats she wants them in. She and Liam sit across from them.


Both of them decide that eating so they don't have to answer before they are ready—or can't answer in anger—is the way to go.


Seven and Liam look like they understand the stratagem. Without a word to each other, they both dish up plates also and go quiet as they eat.


Raffi's jiggling her leg and Worf puts his hand over it to stop her. He wonders if it is Seven who must calm Liam or Liam who must calm Seven. Then decides it is immaterial: they are a unit and to seek the weaker link would be a waste of time.


"So," Seven finally says. "This working on the same thing without coordination is bullshit."


Raffi admires the succinctness of her opener. She always has admired that—unless it was about something she's done wrong.


Worf expects it and parries with, "If you show us your cards, we'll show you ours."


"It's not poker, asshole." Liam's expression is stony. "Even if you played with my life like it was."


"You agreed to help."


"Yeah, after being drugged up and alone—taken away from Starfleet Medical. I could lodge a complaint against you."


"It would not get far. Beverly Crusher is in charge of Starfleet Medical. She would weigh in on the nature of your medical state versus your willingness to help."


"And Janeway outranks her," Seven says softly. "If you really want to play whose friends have the better executive bathrooms."


Worf leans back. Raffi knows it is a sign he has conceded, even if he will never say that out loud. She thinks Liam is reading him too. Seven just watches him, no anger in her eyes, no pain. This is a Seven Raffi isn't sure she knows.


This is her captain, not her lover.


The feeling should leave her adrift but strangely it doesn't. If she's going to serve under this woman, this ex, this almost friend, she wants to know she's worth following. And not just out of desperation for her love.


And this Seven just may be worth it.


So Raffi leans in and says, "Catch us up. We're here to cooperate not mind-fuck."


Seven gives her a smile that's new, peer to peer, professional affection over the friendship they barely had time to build before they became lovers.


Raffi returns it.


Worf sees what is going on with Raffi and Seven, the transformation. He approves but he is not sure he is really there to cooperate rather than mind-fuck as she put it.


However, for her sake, he will listen.


Also, Seven of Nine is correct: it is bullshit that they are working at cross purposes at this point. Especially if those two have pulled the Jurati Queen into this.




We watch as two of our scientists interact with two from Virald. They represent the collective well, their enthusiasm contagious, and we can see the other two are intrigued by the possibilities of joining us.


But they are afraid of assimilation. After this long, we can read them easily.


"Not everyone here," we say into the silence that has fallen, "is assimilated. Not at first—and never without their consent."


"In other words, a trial period is possible?" one of the scientists asks.


"Yes. Does that interest you?"


They have travelled far to have this conversation. They show no signs of being here to steal tech or try to hurt our collective. We have learned to read the signs in pilgrims when they are—sadly from experience.


We leave our scientists to get them settled in and are about to wander the ship, as we often do, checking on our children, when the communicator alert we assigned Jim sounds.


We scramble to answer it. "Are you hurt?"


He is there, on the small screen, his smile amused. "No, I just called to check in. Make sure you're okay."


"We are not the one on the mission." We frown. "Are you not worried Samantha Alara will discover you talking to us?"


"She's still asleep." His voice holds fondness for her. He looks away, probably toward their bedroom.


We ignore the pang this causes. We knew it would be so.


"She's not who we thought." His look is serious. "I think this will work."


"It will be a better world if it does."


"For a while, anyway." He sighs. "I saw so many times when we seemed on the verge of peace only for war to erupt again. I've read the history while I was in the Nexus and since I died. War, war, and more war. Fear is a virus, Ag."


"Yes. It is." We used to be the cause of fear and also it's victim. Agnes lived her life in perpetual fear of rejection. The Queen took no matter what. We have seen both sides.


We prefer what we offer now. But we also know there are still—and probably always will be—those who hate us.


"Hey, I found the jasmine you mentioned." He holds up a small sprig. "It was near the gazebo."


"We were not in the gazebo. Perhaps they have it planted other places." It touches us that he sought it out after we told him both parts of us loved the scent, that it made the conversations with the Federation reps over membership and the steps required so much more pleasant.


He looks disappointed. "Maybe."


"Jasmine is jasmine." Which is, of course, not true. There are over two hundred species of it on Earth alone. "We appreciate the effort."


His smile is easy, so much easier than we are used to. "What are friends for?"


"Did you need something from us, Jim?"


He laughs. "No. Doesn't anyone just call to shoot the shit with you?"


"Not as a rule, no."


His eyes are sparkling—we can tell that even through the tiny screen. "Well, I guess there really is a first time for everything."




I can hear her footsteps even though I think she tries to be quiet when she walks. Engineers have a special sense for anything new in the symphony of sounds that make up their space. Primarily because new sounds are usually a bad thing.


I stand up, move away from the desk in my office, because I don't want to be sitting down for this, lower than her.


This has been a while coming. I know neither of us will ever tell Seven it even happened, but it was inevitable.


Raffi never does what I think she's going to. She pushes past me, sits down in one of the guest chairs, and tells me to take a seat.


I have to bite back a laugh. If I'd been sitting, she'd have stood. I'm taller than she is—she wants us sitting so the height difference is less obvious as we hash this out.


It's all about power dynamics at this point. She's first officer but I outrank her—and this was my ship.


And I've been working my way up like a good little boy while she's been in and out of Starfleet. I couldn't get to her personal records obviously but I could find out what people who always seem to know everything about everyone knew.


I'm not actually sure I would have picked her for my crew. That makes this harder.


On the other hand, she's the reason we're alive and Starfleet's not Borg. The transporter phaser rifles were genius and I do admire that.


Before I sit, I ask her if she wants anything as I order a coffee. This is my office. I'll act like a good host.


"Chamomile tea," she says and I program that in and bring the mug over as I sit down.


"I don't like you, Shaw."


"I don't know you well enough to—"


"Let me finish." Her tone is the right one for a first officer. I like that. "I don't like you but Seven, who doesn't like that many people, does. So if she does, then there must be something to like in you."


"Weird logic. She liked Bjayzl. She was a psychopath. Ergo, I might be too.


She rolls her eyes. "Seven was in a different place back then." She leans in. "Are you a psychopath?"




"Well, there you go."


"Are you?"




"Cool. Neither of us are psychopaths. Look at all that common ground we have to stand on." I know my mouth is turning up in a way that's not very nice.


To her credit, she doesn't react. Just sips her tea and studies me until I force the expression away and wait for whatever she wants to say next.


"You and I can't be at odds, Liam."


I realize she's used my first name. Power play or actual olive branch? With her, it's hard to tell. She knows how to play the game—she was in Starfleet long enough, has the skill naturally too, I think. I do too. Seven probably never will and thank God for that.


She wouldn't be her if she did.


I exhale loudly enough for her to hear and sip my coffee.


She fills the silence. "She needs us to be a team. For whatever it's worth, Worf did not tell me what he was going to ask you to do—or that he was going to take you out of Medical. Away from Seven."


"What would you have told him if he had?"


I can tell what she wants to say. But she just shrugs and I like her so much better for not being able to say the answer she thinks is the right one rather than the truth.


"When did you fall for her?" she asks softly.


"Not long after she reported for duty. I never acted on it though."


"I believe that."


"I was going to. As soon as we weren't in each other's chain of command."


"Guess you threw that out the window. You're with her now, right?"


"I'm with her for as long as she'll have me." I'm giving her an opening. To be mean about Seven's lack of staying power. To be mean about my power to hold her.


But instead she just nods and says, "She won't even care if you're discreet."


"I would have. Before. For her sake and mine. Dying—and almost losing her because of this thing Worf needed me to do—changes a person's mind about that kind of thing." I lean in and I let my voice drop. "But then I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I, Raffi? You'd have been in her bed as soon as she let you."


"I would have. I was in love with her." She meets my eyes. "I may always be to some extent. But I have Worf now and he understands me in a way she never did—or never wanted to. I've never been sure."


"I'm happy for you." It comes out sarcastic and I don't mean it to.


"She's happy with you. A dick. So maybe she's one too." She smiles in a patently false way and sips her tea.


"Good one. Restrained but good." I lean back and study her. "I had a CO who took me and another lieutenant I wasn't seeing eye to eye with and vice versa aside and told us to sit in a conference room and come up with common ground until we had a hundred examples. I didn't necessarily like him any better after that, but I understood him."


"Not a hundred. Fifty. I don't want to understand you that well."


"Fine." I turn the terminal so we both can see the screen and bring up a blank document on which I type "Not psychopaths."


She laughs. "Hell of a first one."


"Yeah. You religious? You believe in hell?"


"I don't know anymore."


"Me neither." I type in "Unsure about religion."


"Only forty-eight to go." But she is smiling.


"Hooch of choice?" I can see I've stepped in it as soon as it's out of my mouth. Seven said she liked to escape problems, and now I see how. Or part of it.


She meets my eyes. Hers are a mix of angry and resigned.


I swallow hard and say, "I adored my dad's father but he drank too much. Got violent when he did. I was never allowed to spend the night since he was a night drinker. He never got help. Not even for me, who he said he loved more than anyone. I have nothing but respect for you."


She smiles, a tentative one but a smile nonetheless. "Favorite donut?"


"Maple bar," we both say together and I write it on the list.


It doesn't take us that long to get to fifty and she laughs and tells me we're going for a hundred after all.


I'm not in any way sorry to hear that.




You tell Raffi she has the conn—she's surprisingly mellow as she eats a maple bar. Then you head for the transporter and tell them to send you to the main transporter hub. You don't want your beam down logged to Starfleet Command. Not for this.


The Council is off today and you checked with Jim to make sure they were in Alara's apartment. He put you on the visitor's list for today.


You stride in and glare at the concierge who says, "You're on the list. Please go up."


Jim's waiting for you at the door but takes one look at your face and says, "Whoa. This isn't a look I like." He actually tries to stop you and you push him off easily.


"You're as strong as Spock." He gets between you and what must be the door to Sam's office. "Not this way. Not in anger."


"Fuck you." And you push him away and the door opens and Alara is there.


"Jim, it's all right. This is between Captain Seven and me."


"I'll supervise, if you don't mind."


She reaches into your pocket, pulls out the small device you haven't used since your ranger days. "I've heard these are painful if you lie."




"Seven," Jim is pushing in but again, she turns to him and says, "We're fine. Leave us alone."




"Let him stay," you say. "Let him see what we're both capable of. Be good for him if he's going to get so close to you."


"He's not as close as Liam was." She practically sneers at you. "Or did you want to wait until you have that thing on me to ask me that."


You want to punch her. You don't. Instead you put the device on her wrist. "Sit if you don't want to fall down."


"I don't intend to lie. So there's no reason to sit. Have you ever had this used on you?"


"I have. I wanted to know what I was doing to someone."


"Bullshit. You wanted to know if they could withstand it and lie anyway."


You laugh because she's right. "I found out. Unless you're a certain type of alien, you won't be able to."


"Good to know." She remains standing. "I'm letting you do this, but I get three questions with you wearing it once we're done."




"I'll tell you them in advance. One: Are you going to kill me when this is all over? Two: Do you really love Liam or do you just not want me to have him? And three: Will you agree that if I need a favor, you'll do it?"


"I can give you the answers now."


"No. With this thing on."


"You are not in control here. You do not dictate terms."


She smiles like any good politician as she reaches for her ear. "I have an emergency beam away alert in this earring. What do you think Starfleet and the Federation Council would think of you bringing this unlicensed torture device to use on me?"


You have no idea if she really does have that in her earring or not. "Fine. Now stop talking. I'm going to turn this on." You meet her eyes. "Please sit down. The pain is..."


"Unimaginable? Can't hurt worse than losing my father." But she does sit and Jim goes to stand behind her.


You flip the switch and she waits, outwardly calm.


"Do you really have an emergency beam-out device in that earring?"


"No," she says and laughs at you.


"Are you really done with the Humans Only movement?"


She considers how to answer that. You appreciate that because nothing is black or white. "From my perspective, yes. From theirs, no. So they will no doubt contact me, even order me to do things. Some of which I may do if they seem harmless."


She is sitting easily. That was the truth.


"Are you going to betray any of us who are not Humans Only?"




You lift an eyebrow. You didn't expect her to be able to answer that one so simply. "Why not?"


"I told you. I'm done being ordered around by them." She grimaces. "And working with all of you is the biggest 'Fuck you' to them I can think of." The grimacing stops.


"Are you going to hurt Jarred Miller?" You'll send him to Agnes permanently if she is.


"No. Fuck Liam." No reaction to that. Clearly she is mad at Liam.


"Are you going to hurt Liam in any way?"


She is slow to answer and then says softly, "I want to. I want to so bad. I loved him."


"Are you going to?"


"No." There is no reaction. Liam is safe.


"Any of the rest of us?"


"You maybe. If I can think of a way to do it that won't lead back to me."


"Sam." Jim puts a hand on her shoulder. "No."


"She's not my favorite person. And she's a former Borg. I don't have to be part of Humans Only to still hate Borg."


You decide you can live with that. She's not the only one.


"You said you would never hurt Liam, right?"


"I did."


"If you go after me, you go after him. You hurt him, which you said you won't do."


"I'll just wait until he gets tired of you then." She sits there unbothered by the device. Truth.


"Are you hiding anything from us?'


"A shitload of personal and professional things. Be more specific."


"Are you hiding anything about working for or against the Humans-Only and how we're trying to fight them?"


"No." She holds out her hand. "Your turn. Take this off me."


Jim shakes his head and you don't reach for it—not that you were going to. "What don't you want her to ask you?"


"Nothing." And she's suddenly writhing. "Fine, that I've put in a complaint on her fitness for duty. She doesn't deserve any ship, much less an Enterprise." She is breathing hard but clearly not in pain anymore. "Shit, that hurt."


"Can you recall it?" Jim asks but you just laugh.


"Do you have any idea how many people launched complaints? And still, here I am." You reach for the device, but ask, "Anything else that you don't want to tell me within the parameters stated?"




You take the device off, program it for three questions max, and put it on. "Go for it."


"Are you going to kill me when this is over?"


"No. But I'll want to." The device doesn't even ping a little.


"Are you really in love with Liam?"


"I am. And he's in love with me." You say it to make sure you believe it. You do. You feel no pain.


"Will you do me a favor when I need it."


"Depends on the favor." It's the truth so you feel nothing from the device. It's also not really an answer.


"Yes or no."


"It's not that simple. It'll depend on who it hurts if anyone. It depends on how many laws or regulations get broken. It'll depend on whether you're asking me to risk my crew's life or not."


"What if it's just dangerous to you?"


"Then I'd probably do it if it made sense to me."


"No, I want a yes or no."


"Sam," Jim says, turning her toward him as he crouches down next to her. "Let it go. That's the best you're going to get from a Starfleet captain."


You take the device off your wrist as she turns back to you. "Everyone else is willing to believe in me without a test. Why not you?"


"Because I believed in someone once and my son died."


Her face changes and she looks down. "I read about that."


"You didn't read about all of it."


They both look up at you.


"And you never will."






Jack sits on a bench outside the building Seven went in and waits for her. When she comes out, she's holding a device he recognizes.


Bloody hell, she's got stones. Slapping one of those onto a Federation Councilor.


She sees him and stops. "Do you ever go to class?"


"I do. But I tested out of this module." He stands and waits for her, assessing her expression. "Does she still live?"


She starts walking and he catches up and goes to the outside because his mother taught him chivalry.


"You do realize I'm stronger than you, right? You don't need to protect me."


"You didn't answer my question."


"Yes, she still lives." She stops walking, staring out at, well, nothing that he can see. Then she turns to him. "Why are you here?"


He grins. "Give you an alibi in case you killed her."


Finally the smile he loves. "Thanks. Shame I won't need it."


"Oh, the offer doesn't expire. I also hide bodies and cover tracks."


"And the sad thing is I don't know if you're kidding or not."


"Some days I don't either." He can tell she's not really in the mood to talk. "For what it's worth, you're way prettier than she is."


She laughs out loud, almost a cackle. "I don't need shoring up on that account, but thanks." She glances at him. "Why are you being so...weirdly helpful?"


"Because she pisses me off and I figured she might piss you off too. And...I don't figure that you or Liam got it on while you were serving together the first time, even if the sexual tension was oh so high."


She rolls her eyes. "Please don't talk about sexual tension and me in the same sentence."


"Noted. So, the way I see it, she got him first."


"I got him last."


"That's the healthy way to look at it, for sure. Very guy like."


She laughs again. "It was a mission." She looks over at him. "Guys can get it up for someone they don't love. They do it all the time." It's not a question; it's like she's trying to convince herself.


"Yeah, sometimes the lower half just has a mind of its own. Massively annoying, to be honest. It's like a squirrel, going quietly about its day until 'Ooh, shiny!'"


He's got her laughing in the best way, the low chuckle that means she's really amused.


"Thank you, Jack. Sadly, that makes everything better."


"He loves you, Seven. Any fool can see that." And that's why he's really here. Not just to be her alibi but to make sure she stays in one emotional piece after getting done with that bitch of a woman.


Although he kind of was hoping he'd have to help hide the body: he's so sick of being called the Borg Prince and Alara said it with an especially large amount of venom.


"Are you going to let me in on the plan at some point?"


"No. I want to keep you safe. People can be irrational."


"I survived twenty years on the run."


"As did I, more or less, as a ranger. But we're not on the run anymore. We're standing still. Like any dumb prey animal."


"Well, thanks for that pep talk. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Seven. May I suggest Raffi does the touchy feely stuff in the future?"


"Yeah, I've heard that before. I'm just saying: watch your damn back. I don't want you dead."


"Right back at you."




Data sits with Kirk as Alara works in her office. "I am concerned at the number of pings I have been getting. I have tracked them back to a central server but it is a hub for many services."


"In other words, they're hiding in the noise?"


"Yes. And soon they will cease to believe I am under their control—or the Kirk android is. The things they are asking me to do to the councilor are quite specific and unpleasant."


Kirk sighs. "I'll talk to her. We need to up the timeline."


"Yes." Data looks at the closed door. "She seemed upset when I arrived."


"You see more than people think. She was hiding it."


Data considers that. The signs of emotion are quite simple if one is equipped to look at them rationally. "Did something happen?"


"Seven of Nine happened."


"Oh." Data feels sympathy for Alara. "She is difficult for me to read."


"Really?" At Data's nod, he shakes his head. "Maybe it takes one childhood trauma survivor to read another. But to me she's an open book. And I'm never going to tell her that because it would piss her off."


"A steady state for her, I believe."


"Miaow, Data." Kirk laughs, a bark of laughter—Data has surprised him and feels pleased at that. "Can I ask what you did with the android of me?"


"You can ask."


Kirk laughs. "I use to do that to people. The looks I got."


"Oh, no, that was not a humorous diversion. I was, upon reflection, being too literal. You asked if you could ask and I said yes. But your real question is what I did with the android."


Kirk laughs. "Part of you not here? Offline processing or something? Or obsessing over Seven and why a formerly half tech woman might not want an android around?"


"I will admit, I am doing that as well as keeping tabs on the Kirk android." Data proceeds to explain to Kirk about Coppelius Station, the other androids, and the chance this new one will have to live as a free being.


"Provided you can scrub the programming?"


"The programming has been scrubbed. But this android is...rudimentary. It is possible there is no potential to live up to." Data thinks of B-4, the lost potential.


Kirk also seems very far away.


"What is it, sir?"


"I want to talk about the vats—the other clones of me."


Data waits for more.


"The infant is alive."


"So Agnes indicated."


"You were part of Daystrom, Data. What are they going to do to him?"


"The intent of Section 31 is not part of my programming. But like anything, the child could be used for good or ill."


"I don't want to be used for ill."


"The child is not you."


"And I'm not it, but we're both Kirk." He sighs. "Agnes tells me it's pointless to dwell on it. That the code is out there, they could make more at any time."


"That is true. And they will have back-up copies of the code stored. I have only known her for a short time but I believe that Agnes is often wise."


Kirk nods but there is a residual sadness in his face. Data wishes there were a way to take this worry away but knows there is not.




Alara comes out to find Jim reading on the sofa, so she sits next to him and smiles when he puts his arm around her and pulls her in. His affection is so simple—so comforting. "Thank you for having my back with Seven."


She's stopped thinking of her as the Borg—she supposes that's progress.


"I'm opposed to torture."


"So long as I told the truth, it wasn't torture." She looks up to see his expression.


"But we all hold secrets that have nothing to do with anything—secrets that we should get to hold. What if she'd gone deeper, into territory you weren't eager to share? That she had, perhaps, no right to know. I'm not a fan of that device."


She laughs. "But it would have come in handy on a few of your missions."


"That is true."


"What do you think of her?"


"I think she'll be a good captain."


She loves that he doesn't lead with how fucking hot the woman is, implants or no. "Not a great one?"


"You're not gonna like my answer."


She laughs. "Yes, she'll be great."


"With Liam's help. I think the man bleeds Starfleet."


"So do you—or the original you. You haven't had a chance to. So did my father."


"Yeah, my dad too. My brother didn't." He sighs. "All so long gone. I don't recommend being cloned and given your old memories back. You have to look back on everything. It's all gone."


"Jean-Luc's not. You knew him."


"For a moment in the span of a life. And he did get me killed." He laughs in the good natured way she loves.


"Yeah, I hope he doesn't get me killed."


"We need to get this debate thing nailed down."


"If you both didn't want this to be held at Starfleet Command, I'd have it arranged in a moment."


"It has to start with them, Sam."


"Well, we've got a big problem. Kathryn Janeway doesn't see the point."


"The woman who just put a lie-detector device on you knows her."


"Somehow I don't think she wants to bring her in on this."


"Then let's bring the man who bleeds Starfleet into this." He pulls out a padd and punches in a number. "Was bored one day. Found all the personal comm numbers I thought I might need."


"Of course you did."


"Shaw here." He sounds puzzled and she feels a pang at hearing his voice. It's different than seeing him, because then she can tell he not only doesn't want her but doesn't seem to like her much anymore. But hearing him—she could pretend he was back in her bed.


Only he wasn't there by choice. Not really.


"Liam, it's Jim."


"You okay?"


"No. Need to get our event scheduled but the CINC seems against the idea."


"And you think I'm going to take on the female embodiment of, oh, you for this lame-ass plan?"


"No, but you could ask Seven to."


She leans in. "Don't you want this to be over, Liam?"


"Hate is never over, Sam. Even if it occasionally switches sides."


She feels the punch and is about to say something snotty back when Jim says, "You've been hanging around me too long, buddy. That was beautiful. And all we need it to do for the foreseeable future is switch sides long enough for the more action-oriented segments to fall back into the shadows. Where they've always been and always will be."


"Nice imagery."


"Will you talk to her, Liam?" Jim's voice is the perfect mix of cajoling and resolute.


She needs to learn how to do that.


"Fine. Can't promise anything. It's Seven. She can make a mule look like a pushover."


"Roger that. Kirk out." He cuts the line and crosses his fingers, making a hopeful face that has her laughing.


"What are you going to do once people know you aren't an android?"


"Be James T. Kirk without being James T. Kirk? Actually, I'm not sure. I sort of have a plan though..." He laughs, but it's only a soft puff of air. He seems very far away.


"You could go into politics. It's actually fun."


"The view's all wrong. I like the stars."


She smiles. "Yeah, I think I would have liked them too."




I'm in my quarters—my new ones, not the old ones. I still feel weird about being there when Seven's not. The story is we're reconciling so I shouldn't just walk in.


She rings for admittance, sitting on the chime the way she used to and I can imagine she's either really pissed off or in a playful mood. No in between for this behavior.




She's smiling as she walks in, so playful it is. I'm relieved. I love playful Seven.




"Howdy." Her smile is brilliant and she kneels in front of me and begins to undo my pants.


"Wow. I must have been a very, very good boy."


"Shut up."


I laugh because that's so quintessentially Seven. Don't bug her when she's on task. "Yes, ma'am." I lift up to help her pull off the bottom half of my uniform and underwear and then she is...just studying my dick.


This is different.


I don't want to be an asshole and ask her to get on with it or tell me what she wants if going down on me isn't what she had in mind. Or not anymore.


Shit, do I smell?


She looks up at me and smiles. "Your squirrel is mine."


"I have no fucking idea what that means, Sev."


She doesn't look away as she puts her hands on me, as she holds just the right tightness, as she moves. "Say it."


"My squirrel is yours?" Still no clue what I'm saying but if this is the nickname she's going with for my less evolved piece of anatomy down there, so be it.


She lets go and stands, stripping off her bottom uniform bits and crawling on top of me. She is not gentle and I don't mind at all.


"It's not just my squirrel that's yours," I say as she holds me just right and slides down.




"Every goddamn thing."


"Mmm." She's moving fast and I'm not going to last and I try to get my fingers to her but she shakes her head and says, "Just go. Let me take you there."


I will never argue with that.


I lose myself in what she's doing, in thrusting up to try to catch her if I can but not worrying about it since she told me not to. Her lips are on mine and they're gentler than the rest of her as she just fucking owns me.


As I just fucking love it.


I'm coming, calling out, into her mouth, as she rubs my neck and says, "You're mine, Liam."


We kiss tenderly as I get my breath back. Then I ease her off me and have her sit while I kneel in front of her. "I'm not going to call your lovely lady bits a squirrel, Seven."


She laughs. "Trust me, I won't do it again. Just...it made sense to me at the moment."


"Yeah, I'm not gonna ask more about that."


"Good idea." And then she can't talk because I am going down on her, licking but not to make her come, just to get her right on the ledge.


This frustrates her so I hold her hands down—even though I know she could break away in an instant—and look up at her, at how beautiful she is with her eyes half lidded and her breathing off and the smile playing at her lips.


"Please," she says, and it's so sweet I almost want to do what she asks.


But I'm still her captain in some things and this is one of them, and I'm not ready for her to come yet.


I shake my head and put fingers to the task because I need to be able to feel how close she is and they're better at that than my tongue. I want to keep her right here, on the ledge, for as long as I can.


I bring her up and back, up and back, and it's not until she wraps her legs around my body that I lean in and let my tongue take her the rest of the way.


She is loud as she comes, writhing into my mouth as I don't let up until I feel her hit bottom.


She falls to the side and I move so I can kiss her as she laughs gently.


"Are you mine, Seven?"


"I am." She pulls me on top of her and we kiss for a long time, then I roll so we're both on our sides. "Not to break the mood, but before I forget because you've seduced my brain right out of my body: Jim needs you to talk to Janeway about using the auditorium."


"I got a call from her I haven't answered yet. I wonder if that's what it's about." She kisses me as her hand trails down my belly toward my groin. "I'll call her in a bit if that's okay with you."


"Totally fine."


"Yeah, I thought it would be."



Continue to Part 4