AUTHOR'S NOTE: "Star Trek: Picard", the characters, and situations depicted were created for CBS All Access by Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer, and Alex Kurtzman. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: All episodes until 1x10

Shared pain is lessened, joy increased
By asianscaper


Raffi was trying very hard not to make a habit of visiting the common area so late at night. She had problems with sleeping and the last thing she needed was for one of the other crew to ask how she was. Unfortunately, the bright lights, the distant (and comforting) putter of Rios' busy holograms, and the area's vaulted ceiling gave her much needed space to shake away the same, motionless nightmare.

She usually woke up clutching her sheets, her head damp with sweat as shadows pushed against her vision, the same terror heavy on her chest. She sat upright, her knees to her chest, grasping desperately for a memory of a Vulcan breathing pattern, trying to focus on the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel without dwelling too deeply on regrets that threatened to choke her. The final, juddering rhythm she usually settled into made her aware of just how small her cabin was.

She figured her mind was revelling in this environment, whispers of a past where J-L would drag her into new, untested waters while his annoying, fathomless faith in those who served under him fuelled her along. Even after all these years, he leaned heavily on her ability to navigate through prickly, tactical situations to emerge mostly unscathed. That now included everyone on the La Sirena .

She groaned. She had escaped the responsibility and shame that came with a uniform but any travail under Jean-luc Picard felt like donning her Starfleet yellows all over again.

It didn't help that she'd picked up on some bad habits along the way --drink and other enhancers, the snakeleaf especially. The whole, reckless combination gave her mind new and inventive ways to keep her awake and with very little rest.

She slumped into a metal bench in the common room, face in her hands as she tried to regain some sense of control.

"Hot, chamomile."

The voice was deep, gritty in a way that seemed to rake across the bulkheads with solid, matter-of-factness. Raffi tried to suppress the jolt it caused: a combination of her grudging admiration and a stabbing warmth she was beginning to recognise as attraction.

Seven's voice may have seemed cold and calculated to anyone else but to Raffi --after all the regret she'd caused in her own miserable life --recognised it for what it was. Very few could read Seven's small articulations of emotion. Ordering tea for an old, chronic exhaustion in the middle of night was one of them.

"You want one?" Seven asked and Raffi gave her a spasmic nod. Seven demanded another cup from the replicator.

"You can join me," Raffi offered before she could think better of it.

Seven brought the hot drinks to the table and sat across from her. "You don't strike me as a tea person," she said.

"I'm not." Raffi stared at the mug, caught the whiff of herb, and decided quickly that it was not something she was inclined to drink. Instead, she used the mug to warm her hands and considered the woman before her.

This was one of the quadrant's most formidable warriors stripped to her essentials. She was in a loose-fitting tunic that she'd hurriedly put on, bed head falling gently to her shoulders, her blue eyes strangely exposed like sky over an open field even as her implant encroached over a brow that strained from too much worry.

Raffi watched her as she sipped her tea and tried not to ogle at the other woman's lips.

Raffi witnessed a small smile form and Seven's words seemed tired but sincere, "I have never been very good at listening but if it helps you can tell me what's keeping you awake at night."

"You haven't been getting any sleep either," Raffi accused before digressing. "I'm curious that you've noticed."

Seven chuckled but her gaze dropped to her mug as she focused on the swirling liquid, on something very far away and a long time ago. Before misery could completely overcome her expression, Seven blinked and gave Raffi another one of her strained smiles. "Fair point. I'm still up for the conversation."

"Thanks, Seven. Here's a fun fact for you: I never imagined I'd be sharing a ship with two legendary ex-Starfleet officers, and one I've only admired from afar."


Raffi laughed. "'Likewise?'

"Likewise," Seven insisted. "Don't think for one second that I wasn't keeping a close eye on Picard's dealings with Starfleet command during the evacuation. I admired your audacity. I wondered for a very long how things would have been different if your proposal had been approved."

Raffi gaped, taken aback. "You can't possibly think that was something other than a fool's errand."

"A brave and intelligent fool. More importantly, a kind one. They're in very short supply in my line of work." Seven raised a mug. "Inasmuch as you admire my handiwork, I admire yours."

They clinked mugs and after one tentative sip, Raffi put the drink down with a grimace. "This is foul."

But Seven's words had her thinking, the gears in her mind clicking into place as they began a relentless grind she could only escape with snakeleaf. She had mulled over what-ifs for a lifetime, what she could have done differently to have made them listen, to have taken on such a fool-hardy proposal. Its far-reaching consequences, or lack thereof, had dictated the fate of entire systems, the trajectory of both her life and Jean-luc's. To a certain extent, even Seven's.

The familiar lurch of something heavy and uncontrollable formed in the pit of her stomach. Her breathing stuttered. She was grateful when Seven reached for her hand and squeezed hard.

"Hey," Seven demanded, urging her to look her in the eye. After what seemed like hours of staring into a blue and coldly serene gaze, Raffi felt like she could breathe again.

"Looks like we share the same demons." Seven's thumb began a gentle caress of her wrist. Raffi stared at Seven's hand, floundering as her brain short-circuited. She could hardly register Seven's words, "But I find peace in knowing we couldn't have done anything more for the Romulans, given what we know now."

And just like that, the storm in Raffi calmed. It felt incredible and new. She should have been suspicious of how easily Seven could get to her. Raffi's rapport with the Fenris Ranger came easily, without expectation. Raffi was sure that most of it had to do with Seven's acceptance of most things: with practical, disassociated calculation. It was very different from her other attachments. Even now as she still suffered from the deep wound of Gabe's rejection, it was a balm.

"You're truly exquisite," she said derisively.

Seven studied her, the moment emphasized with a quick, inquiring tilt of her head before she scooted closer to the table. With her long body leaning forward and her shoulders squared to face Raffi broadly, Seven seemed to be entirely present as she said in a low voice, "So are you."

Raffi realised belatedly that Seven's eyes had flicked to Raffi's lips. This is a fever dream , Raffi thought as she felt heat crawl up and down her spine at Seven's deliberate, startlingly hungry gaze.

"That kal-toh game," Raffi ventured in a whisper.

"I enjoy your company." Seven's rakish half-grin was ingenuous. "I realise it now and I knew it then."

Raffi let go of a long breath, the tension draining. "I don't know how you do it."

"Do what?"

"You can be completely guileless. It's refreshing."

"I don't usually fall into these things," Seven admitted, referring to whatever this was between them. From the match of kal-toh Raffi knew Seven had contrived to test her, to eager fingers that entertwined with Seven's in a time ripe with peace and silence. "I've been hurt far too many times by those close to me."

"Well, I've been doing a lot of the hurting," Raffi said.

Seven considered her for a long moment before her gaze shifted to the interiors of the La Sirena , settling on the direction of Picard's quarters. "But there is renewal, rebirth, and change. I believe it. I know it." Seven's expression strained with the sudden weight of a memory. "I know it about myself and I knew it about my children."

"Oh, Seven," Raffi whispered, brought back to her own memories of Gabe, his easy smile replaced by stony resentment. She felt his loss like a knife to the heart.

There was an unwarranted sob.

Seven of Nine may have been Borg. The implants were evidence of how she carried the Collective within her, unable to divorce herself from her past and perhaps unwilling to let go of the cool rationale of a hive mind.

As a talented intelligence officer --the best that even a legendary Starfleet captain had the pleasure to know --Raffi understood human motivation to the point of frustration, grudging sympathy, or both. She was thankful for her skills now because she was certain Seven held within her some of the best qualities that humanity had to offer. A lot of it had to do with the way she always tried to reclaim that lost part of her. Always, and tirelessly, and how it had cost her Starfleet, her friends, her lovers, and the life of her son, Icheb.

The knife in Raffi's gut twisted.

She stood from her place across the table to sit beside Seven just as the vulnerable glass frame which seemed to hold Seven together shattered. Without hesitation (and she realised Jean-luc had always counted on her sympathy regardless of how callous she seemed) she opened her arms to pick up the pieces.

They sat together, Raffi's embrace tight as Seven wept into her shoulder, her sobs quiet and fractured as Raffi found herself mourning her own losses. The maladies that plagued them both became a heavy blanket they shared as they curled into each other.

After a while, Seven's tears ceased and she settled into the crook of Raffi's neck, breathing softly.

Raffi dared to tuck a strand of blonde hair behind Seven's ear. "Feeling better?"

"Yes." Blue eyes peered up at her and Raffi could swear the Fenris Ranger had managed to drill a Seven-sized hole into her heart.

Raffi tried hard to be nonchalant, "Well, you know what they say. Pain's easier to carry when you have someone to carry it with."

"There will be plenty of time for sharing then," Seven acquiesced, moving her head to tentatively put her lips on Raffi's exposed collarbone.

Raffi hummed. A few for pleasure, too.

She could feel Seven's smile on her neck and decided that she wanted more: more quiet moments like this. More of their easy chemistry. More of this unexpected intimacy between two women who could never quite crawl out of the deep wells of compassion they dug for the people in their lives and now, inexplicably, for each other.

Seven had seen this coming. Empowered by the most influential Starfleet Admiral in recent history, Lieutenant Commander Raffaela Musiker was a force to be reckoned with. A talented tactician, Raffi managed to bring their game of kal-toh to a pause at a stage just before the sphere was created. She held the long, silver piece at the edge of the board as she imparted a short story about her son, Gabe. They were too ensnared in conversation and shared experiences to truly finish.

She'd felt that pull, familiar like her stabbing attraction to Bjayzl, different because it was tentative, tempered by a lifetime of betrayal. Raffi watched her from under thick lashes, smiling shyly. Unlike so many of Seven's interactions as a Fenris Ranger, Raffi did not take anything that was not freely given. It was Seven who kissed her first.

Her fingers cradled Raffi's neck as Raffi opened her mouth to accept her warm exploration, their tongues wet and slippery, coiling a path from Seven's belly to her groin. Growling, she pushed the other woman's body against the wall of Raffi's cabin, savouring Raffi's breathlessness, the subtle movement of her hips as she sought more contact.

"How did we get here?" Seven wondered aloud, trying to tally the minutes from the first time their lips touched.

Raffi replied with a laugh.

They tumbled into Raffi's bed, Raffi's hands pulling at her tunic, huffing impatiently while Seven smiled into her neck. They managed to pull their tops off before Seven's impatience brought them together in another, heated kiss.

She breathed a new and enticing scent --far, far beneath the bourbon and snakeleaf which Raffi seemed to imbibe less of, the more their little motley crew of misfits explored the edges of the Qiris sector. It was not-quite-there engine grease and then something abiding --a subtle, woody perfume, soft moss and leathery notes that reminded Seven of a forest.

She wanted to wander through it for ages.

Seven draped her body over the other woman, sweeping her eyes over Raffi's exposed skin, her mouth hanging open with barely withheld wonder.

From the time Seven was severed from the Collective, her appreciation of her fellow humans stemmed from their resilience, their rare touches of genius, and the few with unflappable integrity. These came well before her appreciation of their physical form. It had taken years to learn what made her own body sing with the desire to touch and taste. Raffaela Musiker had sparked every avenue Seven used to navigate her own senses. The desire to explore this untrodden path had prompted her to invite the other woman to a match of kal-toh.

Seven lodged a thigh between Raffi's legs and Raffi reacted with a groan. Seven applied more pressure, fascinated by her responsiveness, the soft sighs into Seven's skin, the straining muscles against her neck as Seven moistened it with kisses.

"Seven," Raffi moaned.

"What do you want?" Seven asked, her hands tracing Raffi's waist, dipping past the ties of her pants towards the juncture of her thighs before lingering, and then tracing back up to her waist --a lazy pattern of mounting desire.

"Ah fuck." Raffi traced her teeth along the band between Seven's neck and shoulder and this time it was Seven's turn to collapse into her body. "You know what I want."

Seven chuckled, savouring Raffi's reactions, moving a hand between them, and snagging against Raffi's breast.

"Seven!" This time, Raffi sank her teeth into Seven's neck and sucked.

All Seven could do was acquiesce.

She knew very little about Raffaela Musiker but in all her time dealing with people's judgment of her --Seven the emotionless ex-Borg or Annika the hapless human --Raffi had none. Her wit in kal-toh , her soft "I admire what you do out there" before the mess that became Freecloud, the bravery she displayed in being open and attentive despite years of wallowing in failure --these spoke of a calibre that Seven knew would take decades and numerous crises to find.

After all, she had lived through so many. She lucked out on Voyager once. Now, she had the crew of the La Sirena where Raffi mobilised everyone's strength and weakness to solve the Qiris sector's more enigmatic problems.

Impatiently, they shuck the rest of their clothes, sliding into the sheets. Even though they were warm, she felt Raffi shiver.

"Are you alright?"

"Yeah," Raffi said. "This...this is just something new." The other woman watched Seven's carefully neutral expression and dipped her chin in a playful way. "A good kind of new."

Seven nodded before dipping her head to Raffi's clavicle, kissing wetly. She moved slightly down, flicked a tongue over a nipple, once, twice, before engulfing it with a warm mouth. The other woman arched into her, opening her legs as Seven coiled over her, pulling her thigh forward until it came into contact with the heated, moist skin of Raffi's arousal. Raffi ground a pattern into Seven's skin, over and over, beginning a languorous but pressed rhythm that Seven encouraged with a desperate hand beneath Raffi's ass.

Before long, Raffi's gasps became laborious.

"Seven," she breathed. Seven revelled in the sound, in the control Raffi gave her. This surrender would have been nothing but deliberate.

As exhibited by their success at Freecloud, Raffi's mind accounted for all alternatives. Her intention drove La Sirena 's outcomes. Even if Seven drew the most exquisite of reactions from Raffi, Raffi articulated her desire with every push or pull, with every sound. Seven was attentive, focused with the Borg-like desire for perfection and thorough, unchaste assimilation.

Raffi led this most intimate of dances now, her hands pushing at Seven's shoulders, broadcasting her consent.

When Seven first put her in her mouth, an entire world of pleasure tightened and grew like an orb of electrified heat in her abdomen.

"Ah!" There were no words except long, drawn out moans.

She felt Seven smile against her, her mouth soft, heated, and forceful over her clit, her finger already delving into her, dipping and twisting as Raffi rolled into the sensation.

Seven was skillful, drawing out a single point of pleasure and making it spread like wildfire throughout the region below Raffi's hips. Her pleasure merged into a cresting wave and Raffi clutched at Seven's shoulders as she peaked without warning, her back lifting from the bed, arching like a bridge to pure sensation.

She felt herself squeezing down on relentless fingers that sought to seep all strength from her and she couldn't help but choke out her lover's name as her pleasure intensified to the point of blissful thoughtlessness. She felt rather than heard Seven moan as the other woman sought her own release, too impatient to wait.

It had been a long time since Raffi had a connection with someone, enough that she rode the wave to its conclusion. She usually threw her partners out but tonight, there was no such compulsion. She breathed deeply, letting her body settle as Seven rested a warm cheek against her thigh and huffed on her groin. She dared a peek and found a peaceful smile flickering at the edges of Seven's lips. Raffi tutted, drawing her closer so she could taste its fleeting sweetness while it mingled with the taste of her own, musky pleasure.

She hummed.

Something tightened below her chest as Seven deepened the kiss, corralled Raffi's writhing body against the bed, took her wrists and trapped them above her head.

Raffi had no desire to leave. Not when her release felt inevitable rather than coaxed. Not when she felt more connected than she ever had been in all her years of self-imposed exile. Not when the pain and regret she had carried since the Romulan evacuation was something she was only beginning to understand --to stem and to share --at such a quiet moment, now.

Their living arrangements should not have changed too much. Seven used her quarters mainly to store her things. Because of her implants, she didn't need much sleep but Raffi found her most nights anyway, pulling the other woman into her bed and into an inordinate amount of time in Raffi's quarters especially on weeks between missions.

Their games of kal-toh deepened, both in complexity as they sought to out-wit each other, and then in intensity as Raffi found ways through the cracks in Seven's tough, expressionless exterior.

At first, Raffi provided most of the conversation while Seven watched her like a chess piece to be moved. Raffi was familiar with the expression; she had her fair share of suspicion --from Romulans, humans, and nameless others --whenever she threw down the initial terms first, exposed a portion of her hand first, or showed vulnerability to leverage the resulting reaction. Raffi was often accused of wearing her feelings on her sleeve especially in Jean-luc's presence but that first investment served to yield results, especially when this budding relationship with Seven was an orchard of figurative fruit she was willing to harvest.

Eventually, the soft looks that Seven gave during their lovemaking encroached into the challenge in her eyes as they played and interacted in public. During the many times the crew ate meals together, Elnor always looked like he was about to say something and Cris would hit his arm to chastise him. The only other crewmember to lose sleep on a regular basis, Cristóbal Rios usually found them in quiet dialogue sitting far too closely to each other. Wisely, the captain of the La Sirena chose to say nothing.

Soon, Seven's jacket found a permanent place by Raffi's door, a shirt or two had been mixed in with Raffi's things, and Seven's scent permeated Raffi's sheets. She started to occupy the spaces in Raffi's mind where her nightmares usually caroused and Raffi's midnight forays into the mess had little to do with lost sleep than it had with a rendezvous that involved a woman who matched her, skill for skill.

Raffi liked and enjoyed it but the anxiety which came in knowing that nothing was permanent grew.

A month later, Raffi was outside the transporter room, preparing the equipment while Jurati looked on patiently.

"I can do that, you know," Jurati said. "I'm not the inept transporter tech I used to be."

"Leave me alone," Raffi gritted out, checking and double checking the transporter coordinates.

Jurati raised her hands in mock surrender. "Fine."

The mission seemed straightforward enough but as soon as Seven entered the room with Picard and Elnor trailing behind her, Raffi felt a knot in her throat. To everyone's quiet bemusement, she took Seven's wrist and sequestered her in the empty hallway outside.

"Look," Raffi began.

"I know," Seven said intently, her blue eyes striking lightning into Raffi's chest.

The portion of muscle over Raffi's heart had felt vulnerable all morning since Seven got up from bed, dressing as Raffi greedily took her body in --the soft curve of her breasts, her lean stomach, white scars that mapped her many travails as a Borg and as a human.

When she holstered a phaser, Raffi's rib cage felt very close to what felt like a slow and sustained collapse. The need to put a name to it, to contain it had driven her up the walls.

She was incredulous. "You know?"

Seven brought her thumb and forefinger up to cradle Raffi's chin. "I don't sleep regularly with people I do not have feelings for."

"Right." Raffi exhaled. She cleared her throat. "Me too. Maybe once or twice but definitely not for weeks."

Seven raised a brow. "I'm glad we're in agreement."

"Seven, this may be asking for too much in our line of work but I really need you to take care."

"Of course," Seven said. She leaned into Raffi's space and tilted her head, as though asking for a kiss. "I will need you to watch my back."

Raffi grumbled, "Always."

Seven took that moment to cradle her face. "Whatever this is between us means a lot to me." That endearing twitch of her head belied her words. "You mean a lot to me."

Seven's lips pressed against hers, a warm tongue enunciating with warm, deliberate movements feelings that an ex-Borg like her had difficulty expressing. It felt very much like a promise.

A series of exaggerated footsteps caused them to step apart. Rios gave them a strained smile as he inched towards the entrance to the transporter room, glancing nervously at Seven's stern expression, a rucksack of supplies in hand as he pointed to his destination.

"Don't mind me," Rios sang. "Also, congratulations ladies."

"Thank you, Captain," Seven said.

Raffi rolled her eyes. "What the hell, Cris."

"Excuse me." As soon as he was inside the transporter room, they could hear him exclaim, "Okay everyone, you all owe me 10 credits!"

A few, disgruntled groans, Picard's exasperated, "What!", and Elnor's smug, "I knew it" before Raffi put her forehead against Seven's.

They smiled at each other. Raffi's voice was hoarse. "Ever heard the expression 'Cat's out of the bag'?"

There was peace in Seven's eyes, unashamed and breathtaking. It was all Raffi needed. "And so it is," Seven said, sealing this particular promise with a kiss.

The End

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