Chapter 32

Chorack was the first Shea chose to visit. He had been manning the bridge when she had made her announcement, so he had made no formal request to see her, but she took it upon herself to include him. When she walked onto the bridge, she told Ship to lock the door. "I've come to say good-bye, Chorack." She pulled off her uniform and straddled his lap. "You were the first one I recruited, so it seems fitting you should be the first I release from your promise to serve me."

"I have no wish to be released," he growled at her. "I chose this. I chose you."

"Nevertheless, you are free. Return to your home world, join another ship, or stay and serve Picard. It's up to you. You don't owe me or anyone else."

"I will always owe you," he said.

"Enough sentiment, Klingon. Take back your pride and say good-bye."

For a long moment, he merely stared into her eyes, then he pulled from something deep within him, snarled and threw her to the floor, pinning her beneath him. She did not resist, letting him take over as roughly as he needed to in order to establish himself as a dominant Klingon male. When at last he was sated, he became gentle again. "In other circumstances, I would claim you now," he told her, still holding her down.

"In other circumstances, I would have ended up on top," she countered.

He sighed and let go of her. She moved out from beneath him and gathered up her uniform. "Qapla'," she said, wishing him luck in Klingon and exited the bridge.

"Does Scotty want to see me?" Shea asked Ship.

"He does," Ship replied. "He is in his quarters."

She thought about putting her uniform back on then decided there was no point. She dropped it in the corridor and headed for Scotty's room. When she buzzed his door, it opened for her.

Scotty smiled at her lack of clothing. "I see there's no need to be subtle about this."

"No time for it either," Shea agreed.

"Come on in then," he said and took her by the hand, but he didn't lead her to his bedroom. Instead he sat her next to him on his sofa. "I have a few things I'd like to say to you. I want to thank you for making me part of all this. I'm still a bit shocked you'd let an old coot like me anywhere near you."

"Age is relative. I've lived far more years than you. Besides, have you seen yourself recently? "

"I have at that and I have to thank you for that as well. I'm feeling almost as spry now as I did when we first met back in the day on the old Enterprise."

"I'll always remember how you and Captain Kirk and Spock and Bones and all the others back then befriended me. I was so young and naïve, but none of you ever took advantage."

"Aye, the Captain showed remarkable restraint, I thought. But you were just a young girl then, though you hardly looked it. Even now, you haven't changed much, other than a couple inches in height."

"Three actually."

"Three? It's a wonder I recognized you," he kidded, but quickly grew serious again. "So what can I do for you now, Lassie? I keep thinking we've missed something. That we haven't explored every avenue. I'm not used to giving up. I want to help you."

"You can help me by just being here and sharing some time with me. We can make love if you'd like or just sit together and talk… whatever you want."

"Whatever I want?" He shook his head. "This should be about what you want."

"What I want is to make sure you've had a chance to say to me whatever you need to, ask me whatever you need to, that nothing is left unresolved. So is there anything unresolved for you, Scotty?"

"Not that I can think of. I'm not all that complicated a fellow. I pretty much speak my mind when I need to and don't let things pile up. I've had the time of my life with you. My only regret is that it may be coming to an end far sooner than I'd hoped."

"Will you stay on with Captain Picard?"

"Aye. Assuming he stays on himself. This is going to be a tough pill for him to swallow, that's for sure."

She looked at his sad expression and didn't like seeing him that way. "Let's go into the bedroom then. I want to put a smile on that face of yours before I leave."

"Well," he said already starting to smile a bit, "if you insist."

When she left Scotty behind an hour later, she again addressed Ship. "So, how about Dr. Bashir?"

"The doctor would like you to visit him in Sickbay."

"Sickbay… hmmm. How romantic."

When she entered the Sickbay area, she spotted the doctor sitting in a chair, his feet resting on a biobed and his head supported on a hand propped up by his elbow. She squatted beside him and looked at him sleeping there. "Julian," she said and his eyes opened.

"Oh, I must have dozed off."

"Well, it is the middle of the night."

"How much time do we have?"

"As much as we need."

He laughed bitterly at that. "I doubt that. I had hoped for years not a few months. And now we're down to hours."

"Time we should put to good use then. So why are we in Sickbay?"

"You said you wanted to tie up loose ends." He stood, walked over to the wall and pressed a panel. A long metal drawer slid out bearing a body identical to Shea's. "What about this one?"

"My spare parts? Don't suppose I'll be needing any. Do whatever you like with it."

"What I would like is to bring it to awareness. But thanks to D, that's impossible. Your clones never wake. Apparently, he's the only one who could make that body function as an entity."

"True, but you might enjoy continuing to study my genetic engineering. You've told me you find D's DNA combinations fascinating, plus you could finally dissect those odd organs you find so puzzling. Hang on to it for now and talk to Picard and Data about it later. Make a joint decision."

"You're sure you're okay with my keeping a clone of you? You don't think it's perverse? You don't feel insulted or violated?"

"No. It's fine, really. Keep it. I want you to."

He nodded his head and let out a sigh of relief. "Thank you. For science and medicine… who knows, it may prove invaluable one day."

"Who knows. So anything else I can do for science and medicine?" she asked.

"Actually, I did have something in mind," he said with a smile. "I thought maybe we could make use of that biobed. Whenever we have sex, it always seems off the charts, but I've never actually recorded it. I don't believe anyone ever has. Would you mind?" He activated the biobed monitors and patted the bed invitingly.

She smiled and laughed. "Maybe I was wrong about your not being perverse."

"You love it and you know it. Now lie down and let me play doctor."

She positioned herself on the bed and saw the monitors respond to her pulse and respiration, as well as a myriad of less immediately recognizable readouts. "For science."

"And medicine," he added and went to work.

Another couple hours had passed by the time she again stood in Ship's corridors. Julian had been very thorough and she still felt a little weak in the knees. "Is Data in his quarters?"

"He is."

"I assume he wants me to visit him."

"Negative. He has deactivated himself until morning. He asked me to transmit the following message to you. He said he loves you, he will miss you and he will not hesitate."

She sighed heavily and leaned against Ship's wall. "I was looking forward to spending some time with him. But I guess this is for the best. Tell him I love him too. So that's it then, except for the Captain."

"There are also requests from personnel aboard the Enterprise," Ship informed her. "Dr. Beverly Crusher, Commander Geordi La Forge, Commander Deanna Troi and Captain William Riker would like to meet with you."

"Oh boy. Well, I suppose they qualify as loose ends too. Would you hail the Enterprise for me, please?"

"Commander Troi here," Deanna acknowledged crisply.

"Hi. I understand there are some people who want to talk to me. Permission to come aboard?"

"Granted. Why don't you start in Sickbay with Dr. Crusher."

"On my way," she replied, then exhaled slowly, not looking forward to the tongue-lashing she was about to receive. She recovered the uniform she had left behind on the floor and put it back on. "Ready to transport as requested," she informed Ship and felt the beams kick in. She found herself in familiar surroundings, having been treated in this Sickbay in the past. A nurse looked over at her in surprise. "May I help you?"

"I have this," Beverly informed her walking toward them. "Come with me into my office."

Shea followed her in and sat in a chair in front of Beverly's desk. "So what can I do for you, Doctor?"

"You can start by apologizing," she said and pointed at her throat.

"Didn't I already….?"

"No, you didn't."

"Sorry."

"Now explain why you did it."

Shea shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "I was jealous I guess. Picard has feelings for you. Sometimes, it gets on my nerves."

"Oh." Now it was Beverly's turn to look uncomfortable. "I see. You know, we've never…"

"I know. Nevertheless…"

"Well. Thank you for explaining. I'm sorry about your situation. If there's anything I can do…"

"Be nice to Jean-Luc. Help him if you can. He's going to need all the support he can get."

Beverly nodded in understanding. "I'll do whatever I can."

"Good. Anything else?"

Beverly shook her head. "I don't think so."

"Then I'll be off. I have more people to visit apparently."

Shea headed for Engineering to locate Geordi. He looked pleased to see her.

"Thanks for coming by," he said. "I know you don't have a lot of time to waste, so I won't take up much of it. I just wanted to say thank you for helping me when my implants weren't working."

"No problem."

"I also wanted to thank you for offering me a job. I was seriously thinking about it."

"And now you're not?"

"Well. If you're not going to be there, it's not quite as tempting an offer. If you get my drift."

"I get it. Too bad, though. Picard and Scotty could use your help, and with or without me there, it's still a good opportunity. I encourage you to keep thinking about it. You may change your mind one day."

"Maybe. We'll see."

"Good-bye then. It would have been nice to get to know you better." She gave him a kiss and left him there.

"Computer, inform Commander Troi and Captain Riker I am ready to meet with them."

"Acknowledged," came the computer's response. A moment later, the computer addressed her again. "You are to proceed to the Captain's Quarters."

She knew the way, having spent time there with Picard years ago. This would be a different experience with Deanna and Riker confronting her instead. When the door opened for her she found the two of them sitting side by side on a green sofa she didn't recognize. Apparently, they had redecorated to suit their own tastes.

Deanna pointed to a purple chair. "Have a seat," she said, and Shea sat down without comment or protest, waiting to hear what Deanna had to say. "We've talked a lot about what we've experienced with you, how those experiences have affected us, and what we wanted to say to you as a result."

"Fine," Shea nodded. "I'm listening."

"You've frequently been disrespectful, confrontational and inappropriate," Deanna told her. "They are not traits either of us find endearing. However, we recognize you meant no harm and forgive you for the things you said that seemed offensive to us at the time. We do not forgive or forget what you did when you were transformed into a dreadful heartless creature under the influence of that other dimension. However, we do not consider the you, as you are now, responsible for those actions."

"Okay. Well that's very… understanding of you… I guess. Thank you. So, we're good then?"

"Not exactly. I also recall your threatening to take my husband away from me, and while I was separated from him, you came close to doing so."

"Yeah. Sorry about that. Guess I had a momentary lapse of judgment there. But Will set me straight. So no harm done, right?" Shea looked at Will, who averted his gaze and said nothing.

"Except he didn't set you straight. You intentionally alienated him out of friendship to me. You're a lousy actress. I'm surprised he bought it."

Shea paused for a moment, confused. "So you're scolding me for being a lousy actress?"

"You really are emotionally retarded," Deanna said.

Shea frowned at the insult but did not react. "Get to the point. I don't have a lot of time here."

"The point is, you and Will have unfinished business. On some level, he is still in love with you and has been covering it up with aggression and anger. Before you become a martyr in his eyes, I want this resolved."

"And how am I supposed to do that?" Shea asked.

"You're going to go into that bedroom, take off your clothes and make love to him the way you've been wanting to ever since you laid eyes on him again."

"I am?"

"You are," Deanna confirmed sternly.

"And that's going to fix everything?" Shea looked from Deanna to Will, who shook his head in response.

"I believe it will be therapeutic. In doing so, he will be forced to openly recognize and explore his feelings for you. His deep seated emotions won't be buried and festering in the dark any longer."

Shea smiled and looked at the ceiling before chuckling. "Of all the things, I thought you might say to me, this never entered my mind." She took a deep breath and tried to wipe the grin off her face. "Well, I am more than happy to cooperate. But I do have one thought. After Will and I have finished resolving this, as you put it, how are you going to feel?"

"I can deal with my emotions," Deanna replied stoically. "I recognize the need for this and I can accept it."

"Wow," Shea said, looking at Deanna's frozen facial expression. "You're even a worse actress than I am. This is going to eat you alive, isn't it? You'll always be wondering what exactly transpired behind those doors. You'll wonder what we said to each other. How I touched him. How he touched me. What I could do for him that you couldn't… and on and on. It will end up another secret dividing you, festering in the dark."

Tears rolled down Deanna's cheeks. "Maybe you're not quite as emotionally retarded as I thought."

"Thank you."

"I don't know what to do. His feelings for you are real and need to be addressed."

"All right," Shea nodded. "Then join us. No secrets."

Will started to protest until Shea held up a warning finger to him.

"Oh," Deanna paused for a moment. "I don't know if that's a good idea."

"Me either. But it's better than the one you suggested. If you're serious about this, I want both of you there."

"I thought you weren't attracted to women," Will said accusingly.

"Not usually," Shea replied and winked at Deanna.

"Forget it," Will said angrily. "I'm not letting you manipulate us like this."

"See what I mean?" Deanna said to Shea, "He's so angry. He really needs your help."

"I do not need her help. I don't even like her," Will protested. "This was a crazy idea and it's getting crazier."

"So it wouldn't be weird for you if I were part of this?" Deanna asked Shea, ignoring Will.

"No, I don't think so. Honestly, I thought it was pretty cute the way you were flirting with me after I healed your hand. Made me want to heal something else."

Deanna flushed and smiled.

"Besides, most of our attention will be on Will, anyway." Shea turned to look at Riker and a slow smile grew in anticipation.

Shea's unrelenting hungry stare was making his pulse quicken despite himself. "Deanna, you better be damned sure about this," he said, unable to look away.

When only silence followed, Shea stood and ripped off her uniform. "I think we've passed the point of no return." She climbed onto Riker's lap and kissed and undressed him until he was as breathless and aroused as she was. "Go lie on the bed and wait for us," she told him. When the door closed behind him, she turned to Deanna who had been watching them wide-eyed. "Come here." Deanna took a step back. Shea quickly closed the gap between them, and pulled her close. "Now, now," Shea whispered soothingly into her ear."No second thoughts, no regrets. You've made the right choice to help Will. It's all right." Shea kissed her tenderly until she relaxed and let her remove her clothing. "I'm going to help you understand and accept each other completely. After this, thoughts of me will bind you together instead of tear you apart. Trust me." Shea led her into the bedroom where Will waited for them.

When Shea left them contentedly entwined in each other's arms hours later, she knew she had kept her promise. She had served as a conduit for them to reach understanding and acceptance and now she was out of their way. She reached out in her mind to Ship and had herself transported back on board. When she returned to her quarters, Picard was awake and waiting for her.

"You've been quite productive this evening," he observed.

"So have you been following along the whole time?" she asked, already knowing he had, as she hadn't blocked him for a moment.

"Of course, I have."

"I hope you approve."

"For the most part. Although your method of accomplishing your goals is always a bit questionable."

"It's how I'm built. Take it up with D."

"I know. I shouldn't judge. Are you very disappointed about Data's choice?"

"A little. But we've been spending quite a bit of time in each other's company, so I can understand why he decided not to see me."

"What did he mean when he promised not to hesitate?"

"Oh that. It was about finding someone new," she lied.

Picard sighed, knowing it to be a lie, but he decided not to press her on it.

"I hope you'll do the same," she continued. "As a matter of fact, I was thinking if Q isn't too unhappy with you, he might even give you back Vash as sort of a consolation prize."

"I hope not," Picard replied. "I sincerely doubt that I will be in a receptive mood."

"Well, maybe not right away."

"Maybe not ever. Actually, there is no maybe about it."

"Don't let this take longer to recover from than it absolutely has to. Dr. Bashir can help you and you can talk to Deanna again. Just remind yourself that it will get better over time."

"That's what I kept telling myself before. But it didn't get better. In fact, it got worse. I missed you more and more as time passed. Each new loss, reminded me of the one that had cut me in two and…," he stopped himself. "I'm sorry. This isn't fair. Here I am pouring my pain on top of yours, when what I really want is to be of comfort, and treasure what little time we have left."

"Not so little. Over five hours. An eternity for someone who can focus on a moment and slow it down the way you can." She moved beside him so that he could hold her.

"You give me too much credit," he protested, but even as he did so, he could feel it happening. His need to fully appreciate this time together, slowed everything down to crystal clarity as he focused on her completely without distraction, letting his mind and heart meld with hers.