Beverly Crusher has been sitting quietly in her quarters. She's been waiting. Trying to read. She thinks she must have fallen asleep.
She's been waiting for her friend, her roommate, her partner. Deanna Troi has been on an away mission to the planet below. She knows Deanna is safe. That's not her worry. She's with Will Riker, Data and Worf. They will always take care of her. And besides, they go on away missions all the time. Sometimes Deanna, sometimes Beverly. Sometimes they go together. Those are the best. Those are the times that neither has to wonder what the other is doing, whether they have run into danger, when the mission might be over.
It's been 3 days by time measured on the Enterprise. Beverly misses her friend. She misses her odd Betazoid accent and her warm body in bed. She misses having someone to talk to and someone to hold her at night. She's been keeping busy in her sick bay, working more than she should. And catching up on her reading. Captain Picard mentioned that the away team might be back on board the ship this evening so she has been waiting up to see Deanna. To give her a kiss when she comes through the door. To share a glass of wine and perhaps a hot fudge sundae. To see Deanna's beautiful face and hear her soft laugh.
Beverly falls asleep again, waiting. She is wrapped in a soft quilt Deanna brought her from Betazed, tucked up into her chair, the open book still on her lap. She's dreaming of Deanna and what they might do when the woman she loves is in her arms again.
Suddenly, Beverly is startled awake by a shooting pain in her shoulder. She chokes back a frightened scream. The pain is shockingly strong. It hurts more than anything she has ever felt in her life. Her first thought is of Deanna, then maybe a heart attack. Heart attacks are rare in this day of modern medicine. The plaque that used to choke off arteries and prevent blood flow to the heart muscles is easily detected and cleared now. Still the occasional congenital defect goes undetected.
Beverly checks her pulse. Her heartbeat is strong and steady though quite a bit elevated. As the shooting pain starts to subside, she tries to relax. She needs to think. She opens and closes her hand. Everything seems to be working as it should. She shakes her head. Only the ghost of the pain remains. She will run some tests in the morning but she figures perhaps it was just a random event. Probably not anything at all.
She is startled again by her comm. *Transporter room to sick bay. Emergency transport. Dr. Crusher to sick bay.
She shakes her head again. Not the quiet evening she had planned. As she reaches for her boots, a panicked thought passes through her brain. Not the away team. Please don't let it be one of her friends from the away team.
Beverly rushes down the hall to sick bay. She arrives at the same time as Captain Picard. As she steps toward the sick bay doors and they begin to slide open, the Captain steps in front of her, preventing her from passing through. She looks at him, sees the fear on his face. Her stomach begins to feel sick.
"Jean-luc. What is it? What's going on?" He doesn't answer right away and she tries to sidestep him, to push her way through the doors. The pain in her arm. The away team. The emergency transport. The Captain's odd behavior. She begins to panic.
Captain Picard puts his hand on her shoulder. He's not comforting her. He's holding her back. "Beverly." "No Jean-Luc. No! You need to let me in. I have to go." He shakes his head. "No Beverly. Not yet. You need to know." "NO!" she shouts, her voice strangled with fear. "No! Not Deanna. Please Jean-Luc. Not Deanna?" He lowers his eyes and she feels her legs start to buckle. "You have to let me in. She needs me. I need to know. Is she….?" He keeps the pressure on her shoulder, not letting her move forward. "She's alive. She's hurt but she's alive."
Beverly feels a huge weight lift off of her chest. She takes a breath. "What happened? How bad?" Picard shakes his head again. "It's not good Beverly. She was shot. We're not sure by what. We got her here as fast as we could." Beverly nods. She still feels the terror of losing her lover but her brain is starting to slip into 'Doctor mode'. "I need to go in. I'm OK now. She needs me. I need to…" Picard shakes his head one more time. "You can go in. But you can't treat her." "But I need to!" she protests. "No! You don't!" he says firmly. "You're too close. You can't make rational decisions. Not about Deanna." "But I'm the doctor…" she protests. "No. You're one of the doctors on this ship. Dr. Enkhjargal is taking care of her. He's one of the best. You know that. You brought him on board. You have to trust him."
"Then what am I supposed to do?" Beverly asks quietly, tears running down her face. "You go to her. You hold her hand. You tell her you love her. You can help. You're the best. But you can't be in charge. You need to let Dr. Enkhjargal make the proper decisions. You understand that right?" Beverly nods. "Ok then" the captain says as he releases the pressure of his hand on her shoulder. She quickly wipes her tears and fixes her face into one of steely confidence. Picard steps aside and Beverly strides into sick bay to see for herself the condition of her best friend and partner, Deanna Troi.
As Beverly steps through the doors, her senses are assaulted by the overwhelming acrid smell of burnt flesh. She grabs at the nearest bed to steady herself and choke back the bile rising in her throat. Her eyes are focused on the group of doctors and nurses crowded around a single operating table. Will Riker is standing back from the group. His back is rigid, the look on his face is grim, full of fear and worry.
Beverly takes a deep breath and walks to the operating table. She thought she was ready for what she would find but Deanna's condition shocks her. She is stripped to the waist, her burnt uniform having been cut off. The actual wound covers her right shoulder. It's obvious that she was shot with some sort of energy weapon though the kind is not immediately obvious. The angle of the shot was from below and 3rd degree burns radiate from the center of the wound up her neck and across the whole right side of her face, tapering off as they reach her eye. Deanna is sedated, her eyes closed. Her breathing is regular but, as Beverly glances at the monitor displaying her vitals, she notes that Deanna's pulse rate and blood pressure are higher than they should be.
Dr. Eunkhjargal looks at Beverly, suddenly unsure about his role. She nods at him to continue his assessment and he begins to dictate out loud what he knows for her. She nods again that she is listening as she positions herself at the top of Deanna's head. She is still concerned about the unusual vitals, numbers that are way too high considering the amount of sedation that has been administered.
She gently touches Deanna's uninjured cheek and is knocked backwards as her own shoulder explodes in pain again. Her nurse and friend Alyssa Ogawa rushes to catch her. She tries to wave her off but Alyssa holds her tight while someone else brings her a chair and she tries to focus through the pain.
She understands now the pain she felt in her own quarters. She felt Deanna being shot. The pain she felt was Deanna's, a part of the psychic connection they share. Her pain now, she realizes is, Deanna's as well. Despite the sedation, Deanna is still in great pain. She tries to communicate this to Alyssa as her nurse brings a hypospray to calm her. As the drugs pass through her skin and into her bloodstream, she feels the pain begin to wane. She quickly explains what she knows, that Deanna is communicating through her. Dr. Enkhjargal looks at her questioningly but does not hesitate to administer a dose of pain killers to Deanna as well. Beverly nods her head at him again as Deanna's vitals begin to reflect her body relaxing and the pain in Beverly's shoulder all but disappears.
She knows now what her role will be. Picard is right. She is in no condition to treat Deanna. She will be there to comfort and to relay Deanna's needs to the doctors and nurses in charge. Of course, she insists that she be told everything and is sure to have opinions and suggestions in deciding Deanna's care. She is the Chief Medical Officer after all, and one of the best doctors in Starfleet.
Beverly barely leaves Deanna's side for the next two days. She sits with her hand on Deanna's cheek. Talking to her both verbally and in her mind. Trying to hear Deanna's voice. Making sure she's comfortable. Picard must remain on the bridge but he checks in every hour. Riker also stays in sick bay though he stands back and watches quietly. He already told his story several times. How he didn't see any danger. That the shot was unexpected and unexplained. That he didn't see anything until Deanna screamed. How they never found the attacker or the weapon. How guilty he feels that it was Deanna who was hurt and not him. Beverly wants to comfort him as much as he wants to comfort her. Neither has the emotional energy to spare. Imzadi is a wonderful thing, Beverly thinks, but the pain when an Imzadi is lost is unbearable. She desperately holds on to any part of Deanna that she can. She knows Will is doing the same.
She watches Dr. Enkhjargal and the rest of her staff carefully. She knows them as well as she knows herself. Their procedures, their mannerisms. She sees the concern in everyone's eyes that Deanna is not responding to treatment as she should. She keeps her silence, for now. She has nothing to offer. They have done everything that she would have. Later she will praise them for their work. Now she only has thoughts for her partner.
Dr. Enkhjargal tells his team to take a break. He leaves Nurse Ogawa to watch over Deanna as he disappears to his office. When he returns a half hour later, his face is grim. He quickly checks Deanna's vitals and her wound. He shakes his head and looks to Beverly. "Dr. Crusher? May I speak to you in private please?" He asks. She nods and, as she stands she looks to Will Riker to take her place. He moves to sit by Deanna's head without a word. Beverly turns and follows Enkhjargal to her office.
Beverly sits in one of the chairs in front of the desk, letting Dr. Enkhjargal take the place behind, letting him know that she still trusts Deanna in his care. He sits and his carefully arranged professional mask slips away showing his weariness and worry. He begins to explain his problem to his boss. He tells her that Deanna was indeed shot with an energy weapon but they have been unable to identify the type. A phaser, the type of weapon StarFleet uses, is a focused particle beam. It works by interfering with the electromagnetic energy causing excitement of the atoms and heat. At its lowest settings, it can overwhelm the central nervous system of a living being while causing no permanent damage. At higher settings it can cause cells to disintegrate. Because it is focused, the damage is done when the weapon is fired. A disruptor, on the other hand, is an unfocused energy stream. It causes the bonds between the atoms to break apart, also causing heat and burning. The damage to the atomic structure of a being or object will continue unchecked until it is completely destroyed making the disruptor always lethal. Based on the damage to Deanna's cellular structure and the failure of the wound to heal, Dr. Enkhjargal suspects that the weapon used may have been a form of disruptor, one that, while not initially vaporizing the target as most do, will continue to cause damage until there is nothing left.
His words hit Beverly hard. She suspected that there was something different about the type of weapon used but she never allowed herself to believe that it was a form of disruptor. The implications of that were unfathomable. After the initial shock, she realizes that there is still a chance they may able to save Deanna. She pushes back her horror and begins to think through the problem analytically. She grabs a tablet from the top of the desk and begins to pull up information.
"OK. So we know that this weapon was not a typical disruptor used by the Romulans or Klingons. The initial damage would have been instantly fatal. I've heard of no disruptor type weapons that can be modulated to control the intensity like a phaser so this must be something we've never seen before." She pauses and looks up at her colleague. "You're sure the cells are continuing to break down?" He nods and passes her another tablet filled with data that he's collected over the last hours. She frowns at it. "I see it. But it does seem to be slowing some. That's good. I would expect it to be accelerating." The other doctor nods again. She looks back at her information on disruptors. "What if there were some way to modulate the beam? We don't normally see such a tight burn pattern." Dr. Enkhjargal sighs. "That's because we rarely have a chance to see any at all. The effect is usually instantaneous vaporization." "True" Beverly counters. "But I have seen a slower progression. More to do with the cellular structure of the victim rather than the disruptor itself. Of course it still moved quite quickly but not before I was able to observe the patterns that the beam left on the skin. They didn't look like this at all. In fact, they spread rather quickly over the surface rather than just leaving a burn with defined edges." "So this isn't a disruptor?" Dr. Enkhjargal asks. Beverly shakes her head. "I'm not ready to say that" she tells him. "But I do think we're dealing with something entirely new. I think that if we can somehow counter the breakdown of the cells, we may be able to stop the reaction and reverse the damage." She sees life come back into the other doctor's eyes as he contemplates her words. "Yes. I can see it!" he exclaims. "A take on a cortical stimulator perhaps? One that will stimulate the actual structure in her cells rather than just the nerves?" Beverly smiles. "It's worth a shot! We'll need some help though." She taps her communicator. "Lt Data. Please report to sick bay immediately. We need your help."
Beverly leaves Dr. Enkhjargal to explain the problem to Data while she goes back to be with Deanna. She softly explains what they have learned and what the new plan will be. She doesn't expect an answer. Deanna has been unconscious and sedated since the shooting. She also knows that, whether or not a person is conscious, they can still be comforted by a soft touch and a calm voice. She is surprised when she feels a soft tickle deep in her brain. *Dee? Can you hear me?*
She receives no answer to her question. Deanna is not strong enough for that. Still she feels her presence and, when she flexes her fingers, she feels the ache in her arm. It's enough to know that her lover is there, listening. She continues to talk, comforting words, how much she loves her, plans for their future. It calms them both. She lays her head on the table, her cheek touching Deanna's. She doesn't see Data emerge from her office. She doesn't hear him gathering equipment. She doesn't notice him leave to find Geordi and invent the device they all hope will save Deanna's life.
Beverly is awakened several hours later by a gentle hand on her shoulder. She looks up to see Dr. Enkhjargal. "We're ready Dr. Crusher." She nods. She watches as the doctor carefully arranges the improvised devices across Deanna's skin and activates them. He looks back to her. "We should know soon." Beverly smiles at him. "Thank you." He gives her a slight bow and leaves her.
Beverly stares at the flashing lights on the devices, praying they work, that they can stop the destruction of the cells in Deanna's body. They hypnotize her and her thoughts stray. She thinks about Deanna. Their years of friendship. Their first night together. She closes her eyes and she can feel the warmth of Deanna's body pulled tight to hers. The peace she feels when sitting under Deanna's beloved Fana trees. The joy in her heart that being with Deanna brings.
She thinks maybe she's fallen asleep again when she feels movement against her cheek. She raises her head to see Deanna's black eyes staring at her. She smiles and Deanna smiles weakly back. "You're OK?" Deanna blinks slowly. Very softly she whispers, "Thank you." Beverly doesn't try to fight the tears in her eyes. "You need to thank Dr. Enkhjargal. He was the one." Deanna gives her a soft smile. "I will. But that's not what I meant." Beverly gives her a questioning look. "I was dying. I was dead. It was you. I felt you. You are why I'm here. I felt your love. It's inside of me. It gave me the strength I needed." Beverly is overwhelmed by her lover's words. Her only answer is to lean down and kiss her lips softly. As she does, her mind is filled with one word. One thought. One love. Imzadi.