Someone to Watch Over Me by Djinn

She sleeps. She sleeps and I watch her, assessing each rise and fall of her chest, listening for the small moans, the soft sounds of the dreams that disturb her slumber. Her hands lie still on the white coverlet; her head moving from side to side on the pillow is the main indication that her sleep is not peaceful.

"Beverly," I whisper, trying to soothe her without waking her. I do not want to see those haunted eyes looking up into mine, would rather imagine them as they were when we served together, when all I had to do was look into her calm blue gaze and know that I was all right. That I could do whatever had to be done because she believed in me. Because she would always believe in me.

And she has. Even after the Borg, when I came back as Locutus and had to watch my friends and crew shrink away from me despite their best intentions. Even then she was the one who held out welcoming arms to me, who said, "You're home, Jean-Luc." Her face held no recrimination, yet I knew that she was as aware as the others of the horrors I was responsible for. She knew. We both knew she did. But she forgave me, her good friend. Her Jean-Luc.

I should have run to her then. Why didn't I? Why didn't I take her in my arms the way I have always longed to and hold her? How can I have loved this woman for so long and never have made love to her? What is wrong with me that I could let her get away from me so many times?

I stare down at her, push the damp gray hair away from her face. She is outdistancing me, leaving me alone here to face the world without her. I am an old man now, older than she and tired, more ready to go. Yet it is she who has run out of life, she who will go first, leaving me to carry on without her.

Life will be a lonely place without her. My life has always been a lonely place without her. But she has been there, in the background. Steadfastly keeping watch, protecting the humanity of her friend Jean-Luc.

Of her love Jean-Luc? Up to now, I have never had the courage to ask. It was easier to assume that she cared deeply but in an abstract, gentle way. I could not have borne the idea that she carried a great passion for me inside her. I could not have shared all those light-hearted breakfasts with her knowing that she wanted me. Knowing that I could have come from her bedroom to join her at the table, and not from my cold quarters down the corridor.

"I love you." There I have said it. I have said it and she can no longer hear me. So many times I should have said it. So many opportunities, moments where the two of us stood precariously balanced on a cliff, never sure enough of each other to take the leap together. Our hands might slip, there might be rocks below. Did I never just want to grab her hand and pull her with me, fly laughing into the air to fall down, down, down screaming with delight? Did she never want to pull me into her soft and gentle dance, twirl me off the cliff with her and float down to the water? Could we not have tried it just once? Just for a moment?

Life is a series of these moments, a continuum of lost and taken chances. I am an old man, I can look back and chart these, show the moments where I lacked the courage to change the course of my life. Or where I grabbed my destiny boldly and changed the course from will alone. The moments. Why did she and I never have a moment? Just one. It would have been all we needed.

"I love you," I say again. The sound echoes slightly in the hospice room. It would be silent in here if not for the low pings and buzzes of the monitors, the biobed charting her course. I don't have to look to see the indicators all heading down.

She is dying. Beverly is dying.

My love is dying. My mind stops at that, refuses to go on. I can think of nothing else. How sad, how pathetic am I that I sit here an ancient man, grizzled and bent and finally having the courage to tell the woman I love how I feel. Finally letting her know...and she can't hear me.

Or if she can hear, she cannot understand the words. When she is awake, her eyes look up at me blankly; she struggles against the restraints that force her to lie still on the bed. Her system is shutting down, the doctors tell me. Her motor functions erratic, her moods rushing up and down. It is better for her this way, they say, as I stare down at the soft webbing that holds her in the bed. Safer for her this way. Tethered to firm ground.

She was meant to fly, some whimsical part of me protests. Let her go.

I cannot let her go. I have never been able to. There were times she wanted to leave, times when she would have been wise to go. But I needed her and she needed to be needed. And so she stayed and watched over me. My protector, my champion, the one in the background that believed in me so firmly I could never lose my way. She was my north star, my one true guide.

"I love you," I say again, and this time when I look at her, I have to blink away tears. I am an old man. It is all right to cry now. No one is here to see. Even she cannot see. I can cry for her and for me and for the life that we never led. The love we never shared. I can cry for it all.

But I do not cry for long. It is not my nature to let my feelings show, even now, even after all this living and dying and fighting. Why did I take so little time for loving? Why did I never stop running and reach out for her?

But I pushed her away, over and over. After Shinzon, nothing was the same. On the outside, it appeared fine. But inside, I was warped, damaged. I had faced the dark side of my soul, and it had won. I shut down, shut her out. She tried to reach me, tried to help me. She came to me, a few weeks later. Came to me and offered me her body, her soul, her touch. She kissed me, she held me, she began to pull my uniform off. And she forgot to say I love you. Or she was too afraid of what it would mean if I didn't want that love. She was as fearful as I was, and her hand reaching out to me only crossed half the distance between us. I pushed her away as gently as I could and pulled my uniform back on. She left weeping.

I could have called her back. I could have said the words. Three small words that would not force themselves across my tongue. Or across hers. We neither of us could say it, and so we lost our last chance. It took us months to become friends again. And we never crossed that bridge, never even approached it in all the years that have come and gone since that night.

How did two such brave people become such cowards in love? We rode the carousel for years. Did it never occur to either of us to stand up and grab the ring? If I had held her up, she could have reached it easily. But holding her up would have meant risk, it would have called for me to drop the walls between us and let her in. And perhaps she had walls of her own that were not ready to come down. So we sat on our separate horses and shot longing glances at a ring that was never out of reach except we made it so. What a ride it would have been though. If we'd just tried.

I look at the biobed. There is so little of her left now. It will be soon. She will leave me and move on to whatever it is that waits for us when we die. I have never known, did not spend much time examining it as a younger man. But I find that it interests me now, now that I am old and have little else to do but sit and look over my grapes and ponder what life has to offer me in my remaining years. I find myself wondering more and more what death will offer me. What if it really is nothing? What if this is all there is?

What will we have wasted, she and I, if this is all the time we were ever meant to have?

"Jean-Luc?" Her voice is raspy, breath rattling around in it, but it is her voice and I have not heard it so clear or so sane since I got to the hospice, and I feel my heart leap into my throat as I turn to look at her. I have to blink tears away again, and I realize that I am breathing fast, that my own shallow gasps are louder than they should be.

Her eyes are clear. She does not struggle against the restraints. She knows me.

"Beverly?" I say, as I lean forward, undoing the webbing that holds her down with such force that for a moment I fear I will hurt her.

She stares at me, as if I am the one dying. "You came," she says.

"I will always come."

A silence falls between us. A silence that is familiar because it is built of fear. I look down at her and I see how little of my Beverly lies in that frail body and I realize that we are again standing on the edge of a cliff and soon she will let go of my hand and jump without me if I do not act.

I lean down, lay my lips on hers gently. I can feel hers push back. They are dry and hot but they push against mine with a strength I would not have expected.

"I love you, Beverly," I say as I pull back enough to see her, to watch her eyes. "I have always loved you, and I will always love you." I shake my head, try to clear the tears that have sprung up in my eyes again. "I wish- -"

"--Shhh," she says. She stares up at me, her eyes the same gentle blue I remember, the same fierce belief in me is shining out of them. "I love you too, Jean-Luc." She struggles for breath then, for a moment looks panicked, then a strange calm comes over her. She seems to be looking into the past...or perhaps into the future, and a brilliant smile crosses her face. Then she looks at me, and for a brief moment she is with me again and there is nothing but love for me shining out of her eyes. She whispers, "Forever."

And then she is gone.

I close her eyes. I cannot bear to see the light go out from them, to see them staring sightlessly at the walls of this cold, sterile room. The space is silent, the bed dark. There is no longer anything to measure, to monitor, to watch over.

I feel suddenly cold. As if someone has pulled a blanket from around my shoulders on a chilly evening, or has yanked the comforter from me in the middle of the night. I feel cold and alone and afraid.

She is gone, I realize. There is no one to watch over me. No one to believe in me. No one to stand on the cliff and leap with me.

"Admiral?" Giselle's soft voice sounds from the doorway. "Are you all right?" She is a distant cousin, a young girl enamored of space who has taken a liking to the doddering old admiral that settled two villages away from her family. She is the stubborn child who comes to visit, even though I refuse to tell her stories of my adventures, refuse to let her into my life. And she is the determined twelve-year-old that somehow helped me travel to this small room, got us through every transporter, every checkpoint so that I would not miss my friend's death. She is the little girl who after one look at the dazed old man staring at the comm from the hospice, took action, did what needed to be done to bring me to Beverly's side. She has the Picard will. She will accomplish whatever she has to, clear any obstacle that stands in her way, do anything that is necessary. But will she love? Does she have the Picard fear as well?

I turn to her, hold out my hand. She comes to me, stares down at Beverly. I wonder if she has ever met death before. "I loved this woman. I loved her more than anything," I say softly.

"I know," Giselle whispers and even though I do not know how she knows, I believe that she does. She does not flinch away from Beverly, does not appear scared and I love her for that.

I reach out, touch Beverly's face one last time. I tell Giselle, "Do not wait, Cherie, until you are my age to embrace love. Do not run away from it, or be afraid of it."

She nods but I wonder if she understands. She leans in and kisses me and for the first time, I allow the affection. In the past, I have held her at arms length, but perhaps there are other fears I need to let go of, other walls I need to tear down.

While there is still time.

I push Giselle away gently. Stand up. Goodbye my love, I silently tell Beverly. Forever, I think, not sure what it means, but willing to embrace it.

I take Giselle's hand, lead her from the room. As we walk to the transporter pad, I say, "Those stories you are always trying to pry out of me...I believe I am ready to tell them."

She looks up at me and I am taken aback at the sheer joy in her face. "Really, Admiral?"

As I nod, I tell her, "And my name is Jean-Luc, Giselle. Call me Jean- Luc."