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Seizing the Opportunity
By E. Wallace

The lights were low, and except for the soft murmur of voices across the room, all was quiet. The patient was resting comfortably, but still she sat by his side.

He was the one patient she hated leaving, even in the hands of her capable staff. So, she sat, just watching him sleep, not even checking the readouts above the biobed.

He was a major figure in her life. For longer than she'd known Jack or Wesley or even Walker, Beverly Crusher had known Jean-Luc Picard. He was her dearest friend, and when she dared admit it to herself, he was much more.

The attack on A'kire had taken the entire Away Team by surprise. A faction opposing an alliance with the Federation had stated their position with an uncharacteristically violent action. The rest of the diplomatic detail escaped with only minor injuries, but the captain had not been so lucky. Although the surgery had been long and painstaking, the prognosis was for a full and speedy recovery.

Beverly had always been afraid of losing him, and situations like this usually served to reinforce that fear. But tonight, here in the peace and relative safety of Sickbay, she wondered if it would hurt any less to lose him as a friend than as a lover. Would her heart be any less broken, her soul any less shattered? Would it be any easier to learn to have breakfast alone again than to go to bed alone again?

The answer to those questions was no. So what was holding her back? That was the question she didn't have an answer for.

She sighed and slipped her hand into his. Stirring slightly, Jean-Luc's sigh echoed hers as his fingers closed instinctively. She felt a connection between them that went far beyond the physical and knew he felt it too when his eyes opened, and he turned to look at her.

Years of training made him instantly alert and aware of his surroundings. "It's late," he chided gently, "you should be in bed."

"I'm the doctor here. And how do you know what time it is? You've been asleep for hours."

"It's too quiet for anything but the night shift. So, doctor, how am I?"

"You'll be back to your old self in a day or two, no lasting damage. How do you feel?" Beverly had a fair idea of the answer but wanted to hear it from him.

He started to shift position then thought better of it when most of his recently repaired muscles protested. "Like I should have heeded Mr. Worf's request to go in first." He raised his hand, still clasping hers, and rested it on his chest. "If I'm all right, why do you look worried?"

"Worried? Oh, that. It's a standard facial expression; they issue it to us in medical school."

Something in her tone caught his attention. "Why?" he asked again.

She looked at him for a long moment before answering. "Because I love you," she said softly, "and I realized I could be running out of opportunities to do something about it."

The admission caught him off guard, but he recovered quickly, not about to let this moment slip away. Jean-Luc smiled tenderly. "I was rather beginning to think the same thing. Never fear, my love, I intend to see to it that you have plenty of time to make it up to me. To us." He lifted her hand and kissed it, smiling again as she blushed at the overt show of affection. She glanced around quickly to see if anyone was watching. He tugged at her hand to get her attention. "When do I get out of here?"

"In the morning, but I'm not going to release you for duty for at least another day after that. No arguments."

"I hadn't planned any. I'll take as many days off as you want -- so long as you'll do the same."

"Jean-Luc, I have work to do."

He grunted, rolling his eyes towards at the ceiling. "She talks about love and missed opportunities and now all she wants to do is work. I knew I might be put off every now and then, but not immediately after the declaration. I don't believe I care to be treated like..."

She silenced him with a kiss that surprised both of them. Still leaning over him, she murmured seductively, "My apologies; I'm a little out of practice. How about I pamper you all day tomorrow, then maybe tomorrow night we can try a... 'stress' test on the repair work I did on you?"

Reaching up with his free hand, Jean-Luc gently wrapped his fingers in the fiery hair he adored, drawing her down to him. "I think... that's... an excellent... idea," he said between kisses.

Beverly pulled away with what was supposed to be a laugh but came out more of a moan. "Hey, the stress test is scheduled for tomorrow, not now. You'd better rest up." She glanced up in time to see her staff suddenly find something else to do. Satisfied that they weren't being watched, she whispered in his ear, "I believe in rigorous testing." He closed his eyes, whether to block out the vivid mental image or enhance it she wasn't sure. She kissed him quickly. "I'll see you in the morning. Sleep. That's an order."

As she straightened, he let his fingers slide through the silk of her hair, then down her arm to catch her other hand. Then he said the words he had begun to believe would forever remain unspoken. "I love you, Beverly."

It was a simple, honest statement of fact, and it meant more to her than all the Shakespeare he could ever quote.

"I love you, Jean-Luc," she replied hoarsely. Clearing her throat, she added, "Now go to sleep."

"Sweet dreams, my Beverly. I know mine will be."

She moved toward the door, their hands slipping slowly apart, then just fingertips touching, hesitating a heartbeat before breaking the contact. Jean-Luc's eyes never left her as she crossed the room.

On her way out, she paused by the little cluster of personnel. "One word of this gets out," she said quietly but firmly, "and I'll have you all sent to the most desolate outposts in the Federation." They nodded solemnly, knowing that while she could do it she wouldn't and waited until she left before breaking into excited whispers.

Jean-Luc astonished himself. Knowing he would soon be one half of the hottest piece of gossip to flash through the corridors of the Enterprise bothered him not in the least. He had promised Beverly that his dreams would be sweet, and he fully intended to keep that promise.

The End