Tea For Two

Summary: Tea and sympathy. Picard/Crusher fluff.

Author's Note: For Opal. Thanks to Lanna for the beta

Tea For Two

Beverly sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose and staring down at the contents of her PADD. The past week had been hellish with the entire Enterprise medical team working around the clock to combat a viral plague on Alpha Five. They'd managed to halt the spread of the disease with only a few dozen deaths; the other infected colonists were well on their way to recovering. She was bone-tired, couldn't remember the last time she'd slept or even thought about anything over than antibodies and immune factors. Yet she was too keyed up to sleep, so she focused on next month's rota instead. It didn't take much in terms of sharp thinking but it kept her mind busy until she was ready to collapse into bed to sleep for the next three days.

"Beverly?" a low voice intruded. "What are you doing up? Your shift ended hours ago."

She smiled weakly up at him. "I could say the same to you, Jean-Luc."

"Starfleet Command decided it didn't want to wait for my briefing," he explained, stepping into her office. "Everyone on the planet is recovering nicely." He paused for a moment before suggesting, "You should rest."

"I will soon," she assured him, shaking her head. "I just need a little while to slow my mind down."

He moved to the replicator, ordering, "Tea, chamomile, hot."

She raised an eyebrow. "Not your usual fare."

"A traditional sedative for the granddaughter of a traditionalist," he answered in a teasing tone, turning and extending the mug to her. Then, more seriously, "Come, Beverley. It'll help you relax."

She smiled and took the cup from him with a nod. "Couldn't hurt to try, I suppose. I'll need to relax eventually."

"Do you want milk?" he offered. "Honey?"

"That does sound nice," she admitted smiling when he turned back to the replicator and ordered not only those but a second cup of chamomile tea as well. "Not your usual fare," she repeated.

"There's an ancient saying; when in Rome, do as the Romans do," he answered, moving the little jug of milk and the bowl of warmed honey onto her desk.

"Torture religious dissidents?" she laughed.

He smiled and shook his head, smile lines crinkling his face. "Respect local conventions," he clarified.

"Ah."

She smiled and helped herself to each, a dab of honey and a healthy measure of milk since she did want to sleep eventually. Her smile widened as he not only added both to his own cup but took a long sip and smiled as if enjoying it as greatly as 'real' tea.

He glanced up at her, must have seen her smile because he smirked for a second before directing his attention to the PADD she'd set down.

"Next month's schedule?"

"I thought I'd get it out of the way."

His eyes narrowed. "Beverly?" he pressed.

She looked up at his tone of voice. He wasn't pulling rank exactly, but he still clearly expected answers.

"I'm just having trouble coming down off red alert," she sighed, shaking her head so he'd know it was nothing. "Recovering from long periods of action with little or no sleep was easier when I was younger. Takes more time to switch gears these days. Even when my own people aren't involved."

Sighing, she glanced back towards Sickbay where a nurse and a medical assistant were both sleeping off the aftereffects of the virus. Well cared for, of course, by Doctor Selar, but both had come close to dying.

He nodded his understanding, putting his tea aside and climbing to his feet. She looked up, surprised, as his hands found her neck. His expression was tentative and his fingers didn't seem sure whether to make contact or not. He rested his hands on her shoulders with his thumbs lightly touching the back of her neck.

"Lean forward," he directed, brushing her hair away before gently digging his fingertips into her tense muscles.

She hissed at the moment's discomfort that presaged relief, letting her head fall forward until her chin touched her chest. If any other man had come to her at this hour, knowing how keyed up she must be, she would have questioned his motives even before the kind treatment started. Certainly if any other Commanding Officer she'd served under in her career had spontaneously initiated a back-rub, she would have considered it over more than one line. But Jean-Luc Picard had never been one to take liberties or play games. It must be obvious to him that she needed something. She must have looked like a wreck for him to take such personal action.

"A little to the left of my C-3," she murmured.

"Here?" he asked, shifting his hands.

She moaned, gritting her teeth. "Gentle!"

"Sorry."

The pressure eased up immediately, replaced by a series of light and absolutely glorious passes of his fingers. She sighed happily as the tension started to fade from muscles that had been too exhausted to rest only moments ago.

"Thank you," she breathed, closing her eyes.

He murmured wordlessly in answer, hands picking up speed and intensity as she continued to relax under his care. This wasn't something she allowed herself often. Letting someone else take care of her instead of the other way around was always something of a guilty pleasure for her as self-indulgence vied with her natural drive to nurture and care for others.

Except that there was almost no guilt in letting her Captain and her friend take care of her like this. It was different, granted, but not in a troubling way. And it was helping erase the strain and pressure of the past week. She submitted gratefully for that reason alone, but this new proof of his regard for her was nice on another level entirely.

Part of her wanted to shrink away from hands that could make her heart feel so warm. Another part could only acknowledge the fact that the man had been a dear friend since before the birth of her son. His ability to relax and soothe her was, therefore, only natural. He knew her well enough to know what she needed and when she needed it. Like when overwhelming tension and anxiety and doubt demanded a warm cup of chamomile and a wordless expression of acceptance, support, and comfort.

"Thank you," she repeated when his hands stilled. "I needed that Jean-Luc."

"Obviously," he agreed with a warm smile, offering his hand. "Let's get you to bed, Beverly."

"I'm big enough to tuck myself in, Jean-Luc," she chuckled, shaking her head.

"Then I'll just see you as far as your door. Unless you want to finish your tea first?"

She shook her head. It was getting cold anyway. Although, now that she thought about it, it had been a long time since she'd curled up in her own bed with a mug of hot chamomile and a good book. Perhaps a novel in no way related to medicine? Smiling, she slid her hand into his and climbed to her feet. When he offered his arm like the gentleman he's always been, she accepted it, letting him escort her to her quarters.

"Thank you, Jean-Luc," she murmured at the door. "I appreciate your concern."

"Any time," he assured her. "Get some rest, Beverly." He lightly squeezed her shoulder before giving her a smile and then turning and starting off.

She smiled as she let herself into her quarters. There was more tea in her future and a good book and, unless she was much mistaken, a good night's sleep. For which she was duly grateful.

End