When it happens, you'll know. Everyone says it. You hear it so often that you wonder how you could have missed it happening to you. It sneaks, creeps, attacks you in the dark between breaths and heartbeats.
His heartbeat. Mechanical, rushing, clicking but he doesn't know he's so unique to you. You can see the mechanism when you close your eyes, head on his chest. It's the quiet that consumes you. His regular breathing and the soft, click, whoosh of his heart.
You sleep less than he does. Doctor's habit. He's regimented, even in sleep. Six hours when he can. Seven is a luxury and if he has to, naps and stolen moments of eyes shut tight in his ready room. Not an ideal life but at least he understands why sometimes you just can't listen when he talks to you.
Sometimes he's the same way. Even though he'd love to hear what you're saying, respond and sympathize with what happened to you on your shift. There are nights he just can't hear you.
So you sleep, limbs wrapped around him because he sleeps on his back, facing the ceiling. You drape around him, like a cat or a sheet or another part of his bed. You accommodate him because you're flexible. Always have been, really, now that you think about it.
You trace his chest. He'll sleep through your hand because it's time for him to be asleep. He'll sleep through anything. Well, he wakes when you leave. That's what made you start to suspect.
That and his smile. His smile's always been so special; so gentle and almost sacred in its rarity. Jean-Luc doesn't know how much you need it or how desperate you are for that warmth at the end of the day. The rest of it fades together.
Good sex is incredible but you're spoiled and it's something you've had since the first few awkward times. Even when it's mediocre, it's above average. He listens, pays attention to your body. You've had good lovers, but Jean-Luc is a caring one. You're connected. You're with him even when your body is only a little interested in what you're doing.
You eat dinner together, occasionally lunch, and always, always breakfast. Simple things because neither of you likes elaborate. You can still make him wince if you remind him he hates having breakfast with you. You love that shamed look he gets when you tease him.
You love, and that's what has you up tonight. You don't just love his smile, or his hands, or the way you can make him flush just by looking at him the right way. You love.
You love Jean-Luc Picard. You're obsessed with his arms and the smell of his neck when he's just gotten out of the sonic shower. There's that leather smell when he's been horseback riding and the gasp of surprise when you reach for him and his hands are cold.
You love his books and the sound of pages; who reads books with paper other than him? You love knowing he'll stay up all night working on something trivial that will make an entire treaty hold up in the morning. You love that no one else knows how nervous he gets when he has to give a speech.
At least, you tend to think so. Deanna might, but, God, Deanna. You can't think about this in front of Deanna. Waltzing around the morning briefing thinking about how much you're in love with the captain- you are in love with him- really isn't good. It's not professional. It's not rational. You know.
You know in every cell of your being. You love him. You smile. You even giggle before you bury your mouth behind your hand. You're a child again, fantasising about Stephen the soccer player and your future children.
Jean-Luc knows you exist. He rubs your shoulders and brings you dinner in your office. He reads your letters from Wesley over your shoulder when you ask him to and promises you again and again that he's all right.
For so much of the past, he stood by you, quiet, reserved, silently suffering because he loved you. Now you, in your infinite wisdom, lie awake, trying not to laugh because finally, you've caught up to him.