A/N: This was written in 1998. I found it while going through my collection of writings and thought I'd post it for posterity.

Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything. We bow down and offer up action figures as a sacrifice to the mighty Berman. Now I can play with them guilt-free.

Jean-Luc Picard stood self-consciously outside Beverly Crusher's quarters, gifts in tow. It was the night shift, so few crew members passed by. Those who did, however, were justifiably curious, but too polite to question why the Captain was standing outside the ship's CMO's quarters at one in the morning.

Beverly, open the door, he thought. He was about to turn away when the doors parted, revealing a disheveled Beverly Crusher. Picard couldn't help but smile at the sight of her. She stood before him, wearing a pink satin nightgown that fell just above her ankles and revealed her creamy white shoulders. Her hair, somewhat out of place, fell around her shoulders in a cascade of red, with a single ribbon in the back.

When Beverly realized who the figure in her doorway was, she exclaimed, "Jean-Luc!" and proceeded to throw her arms around him. Picard staggered back and managed to get one arm around her and return the hug.

"It's good to see you too, Beverly," he laughed.

She pulled him inside and looked at him. "When did you get back? I thought you weren't supposed to return until tomorrow."

"The conference had to be canceled early due to the Prime Minister's daughter running off with a young man," Picard explained.

Beverly's eyes widened and then she began to laugh.

"What is so funny about that, Beverly?" Picard asked, frowning.

"Nothing ... really, I shouldn't be laughing. It just reminded me of how it was to be young and in love," she said wistfully.

"Yes, well," he cleared his throat, "getting to the reason why I'm here ... if I'm not mistaken, someone just celebrated a birthday."

Beverly's eyes widened and she asked, "Wherever did you hear that?"

"Oh you know, the usual suspects," Picard replied vaguely.

"Well, yes, as a matter of fact, Ensign Myres just celebrated her twentieth birthday, yesterday," Beverly teased.

Picard looked at her and smugly said, "Well then, I suppose I shall go and take these to her." He proceeded to turn around and was halfway to the door, when he heard Beverly laugh and felt her hand on his arm.

"Jean-Luc! I want my presents!"

He laughed. "Demanding, aren't we?"

Beverly just smiled. Picard sat down next to her and handed her the smaller of the two packages. Beverly kept her gaze on him while she undid the wrapping. She squealed in delight as she pulled an intricate perfume bottle out of the box.

"Jean-Luc Picard! How did you know that I wanted this?"

"Well, believe it or not, Beverly, I actually did pay attention when you dragged me shopping on our last shore leave," he told her as she dabbed some of the perfume on her neck.

"I guess so. Next time, I'll be sure to point out the really expensive things, now that I know you're listening," she said with a wink.

"Indeed," he replied with a smile. Taking the last present into his hands, he handed it to her. "I hope you like this one," he said, a bit nervously.

Beverly glanced at him curiously before she opened the box. Her eyes lit up with amazement as she lifted the lid. "Oh, Jean-Luc," she breathed. "It's beautiful," she whispered as she lifted a dark blue satin dress from the box.

"I hope it fits," he said softly.

"I'm sure it will," she assured him. "Wherever did you get this? It's exquisite."

"I saw it on Starbase 12 a few months ago. The moment I saw it, I knew it was your dress. I had to guess on the size, so ..." his voice trailed off as he watched her.

"It's perfect," came the soft reply.

"Would you care for dinner this evening? It would give me an opportunity to see you in the dress and catch up on ship's business."

"I'd love to," she replied, as she put the dress back in the box.

Rising, Picard said, "I'm glad you liked your gifts, Beverly. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure what to get you."

"They're both perfect. Whoever said men can't shop, obviously never met you."

Picard laughed and offered her his hand. She took it and they walked to the doors. They stopped as they reached the entrance and Beverly took his other hand into hers. "Thank-you, Jean-Luc, for remembering my birthday and for the wonderful gifts. What would I ever do without you?"

"Probably live a peaceful life," he replied, smiling.

"Probably so," she conceded with a smile. "But, I think I'll take my chances and keep you around for a while." Becoming serious, she continued, "I'm glad you're back."

She leaned forward and kissed his cheek, letting her head come to rest on his shoulder. Not quite sure of the direction this was taking, Picard cautiously placed his arms around her waist. His heart quickened as Beverly slid her arms around his neck. They stood like that for a few minutes, just enjoying each
other's closeness. It was Picard who pulled apart first.

"Beverly," he said softly.

"Yes?" she looked at him with those luminous blue eyes.

"I think I should be going. We both have a lot to do tomorrow." He disengaged himself from the embrace and smiled at her.

Beverly's thoughts flew through her head. What was she doing, standing here with him, embracing him? She shook herself mentally and replied, "Of course."

"I'll see you for dinner this evening? 2000 hours?"

"That'll be great," she replied. "See you then."

"Yes, well, uh, goodnight," he said, feeling extremely uncomfortable, and not having the slightest clue as to why.

"Goodnight," she echoed, sensing his discomfort and knowing that she had caused it. She watched as the doors shut on him. Leaning up against them, she silently cursed herself. What were you thinking, Bev? You can't do this. You don't want this from him. She sighed. Yes, I do. I do want this from him. More
than anything else I want him.
Torn between her feelings for this man and her fear of giving into those feelings, Beverly walked back to her bedroom and laid down, spending a restless night in sleep.

xxx

Picard sat in his Ready Room staring at the monitor, but not really seeing it. His mind played kept going over the events in Beverly's quarters. He had felt so calm with her there in his arms, yet so unsure. He knew that he wanted a relationship that went beyond the mere friendship they presently shared, but what was it that Beverly wanted? At times, it seemed as if she was ready to take the next step in furthering their relationship, like last night. But then, she would close up and push his advances away. He sighed. Would this game never end?

His thoughts were interrupted by the beeping of his comm badge.

"Riker to Picard."

"Picard here, go ahead Number One."

"Sir, you have an incoming transmission from Admiral Shaughnessy."

"Patch it through." Picard closed the communication channel and turned to face his now occupied viewscreen. The familiar Federation emblem flashed across the screen and then was replaced by the older, yet distinctly handsome face of the Admiral.

"Charles, so good to see you," Jean-Luc said with a smile.

"Hello, Jean-Luc. It's been a while hasn't it," Charles replied, his English tongue accenting every word.

"Too long," Picard agreed, waiting patiently for the Admiral.

"Well, getting down to business, Jean-Luc, we've received some disturbing reports from Centari III system."

Picard lifted a curious eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Yes," Shaughnessy continued. "Apparently, the Cardassians are running tactical maneuvers in that area."

Picard, not following, asked, "But that is acceptable under the treatise, is it not?"

"Acceptable, yes. Comfortable, no. Starfleet has just recently stationed a team of scientists on Cetus 4-A, the fifth planet in the Centari III system. We've been running field tests concerning the matter/antimatter assemblies in regard to the reaction injectors. If these tests come back within the acceptable limits of safe warp travel, we'll be able to increase the precision in which we can feed matter and antimatter streams into the warp core, increasing our efficiency by at least one-hundred and ten percent," Shaughnessy
explained.

Picard leaned forward. "I had no idea that the work on that theory had progressed so far. I remember hearing about it when I was last at Headquarters, but ..." he trailed off, shaking his head.

"As you can see, the Cardassians presence there is just a bit too convenient and unsettling, to say the least. I want you to take the Enterprise to Cetus 4-A and see what's going on over there. Avoid all possible confrontations. We just want to take a peek and then, if necessary, let a small task force take care of it. Understood?"

"Yes, Admiral. Quite understood."

"Very good. Best of luck to you, Jean-Luc."

"Thank-you, Admiral."

"Oh, and Jean-Luc, come by and see Emily and myself next time you make it back to Earth."

Picard smiled for a moment as the screen went blank. Sighing, he leaned back and rubbed the base of his nose. Life is never easy, he thought.

xxx

The door chimed at exactly 2000 hours. Beverly sighed and took one last look in the mirror, critiquing herself. Her hair fell softly around her shoulders, framing her face in a soft wave. She smiled, satisfied with the result, and moved to let Jean-Luc in.

"Hello, Jean-Luc," she greeted as the doors parted.

Picard, for his part, was stunned by the picture Beverly presented. He needn't had worried about the dress. The tight fitting outfit clung to every curve in all the right places, accenting her graceful body. His body filled with desire as he stood in her doorway, drinking in the sight of her.

"I take it you like the dress?" she asked teasingly.

"Very much so," he replied, having the grace to blush slightly. "I see my fears were in vain."

"Apparently so," Beverly laughed. "At least I know what to wear when I need to get your attention in future situations."

With that, Picard laughed and offered her his arm. "Indeed, Doctor. Now, shall we go? I, for one, am hungry."

Beverly took his arm and spoke. "Of course. Where are we dining tonight?"

Picard smiled mischievously at his companion and merely offered, "It's a secret."

Beverly looked at him. "A secret? Not even one clue?"

Picard shook his head and smiled.

What does he have planned? Beverly wondered. Something is definitely going on here. She was surprised to find a flash of pleasure run through her at the thought of what he might have planned. *Now, now* she scolded herself. Let's not jump to conclusions. The man just probably wants to talk and catch up on the latest news. She rolled her eyes at the idea. Sure he does. That look on his face when he saw you in the dress...definitely just wants a casual conversation.

Beverly shook off those thoughts and stole a glance at Picard. He looked extremely handsome tonight in his civvies. He wore a dark grey shirt that allowed just a peek of his muscled chest. His fitted pants were a dark black and clung to his body. Definitely not Starfleet issue, she thought wryly.

Her thoughts were interrupted as they came to the turbolift. Gesturing to Beverly, he extended an arm. "Ladies first," he said gallantly.

Beverly smiled and entered the 'lift. Picard followed and waited until the doors had closed before issuing his command. "Deck 17." He turned to his companion. "Has curiosity killed the cat, yet?" he asked, with what looked to be like a smirk threatening to grace his features.

Beverly briefly considered wiping the smirk off his face for him, but then thought better of it. It wouldn't do to be thrown in the brig. She merely smiled and turned her back to him.

Picard was amused. He thoroughly enjoyed the game they played with one another. Always teasing each other, seeing how far they could go and still come safely back. It was one of the things he loved about their friendship. Their friendship ... would it ever become more?

He sighed and wondered just how long he would have to wait. How far was too far to encourage her? He paused in his thoughts and then realized that Beverly hadn't said a word to him since she had turned away. Placing his hands on her bare shoulders, he asked, "Beverly?"

She sighed inwardly as a wave of pleasure encompassed her as his hands touched her bare flesh. But, aloud, she only replied, "Yes?"

"I was merely teasing you. Nothing more than that," he spoke quietly.

Crusher smiled and turned in his arms. "I know that, Jean-Luc. I just wanted to see you sweat."

"Oh you did, did you?" came the reply. She smiled and nodded at him. Gazing into her bright blue eyes, he couldn't help but entertain the thought of leaning down and kissing her full lips. She watched as his eyes flickered to her lips and then back up to meet her gaze. He was leaning in closer when the 'lift halted. They jumped back from one another quickly as the doors parted. As they exited, both pretended not to notice the curious stares from the ensigns waiting at the turbolift doors.

xxx

Beverly leaned back in her chair and smiled at Jean-Luc. "Thank-you, Jean-Luc. Dinner was wonderful."

"I'm glad you enjoyed it, Beverly."

They sat at a table in the middle of the arboretum. Two elegant ivory candles graced the center of the table where they sat. Soft classical music wafted in the air, echoing throughout the forest of trees and plants. They had the place to themselves, Jean-Luc had seen to that.

Pushing his chair back, he stood up and walked over to her. "Care to dance?"

She took the hand he offered and was mildly surprised to find herself so close to him so suddenly. His fingers intertwined with hers, as he let his other hand come to rest firmly on her waist. Beverly smiled as she heard him speak.

"Enjoying yourself?" he murmured.

"Mmm," was her only reply.

She allowed herself to be swept off her feet by this extraordinary man. She followed his every movement as he guided her across the dance floor, gliding effortlessly in his arms.

Picard basked in the warmth of her, her body pressed close to his. He pulled her in even closer, as he allowed his other hand to fall from Beverly's and encircle her waist. She, in turn, brought her hands over his shoulders and around his neck, letting her face bury into his shoulder.

A few moments later, they had stopped dancing entirely, and just stood there, pressing against one another, swaying almost imperceptibly to the strains of music. Picard lowered his hands and let them lightly rest on her lower back.

Beverly pressed herself closer to him, wanting his touch. She raised her head and spoke softly. "Jean-Luc ..."

He shivered slightly as her breath danced across the back of his neck. He managed to find his voice before answering.

"Yes, Beverly?"

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"For this. For everything. You always know just what to say, to do, to make me feel happy. I can't imagine life without you being there for me," she said in a muffled voice.

Picard didn't know what to say. He stood there for a moment, wondering. Wasi this the sign he had been waiting for? Had Beverly just signaled to him that she wanted to further their relationship? Sighing nwardly, he tried to decide on what to do. He could just take it as a thank-you from a close friend,
nothing more than that and be safe. But, on the other hand, if he took it as something more and it wasn't, their friendship could be irrevocably damaged. Whoever said life was fair, Jean-Luc?

He was still debating as Beverly moved against him, brushing her hips to his. Whether it was a calculated gesture or not, it didn't matter. His decision was made with that movement. He slid his hands down her backside and gently squeezed.

Beverly inhaled sharply as she felt his hands move lower. A soft sigh escaped from her lips. Encouraged by her response, he leaned forward and placed his lips softly on hers. Slowly, gently, he began to kiss her. Moving his lips across hers with a delicate passion, he marveled at the sweet taste of her. Beverly, unable to stop herself, let out a small whimper as she felt his lips caress hers. It was a fevered passion that consumed them, a passion that had been denied for nearly twenty-five years, and now that it was free to
reign, they were going to savor every moment of it.

Picard felt Beverly's hands move across his back and up to his neck. He let himself give in to the pleasures her wandering hands were creating. Her fingers grazed the short hairs that adorned the back of head, running back and forth across them, eliciting a low moan from him.

After what seemed like an eternity, they pulled apart. Beverly lifted her eyes to look into Jean-Luc's face. Gazing back at her, he could not help but smile as he spoke.

"I've wanted to do that since the first day I met you," he told her softly, his finger caressing her cheek.

"And I've wanted you to," Beverly replied, her voice barely above a whisper. Jean-Luc broke into a full smile as he leaned in closer to resume his earlier activity, but Beverly placed a gentle hand on his chest. He looked down at it, and then up at her, an unspoken question reflected in his eyes.

Beverly obliged him, beginning slowly, choosing her words carefully. "Jean-Luc, I know this is definitely what I want," she began. Jean-Luc smiled broadly. "But," she continued, "I want to go slowly. I haven't done this relationship thing in a long time. And to tell you the truth, I'm a little scared," she finished.

Jean-Luc looked at her for a moment, and then folded her into his arms. "Beverly, I'm just happy to have you with me. We will take this as slow as you need. I promise you," he assured her.

"Thank-you, Jean-Luc," she said softly. I love you.

Jean-Luc Picard eyed his reflection in the mirror, scrutinizing his appearance. He brought the razor up one more time and then, satisfied, he stepped back into the bedroom. He was debating on which aftershave to choose when his door chimed. Look at yourself, Johnny. Acting like a teenage boy with his first crush. He laughed aloud. He quickly applied the cologne and then walked towards his door as it chimed once again. He pressed the door panel and they parted to reveal a waiting Beverly Crusher.

"Good morning, Beverly," Jean-Luc said as she entered his quarters.

"Good morning, Jean-Luc." She stopped and turned around to face him. "Mmm, that wouldn't be the aftershave that I like so much, would it?" she asked, a sly grin on her face.

Picard felt his ears burning. Caught in the act, he opted for dismissing the question entirely. "Tea, Beverly?" he asked brightly.

Beverly laughed, his silence a sure answer to her question. "Why not, Jean-Luc," she replied, walking after him.

Breakfast was eaten, both enjoying the other's presence, and the feel of this new relationship. An occasional glance or touch occurred, but for the most part, they ate in companionable silence. When it neared time for them to begin their respective duties, Beverly got up and proceeded to clear the table as Jean-Luc quickly perused over their new orders. He laid the PADD down and watched her as she finished cleaning up. Putting out his hand, he took hold of her arm as she walked by his chair. She looked at him and then cried out in surprise as he pulled her down to his lap.

"Jean-Luc!" she admonished.

"What? I merely wanted to sweep you off your feet," he replied innocently.

Beverly looked at him sternly. After a moment, she could no longer help herself and she began to laugh.

"You're incorrigible. You know that, don't you," she told him.

"So I've been told," he agreed with a laugh. His eyes softened as he looked at her. "Did I tell you how beautiful you look today?"

"Mmm," was her only reply.

"Well, you do. Absolutely breathtaking."

Beverly smiled at him. "Thank-you," she said, pausing for a moment. Then she continued, "but I'm still not going to sleep with you."

Picard's eyes widened in shock. Then, realizing she was joking, he arched his eyebrow and said, "Well, there goes my plans for seducing you."

"I'm sure," Beverly agreed. "Now, Captain, would you kindly let me up, so that I can attend to my duties?" she teased.

"Of course, Doctor," he replied, releasing his arms that were wrapped around her waist. "I must attend to mine also."

Together, they walked to the turbolift. Once the doors had closed, Jean-Luc asked Beverly. "Will you be at dinner tonight?"

"Actually Jean-Luc, this really cute science officer asked me out tonight, so I've been considering his offer," Beverly replied teasingly.

"Oh I see," Picard said lightly. "Hmmm, well how about my offer," he said and then proceeded to lean down and kiss her.

After breaking apart, she looked at him, a twinkle in her eyes. "That was really tempting, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to decline your offer."

He arched an eyebrow. "Oh really? And why is that?"

She grinned mischievously and said, "I've had better." She was about to say something more when he engaged her in a lengthy, soul-searching kiss. He pulled away from her as he felt the turbolift slowing. Gazing into his eyes, she tried to catch her breath. The doors opened and he stepped out onto the Bridge.

Glancing at her, he asked, "I'll see you at 1800 hours?"

She could only nod at him as the doors closed on her smile.

Picard walked down the ramp and sat in his command chair. Smiling, he turned to his right.

"Status report, Number One?"

"We'll be arriving at Cetus 4-A in two hours, sir," Riker replied. Then, glancing at Picard, he asked, a small smile on his face, "And you, Sir? How was breakfast?"

Picard looked sharply at him for a moment, and then broke into a small laugh. "It was delightful, Will."

"Delightful?" he questioned, probing for more.

"Delightful."

Seeing that his captain wasn't going to divulge any more than that, he nodded his head and looked at the viewscreen. Wait until Deanna hears about this.

xxx

Beverly glanced outside her office in time to see Deanna Troi walk through the Sickbay doors. Groaning inwardly, she prepared for the interrogation.

"Hi, Beverly," she greeted as she took a seat.

"Good morning, Deanna. What can I do for you?"

"Oh nothing really. I was just passing by and I thought I'd drop in for a moment," she lied.

"Try again," Beverly replied.

Deanna smiled and laughed. "All right! I'm curious. I admit it. Will told me …"

"Wait a second," Beverly interrupted. "Will told you? How does he know?"

"Beverly," Deanna scolded, "Men talk too."

"I can't believe Jean-Luc would talk about this. Not that he doesn't have the right too. It's just that he's so … private," she mused aloud.

"Actually, all he said was that breakfast was delightful," Deanna replied.

"Oh."

"And," she prompted.

"It was," Beverly informed her.

"That's it!" Deanna asked incredulously. That's all you're going to tell me?"

"Mmm-hmm," Beverly murmured.

"Are you sure?"

"Absolutely."

xxx

"Then Deanna asked me about breakfast, so I just echoed your earlier comment," Beverly told Picard as they moved to the couch.

He laughed. "Well, I can see that this relationship is going to be the scuttlebutt of the ship."

"Looks that way," she agreed, nestling into the space he created for her.

"We'll just have to be careful what we say and do in public. It wouldn't do to have us causing gossip, now would it?" he teased.

"Absolutely not. But, that's just in public," she informed him as she raised a finger and traced his ear.

"Now in private, that's an entirely different matter," he breathed as he brought her lips to his.

"Mmmm …" Beverly murmured after the kiss had broken. She kept her eyes closed and leaned against his shoulder.

"Jean-Luc?"

"Yes?"

"Is this real?"

"What?" he chuckled.

"Is this real?"

Picard turned and put his hands on her shoulders, looking at her. "Beverly, what's wrong? Where did this come from?"

Beverly gazed into his eyes, a small, yet nervous smile on her lips. "Nothing's wrong, Jean-Luc. This is just so surreal – you and I being together. I mean, this is what I've wanted for so long, and now that it's
finally happening, it's hard for to believe," she explained.

Warm emotion filled Jean-Luc as he listened to her words. A smile danced across his face as he replied. "Beverly, I can assure you, it's real. We're real. We're together and nothing is going to separate us. I can assure you of that. Trust me?"

A small nod of her head was sufficient an answer for him. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her close again.

"So," he breathed in her ear, "what now?"

"I don't know. This is nice, don't you think?"

"Very much so," he agreed, bringing his hand to her head and running his fingers through her silky strands.

They stayed that way for quite some time until finally they dozed off late into the night.