Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek: The Next Generation and its characters. I just borrow them on occasion.

Darkness surrounded Beverly as tears rolled down her cheeks. He was still missing. Captain Jellico was still on the Enterprise, refusing to allow a rescue attempt. She had been patched up and released from sickbay but had put herself on medical leave for a few days. Deanna had tried to question her, but Beverly had fled to the quiet of her quarters.

Starfleet was assuming Jean-Luc was dead, an unfortunate casualty of war. Sobs overtook her again as she thought of all that he had sacrificed for them over the years, just to be written off without even an attempt to save him. If he was still alive he was probably wishing he wasn't, that much she knew. The Cardassians were heartless when it came to prisoners. She had healed many wounds of attack survivors during her time as a doctor. She had seen unconscionable things; pictures she had never fully been able to erase from her mind.

She angrily wiped the tears from her cheeks. She needed to be doing something! Regret plagued her as she thought of all the things she never told him. Would she ever have the chance to swallow her fear and tell him how much she loved him?

"Will, I'm worried about her. She hasn't spoken to anyone. She's been locked in her quarters for days."

"She's on leave, Deanna. We can't make her come out if she doesn't want to. Captain Jellico seems to think Sickbay is doing fine without her."

"Have you been down there?"

Will Riker turned to meet Deanna's eyes. Sighing, he replied, "No, I haven't."

"It's like the air has been sucked out of the staff. No one is smiling. Patients are being taken care of; but, I'm telling you, people with minor injuries are avoiding going in at all. They were already worried about the Captain and now…they're wondering if their doctor is ever coming back."

"Alright Dee…I'll see if she'll—"

"Jellico to Riker."

Will's eyebrows shot up as he looked at Deanna. "Go ahead, Sir."

"Commander, please notify Dr. Crusher that she will need to be back on duty by zero nine hundred tomorrow."

"Yes Sir. May I tell her why? She is likely to ask."

"Her medical expertise will be needed for a patient we are due to pick up around that time."


A pause over the com line caused both Deanna and Will to tense.

"Captain Picard has been located."

Attempting to keep the smile out of his voice, Will replied. "I will inform her right away. Riker out."

He reached for Deanna as he slowly became aware that she was shaking. "If Beverly is needed, he must be alive Deanna." She was nodding numbly as she laid her head on his strong shoulder. They stood supporting each other for a few moments, each needing to process the news.

"Will…I think I should tell her. In person."

"You said she wouldn't let you in."

"She wouldn't, but I have news she wants now. If that doesn't work, I'll use my override and hope she isn't holding anything heavy."

"Let me know if you need any backup," Will said with a chuckle.

Deanna threw him a quick smile as she headed out of the room.

She rang the bell for the third time and sighed. Apparently Beverly's mood had not lifted yet. Hitting her com badge, Deanna fought the urge to threaten her dear friend.

"Troi to Crusher."


"Beverly, I know you're here. I need to speak to you."

"I'm on leave Deanna," came Beverly's exasperated reply.

"Only until zero nine hundred tomorrow." That ought to get her attention.

Beverly's door slid aside to reveal a scalding glare from the good doctor herself. "What are you talking about?"

"Thanks for letting me in. I was starting to feel rather foolish speaking to your door."

"Deanna…" Beverly's raspy voice held a warning.

Deanna let herself in and sat down on the couch. "Will was asked by the Captain to notify you that you are needed on duty by nine tomorrow. I told him I thought I might have better luck storming the castle."

Beverly huffed as she sank into the corner of the couch. "Why?"

Taking a deep breath, bracing her mind against the onslaught that was sure to come, Deanna finally put her friend out of her misery.

"We will be picking up Captain Picard around that time."

Beverly's body froze, as did her thoughts. She was having trouble processing the fact that what she had hoped was true. Jean-Luc was alive…wasn't he?

Tears filled her eyes as she reached out to her friend, "Deanna, is he…?"

"Jellico didn't say. Will and I are assuming he is alive. Your expertise would not be needed if the Captain were dead."

Some of the hope that had sprung up in Beverly's heart dissipated. She needed to know.

"Crusher to Jellico."

"Jellico here."

"I understand that I am needed on duty by zero nine hundred tomorrow, Sir."

"That is correct doctor."

"Is the patient I'm expecting still alive?"

"A strange question Do-"

"Is he alive?" Beverly drew out each syllable. Jellico could not mistake the fury in her voice.

"Yes, Doctor. The patient is alive and well enough to be transported."

"Crusher out."

Relief flooded Beverly's body and she collapsed back into the cushions. Tears flowed unchecked down her cheeks. Deanna moved closer and drew her friend into her arms.

"Beverly that was a dangerous move. He is the Captain; he could report you for that."

"I know," Beverly cried. "I didn't think. I needed to know Deanna! Who is he to toy with people like he does?"

"I don't agree with his methods Bev, but he is our commanding officer right now."

"Not for long." A hint of a smile colored Beverly's voice as she spoke the last words.

Deanna couldn't help but smile. Beverly was incredibly resilient and even ultimate despair couldn't keep her down for long.

Wiping her eyes, Beverly sat up. "Deanna, thank you for coming to tell me. I don't mean to be rude, but I need to get some rest if I have to put Jean-Luc back together tomorrow morning. There's no telling what condition the Cardassians have left him in."

"Your welcome and think nothing of it. Get some rest. I'd like to be with you when he comes in, just to let him know that I'm available when he is ready."


With one last hug, Deanna left Beverly alone with her swirling emotions.

The next morning a jittery Beverly Crusher sat in her office by zero eight hundred, attempting to occupy herself. The Enterprise wasn't scheduled to meet the Cardassian transport ship for at least an hour. And that's if they don't keep us waiting, she thought. There had been a large stack of PADDS on her desk when she had arrived; she figured she could sift through at least half of them before needing to get the recovery room ready.

Nearly forty minutes later, a soft knock on Beverly's window made her jump. Deanna entered her office looking a little sheepish.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."

Standing to stretch her back, Beverly smiled. "Not your fault. I was really focused on these reports. What time is it?"

"We should rendezvous in about twenty minutes."

"Oh! I can't believe I got so caught up. I've got to get the room ready."

"I'll be back in about ten minutes."

"Right. If I'm not in here, I'll be in the recovery room." Beverly grabbed her lab coat and headed for the Captain's private room.

After checking and rechecking the instruments and supplies in the room, Beverly took a steadying breath. Everything she might need was here, now she just needed her patient.

"Computer, lower lights to 55 percent. Much better, that should help if he has the headache I think he will." Clothes, she thought. Jean-Luc hates Sickbay outfits. Tossing her coat on the back of a chair, Beverly quickly headed for the Captain's quarters.

Deanna Troi kept a close eye on her friend as they awaited the Captain's arrival. Beverly's eyes kept scanning the room to assure herself she was prepared. Her heart was racing and Deanna was sure she needn't be an empath to sense just how anxious Beverly was. Suddenly Beverly whirled to face the Counselor.

"Deanna, I…I think you should meet with Jean-Luc first…alone."

Panic was nearly overwhelming the doctor. Deanna touched her arm to offer some measure of support.

"If you think that's best. I'll only take a moment; I know he needs medical attention right away."

Beverly visibly relaxed, "Thank you. I'll be right outside." As the recovery room door slid aside her communicator chirped.

"Dr. Crusher, we are ready to transport your patient."

"Go ahead," she replied as she stepped out into Sickbay.

Beverly stepped clear of the sensor to let the door close and slumped against the wall. She was having trouble keeping her objectivity. Fear gripped her heart. What had they done to him? Would she truly be able to heal him? Would Deanna? How many violating, tortuous events could one man survive?

She brought a shaky hand up to brush the auburn hair from her eyes. Knowing she only had a few moments to compose herself, she breathed deeply. Get it together Bev. You need to be strong for him.

The door whispered open behind her. Turning, she forced herself to meet Deanna's gaze. Reaching out to squeeze Beverly's hand, she smiled.

"He is very pale and has lost much of his strength. He is bruised and scarred, but Beverly…I believe you have imagined worse. He's waiting for you. He seemed quite anxious to see you."

Beverly hugged her friend quickly, unable to respond. Taking another deep breath while straightening her lab coat, she stepped back into the recovery room.

It took a moment for Beverly's eyes to adjust to the dim light of the room. When she could see clearly she found Jean-Luc searching her face.

"Beverly?" His voice was a whisper.

She slowly walked toward him, taking in his appearance. He was gaunt and pale. The Cardassian's may have allowed him to clean up a little and had kept him alive, but just barely. She spotted bruises from his face to his shins. Torture was strictly prohibited by treaties signed at the Saldonus 4 Convention; she wanted nothing more than to ring Gul Madred's scaly neck herself. He had lost weight and muscle. He looked frailer than she'd ever seen him.

He watched her as she studied him. Sadness and then anger quickly flared in her sapphire eyes. Compassion replaced them as she reached for his hand.

"Hi," she whispered, barely able to manage even that.

His eyes searched her face for signs of injury. The tension in his body lessened slightly as he took in her unharmed visage. Jean-Luc tightened his grip on her hand and sighed deeply.

"What is it?" Beverly asked, her concern growing. She took a hold of his other hand.

"Did they hurt you?"

An expression of confusion crossed Beverly's face. "Hurt me?"

"The Cardassian's. Did they hurt you, Beverly?"

Beverly gently squeezed his hands and then let go. Her fingers came to rest on his cheeks and she closed the distance between them.

"We escaped Jean-Luc. Worf and I were never captured."

The remaining tension in Jean-Luc's body melted away. Needing to know for sure, he slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her close. Beverly's hands circled his back, as he rested his head against her shoulder.

"Oh, Jean-Luc. What have they done to you?"

A strained chuckle escaped his lips. "I'm so glad you're alright."

Beverly pulled back to meet his eyes. What must they have told him to elicit such relief? He hadn't mentioned Worf. Was it just a slip of the tongue? Maybe he would tell her someday.

"I need to run some tests, Jean-Luc."

He nodded. As Beverly began to run the scan, he reached for her hand again.

"I need you to release me to light duty today."

"Jean-Luc! You've been through hell….I cannot allow-"

He placed his hand on her lips and her eyes grew wide. "Please…listen. I already spoke to Deanna about this. I want that man off of my ship before my crew requests transfer en mass. Heal the bruises and scars, Beverly. Give me vitamins and I will promise to eat and sleep. I've made an appointment with Deanna for later today.

"There is nothing that needs my attention right now. Will can handle the ship until you and Deanna decide that I am fit for unrestricted duty. I…I want my ship back Beverly."

She regarded him, her arms crossed. This man will be the death of me yet. The doctor in her opposed the thought, but the seething woman in her completely agreed that Jellico needed to go as soon as possible. How could she say no when he looked at her with those eyes?

"Alright Jean-Luc. But you will rest and eat! Your body needs time to heal, and you have a lot to go over with Deanna."

"Yes Doctor."

She rolled her eyes at his sarcasm and helped him lie back on the bio bed. Her scans continued in silence. Once every bruise was gone and each scar had been tenderly healed, she helped him sit back up. Without a word she turned and retrieved the clothes she had gotten from his quarters earlier.

"I thought you might appreciate these," she said with a smile. The depth to which she knew him touched him deeply. "Why don't you change and I'll get you something to eat."


"You will eat what I bring you or you will not go to the bridge young man. No matter how badly I want that man gone."

Beverly kissed his cheek and quickly left the room. Stunned that she had acted so impulsively, she fought the blush that crept into her cheeks.

Hours later Jean-Luc Picard had reclaimed his ship from Captain Jellico and had had quite a long talk with Counselor Troi about his time on Celtris III. He was exhausted, body and soul. All he wanted to do was curl up in his comfortable bed and sleep; but he was worried about the dreams. Deanna had reminded him that nightmares were natural and to be expected. Unfortunately that knowledge didn't make the thought of them any more palatable.

Entering his quarters, Jean-Luc paused. He didn't like feeling restless. Giving himself a mental and literal shake, he continued to the bedroom to change into something more comfortable. Emerging moments later in a thin black shirt with long sleeves and a pair of soft slacks, he headed for the replicator. Standing in front of it motionless, he sighed.

"This is ridiculous," he whispered to the empty room. Finding his voice, "Computer, what is the location of Doctor Crusher?"

"Doctor Crusher is in her quarters."

Smiling, "Picard to Crusher."

"Go ahead Jean-Luc."

"Beverly, I was wondering if you are available to come to my quarters."

"Are you alright?" she asked, concern filling her voice.

He responded chuckling, "Just tired."

"That's to be expected. You still need a lot of rest."

"I know Doctor," he sighed rolling his eyes. "So, is my best-friend available or not."

Beverly couldn't hide the smile in her voice as she countered, "I'll see if I can find her for you. I just got in; would it be alright if I shower and change before I head over?"

"I'll see you in a while then. Picard out."

Beverly Crusher felt utterly foolish. She had showered, dried her hair and applied a little make-up in no time. But she now stood motionless in front of her closet wrapped in only a towel. Violently blowing out a puff of air Beverly flopped down on the foot of her bed.

"What has gotten into you, Beverly? This is Jean-Luc…." Continuing her perusal of her suddenly inadequate wardrobe, she sighed. "I suppose that's the whole problem isn't it? This is Jean-Luc. The man you almost lost…again."

Rising from the bed she grabbed a pair of soft black leggings and the blue sweater she knew he loved. Familiarity was best at this point, she decided. Dressing quickly, she slipped into a pair of black ballet flats and headed for the door.

"Turns me into a flabbergasted teenager," she muttered as she made her way to his quarters. A few moments later she reached for the chime only to have his door slide aside as she approached.

Entering her friend's living room, she glanced around. The room was dimly lit compared to the bright corridor. She heard soft breathing and made her way over to the couch. When she saw him a smile flashed across her face and she chuckled quietly.

"Well, that explains it."

Jean-Luc must have decided to close his eye while he waited for her. His black clothing had made him nearly invisible in the dim room. Beverly heard his breathing change and impulsively decided to see how brave she was.

Leaning forward, she placed a gentle kiss near his mouth and whispered, "Sleep well, Jean."

As she straightened back up and began to turn, a strong hand grasped her wrist. Startled blue eyes met hazel ones. Beverly hadn't thought he would acknowledge her presence. Jean-Luc began sitting up without letting go of her.

"As I recall, Beverly, I asked for your company." His hand slid to hold hers.

"I thought you were asleep." Merriment danced in her eyes as he searched her face as he sat up.

"No you didn't."

"You were asleep when I got here and you need sleep, so I—"


She sighed and sat down next to him. She'd been caught.

"Yes, Jean-Luc."

"I know I need sleep. You can stop reminding me now. That's why…"

Turning her body toward him, her knee rested against his. She felt the atmosphere shift. He had asked her to come for a reason. She just hadn't expected him to tell her why so soon after her arrival.

"Why what? Why did you ask for my company?"

"I missed my best friend?"

She smiled at him and squeezed his hand. "I missed you too. But that isn't why you called me."

"Isn't it?"

Alright, Jean-Luc, I'll bite, she thought. "No, it isn't. Are you going to tell me or shall I start guessing? I bet I get it on the first try."

She was rewarded with a small smile. "Well…I was going to tell you but now I want to know your guess."

"You're exhausted," she replied. "You couldn't even keep your eyes open while you waited for me. You need sleep."

"I know all of this Beverly."

She reached up and gently stroked his cheek. "You're afraid to sleep."

He couldn't look her in the eye anymore and peered down at their entwined hands instead. She knew him so well, even when he pushed her away or shut her out; she still knew. Realizing she was the victor in their sad attempt at humor, tears stung her eyes. She hated when he was hurt or afraid, mostly because of how much he beat himself up over it.

Beverly leaned forward and wrapped her lithe arms around him. Hugging his still thin frame to her, she sighed. "None of this is your fault, you know."

Jean-Luc Picard was loosing control. A few short days ago he thought he would never see this woman again. And now, here he was in her arms. Silent tears ran down his cheeks. He wondered how long she would stay when she knew the whole story.

She always stays, his heart seemed to whisper to his cynical mind.

"You don't know," he whispered harshly.

Beverly's own tears joined his. Pulling back, she brought his eyes to meet hers. "No, I don't. But, when you tell me I will still be here. And it still won't be your fault. Do you hear me? I am not going anywhere Jean-Luc Picard. I don't care how stubborn and self blaming you try to be."

She stood up abruptly and he missed the warmth of her body near his.

"Come on."

Jean-Luc looked up at her in confusion, "What?"

"You heard me," she replied as she reached down and tugged on his arm. "It's time you got some sleep so that your normal, rational self can have a fighting chance against all that fear and guilt. Which, by the way, are perfectly normal feelings to be feeling."

Once he stood, she got behind him and steered him to his bedroom. "Computer, lights—"


"Computer, lights 15 percent."

The bedroom lights dimmed just a tad lower than they had previously been and she gently pushed him to sit on his bed. Having already observed that he hadn't been wearing his clothes long, she made quick work of removing his shoes. Leaning past him, she pulled down the comforter and sheets behind him.

"In." A smile appeared on her lips. She was well aware that she was the only person in the universe who could get away with treating him this way.

"I am not a child, Doctor."

"The Doctor isn't here," she smirked. "Just your bad tempered friend." As she continued to watch him expectantly, he sighed and threw his hands up in defeat.


Beverly walked around the bed as Jean-Luc settled himself. She had made her final wardrobe selection with this in mind. He might never ask, but she knew that he hoped she would stay while he slept. Her presence had once before kept the nightmares at bay. She'd nearly broken her neck by sleeping in chairs last time; not again. Slipping out of her shoes, she climbed into his bed.

Her resolve waivered momentarily while the thought that she was climbing into Jean-Luc Picard's bed hung in her head. Yes, they were friends. Best friends. But she was also completely in love with this man. A man that very much appreciated privacy.

Rolling onto her side to face him, she waited.

He didn't look at her. She could see the wet trail his tears had left on his cheek in the faint light.

Finally, a whisper. "What are you doing?"

"Helping you sleep."

Turning to face her, but putting as much distance between them as he could, he replied, "Is this a new recovery technique?"

I'm not taking that out, Jean-Luc. "I told you, your Chief Medical Officer isn't here. Just Beverly. Your best-friend…remember?"

"I can't always hold myself together in front of her though."

She smiled at his honesty. "You don't always have to be strong Jean-Luc. You are not just a captain. And I'm guessing it wasn't the Captain who spent the most time in pain on Celtris III." Her hand moved up and down his arm and then stopped.

He was still fighting.

Trying another tactic, she began again. "Do you know how it feels, Jean-Luc, when you open up to me? To know that I'm the only one you've let see the real pain, the tears? Hmmm? I cherish that you trust me that much. Please don't shut me out."

The tears began slowly and quickly turned to body shaking sobs. Beverly held him; whispering soothing sounds and telling him that he was safe, as her own tears flowed. He eventually fell into an exhausted sleep.

Beverly held him as he slept. She drew strength from his presence just as he had from her. He hadn't shut her out. They would be alright…in time. Now if she could just summon up the courage to tell him how she really felt.

Awareness returned slowly to Jean-Luc. Taking a breath, he realized there was a weight on his chest. The subtle sent of roses reached his nose as Beverly stirred. He felt her relax as his arms tightened around her again.

It was a strange sensation, he decided. The feeling of intimacy he felt while lying with his best friend in his arms. They were both fully clothed, but he didn't think he'd ever felt so close to a woman before. She had known what he would need and known that he wouldn't be able to ask for it. So, she simply hadn't given him a choice to be without her.

Snuggling closer to her, he gently kissed her hair. "I don't deserve you, ma cher."

"I think I'll be the judge of that," came her whispered reply.

She felt his body stiffen with embarrassment. Raising her head enough to kiss his shoulder through his shirt, "Go back to sleep Jean-Luc, you need sleep."

She reached her right hand up to gently stroke his jaw and neck. After a few moments, Beverly felt Jean-Luc relax under her again. She sighed and closed her own eyes. Surprised that he had allowed her to stay where she was, Beverly tried to ignore the feelings of doubt that were creeping back into her mind. As if he could sense her unrest, even in his own unsettled sleep, Jean-Luc wrapped his arms more tightly around Beverly.

Beverly awoke to agitated mumbling a few hours later. Jean-Luc appeared to be in the midst of a dream. Leaning up on her elbow, she ran her fingers down his cheek in an attempt to calm him. He thrashed under her touch.

"Jean-Luc, it's Beverly. Can you hear me?"

Perspiration dotted his brow as the nightmare raged on. His cries of unrest grew louder. Beverly moved to kneel beside him with one hand on his chest and the other on the left side of his face.

"Jean-Luc, wake up. You're having a nightmare…it's not real Jean-Luc."

"Noooooooooo! Don't touch her!" The agonizing words tore from his throat and Beverly shook him gently.

"Jean-Luc! Wake up, can you hear me?"

Suddenly his eyes flew open, terror fogging his gaze. He sat up abruptly, nearly knocking Beverly back.

"Hey, it's me. You're safe on the Enterprise. Can you hear me, Jean-Luc?"

Blinking slowly, Jean-Luc tried to clear the nightmare from his vision. His eyes finally focused on hers.


"Shh, I'm right here. It was a dream."

He reached out and pulled her into his arms roughly. He kept whispering her name as if he couldn't believe she was really there. Beverly tried to pull her arms out from between them but Jean-Luc wouldn't loosen his grip.

"Hey….It's okay. Look at me Jean-Luc….come on, look at me."

Very slowly he released her just enough for her to move her arms. She placed her hands on either side of his face and looked deeply into his eyes. The look in his hazel eyes broke her heart.

"See, I'm right here. You are safe. Okay?"

A slight nod was her only answer. His labored breathing began to return to normal as he gazed at her. The fear in his eyes began to dissipate. She gently stroked his cheeks with her thumbs. As the trauma of the dream began to fade she could see him struggling to replace the walls he so often kept around himself.

"Don't you dare Jean-Luc Picard. You're safe now; you don't need to protect yourself. It's just me here, okay? Shutting me out isn't going to help you deal with this." She watched the struggle in his features; he wanted to hide from her. "You don't have to tell me what it was about, but I'm right here if you want to. It might help…"

A soul shattering sighed shook him under her hands. He closed his eyes tightly and backed out of her touch. Her arms fell to her sides in defeat. Jean-Luc slid back against his pillows and the short headboard. Beverly hung her head and fought the tears that stung her eyes. She had been so sure he would let her be there for him.

He reopened his eyes and watched her. He knew she thought he was shutting her out. She took deep breaths as she struggled for control. His left arm slid across the bed to grasp her hand. She stilled at his touch. He squeezed once and she looked up, unshed tears pooled in her blue eyes.

"Come here Beverly," he managed to whisper.

As if in slow motion, she moved to lean next to him. He surprised her by wrapping his arm around her shoulders and pulling her into him. Her left hand came to rest on the soft fabric on his chest, the right lost somewhere between them. She tried to breathe normally again as she waited for him to speak. He brought his right hand over to gently wipe her tears away. Placing a soft kiss on her forehead, he finally spoke.

"I can't tell you if I can see your eyes."

Beverly's confusion showed on her face and she began to respond. His finger on her lips halted her movements. His gaze searched hers for understanding.

"I'll tell you about the dream Beverly, but I need you to stay right where you are. I won't be able to look at you and tell you…"

The fact that he was talking was progress and she knew it. Settling herself against him with her cheek on his shoulder, she sighed.

"Okay Jean-Luc…" And she waited for him to gather his thoughts.

With a shuttering breath he began. "They had you. In the dream. They had captured you too. I wouldn't tell them what they wanted to know and then he had you brought in. You were bruised and bleeding…I…I couldn't help you…I was shackled to the floor. I screamed that you didn't know anything, but he didn't believe me and he hit you…right in front of me. He laughed when I tried to get to you…he said…he…" Jean-Luc's voice caught.

Beverly turned her face slightly and placed her lips against his neck. "I'm right here," she whispered. "He never touched me Jean."

Taking a deep breath, he pulled her closer.

"He said if I didn't tell him what he wanted to know, he would get what he needed from you. He looked at you like you were a piece of meat…I wanted to kill him. He stood in front of you and he touched you. Brushed your hair out of your face and said how beautiful you were and that it was such a shame such a creature would be marred. He dragged you over in front of me…he was…behind you. He pulled out his dagger and held it to your throat…he asked me again about the defense plans. You just looked at me…I could see the fear in your eyes, but you barely flinched. You whispered no and he pushed the knife into your skin…there was blood, but you didn't make a sound. You looked at me and said…you…"

Beverly's heart ached for him. She started to sit up but he held her still.

"You said you loved me and it wasn't my fault. He laughed and pulled you back to him…he…he took you away. I screamed for him not to touch you…I failed you….I couldn't…"

Beverly broke free of his grasp as sobs racked his body again. She wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly to her. "You didn't fail me Jean-Luc! He never had me…he never touched me. I'm right here, safe and sound. I was here safe and worried about you the whole time. You could never fail me Jean-Luc, never."

Incoherent words poured from his mouth as he cried. She could only catch occasional words, but she knew he wasn't listening to her.

"Jean-Luc! Listen to me…I'm right here. Look at me!" Before she realized what she was doing, Beverly had straddled his lap and again held his head between her hands. "Jean-Luc, look at me!" Their breathing was ragged as his guilt ridden eyes found hers. "It was a dream. A horrible, terrifying dream. But none of it happened, Jean-Luc. Do you hear me? Tell me why. Tell me what he said to you down there that made you have this dream."

Blinking rapidly, he tried to think. What had been real? What was it he had said?

"He was going to let me go….he said I could go. When I got to the door he said that they would get what they needed from the "human female." I pretended I didn't know who he was talking about…but…but he said your name. He said they hadn't harmed you…yet. I…I turned around. I sat back down. Part of me knew he wouldn't have let me go and that he was probably lying about them having you…but I couldn't take that chance."

Tear ran unchecked down Beverly's face. This man, who was so infuriating at times, had voluntarily sat back down in front of his torturer to keep her safe…even if it had all been a lie. She leaned her forehead against his and draped her arms over his shoulders.

"You are the bravest man I have ever known, Jean-Luc Picard. I want you to listen to me very closely…" She felt him nod, "He lied to you. I was here safe…beside myself with worry about you, but safe. You did nothing wrong Jean-Luc. You didn't fail me or anyone else. He was trying to break you…looking for gaps in your armor. He is evil and you pissed him off by not breaking into a million pieces in front of him. You won…not him."

Beverly leaned back slightly and brought her hands back in front of him. She slowly wiped the tears that had run down his cheeks. She took a cleansing breath; it was time to be as brave as he had been for her.

"There is one part of that dream that is true Jean-Luc. Maybe two," she watched the fear slip back into his expression. "I never would have blamed you…it would never have been your fault if something had happened to me."

He looked at her red rimmed eyes and tried to smile. Encouraged by his smile, she continued, "I know you would have a hard time not blaming yourself…you always do. But you need to know that I would never blame you. Space is dangerous and I knew the dangers when I signed up to be on this ship. Got it? Hmmm?"

Jean-Luc's smile grew. Beverly could see a tiny bit of light returning to his eyes. "Got it," he whispered.

"Good. Now, for the second thing…."

He held her gaze and saw it falter just a little. Her hands slipped down to rest on either side of his collarbone. He wiped her cheeks as she had for him.

"Tell me…"

"I do love you…"

She saw the surprise in his eyes, and gasped as the last of the walls protecting him fell. With his hands framing her face, Jean-Luc pulled her to him. He kissed her lower lip and heard her sigh. Claiming her mouth fully in another kiss, he tried to remember to breathe. Nearly twenty-five years of loving this woman and she was finally in his arms, saying she loved him.

Beverly's hands wandered back to his neck, as his held her to him. She smiled as she returned his probing kisses. The last week's events began to catch up with her and a giddy laugh escaped her lips as they fought for air. Jean-Luc raised and eyebrow at her and she laughed harder.

"I'm sorry," she breathed. "It's just…the past weeks have been…I was angry and terrified and…and I've been guarding that secret for a long time…you're kissing me and…I guess it's all catching up with me."

He smiled as he slowly leaned in to kiss her again. "You should get used to me kissing you."

A slight blush colored her cheeks in the dim light. "Oh?"

Jean-Luc tenderly tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. He nodded and slowly kissed her again. "Mmmhmm…I've wanted to kiss you for over twenty years, I don't plan on stopping anytime soon."

Her fingers tightened on the back of his shirt, "You?...Wha…"

"I love you Beverly…I have always loved you." Jean-Luc claimed her in a searing kiss and rolled them to the side, so she was half under him. Forgetting the pain they had both endured for just a few moments, he kissed her thoroughly. He placed sweet kisses on her cheeks and her temple and her neck. She sighed deeply. Beverly had always wondered what it would be like to be kissed by him. The passion and tenderness that he hid from most people, he openly laid before her.

Her eyes sparkled as she looked up at him, "You love me?"

He chuckled and settled next to her until she was once again wrapped safely in his arms.

"Yes…I love you. I love your concern for others, and your passion, and your temper. I thought of you a lot while I was down there. Dreamed of you. You helped me stay sane, Beverly."

Snuggling into him, she sighed. "Glad I could help," she replied cheekily. Despite her best efforts a yawn stole her next comment. He laughed and hugged her.

"We're quite a pair."


"I have a feeling you need almost as much sleep as I do. Would that be correct, Doctor?"

"Maybe." She turned her face up and kissed his chin, reveling in the fact that she could.

"Then I promise to get all the rest I require….if you stay right here."

Pushing up slightly, she began, "Jean-Luc I ca…"

He held her gaze and her words fell away. "Good. Sleep, Beverly."

Settling down again, Beverly smiled. "Right here if you need me."

"I know," Jean-Luc sighed and felt calm and safe for the first time in weeks.