Jean Luc Picard was beamed directly from his Casdasian captors to sickbay aboard The Enterprise. In spite of his protests, he was helped to an exam table in a private room. He tried to hide the pain he felt as he moved, but Doctor Beverly Crusher was not fooled. She made her way quickly to his side and scanned him for head to toe. She concentrated on her readings for a moment then injected him with a hypospray.

"What are you giving me?" He asked in a hoarse voice.

"Something for the pain."

"What makes you think I'm in pain?"

Beverly just rolled her eyes before returning to her readouts. She walked to the other side of the room to consult with Doctor Selar, leaving him on the exam bed, breathing a sigh of relief as the pain medication started to take effect. In a matter of minutes, his eyelids began to get heavy.

'When was the last time I slept?' He wondered. He knew he had passed out a few times when the pain of his torture was particularly intense, but he was sure he had not actually slept in several days. When he couldn't fight the exhaustion any longer, he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.

"Jean Luc." Beverly said softly, trying to wake him gently. After all he had been through, she wanted to ease him back to reality.

When he opened his eyes, he tried to sit up quickly, unsure where he was.

"It's alright, Jean Luc. You're in sickbay." She stopped him with a hand gently on his chest, guiding him back to the bed. "You're home." She said softly.

"Beverly." He still seemed a bit disoriented.

"I'm here, Jean Luc." She touched his cheek. "You're safe." She grabbed a cloth and tenderly wiped the sweat from his forehead.

"Thank you." He said quietly, truly seeing her for the first time since he awoke. His mind finally calmed so that he could focus on where he was. "You are a sight for sore eyes."

Beverly smiled. "So are you. We were all very worried about you."

Jean Luc nodded at her and held her gaze. "I must admit, I was worried about me too." He looked at Beverly's serious face. He touched her chin. "Hey, it was a joke."

She continued looking into his eyes, looking pained. She sighed and walked to the door, closing it and coming back to sit next to him on the bed. She leaned over and kissed his lips softly. "That's because I am so happy to have you home and safe."

He was speechless as he felt her kiss still burning on his lips.

Beverly leaned close to him again, her mouth so close to his as their eyes locked. She kissed him, lingering much longer. They had kissed before today, but always with caution and fear of losing control of their emotions. This was different. Emotions were running so high, neither had the capacity to hold anything back.

"That kiss was for choosing to remain," her voice broke as the emotions overtook her, "and be tortured rather than let him hurt me."

Jean Luc wrapped his arms around her. "I would die to protect you." He kissed her hair. "When my captor said I was free to go…" He took a shuddering breath. "And then he said they would get what they needed from… you." He inhaled deeply, letting her scent give him the strength to continue. "The thought of you in pain… was… agony to me. I didn't know if they had you… but I couldn't take the chance."

Beverly wiped tears from her eyes. She started to speak, but couldn't find the words. Instead she kissed him and pressed her forehead against his. "Jean…" she whispered, unable to continue as tears flowed freely down her cheeks. She touched his lips with her trembling fingers.

Jean Luc stroked her hair and cradled her head in his hands. He buried his face in her auburn curls, feeling happier and more at peace than he thought possible just a few short hours ago.

"I don't want to waste another minute." Beverly said tearfully against his mouth, kissing him desperately. "I've spent too much time worrying about what could happen." Her lips traveled to his neck as she clung to him. "And I almost lost you anyway."