Light beyond measure and a rushing white noise filled her senses. Her stomach dropped as she felt the touch of eternity in the blink of an eye.

And then reality came crashing back—literally—as she landed hard on an industrial carpeted floor. She had instinctively tucked as she dove into the portal, she came out of it and rolled up against something hard and unyielding.

Before she even had time to recognize Engineering, she felt hands on her shoulders.


Her eyes still squeezed shut against the chaos of dimensional shift, she heard his voice. His voice, strumming along her nerve endings. His voice, which she had despaired of hearing again after he, at last, had disappeared, just as the rest of them had.

Had she been more coherent, she would have noted the rough intonation in his voice. As it was, she could think of no sound more dear than her name, spoken in his voice.

He was pulling her upright, Her Doctor's mind flashed the thought that if she were injured, he should not move her. Her woman's heart directed her hands to grasp his biceps, to allow the moment of weakness, to be lifted, to fall against his warmth.

She felt his hands shift to her hair, her back. She was grasped so tightly she could barely draw a breath—and yet she clung tighter still.

Sensations came to her, in singular clarity; The tough fabric of his uniform against her cheek and under her grasping fingers. The smell of him. She opened her eyes to see skin and a chin and a shoulder clad in familiar black and maroon, a collar and the pips signifying his office. Her hands gripped onto him, not trusting his solid presence would not vanish again.

Slowly, she realized she heard other voices.

Geordi, Wesley… She knew she had to let go, She tried—she tried to stand back from him, but her knees were disinclined to cooperate.

He steadied her.

For a moment, he did not care who saw his arms around her. For a moment he forgot he was The Captain and she his Chief Medical Officer. For just a moment she clung, and he encouraged her to cling. She could not stop the fine tremor quivering her from head to toe.

The naked relief on his face settled in her belly. She imagined she felt his lips against her temple. She knew she felt his hand pass through her hair.

Drawing in a breath that smelled of cologne, soap and starch, and Jean-Luc Picard, she turned her head to address her son and the Chief Engineer. She did not step away from the Captain's arms. Not just yet anyway .