(Better Angels by Story Hill found on Shade of the Trees)

Better angels of our nature
stay awake now, you're in danger
the coming night is dark and deep
Cross over the river and rest
in the shade of the trees...

The Captain hung on tightly to his Chief Medical Officer's hand as they ran. They half-crouched, staying low to the ground, darting from concealment to cover; First a bush, then a boulder... the former merely hiding them from sight, the latter better-but still dubious-protection from the disruptors their pursuers carried.

Their link had grown stronger, seemed it's strongest now, with the adrenaline and high emotion of running and ducking. The heat and dry wind dried the sweat off their skin quickly, but the dark patches of damp on their uniforms bore testament to their exodus.

Water.

"I know." Jean-Luc said out loud, licking chapped lips.

"Sorry." Beverly replied, between breaths. "I'm trying not to think about it... but..."

Soon... the terrain is downhill, this was a flood plain once... His thoughts were as clear to her as his voice had been. This time she knew he was actually sure of the direction, not just making a 'confident guess.' His confidence felt gold and warm brown and ochre; solid, steady.

They seemed to have lost the Prytt soldiers who had been attempting to track them. They slowed their pace, conserving energy and precious hydration.

We'll drink, then crossover and try to find a place to rest for the night. A small smile lit the Captain's face, she was trying very hard NOT to think of water. But they had been thirsty since before they left the caverns... white and bright yellow like the desert sun, and dull dusty grey-brown coloured the need.

"Now *you're* doing it." She chided. But her eyes smiled, and her thoughts were warm, familiar, deep sparkling jewel tones and rich, iridescent gold.

"There-hear it?"

She could, she could hear water running. It was faint, and by the sounds of it just a small stream... far from the image of the wide blue-with-frothy-white river Jean-Luc had been picturing. But far ahead they could see trees on a soft knoll rising, a sure sign they were heading in the right direction.

Both picked up their pace, unconsciously matching steps, close enough for elbows to bump. They arrived at the river, and to their united relief, the tricorder showed it safe to drink. Though narrow, the water ran along a rocky bed which was surprisingly deep in the center. Both knelt at the edge, cupping hands and greedily drinking.

Once her thirst was quenched, Beverly splashed water over her face, washing away some of the dust and sweat. "Drink more than you think you want." She said out loud to the Captain. Dehydration is insidious, you don't notice symptoms until you are already at a critical stage... Her worry seemed a deep violet, dark but with an inner light.

She looked over as he poured water from his cupped hand over his face, then his scalp. His skin was pink with sunburn. She wished for her medkit to heal it for him. He would be uncomfortable. She felt the warmth on her own cheeks, knowing she showed the rosy mask of wind and sun as well.

Rising together, he reached for her hand again, they walked into the stream as far as they could before the water topped their waterproof duty boots, then united as if it were choreographed, took a small jump over the deepest middle part, splashing down on the far side.

Let's head for those trees. We can rest there. The shelter will allow us to build a fire tonight. Confidence was a rich maroon, not dissimilar to the Command staff uniform.

All it took was a glance for her to let him know she concurred, her fatigue a tattery light grey at the edge of her thoughts.

The night came, uncertainty descending upon her with the darkness. Black, with darker black at the edges. Cold. He built the fire then, the dancing warmth of the flames helping to banish the fear.

She called him out, when he tried to hide his thoughts.

"Why didn't you ever tell me you were in love with me?" Something deep in her ached. She wasn't sure what would assuage the pain...

The rest of the conversation did not.

"... And now we're friends." Tears pressed at her eyes. She refused to let them surface. She knew he was blocking truth from her, but he had quickly, effectively walled off his mind from her, she had no idea which part of the conversation was prevarication.

Well, two could play at that game. She started going over effects of dehydration and sunburn in her thoughts, concentrating fiercely on remembering all the first-year texts on the symptoms and treatments...

The night was long... dark and deep beyond the glow of the small fire in the haven of the trees. He was so near to her she could feel his body heat; and yet he might have been miles away. Eventually he relaxed, and she could tell by the fuzzy, disjointed thoughts he was asleep and dreaming.

She let the tears fall then. He'd loved her. All this time... all this time when she wanted him with every fiber of her being. But then he said the feelings changed-the feelings of guilt? or the love?

She could have asked him to clarify... but fear as bright and sharp as the flames from the fire licked up at her. The hole gnawing in her stomach had little to do with the lack of food, but everything to do with her circling, roiling emotions. Eventually the soft, steady sound of the running water nearby lulled her to sleep, her dreams oddly vivid and disconnected.

~O~

They outnumber, but we're at our best
as willing we stumble into their bullets blessed
hold the line...
stay close to me...

Morning brought with it a sense of impending doom. It lurked at the edges of both their thoughts, dark drab greens and browns and greys... They did not speak. Each drank from the cold river, more than they wanted. For now it would also have to satisfy the hunger.

Beverly stood too fast, and everything went light and dizzy. He was at her shoulder instantly.

Beverly?His concern was dark deep oranges and yellows, like the embers from the campfire had been. His eyes were dark green, clouded with worry.

Just low blood sugar. Nothing to be done... She tried not to think of croissants and coffee, but he caught the images anyway, and a grin lit his otherwise grave features.

After extinguishing the fire, they moved off for the border. When the disruptor beam hit between them, sending Jean-Luc tumbling to the ground, she felt the bottom drop out of her heart for a moment. Time stretched as she bolted to his side, her own panic blocking her ability to read him. But then he was breathing and moving and she calmed enough to believe him when he said it was just bruises...

Helping him up, they began the erratic race again.

It was easier not to speak, it saved their breath for the tortuous escape effort. At this point it was hard to separate which thoughts were his and which were hers. Desperation had an acid tinge to it as energy reserves waned.

Hope sparked a second wind when they saw the tall border stanchions. Breathing heavily she began coaxing the tricorder to cooperate. If she could set up a multi-phase pulse...

"No, no, the modulation frequency should be in the upper-harmonic range." She felt him scanning their surroundings, tried to let go of her distracting fear to concentrate on setting the tricorder...

She did it! The forcefield shimmered into view.

She felt the bleak storm-cloud blue of his desperation when he spotted the Prytt soldiers.

A few more tweaks of the upper harmonics... she saw the break in the forcefield in front of her.

Without looking behind, she saw their pursuers through his eyes.

No time... they're here... his thoughts were dark angry blue and swirling with fear... for her...

The hole was big enough for one of them now...

There was no decision, really, no other option for her. She pushed him through the break in the fence just as it closed.

Nausea started to swarm up. She looked at him. She could see the Prytt soldiers upon her from his vantage. She could see the agony in his eyes. Could feel the dark despair pulling like a black hole...

As she felt rough hands grab at her arms, she let down every wall and concentrated on thoughts of love, and forgiveness-she knew he would blame himself. It's not your fault, Jean-Luc, *I* made the choice...

The stab of anguish from him almost doubled her over. Then his walls went up. Before he could shut her out completely, as she felt herself being dragged away from him, she pushed the pain of separation down, and simply thought I love you.

Agony and nausea were starting to cloud her thought process, and she was sure she was going to vomit, when she felt the familiar blue tingle from above... felt him being transported too. Felt his relief, inseparable from hers.

They were safe.

(And that is where it ends. Because I refuse to acknowledge what happens next. Who knows, maybe someday I'll find the inspiration to finish it with an AU ending.)