The dark of space beckoned beyond the pinpricks of silvery light. Jean-Luc Picard stood lost in the vista stretching beyond his viewport. His days of leave on Ba'ku had been neither delightful as anticipated, nor as disastrous as could have been. Upon his return to the planet, he had found a discontent with his infatuation.

He had been infatuated with the idea of things, rather than the reality. With no threat to the population and planet, he became impatient with even the pace of speech, much to his dismay.

Anij had proven a wonderful host, creating a restful, rejuvenating environment. His sleep was deeper and more restful than he could remember it being. By the fourth day, his discontent began to niggle at the periphery of his consciousness. By the seventh, he had left to return to the Enterprise.

He had needed the time, to be sure. The time it took to travel to and from the Briar Patch, and the seemingly endless week on Ba'ku. The disillusionment and betrayal of StarFleet still stung. He had sacrificed his life for them, both literally and figuratively… and yet he was no longer sure he could trust his orders, nor believe in the evolving 'ideals' StarFleet professed.

Only his First Officer knew so far of his return to the ship. He was not returning to duty just yet. There was too much to weigh. He had been wounded too many times to count for principles he thought he believed in. He had surrendered any semblance of a personal life as many times.

His thoughts strayed to the one that had betrayed him on Ba'ku; the name which had made Anij tell him to leave, with a gentle, sad smile…

"Computer, location of Doctor Crusher?"

"Doctor Crusher is not aboard the Enterprise." The familiar, unemotional tone of the computer startled him out of his melancholy. He quickly logged on to his computer, bypassing the lists of messages waiting, skipping to the Ship's Orders.

There. Approved by Will: a month of leave, and the use of a runabout. She had left three days ago. A sharp disappointment stabbed his gut. It was tinged with something which felt like guilt, though he spared no time to decipher what he should feel guilty about.

He glanced at the chronometer. "Picard to Riker."

The sharpness in the voice on the communicator startled the First Officer. "Sir, go ahead."

"Will, can you speak privately?" The Captain's use of his first name further piqued the First Officer.

"Yes, Sir. I'm in the Ready Room." Will waited, wondering what could be urgent less than an hour after the Captain's arrival back shipboard.

"Can you tell me where Doctor Crusher is?" The Captain's voice was quiet but intense. The First Officer raised an eyebrow in concert with one corner of a smile. He raised a hand to rub his beard, finding smooth skin. Maybe the Captain was finally coming to his senses, much the way he recently had.

"As a matter of fact, she was looking for a nice resort to just spend some downtime at. We were too far out from Risa, so I recommended she try Navaal IV. The warm tidal coasts are spectacularly restful. I pulled a few strings and got her a suite on short notice." Will knew it was more than work the Doctor had been fleeing, but he kept those thoughts to himself. The doors to the Ready Room opened to admit Counselor Deanna Trio. Will motioned his finger over his lips in the universal sign for 'quiet.' "Is there a problem, Sir? She had almost a year's leave accumulated."

Deanna perched on the edge of the chair in front of the desk, her expressive eyebrows raised as she gazed at the First Officer.

"No. No problem, Will." A long pause, then, "I think warm tidal coasts sound just… perfect. I might join her for just a few days. Could I ask for the same favour you gave the Doctor? Could you book me accommodation for… ah… a few days?" The Captain's voice was distracted.

"Certainly, Sir. Consider it done. Enjoy." With a brilliant smile that bordered on feral, Will rested his elbows on the desk, hands clasped in front of him. His eyes sparkled.

"What was Captain Picard doing back from Ba'ku?" Deanna inquired.

"Just leaving again." Will nodded. "Seems he had enough of Ba'ku and is now headed to Navaal IV."

"Oh." Deanna's smile echoed Will's. "It's about time."

"My thoughts exactly."

"You're going to book him a suite in the same complex, I hope."

"Nope." Deanna stared at him.


"No, I know from speaking to Ba'eta when I booked for Beverly that it's practically an act of God to get a room right now. No, I think our Captain would be better served if he had to crash 'with a friend'' when he arrived." It didn't take an empath to know the direction his thoughts were heading.

"William Thomas Riker, you are incorrigible." Deanna giggled with slightly malicious glee.

"No, just hopeful." His eyes softened as he looked at Deanna, counting himself blessed for at least the thousandth time today. He could think of no other two people who deserved to find happiness than those two. And if fate needed an assist, well, who was he to fumble the pass.