hi all, thanks for the reviews! i'm glad you're enjoying this, here's the next part!
The Longest Night
"I beg your pardon?" the effect of alcohol helped to slow his reaction and his question.
"I'm not coming back," the warm thrill of alcohol and being with him wore off as she fought to maintain her composure.
He nodded slowly. She needed to explain. Quickly.
"I've been offered a posting aboard the Harmony," she explained. "As First Officer."
He frowned. Her elucidation had far from clarifying the situation made it more elusive to his comprehension. He reached for his glass and took a sip of the warming liqueur, allowing the silence to grow as he contemplated both the slightly bitter fruity taste and his own naivety in assuming that she would be coming back to Enterprise, to him.
"I would have told you sooner," she hated herself, and his silence was not helping to dissuade that. "Only, I, well, I wanted to tell you face to face, and well, I only just accepted the job this morning." After you didn't reply to my message, she added harshly in her mind and immediately reproached herself. It had been an irrational act of anger that had taken the decision despite the reasonable debate that she had already been through.
"But, you're a doctor," he said uselessly. He instantly regretted what he had said, she was not just a doctor, he knew that and she was hardly going to appreciate him pigeon-holing her. "I mean…congratulations?"
Luckily, she laughed.
He managed to offer a genuine smile in return. After all, he could hardly judge anyone for moving up the command path, and he certainly couldn't begrudge it his friend.
"Thank you," she dipped her head slightly. "I'm sorry, Jean. I did want to come back, but…"
"No," he interrupted her. "If you have the opportunity to … I understand."
"Really?" she raised her eyebrow. "So, what was all that about Will and Deanna?"
"Oh, just idle gossip," he brushed embarrassedly. "So, first officer?"
"Yes," she noted his second neat side-step, he would not be getting away so easily as he wanted from that, but she would indulge him for a while, she had been dying to tell someone anyway having realised that despite working closely with people at Medical they had not become anything more than colleagues. Nana had been congratulatory, but Beverly suspected she was disappointed in her grand-daughter's decision to move away from medicine. "Primarily Harmony is responsible for research, scientific and medical, so it's not so far removed an idea as you might think. I'll still be involved in medicine, just not so much the practising side. Mind you, I haven't been much this last year anyway! We'll have a number of students on board at any time, and as XO I'll have the opportunity to mentor them and so forth."
"I'm pleased for you, Beverly," he said sincerely. "If it's what you want…"
She narrowed her eyes slightly. The sincerity in her friend's voice she did not doubt, but there was definitely something behind his second statement. "It is," she said in a measured tone. "I took the commanders test for a reason, Jean-Luc."
"I know," he said hastily, kicking himself for letting her think he doubted her. "I know that."
"Come on," she opted to tease the situation to a lighter tone, not wanting to part on bad terms. "How many doctors do you know who get to be first officer?"
"Not many," he smiled. "Come, let's celebrate."
He called over the waiter and requested champagne. He plagued her for details of her new captain, Captain T'al; their first assignment; whether she had told Wesley yet. She played with the stem of her glass slightly and seemed almost embarrassed to ask if it would be ok for Wes to stay aboard Enterprise still if he didn't want to join her.
"I know he's not your concern," she cursed her son's independent nature. "But, if he doesn't want to…"
"It would be my pleasure to keep him on Enterprise," Jean-Luc said honestly. "Although I will encourage him not to neglect his mother."
She hit him playfully. They discussed where Enterprise was off to next, suddenly Beverly found a reason not to be going back, and one more conversation with that doctor was likely to lead her to make very unethical suggestions of where to put his 'egg'. After two hours of talking and drinking, celebrating and reminiscing, she decided to broach the subject again. Whether it was the alcohol making her bold or the heart growing fonder at future absence, she couldn't say. She couldn't even be sure that he had been going down the road she was about to, but something told her it was worth pursuing.
"So, Will and Deanna?" she leant back slightly to enjoy the support of the chair. The champagne had been followed by cocktails of varying colours and intensities.
"Yep," he grinned, relaxing similarly.
"I knew there was something between them," she mused. "So, what's been happening?"
Jean-Luc filled in with what little he had been able to determine had changed in their relationship focussing on the protectiveness that Will had shown the ship's counsellor when she had become impregnated by a life-form eager to learn about the human experience. Beverly listened attentively and offered her own opinions on her former colleagues' situation whilst enjoying the sound of his voice washing over her. Jean-Luc told her about the incident just past where Deanna had stayed at Will's bedside as he fought against what they had considered certain death.
"I will admit," he sighed. "It has made me consider, a lot."
"About?" she murmured.
"Life. Love," he expanded on his thought, leaning forward and resting his hand over hers. "About, I don't know, taking chances before it's too late."
She blinked several times, the feel of his hand covering hers, the tender implications behind his words combining with the considerably fuzzy feeling in her head to make her giddy and to leave inhibitions behind.
"I know, that I have no place, no right to be saying this to you, not now, not after everything we've been through, not considering everything that's to come…"
"Who cares about what's to come?" she murmured drunkenly, suddenly cursing that she wasn't going back to Enterprise, terrified of what he might mean, daring to hope that he would mean it. "That's tomorrow's business."
"Beverly," it was now or never, the words he had always wanted to say but had never had the guts to before. "I…"
Jean-Luc cursed the admiral in every language he knew, under his breath, in a millisecond.
"Hello, doctor," the admiral whose name escaped them both beamed. "I hears you are to be embarking on the Harmony when it arrives tomorrow…"
They nodded politely, tried to pretend that they were no way near as drunk as the admiral, even though they were long past him, Jean-Luc hastily removed his hand from Beverly's and they managed to perpetuate neutral conversation until the admiral remembered that he had someone important to talk to on the other side of the room and took his leave of them as abruptly as he had appeared.
"Well," Jean-Luc exhaled as they relished in the silence that remained in the admiral's wake.
"I think I need a drink," Beverly sighed. "How the hell is that man still an admiral?"
"I have no idea," Jean-Luc rubbed his chin.
"Listen," she hesitated. "Do you want to come back to my quarters, here? That way we can have a drink without…"
"Yes," he startled her with his sudden decision to stand up. "I, sorry, I'd like that."
They made their way through the base to the accommodations uninterrupted. She keyed in the security code she had been given and admitted them entrance. He looked around the room, comfortably, uniformly serviced. She ignored the replicator and pulled a bottle of scotch out of one of her bags which were neatly packed along the wall waiting to be beamed aboard Harmony when it docked the following day.
"What time are you due to report tomorrow?" he asked idly wondering if it were wise for them to continue drinking or even if it were for them to have started in the first place.
"The ship doesn't dock until two," she poured them each a generous measure before placing the bottle on the side and walking over to him. "And it's expected to be late."
He raised his eye-brow in response to the twinkle in her eye.
"Is it now?" he accepted the tumbler she passed him.
"Are you not meant to be in meetings all day tomorrow?" she asked.
"I intend to delegate most of the actual talking and listening to my first officer," he teased.
"Pity the fool," she grinned. "I must remember never to become your first officer."
"Oh, I think you'll find that all captains are apt to a spot of delegation," he sipped the scotch, savouring its taste.
"So," she licked her lips. "You're saying that all captains are alike?"
"I think you'll find," he found himself taking a step closer toward her. "That we all have our unique faults."
"Is that so?" she closed the distance between them. "And what might your weaknesses be?"
He allowed one hand to trace the line of her face, smooth skin tingling against his fingertips, loose auburn strands tickling his nail. "Too many to number," he murmured.
She leant in to his touch, his voice low, gravely and very sexy. "Name one," she goaded him gently.
"Beverly," he growled, his hand cupping her face now, his eyes met with hers.
Neither of them would afterwards be able to explain what they were doing. Whether it was a combination of excitement, pent up emotion, love, repression, or alcohol; the two of them paused for exactly half a second before falling toward each other. Lips met lips, bodies met bodies and the scotch was downed in giddy intoxication, the glasses left empty on the lounge coffee table.