This takes place right before the episode "Evolution".


Evolution:

Jean Luc nervously entered the turbolift. Taking a deep breath, he clinched his hands by his sides and gruffly said, "Deck 8." Trying hard to concentrate on the panel, he ignored the queasiness in his stomach and the pin-prick hole in his heart. She had returned to the ship about ten hours ago.

Ten hours…

For ten long hours he has been thinking of her – only her. Of course had had been thinking about her for the year she had been away, but she wasn't near him. Now she is on the ship…

We should be afraid.

Jean Luc let out the breath he was hold through his teeth. It was a lot easier to believe those words during the past year. Now, with her so close, he began to doubt himself. Did he make the right choice? Should he have gone back and beg for her forgiveness? Should he beg for forgiveness now?

As the turbolift opened, Jean Luc stood rooted to his spot as his options rolled through his head. Should he? Shouldn't he? Was it right? Was it wrong? Can things be changed?

"Sir?"

Jean Luc focused his eyes on an ensign that was new to the ship. He cleared his throat and smiled, which turned out to be more of a grimace. Stepping out of the turbolift, he nodded to the unknown ensign and made his way down the corridor. Before he knew it, he was at her door with no solution as what to do. Unexpectedly, the door to her quarters slid open. Surprised, Jean Luc stepped back as he saw Wesley coming towards him.

Wesley was just as shocked to see the Captain, but he smiled and said, "Oh, hello there Captain." He tilted he head back and yelled over his shoulder, "Mom, Captain Picard is here." He looked back at the Captain and started to make his way out the door. "I'm sorry sir, but I'm already late for my physics class." Seeing Jean Luc nod, he leaned in and whispered, "She is very excited to be back, sir." Straitening himself out, Wesley smiled at the Captain and then left for his class.

When he saw that Wesley was out of sight, Jean Luc smiled to himself. He felt his heart soar. She was excited to be back… he was just as excited for her to be back into his life. He didn't care if she was back as a friend or as a doctor or as a lover; she was back.

"Jean Luc?"

The sound of her voice startled him out of his thoughts. He looked up and saw her standing in front of him holding a PADD. He noticed that she had shorter hair. He loved her long hair. He loved to thread his fingers through her hair. He loved to move her hair from his favorite spot on her neck. He loved seeing her sleep with her hair curled around her like a halo. He missed her long hair. No matter though, all he saw in front of him was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

And then a single thought hit him like a ton of rock – I should have never pushed her away.

Closing his eyes, he tried to regain his emotions that clouded his heart. Right then and there, he knew that he had made the biggest and stupidest mistake of his life. How was he going to fix it? Was it even fixable? Then like the dark rainy clouds opening to allow warm sunshine through, he felt a comforting hand on his cheek. He didn't have to open his eyes to see who it was. He had memorized that touch a long time ago. When he regained his emotions, he slowly opened his eyes and saw concern clouding hers. Shaking his head, he stepped out of her embrace and walked into her quarters. There were some boxes around, but for the most part they were empty. Clearing his throat of the last vestiges of his emotional breakdown a few seconds prior, he said, "Welcome back, Doctor. I can see that you are making yourself at home. How was your journey?"

Beverly closed the door but stayed rooted to her spot. She felt at a loss right now. She had imagined that she would have had at least 24 hours to compose herself before seeing him. Now all she could do was to rely on those Vulcan breathing techniques she had learned from her stay at Starfleet Medical. At first when she saw him, he looked deep in thought but happy. However, after saying his name, he became distant as his thoughts and emotions overtook his physical body. It wasn't until she had touched that he became his old captain self again. Looking in towards her own heart, she realized that that one touch broke down that wall she had carefully constructed from the time she left Earth. She had missed touching him and his touch on her. She had missed him – all of him, not just his touch.

The air in her quarters became stale in the awkward silence.

Sensing the new discomfort encompassing the room, Jean Luc tugged down on his uniform and looked up towards the ceiling. "I read Admiral Chechney's glowing report on how well Starfleet Medical is doing and how you will be a loss to their team. He noted that if at any time you are in need of a change, that you should reconsider coming back to Starfleet Medical." Of course Rick Chechney wanted her back; he had heard the rumors that he was trying really hard to sweep her off her feet, including an invitation to be his date for the Admiral's Ball. He was nothing but an immature bachelor who wanted the prettiest woman at the time on his arm… or in his bed. Swallowing his jealousy, he looked back at Beverly and smiled a smile that didn't reach his eyes. "You made quite an impression, Doctor."

Beverly blushed. Rick tried everything in his power to get her in his bed; a couple of dinners, an invitation to the Admiral's Ball and even asking her to go to New Orleans for the weekend. As much as she tried to like him, after one kiss, she knew he was not for her. After her numerous rejections, he stopped calling. Trying to swallow down the guilt of kissing another man, Beverly murmured, "I didn't do anything different than any other Starfleet Medical officer would do. In fact, it felt like I complained more that I missed the Enterprise and exploring new worlds and, well of course, I missed Wesley." She was rambling and she knew it, but anything was better than the cold silence.

Jean Luc grasped his hands behind his back as an air of sadness crossed his eyes. Then, ever-so-quietly, he whispered, "Is that all you missed?"

With her emotional wall crumbling around her and no time to build it back up, she instinctively said, "No." Catching her slip, she slammed her eyes shut and started using her breathing techniques again. Rolling her shoulders back, she opened her eyes and with a false confident voice, she explained, "Half way through my tenure at Starfleet Medical, I became aware…" for a moment her words became caught in her throat. She swallowed her fear and continued, "… that my place as a doctor was not behind some desk shifting bureaucratic papers around. So I finished out my term with a research project to help and improve medical triage on all starships. It was approved the day I left to come back to the Enterprise." She walked over and handed him the PADD she was holding. "On it are the changes Sickbay will be making to make triage more efficient."

As he grabbed the PADD from her, his fingers accidently brushed her fingers. For a moment, he didn't move away, but rather rejoiced in her touch once more. In one second, he felt all his hope restored. He realized that the spark between them never truly went away; it just diminished while she was away. And now that she is back, he was going to stop at nothing to get her back and to right his stupid mistake. As he stepped closer, he raised his hand and cupped her cheek. As he felt those magnificent emotions take over his body, he knew it was time to tell her of his love.

The atmosphere in her quarters became heated as they each looked at each other letting the love and loss passed between them quietly.

Feeling his hand on her cheek, Beverly leaned into his embrace. Somewhere in the back on her mind, she knew that she couldn't allow herself to get this close to him. But at the moment, her heart could care less what her mind was telling her. He was so close to her… touching her… feeling her breath. Feeling those old, glorious emotions taking over her body, she knew it was the perfect time to tell him about her.

Now was the time. As that thought crossed both of their minds, they moved closer to each other. The PADD that they were both holding fell to the floor as their hands melted into one. Both knew, it was the perfect time to tell each other their deep secrets. At once, they both began to talk.

"I lo-"

"We ha-"

Both realizing their mistake, they laughed quietly. Giving each other enough time to regain themselves, Jean Luc spoke first. "What did you want to say?"

Wanting to give herself more encouragement, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. After a moment, she looked back at him and quietly murmured, "Jean Luc, when I was at Starfleet command… I was… I was p-"

"Riker to Captain Picard."

Jean Luc didn't respond at first. He looked over to Beverly wanting her – no, needing her to tell him what she had to say. When he saw her bow her head to her chest, he reluctantly let go of her hand and tapped his communicator. "What is it, Number One?"

Feeling the profound loss of losing their connection and missing her perfect opportunity to tell him, Beverly bent down to pick up the PADD. She heard Riker say, "Sir, Dr. Stubbs just arrived on board and is very… eager to meet with you."

Taking a step away from her, he responded, "Very well. Please escort Dr. Stubbs to the observation lounge. I will meet with him shortly. Picard out." Looking back at Beverly, he saw that she held out the PADD and smiled a sad smile. Right then and there, he knew he lost his perfect opportunity to tell her. Taking the PADD from her, he smiled as best as he could and said, "Welcome back, Doctor."

Noticing the use of her title, Beverly stiffly nodded and replied, "Thank you, Captain. I shall see you at the senior staff meeting."

Being dismissed from her quarters, Jean Luc nodded and made his way out. "See you then, Doctor."