By Carol Sandford


Chapter 04


"You - two - look - great!"

The newly married beaming couple that stood before me purely radiated with health, happiness and love. They'd just stepped off the shuttle that had brought them back from their honeymoon, tanned and vibrantly alive, and if Deanna wasn't pregnant, I'd pounce on the man that stood smiling beside me and prove to the universe that Jean-Luc Picard had feelings for me, once and for all.

Slipping into their arms for a welcome home and congratulatory hug was therapeutic for me. It meant that I had moved on. It meant that Will was now firmly in my past and we were all back to how we should be. Friends.

"Hi Bev," Deanna sparkled, looking up adoringly into her new husbands eyes as she spoke. "We had a great time, the best ever. But we're glad to be home."

Home. A strange comment considering that they were both moving on to the Titan any time now. But I guess the Enterprise would always be classed as home. I know it's mine, even though, I, too, was moving on. The decision to lead Starfleet Medical had churned around inside my head for so long now that I think it suffused itself into every pore and fibre of my being, leaving me no choice but to go with my feelings.

It was time to move on, from many things. I loved Jean-Luc, and I know he loves me, but not enough to make me stay. Not enough to hold me here, living the rest of my days on hope and dreams. Too many people were leaving. Too many people had already left, including Thomas. But then, I didn't expect him to stay. I didn't even want him to. He was worth the one night time of memorable moments, but that was all.

But I was curious and I had to know, before I left, and before Deanna left the ship, how she had overcome Tom's, 'problem'.

Reaching out and squeezing Deanna's fingers, I said, smiling with teary emotion, "Let's get together later over a cup or two of chocolate, k?"

The tears in her own eyes as she eagerly responded, I knew, were for entirely different reasons."Sure, Beverly. Ten Forward, 1900 hours. I've got so much to tell you."

*But not as much as I've got to tell you* I echoed silently as I watched the hugging newly-weds turn and walk out of the shuttle dock.


"So, Beverly Crusher, what have you been up to with Tom while Will and I have been sunning it up on Risa?"

Well, Deanna obviously wasn't going to beat about the bush to find out how me and Tom fared, and now the question was asked, I was surprisingly reluctant to reveal our secrets. But then, I wondered, was anything a secret? I can't believe that what had happened with us, had happened with them. After all, they had been Imzadi. It had to account for something. Deanna was the reason Tom had lived. Without the dream of finding her again, Tom would have given up a long time ago, of that I'm sure.

Sinking back into the seat, I stretched my legs out and studied my linked fingers before answering her. "Deanna," I asked quietly, raising my eyes to look into hers. "did you...?" I swallowed hurriedly, averting my eyes for a moment while I gathered courage. Another second later and I sought out her face again. "Could you...? I faltered and still I couldn't find the nerve to ask what I wanted to ask.

But after a long, studious age when black eyes looked knowingly into my guilty, shy-ridden blue ones, Deanna said, quietly, understanding my desire to know and reluctance to ask, "Yes, Beverly, but not in the way that you're thinking."

I let go of the breath I unconsciously held and breathed a sigh of relief. *It wasn't just me. Thank God* But my jubilant thoughts were broken when I heard Deanna slowly continue as she reached for my hand and squeezed my fingers.

"It's the reason that Tom and I decided not to resume our intimate relationship, Beverly. We weren't..." she hesitated, searching for the right word, and then on finding it, continued, sorrow and regret filling her one word. "Compatible."

The ensuing silence was deafening. Even though we were surrounded by friends and colleagues, enjoying after-shift drinks, Deanna might as well have screamed her astonishing announcement clear across the room, for it served the same impact as the stunned stillness that swept over me.

But not for long. As my brain raced with one thought, *Not compatible? But she said yes!* I mused, silently. My mouth said, "But...but, how?"

Deanna's eyes dropped for a moment, unwilling to reveal something that she never thought she'd have to, but then realizing that I would always wonder, decided against silence. Shrugging her shoulders delicately, Deanna murmured, "We are Imzadi, Beverly." As though that one simple explanation would be enough.

Enough!! Not in a million years.

At my bemused and ignorant stare, Deanna turned a paler shade of pink and whispered, "We didn't. We don't need to."

The blank, ignorant gaze remained, imploring her to add and explain her strange statement. She complied. "Sometimes the mind can do wonderful things, Beverly. Better than wonderful." She smiled shyly at me, expecting me to understand what she was telling me, and eventually, I did.

"You didn't...?"

She shook her head.

"Not ever...?"

"No," She grinned. "Not once."

"You mean, you just...thought about...?" I asked, acutely aware that my mouth was hanging open.

"Tom can't," Deanna started to explain. "He's been alone too...."

And then she noticed the blush that rose up my neck and settled uncomfortably upon my pale cheeks and she gasped, grinning, "Are you telling me that you two actually managed...?"

I cut her off with a quick sharp shake of my head. "Yes, yes we did. It was..." I searched the right word and could only come up with one. "Okay." I said, slightly embarrassed at having to reveal what was now really our secret.

"Okay?" she echoed in amazement, "You made love with Tom, and it was, okay!?"

"Yeah," I grinned shyly, "it was okay."

She waited patiently, the smile tugging at her lips, willing me to reveal more, until eventually I caved.

"Okay! Okay! It was...great! Different, but great!" I cried, laughing at the same time, happy to share what had been one of the most intense and hottest moments since I'd been with the other Riker. Since I'd been with his brother. Her husband. Will. A man that I had loved. A man that had given me someone else to love instead.

And even then, even though it had been the same, he had been the same, it had been different. Definitely different, but no better, in the end. Just a delicious memory or two, to tuck away and cherish, along with a few others, until the next time he came along.

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