so_jang: (Default)
Opal ([personal profile] so_jang) wrote2009-05-02 07:45 pm

Fic: Synthesis - Nocturnal

Title: Nocturnal (Synthesis part 4)
Rating: R
Pairing(s): Beverly Crusher/Jean-Luc Picard, Will Riker/Deanna Troi
Warning(s): none
Summary: episode tag for TNG s7.07 "Dark Page" Will and Deanna have sex. Beverly and Jean-Luc talk.
Beta: [ profile] lanna_kitty is so totally way beyond awesome! All mistakes are completely mine.
Disclaimer: TNG does not belong to me.
A/N: What do you do in Korea? Write Jean-Luc & Beverly vast babyfic AUs. Obviously. *whistles*

part 1 || part 2 || part 3 ||

"Computer, set alarm for fourteen hundred hours. Download the Starfleet Command subspace traffic, security level two, the Federation News Service, and open personal log, Riker, William T."

Rubbing his beard made the itch worse, Will sighed again and ran his hand up towards his eyes. The ache behind them was going to take more than seven hours of sleep to cure. Unfortunately, seven hours was all he had time for.

Heading for the replicator, Will replicated a synthale and took a sip of the cool liquid. Sighing, he turned his attention back to his open personal log.

"Personal Log, Commander Will Riker, Stardate 47255.2. Lwaxana and Beverly have both been released from sickbay. Deanna and Maques were successful in drawing Lwaxana out of her metaconscious mind and in doing so, freed Beverly. I wasn't directly involved, but I feel relieved. Might have something to do with Deanna. I know it sounds silly, I'm no telepath, but I've had more of a sense of her lately. Like an echo. I'm probably making it up, trying to find something to explain how I feel."

"Yesterday, before the reception, the captain mentioned that Starfleet Command offered him a promotion and transfer to a starbase. He didn't take it, can't see him ever wanting to settle down like that. Still, I had that moment. I saw myself captaining the Enterprise and it felt good. Guess I'll have to stop waiting for that big chair and consider setting my sights on another one. End log."

Taking a much longer drink of synthale, he set the glass down and started pulling on the collar of his uniform. The time he had to sleep was getting briefer by the moment. Will glanced at the replicator and then down at his middle and decided he would be better off going to bed without eating. His hunger could wait for the morning.

Beverly and Lwaxana were both going to be fine. Sickbay had reported their release before he'd turned the bridge over to Data. He assumed Deanna was with her mother and he was relieved for them both. Lwaxana might be overbearing but she was all the family Deanna had. Losing her would have left Deanna completely alone in the universe. Losing his father meant the same isolation for him, but he and his father had never really gotten along. Deanna and Lwaxana were considerably closer and his heart had been with her.

The captain had checked in before he'd left sickbay. As much as he'd tried to hide it, the relief in Picard's voice had been palpable over the commlink. Will had rarely seen the captain shaken. Will had seen moments of doubt over the years, particularly after Picard had been rescued from the Borg, however last night was different. The captain was shaken on a personal level and that had gotten under Will's skin.

Spending most of his uneventful night shift on the bridge in thought, Will was fairly certain he knew what was bothering him. Picard was moving on and Will was holding still. He'd spent six years serving under one of Starfleet's most confirmed bachelors and somehow Picard had started a family first. Will had allowed his life to stagnate. It wasn't that he lacked the company of women. Will preferred a wide variety of relationships and had no problems finding partners who shared that desire. It had been a good life. He'd been happy.

Then he'd turned down Lieutenant Villegas two days before they'd picked up the Cairn delegation. She was a newer member of the Stellar Cartography team and anyone who could make black hole mapping sound exotic would have been worth dinner and a jazz concert. He hadn't been interested. Jessie Villegas was gorgeous, intelligent and interested enough in him to make a pass at a superior officer. Will had turned her down because he had no interest in gorgeous, intelligent women who weren't Deanna Troi.

That was a new thought. A new problem that he hadn't really let himself think about before. He wasn't simply freshly enamored with the idea of settling down, Will wanted to settle down with her. He had just crawled into bed when the chime dragged him up again. Running through the short list of who it could be, he walked to the door. The captain was unlikely. Worf was assisting Data on the bridge. Of course, he had been foolish enough to turn down Lieutenant Villegas.

The door hissed open and revealed the exhausted subject of his earlier thoughts.

"Deanna," he greeted her while burying a yawn. "Come in."

"I'm sorry," she said sincerely. "I lost track of time."

"It's a reasonable hour, somewhere," he teased to make her smile. Will thought he could feel her trepidation. "Want anything?" he asked with a tilt of his head towards the replicator. Deanna looked as spent as he felt. The whites of her eyes were shot with red and dark circles had been etched in the pale skin beneath them. Her uniform looked slept in. Though, judging by the circles under her eyes, it had only been rumpled by a short nap.

Her voice was listless and past the point of exhaustion when she spoke, "I had a sister." She held her ground and he wondered if she needed to be hugged. Deanna would attempt to be stoic until she felt safer. He swore he could feel her in his mind, like a knot in his back he couldn't get out.

"Her name was Kestra," Deanna continued, dropping her head to her hands and staring at the floor. "She would have been six years older than I. She had a dog. She liked to sing with my father. She drowned. She drowned and my mother excised her from her life. She deleted journal entries, cut ties with friends who knew about Kestra. We moved. She had an entire part of her life she couldn't face when Kestra died."

She'd begun smiling weakly but it faded as her story finished. He'd seen her be too tired to cry before but this was more than that. Deanna had flashed through her grief and settled into numbness. He could see that in her face. Will was also convinced he could feel it in his head. Like a patch of black ice on the path when he was a kid, he just knew it was there.

“She nearly killed herself,” Deanna murmured bitterly. "Just about dragged Beverly with her. Will, when my father died, she told me to be strong. That missing my father was acceptable, even good, and I could do it every day of my life. Denying my pain would take something away from his memory," she relaxed her control and the numbness started to burn away. Her black eyes met his and blazed. "All of it was nonsense. She took the biggest loss of her life and buried it. If it hadn't been for me, when my father died she probably would have deleted him from her life. Put him away with his pictures and never spoke of him again."

Her hands had become fists in her lap. She stared him down as if daring him contradict her. Despite her anger, he was drawn to her and he wondered if that was why she’d come. Deanna had other friends on board but he was the one who handled her temper best.

“She’s all right now,” he assured her as he searched for calm. Leaving the space where he stood by his bed, he moved closer to her. “Now you know about Kestra-” he smiled slightly on the name, hoping that would help. “-You can share that with her.”

Deanna shook her head. Her fists tightened until her knuckles were white. “She lied to me.”

“She lied to a lot of people,” Will reminded her. He sat down next to her on the couch and scratched his beard. “It’ll hurt like hell but it’ll go away. People lie. People distort the truth because they can’t face what they’re seeing. Your mother’s no different.”

“She’s prided herself on honesty,” Deanna retorted. “She calls other cultures primitive, mocks humans for saying one thing and thinking another and lords her supposedly better state of evolution over everyone she knows.”

He let himself go and slid with the current of her rage. “Including you-”

“-Especially me,” she continued, unfolding her fingers and wrapping her arms tight around her chest. “I thought she was the strongest person I knew. I was even starting to think she had a point and maybe I should think about having a family." Deanna shuddered. Her anger was vivid enough to share the couch with them like a living thing.

"I’m not going to run into some man’s arms, profess my undying love for him, have a child and then be utterly destroyed when that man or that child dies."

He tried to keep his voice calm, “You can't assume everyone around you is going to die.”

Deanna snorted. “Really?” She lifted a hand and answered her own question. “Your mother. My father and my sister. Beverly’s parents and her husband. Geordi’s mother. Worf’s biological parents. Data considers Doctor Soong his father and he's dead. We almost lost the captain a month ago. Loss is a better companion than most of our friends. How many friends from the Academy have you lost? How many are happily married?”

Scratching his head didn’t immediately bring any numbers to mind and Will shrugged. He reached for the hand she was using to count. “My mother loved me very much and I have never doubted that. Geordi had some trouble but he adjusted to losing his mother. Worf loves his Klingon and human parents. Beverly’s life continued when Jack died. Your father means worlds to you and I know you will love your sister. I know how much your mother must have loved her.”

“It’s not some kind of crooked Ferengi bargain,” she snapped back as she pulled her hand away. “We don’t trade brief periods of love and the happy memories that follow for gut-wrenching loss. My mother lost my sister thirty years ago and it still hurts to think of her. It radiates from her like black tar and I feel like I’m covered in it. It hurts to breathe.”

She stared upward, blinking quickly though her eyes were dry. “I’m the last of her family and I have no plans to change that.”

“It’s all right.”

“It’s not,” Deanna insisted with a shake of her head. “When she looks at me she sees the end.”

“She sees the daughter she loves very much,” Will argued and took her hand. The contact made her jump.

“Who’s wasting her life,” she retorted.

Deanna squeezed his hand in return. Closing her eyes, she shook her head and he felt the switch. Something had changed and he was certain he felt the release before she smiled at him.

“I’m losing myself in this, aren’t I?” she asked finally.

“I believe a wise counselor I know would remind me to make what I wanted paramount,” he teased and leaned back. Will touched her shoulder, offering her the comfort of his arms if she wanted it. “You can’t live your life for your mother, your sister or anyone else that’s not you.”

“Well said,” she replied smirking.

Feigning offense, Will leaned in to kiss her. “I do pay attention to you,” he teased.

“Good.” Deanna let him hover above her lips for a moment before she met him. The kiss began innocently. He’d intended it that way and she was the one who turned it passionate. Will had sweet memories of kissing her and how right it felt. He had no intention of being swept away. He'd only meant to comfort her. She wanted something else. He held the back of her head in his hand and wondered if he should stop.

“Deanna,” he interrupted. Regretting the motion, he pushed her away. “You don’t want this.”

She stared through him, dark eyes flashing. “And you’re suddenly an expert on what I want?” Pushing her tongue into his mouth, Deanna stalled his reply.

Will felt the soft heat of her tongue against the roof of his mouth but the more consuming sensation was her presence in his mind. Deanna slipped into his thoughts. He’d been right about feeling her presence more acutely. Her touch now was enough to make his hunch solidify. Feeling Deanna again, Will got a new dose of a very old drug. Whatever immunity he’d built up to her presence collapsed like a paper shield against an ion storm.

She was the one who’d always said that they couldn’t risk a relationship while they were on the same ship. Deanna had reminded him of that long enough that he had integrated it into his psyche.

“You don’t know what you want,” he accused her without reining in his tone. “You’re lost, confused, exhausted--”

“If I were any other woman on this ship--,” Deanna snapped back at him. She calmed slightly and added, “I can feel how much you want me. You can’t hide that from me.”

Part of his mind insisted that she was right and they were only deceiving themselves. They were lovers that had always intended to find each other again. Will still knew to run his fingers behind her ear. He remembered how to kiss the corner of her mouth and make her laugh before he returned to kiss her fully. She obviously remembered that running her tongue beneath his and digging her fingers into the back of his neck drove him crazy.

She crawled across and straddled his lap. That motion pushed them past the precipice where they teetered between friends and lovers. Deanna hadn’t ground her hips into his for nearly ten years but he remembered exactly how much heat that generated.

Lust wasn’t the issue. Resisting her was agonizingly difficult, Will didn’t want to fight her. Deanna’s touch in his thoughts was something he craved like a narcotic. She threatened to consume him. All the dependence she was so disgusted by surged up in him and he relented. Reaching for her mind, he felt the thread that connected them and followed it back to her.

Deanna’s shields fell away and he was in her mind again. That was more intoxicating than the smell of her hair or the weight of her hips. Her thoughts were familiar, like walking into the house where he’d lived the best parts of his life. Will could feel the differences. The house had been remodeled. So many of her insecurities were gone, painted over with the brighter colors that a career and years of experience had given her. Despite the changes, he was home.

Even without touching her, Will could have lost himself. Her thoughts would have been enough to consume him. He could have leaned back and lost himself in the intimacy of their sharing.

Deanna led them towards the physical side. She knew how to drag his pajama shirt off over his head in one motion and she’d remembered how kissing the hollow of his throat made him sigh.The little zipper in the back of her uniform hissed when he undid it. Sliding it down made him smile and he glanced at the bed he’d vacated only a few minutes ago.

Wondering if he still remembered how, he asked mentally, “There?”

Deanna’s laughter in his mind suggested he was less rusty than he feared. “What about here?”

“Less space to move around,” he teased and dragged her arms free off her uniform top. He could see the bright purple strap of her bra slip out from underneath the dull gray tank top. “Do they match?” he wondered aloud playfully. Stroking her thighs up to her crotch, he ran his thumb over her and imagined the bright purple panties hiding beneath her black uniform trousers.

“There’s one way to find out,” she quipped in his thoughts. “You do remember that, don’t you?”

Lifting her up as he stood, Will heard her giggle as he staggered towards the bed. It was just a few meters and he deposited her on top of his rumpled blankets. Deanna sat up and tugged off her boots before wrapped her legs around his waist and pulling him closer.

“You still don’t wear anything underneath these, do you?” her telepathic voice hummed with excitement in his thoughts.

He grinned wickedly and shook his head. “Should I?”

Will eased her trousers off her hips and chuckled out loud when he revealed bright green panties. Deanna laughed with him, pulled her tank top, off her head and tossed it aside.

“Busy morning,” she murmured into his mind. “You’re just going to take them off anyway.”

He couldn’t reply in her mind again. He ran his hands over the exposed skin of her stomach and cupped her breasts through her bra. The silk was smooth under his hands. The bra had a lacy, flowered design that was as far from regulation as most of Lwaxana’s dresses. The clasp was golden and sat neatly in the center of her chest. Kissing across a breast on his way to the clasp, Will felt the air on his butt. She’d taken advantage of his distraction and relieved him of his pajama pants.

“Hurrying?” he wondered.

“We’re both old,” Deanna whispered into his ear. She purred aloud, “We’ll fall asleep.”

Grabbing her through her panties, Will made her moan and kissed her chin. He eased her around to lie beside him. Teasing her with slow fingers through the silk, he abandoned her to undo her bra.

“We’re not that old,” he projected into her head.

Deanna’s smile had a touch of pride and she tossed a leg over his waist before she flipped up over him. She remained still for a moment, straddling his legs like a queen. “Imzadi,” she promised in his thoughts. Her finger ran along his lips and stopped long enough for him to lick it. Guiding his hands to her hips, she insisted that he remove her panties.

Kissing her again was sweet, Will tilted his hips up in hers and both of them sighed in anticipation. She was right. They’d be quick tonight, but they had all the time in the universe to do better next time.

The green silk landed on the floor of his quarters. She needed very little priming with his fingers before she wanted him inside of her. Will kept his fingers low, coaxing little moans as he returned to familiar motions. Once he was inside, nothing he could send her would explain how he felt. His chest started moving faster. Deanna’s hands were in the hair of his chest and he closed his eyes. He could see enough with his mind to find his way.

A few thrusts had them into a rhythm and Deanna led him. Shivering and throwing back her head, she rode out the first orgasm. It was weak, like a warning shot, and neither of them stopped moving. Her hands clutched his wrists as she rocked faster. Her mind was so intense, so focused on his thoughts that Will was dimly aware of her body. His body continued to make love, moving independently of his distracted mind. His fingers finally sent her into a real, aching release. The rush of her orgasm through her mind sucked him in. Losing himself in her wasn’t quite the perfection Will remembered, but it was close. Closer than he’d been since the last time.

Deanna hung over him for a moment, panting and gleaming with sweat. They hadn’t turned off the lights. The silent contentment of holding her could have lasted the rest of his life. It felt right to have her again.

“My shift’s at fourteen hundred,” Deanna sighed into his chest.

“Fifteen,” he boasted and kissed the top of her head.

“Do you remember when we could stay up all night?” she asked wistfully. Yawning and stretching as if she were a cat, she crawled out of bed.

He could’t speak. Will’s mind focused on finding hers even though exhaustion threatened to drag him under. “Imzadi,” he managed after the silence had dragged out so long that he worried she'd already left.

The doors hissed as she departed but he heard her voice in his his mind, “Sleep well.”

Captain's Log: Stardate 47304.2. The Enterprise has arrived at Kesprytt Three in order to evaluate an unusual request on the part of the Kes for associate membership in the Federation.

The Federation usually didn't consider parts of worlds as members. The united decision of a world to join was usually paramount to their acceptance. The idea that they were considering a partial member nagged at him. The fact that Beverly was pulling a double shift meant he was alone with his thoughts on the subject. He hadn't eaten dinner alone in some time and he found the empty table disconcerting. He ate while reading the history of the Kesprytt and tried not to look at her empty corner of the table. Jean-Luc then spent the rest of his evening finding things to do. With Beverly absent, he worked through his Mozart trio until his fingers were sore, and listened to Doctor sh'Prem's lecture on the development of early Andorian heiroglyphs through ice carving.

He nearly fell asleep reading the fourth chapter of an old historical romance from Qo'noS and reluctantly went to bed without her. The hissing of the door sometime later woke him from sleep. Beverly was barely out of her uniform, between the blankets and pressed to his chest before she was asleep. She held him tightly and Jean-Luc tried to recall if there were any difficult cases in sickbay that might have exhausted her.

Beverly's cheek was warm against his chest and he lazily stroked her hair. He knew getting up to ask the computer about her shift would only wake her. He decided to live with his curiosity and slid his hand down to rest on her shoulder. Running through his thoughts in an effort to quiet his mind, Jean-Luc settled into the familiar routine.

Lwaxana Troi and the Cairn had arrived safely on Earth without further incident. The Kesprytt excursion promised to be a fairly intriguing mission. Evaluating possible Federation members was one of the more interesting tasks that the Enterprise drew and Jean-Luc was pleased to be on a diplomatic mission. Exploring the alien cultures of space was one of the better parts of seeking the unknown, and a divided world was a unique challenge. Kesprytt was also considered safe enough that he could take on the mission personally, Beverly was even slotted to accompany him.

He'd gotten a death glare when he'd mentioned casually that Deanna or Selar could take her place. She'd replied that Will could just as easily take his and they hadn't discussed it again. Kesprytt was her first away mission since her pregnancy. He still wasn't sure he was entirely comfortable with it. Short of ordering her to stay, Jean-Luc had few options. Beverly being pregnant had taken away the comfortable generalities with which he viewed personal attachments. Without his feelings for her, this mission would simply have a note of extra caution.

He wouldn't feel better knowing she was on Earth, Jean-Luc reminded himself. Being head of Starfleet Medical again would be just as stressful as the Enterprise and he disliked the thought of being apart from her. Knowing he was missing her presence and the development of his child was almost as unpleasant as knowing she was in danger. The selfishness of that thought astounded him. In the last month, he'd become both lover and expectant father. He'd had little time to adapt to either but he was increasingly attached to both roles. Perhaps when he understood himself better, the insomnia would stop.

His own ability to fall instantly asleep had become more elusive since she'd moved in. Jean-Luc wasn't quite sure how to rationalize it to himself. Many of his thoughts surrounding the drastic changes in his life were yet unformed. He didn't yet want to take her arrivals home for granted. Being awake did give him extra time to think. Listening to her breathing and feeling the motion of her chest against his stomach, he remembered Jack laughing and telling him Beverly slept through everything but red alert, summoning commlinks and Wesley.

Jean-Luc watched the stars scroll lazily by as they orbited the planet below and let his thoughts drift. Holding his pregnant lover, he wished Jack was alive. If he somehow could have had Beverly in his life this way and Jack to discuss it with, it would have been perfect. As it was, Guinan was his only close friend who understood and he hadn't found much time to talk to her. He could almost hear her voice reminding him that nothing changed instantly. No matter what his feelings were, or how quickly Beverly had moved into his quarters, it would take time.

When he woke, the bed next to him was still warm. Jean-Luc hadn't heard their alarm or the chime of the commlink. The Enterprise had come out of Kesprytt's shadow and the Kesprytt star sent odd shadows through their quarters. The thin blanket had been dragged partially off the bed and following that with his eyes led him to the weak light in their lavatory.

As he slipped out of bed, he touched her side of the bed and stopped short. His hand was sticky. Some dark substance had left small stains on her side of the bed. Whatever it was, it coated an area of his chest. Rubbing it between his fingers, he brought his hand up and smelled the faint, metallic scent of blood. Wiping it off on the sheet, he spent a moment trying to remind himself that the surge of panic was unwarranted. Leaving the mess, he followed the light to the lavatory.

All she had on were her black panties. They made the skin of her back and legs appear more pale than usual in the weak light. Beverly stood over the sink. Her elbows balanced on the rim and her hair hung down on the left side of her neck. Touching her shoulder, he announced his presence without speaking.

Her right hand was clamped down hard on the bridge of her nose. Beverly's eyes flicked over to him and her expression turned apologetic in the mirror. Blood stained the skin above her lips. More blood on her cheek had started to dry. From the stain, the left side of her face had been the one pressed to his chest. Deep red blood dotted her pale breasts with a few spots like freckles. Ignoring the distraction of her bright pink nipples, he looked down into the sink. Fresh blood stood out in red droplets in the middle of the water.

Washing his hand in the water turned it pink. He grabbed a towel from beneath the sink and dried his hands.

Her voice was muffled by her grip on her nose. "I'm sorry," she murmured through her fingers. "Didn't mean to get you."

"You should have woken me," he began. After hearing the tension in his voice, he stiffened reflexively. "Are you all right?"

Beverly's bloody half-smile was too weak to be convincing. "It just started. Made a mess, didn't I? Is the bed--"

"I don’t care about the bed," he said curtly and wished he could force his tone to even. The hot, unwelcome fingers of panic dug into his stomach. Checking by the door, Jean-Luc saw the grey and blue medkit and relaxed a little. "Should we go to sickbay?"

"Did you know Bajoran women sneeze uncontrollably?" she asked. Completely ignoring his question, she watched the reflection of his face. The hand on her nose trembled slightly but her lips were pink and healthy. Her eyes were bright and alert. He still couldn't tell if she was just putting up a front to keep him from worrying or actually all right. "Klingon women have a drastically improved sense of smell. Cardassians have wild fluctuations in body temperature. Vulcan women find their emotional control improves while they're pregnant. Andorians have auditory hallucinations that are said to predict the temperament of the eggs."

Panic still held his stomach in a death grip and ran hot up the back of his neck. Xenobiology lessons were not the answer he was looking for. "Beverly--"

"You were supposed to sleep through this," she sighed. "I knew about Klingons and Vulcans, but I've never treated a pregnant Bajoran. Sneezing sounds nice, doesn't it?"

Wearily realizing he wasn’t going to let the subject drop, she smiled weakly. She finally explained, "It's just another side effect." Grabbing his hand, she brought it up to her nose. Beverly let him take over the responsibility of keeping pressure on her nose. "Here," she directed him up half a centimeter with cool fingers. “Maybe if you do something you'll stop staring at me like I'm hemorrhaging. Just give it another minute.”

Jean-Luc held his fingers tight on her nose. Watching her swallow harshly, he caught a dark hint in her eyes. He had so little experience with Beverly being sick that he was still only learning to read the signals in her face. Something else was wrong. He couldn’t take his eyes off hers in the mirror. Torn between demanding an explanation or forcing her to sickbay, he found himself having trouble finding words for either one.

Beverly’s sighed, “Jean-Luc, even Data could see through that poker face.”

The words were immediately followed by a brief smile and that made panic twist his gut sharply. The perverse delight she took in making him spell everything out frustrated him. His words were harsh, “You’re bleeding.”

“It’s stopped,” she retorted and pulled his hand free with a smile.

“Your hands are shaking.”

She had no answer for that and retreated to the previous question. “I’ve weakened all of my peripheral capillaries,” she reminded him. “My blood volume has to increase to meet the demands of the fetus and my circulatory system has to catch up. Dizziness, numbness in my extremities when the pressure’s too low, swelling when it’s too high; all of it’s to be expected.”

He wasn’t sure she believed it. She was smiling too much. Her constant assurances and the neurotic tricorder sweeps she ran in the morning were all of it was part of the same terrifying fact that this could be temporary. The baby was fragile and all that had come after her unique conception was just as tenuous. That fear was more palpable than he cared to admit and he wondered if she shared it.

"I had a full physical last night courtesy of my new nurse, Khel Sahad-" she paused. Closing her eyes uncomfortably, Beverly swallowed. After a beat, she continued, "Bajoran, You'd like him. Calm, thoughtful, polar opposite of Ro, deeply religious. He told me the prophets told him to walk-" Beverly gulped the last part of her thought and clamped her eyelids tighter. Focusing on the dark circles in the skin under her eyes, he wondered if she'd slept at all. Her voice was strained, full of the forced cheerfulness she hid behind when she was upset. He knew that tone but now he was starting to hear the frustration beneath it.

"Out among the stars?" Jean-Luc finished with a half smile. He'd taken an interest in the Bajoran religion, mostly because of his friendship with Ro Laren. The Bajoran people had relied their religion to carry them through the occupation. So many cultures had moved away from religion, but theirs was literally woven into the fabric of the space around them.

"Good bedside manner," she added. Her pride was mixed with a hint of something else.

He couldn't picture her allowing herself to be examined unless she was truly concerned. If Beverly was worried, she’d try to hide it. If she’d been bad enough to consent to a physical, this nausea wasn’t a new problem. He touched her stomach tentatively and then kept the contact when she didn’t pull away.

Her lips became a thin line in the mirror and she quit speaking. Resting his hand on her stomach, he silently reminded her that he would like an explanation when she felt up to it. Jean-Luc settled his hand on the slight rise he associated with their daughter. It wasn't visible in her uniform. Studying her naked in the mirror, he could find the slight differences in her figure. Her breasts were rounder and her hips were starting to gain more flesh.

She dropped her head and her stomach twitched beneath his hand. Then she abruptly pushed him back. He was still holding her waist when she vomited. Her ribs expanded then contracted hard. Liquid from her stomach splashed into the water of the sink and he could smell the acrid fluid. She gasped, choking before she wretched again. The bloody nose was an annoyance and he realized the nausea was the real problem. Distracting himself as he watched her ribs spasm beneath the skin of her back, Jean-Luc felt his gorge rise as remembered the last time he'd watched someone vomit.

He and Jack had celebrated a little too hard that night. Wesley was two, and Beverly's message from Earth had been all about how his first word had been 'star'. Beverly was convinced it was because that's where daddy was. They'd started with wine and moved on to Aldeberan whiskey. The next morning both of them had regretted it, but Jack was the one who'd thrown up into Jean-Luc's piece of seventeenth century Umaarian pottery.

No matter how much guilt he carried for being separate from his son, Jack had been as attached to his duty as Jean-Luc was. Things were different back then. If she'd been with Jack, Beverly wouldn't have served on the Stargazer past her second trimester. Long range science vessels were difficult places to raise a child and she would have been transferred. It wasn't the Enterprise and Jack wouldn't have had the same difficult luxury of being able to balance duty and his family on the same ship. The irony of holding her was as poignant as the sympathetic twisting of his own stomach.

He had what Jack couldn’t have. Beverly and Jack had been married, Wesley had been a strain so early in the relationship, but they'd grown to love him very much. This child was her decision, not an accident of an unexpected leave like Wesley. Having a child had matured Jack but Jean-Luc wasn't entirely sure what effect his daughter was going to have on himself. Maturity wasn’t something he struggled with. Even his unrequited feelings for Beverly were suddenly necessary and appropriate. She loved him with a passion that surprised and frightened him now that it was out in the open. He knew that understanding why she’d become pregnant was a necessary next step, but helping her cope was as far as he’d come.

He still couldn’t wrap his mind around the thought that his child was the intangible thing causing her illness.

Startling him from his reverie, Beverly slammed the controls of the sink angrily with the palm of her hand. The dirty water cycled away. Her breathing was still irregular but he was grateful the force of vomiting hadn't restarted the bleeding from her nose. Her hand shook visibly when she lifted it to wipe her mouth. Listening to her cough dragged him back to the present. Spitting out the last of the fluid from her stomach, she groaned and kept her head down.

“If you’re going to look at me like that now, you’ll never make it through labor,” she threatened.

“This is the first time you’ve thrown up,” Jean-Luc reminded her. Setting the bloody towel aside, he wet a clean one for her face.

"By the end of my shift it felt like the internal dampeners had failed," she admitted darkly. "I was going to give Geordi a hard time when Sahad explained I was the only one reeling where I stood." Her hand covered her mouth for a moment before she swallowed and bit her lip. Rubbing her mouth with the back of her hand, she recovered. “Not as romantic as you expected, is it?”

“I didn’t-” he began and stopped, correcting himself. He had a vague idea of what pregnancy was. “I thought it would be like Wesley.”

Beverly leaned over the sink to rinse her mouth. She spat out the water and shook her head ruefully. “Wesley was bad.”

“You were beautiful.”

“I wanted to kill Jack,” she reminded him. Her weak smile suggested his adoration had touched her and he reminded himself to be patient. Beverly had gambled that he would accept this child. She’d bet on feelings he’d tried to keep hidden for twenty years.

Beverly grabbed the edge of the sink with both hands and dropped her head again. "You-" he could hear her throat constrict and her voice was harsher when she continued, "-Should go back to sleep. Give me another minute and I’ll forget how I got into this and want to kill you too."

Calling her bravado, Jean-Luc remained. He kept his hands in contact with her skin as if he could transfer his strength.

“Don’t suppose you can order Data to hold the ship still?” she asked. Beverly kept her gaze straight down into the sink. “I used to get butterflies in my stomach before dance recitals. I hated it, but I’d take them back in a moment,” Beverly hissed and tried to use her breathing to control her stomach. “The Tarkelian razor beasts I get when I’m pregnant are overkill.”

Keeping on hand on her back, he leaned out of the lavatory enough to tap the comm panel. “Picard to Riker.”

Will’s voice was slightly out of breath but more awake than Jean-Luc expected. “Riker here,” he replied.

For the second time in a week, Deanna was in Will's bed. The first time she'd been looking for something familiar and calming. She and Will had managed to behave like friends afterwards and she'd allowed her guard to stay down. They'd flirted and even made out a little after meals on the way to Kesprytt for their new mission. They'd both taken it slow. They knew where they stood with each other and there was no need to rush anything. This time she'd had dinner and then stayed long past dessert.

Lying naked next to him was pleasant and familiar. She felt calm and content. Will hadn't asked anything more of her than her honesty and she was comfortable with that. They'd been talking about nothing, staring lazily up at the slow stars when the comm interupted them.

Picard’s words over the commlink were calm but they both knew the captain was covering something.

“Number one, I’ve decided to give in to your judgment and allow you to lead the Kesprytt away team--” his thought ended abruptly.

Deanna winced sympathetically as they heard running water and then the wet choking sound that had to be someone vomiting. Will’s expression was equally gentle.

“Yes, Sir,” Will responded and let his gaze fall wickedly on Deanna. “I take it I can choose my own team?”

“If you’re looking for suggestions, I would say Counselor Troi,” Picard answered.

“Wise choice, Sir,” he replied. Will mouthed ‘oh seven hundred’ threateningly at Deanna. She rolled her eyes and snuggled back into his arms.

“Good luck with the Kes, Picard out.”

Deanna rested her head on her hands and looked up at him from his chest. “Was that Beverly in the background?”

Will set his commbadge aside and sighed as he stared up at the ceiling. “Think so,” he winced. “Everything feel okay over there?”

Deanna rested her head back on his chest, feeling out to check on the captain and Beverly. Finding them almost immediately, she caught the captain’s concern. It glowed silver in her mind like the protective badges of the sheriffs in her father’s westerns. Picard’s quiet restraint was omnipresent, she felt it like the grand silence of an opera hall hours before the performance. There was something else in the distance, a musical refrain that echoed so softly that Deanna barely heard it.

“The captain is concerned, but all right,” she reported to Will. She debated telling him about the music. She wasn’t entirely sure he’d understand.

Reaching out to Beverly was more sobering, Deanna was careful not to dig too deep. Nausea and the compounding emotions were unpleasant. Sometimes physical ailments were ignored by her empathic senses, but morning sickness seemed to be something she could pick up on. Beverly’s nausea was a commanding force, like a dust storm that stung Deanna’s eyes. The guilt stuck like pitch on her fingers, something she couldn’t get off, no matter what she tried. The positive side was the music. Even though the howling sandstorm, she could hear the tentative, undefined melody.

She had tears in her eyes when she opened them and Deanna let them run down the side of her nose towards his chest.

“I don’t know if I want to have children,” she said. He might have been able to feel through her lighthearted tone if he pushed but he accepted it. “She’s miserable.”

Will’s arm tightened around her shoulders. “But?”

“I can hear their feelings for each other,” she tried to explain as she sat up. Wiping her eyes, she felt Will’s sympathy hum mixed with the deeper tone of reproach. She didn't want to explain it. Even discussing intimacy with him would bring her to subjects she didn't want to touch yet. “I should go.”

“You don’t have to,” he offered with more sincerity than she was prepared for. Slipping naked from his bed, Deanna started picking the parts of her uniform off the floor. She’d purposely worn the underwear that matched the least, a whisper thin pair of shimmering blue Tholian silk panties and a silver bra made out of some new technologically superior fabric from Earth. Neither of them had stayed on long. She wasn't thinking when she went to bed with him, but that might have been what she liked best about the situation.

Will hadn't asked more than her surrender while they made love. She could give him her body and her mind. It was wonderful to be so aware of his presence. She hadn't realized how painful it was to be alone but falling for him again wasn't something she was ready for. Refusing to spend the night was part of that and she thought they both understood.

Pulling her mismatched socks back on, Deanna shook her head. “Someone just gave me the oh-seven-hundred away mission and I need sleep.”

He rolled over in bed and caught her arm. Kissing it sweetly just above the wrist, he let her go. “Thank the captain.”

“I intend to,” she teased. Pulling her uniform jacket on and zipping it up, she freed her hair. Deanna just grabbed her boots instead of putting them on. “Sleep quickly.”

Will rolled over with his back to her and hugged his pillow. “You too.”

and onto part 5

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