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08 April 2009 @ 12:02 pm
Fic: Synthesis Universe: Hydrophobic  
Title: Hydrophobic
Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Beverly Crusher/Jean-Luc Picard
Warning(s): none
Summary: episode AU for S7.07 "Dark Page" Lwaxana tries so hard to forget something, she looses herself and accidentally takes Beverly with her.
Beta: lanna_kitty is awesome! All mistakes are completely mine.
Disclaimer: TNG does not belong to me.
A/N: So this went epic on me to. *whistles*

part 1 || part 2

"Official log of the Diplomatic Corp, United Federation of Planets, Stardate 47254.1. Ambassador Lwaxana Troi, daughter of the Fifth House, holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed reporting. The Cairn delegation and I are on board the Enterprise-D, captained by the droll, but always pleasant, Captain Jean-Luc Picard. The Cairn are making excellent progress, especially considering the difficulty they have coming down from their elegant, though exhausting, image-based telepathy to the pedantic, plodding, overly-complicated method of discourse commonly used by most Federation members.

Though it's been an tiring time for me, I must report that significant progress has been made of the last few months. I predict the Cairn will be an outstanding addition to the Federation. In particular the simplicity with which they view the world should make them a breath of fresh air as they traverse diplomatic circles."

A lifetime ago Ian had made her feel that way, Lwaxana remembered as she let Jean-Luc's blissful happiness wash over her like warm ocean. The captain would probably be offended if she told him how much he projected his emotions. Many humans had that trait, it frequently made them more charismatic, through it wasn't something they actually understood. It frequently surprised her, even after her years of experience as an ambassador. It was part of what had made Ian so attractive, the way his deceptively simple mind had been capable of such surprises.

Her daughter swirled her drink slowly, watching the liquid cling to the sides of the glass. Deanna's sumerian sunset had been more of an accessory than a drink, and though Lwaxana had contemplated calling her on it, she didn't have the energy. Her headaches had been getting worse since she'd boarded Jean-Luc's ship. It couldn't just be the Cairn, she'd managed to telepathically teach them for weeks before the headaches had started.

In fact, it wasn't until she had known the Enterprise was coming for her and the Cairn before the pain had started. Lwaxana mused about that as she took a sip of her Andorian tea. The bitter liquid helped her concentrate. The Cairn minds were were eddies of calm in the wash of minds from Jean-Luc's crew. In a way it was more familiar, the Cairn homeworld had been much like Betazed, peaceful and full of orderly minds. She'd never been good at orderly.

Will entered and Deanna's attention was drawn to him as if he were a flame and she was a Zukerrin moth. Relieved her daughter wasn't as monastic as she frequently appeared to be, Lwaxana held the lustful thought in her mind and smiled at it. It was strong enough to feel like an ember in her mind, a knot of heat that defied the time since its ignition. Will was still quite attractive, growing seasoned and a little softer around the edges than he had been, but his soul was the same.

Pushing through Deanna's lust like waving aside a cloud of smoke, Lwaxana felt through until she found the restraint. Deanna's pain was still there, like the cold ground sucking the heat from a fire, she still had the hurt of Will's departure. Deanna had been young and foolish back than and she hadn't been able to protect her, but she hadn't realized how deep the wound had been when Will Riker returned to his starship and forgot the young woman who had made him her imzadi.

Reaching over to Will's mind, she found more chaos and had to bit her lip to bring her focus in tight enough to put his thoughts in order. Humans could be such challenging creatures. Their minds were so messy it was like trying to separate one vine flower from a wall of intertwined climbing jumiyas. It was nearly impossible for normal telepaths.

Thankfully, Lwaxana was far from a normal telepath, and a moment of concentration had Will's thoughts in a readable order. He was deeply attracted to her daughter and that mixture of lust was intoxicating, like the champagne she'd had at her wedding. Earth champagne was still high on her list of pleasant alcoholic beverages but something she saved for occasions when she could safely remember Ian. Ian's memory was sacred, an echo of something she'd never found again and had given up on knowing.

Maques was speaking with Deanna by the bar and the flash of anger from her daughter meant she'd decided to continue to live her lonely existence. Setting down her tea on the bar,Lwaxana let the dark skinned bartender in the fantastic hat serve her something stronger. The bartender was El Aurian, that mindset was something she recognized immediately and Lwaxana tried to remember if she'd run into her before. El Aurians were rare and beautiful minds, like picturesque pop-up books of thought and color.

Guinan, that was her name Lwaxana remembered quickly, met her eyes and smiled mischievously. It was entirely possible Guinan had placed her name in her head. She'd known an El Aurian who'd been able to direct telepathic contacts as if he were handing her a map to her brain. He'd been much older than Guinan, at least, as far as she could tell. El Aurians were one of the few species that had mysteries she was entirely unable to unravel. It helped keep things interesting.

Setting the deep blue liquid in front of her, Guinan faded as she moved to the other end of the bar. Lwaxana took a sip without smelling it and was pleasantly surprised to discover it was Tarkalian brandy. It was both bitter and spiced, like one of Ian's hot toddy's shot with cinnamon and chili pepper. Ian would have hated it.

Deanna's thoughts had calmed to a slow boil and Lwaxana was only going to have to face the 'mother-stop-interfering-in-my-life' speech on yellow alert instead of red. She could handle that. She could handle Deanna trying to tear her face off if it meant her daughter would finally move of the rut she'd been stuck in. Will Riker wasn't the problem, Lwaxana mused. Deanna was the biggest obstacle to her own happiness.

The Tarkalian brandy she'd gotten from Guinan didn't come in synthale, not that it mattered if she got tipsy. Drunk at the welcoming reception of the Cairn on the Enterprise wouldn't even be a good footnote in Lwaxana's biography and she was proud of that. Retreating over by the window, she looked out at the starlines and felt her own thoughts zip as quickly back to Ian. Would he want to see Deanna married? He'd always been too lenient, too willing to let the children figure things out for themselves. He'd even let Kestra climb trees in the back garden without telling her how dangerous it was.


On Betazed, she couldn't even let herself think the name, someone around her would notice. Maybe that was part of why she'd spent so much time off world. After Kestra, they'd left Lake Elnar. It was too quiet, and Kestra's touch was on everything. In the ancestral city, there had been enough minds around her to make her grief blend into the minds around her. The Troi mansion had held secrets before, and Kestra's death was just another one to disappear into the ancient walls. Kestra was gone and thoughts of her had no place on the Enterprise. Lwaxana had a responsibility to live for Deanna. To make sure her younger daughter had the life that had been denied her sister and her father.

Deanna was almost Ian's age now. Ian had been married and a father by this time. Deanna knew that, but it seemed no matter what happened to her younger daughter, Deanna would never see how brief the time she had been given could be.

Kestra would have been closer to Beverly's age and Lwaxana could almost picture her standing by the window with Jean-Luc and Beverly. Kestra would have made a good doctor, she had always taken such good care of her toys, or a Starfleet captain, she'd definitely had the will for the job. In Lwaxana's mind, Kestra wore the old red uniform, like Ian's uniform, and Ian stood beside her. He'd been starting to go gray, but he'd still be handsome.Kestra would be married because her heart was too loving to live alone. She'd be incomplete, like Lwaxana was without Ian, like Deanna was--

Deanna didn't know what it was like to truly be alone. She wouldn't- couldn't while Lwaxana was still alive. Lwaxana had little doubt that her own life had a hell of a lot of light years in it still, but Deanna just didn't understand. How could she be so blind to what was around her? Will loved her, Deanna's senses were limited, but she was imzadi. Will's feelings had been stirred back up and only Deanna's fears were holding her back.

Had she done that to her daughter? Wondering if she could blame herself, Lwaxana finished the last of her brandy too quickly and it stung her throat. Her headache rolled deeper into her mind, drawing the ache around until it became a circle of iron around her skull.

She'd been too cautious after Kestra died. She hadn't let Deanna take enough risks, her overprotective nature had raised her daughter to be so cautious that she wasn't living. Dropping her head into her hands, she could have sworn she felt Ian's mind in the room. His mind had been so warm and Kestra's had been just like it, a sunspot that never worried about the clouds. Pressing her fingers into her head didn't help, Lwaxana sighed and realized the brandy hadn't helped either. She was more than tired, but she couldn't remember how to fight it.

What was Ian thinking? Why was he so sad? Ian wasn't here, she reminded herself firmly. Kestra had never grown up and she certainly had no business picturing her dead daughter in the wrong uniform.

Across the room, two flares of thought occurred nearly simultaneously and she turned her head away from the stars to look. The first thought was too confused, too random for her to make much sense out of, but the second mind was Jean-Luc's and his rush of concern made her stomach knot up. It appeared to be nothing, both of them were still smiling.

Beverly's drink was on the floor. The glass had rolled beneath the table and the doctor's thoughts were hot with embarrassment. Her fingers shook as she squatted to retrieve it. Jean-Luc was concerned as he dropped to the floor with her and that feeling was growing outwards like a deflector shield. Will's mind joined the confusion, adding another note to the din. Deanna was staring at her. Ian promised she was safe. She was always safe. She didn't have to be alone.

Ian wasn't in Ten Forward. Kestra wasn't in Starfleet. Kestra hadn't grown up. She'd never had a child. She couldn't be standing next to Jean-Luc and reassuring him she was all right. That was Beverly. Why couldn't she sort the voices from the past out of the present?

Kestra would have been so happy to be pregnant but Kestra was dead. Kestra was a cold, blue corpse they'd barely let her see. She didn't deserve to see her. Lwaxana had failed her daughter and she wasn't a good enough mother to hold her body. She hadn't been able to keep her safe.

Why was Beverly's drink on the floor?

Her hands shook and the empty glass from her brandy was impossible to hold on to. Hitting the carpet, it rolled under the table. That shouldn't have happened, she chided herself.

Her hands were wet. Lwaxana could feel the moisture on her skin. Her dress was wet because she'd run into the lake looking for Kestra.

Deanna was staring at her.

Baby Deanna was crying and Lwaxana couldn't make her stop. She could feel her daughter's infant terror in her mind. Ian's mind was shutting down, screaming helplessly because Kestra was gone.

Kestra was gone. In the depths of her mind, deep in the darkness where she could no longer bear to look, she knew Kestra was gone. She'd felt her die. The light that was her daughter, the light that brought her more happiness than she'd even known, had drowned in Lake Elnar. The water had been so cold that day. So dark it swallowed the sun. The water was up to her neck,Lwaxana could feel it lapping at her face and she knew she should fight it. For a moment, she thought she felt someone next to her.

How had they gotten into the water? Did they know how to swim? Lwaxana knew, she was just so tired.

"It'll be fine. The carpet's seen far worse than this," he teased her as he lifted the glass and set it upright on the table. Jean-Luc straightened and looked for Guinan behind the bar. Beverly was going to need a towel, even if she didn't want to admit it, her drink was all over the trousers of her dress uniform. Trying to remember what she'd had so he could get another one with the towel, he felt Beverly's hand grab his knee.

"Stay away from the water," she murmured. She was still crouched on the floor, knees folded beneath her. Staring past him at something unseen, Beverly's eyes started to drift.

Dropping back down to her, he reached for her chin. Jean-Luc brought her gaze to his in time to watch her blue eyes roll back into her head. Crumpling up like a dead leaf, she fell forward, limp and unconscious. Moving quickly, he managed to turn her on her side before her face hit the floor. Beverly was heavy in his arms and completely pliable, as if the life had been completely sucked out of her. Pulling his hand out from underneath her shoulder, he slammed his commbadge.

"Medical emergency in ten forward," he growled, surprised by the harshness of his own voice.

"Medical teams are en route captain," the voice was quick to respond.

Looking up to see who else had called the emergency, Jean-Luc saw Deanna and several others in a circle around another unconscious form. From the look on the counselor's face, it was her mother.

Will knelt down next to him. "Is she all right?"

Jean-Luc shook his head and slapped Beverly's cheek lightly. "Beverly--" He checked her eyes next and only saw white. Will took her wrist from his lap and he had to stop himself from taking it back. His first officer was only checking her pulse.

"Lwaxana passed out at the same time," Will explained with forced calm as he looked from Lwaxana to Beverly. "Did she say anything?"

"No," he snapped at him before he remembered, ''Stay away from the water'." Forcing the icy terror in the pit of his stomach down, he tried to concentrate. "It doesn't make any sense. There's no water. It means nothing."

"Pulse is steady," Will promised him as he moved out of the way of the medical team. Selar knelt down and Jean-Luc heard the beeping of the medical tricorder. Demanding things of the Vulcan would only make her work more difficult and hardly seem professional. He couldn't afford the luxury of being terrified even if he couldn't bury the feeling. The threat to Beverly might represent a threat to the ship and that had to come first.

Selar read the tricorder and nodded once. "She is stable," she pronounced. "Prepare for transport to sickbay."

The nurse with her, a young Bajoran Beverly had been telling him about who's name he could not currently remember, rolled Beverly off his lap without a word. The nurse tapped her commbadge twice and the transporter started to pull her away. He would have given anything to transport with her, but he had a duty to see to the situation first. His uniform had never seemed so heavy as he stared at the empty place on the floor where Beverly had been.

Will was standing next to Deanna, his arm around her shoulders as they both stared down at Lwaxana. The reception had broken up into small groups, people talked in hushed voices or simply watched the medical staff. Lwaxana disappeared to sickbay as well as the transporter took her away.

Worf waited for him to meet his eyes before he started to manage the crowd. "Please, do not be concerned," the Klingon's voice carried through the room. "Everything will be fine. Return to your quarters and remain calm, it will be necessary to conduct sensor sweeps of this room. You will be contacted if medical scans are required."

Dropping his voice to a more intimate level, he leaned closer. "I will escort the Cairn to their quarters and make sure they are kept calm,"Worf offered.

Jean-Luc nodded and felt his lips move before he remembered how to speak. "Thank you, lieutenant. I'll be in sickbay." His feet were heavy on the deck but it took most of his self control to keep them from running. Deanna was already gone, no crew expected her to be calm or depended on her strength. As counselor, she set a better example by being unafraid to show her caring for her mother. The captain couldn't allow himself that luxury.

The turbolift down to sickbay didn't even feel like it was moving. The corridor faded into a silent tomb as he walked through it. Pushing his pace to the briskest walk he could allow, Jean-Luc felt numb. He couldn't make his thoughts behave. He didn't even feel like he could think. Rationalizing his fears was impossible because he had nothing to go on. If it was anyone else, he'd be depending on Beverly to explain the situation to him.

Jean-Luc set his mind on other things. His Number One had the bridge. Data was in charge of scanning Ten Forward and looking for a scientific explanation. His ship was taken care of, the crew was safe and his responsibility was simply to wait.Worf was handling the diplomatic situation with the Cairn.

It was possible what was happening was some disease, something the Cairn had been carrying that had missed the biofilter. The Cairn were a new species in the earliest stage of Federation membership. They were a race of visual telepaths who had needed synthetic vocal devices and Ambassador Troi's help to learn to speak. Bringing them to the Federation council had been a simple diplomatic courier mission, that now had

The doors to sickbay slid open and revealed Lwaxana lying in the central bed. Nurse Ogawa was placing the cortical stimulators on her head. The room was silent, there were no alarms screaming, which he took as a good sign. Doctor Selar moved from Lwaxana to a bed in the corner. Scanning the room with his eyes, he found Deanna standing in the corner next to the bed Selar had moved to, arms folded over her chest. Her dark eyes were wide with concern and he saw the fear in them. The unconscious form on the bed was Beverly. Her hands had been laid at her sides, and her red hair haloed out beneath her head. Her eyes were closed, her skin pale and she just lay there, completely motionless.

Reaching for her hand, he took Beverly's cool fingers and wrapped them in warmth of both of his hands.

Deanna touched his shoulder. "Both of their life signs are stable, and the baby is fine. Selar's trying to bring my mother around but the cortical stimulators aren't working."

Guilt rushed up from his gut, hot and insistent. He hadn't thought about the baby. Squeezing Beverly's hand reassured him that she'd forgive him the oversight. Remembering the coma she'd been in after the Ullian, Jev, had raped her memories, he reminded himself that she'd woken up from that and everything had been fine. It would be again. Whatever Lwaxana was going through was something they could solve once they understood it.

Deanna cleared her throat and drew him away from his thoughts. Doctor Selar stood next to her, hands behind her back.

"Captain," the Vulcan doctor reported. "I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to stimulate cortical activity in Ambassador Troi and Doctor Crusher. The doctor only has autonomic nerve function and no cortical activity. Ambassador Troi only has activity in the paracortex, the Betazoid telepath lobe. The readings in that part of the brain are doubled. Some of the brain waves are distinctly human."

Jean-Luc broke the ice that had encased him when he'd heard 'no cortical activity' and tried to keep himself from shutting down. He had to be present, no matter how afraid he was. "Human?"

"I am running a deep brain scan on the ambassador," Selar announced. "Vulcan katras can be displaced and it is possible that the human psyche could suffer a similar dislocation. Vulcan and human brains are more similar than most Vulcans would care to admit." Her Vulcan bluntness was oddly comforting in a way someone attempting to calm him wouldn't have been. "However, there is very little I can determine without running more tests."

"Does this have something to do with the Cairn?" Deanna asked. "She's been complaining of headaches and acting distant since she arrived."

Selar nodded slightly. "Whom was she speaking with when she collapsed?"

"No one," Deanna answered with a shake of her head. "She said she was tired and retreated to the corner."

Jean-Luc was almost surprised when he realized he could speak, "Fairly out of the ordinary for her."

"My mother not speaking is a cause for alarm," Deanna said with a weak smile. "Did Beverly say anything?"

Staring down at Beverly again, Jean-Luc repeated what she'd said before she passed out, "'Stay away from the water'. Does that mean anything to you, Deanna?" It took considerable will to keep the question from being a

Selar wrapped her hands around her tricorder. "Had anything happened, anything else that may have been a trigger?"

"Beverly dropped her drink," he recalled, feeling slightly foolish "She's gotten rather clumsy of late, not that she likes to admit it to anyone. Beverly was apologizing, I was going to ask Guinan for a towel."

"Guinan," Deanna repeated. "What are you doing here?"

Confused, Jean-Luc looked up from Beverly and followed Deanna's gaze. She'd entered sickbay silently and now stood, hands folded, at the foot of Lwaxana's bed.

"She's not listening," Guinan said quietly. "I don't know what's wrong with her, however, I can tell you she's not listening. When we don't listen to ourselves, sometimes the voices start to shout. Sometimes, they shout so loud we can't hear ourselves."

"Did she say anything to you?" Deanna asked the El Aurian.

"She didn't say anything," Guinan answered as she tilted her head thoughtfully. "She didn't have to."

Thinking for a moment, Deanna crossed to stand next to her mother. "She's right," Deanna agreed as she looked to Selar. "Her clothing's been subdued, she was quiet at the party. I was-" she paused and seemed to be deciding what to say. "-I was thinking about something that would have been of great interest to her, my relationship with Will, and she said nothing. She didn't speak in my mind or admit that she could hear my thoughts. For my mother, that's incredibly out of character."

"Is it possible telepathy with the Cairn had side effects of which the ambassador was unaware?" Selar asked as she and Deanna moved to study the medical scans of Lwaxana's brain.

Jean-Luc's attention drifted, other than Vulcan mind melds, he knew little about telepathy and he couldn't help Beverly or Lwaxana. Feeling Guinan move to stand beside him, he folded his arms over his chest and sighed heavily.

"I've never felt like this," he admitted softly to her. "I've been helpless before, but never quite like this."

"Maybe it's good for you," Guinan said with a nod. "You're Captain Picard, you're always in control. You're used to using your strength to get what you want. Now you can't."

"That is not acceptable," he snapped and felt his anger simmer as she smiled at him.

"You don't have to accept it," she mused. "You do have to deal with it." Guinan touched his arm, squeezing it just above the elbow before she dropped her hand to Beverly's arm. "For her, and your daughter."

As long as she stayed in the lit part of the ship, the wolf left her alone. Beverly had no idea what was going on. She'd seen the wolf wandering the corridors of what looked like a darkened version of the Enterprise. At first, she'd been terrified that the wolf was dangerous, but it seemed content to ignore her as long as she kept her distance.

The thing the wolf wanted to keep her away from seemed centered in the middle of the ship, there had been no vortexes of light, so it wasn't a warp bubble. Something was most definitely wrong with this universe and nothing she did seemed to help. She wasn't hungry or thirsty but she was still pregnant. That was almost comforting, because it kept her from being alone in the nightmarish Enterprise.

Wandering around the ship didn't make her tired, and Beverly found she'd lost all sense of time. If had she been trapped for minutes or days, she wouldn't have been able to tell the difference. Her wandering took her to the bridge, and eventually she retreated to the ready room. Jean-Luc wasn't there and her wistful disappointment in finding the ready room empty was silly but that didn't stop her from feeling it.

Sitting down in his chair, she pulled her knees up and tried to sort out what she knew. She'd been talking to Jean-Luc and she'd dropped her drink. He'd been helping her clean it up, then--

"I don't remember," she said to herself. "I was in Ten Forward, then I was here. I don't know where I am, but it looks like the Enterprise and there's a wolf. Have I ever seen a wolf? No. Okay." Drumming her fingers on Jean-Luc's desk helped her think, Beverly tried to decide if she'd seen anything suspicious.

"Was anyone behaving strangely? Did I touch anything? Think, Beverly. Who was there? Jean-Luc, Will, Deanna, Worf, the Cairn delegation, Deanna's mother--"

"At least I know it's not Wesley," she realized softly, almost wishing it was her son. It had been too long since she'd spoken to him.

Resting her hands on her lower back, Beverly sighed and wished she'd manage to enter the dream world with her medical tricorder. There was water running somewhere. Every once in awhile, there was a splashing sound that seemed ominous. The lights darkened when the water got louder. She didn't know anything about water. Betazed was supposed to be a wet planet but that didn't help her.

"The only thing I've seen is the wolf," she reminded herself. "i don't know anything about wolves or why I keep hearing water but I can't just wait here for this to sort itself out. I'll have to start with that."

Walking out onto the bridge, she heard the water again and suddenly her uniform was wet. Just the legs, where she'd dropped her drink. That had something to do with it. The drink she'd dropped in Ten Forward, right before she'd been here. When the water stopped burbling in the background, her uniform was dry again. Heading for the turbolift, she stopped short, dumbstruck when the doors opened.

Deanna stood there, staring back at her. Taking a step back, Beverly waiting for the image of Deanna to turn into a vortex or a monster. The mirage of Deanna rushed forward, her hand outstretched towards her. "Beverly, are you all right?"

Keeping her distance, Beverly backed towards the tactical console. "I'm fine."

"It's all right," Deanna promised as she stopped moving and waited by the turbolift. "I'm real. I'm in sickbay."

"Okay," she replied unconvinced. "Prove it."

Deanna, or the thing pretending to be Deanna, smiled slightly. "What would you like me to do?"

"If we're in my head, you should be able to tell me something only I'd know," Beverly extrapolated. "If we're not in my head, you should be able to tell me something I don't know."

"We're not in your head," Deanna promised. Folding her arms over her chest, the empath thought for a moment. "Okay. Right now we're in sickbay. You're in a coma and the captain is hovering."

"Jean-Luc doesn't hover," Beverly argued. "If this is in my mind, you could be telling me this because I'm reflecting my own feelings of inadequacy. Or you're representing my disconnect from my own emotions--"

"You frequently drop your left elbow when you train with Worf on the Bat'leth, last time you did it you nearly took off two of your own fingers," Deanna reminded her darkly. "You started having him teach you because you wanted to learn a sport with a sharp metal object and you knew you'd fight with the captain too much if you let him teach you the rapier. You also think the rapier is a girly weapon."

"I didn't say girly," Beverly defended herself as she started to smile back. "I said delicate. Okay, okay, you're Deanna."

Deanna's smile turned smug and she nodded to her regally. "Thank you."

The only thing better than seeing the real Deanna would have been seeing Jean-Luc, but Deanna being real was at least proof she wasn't crazy. Deanna's stare dropped to her stomach and Beverly sighed and sheepishly shook her head. "I guess it sticks with me. Even when I'm-- Where are we?"

"In my mother's metaconscious mind," Deanna explained. "You're trapped. Somehow my mother pulled you in. Maques, one of the Cairn, is bridging my mother's thoughts so I can be here.

"Metaconscious?" Beverly repeated, trying to place the word.

"It's the psychic filter of her mind, something all Betazoids have," Deanna explained as she drew her into the turbolift. "We have to find her. Whatever this is, it's killing her."

Beverly rested her hand on her stomach and wondered if the butterflies in her stomach were part of the hallucination or if the baby was making its presence felt. "Why am I here?" she asked.

Deanna shrugged and looked up, trying to decide which deck they were going to. "Deck ten," she asked the computer. "You're telepathic and you never told me?"

Smirking slightly, Beverly managed to share Deanna's dark humor.

"I think it was an accident. Whatever this is, whatever is going on here, she's going under and she grabbed for someone," Deanna finished in a sigh and stared at the floor. "Maybe if we were closer it would have been me."

"Deanna," Beverly interrupted her thoughts. "You have a wonderful relationship with your mother. It's probably just a fluke. Besides, you're here now. I have no idea what's going on in here."

The turbolift stopped and opened onto a dark corridor. Deanna stepped off first, unconsciously putting herself between Beverly and whatever was out in the darkness.

"Have you seen anyone?"

"No," she sighed and wondered when everyone, Deanna included, would stop trying to protect her. "Is Jean-Luc all right?"

Deanna's serious expression faded into a gentle smile. "He's holding your hand. Won't leave sickbay."

"Okay," she said, closing her eyes for a moment. If Jean-Luc was with her, even with her comatose body, that was incredibly strengthening. "Let's figure this out."

They walked in silence. Without anyone else on the Enterprise, or any of the power sounds, the ship felt like a tomb. Without Deanna, it would have been incredibly creepy.

"I know why you're here," Deanna finally broke the silence. "You have everything my mother wants me to have. You're involved with a man you love very deeply and you're pregnant. I'm supposed to want that. That's supposed to make me happy." Deanna's voice was harsh and Beverly could hear the emotion she was holding back. "My mother would love me to be more like you."


They turned a corner and the wolf confronted them again, baring his teeth as he growled menacingly. Beverly pulled back but Deanna didn't move.

"She's trying to keep us away," Deanna insisted. "We have to follow it. The wolf, and anything else in here, it's all part of my mother trying to protect herself."

"Are there wolves on Betazed?"

"No," Deanna answered with a shake of her head. "I don't know why we keep hearing the water either."

"Deanna--" the voice was male, someone Beverly didn't recognize.

"Daddy?" Deanna responded to the voice and suddenly they were standing in a sunlit room that Beverly didn't recognize.

"You've gotten so beautiful," Deanna's father exclaimed as he reached for her. He wore a Starfleet uniform, an old red one, like Jack had worn, and he had dark hair, dark eyes and an incredibly kind face. He dragged Deanna away and the room began to change

"Bev," that voice she knew so well it cut into her like a laser scalpel. "I like your hair this way."

Jack was standing in front of her, full of life and smiling from the bedroom of their quarters on Earth. It could have been twenty years ago but it felt so real she could have stepped into a time paradox.

"So, Red, when did you let it get light again?" he teased as he reached for her cheek. "It brings out your eyes."

"You're not here," she whispered, shaking her head and closing her eyes. "Jack--"

His hands ran down her arms and she could smell him. It was his hands, his voice and his hands that stopped on her hips and pulled her closer.

"That's not the only thing you've changed," he observed slyly. "Suits you though, certainly did with Wes. Wish we'd had a chance to give him a little brother. Is it a boy?"

His face was too earnest, too loving, too familiar-- Beverly's stomach twisted viciously and she wondered if she could throw up in a hallucination.

"It's not real," Deanna said as she closed her hands down on Beverly's shoulders and pulled her back. "He's not real Beverly."

"It's not yours," she whispered to the ghost of her husband. It would be so easy to give in to this. To let Jack hold her and lose herself in the past. "I will always love you, but this isn't real. This isn't my life anymore." Prying his hands off of her hips, she held them for a moment and the warmth of his touch felt real. Fighting the tears sting her eyes, Beverly squeezed them shut and forced herself to back away.

"Goodbye Jack."

Deanna pulled her away, wrapping her arm around her. Beverly saw tears mirrored on her face. Wiping her tears bitterly from own her cheeks, Beverly shared Deanna's pain and held her hand as they started to walk again. The water became a rushing sound and as she reached down to touch the dampness on her uniform, Beverly saw Deanna's was wet as well.

"Why are we wet?"

Deanna shrugged. "I have no idea."

"Leave me alone," Lwaxana's voice was plaintive and echoed through the corridor. The water and the growling of the wolf blended together into a terrifying wall of sound that seemed to suck them into it. The Enterprise faded away, like a sandcastle being eaten by a wave, and they were standing in Ten Forward. The windows were gone and the space beyond had been replaced with grass that stretched away towards a lake that hung impossibly in void.

Lwaxana stood in the corner, almost as if she was trying to blend into the wall. Beverly hung back, letting Deanna rush to embrace her mother.

"Go away," Lwaxana begged. Her eyes were red and swollen. Her dress was nearly black. When Deanna took a step closer to where the windows were supposed to be, she stopped her. "Stay away from the water little one," she pleased. "Stay away. Stay here where it's safe."


Beverly turned her head along with Deanna as they both heard the little girl's voice. As they watched, a little brunette girl tried to clip the leash on a small, fluffy dog. Deanna's father helped her and Beverly wondered if the girl was Deanna.

Deanna just seemed confused. "Mother?"

"No!" Lwaxana cried as she shook her head and put her hands over her ears. "Don't make me watch this. I can't go through this again."

"Help me," Deanna asked softly as she took one of her mother's arms. Beverly took the other and they moved towards Deanna's father and the little girl. A baby started to cry and she could feel Lwaxana trembling.

The water crept closer, suddenly rushing around their feet. Beverly and Deanna both jumped as the water faded away.

Lwaxana started to weep. "No, Kestra. Stay away from the water." Her tone was different, less terrified and more like an exhausted mother trying to cope with her rambunctious daughter. Slipping free of them, Lwaxana joined Deanna's father on the blanket and comforted the baby.

"Kestra?" Beverly asked and Deanna shook her head again.

"I don't know her," Deanna answered as she looked around. "I think this is Lake Elnar, on Betazed. We lived here when I was a baby. My father," she paused and stared at the man on the blanket. "Just told me."

"Mommy, can I go play down by the water?" Kestra begged as she tried to hold on to the leash.

"No Kestra, stay here with us," Lwaxana said to her daughter, she seemed to have completely forgotten the other women were watching her. "Ian, the baby's teething, have you seen her ring?"

The water rushed up again, running cold over Beverly's feet. The infant Deanna was crying. The dog was barking but it sounded like the was wolf snarling at them instead.

"Mother," Deanna's voice was the calm in the middle of a storm of sound. Deanna's father and Lwaxana were holding each other and sobbing. Both of them were soaking wet. "What happened to Kestra?"

"Ian and I only looked away for a moment. The dog-" Lwaxana's voice faltered and she sank to the ground. The ground shifted beneath them, the grass faded and the carpet returned. "The dog got away. Deanna, it was my fault."

"It wasn't your fault," Deanna corrected as she grabbed her mother's shoulders. "Whatever happened here, you have to let this go. It's killing you."

Beverly hadn't thought about moving her hand to her stomach, but her right hand was there. How many times had she lost track of Wesley? Maybe a handful, but she remembered each of them clearly as if they'd been etched in her mind. The time he'd run off camping, the time he'd climbed the old pine tree behind their quarters on Earth, even the time she and Jack thought he was outside in the storm and found him asleep in their bed.

The confusion and fear on Deanna's face faded. Beverly's couldn't help her thoughts from turning dark and Deanna must have felt it. She would have given anything to be wrong, but Beverly knew why Lwaxana was so destroyed. Losing a husband was bad enough, but losing a child--

Deanna wrapped her arms around her mother's shoulders. "I have a sister I never knew," she whispered. "Tell me about her. What was she like?"

"She woke up every morning with a smile," Lwaxana sighed and the room started to brighten around them.

Beverly blinked and brought her hand up to her eyes. Her hand wouldn't move. The lights were too bright and they had somehow moved from the ceiling to directly in front of her face. Why couldn't she move her hand?

The lights swallowed her up and the mysterious force holding her hand turned out to be Jean-Luc. His hand was wrapped around hers and his face started to come into focus. The lights above her were familiar, she would have known them anywhere.

"Sickbay," she whispered. Her throat was dry and her voice was raspy. "Jean-Luc--" Wondering how long she'd been there, Beverly lifted her head. The movement of her hand drew his attention and as soon as his eyes found hers, she sat up.

"Slowly," he warned her. Relief took years off of his face and he could have been the age he'd been when they'd met. Sitting up made her head spin, but she needed to touch him. Grabbing his shoulder, she hugged him fiercely. Her balance was off. Her head ached, she had the symptoms of mild dehydration and she'd have to have been unconscious for some time to develop them.

Holding on to him was outside of their established behavior patterns, Beverly knew he was uncomfortable with displaying affection in front of the crew. She half-expected him to pull away, to politely disengage before he felt like he'd lost his dignity. Jean-Luc held on to her for dear life. She could hear the medical tricorder beep as somehow ran it around her head. There were voices in the background, but all she could feel was stubble on his face as he pressed against her cheek. He hadn't shaved and the stubble was light, it couldn't have been more than one night.

Sighing in relief, she held onto him. The moment, which was all she really expected him to allow, expanded into a minute. Her arms held tight around his shoulders and Beverly let her face slide down into his neck. His strong fingers crept down her back and dug into her flesh near her spine. He couldn't let himself touch her stomach, that was too much weakness, but he was acknowledging that their baby was all right.

As soon as he started to pull away, Beverly forced herself to let him.

"How do you feel?" he asked gently. The question was loaded, as if everything he wouldn't say was balanced on those four small words. "Welcome back."

The last made her smile. Her eyes stung and she brought her hand up to cover her eyes. Her reflexes were still off and she almost hit herself in the eye, but salvaged the motion before she caused any damage.

"Bright," she complained. Even though the lighting in sickbay was dim, she needed a good reason to cover her eyes. Crying in public wasn't something she was willing to do. In front of Jean-Luc was acceptable, but it was going to take several minutes to get herself checked out of sickbay and she had to hold together until then. Turning around to check her own bio-readings, Beverly shut her eyes for a moment and diagnosed the foggy headache as fatigue and pregnancy, nothing serious. Pressing her eyelids shut, she opened them to renewed clarity and read the biobed.

Low blood glucose, low blood pressure, mild dehydration, serotonin and other neurotransmitter depletion; she filed the list away and watched the fetal heartbeat indicator flash quickly. That was the most important readout. Her feet were cold. When Beverly started to slip from the bed, she realized she'd been stripped and gowned. Her thin black socks weren't as warm as her boots and her body wasn't sparing much circulation for her extremities. Balling her chill fingers into fists, she crossed her arms, tucked her firsts beneath her sore breasts against her chest and hoped they'd warm quickly.

"Beverly--" Jean-Luc's tone was harsher than she expected. "You've been unconscious for eleven hours. Take it easy."

Normally, she would have snapped back. Biting her tongue kept her irascible reply silent, however Beverly needed to get out of sickbay. Slipping past Jean-Luc, she was pleasantly surprised that her legs were so sturdy. She could feel his eyes on her but all she could think about was getting back in her uniform and escaping. Once she knew the baby was all right, she was leaving and nothing Selar or Jean-Luc could say would keep her confined.

Knowing Selar was thorough enough that she could expect to find the results of several amniotic scans in the computer, Beverly was relieved the last had been concluded just half an hour ago. Fetal heartbeat was steady; growth factors and metabolic rates were both excellent. Tapping the controls, she transferred the images to the viewer in their quarters. She would allow herself that when she was safe.

Skimming her own more advanced readouts on the central screen, she nodded absently to herself. Blood gases were normal. Her neural chemistry was a little off and her brain demonstrated signs of stress. All understandable, none of it important enough to keep her here any longer.

"Alyssa," she called and heard the brusqueness in her voice. Jean-Luc started to open his mouth and she tried to wave him quiet. "Please log my official release in the computer. Selar, thank you for your care. I'll take today off and I'll be back to duty tomorrow."

"Beverly-" he protested over her thinly disguised orders. "You're rushing yourself out of here. We don't fully understand what happened to you."

"Nor will we," she insisted briskly. Meeting Selar's dark eyes, Beverly knew she couldn't plead with her Vulcan colleague but she could appeal logically. "Does anything in my bioreadings require my continued presence in sickbay?"

Selar narrowed her eyebrows and serenely looked over the same data Beverly had just checked. She nodded once. "You will only be a hindrance to your own recovery if you remain in sickbay," she pronounced. "Before you return to duty, I am the chief medical officer. Doctor, you will take two days off. You will report for a full physical examination later today and a second tomorrow before I reinstate you."

Nodding quickly, Beverly consented and she ground her teeth in frustration. Hanging on to that kept the stinging in her eyes tolerable. She was not going to cry in sickbay. "Thank you," she said perfunctorily.

She could feel Jean-Luc's eyes on her as he walked with her to the door. Rounding the corner into the turbolift with him, Beverly blinked quickly and beat her tears back for another few minutes.

"What time is it? Do you need-?" she didn't get to finish the question.

"Just before eight hundred hours, Data has the bridge," he explained. "Will did a double shift. I'll return to rotation tomorrow."

Her throat was too tight and that emotional response had no place in the situation. Everyone was fine. It hadn't even been that bad. Maybe a little confusing, but certainly not worth crying about.

Jean-Luc hadn't slept, her mind nagged her. If he had, he would be getting ready to to take alpha shift. He'd been too worried to leave her side, but neither of them were comfortable even hugging for too long in front of the crew. She'd been comatose and as far as he'd known, possibly dying of an unknown ailment. Holding her hand and waiting for her, Jean-Luc had been in sickbay all night.

Their silence carried them all the way home and Beverly shivered as they finally escaped into their quarters. Her hands and feet were still cold and she was the kind of queasy that came from not eating enough or recently. With the door shut behind them, Jean-Luc went to the replicator and returned with a large class of water. As she drank, he grabbed one of the blankets from the bed and draped it over her shoulders. Leading her to the bed, he sat her down and started rubbing her shoulders through the blanket.

"I need-" she began.

"-You need to eat," he finished. "Food and rest are your prescriptions."

Grabbing his wrist as he moved away from her, Beverly pulled him down, brought his head level with hers and kissed him urgently. He responded by returning completely to her, finishing the kiss and holding her head against his stomach as he stood. Feeling his breathing and the warmth of him was as important as finally being out of sickbay.

Jean-Luc released her and slowly kissed her forehead. "Stay here."


Tears were hot on her cheeks and started to cool as they reached her chin. Wiping her eyes with part of the blanket, she dredged up a smile as he returned from the replicator. Taking the warm porcelain from his hands, Beverly watched as he stripped off his uniform. He still took the time to fold it, in a manner, though he was careless with the result and let it lie abandoned on the floor. Crawling into bed behind her, he slipped her into the warm circle of his arms and dropped his head onto her shoulder. He pressed the spoon into her hand, and took over the responsibility of holding the bowl.

She'd barely bothered to look at what he'd brought. The first bite told her it was hot oatmeal with cream and brown sugar. Comfort food, she mused and reminded herself to chew.

"I love you."

Her own reply was muted, half swallowed with oatmeal, but the attempt made him chuckle. Swallowing and speaking around the spoon, she frowned."I love you too, but this is lumpy," Beverly realized as she slowed eating enough feel the texture in her mouth.

"Perhaps the replicator is malfunctioning," he suggested. "I could have a technician--"

Her derisive grunt made him chuckle. Trying to imagine what some poor ensign would think of the captain nearly naked in bed with his lover as he tried to fix the replicator made her giggle. Beverly felt her tears dry on her face. With both of them content just to be in close proximity, she ate until her spoon scraped the empty bottom of the bowl.

"Beverly," he began, stealing the empty dish to command her full attention. "Guinan told me something I want to share with you."

Getting up for more food wasn't worth leaving the warmth and security of his arms, Beverly decided. Pulling her knees up, she grabbed the bottom of the blue gown from sickbay and started to pull it off.


As soon as he realized what she was doing, Jean-Luc helped her ease out of it. Curling onto her side, she felt him move with her, holding her to his chest as they settled into bed. The feel of his skin against the bare skin of her back was warmer and more comforting than simply being held.

Once they was settled, with her head on his arm and his other arm around her stomach, Jean-Luc finished his thought. "Guinan told me I needed to accept my helplessness."

Turning his hand down so she could kiss the back of it, Beverly agreed, "Sounds like her."

"I hadn't realized how it would feel," he admitted as one of his hands moved up into her hair. His voice was gravely and caught in his throat. "Being helpless is extraordinarily difficult for me and she not only told me to embrace it, but insinuated that I needed to do it for my daughter."

What he was saying sounded important, but she couldn't place why. His lips were touching the back of her ear, it tickled and a more rational thought wasn't forthcoming.

"We didn't ask the computer to tell us the sex yet," she remembered through the haze. "Think she's right?"

Jean-Luc ran his thumb over her lips lazily and she kissed it. "I believe it's more than likely," he replied lightly. "I told you either was fine."

"Healthy, brilliant and in love with Shakespeare, right?"

"You forgot beautiful like her mother," he added. "I was thinking about it while you were eating. A little girl has a certain appeal. It definitely makes it seem more real to think of her instead of 'it'. Though, I have to admit I didn't pay enough attention to her proclamation at the time."

"Not my fault," she insisted as she heard him yawn behind her head. "The party was boring. Lwxana's head, now that was much more interesting. " Telling him about it, how Deanna had made fun of her to prove she was real, and how much pain Lwaxana must have been in to seal everything away for so many years, brought her to to the more difficult part.

"Jack was there," she finished, listening to the slow sound of his breathing. Jean-Luc had fallen asleep long before she'd gotten to this point and mentioning Jack would have only made him guilty if he were awake. "He looked happy." He would be happy, she decided. Jack and Jean-Luc had coexisted in her heart a long time, this was just the next phase. Jack had been a good man, an excellent husband and his memory was something she cherished. That memory was all she had, but all she needed of him.

"I love you," she said and counted it for both men.
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