DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2002 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
The ship creaked and groaned like a ruined thing as Beverly Crusher shifted uneasily in bed, trying to find a position that was comfortable. She closed her eyes, realized she was clenching her fists, and let them go in an attempt to relax. Her mind would not still, kept rehashing all that had happened since they'd been sent to Romulan space.
She was worried about Jean-Luc. He'd waved her away when she'd tried to examine him. Had told her he would come to her when the crisis was over. But he hadn't come to her yet, and she wondered if he ever would. Shinzon was dead, the threat to Earth had been eliminated, the ship was limping home to space dock. The crisis was over as far as she could see, and still he didn't come.
With a tired sigh, she forced herself out of bed. "Computer, location of Captain Picard."
"Captain Picard is in his quarters."
She dressed slowly, her uniform bunching and sticking as she pulled it on as if it and her body were unwilling to go where her mind was directing them. But she'd been to Jean-Luc's quarters a thousand times. There was no danger there. Just an unfinished story that never seemed to want to be concluded. She and Jean-Luc had spent the better part of a decade dancing around each other without ever coming close enough to touch. It was how things were between them. If she was interested, he was with someone else. If he pursued her, it was a time that Beverly wasn't looking in his direction. Irony—or maybe fate just had a terribly mean sense of humor. She wasn't sure.
And it didn't matter now anyway. She needed to talk to him. Because he needed to talk to her, or to someone, and she didn't think he was letting anyone in. It was time she acted more like a CMO and less like his friend. It was time he talked. Mind made up, she headed out of her quarters and down the hall.
Geordi stood in the lab, staring at B-4. He had turned the android back on but left him immobilized, not adjusting the settings Data had programmed in.
B-4 looked at him, waiting for instructions.
"Again," Geordi ordered.
"Here Kitty-Kitty. Spot, come here."
Geordi knew the cat was somewhere in the lab. He'd followed her down here when she'd bolted from Data's quarters. Geordi had been worried about her, afraid that she hadn't been fed or that she might be afraid. He should have left well enough alone. The cat had been waiting for an opportunity to escape.
He'd been chasing her ever since. She'd somehow ended up behind him, because when he opened the door to the lab, unsure exactly why he was going in there, she'd run in, brushing his legs as she headed for the far side of the lab.
"Again," he told B-4, listening for any rustle or mewl that might tell him where she had gone. There was nothing.
"Will we find Spot?" B-4 asked. He had a tendency to ask questions like that. Data would have estimated the probability of finding the animal in different places at different times and the level of damage the cat would be likely to inflict on the rescuer. B-4 just asked his stupid little questions.
And it irritated Geordi. "Call her again."
B-4 complied. His voice, so like Data's, got on Geordi's nerves to the point that he wanted to rush over and adjust the android's vocal patterns. Make him less like Data.
It wasn't fair that his voice could evoke Data. Not now. Not when Data was gone. Not when Geordi had helped Data die.
"Call her again," he said tightly, as he began to make another pass through the lab.
Worf sat silently in the chair he had pulled up in front of the viewscreen. His mind strayed, as it often did, to Jadzia. He knew that he should let go, but he couldn't. Normally, even though he tried to remember her as she had been—vital, uninhibited, alive in her love for him—he too often could only recall the way she had looked as she lay dead. The somber expression on a face that usually smiled. The coldness of the body that had warmed him so many nights.
But tonight, he could remember her alive. His mind refused to dredge up her corpse, instead providing memories of Risa, of sparring on the holodeck, of the time he'd chosen to save her rather than carry out his mission. Jadzia. His love. His wife. Alive in his memories...finally.
He shifted in his chair. Perhaps the pain of her passing was not so severe because he was surrounded by the pain of others now. The senior staff was drowning in it as they mourned the passing of Data.
Worf grieved for Data, but only lightly. He had died with honor. He had saved them all. His death had much meaning, much significance. He would not need a posthumous victory to get into Sto-Vo-Kor. If androids were allowed in that place? Perhaps they had their own version? Worf did not know.
And to be honest, he did not care. He was just glad to not feel alone in the crowd. To know that on this crippled, valiant ship, he was not the only one dealing with loss.
He suspected that was very selfish of him, but the thought didn't bother him as he lost himself in memories of the way the Risan sun had shone on Jadzia's skin.
Deanna lay next to Will, fighting the desperate urge to claw her way out from beneath his arm. An arm she would have considered reassuringly possessive and sheltering a few days ago. A lifetime ago. She shuddered, and tried to ignore the feeling of being trapped, focusing instead on tuning out the nearly overwhelming cascade of emotions that was assailing her from all over the ship. The emotions of the crew were strong as they dealt with battle injuries and the aftermath of fear and anxiety that the combat had provoked.
She could feel the grief of crewmen who'd watched their friends fall as the ship has been hit over and over, who'd seen colleagues sucked into deep space when the hull had been breached. She fought to keep the pain at arms length and succeeded. But another grief slipped by her controls: the pain she felt as her friends mourned Data. A pain she couldn't resist as successfully, for she was more attuned to her friends, felt their pain more easily. And they were all in pain.
As was the man beside her, even though he slept. His dreams were tortured and his arm tightened around her, sending another wave of claustrophobia through her.
He wasn't Shinzon, she repeated to herself as if it were a mantra. He wasn't Shinzon, nor the Viceroy. They were not in her mind.
But she could still hear their haunting laughter. She could still feel the lingering touch of their minds. She felt dirty. And she felt scared. Because when Will had made frantic love to her, when he'd tried to forget all that had happened in the familiar act of sharing his body with her, she hadn't been able to tell who was with her. She'd looked up and it had been Will, until he changed to Shinzon, then the Viceroy. She had closed her eyes, willing herself not to tense up, trying to pretend that she was enjoying the sex. But she hadn't enjoyed it.
She wondered if she would ever enjoy it again. And as she did, anger filled her. The same raw, deadly anger that had allowed her to find the Viceroy's mind and ultimately Shinzon's ship. The same rage that had helped her drive the Enterprise into the Scimitar, barely paying attention to the natural urge to turn away, avert the collision. She had wanted to smash them, wanted to destroy everything about them. She'd thought that once they were dead, they would leave her alone.
She'd been wrong.
Will rolled away from her, and Deanna sighed in relief. She moved slowly to the very edge of the bed and closed her eyes. She had to invoke every Betazoid mental discipline she knew before the emotions inside her head ceased pounding her. But the voices of Shinzon and his Viceroy father kept whispering relentlessly.
Geordi saw a flash of orange and white and grabbed madly for the cat. With an angry yowl, Spot swiped at him, her sharp claws leaving long gashes on his hand, gashes that soon welled up red as they started to bleed.
As Geordi stared at his hand, he noticed it was shaking, shaking hard and then he realized that he was shaking all over. He couldn't see very well, and he blinked furiously. "Come on, Spot. Help me out here," he said in a broken whisper. "I promised Data I'd take care of you."
"When is Data coming back?" B-4 asked from the other side of the lab.
Geordi looked up at him slowly. Through the haze of tears, he could almost pretend that his friend was standing there. That Data was back and everything would be all right, and Geordi could stop chasing this cat he didn't even like and could get back to living and wouldn't have to feel this pain that was threatening to tear him apart.
"He's not coming back," he finally said, spitting the words out as if they were stuck in his teeth. "He's dead. He's dead and he's not coming back."
The android blinked once, then said softly. "I do not understand."
Geordi pushed himself up and strode angrily to B-4. "Why don't you understand? You're just like him, aren't you? You have his memories. I know he gave you those. Yet you're useless. You're nothing like him. You look like him, and you sound like him, but you're not him. And you never will be. And even if you could be, it wouldn't be the same. Because I had years with him and now they're all gone as if they never existed! And you know why? Because I helped kill him."
If B-4 could have moved, Geordi believed the android would have flinched away. But he stood immobile, staring back at him. "Why did you kill him?" he finally asked.
Geordi sank down to the floor, put his head in his hands. "He wanted to save Captain Picard. It never occurred to me that only one of them could come back. I thought Data would come back with him. If he'd held on to him, they could have come back together. That's what I kept telling myself. But it wasn't true. And I should have known that as I opened the airlock for him. I should have known that I was helping him go to his death." Geordi looked up at the android. "Or maybe I did. Maybe I just didn't want to admit it."
"I do not understand."
With a sigh, Geordi nodded. "I know you don't, B-4. And it's unfair of me to expect you to. It's just that you look so much like him and I miss him already. He was my best friend, and I never got to say goodbye."
The android said nothing, and Geordi stared at him, trying not to see Data, trying to see B-4 for himself. But it was impossible. He looked too much like his friend.
"They're going to ask me to work on you, I bet. They'll want to see if we can resurrect Data." Geordi shook his head. "I don't think I want that. I don't think I could bear that. Either way: having him come back or not having him come back no matter how much we try." Geordi rubbed at his eyes. "It's nothing against you, B-4. And maybe someday you'll understand. But I just don't think I can do this again."
He reached over to turn off B-4, and the android asked, "What about Spot?" It was an eerie imitation of Data.
"She'll find her way home. When she's ready." Geordi flipped the switch and B-4's face went slack. Turning to the door, Geordi saw Spot waiting patiently for him. As he scooped the cat up, she didn't fight him, just settled down in his arms and reached up to lick his neck. "He's not coming back, girl." She mewed softly and he swallowed a lump in his throat. "Come on, let's get you moved into my quarters." Without another look at B-4, Geordi walked out of the lab.
Beverly stood in front of Jean-Luc's door, her hand poised to ring the chime but something held her back. What did she think was going to happen? What did she want to happen? He was hurting. He would need to reach out. But was that what she wanted? A battered, grieving man in her arms?
Not that she didn't want to help him. She loved him too much not to want to make it better for him. But would he choose her, if he weren't in such pain?
Then she laughed bitterly at herself. He hadn't chosen her yet. He might not. As his doctor, she needed to see him, to make sure he was fit for duty.
She rang the chime.
"Come." The door opened.
She walked through the living area, finally saw him standing in the shadows, in the space where bedroom began and bathroom ended. "Beverly." He didn't sound surprised. He didn't sound much of anything.
"Jean-Luc. Are you all right?"
He nodded. Then he looked back into the bathroom. "A mirror can tell us so much about ourselves."
"You have to allow for distortion," she said as she walked into the bedroom. "And it shows us our opposite."
"Does it? Does it really?" Something in his voice told her this was a very important question.
"Our reflection isn't us. Not completely. It lacks dimension, depth. And it's distorted. You know all this. Shinzon wasn't you."
"Obviously, since he's dead and here I stand."
She thought that he was thinking the same thing as she. But the "thanks to Data" went unsaid. "I'm glad you're still standing here."
He nodded tersely, turned away as if he was going to walk back into his bathroom.
"Don't," she said softly.
When he turned back to her, a tortured look on his face, she realized that she would offer this man anything if it would only ease the pain he was feeling.
"I'm trying to get at the truth," he finally said.
"Get at it another way." She moved toward him, took his hand, and pulled him gently out toward the living area.
He followed for a bit, then pulled back. "It's too bright there."
"I'll dim the lights."
"That won't help." He jerked his hand from hers, turned back to the bathroom.
"You need to talk about this."
"I need to be alone."
"I'll send Deanna."
He seemed to consider that. "Yes, send her. She might understand."
Beverly looked away, trying to beat down the hurt she felt. "Will you talk to her, if I send her?"
He gave her an odd look, then shrugged. "Maybe she needs to talk?"
"Well, the two of you can work it out," Beverly said, feeling adrift. She'd never been this unsure of how to reach him. "I'm here for you, Jean-Luc. If you need me."
His voice was all business. "I appreciate that, Doctor." Then he turned away. "You can see yourself out?"
To his unseeing back, she nodded. Then she fled.
She had nearly reached her quarters when she finally stopped. "Computer, location of Counselor Troi."
"Counselor Troi is in mess hall A."
Beverly found her in a back booth, sitting by herself. A large chocolate sundae was untouched. "Deanna? I would have expected to find you in Ten-Forward."
"There is no Ten-Forward." Deanna's voice was as disinterested as Picard's had been.
Beverly cringed as she realized her mistake. "Sorry. Of course there isn't." She'd taken in the damage assessments but hadn't considered what some of them meant. She was suddenly very glad Guinan was not on board.
"Are you here for a reason, Beverly?" It wasn't like Deanna to be like this.
Beverly slid into the booth across from her. "He's not gone, is he?"
Deanna didn't ask who she meant. She just shook her head. "He may never be gone."
That was what Jean-Luc meant and why Deanna was an acceptable visitor when she wasn't. His interactions with Shinzon had left Jean-Luc reeling, and Deanna—the only other person that Shinzon had hurt on such a personal level—was in a position to understand the pain he was feeling. With a sigh, like she had so many times before, Beverly cut off her need to be with Jean-Luc, ruthlessly shoving it back into the far reaches of her mind and focusing on the problem her two friends were having. "You need to talk to the Captain," she finally said. "He's hurting too."
Deanna looked up, her brow strained, then it relaxed. "I never thought...what it must be like. That's why his emotions are so—" she cut herself off, the privacy of her patient being paramount, Beverly supposed.
She couldn't stifle a pang of jealousy that Deanna knew what Jean-Luc was feeling. Beverly couldn't even tell if he was feeling anything.
"So you'll help him?"
Deanna shrugged. "I'll talk to him. I'll listen to him. Sometimes that's the same thing." She looked down at her sundae, seemed to shudder in distaste. "I used to like chocolate."
Beverly had never heard her sound so lost. "Deanna. If you need to talk..."
Deanna reached across the table, took her hand and squeezed it gently. "Thanks." She stared hard at Beverly, then smiled sadly. "He does love you. Just give him time."
Beverly laughed bitterly. "How much time? I've given him a lot already."
"Look at me and Will," Deanna said. It would have cheered Beverly up if there hadn't been such naked despair in her friend's voice.
Deanna pushed herself out of the booth. "I'll go to him now. I'll try to help him."
Beverly watched her leave. She looked around the mess hall, studying the faces of the few people that were in it at this odd hour. Some of them looked shell-shocked after what happened. Others seemed to mirror what she felt, relief that the battle was over, and confusion over what was going on with their friends.
"I loved Data too," Beverly whispered, even though she knew that his death had less to do with this than some other darker blow that had been dealt to Jean-Luc and Deanna.
"Need some company?"
She looked up to see Geordi. He had a bandage on his hand. "What happened?"
"Had to rescue Spot. She didn't make it easy."
"I guess not." She smiled at Geordi. "And yes, I could use some company."
He smiled gently. "Me too. I just don't want to be alone." He looked down at his hand. "Or with a grieving cat."
She smiled. "She'll get over it."
"I guess we all will. In time."
As she nodded slowly, she hoped he was right.