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For the asking

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She shouldn't pry. Deanna knew better. Humans were wildly protective of their thoughts and she let them keep their privacy. Using her empathic gifts made them uncomfortable and she'd spent most of the staff meeting focusing on Will. The familiarity of his mind and his openness to her was a refuge and a distraction when she needed one. Usually it worked: she could sink into his mind, smile at him across the table and forget about just about everything.

Not this morning. Worf was his normal Klingon self, his mind a smoky steel knot, calm and alien. Geordi had been up late; his exhaustion hovered buzzing around him. The captain was peaceful, hopeful. It couldn't just be the mission, though first contact missions were his favourites and it had gone very well. He had every right to be proud, but that wasn't right. He was lighter, as if a weight was gone from his emotions. Some question had been answered and that closure filled him with the hopeful peace of a spring day. Deanna pulled herself away from him, unwilling to push through his emotional barriers. The captain was a very passionate man and beneath his shields his heart was open.

Leaving the captain brought her back around to Beverly, who had initially sparked her curiosity. Beverly was hiding something. She'd taken one look at Deanna, smiled, then thrown up mental shields the equivalent of ivy-covered stone walls complete with gargoyles. She was hiding something behind them, something she wanted to keep to herself, yet there was light in it. It wasn't negative, darker emotions had weight, like black holes in the mind if they had enough time to gain purchase.

She barely heard the end of the meeting and her curiosity burned enough that Will noticed and grinned.

He relaxed and shared with her an image of Beverly and the captain sitting in one of the corners of Ten Forward while Federation Day celebration went on without them. They were very close together and Beverly had her hand on his chest.

No.

She thought that too hard and Will heard it.

His grin was wide enough to swallow a starship. He suspected everything and he had his own ways of building on his suspicious. Beverly sat easier in her chair than she had yesterday. She hadn't fidgeted with her sleeve and the look she'd given the captain had Will's suspicions on high alert. He was convinced.

Deanna wanted to be sure. She could pry and that's what her mother would do. Deanna could almost hear her mother in her head, reminding her that the minds of those they loved were as familiar as their faces. Betazoids shared emotions but humans didn't.

Why did she have to have human friends? Why was she surrounded by temptation she had to resist to be polite?

More importantly, what was she going to do? She couldn't berate the captain until he told her what she wanted to know. That left her with Beverly, who was already starting to escape.

She knew she was on the greyer side of morality, but she had to know.

"Beverly?" She let the tremulous hint sneak into her voice. Beverly was a rescuer. No matter how badly Beverly wanted to avoid her and thus the subject behind her emotional walls, if Deanna needed her, she'd give in.

"Are you all right, Deanna?"

Deanna sighed, hating herself for what she was about to do. "I think my empathy's off today."

She could have feigned a headache or pretended she'd accidentally overdosed on her inhibitor shot, but her empathic abilities were a special soft spot between her and Beverly. Ever since she'd been so awful to her after temporarily losing , Beverly had been more protective than usual of Deanna's mind. It was wrong to use that leverage, but Deanna needed her alone and the vulnerability of guilt would distract her friend.

"Oh? What's bothering you?" Beverly was wrapped up in her professional concern and it radiated from her like a campfire.

"I'm having trouble reading anyone but Will. I'd be worried if I couldn't read him--" she let that trail off. "Are you busy?"

"No." Beverly smiled, patting her shoulder. "I'm working on my DNA breakdown of the Fllthegari. Nothing that can't wait until I've run a brain scan or two."

"Thank you." Deanna dropped her shoulders and shook out her hair, letting her regret at lying stand in for her apprehension about an impending brain scan.

Beverly's gaze lingered on the captain's empty chair and her comforting smile warmed to a more gentle one. Deanna resisted the urge to reach into her mind by reaching into Will's instead.

Sending him Beverly's focus on the chair brought mirth into his thoughts and he replied with the captain sitting in the centre seat on the bridge with a satisfied smile he usually reserved for particularly beautiful stellar phenomena.

They wouldn't. Beverly and the captain were very intimate friends and she had no doubts that they loved each other, but they'd never been sexual. She didn't agree with their choice, both of them were attractive, passionate individuals. Their attraction was alive between them that hummed contentedly in the background. Those kinds of attractions were everywhere and Deanna often just brushed them aside like trailing vines.

Had she missed something important? Had something changed last night that brought them together?

Beverly was involved enough in her own thoughts not to notice Deanna's distraction. The turbolift whisked them down to sickbay with a hum uninterrupted by conversation.

"I hope I'm not taking away from something important," Deanna said, keeping pace with Beverly as they headed down the corridor.

"Oh no, DNA breakdowns are boring work. I can run it in the background." Beverly ushered Deanna into her office and took a tricorder from the drawer. "Now, you said you're having trouble reading the emotions of others?"

Deanna nodded, putting her hands on her knees after she crossed her legs. "Not everyone. I can hear Will the way I always do."

"And he's special."

Grinning at that, Deanna head still while Beverly ran the little probe in a circle around her head. "He likes to think so."

Beverly smiled in return, but hers was faint. "Your connection to Will is normal but your perceptions of others is muted?"

"Geordi was so tired it was hard to tell. I have a hard time reading anything other than exhausted from anyone who's tired. Worf is, well, Worf."

"Klingon minds are different?"

"Klingon minds are very honest. My mother would say that they think as loudly as they speak, and with as much tact."

Beverly leaned against the desk, letting the tricorder sort the data. "So as far as you know Worf, Will and Geordi were normal, but the captain and I were different?"

"You both felt guarded to me. Almost as if you were absent." Deanna kept her eyes wide and confused, waiting for Beverly to call her bluff.

Beverly's concerned look faded into a half-smile. "I'd hate to think we were both absent-minded for the whole meeting."

"To me you were."

Beverly's eyebrows climbed her forehead. "Is this a Betazoid way of asking me to kiss and tell?"

"So there was kissing?"

"Deanna--"

"Tell me about it."

Beverly circled her desk, retreating as she put the tricorder away. "You let me worry about you."

"You worried about me because you're a good friend. You can continue by telling me what happened." Deanna leaned forward, waiting for Beverly to turn around.

"You could have just asked."

Deanna rested her hands on the desk and rephrased. "Beverly, tell me about you and the captain, please."

"I can't just--"

"I've asked."

"He walked me back to my quarters." Beverly shut the drawer hard then turned, a hand resting on the back of her chair. "It was perfectly innocent."

"Uh-huh."

"I asked him in for a cup of coffee."

"Did you spill it?"

Beverly tilted her head, confused.

"Jean-Luc's coffee."

Using the captain's first name sent a flush through Beverly's thoughts that was echoed on the pale skin of her face. "I didn't spill his coffee."

"Did he spill yours?"

Beverly sank into her chair, pulling on leg up against her chest. "Why is Will special?"

Deanna pondered, then took the Betazoid approach. "Will and I share a telepathic bond. When we have sex he touches parts of my mind that a telepath would."

Beverly smirked. "Does this happen often?"

"More than you'd think."

"Does stimulating your mind mean what I think it does?" Beverly's mind took a carnal focus and Deanna beamed.

"If you ever get the chance, I'd recommend it. It's a whole other level of orgasm."

"I'll keep that in mind." Beverly's curiosity washed over her like mist over a lake. She had her own secrets.

"So, the kissing?"

"It was very sweet."

"Sweet?"

"He touched my chin, leaned in close and kissed me."

"That is sweet." Deanna leaned closer over the desk. "What was it like?"

"He's an excellent kisser."

"Excellent meaning patient? Passionate? Incredible with his tongue?"

Beverly's mental shields stiffened for a moment but she relaxed and kept them down. "Kissing him doesn't have an end. We started and I couldn't tell it was over until he spoke."

The memory of that sensation ran over her mind in a shiver and Deanna slipped close enough to share it.

"Then what?"

"We talked." Beverly pulled her knee a little tighter to her chest.

"You talked."

"And kissed again."

"Once or kissed for a more extended period of time?"

"We kissed until we didn't need to talk." Beverly picked up a PADD and read it as if they were talking about nothing of importance.

Reaching up, Deanna snatched it away. '"And?"

"He led me to bed, took off my dress and ravaged me like he'd caught Pon Farr."

"Pon Farr isn't contagious."

"Such a shame, isn't it?" Beverly met Deanna's eyes and looked away twice before she gave in. "I took off his shirt."

"Did he like your dress?" Deanna had helped pick it out: maroon and clingy that left enough skin to be inspirational showing.

'He liked it more off."

"That's always a good sign."

"It was wonderful, Deanna. His hands are so--"

"Good?"

"Skilful."

"Like an explorer?"

"More like an archeologist, firm at times, delicate when it's appropriate."

Deanna tilted her head, smiling as Beverly's mind filled with warmth and the fleeting memories of bliss. "And his body?"

"Tight, muscular. I-" Beverly paused, then shut her eyes. "It's better when you can touch someone. No matter how beautiful you think they are, they're so much more real when you can touch them."

"I've always liked Will's thighs."

Beverly raised her eyebrows again. "His thighs?"

"They're strong." Deanna waited her out, tapping her fingers on the desk until Beverly gave in.

"Jean-Luc's arms. I could have run my hands over them all night."

"Run your hands over or dig your fingers into?"

"Deanna--"

"It's a fair question."

Beverly squirmed, put her eyes behind her hand and sighed. "The latter."

"Good."

"Good?"

"Of course it's good! How long have you been wondering what those arms are like?"

Pulling her hand down from her face, Beverly wrapped her arm around her knee again. "Quite a while."

"Worth waiting for wasn't it?"

Beverly contemplated that, her thoughts turning wistful. "It was a good start."

"So you'll keep working on the deficit?"

"I think we will."

Accepting that, Deanna leaned back in her chair. "I assume his skills with his tongue extend to other activities than kissing?"

Beverly halted her own wince with a bright, wicked smile. "It would be safe to say he's eloquent in many areas."

"I'm glad."

Sighing, Beverly dropped her chin to her knee. "Me too. There are some things that are so difficult to teach."

"And he's learned them?"

"With great discipline."

"This suits you, you know."

"Being in a relationship?"

"Being sexually satisfied." Deanna chuckled and nudged the softer feelings Beverly harboured for the captain, content that they were solid and full of promise. "A relationship where that happens regularly is a wonderful thing."

'It's better than I imagined." Beverly switched legs, pulling one up and bringing the other down to the floor. "And my imagination can set very high standards."

"I like having mine broken."

"By impetuous humans who get into your soul?"

"Or by poetic men with well-muscled arms."

"He is a poet at heart, isn't he?" Hope brightened Beverly's face and a weight had left her. Her emotions were freer, as if the sun had found a way through the trees.

"A poet with a practical side. That's a rare thing. I'd hang onto it if I were you." Deanna stood, leaving Beverly to her work. She leaned in, unable to resist stirring the water. "With both hands."