“Jean-Luc...there’s been something I’ve been wanting to tell you.”
It was a moment that hung there. A moment that cut across other moments.
She smiled softly, tilting her head as to give a mental assessment of the man in front of her. She knew whatever happened on the planet's surface weighed heavily on his mind. Still, he made sure his crew--and Beverly, herself--were coping with the latest Q-produced debacle. As he cast an inquisitive glance at her, she felt a swell of appreciation for him.
“Jean-Luc, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”
It was the one truth that she could cling to after the chaos of the day. Their friendship had again proved critical as she managed through yet another impossible adventure aboard the Enterprise.
Jean-Luc’s lips turned upward as he walked back to where she stood. He reached for her hand, giving it a brief squeeze. He didn’t let it go, both were grateful for the warmth they drew from each other. Mirth danced in his eyes. “The feeling is entirely mutual,” he replied.
The events of the day crept back in Beverly’s mind. “It seems like a dream. Seeing Jack,” she admitted, her voice low. “And yet, I can still feel his hands around my arms.” She moved her free hand up to her bicep and rubbed it subconsciously.
A concerned look passed over his face. They hadn’t had time to go through in detail what had happened when the timelines merged, but it was clear to her now that whatever Jean-Luc had seen caused him to worry that something bad had happened between her and Jack during their initial encounter.
What had happened to Jack in the other timeline?
His forehead wrinkled in worry. “He didn’t...hurt you, did he?”
“No,” she quickly assured him. She shook her head. “I don’t even know that I heard the words he was saying, to tell you the truth. But I know I have never seen him so angry before in my life.” A haunted look passed over her face.
During their marriage, Jack had never raised his voice to her or Wesley. It was troubling for Beverly to see such ire on his face and hear the sheer rage in her voice.
“Just remember, that wasn’t the Jack we knew,” Jean-Luc replied gently for as much her benefit as his own. “We both know that he adored you and Wesley. Whatever happened in that timeline shouldn’t tarnish what memories we have of him.”
“Of course,” she said, pasting a tight smile on her lips. Such an idea would be unfair to the man who had been her husband. “Though forgetting everything that happened today is going to be impossible.”
Jean-Luc closed his eyes. The weight of his thoughts pulled his his face. His cheeks were drawn, the pain of whatever happened covered his face. She gave his hand a squeeze. He opened his eyes.
“Indeed it will be.”
Every person had their breaking point.
For Beverly Crusher, it came after nearly five years back aboard the Enterprise, after another encounter with Q, after one more set of impossible odds that Jean-Luc barely seemed to overcome.
She looked at Jean-Luc who was looking at her expectantly. Why hadn’t she waited to have this conversation when they weren’t in the middle of Sickbay?
Because, she needed to tell Jean-Luc. It wasn’t fair to keep him waiting.
She gestured for him to step into her office. Once they were away from prying eyes and ears, she announced, “Jean-Luc, I think it’s time I’ve moved on.”
The flinch on his face would have been imperceptible to anyone except Beverly. The stunned shock was nearly enough to make her retract her last sentence, but after everything that had happened, she knew it was the truth, no matter how painful it was for the both of them.
He cleared his throat. “I see.” He swallowed thickly. “Is this because of...Jack?”
Jack. The memories of their earlier encounter assailed her. How long would her past affect her future?
"I'd be lying if I said it didn't have something to do with it," she replied quietly. She drew in a breath. “Maybe I just want to have a shred of normalcy in my life. You have to admit, it’s a bit of a rarity when it comes to being on the Enterprise.”
Jean-Luc wouldn’t --couldn’t -- begrudge her feelings. There were times, despite his love of space travel, when his weariness was impossible to ignore. The two of them had talked about it on several occasions. She knew he would understand where she was coming from.
“Have you considered what you would do if you decided to leave?” he asked, keeping his voice neutral.
There was a flash of disappointment on Beverly’s face. Had she hoped he would try to convince her to stay onboard? Didn’t she want him to respect her decision, just as he had five and a half years ago? “Admiral Mirkov mentioned that the position of head of Starfleet Medical is opening at the beginning of the year. She said it’s mine if I want it.”
He looked up and caught her eyes. “Is it? Is that what you want?”
There was the resistance she had been expecting. If she was being honest with herself, she wasn’t sure what she wanted. Her emotions had been through hell during the past year--the tender wound of her Nana’s passing, the exposure of her deepest thoughts with Jean-Luc, and now, seeing her dead husband, alive.
“Beverly?” His voice was close to her ear.
“I don’t know,” she confessed.
“Perhaps this is not a decision you should make yet,” he offered.
“Or perhaps it is.” If she didn't go through with the decision now, her resolve would fade. She placed her hand on his. It was cold. “I just can’t stay here any longer.”
He stiffened. His eyes were clouded with emotion, but his voice was solid. “If that’s your decision, Beverly, then I will support it wholeheartedly.”
"I'm sorry, Jean-Luc."
His voice was laden with sadness. "So am I, Beverly."
“Jean-Luc, it’s about Wesley...” she trailed off.
His eyebrows furrowed. Had something happened to the other Wesley? Had Beverly seen him? No, she would have mentioned that to him. She must have been talking about the Wesley in this timeline. “I’m sure he is safe, Beverly. You can contact him at the Academy--”
She shook her head. “No, I mean, how am I going to explain to him what happened today? That his father...that Jack...He was so furious, Jean-Luc." She swallowed. "I can't keep something like this from him."
"No, you can't," he agreed. “Beverly, I don’t need to tell you, but that man was not the Jack Crusher we knew. Whatever happened in that timeline doesn’t change the fact that the Jack Crusher from this universe was one of the best men I’ve ever known. Wesley is fully capable of accepting the differences between that Jack Crusher and the man who was his father."
“Did you see him? Jack?” she whispered.
He stiffened. It was too soon to think about. Cradling the lifeless body of Beverly--though not his Beverly--in his arms. Killed by the man who had defied the universe’s odds and survived when he should have died.
He collected his thoughts and gave Beverly a reassuring smile. “Let’s just say it was a confrontation I would rather forget.”
“Ever since I woke up, I’ve been trying to remember what he was saying, but in the midst of my shock at seeing him here, in the middle of Sickbay, I can’t recall anything specific,” she confessed.
Images of a jealousy-filled Jack Crusher assaulted Jean-Luc’s mind. He was no fool; he had quickly pieced together what fueled Jack’s rage.
“Perhaps it is best that you don’t,” he suggested.
She studied him for a second. “You know, don’t you? What got him so angry. Jean-Luc, if you know what upset him so much, I want to know.”
It wasn’t the fact that the other Jean-Luc and Beverly had some kind of torrid affair that made him reluctant to tell Beverly the reason behind Jack’s anger. It was the fact that he had lost Beverly, had been unable to save her life. Her glassy eyes as she made her last confession would haunt him. The pain at holding her as she died in his arms was too raw for him.
“In time,” he promised. “Right now, I think it’s important to focus on the man we knew, not the one we didn’t.”
She considered him for a moment, before nodding slightly.
He felt a wave of relief at her agreement, grateful that her stubborn determination hadn't made an appearance.
“All right, Jean-Luc,” she acquiesced. She looked around Sickbay, it was once again calm and serene. Her staff was doing everything to make sure their patients were recovering well, despite the drama of the day. “I should contact Wes. You know how quickly stories of our adventures travel through Starfleet.”
“I do.” He spun on his heel to walk out. Just as he was about to reach the door, Beverly spoke again.
“You know, I’ll never ask ‘what if’ again. Not after today."
He nodded, grateful for the woman full of life in front of him. "Nor shall I."
“Jean-Luc, I want to have sex with you.”
He felt the tips of his ears turn pink at her unexpected declaration.
“Perhaps, Doctor, this isn’t the place for this type of discussion,” he said, looking around Sickbay to see if anyone else had heard Beverly. Much to his relief, none of her staff seemed to have heard her.
She raised an eyebrow and led him into her office. The two of them were barely inside before she faced him, mere inches away, and said again, “I want to have sex with you.”
It wasn’t often that Jean-Luc was rendered speechless; yet he seemed unable to find anything to say to Beverly.
She sat on the edge of her desk, looking at him closely. He was sure his blush was impossible to miss. “If I hadn’t had the chance to read your mind earlier this year, I might be panicking right now,” she said with a playful gleam in her eye.
Finally, the only thought that he had tumbled out of his mouth. “Why?”
She seemed almost amused at his speechlessness. “Do you always interrogate your potential lovers like this?”
“No,” he admitted, “but this is quite different.”
Seeing that he wasn’t going to not let her answer, she sighed. “Maybe after a day like today, I realized that there are some things that I would regret not doing if the universe were to end.”
“I see.” He raised his eyes to hers. “And one of those would be to...” He trailed off awkwardly.
“...have sex with you,” she finished. She crossed her arms and appraised him. “Honestly, Jean-Luc, I didn’t think this would cause you to be so flustered. I have heard your thoughts on the subject.”
The heat crept on his cheeks at her reference to their time on Kesprytt. “Beverly...” It was almost a warning.
“I’ll even make you breakfast in the morning. Your favorite...coffee and croissant,” she offered.
He studied her face. She seemed quite determined. Underneath the layer of playful directness, he saw a hunger and a longing that he had been longing to see since he first fell in love with her twenty-five years ago. Whatever disaster today brought in the other universes, it finally propelled Beverly to want to move their relationship forward. Only a fool would dismiss her desire.
And Jean-Luc was no fool.
He smiled. “Far be it for me to not accept such an offer,” he replied.
"Good," she said, satisfied. "My quarters at 2100 hours."
"Yes, sir," he replied playfully.
A wide smile passed over her lips. "Something tells me I should have done this a long time ago."
She crossed the room to stand in front of him. She looked him in the eye as everything around them faded to the background.
There was no Sickbay. There was no Enterprise. There was no crisis they had just barely managed to survive.
There was her and there was Jean-Luc.
He waited for her to speak as she collected her thoughts. It was time, she knew. There would be no more stalling. No more fear. Just acceptance of what she had been afraid to speak for a long time.
“Jean-Luc, I love you.”
She trusted that the weight of her words, her intent look at she spoke them, would reveal to Jean-Luc that she was not speaking of the type of love that dear friends held for one another, but the type of deep, passionate love that one felt for a soulmate.
She watched as he processed her words, the ones he had yearned to hear for so long. Inquisitiveness morphed into jubilation in front of her eyes. He looked in her eyes, silently asking, hoping, that her words were true and sincere.
Her answer was a tender kiss on his lips. Immediately, he responded, also seeming to forget how little privacy her office provided from her staff. The kiss was full of love and passion, warmth and desire.
They separated reluctantly. He leaned his forehead against her, his breath tickling her tingling lips. "And I love you. I always have."
She knew this, had known it, since their neural link on Kesprytt. They both knew that she had always claimed part of his heart since they had met.
She pulled back slightly, allowing herself to better see Jean-Luc. She cupped his cheek in her hand. Her chest pounded as he leaned into her touch. His open longing was something she was unaccustomed to seeing. “I don’t know what we are to each other in any of the other universes," she started softly. "...but I do know what I want us to be in this one.”
He placed his hand on her shoulder. "That's...very good to hear."
"I thought you might think so." She smiled. "Would you like to have dinner in my quarters tonight? We could...talk."
Beverly knew that Jean-Luc would pick up on the unspoken meaning behind her words.
He nodded. An echo of a smile passed over his lips. “Of course. There are many things to...discuss.”
Before Beverly could reply, Alyssa approached the entrance of her office. “I’m sorry to disturb you, Doctor, but Professor Martinez is asking to speak with you.”
“I’ll be right there.”
Alyssa nodded before turning around and leaving the two of them alone.
Beverly flashed Jean-Luc an apologetic smile. “Duty calls.”
“It always does.” He stood up straight and tugged his shirt down.
She stepped close to him and gave him an endearing smile. “I love you.” It felt even better the second time saying it.
“I love you too.”