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Leading Lady

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Beverly took a step forward to represent her entrance into the room. She took a deep breath and let her voice wobble a little. "Billy."

Will was seated at his desk, across the room from her. When she spoke he turned to her. For a moment they just looked at each other. Then, at Beverly's smile, he stood. He took two long strides to her smaller steps and then they were standing in front of each other. "Donna," he said, his voice a little shaky. "What you did..." He shook his head. "For me."

The way he looked at her, like she was the center of the universe, was something she'd seen on very few other people. Beverly momentarily forgot her lines in admiration of his acting ability. Sometimes she thought Will's skills were wasted on the Enterprise.

But she managed to pull herself together before Will could remind her of her line. "For you, I'd do anything." She'd done her own share of playing lovers and the breathy voice came back easily. However, it wasn't enough for her to feel Billy was Donna's great love. It was the conclusion of the play and if she couldn't make it work she'd be letting the other actors down. She sighed and stepped away from Will, starting to regret her decision to play the title part.

His expression was questioning and worried.

"I'm sorry." It wasn't the first time she'd had this problem - it was why they were having extra rehearsals, after all. But she'd hoped that on their own, with no pressure from any of the rest of the cast watching, she'd be able to do it.

"Maybe it's the setting," he suggested. "In uniform, in my quarters." He waved an arm to encompass the room, his trombone over here, the table they often played poker at over there. "Would it help if we were in costume on the set? Then we'd feel more like Donna and Billy, and less like Beverly and Will."

"Maybe." Right now she wasn't sure what would work, but he was right that she was thinking of him as Will Riker, her friend and someone she wasn't remotely romantically interested in. She shrugged. "It's certainly worth a try." She smiled, glad he was thinking of solutions while she was too distracted being frustrated at herself. "I'll meet you there."

Once she reached her quarters she pulled out her costume, glad they'd all been agreed the day before. Then she paused, holding Donna's flared pants, and called Deanna, audio only, so she could change while they talked.

"Why can't I do it?" she asked, once she'd filled Deanna in. "It's Will. We've known each other for years."

"Perhaps that's the problem," Deanna replied. "Would it be easier to play a love scene with someone you didn't know?"

"Maybe someone I'd got to know, and like, but not someone I'd just met. It's a little odd to pretend you're in love with a stranger." A position Beverly had been in once, at an audition at Starfleet Academy. She'd gotten the part, though, so she couldn't have been too bad.

"You know Will won't take it personally," Deanna went on. "He won't judge how good you are at acting like you're in love with him." Then she paused. "You don't have feelings for him do you? There was that time with Odan..."

"No," she said firmly. "I know that when Odan was in Will, he looked a lot like him…" Come to think of it, he'd looked at Beverly a lot like Will had this evening. She paused while buttoning her blouse. She'd spoken with Deanna about it at the time, and knew Will had too. It had been an unusual situation and it had taken some time to come to terms with it. But it was all in the past now.

She'd been quiet for so long that Deanna called her name.

"I'm fine," she promised her friend. "I know Will and I avoided each other for a little while after that, but he's just my friend. Who happens to be a good actor." Which meant they'd spent quite a bit of time together, before and since the event. Which had helped Beverly put Odan out of her mind. Until now.

"And a good kisser."

Beverly rolled her eyes. But she smiled, momentarily forgetting about Odan again. "You're no use at all. I have to go, Will will be waiting for me." She cut the comm on Deanna's laugh.

Will had gotten there first, as she'd predicted. He'd placed a chair at one end of the stage and was leaning against the back of it, looking thoughtful.

Although the set was only half-made, there was enough of a backdrop that it didn't look much like the Enterprise. Also, their clothes were nothing like their uniforms or anything they wore off-duty. Will looked very different, wearing gray clothes, rather than the bright reds and blues she was used to seeing him in. And she didn't look much like herself either, given the expression on his face when he looked up.

It was no wonder, with the large earrings and a blouse that was lower cut than she'd prefer. She already realized she had to be careful how far she leaned over in it. But they were historically accurate. It helped her become Donna, with the smaller steps she had to take, to make sure her pants didn't trip her up.

"I'm not Odan," he said, straightening up.

She paused mid-step at the edge of the stage. "Deanna spoke to you." It had only taken her a couple of minutes to get here from her quarters.

Will raised an arm, admitting it. "She was worried about you. About us."

"She doesn't need to be." She stepped forward with more confidence than she felt, one foot against the front of the stage. "I know it was awkward at first, but I don't look at you and see Odan any more. You don't act like him at all."

He smiled a little. "I knew what I was getting into. And it was for the good of the universe."

Some of it, maybe. He hadn't known what he'd been getting into with her, though, given that she'd been hiding her relationship with Odan. She bit her lip. "I didn't expect this play to bring it all back."

"Neither did I." Will ran a finger beneath his collar, looking uncomfortable about its position around his neck. Or maybe he was uncomfortable about something else. "But Billy and Donna don't have a Trill involved in their relationship. Everything they do they choose freely. For their love of each other."

She nodded. "Odan was very persuasive."

"I know." He smiled. "I noticed."

She managed a small smile at his tone.

"But for now, I am Billy. For nothing more important than entertainment."

She smiled properly then, and stepped onto the stage. Once in position she closed her eyes, took a deep breath and became her character. When she opened her eyes again, Will was sitting on the chair, ready to start the scene.

"Billy."

This time, once they were standing in front of each other, Will reached down to take her hands.

Beverly frowned, but realized he was just acting when he said his next line. She followed with hers partly out of rote, finding herself drawn to his blue eyes. Which, now she thought about it, didn't look at her quite the same way Odan did. Or the way Will usually did. And yet when he leaned down, she unthinkingly turned her head at the last minute and he was forced to kiss her on the cheek.

"I'm sorry." She pulled her hands away from his and stepped away, back out of his personal space. Until that moment she'd really thought she was doing better. "It's been a while since I kissed anyone." Thank goodness Odan wasn't the last person she'd kissed.

"And you've forgotten how to do it?" There was a note of amusement in his voice.

"No." She shook her head, smiling a little.

"I won't judge," he said softly, stepping closer to her.

She turned upstage, but he put a hand on her cheek. It was a surprisingly gentle touch, and she raised her eyes to meet his.

"You are an amazing actor, writer and director. To say nothing of the medical miracles you perform daily, in addition to being a fine bridge officer. And a beautiful woman. Who wouldn't want to kiss you? I'm surprised half the ship isn't in love with you."

She felt her cheeks reddening. Either he was as good an actor as she thought, or he really believed that. "Flattery won't get you anywhere." But he lowered his head and this time she raised hers, so their lips met.

It began as a gentle kiss, but as soon as their lips met she found she didn't want it to end. She raised a hand up to his shoulder, and then to the back of his neck. It was only when they parted that she realized she hadn't been thinking of Odan or Donna and Billy or the play. And Deanna was right, Will was a good kisser. Maybe she hadn't forgotten how to kiss, but she had forgotten how good it was to be kissed.

"Ready to do more rehearsing?" Will asked, not having taken his eyes off her face.

"You know," she said, "I think we need to rehearse kissing a lot more."

"I would like that." He grinned, a twinkle in his eye, and she smiled along with him.

They kissed again, his thumb gently rubbing her cheek. She thought, I could get used to this.