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Life makes you stronger

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Captain Jean-Luc Picard stepped out of the turbolift and looked around: it was three minutes before Alpha shift began and everybody was already in place. He descended the ramp and sat down on his chair.

 

“Report.”

“Everything runs under normal parameters, sir. We’re en route to Deep Space Three at warp six. Estimated time of arrival: twenty-two hours.” Answered Data from his position.

“Thanks Commander.” Said Picard.

 

A few minutes passed and everybody continued with their tasks. Jean-Luc began to read a PADD but, a minute later, Worf interrupted him.

 

“Sir, we have an incoming transmission from Starfleet Command.”

“On screen.”

“It’s addressed to Dr. Crusher.”

“Send it to my Ready Room and call Beverly.”

“Yes sir.”

 

Jean-Luc got up and entered his Ready Room. He sat down on his chair, behind the desk, and ordered a tea from the replicator before he accepted the call. His face displayed his surprise when he saw the person on the screen.

 

“Admiral! What can I do for you?” said the captain with a smile.

Jean-Luc! I was expecting Beverly.”

“I know. She’s on her way. Is everything alright?”

Why do you ask?

“You usually don’t call from your office unless it’s an official matter.”

It isnt.

 

The door chime rang and Jean-Luc got up.

 

“She’s here.” He said before he went to open the door.

“You wanted to see me?” Beverly asked the moment she set a foot on the Ready Room.

“You have a call.”

“From who?”

“Starfleet Command.”

“Starfleet Command? Is everything alright?” she inquired.

“She’s fine.” Jean-Luc reassured her.

 

Beverly sat behind the desk and stared at the screen.

 

“Kathryn!”

Beverly.” Responded the Admiral with a sad voice.

“What’s wrong?”

My mother.”

“What?”

I dont know what happened ” Kathryn took a deep breath. “We were talking but I received a call and I left her alone in the kitchen. And then, ten minutes later, she was on the floor. I alerted Medical and started the CPR and then we beamed there ” She couldn’t continue.

“Kath! Breathe! Where is she?”

She died four hours ago.

“Oh! Kathryn…”

Im fine, Im fine. I came to Command to speak with Owen and to call you, Im not working.”

“Kathryn.” Beverly said trying to gain her attention, but she continued to stare at her coffee mug.

“Kathryn! Listen to me.” She stopped talking, waiting for Kathryn to look at her. When she did, Beverly continued. “I’ll take a shuttle and go to Earth, okay? I’ll contact Medical and ask for a report.”

Beverly, you have a conference to attend.”

“To the hell with the conference!”

Beverly, please, I” Kathryn began but ceased speaking when she realized that Beverly wasn’t paying attention to her.

 

Jean-Luc, after hearing the conversation, stood up from the couch and tapped his combadge.

 

“Picard to Riker.”

Riker here, sir.

“Set course to Earth, maximum warp.”

Sir?

“Senior Staff briefing in five minutes.”

Aye Captain.

“ETA?”

Ten hours and nineteen minutes, sir.” Data said.

“Perfect. Picard out.”

 

Beverly looked at him and mouthed ‘Thank you’ before returning her attention to the screen.

 

“Kathryn, the Enterprise set a course home at maximum warp. We’ll be there in ten hours.”

"But..."

"No buts, honey. I'll be home for dinner."

 

Jean-Luc left discreetly the Ready Room and let the couple talk alone.

 

"Did you talk with Phoebe?"

"Yes. She'll be here tonight. She's devastated."

"That's normal, dear. Like you are."

"I ... I don't know how I am."

"Did you call someone else?"

"No."

"I suppose that Admiral Paris will notify his son and the rest of your crew."

"I asked him to hold the news."

"Why?"

"Because I wanna be alone right now."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes Beverly, I'm sure. I'll see you tonight."

"Ok. Eat something and try to rest. I love you."

"I love you too. Janeway out."

 

Starfleet Command's logo invaded the screen and Beverly relased the air that she didn't know was holding. After a few minutes to recompose herself, she got up and left the Ready Room to go to the briefing.

 

******************************************

 

Everybody was waiting in the Observation Lounge by the time Jean-Luc arrived. He took his seat at the head of the table and waited until everyone was seated before he started speaking.

 

"Admiral Janeway's mother passed away this night. As everybody knows, we were en route to Deep Space Three escorting Dr. Crusher to the Medical Conference. After talking with the Admiral, I decided to change our course to Earth."

"Admiral Janeway will need Beverly' support." Geordi said.

"Indeed." Worf said.

 

Beverly entered the room and sat down next to Will.

 

"How's Kathryn?" Will asked.

"In shock. She was there when this happened. She called Medical and started the CPR. When they arrived at the hospital, there was nothing they could do."

"And how are you?" Deanna said to her friend.

"Me? I'm fine." Beverly answered without thinking. Deanna decided to drop the subject but looked at Beverly quite intensely, indicating that they would have a few words later.

“Do you want us to contact anybody?” Jean-Luc asked.

“No, there’s no need. Kathryn called her sister and went to speak with Admiral Paris; he’ll do the calls. I’ll contact Voyager’s EMH, he works at Medical, and I'll ask him to take the case. “

“My mother’s on Earth. Do you want …” Deanna began but Beverly interrupted her.

“Don’t worry, Dee. Kathryn will be alright.”

“Psychologists recommend that people who recently lost a loved one not to be left by themselves.” Data said, joining the conversation.

“I know Data, but she wants to be alone.”

“Believe it or not but my mother is a wonderful tool for this situations. You don’t have to talk to her or entertain her … She knows exactly what you’re thinking and how you feel. And they know each other, they met at the wedding and spent a lot of time talking.”

Beverly didn’t say a thing; she knew that when her friend made up her mind, nobody could convince her otherwise. Jean-Luc looked at his senior staff and asked “Anything else?” When nobody responded, he stood up.

“Dismissed.”

 

******************************************

 

Kathryn arrived home and threw her uniform jacket across the living room, not caring where it landed. The rest of the uniform went behind leaving a path from there to the bedroom. When she entered, only wearing her underwear, Kathryn went to the wardrobe and grabbed a pair of black leggings and her favorite t-shirt, and old garment that her sister gave to her: it was bright pink and 'Coffee. Black' was printed across its front. After searching her slippers and not finding them, she decided to remain barefoot.

 

After changing her clothes, she went directly to the kitchen and replicated a big mug of coffee. As she did it, she could hear Beverly's voice in her head remembering her that she drank too much of it. She suppressed the thought quickly and, mug in hand, plopped down on the couch. She closed her eyes and tried to relax. Different images flew through her mind, reliving the last few hours of her life: she couldn't believe that her mother was gone. She tried to remember exactly what happened but her mind wasn't exactly clear, everything was mixed in a big black cloud that she couldn't dissipate.

The door chime woke her up. Kathryn wondered who it could be. She told everyone that she needed to be alone: she wasn't in the mood to receive pity looks or to entertain guests with small talk. The chime rang again so she got up and walked to the door. A big look of surprise crossed her face when she saw who stood behind the door.

 

"Ambassador Troi! What are you doing here?" Kathryn asked, perplexed.

"Deanna called me."

 

I'll kill Beverly she thought, not remembering that Lwaxana could hear her.

 

"She's worried. She didn't want you to be alone."

 

How the hell ... Oh, damn! Full Betazoid.


"Exactly!" Lwaxana replied grinning.

"Well, come in Ambassador."

"Thanks dear. Call me Lwaxana, you're family."

 

Family?


"I consider Beverly a part of my family. You're her partner, ergo you're family too."

“Thanks?” Kathryn said before closing the apartment door.

 

Lwaxana left her shawl on a chair and sat down on the couch. She patted the space next to her indicating Kathryn to sit there.

 

“How are you, dear? Well, stupid question! Don’t worry; I know … I can feel it.”

 

Kathryn didn’t know what to say or what to do so she remained quiet. Lwaxana, feeling that she needed it, hugged Kathryn and caressed her hair. Kathryn, letting herself relax, started to silently cry.

 

“I…” Kathryn began.

“Hush, dear. There’s no need to talk. If you want to, I’ll listen. If not, it’s ok. I’m here for whatever you want.”

Thank you, Lwaxana. Kathryn thought not being able to talk yet.

“You’re welcome honey.”

 

After the emotional hug Kathryn decided to lie down on the couch, resting her head on Lwaxana’s lap. Two hours later, they were still sitting together. Neither of them spoke, in a situation like that words were not necessary: Lwaxana interpreted Kathryn's feelings and acted according to them.

 

Their peace was interrupted when the computer chimed and said: 'Incoming transmission'. Kathryn, resigned, got up.

 

"Go take the call. I'll make something to eat." Lwaxana said while getting up too.

"I'm not hungry." Kathryn replied.

"I don't care!" The older woman said on her way to the kitchen.

 

Kathryn sat down in front of the computer and accepted the transmission. Beverly's face filled the screen and Kathryn was glad that it was her and not someone else.

 

"Hi honey. How are you?" Beverly asked.

"I'm fine."

"And Lwaxana?"

"In the kitchen, preparing lunch."

"Great, you should eat something."

"I told you that I wanted to be alone." Kathryn said with any accusatory voice.

"I know."

"Did you think that I would do something stupid?"

"What? NO! Of course not, Kath. Lwaxana is a wonderful person and great with situations like this. I'm sorry ... I ..."

"Where are you?" Kathryn asked, interrupting her.

"More than half the way home. I'll be there in four or five hours, more or less. And Phoebe?"

"Stuck in Mars. There aren't shuttles available. The first one leaves at six."

"Do you want me to try ..."

"Beverly, stop worrying! I'll be fine until you arrive. I'm old enough to take care of myself! I survived seven long years in the Delta Quadrant, for God' sakes!" Kathryn nearly shouted, exasperated.

"I was only trying to help."

"Look, I'm sorry, ok?"

"Let me talk to Lwaxana."

"Bev..."

"Please? I'll see you later."

"I love you."

"I know." Beverly said feeling a little sad.

 

Kathryn saw the hurt look on Beverly's face but said nothing. She stood up and went to the kitchen. A minute later Lwaxana sat down to talk to Beverly.

 

"She's not mad at you, dear, and she didn't mean what she said." Lwaxana said after seeing how sad Beverly looked.

"I know. How is she?"

"Hurt, sad, confused, angry, sorry."

"Sorry? There was nothing she could have done."

"She doesn't think that."

"What can I do?"

"Right now? Nothing. She really appreciates my company, dear. She's glad that I'm here."

"Well, I'm happy to hear that."

"Is there anything more I could do?"

"You're doing enough being there, Lwaxana. I owe you."

"You'll have to name your first born after me." Lwaxana said, joking.

"I'll see what I can do. Thanks again, Lwaxana."

"You're welcome, dear."

"Take care of her. Crusher out."

 

Ending the transmission, Lwaxana waited a minute and made a quick call before returning to the kitchen.

 

"I know, I know. I was any idiot." Kathryn said before Lwaxana had a chance to talk.

"I didn't say anything."

"But you were thinking it."

"Did you become a Betazoid in the last five minutes? Impressive."

Very funny, Kathryn thought.

"I usually am." Lwaxana said with a big smile on her face.

 

******************************************

 

During lunch, the two women didn't talk much, words weren't necessary between them. Kathryn spent most of the time picking at her food, not really eating it. She only did after Lwaxana threatened her with banning her from coffee. When they finished, Kathryn recycled the plates and Lwaxana made some tea. Cup in hand, they both returned to the living room. The Admiral sat down in front of the computer and began to read something while the Ambassador watched her from the couch. Twenty minutes later Lwaxana started to sense Kathryn frustration. After fifteen minutes sensing it growing, she decided to stop her.

 

"Kathryn, leave it! Wait until Beverly or your sister arrives. There's no need to arrange all now. Let the people who love you help with this."

"I need to do something or I'll go crazy!!"

"Do you have a deck of cards?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Let's play poker."

"Do you know how to play poker?"

"I played on the Enterprise."

"But it doesn't seem fair."

"Why?"

 

Because you know exactly what I'm thinking.


"And?"

"I suppose that you don't have a switch off button." Kathryn said with a little smile.

"I don't."

 

Before Kathryn was able to reply, the door chime rang. Confused, she got up and went to the door. When it opened, she stood stunned for a few seconds before reacting and hugging the woman that was there. Silent tears fell down from both of their eyes while they continued sharing the tight embrace. A few minutes later, tired of being there, a little boy tugged Kathryn' shirt, reclaiming her attention.

 

"Aunt Katie!"

 

Both women broke off their embrace and Kathryn picked her nephew up.

 

“Hi Little One.”

 

The little boy hugged his aunt very tight and kissed her cheek.

 

“Come in. You’re early. I thought the first shuttle left at six.” Kathryn said while they entered the apartment.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought too but a shuttle came only to pick us up. They said that Ambassador Troi sent them.”

 

Kathryn turned around to look at the woman sitting on her couch.

 

Thank you.

 

Lwaxana stood up and went to meet Kathryn’ sister.

 

“Phoebe, let me introduce you to Ambassador Lwaxana Troi. Lwaxana, she’s my sister Phoebe.”

 

Both women shook their hands.

 

“Thank you, Ambassador, for your help.” Phoebe said.

“You’re welcome dear.” Lwaxana replied with an affectionate smile. “And who is this little boy?”

“Lwaxana, meet my nephew Edward. Eddy, she’s my friend Lwaxana. Say hi to her.”

“Hi.” Eddy said before hiding his head on Kathryn shoulder.

“Hi honey. How old are you?” Lwaxana asked.

“Five.” He whispered without moving.

“Are you hungry? Let me guess … You want chocolate cookies and apple juice.”

 

Those words took the boy’s attention and he raised his head to look at Lwaxana.

 

“How do you know?” he asked, intrigued.

“She can hear what you think, honey.” Kathryn answered.

“Really? What am I thinking now?” The boy said, smiling.

“Let me see … You also want a big bowl of chocolate ice-cream!”

“Awesome!!!” Edward exclaimed, smiling.

“Want to come with me to the kitchen? We can replicate it together!! Your mom and your aunt need to talk alone.”

 

The boy looked at her mother and Phoebe gave him an approving look. Edward reached for Lwaxana and she picked him up. They went to the kitchen leaving the two sisters alone in the living room. Kathryn hugged Phoebe again and then, together, they sat down on the couch.

 

"I didn't know you were on a first-name basis with Ambassador Troi." Phoebe said to her sister.

"Lwaxana's daughter, Deanna, and Beverly are best friends. She considers Beverly as a part of her family so, therefore, we're too."

"Good to know."

 

Both sisters fell into an uncomfortable silence. They could hear Eddy's laughter and Lwaxana hushed voice.

 

"Katie, what happened?"

"I'm not really sure, Phoebs. I keep repeating the scene in my head, trying to understand what the hell went wrong, but I..."

"Tell me, please."

"Okay. We were drinking tea in the kitchen, after dinner. We were talking like we always did, about my job, my long hours, about Beverly and her conference. And then, I received a call so I left her alone. During my conversation with Nechayev I thought I heard that something fell but I didn't consider it important." She paused to take a deep breath. "When I got back I ..."

 

Kathryn couldn't continue. Phoebe, sensing her distress, sat even closer to her and caressed her thigh trying to give Kathryn the courage to continue.

 

"Katie, breathe. There's no rush, we have time."

"When I got back to the kitchen I found Mom lying on the floor. At first I thought that she had fainted but when I knelt next to her and tried to wake her up and she didn't and then I didn't find a pulse ..."

 

Tears began to fall from Kathryn eyes. Phoebe tried to wipe them but her sister didn't let her.

 

"I'm fine." Kathryn said.

"If you say so." Phoebe answered back.

"I do." She said while removing the tears herself. "When I realized that Mom didn't have a pulse I used my combadge, I was lucky enough to be wearing it, and I alerted Starfleet Medical. I began the CPR and they arrived within the next minute. They evaluated the situation and beamed us back to Medical immediately. Beverly's Chief of Staff, Dr. Karey, was waiting for us. They made me leave the room and I had to stay in the waiting room. A nurse who recognized me took me to Beverly's office and I waited there."

"Alone?"

"It was 0200."

"And? You could have called someone Katie. There wasn't any reason for you to be alone."

"I didn't want to wake them."

"And the Doctor? He doesn't sleep."

"Phoebe, please..."

"Okay, fine, I'll shut up."

 

Kathryn, ignoring that last comment, continued.

 

"So... I sat there, waiting and ..."

"How long where you there?" Phoebe interrupted, again.

"Two or three hours, I'm not sure. When Dr. Karey came to talk to me and I saw her face ... I knew it."

"When you called me this morning you said that they didn't know what happened."

"Dr. Karey told me that Mom's heart stopped beating but they don’t know why, yet. I let Beverly take care of it. Probably, she'll talk to the Doctor."

"They want an answer."

"I want it too."

"Autopsy?"

"Yeah. Likely, tomorrow morning."

 

They conversation ended at that point, little Edward left the kitchen running and threw himself onto his aunt lap.

 

"Ouch." Kathryn said while picking him up and hugging him.

"Edward! What did I told you about jumping onto people?"

"Not to do it?" The little boy answered innocently.

"Don't worry, sis."

"Where is my Kitty Cat, Aunt Katie?"

"In the bedroom, on my bedside table."

 

Eddy escaped from Kathryn arms and ran to the bedroom to pick the stuffed cat, the one he gave to his aunt after her return from the Delta Quadrant.

 

"He's high on sugar." Phoebe said.

"Probably. Lwaxana has a sweet tooth."

"I don't!!" The Ambassador replied from the kitchen.

"Did you eat something?"

"Lwaxana made lunch and forced me to eat."

"Good."

"Do you want a drink?"

"A tea would be good but don't get up, I'll make it."

"Okay."

 

Phoebe got up and left her sister alone. Kathryn, taking advantage of the situation, decided to lie down on the couch trying to rest a bit. She closed her eyes but opened them when, not even a minute later, Eddy climbed onto the couch and lied down next to her with his Kitty Cat under his arm. Kathryn made room for him and put her arm around his body to prevent his fall. Little Eddy looked at her with his big brown eyes.

 

"Auntie sad?"

"A bit, little one."

"Because of Grandma?"

"Yes."

"Mama told me she went to live with Grandpa."

"Yes, she missed him a lot."

"She wasn't happy with us?"

"She was very happy with us, Eddy, especially with you! But she also missed Grandpa and it was time to go with him."

"Can we go to see them?"

"No honey, we can't. They went far, far away."

"To the Delta Quadrant?"

"Even farther."

"That's a lot."

"Yeah, it is, but I like to think that we'll see them again."

"Cool because I really wanna meet Grandpa." He said yawning.

"Are you sleepy?"

"A bit."

"Why don't you take a nap?"

"Here? With you?"

"Yes." She said, stroking his hair.

"You sleep too?" Eddy asked.

"I can try."

 

******************************************

 

Lwaxana and Phoebe were sitting down in the kitchen table finishing their tea. Conversation was kept light and both women appreciated it. When they finished, Phoebe cleaned up the table and sat down in front of the Ambassador.

 

"Let me thank you again for the trouble you went through with us."

"You're welcome dear but It wasn't trouble at all."

"How's my sister?"

"Coping. She understands what happened but she's not able to believe it yet. She's trying to control everything and puts everybody's needs in front of her own. She's worried about you and Little Eddy. She wants Beverly here to help her. Kathryn feels that she's the only one who can erase her pain. Your sister doesn't want to cry in from of you or anybody else who's not Beverly."

"Why? I'm her sister; I'm going through the same as she is."

"It's not exactly the same, Phoebe. Don't get me wrong, you also lost your mother, but Kathryn saw it happen and she experienced the situation, you only received the news."

 

Phoebe didn't know how to take Lwaxana's words. Sensing it, she took the young woman's hand and squeezed it. They fell into a comfortable silence and they both appreciated it. A few minutes later, after not hearing a thing coming from the living room, Phoebe got up to check what her son and her sister were doing. She found them asleep together on the couch. She left them sleep and returned to the kitchen with Lwaxana.

 

 

******************************************

 

 

Two hours later, aunt and nephew were still sleeping. Lwaxana and Phoebe began preparing dinner and talked about a lot of things, discovering their common interests but neglecting to talk about the current situation.

 

The door of the apartment opened and a tired Beverly entered the room. Phoebe, immediately, went to greet her future sister-in-law. Both women fell into an emotional hug. Lwaxana went to greet her too but waited until they separated to hug her friend.

 

"Where's Kathryn?" Beverly asked, confused. Knowing her girlfriend's desire to be with her, she was surprised when Kathryn didn't came running the moment she crossed the door.

 

Phoebe took her hand and accompanied her to the living room. Beverly smiled at the sight of Kathryn and Eddy sleeping together, the little boy nearly on top of his aunt. Beverly left her things onto one chair and knelt on the floor next to the couch. She stroked Eddy's hair before doing the same thing with Kathryn's. Eddy's eyes opened slowly and, when he saw her, he got up pretty quickly and threw his arms around Beverly's neck, waking Kathryn in the process.

 

"Auntie Bev!! Hi!"

"Hi honey. How are you?"

"A bit sad but better after talking with Aunt Katie. She explained things to me."

"I'm glad."

 

Beverly looked down at Kathryn and saw her big blue eyes open and filled with emotions. Beverly put Eddy down and the boy took off running to his mother and his new friend. Phoebe and Lwaxana left the couple alone.

 

"Beverly..." Kathryn began speaking.

"Oh, Kath, come here."

 

Beverly opened her arms and Kathryn got up before accepting her lover's embrace. Kathryn began to cry and after a few minutes, her sobs could be heard from all over the apartment. Beverly tried to calm her whispering tender words but Kathryn couldn't stop. When the sobs ended, Beverly put a bit of distance between them and dried the tears that remained on both of their faces. After that, she took Kathryn's face on her hands and kissed her lips, gently.

 

"I'm here now, okay? Don't worry, I won't leave your side."

 

******************************************

TBC