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Take Two

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'Hold still,' insisted Beverly. 'You cannot possibly' —she fixed Tasha with a stern expression— 'expect me to set this bone if you don't stop wriggling.'

Tasha had been trying to manoeuvre so she could see Deanna, whom she knew was on the biobed just opposite. She could hear her friend's steady, precise voice—had been listening for it, in fact—so she knew Deanna had regained consciousness. She'd feel worlds better, though, if she could just catch Deanna's eye and see for herself that everything was okay. Tasha made an effort to still her leg. Doctor's orders.

'Try to relax,' Beverly said. Tasha would have rolled her eyes if it wouldn't have appeared unprofessional. And she was a professional. A professional, admittedly, whose holodeck program had landed both herself and Deanna in sickbay, to be alternately tended and lectured by the ship's CMO, but. Still. When Beverly ran a bone regenerator over Tasha's ankle, she didn't let any of the pain she felt show. Professional.

Beverly bent to examine her work and now Tasha could see Deanna's face. Her eyes were closed, but as Tasha watched she began to laugh, presumably at something Nurse Ogawa, who was attending the counsellor, had said. Deanna's laugh, as always, reminded Tasha oddly of cat's fur: warm and soft, something so comfortably solid that she felt it was almost possible to reach out and touch it.

Beverly straightened, blocking Tasha's view. 'How does that feel?' she asked. She'd stopped doing whatever it was she'd been doing to Tasha's ankle. If she had, in fact, been doing anything. Sure, Tasha had seen a medical instrument, but her ankle still hurt like hell.

'Fine?' tried Tasha.

Beverly's expression was of someone who had managed—heroically—not to roll her eyes. Tasha knew the feeling. 'It's not that bad,' she insisted.

'I'm going to give you something for the pain,' said Beverly. Tasha assented, felt the hiss of a hypospray against her skin. Wonderfully, miraculously, the pain starting receding.

 'Uh huh,' said Beverly, watching her face. 'The next time you're moved to carry a grown woman—an unconscious grown woman—all the way to Sickbay, on a broken ankle, just remember that we have this thing called emergency medical transportation.' She clapped Tasha on the arm. 'It's fantastic.'

'Yes, ma'am,' said Tasha, grinning. She was fine. Deanna, laughing, was going to be fine. Beverly moved to examine something on a nearby console, and Tasha tried putting all of her weight on both feet. Gingerly. Very gingerly. Her feet held her up without too much discomfort. Tasha felt herself grinning again. Medicine was fantastic.

Deanna was still on the opposite biobed. 'Just wanted to make sure you're all right,' Tasha said when Deanna looked up to find Tasha there, watching. Well. You didn't go on a date with someone, land them in sickbay, and proceed to walk away without making sure they were going to make it. Hell. Friends didn't do that either.

Truth be told, Tasha wasn't entirely sure they had been on a date. She had meant to get around to proposing that the program could possibly be a date, but things had gotten a bit out of hand before she'd had the chance.

Deanna gave Tasha what Tasha supposed Deanna thought was a reassuring smile. It looked more like a grimace. She was still worryingly pale. Tasha was about to call for Beverly when the doctor returned to administer a hypospray. Tasha hoped Deanna was getting the same stuff she was on. She couldn't even feel her ankle now.

Beverly proceeded to scan Deanna's temple. Apparently she approved of what she saw because she snapped her tricorder shut and set it aside. Tasha barely had time to feel relieved before Beverly jammed both hands in the pockets of her blue lab coat. She looked at Deanna and Tasha in turn.

'I know what her story is,' Beverly said. She was talking to Tasha, indicating Deanna with the tilt of her head. Deanna's eyes cut away when Tasha looked at her, and Tasha could feel her own brows draw together in puzzlement. She didn't have time to dwell on this, though, because now the full force of Beverly's gaze was back on Tasha. 'But I cannot for the life of me figure out what you could have been thinking. Holodeck safeties are not infallible.'

Tasha had been tinkering with the program she'd ran today ever since her Academy bunkmate had told her such a thing was possible. She'd had to create Turkana IV from scratch—for some strange reason, it hadn't been in the database. It wasn't much to look at, but it was quiet, once you took all the people out, and, for an exercise program, strangely relaxing. 'Battling old demons, I suppose,' she said lightly.

Tasha could have sworn this time Beverly did roll her eyes. 'Just be careful,' she said. 'You're both free to go. Report in if symptoms return,' she added, squeezing Deanna's arm before leaving the two women.

Tasha considered Deanna, who hadn't moved from the edge of the biobed. She stuck out her arm. 'I think I will, actually,' Deanna said.

Tasha moved forward to link their arms. Deanna's long, dark hair brushed against Tasha's neck, tickling. The other woman smelled of sweat mixed with the light, vaguely floral perfume she seemed to favour. You could only pick up on it if you were close—personal-space close. Tasha could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times she'd been in Deanna's personal space. All accidents, Tasha had convinced herself. At the briefing Tuesday, though—surely Deanna hadn't had to lean quite so close to pass Tasha that report? After the Captain's dismissal, Tasha had asked Deanna to join her for an exercise program on the holodeck. It was the sort of thing they did anyway, from time to time—an uncalculated, spur-of-the-moment invitation, yet Tasha had been ridiculously pleased when Deanna had said yes—

'Tasha.' Deanna's quiet voice, containing the hint of a question, was very close to Tasha's ear. Tasha jerked up, half-pulling the other woman with her.

'Sorry,' she mumbled. Deanna murmured something polite-sounding, meant to smooth over the moment, probably, though Tasha couldn't hear her over the sound of her own thoughts just now. She kept her fingers against Deanna's elbow, just in case, until she could feel the other woman standing steadily.

***

They walked in silence to the turbolift. Tasha wasn't sure what to say, and Deanna, when Tasha glanced sidelong at her, seemed lost in thought.

They were waiting for the next lift to arrive when suddenly Deanna said, 'Nurse Ogawa told me what happened. Thank you. For—well, for rescuing me.' She made a face, as if displeased with herself for needing to be rescued. Or, at least, that was the face Tasha would be making if she were in Deanna's position.

If Deanna hadn't been knocked unconscious first, she would certainly have laughed at the sight of Tasha, scrambling to reach Deanna before the other woman hit the ground. Tripping over a rock on the way, swearing loudly enough to wake the dead. Only Deanna hadn't woken up. Not until Tasha had gotten her to Sickbay the only way she could remember how. By relying on herself.

'Oh. Um.' Tasha could feel heat rushing into her cheeks. 'Um. They didn't get all of the blood,' she said. She'd spotted the dried flakes along Deanna's hairline, almost unnoticeable, after she'd helped Deanna to her feet.

Deanna frowned, raising a hand to her temple. She considered Tasha, opened her mouth as if to say something. Closed it as the turbolift arrived. Both women got on, and still Deanna didn't speak.

Deanna gave the computer the number of the deck her quarters were on. Tasha asked for Deck 36. She could swing by Engineering, see what Geordi was up to, see if Data was around, if anyone wanted to go for a drink later or get a poker game together or do anything, really.

'Deck Ten,' announced the ship's computer. Deanna didn't look as if she'd heard.

'Deanna?'

She turned to face Tasha. 'I—' started Deanna, at the same time Tasha said 'I'm—'

They both laughed, though the laughter sounded awkward to Tasha. Deanna gestured for Tasha to speak first.

'I'm sorry,' Tasha had been about to say. Deanna had been the one not watching where she was going; Deanna had been the one to bang her head on a ceiling pipe, even after Tasha had warned her of the danger. Beverly was right: holodeck safeties couldn't save you from your own stupidity.

What Tasha said instead was, 'Your story—what Beverly said—what was it?'

Deanna blushed. Tasha immediately wondered how she could get her to do that again. It put badly needed colour back in her cheeks, and on top of that, she was—

'I, um. Um, Beverly knew I wanted to spend more time with you.' She looked steadily at Tasha. 'I like you.'

—gorgeous. She was gorgeous. She said so, to Deanna, and Deanna blushed again. Tasha laughed out loud. 'Me too,' she said. 'I mean, I like you too.'

She wanted to pull Deanna to her and spin her around then and there, turbolift be damned. 'What are you doing right now?' she asked instead.

Deanna grinned at her. 'I was going to catch up on paperwork,' she said. 'Presumably you have a better idea?'

***

Tasha came to a halt outside Holodeck Two. Deanna did the same.

'I am not,' Deanna informed her, 'getting back on that particular horse just yet. Just so you know.' She leaned against the bulkhead, arms crossed, smirking.

Tasha made a face at her. 'Computer,' she said, 'new program.' Not something set on Turkana IV. Not something from Betazoid either. She felt in over her head as she was. The best kind of in-over-your-head, but. Still.

'Earth setting,' she informed the computer. What were those places called, again? Jenny had gone to one every week, coming back with the sharp, sweet smells of lemons and oranges clinging to her perfect curls. 'I can mess those up for you,' Tasha had said every time. 'Beauty salon,' she informed the computer.

Deanna raised her eyebrows. Tasha made another face. 'You need something done with, with, that,' she said, gesturing to Deanna's hair. She didn't, really—you could barely see the traces of her injury.

Deanna did not look fooled. 'I suppose I do,' she said.

 The salon was large, made larger by the row of mirrors that lined one wall. Their reflections grinned back at them. Tasha stuck her tongue out for good measure and was rewarded with a laughing Deanna in the mirror. Chairs lined the same wall, half of them occupied by men and women, some human, some alien, who were in various stages of having—Tasha could only thing of it as stuff—done to their hair.

'I've never actually been in one of these places,' she confessed. She got her hair cut at the barber's because, why not? 'Sorry about—well, this is a lot of pink, really, isn't it.'

Deanna surveyed the salon, hands on her hips. 'I can think of better ways to improve this program. Computer,' she said. 'Remove holodeck characters.'

***

Deanna had placed herself in a chair against a wall perpendicular to the one with all the mirrors. Tasha was a bit disappointed this wall contained no mirrors, but on the other hand, the chairs were pretty neat, being attached as they were to their own sinks. Deanna's head was nestled in one now—she insisted it felt fine, which it probably did, since Tasha's ankle didn't hurt at all. And Deanna certainly looked comfortable, stretched out, her eyes closed.

Tasha, her sleeves rolled up, waited for more instructions.

'Water temperature is key,' Deanna said primly, and really, after that—and after checking the water temperature—Tasha had to spray her with the hose. Just a little, just to wet her hair.

So there were some damp strands here and there, and some water beads on the surface, but Deanna's hair was mostly dry when Tasha gathered it carefully to rest in the sink. 'You have such beautiful hair,' she said. She ran her hands through Deanna's luxurious curls, smoothing them. 'I used to imagine touching it,' she almost said. She lightly kissed the place on Deanna's temple where her wound had been instead.

It felt surreal to be washing Deanna's hair like this, strangely intimate in a way Tasha hadn't been prepared for. At first she paid special attention to the hair above Deanna's left ear, washing and rinsing it several times. The salon shampoo smelled strongly of ginger. It was making Tasha hungry. 'Do you want to get something to eat later?' she asked.

'Mmmmmmm,' Deanna replied, eyes still closed. Tasha grinned and worked shampoo into Deanna's roots.

Deanna's hair, long and curly as it was, was hard to manage until Tasha discovered the trick of heaping it in one big pile. She massaged Deanna's head gently, getting into a rhythm. It was kind of soothing, actually. Tasha wondered about trying this with her own hair. Or if Deanna—

Tasha stopped. 'Are you making noises?'

Deanna's lips curved into an upside-down smile. 'I am,' she admitted.

Tasha wanted to kiss her. She was leaning down when Deanna's eyes opened, her expression serious enough that Tasha paused.

'About your demons,' Deanna said.

Tasha straightened, wiped her sudsy hands on a towel. 'What about them?'

Deanna was still looking up at her. 'You'll want to talk to someone else about those. That is—if you want to talk about them to anyone at all.'

'Oh?' said Tasha. She leaned over, fingers tentatively swiping at the soapsuds clustered below Deanna's ear. 'And why is that,' —she trailed wet fingers along Deanna's neck, to her jaw— 'exactly?'

As Tasha watched, Deanna set her elbows against the edge of her chair and arched upward. Tasha leaned down to meet her. 'So we can do this,' Deanna said, just before their lips met.

THE END