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"Staying In Touch"
By JadziaKathryn

Rating: G
Disclaimer: I don’t own them, and I’m making no money from this.
Genre: General/Angst - Crusher, B. & Picard, J.
Description: Despite their best efforts, things change. Unresolved P/C.

Author's Note: This is complete as is, barring any unexpected ideas that seem beyond my control. This is the first remotely P/C thing I’ve written, and I don’t want to ruin it by continuing.

“It’s beautiful, Jean-Luc.” Beverly looked at the sculpture appreciatively. “Where did you get it?”

Her captain and friend smiled. “There was a craftsman on Rakos IV who made it from a holo. He uses only hand tools.”

“Having five hands would probably help there,” she replied with a smile. “Is this from their engagement party?”

He nodded. The sculpture, his wedding gift for Will and Deanna, was a gorgeous work of art. It captured the pair dancing, down to the finest detail; even the two curled ringlets of Deanna’s hair dangled on either side of her face perfectly. The light brown stone looked soft, and Beverly half expected the sculpture to begin dancing in front of her. She moved it to the left just a bit, and found that the artist had even conveyed the love Will and Deanna shared as they danced and looked into each other’s eyes.

“You’ve set the gift bar high.”

He put the sculpture away carefully. “I take it you still haven’t decided what to get them.”

She sighed. “It seems like every time I cross one idea off the list, I come up with two more. By now I’ve come up with enough wedding gifts to fill the Titan!”

“If you fill the Titan, we might be able to keep them here a bit longer,” Jean-Luc quipped. It was a running joke among the senior staff, albeit one Data was having difficulty grasping, to come up with potential means of keeping Will and Deanna on board the Enterprise for as long as possible.

“Speaking of leaving,” she said, resuming a serious tone, “Starfleet asked if I’d like to head up Medical again. As a captain.”

He froze. “What did you say?”

“I promised to think about it. It’s an excellent career move, but it would mean leaving.”

“Leaving,” Jean-Luc said regretfully, “seems to be a popular idea around here recently. I’m beginning to wonder if I should take it personally.”

“Now, you know we’ve been extremely lucky to stay together. Besides, I’ve lost track of how many times Will turned down his own command before.”

“He’ll be a fine captain. As would you, but I must confess to selfishly wishing you’d stay.”

“I’ll take that as the compliment I’m sure it’s intended to be,” Beverly smiled. “I don’t know about this. My first reaction was no, but I wonder if it’s just because I’m afraid of change. It’s something I have to think about.”

Jean-Luc was quiet for a minute, and she wondered if she’d said something to offend him. At length he spoke. “About change, Beverly.”

That was a common topic lately. “Yes?”

He toyed with his teacup. “Do you think you’ll ever be ready?”

She hadn’t seen that coming. It made sense, of course, with Will and Deanna’s wedding and Starfleet’s offer. Actually, it was a wonder that he hadn’t asked years ago. It had, after all, been nine years since Kespyrtt.

There was nothing that she would have liked more than to have an answer for him, particularly the one he wanted. Unfortunately, she did not. Awkward silence hung for a moment.

“Well,” he began, but she cut him off.

“No,” she whispered. “Don’t say it, Jean-Luc. Please don’t say it.” And with that, she walked out of his quarters, holding back glistening tears.

The next morning, Beverly found herself standing outside Jean-Luc’s quarters almost without thinking. She hesitated before pushing the chime. Once she told him, there would be no taking it back. Would he even be expecting her after the previous day’s fiasco?

Because she couldn’t handle waiting any longer, she pushed the chime. Jean-Luc’s reply was automatic. “Come.” He must have been expecting her after all. She stepped through the door, discovering that he had two places set out, but had already started his tea. “Good morning.” He greeted her as though nothing had ever happened. If only she could feel as composed as he looked.

“Good morning.” Mentally, Beverly winced. She sounded stilted, even to herself.

When she didn’t sit, he looked up, an unspoken question in his eyes. She swallowed hard. “I can’t stay.”

To most people, the expression on his face wouldn’t have seemed to change. Beverly knew better. He was disappointed. “I see.”

“I wanted to tell you I’m accepting the position at Starfleet Medical.”

“Beverly, I never -”

She cut him off. “It’s not you, Jean-Luc. This is a good career move for me. I’ve enjoyed my time serving with you, but I truly think that this is a wonderful opportunity.”

He nodded. “It is a prestigious position. You’ve earned it. I’m sure that Starfleet Medical will be very pleased to have you.” She was grateful that Jean-Luc was chivalrous enough to play along with her lie. It was a transparent lie, nearly as transparent as they came.

So they stood there, not moving, each unsure of how to proceed. Finally Beverly excused herself, claiming paperwork that could have waited. As she walked to Sickbay, she wondered what he was really thinking.

They had promised to stay in touch, but Beverly wondered how much of that was a futile attempt to mask finality. She was surprised to find a message from him a week after the Enterprise left McKinley Station.

Most of the message was pleasantries, of course. He asked about Starfleet Medical, and he hoped that her apartment was to her liking. He talked about Dr. Vokoni, Counselor Johansson, Lieutenant Kim, and Lieutenant Commander Ha’va’sha. “It’s a good thing my new first officer has thick skin,” he reported. “His superiors are supposed to address him as Ha’va’sha, while other Lieutenant Commanders are to use Va’ha’sha and those of lower rank are expected to call him Sha’va’ha. To make matters even more complicated, he should be receiving his promotion to full Commander soon.” Beverly knew that Fraolian culture held using the wrong variant of another’s name to be an insult, and for everyone’s sake it was fortunate that Ha’va’sha wasn’t as concerned about it as most of his race.

B4, Jean-Luc said, had changed little since she had last seen him. She had probably heard from Will and Deanna, but they were settling in on the Titan and he thought they were going to be very happy.

At the end, though, he sounded a bit more like the Jean-Luc she knew. “Fifteen years ago I took command of another Enterprise. Geordi is the only person left from the senior staff that started that adventure with me.”

He shifted almost imperceptibly. “Starfleet offered me a promotion. I considered the offer carefully. ‘Admiral Picard’ does have a nice ring to it.” Beverly couldn’t help but smile. Jean-Luc was not known for his humor, but he had his moments.

“Recent events with Shinzon have made me wonder if I’m getting too old for this job.” She half wished she was talking to him in person, able to reassure him that he was still the most capable captain for the flagship of the ‘Fleet. “However, I have decided to take Kirk’s advice. It came from a reliable source, after all.”

Beverly paused the message. After stretching her arms, she stepped over to the replicator for some Risan djan nectar. She remembered the advice Jean-Luc referred to, of course. Events surrounding the destruction of the Enterprise-D were impossible to forget. Jean-Luc had told her Kirk’s advice: stay where you can make a difference, in the captain’s chair. What she did not know was if the advice applied to doctors as well, albeit as a different variant. She hoped it didn’t.

Putting the thought aside, she resumed the message. “Starfleet has accepted my decision. In fact, Admiral Janeway informed me that they expected it. So I will remain here, on my ship.”

She wondered if Dr. Vokoni was taking good care of her Sickbay, and had to remind herself that it was no longer her Sickbay. Jean-Luc didn’t mention it, but he did close the message with his best wishes. “Take care, Beverly.” Then his image on the screen was replaced by the Federation logo. She wondered if she had made the right choice in leaving, if Jean-Luc missed her as much as she missed him.

She stared at the logo for a long time.

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