written by Andra Marie Mueller
Doctor Beverly Crusher sat alone in her office, quietly thinking about all that had transpired over the past twenty-four hours. Running a hand through her auburn hair, Crusher let out a sigh and closed her eyes, momentarily succumbing to the emotional exhaustion that had been plaguing her since the incident with Odan began. As the events of the previous day replayed themselves in her head, an old Earth saying popped into Crusher’s thoughts: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Crusher managed a small smile at the thought, but in her present frame of mind, Crusher wondered if it were true.
First Jack, then Odan, she thought to herself. Every time I allow myself to love someone I lose him. Is the joy of being in love worth the pain of its loss?
The voice startled the chief medical officer out of her silent reverie, and Crusher opened her eyes to see Commander William Riker standing in her office doorway. Slightly embarrassed to have been caught dozing off, Crusher smiled faintly and gestured for Riker to enter.
Riker returned the smile and sat down in the chair across from Crusher. “I didn’t mean to startle you,” he apologized.
“That’s all right,” Crusher replied. “My office isn’t exactly an appropriate place for taking a nap anyway.”
“I won’t tell the captain if you won’t,” Riker teased.
Crusher’s smile widened at Riker’s remark, then she grew serious. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m a little tired, but otherwise I seem to be no worse for the wear,” Riker said.
Crusher nodded in acknowledgment. “If we hadn’t removed Odan when we did, you would have died.”
“Judging by what Odan accomplished while inhabiting my body, it would have been worth it,” Riker replied solemnly.
“I’m glad you think so,” Crusher responded. “Odan thought very highly of you for risking your life to save his. Under different circumstances, I think the two of you could have been good friends.”
“Well, we do have one very important thing in common,” Riker declared. “We both care a great deal about you.”
At Crusher’s shocked expression, he quickly added, “In different ways, of course.”
Crusher smiled and said softly, “You remember what happened the other night, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do,” Riker confirmed. “Does that bother you?”
“A little bit,” Crusher admitted honestly. “It’s kind of awkward to go back to being just friends when we’ve been lovers.”
“We haven’t been,” Riker corrected. “What happened in my cabin was between you and Odan, Beverly, not you and I. There is no reason it has to affect our friendship.”
“How can it not affect our friendship?” Crusher countered. “Every time I look at you, I see Odan, and all the memories come rushing back. I can’t forget what happened, Will.”
“No one’s asking you to,” Riker responded gently. “Beverly, when Odan was put inside my body, the thoughts and feelings that make me Will Riker ceased to exist, and became the thoughts and feelings of the being you knew as Odan. Emotionally, the man who made love with you in my cabin was Odan. Physically, he simply used my body as a shell.”
Crusher eyed Riker skeptically, and seeing she was not convinced, Riker tried a different approach.
“Beverly, do you know what an oyster is?” he asked.
“Of course,” Crusher answered.
“Then you know that the shell of an oyster is merely a host for the pearl hidden inside. No one looks twice at the shell because they know the real treasure is hidden inside.”
As Riker finished his explanation, Crusher’s face slowly broke into a grin as she at last understood what Riker was trying to say. “So you’re saying that Odan was the pearl hidden inside your shell,” Crusher said softly.
“While we were together, yes.”
“And now?” Crusher asked. “What about the pearl that makes your shell Will Riker?”
“It’s here,” Riker responded, “but it has been returned to its rightful owner.”
Crusher gave Riker a puzzled look, then the meaning of his remark sank in, and she gave her friend a knowing smile. “The rightful owner being a certain Betazoid ship’s counselor?” Crusher inquired.
Riker smiled. “Is it that obvious?”
“Only to me,” Crusher assured him. “I know you and Deanna have a bond that goes beyond friendship; you always have.”
Riker nodded in acknowledgment, then stood up. “Speaking of which, I’d better go. I’m supposed to meet Deanna for dinner, but I wanted to make sure you were all right.”
“I just need a few hours of sleep,” Crusher replied.
“Well then, Doctor, good night and pleasant dreams.” Riker turned to leave, but just before he reached the door, Crusher called to him.
“Oh, Will, one more thing.” Riker turned around to face her, and Crusher walked over to stand next to him. Leaning forward, she gave him a small kiss on the cheek and said, “Thank you, for everything.”
Riker flashed Crusher his famous grin. “You’re welcome...Doctor Beverly.”
Crusher’s eyes widened in surprise as Riker pivoted on his heel and left the room.