Disclaimer: This story is written for the private entertainment of fans. No infringement of any copyrights held by Paramount and whoever else is intended. This story is not published for profit, and the author does not give permission for this story to be reproduced for profit. The author makes no claims on the characters or their portrayal by the creation of this story.

Note: This story was written shortly after I saw the episode "The Host". Deep Space Nine hadn't aired yet, so everything in this story regarding Trills was my own speculation based solely on that one episode. I was rather amazed to discover that I got quite a lot of it right...

by Marina Bailey


And he looks at me in wonder Looks at me in fear Wrestling with his anger His pride and stony tears To place me in his life Will be hard and slow Does he want it need it? I might never know...
William T. Riker awoke in a cold sweat the first night, wondering if the images in his mind were parts of dreams, or something more. He was still weak from being host to the Trill ambassador, Odan, and his mind was still foggy. Yet he could, quite clearly recall what Odan had done all the time he had been in his body. It was as if... it had not been Odan at all, but him. Riker knew this to be impossible, and yet, he wondered... but his body gave out on him and he went to sleep.
The second night was no better. He awoke once again, this time with a clearer mind and clearer images assaulting him. Everything that Odan had said, and everything that Odan had done, was in his mind as memory. They were as real to Will Riker as any of his own memories, and they disturbed him. He sat up and tried to shake them away, but they clung there, unwilling to leave. It wasn't that the memories were unpleasant, it was just so... strange.
Most of the memories were pretty mundane: negotiating as an ambassador, talking to Picard... but the one memory he found distressing was the one of Doctor Beverly Crusher. A conversation insisted on replaying itself in his mind, one in which he was a participant. He was talking to the doctor about not wanting medication, she was suggesting something, and then he clearly remembered saying: "Beverly, I want you. If you're going to leave, you'd better go right now."
And the doctor's response: "I'm not leaving!"
And the rest...
Riker didn't pretend to himself that he'd never wondered what Beverly Crusher looked like naked, but it was something different to KNOW what she looked like, to have actual memories of the occasion... it was downright unsettling, and what was worse was that he enjoyed the memories, and part of him wanted to repeat them.
"No!" Riker got up, put on his uniform, and went over to the computer console. "Computer... hail the Trill homeworld."
"Person to be contacted?" it asked him politely.
"Uh..." Riker rubbed his beard absent-mindedly. "Planetary communications." Within seconds, a Trill appeared on the screen.
"I'm Commander William Riker of the Starship Enterprise. I have some questions about symbionts and hosts."
"One moment," said the woman on the screen. Riker found himself wondering if that Trill had always been the same: a female body and symbiont. Maybe... maybe not. Maybe the Trill didn't worry about that kind of thing. But Beverly hadn't been able to live with the uncertainty of it all. Riker dragged his thoughts away from all that as a male Trill appeared. "I am Biologist Alrev. You had questions, Commander Riker?"
"Yes." Riker became all business. "I want to know if it is at all possible that a human host to a symbiont would remember what the symbiont had done while in the body."
"You are referring to your being Ambassador Odan's temporary host?"
"Commander, I am sorry that Odan did not inform you of this. Perhaps she assumed you knew..."
Riker realised that they'd already begun talking about Odan in his (?) new body, but he couldn't let it faze him. "Knew WHAT?"
"Remembering... that is the point. The hosts would not willingly give up years of their lives to symbiont if they had no life during that time. We Trill live in complete symbiosis. Nothing is done without the other's consent."
"But what does that MEAN?" asked Riker. He knew he wouldn't like the answer.
"The host will remember so that their life is not wasted. What the symbiont does is a matter of the host's co-operation. The symbiont 'controls' the host, but the host is a part of it, in a way I could not possibly explain.
"I'm supposed to remember?"
"Oh, boy." Riker thanked the biologist and closed off the channel. He wondered how he was ever going to face Beverly Crusher again.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard was having morning tea with his chief medical officer and trying to be discreet about her relationship with Odan. He'd told her he'd be there if she needed him, but so far she hadn't said anything about it. This morning, like the previous morning, she was sitting sipping her tea and staring at the bulkhead. He'd asked her a few questions and commented on various things, but she'd given one-word answers and lapsed into silence again. Picard couldn't take it any more.
"Beverly, perhaps you should talk to me about it."
"Odan." The minute he said it, Picard realised he'd been right: Odan was still on her mind. But Beverly shook her head.
"There's nothing to say, Jean-Luc."
"There must be. Do you regret not going with him... her?"
"No! No." The red haired doctor looked down, unwilling to face her captain. "I do love him... her... it. But it's just... I can't live like that, not knowing what will happen next. Adjusting to each new body is like a period of grief for the one which is gone... it's what I went through when..."
"When Jack died."
"Yes. I can't keep going through it. If I could be sure that Kareel would be the last host... that Odan wouldn't need a new host... but I can't be sure. I can't live like that!"
"Beverly, if you need to grieve for Odan, we don't have to have tea like this, if you need to be alone..."
But she looked at him, unable to verbalise how much she NEEDED his company.
"No, Jean-Luc. I feel better, knowing... that you're here. Even if I just sit and stare."
Picard smiled at her, and, although she didn't immediately feel better, Beverly managed to smile back at him: a weak and sad smile, but still a smile.
Riker was the last person to enter the conference lounge for the briefing. He wasn't sure if it was because he was trying to put off seeing the good doctor, or just because he still felt weak from Odan's occupancy. When everyone was seated, Picard began. He'd called the briefing at very short notice, but this was due to the nature of the call the ship received.
"We received a distress call from the scientists studying mind-transference technology on Camus II," he said without preamble. "We will be there in two hours. What I need from you are theories and possible tactics dealing with the situation. "
"Do we know the nature of their distress?" asked Riker.
"Apparently they were being approached by hostile aliens. They said they weren't under attack, but something was wrong."
"Casualties?" asked Crusher, and Riker forced himself to look at her with only mild interest.
"Unknown," said Picard.
"Why would anyone want to attack Camus II, anyway?" asked Deanna Troi. "I thought Starfleet had rendered the mind technology inoperable by any but a handful of top people."
"Perhaps it was the aliens' intention to force the scientists to provide them with the technology," said Worf.
"It must have something to do with the mind-transference equipment," mused Riker.
"I tend to agree, Number One. Suggestions?"
"We go down to see what's what."
"I don't think that's the best thing to do," Beverly said to Riker. "There could be any number of aliens, with every kind of alien artefact down there."
"But we have to know what's going on." The first officer spoke reasonably, trying to ignore the awkwardness he felt looking this gorgeous woman in the eye.
"I agree," said Picard. "If we haven't heard anything when we reach orbit, take an Away Team, Number One."
"Aye, Sir."
They were in the corridor when Beverly came up and walked beside Riker.
Riker turned, trying to hide his nervousness. "Yeah ?"
"I want to be in that Away Team."
"Doctor - "
"There could be sick or injured people down there!"
"We'll ascertain that before you risk your life," he told her in no uncertain terms, and tried to walk off. Beverly grabbed him by the arm. Riker turned back, remembering kissing her on the underside of her wrist, just where she was now holding him. He looked down...
... and Beverly let go, sensing something. "We can't afford to waste time like that." And Riker knew she was right.
"All right," he said, and strode away before she could say anything more. Preparing for the Away Team in his quarters, Riker was still having trouble getting past the memories of Beverly. "Come on, Will!" he told himself, "You're better than that! Get past it already!"
The ship assumed orbit around Camus II, and Picard hailed the planet. There was no response, but neither was there any indication that there had been a space vehicle near the planet for quite some time. Jean-Luc Picard hated mysteries.
"Mr. Data, find the most central place for the Away Team to beam to. I want this cleared up."
"Aye, Sir," responded Data, scanning the planet.... and Picard disappeared.
"Red alert!" shouted Riker. But nothing else happened immediately to indicate that there was any danger from the planet. "Data, keep scanning."
"There is a power source under the main laboratory," his science officer told him.
"I assume it wasn't there before."
"You are correct, Sir. There seems to be some kind of cavern... it did not show up on any previous scans. I am checking now."
"Speculation?" asked Riker.
"Hostile aliens have adducted our captain," replied Worf immediately.
"We do not know that they have hostile intent," said Data.
"We do not know that they don't," the security chief reminded him.
"Okay: the captain's gone. That much we know. Why, we don't know. There is an underground cavern down there which has appeared from nowhere. Ideas?" Riker hated mysteries just as much as Picard did.
Up until then, Troi had not said anything. She seemed to be concentrating. "Deanna ?"
"They are... aliens. I feel their presence, but that's all. I can't tell what they want."
"Commander, I suggest it would be best if I took an Away Team down to the planet."
"And do what, Worf?" Riker was frowning; he didn't want to send in a gung-ho Klingon unless he absolutely had to.
"Attempt to rescue the captain."
"No." Everyone breathed a sigh of relief... "But I will take an Away Team and assess the situation." Everyone looked concerned, and they all tried to say something, but finally they all looked at Deanna. Talking the officers out of crazy stunts was her job, after all.
"Commander, it would be..." but Riker interrupted her.
"Yeah, yeah, Deanna, I know, inappropriate for me to lead the Away Team. But I am the best person for the job. Data, you will be in command. Mr. Worf, Doctor Crusher, with me. We're beaming down in fifteen minutes."
Will Riker couldn't explain to Deanna why he had to lead the Away Team. He just could NOT sit on the ship and let someone else make decisions on the planet. It wasn't his style at all. He'd always wanted to command a starship, and yet... he wondered, not for the first time, if it wasn't because he was on "action" man that he'd turned down so many chances to command his own ship. Probably.
The group materialised in a very light and spacious cavern. It had obviously been tunnelled out of the rock, and yet... it had a smooth, light quality to it that reminded Will of the ship.
Worf was already turning around, scanning, a phaser in one hand and a tricorder in the other. "I've located the captain!" he said.
"Why couldn't we scan his signal from the ship?" That was strange: they'd found the cavern without any trouble, but they'd had to come down to find Picard.
"Unknown," the security chief replied even as he lead them in the direction the tricorder indicated. Beverly ran behind, using her own tricorder to try and pick up the signals of any of the scientists. She found nothing, either in the station above or the cavern itself. What on Earth was going on? Going round a curve in the rock, they came face to face with ... a force field. And behind the field, Captain Jean-Luc Picard. He looked much the worse-fo -wear, although he managed to walk towards them without limping... too much.
"Captain, what happened?" Riker, as usual, immediately began to try to analyse the situation. Obviously Picard found it rather difficult to talk.
"I... it was stupid, really. I tried... to get out and ran into the force field. It... drains energy somehow, especially from certain sites that come into contact with it."
The doctor was scanning Picard's vital signs through the force field. "Jea -Luc, how do you feel? I'm not sure if these readings are accurate."
"I... I'm tired, and... when I stumbled into the force field, I apparently hurt my leg. I feel cold," he added. He looked it, and it was quite obvious that he was in pain.
"Have you seen anyone?"
"No, Number One. That's strange, actually. This doesn't look like a laboratory for studying specimens. Nothing these aliens have done makes sense."
"I must agree with you there," said Riker, continuing to look around. The cavern was large, but the many curves out of sight could hold more prisoners or even the abductors themselves. This was quite obviously what Worf was thinking; his bearing said it all.
"Jean-Luc, I don't like the look of you. Can you sit down?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
"Then do it!" said Beverly. "You have to conserve your energy, and standing there like that isn't doing it !"
Picard sat on a ledge-affair further into the curve of the cavern, but he didn't look any more comfortable.
"We can't just stand here like this," decided Riker. "Worf, see if there are any controls or projection points for this field."
"Negative," answered the Klingon. "I have been scanning. I cannot discover how this field is maintained."
"Damn it!" said Beverly. "How are we going to get the captain out of there? And where are the scientists, for goodness' sake?" She turned around to address Worf, and instead found herself looking at Riker. Worf was nowhere in sight, and they were now standing in a curve similar to that one Picard was imprisoned in.
She walked forward... only to have Riker grab her arm. "Beverly!" She looked back at him distractedly, as if to say, "Not now!" but she stopped.
"The force field," said Will. "I think we're behind one too. Don't go too far out of this curve in the rock." As he said it he gingerly put his hand out and explored the air in front. As surely as Vulcans control their emotions, he finally came into contact with the force field. "Ow!" He drew his hand away. "My hand's gone cold."
The doctor had her scanner out and was scanning. "Will - it's drained the energy from your hand, just... sucked it out."
"Lucky it was only my hand, huh ?" smiled Riker at her... and suddenly the atmosphere in their prison changed. Riker found himself looking intently at Beverly, remembering... And she was looking up at him with much the same memories on her mind. It was because he was looking at there the way Odan had, that night. Crusher looked away, and the moment broke.
"We've gotta try to get out of here."
"I'm scanning, but without knowing what keeps this force field here, there's no way we'll escape. We can't try to get through it, or it'll do to us what it did to Jean-Luc."
"So we wait," Riker concluded.
"Hm, hm," replied Beverly, nodding. Riker found the way her hair swung when she nodded very sexy. For him, it was going to be a LONG, tough wait.
Picard realised that they must all be in cells close together, for he could hear little bits of conversation between his first officer and doctor. He heard nothing from Worf; consequently, he concluded, Worf wasn't in the same curved prison as his other two officers.
He was right about that - Worf was in another force-fielded prison. But none of the Enterprise officers thought to guess why that was. It was, of course, because Worf was recognised as being of a different species from the other people. The aliens - who were there, just hidden - had not, in fact, attacked Camus II, nor had they intended any harm to any of the officers. They were so alien to the thoughts of humanoids that they had interpreted these thoughts in a way the Enterprise crew could not possibly have expected. And because the Enterprise crew members didn't realise this, it was a stalemate... or it would have been a stalemate, if not for one first officer's memories of a time when a being called Odan had inhabited his body...
"How long do you think we'll have to wait before they do something?" Beverly asked.
"Dunno," replied Riker. "I don't get it. Are they studying us? If we're prisoners, they should feed us. Something. This is driving me crazy!"
"Yeah." She smiled, wanly. "Why put us in a cell together?" Riker shook his head, indicating that he neither knew, nor cared.
"Huh? Oh... to see how people interact?"
"What's wrong?" Beverly knew something was not right - Riker was usually far more charming and together, even in the tightest of spots, like the Borg incident.
"It's nothing."
"You know, Will," she smiled, this time with amusement, "you're a bad liar."
"That's a terrible thing to say !"
"You're lying now. Why don't you tell me." It wasn't a question.
"Okay, here goes." He took a deep breath, turned, so as not to have to look at her. "I... when Odan was in my body, I thought I wouldn't remember anything. I thought that was the point of all that."
Beverly looked at him in panic. "So did I."
Now William T. Riker WAS looking at her. "Well, we were wrong. Remembering is, in fact, the point." He laughed wryly. "I remember, Beverly. I remember everything."
Beverly's eyes widened, "Everything?"
"Everything," he nodded.
"Oh, boy."
"Yeah." He went and sat down on the ledge next to her, absently thinking that the aliens must customise cells as needed. Taking her hands, Riker continued. "I do care about you, you know."
"Will, I feel the same."
"But... those memories, Beverly, they're very powerful. I can't separate myself from Odan, not in those memories. I feel what he felt, I did what he did. I... it feels like love."
"It's not."
"It shouldn't be, but..."
"He loved me, and so it feels like you love me."
"Will, we can't deal with that now. We must get past it, get back to what we were, get on with our lives. We have to."
"I know. Beverly..." he said, coming closer with each breath, "...leave me with something fresh"
"Will, I..." But she got no further as she found herself kissing Will Riker again, it was... oh, forget it, she thought, and gave herself up to it.
Jean-Luc Picard heard every word that passed between his doctor and first officer and yet, no matter how much he called, it was obvious that they couldn't hear him. "Why are you doing this?" he shouted at the ceiling generally. He had to shout at something to prevent himself from going quite mad with frustration. And it wasn't only the frustration of being kept prisoner there, it was also the frustration of knowing that his first officer was kissing his chief medical officer, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Picard slowly began to realise what he felt was akin to jealousy. WAS jealousy, in fact. But he refused to think of the reasons behind it just at that moment. "First get out of here," he thought, "then deal with all the rest."
Worf was pacing his cell, not at all happy with his situation, either. He'd found no way out, but his mind was being assaulted with images of his past battles... glory... honour... service. Why, he wondered, were these things in his mind now? He admitted to himself that he'd been thinking something similar when they'd beamed down: he'd been wishing that the enemy would come into the open so he could fight honourably, or make peace honourably. Being a Klingon, of course, he always tended to think of fighting first.
But these images! They were as if they'd been manipulated into being there. As if they'd somehow... been wrenched from his subconscious and replaced. He hated that thought. He didn't want anyone messing about in his mind! Perhaps, thought Worf, he could try to think of different things: the Enterprise, peace missions, his son... Yes. He'd try that.***
When the kiss ended, Beverly found herself staring with shock at Riker, surprised at herself, at her response to it, and to him. She had enjoyed that, wanted more. Yet she knew she wasn't in love with the first officer. Odan. She'd loved Odan. She wasn't looking at Riker now. Beverly closed her eyes tightly and wished for him, her, it. Odan, where are you? I need you now, to stop all this! I need your presence as reassurance that I'm not in love with Will Riker, that I really love... She stopped herself from thinking it. She merely thought, Odan, why did you do this to me?
And then, of course, Odan stood there in the cell, and Riker was gone. Beverly didn't notice this because her eyes were still closed, but she suddenly found the atmosphere changed. She opened one eye, then the other. "Will!" But he was gone. Crusher simply stared at Odan, unable to make sense of it.
Odan was looking around, as if he/she/it wasn't supposed to be here. The doctor noticed it too, from the fact that the woman was wearing a Vulcan robe, presumably to handle the heat. So Odan had been at some diplomatic conference, obviously on a dry, hot planet, perhaps even on Vulcan itself. And now he/she/it was here.
Finally Beverly said, "Odan?"
And a smile spread over Odan's borrowed features. "Doctor Beverly." Then the face frowned. "I assume you had something to do with my sudden arrival here?"
"I don't know!" Crusher yelled. "This is Camus II... we're prisoners... I... yes!" It suddenly made sense. "I was thinking of you, and you appeared. It is you, isn't it?"
Odan looked down at his (?) borrowed body. "As far as I can see."
Beverly rushed into his/her/its arms. "Why are they doing this?"
"I don't know. Why don't you tell me exactly what has happened up to now?"***
When Riker disappeared, he reappeared on the Enterprise. "Commander!" from Data.
"What has been happening?"
"We beamed down..." began Riker, still surprised at his sudden appearance back on the bridge. "Then we were in some kind of holding cell. We saw the captain... he was also a prisoner."
"Did you see any aliens?"
"No, Data, and that's the thing. Why would they kidnap us like that? If they wanted to study us, surely they wouldn't put force fields around their cells that can hurt you."
"I do not know either, Sir." Data was being polite.
"Can you scan the planet?"
"Negative. Something is interfering with our sensors and the transporter."
"The transporter? But we managed to beam down!"
"I know, Sir. The interference began just after you left," the science officer told him.
"I don't know what's going on, Data," said Will, "but I'm going to find out!"***
Worf was still pacing in his cell, more slowly now. Since forcing himself to think different thoughts, he hadn't felt assaulted by those violent, very "Klingon" images he'd been reliving. Our thoughts... he thought. They can somehow tap our thoughts, and they appease us by trying to give us what we're thinking of. Whatever we're thinking of, whether good or bad. So, instead of wondering why I'm here, I should be wishing I could go back to the Enterprise. I'll try that.***
Odan listened to all that Beverly had to say, and agreed with her. "It seems that there is alien interference here, as you thought. They seem to be providing us with the things we are thinking of, or wondering about. If you wonder about whether they will capture you, they do. You wonder about me, and here I am." Odan moved closer to Beverly, kissed the inside of her wrist. "And I have been wondering about you."
Beverly pulled her hand away. "I was thinking... hoping... no, wishing that you would somehow come here and clear up my confusion. Will -"
"The officer who volunteered his body."
"Yes. Will remembers everything. He feels..."
"I know that, too. I will always love you, Doctor Beverly."
Crusher met Odan's eyes, saw the truth there. "I love you, too, Odan, but your being in Will has done something to me! And now... now I don't even know how to address you, how to think of you!" There were tears in Beverly's eyes as she said this, and she sank onto the ledge. Odan sat next to her, took her hands.
"I know how confusing this is. Imagine this - having to acclimatise people to each new host, having to convince them that you are the same person you've always been. It's difficult. And," and now Odan smiled, "you should properly address me according to the gender of my host."
"As she," concluded the doctor.
"It feels wrong! I love you! I can't think of you... like this!"
Odan kissed her, but Beverly pulled away. "You can't deal with the changes, my Doctor Beverly."
"Changes I can deal with." Beverly lifted her chin. "It's the uncertainty that I can't take. Will you have a new body soon? Will I have to keep dealing with the grief of losing your old body?"
"Yes, I know. You've said this before."
"Damn it, Odan! I needed you to be here, and you were! I know now... that there's only friendship between me and Will. I do love you, I'll always love you but..."
"I understand." The blonde woman tucked a piece of stray hair behind an ear.
"No, you don't, said Crusher. "Perhaps I would be able to deal with this if... if I wasn't so busy looking for someone to replace him!"
Odan said, "Who?" but Beverly wasn't listening.
"I hold him up to myself as the ultimate, and when you first came aboard, you reminded me so much of him. You were so different!" And here she smiled. "And yet... there was a masculinity about you that was the same. It's him I compare you to know, I'm sorry!" And the Enterprise doctor found herself crying on Odan's shoulder.
Odan held her close. "Who is this ultimate man, Beverly ?"
Beverly replied, "Jean-Luc," and then they were all back on the bridge,
Beverly's head still cradled in Odan's shoulder. Picard stood there as well, trying not to stagger.
"Worf!" and so on. Riker came forward to support Picard while Beverly stood away from the Trill ambassador, took out her scanner and ran it over the captain... who looked up to see if it had really been Odan he'd heard down on the planet. Being the diplomat he was, Picard decided not to say anything which would let these people know he'd heard their conversations while they were being held prisoner. Instead he said, "Ambassador Odan. Where did you come from?"
"I was at a conference on Vulcan, and then I was down on the planet with the doctor," she replied.
Crusher interrupted, not knowing that Picard had heard every word exchanged between her and Riker, and Odan. "Captain, you should be in Sickbay. You badly need rest, and you could do with some tissue regeneration as well."
"Doctor, I - " but Picard was hardly in a state to say what he needed to, or to argue, as she quickly pressed a hypo against his arm. He slumped - luckily into the arms of his first officer, standing conveniently in place next to him.
They bundled the captain off to Sickbay. Beverly wanted to personally attend the captain, but Riker stopped her. "Let Doctor Hill do it. He'll be fine."
Riker smiled at Beverly. "With the captain unconscious, I need your input." He turned to the bridge crew. "We still haven't the foggiest idea as to where the aliens are, where the scientists are, or for that matter, what the hell happened!"
"Our thoughts," began Worf.
"They're reading them," finished Beverly.
"They're not hostile," broke in Odan.
Riker turned to look at her. "Why do you say that, Ambassador?" He tried not to think of what the symbiont in the gorgeous body had put him and Beverly through.
"Because," said Odan, taking on the stance they all knew so well (it was his, er her, business stance), "they didn't do anything overtly hostile. From what Doctor Beverly has told me, they only did the kinds of things you expected from them. You expected to find the scientists missing, or dead. You assumed that attacking aliens would have a hidden base. You put all your faith in the captain and hoped nothing would happen to him. Do I need to go on?"
"Thank you, Ambassador," said Riker. "I think we get the point."
"What can we do, then?" asked Deanna. "I know they're there, but they're very... unformed. No, wait. Their minds are so different they're hard to grasp."
"I don't think they understand verbal communication," said Worf.
"I think... we must want very much to meet them, to communicate with them. Can you all do that?" Troi said.
"We'll try," agreed Will.
"Focus, everyone."
Each person the bridge concentrated on wanting to meet the aliens, to see and communicate with them. Nothing, it seemed, happened, and then... "I feel them," said Deanna.
Riker turned to her. "What?"
"Yes..." replied Beverly. "They're not out there." She indicated space through the viewscreen. "They're in here." And she pointed to her head. "Close your eyes."
Everyone did so, and vague forms appeared in their minds. "We apologise," they seemed to say. "We did not know that your life forms were so different. We have been learning. We lived here once." An image of Camus II appeared in everyone's mind. "We now return you all to your places." Then they were gone.***
Much later, when Picard, Riker, Crusher, Data and Worf were visiting with the scientists on Camus II, they learnt that the aliens' attempt at telepathic communication had been thought of as an attack on them, resulting in the distress call.
"But we couldn't find your life signs when we assumed orbit."
"We were there..." said Doctor Allen, in charge of the Camus II project. "We just couldn't contact anyone."
"Hmm," mused Captain Picard. "So it seems we've all been mixed up in some sort of cosmic misunderstanding."
"Yeah..." Allen replied. "Well, thanks for showing up, even if it did take three days before things were cleared up. Who do we owe that to, anyway?"
Picard looked at Riker, who looked at Crusher, who thought of Odan before looking at Worf, who said, "We all came to a similar conclusion and acted on it."
Allen (privately thinking that Riker was just about the most gorgeous man she'd ever seen, and that beard!) smiled. "Well, then. How about using that holodeck technology to throw a huge party? We could do with it."
"Agreed," both Picard and Riker said at once.
The party on Holodeck Four was in full swing when Riker noticed that the doctor wasn't there. Picard had monopolised one of the other scientists and was discussing the finds on Camus II with him. Picard knew he had things to say to Beverly but he wasn't sure if he could face her yet. So he stayed at the party, being the quintessential captain.
Most of the other crew members seemed to be enjoying themselves. Worf was standing in a corner by himself, frowning, Geordi was dancing with a medical technician, O'Brien and his wife were sitting quietly and talking, Data was attempting a new dance step (rather successfully, Riker observed), and Deanna, he knew, was probably in a corner somewhere eating chocolate away from the barrage of emotions. Deciding that he had to know what was what, Riker went in search of Beverly Crusher.
"Who is it?"
"It's me, Will."
"Will, please go away."
"I don't think so, not until I talk to you."
"All right, come in."
The door opened, and he found Beverly sitting at her dressing table listlessly. He squeezed himself onto the chair next to her. "Are you all right?"
The blue eyes suddenly cleared, and Beverly Crusher kissed him. He enjoyed it, remembering... but that had been Odan, not him. Still, he didn't resist.
Finally Beverly sat away and looked at him. "You're my friend Will, and I'm fine."
"I don't..."
"I thought I was seeing Odan in you, but I'd tried to transfer my feelings for him...her to you, to keep that feeling of love with me. But seeing Odan made me realise the truth."
Riker frowned. "And that is?"
"I do love her. I always will, no matter what happens. But... it all began when I realised that he - I mean Odan in her first host - reminded me of someone else that I have always loved."
"The captain." It was pretty obvious, after all.
"I know he loves you too," he told her, "so I don't know why he doesn't do something about it."
"Thanks." Then she turned a stern look on Will. "And why don't you take your own advice?"
Riker just stared.
"If you think Jean-Luc should make a move, why don't you sweep Deanna off her feet? I know you two love each other very much."
"Yes, we do. I guess my memories of Odan prompted me to look for love, as well."
"But I'm not that person." Beverly took him by the shoulders. "Go and find her, Will. Go."
Riker left, and Beverly decided that she would NOT go to the party. She wondered how Odan was, having been zapped back to Vulcan so unceremoniously.
Then the comm panel bleeped. "Crusher here."
"Doctor, message from Vulcan. From Ambassador Odan."
"Put her on screen."
The woman appeared. "Doctor Beverly, are you all right ?"
Crusher nodded. "Yeah, fine. You?"
Odan smiled that enigmatic smile she'd always had. "I'm fine too. I had to check. I couldn't bear to think of you in pain."
"Really, Odan, I'm fine."
"You really do love him, don't you ?"
The doctor knew who she was referring to. "Yes, I do."
"Then I don't think there's anything more to say. Just remember..."
Beverly interrupted before the ambassador could get the words out. "I know. Remember me, too."
"Goodbye, Doctor Beverly."
The screen went blank, and Beverly turned away, only to find Picard standing in the doorway. He hadn't even chimed. Torn between relief and outrage at his invasion of her privacy, Beverly could only say, "Jean-Luc!"
"The party began to break up, and... I have to talk to you."
"Come in, then."
Picard tried to sit down, but got up again. He began to pace back and forth. "I heard everything."
"Now, and on the planet."
"When they had us behind those fields?"
"Yes. I... Why didn't you tell me the pain I'd been causing you for so long?"
"You were never ready for anything like that, that's why." Crusher spoke calmly. "I don't know if you'll ever be ready."
"Neither do I," Jean-Luc admitted. "But..."
"But what, Jean-Luc?"
"I do... I do love you, too, you know." It sounded forced, and it was: He'd had to force the words out. But Beverly nodded, and Picard went on, "And loving you scares me. Being out here in space is so unpredictable. Sending you on potentially dangerous missions already scares me... How will I feel if... once... we share that special bond? Might it not influence my ability to be objective? Beverly, I... I don't know if I'm ready for that. Perhaps.." but Beverly interrupted.
"Don't say anything more. When you're ready, we can go from there." As she said it, Beverly steered Picard to the door. Just before it opened, she leaned across and brushed her lips against his. "You know, Jean-Luc, you really are very special..." But so... so... constipated sometimes! she thought, but didn't say.
When Beverly told him how special he was, Picard suddenly had an urge to throw all caution to the winds. He was about to reach out and let nature take its course when the door opened and Beverly shoved him out. "When you're ready, we'll see. All right?"
"All right," said the stunned captain, standing facing a now closed door. He turned to see Riker and Deanna coming along the corridor, looking pleased with themselves. "Evening, Captain," they said in unison, never even breaking stride.
Picard shook his head, bewildered, and walked away. And behind that closed door, Beverly Crusher smiled to herself and hoped that Picard wouldn't take too long...
And he speaks to me of business When I ask him how he's been Keeps me at a distance Never getting under skin Can he make a new beginning Does he even want to try Or will he only let it die The boy feels strange Oh the boy has changed

THE END Copyright Marina Bailey, May 1992