By Carol Sandford


Chapter 09


"Please, sit down, Counselor."

Deanna smiled stiffly and made her way over to the sofa. Perching on it's edge, Picard studied the beautiful woman that sat before him, not missing her agitation.

Knowing her well enough to recognise the signs; The clasped hands, the crossed legs, and the brave face that she was trying her hardest to portray to him, Picard waited.

Pushing himself back in the chair, he watched her face, fully aware that his own mirrored the same concerns, until, at last, he finally broke the uneasy silence.

"How are you holding up, Deanna?"

He spotted the tell-tale flush as soon as he spoke to her. He frowned when he saw her blink several times until unable to control them, her eyes finally fell to her lap. When she looked at him again, her eyes shimmered with tears. She shook her head sadly, too choked to answer him coherently.

But she did not have to say anything because her face said it all. Picard's sympathetic voice was low when he spoke. "You're not holding up at all, are you?"

Her face crumpled as she buried the miserable features in her hands and began to sob bitterly. Picard instantly made his way to her side and held her as close as he could, but within moments, she pulled away and tried frantically to compose herself.

"I am so sorry, sir, that was unforgivable of me. I should not have let my personal feelings get in the way. It will not happen again, I promise."

Picard sighed, disturbed that she had reacted in that way about him, as had many others before her. Was he really that rigid?

He didn't like the answer his inner voice hurled at him.

Getting back on his feet, he made his way over to the porthole and stared out at the distant stars, allowing Deanna the privacy to collect herself. Picard continued to watch the outer view, even when he heard her husky apology reach him across the room. Without turning, he seemingly spoke to the void outside.

"But what can we do about the...'situation', Counselor?"

Picard spoke the word, 'situation' as if it was dirty. The 'situation' was becoming dirty. It was destroying her, and it was destroying him, too. It ate him alive every time he pictured Will and Beverly together.

Pictured them making love.

Heaven's only knew how Deanna had coped for this amount of time.

He had witnessed the undeniable affinity between herself and Riker and had marvelled at the strength that it must have taken to have took the giant step backwards to allow Beverly and Will to have this strange relationship, that, at this moment in time, did not appear to be floundering.

But that strange relationship had gone on long enough. There was a growing concern that if their relationship continued he was going to lose some very valuable members of his staff, and that was the last thing he wanted.

Things had to change, one way or the other.


Deanna's voice broke into his thoughts. "I would like your permission to contact the Trill homeworld, sir."

Surprised, Picard turned to face Deanna once more. Her tears were gone, but he could see that they were not far away, but she was back in control and that pleased him no end, but Picard didn't think he'd heard her right and asked her to repeat her request.

He watched her take a deep breath and asked him again. "I want your permission to contact the Trill homeworld. I would like to find out if Odan is still being hosted by Kareel."

Picard sat back at this desk, puzzled by her unusual demand. "What do you hope to achieve, Counselor? Doctor Crusher made her feelings very plain to Kareel. I would not have thought it was a wise move to, 'resurrect' what could turn out to be an absolute disaster. We could make the situation a whole lot worse, especially for Beverly." He advised carefully.

Deanna nodded, understanding his dilemma, but she still wanted to try. She had to. "I know that, sir, that is why I am asking your permission to do this without their knowledge. I remember when I spoke with Odan that the symbiants change hosts quite frequently, and it is a long shot, but I would like to find out if Odan is still being hosted by Kareel."

Deanna paused as she let Picard digest what she said, but before he had a chance to comment, she ploughed on, "Sir, I know we are due at Star Base within the next few days, and I am hoping, if I am right, to have Odan join us there."

Deanna held her breath as she watched Picard ponder over her request. His fingers tapped his lips for several moments before at last, finally, he looked directly into her eyes.

Deanna felt and saw his uncertainty. She knew that if Odan was back within a male host that Beverly was likely to stay behind, probably either go to Earth with him, or go to his domain. Either way, he was going to lose her.

Picard sighed, but Deanna was quietly surprised, and privileged when he opened up his heart to her. "I know that she and I will never likely become a couple like you and Commander Riker, and I envy you for having the courage to have taken that final step. But I like to think that we have a close relationship and that it is almost as satisfying as being a couple, but managing to keep our own identities, our own careers. We were both content with that."

They smiled tenderly at each other, both fully understanding what he was saying and Deanna let him continue, "But, I also know that without Odan, Beverly is...incomplete, and if it is my last duty as her Captain to seal her happiness by rejoining her with her soulmate, then I cannot stand in your way." Decision made, Picard took a deep breath and spoke. "Permission granted, Counselor, but under no circumstances must Beverly know what we are planning. This could go horribly wrong and it will be entirely our fault, and Beverly would never forgive us, or me."

"I could never forgive me." He added sadly.

As they both came to a stand they remained silent for a few moments as they contemplated that what they were about to do could change all their lives forever.

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