By Carol Sandford


Chapter 12


When Will watched his ship, the Enterprise, glide up to him, appearing like a captured dream from the vast, unfathomable reaches of space, it always made the breath catch in his throat at her majestic stature. Even amongst other ships, the Enterprise always led the way. She was a leader, led by an even greater Captain. She was, to Will, more than a ship. She was home. His home.

As he approached the shuttle bay and passed through the invisible shield, Will began to tremble with relief as a sea of familiar, welcome faces watched his arrival. The instant his engines shut down, a swarm of people stormed the shuttle, and heading them all was Doctor Beverly Crusher.

Will had spied the portable incubator and the antigrav stretcher waiting along side the crowd as he’d powered down the engines, the sight of them allowed him to exhale the pent up air that he had gotten stranded within his lungs, and with it, releasing the coil of tension that he’d been harbouring until the Enterprise had appeared before him like a huge, gleaming, silver knight in shining armour. Never, never in his entire life, had he been so pleased to cast his eyes upon a more welcoming sight. Deanna and her son would live, and more importantly, he was going to get a second chance at getting it right between them once their ordeals were over.

Will pushed himself out of his seat, then quietly stood and watched as Beverly and two other medical staff swooped inside the tiny shuttle and began to assess Deanna and her newborn. Will heard Beverly’s faint gasp as she lifted off the blanket and found, possibly the tiniest baby that she had ever seen. Without even seeing her face, Will knew that Beverly’s eyes were now full of tears. Of that he was sure, because his own welled when he saw the tiny scrap of life cradled against his Imzadi’s breast.

It was confirmed when barely a second later, Beverly’s face turned and looked up into his, their blue watery depths full of questions, love and concern. Will silently stared back through suspiciously bright eyes, suddenly unable to utter one word. The euphoria of getting Deanna back to the Enterprise evaporated as he turned his gaze back to the unconscious prone figure that was being prepared to transfer to the antigrav stretcher.

Will watched in silent awe as her arms instinctively rose to hold onto her child, and the touching movement broke through the last invisible barricade that Will had erected around himself, and he gulped back the huge sob that he’d held on to so vigilantly up to now - up until he knew that Deanna was safe.

Through his tears, Will watched as Beverly gently unlaced Deanna’s arms and picked up the infant, wrapping his tiny body in a small thick and soft quilted material before quickly hurrying him to the waiting incubator just outside the shuttle door. The seconds ticked painfully past before she stepped back inside and knelt down beside Deanna, the tricorder in her hand running along her body telling her everything she needed to know, and more besides.

"My God, she has lost so much blood, Alyssa." she cried out, aloud, before her professional side snapped back into place. "Counselor Troi is going to need a transfusion, stat." Frowning, she studied the small life-saving piece of equipment in her hand. "There’s also something else going on here; some kind of other infection."

Turning to Will, her heart broke in two when she saw the tears running down the big man’s face as he watched her assessing Deanna. Realizing that his grief had more to do with a deep inner relief than anything else, Beverly pushed aside her concern for her friend and spoke to him. "Will, what happened out there, can you shed some light on what’s happening to Deanna?"

Will gulped back the choking tears and focused on her face rather than Deanna’s comatose body. Taking a deep breath, he lifted his shoulders in a helpless shrug. "I don’t know, Bev. The birth went fine. The afterbirth came away fine. Everything was fine until several hours later." His features twisted with the painful memory that he had to share. "She, she must have heard me resuscitating the boy and got out of bed to see. That’s when we first saw the blood."

Remembering the horrifying moment, Will’s eyes watered again and his chin wobbled as he brokenly told her of the vision of the blood pouring unheeded from Deanna’s tortured loins. "God, Bev, she bled out so much, I didn’t know how to help her. I...I really screwed up, didn’t I?" he asked, miserably.

Before he’d even asked the question, Bev had realized that Will was blaming himself for Deanna’s misfortune and quickly rising, she forcibly pushed herself against Will’s body before he crumpled and held onto him tightly, forcing him to do the same to her, just as she needed him to. Will needed a friend right then, a friend that cared, and she did, she always did, very much.

All the guilt, worry and responsibility Will had willingly taken on, despite not knowing one single thing about how to deal with a premature birth or the problems associated with one, had taken its toll, and he clung onto Beverly and wept quietly into her shoulder. She could hear the quiet activity going on in the background; her nurses preparing Deanna to be shifted from the shuttle and onto the stretcher. The tell-tale silence that told her that they could hear everything that was being said, embarrassed at witnessing their superior officer’s desperate moment of unguarded grief, but professional enough to know that grief, in any form, needed to be released, and neither of them begrudged their Commanding Officer this moment, he’d more than earned his right to let it go.

Despite the urgency to get Deanna into sickbay and stabilized, Beverly needed to allay the Commander’s fears, aware that her team were doing their job perfectly well without her. "It was not your fault, Will," she soothed. "If you hadn’t have been there, Deanna would have died. You’ve saved her life, Will, and you’ve saved the life of her son, too. None of this is your fault," she reiterated strongly, tugging herself away from his bulk, forcing him to look into her eyes. "Will, listen to me, Deanna would be dead now, if it weren’t for you."

She was so close to him, she could see herself in his tear-filled eyes. Gently, she shook him as she spoke. "Come on, you’ve got her home, Will, let’s make the trip worthwhile, okay?"

Dragging her back to him, Will placed a shaky loud kiss on top of her auburn curls before releasing her with a huge sniff. "You’re right. Ignore me, I’m just being..."

Smiling tenderly, Beverly broke away from him, pulling herself out of his arms as she did so. "You’re just being human, Will, a trait that you men seem to regularly forget."

Moving to the shuttle doorway, Beverly spoke to the gathering outside. "The antigrav won’t fit inside the shuttle. I need someone to carry Counselor Tr....."

A voice she knew came from behind her. "I’ll carry her, Doctor."

Stepping out of his way as Will bent and lifted the sleeping woman into his arms, Beverly followed him out as he carried Deanna to the stretcher. A sea of eyes watched him and at that moment Will felt as exposed as he’d ever been, but he was beyond caring. He only cared about one thing right then, and she was right there, in his arms.

Reluctantly, Will lay Deanna upon the stretcher and within a second she was moving away from him. The doctor trotted to keep up, her blue coat fanning out behind her in her haste to get to her patient to sickbay. Will stood ramrod still and watched his soul mate disappear from view. He began to breathe again when she turned the corner, completely taking Deanna out of his sight, but even so, he could still sense her, still feel her struggle to hold onto the thin thread of life that kept her with him.

Strangely, Will had forgotten that there were others in the shuttle bay with him, and when he felt a comforting hand settle upon his broad shoulder, Will turned his head and looked down into the warm, concerned eyes of his captain. "Come on, Will. I think we could do with a drink or two," the older man told him, already prepared for the response that he knew he’d get, and when Will went to open his mouth, his hand raising, aiming for the woman that had been whisked away from him, Jean-Luc Picard cut him off. "She’s in good hands, Will, and so is her baby. You can’t do anything more for her until Doctor Crusher has them both stabilized."

Sensing and knowing Will’s reluctance to stop himself from going to Deanna’s side, he added, "Beverly will let you know when it’ll be prudent to go to her, Will, you know she will." Feeling and watching the taller man’s shoulders slump in defeat, Picard patted his shoulder again, effectively moving Will from his spot. "Come on, Commander," he smiled, gently pushing, "let’s go and raise a glass or two for the Enterprise’s latest recruit."

Smiling with the irony of Picard’s ridiculous statement, Will’s feet finally moved. "Yes, you’re right, Sir. I need to gather my head again. I think I’ve been on automatic pilot for the last two days.”

"Yes," he agreed, "but it got you home, Will, along with someone who we thought we’d never seen again. I’m proud of you, Commander. Is there no end to your talents?"

Will wearily chuckled, "That was one talent I don’t ever want to experience again, Sir."

Smiling knowingly as they reached the suite, Picard entered his access code, allowing the doors to his private rooms to open and followed his first officer inside. Without even being politely asked to sit, Will slumped onto the dark, suede covered couch, dropped his head back onto its back, rubbed his fatigued eyes and let out a puff of weary breath and groaned. "Damn, I’m tired."

Pouring a large, healthy shot of his own private stock of whisky into a tumbler, Picard poured a smaller measure for himself before handing Will his glass. "Here’s to a successful mission, Will. Well done."

Gratefully taking the glass from the outstretched hand, Will stared appreciatively at the amber liquid before downing a large swig, sighing with contentment at the immediate effect that it had on him. Turning his face back up to his superior, Will said seriously. "Don’t gloat yet, Captain. I left behind a very pissed husband who’s not too pleased that I’ve stolen his wife, Sir."

"Stolen?" Picard scowled, dropping his frame to the edge of another seat facing Riker. "Care to elaborate on the term, ’stolen’, Commander?"

"Stolen, Sir, as in, Jal arrived just as I was about to leave, and he wasn’t happy about me taking his wife away, even if it was to save her life. I crippled his ship, Jean-Luc, but I don’t think that’ll stop him for long."

"I see," the older man said thoughtfully, "do you think he will come after Deanna?" he asked.

"Maybe," he replied, shrugging nonchalantly, taking another sip of the whiskey. "Maybe not." Will thought again for a long moment and then added. "Yes Sir, I think maybe he will. I’ve taken away something that he holds dear."

"Deanna," Picard stated knowingly, frowning when he watched Will shake his head a moment later.

"Nah, he couldn’t give a damn about her or their son. When I kicked his butt I took away his pride. Now that really pissed him off. He’ll come after us, not only for Deanna because she’s his property, but because he can’t do anything else but come. I’ve humiliated him, Captain, there’s no way that he can let that slip past."

Picard pushed himself to his feet, and Will followed suit, handing him back the glass, now devoid of liquid. "Thanks, Sir, I needed that more than I realized," he said, gratefully and then added, "as for Jal, Sir, he’s my problem, not the Enterprise’s. I’ll deal with him when he eventually catches up with us."

Pursing his lips thoughtfully, Picard eventually spoke. "You’re a member of this crew, Will, and so is Deanna now. We’ll deal with Jal Collser if and when it happens. Now, Will, I’m ordering you to get some rest. I don’t want you to step foot inside sickbay for at least three hours. Do I make myself clear, Commander?"

For a long moment Will battled between insubordination and bone wary fatigue. He was exhausted, and the large shot of whisky he’d just had had just about finished him off - just what had been Picard’s intention when he’d offered him the drink in the first place. In the end exhaustion won out and he mumbled wearily. "Yes, Sir, crystal. See you in a few hours, Sir."

Picard watched Will walk down the corridor, his large feet almost dragging along the soft grey carpet. But despite the order to stay away from sickbay, he knew darned well that his order would be ignored, and sure enough, when he quietly entered sickbay one hour later to check on Beverly and her new patients, he found his first officer curled up in a chair beside Deanna Troi’s bed, his dark head upon the mattress at her side, with Deanna’s fingers gently cupping his face as they both slept the sleep of the dead.

Shaking his head with a smile, Picard turned and headed out, muttering good naturedly. "I really must admonish that bugger one of these days." And then he laughed, quietly adding. "Why the hell bother? He’d still bloody ignore me!"

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