By Carol Sandford


Chapter 15


"Welcome back, commander."

Will's eyes struggled to focus on the smiling light blue eyes that hovered close to his face, but it wasn't Beverly Crusher he expected to see or hear. His dreams had been filled with onyx eyes and hair as dark as a raven's feathers; Of her mind holding onto his; Of her love breathing life into him.

He licked his lips trying to moisten the arid strips of skin enough to move them without grimacing with pain, adding even more to his torture. Moments later he gratefully sucked on the small piece of damp sponge that Beverly held to his lips, feeling the heavenly moisture revive his parched lips and vocal chords.

His eyes sent his thanks as he found hers again, but his mouth spoke something else; Something that had been haunting for the past few hours as he danced between wakefulness and unconsciousness.

His clear, blue eyes struggled as he tried to remember, his brow furrowed as his memory failed him. He looked to Beverly for an answer, "Deanna...I...I dreamt she was here, with me?"

Beverly tenderly stroked the hand that rested upon his chest, but Will had already noticed her eyes fall to shield her thoughts. His heartbeat elevated a notch and Beverly felt it through her fingertips and the slight gasp through his lips. She was quick to reassure him. "She was, Will, but she's resting now."

It seemed to pacify him, but not for long, "I thought she went home to Betazed."

Beverly smiled wryly and kept it simple, not seeing any reason to tell him anything different or the real reason why, "Change of plan. Lwaxana came aboard instead."

Beverly watched Will's eyes flutter shut and she began to push herself back upright, but suddenly Will's fingers closed around hers holding her fast and she knew the question that was coming.

"Why didn't she keep in contact with me. Why did she lead me to believe she had gone home? I missed her, Beverly, I needed her and all the time, she was here."

Will watched Beverly's features flicker through a myriad of emotions clearly trying to give him an answer. He relieved her of that torment but couldn't hide the bitterness in his words. "Don't bother, Beverly, I'll ask her myself."

But Beverly gasped in horror as she watched the giant, prone man suddenly make to sit up, but before she could force him back down, Will fell backwards, his face going white with the pain that shot throughout his entire body, beads of perspiration dotted his brow.

His groan was laced with terror, "God, what did they do to me?!"

Beverly pressed a hypo to his neck but Will didn't even feel it. All he felt was the burning that ate away at his insides, seemingly setting his entire soul on fire. He'd never felt a pain like it and he took a deep breath to compensate, but only succeeded in making the burning sensation squeeze his throat and he coughed as though he was about to take his last breath. He wished it was for he hurt like the devil.

"For heaven's sake, Will, don't move! We've just spent the past day putting your shoulder back together and I don't want to do it again. Now keep still. You had a very serious knife wound to the deltoideus and on top of that the knife was jagged."

Will searched her eyes as he listened but instinctively knew there was more, just by the way her eyes dulled and he asked the question with dread in his voice, "And...?"

Beverly took a deep breath, "And...the knife was tipped with a poison that on contact began to dissolve tissue, much like an arachnid's digestive system works."

Will asked again, "And?"

Her sigh was heavy but Will read the relief in her words, "We were lucky. You were beamed aboard relatively quickly and we've managed to eradicate the poison and halt its spread. The regenerative process may take a while, hence the pain, but you should recover fully."

Will studied her intently as he listened, trying to deliberate if there was anything else; Any more that he had to endure, until at last, he was satisfied. "Okay."

Beverly patted his hand gently and a half smile relayed her relief that she had appeased him, but as she went to move away, she heard Will's tender voice, "Thanks."

She raised her hand in acknowledgement. It was becoming such a normal frequent occurrence to get Riker out of his various scrapes that she took his gratitude as though he'd just treated her to dinner, not as though she had just saved his life, again! Promptly forgetting Will Riker for the moment, Beverly moved away to attend other pressing matters, like the steady flow of battle worn officers that continued to arrive.

She began to wonder how much more Picard was willing to take before doing something drastic as yet another wave of enemy streamed through the portals.

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