AUTHOR'S NOTES: The lyrics used in this story are from Stevie Nicks' song "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You." Deepest thanks and utmost respect go to this artist for her beautiful words, as no infringement was intended.
Beverly sat in the chair, staring sightlessly into the fire. Shivering, she wrapped the afghan tighter about her body. A single tear slipped down her cheek.
"Child, you need your rest," came the gentle voice, as a cup was molded into her hand. "And you need to keep up your strength. You've a young son who needs you."
"He also needs his father, but that's not possible, is it?" she snapped, shoving the cup away. "I need him, too, but he'll never be with us again."
"Cerridwen, stop!" Felisa's voice was sharp, harsh. "You are being irrational."
"Jack is dead, Nana! Wes has no father! Of course, I'm irrational!" She stood suddenly, feeling suffocated in the cottage. "I need to get out of here."
"Where are you going?"
"Out on the moor." She was nearly out the door.
"When will you be back?"
"Maybe never," came the soft, guilty reply as the door closed.
"Goddess protect you, my child," Felisa murmured. "And may She ease your burden."
Beverly stared pensively out at the horizon, arms curled protectively about her body. She trembled from the cold night air, but didn't care. If she was lucky, she'd fall into a hypothermic shock and die in her sleep. Nana Felisa could care for Wesley.
Hot tears tumbled down her cheeks, her grief overwhelming her. Jack had been dead six months now. Six long, cold, painful months. Alongside his grave, her daughter lay. Her daughter. Just the thought brought fresh, hot tears to her eyes.
"My sweet Isabel," she moaned, her mind's eye placing the tiny infant directly before her, swaddled in the same blanket used for the infant Beverly. The tiny girl had Jack's dark hair, but the green eyes of the Howard women, herself being the only exception.
Every time she tried to get closer, touch her daughter, she was stopped, the babe moving farther away. And with each step, the piteous cries of a truly terrified newborn echoed in Beverly's ears.
"Goddess, why am I tortured so?" she cried out, falling to her knees. "What have I done to deserve this? Let me die in peace."
"It is not yet your time to die, cherished daughter."
Beverly turned to the voice, startled by the concern. "Momma?" She ran to the boulder, fell into the open arms. "Momma, how did you--? How *can* you--?"
"Hush, my child," came the soothing voice, arms gently encircling her. "You're safe."
Beverly wasn't sure how long she cried into the comforting arms, only that she didn't want to leave her mother. Finally, she pulled back to look into the eyes of Isabel Howard. "Momma, how are you here? How did you know to come to me?"
"How could I not, Beverly? Your pain called to me. I couldn't let my little Beverly alone like that."
"But--Momma, you're dead. You've been dead for over twenty years. How?"
"You place so little trust in your faith, Beverly?"
"You said you didn't believe in Nana's ways." Her voice was almost petulant in the face of the reprimand.
"Things change, my sweet daughter," came the reply, a hand tenderly caressing Beverly's cheek. "Your daughter's spirit is weak, Beverly. You must let go of her so she may pass through."
"No, Momma, let me join her...join you. We can be together again, three generations of Howard women." Beverly's eyes lit up at the idea.
A ghost of a smile crossed her mother's face. "As much as I would love it, it cannot be so, Beverly. Your time here is not yet up, and your lesson not yet learned. But I will help the spirit of your daughter cross into her next life if you will but let her go."
"No! Nononono! I won't let you take her from me! She's all I have left!"
"What of your son?"
"No! I won't let you take my little Isabel!"
"Has anyone ever given anything to you
In your darkest hour
Did you ever give it back
Well I have
I have given that to you
And if it's all I ever do
This is your song"
Jean-Luc Picard tossed and turned in his bed, unable to sleep for fear the dreams would return. His blankets were a tangled, sweat-sodden mass binding his limbs to the bed. Perspiration beaded his brow, his throat parched from screaming.
It had been many months since he'd had decent sleep, but lately it was worse. Much worse. He much preferred the insomnia to the tortured nightmares.
He'd relive the mission that proved to be Jack's last. Heard himself give the command that eventually cost him the life of his closest friend. Damned fine officer. Family man.
Family man. Young Wesley. Sweet Beverly. A son without his father. A wife bereft of her loving husband. Alone. Unconsolable. Untouchable.
Untouchable. That sweet, passionate woman. The woman he'd loved from afar for so many years. The woman who haunted his dreams. Inflamed his desires to dangerous heights. He'd had but one night of bliss with her, nearly six years prior. How he craved her touch, wished he'd been more assertive in his need, his love for her then. Had he not been such a gallant coward, she'd have been *his* wife, *his* lover, *his* reason for living.
But alas no. And all this dreaming and hoping wouldn't change all that had happened. He'd made his choice. Beverly had clearly made hers. And now he had to live with the consequences of both. Pining away for Beverly would get him nowhere.
Punching his pillow viciously, he sighed explosively, hoping to fall into a much-needed dreamless sleep. If he went to Greyhorse one more time for a sleep inducement, he'd be relieved of duty.
"Cadwallater to the captain."
"What is it?" he asked gruffly. Perhaps too gruffly.
"There's an incoming transmission from the Caldos colony, sir. It's marked urgent...from Jack's widow."
"I'll take it. Thank you, Cadwallater. Picard out."
He sat up quickly, tearing off the covers. He slipped into his robe, wishing he had the time to dress in his uniform, hide the circles beneath his eyes. But also, it wasn't so.
Padding to the desk, he activated the monitor. Shocked, he sank into his chair. Nothing could have prepared him for the sight before him. The haggard face before him couldn't possibly be Beverly. The long auburn tresses were dulled and hung in lanky strings about her face. The dull pained eyes, once vibrantly, merrily blue, were framed by dark circles, red-rimmed from countless hours of crying, no doubt grieving for her lost husband, never to return. The once porcelain skin was undercast with grey, accentuating the hollowed cheeks. Lips that were never far from a smile were now tight thin lines, predicting no more smiles in the near future. If ever.
"Beverly?" It came out in a hoarse whisper, guilt flooding over him in torrential waves.
Blank eyes met his, then a spark of life, for the briefest of seconds. "Jean-Luc...." Her voice caught in her throat. "Jean-Luc, I need to see you, speak with you."
"I can be there in a day, Beverly." Shining knight in armor to the rescue of his damsel fair. "I didn't know you had gone to stay with your grandmother. How is she?"
"Nana's fine," she snapped. "I'll expect you in twenty-four hours. No one can know you're here. Is that understood?"
He was confused, concerned by her tone of voice, her need for secrecy. "But--"
"If you can't adhere to this one simple request, then don't come at all."
And then his monitor went blank.
He got dressed then, knew there'd be no sleep for him. Not until he discovered the reason for Beverly's odd behavior.
Deep down, he knew this went beyond Jack's death. Far beyond it.
"Yes, Wesley, my boy?"
"Where's Mom?" And then in a smaller voice. "Nana, is she mad at me?"
"No, Wesley, not at all," she replied, pulling the boy into her arms. "Your mother is just needing some time alone, time to sort through her troubles."
"Okay." His face brightened then, fears allayed. "Do you have any more gingerbread, Nana?"
"But of course, but it'll never be as sweet as my Wesley-boy."
He laughed, the pure high sound of a happy, well-adjusted child. "You'd better make more, Nana."
"Why is that? Do you plan on building me a castle of gingerbread?"
"No, Captain Picard's coming to visit," he replied, scampering off to the kitchen.
Felisa stared after him, then watched as her granddaughter walked in the front door. She regarded Beverly with a critical eye, not that of a loving grandmother. She saw how the dress hung limply on the younger woman's body. It was obvious she hadn't slept or eaten in days, even to an outsider it would be plain to see the disregard Beverly afforded herself.
"Cerridwen, where are you headed?"
"To bed," came the dull reply.
Wes stepped out of the kitchen. "Hi, Mom," he said brightly. "Captain Picard's coming to visit us."
"What?" She whirled on him suddenly, anger flaring in her eyes. "What are you talking about?"
Felisa's ire rose at the sight of her great-grandson cowering from his mother. "Wesley, my boy, why don't you go outside and find me some faerie rings? I think I found a few earlier this morning." Smiling gratefully, he left them.
"Why did you do that, Nana?" Anger aimed at Felisa; far better than aiming at the boy.
"He doesn't deserve the treatment you gave him. How dare you--"
"No, Nana, how dare *you*! Wesley is *my* son!"
"I'm glad you're finally realizing that again. What are your plans for today?"
"Sleep. The moor." Then unbidden -- *Jean-Luc's visit.* She shook her head slightly, not wanting anyone to know. "Maybe a walk in the woods."
"What about spending some time with your son? He craves but a moment of your time, Cerridwen. Why can't you give him what he most wants?"
"I can't give him back his father, no one can." She sighed explosively. "Just leave me alone, Nana, please?"
Beverly started to move up the steps, but Felisa grabbed her arm. "Rejoin the living, Cerridwen. Jack is dead. Leave him there. You can't join him."
"It's not Jack I want to join! Why can't you see that?"
Once again Felisa passed a critical gaze over her granddaughter. "Then who? Your mother? I've heard you call out her name late at night."
"Not Momma, not really." Beverly shook her head, erasing the image invading her mind. Isabel Howard holding her infant granddaughter, taking her away. Away from Beverly. Tears sprang forth anew.
"Then who, Cerridwen?"
"My baby girl," she whispered, then repeated herself louder. "My daughter, my unborn child, Jack's last child."
Felisa stared at her, aghast, then slapped her. "How dare you? Have you forsaken *all* that I've taught you? Do you have such little regard for your son that you would choose death over life? Over *his* life?"
"She was my *daughter,* Nana. The next Howard High Priestess, the girl to be dedicated to Her services. And now she's gone. My Isabel's gone. And Momma wants me to let go of her."
Felisa tacitly ignored the question she wanted to ask about her own daughter visiting her granddaughter. There would be time for that later, when Beverly had calmed down. "And she's right. Cerridwen, you cannot impede your daughter's journey into her next life. Nor can you give up your own to join her."
"You don't think it killed me to watch my only daughter, my only child, die of a sickness modern medicine *still* can't cure? Do you know what it did to me to give her the belladonna that finally gave her release?"
Beverly's eyes snapped up to meet her grandmother's. "You killed Momma? You bitch! You cold-hearted bitch! You took Momma from me and now you expect me to let go of my Isabel just as heartlessly?"
Once again Felisa's hand connected with her granddaughter's cheek. "I did as your mother asked. Would you rather she continued to slowly waste away, in obvious pain?" Her eyes blazed green fury. "She willingly gave up her life so that you could live yours. You, your father....me. She knew that we were putting our own lives on hold just to find a way to continue hers. She accepted her fate. She gave us a gift, Cerridwen, a very priceless gift. And now, in letting go of your own daughter, you give yourself the same gift."
Beverly stared at her grandmother for a long moment, then ran to her bedroom, slamming and locking the door behind her.
"And the rain comes down
There's no pain and there's no doubt
It was easy to say
I believed in you
If not for me then
Do it for the world"
Jean-Luc beamed down to the coordinates of Beverly's position. It didn't surprise him in the least that they stood on the cliff. The very place of their passionate coupling six years prior. Only this time he knew no such encounter would transpire.
He found her standing at the edge of the cliff, staring out at the water, wind whipping her hair about. She was tense; he could see it in the set of her shoulders. Yet her very stance screamed her fatigue at him as well. Concern -- and guilt -- welled up within him, spilling out as he spoke her name.
Beverly tensed at his voice. She'd sensed, rather than heard, his arrival only moments earlier. She actually felt the change in energy around her, tasted the salty air of his uniquely tangy presence. So different. So different from Jack. In so many ways. A soft sigh escaped her at opportunities lost. And then panic filled her. Why had she asked him here? To what end? What purpose? What had possessed her?
"I take it you've come alone?" she asked, barely heard over the surf. She was amazed at how steady her voice was.
"I followed your request to the letter," he replied evenly. "As we speak, Stargazer is moving to the maximum distance allowed to receive my signal for transport when we've concluded our business." And he was curious as hell as to their business.
She nodded, turned to face him finally. And all the courage she'd just bolstered died instantly at the sight of him. It had been only six months since she'd last seen him at Jack's funeral, but she'd been too distraught then, having miscarried little Isabel so recently. She'd also had to play the properly mourning widow for all the Starfleet brass that had shown for the horribly ostentatious affair. Now, she was still grieving for her daughter....and for the glimmer of the man Jack had shown her in her daughter's conception.
And now the ache of being here on the cliff, the sweet agony of remembering the last time they'd been here, tortured her. She longed to touch him, to bury herself in his strong, safe arms. But it wasn't to be. They were virtually strangers now.
"Thank you for coming," she said softly, eyes closing briefly.
Her obvious pain cut to his heart, forcing him to move. Cautiously he stretched out a hand, cupping her cheek, thumb brushing away the solitary tear sliding down her cheek. "What's wrong, Beverly? Why am I here?"
"There's something I need you to do for me," she murmured, leaning into his palm unconsciously.
"Anything," he rasped, all his senses trained on their point of contact. He would do anything she asked of him then, even throw himself over the cliff to his death.
"How quickly can you get me back to Earth?"
His eyes snapped up to hers, hand dropping. He'd not expected those words from her lips. Anger welled up within him. She was using him...again. "I beg your pardon? You demand I show up, taking my ship off course to arrive on time, just for free ferry service back to Earth? What kind of fool do you take me for, Beverly Crusher?"
She cringed at her name acidly spat from his lips, took a step backward, away from him. And miscalculated the distance, her foot finding only air, no toehold. Her balance askew, she began to fall, crying out in surprised fear. Immediately, strong arms wrapped about her waist, pulling her back to the safety of solid ground, to the heated comfort of his embrace. Tears sprang to her eyes and tumbled down her cheeks. Frightened tears. Relieved tears. She'd come so close...but he'd saved her. Again. She clung to him, shoulders heaving with the force of her sobs.
Jean-Luc held her tightly, anger dissipating in the face of the very real fear that he could have lost her. "Shh," he murmured, gently lifting her into his arms. Instinctively, she wrapped her arms about his neck, face nestled into the crook of his shoulder. Slowly he moved to sit on the boulder, hands gently rubbing her back in an attempt to calm her down. "Shh, take it easy, Beverly. You're safe now. I've got you, cherie, you're safe now. Everything's alright."
Some moments passed without a sound from Beverly other than her tortured sobs. Worried, Jean-Luc was half-tempted to take her back to the cottage, let Felisa care for the woman. But he couldn't. He couldn't release her. He just continued to hold her, murmuring softly in french of her safety.
"I'm sorry," she finally murmured, but made no attempt to change her position. She felt safe in his arms, as she had in her mother's.
"It's alright," he replied, lifting her chin to gaze into her eyes. "You're alright now. Nothing more than a major fright." He paused a moment, gauging her reaction, then spoke again. "Why do you want me to return you to Earth? Can't you and Wesley take a transport back?"
"Wes isn't coming with me," she replied, finally moving to sit next to him. "This is something I need to do on my own. I need to let go...." A sob filled her throat, but she swallowed it with some difficulty. "It's -- It's been six months. I can't do this anymore. I need -- I need to do as Nana and Momma said. I need to let go, live my life."
Jean-Luc nodded. He needed to do the same. Let go of the memories of Jack. Of Beverly. Now more than ever before, she was off limits to him. Jack's widow. Poor widow of one of Starfleet's best and brightest. He sighed inwardly. "When would you like to go?"
"As soon as Nana agrees to watch Wes." A soft chuckle escaped her lips. "You know, he knew you'd be coming. He told Nana to make more gingerbread yesterday."
"And did she?" He knew well the elder Howard's recipe for gingerbread. It was legendary. When she nodded, his mouth began to water. "Shall we go see her?"
"No!" It came out sharply, fearfully. "I'll just let her know I've arranged transport and that I'll be back in a few days. Go on back to the Stargazer. I'll contact you as soon as things are settled." She stood, lightly brushed her lips across his cheek. "I won't be long, I promise." And then she left him sitting there, staring after her in confusion.
**1 week later, orbiting over Earth**
"Can't this wait until tomorrow, Beverly? There's a torrential downpour down there today."
"No. It has to be today, right now."
Jean-Luc knew better than to fight her stubborn Howard temper. "At least let me come with you?"
She shook her head, her long hair fanning bout behind her, and smiled sweetly. "I appreciate the offer, Jean-Luc, but I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself. Besides this is something I need to do on my own. No offense intended."
"None taken. I would feel better if you had someone with you tho'. Perhaps Cadwallater?"
Again that sweet smile, but determination shone in her eyes. "No, Jean-Luc. I really must do this myself. I'll contact you when I'm finished. I shouldn't be very long. No more than an hour or so."
Knowing better than to fight her, he simply nodded and waited at the console. At her signal, he had her beamed down to her specified coordinates.
** 3 hours later**
Jean-Luc stood in the rain, his personal force field barely standing up under the rain's pressure. His hazel eyes tried to cut through the walls of water surrounding him, desperately searching for Beverly.
After nearly two hours had passed beyond her allotted time without word, he'd ordered her communicator's coordinates found and beamed up to the ship. All that had appeared on the platform was the communicator itself. Worried, Jean-Luc had decided to search for her himself. If her communicator was on the ship, that meant she was utterly defenseless against the elements.
"Beverly!" he called again, moving forward slowly. When he'd checked the coordinates she'd given him, they weren't Jack's grave. So now, he moved in a slow search pattern toward the final resting place of his closest friend. "Beverly! Answer me!" He was nearly at Jack's grave now, and was becoming quite frantic.
Suddenly, he saw her. At the edge of his 'field she lay, soaked to the skin and shivering. Not caring if he got wet, he deactivated the 'field and fell to his knees, pulling her roughly into his arms.
She moaned softly, opened tear-swollen eyes to gaze blankly at him, then murmured, "All alone."
"No, Beverly, you are not alone. You have Wesley, your grandmother...me. You are not alone."
She shook her head weakly, vaguely pointing toward the grave. "No. Not me. Isabel."
"Isabel?" Now he was worried. "Beverly--"
"She's alone and frightened. Momma hasn't come yet. Momma promised she'd guide Isabel though if I let her go. I've waited hours, but she hasn't come yet. She's all alone, Jean-Luc. I can't leave my baby alone like that."
*Baby? What baby?* Jean-Luc feared the storm had made her ill, delirious. "What baby? Wesley's with your grandmother."
"Not Wes. *Isabel.* My daughter. Jack's daughter. I lost her the night you told me Jack had died. I was two months along. I was going to tell Jack about her that night, surprise him."
Jean-Luc bowed his head. "I'm sorry, Beverly. I didn't know. I wish there was something...."
Suddenly she looked up at him, struggling to get away. "It's your fault, Jean-Luc. It's your fault my Isabel's dead." An odd gleam came to her eyes. "You're the reason Momma won't come take Isabel. You haven't given any retribution toward her death."
Jean-Luc was completely baffled. "What sort of retribution are you talking about, Beverly?"
"A life for a life," she said softly, staring off to the left of Jack's grave.
"What? Beverly, that's insane! I am sorry for your double loss, but I'll not give up my life to atone for it."
"But you must give up something for my loss."
He stared at her for a long moment. Suddenly his hand shot out, wrapped itself in her sodden auburn tresses, yanked her head forward. *I sacrifice my heart,* he thought, lips crushing hers, possessing her.
She whimpered softly at the sudden onslaught, but she didn't fight him, didn't fight her deeply rooted feelings for this man. She clung to him, clung to this chance at rebirth...for both of them.
Jean-Luc reached for her, molded her cold body to his, infusing her with his warmth, his love. For her he'd give his life. Not Jack. Not her lost daughter. For her. His Beverly. He groaned softly, tongue gliding past her lips to tangle with hers. Realizing she wouldn't leave him now, his hands released her hair, began refamiliarizing himself with her body.
His hands travelled the contours of her form hungrily, taking in the changes that differed from his memory of her. She was thinner than he'd remembered, her ribs easily felt beneath her full breasts. Her thin dress did little to hide her body from him when dry, but soaking wet it made her almost naked before him.
"Oh, Beverly," he moaned as her teeth moved to nip at his earlobe. Involuntarily, his hands tightened around her breasts, palms pressing against her nipples.
She inhaled sharply, forgot to breathe for a moment, delirious in the sensations coursing through her. And when his warm mouth surrounded her nipple, she cried out. "Now, Jean-Luc," she moaned, grinding against him. "Now! I need you now!"
Not one to turn down his lady love, Jean-Luc grunted his agreement, then sucked in his own breath as she tore at his pants, needing to feel him. A deep shudder ran though him as she released his stiff member. Before he realized what she was doing, she slid down into his lap, engulfing him within her heated depths.
"Oh god, Beverly!" He'd forgotten the sheer exquisiteness of being surrounded by her silken inner heat. His memories did this no justice. He cried out as she began rocking against him, undulating her hips into his.
She was a woman possessed. Possessed with the raw emotions surging within her. A deep ache began to swell within her, overpowering her need to cling to Isabel's memory. And with a loud, triumphant cry, she threw her head back, shaking and clenching tightly about him. And in her mind's eye, Beverly saw her mother carrying her infant daughter away. And it was okay.
At her cry of release, Jean-Luc's hips thrust up, burying his life essence deep within her, his own cry ripped from his lips. He held her tightly as they returned to some semblance of sanity. He felt her shoulders shake, knew she was crying, and guilt washed over him at what they'd done. *What have you done, Jean-Luc? You've crossed the line again. Have to find a way to get out of this now.* He cleared his throat, shifting her in his lap to fix up his pants. "We should be getting you back to the ship, Beverly, before you catch your death of a cold. Greyhorse would kill me if I did that."
Beverly nodded, suddenly quiet again. She turned, crawled a few paces from him, knelt before the ground right next to Jack's grave. Leaning down, she kissed the grass there. "Goddess bless and protect you on your journey of lives, my sweet little Isabel. You shall not soon be forgotten."
"Has anyone ever written anything for you
In your darkest sorrow
Have you ever heard me sing?
Listen to me now
You know I'd rather be alone
Than be without you
Don't you know
So if not for me then
Do it for yourself
If not for me then
Do it for the world
Legend...Poet....Priest of nothing"
**Caldos, 1 week later, full moon**
Beverly looked up into the full round sphere of the moon. A troubled smile paused on her lips. "Great Mother, I know I should thank you for this gift, but I am troubled by it. How is this child to help me? To what purpose is his existence brought to me?"
"You've a great lesson to learn, child," Felisa's voice came from behind her. "Perhaps this child will help you."
Beverly turned to face her grandmother, startled. "Nana!"
"I won't ask of his father or conception. I've no need to delve into your private affairs. I only ask that you be careful and remember your destiny, Cerridwen."
"I will, Nana. But nothing is set in stone, you taught me that as a child. And we must learn what is set before us before we can go on in the journey of lives."