Keep It Precious

by A. Magiluna Stormwriter

Author's Notes: This was written as a sequel to a story written by my friend Jeanna. You don't "need" the original story to read this one, because I made sure to explain my references to it pretty well in here. But, I will give you a quick synopsis of the original story to help you along. The original story was titled "Somewhere I Have Never Traveled..." The basic plot goes something like this. During the fifth season of the series, Deanna and Beverly are sent to a colony planet known as Bidus 5. Bidus 5 is considering application to the Federation, so Bev and Deanna are sent in covertly to "test the waters" and see what the planet is like, sort of a first contact mission. The entire colony is made up of women. Basically you could say this is a lesbian colony, I guess. Suffice it to say, while on this  mission, Bev and Deanna express their feelings for each other, as well as make love. But, when they are recalled to duty aboard the Enterprise, Beverly gets scared and backs off, leaving Deanna in the lurch, basically. My story takes place late in the 7th season, after "Thine Own Self" but before "Journey's End", as Wes doesn't yet know he's a Traveler in this story.

There are some graphic sex scenes in this story. And I will try to put some sort of note about this in the subject line for those sections.


DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns it all, I just borrow it once in a while for my personal enjoyment.

Deanna lay there, unwilling to get up, to move, to break the moment. She felt near tears at the sublime joy this dream had invoked. Wanted so badly to fall back into sleep, back into the sweet oblivion of her dream, to escape what was really happening and be happy again, at peace with herself....and others. Perhaps if she lay perfectly still, she thought childishly. Decided to focus on the dream instead. Closing her eyes again, it came back to her so vividly, it was as if it truly was happening again.

She was dragged out of sleep for some reason unknown. She thought she heard the door open...or did she dream that? "Is someone there?" Receiving no reply, she fell back into sleep. Maybe I dreamt it. Settled back into the cozy nest her covers had become, sighing contentedly. Tranquility washed over her, tinged with love. In her sleep-induced state, she assumed Will was probably dreaming about her again...perhaps not.

Suddenly, a cool breeze penetrated the warm little womb she'd made for herself. Deanna curled into a tighter ball, then felt the bed shift slightly as someone crawled in behind her. Then, the mouth next to her ear began to whisper sweet terms of endearment until she fell asleep again, the one hand lightly caressing her stomach, enveloping her in a cocoon of beautiful love.

Deanna was pulled back out of her reverie by a movement behind her, a pair of arms pulling her close again, just like in her dream.... It wasn't a dream! She stiffened at first, unsure of what was going on. But, as one of those hands slid up to gently cup her breast, she realized just who it was behind her, who'd been in her "dream"...Beverly.

"Good morning, love," Beverly whispered. "I know you're awake."

"What are you doing here?"

"I wanted -- I needed to be with you, Deanna. I didn't want to be alone last night."


"I know what you're thinking. This isn't just a one-night kind of thing, Deanna. I want to be here with you."

"For now."

"Yes, for now...and for as long as you still want me."

"For as long as I still want you? I am a person with needs, and feelings, and desires, not some plaything for your amusement, Beverly," she warned, looking at the older woman briefly. "I've wanted to be with you ever since we returned from Bidus 5, but that wasn't something you were ready for. Are you now or is this just some sort of game to you? String the Betazoid along, perhaps? I'm not willing to play that game, Beverly, with you or anyone else. You know very well that I am a compassionate woman, but this is beginning to try even my patience. So, if all this is going to amount to is a cuddle or a fuck when the mood hits you, just leave."

She tried to pull away, to separate herself from this woman she loved. Bev held her tightly, wouldn't let her go, as she turned Deanna's face toward her. "I'm serious this time, Deanna, listen to my heart. I am."

"Until your head decides to take over again?"

"Damn my head, to hell with my head. I don't care about that anymore. All I care about is you, what I feel for you now. I don't want to lose you, Deanna. I've wasted too much time trying to protect myself, play it safe. I'm too old to worry about what everyone else is going to think. I just want to be happy...."

"And you think that will be with me?"

"Yes, I do. Don't you?"

"I'm not sure."

At Bev's shock, Deanna took the chance to slip out of the bed, away from her lover, away from the feelings beginning to cloud her judgment. She stood by the viewport, trying to find a way out of this uneasy situation. She wanted so for Bev to be serious about this, but she really wasn't sure how the doctor felt, her thoughts were a bit shielded at the moment. To be perfectly honest, Deanna wasn't even completely sure of how she felt herself at the moment. This was something she'd wanted for months now, years even, but would it last? Or would she just get shunned again, hurt again, like the first time? Could she handle the rejection?

Deanna stood there, shivered a bit, debating for a long, tense minute. She truly was at a loss this time. Even her empathic abilities seemingly had abandoned her, leaving her heart and mind to fight it out. Finally, she turned to look at Bev...but she wasn't in the bed. Then, she felt a blanket being wrapped around her shoulders, followed by an almost reluctant squeeze of her shoulders. Turning around, she saw Beverly beginning to walk away, as if to leave.

"Where are you going?"

"Back to my quarters." It was soft, full of rejection. "I guess I was wrong about this, so I'll leave you alone. I'm sorry for bothering you. I'm sorry if I upset you again. I didn't mean to. I thought this was still what you wanted...I thought wrong. Just forget this ever happened, okay?"

"Don't leave, Beverly." Deanna barely raised her voice, but it stopped the older woman from walking out the door. "Can't we talk about this?" She began to make her way toward her one-time lover.

"Why? So you can make me feel even guiltier?"

"No." She stopped, sank onto the bed again. "We need to talk about this."

"What's to talk about, Deanna? Either you want this or you don't. It's that simple."

"No, it's not that simple. Things are different now."


"Why don't you come sit down so we can talk about this?"

"I seem to remember someone once telling me that the time for words was past, that emotions were all that mattered, that actions would tell the story in the end. Was that only for the moment, too? Did you say it only to get me to make love with you?" Her voice was bitter, full of resentment suddenly, her eyes hard blue ice.

"No! You know that's not why I said it."

"Then why did you say it?"

"Because I wanted you to finally admit to me, and to yourself, what you were feeling, what you wanted. And you did--"

"And I am now, but that doesn't seem to matter to you. You just want to be in control of the situation, pull all the strings."

"I can't believe you'd say something like that. That is the furthest thing from my mind, Beverly. I just don't know what's going on right now."

"I love you, Deanna, and I want to be with you. That should be all you need to know. It was back on Bidus 5." The last line was soft, almost timidly said, as Bev turned to walk into the living room.

Deanna followed her out of the bedroom, sat next to her on the couch. She watched as the older woman seemed to curl in on herself, trying to turn her body into a cocoon around her heart, to insulate herself from being hurt again. It obviously wasn't working. Beverly wouldn't look at Deanna, couldn't bring herself to look into those dark eyes again and see the refusal she knew was there. Deanna sensed this, didn't know what to do.

"Beverly, I still love you, I always will. That will never change. I just don't know.... Right now, I can sense that you're feeling rejected, very hurt, because I won't immediately jump back into being your lover again. And you don't like it, do you? You can't stand the fact that I'm rejecting your offer, scorning your love." Bev finally looked at her now, though only for a brief second. But, in that tiny space of time, Deanna felt from the older woman what she needed, and it strengthened her. "It hurts like hell, doesn't it?" Bev nodded reluctantly. "Now, you know how I felt back on Bidus 5. And now, you should know why I'm so hesitant to start this relationship again. It's not that I don't love you, or that I don't want to be with you, Beverly. I just don't want to get hurt again. I'm still not completely over your first rejection, and I was expecting that one."

"You were?"

"I knew how you'd react after the incident with Odan, but I went ahead with it anyway. I guess I was hoping you'd prove me wrong, but you didn't." She paused, swallowing the lump in her throat, steeling herself to continue. "I told you that I never act solely on my own feelings. I knew that, while you would enjoy what we had, your mind wouldn't let you continue with any sort of relationship. You had too many prejudices built into your psychic defenses, prejudices that you had to face and deal with before you would ever be truly happy with what we had, what we shared. I have wanted you to deal with them, not for me, but for you. Ever since we got back, and you'd made your decision, I've felt your torment over our relationship plaguing your heart, because you were torn between the pleasure and the guilt of it. That's from those prejudices you needed to confront. Perhaps you have dealt with them now, and I hope you have, for your sake, your sanity, your peace of mind. I will always treasure what we shared. Those few precious days were more special to me that you will ever know, Beverly."

"Then why won't you say you'll let me be with you again? If it truly meant all that much to you, I'd think you would be jumping at the chance."

"I want it to be kept as precious as it was. And I don't want to be hurt again. I fear that this will just be a few clandestine rendezvous when your heart or your libido overcome your head, that you won't commit yourself to the enormity of what you'll be getting into. I've already told you that what I feel for you is not casual in any way. If it were solely my decision, we would have kept to those vows we made our last night on the planet, even when we returned to the ship, no matter who found out. Will knew right away, said he'd been expecting it, and he even gave his blessing. But, your defenses and your prejudices flared up, and I had no choice. I just accepted it, I didn't agree with it, I didn't want it, but I accepted it. I had to, or else I would have gone crazy, pining away for you. I don't want to do that again, Beverly. At this point in my life, it has to be all or nothing, either we are in a truly steadfast relationship or we are simply co-workers and friends. There can be no middle of the road, for either of us, it would never work."

"It might...."

"No, it wouldn't, and you know that. The way I feel for you...a few nights of casual fucking here and there would just tear me apart, because I would want more, I would want a commitment that you can't give me. I just don't think it would work out for us unless we truly committed ourselves to the solemnity of the vows we made on Bidus 5."

Beverly suddenly stood up, walking toward the door. Deanna was about to beg her not to leave when she watched the older woman reach for something by the door, then return to kneel r next to her, digging in the bag she held.


The older woman waved for her to be silent, intent on what she was doing. Deanna watched in wordless wonder as Bev pulled from the bag a small candleholder, two smaller white candles in holders, a small laser, and another some thing, which was put back in the bag before Deanna could determine what it was. As Bev put the candle on the coffee table, Deanna immediately recognized it as the replication of the Howard family heirloom she'd inherited from her grandmother. She watched as Bev set the candles on either side of it, then lit the wick with the laser. "Computer, dim lights." And then, the candle was the only source of light around them. Deanna could see the stars through the viewport, and suddenly felt transported back to the planet, to the night they'd truly stated their feelings for each other. She immediately knew what Beverly was doing, how perfectly serious she was this time, and it brought tears to her eyes. At that moment, her empathic sensibilities came back full force, flooding her heart with the rich, heady love emanating from Beverly. She noted a hesitancy and fear staining the beauty of her devotion, knew it was because of the conversation they'd just had.

Beverly stared at the candle's flame for a long moment, calming herself, preparing for what she was about to do. This was the ultimate leap of faith. Her heart was at its most vulnerable state...if Deanna rejected her now, it would surely kill her. She hesitated, unsure if she should continue. No turning back now, Bev, she thought to herself. If you don't do this now, you never will...and you'll regret it for the rest of your life. She picked up one of the smaller candles, lit the wick from the candle's flame. Both women watched the tiny flame sputter, then come to life, burning brightly, but lonely, oh so lonely. Without thinking, Deanna reached for the candle's twin, wishing to make it whole, but Bev stopped her hand, shook her head. Holding the younger woman's hand tightly -- whether for support or to keep her from leaving, she wasn't sure -- she took a deep, steadying breath. When she spoke, her voice was soft, barely above a whisper, but it thundered in her ears.

"I proclaim for my sister and my very best friend, Deanna Troi. I love her beauty, inside and out, her undying friendship, and, most of all, her infinite compassion and understanding. I love her for teaching me how to be spiritually whole again, how to live life to the fullest, how to savor each moment for what it is, and especially how to accept and cherish love, no matter where it comes from." She wanted to look at Deanna, but couldn't, somehow believing it would break the mood. "I don't know how else to say this, except...I love her. I love her so very much, and I think I would die if I couldn't be with her, be surrounded by her love, ever again. I love you, Deanna." She stopped then, unable to go on, overcome by the strength of her emotions, tears freely spilling down her cheeks.

Deanna sat there for a moment, stunned by the unequivocal candor and eloquence with which Beverly had spoken. She knew implicitly that every word had come from the very depths of the older woman's soul, and that revelation brought tears of joy to her own eyes. Now it was up to her. Without reservation, she slid down to kneel next to her friend -- and now her lover again -- and took up the remaining candle, never letting go of the hand that held hers so tightly. The candle wavered a bit as she tipped it to receive its life sustaining flame from its twin. The flame took immediately, almost leaping out toward its mate, seemingly wanting to combine and become one for eternity. It was, Deanna realized, as if the flames were extensions of the two women's souls, two yearning to become one. Then, a bit shocked at the revelation, she decided to let Beverly know irrevocably what she truly meant to her. It took a mere second to find the right connection, though it felt like an eternity. I love you, my imzadi. Beverly's head snapped up, awe filling her blue eyes, confirming for Deanna that she'd heard.

"I accept and proclaim for my beautiful imzadi, Beverly. I love her for more reasons and in more ways than I could ever hope to express. She is also a beautiful person, inside and out, filled with an unswerving sense of loyalty and devotion for her friends and family that is almost unnerving. I have loved her for years, but never made known my true feelings for her until we were on Bidus 5, choosing instead to revel in the simple joy of her nearness. Now, once again, I am letting her know how truly precious she is to me, how I, too, would die if I couldn't be with her ever again. I have waited for this day for so long, this day when Beverly finally would accept her feelings and come back to me. I almost feared it would never happen, but it has, and I couldn't be happier. Now, I can be with my imzadi again." Deanna paused for a breath here, formulating her thoughts further. "Only one other person has had the honor of being imzadi to me, and he has already wholeheartedly given his blessing to this relationship. Most people only get one imzadi in their lifetime, if they are lucky enough to find that person. I have been blessed enough to have and find two. Even more so, I have been blessed enough to keep both so close to my heart at the same time. I made mistakes with the first, reducing our relationship to friendship. But, as all things have a reason for happening, perhaps that, too, was meant to be, so I could learn what true love was, enough to recognize it when it eventually came along. And now it has...with this woman next to me. I love you, Beverly, my beautiful, sweet imzadi, for now and forever."

Neither woman spoke for a long moment, neither could, simply staring deeply into each other's tear-filled eyes over the wavering candle flames. Then, as one, they placed the candles in the holders on the table before clasping both hands. Still, they just sat there, unable to do anything else. Finally, Bev brought both of Deanna's hands to her lips, gently kissed each palm before releasing them. She reached behind her, pulled something from the bag.

"Close your eyes, love," she whispered. Deanna immediately obeyed. Bev turned back to face her lover, just stared at her for a moment before she spoke again. "I am so glad, Deanna, that you want to be with me as much as I want to be with you. You just can't know how much this means to me."

"But I can, and I do."

Bev hushed her, two fingers over the younger woman's lips. Deanna, feeling playful, gently sucked the tip of one of those fingers into her mouth. Beverly moaned softly, fighting to pull her finger free. "Not now, love, not yet. There's something else I need to say to you first.... Deanna, I love you, very much, and I don't care who knows about it. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever known and I am so very privileged to be able to say you are my lover and my love. I have denied you, my love, of what you've wanted for so long, but no more. And to prove it, I want you to have this symbol of my love for you."

She took Deanna's left hand in hers and, with trembling hands, slipped a ring onto her finger. Deanna's eyes flew open instantly to rest on the ring. It was a slim silver band, on which was centered a perfect amethyst heart with a tiny diamond on either side.

"Oh, Beverly...." she moaned, overtaken with emotion.

"I know. It should be gold, normally it would be gold, but we're not a normal couple, are we?"

"Is this...? Does this mean what I think it means?"

"What do you think it means, love?" Bev asked, moving to sit against the couch, pulling Deanna into her arms. The younger woman nestled close, her head next to Bev's heart, as the doctor gently stroked her lover's hair.

"I think it means my fantasy is coming true. This engagement ring?" It was a tentative question, and she wouldn't look up at Beverly.

"If that's the way you see it, that's what it is. As far as the sentiment that goes along with it, this is more like a promise ring. But then, all engagement rings are promise rings, aren't they, promising marriage?"

Deanna pulled back enough to look up at her. "Are you saying that you want to...get married?" At the older woman's nod, she sighed. "Are you sure you want to do this, Beverly? I mean, you seem to be moving so fast, trying to cram every major part of a relationship into this one morning. Maybe we should take our time with this. I mean, it's not like we're just having a casual fling here. I'm hoping that we'll be together for a long time."

"I know that, Deanna, but I love you. I just...I don't want to lose you, darling, I want to know that you will always be here when I need you, and I guess formalizing our relationship through a marriage of sorts is one way to do that."

But it's not the only way, imzadi. It was getting easier to find that connection they now shared, to use it. I will always be just a thought, a heartbeat away.

"I know. I guess I just want...."

This time, it was Deanna who hushed her lover, with a gentle I know what you want...and with a kiss. It was a gentle kiss, a rekindling of the love they'd shared once before. They broke off the kiss, then moved closer together, just enjoying the close contact once again. Beverly's hand slid up to cup Deanna's breast, could feel her nipple stiffen through the light silk of her nightgown. This made Deanna shiver, though whether from pleasure or the sudden chill in the air, the doctor couldn't be sure. Bev grabbed the discarded blanket and wrapped it around their bodies, pulling Deanna even closer, then returned her hand to the counselor's breast. This time, she slid her hand inside the nightgown, lightly stroking the soft surface of her breast, as her mouth returned to the dark warmth of Deanna's lips. Once again, they shared an intimacy that transcended any other relationship either had ever had.

As they kissed, Deanna's hands moved up to unbutton Beverly's pajama top. Deftly, she slid the material aside as she began to nibble at the doctor's earlobe, occasionally slipping her tongue into the delicate shell of her ear. Then, suddenly, she swooped down to take one of Bev's erect buds between her lips. The doctor cried out in ecstasy, having missed this for so long, involuntarily pinching the nipple between her fingers.

"Oh, Beverly," the younger woman moaned against the pale softness of Bev's breast. "I do love you so much, but--"

"But what?" she asked, then sighed as Deanna's hand lightly stroked between her legs. She stood then, pulling Deanna up with her. Once again, their lips met in a fevered kiss, then Bev knelt in front of her lover, lifting the nightgown at the same time. She nuzzled her face in the musky warmth as Deanna spread her legs wider, almost eagerly. She placed gentle kisses over Deanna's belly, delighting in the quivers they produced, then snaked her tongue through the pubic thatch before delving into the wet, deliciously wet lips. She gently teased the swelling clitoris, then slid down to dip her tongue into the well, pulling forth the sweet nectar pooling there. It had such a heady flavor, almost overwhelming, and made Bev feel as though this was her first time going down on another woman all over again. And she reveled in the sensation, poured everything she felt for this woman into this act of love.

"Oh, imzadi," Deanna moaned, hands gently urging the doctor's mouth back toward her clit, nearing her climax. "Oh, yes, imzadi."

"Picard to Counselor Troi."

The two women froze at the captain's hail, unable to move or even speak.

"Yes, Captain?" Deanna finally managed to get out.

"I'm sorry to bother you on your days off, but there's been a meeting scheduled for the senior staff in fifteen minutes. Your presence is required."

"I understand, Captain." Anger pierced her mental shielding, directed from her lover toward their captain.

"Good. Um, Counselor, do you happen to know where Dr. Crusher is? Her presence is also required for this meeting."

"She's here, sir. We were...just about to sit down to eat breakfast." A brief smile played across Bev's face at that remark.

"I apologize for disturbing your breakfast, ladies. I will see you at the meeting. Picard out."

Bev barely gave him the chance to end his transmission, when her mouth was back between Deanna's legs, her lips firmly massaging the younger woman's hard little clit. Deanna's fingers wound themselves into her lover's red-gold mane, needing something to steady herself with, as her orgasm rolled over her in pounding waves.

Slowly, Deanna came down from her euphoria as Beverly gently lowered her to the floor next to her, once again pulling the blanket around them. Bev held her close, stroking her hair, calming her down. Deanna lifted her head to look at Bev, received the kiss she knew Bev wanted to give her. The Betazoid, tasting herself on her lover's mouth, sighed contentedly.

"I don't know about you, but that was a pretty good breakfast," Bev said, lightly caressing Deanna's cheek.

"I'm glad you liked it," Deanna murmured sleepily.

"Hey, Deanna, don't fall asleep on me. We have a meeting to go to."

"I know," she grumbled, then sat straight up. "You don't have a uniform!"

"Yes, I do. I changed when I got in here last night."

"Why didn't you say anything last night when I called out?"

"Wanted to surprise you," she replied sheepishly. "We have ten minutes to get dressed before we have to leave, you know."

"Aww! No time for a shower?"

"Later, love, I promise."

* * * * *

"And now, if there's nothing else, this meeting is adjourned. I thank you all for your input," Jean-Luc Picard said, scanning the faces around the table, then looked specifically at Bev and Deanna, "especially those of you on your days off."

Everyone began to get up when Bev spoke up. "Everyone, I'm having a little senior staff get-together later this evening on Holodeck Three at 2000 hours. I hope you all can make it. It's casual dress, but a nice casual."

"It sounds like a stunning fete, Doctor," Picard added, then continued in a more serious tone. "Could I speak with you for a moment, Doctor?"

"Of course, Captain," she replied, moving to sit next to him as the others left the room. "What is it you wanted to talk about, Captain?"

"May I inquire as to the readiness of your plans?"

"Things are going wonderfully, Jean-Luc. Are things progressing well on your end?"

"Of course."

Meanwhile, Will caught up with Deanna outside the conference room. "Deanna?"

"Yes, Will?" she asked absently, not really looking at him.

"Mind if I walk you back to your quarters?"

"Of course not, Will," she replied, then impulsively wrapped her arms around his arm. "What's on your mind, Will?"

"Actually, I was going to ask you the same thing," he replied as they stepped into the turbolift. "You seem rather...chipper this morning. Might I ask why?"

"You may, but I might not answer."

"And why not?" he asked as they exited the 'lift and made their way to Deanna's quarters.

"Because maybe it isn't any of your business, Will," she replied sweetly, entering her quarters, going toward the replicator. "Would you like something to drink?"

"A good old-fashioned glass of orange juice sounds good right about now."

"Computer, one glass of orange juice, extra pulp, and one cup of darjeeling tea, with cream." When the drinks appeared, she picked them up and turned to see Will going to sit down...on the couch. Oh, gods, no! We never picked up... she thought to herself, remembering that they'd only had enough time to get dressed and leave.

"What's all this, imzadi?" he asked lightly, picking up the blanket, then suddenly seemed to become embarrassed. "Were you...entertaining last night?"

"You already know the answer to that, Will," she replied, trying to be nonchalant, as she sat down by him. "So why bother to ask?"

"Might I inquire as to who you were with?" he asked, grinning.

"We don't owe each other any explanations or names regarding our sex lives, Will Riker. I can't believe you'd even ask me that question."

"Alright, I apologize for my incredible lack of tact. Can I ask another question?" She nodded, flashing him a warning glare before she took a sip of her tea. "So, how long have you and Beverly been lovers again?" Deanna nearly choked on her tea at that question.

"Wh--what?" she finally stammered, but wouldn't look at him.

"Don't try to hide it, Deanna. It's obvious, I can see it written all over your face. And if I couldn't see it so clearly, I would know anyway, because of how close we are." He paused for a moment, grinning. "You know, there's something I've been wondering about, and I was hoping you'd help me find an answer." Deanna nodded again, more than slightly suspicious. "Now, I admit my mind wanders a bit from time to time during the senior staff briefings. But, well...I swear I saw you and Beverly holding hands at one point during this morning's briefing...that or I fell asleep and dreamt it, but I don't think that's what happened. So what's the scoop, kiddo?"

Deanna sighed, set her cup down, wouldn't look at Will. She had never had any problems being honest with Will before, but, for some reason, it was hard being honest with him about this. "Beverly and I are lovers again, Will, as of last night." Her eyes went to the ring on her finger. Will's gaze followed hers; his jaw dropped at the sight of the ring.

"What the hell is this?" he demanded, grabbing her hand. He took her face in his other hand, looked deep into her eyes, searching.... "Is this...from Beverly?" Deanna simply nodded, still overcome by emotion at the sight of the ring. "You two really are serious this time, aren't you?"

"I guess we are." It didn't come out with quite the right amount of enthusiasm that Will had expected.

"What's the problem, Deanna?"

"She is imzadi to me, Will, just as you are...more than you are, but--"

"But what?"

"I'm afraid she's going to regret this, back out of it when she realizes what she's gotten herself into," Deanna said softly, then looked up into his eyes, tears beginning to cloud her own. Will took her in his arms, trying to comfort her. "Will, I can't handle another rejection like that. I'm not kidding when I say that it will just kill me if she walks away again."

"I already told you, my imzadi, promised you that I won't leave you this time, not unless I die," Beverly said softly, suddenly on Deanna's other side.

Will could see the tears filling her eyes, too, and knew that the two women needed to be alone, needed to talk. He gently put Deanna into Beverly's arms, kissing both their foreheads, before he stood up. "I'll leave you two alone now to work things out. Good luck and congratulations, both of you, and I will see you this evening at the party." With this, he left the room, going to his own quarters to think.

The two women just held each other, crying, trying to find comfort in their closeness. Deanna clung to Beverly, afraid to let go, afraid to find herself alone again. Bev could feel this, could actually feel the desperation and fear in the younger woman, knew that Deanna was terrified to lose her lover. The doctor just held Deanna closer, tighter in her warm, comforting embrace, hoping it would be enough to quell the younger woman's fears, knowing it wasn't enough. Instinctively, she knew that she would be feeling the same way if their places would be reversed. This knowledge frightened the doctor like nothing else had in a long time.

"Deanna, I promise you, I am not going to leave you. I thought the ring would be sufficient enough proof of that. I don't know how else I can convince you of this. imzadi, you mean the world to me. How could I ever leave someone who means that much to me?"

"You did it once already." It was soft, murmured into the crook of Bev's neck, at the same time causing a pang of guilt and a shiver of delight in the doctor. "How am I to know it won't happen again?"

"I don't know," she finally said, though still lost in thought. "What if I were to tell you that there'd be no more sex, that I just want to be with you."

At this, Deanna pulled back to stare at her lover. "Come on, Beverly, be serious."

"No, Deanna, I am serious. I would be willing, albeit reluctant, to give up sex for as long as you decide, forever if need be, just to prove how seriously I'm taking this relationship. If this is what I need to do to prove to you that I'm serious, then what we did this morning was the last time we'll ever make love again."

"Are you sure about this?"

No hesitation whatsoever. "Positive. It's up to you where we go from here, Deanna. I will respect your wishes, implicitly."

The Betazoid sat there for a few moments, mulling this over. On the one hand, Beverly was right, this would establish the truth of her intentions. On the other hand, could Deanna really deny her lover - or herself -- the sheer pleasure derived from the passion that burned between them? While this option would unerringly solidify their commitment to each other, Deanna knew she'd never be able to follow through with it. Not that their relationship was based purely on sex, but, truth be told, she loved loving this woman, loved pleasuring her for hours on end. No, as much as she wanted to, Deanna knew she couldn't hold Beverly to this deal. She would just have to believe Beverly, trust that they could make this work. to tell her? She didn't want to just blurt it out, nor did she want to take a long time about it and make Beverly suffer, agonize over what decision would be made. Or did she? Beverly had made her suffer while trying to come to terms with her feelings and her needs. But, could Deanna purposely be that cruel? She knew Bev hadn't been cruel to her on purpose during her time of indecision, yet sometimes it had felt precisely that way. Maybe she could make Bev suffer, just a little bit, teach her a lesson on being more careful with the things she promised. Nothing too painful or degrading, of course. That could come later...provided Bev was willing.

Deanna stood, went to the viewport and stared at the passing stars for a while. She wanted Bev to think she was seriously debating this issue. In actuality, she used the time to calm down, re-center herself, and get used to the fact that Beverly was back for good now, back in her bed -- if she so chose -- and, most importantly, back in her heart to stay. No more wishful thinking, no more lonely sleepless nights, no more remembering their brief time as lovers, no more waiting. No more. Beverly was here, wanted to be here, wanted to openly be with Deanna, no matter what anyone else thought. That should be all that mattered at this point, and it was.

She'd made up her mind, now she had to act on it. She walked to the replicator, ordered a plate of osgoid and two mugs of hot chocolate. Turning to rejoin Beverly on the couch, she locked the door, but her red-haired lover made no acknowledgment of this act. As she sat down, she saw that Bev was deep in thought and very still, so much so that Deanna briefly toyed with the idea of checking for a pulse. This made Deanna begin to rethink her plan. Maybe she'd taken too long already, or.... Or maybe Beverly was already reconsidering their relationship.



"Is something wrong? Have I done something to upset you?"

Bev noticed the look of fear in her eyes, smiled ruefully. "No, darling, it's not you. It's me. I'm just...."

"You aren't reconsidering, are you? You do still want to be with me, don't you?" It was a soft, apprehensive question, with no eye contact whatsoever.

"Of course, I do, love," Beverly replied, wrapping her arms around Deanna's slight frame. "I will never go back on that promise I made to you this morning. My vows were from the heart, and my heart wants me to be with you. Okay?"

"Okay," Deanna replied, pausing. "Were you really serious about what you said before? The no more sex thing?"

Bev nodded. "But you don't need to give me an answer to that immediately, Deanna. This is a major decision, and I don't want you to be rushed into something you don't want."

Deanna smiled gratefully. "You look beat, imzadi," she replied as she stood, walked around the couch and began to massage her best friend's shoulders, then continued impishly. "Perhaps it would be best if we lay off the sex for a while. If you're this worn out from this morning, I don't think you could keep up with me when I get truly aroused."

"Like when you go into 'The Phase'?"

"No, I'm talking about when I get truly sexually aroused by you. I know Will couldn't take it all the time."

"All the time?" Bev swallowed audibly.

Deanna smiled and continued, ignoring her. "Believe me, Beverly, when I go into phase, you'll want to stay as far away from me as possible. If you try to keep up with me then, or try to keep satisfying me, it will kill you for sure. Not many non-Betazoids have the stamina. Of course, there are some Betazoids who can't keep up with our women at that time either."

"Are you saying I should just admit I'm old and not even try to please you anymore?" Bev pouted, crossing her arms over her chest.

"No, imzadi," Deanna whispered, leaning close to Bev's ear. In the process, her breasts brushed lightly against her lover's hair and shoulders. Deanna practically felt the electric shock of desire that ran through Beverly at that contact. Its very essence nearly made her faint. Could she go through with this after all? "I'm not saying that at all. I'm just saying that perhaps we should take it easy for a while, just enjoy being together again, rather than immediately trying to cure our lustful thoughts for each other. I mean, it has been a while since we were last together, and a lot of things have changed for us. And we definitely need to get used to being public about our relationship. That's going to cause a number of situations we aren't necessarily ready to deal with yet."

As she spoke, her hands continued to massage Bev's shoulders and upper arms, occasionally slipping around to caress her collarbones. Her cheek rested on the crown of Bev's head, reveling in the silkiness of the luxuriant red-gold tresses. She noted that Beverly sat very stiffly, unwilling to move, and she felt the desire building in her lover, knew it mirrored her own. So far, so good, she thought to herself as she gently caressed the back of Bev's neck with one hand. With the other, she unzipped the jacket of her uniform, then slipped it off. As she did this, she nuzzled at the side of Bev's throat, eliciting a moan from the redhead. But still, Bev wouldn't move. Quietly, Deanna's clothes landed in a pile on the floor until she only wore her purple lace teddy. When they were dressing for the meeting, Bev had found it and wanted her to wear it, and, of course, she complied. She moved Bev's hair to the side, nuzzling further, pushing her lover forward a bit, then her hand slid down to unzip Bev's jacket. She eased her hand around to unhook the snaps on the front of Bev's bra, freeing her full breasts.

Bev leaned back, her eyes closed in ecstasy, yearning for Deanna's gentle touch. She reached back to caress her way up Deanna's arms to the lovely hair, and was shocked to find those arms bare. She turned around to see the scantily clad Betazoid standing there, a look of pure, blissful lust on her face. Beverly forced herself to speak, though her voice came out in a low, throaty whisper. "Come here, my lover, so I can appreciate and love you properly."

Deanna stood there. Inside, she was a mess of jumbled nerves. Part of her knew she had to stay where she was, to finish out her little plan. But the other, lusty part of her wanted to vault over the couch and between Beverly's lovely, tapered legs. It felt as if her internal battle raged on for years, but only a few seconds after Bev made her demand, Deanna gave her reply. "No."

"No? No? What do you mean, no?"

"I mean, I want you to think for a moment."

"Deanna, thinking is at the last thing on my mind right now. All I want to do is grab you, rip off that scrap of lace, and ravage you like no one ever has before."

"But, what if I were to tell you that I'd made my decision, that I want you to give up sex to prove your commitment to me? Then what would you do?"

"First, I'd call you a dirty, rotten clit tease, then I'd grab you and make love to you anyway, make you change your mind," she rasped, staring hungrily at Deanna's erect nipples under her teddy. "Oh, god, Deanna, please tell me you didn't choose that option," she suddenly begged. "I swear I'll die right now if I can't have your lovely body to satisfy my lust."

Deanna stepped back from the couch as Bev tried to grab her. She could see the passion burning in the doctor's eyes, knew how primal the sex would be if she let Bev get hold of her, and knew that there was no way she could fight off her lover now, no way to deny her what she wanted so badly. She smiled at Bev, held out her arms. "I could never live with myself if I knew I'd killed you by with holding sex. Besides, I'd probably die right along with you. No, my lover, I cannot hold you to your promise of abstinence, because I can't hold myself to it."


"Mm-hmm. So...get out of that uniform and get your lovely body over here," Deanna replied, backing into her bedroom. She could hear Bev tripping and swearing as she struggled to get undressed as soon as possible. Then, as she leaned back on her bed, her eyes closed, she heard Bev come into the room. Come here, my love, come to me and come with me, she whispered in her lover's head.

"Gladly," Bev groaned, climbed on the bed, her mouth searching out Deanna's. As their tongues fenced with each other, her hand slid down under the material between Deanna's legs, her fingers slipping easily into the moisture there. Deanna's muscles clenched tightly, temporarily trapping her fingers, causing a simultaneous sigh of joy from both women. Bev began to plunge her fingers into the warm wetness of her lover, her lips traveling to the hollow between Deanna's breasts. In no time, Deanna was squirming and gasping, in the throes of her orgasm, completely trapping the hand between her legs. Bev held her close as she trembled and quivered her way down from her pinnacle. When Deanna's legs relaxed, Bev slipped the tiny lace teddy off her lover's body, then spread Deanna's legs and kissed her way down to the steaming vee there. She began to nuzzle her way between the puffy lips when Deanna pulled her head up.

"Let me share this with you," she murmured, reaching for her lover.

Bev immediately capitulated, climbing on top of her petite lover. As she returned to the pussy below her, she felt Deanna's finger move the crotch of her panties aside, then Bev sighed deeply at the feel of Deanna's tongue on her clit. Two mouths stimulated two pussies in a series of nibbles, licks, bites, and sucks, as if performing a choreographed dance for tongues. Deanna came first, pinning Bev's head between her legs, then Beverly came almost immediately afterward. Both bodies writhed against each other, creating delicious, sweaty friction that spurred them on further. Bev gasped in delight when she felt Deanna's finger gently push its way into her tight anus, while her tongue gently licked Bev's juices from her drenched pussy.

Bev lay there, cheek on Deanna's soft thigh, lightly fingering the lips there, and basked in the glow of the tender, arousing ministrations of her lover. She couldn't have moved if she'd wanted to, not even for a red alert or an auto-destruct command. I wish we could just stay here like this forever, she thought to herself.

So do I, my imzadi, Deanna's voice rang in her head, so do I. Deanna gently slid her finger further into Bev's tight ass, as she slipped the other three fingers into Bev's juicy warmth, her mouth still suckling the lovely, hard, throbbing clit. Her other hand slid between their bodies to gently tease first one pale nipple, then the other. She was so intent on her pleasuring of her lover, she wasn't even aware of Bev's fingers on her own clit.

The need for release built in the redhead as her climax neared, and Beverly's body began to tense and quiver. Deanna's pussy was entirely forgotten as Bev rocked backward, trying to suck into herself the hand and mouth causing her so much pleasure, and got herself up into a crouch, enabling her to push toward Deanna's face and hand even more, coming ever closer to her release.

And suddenly, she was there, screaming out Deanna's name in ecstasy, her body jerking and spasming over her lover's face. Deanna nearly came from the intensity of her lover's orgasm. Deanna removed her hand from Bev's still spasming pussy and ass, only gently licking her clit, trying to help her down from this incredible high. But, Bev remained locked in that position, quivering and whimpering, stuck in a loop of ecstasy.

Deanna eased out from under Beverly's body and saw the look of pure, unadulterated lust and joy on her lover's face. It made her look years younger, completely stress-free. In short, she looked more beautiful than Deanna had ever seen her look. Knowing that she was the cause of this brought tears of joy to the Betazoid's eyes. That she could make her flame-haired goddess feel so free, so uninhibited, so happy, it gave Deanna a new reason for living. If it killed her, she would see to it that Beverly always looked this beautiful, this carefree. Then she felt Bev's fatigue, though the redhead still hadn't stopped shaking. Deanna took her lover into her arms, gently eased her under the covers, never let her go. She whispered softly into Beverly's ear, calming her, soothing her, in effect, wrapping her in the same circle of love she'd put Deanna into the night before. She could sense Beverly's desire to repay her lover for the incredible act of love she'd just received. Part of Deanna wanted Beverly to reciprocate, but she knew that it would be much better for both of them if they got some rest first. Besides, they would have ample time in the future for sexual recompensation.

Sleep now, my imzadi, she whispered in Beverly's mind. Sleep now and dream of our future together. And know that I love you, more than life itself, my beautiful, sweet, precious imzadi.

Satisfied that Beverly was soundly asleep and wouldn't wake for quite some time, Deanna rested her cheek next to Bev's forehead, closed her eyes and fell into her own deep, dreamless sleep.

Deanna awoke nearly four hours later, relaxed, filled with a feeling of total inner peace, something she hadn't honestly felt in quite some time. She gazed at Beverly, brushed back a lock of the red-gold hair. Bev was contentedly sleeping, curled into a ball next to Deanna. Somehow, Deanna believed she and Beverly would never be able to live without each other's constant close contact. Part of her wished they could just resign from Starfleet and return to Bidus 5, return to the idyllic world where their love for each other was first mutually realized. But, she also knew how integral their friends were to their lives. After nearly seven years, they had become a family, a true family of friends.

Their friends.... How would they react to this news? This relationship? There would definitely be some problems in adjusting to their affair. Not that their friends were prejudiced toward gay or lesbian romances, they just hadn't been exposed to it all that much, to the best of her knowledge. Will was the most accepting and understanding. In fact, he was intrigued, aroused even, by the concept of their relationship, their lovemaking in particular. But she knew he would be a constant source of support, for both of them. Geordi would probably have questions about it, which he would discreetly ask them, but he would accept it. Worf would react somewhat similarly. Deanna knew he would have problems with this, because of their own stormy courtship, but he wouldn't vent his feelings in public. He would be an honorable Klingon and discuss his concerns with them in private, if he chose to discuss them at all. Captain Picard would probably prove to be the real problem regarding her relationship with Beverly, mainly because of his prior, involved history with the red-haired doctor. Deanna knew Data would have no qualms about it. In fact, he'd probably start listing other well-known lesbians in history.

That got Deanna thinking. Were she and Beverly truly lesbians in the clinical definition of the word? Or were they simply two people who truly loved each other, wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, and just happened to both be women? Then again, did it really matter? Not to Deanna, not really. Her Betazoid upbringing allowed her much self-expression and experimentation, in all aspects of life, including her sexuality. She'd experimented a bit as a child, but Beverly was her first real female lover, this her first committed relationship with another woman. She was pretty sure the doctor had never been with another woman before their time on Bidus 5. But she had her suspicions that Bev fantasized about Odan, in all three of the host bodies they'd seen on the Enterprise, including Kareel. Bev had never said as much, but Deanna knew her lover pretty well. She'd suspected Bev was at least curious about her own sexuality, whether she'd admitted it or not, and her attraction to Kareel Odan scared her. Just as Beverly had been afraid of her feelings for Deanna. Thank the four deities, Deanna had given Beverly the time and space she'd needed to come to terms with her feelings.

Beverly stirred, molding her body to the lush curves of Deanna's form. She nuzzled her head closer into the curve of Deanna's neck, her lips seeking out one of the now-stiffening nipples. Deanna sighed as Bev's lips closed on the dark bud. She knew Bev was dreaming, and probably wouldn't wake up, unless she decided to wake her lover up for another round of lovemaking. Tempting as that thought was, Deanna knew they'd need their rest now, need their emotional strength to face their friends' reactions to their announcement. Reluctantly, Deanna slid down to be level with Beverly, shivered when her nipple was forced out of the warm wet mouth and into the cool air. She lifted Bev's head, gently brushed the still-parted lips with her own, then placed the head back against her shoulder, cradling her lover close. Go back to sleep, imzadi, I will be here when you wake up, I promise, she murmured mentally as she fell back into sleep, comforted by the feel of Bev nestled so close to her.

* * * * *

"Crusher to Picard."

"Picard here. Doctor, I can barely hear you."

Beverly pulled the warm wool robe closer to her naked body. Thank God, Deanna'd had it in her closet. "Sorry, Jean-Luc, but Deanna's nearby, so I can't say too much." It was the truth: Deanna was peacefully sleeping in the bedroom. "I was just wondering if those important shipments I requested made it or not."

"Yes, Beverly," he replied softly, "they're here." Did she detect a note of irritation in his voice? Or was it chagrin? "They're being well taken care of until you have the chance to put them to use."

"Thank you, Jean-Luc. I can rest easy now, and finish getting ready for the party. We only have two hours left and, of course, the hostess and her guest of honor can't be late."

"Does Deanna know this party is in her honor? That it's for her promotion to full commander?"

"As far as she knows, this is just a little get-together among friends. Well, I must go. I'll see you later, Jean-Luc." She no more than ended the communication when she heard Deanna shuffle out into the living room. She turned to see the Betazoid wearing a short silk robe that barely covered her succulent body. The desire rose in her again, but she managed to control it, knowing they would be together for a long time. She went to Deanna, took her in her arms, gently kissing the sleep-warmed forehead. "Have a nice nap, my love?"

Deanna nodded. "Why weren't you in bed? I woke up, but you weren't there..."

"I didn't leave you, love. I just came out here to get my clothes. It's nearly 1800 hours, we don't have a lot of time to get ready for the party. In fact, I was just going to come in to wake you up. We have to decide what we're going to wear tonight. Let's pick out your clothes first, okay? Tonight, when I walk in with you on my arm, I want you looking your very best, my beautiful lover."

Deanna smiled, enjoying this attention from her lover, and let the redhead lead her back into the bedroom. Perhaps they could have a little fun yet before the party. Beverly walked to the closet and began going through the clothes as Deanna sat on the bed. After nearly twenty minutes of looking and rejecting, Beverly smiled and turned to face her lover, who was curled up in the bed, looking very sensually innocent.

"This is what I want you to wear, imzadi, with your black heels," she replied, holding up the outfit. It was a sleeveless purple mini-dress, accented by rhinestones along the low-cut neckline, which showed off her collarbones (among other things) so flatteringly, and a metallic silver scarf to be tied sideways around her waist. The symbolism of the colors wasn't lost on Deanna: the purple was almost the exact shade of the amethyst in her ring, and it was surrounded by silver and diamond-like brilliance, just like her ring. "And I want you to leave your hair completely down, no barrettes or anything."

"Of course, imzadi," she replied softly, "but isn't it a bit much for a casual party?"

"So what? You're the guest of honor, according to everyone else. They all think this is a surprise party for you, celebrating your promotion."

"Won't they be surprised when they learn the true reason?" Deanna mused softly. Then, she spoke up. "And do I get to decide what you're to wear?"

"Of course, imzadi," Bev replied, echoing her lover's earlier words. "We'll just bring your dress along. We can get dressed together, if you don't mind."

"Not at all." Images of the two of them making love as they tried to dress each other ran through both minds, sending shivers of delight up and down their spines.

"Besides, I believe earlier this morning I promised you a shower. Or am I mistaken?"

Deanna replied by jumping out of bed and quickly throwing on her uniform. Finished, she looked at Beverly expectantly. "Why aren't you dressed yet?"

"And I thought I was the impatient one," she teased lightly, then went to Deanna's side and lightly kissed her lover. "Patience, my love, things are so much better when you wait for them." With this, she went into the living room and dressed herself. Deanna watched her, enjoying the sight of her red-haired lover naked in the middle of her living room. Finished, the couple left, making their way to the turbolift, then to Beverly's quarters. They refrained from holding hands, deciding to wait until their announcement was made. But, anyone who passed the two women could easily see the love for each other burning in their eyes. They stepped into the 'lift, and when the doors shut behind them, Bev pulled Deanna into her arms for a quick passionate kiss.

"Please state destination," came the computer's voice, pulling the lovers apart. Deanna giggled as Bev snapped, "Deck 8," then pulled the Betazoid back into her arms, silencing her giggles with a hard, lustful kiss. The kiss ended just seconds before the doors opened. The corridor was empty, and Bev's quarters were only a short distance away, so Bev firmly, boldly took Deanna's hand in hers and led her lover to her quarters.

* * * * *

"I'm so glad you all could make it to this party," Beverly replied, a warm smile on her face as she looked at her friends, her family. "And I appreciate that you all could come earlier than I'd expressed at the meeting this morning. Deanna is busy with an appointment right now, and I'm on my way to get her. When we return, we can begin this party properly." With this, Bev left the holodeck, left her guests to entertain themselves while she went to fetch her lover. Beverly returned to her quarters, found Deanna sitting on the couch, worrying a long dark lock of hair around her fingers.

Upon sensing Bev behind her, she turned and smiled at the older woman, trying to look more confident than she felt. Even though she was happy to make known her relationship with the doctor, she was terrified that their friends might actually ostracize them. And then, suddenly, she began to wonder what her mother would say, and the unease increased.

"What's wrong, imzadi?" Beverly asked, sitting next to her moody lover, taking the petite woman into her arms. The soothing calm exuding from the doctor brought the tears to Deanna's dark eyes finally.

"I'm afraid," was all she could say.

"Of what? I thought this was what you wanted, Deanna, for all of our friends to know our true feelings for each other."

"I do."

"Then what's wrong?"

"I'm afraid they're not going to be as understanding as I'm assuming, hoping, they'll be."


"And my mother? You know how insistent she is that I settle down and have a family."

"I'm surprised, Deanna," Bev replied, effectively silencing the Betazoid. "What happened to that calm, nothing-can-faze-me attitude you had earlier?"

"Guess I wasn't planning on us coming out about our relationship quite this quickly."

"We don't have to. If you're-- If you want to back out of this, fine, it'll just be a party to celebrate your promotion. We can wait on the announcement if you'd like, imzadi, it's your choice," she said gently, then kissed Deanna's forehead, hugging her closer for reassurance. Deanna clung to her tightly.

Finally, Deanna pulled back, smiled up into her lover's eyes. "I'm okay now."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure. Besides, we don't want to be too much later than our guests, just enough to make a grand entrance. It would be in poor taste otherwise, as my mother would say." She sighed heavily. "We'll just see how things are going tonight, then I'll make my decision, okay?"

"That's fine, sweetheart."

They left the room, making their way to the holodeck for the party. Bev took Deanna's hand in hers, trying to give her some extra emotional strength. They arrived at the holodeck, but, instead of immediately entering, Deanna paused outside the doors. She looked at Beverly, contemplative, then took a deep breath and smiled, wrapping her hands around Bev's arm, head on her shoulder. "I've made my decision," she said, responding to her lover's unspoken question. "I'm doing exactly what I reprimanded you for. We've known these people for seven years now, we're family. If they can't accept us, that's their problem, not ours. I want to be with you, have for nearly three years now, and I'm not going to let this, or anything else, ruin what we have."

In response, Beverly kissed her passionately, showing her approval and acceptance of Deanna's decision. They then grasped each other's hands tightly, took a deep breath, and entered the holodeck. Just before the doors opened, Deanna leaned her head against Bev's shoulder again.

They entered the holodeck to a loud cry of "Surprise!" from those assembled, and tears welled in Deanna's eyes at the sight of everyone she loved being there for this party. She looked at an equally teary-eyed Beverly, smiled her thanks, and let the older woman wipe away the tear that slid down her cheek. Before she could even say a word to anyone, she was being embraced her mother!

"Oh, Little One, I'm so very proud of you!" Lwaxana Troi exclaimed, crushing her daughter to her.

"Mother! What are you doing here?" Deanna asked, then felt the mental rebuke. "I mean, I'm glad you're here, but I wasn't expecting to see you. Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"

Lwaxana caressed her daughter's cheek, smiling broadly at her. "Your friends wanted to throw you a surprise party, and I was to be part of the surprise."

"Part?" Deanna asked, confused, and looked at Beverly. "There's more?" Beverly nodded and covered the younger woman's eyes. "Beverly?"

"Just relax, Deanna, it's only me," came a baritone she hadn't heard in a long time. Her face lit up, and she pulled Bev's hands away.

"Wes!" she squealed, hugging him tightly. "How did you get here? Aren't you supposed to be studying for your final year exams?"

"Yeah, well, I'll study later. Celebrating your promotion is a little more important right now," he replied, kissing her cheek warmly.

"You've grown up so much since I last saw you, since you were still aboard the Enterprise," she said, looking at him. "You're just so much more confident, at ease with yourself than before."

"Hard to believe I used to be the boy who had such a crush on you that I could hardly talk to you at times, hunh?" he said, smirking, a touch of a blush in his cheeks.

"I'm just glad you're here, Wes," she said, hugging him again.

"And congratulations, Deanna," he said softly in her ear. "I hope everything works out the way you want it to."

Deanna pulled back to stare at him, shocked, and received only a warm, sincere, knowing smile. She glanced at Beverly, who was overjoyed at the sight of the two people she loved most in the world hugging each other. Beverly, she sent telepathically, your son knows. Did you tell him anything? Bev shook her head, shrugging her shoulders.

"Just because you're visiting from the Academy doesn't mean you can monopolize the guest of honor, Wes," Will replied, hugging Deanna. She took from his emotional strength, boosting her own for what they were about to do.

Deanna, came her mother's mental voice, wherever did you get that dress?

"Mother.... I've warned you before about this," she replied, exasperated, but still smiled politely, to which Lwaxana delightedly laughed.

"I'm sorry, Little One," she said, then fixed Deanna with a pointed stare, "but you know how hard it is to break old habits." Deanna's anxiety level peaked again -- somehow her mother knew -- but her only outward signs of this were her eyes widening and her face going slightly pale. We'll discuss this later, daughter.

Yes, Mother, came her reply as she smiled and said, "I understand, Mother. And, to answer your question, Beverly picked out my outfit from things in my closet, so commend her taste in fashion, not mine."

"But, Deanna, you decided what I'm wearing," Bev replied, teasingly baring her shoulders a bit more than her sweater normally allowed. This made Deanna look more closely at the outfit she'd chosen for her lover. Bev wore her favorite blue sweater, which brought out her eyes so vividly, over a pair of black fishnet stockings and black pumps. "You have to have at least some fashion sense to put this together."

"Point taken, love," she said softly, a look of devotion on her face, and she never even realized her slip of the tongue. But her mother did.

Love? she demanded. What's going on, Deanna? Deanna physically reacted to that mental inquiry. And both Will and Beverly felt the psychic impact of Deanna's reaction.

Not now, Mother, Deanna pleaded. Please.

"And why not?" Lwaxana asked hotly, everyone now was staring at the two of them. Deanna was visibly uncomfortable, fidgety. "Well?"

"This isn't the time or the place, Mother," came Deanna's reply, through tightly clenched, smiling teeth.

"Oh, but I believe it is, Little One. After all, the two of you were going to make this announcement tonight anyway, weren't you?" And she included the doctor in her stare now. Deanna backed down from that stare, but Beverly met it with her own fiery gaze.

"Yes, we are, Lwaxana," came her even reply, "but it will be when we decide, not you."

"But, this is not acceptable, for either of you. Perhaps it's just--"

"Mother, so help me, if you say this is just some sort of phase, I'll slap you."


"I'm serious, Mother. This is a party for me, for my promotion. Stop trying to ruin it and become the center of attention."

"I'm not--"

"Mother," came the stern warning.

"Ladies, perhaps you should forget about this and enjoy yourselves," Will offered.

"No," Deanna suddenly said, surprising everyone. "No, let's get this settled right now."

"Deanna," Bev said, trying to stop her. "Why don't we wait a bit?"

"No, Beverly, my party mood is gone now anyway, so let's just get this over with."

"What is going on here?" Picard finally spoke up. No one seemed to hear him.

"Why ruin it for everyone else?" Will asked, joining forces with Bev to dissuade Deanna.

"Excuse me," Picard tried to cut in again.

"Why? Because it's been ruined for me, so why not ruin it for everyone else?"

"Deanna, don't do this," Bev begged. "Just forget about it, and we'll try to do our best to salvage this party and enjoy ourselves."

"Will someone--?"

"I'm afraid I can't do that, Beverly," Deanna replied. Beverly could actually feel how upset she was, saw the tears forming, turning the dark eyes into glittering jewels, diamonds on onyx. "Either we do this now, or I'm leaving the party."

Bev began to pull Deanna into her arms, not caring what anyone else thought, just wanting to make sure her lover felt better. The loving contact triggered the tears to fall, diamonds spilling down Deanna's alabaster cheeks. "No, don't do that, sweetheart. We'll do this the right way, okay? Just don't leave." And she kissed Deanna lightly, forgetting everyone else was there. Deanna relaxed physically at the soft touch of Bev's lips against her own, Bev's love and concern flooding over her. But, her tension returned as Picard spoke up, pulling them apart with his tone.

"Will someone please tell me what the bloody hell is going on here?" he demanded, but wouldn't look directly at either of his two female officers. He directed his gaze to his First Officer. Will took the cue.

"Well, sir, you see--"

"No, Will." Deanna's voice was soft, but firm. "This isn't your announcement to make." She turned her gaze to Beverly, took the hand she offered and grasped it tightly, then returned her eyes to her captain's. He tried to look away, but her eyes kept his, forced him to look directly at the two of them.

"Jean-Luc, do you--?"

"Shut up, Mother!" Deanna growled, turning a surprisingly hateful gaze on the older Betazoid, effectively silencing her. Satisfied she would be quiet for a little while, Deanna returned her gaze to the captain, who now was staring at the ring on her left hand, which was held tightly by Beverly. "Do you like my ring, Captain?" She raised her hand to display her ring for all of them.

"It's beautiful, Deanna," Geordi said. "What's it for?"

"It's my engagement ring," she said proudly, a smile on her face.

"Engagement ring?" Worf asked. "From who?" His eyes narrowed suspiciously at Will.

Deanna looked at Bev, then took a deep breath to steady herself, before returning her gaze to the large Klingon she'd been seeing on and off. "It's from my imzadi," she said, then looked at Bev again, her love showing on her face.

"But, how can that be, Little One?" Lwaxana ventured to ask. "I thought Will...."

"He is, Mother, and always will be, but Beverly is also imzadi to me, perhaps more so than Will ever was."

"Are you saying you are...comliazadim?"

"Yes, Mother," came the soft reply.

"For how long? I mean, what about Will?"

"What about him, Mother? Will and I still love each other, but that intimacy has been little more than friendship for a number of years now. Beverly and I love each other, we want to live out our lives together."

"But, what about having children, daughters to carry on the Troi tradition? Grandchildren for me?"

"Well, in theory, Wes will be your grandson," Bev offered, knowing Lwaxana didn't mean that. But, she was too distracted to really worry about that. Picard was too quiet, and it bothered her.

"No offense intended, Doctor, but that's not what I meant."

"Mother, Beverly is my imzadi and my lover, and we are engaged. Don't you think it's time you started calling her by her name?" Then she added mentally, Are you very angry with me, Mother?

"Of course," she replied, ignoring the mental inquiry. "Forgive me, Beverly. But, Little One, I wish you'd reconsider--"

"Mother," Deanna complained.

"Let me finish. There has never been a comliazadim Daughter of the Fifth House."

"That you know of."

"And what does that mean? I think I would know if any of my ancestors were comliazadim. I know their histories rather well."

"And you thought you knew me just as well, or better," Deanna said, stating what was running unchecked through Lwaxana's mind.

"But, I just don't understand this, Little One. I've never known you to think any thoughts even remotely comliazadim."

"Mother, just because--"

"I'm sorry to interrupt, Deanna, but what is comliazadim?" Bev asked softly, still concerned by Picard's agitation.

"It is the Betazoid word to describe a lover of women, a woman who loves women."

"But, Little One, you've been with men, with Will." Then, it occurred to her. "He didn't do anyth--"

"No, Mother!" Deanna said quickly; both she and Will blushed at that. "We--"

"Excuse me," Picard cut in, "but I have some business I must attend to." And he walked away toward the door angrily, before anyone could react.

"Jean-Luc!" Bev called, but he ignored her and stalked out the door. The room was silent for a moment after the doors closed, everyone in shock. Finally, biting her lip, she said, "I suppose I'd better go after him."

"I could do it for you, Mom," Wes offered, an arm around her shoulders.

"No, Wes, but thank you. This is something I need to do myself." Now she was the one near tears. Deanna immediately took her into her arms. Bev clung to her for a moment, taking strength from her lover, not looking forward to what she had to do. Deanna sensed this and pulled her closer, kissing her. Bev wrapped her arms around the Betazoid's neck, allowed the insistent tongue into her mouth. How about we just leave the party and go back to my quarters and make love all night? she heard in her mind, moaned in agreement. Then, suddenly, Deanna pulled back.

"Beverly Crusher!" Deanna admonished. "You go talk to him." Then she continued telepathically, I had to face my mother, now you have to face the captain.

"I know," Bev replied, but thought to herself, I was here for you. Why should I have to do it by myself?

Because, she heard Lwaxana's distinctive mental voice, I'm not through with my daughter yet. Or you, for that matter, but I'm more concerned with Deanna right now.

"Let me know if he gets very out of hand," Deanna said, "and I'll come join you to reason with him. Alright?" Bev nodded. "Otherwise, join me back here, either for the rest of the party or for a little celebration of our own," she said, waggling her eyebrows.

"Well, if you're gonna put it that way," Bev replied, smiling, then kissed Deanna again before she left.

Deanna watched her lover leave the holodeck. She suddenly felt empty, a part of her was missing. It took all of her willpower not to run off after Beverly. And in that moment, Lwaxana Troi fully realized the depth of her daughter's love for the red-haired CMO. And it humbled the older Betazoid.

I apologize, Little One, she finally sent. I didn't realize.... She wasn't sure what else to say. Deanna turned around to face her mother, tears in her eyes. Lwaxana held out her arms, and Deanna ran into her warm embrace. "It's alright, Little One."

"Mother, I'm so scared," Deanna whispered.

"Let's go sit over there and talk," Lwaxana said, guiding her daughter to a table in the corner. As they sat down, she glanced at Will, who began ushering people out of the room to give the two women some privacy.

"I've told everyone that we're going to reschedule the party at a later date," Will said as he and Wes stood there, ready to leave. He leaned down, lightly kissed Deanna's forehead, then whispered to her, "Keep your chin up, kiddo. You know Beverly loves you, and I do, too."

"I know," she murmured, tried to smile at him. "Thanks, Will."

"Any time, kiddo," he replied, then both men left. Lwaxana held her daughter close for a moment, waiting for Deanna to be ready to talk to her. As much as she needed some sort of reason for this seemingly  sudden change of heart (lifestyle, whatever), Lwaxana Troi would not push her daughter into something she wasn't ready for yet. But when Deanna was still silent after nearly ten minutes, Lwaxana could wait no longer. "Little One, we need to talk about this."

"I know," she said, and her fear returned.

"Why are you afraid, Little One?"

"Because you were angry with me, Mother."

"Well, Deanna, you have to understand how I feel--"

"I know that, Mother, but you have to understand how I feel, too," Deanna said, pulling back to look at her mother. "You can't honestly tell me that you've never sensed even one thought I've had about desiring another woman? Loving another woman? Never? Ever?"

"Well, I -- I thought you just thought you loved them, because they were such close friends," she said, standing, began to pace in her nervousness. "I mean, take Chandra, for example. She was your very best friend, almost since you both were born. You were practically inseparable, especially once your telepathic gifts began to emerge and form...." And she trailed off then, beginning to understand what was going on. And she sank into a chair, dumbfounded. "You and...Chandra?"

Deanna nodded. "Chandra was my first lover."

"But, Chandra's married and has two beautiful little girls. How can she be comliazadim?"

"She is, but she isn't, just like I am."

"I don't understand, Little One. You said you're comliazadim, now you say you're not. Which is it?"

"I am comliazadim, in that I am a lover of women, but I also love men, like I love Will. I have had many lovers in my lifetime, both men and women, all by choice. And right now, I choose to be with Beverly," she said, pausing. "I love Beverly, Mother, I have for a long, long time now. Can't you just accept this?"

Lwaxana looked hard at Deanna, held her gaze, stared at her for a long minute. And Deanna sat there, took it, knew there was no way she could look away. Finally, Lwaxana spoke.

"Are you happy with Beverly? Truly happy with her?"

"Yes, Mother, I am."

"And it doesn't bother you that other people know about your relationship?"

"No, Mother. I am proud of who I am, who I love."

"There's nothing I can say to change your mind?" Deanna shook her head. "Then, I guess there's only one thing left for me to say." She paused for a long moment; Deanna's fear increased. When Lwaxana spoke again, her voice was soft. "I hope you and Beverly have a long and wonderful life together, Deanna. I wish you all the best."

"Really, Mother? Are you sure?"

"Yes, Little One," Lwaxana replied, hugging her daughter, "I'm sure. I may not like it, but if it's what makes you happy, then I accept it. All I've ever wanted was for you to be happy."

* * * *

Beverly caught up with the captain on the 'lift, going toward the bridge. He completely ignored her, wouldn't even look at her.

"Jean-Luc?" she asked tentatively. No reply. She followed him into his ready room, right on his heels. He sat on his desk, activated some program on his monitor. "Jean-Luc, at least look at me," Still no reply. Bev walked around the desk to stand next to him, turned his chair to face her. "Talk to me, dammit!"

"About what?" came his terse question as he looked away.

"Don't you dare, Jean-Luc Picard! Don't you even dare do this to me. We've been friends far too long for you to treat me this way."

"And what of the way you're treating me? You made me into a fool back there, Beverly."

"How did I do that? Deanna and I made our announcement that we love each other to our friends and family. Granted, Deanna and her mother started fighting, which was embarrassing, but the way you stormed out of there like a spoiled child, made a fool of me, Jean-Luc."

Now that she had his attention, that he was actually paying attention to her, she moved to sit on the couch, her legs tucked up underneath her. Picard watched her move away, so much emotion in his eyes, wanted to follow her, but forbid himself, trying to keep that anger intact. For a long moment, they stared silently at each other.

"Isn't this a rather sudden decision, Beverly?" he finally asked. "I mean, what can you possibly base this on? It's not as if anything's been going on between you. You've been the best of friends for years now, but that's no reason to make an announcement like this."

Beverly regarded him with angered shock at that, and her defensive sarcasm kicked in. "You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd think you were jealous, Jean-Luc. But, its not as if you should have anything to be jealous of, we haven't been anything but friends for over twenty years, no matter what either of us may have wished in the past."

"So you're saying this is all my fault?"


"Because I never pursued a more intimate relationship between us. Because I never had the nerve to tell you how I felt for you, how I'd wanted you, loved you for years."

"You did?"

"Of course, I did. And you knew it, you asked me about it on KesPrit when we had the implants. But when I suggested we start exploring those feelings further, you pulled away from me in fear. What were you afraid of? My feelings for you? My desire and lust of you? Is that why you've decided to reject men and become a lesbian all of a sudden? Because of me?"

"I can't believe you'd even say that, Jean-Luc. I mean, don't flatter yourself that much."

"Then why? Why this sudden upheaval?"

"It's not sudden, Jean-Luc, believe me," she said, looking away for a moment. At the weariness in her voice, he looked more closely at her. Aware of this new scrutiny, she smiled ruefully, but wouldn't look at him. She stood up, moving to leave. "I'm just not in the mood to fight with you about this, Jean-Luc."

"Then just tell me what's happened," he replied finally, standing. "Don't go, Beverly. Tell me what happened," he continued, going to sit next to her on the couch, "and I'll try not to get angry."

"I don't even know where to begin, how to explain this to you."

"Start from the beginning and tell it honestly, simply, as it happened. There's no other way to tell a friend something like this."

Bev flashed him a grateful smile, then began to speak. "Do you remember when you sent Deanna and me to Bidus 5?"

"The all-woman planet that was considering membership in the Federation?" Bev nodded. "That was over two years ago that you went on that first contact mission. Is that how long this has been going on?"

Bev nodded again. "Sort of."

"Sort of?"

"We've loved each other for years, Deanna and I, as friends, sisters. We've always trusted each other implicitly, felt more comfortable with each other than with almost anyone else. It was...such a free environment on Bidus 5. Deanna embraced it completely, instantly, which I'd attributed to her empathic, open nature."

"And you? How well did you adapt to your surroundings?"

"At first, I resisted it as much as possible. I felt damned uncomfortable, and to make matters worse, Deanna seemed to be making passes at me all the time, teasing me, tempting me."

"So she coerced you into this relationship?" It wasn't meant to be an accusation, just an attempt to make some sense out of such apparent confusion.

"No. Just like she said to me, Deanna never acts on her own feelings alone. I don't think she could. She knew that, deep down, I felt love for her that went beyond friendship. And Bidus 5 was the perfect place to explore that love that both of us felt for each other. I still tried to resist her -- me -- but I couldn't. Once I gave in to my feelings, I was insatiable, I couldn't get enough of Deanna. And she let me do what I wanted to do, needed to do," she said, then noticed Picard's uneasiness. "I'm sorry, Jean-Luc. If this is bothering you...."

"It is, I'll admit that much," he replied. "But this is important to you, and you are important to me, so I will deal with my own uneasiness later. Please continue, Beverly."

"I hadn't been that happy, that free and uninhibited in a long time, and I took advantage of it. So did Deanna." And her eyes misted over as she continued, her voice softening. "On what was our last night on the planet, there was a local custom that we took part in. Basically, it was a time for the women to make or renew vows to each other. At first, we were just going to observe, but then something happened to me, and I found myself making a vow to Deanna, and she reciprocated. We were, in that moment, ready to spend the rest of our lives together. Our lovemaking that night was so wonderful, we were both so giving. It was as if we knew it would be our last night together."

"And the next morning, when I contacted you to return to the ship, I -- interrupted you, didn't I?" he asked slowly, remembering how strained both women had sounded that morning.

"Yes. And the instant I heard your voice, all my fears and prejudices returned to me, full force. And once we returned to the ship, there was a long time before I was ever alone with Deanna, because I knew I would be tempted. I still loved her, wanted to be with her, but I was afraid. Afraid of what I was feeling, of what others would think, of what you would think. So, I let my fears keep me from the woman I loved more than anything, away from my happiness."

"Then Deanna must have wanted that as well, not to be in a relationship with you, I mean."

"No. She wanted to be with me more than anything, has this whole time."


"But, she knew if she forced me into a relationship I wasn't ready for, that it would ruin everything we had, even our friendship. So, Deanna backed off, said she'd be there when I knew what I wanted. And she never brought it up again."

"And now this is what you want? To be her lover? To publicly be her lover?"

"Yes, and I feel no embarrassment by it either, Jean-Luc. In fact, I was the one who wanted to go public this time."

"May I ask why?"

"Why should I hide my love for Deanna? Or she hers for me? Jean-Luc, I've been miserable without Deanna, lonely, depressed. I'd shuttered my feelings for Deanna away, so I wouldn't have to deal with them, tried just to be her friend. And when everything happened with Nana dying and Ronin, Deanna was there for me. She even replicated a copy of the Howard heirloom candle for me, because she knew how important it had been to my family. She still cared that much, without pushing her needs and desires on me. All she wanted was for me to be happy, no matter if she was intimately involved in that happiness or not. I'd been thinking about what I wanted out of the rest of my life, but that's when I began considering if I really wanted to be with her or not. I'm surprised you'd never picked up on that when we had those implants."

"I did that night, when you were sleeping. You were having this dream, and Deanna was in it, as well as Odan, Will, and me. Very odd, disjointed images, all jumbled together. It hardly seemed proper for me to ask you about it afterward."

"The only time I remember having a dream like that was when I was on Bidus 5," Bev murmured.

"So, um, how long have you and Deanna been back together now?"

"Well, without her consent, about twenty-one hours, with her consent, about fourteen hours. I guess technically it's only fourteen hours since she said yes."

"I'm afraid I'm confused. With consent? Without consent? What kind of a relationship do the two of you have?"

"A very open one, now. Oh! The consent thing.... I snuck into Deanna's quarters last night, spent the night holding her in my arms as she slept, and we woke up together, at which point we had a long, tear-filled talk, then we renewed our vows and I gave Deanna her ring."

"And is it truly an engagement ring? Do you plan on getting married?"

"Deanna seems to want that."

"And you don't?"

"I did this morning, when I needed the reassurance that we would stay together. Not that I thought Deanna would leave me, but because I was afraid I'd back out on her again, out of fear. Now, we've told our families, our friends, of our love for each other, so I don't need the ceremony," she said, then wistfully bit her lip.

"But it would be nice to have the ceremony," Picard said. "Something you both can look back on and remember."

"But we've already taken our own vows, twice. All this would do is give us a piece of paper, as the old saying goes," she said, trying to convince herself that she didn't need a wedding ceremony. "We know how we feel, we've already made our commitment."

"But wouldn't it mean even more to the two of you if your families were there to witness your vows? If they could share in your love for each other?"

Bev looked at him, her eyes narrowing suspiciously. "You know, Jean-Luc, I'd almost think you want this ceremony most. Perhaps to see if we're truly serious?"

"No, Beverly, I know you're serious about this. If you weren't, you wouldn't have followed me to fight about this. I want this ceremony for the two you, so that five, ten, twenty, even fifty years from now, you won't be saying any what if's. And, should you decide to have children, wouldn't it be nice to tell them about it? Hmm?"

"You truly are an incurable romantic, Jean-Luc," she said, leaning over to brush his cheek with her lips. "And a good friend, too."

"Thank you."

"Which is why I found it so damned shocking when you walked out of the holodeck so angrily like that. Of all my friends, not including Deanna and Will, I thought you'd be the most understanding, at least staying to hear me out."

"Well, Beverly, look at it from my viewpoint. Two of my most trusted officers, the two women I thought I knew and felt closest to, out of the blue announce that they are lovers and are basically engaged to be married. How would you react to an announcement like that?"

"You mean, if you'd have seen it coming, you'd have taken it better?"

"No, I can't exactly say I'd take it any better, but I'd at least have had some warning," he said, pausing. "And just how long have you been planning this? We've had this party planned for nearly two months now."

"I'd hoped I'd have talked to Deanna and gotten together with her by now, which I did, albeit at the last minute."

"So you were planning on getting back together with her?"

"I guess, deep down, I've wanted to all along. I just couldn't get up the nerve to face my fears and admit to myself how I felt and what I needed, wanted."

"But you have now."

"Mm-hmm. And I feel much happier now, much freer, more at ease."

"And I am truly happy for you, then, Beverly. Ever since Jack died, I've tried to watch out for you and Wes, make sure you were okay. I felt -- still feel responsible."

"I know, Jean-Luc," she said, pausing, and bit her lip again.

"What is it?"

"I just wonder how well Deanna's doing with her mother."

As if on cue, the door chimed. Both looked at it in anticipation. Finally, Picard spoke. "Come." And in walked the very two people Beverly had just mentioned. Ever the gallant Frenchman, Picard immediately stood. "Lwaxana, Deanna, we were just--"

"Talking about us," Lwaxana finished for him. "I know. We've come to discuss something with you, Jean-Luc."

Bev looked anxiously at Deanna, who came to sit next to her on the couch, resting her head on the redhead's shoulder, her arms wrapped around one of Bev's. "Deanna, are you alright?"

"Mm-hmm. Just hold me," Deanna murmured, snuggling closer. Bev immediately wrapped her arms around Deanna, holding her tightly.

"What is it you'd like to discuss, Lwaxana?" Picard asked, motioning for her to have a seat. She shook her head, and he sat down.

"The arrangements for my daughter's wedding." Bev reflexively pulled Deanna tighter to her at that comment, eliciting a soft moan of delight.

Careful, imzadi, I might break, Deanna sent, surreptitiously rubbing the palm of her hand across Bev's left breast, raising the sensitive nipple, at the same time lightly pulling on her sweater, exposing her pale shoulder and collarbone even more. Wide open, just for you. And she lightly licked Bev's collarbone, causing the redhead to moan softly.

"Not now," she whispered, pleaded, despite the throbbing beginning between her legs. "Wait 'til we're alone."

"I don't think I understand, Lwaxana," Picard said slowly. "Why must we discuss the arrangements for Deanna's wedding? Shouldn't she and Beverly be doing that? After all, it is their wedding."

"Yes, it is, Jean-Luc, but according to Betazoid custom, the wedding is arranged according to the wishes of the bride's mother, with some suggestions from the groom's mother."

"But they're both brides. And I most certainly am not Beverly's mother," he said, pausing to glance at the pair of lovers cuddled close on his couch. Their love for each other, their ease with each other, was so obvious, so palpable. How could he have missed it? "Besides," he continued, returning his gaze to Lwaxana, "who says they actually want to get married?"

Lwaxana regarded him with total shock. "They have to. Want is not even a consideration here. They have to, Jean-Luc. If they have any children, girls especially, there has to be a legal marriage to ensure legitimacy for the continuation of the family titles. Deanna knows that."

"But who says they're going to have any children?"

"Th-- Jean-Luc, do you know something I don't?"

"No, Lwaxana, I don't," he said, thought, I hardly think I could. "I'm just saying that we should, at least, attempt to include Beverly and Deanna's wishes."

Suddenly, Beverly stood, pulling Deanna up with her. "Jean-Luc, Lwaxana, I personally don't care what the arrangements are for the wedding, other than having my friends and family there to witness the formalizing of the vows I've already made to Deanna. Jean-Luc, you know my tastes well enough to make this a tasteful," and both she and Deanna stared at Lwaxana, who seemed oblivious, "ceremony. Other than that, I really don't care what our ceremony is like. I am even willing to undergo the Betazoid wedding ceremony, if that's what you wish."

"Really?" Lwaxana's eyes lit up.

"It really doesn't matter, Lwaxana. As long as it's a legal ceremony for Deanna and me to make our vows, that's all that matters. Right, imzadi?" she asked Deanna.

Deanna looked up at Beverly, her wide ebony eyes beginning to droop with exhaustion. "Mm-hmm," she mumbled. Bev knew she'd been through the emotional wringer all day, and needed some rest badly. "I just want a simple ceremony, like we had back on Bidus 5."

At Lwaxana's mental inquiry, Deanna quickly sent her the details of that fateful night...and of the day's events.

"Well, if you don't mind, I'd like to take Deanna back to her quarters. She's tired, and needs her rest," Bev replied as Deanna yawned. At Picard's nod of approval, with a flicker of a smile for his red-haired CMO, Bev led the Betazoid out of the ready room and into the turbolift. They rode in silence to Deck 9, then went to Deanna's quarters.

"Stay with me?" Deanna murmured as they walked in.

"Only if you promise to go straight to bed." Despite her weariness, the comely Betazoid smiled a slow, sensual smile. Bev saw this and grimaced, regretting her words. "To sleep, Deanna, not to play."

"Ah, but what's that old saying? To sleep, perchance to dream?"

Bev sighed in exasperation, a wry smile on her lips. "You're beat, you need your sleep. Besides, we've got all the time in the world to make love. Hell, we're going to be having a honeymoon eventually. Or don't Betazoids have honeymoons?"

"Oh, we have honeymoons alright. And you seem to be forgetting" -- she yawned loudly -- "my human heritage as well."

"I'm not forgetting anything, lover of mine. But I do want you to get some rest, Deanna. This has been such a very trying day for you emotionally. And you must admit that you're exhausted."

"Of course, you're right, imzadi. If I promise to sleep, will you stay with me?" Another yawn.

Beverly smiled, took Deanna's hand and led her into the bedroom. She stopped the Betazoid in front of the bed, stood there for a moment, just looking at her, then went into the closet to find a nightshirt for Deanna. She chuckled as she returned to the brunette's side. Deanna was sitting on the edge of the bed, struggling to keep her eyes open.

"Just lay back and go to sleep, darling," she murmured, easing Deanna back onto the bed. She gently untied and removed the scarf from around Deanna's waist, then slid down to ease the five-inch heels from her tiny feet. Bev began to lightly massage her lover's calves, loosening stiff muscles.

Deanna sat up suddenly then, looking about her wildly. She pulled back from Bev's touch, a look of pure fear in her eyes. "Beverly?" she barely whispered.

"I'm right here, darling. You're okay," Bev whispered, pulling her into her arms. Deanna slumped against her, allowing the redhead to cradle her close. "You okay?" Deanna nodded. "You wanna tell me what just happened?"

"Bad dream," was all she'd say.

"Bad dream? You weren't even asleep for five minutes, if that. How could you have a bad dream in that short a time?"

"I just did," she snapped wearily. Standing up, she slipped off her dress and walked to the closet to hang it up. She returned to the bed, let the soft silk nightshirt fall down over her body, then she crawled into bed.

Beverly just stood there, watching Deanna, confused by her lover's attitude. She tried to figure out why the younger woman had become so easily upset so suddenly. "Deanna? What's wrong?"

"I'm not really sure," came the soft reply as Deanna looked up at Beverly. The doctor could see the mixed emotions reflected in the onyx eyes: regret, fear, desire, hope, anger, love. The full gamut of the human condition was there for all to see -- all who took the time to look, that is. "Just hold me?"

The fear in her voice brought tears to Bev's eyes. She quickly moved to take Deanna into her arms again. "You know I will," she whispered, fiercely pulling the Betazoid closer. And Deanna let the tears fall for the latest of countless times that day. "Oh god, Deanna, I hate it when you cry," she moaned.

"I'm sorry," Deanna sniffed.

"No, honey, it's not that. I just don't know what to do for you, besides hold you. I don't know what's wrong, so I don't know how to make it better for you." And when Deanna began to speak, Beverly cut her off. "And don't you dare apologize again, Deanna. Your emotions get the best of you at times, I know. It's just a fact of life I'll have to get used to if I'm going to be involved with an empath."

Deanna smiled, wiping away her tears. "I'll try to control myself," she murmured, yawning.

"I will still love you, no matter what, my love," Bev said, standing. She slipped off her shoes, then went to the closet and pulled out a nightshirt for herself. Returning to the bed, she sat down and began to take off her stockings. She then stood and pulled her sweater up and over her head. Reaching for the nightshirt, she sighed as Deanna's hands lovingly cupped her full, pale breasts. She sighed again and reluctantly removed the hands. "Sleep, Deanna, I mean it," she said gently, slipping into the nightshirt.

"I was just trying -- to be nice," Deanna playfully pouted, struggling not to yawn again. She lay back as Bev crawled under the covers next to her.

Beverly took Deanna in her arms, pulled the covers snugly around their bodies, creating a warm little cocoon. Deanna placed her small head against Bev's chest, molding her body to the redhead's, and fell asleep almost immediately. The redhead smiled, kissed her lover's forehead, and closed her eyes, following her companion into dreamland.

* * * * *

The door chimed, waking the couple with a start. The door chimed a second time as Deanna groaned, "It's Mother."

"Can't we just pretend we're sleeping and don't hear the chime?" came the mumbled reply as the redhead burrowed down into the covers again.

"No. She'll just start yelling at us telepathically," Deanna said, then called out, "Come in, Mother."

Reluctantly, they got out of bed and stumbled into the living room. Bev brought the quilt with her to wrap around their bodies as they sat on the couch. Lwaxana Troi bustled into the room, her towering valet silently following in her wake, his arms full of various materials and trinkets. Suddenly, she stopped and looked at the two women cuddled close under the quilt, eyes drooping from exhaustion.

"Little One, you look positively awful, both of you do."

"Well, you woke us up, Mother. What did you expect?"

"You could have told me to leave and come back later."

"Its alright, Mother. What brings you here?"

"I need your help deciding on a few things for your bonding ceremony, colors, materials, decorations."

"Like what? I thought we'd be doing the Betazoid ceremony and be naked," Bev said.

"And I already told you what I want, Mother," came Deanna's soft reply. "Nothing fancy, nothing excessive. Just a simple ceremony where we can exchange our vows before our friends and family." Then she added telepathically, Please don't fight me on this, Mother.

"I know you want this to be a simple ceremony, Little One, but you're my only daughter. Please let me have my fun, just this once? I may not be alive to plan my granddaughter's wedding, if I ever get a granddaughter."

"Mother, please...."

"Lwaxana, why don't you let Deanna and me plan the ceremony, and you can plan the reception? How's that sound?"

"I don't know. I had my heart set," Lwaxana said, then noticed the pleading look her daughter was giving her, "but if that's what will make you happiest...."

"Thank you, Mother," Deanna said, getting up to hug her mother.

"Mmm, Rigellian silk?" she mused, smiling as she noted both women wore nightshirts of the luxurious material. "I'll leave you two alone now. You need time alone together, without any meddling mothers to bother you."

Deanna glanced back at Bev, who smiled encouragingly, then faced her mother again. "No, Mother, stay. We want you to."

"Are you sure? I don't really want to intrude...."

"We're sure," the redhead put in. "Deanna and I will be seeing each other all the time. We don't get to visit with you as much as we should." Did I really just say that?

Lwaxana sat in the chair by the couch, smiled as she watched Deanna settle back into the arms of her fiancee. The elder Betazoid took a good long look at the two women, could feel, and actually see, the love between them that filled the room. It took away a number of the fears she still harbored over this relationship. And it lightened the heaviness in her heart immensely. Then she caught Deanna's odd look and chuckled softly, as if to let her daughter know everything was okay. "I just can't believe how beautiful the two of you look together. You compliment each other so perfectly. And I can't understand how I could have totally ignored your feelings for each other. It's so obvious now, and so wonderfully refreshing."

Both women blushed at the compliments. "Mother, please," Deanna complained, secretly thrilled by the older woman's words.

"I just wish your father could be here for your wedding, Little One." It came out softly, almost painfully. "He'd be so proud of you, of all you've accomplished."

At the mention of her father, Deanna's eyes began to mist over, mirroring her mother's. She knelt at her mother's side, her head resting on the woman's knee, just needing to be close for a moment, to share in their pain and loss.

Bev watched them, felt like an outsider. But at the same time, she knew how they felt. She wished Jack was alive to be there at the wedding, to wish her well. And the tears welled in her eyes then, too. Lwaxana must have caught a stray thought of Bev's, because she held out her hand to the doctor. Bev took it instantly, knelt at her other side, head on the older woman's other knee. Deanna took her hand as Lwaxana gently stroked both heads.

They sat like that for a long time, without a word said; there was nothing any of them could say. And, as they sat there, Beverly could feel the intense maternal feelings Lwaxana had for Deanna, was beginning to feel for Beverly. That intensity began to frighten the doctor, so much so that Deanna had to lean across and lightly kiss her lover, their cheeks still firmly resting on Lwaxana's knees.

Deanna's tongue easily slipped into Bev's mouth, eliciting a soft sigh from the red-haired woman. They slowly explored each other's mouths, as if for the first time again. Both women began to relax again, lost in their love for each other, oblivious even to the fact that they had an audience present.

Lwaxana knew what was going on between her daughter and the comely CMO, knew where it was headed, but she made no moves to stop it. She simply sat there, continued to caress the two sets of luxurious hair, one black as night, the other red as flame. She let their affection for each other, their desire for each other, wash over her. Sitting there, she felt the growing empathic bond between the two women. It was a stronger one than she'd ever seen for a couple having a non-telepath, especially after being together such a short time. She and Ian had been together for nearly twice as long as Deanna and Beverly had known each other, and their bond wasn't nearly as strong, considering Lwaxana's greater telepathic prowess. Perhaps Beverly has some telepathic gifts herself, Lwaxana thought to herself. I'll have to look into that further. Finally Deanna pulled back and sheepishly looked up at her mother. She started to speak, but the elder Betazoid stopped her with a wave of her hand. "Don't apologize, Little One. I could have stopped you if I'd wanted to. And now, I'll leave you alone, like I should have before."

"Mother, no."

"Yes, Little One. Even as single-minded as I can be, I know you both need some time alone now, no matter what you what you may say. I know how I want your reception to go, so I'll just surprise you with that. But, I do have a question for you."

"And that is?" Beverly asked.

"You do plan on having children, don't you? I mean, you're both still able...."

"We will discuss this, Lwaxana, I promise you," Bev said, taking the older woman's hand. "I know how important this is to you. To be honest, I'd love to see Deanna pregnant. I think she'd be a wonderful mother."

"Beverly, stop," Deanna complained, her cheeks a deep crimson.

"I'm just being honest, darling," Bev replied, her arms going around Deanna's waist. "You would make a wonderful mother, so full of love, and wonder, and happiness. And," she said, her sliding down to rest against the flat belly, "you would look so incredibly beautiful carrying a tiny life inside you. And I would be so honored to be able to deliver that baby, to bring your baby, our baby into the world."

"Imzadi, please," came the murmured reply as she leaned forward into Bev's arms, the redhead's intense emotions overwhelming her. It was at this point that Lwaxana chose to make her quiet exit, though neither of the two women even noticed.

"Am I embarrassing you, my darling?" Beverly teased lightly, holding her even closer. Deanna nodded, sighing heavily. The warm air of her breath sent a shiver of delight down Bev's spine. And the soft kiss she placed against her throat gave Bev a thrill, sending her womb into delightful spasms.

Deanna moved to lay back, trying to bring Beverly with her, but the redhead shook her head. At Deanna's quizzical look, she smiled and stood up. "I have a better idea. Come on."

Deanna followed her into the bedroom and climbed back under the covers, but Bev went to the closet. She pulled out a pretty little shift of lavender and tossed it to the brunette, then dressed herself in her outfit from the previous night. She looked up to see Deanna staring at the dress, perplexed, and walked over to the bed. Sighing, she lifted the nightshirt over Deanna's head, then pulled the dress onto her body. She turned Deanna around, deftly twisted the long dark locks into a braid that she bound with a ribbon from the nightstand, then kissed the spot where Deanna's neck and shoulder joined. This done, she began pulling on the laces at the back of the dress, tightly cinching the material, forcing it to conform to the curves of Deanna's shapely torso. She tied the laces into a bow, then made a big show of smoothing them, allowing herself the opportunity to caress the curve of Deanna's hips and ass.

"What are you planning?" Deanna asked, softly sighing as Bev kissed the side of her neck again.

"You'll see," she replied as Deanna stood to slip her feet into a pair of worn, comfortable pumps. Bev took her lover's hand and led her to the turbolift. As they stood there, waiting for the 'lift, Beverly leaned over and kissed Deanna, who melted against her. Bev heard the 'lift doors open, but just didn't want this kiss to end, not yet.

"Did you two need to go somewhere?" Will Riker asked lightly, poking his head out of the 'lift, his voice effectively pulling the lovers apart. "Or shall I just assemble everyone here for the show?"

"That's not necessary, Will," Deanna said softly as she and Beverly entered the 'lift, still holding hands.

"So, how have the two of you been?"

"Deck ten," Bev said. "Fine, Will." She wrapped her arms around Deanna's waist, leaning back against the 'lift wall. Deanna settled back against her, feeling as comfortable in those arms as she ever had in any others, including Will's.

"Anxious for the wedding?"


"I just wish all the fuss was over," Deanna replied softly. "All I want is to be left alone with my imzadi for a while."

"And that's what we're about to do, my darling," Bev murmured in her ear as the doors slid open. She led Deanna out of the turbolift, then went to Holodeck 3. She touched the panel and said, "Computer, run program 'Crusher 17.'"

In a matter of seconds, the computer replied, "Program 'Crusher 17' is running. You may enter when ready."

"Thank you. Come on, Deanna," she said, a wide smile illuminating her face. Deanna followed her, some of that enthusiasm carrying over and filling her. Bev covered Deanna's eyes just before the holodeck doors opened. Deanna let herself be led into the holodeck, implicitly trusting her lover to keep her safe. The ground beneath her was soft, and she could hear running water nearby, like a stream or a river. They stopped then, and Deanna could smell heather on the breeze. And then, Beverly said, "Computer, lock doors, CMO's authorization." Only after the computer replied, "Authorization in progress," did she remove her hands. "Open your eyes now, my love."

Deanna slowly opened her eyes to find herself standing in the middle of a Scottish moor, a small cottage nearby. "Beverly, this is beautiful."

"I know," came her soft reply, taking Deanna's hand to lead her toward the cottage. "This is what Scotland was like in my ancestors' time. Or so Nana Felisa told me."

"And this cottage?"

"Where I'm going to change my clothes. Nana said this is a replica of the cottage where my great-grandmother more times over than I can remember was brought up. You just wait here while I change, okay?"

Deanna pouted a bit. "I can't join you? Or help you change?"

Bev kissed her lightly. "No, but there are other things you can help me with later." She waggled her eyebrows at Deanna, then ducked into the cottage, making a grand show of locking the door. Deanna leaned against the cottage, near the door, and closed her eyes, reveling in the quiet calm of this program. In just a moment or two, Beverly, wearing a pale green outfit similar to Deanna's, opened the door to find her lover in a meditative trance. She seated herself on a tree stump and watched the Betazoid, just reveling in the sight of her lover looking so serene. When Deanna's eyes finally fluttered open, Bev smiled and said, "This setting only enhances your beauty, my love."

"It's so peaceful here," Deanna admitted, going to kneel next to the redhead. "I feel no pressure here."

"That's good. That's exactly what I had planned. This place is for you and me, no one else knows about it or can access it without our permission," she said, then took Deanna's face in her hands, staring deep into the onyx eyes before she gently kissed the soft lips. "I love you, Deanna," she whispered, her forehead resting against Deanna's.

"And I you, imzadi," came the equally heartfelt reply, accompanied by a tender mental brush. Deanna wrapped her arms around Bev's waist then, resting her cheek on her lover's lap. "I could sit here like this forever." And then she yawned loudly, followed by a heavy sigh, causing Bev to chuckle. She lightly caressed the silken raven tresses, then bent over and kissed the temple there.

"Let's go, darling," she said softly. "There's something I want to show you, the reason I brought you here."

"Okay," Deanna murmured, getting up. Bev took her hand and led her along a little path that Deanna hadn't noticed earlier. She walked in silence, in awe of the beauty of this program.

"Here we are, imzadi," Beverly finally said as they rounded upon a small glade where a picnic lunch was laid out. She sat Deanna down, then knelt next to her. Rummaging in the basket, she pulled out a bunch of grapes, a thermos of chilled cider, and two glasses. She poured the cider, watching her sleepy lover from the corner of her eye. "Go to sleep, my love. We can eat later."

"No, I'm fine," she replied around a yawn, lying back anyway.

Beverly took up a part of the blanket to cover their bodies as they snuggled close together.

* * * * *

Deanna awoke nearly three hours later to what looked, for all intents and purposes, to be a beautiful sunny late spring afternoon. She sighed, then noticed Beverly's arms were wrapped around her waist. Carefully, she turned around to face her lover, who remained asleep. She just watched the redhead sleeping, a sense of tremendous affection coming over her. She leaned in closer and lightly kissed the pale lips, smiled as Beverly sighed in her sleep, and kissed her again. She then began to lightly kiss her way to Bev's left ear, one hand sliding around to untie the laces of the redhead's dress. When the laces were sufficiently loosened, she carefully slid one of Bev's pale breasts from the confines of her dress. Slowly, she slid down to be level with the soft mound of flesh and took the nipple between her lips, gently warming the hardening nubbin.

Beverly sighed again, arching her back. What a wonderful dream, she thought to herself. Must I wake up? Then she jumped as she felt her nipple being lightly bitten. Opening her eyes, she found that her dream had been reality. Deanna's eyes flickered up to meet hers, and she released her hold on her lover's nipple.

"Hi," she said softly, kissing the pale lips, her hand covering Bev's exposed breast.

"Hi, yourself. Thank you for the nice wake-up," came the reply, followed by a gentle kiss to the side of Deanna's neck.

"Anytime," Deanna purred. "I just couldn't help myself. You looked so beautiful, Beverly, I had to show you how much I loved you."

"I know," Bev replied, then moaned as Deanna's lips pulled her nipple between them again. Only with a supreme strength of will did Bev pull her lover's head back and up to face hers. "As much as I would love to abandon myself in making love to you right now, we need to talk first."

"Why?" Deanna asked, sending a particularly erotic image of her tongue on Bev's clit to her flame-haired lover.

Beverly shuddered, feeling that familiar flutter in her womb, and swallowed audibly. "Deanna, please," she begged.

"Please what, imzadi?" Another, more descriptively erotic thought, accompanied by a hand sliding up under the redhead's skirt, fingertips lightly tracing up the length of Bev's thigh, and the Betazoid smiled as her lover gasped. It felt like fire running up and down the length of her body, and Beverly wanted so to be consumed in the flames. Shuddering again, the redhead loosened her grip on the ebony tresses. Deanna took advantage of that and sucked Beverly's painfully hard nipple into her mouth again, her fingers sinking into the warm wetness between her lover's legs.

"Oh god!" Beverly groaned, contracting her vaginal muscles around Deanna's fingers. She'd hardly been touched at all, but the redhead felt herself on the verge of an explosive orgasm already. Deanna began suckling at her nipple in earnest now, seemingly intent on pulling her very soul out of her body through her nipple.

Deanna smiled as Beverly began to whimper like a baby with each thrust of her nimble fingers. She slid a third finger into her lover, then slid her thumb up the curve of the lip to Bev's extended clit. She only barely grazed the sensitive little nubbin with the tip of her thumb, but it set Beverly into fits of orgasmic bliss so strong, Deanna found herself coming right along with her lover. But that didn't stop the Betazoid. In fact, it only increased her activity. She ground her thumb into her lover's clit, further pushing Beverly into an orgasmic frenzy.

Finally, Beverly found the strength to push Deanna away from her spent body. She lay there, still trembling and shaking in the aftermath of her climax, eyes closed, breathing ragged. Vaguely, she was aware of Deanna being in a state similar to her own. She felt too weak to protest when Deanna gathered her into her arms, just nestling closer as Deanna lightly pressed her lips to the pale, damp forehead. Deanna could feel the serene, blissful calm of sleep coming over her lover and smiled. "Now do you see what I mean about being truly aroused by you, how mind-blowing the sex can be?"

"Mm-hmm," was all Bev could manage to get out.

"Too bad what just happened wasn't one hundred percent true arousal," she replied, lightly caressing the red-gold mane.

"It -- it wasn't?"

"No, only about thirty percent or so," the Betazoid replied, smirking as she sensed Bev's trepidation at that.

"Full arousal would kill me...."

"But what a lovely way to die, hmm?" Deanna replied, slipping a hand down to caress Bev's exposed breast. When Beverly whimpered again, Deanna sighed, just holding her close. "So, what did you want to talk about before?"

"Our wedding. I was thinking we could have it tonight, here on the holodeck. We could have the computer recreate the clearing on the planet."

"Oh, Beverly, that would be wonderful."

"And if we didn't want to be naked, we could find something to wear. I mean, I don't plan on making our guests attend naked, tho'--"

"My mother will," Deanna finished for her. She thought for a moment. "I really have no problem being naked for the ceremony, but it's your decision as to whether we are or not. If you're not comfortable with it, I won't push you to do it."

"It just felt so right back on Bidus 5 to be naked for the ceremony, but I don't know now. This is a totally different situation, Deanna."

"Then we'll find some lovely little robes to wear, imzadi. So, what time should we have the ceremony?"

"I was thinking midnight. I mean, that was about the time we first took our vows. And your mother's reception could be tomorrow morning, or even tomorrow afternoon, if she hasn't finished planning it yet. I'd highly doubt she has."

"I don't know," Deanna replied, then cleared her throat, looking up at the sky. "Computer, please send a communique to all senior staff, Alyssa Ogawa, and the guest quarters of my mother and Wesley Crusher, requesting their presence on Holodeck 3 at 2345 for the wedding ceremony for Beverly and myself. Also send it to any crewmembers who will be off-duty at that time."

The computer twittered for a few seconds, then they heard, "Communiques will be sent to read as follows:

You are cordially invited to the wedding ceremony of Deanna Troi and Beverly Crusher, which will take place on Holodeck 3 at 2345 hours this evening, stardate 47827.0.

"Will this suffice?"

"Please add that the time of the reception will be announced following the ceremony," Beverly added.

"Addition made. Communiques being sent."

Deanna sighed. "Only one more thing to do," she murmured, then closed her eyes. Mother, she sent telepathically, Beverly and I have decided to have our ceremony tonight. You'll be receiving the communique any moment now. If your reception isn't ready yet, that's alright.

That's wonderful, Little One. I've been working with young Wesley on the details of your reception. It should be done and ready by then.

Alright. Thank you, Mother, Deanna sent, then smiled and kissed her flame-haired lover. "It seems my mother has enlisted your son's help in planning the reception."

"That could be dangerous," Bev replied with a low, throaty chuckle that set Deanna's heart aflutter. She felt the Betazoid's arms tighten around her perceptibly, and, despite the slightly painful spasms in her own womb, she held Deanna closer, lightly licking the exposed collarbone.

"So can making love to me, imzadi," Deanna whispered, lightly running her fingers up one of Bev's arms. "We could ignite a fire that would burn out of control."

"Then let me be consumed in the flames," Bev replied, pulling Deanna's head down to hers, taking hungry possession of the dark lips. She explored and ravaged every corner of that dark, sweet mouth with a vengeance that left both of them gasping for breath when they finally pulled apart.

"Gladly, imzadi," came the hoarse moan as she felt Bev's hand close on her clothed breast.

Laces were loosened at a feverish pace, then dresses were nearly ripped off in order for the two highly aroused bodies to come into close, extremely close, contact. There was an almost electrical spark between them as Beverly rolled over, sitting astride her lover, pinning Deanna beneath her. The Betazoid gazed up at her, a look of complete and utter affection radiating from her bright onyx eyes, tho' a strong sense of carnal desire was about her being. Bev leaned down and lightly traced the outline of Deanna's lips with her tongue, pressing her hand between the shapely legs to cup the whole of her wet pussy.

"Imzadi," Deanna groaned, undulating her hips against Bev's hand. I want you, she sent across their shared bond.

A look that could almost be considered sadistic crossed Beverly's face at that comment. "Oh really? You know, I still owe you for that little trick you pulled on me yesterday morning."

Deanna's eyes widened. "You wouldn't," she begged, sensing the honesty in her lover's voice. Beverly just smiled. "Beverly...."

"Admit it, imzadi, you're intrigued by the idea," Bev murmured into her ear. Deanna thought for a moment, really thought about it, then smiled. "I knew it, I always thought you had a hidden wild streak."

Deanna didn't answer her right away, not verbally at least. She spread her legs a bit wider and held her hands up to Beverly, wrists together in submission, all the while looking up at Bev with complete trust in her eyes. I'm yours, my mistress.

Beverly stared down at Deanna, truly amazed at this totally trusting submission on her lover's part. It both empowered and frightened the redhead. She took hold of the petite wrists, cradled them to her heart. "You don't have to do this, Deanna, not if you don't want to."

I'm yours, my mistress, she repeated. I'm yours to do with as you please.


I was bad yesterday, Mistress, and I should be punished, she sent, then said, "Computer, create a rope binding to be tied 'round my wrists."

Both women watched as the ropes materialized around the petite wrists, making the Betazoid look even more vulnerable, then Bev suddenly got up and walked away. Deanna followed her, struggling a bit to get up while her wrists were bound. She actually had to run a bit to catch up to the quickly walking redhead. When she finally reached her lover, who stood with her back to the Betazoid, she tentatively spoke. "Imzadi? Are you--?"

"Did I tell you to speak?" Bev asked, whirling about to face her. Deanna could see and feel the dominant determination in her lover, and it put a flutter in her womb. "Or to follow me?"

Deanna immediately bent her head in submission and whispered, "No, Mistress," for which she was rewarded with a slap across the mouth.

"Don't speak until I tell you to. Do you understand me?" Deanna nodded mutely, her eyes still downcast. Oddly enough, she was enjoying this, and could feel that Beverly was enjoying it, too. "You've been very bad, haven't you, Deanna?" Again she nodded. "And what do we do when you disobey?" When Deanna didn't speak, Bev grabbed a handful of her hair, yanking her head up. "Answer me. What do we do when you disobey?"

"Punish me," came her barely audible whisper, a shiver going through her slim body.

"That's right," she replied, loosening her grip on the dark locks. Then she reached out and tweaked both of the brunette's nipples hard. This startled the Betazoid, and knocked her off-balance onto her back. As she landed, she felt a snap in her lower back, then pain ripped through her like wildfire.

"Ahhh!" she cried, unable to move from the pain, unable to even try to remove her restraints.

Beverly was immediately at her side, guilt overwhelming her. She shouldn't have let things go this far. "Deanna? Sweetheart, talk to me. Where's the pain, Deanna, tell me where the pain is."

"It hurts," Deanna moaned. "It feels like fire through my back."

"Can you feel this?" Bev asked, touching her left calf. Deanna nodded. "How about here?" Touched her other thigh. Another nod, accompanied by a whimper. "Computer, remove Counselor Troi's wrist restraints, then show me the arch." She watched the ropes disappear from her lover's wrists, then the guilt peaked again as Deanna rolled into a ball on her side, crying even harder. Then, Beverly noticed the dark bruise on her lower back, could tell by its placement what something had happened to her tailbone. She quickly went to the arch and removed a tricorder from behind one of the panels. She returned to her lover's side and scanned with the tricorder to verify her suspicions: Deanna's tailbone had been broken in the fall. "Deanna, I'm going to get our clothes and get us dressed, so I can get you into Sickbay. I need to get your broken bones mended and stop your pain."

"It hurts, Beverly," Deanna moaned. "Make it stop, please."

"I will, sweetheart, just let me get you dressed and into Sickbay. Okay?" she asked, a hand on Deanna's shoulder. The Betazoid nodded slowly, her eyes squeezed shut, tears spilling down her cheeks. Beverly then quickly grabbed Deanna's dress, then ran back to the cabin to get her clothes. She hurriedly dressed herself, snagging the fishnets horribly. As she ran back to Deanna's side to dress her, Beverly realized that the laces would have to be tightened on Deanna's dress -- right over her broken tailbone. As she knelt next to her lover, she slowly said, "Deanna, I'm going to dress you now. I'll go as fast as I can, so it doesn't hurt as much, okay?"

"No," Deanna cried. "It hurts too much. Take me like this."

"Deanna, we're going to Sickbay, you have to be dressed," she said, then paused for a second. "Crusher to Ogawa."

"Yes, Doctor?"

"Get Isolation Room One ready for me. Deanna's been hurt, her tailbone's broken so I'll need the knitter and the decompressor."

"Of course, Doctor."

"Crusher to Transporter Room Two. Please beam Counselor Troi and me directly to Sickbay Isolation Room One."

"Aye-aye, Doctor."

Bev placed the dress over Deanna's body, one hand remaining on her shoulder, then said, "Energize." Bev stared down at her lover as the shimmering lights began, and still stared at her as they faded. She gently lifted the Betazoid up onto the diagnostic table, tears filling her eyes as Deanna screamed in pain.

"What happened, Doctor?" Alyssa asked, removing Deanna's dress to pass a tricorder over the bruised area. Bev was impressed by her assistant's apparent lack of discomfort as she picked up the knitter to use on Deanna's back.

"We were on the holodeck and Deanna lost her balance and fell before I could catch her and stop her fall."

"Well," Alyssa replied, applying the decompressor to Deanna's back, "maybe you two shouldn't be so rough with each other. You're not holodeck simulations, you can get hurt." Beverly's cheeks turned a deep crimson, and she felt the heat of embarrassment into her neck. Alyssa glanced up at her, smiling, then quickly returned her gaze to her work. "How's that feel now, Counselor?"

"Much better. Thank you, Alyssa," Deanna said softly, tears still tumbling down her cheeks.

"Deanna?" Bev asked, kneeling next to her lover. "Sweetheart, are you all right?"

"I'll leave you two alone now," Alyssa said softly, then closed and locked the door behind her.

"I'll be fine. That just really hurt, that's all."

"I'm sorry, Deanna," Beverly replied, guilt filling her again. "I shouldn't have--"

Deanna stopped her with a finger on her lips. "Don't, imzadi. Don't do this to yourself. I knew what I was getting into. I knew I might be hurt. I accepted that responsibility."


"Admit it, Beverly, you liked it," Deanna replied, tilting her head up a bit. "You liked having that control over me, didn't you?" Bev reluctantly nodded. "Don't be embarrassed about it. I enjoyed it...until I got hurt. But even then, you were so in control, it gave me a thrill."

"Really?" Beverly asked, a spark in her eye.

"Mm-hmm. It was incredibly erotic to give up control to you," Deanna murmured sensually. "I can only imagine what could have happened if I hadn't fallen."


"Yes, my imzadi," Deanna said, taking the redhead's face in her hands to kiss her, "we can explore this more in the future." And then she yawned, which made Bev chuckle. "And, yes, all that crying wore me out. Can we go home now?"

"Your quarters or mine?"

"I don't care, Beverly. I just want to crawl under the covers, curl up next to your warm, lovely body, and sleep."

"Okay, let's get this dress on you and get you home and into bed," Bev replied, helping Deanna sit up.

* * * * *

Deanna and Beverly stood in the middle of a clearing that exactly resembled the place where they'd first taken their vows. Bev held Deanna in her arms, their fingers laced together and resting on Deanna's stomach. Both stared up at the two moons, nearing their conjunction, and sighed. Bev lightly kissed the side of Deanna's neck, then said, "You look just as beautiful as you did that night a little over two years ago."

"I'm with the woman I love, about to make a commitment to spend the rest of my life with her, in front of my friends and family. I'm happy, and my life is complete."

"Not complete, my love, not yet," Bev replied, lightly caressing her lover's stomach, causing Deanna to turn and face her, a quizzical look on her face. "You will be pregnant, Deanna, as soon as possible."

Tears filled Deanna's eyes. "Really? Imzadi, do you mean it?"

"Yes, I mean it. I want you to be pregnant, Deanna. I want you to carry our daughter. Besides, I know how much it would mean to your mother."

"Who cares how my mother feels," Deanna replied, a broad smile covering her face.

Well, I do, for one, they both heard in their heads. As one, the two women turned to face Lwaxana, who was surveying the area with a smile of approval on her face. "This is a beautiful setting, Little One. Wherever did you find it?"

"This is the place where we first took our vows, Mother," Deanna said softly. "Under these two moons, just before they joined to become one."

"Really? I must visit this place. It sounds absolutely refreshing."

"It is," Beverly replied, memories of her time spent there with Deanna running through her mind. "I've never hated leaving a place more than when we had to leave Bidus 5."

"Really?" Deanna asked, surprised.


"You sound as if you don't believe her, Little One."

"That's because she doesn't, and rightly so," Bev replied. At the elder Betazoid's odd look, she continued. "There were some...extenuating circumstances surrounding our time on Bidus 5 and the time it's taken for us to get back together. I don't blame her for feeling the way she does, not at all."

"What exactly happened between the two of you?" Deanna and Beverly exchanged glances. "I know you invited me here earlier for a reason. I assume it's to explain this story to me."

"No," Beverly said slowly. "We asked you to come early to give us a traditional Betazoid bonding blessing."

"Right now?"

"At the end of the ceremony?" Bev asked. "I mean, Jean-Luc's marrying us so that we have a legally binding ceremony, as the one we've chosen isn't yet approved by Starfleet."

"Of course, I'll give the traditional blessing. I'm honored that you asked me."

"Of course, we would, Mother. Can you honestly think we wouldn't?"

"No," she replied, embracing the two women. "But you must promise to tell me this whole story about your relationship sometime soon."

"We will, Lwaxana, I promise," Bev said as Picard, Riker, and Wes entered the holodeck.

"A beautiful setting for a wedding," Picard replied as they reached the three women. "Will the others be here soon?"

"They should be arriving in half an hour or so," Bev replied, smiling at the three men most important in her life. "Um, we asked the four of you to come earlier for a reason. The ceremony we're going to use is one of proclamation and renewal, but we've basically explained that already...."

"Mom, just tell us what you want us to do," Wes said softly, a hand on each of their shoulders. "You know we'll listen."

The redhead smiled, looking warmly at her son, then the other three. "I know. Um, what we'd like you to do is give us away."

"Well, if that's all you wanted, why all the secrecy?" Will asked. "Of course, we'll give you away."

"No, Will," Bev replied, "that's not all. Um...."

"We'd like the four of you to say something at the ceremony."

"Like what, Little One?"

"I don't know, Mother, whatever come to mind, I guess."

"So, for example, I could talk about my dad, and how much Mom loved him, and how that allowed her to love you? Sort of?" Wes asked, his light baritone soothing his mother's nerves again.

"Sure, Wes. Whatever you feel like sharing with everyone. Beverly and I want you all to be part of our celebration."

"As far as we're concerned, we're already proclaimed and committed, but we want the people closest to us, our family, to join in the bonding ceremony."

"Then, of course, we'll do this," Will replied, hugging both of them.

"Who is to be first?" Picard asked.

"Whoever feels most comfortable, I guess," Bev replied. "You'll just know when the time comes. Will, Wes, we'd like the two of you to escort everyone in and seat them in a circle here around this center area where we're standing. Then, when everyone's here, Jean-Luc and Lwaxana will escort us to the edge of the circle...." And so she proceeded to describe the ceremony to their loved ones.

"And then we go on to our reception," Lwaxana replied after the redhead finished. "Provided everyone is willing."

Deanna smiled, but she could feel the nervous, anxious fear in the pit of her stomach, needed time alone with Beverly to calm herself. Mother, she mentally called, Beverly and I are going off to talk for a bit. Will you come get us when it's time to start?

Of course, Little One. Don't be so worried, this will be all you wanted and more.

"Come on," Deanna whispered to Beverly, leading her away. The redhead followed, glad for the time alone before the ceremony. They stopped a few metres away, and Deanna turned to face her lover. She sank to her knees and looked up at Beverly, who shook her head in dismay.

"Not now, Deanna," she moaned, "not with everyone arriving."

Deanna shook her head and held out her hand to Bev. "Please, imzadi?" Deanna asked, letting some of her fear and anxiety show in her voice and on her face. Beverly immediately sank to her knees and interlaced her fingers with Deanna's. The Betazoid took comfort in her closeness, both physical and emotional, and sighed heavily.

"Are you alright, Deanna?" The concern was palpable in the CMO.

"Just nervous, I guess," Deanna finally admitted. "Um, I want to try something with you now, before the ceremony. It's a method to help prepare you for telepathic communication with me."

"What do I do?" Bev asked, implicitly trusting her lover, just as the counselor had done to her earlier.

Deanna smiled gratefully, slid closer to her lover, knees touching. "Just relax and listen to my voice, both vocal and mental. I'll test and establish the boundaries of what we can do. Eventually, we may be able to expand those boundaries. Mother believes you have some small latent ability."

"Really?" Bev murmured.

"Mm-hmm," Deanna replied, noting her lover's eyes drooping. The redhead was taking slow, deep breaths, and Deanna could feel how relaxed she was becoming, how telepathically open she was. She tested their bond, noted how easily she could slip into her lover's mind. "Good," she murmured, watching Bev's eyes flutter shut, then she let her own eyelids close. Just listen to my voice, imzadi, she whispered in her lover's mind. Listen to my voice, relax, and let go of everything else. Let me show you the communion we can share. Anything you need to tell me, just think it, and I'll pick it up.

Beverly lightly squeezed her hands in response, still deeply relaxed. Deanna smiled inwardly, sending a feeling of thanks to her lover. They sat there, in silent union for nearly half an hour, as Deanna explored her lover's mind. And then she felt her mother's light mental touch.

It's time, Little One.

Thank you, Mother.

Thank you, Lwaxana, came Beverly's voice, soft, tentative, but heard nonetheless by both Betazoids.

Deanna's eyes snapped open immediately. "How did you do that?"

Do what? Bev thought, still so relaxed, she believed Deanna was telepathically talking to her.

"Beverly," Deanna said, pulling at their combined hands to wake her up. "I'm not projecting my thoughts to you anymore, but you're projecting to both of us."

"That's not normal?" Came the soft reply as she opened her eyes.

"No, not when I haven't taught you to do it yet. You really must have some latent abilities," Deanna said. "But we'll look into that later. Right now, it's time for us to get married."

"Alright, my love," Bev said, gently kissing Deanna before they stood up. They made as if to leave when Lwaxana took their hands in hers.

"It does my heart good to see you so happy, Little One. And I want you both to know I couldn't wish for anything or anyone better for Deanna."

"Thank you, Lwaxana," Bev replied, her eyes clouding with tears. "You don't know what it means to me to hear you say that."

I think I do.

"Is everything alright, ladies?" Picard asked, joining them.

"Fine, Jean-Luc," Bev replied, wiping away her tears.

"Good," he replied, kissing both of their cheeks. Then he offered the redhead his hand as Lwaxana took her daughter's hand. The two brides were led to the edge of the circle. Bev couldn't believe how many of the crew had shown up for the ceremony. Besides the senior staff and their friends, she could see almost her entire medical staff, plus at least another fifteen crewmembers. She guessed there were roughly forty people sitting in the circle surrounding them. The fact that so many people took the time to make their wedding special brought tears to the redhead's eyes again.

"Ready, imzadi?" Deanna asked.

Beverly took Deanna's hand in hers and, squeezing it tightly, they walked to the center of the circle, where they would be taking their vows. "Um, hello, everyone. Deanna and I would like to thank you for joining us in celebrating our wedding. Um, this is going to be a little different from most weddings, in that we are taking pieces from three different cultures to create our ceremony: Betazoid, Terran, and Bidusian."

"We will do the Bidusian portion first, followed by the Terran, with the Betazoid last," Deanna said, taking over. "Your assistance will be requested at one point in the ceremony. It's the reason you were all given candles when you came in."

"We know that our wedding comes as a shock to a number of you, most of you actually. Um, it's taken a long time for us to get to this point, but it was worth it."

There was a light smattering of applause at that, putting the lovers at ease again. The two women knelt in from of the candles they had set out, including the brightly burning Howard heirloom and a small bowl of water. They stared into each other's eyes for a long moment, finding that calmness they felt when together. And in that moment, they forgot they even had other people around them. It was almost as if they were transported back in time to the night they'd first made their vows.

Beverly was the first to move, like twice before. She reached out and picked up one of the candles -- the same ones they'd used the morning before -- and tipped it to light the wick from the flame. And, as before, it took immediately, tho' this time Deanna fought the impulse to take up the other candle before it was time. Instead, she took Beverly's free hand, staring deeply into her lover's eyes over the flame.

"I proclaim for my dear, sweet Sare Deanna. She has been my closest friend and confidante for nearly seven years now, someone I could be myself with, no matter what. As time went on, friendship turned to love -- at first the love of sisters and best friends. Then, that all changed, and the love went beyond friendship, beyond family. But it wasn't until that fateful mission to Bidus 5 that we earned how far beyond it had gone. I loved Deanna so very much, but I could only express that love on the planet, where on one knew us. I couldn't trust myself to learn how others, my friends and family, felt about my love for her, so I closed off my feelings for Deanna and tried to just be friends again. I've put myself through hell for two years now, denying myself the happiness I had, and wanted again. But no more. I need Deanna in my life, I need to feel her love surrounding me always. She is everything to me. She is the light that has guided me thru the darkness for many years now, and I don't think I could survive without her near me. She is my best friend, my lover, my love, my life."

Beverly stopped at that point, tears spilling down her cheeks, unable to continue. She wanted so badly to just fall into Deanna's comforting arms and weep uncontrollably. It's alright, imzadi, Deanna's voice rang in her head. Everything will be just fine. Were you finished with your vows? Bev nodded, trying to smile for her lover.

Deanna's eyes bore into her lover's as she reached down to pick up the other candle. She tipped it over, waited as the wick caught its mate's flame and began to burn brightly. She held up her candle equal with Beverly's, gazing over the twin flames at her lover, exuding love and contentment toward her flame-haired goddess.

"I accept, and proclaim for my dearest, sweetest imzadi, my Sare Beverly. Words cannot express all that I feel for her. From the first day I met her, I knew we were destined to be close friends. I, too, loved Beverly as my closest, dearest friend and sister. And, like hers for me, my love for her went beyond friendship and family. But, I acknowledged that difference sooner. Perhaps it was due to the openness of my heritage, perhaps it was because I have loved other women in my lifetime. I have no qualms in admitting that I've had female lovers. Will knew, and I know he'd be the first to admit he's taken advantage of it, because he has. But, even my first love, Chandra, meant nothing to me compared to what Beverly means to me. The love I felt for and from Chandra is but the palest reflection of the love that flows between Beverly and myself.

"When we were assigned to that mission on Bidus 5, a first contact mission in more ways that one, I was thrilled to be able to spend time alone with Beverly, away from the ship. I didn't consciously plan to reveal my feelings to her, I actually wasn't sure how she'd react. But, once we were on the planet, and I felt the wonderful things I was feeling from all of those women, I had no choice, I had to let her know how I felt." Tears began to slip down her cheeks as she continued. "At first, she resisted, and I persisted till she relented.

"When I first heard the words I love you from her mouth, I nearly died of happiness. And when she rejected me in fear, I nearly died again, tho' I never let her see how much it tore me up inside. I put on a very brave face to everyone about it -- especially Beverly. I knew why she was scared, why she'd rejected me, and I didn't want her to feel any worse or force her to make a decision she wasn't ready to make. And I'm so very glad I didn't. That she came to this decision of her own volition, my heart is near to bursting from happiness again. I cannot express the hell I've been through these past two years, made doubly hard because I felt every pang of fear, guilt, love, and jealousy from Beverly. But, I would gladly do it all over again, to end up with my love once again.

"She is my imzadi, my one true love, my lifeline in troubled times. She has held my life in her hands, taken it from me, and given it back, all without any outward signs of fear or regret, but I know it caused her great emotional trauma. And I know I never want to cause or feel the intensely negative emotions we've both been feeling these past two years. I want my imzadi to be happy, and I will spend the rest of my life making her as happy and as beautiful as she was the first time we made love" -- Beverly turned a dark shade of crimson at that -- "even if it kills me. I love her, more than life itself."

For a moment, they were silent, staring deeply into each other's eyes, reveling in the honesty they'd just shared, with their friends, and each other. The, as one, they leaned in to share a soft, gentle kiss, just to remind themselves of the love they felt for each other. Then, as they separated, the lovers stood and walked toward the people closest to them. They stood in front of the quartet, candles in hand. Beverly was about to speak when Will held out his candle toward theirs. The two women placed their candles together, a united flame, like their united love.

"As I light my candle," he began, "let the light of your love pass through the flames to me."

What a beautiful sentiment, Will, Deanna sent him telepathically.

"Deanna and Beverly asked me to say a few words now, to end the Bidusian portion of the  ceremony and segue into the Terran portion. We will be passing the flame around the circle. If you wish to say something, you may, but you don't have to." He paused then for a bit, collecting his thoughts. "I have been a very fortunate man. In my lifetime, I have known many special privileges, but the most special of all is having known and loved both of these women. Beverly and Deanna are very incredible, intellectual, compassionate, passionate women, and I know that they are the perfect couple, each complementing the other. I can only hope to find someone that is so perfect for me as these two dear friends of mine have found their perfect mates in each other."

He flashed a big smile at the couple, then turned at the tap on his shoulder. And Jean-Luc Picard tipped his candle to the flame, saying, "As I light my candle, let the light of this love pass through the flames to me." The captain gazed at his two officers, a small smile playing across his lips as he noted the slightly pensive look on Beverly's face. "I have known Beverly for more years than either of us care to admit, and my admiration for her has only grown as time passed on. Granted, I've only known Deanna for seven years now, but I have come to think of her as a dear, cherished daughter. That they have found happiness with each other is wonderful. They both deserve only the very best, and they've found that in each other."

And then, Wesley was lowering his candle, saying, "As I light my candle, let the light of the love of my mother and Deanna pass through the flames to me." He cleared his throat, and stared directly into his mother's eyes -- brown on blue. "I know the extent of my mother's love, for myself and for my father, so I know what she feels for Deanna. And I know that, if he were here, my father would be as proud as I am of my mother for accepting this love that makes her whole. And when they have their daughters, and I know they will, they'll have all the love and support I can give them."

Beverly was now sobbing uncontrollably into Deanna's arms. Wes made as if to go to her side, but Deanna shook her head, motioning for her mother to continue. Lwaxana watched the lovers for a moment, then smiled as Bev pulled back, wiping her eyes to tearfully smile at her son.

As Lwaxana bent her candle over Wesley's, the flame seemed to leap up toward her wick. "As I light my candle, let the light of the love that flows between Deanna and Beverly pass through the flames to me." She looked down at the candle's flame, a flood of memories from Deanna's childhood filling her head. Then she looked up at the two women, tears in her own eyes. "As I look at my daughter standing here, I see the woman she has become, yet I remember my little one growing up. And I am reminded of the many talks we've had over the years regarding her close friendship with this strikingly beautiful woman, as Deanna once described her." And Beverly's cheeks flushed at the praise. "I just never realized the depth of this friendship, or the love that connected them, but I suppose I just ignored that part of my telepathy. But, that is of little matter now. I have seen and truly felt the depths of love and commitment between my daughter and her imzadi, and I accept and wholeheartedly support this bonding."

And so it went around the circle, everyone lighting their candles and saying something. By the time the circle of flames was completed, nearly an hour had passed. Bev and Deanna started back toward the center to wait for Picard, but Will grabbed their joined hands, stopping them. Picard walked to the center as Lwaxana reached behind her to grab two bouquets, handing them to the lovers. There was a spot in the center of each bouquet for their candles, which they quickly filled. And so, pink, white, and red roses and camellias surrounded each woman's candle. Will stood between them, offering each an arm, while Wes and Lwaxana stood on their other sides. And so the fivesome made their way to Picard in solemn silence. They stopped and the three escorts stepped back as the lovers held hands again.

Picard looked at the them, smiled warmly. "Who gives away Beverly into this union?"

"I do, sir," Wes replied, "as her son and only living family member."

Picard nodded, then said, "And who gives away Deanna into this union?"

"I do, Captain, as her mother and only living family member."

He nodded again, then looked at Riker with confused amusement, wondering what the man would say. "And you, sir? What of you?"

"I give both Beverly and Deanna into this union, as their closest mutual friend," he replied, a hand on each of their shoulders, then he stepped back again.

"It is always a pleasure to officiate a wedding, the bringing together of two souls who love each other in a sacred union. This union is made even more special because I know and love both of these women standing before me," Picard said, then paused a moment. "Now then, Beverly, Deanna, have you anything else you'd like to say to each other before we proceed with your final vows?"

"No, sir," they replied as one.

"Very well then. Beverly, do you take this woman before you, Deanna Troi, to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love, honour, cherish, and obey, in times of joy and sorrow, well or ill of body and spirit, to have and to hold, forsaking all others, till death do you part?"

Looking through tears at her bride, Bev nodded, murmuring, "I do."

"And do you, Deanna, take this woman before you, Beverly Howard Crusher, to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love, honour, cherish, and obey, in times of joy and sorrow, well or ill of body and spirit, to have and to hold, forsaking all others, till death do you part?"

"I do," she whispered, sending the same message telepathically.

"And is there anyone here who can show just cause why these two women should not be joined in the bonds of holy matrimony?" Picard paused for a moment for the silence of acceptance, then cleared his throat to continue. "Do you have the rings?"

Bev and Deanna looked up at each other, panic in their eyes. Rings? They hadn't even thought of using rings. "I have them right here, sir," Will replied, giving the captain two rings. The two women flashed grateful smiles at him. "Consider them my wedding gift to you," he murmured.

Picard took up the narrower of the two bands and gave it to the redhead, as Lwaxana took the bouquets. "Beverly, as you place this ring on Deanna's finger, repeat these words. I give you this perfect circle of silver as a symbol and a token of the perfect love between us. Know that by wearing it, you will never be apart from my love."

"Deanna, I give you this perfect circle of silver as a symbol and a token of the perfect love between us. Know that by wearing this, you will never be apart from my love," Beverly said, slipping the ring onto Deanna's finger to rest perfectly next to her engagement ring.

"And now, Deanna," Picard said, handing her the other, slightly wider band, "repeat after me as you place this ring on Beverly's finger. I give you this perfect circle of silver as a symbol and a token of the perfect love between us. Know that by wearing it, you will never be apart from my love."

"Beverly, I give you this perfect circle of silver as a symbol and a token of the perfect love between us. Know that by wearing it, you will never be apart from my love," Deanna replied softly as the ring slid perfectly into place on the redhead's finger, as if it had always belonged there.

"And now, by the witnessing of these vows shared and the exchanging of these rings, and by the power vested in me by Starfleet Command, I am proud to pronounce you wi--" He paused a second, then smiled and said, "I am proud to pronounce you imzadi, legally bound together as you are emotionally bound to each other. You may now share your first kiss of marriage."

Beverly and Deanna looked at each other, suddenly feeling awkward. Then Beverly took Deanna's face in her hands and leaned in to press her lips to her lover's -- wife's lips. The contact triggered a very carefully reserved desire between the two women. Deanna's arms slipped up around Beverly's waist as the kiss deepened. Both women could feel a slight difference in this kiss from their others, but didn't care. It felt incredible. As their tongues touched, Deanna relaxed so much, Beverly had to tighten her grip on the younger woman's face, trying to hold her up, but Deanna simply leaned into her wife a bit more. Finally, after a slightly insistent mental nudge from Lwaxana, the two women pulled back from the kiss, arms around each other's waists.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured and pleased to present to you the newlyweds," Picard said, beaming like a proud father, as Deanna and Beverly turned in a slow circle to look at their friends and coworkers.

And then, Lwaxana traded places with captain. As the three men returned to the circle, she knelt down. Deanna quickly followed suit, bringing Bev down next to her. Lwaxana pulled the lavender ribbon from her hair and wound it round the two women's combined hands, tying it tightly.

"The Betazoid bonding blessing is traditionally performed within the Betazoid bonding ceremony itself," she said, looking around the circle. Then, she returned her gaze to her daughter and daughter-in-law. "But now, it's being performed separately, with everyone clothed, and not in the traditional Betazoid." Lwaxana composed herself, then gazed at the two younger women, warmed by their love for each other. "By the ancient blood of our people, our heritage and pride were forged and passed on. Let now the blood and power of your ancestors commingle in this most sacred union of hearts, minds, souls, bodies. Let your love shine and guide you through your physical time together, and allow you to rejoin on the other side. And, should the Four Deities allow it, let this union be blessed with an abundance of children, daughters to carry on our traditions, and sons to protect your daughters and our world."

"So we ask of the Four Deities," Deanna and Bev murmured, eyes fluttering shut in reverence.

"As this is a bonding of true imzadi, we further entreat the Four Deities to protect and watch over this great uniting of two souls destined to be together."

"So we ask of the Four Deities," they repeated.

Lwaxana reached over to get the bowl of water, careful not to spill a single drop. She reached forward and undid both women's robes, spreading them open a bit. Dipping her fingers into the water, she touched first Deanna's forehead, then Bev's, saying, "I bless these, your foreheads, that you might have knowledge and wisdom beyond your years, by the will of the Four Deities." She dipped her fingers into the water, touched both of pairs of closed eyelids. "I bless these, your eyes, that you might see all that was created, by the will of the Four Deities." Again into the water to moisten their lips. "I bless these, your lips, that you might speak truth, by the will of the Four Deities." Next their hearts were anointed. "I bless these, your hearts, that you might seek and feel love and compassion, by the will of the Four Deities." She touched wet fingertips to their lower stomachs, just above their pubic hair. "I bless these, your wombs, that you might have children to carry on our traditions, by the will of the Four Deities." Lastly, she dipped the fingers of both hands into the bowl, clasping them about the bound hands. "And finally, I bless this, your union, that it may be filled with only the closest of bonds and love, by the will of the Four Deities. May your hearts and minds be one for eternity, comliazadi always." And she leaned forward to brush their cheeks with her lips before untying the silk binding their hands.

Deanna pulled Beverly close for their final kiss of pledging their love together; after this, all their kisses would be kisses of true, full commitment. She held her flame-haired love close, her lips searching out the comforting warmth of the soft pale lips in front of her. The kiss itself was soft, lingering, filled with an intimacy Deanna was certain everyone else could sense, yet there was nothing sexual about the intimacy of this kiss.

As they finally pulled back from the kiss, Bev smiled and said, "Hi there, Mrs. Howard."

A grin covered Deanna's face. "Hi there yourself, Mrs. Troi. Think you can handle marrying into royalty?"

"I handle you pretty well, don't I?" came her reply, making both of them laugh. Then Bev leaned over and closed up Deanna's robe. "From now on, only I see this magnificent body." Deanna smiled her agreement and did up Bev's robe, then both women smiled at Lwaxana.

"Congratulations, my daughters, you are bonded," she said, beaming.

And the, the couple stood to receive congratulations from their friends and coworkers, all the while only having eyes for each other.