Shades of the Past

by A. Magiluna Stormwriter

"I don't care cause sometimes
I said sometimes I hear my voice
and it's been here silent all these years"
--Tori Amos, "Silent All These Years"

"when you gonna make up your mind
when you gonna love you as much as I do
when you gonna make up your mind
cause things are gonna change so fast...
I tell you that I'll always want you near
you say that things change my dear"
--Tori Amos, "Winter"

"come on come on come on
over and over
come on come on come on
we all wanted this
come on come on come on
over and over
it's such an unusual kiss"
--Melissa Etheridge, "An Unusual Kiss"

Ro Laren paced the room like a caged animal. She hated this. There was no reason for it. She snuck a glance at the room's other occupant, knowing that if she got caught, she'd be forced to talk.

"Laren? Why don't you have a seat and tell me what's bothering you?"

Damn! She hadn't been quick enough. Deanna'd caught her. Which should have been obvious to Laren, Deanna was an empath after all. Instead of answering immediately, Laren took the time to look at the woman who ruled this room, Counselor's office.

Deanna Troi sat on the couch, the quintessential picture of perfect, prim, proper composure in her blue-on-black duty uniform. Her hair was pulled back neatly into a plain silver barrette, taming the tangle of unruly ebony curls. Her perfectly sculpted hands were interlaced and hooked over her knee.

"Laren? Are you alright?" There was a frown creasing the perfect alabaster face.

"I'm fine, Counselor," she managed to get out, trying to back away toward the door. What was going on with her?

"No, Laren, you're not," Deanna said, standing. She went to Laren's side, touched her arm. That touch was like a bolt of electricity through the Bajoran's body. "You're upset. Let's talk about this, see how we can fix it."

"N-no, thank you, Counselor," Laren stammered. "I'm sorry I bothered you." And she turned and ran out of the office. She made her way blindly into a turbolift. "Deck 10," she said absently, confusion filling her.

She exited the 'lift, made her way toward Holodeck 3. As she neared it, she noticed the panel glowing; someone was using the holodeck. Then, as she decided to go to another holodeck room, the doors opened to reveal Beverly Crusher wearing a tight dancer's leotard and tap shoes.

"Hi there, Laren. Gonna use the holodeck?" What a disarmingly charming smile covered her face, her blue eyes sparkling. She was wiping the sweat from her face as she tapped the button to discontinue her program. Laren envied that towel suddenly.

"Um, yeah, I'd figured I'd check out some exercise programs," she said, idly flipping through the exercise menu.

"Well, if you'd like, my dance program is 'Crusher 4,'" she offered, patted Laren on the shoulder, then left.

Laren watched her walk away, an easy sway to the doctor's hips. She took a deep breath, began searching through the programs in earnest. She really needed a workout; her frustration level was way too high. Suddenly, one program caught her eye: Yar 9, Aikido Plus. Laren knew about Tasha Yar. Geordi and Worf had once told her about the former security chief. Both spoke of her as being a good friend and exceptional officer; Worf had called her a true cha'dIch, one of the best human warriors he'd ever know. With this in mind, Laren activated the program, needing the workout she knew it would give her, then entered the holodeck.

* * *

Deanna Troi sat in her office, in the middle of a session with Reg Barclay, when she got the oddest feeling. Images of Tasha Yar popped into her head, unbidden. She hadn't thought of Tasha for so long; why now? Then it hit her. It was the anniversary of Tasha's death, six years ago today.

"Don't you think so, Counselor?" Reg asked, pulling her out of her reverie.

"What?" she asked, shuttering her memories of Tasha away in her mind. "I'm sorry, Reg. My mind was wandering for a moment there. It won't happen again."

"That's okay," he replied. "I'm not offended."

She sensed his honesty and smiled. He really had come a long way in the four years she'd been counseling him. But, it still didn't give her the right to do what she'd done. "I know, and I thank you, Reg, but it doesn't excuse what I did."

"Well, um, if you don't mind, I'd like to leave now. I, um, I kind of have a date to get ready for."

"A date? That's wonderful, Reg!" Deanna was truly happy for him. "I won't ask who she is, but I would like to know what you have planned. If you don't mind, that is."

"I was planning on taking Cheryl for a walk in the arboretum," he said, blushing a bit at the memory of his one date with the beautiful Betazoid.

"What a romantic first date, Reg. You must really like this lady. I sincerely wish you the best of luck, and I'll see you next week."

"Okay," he said, standing to leave, then turned to face her again. "I, uh, I just want to thank you for everything you've done to, uh, help me get to this point."

Deanna stood, went to his side. "You've come a long way, Reg, and you deserve the best in life." She stretched up to brush her lips across his cheek, then watched as he left the office. She stood there for a moment, then sighed, her eyes growing clouded, and tapped her comm badge. "Troi to Crusher."

"Crusher here. What's up, Deanna?"

"Do you--? Are you busy right now?"

"I have a short staff meeting in a little bit, but I'm free after that. Why?"

"I just need a shoulder, I guess," she admitted, a bit reluctant to voice a shortcoming, even to her best friend.

"What's wrong, Deanna?" Bev Crusher's voice was so calming, compassionate.

"Tasha," she blurted, a lump in her throat. She still felt responsible for their friend's death. Probably would for the rest of her life.

"Oh god," Beverly moaned. "I totally forgot what today was."

"I wish I was that lucky."

"I'll finish up my meeting as soon as I can, then I'll meet you in your quarters. Okay?"

"Okay."

* * *

"You are a good fighter, Ro Laren."

"Thanks," she replied, bending over at the waist to catch her breath. This was an incredible program. Yar had created a simulacrum of herself to spar with, who had all of her abilities and skills. At least, Laren assumed that last part. This program would definitely become part of her regular regimen.

"But you're not as good as me," Tasha continued with a sweep kick that knocked Laren flat on her back with a thud. She groaned, mad at herself for letting that happen. Tasha laughed and offered her a hand to get up. Laren took it and was pulled up quickly, forcefully. Caught off guard again, she leaned into the blonde woman's body, trying to regain her balance. Tasha's other hand trailed lightly down Laren's arm. "So strong, yet so delicate," she murmured.

Laren felt a twinge in the pit of her stomach at that feather touch. Uncomfortable with what she thought was happening, she pushed Tasha back. "Trying to catch me off guard so I'll get knocked on my ass again? Don't think so, Yar." And she took up her defensive stance again, waited for Tasha to make the first move. Did she ever....

Tasha stood there for a moment, then reached up and unzipped the front of her uniform, a broad smile on her face. Then she walked over to Laren, unzipped the Bajoran's jacket and slid it off of her. Laren stood there in shock, and felt her nipples stiffen, she hoped from the sudden chill in the air. Tasha's smile widened.

"Perfect," she murmured, "just perfect." And let her hands rest on the slim hips of the Bajoran woman. She pulled the dark woman closer, smiled at the easy acquiescence, leaned forward to gently touch her pale pink lips to the mulberry ones before her. She felt the shiver that went through Laren's body. "You like this, don't you, Ro?"

"Laren," she mumbled.

"Hmm?"

"My name is Laren," she stammered, rambling, mesmerized by the sea-green eyes. "In Bajoran custom, our last names first and our first names last."

Tasha silenced her with another soft kiss.

* * *

"How are you doing, Deanna?" Beverly asked, sitting next to her friend. Deanna shrugged her shoulders, her eyes downcast. Bev very rarely saw her friend like this. It bothered her, scared her actually, to see the usually composed, unflappable Betazoid this moody, depressed. She took her diminutive friend into her arms. Deanna didn't even bother to try resisting. The tears began to fall almost immediately. She just held the younger woman close, letting the pent-up emotions out.

"All my fault," Deanna sobbed. "Should have been m-="

"Don't you dare! Don't you dare say it should have been you, Deanna," Bev said fiercely. "You know that's not true."

"Isn't it?" came the reply as the Betazoid pulled back and began pacing. "My shuttle crashed on Vagra II. It was because of me that we encountered Armus. And it was because of me that Will was hurt and Tasha was killed."

"No, Deanna. I was there with the Away Team. They would have reacted the same way, no matter who was in the shuttle."

"But I was in that shuttle."

"Dammit, Deanna! Listen to me! Its not your fault."

"Yes, it is!" Deanna yelled, facing the doctor. "You don't put the Away Team or the ship at risk for one person. That's been drilled into all of us since day one at the Academy. It's my fault that Tasha's dead. Maybe it would have been easier if I'd just killed her with my bare hands."

Beverly slapped her hard across the mouth. "Stop it!"

* * *

"Oh my god," Laren breathed as Tasha's tongue glided across the curve of her breast to flick the sensitive nipple. She stood there, eyes closed, hands clenched into fists at her sides, wanting to touch the blonde woman, but somehow unable to. She'd never felt this utterly powerless before, definitely never enjoyed it so much. She felt her knees begin to buckle, and sank to the floor. Tasha smiled again, knelt next to her.

"Anxious for more?" she purred, running a hand from Laren's hair down to her waist. The darker woman just nodded, afraid to speak, afraid her voice would fail her. "Mmm, good," came the reply as the blonde leaned to recapture one of the dark nipples. Laren sighed, arched her back toward that mouth, then stiffened as one of the small hands slid between her legs.

* * *

Deanna stared at Beverly, stunned, a hand holding her stinging cheek and mouth. She pulled her hand back, stared at it; both women saw the blood from her cut lip. Her eyes returned to the doctor's. "You--? I'm bleeding?"

"I'm sorry, Deanna," came the reply as the CMO instinctively reached forward. Deanna shrank back from her touch. "I just want to look at your lip, make sure you're okay."

"You hit me?" The words were a little muffled as her lip began to puff up.

"I had to, you were getting out of control. I didn't know what else to do. I didn't mean to hit you that hard, Deanna, you've got to believe me. I'd never purposely try to hurt you."

"But you did. You hit me. How could you? I trusted you, Beverly, I thought I knew you."

"And I thought I knew you better, too, Deanna. I've never seen you this irrationally upset before. You scared me," she said, her voice softening. "I needed to calm you down, get you to see what you were doing to yourself. And, I'll admit I was getting angry with you, frustrated, and that frustration is what led me to slap you."

As she spoke, she eased closer to the Betazoid. Finally, she moved Deanna's hand to examine her split lip. The smaller woman began to shy away, but Bev gently smiled, stroked the unslapped cheek tenderly. She quickly ran her trained, sensitive fingers over the cheek and lip, found no permanent damage, then reached up to brush away the few stray tears that had slipped down out of the ebony eyes, held those eyes with her own steady gaze. Then, inexorably, she leaned forward, softly, carefully kissed the puffy lips. She could taste the salt of the mingled blood and tears, felt the swollen, tender skin.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, tears filling her own eyes. "I didn't mean-=" She was cut off by Deanna's mouth on hers, a little harder, more insistent. Her eyes were filled with questions when she pulled back.

"Please," Deanna murmured. "Just love me. I need someone right now, I need to feel needed."

Beverly replied in the only way she knew how: she pulled the smaller woman into a close embrace, her mouth returning to the waiting lips of her best friend.

* * *

Tasha sat up next to Laren, leaning on one arm, the other hand idly straying back and forth between the nipples and the waistband of the uniform pants. She tried to slip her hand into the pants, but was stopped by a hand on her arm.

"It's alright, Laren," she murmured. "I'm not going to hurt you. In fact, I think you're going to enjoy it very much."

"Maybe that's what I'm afraid of," Laren said, looking away.

"Then let me put your fears to rest," Tasha replied softly, so softly that Laren had to look at her, had to see if she'd really spoken or not.

Laren watched as Tasha stood and removed the rest of her clothes. Laren stared at the lithe body of a trained fighter, yet all she could focus on were the very feminine attributes: the small, pert breasts, the gently curving hips, the light pubic thatch that led to her sex. She felt her mouth begin to water at the sight of the pale beauty before her. Tasha just stood there, still as a statue for a long moment. Only when the Bajoran stretched out her arms did the blonde move. And all she did was shake her head and smile.

Laren knew what Tasha was doing, and why, but she didn't care anymore. She didn't want to be afraid anymore. She got up on her knees, in supplication before a pale goddess. She tilted her head up to see Tasha smiling, then slowly licked her lips before enveloping one of the pale nipples. Her hands rested on the slim hips, more to steady herself than anything else. The nubbin of flesh between her lips hardened as she lightly suckled it, sending a thrill of delight through her own body. The feeling spurred her on to do more, but what...? Then, as if they had a mind of their own, her hands began to move. One wrapped around the slender waist, gently tracing the curves of the hips and ass, while the other slid down to the triangle between the tapered legs. She was surprised by the ease with which she knew how and what to do.

"Ohhh!" Tasha moaned, as Laren's fingers entered her. "That's wonderful, Laren. You are heavenly, my dear."

The darker woman couldn't answer her, her senses were hypersensitive; she could smell, taste, touch every little nuance of Tasha's arousal. She was so wrapped up in this new experience, in the very hypnotizing, addicting nature of what she was doing, she entirely forgot that she was participating in an holodeck program, that Tasha was simply a very life-like projection. Tasha's deceptively small hands grasped handfuls of her dark hair, gently urging her lower. She let herself be guided to where Tasha wanted her to go. But, as the crinkly pubic hairs tickled her chin, the unique musky scent of Tasha's arousal assailed her nose, and Laren pulled away.

"I can't do it," she murmured, sinking back down, her head hanging in fear and shame. "I want to, but I can't."

Tasha knelt next to her, gently lifted her chin, forcing Laren to stare into those sea-green eyes so full of desire and compassion. "Its alright, Laren, I understand. It's scary your first time. So, just lay back and let me show you how wonderful it can be."

Laren nodded, meekly lay back, lifted her hips as Tasha slid her pants off. A slow, satisfied smile began to appear on the blonde's face as she appraised the body of the woman beneath her. She reached out, gently pinched one of the stiff little nipples, delighted by the gasp of pleasurable shock it caused, then bent down to take that same nipple into her mouth, softly rolling her tongue around it. Laren relaxed, sighed deeply, then yelped as Tasha's fingers found her hard little clit. She shuddered violently at that feeling, such extreme pleasure as she'd never felt before building in the pit of her stomach, threatening to destroy her if unleashed.

"That's it, Laren," Tasha murmured into her ear. "Just let it go. Don't fight it, darling, let it happen as it does. You'll love it so much more if you do." She kept up the soft litany, occasionally flicking her tongue along the edge of the other woman's ear. She noted the tension in Laren's body, the rapidity of her ragged breathing, knew the orgasm was imminent, unavoidable. Gently biting the earlobe, she slid a single, slender finger into the tight pussy, triggering the orgasm. She almost came herself at the cry of pure, ecstatic pleasure that erupted from the brunette's mouth.

* * *

"God, you're beautiful, Deanna," Beverly murmured, her eyes once again taking in the delectable body of the woman lying on the couch before her. The Betazoid blushed deeply, her eyes closed, unable to look up at her friend. Bev watched a tear slide down her cheek into the raven tresses, knew the depression was still strong in her psyche, and her own heart nearly broke.

Rather than let Deanna dwell on the unchangeable past, Beverly decided to keep her friend otherwise occupied. She brushed her lips across Deanna's, then knelt down, hooking one of the small legs up over the back of the couch, opening her friend's most secret place for her perusal, and was immediately aware of the Betazoid's exotic scent. Beverly's eyes filled with awe at the sight before her.

As a doctor, she'd examined a great number of women, even some she'd felt an attraction to, but never had she been so completely turned on and enthralled by the sight of another woman's aroused pussy. "Oh, darling," she groaned, then sank into the lush wetness between Deanna's legs. Her hands slid up to palm and pinch the large nipples, as her mouth feasted on the delicacy before her. She ran her tongue along the slippery lips, bypassing the hugely distended clit, prolonging the sensations Deanna was feeling. She gently pushed her tongue deep into that lower mouth, eliciting a sob of pleasure from the lipstick-stained one further up. Bev groaned into those succulent lips, lapping at the copious nectar pouring out, a kitten with the sweetest cream. She nosed gently, bumped the sensitive clit, causing a cry of need from her lover's pleasure-twisted face. Tearing herself from that life-sustaining, provocative liqueur, the redhead turned her attention completely to the hard little nubbin at the apex of those slippery lips.

"Oh god, Beverly!" Deanna cried out as the doctor's lips pulled her hypersensitive clit into the warm, moist mouth, into the domain of her expertly wielded tongue. With just a few well-timed flicks of her tongue, Bev had Deanna squirming and bucking up toward her mouth, trying to hurry her climax along. Bev brought her just to the edge, then backed off, lightly running her tongue across the supine woman's quivering, taut belly.

She crawled up and kissed Deanna, letting the Betazoid taste herself. Obviously, the brunette liked the flavor of her juices, as Deanna began forcefully sucking on Beverly's tongue, in effect giving her tongue a blowjob. *No wonder Will can't let go of her completely,* Bev thought to herself. *She's got an incredible mouth. I wish....* And then, she pulled back from the kiss to stare, breathlessly, at her beautiful Betazoid lover, lightly trailing a finger along the lips of the dripping pussy, causing Deanna to shiver with desire.

"Please, Beverly, I'm so close," Deanna whispered urgently.

"So close to what, lover?" she asked, then quickly grabbed and trapped the small hands above the younger woman's head with one hand, the other still lightly fingering the slippery lips below. "Uh-uh-uh, my dear, not yet. You haven't answered my question yet."

"Please don't make me beg, Beverly," she cried, trying to twist herself free. All it did was bring her closer to her seemingly unreachable climax. "I'll do anything, Beverly, just let me come."

"Anything?" she purred seductively.

Suddenly, even through her frenzied sexual haze, Deanna understood what her friend was getting at. "You're sure that's the only way?" she asked feigning confusion, trying to conceal her need.

"Yep," Bev replied, easing just the tip of her finger into Deanna's pussy. The Betazoid shivered with delight.

"Then I guess you'd better get that pussy of yours over my face right away," Deanna purred, coyly batting her eyes at the redhead.

Beverly didn't need to be told twice. She positioned herself over her petite lover, wailing in ecstasy as Deanna's lips sucked hard on her clit, then she dove back between the spread legs beneath her.

* * *

"By all the prophets, please stop before you kill me," Laren begged between ragged gasps of breath, but her hands pushed Tasha's head further between her legs, loving the feel of the woman's tongue on her clit, a finger in her tight ass.

Somehow, Tasha broke free, crawled up to lay on top of Laren, staring deeply into the dark brown eyes. "Now you see what I mean, my dark beauty? How wonderful I can make you feel?"

As Tasha spoke, Laren was mesmerized by the scent and moisture of herself on the blonde woman's mouth. Then, she just couldn't help herself and leaned up to kiss Tasha fully on the mouth, slipping her tongue inside easily. The musky scent of her arousal contrasted with the sweet flavor of her juices. And suddenly she wanted to know what the petite blonde tasted like.

Taking the initiative, Laren pulled at Tasha's hips. Tasha knew immediately what she wanted and readily complied, climbing up to straddle the brunette's face. She lowered herself slowly, not wanting to scare the woman off again.

Laren felt a twinge of anxiety at the sight of Tasha's pussy coming down toward her face, but also felt the need to taste what was hidden between those pink, petulant lips. She placed her hands on Tasha's slim hips, controlling the woman's descent, and inhaled deeply the scent of another woman fully aroused. Raising her head a bit, she poked out her tongue and lightly swiped up the length of the more than slightly moist lips to the barely concealed little clit, sending a shiver through Tasha's body. The preview taste of the former security chief's juices, and the feel of her tongue gliding over those slick lips, nearly made Laren lose her mind. She needed more, especially at the sight of Tasha enjoying this directly above her. With a zest she rarely felt for anything else, Ro Laren began to suck, lick, and nibble at the dripping cunt above her, each taste of those lips creating the urge for more.

When Tasha came, she screamed out the other woman's name, her thighs quivering on either side of Laren's head. She moved as if to get up, but Laren's hands clamped down on her hips, forcing her to endure the ecstatic frustration of orgasm built upon orgasm.

* * *

Deanna lay nestled in the enveloping embrace of Beverly's arms, dozing peacefully while the doctor just held her close and stroked her hair and back. She'd been sleeping like that for nearly two hours and, despite her own weariness, Beverly just couldn't fall asleep, she had to stay awake, had to keep an eye on Deanna.

Too many questions filled her mind, not to mention her innate fear that Deanna's depression would become long-term. *What will this do to our friendship?* she wondered, then knew the answer instinctively. Their friendship would only be closer now, more intimately linked; though an event like this afternoon would probably never happen again.

Deanna shifted slightly in her sleep, pulling herself closer to Beverly with a contented sigh, one hand lightly resting on a pale breast. At that touch, Bev felt an all-too-familiar twinge in the pit of her stomach, knew that she would be more than willing if the diminutive Betazoid wanted to make love again -- no matter when.

* * *

Ro Laren lazily, almost painfully slowly, made her way into Ten-Forward. She needed food, needed something to replenish the energy she'd lost over the past four hours. Not that she wouldn't do it all over again, if given the chance, but she wasn't used to it quite yet. She sat at the bar, just a place down from where LaForge and Riker were having a somber conversation.

"Has it really been six years?" Riker was far from his usual jovial self.

"Doesn't seem right, does it? I mean, it still feels like she should be walking through those doors any minute now to challenge us to an Aikido sparring match."

Laren felt the painfully sweet twinge in her sex at the mention of an Aikido spar, and memories of Tasha's incredible body filled her head. She dug into her hasperat with gusto. Maybe she'd return to the holodeck again tonight.

"I wonder how Deanna's doing today?" Geordi mused. "It's gotta be hell on her to have to live through this day, reliving the events of the crash over and over again."

"Deanna's strong," Riker said, trying to sound convincing, "she'll be fine."

"I don't know about that, Commander. She was pretty bad last year."

"Well, she hasn't contacted any of us yet. Maybe it's getting easier on her now." He looked at Geordi, saw the worry on the engineer's face. They'd both been there when Tasha'd died, had seen how devastated Deanna was after she'd been rescued, knew how it tore her up just to get through this one day every year. "Maybe I'll stop by her quarters and check on her on my way up to the bridge."

"You gotta admit, it is pretty nice of the captain to take her off bridge duty for this anniversary every year."

"Sometimes I don't think so. Maybe it would be better if she faced it one of these years, come to grips with it."

"Yeah, but, Commander, you gotta remember how close they were."

"I know, Geordi, I know. Deanna loved Tasha, a great deal. Maybe that's why we all walk around on eggshells one day a year. But, maybe that's why we shouldn't anymore. I mean, we all miss her -- you, me, Data, Beverly, Captain Picard, Worf -- but we've accepted her death and gone on. Maybe it's time Deanna finally does that, too, no matter how much she blames herself for Tasha's death, or how much she loved her."

Laren stood up quickly, her hasperat forgotten, and left Ten-Fore. She stopped at a computer terminal, checked out the situation that led to Yar's death, then quickly made her way to Troi's quarters. The door opened after a few seconds to admit her. She timidly made her way into Deanna's living room, was surprised to see Crusher there. Then, she remembered that the doctor had been a member of that Away Team as well.

"Hello, Laren," Deanna said softly, her eyes still bright with the tears she'd so recently been shedding. "What can I do for you?"

*Ever the professional,* Laren thought to herself, *even under such personal stress.* "Um, I just wanted to ask you to join me on the holodeck."

"Thank you for the offer, Laren, but I'm really not in the mood right now. Today isn't a very good day for me."

"I know. Your friend Tasha died six years ago today in an accident on Vagra II. That's why I'm here." At the odd looks from the two women, she took a deep breath and continued. "I found a program I think you should try, Deanna."

"I don't know, Laren. Maybe another day?"

"No, Deanna," Beverly said, "I think it would be good for you to get out of your quarters and do something to keep yourself occupied, rather than sitting here and crying for Tasha." Laren thought she heard a warmth, a familiarity, an intimacy, in the doctor's voice toward the counselor that she usually didn't display. "Go with Laren, try out the program. I'll be in Sickbay, catching up on some research. Come and get me for dinner, okay?"

˘Okay," Deanna said reluctantly. It seemed to Laren that she didn't to want to leave the doctor's side. "Thank you, my dear friend. I won't forget what you did today," she said softly as she stood.

Beverly hugged her, then left as Deanna followed Laren out of her quarters. They made their way to Holodeck 3 in silence. Once there, Laren quickly started the program, then typed in something extra, before she said, "Okay, you can go in now."

"You're not coming with me?"

Laren blushed at the unintentional double entendre. "No, I've already had my workout on the holodeck. Um, I hope this helps," she said, then quickly left as Deanna entered the holodeck.

* * *

Laren sat in a corner of Ten-Forward, knees tucked up underneath her, silently watching the stars go by outside, lost in the memories of her afternoon with Tasha...and of her feelings for two other women on board the Enterprise. Suddenly, she jumped at the hand on her shoulder. Looking up, she saw Deanna standing there, tears filling her luminous black eyes. "Deanna?" she asked softly.

"Why did you give me that program?" came the soft question. Her eyes bored into Laren's.

"I just.... I thought it would help." Paused a beat. "Did it?"

"It did," Deanna replied, sitting next to her. "But, there has to have been a reason, Laren. I mean no disrespect when I say this, but you're not normally so emotionally giving. So, why?"

"I heard Geordi and Commander Riker talking earlier, about how you were always so upset for this anniversary, how you feel responsible for Tasha's death...how much you loved her. I just thought...."

"What?" she prodded lightly. "I mean, that's kind of an erotic program to give another woman, especially under the circumstances. Or didn't you know that?"

"I knew," she replied softly. "That's why I gave it to you. I mean, you and Tasha were...weren't you? I mean, I just assumed because of the way they said you loved Tasha and were so close to her. I'm sorry if I was wrong."

"Yes, I did love Tasha very much, but no, we weren't lovers, if that's what you're trying to ask."

"I'm sorry, Deanna. I didn't mean-="

"I know what you meant, Laren, and I appreciate the gesture," Deanna said softly. "Can I ask how you knew what the program entailed?" Laren sat there silently, her gaze returning to the stars going by, unable to look at the Betazoid. "You participated in the program, didn't you?" It was a very soft question, full of understanding and compassion. Laren just nodded. "There's nothing to be ashamed of, Laren. You do know that, don't you?"

"I suppose."

"Laren, I've sensed these feelings from you before, I know how much they scare you. But, if it's what makes you you, then maybe you should explore those feelings more in depth."

"But--"

"Is that why you were so uncomfortable with me this morning?" The Bajoran nodded again. "Why? Why couldn't you just talk to me about it?"

Laren finally looked at her. "What was I supposed to say to you? 'Hey, Deanna, you really turn me on. Wanna fuck?'"

"Well, no," she replied, a smirk flitting across her face, "though I'm sure the look on my face would have been priceless. But I would have been more than happy to talk with you, listen to you, help you sort out your feelings. If anything further would have developed, so be it. And the offer definitely still stands, Laren, I will always be here if you need someone to talk to."

"I'll be fine, Counselor, thanks anyway."

"Maybe I won't. Maybe I'm the one who needs someone to talk to, someone who wasn't involved with my rescue, with Tasha's death." Deanna took a deep breath, then spoke again. "It's very hard for me to admit any sort of shortcomings, even to my closest and dearest friends. But, I've blamed myself for Tasha's death, and I couldn't ever seem to let that guilt go, didn't really want to," she said, placing a hand on Laren's arm. "Not until a good friend gave me the chance to say goodbye to Tasha in my own way, to let her know how I felt for her. I still feel guilty about it, but at least I'm trying to deal with it now. And I want to thank you for giving me that release."

"You're welcome," she replied, then seemed to get nervous again, even a little possessive. "Are you--? Um, are you gonna be using the program again?"

"I don't know. Would it upset you if I did?"

"I don't know." It was an honest answer; Deanna couldn't ask for anything more.

"Would it make things better if I'd let you when I plan to use it again? I mean, I don't think I will, but you never know...." Laren nodded, smiled at Deanna. Deanna leaned over, kissed Laren on the cheek. At the Bajoran's shocked look, she replied, "That's just a thank you, Laren, nothing more. I'll leave you alone now."

* * *

"Ready for dinner?"

Beverly looked up from the medical journal she'd been scanning to see Deanna standing in the doorway. The Betazoid was tired, still a little depressed, but something of her old self was beginning to come back. Knowing that made the doctor smile.

"Of course. How are you feeling?"

"Better." There was a bit of a hesitation in her voice. "Beverly, there's something I need to talk to you about."

"Okay. How about we discuss it over dinner?" Before Deanna could reply, she stood and went to Deanna's side, took her hand, and continued, "We're eating in my quarters tonight. I think you and I have a lot of things to discuss tonight...including that program of Tasha's that Ro gave you."

"You know about it?" Deanna was shocked, but still a little guilty.

Bev nodded. "Ro came down and talked to me after she took you to the holodeck. She wanted me to know what would be involved with the program, so that I could be there for you afterward."

"Then, I take it you figured out that I made love to the hologram of Tasha." At Beverly's nod, Deanna sighed, tears threatening to spill down her cheeks again. "I'm sorry, Beverly, I feel like I've betrayed you somehow, cheapened what we shared today, because of this."

"Don't, Deanna, because you didn't. Under the circumstances, I probably would have done the exact same thing. Do you feel better now, not so guilty or depressed anymore?" Deanna nodded, and Bev leaned in to lightly brush her pale lips across her friend's darker ones. "We have a lot of things to talk about now, my dear, sweet friend, especially the tone of our friendship from this point on. The past is just that, the past. Now, we have to decide how to proceed intothe future."

"Together, I hope."

"Definitely." And as Bev pulled her close into a warm, supportive embrace, Deanna suddenly felt her depression begin to lift, knew that they could work things out, maybe even with Ro Laren.