"The Test"

by A. Magiluna Stormwriter

** a possible aftermath to "The Host" **

Beverly Crusher sat in her office, fatigue showing in her blue eyes. She'd spent the past six hours reading research reports to be sent to Starfleet Medical, and she had at least two or three more hours to go. The words were beginning to swim on the monitor and she felt like hell, but she knew better than to stop now or she'd never finish. She tried to rationalize that her fatigue was from the massive amounts of data she'd been reading, rather than any illness she might be getting.

"Beverly? Are you alright?" Deanna Troi asked, entering the office.

"I'm fine," came the reply as Bev turned off the monitor. "I've just been going over reports all day long and my eyes are bothering me now. It's my own fault, I've been putting off these reports for a week now."

"Maybe we should reschedule for another time. You look like you could use a rest instead of a workout."

"Deanna, I'll be just fine to work out. In fact, I'll probably feel better," Beverly said, standing. The room suddenly lurched in her field of vision, causing her to sway a little and grab her desk for support. Troi was immediately at her side, steadying her friend. "Maybe I should go lie down," she murmured.

"Are you sure you're alright?"

"I think I will go lie down. All that reading's made me rather lightheaded."

"Perhaps you should give yourself an exam? At least give yourself some time off."

"I'm sure I'll be just fine after I've had some rest," she replied, a bit testily.

* * * * *

Almost three hours later, Beverly lay in her bed, exhausted, but unable to sleep. She'd dimmed the lights to complete darkness, drank some warm milk, even added some soft music that usually helped her relax, but nothing helped. She stopped herself from taking a sleep inducement, instead deciding to figure out why sleep was eluding her, why she was feeling the way she was. She rarely got sick, but she had been rather rundown for the last few weeks, more so than usual.

She suddenly realized why she'd been so rundown, why she'd kept herself as busy as she had lately: Odan. It had been nearly three weeks since the Ambassador left the Enterprise, and her life. The effect Odan had had on her life was profound; she'd never been so deeply in love with a person in such a short time. She wasn't even sure if her love for her husband was as strong as the love she'd felt for the Trill ambassador. She knew she'd loved Odan, it had been proven to her on several occasions during their short affair: when she'd learned Odan was really a host and a symbiont; when Odan had died, and Will Riker volunteered to be a temporary host; and when the new, female host had arrived to receive the symbiont. Bev herself had performed both removals and both implantations.

It had been quite a shock to learn that Odan would now be a woman. The affair was definitely put to an end then. She'd begun to accept that. What she couldn't accept yet was the last time she'd made love to Odan, when the symbiont was in Will Riker's body. Beverly remembered being unable to even look at Will, knowing that he carried Odan within his body, that, in effect, he was Odan and still loved her. She'd wanted to avoid him as much as was humanly possible, but she couldn't, because she had to monitor the effects of the symbiont on Riker's body. On the night before the new host arrived, she'd finally given in to her feelings for Odan and made love to him, to Will Riker.

Remembering the love she'd felt for Odan, Beverly tried to choke back a sob. Suddenly, she was running to the bathroom to throw up. Slowly she made her way back to the bed, her mind racing desperately for a cause. I've been tired, she thought to herself, but that doesn't constitute being sick to my stomach. The last time I felt like this was when I.... Ohmygod! I'm pregnant! A look of disbelief crossed her face, and she bolted up into a sitting position, feeling her stomach lurch again. Bev willed her stomach to settle itself, but not without a great deal of energy. She stared numbly at her hands on her stomach.

"This can't be happening," she murmured. "This just isn't possible." Suddenly, Beverly jumped as the door chimed. "Come in," she called, absently slipping her robe on as she walked out into her living room area.

"Beverly? What's wrong?"

"What do you mean?" she asked evasively. "I'm fine, Deanna."

"No, I don't think you're fine. I'm sensing incredible disbelief and fear from you. What's wrong?"

Bev vaguely motioned toward the couch, then sat down after her friend did. Deanna gazed intently at the older woman, trying to discern a reason for Bev's current attitude. Bev, on the other hand, was doing everything she couldnot to look at Deanna, unsure as to whether or not she should tell her friend what was going on. Finally, she realized that eventually everyone would know, and it was much better to hear it firsthand than from rumours.

"What would you say if I told you I was...."

"If you were what?" No reply, just a sense of stronger fear, coupled with dejection. This worried the empath. "Beverly, what's going on here? I've never known you to be this way."

"What would you do if I told you I was, um, pregnant?" she repeated softly, unable to look at Deanna.


"I'm pregnant," she replied, a little louder, "I think."

"Are you sure?" Deanna asked softly, a hand on her friend's shoulder.

"I'm having all the same symptoms I had when I was pregnant with Wes."

"I'd say congratulations, but I really don't think you're in the mood for that right now."

"What am I going to do, Deanna?" Bev asked, finally looking at her friend. Tears were welling up in her eyes now. Deanna took Beverly into her arms, comforting the distraught woman. Bev let the tears fall, finally admitting the truth to herself.

"How far along are you?" Deanna asked gently when Bev calmed down a bit.

"It's Odan's baby, if that's what you're asking. Um, can I ask you a big favor?" Deanna nodded, already knowing the question. "Don't tell anyone yet, okay? I need a little time to sort this out for myself first."

"Of course," Deanna replied, standing. "I'll leave you alone now to think, but I'll come back to talk to you later on. If you need anything any sooner...."

"Thank you, Deanna."

* * * * *

Deanna Troi entered Ten-Forward, making her way to the table where Will Riker and Geordi LaForge were enjoying a drink. She sat down, trying to cover the odd feeling she was still getting from Bev Crusher. Deanna quickly ordered a brandy, schooling her features into a weary expression, masking the concern and surprise she was truly feeling.

"You okay, Deanna?"

"I'm fine, Geordi. It's just been a rather long day, that's all." It wasn't a lie, not really, but it wasn't the complete truth either. Her brandy was brought, and Deanna fought back the impulse to down it in one gulp. She sipped it slowly, finding little comfort in the numb effect it gave her, yet wanting it more and more.

"Deanna? Deanna?"


"What's wrong?" Will asked as Deanna noticed Geordi had left. How long had she been sitting there, so deep in thought? "It's just you and me now. What's going on?"

"Nothing. I'm just--"

"Tired? No, you're not. You may be able to fool everyone else with that, but I'm not everyone else, and I'm not buying it. So, what's up?"

"I'm just trying to.... I just learned something that's very hard to believe, that has many complicated consequences. It just bothers me a little, I guess."

"Well, tell me what it is. Maybe I can help?"

"I'm sorry, Will, but I've made a promise not to say anything about it yet."

"I understand, Deanna. And if I can be of any help...."

"Thank you, Will. I appreciate your concern."

* * * * *

"Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher, personal log, stardate 44864.5. Only yesterday I came to the conclusion that I am once again pregnant. I won't be able to confirm the pregnancy for another week or so, but I am suffering from all the symptoms I remember from when I had Wes. Wes.... He's eighteen and about to become the big brother of a child who could very well be his own. Not that I want Wes to have a child now, nor do I want to be a grandmother yet. But, this is a situation I hadn't planned on experiencing again, especially after Jack's death. And, to be quite honest, I'm not so sure I want to go through the joys and pains of being a mother again either.

"Then, there's the problem of why I don't want to be pregnant right now, especially with this child: Odan. I'm just not sure what to do about--"

"Beverly? Are you busy?"

"Of course not, Deanna," Bev replied, tapping the key to save what was started of her log. She watched as the Betazoid sat down across the desk from her. She knew Deanna was checking up on her emotional well-being. "I was just making a log entry."

"I could come back."

"No, it's alright. I was just relaxing, speculating a bit, nothing important."

"And how are you feeling today?"

"I haven't gotten sick yet today, if that's what you mean."

"It's a start, but I meant more than that, and I think you know that."

"I know. I just -- I can't accept this, Deanna. My god, I'm too old to be having a baby."

"Obviously not, or you wouldn't be pregnant," came the slightly amused reply, causing Bev to smile in spite of herself.

"You know what I meant, Deanna."

"Why don't you tell me what you mean?"

"I'm forty-four years old. I have a grown son. It's not healthy to have a pregnancy at this stage of life."

"Yours or the baby's?"

"Both, to be honest. Yes, I can give the baby the best prenatal care possible...."


"But, I can't guarantee the prevention of some birth defects. And I'm not sure about the chromosomal makeup of the Trill, how it will combine with human DNA, how compatible our two races actually are," she replied, standing. She began to pace the office, arms crossed over her chest. "We may be completely compatible, or...."

"Or the combination could produce an unviable fetus," the empath quietly finished for her friend. She watched as Beverly stopped pacing and bent her head. Quickly, the Betazoid stood and went to her friend's side, a hand on her shoulder. She was worried about the woman's feelings of uncertainty toward her unborn child, which were beginning to overshadow her maternal love. "Why don't we go back to your quarters, Beverly?" she softly suggested. "I think you'd feel more comfortable there, more inclined to talk without interruptions."

The older woman simply nodded, too overcome with emotion to reply. They walked in silence to Beverly's quarters. Both sat on the couch. For a long moment, neither spoke, both lost in the swirling emotions going through the older woman. It was at times like this that Troi both loved and hated her empathic sensibilities; she knew how Bev felt, knew how to help her professionally, but that didn't necessarily help in a personal situation. She didn't want to seem cold or impersonal, not now, not for her best friend. Slowly, gently seemed the best course of action.

"Why don't you tell me what's really bothering you about this pregnancy, Beverly?"

"Odan is gone, both the man I loved and the woman who took his place. Now, I'm having his -- their child. How am I going to explain this to my baby? 'Oh, your father's body died, and the last time I checked, he was a woman.' Is that what I tell my baby? Think of how confused my child will be, how confused I am. I only hope you'll be around when the time comes for that discussion."

"Beverly, I can't explain that to your child; it's not my job, it's yours. I can, and will, be there for support, but that's all. You must be the one to break this news to your child."

"No, Deanna, please, you must do more than that. Both of us will need your professional help at that point, I'm sure."

"And what about now, Beverly?"

"What about now? Do I need your help? Of course, I do. You are my friend, my closest friend."

"That is a given, Beverly, I will always be here for you. But, I was talking about something else. Don't you think Odan should be told of this? Even if the symbiont is in a female host now, Odan is still the father of your child, and has the right to know about it."


"Why not?"

"No, he -- she doesn't need to know, it's of no concern to her. I will be raising this child myself, there is no need to burden Odan with this information, with a child she won't raise."

"Beverly! I've never known you to be this cold, this unfeeling toward someone else, especially someone you loved a great deal. Why don't you want Odan to know about your child? Need I remind you that you both conceived this child?" Suddenly, the color drained from Bev's face. "Beverly?"

"Oh no!" she moaned. "Oh god, no!" She stood, began pacing again, almost frantic.

"Beverly? What is it?"

"I'm not going to tell Odan, I don't have to."


"It's not his baby, not really," she replied, then stopped, her eyes going wide with fearful recognition. "Ohmygod, she moaned softly.

"Beverly, what do you mean it's not his baby? I don't understand."

"Ohmygod, ohmygod," she whispered repeatedly, seemingly not hearing Deanna.

"Beverly, what is it?" Deanna asked, but Bev simply kept repeating the murmured phrase. Deanna put her hand on Beverly's shoulder, gently shaking her. "Beverly, what's going on?"

"It's Will's baby," she finally blurted, looking directly into the Betazoid's eyes. "I'm pregnant with Will Riker's baby."

* * * * *

"Crusher to Riker. Please come to my quarters."

Bev Crusher nervously paced her living room, waiting for the first of ficer to arrive. Only a short time before, she'd realized that he was the father of her unborn child. That she'd come to that revelation while talking to Deanna had been less than advantageous. And it caused one hell of a fight between the two women.

"You're what?" Deanna finally asked.

"I'm pregnant with Will's baby."

"You--? You slept with Will?" Deanna asked, but Bev could only numbly nod, still in shock. Deanna was silent for a long minute. When she spoke, Bev could actually feel the Betazoid's anger and betrayal, aimed directly at her. "How could you? How could you take advantage of Will like that? He wasn't even in control of his own body!"

"I didn't force him to take on the symbiont, Will volunteered for it, Deanna."

"Not sleeping with you!"

"No, but he knew what would be involved. He knew that Odan would be controlling his body--"

"So you took advantage of him!"

"No!" Bev yelled. "That's not the way it was!" That last comment was lost on deaf ears as Deanna got up and stormed out of the room.

"Dr. Crusher? Beverly?"

Bev looked up to see Will Riker, a worried look on his face. She hesitantly smiled, then motioned for him to sit down.

"Is something wrong?"

"Well, that depends on how you want to look at things," she said vaguely, then continued when she saw the confused look on Will's face. "There's something we need to talk about, Will, something pretty important."

"What is it?"

"What...what do you remember about Ambassador Odan? About being his temporary host body?"

"I remember going into surgery," he started slowly. "then, there was a feeling of surrender, like I was giving up control to someone else, something else. After that, it's pretty much a blur until I came to after Odan was removed. Anything I know about the time in between is what I've been told or read in the logs. Why?"

"You don't.... You weren't told everything, Will. There was something that was kept from you, something important that I didn't think you needed to know about at the time. But, I was wrong."

"Beverly, what's going on?"

"Odan and I were -- very close, for want of a better word," she said, sighed heavily. "Why am I skirting the issue here? We're both adults, mature adults."

"Beverly, what are you trying to tell me? Whatever it is, you can tell me, I can handle it. I mean, we are friends, aren't we?" He smiled reassuringly, a hand on her shoulder. The gesture made her smile, feel better about telling him.

"I'm pregnant, Will."

"Congratulations! I'll bet Wes will be thrilled to find out he has a little brother or sister coming."

"You don't understand, Will. You're the father."

"I'm what?"

"You're the father of my baby, Will."

"That's not...it's not possible. Is it?"

"Yes," Bev replied softly, fighting back tears. "The night before Odan was removed from your body...."

"Start from the beginning," came his soft command. Beverly nearly died, his voice sounded exactly like it had that night, the night they'd conceived their child.

"After the transplant, it was so strange with Odan in your body. I knew he still loved me, but I couldn't let myself love him the same way because it was you. Will, I've known you for four years, I've come to think of you as a brother. As much as I loved Odan, I couldn't continue my affair with you, not while you were his host. I tried to avoid him--you, but I couldn't. Your body wasn't accepting the symbiont well and I needed to make sure both of you were okay. The night before he was removed, I went to see how you were holding up, if you would be able to survive both the negotiations and the wait for the new host. That's all I'd planned on doing, Will, you have to believe me. I checked you out, then we...we ended up making love. Then, the next day, he was removed from your body and placed into the new host. I never planned on continuing things after that, wasn't even sure I wanted to tell you about it, but I knew I had to get over it. What I didn't know until recently was that I got pregnant that night, with your child. In spirit, the child is Odan's, but realistically, it's yours--ours. Honestly, Will, I didn't plan for it to happen."

"I guess I believe you. Um, when did you find out?"

"It can't be medically confirmed yet, not for another week or so, but I know my own body. I'm almost a month along, which puts it pretty much on your shoulders for fathering this child."

"How long have you known?" came the numb question, his eyes averted.

"About the pregnancy? Or about you being the father?"


"It's been almost a day now since I figured out I'm pregnant, and maybe half an hour since I figured out you're the father."

Uneasy silence fell upon them like a funeral pall. Neither could look at the other. Finally, Will broke the silence. "Now what?"

"I don't know, Will, I just -- I don't know," she cried.

As numb as he was, Will took the distraught woman into his arms. He let her cry, trying to sort out this incredible information, and his feelings.

I'm a father?

* * * * *

"Come in."

"Deanna? Are you busy right now?"

"Of course not, Commander." Will could hear the harshness, the brittleness in her voice, realized that he couldn't detect her mind near his, like it normally was. If fact, if anything, she was blatantly distancing her mind from the closeness they'd once shared. "How may I help you today?"

"I need to talk to you."

"About what?"

"I think you know, Deanna. Beverly told me that you know."

"Oh! Are you talking about the baby?" Deanna retorted sarcastically, feigning mock surprise. "So, when is the big day? Do I get to be a bridesmaid? Have you and Beverly set a date yet? I mean, it is rather obvious that you'll marry her, Will. After all, that's the right thing to do, isn't it? I mean, you wouldn't want to ruin your sterling reputation with Starfleet, would you, Will?"

"What? Deanna, what are you talking about? What's going on with you?"

"Nothing's going on with me, Will. That's my point. It's going on with Beverly."

"I didn't know about it, Deanna. It didn't really mean anything to me. I don't even remember any of it."

"Oh, and I'll bet that made Beverly happy. Is that what you say all the time?" Is that how you felt about me? The unspoken question hung in the air between them.

"I had no choice, Deanna," he replied, anger beginning to cloud the shock he'd been feeling at her outburst.

"So she forced you to sleep with her? What did she do, hold a phaser to your head? That doesn't sound like you, Will, choice or not," she snapped.

"What is it with you? Why are you acting like this? My god, if I didn't know any better, I'd swear you were jealous of a situation I couldn't control." She turned away, silent. "That's it, isn't it? You're jealous!"

"Maybe I am! So what?" Deanna shouted, spinning around to face him. "That doesn't change what you did! How could you? How could you do this to me, to what we had? You slept with my best friend, Will, and now she's having your child! I was supposed to be the one having your child, not her! How

could you let this happen? How could you do this?"

"I don't believe this. Do you realize how infantile you sound? Oh, forget it! I don't have to put up with this!" Will Riker finally exploded, leaving.

* * * * *

Will Riker stepped into Sickbay, looked around for Beverly, noted she was in her office. He knocked lightly, tried to smile when she looked up at him, then walked into the room.

"Beverly? I just came to see how you were doing."

"I'm fine, Will." She didn't, wouldn't, look at him, staring at her stomach instead. This worried Riker, a lot.

"Is the baby--?"

"We're fine," Beverly replied, as Will sat down. She noticed the worry in his eyes, reached a hand over to touch his arm. They both stared at that point of contact, but neither moved. "What's wrong?" Will removed her hand from his arm.

"I talked to Deanna last night," he started slowly. "She's pretty upset about this, much more than I'd expected."

"I know. We had quite a fight about it, right before I talked to you, in fact."

"And I spoke to her after I left your quarters. She was so angry, which made me angry. I stalked off, wanted to be by myself to cool down and think. And I did think, I did a lot of thinking. It got me to wondering. Exactly how lose were you and Odan? What I mean is, were you lovers before his accident, or was I the only 'Odan' you slept with?"

"No, Will, Odan and I were lovers before you became his host," came her soft reply.

"Then, Deanna was right, I really didn't have any choice in the matter, whether Odan controlled me or not," he realized.

"I'm sorry, Will," she trailed off, both of them deep in thought. Finally, she spoke. "Will, have you thought about what we're going to do about the baby? I hope you'll help raise the baby. It would be greatly appreciated, but it's not mandatory. And marriage is out of the question, obviously."

Obviously," came the dull echo. Will Riker had no idea what to do, about anything.

* * * * *

The command center of the bridge of the USS Enterprise was very quiet. In fact, the entire bridge was uncharacteristically silent, had been for nearly a week. Riker sat in the command lounge, Troi at his left. Both stared stonily forward at the viewscreen, but turned as the aft turbolift doors opened. Troi's shoulders squared defensively as she saw Crusher walk down the port ramp, a hardness in her dark eyes. Riker, meanwhile, began to get nervous at the sight of the CMO, especially with Troi right there next to him.

"Commander, can I--?" She was cut off by Picard's exit from his ready room.

"Doctor, may I see you in my ready room?" he asked, then followed her into the room. Crusher immediately began to pace as Picard went to the replicator, ordered two cups of tea. He handed her a cup, which she held absently, her pacing continuing. "Dr. Crusher -- Beverly,, what's going on? You've been

acting very strangely for nearly a week now, as have Commander Riker and Counsellor Troi. This isn't like you, any of you."

"Then, why ask only me? Why not speak to all three of us?"

"Because I have reason to believe you are at the heart of it." He watched her in silence for a moment, noted the temporary pause in her pacing. "I consider us to be friends, and friends share their problems. So, tell me.... What's going on, Beverly?"

"Jean-Luc, I've been trying to deal with something that is very incredible, hard to believe. Will and Deanna have been working through it, too."

"May I ask what it is?"

"I'm pregnant. I can't verify it yet medically, not for a few more days, but I'm sure it's true," she replied, then sank to the couch, tears spilling down her cheeks again. Picard was immediately at her side, though still unsure of what to say or do.

"I can understand why Deanna would be helping you work through this, it's her job. But, why Will Riker?"

"It's his baby," she whispered, fear and guilt plaguing her mind once again.


"Perhaps I should explain," she started when the door chimed.

"Come!" Picard called, then both watched Troi enter. "What is it, Counsellor?"

"I think Beverly should go to her quarters and lie down. I'm sensing a great deal of anxiety from her, and that's not good for the baby."

Picard sat there for a long moment, then nodded. Crusher stood, wobbling slightly, then took the arm Troi offered. "Counsellor, make sure Dr. Crusher gets to her quarters, then come back to my ready room."

"I'm alright, Troi, I can make it to my quarters."

"Are you sure?"

Crusher nodded, then quickly left as Troi sat on the couch. The room was silent for a long time as the two people thought about Crusher's situation.

"Counsellor -- Deanna, what's going on? How can she be pregnant with Commander Riker's child?"

Inwardly sighing, Troi began to retell the story she'd gone over in her mind countless times in the past week. "You may not know this, but Beverly was in love with Ambassador Odan, very much in love. It devastated her to learn the true nature of his existence, as well as his death, or rather his host's death. Putting Odan into Will only made things worse. Beverly couldn't mourn his loss or even come to terms with her feelings for him. Because Odan took control of Will's body, Will knew nothing of the struggle Beverly was fighting. She loved Odan, but denied her feelings for him while he was in Will." My god, why didn't I see that? What have I been putting her through? "The strain was tearing her apart inside. The night before the final negotiations, Beverly went to see how Will was holding up to the stress of hosting the symbiont. Her willpower was shattered at that point and Beverly made love to Odan."

"You mean Will, don't you?" Picard asked, becoming angry at Troi's apparent ease with this situation. "She made love to Will."

"No, Beverly had sexual intercourse with -- with Will," she stammered, still unable to say it, or believe it. "She made love to Odan. In her state of mind, Beverly truly believed he was Odan -- and he was. That single act, that one chance to finally be able to express her true feelings for the man she loved, allowed her to begin to mourn for Odan's death. That single act, combined with the new host's arrival, was the catalyst for Beverly to begin to deal with her loss, go on with her life." My god, how could I have been so cruel to her at a time like this? What kind of friend am I, to turn my back on a friend in need?

"Thank you, Counsellor. That will be all."

"Sir?" His anger flared out like a battering ram at her sensitivities. "Is something--?"

"That will be all, Counsellor."

* * * * *

Beverly opened the door to find the petite Betazoid counsellor standing there. There seemed to be a look of determination and defiance on the younger woman's face. Bev sighed heavily. "Deanna, I'm really not in the mood for a fight right now. I'd rather be alone, okay?" Deanna didn't listen, simply pushed past the older woman into the dark room. "Deanna! I said I want to be alone right now. So I'll politely ask you to leave."

"No," came her reply as she sat on the couch.

"No? I've told you politely that I want to be alone. Now I'll be more direct. We have nothing to discuss on a professional level, and I'll be damned if I ever confide in you personally again. Get out of my quarters, Counsellor, or I will call security to have you removed."

"No," Deanna replied softly, so softly that it caught Beverly offguard. "It's not okay that you want to be alone. And I didn't come here to fight...." Shining onyx eyes stared up into ice blue eyes with such honesty and pain. "I came to apologize."

Bev sank into the first chair she came to. "What--? What made you change your mind? I mean, I thought you'd hate me forever after that fight we had, I was sure I never wanted to trust in you or confide in you again."

"And I'm sure the way I stormed out of here didn't help matters much, did it?"

"What happened, Deanna? And why did you change your mind? You know, I've never seen you like that before. You scared me."

"I apologize for that. And I apologize for the way I've been treating you this past week, or rather, not treating you. It was very wrong of me to do it, goes against the very essence of my position aboard this ship."

"Speaking of which, I take it you told Jean-Luc what's been going on." A reluctant nod. Bev steeled herself for the next question...and its answer. "And how did he take it?"

"He was upset, to say the least. To be totally honest, he made me leave before I could really get him to talk about it. But, I did feel anger from him and.... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you, Beverly."

"It's alright," Bev replied, coughing to cover the fact that she was wiping away her tears. "I just wasn't expecting this kind of reaction from Jean-Luc, from any of you. It hurts a little when your friends turn on you when you need them most."

"I am sorry, Beverly. I was acting in a very infantile manner, as Will put it. I wasn't thinking about your feelings, only my own, and that's not an appropriate way for a counsellor to behave. It's not appropriate behavior for any adult. And it's definitely not appropriate behavior for a friend." She paused. "What are you going to do about the baby?"

"I'm going to keep it, that's for sure. Will and I mainly need to decide if it's going to be a Crusher or a Riker."

"Does it really matter?"

"I guess not. To tell you the truth, I really can't blame Will for being upset about all of this. He really was thrust into this whole situation unaware of what was going on. I have to discuss full genetic testing with him, to determine exactly what the baby's DNA will be."

"That sort of testing can't be done for months yet, right?"

Before Bev could do any more than nod, the door chimed. Deanna stood up to let the person in, knowing who it was. She also knew that they would need to talk.

"Deanna, I didn't expect to see you here."

"I know, Will. When you're finished talking to Beverly, stop by my quarters. I think we need to have a little talk as well." With this, she left as Bev motioned for Will to sit.

"What did you want to talk about before, Beverly?"

"The baby. I want to run full genetic testing on you and the baby to determine the full impact of your DNA on the fetus."

"In other words, you want to see if I'm really the father."

"I suppose you could put it that way. I won't deny the fact that Odan still could be the father, I'm just not going to bank on it." She stood, began pacing again. "Will, I didn't mean for you to get caught in the middle of this. It just happened. I should have told you what was happening, so you'd have had a more informed choice to make."

"I'm not so sure I would have chosen any differently," he said softly. "I think the choice was made whether I'd known or not."

"You know, I probably had about as much control of the situation as you did, if you want the honest truth."

"I know, Beverly." He paused, then grinned broadly. "You know, Beverly, this baby is going to be pretty unique."

"Why? Because it has us for parents?"

Will affected a "hurt little boy" face. "You took away my joke."

"I know. You're not the only one with a 'rapier' wit around here, you know, Will."

"I stand corrected, Doctor," he replied, grinning again. "Well, I suppose I should let you rest." He stood, walked to her side, placed his hand on her stomach. "I don't want anything happening to the little one." He tried to lead her back to the couch to sit down. She allowed it, this time.

"Will," she complained halfheartedly. "It's not as if you have to dote on me hand and foot, although that would be nice. I'm not an invalid, Will, I can handle being pregnant."

"I know, but this is my baby. I plan on being here for you, whatever you may need."

"Will, I'm glad you want to do right by your child, I commend you for it. But, you don't need to do this, go this far. I am very capable of raising a child on my own. I did it with Wes, and I think he's turned out rather well."


"Listen to me, Will. You will be the baby's father, and the baby will know you as its father, but I am going to be the one to raise this child."


"Let me finish. Starfleet dictates where we are commissioned. Who says that you and I will stay on the Enterprise for the remainder of this mission, or that we'll be commissioned to the same ship again afterwards? You can have all the time you want with the baby, but I will raise it, and it will be a Crusher."

"I guess I don't really have a choice here, do I?" She shook her head slowly, apologetically. "Then, I'll be leaving you. Good night, Beverly."

He left before she said anything, slowly making his way toward Deanna's quarters. Suddenly, he needed to talk to her. Fight or no, he needed her advice. He barely heard the chime when the door slid open to admit him. He slowly entered the dimly lit room, deep in thought, unaware of how Deanna sat silently on the couch, deep in thought herself. As he sat down, he noticed the glass of Saurian brandy on the table in front of him. He looked up at Deanna, smiled his thanks, but couldn't speak yet.


"What's happening here, Deanna?"

"What do you mean?"

"Deanna, I'm about to become a father. I'm thirty-two years old, never married, never serious enough about a woman to even think about marriage -- well, except for you."

"You needn't try to smooth things over with me, Will Riker. I know you better than you care to admit. And I know how you feel about me...and other women. I could be blunt, but I won't. You are an incredibly intelligent man, but you have this uncanny ability to turn into a pubescent, hormonal adolescent when confronted by beautiful women and the promise of sex."

"So, what are you trying to say? That I can't handle responsibility? That I'm immature?"

"You are far from immature, Will Riker. Impudent, maybe, but not immature. Trust me. Besides, I accepted this side of you a long time ago. I applaud you for your honesty about your feelings. I, on the other hand, haven't exactly been the most mature person this past week, definitely not the professional, compassionate counsellor I'm supposed to be."

"You had every right, although your argument was wrong," Will replied, smiling as Deanna blushed slightly. "And, speaking of your argument, what the hell happened to you? Why were you acting like that?"

"I honestly don't know, Will. All I can say is that I was -- upset, to say the least."

"Upset? Sounded more to me like you were jealous." Deanna turned away, embarrassed. Will noticed this, and jumped on the opportunity. "You were jealous, weren't you? Jealous of Beverly. Because I slept with her? Or...because I got her pregnant?"

Deanna quickly stood, needing to distance herself from her former lover, from this conversation, from her feelings. This whole situation with Beverly and Will had opened a can of worms for the Betazoid, a can she thought she'd closed up for good years ago. She needed time to think, time to reschool her feelings, get herself back under control. But she knew her Imzadi, knew he wouldn't let her, knew he would relentlessly hound her until he got the answers he wanted.

"I was incredibly hurt when I learned about you and Beverly, Will, more than you'll ever know."

Oh, I think I know. She turned around, shocked that she could hear his thoughts so clearly after all this time. He wouldn't look at her, though, focusing instead on his brandy. Maybe she didn't really hear him....

"Even though I knew and accepted the end of our relationship, you will always be very special to me, very important, my Imzadi. So, when Beverly told me you'd slept together, willingly or otherwise, I got upset. When she said she was pregnant with your child, I got jealous, insanely jealous. I thought I'd accepted your 'roving eye,' your ease with the women. But not with my best friend. And definitely not when she got from one night with you what I'd wanted throughout our relationship. To be totally honest, Imzadi, it's what I still want."

"You wanted to have a baby? But, I thought you'd always told your mother--"

"I was trying to shut her up, to stop her from voicing before everyone else the thoughts I wanted kept to myself. I didn't even want you to know about them."

"Why? Why didn't you ever say anything to me?"

"Because I knew how you felt about commitments, how you still feel about commitments. I didn't want to scare you off, so I kept these thoughts to myself. Do you know how often after you'd left me I wished I'd gotten pregnant? At least if I'd been pregnant, I'd have had your child to keep me company, to remind me of you."

"So, naturally you got a little upset at the prospect of a little Riker running around this ship that wasn't yours. Honey, why didn't you ever tell me? If you wanted a baby, my baby, that badly, all you had to do was ask. I would have been more than happy to oblige you," he said, grinned as she smiled in spite of herself. "No commitment would have been necessary, if you didn't want it."

"Thank you, Will." She looked at him intently, surprised by the stab of emotion coming from him. "Will? What is it?"

"Beverly told me that she'll be raising the baby herself, that I won't have any responsibilities for the child whatsoever. The baby will know me as its father, and I'll be able to spend all the time I want with the baby, but it will be a Crusher, not a Riker. She's made all the decisions already, and there's no way to change her mind on them."

"And this bothers you, this lack of control over the fate of your child?" No reply. No eye contact either. "Will, are you saying that you want to be involved in the upbringing of this child? That you want a commitment? From Beverly?"

"Don't tell me you're getting jealous again, Imzadi?" A glint of his old humor, trying to lighten the moment. He smiled when she leaned over and brushed his cheek with her lips, returned the gesture along with a quick hug.

"Of course not, Will, not really. I'm just a bit surprised that you do want a commitment like this. It's a sign that you really have matured while aboard the Enterprise. I commend you on your maturity and your responsibility in this situation."

"And I commend you on your compassion and understanding of what has happened. I'm sure Beverly was glad to know you didn't hate her over this any more either." Suddenly, Deanna's face went dark. "Deanna? What is it?"

"The captain. He's not handling this situation with much understanding, compassion, or maturity."

"He's not happy about it?" She shook her head. "I thought he was acting rather strangely after you left the ready room. Do you think...? Do you think the captain's jealous that it's my baby?"

"It is quite possible, Will. Perhaps it would be beneficial if we all sit down and try to come to terms with this together."

* * * * *

"I'm sure you all know why I've called this meeting," Deanna Troi started three days later. "Before we start, I'd like to lay down a few ground rules. First, I've picked this observation lounge for our meeting because it is a neutral location for all of us. Second, rank holds no sway in this room, poses no issue. When you walked through that door, you left your rank and influence outside. I will refer to the captain by his title, not because of his rank, but out of habit. Third, we will stay here until everything is

settled. The only way we will stop this discussion is if there is a red alert or if I detect any great stress for Beverly and the baby. And lastly, anything said in this room will remain in this room and won't be discussed unless we all agree to discuss it. Are there any questions? Additional rules I may have forgotten?"

"What about you, Deanna?" Will asked. "What is your part in all of this?"

"I'll be participating in the discussion both as a principal member and as mediator."

"How can you do that?"

"Is it possible to keep your feelings and your profession separated like that?"

"I've resolved my differences about the situation. At least I hope I have," she said, pausing to look at the three people around her. "Now, where shall we start? We all know that Beverly believes she is pregnant, and that Will is the father. Beverly, how do you feel about being pregnant?"

"It is a bit of a shock to realize that I'm going to be a mother again. I mean, Wesley's a Starfleet cadet, a grown man, and now I'm going to be raising another baby."

"Does that bother you? Don't you want to be pregnant?"

"That's not it. I don't want to end this pregnancy, if that's what you mean. I'm a bit unnerved at the prospect of going through another pregnancy at this stage in my life, but I will love this baby just as much as I love Wes." Bev paused, looking down briefly, trying to get her emotions in check again. "At first, I was worried and upset about this whole situation, especially about Will being the father...."

At this, Will squirmed a bit in his seat, coughed to cover it. Deanna smiled slightly to ease his discomfort, then glanced at the captain. He was frowning, obviously disliking this conversation. Deanna put her hand on Beverly's shoulder, silently encouraging her. "Go on, Beverly."

"Um, I guess it really doesn't matter if Will's the father or if the baby really is Odan's. I'll have DNA testing done later on, but I'm not very worried about it anymore. I know Will, we spoke about this already, and I know that he'll be like a foster father to the baby, just like he was with Wesley. It won't matter if he fathered my child or not."

"Will, how do you feel about being a father?" Deanna asked. The three of them couldn't help but notice Picard repeatedly clenching and unclenching his fist. This clearly upset Beverly, which, in turn, bothered Troi.

"I'll admit it, I'm not jumping for joy over this, but I think I've accepted it. I always expected I'd eventually have a family, whether I wanted to admit it or not." He looked pointedly at Deanna. See, I wasn't lying. "I'm going to do everything I can for this baby, whether it's mine or not. I've actually begun to feel as if this is my baby already."

"Enough!" Picard yelled, standing.

"Would you like to make a comment, Captain?" Deanna hoped to diffuse this before it got to be too much.

"This is preposterous! And I won't have any part of it!"

"Captain, you can't leave. We haven't settled anything yet."

"I'm the captain of this ship and I don't have to settle anything."

"Captain, you will not leave this room," Troi said, suddenly more forceful than she'd ever been. "It is very important that we reach some sort of mutual understanding and agreement about this. We are all very involved in this situation, whether we like it or not."

"I am not--"

"Denying won't help anyone here, especially you, Captain Picard. If this isn't resolved, there could be problems, potentially serious complications within the command structure aboard this ship."

"There won't be any problems, I won't allow them!"

"You're allowing one now, sir," Will interjected, trying to help. Deanna felt the stab of jealousy from the older man just before he turned his gaze on his first officer.

"I don't want you telling me what to do, Commander!" Deanna winced visibly as Picard's anger pierced through her mental shielding. Will and Bev noticed this immediately, but Picard didn't. "I don't need any of you telling me how I should feel!"

"That's not what we're doing, sir," Deanna managed to get in before he continued.

"Then please tell me what you are trying to do, Counsellor, because it certainly feels as if that's the case."

"I thought we were friends, Jean-Luc, I thought I could depend on you to help me through this. I mean, you were the one who told me that friends share their problems, weren't you?" Beverly asked softly, tears welling in her eyes. "I guess all the years we've known each other mean nothing to you. If that's the way you want things to be, fine. As of this moment, I will only interact with you in the most professional manner possible. We are no longer friends, and I will no longer refer to you as 'Jean-Luc.' From now on, we will only address each other as 'Captain Picard' and 'Dr. Crusher.' And now, I'd like to

go back to my quarters to lie down. I suddenly don't feel like putting myself through this any longer. Request permission to leave, Captain, unless you object."

"Beverly, please don't leave," Deanna pleaded. "You're upset--"

"Exactly. You said this meeting would be ended if I got too upset. I am upset and I'd like to leave before I do something I'll really regret."

"You wouldn't harm the baby, would you?" Will asked.

"No, but I would consider resigning from this post or transferring to another ship, rather than be around someone who would prefer I wasn't around," Bev replied, looking pointedly at the captain. "Once again, Captain, I request permission to leave. Will you or will you not grant it?"


"Dr. Crusher, Captain. Remember? You've made it quite clear that we are no longer friends."

"We still are."

"No, we're not. Friends would admit there's a problem ande stay to work through it. Since you're unwilling to do that, we obviously aren't friends," came her reply as she stood and walked to the door.

Deanna looked at the three people standing in front of her. The tension was high in the room, and it was beginning to affect her judgement. If an agreement of some sort wasn't reached soon, there would be irreparable damage done to the relationships between the four of them.

"Please don't leave, Beverly," Picard asked softly as Bev reached the door. "Can't we talk about this? As friends?"

Bev turned and ran into his open arms, letting the tears fall. Deanna sighed, watching as Picard comforted the doctor, murmuring softly in French. The counsellor knew then that things would be resolved, that they could deal with this situation together.

* * * * *

"We should be getting the results any minute now," Beverly replied to the unspoken question floating about the room. Of the four of them, Bev was the calmest, and seemed to be adjusting to her new motherhood rather well. Beverly had been much more at ease in the few days following their group reconciliation. That afternoon had produced a much stronger bond between the four officers than had ever been before.

"Beverly, has your morning sickness gotten any worse?"

"Actually, Deanna, I've hardly gotten queasy since the first day or two. Hopefully that's a good indication that this will be an easy pregnancy."

"It wasn't that way with Wes?"

"God, no! I was sick for three months straight when I was pregnant with him. This time it feels...different, better somehow."

"That's just good genes," Will replied. "It's in his blood to be good now and a hellraiser when he's born. That's the Riker way."

Both Bev and Deanna hit him in the chest at that remark. It was a playful hit, but Will feigned injury and faked a pout as the other three tried not to laugh.

"Oh, poor baby. Did we hurt you?" Bev asked in a sing-songy voice. When Will nodded, she took him in her arms, pretending to comfort him. After a minute of this, she slapped his back. "That's enough, Will. You're just too old for me to baby. Besides, I've got a baby of my own on the way."

Will turned to Deanna, the playful pout back again. "Sorry, Will," she said gently, a wicked gleam in her eyes, "but you're too big to sit on my lap. Maybe Worf would do it for you?"

The foursome laughed, picturing Worf comforting the first officer, not noticing as one of the other doctors waked into the office. He stood there patiently until Beverly finally noticed him and took the PADD from him beforehe left. She wouldn't look at the PADD right away, and the room suddenly turned very quiet, very tense, all signs of their earlier gaiety gone.

"Well, I guess there's no time like the present," Beverly said, activating the PADD. She scanned it quickly, her eyes hooded from the others.

"Beverly? What is it?" Picard asked gently, a hand on her shoulder. Beverly dropped the PADD, quickly ran out of the office. Picard glanced at the PADD, swore softly, the followed her. A bit confused, Will reached for it, confirming for himself and Deanna what the empath had already sensed from Beverly.

* * * * *

Beverly sat in her darkened quarters, not letting anyone come in, despite their pleas and demands to the contrary. She needed to be alone, needed time to deal with this in her own way. Suddenly, a thought dawned on her -- Wesley. She turned on a light and began to record a message on her monitor, talking rapidly, furiously, a woman possessed.

"Hi, Wes. How are you doing? Are your classes going well? I hope everything is working out for you. For the most part, things are pretty much the same here on the Enterprise. Geordi keeps wanting to know when you're going to come back for a visit. He says he needs the help down in Engineering.

"Wes, there's something I need to tell you. I wish you were here so we could talk in person. It would be so much easier for me if you were here, but you're not, so I'll have to deal with it. Right? Then again, maybe it would n't. Anyway....

"Um, this whole situation started about six weeks ago. I fell in love with Odan, the Trill ambassador who was negotiation a peace treaty between two factions from Peliar Zel. He was injured during the mission, which was when I discovered that the Trill are a symbiotic race. Odan's host body died, and Will Riker volunteered to be a temporary host until the new Trill host arrived.

"It was so difficult for Will and Odan, physically, during that time. It was hard for me, too, having to deal with the physical problems they had, as well as my own feelings for Odan.. Then something happened, out of my control.... I slept with Will. It -- was Odan I was making love to, but it was Will's body. A new, female host arrived, and Odan left the Enterprise, and my life.

"About two weeks ago, I thought I was pregnant again...but with Will's baby. There were a lot of problems and harsh words between Will, Deanna, the captain, and me. This whole situation nearly ruined beyond repair some very close relationships. We finally got things resolved right before I was tested.... The test came back negative.

"Wes, I was so sure I was pregnant again. It started out the same way it did when I had you. All of us were having a bit of a hard time accepting the fact that Will and I were going to be parents. Will was ready to care for the baby from the start, to be like a father to the baby, kind of like he did for you. It took a little longer for Deanna and Jean-Luc to come around, though, hence the fighting.

"I was hoping so badly that I was pregnant, especially near the end. No matter that Will was almost assuredly the biological father, the love that Odan and I shared conceived that baby. Wes, I really loved him, I'm sure of it. I haven't felt anything like this since your father died.

"Um, Deanna and I have been talking a great deal since the results came back. She's helped me realize that this hysterical pregnancy was a result of my denial and refusal to grieve for the loss of Odan -- physically and emotionally. I think it's going to take quite a while for me to get over this one, Wes.

"I wish you were here to help me get through this. I could really use a good long talk with you right now. Please come and visit as soon as you can. I really miss you, and.... Please don't forget that I love you, Wesley."

Beverly pressed a button, sending the message out over the subspace waves to her son. She leaned back in her chair, wiped away a few tears as the door chimed again. She chewed her lower lip for a second, debating. Finally, she walked over to the door, slapped the panel, then stepped back as Will Riker's silhouette filled her doorway.

"Am I disturbing you?"

"Of course not, Will. Come in." She watched him enter the room slowly, hesitantly, as if checking up on her. "I'm fine, Will."

"I've -- been worried about you this past week. You haven't been answering any of the inquiries I've sent you, any of us have sent you. The only person you've really talked to is Deanna--"

"For my therapy," she finished, moving to sit next to him on the couch. "And, of course, she won't tell you anything specific, nothing beyond the fact that I'm slowly getting better. Right?"

"I have been worried about you, Beverly."

"You don't have to worry, Will--"

"You're a very dear friend, Beverly, and you were almost the mother of my child. Of course, I'm going to worry about you."

"Thank you, Will," she replied, let him hug her briefly. "I've been avoiding all of you for a reason. Right now, I feel so embarrassed for causing all the fuss I did. I shouldn't have said anything until I had tested myself first. Then, I would have known I wasn't pregnant, wouldn't have caused all the fighting. Wouldn't have dredged up all those memories...."

"Now, I know you don't really mean that, Beverly. You needed to deal with your feelings, with the repercussions of what happened between us. I think it's better that it came out this way, so we could deal with it together, all four of us. Think of what could have happened if it had come up in the middle of tense negotiations."

"I know. I just.... Well, I guess we certainly put the relationships within the highest level of this ship's command structure to the test."

"And they passed...with mostly flying colors."

"Let's just hope we never get put to another test like this again," she replied, shuddering at the very real, very dangerous potential outcomes of this "test" they'd undergone. Suddenly, she wrapped her arms around Will's neck, buried her head in his shoulder, and began to cry.

"Hey, what's wrong? Are you okay?" He wondered if he should call Deanna, if Beverly was getting too upset for him to be able to calm down.

"Just hold me, Will. Just hold me and tell me everything's going to work out for us, for me. Please?"

"Of course, I will, Beverly. I will always be here for you, we all will. You will never be put through an ordeal like this alone again. We will always stick by you, be there for you. All you have to do is ask."