Beverly smiled as Morgan scampered into her bedroom, carrying the precious bell flowers she'd picked, the melodic tinkling following her. Behind her, Deanna giggled softly. "I don't want to hear it, Deanna," she warned.
"Not another word. I mean it," the redhead replied adamantly, walking into her own room.
"If you insist."
Deanna sighed dramatically and slumped into a chair. "You're no fun, Beverly Picard. I mean, it's not *my* fault you fell into the brook!" And the laughter bubbled up past her lips again as Bev emerged, wrapped in a warm robe, a towel over her hair.
"Not your fault?" came the reply as she curled up on the couch. "Which one of us talked Morgan into walking the ledge? Those were damned slippery rocks, Deanna."
"But neither of us fell in. You did."
"That's right. *I* fell in, much to the obvious amusement of my daughter and *supposed* best friend."
"Mamman? Mes fleurs, je les donne ici?" Morgan asked, standing next to her father's desk. "Pour Papa?"
Bev smiled warmly at her daughter. "Yes, cherie, you may. Your papa would like that." She held out her arms to the girl, scooping her up to sit on her lap. Morgan cuddled close, then pulled back, fear in her eyes. "Cherie? What is it?"
"Am I hurting Rene?"
Beverly pulled the girl closer. "Oh no, cherie, not at all. In fact, when we cuddle like this, it makes Rene feel better. Mamman, too."
"C'est vrai?" came the incredulous question. At Bev's smiling nod, she hugged her mother tighter.
Deanna sighed again, wistfully this time. "You know, it's times like this I envy you, Beverly."
"You are surrounded by such love, from your husband, your children. You actually glow sometimes, did you know that?"
Bev smiled, a touch of color in her cheeks. "You flatter me, Deanna. But don't you tell me that you feel no love from Will. You glow sometimes, too, my friend."
Now it was Deanna's turn to blush. "That's *different,* and you know it is. What I feel between you and the captain is so spiritually strong that it goes beyond the bonds of Imzadi, beyond anything I could ever hope to share with Will," she said, softly sighed again. Morgan pulled away from her mother and went to crawl into Deanna's lap, wrapping her arms around the Betazoid's neck, kissing her cheek before cuddling close. "Thank you, Morgan. What was that for?"
"Je t'aime, Danni," the little girl replied, bringing tears to the eyes of both women.
"I love you, too, my little love," she whispered, wrapping her arms around the little girl, who yawned. "Go to sleep, love, I'll hold you."
Bev watched her daughter snuggled closer and fall asleep in Deanna's arms, a wayward thumb finding its way into her mouth. At that, Beverly realized just how much their walk had worn out the girl, and felt the weariness in her own body. Part of her wished she could do the same thing her daughter now did, wished for her husband's arms around her, protecting her while she slept. She closed her eyes briefly, trying to fight back the tears of frustration, loneliness.
Deanna watched Beverly intently. She hoped the captain would return soon. The stress of separation was taking its toll on the pregnant woman, who looked as if she hadn't had a decent night's sleep since before her anniversary, and quite probably hadn't. She knew that only one person could truly help Beverly right now, wished that there was something she could do. Shifting Morgan in her arms, Deanna stood and went to sit next to the redhead, who looked up at her in temporary terror. "It's okay, Beverly," she said softly, pulling the woman's head down onto her shoulder. "Rest now, my friend, you know you need it."
"No, but's, Beverly. You've no work to do, Morgan is safely asleep, and you're thoroughly exhausted. You know that isn't good for you or the baby. By the Goddess, Beverly, get some sleep. The captain will kill me if he returns and finds you in worse shape than when he left." Bev stared at Deanna for a long minute. She knew Deanna was right. And her brief contact with the woman's shoulder had felt wonderful. Sighing heavily, she acquiesced, eyes closing as her cheek rested on the warm shoulder. She pulled a little closer as Deanna's arm wrapped around her shoulders. "That's it, Beverly," Deanna soothed, her cheek resting on the crown of red-gold silk. "Just relax and sleep. The Goddess and I will watch over you, keep you safe." She repeated similar words for a bit, then shifted to soft humming until she felt Bev slip into deep, hopefully peaceful, sleep.
And after a bit, the Betazoid joined her best friend and Goddess-child in blissful slumber.
Will Riker looked up at the sound of the chime. "Come," he said, wondering how long he'd been asleep. He was rubbing his eyes and yawning as Data walked in.
"I am sorry to disturb your rest, Commander," he said, watching Riker's cheek color at being caught. "I wanted to know if you planned on staying for a second shift or if you were going to retire from the bridge?"
"No, Data, I'll be leaving. I guess I lost track of time." And he quickly left the lounge, and the bridge, before Data thought to query about his dreams. Those were only for his attention...and Deanna's, of course.
Jean-Luc Picard stepped out of the shuttle, leaving Worf behind to finish up the landing checklist. All he wanted to do now was see his wife and daughter. Quickly, he made his way through the ship to his quarters. He walked in the door to find his wife and daughter contentedly snuggled against Deanna Troi, all three peacefully sleeping. Silently he set his pack down, then went to take Morgan from Deanna's arms. The Betazoid looked up at him confused, but he smiled and motioned for her to stay put and keep quiet. With quiet efficiency, he placed his daughter in her bed. As he tucked the covers around her, the little girl's bright blue eyes opened.
"Papa? C'est toi?"
"Oui, ma chere. Go back to sleep now, Morgan. I'll see you in the morning," he whispered, kissing her forehead. Morgan didn't even hear his words, as her eyes fluttered shut again, her thumb returning to her mouth. Jean-Luc returned to the livingroom and found Deanna had gone. He watched Beverly sleep for a moment, then leaned over to pick her up in his arms before walking into their bedroom. Even when he placed her in bed, she didn't stir. Looking down at her, he noticed the dark circles under her eyes, saw the fatigue etched in her lovely face. And then he knew that what Deanna had told him in her communiques was true. And he was thankful the negotiations had ended finally. He slipped out of his clothes, then slipped into the bed next to his wife, wrapping her in his arms, enfolding her in his love. And then he closed his eyes and joined his wife in dreamland.
Deanna returned to her quarters, exhausted and in need of a long hot bath. She entered the bedroom, beginning to remove her clothes, following the familiar path with closed eyes.
"Oh, good. You're already ready for me?" came Will's rich baritone, causing her eyes to open. At his smile, she found herself smiling.
"Only if you'll let me sleep for a while, Imzadi," she replied, going into his arms.
"Rough night?" Will asked, holding her close.
Deanna nodded. "Beverly's so upset by the captain's absence. I felt it, it took a lot out of me. But now that the captain is back, hopefully things will get better now."
"I just left their quarters. He was putting Morgan to bed when I left." And then she yawned loudly, causing Will to chuckle.
"Here," he said softly, "let me help." And with a loving tenderness few had ever seen, he undressed Deanna before joining her in the bed. He wrapped her in a tight bear hug, the low, steady rumble of his heart lulling her to sleep.