**4 days later .. Jonaran Falls, Betazed**
Deanna sighed heavily, leaned back against the rough bark of the tree behind her. She watched Will lazily swimming in the pool below the falls, gazing through the rainbow-hued mists to see her lover climb up and disappear behind the fall itself. She closed her eyes, basking in the sunlight and the love emanating from Will. Suddenly, cold water hit her head and she screamed.
"Gotcha!" Will whispered in her ear, wrapping his arms about her.
"Damn you, Will!" she sputtered, halfheartedly swatting at him. Then she snuggled into his arms as he leaned back against the tree, sighing contentedly, not caring that her clothes were getting wet. All that mattered to her was that she was with Will, and that she loved him. The low, gentle rumble of his heartbeat calmed her, eased the troubling thoughts in her mind.
After a moment of silence, Will kissed the crown of her head. "Are you okay? You're awfully quiet."
"I'm fine, Will, just thinking."
"About what?" he asked, fingers lightly running through her hair.
"Morgan. Beverly. The captain. I wonder if they're alright, if they're doing what they're supposed to."
Will shifted to look down into those midnight eyes. "Don't you dare, Deanna. This is our time to be alone in the most romantic place on all Betazed, with your mother nowhere in sight. Let the Picards deal with their own problems for once. Right now, all you need to worry about is the fact that I'm here with you giving all my love to you, willing to do whatever it takes to show you just how much I love you."
She smiled warmly, tilted her head up to meet his kiss. "And I appreciate your efforts, Will. I'm trying not to think of them, honestly I am. But, it's hard. I mean, do you know the things I said to Beverly before we left? How cruel I was to her?"
"Did she need to hear those things? Did you need to be cruel to reach her?"
"No but's, Deanna. You did what you had to do. Now leave her to do what she has to. You can't do everything for them, Deanna. They have to live their own lives."
"But not at Morgan's expense. Will, do you realize what they've done to their daughter? Look at how she is around them, as compared to being around us."
"What do you want to do, Deanna? Take Morgan from her parents?"
"Deanna, as much as you love Morgan, she isn't your daughter. You need to remember that."
"I do, but I want her to be happy."
"And I want *you* to be happy," Will replied, caressing her cheek, then traced the lines in her forehead. "I don't want to see this beautiful face marred by these worry lines. You are far too important to me, Imzadi, and I won't let you ruin our only real vacation together in years over the problems of the Picard family."
Deanna blinked, knew he was right, was about to say something, but the words never left her mouth. Will's lips were on hers, tongue gently insinuating itself into her mouth, as he shifted, pulling her onto his lap. She acquiesced, snuggling closer, arms wrapping around his neck, a soft sigh escaping into his mouth at the feel of his growing member beneath her. And all the love she'd felt for Will Riker over the past sixteen years came flooding to the surface again.
"There's an apprehensive naked little trembling boy
With his head in his hands
There's an underestimated and impatient little girl
Raising her hand"
"Why don't you tell me what's going on here?" Lieutenant Sarah Randall asked the couple sitting before her. The captain was sitting on the couch, head down, obviously uncomfortable to be there. And the doctor was pacing off to the side, a wild animal in a cage.
At that question, the pacing stopped, and Beverly looked up at her. "You mean you don't know? But, Deanna said...."
"Counselor Troi told me her observations and thoughts on the situation, as well as letting me read her files regarding your sessions. Now, I want to hear it from the two of you. Why are you here? Why do you think you should be here?"
"I don't think we should," Jean-Luc said, not looking up, but he flinched, somehow feeling the silent daggers being thrown his way from his wife's narrowed eyes.
"Oh, of course," she began. "The great Jean-Luc Picard says things are fine, so they are. Is that it? Who gave you the right to say what happens in our marriage?"
"Who gave you the right?" he countered, eyes finally meeting hers. "Things were fine until the miscarriage, Beverly, then you changed."
Randall's eyes lit up. They were already getting somewhere. Whatever Troi had said to the doctor before leaving must have worked on the couple. *Then again,* she mused, *perhaps they just needed to be away from their friend for this. Deanna is too much like family to be objective.*
"It started well before that, Jean-Luc, and you know it. But then again, all you cared about was Rene, so it doesn't surprise me that you wouldn't notice anything until after your precious son was dead. I'm sorry that Morgan and I disappoint you, Jean-Luc, that we aren't males to carry on your damned precious Picard line."
"Now just a min--" he started, but she cut him off again.
"If the continuation of your family line was so damned important to you, why did you wait so long to try for a son? It wasn't until Robert and Rene were killed that you even *cared* about continuing the family name. And by that time, we had Morgan, but she wasn't good enough, was she? Nor was Wesley, your firstborn son. He offered to take on his rightful birth name, to please you, to legally continue the Picard line, but you refused. Why? Do you know how much that hurt him? And me? It was like you didn't want to acknowledge him as your son. Do you feel the same for Morgan?"
"I never said that!" he bellowed, standing to face her. "I just question his paternity!" And the moment he said it, Jean-Luc regretted it. The look on Beverly's face at that admission nearly killed him. She looked as if her entire world had just collapsed. He tried to fix the damage he'd done. "Beverly, I didn't mean it," he said, going to take her in his arms.
Beverly backed away from him. The initial shock and hurt of his words gone, she was filled with an all-consuming rage, an inferno that she would pull her husband into. *Let the bastard burn,* she thought to herself, resolving to do something she'd promised herself she wouldn't ever do: she was going below the belt for this attack, and didn't care in that instant if he was hurt. She wanted her husband to feel the intense pain he'd just made her feel.
"You bastard," she said in a low voice, slapping him. "How dare you accuse me of lying about Wesley's paternity!"
"You did!" Jean-Luc countered. "All these years, you led everyone to believe he was Jack's son."
"If you'd asked, I would have told you."
"And then what? Publically announce that you'd lied about Jack's son. Announce that you'd cheated on Jack? The almighty saint Jack Crusher, who could do no wrong. Do you know what it is like competing with his ghost?"
"Do you know what it's like being married to that ghost?" Bev retorted, then sighed heavily. "Even now, after five years of marriage to you, I am still considered Jack's wife. I never *wanted* to be Jack's wife! I never loved him enough to want to be his wife, to spend the rest of my life with him."
"Then why did you?" It was softly asked, still edged with anger, but heavily laced with sorrow.
"Because the man I wanted to marry wanted nothing to do with me," she said in a equally soft voice, though tinged with anger. "He fucked me once, took my virginity, got me pregnant, and left. After that, he was distant toward me, treated me as nothing more than the wife of his best friend. And all I wanted to do was run into his arms, bury myself in the feelings he'd brought out in me that fateful night, but I couldn't. I wasn't wanted, I wasn't good enough anymore, I was damaged goods, pregnant and undesirable." She hazarded a glance at him. "The only reason I agreed to marry Jack was because I wanted my baby to have a father. Granted, it wasn't the father of choice, but a father is a father. Jack cared for Wes as if he were his own son."
"He *knew*?" Jean-Luc was incredulous at this revelation, but at her nod, he became angry again. "You told me he didn't know, that he thought Wes was his. You lied to me. My God, I don't even know you anymore."
Beverly continued as if she hadn't heard him. But she had, and the pain was nearly killing her, as she fought back the tears. "At first, he didn't know, and when he asked me to marry him, I said yes. We got married within a month, and I let him make love to me on our wedding night--"
"I really don't need to hear this, Beverly. I heard enough from Jack after every shore leave to Earth."
"Did you? Did you really? And what did he tell you? Did he tell you that once I was pregnant, he wouldn't touch me, for fear of hurting the baby. Then, when Wes was born, he could see plainly that he wasn't the father." And she shuddered then, remembering....
Jean-Luc saw this change in her, saw her faltering in her composure. Something was wrong, and no matter how angry he was with Beverly, he didn't want her to suffer like this. "Beverly?" he asked tentatively.
She whirled to face him. "Do you know what he did when he realized who had fathered Wes? Do you *know* what he did?" Jean-Luc started to speak, but she wouldn't let him. "He hit me."
"What?" Jean-Luc had definitely not been expecting those words.
"He beat the hell out of me. Called me a slut and a whore. Said I was no better than some of the Orion trash he'd been fucking. But then he said that Wes would be considered his, and I would be the dutiful, loving wife. If I didn't comply, he said he'd take Wes and kill me....and you. It took everything in me to agree to his demands. I didn't care about myself, I deserved my fate. But I didn't want to lose Wes, or you. After that, anytime he came home, he'd rape me, trying to get me pregnant again, with *his* child. And every time he came home, he'd spoil Wes, try to turn him against me, against us."
Jean-Luc desperately wished the man was still alive, so he could kill Jack himself for hurting Beverly like that, for treating her like that. He went to take her into his arms, and she, too distraught to fight, let him. He held her close as she cried, great wracking sobs convulsing her body.
Finally, she spoke again, softly, around her sobs. "About six months before he died, he changed. He began to be more loving toward me, more like a husband should be. He didn't rape me, but made love to me, tender sweet love. I thought things were okay then, and I enjoyed being his wife for the first time in five years. And I got pregnant, the first pregnancy since Wes. But Jack never knew that it would have been a girl. Not that it mattered, I miscarried her the night Jack died."
Suddenly, Jean-Luc remembered the third person in the room. He hazarded a glance at her, noted the worry on her face, a direct reaction to what Bev must be feeling. She met his eye, silently bade him to get Bev to continue, to finally purge herself of this information. Part of him wanted to do this, to help his wife get all of this trouble off her chest. But part of him wanted to shield her from this terrible pain she was going through. And those two parts were at war for dominance. Finally, he realized that Beverly couldn't hide from this anymore, that she needed to tell it to someone, needed to deal with it. And, since he was involved, he needed to deal with it, too.
"Beverly, what happened? Why didn't you ever tell me? Why didn't I learn of this on KesPrit?" She wouldn't answer, just shook her head, clinging more tightly to him. "Please, Beverly, talk to me. How did you keep this from me on KesPrit?"
"I've had it buried so deep for so many years. I couldn't tell you, couldn't let you know what happened. At first it was because I was afraid of Jack, afraid he'd follow through on his threats. Then, there was Jack's memory to be kept intact. How could I tarnish the perfect image that Starfleet had created of him? Then, I thought you didn't care anymore, that it wouldn't matter to you what he did to me. Then, I just got to the point that I could bury it so deep, so far down inside me, that I could almost forget it ever happened, pretend it was all some horrible nightmare.
"The day I learned that Jack had died, I miscarried my daughter, and a part of me died with her. The tears I shed at his funeral were tears of relief because the threats were finally over, he couldn't hurt me anymore. But they were also tears of remorse for my little girl. And I vowed to myself that I would never be hurt or intimidated like that again. And I wasn't, not until you came to visit us." And then she grew silent again, almost fearful to speak.
"Beverly? How did you get hurt when I came to visit you?" No verbal response, but she pulled away from him, going to curl into a ball on the couch. Jean-Luc wanted to cry at her obvious fear to speak to him. He went to kneel before her, a hand gently resting on her knee. "Please, Beverly, tell me what happened? How did you get hurt when I came to visit you?"
Finally, she found the strength to answer him, though her voice was barely more than a whisper. "You remember that we slept together that night?" She didn't wait for his nod of recognition. "I became pregnant again that night, with your child. I was so elated at the thought of carrying your child again, I was going to name him Jean-Luc, after you, but I miscarried him two months later, because it was a tubal pregnancy. I never told you because you never brought up that night afterward. I didn't want to feel that hurt again, didn't want to cause you that pain and hurting I'd gone through. I'm sorry, Jean-Luc. I never knew how to tell you, any of this."
Jean-Luc was silent for a long moment, trying to process all of this information about the two people he'd cared the most about. He had been shown a side of Jack that he'd never even thought to see, and it frightened him, just as it frightened him to see what that side of Jack had done to Beverly. Suddenly, he saw before him a woman whose strength and tenacity were borne of such great pain and anguish as he'd never known before, nor hopefully ever would. This was not the Beverly he'd silently pined for all those years, the brightly vivacious, powerful woman he'd fallen in love with. This woman before him felt pain and suffering more deeply than he'd ever thought possible. How could he ever live up to that? How could he ever feel for her what she'd obviously felt for him? And how could he ever compete with the ghosts of her past, make her the woman he'd seen in his mind's eye for so many years? Now that he knew what she'd been through with Jack, he began to wonder what pain and anguish she'd silently suffered at his hands. All he cared about now was calming down the distraught woman before him, the thoughts of another miscarried son barely registering in his conscious mind.
"I had no choice but to hear you
You stated your case time and again
I thought about it"
**One week later .. Jonaran Falls, Betazed**
The firelight flickered over the faces of the couple as they stumbled over each other, running to warm up their wet bodies. Deanna arrived first and moved is if to take the spot closest to the fire. Suddenly, she squealed as Will's arm snaked around her waist, pulling her off balance and into his hard body. Giggling, she turned in his arms, tilting her head up to kiss him.
Soon his warm lips were dropping soft kisses down her throat, leaving a trail of blazing fire in their wake. Deanna sighted contentedly, fingers kneading Will's strong shoulders, urging him on. "Mmmmm," she purred, then blinked when he pulled back from her.
"Be right back," he said, lightly kissing her lips, then ducked into their tent. He emerged a minute later, blanket in hand, to find Deanna huddled before the fire. He stopped, just gazing at the woman sitting there as she tried to warm herself after their midnight swim. He swallowed the lump that suddenly found its way into his throat at the love he felt for this woman.
At the intensity of emotion coming from Will, Deanna turned to look at him, smiling warmly. "Come over here and warm up, Will," she said softly, patting the place on the log next to her.
Smiling back, Will complied and leaned against the log, the blanket around his shoulders. He motioned for Deanna to join him under the blanket, smiled when she sat between his legs, then wrapped the blanket around the two of them. For nearly half an hour, they sat there in silence, staring into the flames, just basking in their closeness. Will leaned down, gently kissed her temple and hugged her closer. "You know something?"
"This was the best thing for both of us."
Deanna nodded, lacing her fingers with his. "I agree, and I'm glad we came home to Betazed. We really did need this time alone, no one else around to distract us." She sensed the slight emotional shift in her lover, turned a bit to face him, gaze deep into his eyes. *What is it, Imzadi?* her thoughts caressed his mind.
He just smiled, holding her closer, kissed her lips. At her more insistent mental nudge, he chuckled. "You *are* the impatient one now, aren't you?"
"Come on, Will. I can tell you want to tell me something. Just say it, and end the suspense already."
He chuckled again. "You know, Deanna, you're making it really hard for me to do this."
"What are you trying to do? Is everything alright?"
Instead of actually answering her, Will stood up, wrapped the blanket around her shoulders. He stared down at her, saw the confusion and fear in her eyes. A warm, compassionate smile filled his face, meant to allay her fears. He crouched next to her, then finally spoke. "You know, there was a reason I suggested Jonaran Falls for our leave."
"I know," she said softly. "It's a romantic hideaway."
He smiled, hushed her with a finger on her lips, then lightly traced those lips. "It's not just that. Do you remember the last time we were here?" She nodded, leaning into the hand now caressing her cheek. "Do you remember *everything* about that time we spent together?"
"Very well," she replied, then her eyes grew darker, "*too* well in some cases."
Will sighed explosively, stood and began pacing, one hand raking through his hair. "This isn't coming out right. Instead of saying what I want, I'm telling you the wrong things, making you upset. Why can't I find the right words to tell you what I feel?"
Deanna stood and went to Will's side. At her gentle hand on his shoulder, he turned to face her. Despite the fears he knew she felt, her smile had traveled to her eyes, comforting him. *Don't look for the words, Imzadi, just say it.*
He searched deep into her fathomless eyes, knew the truth of her words. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes for a brief moment, collecting his thoughts. When he opened them, he stared at her again, pouring his love out through his eyes. Cradling her face in both hands, he gently kissed her. Pulling back, he still held her face, stared into her dark eyes again. "I love you, Deanna. You know that, don't you?" She nodded, caressing his mind with her loving encouragement. "I lost you once, hated myself for walking away, leaving you like I did, but I did. I did it because I thought Starfleet was the most important thing in my life. And now, all these years later, after all the chances at captaincy I've turned down, I've finally realized that Starfleet isn't the be all and end all of life. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I love you and I want you in my life." And then he sank to his knees before her, her hands in his. "Deanna, will you marry me?"
Tears filled Deanna's eyes at that question, and a lump formed in her throat. She couldn't speak, just stared at him as the tears tumbled down her cheeks. It didn't take an empath to read the honesty behind his heartfelt words. She'd secretly wished for this moment for the past sixteen years, had even given up on it for a while, and now that it was here, all she could do was stand there and cry. She didn't dare trust her voice, so she sent yet another telepathic message to her lover, *Yes, Imzadi, I will marry you,* then dropped to her knees to hold him close.