Will and Deanna hung back until everyone else had left the room.
"What the hell was that all about?", he asked. "Yesterday they were almost embarrassingly affectionate; today they aren't even looking at each other."
"I've no idea. I can sense intense anger and disappointment from both of them, but no hint at the cause.
"Then find out will you."
"Will, I'm not their counsellor anymore."
"I'm asking as your husband, not your captain. They're our friends, don't you want to help?"
"Maybe, on this occasion, we should leave them to sort it out for themselves."
"Deanna?" Will looked surprised. "I'd have expected you to be the one who wanted to get involved.?"
"Usually, yes ..."
"So why not this time?"
"... maybe because I'm afraid of what I may discover. It must be something pretty serious to cause such animosity."
Deanna sighed with exasperation. Getting a Vulcan to express emotions would be easier then getting an explanation from her friend.
"Beverly if you ..."
"...Deanna, I know you're trying to help, but I'd rather you didn't. Jean-Luc and I will sort this out for ourselves."
Troi wished she shared her optimism. If they weren't speaking then how could they fix it? Still, she decided not to push the point for now.
"So, are you ready for that gym session we planned?"
"I'm sorry, we'll have to make it another time. I've a patient to attend to."
"You're on the Titan, how can you have patients?"
"Your CMO asked me to assist him with a complicated operation; I'm due there in five minutes."
She wasn't lying, but Deanna guessed she had gone looking for work in order to keep herself occupied.
"I must go."
Beverly hated rejecting her friend, on the way out she called out. "Deanna, those real peaches are delicious, if you want one please help yourself."
Troi was glad of the offer, it gave her an excuse to hang around in their quarters.
The place was orderly, their belongings either stored away or neatly piled.
Nothing strange there; they're both obsessively tidy.
She strolled between the bedroom and living room and back again, munching slowly on her peach. Something was different. Something wasn't as it had been the day before.
She was standing in the doorway, looking from room to room, when the answer suddenly dawned on her.
That's it! His and hers!
All Beverly's clothes and belonging were now in the bedroom while only Picard's were in the living area.
Had he slept on the sofa last night?
For a moment she hesitated - was she being too intrusive? - then fetched the scanner she'd seen in the bedroom. The readings confirmed her suspicion. He'd slept in the living room.
So when and where did the row start? In bed or at the party?
Picard wasn't on the ship, he'd found an excuse to visit the Space-Station and had given instructions that he'd be busy and should only be called in emergency.
"They're avoiding me and each other." Deanna told her husband, when they met mid-morning.
"Did Beverly reveal anything?"
"Not a clue. She said they would 'sort it out for themselves'. There wasn't much conviction behind the words. If they're not even talking then how .... "
"You'll have to be cunning and discover the cause without their help."
"You'll think of something." He leaned over and kissed her, "I have faith in you."
If they won't talk, perhaps someone else can tell me how it all started. Someone who was at the party? Someone who heard or saw something?
She needed to narrow down the time frame. All four of them had gone to the party at 19:15. Accessing the transporter logs she discovered Beverly had returned at 23:22 and Picard at 00:17. Interesting. There was a good chance that the row had started on the space-station. To exclude other possibilities she checked whether the Titan's Sickbay had called Dr Crusher around that time. There was no such call.
Ensign Rickards was 22 and new to the ship; he was good with machinery, but had other ambitious. The previous night he'd been the operator in transport room two.
"I don't know why Dr Crusher returned early, all I remember is that she was very quiet, she barely acknowledged my presence as she passed through."
Though he was intrigued as to why she was interested, he resisted the temptation to ask. Instead he offered her something more ...
"Captain Picard asked when she had transported when he returned after midnight."
Troi could tell he'd guessed what she was up to. Could she trust him?
As if reading her mind, he asked, "Is there anything else I can do for you Counsellor?"
She sensed his willingness to please.
"Could you locate Captain Picard for me? He's on the space-station but his comm badge doesn't seem to be working properly. If you could ..."
"...manage it discretely?"
They shared a conspiratorial smile.
"Ensign, have you ever considered a role in Security? I think you have the necessary talents."
Picard looked up guiltily as Troi entered the small office in which he was hiding. She said nothing, just seated herself opposite him - there was no need to explain, they both knew why she was there.
After an awkward silence the captain spoke.
"All right, I'll admit it. Beverly and I aren't getting on too well at the moment ... but we'll work it out."
"Will you? .....Captain, I may not be your counsellor anymore, but I am still your friend. Let me help, please?"
He took a sip from his empty cup as he considered her offer.
"What has Beverly told you?"
"Nothing helpful, I don't even know why she's angry with you?"
"That makes two of us!" He almost laughed.
"You don't know!" Deanna was shocked. "Why haven't you asked her?"
He didn't respond, she sensed embarrassment but also stubborn pride.
"Captain, I feel as if I'm on a mediation mission between two warring parties and neither of them will even tell me how it all started."
He looked away.
"Did Beverly say something that annoyed you?"
Unable to bear this questioning any longer, Picard rose and claimed he had a meeting to attend.
"You're angry, but you're also miserable. Please? Give me 'something' to work on."
He paused at the door. "Last night at the party, she ..."
It was all he was prepared to say, but it was enough. It wasn't anything Beverly had said, it was something she'd done at the party.
So when exactly? The pair of them had been getting on fine in the early part of the evening. If only she and Will had not been called away by the Station Commander at 21:30 .... Still at least she'd narrowed it down to between then and 23:00. Now her only problem was to find a witness without questioning everyone?
Perhaps Rickards might have an idea, he'd at least know who had returned to the Titan around the same time as Beverly.
As she entered the transport room, Troi was immediately aware of his pleasure at her arrival. She'd have to be careful with this young man - his manner and appearance were not without their own attractions.
"Is there something else I can do for you Counsellor?"
He already knew Picard and Crusher were having problems, she didn't need to pretend otherwise.
"If I wanted to find someone who'd observed Dr Crusher during her last hour at the party, what should I do?"
"I could tell you who'd transported back just before and after her, but the simplest solution would be to ask the Space-Station Security Chief for his recording."
"He recorded the whole party?"
"There were several Ferengi there on whom he wanted to keep an eye. I know because I helped him set up the cameras yesterday morning. Of course, you'll need a reason for requesting the recording."
They both pondered the point.
"I could say, one of our crew had developed an allergic reaction and we needed to see who they had come in contact with."
Rickards smiled mischievously, "Counsellor, have you considered a job in security?"
Will Riker leaned over his wife's shoulder. Her computer screen showed four different video recordings.
"What are you doing? Is that last night's party?"
"Yes, luckily the Station Security Officer recorded the whole thing. I'm hoping it will show me what sparked off their row."
"Anything useful yet?"
"No, they both look perfectly happy at this point. Beverly is over here with some of her old friends from Starfleet Medical and Jean-Luc is on the other side of the room with an archaeology professor and three of his students. It's all perfectly normal."
Will stretched and stood up, "I need a shower, call me if you need any help."
Deanna got up too, to fetch some cake. She left the recording running, by the time she'd returned things were different. Picard had that sad-angry look she'd seen earlier in the day. Beverly was tight lipped.
Excited that she might at last be nearing the answer, Deanna scrolled back the recording, stopping periodically until she reached a moment when they both looked content.
Right! So what happened?
She set the recording to play at normal speed and watched closely.
- Beverly talking to a fellow doctor.
- Beverly looking across at Jean-Luc.
- Beverly speaking to colleague again.
- Beverly looks at Jean-Luc again.
Anger! But why?
She found another camera angle amongst the recording chip and synchronised her picture of Beverly with the view Beverly would have had of Jean-Luc.
- Picard talks to professor.
- Professor leaves taking two glasses with him.
- Picard talks to female student.
What's the problem?
Deanna had seen the Captain behave that way many times before, why would Beverly be irritated?
"Any progress?" Will called from the bathroom.
"I've found the point where Beverly became angry, but I don't understand what he did to annoy her."
"Maybe you should imagine Jean-Luc is me, how would you, -Deanna- feel if you saw me behaving like that?"
"I'll give it a go."
She set up the recording again.
Think 'This is Will'.
The answer suddenly came to her.
Was it really that simple?
[The next day]
Picard skilfully steered the craft through a tight turn, then rolled it 360 degrees.
"She's a wonderful yacht, Will, better than mine. And I'm grateful for the chance to fly her, but why do I have the feeling we are here for some other purpose?"
"Probably because we are."
Picard brought the ship to a graceful halt.
"It's about you and Beverly.."
"Will, not you too! I told Deanna ..."
" .. that you would sort it out yourselves."
"So what progress have you made? Have you actually spoken to her?"
Jean-Luc made an embarrassed little cough and said nothing.
"I hear you slept on the Space-Station last night. My guess is that you haven't even seen her since my Ready Room yesterday."
"That maybe true, nevertheless, I'd prefer ..."
Will's exasperation reached its limit.
".. Jean-Luc you are a FLIRT."
His friend's stunned silence almost made Riker laugh.
"I beg your pardon." He responded pompously.
"You flirt with every attractive woman you meet. You're less blatant than me, but you do it nevertheless - you want to impress them. Your approach is restrained and subtle when you're in uniform, but in civilian clothing you're less inhibited. And the other night you were ... 'less inhibited' than usual."
Picard let out a snort of derisive laughter. "If anyone was flirting, it was Beve..." He stopped mid-sentence. He didn't want to say it, even to someone as close as Riker.
Will was softer on him now, "You were hurt when you saw her dancing and laughing with the Bajoran Minister. And when she twirled around for Dr Lomax could admire her."
Picard stared at him. "How did you know?"
"The whole party was recorded, Deanna got hold of a copy. You should watch it."
He winced at the thought.
"Trust me." Will reassured him. "Things weren't quite what they may have seemed."
Ten minutes later Riker was taking him through the events.
"See here, when the music starts." Picard recognised the tune, it was one of Beverly's favourites. "She looks over to you. I think she's hoping for a dance, but you're pre-occupied with the young student."
Captain Picard hurried through the Titan as fast as dignity would allow. He was hoping Deanna had persuaded Beverly to view his behaviour as foolish rather than threatening to their relationship. Either way he had some explaining to do.
At the door to their quarters he paused and straightened his jacket.
Beverly was seated on the edge of the sofa, waiting for him. As he entered she rose and rushed towards him.
"I'm sorry." They both declared in unison as they clasped each other in their arms. Their chests heaved with relief as their anxiety lessened. The strength of their embrace was almost strong enough to cause harm.
Picard was the first to raise his head. He stroked her cheek, lifting a stray hair out of her eye.
"I'm sorry," he repeated. "I behaved thoughtlessly and I judged you far too harshly. I never noticed you wanted to dance with me. Nor did I see Admiral Kendrick forcing you into dance with the Bajoran Minister."
"He was as embarrassed as I was. For me to have refused him would have been unfair and disrespectful. We'd only been dancing a few seconds when my friend Karen 'accidentally' spilt her drink over Kendrick's trousers. The Minister and I couldn't help but laugh."
"I laughed too, when I saw it on the recording."
Picard let out a long breath, trying to ease the tension that still gripped his chest.
"You may find this hard to believe, but I didn't realise I was flirting with that student until Will pointed it out."
"You weren't the only one, I shouldn't have been encouraging Dr Lomax's like that. I just didn't think ... Did Will tell you Deanna has an explanation for our behaviour? That party was our first public social event since we became lovers. At the beginning we acted like a couple, then, when we got separated, we gradually fell back into the the way of acting that was normal to us when were still 'single'. The real alcohol didn't help our judgements much either."
It was an explanation, but neither felt it was an adequate excuse.
Beverly stroked his face, the pain was still visible in his eyes.
"Jean-Luc, when I locked you out of our bedroom, what did you think was going on?"
"That you'd decided our relationship was a mistake."
She winced. "I was just angry with you. I never meant it to go so far."
"It was my fault, I should have known better."
That self-sacrificing-Captain look was on his face.
"Why should you take the sole responsibility? Because you're the captain? Because you're the man?"
"No, nothing like that." They were almost arguing.
"Because I've experienced this type of misunderstanding with you before."
Beverly's mouth twisted as she struggled to contain a laugh.
"My dear Jean-Luc, if that was the case, don't you think I'd have experienced it too?"
"No, you wouldn't, it happened in another time line. One you don't remember."
This revelation left her speechless for a few seconds.
"Did you ever tell me about this other life?"
"Yes ... I told you you became captain of the medical ship The Pasteur."
"I remember that part, which bits didn't you tell me about?"
Picard let his eyes drift away from hers. She caught his chin and moved his head till he was looking at her once more.
"Jean-Luc, tell me."
He'd said too much already, he had to go on.
"In this other life you and I had married and then divorced."
"Oh!" She thought about this for a while. "So you've experienced being married to me?"
"Not exactly, I never jumped into that part of the time line. All I experienced was an old man's memories of what once had been."
"Why did we break up?"
He shook his head. "I'm not sure, all I remember is the guilt and regret I felt. We'd had disagreements and I hadn't put enough effort into to sorting them out. We drifted apart."
The sorrow he felt from that life combined with the fear and guilt he felt in this one. How could I have been so stupid as to risk losing her again?
"Jean-Luc?" She whispered. "You're shaking?"
She held him in her arms again, even tighter than before; then on a sudden impulse she kissed him hard and passionately. Within seconds their hands were rapidly removing each other's clothing. Within the minute they were naked and on the bed. There was no need for foreplay, they were both ready and eager. It wasn't just the climax they craved but the pleasure and reassurance of holding and being held, both without and within.
"Is everything okay between them now?" Will asked.
Deanna sank back into the Ready Room sofa and let herself be carried away by the emotions she was sensing.
"I think I can safely say that they are 'enjoying' each other's company."
"You did a great job of detective work. I may transfer you into Security."
"No thank you, Captain, but you should move Ensign Rickards in there. He has a real aptitude."
"Rickards? Rickards? " Riker tried to put a face to the name. "I know him - young man in engineering with rather handsome features and a winning smile." He studied Deanna's reaction. "You wouldn't have been 'encouraging' him now, would you?"
She smiled playfully. "Will, I'm shocked you should suggest such a thing. I gave up such habits when we got married. As I'm sure you did."
Riker blushed, "But of course!"