Summary: Spock is sick, but why would he insist on seeing Beverly Crusher?
The story is set three years after 'All Good Things'. It is written from Beverly's point of view as the events unfold.
Why me? Pulaski knows more about artificial heart-transplants and Dr Selar is more familiar with Vulcan physiology - but then I'm forgetting - he is half-human. Picard said he was very specific about his request, he wanted "Dr Beverly Crusher to accompany him to the Starbase hospital and to participate in the operation". Well, whatever his reason, I'm flattered and more than a little curious.
He looks older and frailer than I'd expected. As he steps down from the transporter platform he struggles to keep his balance. When I offer to help he resists, then relents and lets me take his arm. I introduce myself but he says he knows who I am. As we make our way to the ship's medical section, the Vulcan crew looks on. They look slightly disapprovingly at the pair of us.
This VSS Sudvak is small compared to the Enterprise but everything is brand new and impressive. The Chief Medical Assistant takes me round their sickbay and explains the purpose of the equipment. She apologises for the absence of doctors, "a brief staffing problem which we will soon rectify". From her manner I think she resents my presence, but she's Vulcan and I must not assume I understand her. Perhaps, like me, she's just puzzled by why I have been chosen.
When we return to Spock he is lying on a bed. I ask his permission and run my scanner over him. Several people are watching. I know what I'm doing but this scrutiny is unnerving. He's an important patient and a very sick man. I don't want to be known as 'the doctor who let Spock die'. As I work he touches my arm. I turn to reassure him but see that it is he who is reassuring me. I smile and squeeze his hand. The Assistant purses her lips. Pandering to the emotional needs of humans is not the Vulcan way.
Spock's condition concerns me. Cardiac problems are always dangerous. Even as I finish my examination his heart rate begins to fluctuate. I ask for 10cc of Nalethadol but the Assistant overrules me. She says Dimortezene is the normal treatment and prepares a hypospray. I hurry round the bed to stop her. Dimortezene would be fatal to a half human. I stand my ground, certain I am right. I rattle off the names of two studies on Dimortezene and two more that I make up. The Assistant seems convinced. She allows me to give him the Nalethadol and to my relief it works.
We settle him down again and I volunteer to stay with him while he rests. Somehow I have become 'his protector' - saving him from the callous Vulcans. That's nonsense, of course, but my human imagination is running wild.
At three in the morning he wakes. I do a few checks and make him comfortable but say nothing. I'm sure he wants it this way. After a while he asks for some food and I join him. As I sip my tea he starts to talk.
"How do you judge my chances, doctor?"
Anything but the truth would be an insult to this man.
"About 4 in 10. There is always a high risk of rejection with patients of mixed species. In your case there is also some deterioration of the artery from the lung to the heart."
He shows no reaction, I might have told him the time of day.
He continues, "Humans used to think the heart was the home of the soul. To replace it was to kill the essence of the patient."
"Do you see it like that?"
"No, but a part of me will die. Without my heart I will lose the ability to mind-meld."
I'm stunned. What should I say?
"I'm sorry. I didn't know."
"There is no reason you should. It is an aspect of Vulcan physiology even Vulcans do not understand."
I'm reminded of being linked to Jean-Luc on Kesprytt and of how I long to repeat it. To lose such an ability would be devastating.
He senses my empathy and, once again, touches my arm. We sit in silence, our hands touching.
Suddenly, out-of-the-blue, he says, "You want to know why I asked for you."
"Yes please." I laugh. "You see I'm surprised you even know of my existence."
"Barrogi Fever. You wrote a paper on how it mutates."
"But that was ... 20 years ago! ... And it never led anywhere. A Vulcan scientist found a cure a couple of years later."
"I know, I worked with his research team. You under estimate your work doctor. It was your paper that gave him the idea that led to the cure."
"Your contribution should have been acknowledged at the time."
"That's gracious of you to say so, but surely that's not why I'm here?"
He smiles. "You are correct, I have another motive." He hesitates. "Dr Crusher, you were present when my father performed a mind meld with Captain Picard."
"That's right." My stomach tightens as I remember it, Jean-Luc was in tears.
"I met Captain Picard soon after my father's death, he offered me the opportunity to meld with him - to sense my father's thoughts, to know how he felt about me."
Spock's finding this difficult. I stay silent and wait for him to recover his poise.
"... Over the years I have melded with several humans. What I learnt of each of them is still here in my mind. I can retrieve their memories as though they were books I'd read long ago. ... With Picard it wasn't like that. The intensity of the emotions Sarek passed to him were overwhelming ... my mental shields weren't strong enough. The result was a 'leaking' into my own thoughts and memories. ... There are times when I have difficulty telling where my thoughts end and Picard's begin."
He rests again before continuing. "He was the last person with whom I melded. Since him there have been no new thoughts. In two days time I will be incapable of melding with anyone."
He looks at me, wondering if I have caught his drift.
I'm not certain I understand, I just stare back and wait for him to continue.
"Picard is almost Vulcan in nature - analytical, self-controlled. During these past years on Romulus I have come to value his thoughts. The arguments we have - up here (he taps his head) - helped me to clarify my ideas. But it is not just his logic I value. I have also been drawn into ... into his emotional life."
Spock pauses again and waits my approval to continue.
I lift my hand from his. I no longer feel comfortable with physical contact.
I'm disturbed but also fascinated.
"Go on." I tell him.
"Picard thinks about you ... a lot. And because he thinks about you, I think about you. " He rushes on, eager to speak before I can cut him off. "I can't help it. I can't help but wonder how you feel about him. It's like a half-finished story reverberating round and round my head. ...."
I'm shocked, is the great Spock a voyeur! Is he no better than the Ullian who probed my worst memory?
I protest. "You want me to tell you my feelings!"
"No! Not exactly. What I want is for you to mind-meld with me. I know it would be an invasion of your privacy. I know I'm asking you to be intimate with a stranger, but you see to me you are 'not' a stranger. You are the Beverly I have come to know through Picard's thoughts."
A monitor bleeps, his heart rate is rising. I prepare a dose of Kapore, glad to have something medical to do.
He keeps talking, determined to say all that he has been bottling up.
"I have to know more of your story. Without it I cannot face the operation, I cannot give up my ability to mind-meld."
The Medical Assistant enters. She's come to relieve me. She takes one look at him and stares at me. What have I done to him? She's concerned at his state and rightly so.
I feign innocence. "His heart rate rose to 120 over 90, I gave him 10cc of Kapore. It's now back to 70 over 40. Can you take over? I'd like to get some sleep."
She agrees, willingly.
I turn to the Ambassador and say "Good-night". He grabs my lab coat.
"Think about it. Promise me you will think about it."
His eyes are sunken, he's exhausted. Am I talking to a dying man.?
I promise and leave the room.
Sleep eludes me. I want to ignore his request till the morning but it won't leave me alone. Spock's words, Sarek's meld with Jean-Luc, our experience on Kes Prytt - they're all churning over in my mind.
Is this what it's like for Spock? Desperate for sleep I fetch a hypospray and give myself a sleeping draft. It works.
It wasn't a dream. I'm sure Spock asked me to mind-meld with him!
Over breakfast I try to think rationally about his request. It's not easy, it's an emotional issue and I can't decide what's right.
I wish I had a friend here to talk it over. Jean-Luc . . .? No! Anyone but him. He's too closely involved. If it wasn't for him it wouldn't be so difficult. Will I learn things about Jean-Luc he wouldn't want me to know? But then why should Jean-Luc's wishes be paramount? Part of me wants to say 'yes' because I pity Spock and his future without melding. Another part of me is flattered by his request. If I'm honest with myself I'm a little attracted to him. What were the words he used? "Intimate with a stranger" - it's certainly that. Jean-Luc learnt more about Sarek from that one meld than I learnt about Jack from years of marriage.
Oh, I don't know.
If I agree will Spock get what he wants? Will he be disappointed Jean-Luc and I aren't lovers? Will he still have a half-finished story running round his head? Melding tempts me but I feel I would be being unfaithful to someone though I'm not sure whom. Jack? Jean-Luc? Myself? Why unfaithful? It's not sex, it's just melding - but then it isn't 'just' melding. Is it? Isn't melding more intimate than sex?
Stop this Beverly! You are driving yourself crazy. Forget what Spock wants. Forget what Jean-Luc or anyone else might think. Do I Beverly want this experience?
As I enter sickbay the Chief Medical Assistant takes her time about acknowledging my presence. She tells me "he's had a peaceful night - since you left".
Is this a rebuke or just a statement of fact? She seems reluctant to leave him in my care. After an awkward few minutes Spock persuades her to go.
"Dr Crusher knows what she is doing. You should take a break Burok."
The Assistant complies but stops to talk to a colleague on the way out. I'm left in no doubt that someone has been instructed to watch me.
I run my scanner over my patient and try to avoid his eye.
"Well doctor, what is your answer?"
His voice is calm; the emotions I saw last night are hidden under a Vulcan facade. I look into his eyes for several seconds.
I have no doubts.
"My answer is yes."
He allows himself a raised eyebrow.
"Might I know what motivated your agreement?"
"You'll learn that when we meld. Anyway, why do you ask? Are you having second thoughts?"
"No doctor. I am just curious."
As we pick a time I feel like a teenager - arranging an illicit date.
His bio-monitor starts to bleep; his heart rate has risen again. I give him an anxious glance.
"Ambassador, you aren't strong. Should you really be pursuing this? Should I - your doctor - be agreeing?"
"I will admit to some feeling of anticipation, but I can assure you I foresee no risk of dying. In fact our melding should help my chances of surviving the operation."
I'm relieved. I put my hand out to touch him but hesitate. Should I avoid physical contact? I don't know. I touch him anyway and feel better for it.
During the day I pass the time reading medical texts and learning everything there is to know about Vulcan heart-replacement. Dr Duron will lead but I want to be capable of taking over if anything goes wrong. I don't want to be calling on Dr Pulaski for help. Even after all these years it still irritates me that she replaced Jean-Luc's heart. Irrational I know but I'm possessive about his body - even the artificial bits!
The time has come - 20:00. Burok and the others have just left for a staff meeting. We did not want the risk of an audience for our activity.
I approach his bed. Now what do I do? Are there traditions associated with melding? Do I lower the lights? He guesses my thoughts and helps me out.
"I need to touch your face, otherwise arrange things as you wish."
I fetch a chair and seat myself at his side resting my elbows on the bed.
My stomach is turning over; I'm scared but determined.
"Ready Beverly Howard?"
His strength gives me confidence. "Ready Spock."
Strong fingers search my face, I can feel him seeking the best point. A thrill of excitement rushes up my spine. My eyes close and I hear the familiar word...
"My mind to your mind. My thoughts to your thoughts ..."
I wake feeling drained and mentally numb. I have only the vaguest recollection of events after our meld. In two hours time I have a difficult operation. What was I doing melding on the eve of such a responsibility?
Inside my head several voices seem to be talking. I block them out and concentrate on what I have to do.
Over night Spock has been transferred to the Starbase. I won't see him again until the operation. Burok accompanies me to the hospital. She watches me intently but says nothing. I ignore her. Today her opinions do not bother me.
When Spock is brought in to the theatre, one of the internal voices takes over my thoughts. 'Spock is mine. He is part of me and I of him.' I'm the one who goes forward to greet him, to check he still wants the operation. We don't need words today. When I touch his hand he understands my question and responds in kind. I convey his agreement to my colleagues and we begin.
Duron makes an incision and opens up the ribcage. The heart does not look healthy and I'm relieved. Participating in its 'killing' is easier to take. After several more cuts it is me who has to move the dead organ to a bowl.
The operation takes a long time. It takes Duron several attempts to successfully connect the artificial heart. Though the join is good Spock is in trouble and I sense my leader's exhaustion.
My offer is accepted and I immediately take over.
I'm inspired today. I close up in record time surprising even myself. Spock's lungs soon take over his breathing enabling me to disconnect him from the machines. Even the Vulcans let out a sigh of relief.
We let him sleep. In the recovery area I'm the one who sits with him. I have little to do now so I can relax. Relax and listen to these new thoughts and memories that are crowding my mind. I close my eyes. One of the memories forces its way into my consciousness.
I am back on the Enterprise, in Picard's quarters. He is recovering from his meld with Sarek. I know this event from my own past but now I'm experiencing it from Jean-Luc's. I can sense the despair he has caught from Sarek, the longing to express emotions. I feel Jean-Luc's relief when I cradle him in my arms. Crying drains the tension from his body, the softness of my breast comforts him.
I shudder and snap out of it. It is frightening but also compelling. It is more real than a holo novel, more intense than reality. Is this what it's like this for Spock?
I carefully dip into these new memories again. This time I aim to be in control, to select the memory for myself. Spock's mental strength seems to have come with the meld and I am able to do it. I pick one of his memories - the moment he first met me just two days ago.
He recognises me, notices I am older, but still considers me beautiful. My smile elates him. He wants to look good in my eyes. As he steps off the transporter his muscles fail him, he is annoyed at showing his frailty. Then he remembers who he is - he is Ambassador Spock and not Captain Picard. He is a sick old man and I am his doctor. He relents and lets me take his arm.
Spock warned me how Picard's thoughts had leaked into his own but I had not expected this - a stranger who thinks he is my Jean-Luc.
He stirs and wakes. For a moment he is disorientated and emotional. It is distressing to see. Then the stoical, self-controlled Vulcan takes over.
"There is nothing to be concerned about, Doctor. I am fine."
"I'm delighted to hear it." My own heart rate is elevated. I call Burok over and we put him through various tests, checking his reflexes and his control of his limbs. As we work a strange sensation comes over me, it's as though I am possessed. It passes quickly but it unnerves me.
As we finish our tests Spock demands to get up.
"Not so fast, Ambassador. You're not Jean-Luc Picard. He was a fit man before his two operations, your muscles have been weakened by weeks of inactivity. Tomorrow you can take some gentle exercise under my supervision. Today you will stay where you are."
He accepts this - after all my argument is logical.
Burok stays with us double checking his bio-readings. Since my participation in the operation her confidence in me has risen. Is she trying to impress me with her thoroughness? Whatever her motive I wish she would leave.
"I think the Ambassador needs to rest now."
My abrupt manner surprises me but does not distrub her. If anything she seems to like it.
When she is out of earshot I glance at Spock but look away before I catch his eye. I busy myself with fetching a chair and positioning it next to his bed.
I am nervous, why?
I raise my head and look at him.
He knows me! He knows me as I know myself.
He tells me why I agreed to the meld.
"... because you wanted Picard's thoughts."
"Yes." I whisper.
"And you're ashamed of that."
"We didn't ask him if he was willing."
"You could have contacted him, Beverly. You had the opportunity before our meld."
"And you could have told him what you had in mind when you requested my presence,"
We both know why we said nothing - Jean-Luc might have said No.
Our shame leaves us silent for a while.
"You and Picard had a kind of melding, on Kes Prytt."
"Yes." Memories flood back to me. "But it wasn't like a Vulcan meld. We were only aware of each other's current thoughts."
"Nevertheless it was quite ... intimate."
Inside my head that other presence surfaces again. It wants something but what I don't know. I try to identify the wanter and get a shock.
"Beverly? Doctor?" Spock is shaking my arm, trying to raise me. "What's wrong?"
I'm flushed and breathing hard. "There's an extra 'me' up here. It is as if I melded with myself only the other me is more .. is more intense than I am."
Spock looks alarmed and guilty.
"I'm sorry Beverly. I'm afraid this is my fault, I continued the meld too long. What you are experiencing is some of your own thoughts reflected back from me.... "
My breathing is erratic. I MUST NOT panic. I hurry out the room. Getting back to my quarters is difficult. I have to force my brain to concentrate on walking. Once there I lie on my back and let the thoughts take over. Inside my head several characters are jostling for control - only two of them are me.
I'm exhausted, I give up and let the others battle it out. After what seems like hours they fall silent. Peace at last! I can fall into a deep and welcome sleep.
As I prepare my breakfast I'm aware the other Beverly is still there. She's not a stranger, I recognise her but can't remember where from. She's more forceful, more obsessive than I. She needs something but doesn't know what.
As I finish eating a call comes in from Starfleet. They want me back on the Enterprise. I'll have to leave today.
Spock looks different - healthier but also something more. After checking his bio-signs I help him up and supervise his first walk. He holds my arm and we make three journeys across the room before resting. Without being asked Burok leaves us, she's used to our private sessions.
We stand holding each other, conscious of our closeness.
"How are you Beverly? Is the other 'presence' still with you?"
"She's there, but calmer than yesterday. How about you? Has the story moved on?"
He allows himself a quick smile. "Your relationship with Picard is more complex than I had realised, quite fascinating."
"You're not disappointed?"
"Not in the least. I had not anticipated the ... range of your experience."
I'm blushing and decide to tease him back. "Any particular 'experience' that interests you?"
"Odan is unusual, but Ronin is the most unexpected and welcome surprise."
Inside my head the other Beverly reacts violently and I realise where she comes from - she's the me who was addicted to Ronin, who craved his presence and his touch. But I got over him, so why is she back?
I'm having difficulty composing myself. Spock watches me intently. We both know what I am thinking about - how I both enjoyed and suffered from my addiction. I realise now why the other Beverly exists, she's the woman Spock wants me to be. No wonder he's fascinated by my thoughts. He blushes and abruptly changes the subject.
"Today has brought me another welcome surprise. I haven't lost an ability I was expecting to lose."
"You can still mind-meld?"
"No. That's gone for good."
"He lifts my right hand and places it over his heart."
"Feel anything?", he asks.
"So can I - that's the surprise. Picard can't feel his heart. He can sense emotions mentally but he can't feel his heart respond to exhilaration or fear."
I search through the thoughts Spock has passed to me and find Jean-Luc's. There it is, intense and raw. It's a loss Jean-Luc has never got used to, one that makes him feel more android than human.
"That's not right!" I insist. "He ought to be able to feel it. The nerve signals from an artificial heart may be different but he ought to be able to sense them." I try to think up an explanation. "Maybe the messages are getting through but his brain doesn't know how to understand them."
I'm irritated with Jean-Luc. Why didn't he tell me he couldn't feel? But then why should he? Maybe he thinks this is normal.
A twitch of a smile crosses Spock's mouth. "Picard's missing a great deal."
Under my hand I can feel his pulse quicken. He's enjoying our closeness, the human male in him is interested.
So is the other Beverly! I'm reminded how much she enjoyed sex, how she lived for it. I know what she's up to, she's considering seducing Spock. I reason with her, remind her how frail he is, tell her how unsatisfactory the experience will be.
It works. She soon loses interest and lets me take control again.
"Ambassador, I received a call from Starfleet this morning. I'm needed back on the Enterprise. I'm afraid I'll have to leave today."
He removes my hand from his heart and holds it in his.
"I understand, though I'll be sorry to see you go. You have given me so much." His voice sounds just like Jean-Luc's. He lifts my hand and gently kisses my fingers. "Do you mind if I give you some advice Beverly? If you want anything from Picard then you must take the initiative. You know that don't you?"
My mouth is dry. "I know."
I lean forward and kiss him gently on the cheek. As I pull away I change my mind and kiss him on the mouth. Our contact is slow and sensuous.
As I finally turn to go Spock calls after me.
"You should indulge yourself more often Beverly ... if only for your partner's sake."
It'll take 72 hours for this transport ship to reach Starbase 42. There are other passengers on board but I'm not feeling sociable. I ask the ship's doctor if I can help but there's nothing for me to do. I spend hours in the gym passing the time and trying to tire myself out. It helps but not enough, I can't quiet my mind. I lie down on my bunk and decide to concentrate on what I've been attempting to ignore.
It's the other Beverly who first comes to mind. I can remember exactly what it was like to be her, to want what she wants. If Picard hadn't intervened where would I be now? Living on Calvos with Ronin, earning my living as a healer? Do I regret that I'm not?
Ronin was using me the same way he had used generations of my family, but he also gave. He made my grandmother happy. He made me happy. If only I hadn't had to choose, if only Jean-Luc hadn't come for me, if only Ronin hadn't hurt him. I get up abruptly and shake myself. Forget this! What's the point in stupid regrets? You can't turn the clock back. You have to look to the future.
But what future? What do I want? It's not so easy now, I have this other Beverly to cope with. She exists in me and she's not going away. I have to decide what to do; whether to control her with the stoicism I've gained from Spock or to indulge her and find an outlet for her needs.
As we approach Starbase 42 I catch sight of the Enterprise hanging in space. She looks beautiful and she's mine! My heart leaps. She's never made me feel this way before - is this how Jean-Luc feel's? I hope so but then I remember and I grieve for my friend with his unresponsive heart.
The Starbase is busy and docking takes a long time. As we wait I dwell on Picard and what I've learnt about him. The Jean-Luc I know through Spock existed 5 years ago. How much has he changed? Is the present man very different? The other Beverly's interested too but only in whether she still has the power to captivate him. She's not the only one who'd like an answer to that question.
The transit lounge is crowded but I catch sight of Jean-Luc talking to a Starfleet admiral. I know I shouldn't disturb him but I alter my route to cross his line of sight. As I do so I turn and give him a smile. He beams involuntarily and then coughs into his hand to hide his reaction. Are you satisfied Beverly?
Once aboard I report to Sickbay but barely have time to say hello before Picard calls a meeting of the senior officers. He's already in the Observation Lounge when I enter. This time it's he who gives me a private smile. I beam and imitate his embarrassed cough. Troi looks at the pair of us and we pretend nothing is going on. But then nothing is, all we ever do is flirt within safe boundaries.
Picard calls the meeting to order and describes our next mission. Starfleet is sending us to a distant and unexplored part of the galaxy, it's a journey that could take months. You don't need a mind meld to know the Captain's excitement. This is a passion he's not afraid to show. His enthusiasm is infectious and soon we all feel the same way. As the meeting ends I hang back hoping for a private word. He has the same idea and we meet by the door.
"It's good to have you back doctor."
"It's good to be back." I hold his eye slightly longer than usual. These are not just polite greetings, we mean it.
"Did you find out why he particularly wanted you?"
"Yes, but it's a long story."
Over the Comm system Riker calls him to the Bridge.
"Damn." He touches my arm. "How about tonight in my cabin, 20:00? I have something to show you."
I give him an affirmative smile. "Captain! I'm intrigued."
"Don't be late." He orders.
I arrive promptly. He's out of uniform - so am I.
He's rearranged the furniture. Part of the couch seating has been turned to face the window. Whatever he has to show me is in Space. He offers me a glass of white wine and leads me to my seat.
Like the perfect gentleman he waits for me to be seated but I want control.
"You sit in the corner" I tell him. "I'll fit in next to you." As the last to sit down I can decide how close we will be.
I trespass on his private space and come to rest with my thigh touching his.
"So what have you got for me Jean-Luc?"
"This." He taps his comm badge. "Mr Data, are we nearing Karala?"
"In 20 seconds Sir."
The ship slows to impulse speed and soon the Karala Sun appears. I've never seen it before. It's famed for its beauty but the descriptions didn't do it justice. It's breath-taking. Throughout the ship hundreds of people must be watching.
He turns to see if I'm pleased. I am.
How many Starfleet captains would slow down to give their crews this sight? I'm proud of him.
The explosions from the surface are like a magnificent silent firework display. A violent explosion makes me gasp with excitement.
"Do you want sound effects?" He asks.
I'm entertained by his marvellous imitations of distant explosions. The performance is just for me, nobody else will get to see this playful side.
After 15 short minutes the sun slips out of view. Warp speed is immediately resumed.
I turn to face him and stroke his cheek. "Thank you."
He's embarrassed at the depth of my gratitude and changes the subject.
"So, your Vulcan adventure is over and your patient recovering. Do I get to hear the story behind Spock's request?"
What do I tell him? If I lie he'll know. If I refuse to explain he'll be hurt.
How do I start?
I dive straight in. "He wanted to mind-meld."
"What!" Jean-Luc almost drops his drink.
"I know, it came as a surprise to me too. It's not a request you expect from a complete stranger."
"But why you? ... I'm sorry that sounds demeaning. I didn't ..."
"I know you didn't ... Look Jean-Luc, this is difficult for me to explain. Promise me you'll reserve judgement until I've finished."
I've made him anxious but he agrees.
"You see Spock doesn't see me as a stranger, he's come to know me through your thoughts. He was deeply affected by his meld with you. The ripple effect of his father's mental state overwhelmed himand your thoughts leaked into his."
I can see Jean-Luc's growing unease.
"Spock's finds your thoughts useful, he likes to argue with you."
I get a smile from Jean-Luc, he wants to believe this.
"But he's also been drawn into your emotional life - or your life as it was 5 years ago."
He swallows. "I see."
"He wanted to know how I felt about you."
There is an awful silence between us.
"And did you tell him?"
I feel the need to excuse myself. I tell him how Spock won't be able to meld anymore and how not knowing was driving his mad.
Jean-Luc's getting annoyed. "Did you meld with him?"
I feel guilty, unfaithful, just as I feared. "I'm sorry, I should have consulted you first."
He doesn't answer. Despite all I know of him I can't tell what he's thinking now.
I wait, not daring to speak or move.
At last he says something. "I didn't ask your permission when I melded with Sarek and Spock."
His anger has subsided. I'm relieved and touch him.
He continues. "I can understand why Spock is interest in our relationship. Sarek's emotional life enthralled me. I couldn't resist the temptation to tell his wife that he loved her."
He looks puzzled so I tap my head. "That memory was passed on to me."
He laughs. "You must have quite a collection up there."
I dig him playfully in the ribs.
"You might say I have learnt rather a lot."
I'm forgiven. He pulls me to his shoulder and we sit peacefully together with my hand on his chest.
I can feel his heart, it's beating regularly. The doctor in me insists on estimating its rate. Should I raise the subject now? Is it the right moment?
"Spock passed something on to me that I hadn't known about you."
"Just one thing! Am I that transparent?"
I punch him again.
"Stop teasing, this is serious. I should have known about this, I'm your doctor."
I've got his attention.
"You can't feel your heart."
"Of course not, it's artificial."
"That shouldn't matter. This is a sophisticated device. It's connected to your nervous system. It's sending you sensations but for some reason your brain can't hear them."
I've made things worse for him. I can see it in his face. Not only can he not feel but he 'ought' to be able to. I've got to help him. I twist and move to a kneeling position. My hand is still on his chest.
"I want you to lean back and close your eyes. Whatever I do you just listen for your heart."
"Sssh. Do as you're told."
He looks at me suspiciously. Not sure if he should be agreeing.
I look back but say nothing. He has to be willing.
He closes his eyes and consents.
I run my hand gently over his head a few times and then move to his forehead and eyes. I can feel him relax and start to enjoy my touch. As I work I realise my mistake. It isn't just the doctor in me that wants him to feel, it's her as well. She's got her own motives and I'm not sure I can control her.
My finger traces the edge of his ear and then move to his cheek. It's as though I'm watching someone else's hand but I can feel what it feels.
Soon my mouth takes over where my fingers have led.
The hand on his chest can feel his heart beating faster.
I whisper to him "keep concentrating on your heart. It's talking to you."
My lips move to his and gently grasp. I'm no longer a bystander, whatever she's doing I'm doing it too. The tip of my tongue traces the entrance to his mouth. When I force my way in he gasps and grabs his chest.
What have I done!
He's wide-eyed and panting as if in pain.
"Speak to me Jean-Luc. What is it?"
"I've got this strange sensation. ... Not pain - just sensation. As though something was alive and beating." He's beaming and shouting. "I can feel it, I can feel it." He grabs my hand and holds it to his chest again. "Can you feel that! It's thumping!"
I'm laughing with him.
"You are a 'wonderful' doctor." He gives me an excited kiss on the cheek.
This isn't the response I wanted. My frustration shows.
"Beverly? What is it?"
"I'm pleased for you Jean-Luc, really I am."
"Then why are you disappointed?" He turns my head so I'm forced to look at him.
"Is that all you thought I was doing? Playing doctor?"
He doesn't understand.
"Do you think I behave like that with all my patients?"
He gives an embarrassed cough.
"No. At least I hope not."
"Did you enjoy it?"
He squirms. "Beverly!"
I insist on an answer. "Did you enjoy it?"
"Yes ... I enjoyed it."
I almost ask him what else he wants but remember Spock's advice.
"So did I ... and I'd like more ... with you."
He's shaken by my forwardness. "This doesn't sound like you."
"It is me. It's the Beverly that exists inside my head. The one who's never dared speak out before, never dared say what she wants. I'm tired Jean-Luc. Tired of restraining my desires, tired of being afraid of ruining our friendship, tired of using other lovers when it's you I want. When you melded with Spock, you wanted the same thing. Has that you died or is he still here?"
He takes his time, he knows how important the answer if. "He's still here."
"Then why can't we both have what we want?"
I'm staring down at him, daring him to deny me, daring him to deny the logic.
He shrugs and smiles. "No reason I can think of."
I lean forward slowly to claim his mouth ... but he stops me!
"One request first Beverly."
"Don't break my heart."