Picard seemed unaware of her arrival. Even when she sat down and stretched out a long shapely leg, he did not look up.
Troi was right, he was 'obsessing' over his coming speech..
"Jean-Luc? What are you doing?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't realise you were there."
"I'm selecting the right examples of Andorian pottery fragments to refer to during my talk."
His attention immediately returned to the exhibits.
She tried again. "This talk means a lot to you, doesn't it?"
"You could say that. The audience will include many of the most eminent archaeologists in the Federation. I don't want to make a fool of myself or waste their time."
"I'm sure you won't."
He smiled politely, but didn't seem convinced.
"Jean-Luc? You're not still concerned about your old professor's comments, are you?"
How well she knows me!
"Yes. And before you remind me that he relented on his deathbed, let me say that I think he was right the first time. My previous work was just 'competent amateurism'."
"Does it matter if you can't match the work of a full-time archaeologist? You do have a rather demanding day job, remember."
"I know you're trying to help, Beverly, but there are certain standards I've set myself."
She backed off and let him get on with his 'rocks' while trying to think up another approach.
"Has it occurred to you that this audience might prefer it if your talk wasn't too brilliant?"
He raised his head. "I don't follow you?"
"Look at it this way, if one of the archaeologist gave a talk on commanding starships would you like it if he was as good at it as you are?"
He laughed. "Perhaps I should introduce a few deliberate mistakes."
Beverly was relieved to see him smile.
It wasn't for long though, almost immediately he reached for his PADD and started going over his speech.
She rose from her seat and strolled over to the window.
Was there nothing short of a red alert that would divert him?
"I hear Bob Wainwright has asked you to accompany him on an archaeological expedition to Turian 4. You're owed weeks of leave, are you going to take him up on the offer?"
"Because ," he replied absentmindedly, "the last time I went on such a trip, you left me."
You left me? You left me? What the hell was he talking about?
"Jean-Luc? What do you mean 'I left you'? "
Picard looked up and tried to recall what had just been said.
His ears reddened as he remembered his words.
"You didn't .. " he stammered, " .. I mean ... What was your question?"
Beverly walked over and removed the PADD from his hand.
"You heard my question quite clearly, and I your reply. So tell me, in what reality of yours did this 'leaving' of mine occur?"
"In a dream," he replied hurriedly, "I think it must have been in a dream."
He was lying.
She knew it.
He knew she knew it.
Picard looked away, embarrassed.
There was a long awkward silence between them.
"You never did tell me all that happened in the future Q showed you. Don't you think it's about time?"
"What would be the point? As I told you before, that future is not cast in stone. Our reality has already strayed from its course."
"Nevertheless your knowledge of that future is affecting our present. Because that future-Beverly behaved in a certain way you're altering your behaviour towards the present-me. That's difficult for me to cope with. ... Jean-Luc, if our positions were reversed wouldn't you be demanding to know what I'd experienced?"
She had a point. Picard took a few deep breathes.
"Very well ...if you're sure. Though let me say first off that it's my behaviour in that future reality that I'm trying to change." He braced himself to tell her the rest. " ... In that future you and I were married, but after 5 years we got divorced."
"I see ..." The revelation hurt. "... Why did we part?"
"I had retired from Starfleet, but I was away so often we hardly saw each other. My fourth archaeology trip was the last straw."
When she didn't answer, Picard quickly followed up with, "We were still friendly even after the divorce."
"... but not together."
He wished she would say something, anything.
Instead she just looked at him, then carefully removed a bit of lose fluff from his jacket.
At last she spoke. "Last March you didn't go to the ruins of Winmarox."
"And now you're turning down Turian."
"But the past fascinates you, Jean-Luc. Isn't there a risk you'll regret missing out on these opportunities?"
"No. Not a bit of it. You see in that future life I discovered there are 'other' experiences I value more highly. Ones that - given the opportunity - I would like to give the rest of my life to, rather than 5 years."
Once again she went frustratingly silent.
"I think I know what we should do after your talk." She said at last.
"We should get the computer to list all the planets that have both significant archaeology sites and medical research problems."
A broad grin settled across Picard's face.
"I should have told you about that other future years ago."
"You should, but never mind. I'm sure we can find ways to make up for lost time.
He placed his fingers around the PADD in her hand. "May I?"
She let him have it.
"I can think of one way right now."
With a flick of the wrist he sent the PADD crashing against the back wall.