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Picard paused at the door to Beverly Crusher's San Francisco townhouse. He was in San Francisco for exactly forty-eight hours, short-notice, of course and it was fortunate that Beverly had been free to meet him for dinner. It had been two years now since she'd left Enterprise and there were still days when he'd sit down to breakfast and then turn, to look expectantly, at the door. After all these years, he realized, he was still waiting for Beverly.
The door opened.
"Hello, Jean-Luc," Crusher said warmly. She stepped aside, letting him inside. "You're right on time."
He smiled. "It's good to see you, Beverly."
"I was pleased to hear you had a stopover in San Francisco. It's not often that that happens." She led the way into the townhouse, the soft material of her cream-colored skirt swirling around her legs, her red slippers barely making a sound on the hardwood floors. Life as Chief MO of Starfleet Medical apparently had plenty of perks; the townhouse was elegantly but simply furnished. Picard admired the oil paintings on the wall, most of them in classic Renaissance style, the colors still deep and rich.
"Not your typical Starfleet configuration or decor," Picard observed as he followed Crusher into the living room. He nodded towards the heavy burgundy-colored drapes at the large bay window. He took a step forward to check out the view of the slate gray waters of the Bay in the distance and the houses built on the steep slopes of San Francisco. It was growing dark and he could just begin to detect the lights coming on across the waters in Marin County. "You did well, Beverly. Your home is very elegant, and comfortable, I might add."
"I stayed in Starfleet quarters for six months and then decided I needed some place I could call my own. Spacious as my assigned quarters were, they never quite felt like home," Crusher said. She nodded towards the sofa. "Please, have a seat, Jean-Luc." There was a crispness to her voice that he'd rarely hear from anyone else; Crusher never seemed to notice the difference in ranks between them.
Picard settled himself on the sofa while Crusher curled up in the armchair facing him, tucking her legs beneath her skirt. It was a fluid gesture, a nod to her years of training as a dancer. He wondered if she still indulged in her passion for acting and dancing. If so, he couldn't help but wonder with whom. He pushed the thought away as he noted Beverly eyeing him.
"It must have been one hell of an important meeting that brought you here," Crusher said quietly. "And on such short notice too."
"Some delicate negotiations. First contact. You know how that is."
"Yes, of course."
"And Starfleet Command felt it was best to brief me here rather than over subspace."
"Very tricky and delicate negotiations then, and I assume, top secret?"
Picard smiled. "Yes, very much so."
"Hmmm. Not something you could share with an old friend then?"
"No, I am sorry." Though, if pressed, Picard *would* have told her. It had been years since he had kept anything from Beverly, years since he'd wanted to.
Crusher shifted her position. "Would you like something to drink, Jean-Luc? Perhaps a glass of wine before dinner? I have a fine vintage Merlot."
"That sounds perfect."
Crusher rose from her seat and headed to the small bar at the end of the room. Picard felt momentary discomfited. Should he get up and join her there? He stood up, tugging at his shirt. He took a step forward and then stopped. The gentle light cast off by the lamps in the room glinted off the highlights in Beverly's hair. Auburn strands curled against the elegant curve of her cheekbone. She looked at him then.
"Is something the matter, Jean-Luc?"
He shook his head, embarrassed. "I was just contemplating--"
"Anything in particular?" She made her way to him, a glass of wine in each hand. He took his gratefully.
"I was thinking of how good it was to see you again."
"That's it?" She looked amused as she took her seat again. Picard remained standing.
"Hmmm..." She sipped her wine and he couldn't help but remember another night so very long ago. A night which had held the promise of something so much more than friendship, a night when he had been convinced that all the years of dancing around mutual attraction would finally be over. "Aren't you going to tell me what you're thinking?" Crusher's voice was low, husky. "Jean-Luc, it's me."
He blinked. "Yes, of course."
"Don't keep me in suspense." She was teasing him now and he knew it. And, he realized, even *liked* it.
Picard sat back down on the sofa. "I was thinking of Enterprise."
"You miss your ship already?" Crusher smiled.
"No, not quite."
"It's not just the ship, Beverly." His hand shook slightly, the deep rich red liquid in the goblet swirling. "Enterprise represents so many things. Not just people, not just events or adventures, it's more than that." He stopped, wondered what he was really trying to say.
Crusher pressed her lips together. In this moment, even though they were in the same room, Picard felt so very far away from her.
"And?" she asked quietly. "What else is there, Jean-Luc?"
"And so many things I'd forgotten," Picard said. He took another sip of wine and settled back against the chair. The shadows danced across the wall behind Crusher. "In a world that we shared. With so many things for the asking--" he paused.
Crusher bit her lip, her expressing turning pensive. "Jean-Luc, we had this conversation. After Kes Prytt--"
He held up a hand. "Never asked for the madness there."
"It wasn't madness," Crusher said quietly. She put her wine glass down and came to sit next to him. Her thigh touched his. "It was --" she grasped his hand in hers "-- nice. Revealing. And I -- I don't regret what I learned about you, about me, about us." She smiled, maybe a little sadly, as she leaned towards him. She was wearing perfume, something light and floral, a different scent than the one she'd used on Enterprise. He thought about stroking her cheek, about wrapping a strand of her hair around his finger. "And after all these years, after all that, look at where we are. Look at how we ended up. You still on Enterprise, me in San Francisco." Crusher shook her head. "I came here looking for something, I'm still not sure. Maybe it's here, maybe it was on Enterprise." She glanced at him now. "Is that where you find yourself, Jean-Luc? On Enterprise?" She was very close to him now, but he could only remember a dream, of seeing her getting up and walking out of his quarters.
"Strange," he said slowly, "how I find myself so often on a distant shore."
"With you on one side and me on the other? Never quite being able to find middle-ground? That's exactly how I felt-- feel," Crusher said softly. Her hand was warm against his cheek. "Before and after Kes Prytt both."
Picard shifted his position, put his wine glass down on the side table. His hand over Beverly's, resting there for a moment, before he carefully pulled it away. She seemed wounded by the gesture.
"There's only one thing that's confusing," Picard said quietly.
"Was it you? Was it me?" Picard asked.
Crusher considered. "What do you mean?" She kept her hands carefully folded in her lap. "I thought it was mutual. I thought we agreed--" she looked at him, confused. "I thought it's what you wanted." Crusher sighed. "I thought when I said-- when I pushed you away, that that was what *you* wanted and I was giving you the easy way out." She glanced down at her hands. "I never thought to ask you how you really felt. On the flipside, *you* never really asked what *I* wanted."
"With so many questions unanswered--" he looked at Beverly "-- or was that part of your mystery?"
"My mystery?" Crusher shook her head. "That *is* an odd way of putting it. Believe me, I never meant to deceive you, Jean-Luc. I just thought I was doing what was best for both of us. Perhaps I was wrong." They sat in silence for a few minutes and then Crusher said quietly, "I miss our breakfast together. And dinners." She leaned her head against the back of the sofa. "We had good times together, Jean-Luc."
"So many things I'd forgotten, so many things for the asking." Picard cleared his throat of the emotion that had gathered there. He clenched his fingers together, still resisting the impulse to touch Beverly.
"And yet, here we are," Crusher said softly, albeit a bit sadly.
"Yes. Here we are." Picard looked at Crusher intently. She didn't look away. His fingers uncurled and he stretched out to her. She turned her face into his palm, her kiss warm and sweet against his skin. Picard inhaled sharply. In the moment she rested her head against his shoulder, he knew that this was what he had been looking for all along.
"Perhaps," she said. "I had forgotten as well."
~ the end~
Author's Note #2: The challenge? Incorporate a song into a fic. The lyrics of the song have to be spoken as actual dialogue by one of the characters. The other characters can say whatever, but one person must speak *all* lyrics of the song as his/her primary dialogue. The song incorporated into this fic is "So Many Things" by Sarah Brightman (Lyrics: http://www.xs4all.nl/~josvg/cits/sb/sb803.html). Go on, try it. I *dare* you.
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