A/N: To be honest, I'm not sure where this came from. This song, which is beautiful, left me with a variety of choices for a fic. My first draft was all Picard: his thoughts on their relationship. However, after reading it, I hated it, and deleted it. This is what came to me next. Some of the original draft found its way to this piece, but originally, Beverly wasn't going to be in it at all. Let me know what you think, although, it is quite possible this song will show up again later in this Songbook.
A/N 2: The song is Arm's Length Away by Sammy Kershaw. When I was searching for a recording of this song on the internet I didn't like anything I found. Therefore, I pasted some P/C pictures together in this feeble attempt at a youtube video. Please, someone, please, make a fantastic video using this song. And I thought the lyrics just screamed Picard/Crusher, so I included them, so if you get the chance you should take a look at it. Again, it can be found by clicking on my name and finding it on that little page that is mine to control.
Arm's Length Away
She was standing alone in the Operating Room when he arrived. Her nurses were giving her space apparently, because there was no one on this side of Sickbay. She had sent her report to him over forty minutes ago. Now the table in the center of the room was empty and there she stood, arms crossed tightly against her chest, staring at it as if it was the key to turning back time. He knew she had heard him enter and so he waited, ever so calmly, for her to speak.
He was careful to make his expression neutral. If she thought for even a second that he was angry or disappointed, she would unleash all that made Doctor Beverly Crusher a name feared in Sickbays everywhere. Of course, he could not show any sort of pity; she would take that the wrong way too. This was a practice that had him taken years to perfect. So here he was, Captain of the Federation Starship Enterprise, waiting for his Chief Medical Officer to speak.
It took thirteen minutes for her to speak. He felt like Data counting out the seconds until she gained control of her voice. She still did not turn to face him, because she knew he was there, alone and ready to listen. There was no need for him to read her facial expression; he already knew how she was feeling.
"She had two girls. Ana is four and Emma is two. I delivered both of them," she whispered. He resisted the urge to sigh. He knew this of course, because he had just been with Lieutenant Anderson's husband and two small daughters. On a starship, death came more often than not. That did not make his job any easier. Or hers.
Taking a deep breath, he took a few small steps towards her. "Beverly…"
She reached out to clutch the edge of the operating table. Her red hair was still pulled back tightly away from her face. The tension in her shoulders was visible and her knuckles were quickly loosing color as she gripped the table and he stopped dead in his tracks. If he wanted to, he could reach out and touch her, comfort her, hold her. But here he was: standing an arm's length away.
"Every time. Every time, Jean-Luc. Every time I think I have healed another piece of my heart-" her voice caught and she let out a sound that was somewhere between a dangerous laugh and a sob. A few seconds ticked by and he held his breath until she spoke again. "It always comes back. That stabbing pain…knowing there is nothing I can do."
"Some things are out of our hands," he spoke gently.
"That's just it, though. There was nothing I could do. I'm a doctor, damn it. I'm the one who is supposed to have all the answers. I should be able to heal…" She turned her head to see him and she seemed startled that he had gotten so close. There were tear streaks on her pale cheeks and her blue eyes were cloudy. They stared at each other as she tried to formulate where the conversation would go next. "I don't know why this one bothered me so much. She isn't the first young mother I've lost on this table and she won't be the last."
"And there have been so many more that have made it off the table. You have saved lives against all odds." Her eyes fell from his. With a sigh, he stepped forward and unclipped her hair from its constraints and let it fall down around her shoulders. She either did not notice, or mind, the fact that his fingers lingered there and caressed the turn of her jaw. A simple gesture, yes; an intimate one, even; and yet, not close enough. So he pulled his hand away and said, "Like me."
"There isn't really a manual for removing Borg implants," she murmured with a dry laugh that did not quite reach her eyes. He watched as there was a shift in her stance and in that second her eyes locked back with his and she asked, "How long have we known each other, Jean-Luc?"
"Over twenty-five years." This time she really did laugh.
"Makes us sound old." Shaking her head, she sat back against the table. "What would I do without you?"
The question surprised him. They had known each other for nearly three decades. They had been to the ends of the universe together, saved thousands of people, and were probably the single reason the other was still alive. How many battles, how many demons had they fought together? How many times had one of them had to be there to pick up the pieces? Of course, it was not all bad. They had seen their good days and they had shared the joy of laughter and good company.
Those days, the good ones, always ended with an innocent kiss goodnight and the longing for more. So many times he had wanted to reach out and stop her at the door or turn around and walk back into her quarters. Oh, yes, they had known each other for nearly three decades and Jean-Luc Picard had been in love for every second of every day of those years.
"Jean-Luc?" He shook his head, aware he had drifted off.
She waved him off, saying, "It's been a long day for both of us." He could tell she was still thinking about Lieutenant Anderson and those young girls who no longer had a mother and the man who was now a widower. Of course, it was something she was familiar with. She too had been widowed at a young age with a young child.
Silently, he reached out his hand. She accepted it graciously and allowed him to pull her close. Chest to chest, she laid her head on his shoulder. This embrace was nothing new, but he felt a familiar pain in his chest. Even touching, they were still so far apart.
"I am always here for you, Beverly." She mumbled something into his shoulder, but the words did not matter. He was there holding her and that was enough for him tonight. It was enough for him to know that it was he who she would come to in moments like these; the moments that truly counted.
For tonight, he could hold her, comfort her, and reassure her. Tomorrow nothing would change and they will still be the closest of friends. There would be days that friendship would border on something more, only to slip back into its comfort zone. And maybe, just maybe, one of these days she would realize that everything she had been looking for was just within reach. One day, she would see that they could love each other without regret.
He was always and forever going to be right there, waiting for her, at an arm's length away.