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Old August 13 2010, 10:51 PM   #1
Whoa Nellie
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TNG: Ghost

Title: Ghost
Author: Whoa Nellie
Contact: whoa_nellie40@hotmail.com
Series: TNG
Rating: PG-13
Codes: C/Chakotay, Ez, Troi
Summary: A ghost from Beverly's past resurfaces, complicating things for both Chakotay and her.

Author's notes: This occurs in the Reasons of the Heart timeline which launched an expedition toward the Delta Quadrant in the previous story, History's Legacy. This story is actually a variation on a challenge that Catherine Ellis issued us privately almost three years ago. Even though it took a while to take form, hopefully she enjoys the result. Feel free to archive to any pertinent site.

As always: Paramount owns all the marbles, we just have a lot more fun playing with them.
Feedback is always appreciated - posted or e-mail.

Whoa Nellie's Romance Star Trek Fan Fiction Stories
http://whoanellie.fortunecity.com

GHOST

Walking casually along the C-deck, her hand comfortably nestled in the crook of Chakotay's arm, Beverly nodded to several members of her crew also enjoying an evening out. While her ship, the Pasteur, had a dining hall and she even had her own private dining room just off the main dining hall, having dinner on the C-deck of the Enterprise was an occasion. The variety of boutiques, restaurants, lounges and nightclubs along with the holodecks and holosuites made the area feel like a town center. It had become a regular event for Chakotay and she to change into civilian clothes, leave their uniforms behind and have a romantic dinner on C-deck--assuming they could get reservations at the Bistro that they both favored from among the various culturally-specific dining choices. Beta shift and early Gamma shift tended to be the busiest time on C-deck and her captain's rank didn't help when the tables were all booked. It wouldn't be fair for civilians and lower-ranking crew members to be bumped from their plans by higher ranking members of the expedition so all activities on C-deck were on a first come, first served basis. Tonight was a special occasion for them and their table at the Bistro had been reserved well in advance; this was their first wedding anniversary since she'd taken command of the Pasteur. So much had changed for them in the past year and yet when they were alone, just the two of them, nothing felt different between them.

With the size of the Enterprise-F, to Chakotay it felt more like being aboard a space station rather than a space ship especially here on C-deck. Back on the Enterprise-E, Beverly had often met Deanna and Vash for lunch or one of their infamous chocolate fests. Now, ironically, he found himself regularly having lunch here on C-deck with the other two captain's spouses, usually at Guinan's. Vash kept threatening to drag him into a chocolate fest, but that was a fate he'd been able to avoid thus far. He paused to allow a group heading for the Bolian nightclub to pass in front of them. As he waited for them to pass, he looked over at the beautiful woman on his arm. She was wearing a simple sheath dress in a light copper color. Aside from her communicator and wedding ring, she wasn't wearing any jewelry and yet, the way the dress skimmed her tall, statuesque body and highlighted her vibrant red hair, the effect was both striking and mesmerizing.

"Doctor Beverly."

Those words froze her in her tracks, only one person had ever called her that. She looked around, not sure what or who she was looking for. A young, male Trill was walking toward her. He looked to be in his mid-thirties with the skin markings that the majority of the humanoid Trill population bore. She searched his features, framed by tousled, short, dark hair for any hint of familiarity. When he reached her, standing right in front of her, she couldn't find the words to ask what she was afraid she already knew.

"Hello, Doctor Beverly," the Trill said. "Or should I say Captain Beverly now?"

Chakotay felt Beverly tense at the sound of her name. There was obviously some kind of connection between them and when she made no move to introduce him to her Trill acquaintance, he held out his hand. "I'm Commander Chakotay, Captain Crusher's husband."

"Yes, I heard that Doctor Beverly had married. Congratulations," the Trill accepted the proffered hand for a brief handshake. "I'm--"

"Odan," the name was little more than a hoarse whisper from Beverly's lips.

"Jax Odan," the Trill supplied. "I'm an astrophysicist here on the Enterprise."

Chakotay had to force himself to release Odan's hand. He knew about Beverly's history with the Trill symbiont; he knew how deeply she'd loved Odan. "Fireball never mentioned that you were on the expedition."

Beverly struggled to control her reaction. "I didn't know and neither Jean-Luc nor Data probably thought anything of it."

"They did remember me," Odan said. "In fact, Captain Picard felt that my experiences as a diplomat with many of my former hosts might prove useful to have around. Both the Dax symbiont and myself have hundreds of years worth of life experiences to draw from. Of course I'm an astrophysicist and Ezri Dax is a ship's counselor so diplomatic relations are not really either of our interests at this point, but the knowledge and experience is there nonetheless. Anyway, I didn't mean to hold you up, I saw you and your name just came out. It was good to meet you, Commander Chakotay. Doctor Beverly, enjoy your evening."

..................................................

It had been a perfectly pleasant evening that neither of them could recall in any detail. Dinner over candlelight at the Bistro seemed to have no more flavor than a nutritional supplement. They had talked about anyone and anything except their chance encounter with Odan. Where they normally had no problem with small talk or even comfortable silences, tonight their conversations felt stilted and every second of silence felt awkward and strained. They'd gone through the motions of a romantic evening and now they were returning to their quarters on the Pasteur.

Chakotay accessed the door control and waited for Beverly to precede him into the quarters. There were so many questions he wanted to ask her, none of which he really wanted to hear the answers to. If Odan's host hadn't died . . . Did she regret not . . . Would she be happier . . .

"Chakotay."

He realized she had said something. "I'm sorry, I was thinking. What did you say?"

"I just said that I need to check on a couple of things," Beverly repeated. "If you want to go ahead and get ready for bed, I'll be along in a few minutes."

"Fine."

She watched him walk away before sinking into the desk chair. There really wasn't anything she had to take care of tonight. She had cleared her desk of work earlier this afternoon in anticipation of an intimate evening with her husband. Instead she found herself making up excuses to get him out of the room just so she could breathe. Hearing those words, 'Doctor Beverly', carried the impact of a physical blow. Those two little words in an instant brought back every memory, every moment of joy and the heart-wrenching loss that followed. Odan had seen her for the woman she was, the intelligence, the strength but also the fire that precious few people in her life had been permitted to see. She was never 'just Beverly', she never felt like 'just Beverly' with him. For the first time since Chakotay had come back into her life, she found herself wondering what might have been if Odan hadn't been killed. Where would things have led for them if their time together hadn't been cut so brutally short? The turmoil and grief she'd felt at his death, the surreal night she'd had with him in Riker's body only to see him end up in the body of a woman, all of the emotions that she thought she'd buried with him came flooding back.

Chakotay wasn't sure how long he laid alone in their bed. The darkened silence of the quarters was deafening, almost as if everything they weren't saying was being screamed. Finally the light in the bathroom snapped off and he felt her slide in beside him. Rolling to his side, he combed his fingers through her hair before leaning down to tenderly brush her lips with his. His mind wandered to Jax Odan and he wondered if Odan kissed her like that. Where did Odan caress her? How did he touch her? "Good night, Beverly."

"Good night, Chakotay."

Neither of them slept much, although they were both careful to avoid disturbing each other.

.................................................. ...

Chakotay threw two jabs with his right fist in quick succession followed by a body blow with his left. He danced away from his opponent catching only a glancing shot across his chin. Charging back in, he began pummeling the other man with various combinations of uppercuts, hooks and jabs. When the man dropped to the floor, he backed off breathing heavily. It had been tempting to program his holo-opponent as a Trill, but he had settled for his usual opponent in the holosuite's boxing program.

She'd been on the Enterprise today. She hadn't mentioned it and didn't stop by his office as she usually did when she was onboard. The only way he knew was that he'd hacked into the Pasteur's system to pull up her ready room monitor. He did that from time to time just to watch her work, a habit that had started back on the Enterprise-E when she was in Sickbay. Today she wasn't in her ready room nor was she on the bridge. When he accessed her whereabouts, he discovered that she had transported over to the Enterprise-F. She was in Captain Picard's private dining room along with Will and Captain Picard, most likely their weekly meeting to discuss the most recent communications from Earth, reports from Astrometrics on the space ahead of them and other assorted expedition business. Nevertheless, he'd checked on Odan's location and kept an eye on both of them until Beverly beamed back to her ship. They'd never even been on the same deck of the ship and he felt angry with himself for behaving like a jealous fool. His head rocked back from a hard right cross that his opponent landed when his concentration slipped. Recovering, he stepped into the body shots that followed, grunting at each impact before throwing a solid right hook to break the man's nose.

Beverly had been so quiet and distant with him since that run-in with Odan. He wanted to confront her or him or both of them, he just didn't know how to fight for her under the circumstances. That was why he'd found an available holosuite and was fighting in a way he knew and understood, not that it would help outside of the holographic environment. It was certainly giving him the chance to work off some of the frustration he felt so that he didn't explode at her later. He accepted a drink of water from his holographic trainer between rounds and tried to shake off the sense of panic he felt at the idea of losing Beverly. Odan had followed his 'Doctor Beverly' literally to the ends of the universe, or at least into uncharted space exactly the way he had. She was the only reason he was on the expedition, because she wanted to be a part of this and he wanted to be a part of her world. He enjoyed his work and was excited by the Anthropological possibilities, but if it hadn't been for her he'd still be working on sociology teams back in the Alpha Quadrant. He couldn't keep her if Odan was who she wanted. He wouldn't force her to stay with him if her heart was with another man.

The next round began and he put his mouthpiece back in, advancing on his opponent even though his heart wasn't really in the fight anymore. The first rendezvous with a ship from Starfleet wasn't scheduled for a couple of years barring any unforeseen circumstances. He could get quarters on the Enterprise if she chose to resume what she had with Odan. At least two years of watching her being in love with someone else; the prospect was gut-wrenching and there was nothing he could do except wait and hope that what he had with Beverly was strong enough to withstand this challenger. With that thought, he struck his own holographic challenger hard enough to knock him back and almost sent him over the ropes.

.................................................. .....
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Old August 13 2010, 10:52 PM   #2
Whoa Nellie
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Re: TNG: Ghost

Pacing her ready room, Beverly wasn't even trying to pretend that she was working. In spite of the fact that she was expecting it, the chime of her ready room door still made her jump. She rubbed her palms down the sides of her uniform trousers. "Enter."

Lieutenant Ezri Dax presented herself, standing with her hands clasped behind her back. "You wanted to see me, Captain Crusher?"

"Yes, Counselor--Lieutenant--Ezri . . . " Beverly paused and took a deep breath. There was a small sitting area with a sofa and two easy chairs around a coffee table off to one side of her ready room and she gestured toward it. "Do you have a preference for how to be addressed?"

"Whatever you would be most comfortable with would be fine," Ezri assured her with just a twinge of uncertainty.

Joining Ezri on the sofa, Beverly searched for a place to begin. "I have a personal matter I'd like to discuss with you."

"Oh, you mean a counseling session?"

"Is that a problem?" Beverly asked.

Ezri held her hands out in a reassuring gesture. "Not at all, Captain. It's just that Deanna--Commander Riker--warned me that you might not turn to me in my role as a counselor given your relationship with her. She didn't want me to take it personally."

"Deanna has been a good friend and counselor to me for half my life it seems," Beverly commented. "There may be times when I choose to talk to a friend, but another good friend gave me some advice that I've been trying to follow. He said I should stop thinking like a doctor and start thinking like a captain. Deanna is not my ship's counselor, you are."

"Yes, ma'am. Thank you, ma'am."

Beverly studied the young woman. "I didn't select you as my ship's counselor because Julian was coming on as my CMO. You are in this position because I think you're qualified to handle the position. I know we haven't really spoken privately much beyond ship business, but I need to know that I can count on my senior staff; that I can count on you as a trusted advisor. I don't expect that level of trust to happen overnight, but it's got to start somewhere."

"Of course, Captain, I'm honored," Ezri said. "So, what's on your mind?"

Beverly crossed and uncrossed her legs trying to find a comfortable position. "Do you want something to drink, coffee, tea?"

"Only if you think that stalling for a few more minutes will make whatever this is easier to say." At the startled look on Crusher's face, she shrugged. "If you want me to sit here and say 'yes, ma'am, you're absolutely right, ma'am', then I don't think I'm the right person for this position. If you want me to counsel you, then I need to be able to act and react to you as I would any other patient."

Her chuckle was equal parts amusement and relief. Ezri Dax would make a perfect ship's counselor to her. "You're right and you're right about the stalling. I'm just not sure where to start; it's all so jumbled."

Now they were on ground that Ezri knew her way around. "If there was one thing about the jumble that you would want me to know before anything else, what would it be?"

"I love my husband." She wasn't sure how she felt about a lot of things right now; that was one fact she was sure of.

Ezri settled back on the sofa and crossed her legs, resting her hands on her knee. "Why would that be in question?"

"There's someone else." Realizing how that sounded, she started trying to clarify what she meant. "There was someone a long time ago before Chakotay and I reunited. You see, Chakotay and I met in the Academy. I went on to marry Jack Crusher and years after Jack was killed there was another man. It only lasted a couple of weeks but it was real and wonderful and he was everything to me."

"What happened?"

Beverly felt her eyes burning, tears she refused to cry. "He died, or rather his host died. He was a Trill, the first one of his kind I'd known. His name was Odan."

"Jax Odan?" Ezri asked.

Nodding, she blinked several times to clear away the unshed tears. "One of his previous hosts at any rate. Chakotay and I recently ran into him on C-deck. I didn't know he was on the expedition. Since then, I just can't stop thinking about him, remembering him--at least the him he was. I love Chakotay but I loved Odan and if I had to choose between them, I just don't know . . . "

Ezri waited a moment, giving her a chance to continue after her voice trailed off. "Did Odan say something to you?"

"Just hello, it was a chance encounter in the main corridor. He recognized me; I would never have known who he was by looking at him."

Ezri gave a rueful chuckle. "It is a little strange when someone you know so well looks at you like you're a perfect stranger. That takes getting used to, one of many things that takes getting used to."

Beverly looked startled and studied her as if seeing her for the first time. "I'm sorry, Lieutenant, I completely forgot you were . . ."

"Joined?" Ezri finished for her. "Don't be sorry, that's actually the nicest thing anybody's said to me in a while. It's quite the compliment to hear that I'm still good at my job without being three hundred years old."

"If you don't mind my asking, have you ever experienced a situation like this?"

Ezri paused. "I don't mind your asking, I just don't think the answer will help you right now. This isn't about how the symbiont or the current host feels, it's about how you feel. Are you afraid that Odan will try to resume your relationship or that he won't?"

"I don't know."

Weighing her words carefully, she tried a different tactic. "What about Commander Chakotay? You keep insisting that you love him."

"I do," Beverly's answer was firm and certain.

"What is it about the Commander that you love?"

Beverly stopped to consider her history with Chakotay. "When I was young, I was awkward, unsure of myself. I hated my hair, kept it pulled up all the time; once I even dyed it. I couldn't really relate to people easily mostly because I had this tendency to say exactly what I thought. I had an acerbic wit that kept most men at arms length. Chakotay saw right through all of that in an instant. Where most people called me 'Red' because of my hair, he called me his Fireball. He's the reason I wear my hair down and have since my Academy days. I couldn't think straight around him, I was wild and uninhibited--that's probably more than you need to know about your captain."

"Patient," Ezri corrected her. "Counseling sessions are confidential, nobody else needs to know but it's helpful for me to understand."

"When Voyager got back, Chakotay ended up back in Starfleet working on sociology teams as an anthropologist. He was a last-minute replacement to an assessment team that the Enterprise was assigned to transport and assist. We picked up where we left off at the Academy and it's been wonderful. He's sweet, patient and for some reason he's made a hobby of provoking my . . . well, let's call it my wild side. He's completely supportive of me and my career; he makes me feel like the most incredible woman in the universe. Just being with him, I feel like my life is perfect. So why do I feel guilty?"

"That's a good question."

Beverly shot her a dirty look. "That's not exactly helpful."

Ezri smiled. "Here's a better question. What do you think you feel guilty about?"

"I'm not sure what you mean."

"Do you feel guilty for being happy with Chakotay or do you feel guilty for missing what you had with Odan when Chakotay is here now?"

Beverly sighed. "Both."

Ezri made a decision. "Would it help if I told you that Jax Odan can't pursue you? In Trill society, reassociation is forbidden. When a symbiont joins with a new host, they can't seek out a love they had with a previous host or they'll be exiled. No other Trill will accept them, so they die with the Trill host they're in. It's an extremely powerful taboo, one that's not broken lightly. It's basically a decision as to whether it's a love worth dying for since that's exactly what the result would be for the symbiont."

Beverly felt sick. Her voice was a whisper. "He did."

"Who did what?"

"Odan," she decided to skip the part that involved Will. "Just after the symbiont was put into the new host, he--or rather she, the new host was a woman, told me that it or they still loved me and couldn't imagine that ever changing."

In spite of herself, Ezri let out a low whistle. "Odan must have loved you very deeply."

Beverly rushed to assure her that the symbiont hadn't actually broken any law. "Nothing happened between Odan's new host and me. I couldn't keep up with the physical changes. The words, the tone, even the expression on her face was my Odan but I just couldn't accept the new host as the same person I'd loved."

"You think that now that Odan is back in a male host, he's joined the expedition to seek you out?"

"I don't know and before you ask, I don't know if I want that to be the reason or if I'm scared that's the reason."

Ezri gave her a teasing round of applause. "Before you know it you won't even need me."

"How do I figure out which it is?"

"Stop comparing the road not taken with where you are now," Ezri suggested. "Memories are strange things. Do you know that the memories of events that are intensely emotional are encoded differently in the brain than just your basic, everyday memories? That's why we tend to remember the intense events, whether they were really good or really bad, better than we remember other things. Not only do we remember the event, but the memory triggers the same emotional response that we had when the memory was originally encoded. In this situation, what you feel for Commander Chakotay is real. The question you need to answer is whether your feelings about Odan are just memories of the feelings you had for his former host or are they real? Jax Odan is a different person than the Odan you knew. I'm not Jadzia or Curzon or any of my former hosts. I'm Ezri; they're a part of me, nothing more and nothing less. The same is true for Jax. I would recommend that you not talk to Odan until you've sorted some of this out and maybe after we've talked again."

Not sure if she was any less confused than before but armed with different questions to consider, Beverly barely noticed Ezri get up to leave. "Thank you, Lieutenant."

.................................................. .....

Chakotay stood when he saw Deanna enter Guinan's. Waving her over, he waited until she had taken her seat before sitting back down himself. With the emotional strain of the past couple of days he hadn't really felt like eating much less socializing. When Vash stopped by his office to casually suggest lunch with Deanna and her, he'd seen an opportunity to get a handle on the situation. "Vash won't be able to join us," he told Deanna.

"Oh?"

"I asked her for a comparative analysis of early Romulan and Vulcan architecture looking at the influence of emotion or lack of emotion in design and function. She's a bit preoccupied at the moment," he offered as an explanation.

Deanna gave her lunch order to the waiter and unfolded her napkin across her lap. "What happens when she discovers that you only asked for that to keep her away from lunch?"

Chakotay shrugged, knowing that his subterfuge and guilt were unmistakable to her empathic ability. "I'm sure her analysis will be fascinating and she'll get another published paper out of it."

"What about you?" she asked. "What do you get out of it?"

In lieu of an answer to her question, he posed one of his own. "What do you remember about Odan?"

The feelings of jealousy that accompanied his question caught her off-guard. "Why do you ask?"

"He's here," the response was clipped and tightly controlled. "He's on this ship right now, a member of the expedition."

With so many people to see to, each ship had a ship's counselor and both the Pasteur and Enterprise had assistant ship's counselors. Overseeing a Psychology Department of six counselors not counting herself, she hadn't had the chance to go through the profiles of every person on the expedition. "I didn't realize. Does Beverly know?"

"Oh yes, he made a point to stop us--her--and make sure she knew who he was and where she could find him." Chakotay knew he sounded bitter but Deanna would feel it anyway so why bother trying to hide it?

Lunch had quickly become a counseling session. "What did Beverly say?"

"Just that she didn't know he was here, otherwise she hasn't said much of anything to me. I need to know what I'm dealing with here. What is Odan like? What was his relationship with Fireball like? Has she talked to you about him?"

Deanna waited until their lunches had been set down and they were alone again. "You know I can't discuss anything I may or may not talk about with anyone else. As for Odan, I don't know anything about the current host. The Odan I knew was not unlike you, a bit less reserved perhaps and without your natural sense of leadership."

Her words begged a question he didn't want to ask so he settled for stabbing at his lunch with a fork.

"No, Chakotay, I don't feel that you're a replacement for Odan," she answered his unspoken fear.

"I thought you weren't telepathic."

She leaned forward with a chiding expression on her face. "I don't even need my empath powers to know that's what you were feeling. The expression on your face said it all."

"I just need something to fight with," he confided to her. "I won't give Beverly up without a fight."

"It might not come to that," she said. "Beverly chose to end things with Odan after he joined with a new host."

Chakotay shoved the food around on his plate. "I know her and running into him affected her; I can feel her pulling away from me. The fact that she can't or won't talk to me about it tells me that it means something. I just don't know what."

"She might not know either," Deanna pointed out. "Meeting the new Odan host most likely brought back the feelings of confusion and loss that she experienced when Odan died. She's a different person now, in many ways because of you."

"How so?"

Deanna heard and felt the uncertainty in his softly-spoken question. "The first time I saw her inside the salon actually getting a facial and manicure was when she was with Odan. Beverly has always done what she thought she should do and denied herself what she wanted to do. Her time with Odan was one of the first times I saw her choose her heart over her perceived duty. He made her feel less self-conscious, more relaxed. You also bring that part of her out. Since you've been back in her life, she's completely lost any insecurities she had about herself. Even though she had taken the bridge officer's test, I'm not certain that she would have had the confidence to accept her own ship and leave the comfort zone of her medical expertise. She's much more confident in everything about herself. She's also become much more openly playful and daring--I seem to recall a time when she beamed herself naked into a certain Commander's room at a conference. That's something the old Beverly would never have had the courage to do. She has a tattoo and I know that she thoroughly enjoys the experiments that the two of you have collaborated on."

From the look on Deanna's face, he knew she was referring to their sex life. "Fireball has always been a passionate woman."

"No," Deanna countered. "As long as I've known her, she's only been like this--completely uninhibited-- with you."

"And Odan," he finished for her.

"To a lesser extent," she conceded. "Beverly is very happy with her life and with you. Trust in that and give her some space to work through whatever she's feeling. Don't force the issue, be patient."

Chakotay laid his fork down, his lunch barely touched. "She walked away from me at the Academy only to marry another man. I've never been jealous of the men in her past, but now here's this Jax Odan. Even his name conjures up Jack's ghost to me on top of his own history with her. I don't know how to fight ghosts."

"You don't. You give her the time and space to fight them. She just needs you to be there for her when the battle is over."

.................................................. .......
__________________
Recipient of the 2006 Alara Rogers ASC Award for Best Author Overall.
"I personally like to think Picard and Vash had a very active sex life. I can't believe Picard just read Shakespeare up there in his room all those years." Patrick Stewart.
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Old August 13 2010, 10:53 PM   #3
Whoa Nellie
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Re: TNG: Ghost

The chime of her ready room door drew Beverly's attention away from ship status reports that she hadn't really been paying much attention to. She slid the PADDs aside. "Enter."

Jax Odan took a single step inside almost hesitantly. "I'd like to talk if you wouldn't mind, Doctor--Captain Crusher."

Beverly just nodded, motioning in a silent invitation for him to sit. She wasn't sure it was wise to open the Pandora's box, especially considering Chakotay's feelings. Ezri had cautioned her against this very discussion at this point in time, but here it was right in front of her. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"Thank you, no," Jax replied as he sat down in the chair in front of her desk. "I just thought there were some things that needed to be said."

"Such as?"

"I didn't know you were going to be on the expedition," he began. "When Ezri Dax approached the Symbiosis Commission with a desire to leave this quadrant of space, perhaps forever . . . well, you can imagine the reaction. There was a great deal of discussion and debate. Joined Trills were polled for their opinions and the Guardians were even asked to speak to the unjoined to seek their thoughts. Ultimately, there were enough suitable hosts among unjoined Trill who wished to join the expedition that there would be an ample supply of hosts available for generations to come. In considering the question, I found myself drawn to the idea. The part of me that is Odan was fascinated by the thought of meeting new people, encountering new cultures. There's a reason so many of Odan's hosts have been diplomats and ambassadors. I am an astrophysicist and the potential in charting uncharted stars and cosmic phenomenon is most tantalizing. We both wanted to be a part of this for different reasons. I did check and was informed that a Doctor Katherine Pulaski would be the Chief Medical Officer of the Enterprise. I knew you'd married and just assumed that you and your husband were not going."

Beverly wasn't sure why it felt so strange for this man to mention Chakotay. Knowing that he carried Odan somehow made her feel like her marriage was a betrayal to Odan. "I was offered my own command, which Chakotay encouraged me to accept."

Jax nodded. "A fact I learned only after joining the Enterprise just prior to the launch. I didn't really think it would matter until I ran into you on C-deck and then Commander Chakotay came to see me."

"Chakotay spoke to you? About what?"

"You," Jax said. "He loves you very much. It's good to see you being loved the way you were meant to be loved, Doctor Beverly."

For a split second, in the enigmatic smile on his face, the tone of his voice and the words he used, Beverly felt Odan's presence. In that moment, she realized something. She had everything she could want with Chakotay right here and now. She was and had always been his Fireball and she loved him too much to play 'what if' with the past. The Odan she had known and loved was gone. "The feeling is mutual. I love my husband very much."

"I'm glad to hear that. I, that is Kareel, had wanted to apologize to you, but she never found the opportunity or the courage."

"Kareel? Oh, the woman . . . " Beverly wasn't sure what the right words were. This conversation felt like being inside a running centrifuge.

"The previous Odan host," Jax confirmed. "She was killed on Earth during an attack in the Dominion War."

"I'm sorry."

Jax leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "That is what she wished to say to you; that she was sorry for the overture she made toward you just after the joining. You see, the Odan symbiont has a very strong personality as well as very strong feelings for you and that combination temporarily overwhelmed her. That is why we have a proscription against resuming romantic relationships of a previous host; it's for the good of the new host."

Confused, she wasn't sure what to think and didn't know where he was going with this. "I didn't realize."

"Odan also regrets using Commander Riker in the manner he did," Jax continued. "To repeat the life or love of one host in the body of another is . . . well, in human terms it would be like repeating the exact same scenario over and over again. One moment must lead into the next, one experience must segue into another and for symbionts one lifetime must give way to another. Each host contributes new and different experiences to the sum of who we are. I will always carry special feelings for you; you will always be my Doctor Beverly. I, the Jax part of me, don't love you the way your Commander Chakotay does and I never will. That is what I explained to him and what I wanted to make clear to you. If my presence on this expedition will be a problem for either of you--"

"No, she interjected firmly. While she was relieved that this was a non-issue after all, there was still an inexplicable sensation of losing Odan for a third time. "I'm glad we got the chance to clear this up. What we shared is in the past, we both have a present we're happy with and a future to look forward to."

"Goodbye, Doctor Beverly."

.................................................. ...........................

Beverly was waiting for him in their quarters. Sitting in an easy chair and fidgeting with a PADD, she had changed out of her uniform not wanting to have this conversation with any rank reminders. This was a matter between a husband and wife. It was a discussion they should have had days ago, but until today she hadn't known what to say. When he entered, she stood up. "Hi."

"Hi," he answered back a bit uncertainly. That was the first exchange that she had initiated since Odan's reappearance. Automatically accepting the PADD that she held out to him, he glanced at it. "What's this?"

"Odan," she said. "The Odan host I knew at any rate. That was the man I loved and lost. The whole thing with finding out about the Odan symbiont carrying the feelings and memories of us was so confusing at the time. I'd never even heard about the symbiotic existence of the Trill before then. I thought I'd resolved all of that and yet running into Jax Odan just brought it all back. I didn't know what to think or how to feel."

Chakotay just stood there letting her talk. He knew how Jax felt--or didn't feel--about Beverly, what he needed to know was how she felt. It was a relief to know that Odan wasn't on the expedition to get her back; that didn't mean that his ghost wasn't going to come between them.

"I have wondered what might have been if that Odan host hadn't died," she admitted. "I've also thought about what kind of life I might have had if Jack hadn't been killed. You know, it's kind of funny but after losing first Jack and then Odan, I guess I just decided that I wasn't meant to have the whole happily ever after."

His heart ached for the pain that she'd endured in her life. He set the PADD down and reached for her, wanting to offer her some measure of comfort. She moved almost eagerly into his embrace and nestled her head in the crook of his shoulder. He swept her up into his arms, sitting down in the easy chair with her in her lap. When he started to speak, she covered his lips, first with her fingers and then with her mouth.

She had only intended to forestall his response. When her fingers felt those full, sensuous lips beneath her fingertips, she had an overpowering need to claim them with a tender, reassuring kiss. Her hand gently cupped his cheek, holding his face to hers. Tracing the precious dimple in his cheek with her thumb, she urged his mouth open to deepen the kiss. She rested her head on his shoulder after they broke off the kiss and idly trailed her fingers across the broad expanse of his chest. "I thought about you, too over the years. I thought about where my life might have led if I hadn't walked away from you at the Academy. Then somehow, against all odds, my life led me right back to that very same fork in the road. I got the chance to choose the road I hadn't taken--had been too young and scared to take before. You are my happily ever after, Chakotay, my first real love. I loved you before Jack or Odan were ever a part of my life and I am so lucky to have you back in my life. Part of my confusion over the past couple of days was fear that what I have with you was going to be threatened by Odan's presence. I didn't know how I felt , but I knew that I didn't want to lose you. I love you."

"I love you, too." A multitude of emotions flooded through him turning his soft response into a barely audible whisper.

"I'm sorry it took me so long to tell you--"

This time his fingers reached out to still her lips. "No, you just needed some time to deal with a ghost from your past. There's nothing to apologize for as long as I get your present and future."

**FINIS**
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Recipient of the 2006 Alara Rogers ASC Award for Best Author Overall.
"I personally like to think Picard and Vash had a very active sex life. I can't believe Picard just read Shakespeare up there in his room all those years." Patrick Stewart.
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