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by Catherine Ellis

Rating : Any age
Disclaimer : Paramount owns Star Trek. I'm just playing with their toys for my own amusement.

Summary and Prologue: This short story aims to fill out a missing section of the Star Trek Next Generation book called "Death in Winter". In the book we are never told why Crusher decides to return to the Enterprise. This story is set towards the end of the book after Beverly has been rescued from Kevratas. She has gone back to her Starfleet Medical post on Earth and Picard has returned to the Enterprise. The ship is due to leave Earth orbit soon after a long period of repair.

PLEASE READ the Prologue above so that you understand the starting point for this story.

"Dr Crusher, can you spare me a moment?"

"Worf!" He was the last person she'd expected to find on her doorstep. "Is something wrong?"

"No Doctor, however I need your advice on a particular matter."

"Sounds interesting. You had better come in then."

She was about to offer him a seat before remembering her chairs weren't designed to hold his impressive frame.

"Shall we talk on the balcony?"

He followed her out.

"Nice view." He observed, dryly.

Beverley stifled a laugh. 'Stunning' or 'Spectacular' were what people usually remarked.

"So what can I help you with?"

As usual Worf came straight to the point. "Captain Picard has asked me to select the next Chief Medical Officer for the Enterprise."

"Oh. I see." Crusher glared at him. Even a Klingon should have guessed she would not want to be involved in that task. "Hasn't Starfleet Medical provided you with a list of candidates?"

"They have, and I have whittled it down to four names. I need you to help me choose between them."

He held out a PADD.

For a moment Beverly considered refusing, but that would be churlish. With an audible sigh she took the device and moved to the balcony rail. There she started reading aloud.

"Max Johannsen...." why am I relieved it's a man? "I know Max, he's a fine doctor and a competent manager."


Even Worf had noticed the misgivings in her voice.

"He will spend all his spare time in a laboratory, preferably alone. It will be very hard for anyone to get to know him. Also, if you ask him to do anything beyond his medical duties he'll find an excuse."

Worf sniffed. "The Enterprise requires someone more flexible, someone who is willing and able to perform bridge duties if required. Please move to the next candidate."

"Linan Balpree, a Boliann." Crusher had never heard of him so she spent some time reading his assessments. All of his supervisors remarked on his medical skills, the confidence he inspired in his patients and his bravery. However, another pattern was evident as well.

"Worf, these reports are impressive but have you noticed how they all emphasise how he obeys orders without question?"

"You make that sound like a fault."

"In an ensign that that would be expected, however do you really want a senior officer who never expresses any doubts? Doesn't the ship needs a CMO who can offer a different perspective, someone who can challenge ideas rather than a 'Yes-Man'"

"You have a point, Doctor. Thank you for reminding me." He gestured for her to move on.

"Marian Lyton." definitely female!. Crusher had met her several times. Despite being in her late forties Lyton had the kind of figure that turned heads and a personality to match. Beverly couldn't help but laugh at the thought of Marian at a senior officers meeting. "There wouldn't be any 'yes-man' problems with her, quite the contrary."

"You mean she's like Nella Darren?"

Beverly winced at the name. "Not exactly, Nella had the sense to only fight over things she really cared about and she knew when to back off. Marian likes to argue for arguments sake. I think you and the Captain will soon bore of the constant pointless battles."

"Then how about the last candidate, Sarah Cartwright?"

Beverly stared at the PADD for a long time. This was someone she knew and liked. If fate had been hard on Crusher, it had been even tougher on Cartwright. Two years older than Beverly, she had lost all her relatives. First her parents and siblings to an epidemic when she was a teenager, then her husband, daughter and a grandchild during the Dominion wars. The hardships had left their mark in her face but despite this she had a wonderful infectious laugh. It would burst out unexpectedly whenever Sarah spotted one life's absurdities. She would do well as the Enterprise CMO - there was no denying it. She would run Sickbay with quiet, efficient authority. And her joyous laughter would amuse and tease Jean-Luc when he indulged in pomposity.

He'll like her. He'll like her a lot.

A dull ache crept over her as she contemplated this possibility - would Sarah take over her role in Picard's life. Would he still feel the need to call her occasionally if he had Sarah aboard his ship?

"Dr Crusher?" Worf's voice broke her out of her thoughts. "Are you all right?"

"Of course." Her breezy air didn't hide the sorrow in her eyes. "Sarah . . .would be your best choice." The words had almost refused to come out.

She handed the PADD back to Worf as if it were infected.

"Dr Cartwright would make a good CMO, however her presence will make the Captain unhappy. She will remind him of how much he misses you."

His blunt assertion surprised and angered her. Was this list all a pretence? Had he deliberately selected candidates who lacked something she had to offer?

"Worf, did Deanna put you up to this!"

"No, she did not." It was his turn to be angry.

Crusher backed off a little, but hadn't forgiven him. "My returning to the ship is out of the question. I have a new job here."

"With respect, Doctor, we both know that can be altered. You returned to the Enterprise before, you can do so again."

"No, I can't."

"Why not?"

"WORF! This is none of your damn business!"

"The wellbeing of the captain is my business. I am not leaving until you give me an explanation for your refusal."

Insensitive! Interfering! Stubborn! A string of negative adjectives came to mind, yet at the same time she knew he was attempting to act in Jean-Luc's best interests.

She let out a long calming breath.

"Very well, but you must understand that I find this difficult to put into words."

"Try." He demanded.

She moved over to the balcony rail again and stared out. "I'm not sure I know how to begin."

Worf attempted to help. "Have you developed an attachment to someone else here on Earth?"


"Have your feelings for the Captain diminished?"


"Then you are afraid that a deeper relationship between you two may not work."

She gave a wry smile, he was more astute than people gave him credit for. "Maybe."

"Giving in to that fear will protect you from that possibility, however, it will lay you open to another - 'regret'"

Beverly looked him in the eye. He hid his own emotions well, it was easy to forget he was speaking from experience, he had loved and lost two wives.

"Worf, it's not just me who has to be brave. What if Jean-Luc's not willing?"

"Doctor, . . . has not the Captain already taken that first step?"

Suspicious, she asked, "What makes you say that?"

"His behaviour has changed since he returned from Kevratas. If things were still as they had been between you then he would be content that you are alive and well. Instead he is withdrawn and morose."

"Then why isn't he here asking me to return."

Worf let out an exasperated snort. This woman does not understand human males!

"He cannot beg you to return, he does not want your pity. Nor can he order you to comply. If you are to be 'his woman' then it must be of your own choosing. Only then can he be proud to have you at his side. You must either return to the Enterprise or end this relationship. By encouraging his affection but refusing his advances you dishonour him. The Captain deserves better."

Worf's blunt statement came as a slap in the face. His frank assessment of her behaviour was brutal yet accurate. It forced her to confront issues she'd been trying to avoid since Picard's declaration of love. Was she really content with her current life or was it a sham? Was she mocking the man she claimed to love? Worf was right, if she continued in this way all that the future held for her was pretence or regret.

She must do as he urged and jump off the fence. But which way?

Do I want a future with Jean-Luc?

Am I brave enough?

She looked at Worf, hoping for inspiration.

The Klingon drew himself up to his full height, encouraging her to Face life with courage and honour.

The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. A great weight suddenly lifted from her shoulders.

"Mr Worf. I would like to return to the Enterprise as her CMO."

The end.
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