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         "You want me to let you what? Are you crazy?"


         Deanna faced the other woman's incredulous stare head on. "You said it yourself, Beverly. He's improved dramatically, but not enough. Don't you see? He can't possibly concentrate on getting well as much as he should if he's always preoccupied with the frustration of being stuck in Sickbay? He's agitated all the time now, how god can that before him?"


         "It's not. But Deanna, what your suggesting is --"


         "Beverly, I'd never do anything to hurt him. Do you honestly think that I would even suggest this if I thought it would be putting him at risk? I'm not going anywhere, I'll be with him around the clock. You to;d us he's in no imminent danger at the moment. If that's true, this shouldn't be a problem. The computer can monitor him constantly, and you can be there in a matter of moments at the first sign of trouble. He'll do better if he's able to relax." At the doctor's still skeptical look, she added, "Do you have a better idea, because this isn't working."


         "IF -- and it' a big if -- I were to let you try this, it's going to have a few conditions. And mind you, this is only because we are running out of options if we want him stable enough to do the transplant." Beverly squeezed her eyes shut. She didn't want to agree to this. But replacing Will's failing heart with a device similar to the Captain's was his best hope for a normal life. But at the moment, his body was still to weak to undergo the procedure. And it would have to be done soon if there was to be any real chance of success. Very soon. "All right, but I want him back in here at even the hint of a change in his condition. And I'll see him myself, twice a day."


         Deanna nodded. "Of course. Thank you so much. May I go tell him?"


         The doctor nodded. "No time like the present, I suppose. I'll get to work on the arrangements."


         Deanna was half way out the door when the sound of the other woman calling her name caused her to stop in her tracks. "Remember to take care of yourself too," she reminded her quietly.


*  *  *


         Will looked up as Deanna entered. ~ Hi. What has you smiling like that. ~


         Deanna shrugged. "How'd you like to get out of here, Mister?"


         He stared at her as though she had suddenly acquired a second head. "How?" he managed aloud.


         She grinned, a private smile of victory lighting her eyes. "I'm taking you home. It'll be easier to rest there with me, than cooped up in here, don't you think?"


         Will let the information sink in a moment. Part of him was thrilled. He needed to be anywhere but here. Being stuck in sickbay like this was beginning to drive him crazy. But there was more to it than all that. The possibilities of what this mean for them, for her ran through his mind. How could he ask her to --


         Deanna sensed the turbulent shift in his emotions, and stepped closer to the bed. "Hey...don't. Worry about tomorrow when it gets here, OK? One thing at a time."


         Will shook his head in frustration, trying to make her understand. " can't do have your work don't need to be taking care of me."


         She never flinched. Instead, Deanna held up a silencing hand. Moving to sit on the edge of the biobed, she held his eyes with her own. "Will...first of all, I am perfectly capable of deciding what I need, as sweet as it is to have you worrying about me, thank you. And all I need is to be with you right now. As for the rest," She looked down at her hands, then back to him. "Will, I resigned this morning." She place her hand over his lips as she had earlier, stalling his protest before it began. "I've been planning this for a while now. It didn't go exactly as I planned, but the result was the same. What's done is done, and it's not what either of us needs to focus on right now."


         Will's blue eye's held an objection, but he said nothing. At the moment there was little he could do, and he was suddenly too tired to argue. When he didn't, Deanna smiled. "Good. Now, lets get you back home before Bev changes her mind." Even as she set about preparing to take him home, She knew this conversation was not over.


         Two hours and several alterations to their quarters later, Will was finally settled in. He was also exhausted. "You need to sleep," Deanna admonished from her place at the edge of the bed. She sat down beside him, brushing the hair back from his forehead. "What's wrong?"


         His eyes refused to meet with hers. "Everything. It's all...different now. For me -- and for you. Nothing it was supposed to be..."


         Deanna suppressed a sigh of frustration. "Will, listen to me. It's true, some things will change. But that doesn't have to mean that things will change for the worse. We have each other, and as far as I'm concerned that means that things can only get better. I know it won't be easy, but I believe we can do it. But if we are going to do that, you have to believe that too. And stop acting like  I'm making some dramatic sacrifice. I *want* this...more than you may ever know."


         "But Dea, this is --"


         Deanna cut him off with a shake of her head. "Will, if I had gone down there, what would you been doing right now? It wasn't a question that needed an answer, and he knew it. He also knew what that answer would have been. Still, he said nothing, squeezing the hand that rested in his own instead.


         She smiled slightly as she watched his eyes drift closed as he fought against it. She tipped her head toward him. "If I stay with you, will you get some sleep for me?" The motion of his hand beside him on the bed, and a glimmer of a smile were the only she received before sleep claimed him.


         Reaching to the nightstand, she slipped the oxygenation unit from where it lay and gently put it in place. Will wouldn't be thrilled when he woke up, but Deanna was willing to take that chance if it meant even a little improvement in his condition. That done, she slipped into the bed and settled herself into his arms as best she could without waking him. In moments, she was asleep herself.


         In Sickbay, Beverly Crusher watched the readings that the computer was continually feeding to her terminal. Will Riker's condition, while by no means truly stable, was evening out somewhat. She shook her head in amazement. Whatever effect Deanna had on him, it was certainly a helpful one. She just hoped that Deanna remembered to help herself. Worrying about Will these past two months had taken it's toll. She wasn't looking right to her friend and physician, and Beverly decided that she would have Deanna submit to an exam as soon as possible -- weather the younger woman liked it or not.


Two days later....


         "Beverly, would you please relax, I'm fine. It's Will were supposed to be worrying about, remember?"


         The redhead shook her head and continued scanning, undaunted. "I have been, Deanna. And if things continue as they have been, we should be able to do the transplant within a week. Right now though, it is you I worry about. Look at yourself, can you honestly say you feel that things are normal where you are concerned?"


         Deanna sighed in defeat. "I'm just tired Beverly. Things will calm down after the surgery." A beep from the scanner cut her off with a start. She glanced up at Beverly, unsettled by the grin on her face.


         "I wouldn't be too sure of that, my dear."


         "What?" The doctor didn't seem to be sure of how to respond. She opened her mouth, then closed it again. "For heaven sake Beverly, just tell me.


         Leveling her blue-eyed gaze at Deanna, she shrugged. "OK here're pregnant."