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         Deanna stared blankly ahead, unsure that she had heard correctly. Her attempts to respond failed her for a moment as she struggled to understand what had just happened. When she finally did find her voice, it lasted just long enough for her to manage a strangled "Excuse me?"

 

         "I understand your confusion. Generally, at two and a half months, most women have figured this out already. From my understanding, most Betazoids come to the realization even sooner. But with all the stress that you've been under, its understandable that you aren't quite as aware of what's going on with you as you normally would be, or that you would write off any symptoms you did experience to fatigue and stress. It's a fairly common thing in these types of situations actually," Beverly paused in her explanation when she realized that her patient wasn't really listening. "Deanna, are you all right?"

 

         "Are you sure?" She asked the question as though one had never been posed to her. Whether she was avoiding the question, or she hadn't heard it at all the doctor could not be sure. She chose to answer Deanna's question instead.

 

         "Absolutely. I ran the test through more than once to be sure." She watched as the other woman nodded nervously, struggling to digest this information. "Deanna, are you going to tell Will?"

 

         Deanna looked at Crusher as though she had lost her mind completely, then nodded again. "I have to, Beverly. If anything happens, with the surgery, if he..." she swallowed hard. "At least he'll know. He should know."

 

         Beverly nodded slowly. "I understand that Deanna. I just hope you understand what you could be getting yourself into. If all goes well for Will with this surgery as we hope it will, he'll recover much more of his life, in time. Even then, there will still be significant long term effects, better yes, but far from what he was, physically. But, between now and then, things are going to be rough for both of you. The recovery won't be easy. Bringing a baby into the equation at this point..." She let the sentence trail off uneasily.

 

         Deanna expression shifted suddenly from one of shock and confusion, to disbelief and anger. "I can't believe what I'm hearing! Just what the hell are you suggesting, Beverly?

 

         Crusher took her friends anger maddeningly in stride. "I am suggesting that you weigh the costs of what you're facing and consider all of your options Deanna. I know this can't be easy, but you have to think about what all of this will mean for you and Will and this baby. The stress involved in either of these situations is more than enough in and of itself under normal circumstances. But I don't have to tell you any of this, you should already be telling me!"

 

         Deanna tried to calm her earlier reaction in the face of the doctors comments. She had to make her friend understand. "I know you have a point, Beverly, and I know that you're concerned. But you don't understand, you can't. You don't know what all of this has been like for Will, emotionally. He worries as crazy as it is, about me, about us. He worries that he can't carry through on the plans that we've made. That he's let me down somehow because we might never have children. Don't you see? This baby -- it's probably the only one we'll ever have the chance to have. And it isn't all about Will either. I want this. Yes, I could live without having a child if that is the way that our lives were meant to be...and I'd still be happier than most people are with a dozen babies. But I have this chance now -- and I have to take it."

 

         The doctor slowly closed her eyes, then opened them, exhaling a short breath. "I knew you'd say something like that."

 

         Her companion offered her a tearful smile. "Can you blame me?" Deanna moved off the exam table she had occupied. "I can't remember a day since I met him that I haven't wanted to have Will's baby, you know. After the accident, I never gave it a thought. All that mattered was that he be alright. And that's still the most important thing right now except there's just...more." She paused. "You've been holding off on filling me in about Will’s checkup all morning. Tell me."

 

         "He's doing better than he was in some respects, but I don't think we can hold off the transplant much longer." She met Deanna's eyes. "In fact the sooner the better. I'd like to go ahead with it tomorrow morning." She watched the other woman's eyes darken with concern and fear in response. "It's his best chance, possibly the only chance."

 

         She nodded. "I know...I just thought there'd be more time to --" Her voice broke and she looked away quickly.

 

         Beverly replaced the equipment she had been holding and approached her friend. "Off the record, Deanna? He's so much stronger than he was, and a lot of that has to do with you. I don't know what it is between you, hell I don't even try anymore. But whatever it is, you most likely saved his life. I wasn't even sure we'd get this far. Yet here we are. Deanna, the two of you have made it to this point, let me take it the rest of the way, and I promise you, if I have anything to say about it, we'll get there. The rest is up to Will." 

 

         Determination flashed brightly in Deanna's dark eyes. "Then we'll just have to give him a reason to fight."

 

         Crusher smiled and hugged her tightly. "Can't think of a better person for the job, can you?"

 

         "Well," she smiled a small, knowing smile. "I think there might be one person, but that's just a guess." She shrugged playfully. "I'd better go and send Sandra back to you now. Will might start to get nervous if I'm gone much longer." She hugged her friend good-bye and hurried off, tears still stinging her eyes.

 

         Beverly watched her go, saying a silent prayer for them all, and believing with all her heart that whatever tomorrow may bring, her best friends were two of the bravest people she would ever know.