“You’ve been avoiding me.”
The accusatory statement took him by surprise, and Jean-Luc whipped round to face the direction the voice had come from.
Beverly was seated at his dinner table, elbow rested on the surface, head rested on her hand.
He didn’t need to ask her how she had gained access to his quarters, it was a skill she had developed for his last birthday in order to surprise him with breakfast. He had never felt it necessary to put an end to her freedom. And even now, though he wasn’t ready for this conversation, he didn’t begrudge her unlimited access to his space. To his life. Of course, therein lay the problem.
“I – ”
“Please don’t lie to me,” she interrupted him, her eyes wide and almost pleading with him, her hands now clasped on her lap.
He frowned slightly at the appearance of what looked like fear in her eyes. “I wasn’t going to,” he told her and it was an honest answer – he had intended to make a joke about how he wasn’t doing a very good job of it, surprising himself with how easily he had lost a lot of the anger he had been carrying within him.
“I thought we were okay,” she told him, standing from her chair, but perching nervously on the edge of the table, as if unsure whether to approach him.
“We are,” he shrugged.
Her eyebrows rose. “So you’ve actually been avoiding me for the last six years and I just never realised?”
She appeared to try a small smile after her words, but it wasn’t successful, and he cursed his heart for its easy transition from feeling betrayed by her, to feeling like he should take her in his arms and apologise for hurting her.
He laughed to himself once and turned away from her. “I just can’t stay angry with you.”
“Did you want to stay angry with me?” she asked him, and he heard her stand.
“Yes,” he answered immediately, without considering his response.
Her small intake of breath brought home to him what he had said, and he turned to face her again, only to find she had turned her back on him.
“Beverly…” he urged, taking a step closer to her.
She stepped away. “I just need a moment.”
After seconds of silence, she faced him once more, and her eyes caught his.
“Do I get to know exactly what it was that made you angry?” she enquired. “And do I get a chance to fix it?”
“Beverly, you don’t need to fix it… I just overreacted. I do understand why you said, what you said – ”
He stopped when she interrupted him, and released his breath on a sigh instead of words.
“But…” he hesitated, unsure as to how much damage his answer would do to their friendship.
“Please, Jean-Luc?” she implored, taking a step closer. “I think we’ve hidden things from each other for long enough, don’t you?”
She had left herself no easy route out of this. If he told her, she’d be hurt. If he didn’t tell her, she’d be hurt. That it was her own doing gave him no comfort at all though.
“But,” he repeated, “It hurt when you urged me to tell you how I feel… when you had no intention of us pursuing a relationship.”
Her eyes twitching wider indicated that she had not considered her actions could be interpreted in such a manner. “Oh, Jean-Luc, I’m sorry, I never – ”
He held up a hand to stop her. “Like I say, I overreacted… Avoiding you was immature, I just…” But for all he hated what he was putting her through, he found he still needed answers. “Why did you push for me to tell you?”
If she was thrown off balance by his sudden turnaround she didn’t show it. “I wanted to know,” she responded, quietly. “I knew we couldn’t act on them, but I just wanted that feeling of knowing your feelings were the same as mine… I don’t expect it to be any consolation, but it hurt me as well - to push you away… Then when you started avoiding me…” She trailed off, a sad smile creeping across her lips as she took a tentative step towards him. “Have you ever experienced the realisation that you made a big mistake?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
“The minute I saw you in here, and realised I’d missed you,” he whispered back, closing the space between them, but still hesitant to touch her.
“So… What do we do now?” she asked, echoing his words from their last non-work related conversation.
“What do you mean?” he teased, unable to stop a smirk from curving his lips.
They both laughed, Beverly glancing away almost shyly.
He gently enclosed her left hand in his right, and she returned her gaze to his. “I think,” he said softly, “We should face our fears together, and see what happens.”
Her eyes sparkled and she nodded once. “I agree,” she whispered.
He smiled now, and encouraged her towards him with a gentle tug on the hand he held.
He met her halfway, his lips finding hers, and her body moulded into his as their arms sealed their embrace.