Just as he said that, Aria’s door chime went off. She knew it was the doctor, coming to check on her as promised. Jean Luc took his book and went into Aria’s bedroom. Aria tied up her robe and let the doctor in.
“Aria, how are you feeling?” the doctor said as she entered her patient’s quarters.
“Glad to be home.”
“I am a bit concerned about some of your readings, especially your heart rate.”
“I have had a few visitors checking in on me. That might have been it.”
“Please Aria, take it easy. I don’t want you to have any more visitors tonight and to get into bed as soon as I leave. And stay there until morning.”
“Okay, I will take my tea and my book and go to bed, I promise.”
“It’s for your own good. I’ll check on you tomorrow morning, until then, stay off your feet. I also want you to make an appointment to see Counselor Troi.” She paused when she saw the flowers lying on the table. “These are beautiful. It looks like you had a good friend stop by. Was it the father?”
“Yes, and I did tell him. He was surprised but more understanding than I had given him credit.”
“I’m glad you told him. If you have any problems, let me know right away. Even if you think it’s not that bad.”
“Thank you Doctor. I’m sure I will be fine tonight. Oh, and Dr. Crusher, thank you so much for all your hard work. I hope I am not that tough of a patient for you.”
“Oh, no, the Captain’s much more worse, so don’t worry. I’ll see you tomorrow, and get some rest,” the doctor said as she left Aria’s quarters.
Aria sat back on the couch and called out to Jean Luc that it was safe for him to come out as she removed her robe. He emerged from her bedroom and sat down beside her.
“I heard what the Doctor said.”
“That she wanted me to take it easy?”
“No, that I was a worse patient than you.” They both laughed. “But you did promise her that you would get into bed as soon as she left.” He scooped her up into his arms and carried her off to her bedroom. “I am going to see that you do,” and kissed her again.
“Yes, Captain,” she said taunting him.
He lay her down gently on the bed and saw how beautiful she was.
“You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”
“You say that to all the women you have been take prisoner with.”
“Aria, I mean it,” he said seriously.
“Thank you. You’re not too bad yourself,” she said as she felt the muscles on his arms.
“The Doctor did say you needed to get your rest.”
“Please, don’t leave. Not yet at least,” she pleaded with him, afraid to be alone.
“I have no intention of leaving anytime soon. I don’t ever want to leave you. I love you. I am not just saying that because I feel bad about us being captured and about the baby. I’ve loved you for quite some time, I just was afraid to say it out loud. Now that is all I want to say now. I love you Aria Swenson,” he said as he poured his heart out to her.
“I love you, too Jean Luc. Hearing that you feel the same makes me so happy, but I feel guilty to take any pleasure…”
“Hush,” he said putting his finger to her lips. He could feel her lips beginning to quiver. “I feel guilty, too. At least we can go through this together. Hopefully we will be stronger for it,” Jena Luc said as he took her in his arms, trying to give some sort of comfort to her.
When they both felt a bit better, Jean Luc pulled back her covers and Aria slid under them. He tucked her in and walked around to the other side, where he removed his shoes and sat down, pulling out the book he brought with him. Aria saw on the binding that is was his copy of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
“How did you know that was one of my favorites?” she asked him.
“I didn’t. I just thought you would like it.”
She curled up in his arms as he opened the book and began reading from it. Relaxed in his warm embrace and listening to his smooth voice taking her away to far off lands. She was still very tired and fell asleep before he had gotten to the end of the first act. Jean Luc watched her sleep, for the first time peacefully in weeks. After putting the book down, he thought about the woman he held in his arms. She was so beautiful, even when she was a bloody mess on the war bird. All he wanted was to hold her and make everything okay again. They were safe at home now and their ordeal was hopefully for the most part behind them.
In the darkness, Aria sat up in bed, quickly pulling herself awake. She was sweating and shaking. It took her a few seconds to realize where she was.
“Are you okay?” Jean Luc asked gently as he touched her arm.
“Uh, yeah. I…I just had a nightmare,” she told him, wiping the sleep from her face. “I wasn’t expecting you to still be here.”
“I hope you don’t mind. I thought you could use some company tonight. I know I don’t want to be alone ever again,” He was still wearing the clothes he arrived in.
“Thanks, I hope that can happen,” she said as she settled back down in the safety of his arms.
“Do you want to tell me about it?”
“I was on the war bird again and that there was no hope to escape.”
“I heard the doctor suggest that you should see the counselor, both of us should go. We have been through so much. The stress can hurt you almost as much as any physical wounds.”
“You are right. I want to talk to Deanna, I just wanted to get settled first.”
Jean Luc held her tight and kissed her forehead. She looked up at him and they shared an intimate kiss. Aria felt his strong chest as he caressed her back and neck. The warmth of his body felt so good to her. Everything felt so good and there was a growing urgency between them. They needed each other, but Aria quickly pulled back.
“Darling, what is the matter?”
“I am not ready after everything. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be, so much has happened since we left Malrata.”
“That time we had was really special to me. It is a shame that such a wonderful trip had to end so traumatically.”
“Aria, I don’t want to rush you. We have all the time in the world to be together and we will see happier times together. I promise you that.”
“So you see a real future for us?”
“I hope so, don’t you?”
“Yes, but I wasn’t completely sure you felt the same.”
“Aria, you are very special to me and I enjoy spending as much time with you as possible. I would not of made love to you if I did not love and respect you as much as I do.” He looked up for a second. His face went from intimate to curious. “Is that what I think it is?” he asked as he reached across her to her bedside table and took the gold mask. “I was wondering where this had gotten to.”
“I found it outside the party when I went after you. I wanted to see who you were. That time was pure magic.”
Jean Luc tied on the mask. Seeing him in it made her feel special and a bit more relieved that her mystery man was truly Jean Luc.
“Does this doubt any of my intentions?” he asked her from behind the mask.
“No, not at all,” she told him as she traced the edges of the mask with her fingers and kissed him gently. The two talked and cried and comforted each other late into the night and much into the early morning.