A Call To Love.

 

Sweat soaked his body, his white fencing outfit damp and uncomfortable yet Jean-Luc Picard ignored it. His tense muscles quivered slightly as he held his pose, left arm back and raised, right arm cocked, the foil balanced perfectly in his hand. His legs were apart, his body side on, the right bent and the left straight out behind him. The small black ball, suspended from the ceiling of the simulated studio slowly swung in ever decreasing arcs until it rested in line with his foil. With a well-practiced lunge, he struck the ball, then held motionless as the sphere arced away then returned to strike the tip of the foil perfectly with a dull thunk.
He reset his pose and settled to wait until the ball stopped again. A bead of sweat trickled down his forehead and gathered in his eyebrow. The droplet grew in size until it overflowed the sable ridge and slid down his damp skin into his eye. Ignoring the stinging, he blinked twice, his pose unaffected. His helmet lay on the bench with his towel and bag, for this exercise he didn't need it. For over three hours he'd been executing a series of demanding drills, pushing his body to the limits of both endurance and skill.
The present exercise had been in progress for an hour but he would not cease until he'd completed five hundred reps.
He regulated his breathing and put aside the sensation of burning muscles.
"Four hundred and ninety-eight. Two more. Concentrate."
The ball stilled and he sharpened his mind.
"Now!"
He lunged and the ball swung sweetly away, not a hint of deflection. Holding his pose until the ball returned and struck the foil, he withdrew and blinked as more sweat infiltrated his eyes.
"One more then you can rest. Concentrate."
A cramp began to develop in the arch of his right foot. Savagely suppressing the pain, he pressed his weight forward and pushed the muscles into submission. The ball stilled and he gathered himself. Allowing a quiet grunt, he lunged and growled with satisfaction as the ball arced back then swept down and hit the point of the foil.
He slowly lowered his arms and brought himself upright. Lolling his head back on his neck, he took a large breath and swallowed. Taking off his left glove, he wiped his hand over his face as he walked stiffly to his towel. After drying his face and neck, he did some warm-down stretches and packed away his foil. Turning to face the brightly lit studio he called out quietly,
"Computer run programme Picard eight Omega."
The studio disappeared to be replaced by a darkened room, a single overhead light illuminating a massage table. To one side stood a man, his head bowed. Jean-Luc placed his bag, foil case and towel on a chair and stripped off his clothing. Naked, he approached the table and laid himself face down. The holodeck recreation took a small bottle and drizzled the contents down the middle of the Captain's back. He then coated his hands in the oil and Jean-Luc sighed as the man's strong hands started on his tense shoulders.
Although at times considerably painful, Jean-Luc had long ago trained himself to relax during the massage and was almost dozing when the man said very quietly.
"Turn over please."
Obeying his masseur, the Captain slowly flopped onto his back and squinted at the light. His voice a mumble, he said,
"Computer lower lighting level fifty percent."
His eyes opened as the light faded and he allowed himself to drift as the talented man wrestled his tight muscles into submission.
In all, the massage took almost an hour. At its end, Jean-Luc was limp from his head to his toes, including to the tips of his fingers. The man retreated into the shadows and Jean-Luc sighed expansively but, although his body was relaxed, his mind was not. It hummed with tension. He closed his eyes and said softly,
"Computer initiate phase two."
He tensed when the soft hands touched his thighs. Opening his eyes, he watched as a beautiful red headed woman used the residual oil in his skin to slide her hands up to his groin and over his hips. She was dressed in a sapphire blue dress, cut dangerously low in the front and slit high up both sides. Her cerulean eyes were hooded and her full lips curled in a sultry smile. Her hands slid up his chest, tugging in his body hair and he closed his eyes again. Her fingers teased out his nipples and he sighed, feeling the beginnings of arousal.
She dallied at his tightening nipples, before her hands left his chest and wandered down his flat stomach to tease his stiffening erection She lifted his growing penis and laid it on his lower belly and when she ran her tongue up the underside, Jean-Luc growled softly. She took the head into her mouth and sucked lightly as her fingers continued to tease the shaft and his testicles. Her tongue ran around the rim and pushed into the slit making Jean-Luc groan and thrust.
He had instilled into this programme a vast amount of information about male sexuality and fellatio specifically but he wasn't in the mood to allow her full rein. His holodeck creation was breathtakingly skilled and talented, however his need was powerful…and immediate.
A well-endowed man, he was now fully erect and highly aroused. The woman relaxed her throat and slid his penis into her mouth and with remarkable control, contracted the muscles of her throat to massage him erotically. His body, so recently soothed, stiffened as he raised his upper body to grip her head. With one hand squeezing the base of his penis, the other gently palpated his testicles. It had been many months since he'd indulged in this programme and his control began to slip. She sensed his urgency and quickened her movements, sliding him in and out of the depths of her mouth, all the while sucking and lavishing him with her tongue.
His head suddenly arched back on his neck and he cried out softly, the muscles of his body cording with effort. The woman took him deep into her throat and held still as he emptied himself into her. For several moments he stayed in a rictus of ecstasy, his body bowed, then he slowly began to relax. When he was again lying quietly on the table, the woman gently slid his softening penis from her mouth and tenderly kissed it. She then withdrew into the shadows.
His mouth ajar and his mind at peace, The Captain stayed on the table for a further fifteen minutes before slowly rising and moving over to the chair. He opened his bag and took out some clean sweat pants, a T-shirt and some sandals. Once dressed, he folded and packed his fencing clothes and picked up the case then turned back towards the table.
"Computer end programme and save."
The dark room morphed into the cavernous black and yellow grided holodeck. He walked over to the far wall and crouched, wiping up the small pool of semen with his towel.
"Computer unlock door, Holodeck four."
Satisfied, he left the room and made his way back to his quarters.
The doors to his cabin sighed open and he strode through, softly calling,
"Computer what is the time?"
"Oh one twenty-seven."
He grunted and went straight to his bedroom, tossing his fencing outfit and towel into the cleaner. After stowing his foil, he then stepped into the bathroom, stripped and entered the shower. Five minutes later he was putting on his silk shorts. He put away his bag, placed his sweat pants and T-shirt in the cleaner and slid into bed. Lying on his back with one arm over his eyes, he sighed and relaxed his body.
"Computer lights off."
He was asleep in under ten minutes, for him a remarkable feat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dream that awakened her had been highly erotic. It was a recurring theme, one where she and the Captain indulged in the steamiest lovemaking she could imagine. Beverly Crusher lifted her hands to her face and groaned in frustration. Aroused beyond reason, her hands left her face and fell to her body, quickly bringing her the relief she sought.
Panting in the resolution of her climax, tears of frustration slid down her flushed face. She was still aroused, her actions of only moments before had done little to quench the blaze that burned within her. The dreams had once been uncommon, something almost amusing when they occurred, but over the past few months they had invaded her sleep with ever increasing frequency, disturbing both her rest and her peace of mind. That she dreamed so erotically of Jean-Luc rankled her. For many years she'd harboured deep feelings for her Captain and best friend, feelings she knew had matured into love. Knowing this and knowing what to do about it was, however, something that vexed her. Eighteen months previous, Jean-Luc had offered to take their platonic relationship to a more intimate level…and she turned him down. That he loved her was just another complication to an already convoluted connection. She had feared ruining their precious friendship and she wasn't going to risk over thirty years of mutual support and love by giving in to her formidable desire.
However…as she lay in her bed, her resolve crumbled. Sitting up and hugging her pillow, her shaky voice shattered the silence of her bedroom.
"Computer, location of Captain Picard?"
"Captain Picard is in his quarters."
"Is he asleep?"
"Yes."
Flopping back onto the bed, Beverly curled onto her side and groaned.
"Oh shit! Godammit Jean-Luc…I need you…now!"
In the darkness she reached over to her side table and fumbled with the top drawer. Her hand fell on the object she sought and she quickly stripped off her nightie and panties. She spent the next half an hour using her favourite toy, trying to relieve the emptiness of unresolved sexual tension. In the end, it was exhaustion that took her into a turbulent sleep. Her desire went unmet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc groaned in his sleep, his face tight with tension. In his unconscious state, his hand slipped under the waistband of his shorts, gripping his erection and starting a quick stroking. In his dream he was making love to the only woman he'd ever truly loved and she was wantonly urging him to bring her to orgasm. He began to pant, sweat forming over his body. He gasped and groaned out her name…
"Beverly…"
He rolled onto his back and pushed his shorts down. Approaching his climax he thrust his hips and gritted his teeth.
"Riker to Picard."
His hand stilled automatically but his head shook in dismay. Swallowing, he attempted to gain control of his breathing. Nevertheless his deep voice was ragged.
"Picard here."
There was a momentary silence followed by a concerned,
"Captain…are you all right?"
With his hand still gripping his throbbing, straining penis, Jean-Luc screwed his eyes shut, concentrating on keeping his voice even.
"I'm fine Number One. What can I do for you?"
Not fully convinced, Commander Will Riker continued.
"Sorry to wake you Captain, but we've had a communiqué from S'Runnin. They wish to bring the mediation forward and as we're due to arrive in four hours, I thought you'd like to move the briefing up and hour or two."
Jean-Luc grimaced and let go of his penis, making a concerted effort to relax.
"That sounds fair Number one. Please inform the senior staff, I'll meet with you at oh seven hundred."
"Aye Captain, Riker out."
He lay quietly for some minutes willing his erection to subside. Unsuccessful, he snorted with frustration and slipped his shorts off before exiting the bed and going to the bathroom. Deliberately ignoring the hot water, he stepped into a vigorous shower of cold water, gasping as the spray his chest. He grabbed the soap and brusquely began to wash but his erection persisted. Unable to disregard it any longer, he grunted and added hot water, sighing at the warm comfort. As the comfortably hot soapy water cascaded down his body, the sensation of the liquid flowing over his sensitive genitals proved to be too much. Bowing to the inevitable, he braced one hand against the shower stall wall and gripped himself with the other, quickly bringing himself to orgasm and stifling a cry when it happened. Supporting himself with the hand against the wall, he rested his head on his hand and sighed. Masturbation was nothing new to Jean-Luc, a solitary man he'd had scarce lovers over the years, but that didn't stop his mind from furnishing images of his beloved Beverly, perversely tormenting and delighting him. When the tension became too great, too profound for masturbation to ease, he used his Holodeck creation to lessen his need. That the created woman bore a remarkable likeness to Beverly was not lost on the Captain but he was helpless in his desire for her.
What troubled him this morning however was that he'd indulged in the programme that very night. He should have been calmer, less likely to need release again so soon. That he should dream of her so vividly…and be so thoroughly aroused that he'd had to resort to masturbating was a concern…one that he was nonplussed over.
He finished his shower and dried himself, shaving and dressing while his mind turned the problem over. He was no further in solving the niggling anomaly when a very pleasant and welcome voice was heard.
"Crusher to Picard."
Smiling and pushing his disturbing thoughts aside, Jean-Luc replied,
"Picard here. Good morning Beverly."
"Good morning to you too Jean-Luc."
"What can I do for you?"
"Well seeing as how the briefing's been moved up…how would you like an early breakfast companion?"
His smile widened into a rare full grin.
"That would be lovely Beverly."
"Great! I'll see you in a couple of minutes. Crusher out."
Straightening up his bed, Jean-Luc went straight into his dining area and had just replicated some hot croissants when his door chimed.
"Come."
His back was to his visitor but he knew who it was as soon as he smelled her perfume. When her hands went around his waist, he briefly closed his eyes with happiness.
"Want some help?"
He turned and smiled softly, an expression Beverly recognised he reserved for her alone.
"You could get the butter and preserves. I'll put these on the table then I'll get the coffee."
Nodding and returning the private smile, Beverly did as he asked and very quickly they were sitting down to their meal.
Tearing her croissant apart, Beverly was buttering it when she asked,
"So why the early briefing?"
Chewing, Jean-Luc held up his hand and swallowed.
"The junta on S'Runnin have sent a communiqué…they want to bring forward the mediation. With that in mind Will thought it would be expedient to move the briefing up."
Beverly nodded, sipping her coffee.
"Are you ready?"
He smiled ruefully.
"Oh I suppose. We don't know all that much about the S'Run, however we do know they're willing to aide the Federation with supplies of the most pure dilithium we've ever seen. Federation scientists predict this dilithium will lead to improved propulsion systems…it could take us forward years in quantum mechanics."
Beverly nodded her understanding but frowned.
"Still, isn't there an inherent danger in aligning ourselves with a species we know so little about? I can't believe there won't be a hefty price to pay for their generosity, after all altruism is a rare commodity I've found."
Finished eating, Jean-Luc sat back, sipping his coffee and sighing as his eyes saddened.
"Oh I agree with you, but the truth is the Federation isn't in a position to turn the offer down. All we can hope for is that my mediation will open the door between us and, if all goes well, forge a lasting relationship with them."
Pursing her lips, Beverly nodded. They sat in companionable silence before Beverly drew a deep breath.
"Jean-Luc…there's something I want to talk to you about."
His eyebrows rose and he smiled.
"Oh? And what is that?"
Swallowing and with very large butterflies in her stomach, Beverly's mouth went dry.
"It's about you and me."
His face immediately sobered and his eyes glittered. His voice was a mere whisper.
"Go on."
Her eyes holding his, she prayed for courage.
"For some time now I have been aware of deepening feelings for you…I've been having these dreams…erotic dreams…and I want to tell you…"
"Data to Picard."
Both officers jumped and Jean-Luc scowled. Closing his eyes he answered,
"I'm rather busy right now Mr.Data. What is it?"
"Sorry to disturb you Captain but the S'Run have contacted us again. They have some important stipulations you should be made aware of."
"Very well Data. Do they require a reply?"
"Yes Sir, however they are willing to wait."
"Fine Data I'll look into it at the briefing. Picard out."
He looked at Beverly to find her with head lowered and hands clasped in her lap.
"You were saying?"
She looked up, about to resume when the computer interrupted.
"Captain Picard the mission briefing is due to start in five minutes."
Gritting his teeth, the Captain ground out.
"Acknowledged."
He saw movement and lifted his head. Beverly was standing and turning to the door. His quiet voice stopped her.
"Beverly I very much want to hear what it is you wish to say. Perhaps we can have dinner together tonight and you can tell me then?"
She turned and smiled ruefully. Nodding, she beckoned with a jerk of her head.
"OK. Come on I'll walk you to the observation room."
He smiled warmly and met her at the door. Together they went to the meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc looked around the long table at his assembled senior staff and sighed with satisfaction. With all eyes upon him, he softly said,
"Well Data what is it I need to know."
Data set his hands on the tabletop and blinked twice.
"The latest communiqué consists of a request that you present yourself in the company of a…mate…Captain."
Jean-Luc frowned and sat forward.
"A mate? Explain."
Data shrugged.
"I cannot Sir. They wish to see dossiers on both you and your…mate. I do not know the purpose of such a request."
"And they're waiting for our reply?"
"Yes Sir."
Sitting back and steepling his fingers under his chin, Jean-Luc's gaze settled on Commander Deanna Troi, ship's Counsellor. She held his gaze calmly.
"Counsellor you are aware I habitually take you on missions such as this. I've found your empathic skills invaluable…however I'm not sure either of us wants you to be considered my…mate. What are your thoughts on the matter?"
With a gentle smile, Deanna pushed her dark hair back.
"Well Captain given that we don't know what they wish of us there is a very real chance we could end up in a delicate situation. However this mission is of vital importance. I don't see why we can't present ourselves as mates, after all it's only for the duration of the mediation."
The Captain pursed his lips and frowned.
"While I agree with you Deanna, I am concerned about the glaring lack of information about these people."
He rubbed his fingers over his lower lip then nodded once.
"Very well. Mr.Data transmit a copy of both our Starfleet profiles. That should furnish them with all they need to know about us."
"Aye Sir."
Data's fingers danced over the tabletop console. Nodding to his Captain his voice was soft.
"Sent Sir."
"Fine. Now Data tell me what we do know about these people."
Data's head tilted and his hands clasped.
"The S'Run were discovered in this sector by the Supply under the command of Captain Patrick Hargraves three years ago. They are warp capable and their level of technology rivals that of the Federation. Contact was made successfully however the S'Run preferred to be left alone. Eight months ago, Captain L'Kol of the Brisbane received a message from a S'Run ship requesting assistance. Aid was duly rendered and an invitation was extended to Captain L'Kol to beam down to the home planet to meet with the ruling government. There was useful dialogue and Captain L'Kol came away with the offer of dilithium and a sample for our scientists.
We know that a junta has recently taken government and it appears the population is happy with the current situation. Starfleet was contacted ten days ago with a request for a mediator. It seems some former government members are insisting on positions within the new government and an impasse has developed. I get the impression these conflicts may well have been resolved with mortal combat in the past, but exposure to Starfleet and the Federation and it's tenets has apparently altered their approach."
Data pressed some controls and an image appeared on the wall screen.
"As you can see, the S'Run are a very large species by Human standards. Standing two point five metres tall, both male and female are heavily muscled and immensely powerful. Their planet has stronger gravity than we would expect and their atmosphere is oxygen rich, however it will sustain Human life."
Jean-Luc studied the images on the screen and suppressed a shudder. Turning his chair to face his staff, he began to speak.
"Thank you Data. Now I…"
"Captain Picard there is a message coming up from the planet."
"Thank you Lieutenant, please route it to the Observation Room."
"Aye Captain. It's audio only Sir."
A deep gruff voice resounded through the speakers.
"Starship Enterprise this is Master Fendon. We accept Captain Jean-Luc Picard but not Counsellor Troi. We will not allow anyone with covert mental abilities. Captain Picard choose another mate."
Jean-Luc was about to reply when Beverly quickly drew her finger across her throat. The Captain pressed a button and muted the connection.
"Doctor?"
"I'll go with you Captain."
Will Riker sat forward and frowned.
"Is that wise? You may be biting off more than you can chew Beverly."
The Doctor sat back and gave him an appraising look.
"Who better than me to keep an eye on the Captain? If I'm allowed to take a med kit you can worry a little less."
Jean-Luc listened to the debate with growing concern. His quiet voice cut them off.
"Doctor we still don't know why they want…mates. Anything could happen."
Staring directly into his eyes and displaying more confidence than she really felt, Beverly lifted her chin.
"Captain without you being able to take a security officer I think my suggestion is the most sound. I've received the same training in combat as any officer here and I reiterate that my position as a Doctor is an asset. I respectfully request you give me due consideration."
Jean-Luc held her steady gaze then nodded once. His voice was soft and deep.
"Very well Doctor."
Reactivating the channel, he raised his head and said firmly,
"Master Fendon I acknowledge your request and am sending you another profile. Stand by."
Flicking his eyes to Data, Jean-Luc nodded. The android Second Officer quickly did his Captain's bidding.
They waited in silence for seven minutes before Fendon's voice was heard again.
"Starship Enterprise the Doctor Crusher has been accepted. You will both transport down in one Earth hour. Do not bring any weapons, communication devices or equipment; all your requirements will be met. Fendon out."
Jean-Luc looked around the table.
"Mr.LaForge can we scan the planet?"
Geordi LaForge frowned, his blue ocular implants contracting.
"No Captain we can't…and it's highly unlikely we could keep a lock on you even if you were allowed to take your communicators."
Will shook his head and scowled.
"I don't like it. What about subdermal transponders? Maybe we could…"
Data shook his head.
"That would be unwise Commander. Captain L'Kol reported that he was thoroughly scanned when he went down to the planet. Any hidden devices would be found."
Jean-Luc sighed.
"And that would endanger the mission. No in this instance we'll have to yield. We may not like it, nevertheless it is what we have to do."
The Captain placed his hands palm down on the table.
"Is there anything else?"
The assembled officers shook their heads and he smiled.
"Very well, dismissed. Will I'd like to see you in the Ready Room."
The big bearded man stood and nodded.
"Aye Captain."
The officers filed out and Jean-Luc gently gripped Beverly's arm, keeping her back. Once alone he looked deeply into her blue eyes.
"It's not too late Beverly, you can stay on board if you wish."
Smiling mischievously the Doctor poked his shoulder.
"Trying to get rid of me Jean-Luc?"
He returned the smile and shook his head.
"No, I just don't want to place you in danger. This is an unknown situation we're beaming down to and I would prefer it if you weren't there."
Beverly's face softened and she smiled tenderly.
"Jean-Luc every time you beam down into one of these iffy situations I die a little inside. At least this way I can keep an eye on you. If anything were to happen to you Jean-Luc…I…"
Her eyes filled and she swallowed the lump in her throat.
He took her hands, his eyes glittering. His voice was very soft.
"Me too."
She leaned forward and kissed him gently before suddenly leaving him. Over her shoulder she said,
"Call me when you're ready to beam down."
The doors closed on her retreating form and the Captain sighed.
"My God Beverly…how I love you."

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Jean-Luc entered the Bridge, Will stood and smiled down at his Captain.
The two men made their way into the Ready Room and Jean-Luc busied himself obtaining a cup of his favourite Earl Grey tea before sitting at his desk and gesturing for his First Officer to sit.
"Will I'm not at all sure how this mediation will go. Knowing so little about this species' culture…their method of government…I'm effectively being asked to work blindfolded."
Will nodded.
"I certainly don't envy you Captain. How will you tackle it…on what will you base your decisions?"
Sighing, Jean-Luc raised his eyebrows and shrugged.
"I'll know more when the mediation begins of course, but my gut feeling is I will be guided, as always, by the intrinsic principles of the Federation. I will not, however, hold these people up to standards they might not be familiar with. I do feel encouraged by their seeming willingness to be open to new concepts…our very presence here at their request speaks to that."
Will nodded, a pensive frown on his face.
"Still…it could become dangerous if they take umbrage at anything you offer."
Jean-Luc's eyes sharpened and he sat back.
"Out with it Number One…what's on your mind."
Smiling at his Captain's perspicacity, the big man scratched his cheek.
"Captain it's bad enough you going down without a security detail…you know how I feel about that…but taking Beverly too? It's a hell of a risk."
The Captain rubbed his face and made an effort to relax.
"I do acknowledge your concerns Will, and to be brutally honest I don't want Beverly to accompany me, but I am to present myself with a mate and given that we don't know exactly what they mean by that, Beverly would seem to be a logical choice…and she's quite correct Number One…her training is every bit as good as ours."
Frustrated, Will snorted.
"I know that Captain but still…we're operating in the dark here. What if..?"
Jean-Luc held up his hand, silencing the agitated man.
"It's moot Will. Once we achieve orbit Beverly and I will beam down and as Starfleet officers we will do our job. Have a little faith."
Will's frown gave way to a rueful smile
"Aye Captain."
Sitting up, Jean-Luc pursed his lips.
"When do we achieve orbit?"
"Actually Sir we should be hearing…"
"Captain Picard we're approaching S'Runnin."
"Acknowledged. Slow to one quarter impulse."
"Aye Captain."
The two men stood and exited the Ready Room. Jean-Luc took his seat in the Command chair and said quietly,
"Enter a standard orbit when ready."
With unruffled efficiency the majestic ship took up her orbit of the planet, the Bridge officers admiring the beauty of the alien world from so high above.
His deep voice soft, Jean-Luc gained Will's attention.
"Number One I would appreciate it if Engineering could find a way to scan the planet…unobtrusively of course. If you could find a way to detect our Human bio signs I would feel a little more secure."
Smiling, Will nodded.
"I'll get right on it Captain."
A ghost of a smile appeared and his eyes showed his affection for his stalwart Exec. Keeping his voice soft, Jean-Luc ordered,
"Tactical open a channel to the surface."
Within seconds the young Lieutenant behind the Captain said quietly,
"Channel open Sir, but it's audio only."
Jean-Luc nodded his understanding and lifted his head.
"This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Enterprise. We have entered orbit and await your coordinates for transport."
A deep male voice broke the quiet dignified atmosphere of the Bridge.
"This is Master Fendon. Coordinates are being sent. Be ready to transport in five minutes."
The channel closed and tactical offered,
"We have the information Captain. Re-routing to Transporter Room three."
"Thank you Lieutenant. Picard to Crusher."
"Crusher here."
"Doctor meet me in Transporter Room three immediately. Picard out."
Jean-Luc and Will left the Bridge and met with Beverly in the Transporter Room. Beverly took her place on the pad and the Captain turned to Will handing him their communicators.
"Well Number One, the ship is yours."
Will straightened and smiled.
"Aye Captain. Good luck."
The last thing Will heard from his Captain was his deep quiet voice ordering,
"Energise."

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Enterprise officers rematerialised in a dimly lit large room, the ceiling and walls of which were adorned with intricate paintings. Standing before the receiving pad was a being of immense proportions. Dark mahogany in colour, she was clad in trousers and shirt, the material fine and of muted colours. Her bare muscular forearms were covered in tattoos and through both wrists a spike of what appeared to be a shiny metal protruded. Through the fabric of her shirt, four breasts moved as she bowed deeply.
"Captain Picard, Doctor Crusher, welcome to S'Runnin. I am Lady Hak, Master Fendon's mate. Please come with me."
Stepping off the pad, the couple felt the increased gravity and quickly compensated. They followed the haughty woman through a long corridor, which led to an airy atrium, the glass ceiling letting in the light of late morning. To their left was a pair of solid shiny black doors. Hak approached them and pressed a recessed button. The doors swung open silently and the three people slowly entered.
Sitting behind a large uncluttered desk was Master Fendon. He stood, his piercing black eyes studying his visitors. Hak bowed her head and gestured to the Enterprise officers.
"Master this is Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Doctor Beverly Crusher."
Jean-Luc returned the appraisal steadily, determined not to be intimidated by the huge man. In silence they regarded each other, neither giving way until Fendon nodded.
"Leave us Lady Hak."
The female bowed and withdrew, the doors closed silently behind her. Waving his tattooed hand, Fendon nodded at two large chairs.
"Sit."
Feeling somewhat ridiculous in the obviously too big chairs, the officers still maintained their dignity. Jean-Luc crossed his legs and folded his hands in his lap.
"I thank you for coming, your assistance will be invaluable."
Smiling diplomatically, Jean-Luc kept his voice even.
"Can you tell me Master Fendon, exactly how will this mediation take place?"
The muscular male tilted his head, making his long black hair shimmer.
"Tomorrow you will attend the sitting. There the grievances will be tabled and the aggrieved will have the opportunity to express their position. The government will then respond. You will then retire to consider your opinion."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"I see. If I may ask…how binding will my decisions be?"
Placing his weathered hands on the desk, Beverly noted the same wrist piercings that Hak had.
"The government will be guided by what you say, however it will not be binding. If we think it unsatisfactory we may seek other options."
His face neutral, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Very well Master Fendon I will endeavour to be as impartial as possible."
"It is all we ask."
The Master pressed a button and the doors opened. Hak entered and bowed.
"Take them for a tour of the chambers and outer gardens then take them to their accommodation."
Bowing again, Hak gestured to the seated officers.
"If you will come with me?"
As they left Jean-Luc knew that his mission had just become more complicated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will turned to face his Tactical officer and scowled.
"It said what?"
"The communication reads…To any vessels. This is the Earth bulk carrier Stellar Express. We have been attacked by Orion pirates and are in imminent danger of a warp core breach. Immediate assistance is required. It is on an automated repeating cycle."
Will moved a finger across his throat terminating the transmission.
"And that came through as text?"
"Aye Sir."
"Is there any other vessel, aside from us, who can reach them?"
The Ensign did some checking and shook her head.
"No Commander. The Enterprise is the closest."
Muttering darkly under his breath, Will issued his orders.
"Tactical send this…this is the Starship Enterprise. We are en route to your position. Will arrive in…"
He raised his eyebrows at Data, who supplied,
"Two point six hours at warp eight."
"Two and a half hours. Have you sufficient escape pods for all your crew?"
While they waited for the reply, Will sighed.
"Open a channel to the surface."
The speakers crackled and a deep voice came through.
"This is Minister Hul."
Will squinted and again wished they would transmit a visual signal.
"Minister Hul this is Commander Riker. May I speak with Captain Picard please?"
"I'm afraid that won't be possible Commander."
Gritting his teeth, Will struggled to keep his voice calm.
"It's very important Minister."
"I'm sure it is Commander, however you cannot speak with your Captain."
"May I ask why?"
"No."
Will rubbed his hands over his face and glowered at the ceiling.
"All right…will you give him a message for me?"
"Yes of course."
"Thank you. Please tell him the Enterprise has had to leave this sector on a rescue mission. We will return as soon as possible. And please Minister…remember it's important."
"Very well Commander I will pass on the message as soon as I see your Captain. Minister Hul out."
Before Will could issue any further orders, the Ensign at Tactical said,
"Commander the Stellar Express has responded. They report insufficient escape pods due to damage. They have ejected the core but are unable to exit the blast area and their shields are compromised."
Will's eyes hardened.
"Helm set course and engage at warp eight point five. Tactical tell them to put as much power into the shields facing the core and put everyone on the opposite side away from the blast. How many people are we dealing with?"
Data turned in his seat and said quietly,
"The Stellar Express is a Viking class carrier. She has a complement of twenty-five."
Will nodded, scratching his cheek.
"And her cargo?"
"Mixed Sir. Some bulk grains, parts for Star base 554, medical supplies, livestock, purrim oil and various other items that appear on the manifest but are in insignificant amounts."
Pursing his lips, Will frowned.
"Anything explosive?"
"No Sir, however purrim oil is highly flammable. It would take very little to ignite it."
"Understood. Tactical ask them if they can vent the oil."
The Commander sat in the Command chair and stared at the vista of streaking stars on the viewscreen. The reply was terse.
"They can't Sir, too much damage.
"Damn! OK tell them we're coming."
"Aye Sir."
As Will settled into his vigil, the turbolift doors opened and Deanna stepped onto the Bridge. She silently made her way to her customary seat to the left of her lover and sat primly, clasping her hands in her lap and keeping her eyes on the stars. After some minutes she softly said,
"We had to leave S'Runnin."
Will nodded, running a hand through his beard.
"Yes there's a bulk carrier in trouble and we're the only ship close enough to help"
Deanna sighed.
"What did the Captain say about being stranded?"
Will snorted.
"He didn't! I wasn't able to talk to him, they wouldn't let me."
Alarmed, Deanna settled her obsidian eyes on Will's.
"But…"
He held up his hand.
"Oh I know…believe me, but I had no choice. All I can do is make this rescue as fast as possible then high tail it straight back. Look, in all probability he won't even miss us. I'm sure he and Beverly will be just fine."
A worried frown marred Deanna calm beauty. Not wishing to exacerbate Will's already stressed mind, she kept her concerns to herself and brought up the current task on the monitor beside her seat. Her frown deepened.

 

 

 

 

Their tour had been very pleasant but the officers found Lady Hak to be quite reticent. She would answer questions, but wouldn't elaborate or volunteer any information. By the time they reached their accommodation Jean-Luc was frustrated and annoyed. As the approached the doors, a younger S'Run turned to them and bowed. Lady Hak stopped and placed her hand on the young man's chest.
"This is Venn. He will be available to you at all hours and will escort you to the sitting tomorrow. In your quarters you will find food and drink."
Jean-Luc and Beverly exchanged a look of surprise before Jean-Luc said,
"Excuse me, but we would prefer to return to our ship for the evening. I can assure you we will not be late tomorrow."
Looking down at the officers, Hak shook her head.
"That is not possible. You will stay."
The Captain's eyes darkened and glittered.
"I'm sorry Lady Hak, but I must insist. We…"
Just then an older man approached. Exchanging bows with Hak, he smiled down at Jean-Luc and Beverly.
"I am Minister Hul and I bring a message from your ship. Commander Riker has responded to an errand of mercy. He will return as soon as possible."
The Captain frowned and shook his head.
"That's all? Have you any more information?"
"No."
Clenching his jaw, Jean-Luc kept his voice even.
"Then may I contact my ship?"
"No."
Anger spiked and Jean-Luc spat,
"Now see here! I insist…"
A very large hand clamped down on his shoulder, making him wince and flinch. Hak looked down, her face impassive.
"Here you do not insist Captain Picard. You are our guests and we will take care of both you and your mate. Please do not cause trouble it is pointless."
She released his shoulder and Jean-Luc resisted the urge to rub and move it. With a stony glare he gave a curt nod. Venn pressed a control and the doors opened. At his gesture, the couple entered and the doors immediately closed. Jean-Luc spun on his heel and searched for the door controls, snorting with disgust when there was none.
"It would seem we're locked in."
Beverly ran her fingers through her hair and walked further into the room, saying over her shoulder,
"What do you think is going on?"
Jean-Luc grabbed his shoulder and growled as he rotated it. Beverly heard him and turned, coming to him and swatting his hand away. Jean-Luc closed his eyes and sighed.
"Damned if I know. Why would they choose to keep us on the planet?"
He winced as Beverly's fingers found the sorest spots. Her voice was sympathetic.
"Just bruised. A hot shower and a massage should help."
She went to the large window and made a quick search for an opening mechanism. There was none.
"Do you think the ship was really called away? It seemed mighty coincidental that Minister Hul came along just as Hak was insisting we stay."
Jean-Luc joined her at the window and sighed, still working his shoulder.
"Well with no way to verify one way or the other, we'll just have to accept their words at face value. I don't like it, but I can't see any other way to deal with this."
Beverly half turned and again swatted away his hand from his damaged shoulder.
"Stop that, you'll make it worse."
She looked around the room and tried to stifle a giggle. Jean-Luc tilted his head and frowned.
"What?"
Pointing, Beverly's giggle became a smirk.
"There's only one bed…and get a load of the size of it!"
The Captain's eyes travelled across the room to a huge bed, festooned with brightly coloured pillows and sumptuous coverings. He closed his eyes and sighed, muttering,
"Oh great…bloody marvellous!"
Shaking her head, Beverly went to the table and found three covered platters, some crockery and cutlery. Lifting their lids she found what appeared to be thinly sliced cooked meat, fruit, bread and something that looked and smelled like cheese. In a large stoppered bottle she discovered what she thought might be chilled wine.
"Are you hungry?"
Jean-Luc huffed and ran a hand over his scalp.
"I suppose so."
"Well come on, there's plenty here."
They filled their plates and drew some chairs to the window. Sitting in the sunshine, they ate in companionable silence, Jean-Luc pleasantly surprised at the quality of the 'cheese'.
Over a glass of the liquid, Jean-Luc gestured to the bed.
"You can have that. I'll sleep on these chairs."
Casting him a no-nonsense look, Beverly raised one eyebrow.
"I don't think so Jean-Luc."
He looked confused.
"Why?"
The Doctor sighed and briefly closed her eyes.
"Look we're all grown up…I'm sure we can share a bed without any difficulty."
Jean-Luc's face became unreadable. Behind his façade, his mind raced.
"Oh God Beverly…you've no idea. There's no way I can sleep with you…I'd…"
He slowly closed his eyes and swallowed. Beverly noted his lapse and frowned.
"Jean-Luc? What is it?"
His eyes snapped open and he took a sharp breath.
"Nothing! Beverly…really…I'll sleep over here, it's all right, honestly."
Her shrewd eyes bored into his while her mind furnished the answer.
"Ah! Yes Jean-Luc…me too, but you're not sleeping on any damn chairs!"
"Well we don't have to make up our minds yet. Let's forget it for now. Are those books?"
Dragging his eyes away from the beautiful red head, he glanced across the room and was startled to see a bookcase filled with volumes. He rose slowly and went over, gently running his finger over the spines.
He felt her nearness and smiled at the warm familiarity when she rested a hand on the small of his back.
"Are any of them in standard?"
He shook his head, sighing.
"No but with a bit of luck…"
He took a book at random and flicked through the pages, stopping when he found what he sought.
"Ah ha!"
Beverly peered over his shoulder and smiled.
"Pictures."
"Hmm."
The Captain drifted back to his chair, propped his feet up and settled in, studying the book. Beverly stretched and sauntered over to the bed, lying down and sighing expansively. Within half an hour they were both asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Doctor awoke, her mind taking several seconds to recognise her surroundings. She sat up and turned on the bed, dangling her legs over the side. What she saw of her companion made her chuckle softly.
Jean-Luc had one foot propped up on a wall fixture. His book lay open on his lap and his hands rested on his thighs. His head sat awkwardly on his shoulder; a slight frown graced his features. Knowing he hadn't meant to doze off, Beverly went to him and knelt at his feet. With a gentle hand she shook his knee.
"Hey."
Coming instantly awake, he snapped his eyes open and lifted his head, a gasp and a wince escaping as one hand went to the back of his neck.
"Ow!"
Smiling softly, Beverly snorted.
"That's what you get for sleeping in a chair and if you think that's bad…imaging what an all nighter would do."
He summoned a glare and continued to rub his sore neck.
"Your compassion is breathtaking Doctor."
She stood and went to the window, arching her back and placing her hands on her lower spine.
"Well I had a lovely snooze. That bed is very comfortable."
Jean-Luc stood gingerly and slowly rotated his head and shoulders. His irritated sigh made Beverly smirk.
"So…how was the book?"
He joined her at the window and muttered,
"Apart from not understanding a word, I found the pictures intriguing."
She turned to him and smiled warmly.
"Good. Maybe later on you can show me."
Returning the smile, he sighed, this time sadly.
"This isn't quite what I had in mind for tonight."
Eyebrows raised, Beverly tilted her head.
"Oh?"
"Indeed. I intended to supply you with a lovely meal, wine and music you enjoy. I wanted to hear what you had to tell me and I wanted you to be at ease when you told me."
The Doctor smiled sympathetically.
"The best laid plans of mice and men…"
He snorted and cast her an amused glance.
"I don't suppose I could encourage you to tell me anyway?"
Holding his gaze, she attempted to gauge his mood.
"What…here…now?"
Gesturing around the room, Jean-Luc shrugged.
"We're not going anywhere."
Turning back to the window, Beverly folded her arms defensively and lowered her head. Jean-Luc gazed at her for a few moments then also faced the window. They stood in silence for a while until Beverly's tentative voice reached his ears.
"We've known each other a very long time."
He held his tongue and allowed her the time she needed.
"I think I've always been attracted to you on some level…even when I was with Jack there was this undercurrent of…I don't know…something. Over the years our friendship has deepened and its something I hold very dear to me…it was fear of destroying that friendship that made me back away from your offer of intimacy and I know I hurt you Jean-Luc…I can only say I thought I was doing the right thing for both of us."
The Captain closed his eyes, his mind furnishing the hurt and devastation that memory evoked.
"But…over these last few months I've come to realise the love I've always felt for you as a friend has changed…become so much more…and then there were the dreams."
Jean-Luc sighed quietly but remained silent.
"At first they were quite rare, but over a period of time they have become increasingly frequent and now I am plagued by them. They involve you and me and are highly erotic in nature. My sleep and my peace of mind are being constantly disturbed and I'm fed up with the lingering sexual frustration. Last night I reached a point where I was going to go to your quarters and seduce you."
His mouth slightly ajar, he turned his head, his voice ragged.
"Why didn't you?"
Beverly scowled and flapped her hand dismissively.
"Because it was very late and you were asleep."
Turning his head back to the window, he stared sightlessly outside. When he spoke his voice was deep.
"I'm awake now."
Beverly's head turned sharply, a small gasp escaping. He turned his body and lifted a hand to gently trail his fingers down her face.
"You know I love you Beverly…do you love me?"
She nodded, her voice a whisper.
"Yes."
He smiled, his dark hazel eyes glittering.
"Good."
He leaned in very slowly and brushed his lips over hers. As their mouths made contact, Beverly turned to him and sighed, closing her eyes. His hands went to her back, one low down, the other travelling upwards to cradle her head, drawing her closer to him. Her hands crept up over his shoulders to hold the back of his head, her fingers caressing through the short grey hair.
He slowly deepened the kiss, the tip of his tongue lightly skimming over her lips, seeking admittance. She opened to him slowly and he slid his tongue inside her mouth, meeting hers and entwining sinuously.
Beverly's carefully banked desire surged in her body. What started as a warmth low down flared brightly and blazed throughout her system. A heavy ache developed deep within her and she moaned softly into his mouth.
He tapered the kiss and nibbled at her lips before laying a trail of soft kisses over her jaw and down her neck.
Trying to maintain a semblance of rationality, Beverly gasped,
"Jean-Luc…do you think we should…here? What if someone comes in?"
He looked deeply into her eyes, transfixing her with the intensity of his gaze.
"Wait here."
He abruptly left her and she swallowed her desire as she watched him approach the door. He knocked lightly and waited.
The door duly opened at their guard/guide bowed.
"How can I help you Captain Picard?"
Jean-Luc smiled and kept his voice even.
"Would you see to it that we are left undisturbed until morning?"
Venn frowned and shook his head.
"But what of the evening meal Captain? I am to deliver it later."
"That won't be necessary Venn, we have ample food here."
With a sceptical look, the young man sighed.
"Very well Captain it will be as you wish."
Jean-Luc bowed his head.
"Thank you."
The doors closed and he turned to see Beverly had walked towards him. They met half way across the room and embraced, the ensuing kiss passionate.
With impatient hands, Beverly stripped off his outer jacket, shirt and vest. She then took his hand and led him quickly to the bed, As she turned back to him, he stilled her hands and slowly divested her of her uniform, making her shudder as he kissed and caressed the exposed skin. Once she was clad in only her bra and panties, he stood back and stared at her, his intense gaze searing her body. In a low husky voice he muttered,
"Take them off."
With her eyes locked on his, she undid her lacy black bra and held it to her as she shrugged off the straps. Then she let it drop. Raising her hands, she cupped her breasts, lifting them and teasing the nipples. Jean-Luc growled appreciatively and Beverly trailed her eyes down his body, licking her lips at the tantalising bulge in his pants.
Lowering her hands, she slipped her fingers under the elastic and slowly pushed her panties down over her hips and legs, watching as his eyes faithfully followed their progress. She stepped out of her underwear and cocked her hip. In a sultry voice she aid,
"Your turn."
He lifted his chin and took a large breath. Toeing off his boots, he bent and removed his socks then straightened and, with slow deliberation, undid the fastener of his trousers and lazily opened the zip. The pressure of his erection parted the fly and he hooked his thumbs under the waistband of his pants and pushed them down, using his feet to discard them. Beverly's eyes widened as she noted the strength of his erection was pushing his briefs away from his body. Using his fingers, he gripped the straining elastic and pulled it further away then down, allowing his penis to spring free. The Doctor didn't see him remove his briefs; her eyes were glued to his erection. He noted her gleaming eyes and smiled. His deep voice was sensuous.
"Well?"
Startled out of her overtly lustful gaze, Beverly grinned.
"Oh my! What a pleasant surprise, I had no idea you had such…impressive treasures."
He stepped up to her and took her in his arms. The closeness brought his penis in contact with her wiry curls and he growled. She looked up into his eyes and said in an unsteady voice,
"Do you know how to use such a wonderful gift?"
He softly bit her neck and rumbled,
"I think I can manage."
Her next words turned into a moan of delight as Jean-Luc sucked a nipple into his mouth. As his mouth teased and lavished her breasts, his hands roamed over her body kneading her buttocks and increasing her arousal by lightly caressing her inner thighs. She opened her legs and he cupped her sex, massaging and spreading her labia before slipping his fingers through her folds. He slowly sank to his knees and used both hands to open her. With exquisite tenderness, he leaned in and kissed her intimately, his tongue feathering over her clitoris as two fingers slipped inside her.
Beverly gasped loudly and gripped his head, pushing him closer. His fingers slid slothfully in and out of her while his sinuous tongue played with the swollen clitoris making Beverly shiver and twitch. Suddenly Beverly tensed and panted,
"Oh God…yes…yes…I'm going to…"
A cry was torn from her throat as she rose up on her toes and arched her back. Instead of easing his actions, Jean-Luc increased them bringing two more climaxes one after the other. Beverly was trembling and gasping when he finally stopped and withdrew his hands. Standing, he took her in his arms and held her before scooping her up and laying her on the bed. She smiled dreamily and raised her arms but he simply smiled and knelt between her legs. Running his hands up her body, he gently kneaded her breasts, again teasing the nipples to hardness. Beverly lifted her arms above her head and flexed her body, basking in the gentle caresses, but when his mouth suddenly descended into her folds again, she cried out and shuddered. He pushed his tongue inside her while his prominent nose bumped her clitoris. Very quickly she began the climb a once more and he persisted until her internal muscles started to clench. Rising up on his knees, he leaned forward and took his erection in hand, rubbing the head through her wetness. She responded by lifting her legs and gripping him around the waist. He covered her body with his and penetrated her slowly, filling and stretching her. She arched under him then lifted her upper body and bit his shoulder as he started to thrust. He took her hands and pinned them above her head, kissing her with savage intensity.
Already so close to fulfilment, Beverly writhed beneath him, begging for release.
"Oh Jean-Luc…yes…more…just a little more…please…"
He increased his thrusts making them longer, deeper and faster.
She abruptly gripped his hands and shrieked his name.
Undaunted, he continued and Beverly came again and then again her voice one continuous cry of ecstasy. With his own climax imminent Jean-Luc rose up on his arms and gave up his formidable control. His body glistening with sweat, he pounded into her vigorously before suddenly plunging deep inside her and holding still as his orgasm swept him away.

 

 

 

 

 

Some time later Beverly was lying by his side, her head on his chest. They had not spoken; content instead to bask in post coital euphoria. Eventually Beverly spoke, her voice soft.
"Well I have my answer."
His fingers were sliding through her hair and his eyes were closed. His voice rumbled through his chest.
"About what?"
"Whether or not you knew what to do with your…attributes."
He smiled in the darkening room and asked,
"And do I?"
Beverly reached up and teased his nipple until it pebbled.
"Oh yes my Captain…you most certainly do. I do however have a request."
He frowned.
"And that is?"
She propped herself up on an elbow and kissed him.
"I want to give you as much pleasure as you give me. I didn't get the opportunity to do to you what you did to me…and I really want to play with my new toy."
He chuckled and pulled her down to his chest.
"If you wish my love. You may have anything you desire."
She snuggled into his embrace and sighed.
"I'm glad I love you Jean-Luc."
He matched her sigh and grinned.
"So am I."

 

 

Beverly sighed in her dream, the eroticism of it making her tumble into a deep web of delicious sensation. The resounding ripples of pleasure she felt radiated outward, the impulses of delight shooting under her skin, traversing her nerve ends and flashing back to her centre as wave after wave of carnal excitement pervaded her existence.
One particularly profound surge made her writhe and she became aware of the firm warm body at her back. As consciousness returned, she registered the arm that held her and the steady tantalising stroking taking place between her legs. Groaning softly, she nestled back into him and felt his hot stiff erection pressed against her lower back. Her voice throaty she purred,
"Hmm that's so good…"
He silently kissed her shoulder, his hand never faltering. Beverly gently found his arm and followed its contours, her fingers feathering over the prominent veins until she reached his diligent hand. There she insinuated her fingers with his and joined him in pleasuring her. He growled softly and bit her neck. Her eyes mere slits, she noted the dim light in the room. In a breathless whisper she asked,
"What time is it?"
His voice was deep and husky.
"I don't know…early."
She stifled a gasp as he increased the pressure of his fingers.
"What time do we..?"
"Hush."
He removed his hand and the Doctor squirmed with displeasure. Gripping her thigh, he encouraged her to lift her leg, draping it over his upper leg as he eased his leg between hers. She tensed, waiting for his next move. She wasn't disappointed. He gripped his penis and slowly rubbed the head through her folds, every contact with her engorged clitoris making her gasp. She altered her hips slightly; silently urging him and he took the hint. With deliberate intent, he slid deep inside her in one smooth action. His arm came over her hip, his hand returning to her sex. She covered his hand with hers as he slowly started to thrust, his fingers stroking her in time with his movements.
Beverly moaned and pushed herself backwards, trying to prolong the thrusts. Jean-Luc responded by increasing the force of his motions and increasing the stimulation of her clitoris. Beverly, highly aroused and rapidly approaching her orgasm tilted her head back and opened her mouth, a drawn out moan signalling her imminent climax.
Just as she began the ascent, Jean-Luc stilled, his body becoming motionless.
Beverly's eyes snapped open and her hand left her sex to savagely grip his arm.
"Oh God…don't stop…please for God's sake…don't stop!"
He kissed her shoulder and her anger flared at hearing gentle humour in his soft voice.
"Shh Beverly it's all right…patience my love…patience."
When he felt she had retreated from the brink, he started again…long slow deep thrusts and his fingers teasing and sliding over her clitoris with delicate ease.
As Beverly writhed in his embrace, he slid his free arm under her, the hand of which was employed in tormenting her nipples. As his attention to her body increased, so did her return to the mindlessness of her approaching release. Rapidly panting and squeezing her eyes shut, her lissom body clenched in preparation. Her frustration when he stilled was enormous.
"NO! No Jean-Luc…please don't stop…keep going! I want…I need…please…oh please…"
His only response was to gently bite her shoulder and nuzzle her neck. She pleaded and threatened but he was implacable, waiting with stoic restraint as she retreated from the edge. Only when he felt her capitulation did he start again.
Three more times he took her to the rim of the abyss and each time he denied her what she eventually begged for.
He held her close against his body as she whimpered piteously, her hypersensitive body, her extremely aroused senses almost overwhelming her mind.
He began again and she cried out, the sensations from her nerve ends potently electric in intensity. With inexorable determination he took her back to the edge, the maddeningly deep slow thrusts and the relentless intimate caress driving her to the brink of sexual insanity. Not knowing whether he would allow her to orgasm, she sobbed and gripped his arm helplessly, her ability to speak gone.
Lifting his head, he bit her earlobe and said with blatant eroticism,
"Come for me my love."
He thrust hard and fast as his fingers matched the rhythm over her clitoris and Beverly was abruptly vaulted into a state of exquisite, mindless ecstasy.
The quadruple orgasm seemed to go on forever, her body spasming and flexing as her mind registered the phenomena of seeing brilliant stars. She felt his warmth flood her internally as Jean-Luc came, his deep cry of liberation adding to the sensual feast she rode.
As her climaxes began to wane, Beverly's mind relinquished its hold on consciousness and she slipped into another state, utterly sated and blissfully content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Sir we have detected the explosion of the warp core."
Will stood and turned to Tactical.
"Is the ship intact?"
"Aye Sir, but she is extensively damaged."
"Life signs?"
The Lieutenant frowned, taking some seconds to alter her scan.
"It's hard to tell Commander. There's interference of some kind…"
Will said over his shoulder,
"Data can you sharpen the scan?"
The android officer nodded.
"I will try Sir."
Will walked over to Data's position and rested his foot on the pedestal of the consol.
"ETA?"
"Four minutes Commander."
Deanna calmly stood and went to his side.
"I can sense some people Will…some have survived."
He smiled at her then raised his head.
"Bridge to Sickbay."
"Sickbay here."
"Have you been monitoring this Doctor Selar?"
"Yes Commander we are ready."
"Thank you, Bridge out."
Data turned his head.
"Commander we are approaching the ship."
Will spun on his heel and walked to the Command chair, saying,
"Come out of warp and take up a position one hundred and fifty kilometres from the Stellar Express. Transporter Rooms, prepare to beam off survivors."
A duty transporter officer's voice was harried.
"Sir we can't comply. The detonation of the warp core has caused instability in the surrounding space. I can't guarantee safe energising."
Scowling, Will glared at the image of the stricken ship on the viewscreen.
"Data assemble an away team. Shuttle bay prepare two shuttles for immediate launch. And Data, I'm going with you."
The Second Officer's face remained impassive as he stood.
"Sir I must remind you that you are the acting Captain and as such it is inadvisable for you to leave the ship."
Keeping his eyes locked on the wrecked vessel, Will muttered,
"Nevertheless I'm going."
Data nodded once and began calling the officers he needed. Deanna gently gripped Will's arm.
"Will…"
He shook his head brusquely and caught her eyes.
"Don't Dee."
Seeing his determination, the Counsellor withdrew and watched as Data informed his Commander that they were ready to leave. The petite woman concentrated and focussed on her lover, sending him a subliminal message.
"Be careful my love."

 

 

 

 

 

The two little ships found areas to dock on the far side of the Stellar Express. The Starfleet personnel entered a dark and smoky environment, their tricorders sounding quiet alarms, informing of impending structural collapse.
The group of eight officers split into two teams, going off in separate directions, guided to the lingering bio signs throughout the ship. Over an hour they rescued nine of twelve people, each survivor badly injured. Will met with Data and together they assessed the situation. A low rumble and a sudden shiver went through the ship, causing the teams to stagger. Only Data was unaffected.
Will steadied himself and again checked his tricorder.
"Data I'll stay and retrieve the last three. You take the teams and all the survivors you have back to the Enterprise."
Another wrenching shudder shook the teams and a nearby console erupted in a shower of sparks.
"Commander if I may…it would be more expedient if I stayed and you ferried the injured back."
Will turned in a slow half circle, his eyes glued to the tricorder.
"You have your orders Commander."
With a slight frown Data obeyed.
"Aye Sir."
Data left, carrying two of the injured while the remaining crew managed the rest. Will made his way through the devastated corridors and found his way blocked by fallen, twisted support beams and metal sheets torn loose from the walls. Using his personal phaser set to a narrow beam, he cut a path through the mess; fretting at the time it took. The bio signs on his tricorder were weakening and time was a luxury he couldn't afford.
Hefting a warped length of steel, Will managed to get within four metres of the bio signs. He was confronted by a closed door and struggled to open it. The frame had distorted and in the space he'd cleared, the Commander rued Data's absence.
Casting about, the big man found a short length of iron and used it as a jemmy. The door gave a little, screeching in protest as smoke poured through the six centimetre gap. With his face pressed against the warm metal, Will strained to see through the gloom.
"Can you hear me?"
He was greeted with silence and struggled to get a glimpse of the injured crew. The circulating air momentarily cleared the smoke and Will saw three bodies not far from the door. Redoubling his efforts, he was straining with the iron bar when it suddenly bent at right angles. Will's shoulder slammed against the doorframe, his knuckles smearing skin over the metal.
"Fuck!"
Angrily throwing the now useless bar aside, he went back into the debris, frantically searching for something stronger. There was a sudden explosion deep within the ship and Will pitched forward, tripping and sprawling face down on the deck facing the defective door. Grunting, he was about to rise when there was a deafening scream of tortured metal as the ceiling with the broken support beams attached suddenly collapsed.
Will's body went rigid as long wickedly sharp lengths of duranium impaled his thigh, lower and upper back. The remainder of the debris fell across his back and legs, his anguished scream drowned by the rumble of another detonation.
For several moments Will lay twitching and gasping. He tried to use his communicator but it was gone, torn off in his fall. He raised his head and looked at the door, fascinated despite his dreadful injuries to see a rivulet of thick inspissated fluid slowly exiting through the gap in the door and oozing very slowly across the deck towards him.
His overloaded mind struggled to identify the fluid. Suddenly he gasped.
"Purrim oil!"
He placed his hands flat on the deck and tried to shove himself upwards, Shards of white-hot agony seared his body and he cried out, willing himself to resist the overwhelming urge to writhe.
There was another explosion, this one just behind the door. The portal bulged outward and the mechanism shorted in a fiery gout of sparks. With sick dread Will watched as the molten embers bounced and danced on the deck some falling perilously close to the encroaching oil.
With a sudden whump and drawing of available oxygen the oil ignited.
As it burned, the thick fluid lost some of its viscosity as it heated and began to flow a little faster.
Coughing and gasping, Will looked around in desperate helplessness trying to find a way to free himself as the oil approached. The heat buffeted his face in waves and he curled an arm around his head to try and protect his face.
Becoming ever hotter, the oil flowed as it thinned and Will felt his sleeve begin to melt. Yelling in terror and pain, the hair of his arm burned and the skin began to blister.
Sure he was about to be incinerated Will groped for his phaser, thinking to end his life quickly rather than suffer the agony of being burned alive. His fingers closed on the weapon and he struggled to bring it to bear.
"Commander stop!"
There was a confusing cloud of white enveloping his head and he momentarily couldn't breathe. A gentle hand gripped his shoulder.
"I have used a fire suppressant but the oil will reignite any moment. I will endeavour to free you."
Will could only groan in reply. As the heavy metal debris was lifted from him, Will strove to keep calm, his eyes darting to the hot oil, which now flowed around his head and scalded his skin.
"Commander I will have to break off the shards that have impaled you. I will be as quick and gentle as I can, but you may experience considerable pain. Please brace yourself."
As Data broke the first length Will's body spasmed and he lost consciousness. Working as fast as he could the android completed his task and gently picked the Commander up. Just as he turned to leave the oil reignited.
Data's boots caught fire as he moved rapidly through the debris and he staggered when more metal fell on him, his head suffering a terrible blow. With his internal cranial circuitry exposed, Data flicked his head to remove the flap of synthetic skin that dangled down across his face. Utilising his exceptional abilities, Data moved quickly through the disintegrating ship, carrying his senseless friend. His trousers smouldering and his boots destroyed, Data reached the shuttle and entered, placing Will on a seat. With super-human speed, he piloted the little craft clear of the larger vessel and increased speed.
"Enterprise I have Commander Riker. Extend shields to encompass the shuttle."
This was done but the sudden catastrophic explosion that destroyed the Stellar Express buffeted the shuttle violently. Will was thrown to the deck as Data fought for control. As the shock wave passed, Data once again contacted his ship.
"Enterprise have a medical team waiting in Shuttle bay two."
"Aye Sir."
As the shuttle approached her mother ship, Data glanced at his friend.
"The Counsellor will not be pleased."

 

 

With the morning sun streaming through their window, Beverly and Jean-Luc ate the breakfast that had been brought to them. Consisting of warm cakes of grain, fruit and a flask of thick juice, the officers ate in silence, each content and happy. Sipping her drink, Beverly sighed.
"You still haven't granted my request."
His eyebrows raised, Jean-Luc's eyes twinkled.
"Hmm? What request?"
"You know damn well. Look as much as I enjoyed this morning…hell I'm absolutely delighted by this morning…I specifically requested to have my own fun too…with my new toy if I'm not mistaken."
Sighing dramatically, Jean-Luc frowned but Beverly could see playfulness in his eyes.
He looked down at his hands, his voice deep and gentle.
"You said you had erotic dreams about us…did you have erotic fantasies too?"
Her smile was saucy.
"You know I did."
He smiled and brought his eyes up to hers.
"Well I had erotic dreams and fantasies about us too. For thirty years I've wanted you Beverly, so forgive me if I'm a little selfish…however I can now cross at least one fantasy off my list. I had dreamed of this morning…doing that to you so many times…"
He sighed and his smile became rueful.
"Is it any wonder I indulged myself?"
Beverly's gentle chuckle made him tilt his head.
"You mock me?"
She reached over and gently took his hand.
"Not at all my love. It's just that my ever so controlled, reserved, buttoned-up Captain found that he couldn't control his urges. And that dear Jean-Luc is exceedingly refreshing!…and satisfying."
He graced her with a rare full grin.
"Where it comes to you my dear Doctor control has only one purpose…as you've found."
Reddening slightly, Beverly's eyes darkened.
"Your control Jean-Luc is phenomenal…I'm very pleased to say."
His smile softened.
"You're happy then?"
Reaching with her other hand, she took both his hands and squeezed.
"Ecstatic my love. Happy doesn't adequately describe what I feel at the moment."
He sighed and briefly closed his eyes.
"When you confirmed that you loved me a great weight lifted from my heart. I've never felt so happy, content or at peace. Thank you mon coeur."
They sat quietly, each savouring the atmosphere of mutual tranquillity. After a little while, Jean-Luc withdrew his hands and refilled their tumblers. Looking out the window, he frowned,
"Beverly, have you noticed that the section of city we can see appears deserted? There's no people on the streets, no traffic on or above the roads…I wonder where everyone is?"
Casting her eyes outside, Beverly frowned and shrugged.
"Beats me. Maybe you should ask Venn when he comes back."
Nodding, Jean-Luc's frown deepened.
"I think I will."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twenty minutes later the door opened and the enormous man bowed.
"Captain Picard, Doctor Crusher, I will escort you to the parliament building. The sitting will begin in ten minutes."
The officers rose and followed him out into the light corridor. As they walked, Venn conscious of their shorter steps, Jean-Luc asked,
"Venn we could see part of the city from our window. Can you tell me, where are all the people?"
With a semblance of a smile, Venn looked down at the small Human.
"All citizens are required to watch the sittings on their land monitors in their homes. It is considered a civic duty and all business and trade ceases for the duration."
Jean-Luc pursed his lips and nodded.
"I see. Is there any punishment for non-compliance?"
The big being stopped and frowned.
"Why would anyone not comply? It is the law."
Jean-Luc looked up at the tall alien, steadfastly refusing to be intimidated.
"Yes, but is there a punishment for not obeying the law?"
Venn's eyes darkened and shuttered and he turned abruptly.
"We must go we don't want to be late."
Nothing more was said until they entered the parliament. Venn led them to a long table, which had two large chairs in the middle.
"You will sit here. Remain silent unless asked to speak. Bow before any response."
Jean-Luc smiled up at Venn and was about to thank him, but the being was already walking to his seat, some two metres away. Shrugging imperceptibly at his lover, the officers sat and watched with interest as the huge chamber filled. Behind them were rows of seating and either side were long tables on raised platforms. All seats faced an enormous carved bench behind which was an equally enormous high-backed chair. In front of the bench, in an area of five metres square was a clear space, the floor padded in light blue sponge-like material.
Beverly gently tapped Jean-Luc's thigh and nodded her head in the direction of the padded area. He looked, frowned then shrugged.
Suddenly everyone was coming to their feet. The Starfleet personnel rose and when everyone bowed, they followed suit.
Master Fendon took his seat behind the bench, Lady Hak standing by his right side. Together they placed their pierced wrists in a device and it beeped loudly. A disembodied voice intoned,
"The parliament recognises Master Garr Fendon and Lady Burr Hak. The sitting is in session."
Everybody sat and Fendon quickly went through the ceremonial aspects of the ritualistic congregation. He then called for the complainants to be brought in.
Eight men, five males and three females were paraded in front of Jean-Luc and Beverly. Each exchanged a bow before their wrist piercings were validated. They then turned and bowed to Fendon.
"You have been brought here to air your grievances before a Federation representative. Be brief!"
With their faces trained towards Fendon, each person gave an account of their complaint. Of the eight, five contended their positions in the government should be reinstated on the basis that they were the best qualified for the jobs. In addition they also pledged loyalty to the new regime. The other three, two males and a female, also insisted their rightness for the re-establishment of their positions, but refused to ally themselves with Fendon's junta. They insisted they weren't interested in politics; they simply wanted to do their jobs. When they had finished, Fendon told them to turn and face Jean-Luc.
"Captain Picard you may question the petitioners."
The Captain questioned them at length about their work and enquired as to why they felt they could do the jobs better than those chosen by the junta. Their responses were well thought out and intelligent. Eventually Jean-Luc could come to only one conclusion.
He stood and waited to be acknowledged.
With an inclination of his massive head, Fendon granted his permission for Jean-Luc to speak. The Captain bowed and focused his attention.
"Master Fendon I have reached my judgement."
"You do not wish to retire?"
"No."
Fendon nodded.
"And what is your judgement?"
Pointing to identify them, Jean-Luc said,
"These five should be given their old jobs back. Their suitability is without question and their loyalty is assured. These three", he gestured to the stubborn ones, "Should be returned to the private sector. I'm not convinced they are indispensable and their lack of commitment to your government may cause problems later."
Fendon nodded and Jean-Luc sat. The Master then raised his voice.
"You have heard the Captain's words. What is your analysis?"
There followed three hours of lively debate. Most of the two hundred members agreed with Jean-Luc but there were some who dissented. It was loud and boisterous but a gentle chiming brought order and silence.
Fendon's voice was emotionless.
"We will now vote. Those who will agree to admit these five, indicate."
Green lights glowed at most seats.
"Those against?"
Red lights glowed at far fewer seats.
"And the remaining three? In?"
Red lights shone over most of the seats.
"Out?"
There were very few green lights.
"Very well it is done. Guards!"
Three tall broad beings marched in taking position in front of the dissenters.
"Turn and face the parliament guards!"
All eight turned.
"Guards do your duty."
Standing to attention, the three guards reached into their tunics and withdrew their weapons. Placing the tip at the head of each dissident, there was a sudden flash of blue light and the condemned were vaporised. Beverly gasped and Jean-Luc came immediately to his feet.
"Master Fendon!"
The huge man snarled.
"You will be silent!"
Undaunted Jean-Luc persisted.
"Master Fendon I must protest! I…"
A very large hand gripped his shoulder painfully, forcing Jean-Luc into his seat. Venn bent to his ear and whispered hoarsely,
"Silence! Or you will be next!"
The cruel hand tightened on his shoulder causing almost unbearable pain. Jean-Luc gritted his teeth and nodded brusquely. Venn straightened and released the Captain, bowed to Fendon and took his seat.
Fendon sniffed loudly and shifted his attention to the shaken five who waited breathlessly.
"You will be spared and you may take up you previous positions in ten days. Thank the Captain for you lives."
The pale beings turned as one and bowed, each muttering a heartfelt thanks. They were led out and Fendon surveyed the chamber.
"What is the next order of business?"
Groaning silently, Jean-Luc glanced at Beverly to see the shock still evident on her face. Under the cover of the table, he took her hand and gently squeezed it.

 

 

 

 

 

The midday meal was taken in the chamber. Serving staff brought in plates with bread, salad items and hot drinks. Over the rumble of many subdued conversations, Beverly said quietly,
"My God…that was nothing less than premeditated murder!"
Jean-Luc scowled.
"I know. Look Beverly we're going to have to be very careful, things are obviously not what they seem. Until the Enterprise returns I suggest we keep a very low profile."
Nodding, the Doctor smiled at her lover.
"OK, you won't have to worry about me."
He returned her smile, his heart swelling with love.
Directly after lunch Fendon called the chamber to order.
"Are there any who wish to announce commitment?"
Three couples emerged and stood before the table, two males and two mixed couples.
Fendon pointed at the first pair, the males and nodded. They joined hands and one said with obvious emotion,
"Master Fendon we are committed!"
The Master bowed his head.
"And you will join to solemnise your union before the parliament?"
"Yes Master."
"Then do so and we will all bear witness."
Beverly leaned to Jean-Luc and whispered,
"A wedding?"
He shrugged and raised his eyebrows.
"Probably."
Both officers were sent into stunned shock as the two males proceeded to divest each other of their clothing and copulate on the padded floor. As they reached their climaxes a great shout rose from the watching members. Fendon stood and held his arms wide.
"The joining is solemnised! Your spikes will bear the inscriptions of the date. Live in harmony."
He then gestured to the next couple and the ritual was repeated and again with the final pair. The entire procedure was taken with immense joy by the watching assemblage; it was obviously a welcome event.
Containing their uncomfortable disquiet, Beverly and Jean-Luc wondered what would happen next.
Having seen to the details of the ceremony, the sitting moved on. The debates resumed and Jean-Luc was interested to find that one very large male, impressive even among his people, led most of the debates. His name was Qon.
For three hours matters of state were discussed and debated until they seemed to finally come to the conclusion of the day's proceedings. Anticipating being released from the chamber, the officers sat up and stretched their legs. Jean-Luc was surprised when Qon rose and made his way to stand before their table. He bowed and said,
"Master Fendon if you please?"
Fendon looked down and inclined his head.
"I would like to spar with Captain Picard."
A deep murmuring washed across the assemblage. Fendon leaned forward and raised his bushy eyebrows.
"You would recognise him so?"
"I would Master."
Fendon sat back and nodded.
"Then so it shall be."
Qon turned to Jean-Luc and bowed.
"You will spar with me."
The Captain rose and bowed.
"Thank you Qon, but I must decline."
The huge male scowled and showed his teeth. Venn appeared at Jean-Luc's side and hissed quietly,
"You must not refuse! To do so would imply a grievous insult, one that Qon would have to avenge. Not only would Qon be insulted, so would the Master and the parliament. You must comply!"
Jean-Luc bowed his head and sighed. Lifting his eyes, he smiled at Qon.
"My apologies Qon. I will spar with you."
The angry male nodded brusquely and went to one side of the padded area. He removed his boots and stripped to the waist. Jean-Luc was escorted to the opposite side of the cleared area and instructed to remove his footwear and the clothing of his upper body. Then each man was presented with his weapon. Two metres long, it consisted of a hexagonal heavy metal staff, six centimetres thick. At each end was a sphere of solid metal, covered with thin padding. Jean-Luc hefted the weapon in both hands, dismayed at how big and heavy it was.
Qon bowed and stepped onto the padded floor. Jean-Luc did the same, watching carefully as his opponent began to slowly circle him.
They neared each other and Qon made a lunge, sweeping the staff at Jean-Luc's legs. The Captain nimbly sidestepped and struck Qon's shoulder a glancing blow. The huge male spun in a complete circle and attempted an overhand blow, but Jean-Luc dodged quickly. He did not, however, avoid the return strike, the metal sphere crashing into his right thigh, smashing the muscle and fracturing the femur. Staggering backwards, Jean-Luc parried two more blows before he was struck again. Qon seized an opening and brought the staff down on the Captain's left forearm. The bones broke with a pistol shot report.
Beverly leaped to her feet and cried out. Venn gripped her shoulders and forced her into her seat.
"Silence!"
With his remaining functioning arm, Jean-Luc used the staff to support himself and as a shield against the continuing attack.
With obvious ease, Qon toyed with him, shoving and feinting with his weapon, earning laughter from the members. With one vicious shove to the stomach, Jean-Luc stumbled backwards and Qon took his advantage. With a full-blooded swing he struck Jean-Luc a devastating blow to the right side of his head. The Captain was lifted off his feet and thrown three metres through the air, his body hitting the padded floor and lying motionlessly.
Yelling in frustration, Beverly struggled to get to her feet, but it was impossible. Two large strong hands pinned her to her seat and all she could do was watch as Qon strolled over to Jean-Luc and turned him over onto his back with his foot. Looking up, he grinned at the assemblage.
"He sleeps!"
Loud laughter echoed in the chamber and Fendon stood.
"Once again our greatest warrior has proved his prowess. Hail Qon!"
A loud chant swept the chamber.
"Hail Qon! Hail Qon!"
Venn's attention was riveted on the triumphant male and Beverly slipped free of his grasp. She had almost made it to the padded floor when five guards seized her. Fendon held up his hands.
"You may not step on the Drar!"
With tears in her eyes, Beverly shouted,
"Captain Picard is hurt! Help him!"
The Master laughed, in fact everyone laughed. Qon came to Beverly and grinned.
"Nonsense Doctor! No one gets hurt sparring. Your Captain sleeps. When he wakes you will see he is fine."
Her mouth agape, Beverly shook her head.
"Are you insane? He has broken bones…head injuries…he needs medical treatment!"
Qon waved his hand, summoning Venn.
"Take the Captain and his mate back to their accommodation."
Venn bowed and picked Jean-Luc up. His clothing was thrust into Beverly's hands and she was obliged to follow Venn from the chamber.
Once in a quiet corridor, Beverly strove to keep her voice reasonable.
"Venn please…if you won't take the Captain to a hospital, at least get me something I can scan him with."
Refusing to look at her, Venn said,
"That is not possible."
Gritting her teeth, Beverly ground out,
"Why?"
"Because your Captain now belongs to Qon. He will decide what happens to him."
Beverly gripped Venn's arm, halting him.
"What do you mean the Captain belongs to Qon? Explain."
"When two warriors spar, the defeated becomes the property of the victor."
"Then I want to see Qon!"
The male resumed walking.
"That is not possible."
Seething with pent up frustration, Beverly followed Venn into their quarters and instructed him to lay Jean-Luc on the bed. The hulking male bowed and muttered,
"I will bring the evening meal later."
The Doctor didn't acknowledge his exit. Kneeling beside Jean-Luc she gently used her hands to tell her what she already knew. His right thigh was badly swollen and mottling with dark bruising, the femur fractured. His left forearm was broken and he had heavy bruising appearing on his abdomen, but what frightened her the most was the traumatised area of his skull. Her fingers could feel the underlying shattered bone and the accompanying bruise and swelling was extending onto his face. With nothing else to do, Beverly lay beside him and sniffed back her tears.
"Oh God my love…please wake up."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deanna's heart thudded in her chest as she calmly ordered the ship on a course for the nearest Star base. Sick Bay had reported several survivors required medical assistance beyond that which was available on the ship. The afflicted were placed in stasis as the staff concentrated on those they could help, including Will.
As the senior officer on the Bridge, Deanna had orchestrated the rescue, ordering Data to return to the stricken ship to help her lover. She had felt Will's pain and terror and it took a Herculean effort on her part not to abandon her post to get to him. As she listened to Data's requests for help, her gut twisted and she trembled, but her sense of duty won out and she stayed calm, even when she heard the request for emergency transport for Will to Sick Bay.
Now that the crisis was over, she turned to Lieutenant M'Ren and said steadily,
"You have the Bridge Lieutenant, I'll be in Sick Bay."
"Aye Sir."
She resisted the urge to run and entered the medical facility showing outward calm. Ensign Howard approached her with a look of sympathy.
"He's in surgery Counsellor. I'll have Doctor Selar contact you the minute she's finished."
Nodding, Deanna asked,
"Where is Commander Data?"
"I believe he's in Engineering. He was injured."
Keeping the alarm from her face, Deanna nodded.
"In that case I'll be in Engineering. Thank you Ensign."

 

 

 

 

 

Data was sitting quietly while his head was examined. The synthetic skin of his head, feet and legs had been repaired but there was damage to some of the internal circuitry. Two panels on his skull were open and clear connecting wires snaked out into diagnostic equipment as Data's best friend; Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge assessed the damage.
Deanna sidled up to the pair and asked gently,
"How are you Data?"
Not moving his head, his eyes slid to view her.
"I am functioning Counsellor, however I am experiencing some problems accessing some programmes."
Deanna softly patted Data's shoulder and directed her gaze at Geordi.
"And?"
The dark man sighed.
"There's been some minor damage…I should have it fixed in about an hour."
Deanna sighed.
"Good. Data when you're ready please go to the Bridge and assume command. I'll be in our quarters."
"Yes Counsellor."
The petite woman left Engineering and made her way quickly to the cabin she shared with Will. Once inside the closed doors, she fell to her knees and sobbed.

 

The somnolent Commander went from an oblivious state to one of abject terror in a matter of seconds. Torn from his sleep, he screamed and tried to sit up, endeavouring to escape the torment of his dream. Gentle hands caught his arms and a soft voice called to him.
"Will wake up…it's a dream, just a dream. I'm here Will…come on, wake up."
It took several seconds for the terrified man to recognise the lyrical voice that infiltrated his fear-addled brain. His eyes suddenly snapped open and his ragged voice pleaded,
"Deanna? Help me!"
The Counsellor gently stroked Will's face and crooned,
"Shh Will it's all right, you're safe now, everything's all right. Look at me Will."
Panting in distress, he forced his squinting eyes wider and focused on his lover. Realisation slowly dawned and a small smile appeared.
"Deanna? I'm ok?"
"Yes Will. You'll require some more surgery at Star base 565 but you're going to be fine."
The big bearded man concentrated on calming himself and when he felt in control, attempted to look at his injuries. He was stymied however, his right forearm was encased in a stasis cast and the medical shell covered the remainder of his body. He looked up at Deanna and frowned.
"What's the damage?"
Brushing her fingers over his brow, the Counsellor smiled sadly.
"You have extensive deep burns to your right arm and the top of your head requiring grafts. There were some broken ribs, a fractured leg and some rather serious internal injuries, all of which have been successfully treated. The skin on the side of your face will need regeneration seeing as how it was badly scalded, but Selar tells me it should pose no problems, although it will be quite tender for a few days. Other than that, you're doing exceptionally well."
He drew a deep breath, grimacing at the general soreness he felt.
"How long will I be in Sick Bay?"
Holding his uninjured hand, Deanna answered.
"We're five hours away from the Star base. Once there you'll be transferred and the skin grafts will be done. When that's complete you can come back to the Enterprise and Selar will most probably allow you to recuperate under medical supervision in our quarters."
Will mulled that over then asked,
"Did Data get back ok? He said the oil would reignite. Did it?"
"Uh huh. He sustained burnt feet and legs, but he also received some damage to his head while he was getting you out. Geordi fixed him and he's on duty as we speak."
Will closed his eyes and nodded.
"And the remaining crew…the ones I was trying to rescue?"
Sadness clouded Deanna's obsidian eyes.
"I'm sorry Will they didn't make it."
"Damn! And the rest of them?"
"Of the eight we rescued four required more help than we could give them. They are in stasis and will be transferred to the Star base for further treatment. Selar says they stand a good chance of pulling through."
"And the Orions?"
Deanna scowled.
"Long gone. Scans show they got the medical supplies, probably bound for the black market."
Will's jaw clenched and he sighed.
"Have you heard from the Captain?"
The Counsellor shook her head.
"Not a word."
He nodded slowly and managed a smile.
"Well you seem to have everything in hand. Why don't you go and get some rest…you look like hell."
Resisting the urge to slap him, Deanna huffed.
"Not likely! I'll stay right here thank you very much. You scared the bejeezus out of me Will and I intend to stay with you until you're discharged."
Seeing the futility of arguing, Will smiled and gently took her hand.
"I love you Commander Troi."
Leaning forward she softly kissed his lips.
"Likewise Commander Riker."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The evening meal lay uneaten on the tray. Beverly lay beside her lover dozing fitfully, her body shivering occasionally as her damp hair chilled her. Across her body was a very large white towel. With nothing better to do, the Doctor had showered then sat beside Jean-Luc rubbing her hair as she willed him to stir. Sleep eventually claimed her but she started awake on the coattails of a disturbing dream. In the darkness she looked down at her lover, tears filling her eyes. He had been unconscious for seven and a half hours and with each minute he remained so, her dread and fear increased.
She gasped as she heard a soft moan. Snapping on the bedside lamp, Beverly called softly,
"Jean-Luc? Can you hear me?"
He groaned again and lifted his right arm. Beverly caught his hand and said softly,
"Can you open your eyes?"
The swelling in the right side of his face precluded him opening that eye, but the left cracked open. He tried to talk but his words were softly slurred.
"What happened?"
"You've been badly hurt Jean-Luc. You sparred with Qon and he did considerable damage. You…"
"Who? What?"
Biting her lower lip, Beverly asked,
"What's the last thing you remember?"
"I…Beverly…I'm going to be sick!"
With practised haste, Beverly rolled Jean-Luc onto his side and used the towel to catch the vomit. When the heaving ceased she rolled him back and left to get a wet cloth. She wiped his mouth and cleaned the sweat from his face. He was panting and in obvious distress.
"Beverly something's very wrong. I can't…"
"Shh Jean-Luc just rest."
He was quiet for a while before he slurred,
"Can you give me something for the pain?"
Gently stroking the undamaged side of his head, Beverly whispered,
"No my love but I'm with you. Try to rest Jean-Luc, just close your eyes and relax."
His eye closed and after a while his breathing evened out in sleep. Beverly sat with him for the remainder of the long night.

 

 

 

 

 

Venn brought breakfast in and frowned down at Beverly as she gripped his muscular arm.
"Venn please Captain Picard is very sick…he needs medical help immediately. If he doesn't…"
The huge male shook his arm free and glowered.
"Eat your meal, I will return in half an hour to escort you both to the sitting."
Waving her hand and the unconscious Human, exasperation filled Beverly's voice.
"Look at him! Can't you see he's badly hurt? He can't go to the sitting in fact he can't go anywhere. If you won't help us, allow us to stay here until our ship returns."
"Impossible! You will both attend!"
Beverly's voice rose dramatically.
"Dammit you thick headed moron! He's seriously hurt! Do you want to be responsible for killing him?"
The incensed being grabbed Beverly's shoulder and squeezed savagely until she was on her knees, gasping in pain.
"You will dress him and be ready when I come for you!"
He abruptly released her and strode from the room. Beverly heard Jean-Luc groan and staggered to her feet, lurching to the bed and crawling to his side.
"It's all right Jean-Luc…I'm here."
The Captain opened his eye but it slid lazily from side to side, seemingly out of his control. He tried to raise his arm, but that too was afflicted, its spastic movements indicative of the seriousness of his head injury. He opened his mouth and attempted to speak but his words were heavily slurred.
"Beverly…help me."
She took hold of his hand and eased it to his side.
"I will my love, I will."

When Venn returned Beverly had managed to dress Jean-Luc. The S'Run stood at the foot of the bed, an expression of bored indifference on his face. Beverly contained her anger with difficulty as she asked,
"Could you help him please? He can't walk very well."
With a grunt, Venn moved to the side of the bed, leaned over and picked the Captain up with little effort. Beverly gently gripped his arm and said softly,
"Please Venn, be very gentle."
The big male rolled his eyes and growled,
"We must hurry, the chamber is already filling."
With no other option but to follow her escort, Beverly gritted her teeth and resigned herself to the inevitable.
Jean-Luc was lowered into his seat and Beverly moved her chair against his to help support him. He slumped sideways and the Doctor sited his head to rest on her shoulder. Jean-Luc spoke, the effort almost beyond him and his words almost intelligible.
"Where are we?"
The Doctor sighed and wished they were light years away.
"We're in the chamber of the parliament building. There is a sitting we have to attend."
He closed his erratically moving eye and tried to lift his hand, but the action was futile, the limb was no longer under his control. He sighed softly and attempted to sit up, but that too was impossible. Beverly was about to tell him to relax when Fendon brought the sitting to order. As he completed the formalities, Qon stood, approached the table and bowed.
"Master Fendon before we begin, I have a request."
Fendon sat back and frowned.
"And that is?"
Qon inclined his massive head, a sardonic grin in place.
"If you will indulge me Master…as you know I now own Captain Picard. Having given careful consideration to his situation, I have found that I would be willing to commit to him."
Fendon leaned forward, his black eyes piercing.
"Committing to him would grant him freedom Qon. That would be a significant gesture on your part. And what of the joining? Are you willing to solemnise the union here before the parliament?"
Qon bowed his head.
"Yes Master."
Fendon nodded, his face set.
"Very well. I…"
Beverly couldn't contain herself.
"No! You cannot do this…we are mates…the Captain and I are committed!"
Qon turned and sneered.
"You have not joined!"
Master Fendon's voice was strangely subdued.
"But they have Qon."
The wall behind Fendon suddenly glowed and a screen activated. An enormous eight by eight metre glowing square divided into four sections and as Beverly watched in horror, images of their lovemaking were displayed with sound. She dimly heard Jean-Luc groan quietly and turned to see him trying to shake his head. Qon pointed to the screen and shouted,
"That is meaningless! Unless they join before the members their actions are without significance. I demand my petition be allowed."
Fendon pressed a hidden button and the screen deactivated. In the ensuing silence, he looked down at the Starfleet officers.
"You will stand and show me proper respect."
In desperation Beverly looked to Venn and the male snorted. He came to stand behind Jean-Luc and, with Beverly's help, got him to his feet. The Doctor managed a bow but the Captain could only jerk his head.
"Captain Picard Qon has made a valid petition. Unless you join with your mate here before the members I will grant Qon his request."
Jean-Luc's head lolled and he attempted to speak but failed. Beverly gently squeezed his arm and lifted her head.
"Master Qon may I speak for Captain Picard?"
The Master frowned.
"As you wish."
"Despite your belief to the contrary, Captain Picard has been seriously injured and because of this he is not able to join with me. I must also add…the act of intimacy between Humans is considered a very private thing and I heartily doubt that either of us would be willing to perform such an act in public."
Qon shook his head and growled,
"The Doctor's words mean nothing! If they won't solemnise their union in the proper way I claim Picard for myself."
Fendon lifted a hand and stroked his chin. Fearing a summary judgement, Beverly spoke again.
"Master Fendon I need to talk to Captain Picard about this in private. May we leave the chamber?"
The Master pursed his lips and silenced Qon who was about to object loudly.
"I will grant your request Doctor Crusher, however my patience is not limitless. Do not keep us waiting too long."
Bowing, Beverly briefly closed her eyes.
"Thank you Master Fendon."

 

 

 

 

 

Venn carried Jean-Luc out into the atrium and chose a small room off to one side. He placed the Captain in a chair and steadied him as Beverly knelt at his feet. Once she had a good hold on the stricken man Venn left them.
"Jean-Luc can you hear me?"
He grunted but kept his eye closed.
"We have to get out of here my love. If we stay you'll have to join with Qon and who knows what else. I'm going to prop you up in this chair while I check the window. OK?"
Having made the Captain comfortable in the large seat, Beverly went quickly to the window and breathed a sigh of relief to find she could open it. Poking her head out, she estimated a drop of only one metre to the ground.
Once again kneeling at Jean-Luc's feet, Beverly gently gripped his good hand.
"We can get out Jean-Luc but I'm going to need your help. I know it's hard, but can you try for me?"
With effort he formed the simple word.
"Try."
Leaning forward, she kissed his brow.
"Right. I've opened a window. The building is on the top of a hill and we're on the ground floor. There's a drop, but I think we can make it. Once we're outside we'll make for the nearest hiding place in the city. OK now I'm going to help you to your feet."
With a groan, Jean-Luc stood bearing most of his weight on his trembling good leg. Beverly put his uninjured arm over her shoulders and wrapped an arm around his waist. She got him to the window and gently draped him over the sill. Clambering through, Beverly turned and gripped him under his arms.
"I'm going to pull you over the edge…I'll be as gentle as I can."
He grunted and Beverly placed one foot against the outside wall, exerting a sustained pull. With little control over his limbs, Jean-Luc was unable to assist. As his hips cleared the sill gravity took over and he suddenly slipped the rest of the way, overbalancing the Doctor and depositing them both on the grass.
Jean-Luc's weak cry preceded his sudden vomiting. With nothing in his stomach, he retched horribly as Beverly struggled to get him to his feet.
"I'm so sorry Jean-Luc but we must hurry. They'll realise we're missing soon and I want us to get as far away as we can before that happens. Take deep breaths and put your weight on me."
Utilising the downward slope to their advantage, Beverly half carried, half dragged Jean-Luc headlong towards the first buildings she could see, two hundred metres away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will sighed contentedly as Deanna's small knowing hands massaged the healing lotion into the skin of his back. Both naked, the lights were dim and scented candles released soothing scents, further adding to his languor. Deanna's hands paused and he felt her fingers tracing the rapidly fading scars.
"Dee?"
Her voice was soft.
"You came so close Imzadi…I came so close to losing you…"
He turned and the Counsellor rose slightly on her knees to allow him to resettle on his back. Looking up into her bottomless black eyes, he witnessed her tears. In silence he reached up and embraced her, drawing her down onto his hirsute chest. She snuggled into the warm protection of his arms and sighed.
"It's all right Deanna I'm here…it didn't happen."
Her breath tickled his ear.
"I know but I can't help remembering your pain and terror. I felt it too and I almost ceased functioning."
He tightened his embrace and kissed her hair.
Deanna lifted her head and stared down into his blue eyes.
"You were going to kill yourself."
He sighed and closed his eyes, nodding slowly.
"Yes."
Deanna settled her head on his shoulder and kissed his neck.
"I understand why Will but if you had died I don't know how I would've continued without you."
His voice was tender.
"Well hopefully you won't ever have to find out. It's over my lovely, try to put it behind you."
The were silent for a while before Will asked,
"What's our status?"
Smiling at his devotion to his job, Deanna replied,
"We're on course back to S'Runnin, warp seven. Geordi's been working with the sensors, he thinks we'll be able to scan for the Captain and Beverly soon after we arrive."
He grinned and kissed her nose.
"And when will that be?"
"Five point two hours. If you want a more exact time you'll have to ask Data."
He rolled slowly until his body covered hers. Deanna frowned at seeing the new pink skin on his arm. Feathering her fingers over the area, she was about to speak when Will kissed her with unbridled passion. She responded immediately, her body undulating under his and her legs parting.
As he slid inside her he groaned and broke the kiss.
"I'm alive and I love you Imzadi."
Deanna's eyes glittered with tears.
"Love me Will."

 

 

 

 

 

The increased gravity and Jean-Luc's weight quickly began to erode Beverly's strength. They had just reached the first buildings when a klaxon blared from the parliament. Hefting her burden, the Doctor broke from cover and staggered down a street, keeping to the doorways and frantically looking for somewhere to hide.
The surrounding buildings were of varying sizes but one thing they had in common was locked doors. Surmising they were in a business district, Beverly's escalating panic had her contemplating breaking a window when she suddenly saw a three-storey building, which was obviously burned out. The door was missing; the windows absent and black scorch marks snaked up the outside masonry. Around the exterior was a three-tiered array of brightly coloured tapes, words in an alien language emblazoned in lurid green.
Looking about, Beverly mustered her fast waning strength and made a dash for the sanctuary. She negotiated the tapes without breaking them and manoeuvred Jean-Luc into the shell, choking as the pungent odours of charred material assaulted her senses.
Tottering precariously, she made it down a central corridor and chose a room that had a stairwell in the corner. She eased the Captain down on to the floor and propped him against the wall.
"Jean-Luc?"
He grunted softly and opened his eye, but its restless motion made him groan and shut it.
Trying to regain her breath, Beverly gently stroked his head as she attempted to quell her racing heart.
"If we can keep hidden until the Enterprise returns there's a chance we can escape. I'm going to climb to the top floor and see if I can spot any pursuers. You just sit quiet, I'll be back soon."
His head lolled and the Doctor wiped escaping saliva from his chin. Knowing he couldn't maintain his current position, she gently eased him to the floor and kissed him.
"Hold tight my love, I'll be back in no time."
He didn't respond and Beverly closed her eyes, offering a prayer for her lover.
Steeling her resolve, the Doctor climbed the large stairs and peered cautiously around the gutted second floor. With nothing to see, she ascended the next flight and spotted a likely vantage point at an empty window frame. Whilst gingerly traversing the charred floor, a loud creak underfoot made her freeze. Regulating her breathing, she swallowed and stepped forward with apprehension, approaching the window from an oblique angle. Flattened against the sooty wall, she peered outside and gasped in fright as a small two-person hover craft floated into view. It coasted close to the side of the building and the rear passenger slung her weapon to deploy an instrument. The scan took several seconds, the Doctor holding her breath. Seemingly satisfied, the craft moved off and Beverly released her breath. She decided to return immediately to Jean-Luc.
Downstairs Jean-Luc drifted in and out of consciousness. His body suddenly stiffened and started to convulse. Alone and helpless, he lay on the floor contorting and gurgling until the seizure passed. A trickle of blood flowed from his ear as he voided his bladder.

 

 

 

 

 

Moving stealthily away, Beverly had only covered two metres when a blast of blue energy speared through the vacant window and seared the far wall, missing her by mere centimetres.
Knowing they had been discovered, her overriding need was to get to Jean-Luc. Breaking into a run, she reached the middle of the room when a blast struck the floor at her feet. Smoke and soot billowed up, blinding her and Beverly stumbled. She had just righted herself when the floor collapsed.
She dropped like a stone. Instinctively she shot an arm out and gripped the first thing her hand struck. The girder held but the abrupt halting of her fall dislocated her shoulder. With a scream of agony, her grip slipped and she fell again, crashing onto the second storey floor, her sudden weight immediately crumbling the weakened timbers. As her body passed through the shattered wood, the broken ends caught one shin, peeling the skin from her foot up to her knee. Her downward plunge unimpeded, she finally ended in a crumpled heap on the ground floor, the bones of her right leg shattered.
Dazed and in shock, she rolled onto her side and looked for Jean-Luc.
In the clouds of black dust she called to him.
"Jean-Luc? Where are you…I can't see you."
With no reply, she struggled onto her knees and slowly crawled to the nearest wall dragging her useless leg. Having got her bearings, she crossed the room and finally found the Captain unconscious and desperately ill. She noted the blood exiting his ear and sobbed quietly.
"No…oh God no…"
With her one functioning arm, she grabbed his collar and began to shuffle backwards across the floor, dragging him along and seeking somewhere to hide. The sudden pressure of a weapon to the base of her skull made her freeze. Qon's voice was condescending.
"The chase Doctor is over."
They were dragged out into the sunshine and bundled into a large hovercraft. Lying on the deck, Beverly tried to cradle Jean-Luc's head but her hands were manacled behind her back. With excruciating pain, her shoulder bulged out of its socket and Beverly groaned piteously, earning a kick from one of the guards.
The journey from the landing site back to the chamber was brutal and quick. Dragged along the floor, both officers were unceremoniously dumped before Fendon and Qon raised his arms.
"I claim Picard and as his mate attempted to deprive me of my prize, I claim the right to best her in combat!"
A roar echoed through the chamber as the members rose as one. Fendon stood and pointed down at Beverly.
"You have brought this action by your own hand! If you win, you gain your freedom. If you lose you will pay with your life."
Qon grinned and bent to lift Jean-Luc.
"After I have seen to this task, I will join with Picard. Prepare him!"
Two guards came forward and took the Captain. He was taken to a bench where two metal spikes were driven through his wrists. The pain roused him and he groaned. With uncaring efficiency he was stripped of his clothing and brought naked and helpless to the edge of the padded area. There he was held upright by the guards as his tenuous grip on consciousness fled and he descended into oblivion.
Qon's eyes roved hungrily over the Human, his blue tongue appearing to lick his lips. Dragging his eyes from his prize, Qon turned his cruel gaze to Beverly. He flicked his hand and a guard dragged her onto the Drar, removing the manacles and her boots before hauling her to her feet and shoving a metre long metal shaft in her hand. Once the guard released his hold of her, she tottered sideways and utilised the shaft to keep herself upright. Qon approached slowly, a predatory smile on his face.
"Defend yourself."
Looking up defiantly, Beverly shouted,
"You know damn well I can't!"
The warrior stood to his full height and pushed her shoulder. As the Doctor overbalanced and fell to the floor, the immense male laughed.
"So it would seem."
Using both hands, he raised his short staff and Beverly heard a soft sibilant hiss. With morbid fascination she watched as a blade appeared, the shiny metal catching the light prismatically.
"Your head will adorn my trophy room."
Beverly snarled and spat,
"Go to hell!"
As the blade began its rapid descent, she closed her eyes and heard it whisper through the air.
Her last thought was of Jean-Luc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Do you have them?"
"Aye Commander! I'm beaming them straight to Sickbay Sir."
"Acknowledged! Shields up, red alert! Where are they Data?"
The android's calm voice replied,
"One ship is approaching from the other side of the planet and two are on route from the third moon. ETA, three minutes."
"Helm get us out of here! Once we clear the planet go to maximum warp!"
"Heading Sir?"
"The shortest route to the Federation border."
"Aye Sir."
Deanna took a final worrying look at the pursuing ships and turned to her lover.
"I'll go down to Sickbay."
He nodded, muttering,
"Keep me posted."
Just as the Counsellor left the Bridge, the officer at Tactical reported,
"They're charging weapons Sir."
"Dump additional power to the aft shields. Engineering this is the Bridge. I need more speed!"
Geordi's voice was tight.
"We're already at warp nine point four Commander I don't think…"
"Geordi if we don't outrun those ships chasing us we'll be space dust. We need more speed and we need it now!"
"I'm working on it. Engineering out."
Will sat in the Command chair and squinted at the image of the powerful looking ships.
"Data are they catching us?"
"No Sir, they appear to be at their limit…however we are still within firing range."
As the words left his mouth, Tactical shouted,
"They're firing!"
"Lock phasers and target incoming torpedoes. We'll take any phaser blasts on our shields."
"Aye Sir…evasive manoeuvres?"
"Negative Ensign."
The great ship shuddered as the energy beams impacted her shields. Tactical reported approaching torpedoes and Will barked,
"Fire!"
Vivid explosions lit up the space behind them and the pursuing ships flew straight through the conflagration. Engineering reported and Geordi's voice sounded flat.
"I've taken power from several key systems but you should be able to crank it up to warp nine point eight. That's it Commander…there's nothing else I can do."
"Acknowledged. Data?"
The android inputted some commands and turned to his superior.
"We are pulling away Sir."
Bringing his fist down on his thigh Will snarled.
"Eat shit you bastards! Data how soon will we cross the border?"
"Two point eight hours Sir."
"And can we sustain this speed that long?"
Data cocked his head.
"It will most probably cause some damage, but I believe it is possible."
"Then maintain course and speed."
"Aye Sir."
Ensign Baker, at Tactical announced,
"They're firing again Commander…"
Will grinned at the screen.
"Give up…we're out of here."
Tactical's next words were relieved.
"We're out of range Sir."
Will stroked his beard and sighed.
"Good. Once we cross the border if they stop on their side, we'll stop. I want to try and talk to them but I'll do it from our side of the fence."
"Aye Commander."
His body relaxing slightly, the big man lifted his head.
"Riker to Troi."
"Troi here."
"Any news?"
"Not yet, they're both in surgery."

Will sat in the Command chair chafing at the enforced inaction. Half-hourly enquiries to Sickbay had garnered the same response each time. No news. Several of the ship's systems were beginning to malfunction due to the prolonged high speed flight but Will gritted his teeth and drove the great ship onwards as the chase continued.
Finally Tactical announced,
"We're approaching the border Sir. ETA eleven minutes."
Rubbing his damp hands on his thighs, the Commander nodded.
"Acknowledged. After we cross, drop to warp two and let me know what our pursuers are doing."
"Aye Sir."
Tense moments passed before Will heard the report.
"They're stopping Sir…on their side of the border."
"All stop. Hail them."
The big man stroked his beard and crossed his legs. It was with some relief the he acknowledged the information.
"They're responding Sir. Audio only."
Will stood and took a large breath.
"This is Commander William Riker, first Officer of the Enterprise. I want…"
He was cut off mid sentence.
"Where is Captain Picard?"
Pursing his lips and quelling his rising anger, Will replied,
"Captain Picard is in Sickbay. He is badly injured."
"You must return him to us!"
Will scowled.
"Why?"
"He is the property of Qon and he wishes to join with the Captain. Return him!"
Running an exasperated hand through his hair, Will blew out a breath.
"No, that is not possible."
"Why?"
"Two reasons. First, the Captain is too ill to go anywhere. Second, the Federation does not believe that sentient beings can be the property of another."
"We are not of the Federation…your laws do not apply."
Will stood and slowly paced in front of the viewscreen.
"Granted but where does that leave us? You live by your laws and we live by ours."
There was several second's silence before the disembodied voice snarled,
"Are you willing to go to war over this?"
"I hope it won't come to that. Can you tell me how the Captain and Doctor Crusher came to be injured?"
"I will contact my government. Wait."
Absently rubbing the new skin of his arm, Will regained his seat and called Engineering.
"Geordi how are the repairs going?"
"We're on it Commander. Deflector control is back up as is the ODN coupling to the impulse drive. The rest of it we should have running in two hours tops."
"Excellent Geordi, well done. Sickbay this is the Bridge. Any news?"
Deanna's voice sounded tight.
"This is Troi. Doctor Crusher is out of surgery and is in recovery. Captain Picard is still undergoing extensive brain surgery. I have no prognosis yet."
Will grimaced and bowed his head, worry and sadness welling up.
"Acknowledged. Bridge out. Tactical initiate an intensive scan of those ships."
"Aye Sir…scanning."
The Ensign frowned and was about to deliver her report when they were hailed.
"Enterprise this is Centor Trun of the Broadsword."
Will frowned and lifted his head.
"Enterprise here, go ahead Centor."
"We have received information about your officers. Captain Picard was injured, apparently, whilst sparring with Qon, although how this occurred is a mystery to us. Doctor Crusher sustained her injuries while attempting to take the Captain away from Qon."
Will scowled, his voice hardening.
"So their injuries were inflicted by your people? That's not what I would expect of beings who purported to accord our representatives every courtesy when you requested a mediator."
There was a momentary silence. When the voice was again heard, there was a note of discomfort.
"I do not say I condone what happened Commander but what are we to do about this situation? Qon is a revered figure, a great warrior and very powerful within our government. In sparring with Qon, your Captain entered into an ancient ritual, the result of which is irrevocable. Once Qon won the sparring, your Captain became his property."
Will scratched his whiskered chin and shook his head.
"Is there nothing we can do about this Centor? Nothing to rescind the result?"
"If Captain Picard was returned to us, Qon would join with him. That would grant Captain Picard his freedom."
Data turned and looked at his Commander, a look of confusion on his face. Gesturing him to silence Will asked,
"And what is entailed in joining?"
"Joining Commander? It is what you would refer to as mating. Sex I think is another term you use."
Will's mouth fell open and he closed his eyes.
"Centor, our Captain is heterosexual, that is he only has sex with the opposite gender, not his own. Also I can assure you he would not, under any circumstance, mate with your…Qon."
"Not even to avert hostilities between our peoples?"
"No Centor."
"I will need time to confer with my government. Will you wait?"
"Yes Centor Trun. We will hold our position and wait until we hear from you."
"Thank you Commander Riker, Broadsword out."
Will sighed and said quietly,
"Data you have the Bridge, I'll be in Sickbay."
"Aye Commander."

 

Deanna sensed the approach of her lover and was ready when he gently gripped her elbow.
"Well?"
She sighed and gestured for Doctor Clarke to join them.
"Commander Riker would like an update."
The young dark man folded his arms across his chest.
"Well, Doctor Crusher is going to be fine. We had some reconstructive work to do here and there, but generally speaking, she's ok, we're just allowing her to rest. The worst of her injuries was a shattered leg, that and a serious laceration of her shin, nothing I might add, that caused us any problems. You should be able to talk to her in a couple of hours."
Will nodded relief softening his features.
"And Captain Picard?"
Michael Clarke's face fell.
"I'm sorry Commander, it's pretty serious. Although Doctor Selar is still in surgery with him, from what I can gather, the brain was extensively damaged. Selar is working to stabilise him and reduce the bleeding and swelling, we'll know more when she's finished."
"And when will that be?"
Clarke sighed and shook his head.
"I don't know Sir."
Will's anxiety rose and he rubbed his face.
"This can't be happening!"
"OK Doctor, is it all right if we sit with Doctor Crusher?"
"Yes Sir."
Nodding Will sighed and closed his eyes as Deanna's subliminal caress touched his mind.
"Have faith Will."
He turned and looked down at the petite woman, her obsidian eyes glittering.
"My God Dee, how the hell did this happen? This was supposed to be a straightforward mediation! How the hell did the Captain end up sparring with their most celebrated warrior? It's insane."
"Steady my love, we can ask Beverly when she wakes up. For now, put your questions aside and concentrate on sending the Captain your good will. He needs it right now."
Will took her hands, his voice rough with emotion.
"What if he doesn't make it? Or, God forbid, what if he's left incapacitated? Dear God Deanna, for a man like him to lose his faculties…to be reduced to a vegetative state…"
Deanna gripped his hands and glared defiantly up into his blue eyes.
"No! I will not entertain such thoughts! Until we have a definitive answer I'm giving the Captain the benefit of the doubt. He's a fighter Will…he would never give up and neither should you!"
The big man swallowed and squeezed his eyes shut, slowly nodding.
"You're right. Come on, let's go and see Beverly."

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly gasped, a hand going to her neck. A soft medical alarm sounded and she felt a gentle hand on her arm.
"It's ok Beverly, you're in Sickbay on the Enterprise safe and sound."
Keeping her eyes closed, the Doctor feathered her fingers over her neck and sighed.
Deanna's voice was amused.
"Are you going to open your eyes?"
Smiling, Beverly cracked her eyes open then suddenly tried to sit up.
"Jean-Luc!"
Deanna gently held her down as Doctor Clarke entered the room. He came to Bevery's side and held her shoulder.
"Doctor Crusher please lie still. You are receiving regeneration treatments and it will disrupt the beams if you move."
Beverly gripped his arm, her voice desperate.
"How is Captain Picard?"
"He is still in surgery Doctor."
"Do you know anything?"
Clarke glanced at Deanna, noting her surreptitious shake of the head.
"No Doctor, not yet."
He gently eased her hand from his arm and said with concern,
"Now I expect you to lie quietly, you've been through quite a bit. I won't have to sedate you will I?"
She shook her head, her voice small.
"No."
"Good. Commander, please keep your questions to a minimum. My patient needs rest."
Will nodded and the Doctor left the room.
Deanna smiled and sat on the edge of the bed.
"So it would seem you had a little adventure."
Beverly snorted and closed her eyes.
"You've no idea."
"What's the last thing you remember?"
The Doctor sighed and again felt her neck.
"I was lying helpless on my back, about to be beheaded. I actually heard the descending blade. How did you find us?"
Will came to stand beside Deanna and smiled down at the Doctor.
"When we finally got back to S'Runnin, Geordi tweaked the sensors and enabled us to lock onto your Human bio signs. As soon as we registered how low the Captain's life signs were, we beamed you both up immediately. You apparently arrived in Sickbay unconscious."
Beverly grimaced.
"I must have fainted. Abject terror has that effect on me."
She shifted slightly and looked beseechingly at her friends.
"Tell me please…Jean-Luc…how is he really?"
Will looked at Deanna and sighed.
"We really don't know. Until Selar finishes the surgery…we're all in the dark."
Beverly closed her eyes.
"Look…I was there, I saw how badly he was affected by his head injury…you must know something!"
Deanna frowned, knowing Beverly wouldn't be sidetracked.
"It's not good Beverly. There was extensive damage to the brain and Selar is struggling to reduce the bleeding and swelling and trying to stabilise him."
Beverly's lower lip began to tremble and her eyes filled with tears.
"Oh God…"
Will took her hand and tried to sound optimistic.
"Hey…look he's a fighter…"
Glaring through her tears, Beverly snarled,
"He had no speech or control of his limbs! Dammit Will he's brain damaged!"
Deanna strove to offset her anguish.
"Tell us what happened."
Beverly swallowed then sighed. Taking a moment, she spoke, her voice soft.
"The mediation went ok, but at its end, there were three people that Jean-Luc decided would probably be better off in the private sector. He delivered his verdict and the bastards executed them on the spot! We were outraged of course, but there was nothing we could do. Later that day Qon…this huge warrior…announced he wanted to spar with the Captain. Jean-Luc politely refused but we were informed refusal would deliver a terrible insult to everyone and that he really couldn't get out of it so he sparred…and got so badly beaten by the brute he was left unconscious and with a broken leg and arm.

"Despite my vehement protests, the S'Run wouldn't believe anyone could be badly injured sparring. We were taken back to our quarters and Jean-Luc didn't wake up for over seven hours. When he did, he was very ill. The next day, again despite my begging for help, we were forced to go back to the chamber and there Qon claimed he wanted to commit to the Captain, solemnising the union by joining, that is, having sex. I protested of course, tried to tell them he was my mate but they wouldn't listen. Unless we joined in front of the members my claim on him was void. Of course joining was impossible.

"I got us out of the chamber on the pretext of talking to the Captain privately about our situation and once alone, I opened a window and we escaped. We made it into the outskirts of the city and took refuge in a burned out building, but they found us pretty easily. We were captured and taken back to the chamber. Their solution to the problem was for me to fight Qon, the winner getting Jean-Luc. Of course I was at that stage incapable of fighting anyone and he was in the process of beheading me when we were beamed up."
Will gaped and shook his head.
"Bloody hell Beverly!"
She smiled and closed her eyes.
"I know. Some mediation mission eh?"
Will shook his head.
"We're waiting to hear from their government. I've explained that the Captain wouldn't entertain having sex with a male…that it would be against his wishes and his preferences, but I don't know how successful I've been. All I can say is at least the Captain I spoke to listened."
Beverly shifted restlessly and sighed.
"I suppose they took our liberation badly?"
Will grinned.
"They sent three ships after us. We took a few phaser shots and dodged a few torpedoes but ultimately we outran them. Once we crossed the border into Federation space, they broke off the chase. We halted and we've been talking ever since."
Beverly nodded.
"So we're back in Federation space?"
"Uh huh."
"Well I advise you not to go back! The differences between our philosophies is way too big…we know nothing of each other and that ignorance nearly cost our lives."
Will nodded.
"I hear you Beverly, believe me the last thing I want to do is go back to S'Runnin."
Deanna gently pushed back Beverly's hair.
"When you declared the Captain and you were mates what did they do?"
The Doctor snorted.
"Well considering we already presented as mates their reaction was blunt. Qon's position was that we hadn't joined. Fendon, the leader disproved that by displaying images of us making love on a huge screen for everyone to see…and there was sound attached. I was mortified. Jean-Luc groaned but I'm not fully convinced he was aware of what was going on. Anyway Qon insisted that because our 'joining' wasn't in front of the members it wasn't valid. Who knew they had surveillance in our quarters."
The listeners struggled to keep the shock from their faces and voices. Deanna held Beverly's hand.
"Do you mean to tell us that they filmed you and the Captain making love? My God that's such an invasion of privacy…it's outrageous!"
"Tell me about it! They took something private and wonderful and made it something for public consumption…debasing it, belittling it…trivialising it. At that moment, when the screen showed us, I wanted to kill someone…anyone who had anything to do with it."
Will shook his head slowly.
"The Captain isn't going to take this well…he's going to be furious."
Beverly sighed deeply.
"If he even remembers it Will."
The Commander frowned.
"When you escaped, could he help you at all?"
The Doctor shook her head.
"Not really. About the last thing he did with any control was stand on one leg so I could get him to the window I'd opened. After that he was pretty much out of it. I carried and dragged him most of the way, luckily it was down hill to the buildings. Once on the streets I realised I was running out of strength. If we hadn't found the burned out building I don't know what we'd have done."
Deanna's voice was soft.
"Nobody helped you?"
"There was nobody there! The law states that the population must stay in their homes and watch the sittings. Trade and business closes down for the duration. Every building we came to was locked."
Will stroked her arm.
"It must have been terrible for you."
Beverly grimaced.
"I was too busy worrying about Jean-Luc. I was attacked on the third floor of our hiding place and I managed to fall through both floors down to the bottom. I dislocated my shoulder and broke my leg but I got to Jean-Luc to find him bleeding from his ear. I knew then that things were much worse than anything I'd imagined. I…"
The three officers were interrupted by the arrival of Doctor Selar. Beverly lapsed into silence as Will and Deanna turned to her.
"Commander I have completed the surgery on Captain Picard."
"How is he?"
Selar's Vulcan calm was in stark contrast to the tension in the room.
"He is very seriously ill. I could not repair the damage, all I could do was halt the bleeding, draw off the fluid, reduce the swelling and stabilise him. He is now in stasis. Commander my recommendation is that you get him with all haste to Starfleet medical on Earth. There the best neurologists in the Federation may have a chance to save him."
Beverly slowly closed her eyes and two tears slipped free.
"Not Jean-Luc…dear God not my Jean-Luc!"
Deanna looked up at her lover, asking a silent question. He shook his head.
"We can't leave yet Doctor, not until I've tried to resolve the conflict with the S'Run."
Beverly was incensed.
"Those bastards are responsible for this! Let them stew in their own Goddamned juice. For God's sake Will this is Jean-Luc Picard we're talking about! Where are your loyalties?"
The Commander clenched his jaw.
"I will not allow this to degenerate into a useless war over nothing more than ignorance! The Captain would be outraged if I even thought of doing what you suggest. I'm sorry Beverly, but the safety of the Federation comes first, even over Jean-Luc Picard!"
He stalked out and Beverly sobbed. She grabbed Deanna's hand.
"Deanna? Talk to him! Make him see."
The Counsellor gently took Beverly's hand and laid it on the bed.
"I can't do that Beverly and you know it. The Captain wouldn't permit what you want and neither should you."
Struggling to sit up, the distraught Doctor clutched at Deanna's arm.
"NO! Listen to me…you must…"
The hiss of a hypospray silenced the woman and Selar gently laid her back on the bed. The Counsellor wiped her eyes and sighed.
"How long will she be out?"
"Four hours Counsellor. When she awakes she will be discharged to her quarters. Perhaps you can attempt to make her see reason then?"
"Perhaps."
Selar turned to leave.
"Oh and Counsellor? I removed these from the Captain's wrists."
She placed the two thick five centimetre long spikes into Deanna's hand. The Counsellor frowned down at them and sighed.
"Thank you, I'll ask Doctor Crusher about them."
Deanna left the room and entered the Captain's private suite. He lay unconscious on the bed, his arm, leg and head bathed in the blue beams of the regeneration field. Also around his head was the sparkling stasis field. From the right side of his skull a tube extended, red with blood. It snaked into a container and Deanna shuddered. Stepping closer, she noted that he was connected to a respirator. His bare chest rose and fell methodically as oxygen was pumped in and out. She gently took his hand, comforted by its warmth.
"Come back to us Captain…we all need you."
She was still standing with him when Will came in. He stood by her side and looked down at the comatose man.
"Tell me this isn't happening Imzadi."
She sighed and brushed away a falling tear.
"It's all too real my love."
Will's voice broke.
"Of all the people in my life…he's been like the father I always wanted. He never criticised me, he never humiliated me…all he ever showed was quiet confidence and gentle guidance. He can't leave us Deanna…he just can't!"
She took Will's hand in her free hand and looked up at him.
"All we can do is get him to medical as soon as we can. It's out of our hands Will."
The Commander freed his hand and covered his face. Taking a large breath, he nodded.
"You're right of course. I'm going back to the Bridge…will you stay?"
She nodded and sighed.
"Yes I think someone should be with him."
Will leaned down and kissed her hair.
"I love you Deanna."
Her sad eyes caught his and she nodded.
"And I you."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The call from the Broadsword came through while Will was in the Ready Room. Striding out onto the Bridge, he sat and opened a channel.
"Broadsword this is the Enterprise."
"Commander Riker?"
"Yes."
"This is Centor Trun. I have discussed our difficulties with my government and they agree that there has been a possible misinterpretation of our law. We were not aware that your species could have set preferences for joining. With us, it is something that is in a constant state of flux…the urge to commit and join based more on the suitability of the partners than gender or attraction. No one on our planet is set in their sexual preference.
Also we concede that your Captain may have sustained his injuries unfairly. After some consideration, we admit that he was at a significant disadvantage in sparring with Qon and, as befitting a warrior of his stature; he forfeits his ownership and claim over your Captain. Master Fendon requests that you return to S'Run where these unfortunate…misunderstandings can be addressed."
Will let out his breath and briefly closed his eyes. Lifting his head, he responded.
"I am grateful that your government is so gracious Centor. Unfortunately Captain Picard's injuries are quite severe and we need to take him back to Earth for urgent treatment. Would master Fendon be willing to wait for us to return? I cannot guarantee that Captain Picard will be with us, but I am authorised to stand in his place."
There was a hiatus of several seconds.
"It would be best if Captain Picard returned Commander, however I will confer with my government. Please wait."
"Acknowledged. Enterprise out."
Will slumped in his seat and rubbed his face.
"Just don't be too bloody long!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steady hands gently held her shoulders when Beverly woke. Her eyes snapped open and she looked up into Selar's emotionless face.
"Please be calm Doctor Crusher. I would rather not have to sedate you again."
Beverly blinked several times and willed her rising anger into manageable portions. Nodding once, she kept her voice low and even.
"That will not be necessary Doctor, I'm fine."
Selar withdrew her hands and watched the readouts at the head of the bed.
"You are progressing well Doctor. It is my intention to release you to quarters, will you give me your assurance that you will stay there and rest?"
Beverly pursed her lips and sighed.
"On one condition."
Selar raised one sculptured eyebrow and stared down at Beverly with equanimity.
"And that is?"
Clenching her jaw, Beverly kept calm.
"That you allow me to see Captain Picard before I go."
The Vulcan Doctor tilted her head and clasped her hands in front of her.
"That would be pointless Doctor. Captain Picard is profoundly unconscious…he would not be aware of your presence."
"Nevertheless I want to see him."
Selar was unconvinced.
"I fail to see the point of such an action Doctor. You can do nothing for him…indeed none of us can."
Beverly closed her eyes and strove for patience.
"Will you let me sit up?"
By way of answering, Selar helped Beverly into a sitting position. The red head scowled down at the cast on her leg and slowly rotated her repaired shoulder.
"Selar you are aware of the profound attachment Humans can form with each other?"
"Of course Doctor."
"Well Captain Picard and I have formed such an attachment. I agree with you that in his current state he may not register my presence, but I still need to see him, to talk to him so that maybe, on some level he might hear me and be comforted, and to be perfectly frank, if you expect me to stay in my quarters and rest, I can assure you that won't happen unless you give me regular access to him."
Selar stared into Beverly's eyes, gauging her resolve. Bowing her head, she bowed to the inevitable.
"Very well Doctor, I will acquiesce. Please wait while I secure a wheelchair for you."
Sighing with relief, Beverly was curious when Selar stopped in the open doorway.
"Doctor Crusher…if I may…you and Captain Picard are…in love?"
Lifting her head and smiling, Beverly nodded.
"Yes we are."
The Vulcan tilted her head.
"And you have…consummated this relationship?"
"Yes."
Selar bowed her head.
"I see. In that case I will recommend you be given medical power of attorney over the Captain. On Vulcan you would be considered bonded mates and under those circumstances I feel such a move to be beneficial."
Smiling her gratitude, Beverly nodded.
"Thank you Selar."
The Vulcan left and Beverly waited impatiently. The stoic woman soon returned and helped Beverly into the chair. As they left the room, Beverly asked,
"Tell me Selar, have you contacted medical about the Captain?"
"Yes Doctor. They have arranged for three of the top neurologists to attend him, they are waiting for our return to Earth."
"And has Commander Riker given any indication as to when that will be?"
"No Doctor."
They faced the closed doors of Jean-Luc's private suite and Beverly closed her eyes. When the doors whispered open, Beverly opened her eyes and stifled a gasp as she saw her lover lying comatose on the bed. Deanna turned to her and stood. Selar wheeled Beverly over to the bed and left. The red head took Jean-Luc's hand and brought it to her face.
"Oh dear God…please…"
The Counsellor went to her side and gently gripped her shoulder, silently giving Beverly her sympathy and strength. Tears slipped from the Doctor's eyes as her eyes faithfully fed the details of the drainage tube and respirator. She blinked away the tears and studied the readouts on the screen at the bed head. Sighing she shook her head.
"He's profoundly unconscious."
Deanna's soft lyrical voice soothed Beverly's raw nerves.
"Yes. There's been no movement and he's not responding to any stimuli."
Beverly leaned forward and with exquisite tenderness, feathered her fingers over the injury site.
"If only we could've got back to the ship sooner. Maybe we could have arrested the damage…reversed it somehow…"
Deanna's arm rested on Beverly's shoulders and she squeezed gently.
"Once we get him back to Earth they can do an in depth analysis and make a determination as how to treat him. The important thing is not to give up hope. I told Will and I'm telling you…Jean-Luc Picard is a fighter and he won't give up. Don't you."
Beverly sat back in her chair and rubbed her face.
"Brave words Deanna, but you can see it's patently obvious this may well prove beyond him."
Deanna frowned and left Beverly to bring a chair over to join her. Sitting she took the Doctor's hand.
"Beverly…"
The morose woman shook her head.
"No Dee…I have to be sensible about this…I have to face the fact that he might not be able to be restored to full health…or worse, he may be left severely incapacitated. It would be foolish of me to think otherwise."
Deanna was confused and alarmed, not used to hearing such negativity from her friend.
"Beverly don't be so pessimistic! We don't even know the full extent of the damage. He needs you to be strong, especially now. Talk to him, let him know you're here…and tell him you'll fight for him, he would expect nothing else."
Beverly tore her eyes from her lover and looked at Deanna with frank incredulity. Seeing the resolute determination on her friend's face, the Doctor sighed and nodded.
"All right Dee, you win…I'll do my damnedest."
She snorted and shook her head.
"You're right you know. I just finished telling Selar how I needed to see him…how I needed to talk to him and here I am giving up! I suppose seeing him so helpless shocked me."
Deanna smiled and bowed her head.
"Understandable Beverly…he doesn't look too good does he?"
They both sat in silence watching the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest. Stirring from her introspection, Deanna nudged her friend.
"Selar gave me these, she said she removed them from the Captain's wrists."
Opening her hand, Deanna showed Beverly the spikes.
Wincing, the Doctor took them and explained.
"On S'Runnin these are used as a form of identification, everyone has them. They are inscribed with information that is read by a computer interface. Qon ordered Jean-Luc to be prepared for joining and these delightful little spikes were driven through his wrists with a metal mallet."
A sharp breath was drawn through Deanna's teeth.
"That must have been so painful!"
Beverly nodded.
"Uh huh. In fact it was so bad it brought him back to consciousness. Do you mind if I keep them?"
Deanna shook her head.
"Not at all. Would you like anything to drink?"
Smiling her gratitude, Beverly nodded.
"A cup of chamomile tea would be nice."
Smiling at her friend, the Counsellor stood and gently squeezed Beverly's shoulder.
"OK. I'll leave you two alone for a bit then we can share a drink before you go to your quarters."
Beverly caught Deanna's hand and looked up into her black eyes.
"Thank you dear friend."
Deanna left and Beverly again lifted Jean-Luc's hand to her face. In quiet tones she told him what had happened since he'd come aboard and what they intended to do. She explained what Will was doing and how proud he would be of his First Officer. She then smoothed the blanket over his midriff and leaned forward to kiss his cheek
"My love listen to me…you have a difficult time ahead of you and it may take some time before you're well again, but Jean-Luc…this is very important…don't give up! No matter how bad it gets keep fighting, I'll be with you my love, as much as I can."
She kissed him again and sat back in her chair. Gently laying his hand on the bed, she swallowed her tears and left the room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It took five and a half hours before Centor Trun re-established contact. Will stood and lifted his head.
"Riker here Centor, go ahead."
"Commander Master Fendon is willing to wait until you can return, but Qon is adamant that Captain Picard be present. He wants to formally rescind his claim and grant his freedom in a ceremony before the members."
Will ran his hand through his hair, feeling the repaired skin.
"I'm sorry Centor but that may not be possible. The nature of Captain Picard's injury may be so severe that a full recovery might not be achieved. Until we get him back to Earth and have a full assessment done, we won't know."
"I see, that is most unfortunate. The Master instructed me to tell you that offerings will be made to our gods in the hope that your Captain recovers fully. We still do not completely understand how he could have been so badly injured from simply sparring, but we will take your word for it…Captain Picard's condition when he was here certainly gives weight to your words. Also we would like to extend our heartfelt apologies to Doctor Crusher. Now that we know how deeply was her commitment to the Captain, her actions can be viewed with a kinder mindset, in fact she showed bravery and loyalty worthy of a warrior. Please tell her she would be welcome back in the chamber. Qon has stated he is glad her head is not in his trophy room."
The First Officer closed his eyes and shook his head.
"I'll be sure to tell her Centor and please pass on our thanks to Master Fendon for his willingness to wait for our return. All we can hope is that Captain Picard will be with us."
"Agreed Commander. We will withdraw now; contact us when you are ready to return. Centor Trun out."
Immediately Will ordered helm,
"Set course for the Sol system, maximum warp and engage."
"Aye Sir…course set…engaging."
The big man started for the turbolift.
"Data you have the Bridge, I'll be in Doctor Crusher's quarters."
The acknowledgement was lost as the lift doors closed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly was seated under the viewports lost in thought. She eaten a light meal but found she couldn't settle. She sighed when the door chimed.
"Come in."
Will entered cautiously, a frown on his face.
"Beverly?"
The Doctor looked up and smiled ruefully.
"Come on in Will, I won't bite."
He went to her sofa and raised his eyebrows. Nodding, Beverly gestured for him to sit.
Will opened his mouth to speak but Beverly held up her hand and stopped him.
"Hang on a minute, I owe you an apology."
Closing his mouth, Will sat back and sighed.
"I was way out of line Will. I insulted you and insinuated that you were being disloyal to the Captain by doing what was right. I'm sorry."
The Commander blew out a breath and summoned a smile.
"I wouldn't worry about it Beverly, I've suffered worse."
Beverly's eyes slid to the viewports and she nodded.
"We're under way."
"Uh huh, on our way to Earth as fast as we can."
The Doctor bowed her head in thanks and sighed.
"I hope it's quick enough."
Will frowned and shifted in the seat.
"I've been asked to pass on a few things from S'Runnin, specifically that your actions are considered those of a warrior and you would be welcome back in the chamber."
Beverly snorted and glared.
"If I never go back to that damn planet it'll be too soon! Of all the arrogant sons-of-bitches! I've a good mind to…"
Will held up his hand and chuckled.
"OK I get the point…still we will be returning, just as soon as we know what's going to happen with the Captain."
Beverly stood, facing the viewports and wrapped her arms around herself.
"Well you'll be doing it without me."
The Commander looked up at his friend, but her hair obscured her face.
"Beverly? Would you care to elaborate?"
She turned slowly and sighed.
"I've decided to take an extended leave of absence."
Will nodded thoughtfully.
"You want to be with the Captain."
"Uh huh. Look Will it may take some time for his recovery…that's assuming he will recover…and it'll be damned hard work, which he'll hate. If I'm with him, not only can I help medically, I can offer him the kind of support only a close friend can…and I can keep you and Deanna in the loop, you won't have to rely on dry, impersonal reports from distant officials with no vested interest in Jean-Luc's welfare."
Will scratched his cheek and nodded.
"OK I can see that. Who will you request the leave from…Command or Medical?"
Smiling wryly, Beverly's eyes sparkled mischievously.
"Both, but I'll go to Medical first. Once I have the blessing of Admiral Peter Cosgrove, I'll tackle Command…probably Alynna Nechayev."
Will shook his head.
"Well you'll certainly be well armed. I doubt Admiral Nechayev will turn you down with Cosgrove's consent."
"That's my thinking, but I will need a recommendation from you. As acting Captain your input will be vital."
The Commander frowned.
"Yes I wondered about that. As CMO a leave such as you are going to request isn't easy to accommodate. Who would be you're recommendation for your fill-in? Selar?"
Beverly nodded.
"Yep."
Will folded his arms across his chest and regarded Beverly with a measuring gaze.
"You're preparing for retirement aren't you."
It wasn't a question and Beverly didn't treat it as such. Sitting, she leaned forward, her elbows on her knees.
"Will I'm hoping everything will be all right…that Jean-Luc will make a full recovery and we can go back to the way things were, but I have to be ready to accept that he might not recover. If that happens he's going to need someone to care for him, someone to be there for him…and that someone is me. I love him Will and I'll be damned if I'll let him be put in the hands of strangers…people who don't know him, who wouldn't appreciate who he is…he deserves better and I intend to make sure he gets it."
Will frowned and tilted his head.
"You do realise what you're taking on? He may be significantly disabled…what if he didn't recognise you, had no higher mental functions?"
Beverly smiled and shook her head.
"Fair question, but here's one for you. What if it was Deanna? What would you do?"
The big man smiled and lowered his head.
"OK point taken. When are you going to contact Medical?"
"Tomorrow. What's our ETA?"
"Two and a half weeks."
Beverly grimaced and rubbed her face.
"Oh God…such a long time!"
Will unfolded his arms and sat forward.
"How long can the Captain be kept in stasis?"
Beverly shrugged, her brow furrowing.
"With the kind of injury he's sustained we're mostly in the dark. All we can do is try to keep him stable and monitor him closely. The rest is in the lap of the gods."
Will nodded and stood.
"Well everyone's thinking of him…that's got to count for something. How long are you off duty?"
Wearily Beverly glared down at her cast.
"Five days."
Pursing his lips, his voice became gentle.
"Would you take some advice from a friend?"
Beverly looked up at the tall man and nodded curiously.
"OK."
"Talk to Deanna Beverly. You've been through a hell of a lot and you're facing an uncertain and perhaps difficult future. Don't hold it all in."
Beverly smiled softly and nodded.
"I hear you Will. Don't worry, I think Deanna's already booked me in."
Will sighed expansively.
"Right, I'm off to our quarters. If you need anything, just call."
"Thank you Will, goodnight."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four days later, Counsellor Troi breezed into Sickbay and entered the Captain's room. She smiled at Beverly who was reading to her lover, the antique book resting comfortably in her hands. The Doctor paused and said softly,
"I'll just finish this page."
Nodding, Deanna secured a chair and brought it closer to Jean-Luc's bed, listening as the gentle words flowed. With a quiet rustle, Beverly marked the page and closed the book, placing it on the bedside table. She looked at her friend and shrugged.
"He really likes this one…I thought he might get something from it."
"Which one is it?"
"James Joyce, Ulysses."
"Oh."
Beverly again checked the monitors, sighing at their unchanged readouts. Deanna watched silently, saddened by her friend's worry.
"Has there been any improvement?"
The Doctor shook her head.
"No, he just continues to hover in a comatose state."
Deanna noted the difference in the drainage tube.
"There's no more blood."
Beverly nodded.
"Yes, but there is still fluid being produced. If not for the tube drawing off the excess fluid, he would be in more trouble."
They sat quietly for a time before Deanna offered,
"Will told me about what you have in mind."
The Doctor's eyebrows rose and she lifted her chin.
"Oh? And what do you think?"
The Counsellor tilted her head, watching Beverly speculatively.
"On the face of it I think it's probably the right thing to do, given your feelings toward the Captain and the length of your friendship, but I wonder if you're really prepared for what might happen."
Beverly sat back and crossed her arms.
"I think I'm prepared Dee, but the reality is none of us will know anything until medical assesses him. Until we know for sure what his prognosis is, I can afford to leave my options open."
"Have you contacted his family? They may wish to have some input in his future."
Beverly sighed, her eyes drifting to her lover.
"The only living relative he has is his sister-in-law Marie. She still lives at the vineyard on her own, I thought I'd contact her when we reach Earth, let's face it, there's no point in upsetting her at the moment, it's not as if she can do anything."
Deanna watched the Doctor watching her lover.
"There might end up being legalities involved. If he is indeed mentally incapacitated, there will have to be a legal guardian appointed."
Beverly nodded.
"I know. Selar has indicated she will recommend me to have medical power of attorney but if such a situation develops, I'll have to discuss it with Marie. As far as I know, Jean-Luc owns half of the vineyard but I don't know who his heirs are."
"It could become quite complicated."
Sighing, Beverly rubbed her face.
"I know. Of course I'm hoping this is all moot, that there will be no need for any of it, but the chance exists so I'm trying to cover all bases."
Deanna stood and gently gripped Jean-Luc's hand.
"Well for what it's worth, I think you're doing the right thing. When does the cast come off?"
"Tomorrow."
Nodding, the Counsellor smiled.
"And I suppose you'll be back on duty thereafter?"
Grinning up at her friend, Beverly nodded.
"Uh huh."
"OK I'll see you tomorrow."
Beverly watched as Deanna left then rose to check the flow of the intravenous drip that was connected to Jean-Luc's left arm. Satisfied that all was as it should be, she sat again and picked up the book.
"Now Jean-Luc…where were we?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now restored to duty, Beverly was tending to an injured crewmember when her head nurse, Alyssa Ogawa paged her.
"Doctor Crusher can you come to Captain Picard's room immediately please?"
Nodding to Selar to take over, Beverly raised her head.
"On my way."
She quickly entered the room and went to Jean-Luc's side.
"What is it?"
The Asian woman frowned and gestured at the monitors.
"There's increased activity in the brain. It's erratic and transitory but I think he may be rising to consciousness."
Beverly honed her attention on the readouts and frowned at the fluctuating results. Turning to her nurse she said quietly,
"Would you go and get Selar please?"
As Alyssa left, Beverly took Jean-Luc's hand and spoke softly,
"Can you hear me Jean-Luc? If you can, squeeze my hand."
When nothing happened, Beverly settled his hand back on the bed and was getting a neural inducer when Selar entered. Quickly explaining what was happening, Beverly opened her hands.
"I intend to attach these inducers to assist with the delta waves. If we can stabilise them, he might be able to rise to consciousness. What do you think?"
The Vulcan nodded slowly.
"I agree but I must point out that his return to consciousness may not be what you are expecting…or hoping for."
Her eyes hardening, Beverly frowned.
"I take it you're referring to the fact that Captain Picard may be…incapacitated?"
"Yes Doctor."
Beverly sighed and hefted the inducers.
"I am aware of the possibility that he might not be what he once was…you needn't worry about me Selar, I've given this plenty of thought."
Nodding sagely, the Vulcan took one of the inducers and went to the opposite side of the bed.
"Then I shall assist you."
Smiling her thanks, Beverly took a deep breath and placed the device on Jean-Luc's temple. Selar did the same and Beverly lifted her eyes to catch her colleague's.
Together they activated the units.
At first nothing happened. For fifteen minutes the women stood by Jean-Luc's bed, one with stoic calm, the other willing him with all her heart to waken. The first indication that he was indeed rising from his coma was an interruption in his breathing. He gagged then coughed as his body became aware of the breathing tube down his throat. His right arm lifted and flailed weakly in uncontrolled spasmodic movements, threatening to dislodge the intravenous line. Beverly was forced to take his arm and push it gently onto the bed. While she kept him still, Selar extubated him.
At first erratic, his breathing soon evened out and he relaxed, lying still. Beverly turned her head and watched the readouts intently, noting with excitement the increased activity and the levelling out of the anomalous readings.
Both women hovered over the Captain waiting for his eyes to open. After half an hour Selar stood back and looked at her superior.
"This may take some time Doctor."
Smiling ruefully, Beverly stepped back and secured a chair.
"I'm aware of that. Selar I would like to stay here with the Captain. Can you take care of Sickbay in the interim?"
Bowing her head, the impassive Doctor said quietly,
"Of course Doctor."
Once she was alone, Beverly picked up the new book she had only started that very morning. Making herself comfortable, she made sure the medical alarm was set then settled in to read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five hours later the alarm quietly sounded. Roused from her doze, Beverly was on her feet immediately, going to Jean-Luc's side and peering at the monitors.
She ascertained his condition then looked down at him, gasping when she saw that his eyes were open. About to speak to him, her heart squeezed as she watched his eyes lazily sliding around in an obviously uncontrolled manner. His mouth slowly opened and his head fell to one side.
As Beverly took Jean-Luc's hand in hers, she called for Selar to join them.
"Jean-Luc it's Beverly. Can you squeeze my hand?"
The Doctor became aware of Selar's presence and looked over her shoulder. The stoic Vulcan's eyes were glued to the monitors.
"The level of activity has increased dramatically. Has he responded?"
About to shake her head, Beverly froze when she detected a slight pressure from his hand. Staring intently at her lover, she leaned forward and said earnestly,
"That's it my love…come on do it again Jean-Luc…do it for me."
It took several moments but he again weakly squeezed her hand.
Beverly closed her eyes briefly and took a deep breath. Selar picked up his left hand and said in a slightly raised voice,
"Captain Picard can you squeeze the other hand?"
Although his eyes kept travelling restlessly in his head, Beverly was certain she could see him concentrating. His respiration increased and his tongue protruded minutely.
Selar's head snapped up when two of his fingers on his hand twitched.
"Very good Captain."
She replaced his hand on the bed, then went to the foot of the bed, untucking the blanket and exposing his feet. Again in a stern voice she intoned,
"Now Captain…move your feet."
After some minutes the right foot slowly moved up and down. The left however could only make a slight jerk. Still such movement made Beverly beam.
"Well done Jean-Luc!"
As Selar tucked him back in, Beverly took his face in her hands and centred his head on the pillow. With one hand supporting his head, she picked up his hand with the other and asked,
"Would you like a drink Jean-Luc? Your throat must be sore."
The pressure was very weak, but Beverly felt it. Casting a look at her companion, Selar retrieved a glass of water and a straw. She handed the drink to Beverly and helped her to gently lift his head slightly. Beverly placed the straw in his mouth then tenderly closed his lips.
"The straw is in your mouth Jean-Luc. Can you suck?"
She watched as he struggled to comply. His tongue made several abortive attempts before his cheeks suddenly hollowed and the Doctors saw the water rising up the straw. He managed to swallow four times before he suddenly coughed, water going everywhere. While Selar took the glass away, Beverly gently rolled him onto his side and cleared his mouth. Selar pressed an absorbent cloth into her hand and she used it to sop up the spilled water and dry his face. When he calmed, she settled him onto his back and stroked his face.
"I want you to rest now Jean-Luc. I'll be with you, just relax and go to sleep."
Using her fingers she gently closed his restless eyes and held his head until his breathing slowed. Eyeing the monitor, she nodded as it recorded his descent into sleep.
Standing up, the red head arched her back and sighed.
"What do you think?"
Selar looked down at the sleeping man and tilted her head.
"I am encouraged. He obviously has a left-side partial paralysis but the fact that he responded at all gives me cause for hope."
Beverly looked lovingly down at her best friend.
"I agree. I'll send his latest scans and our observations to medical. They will be prepared when we arrive."
Selar nodded.
"I would advise keeping the drainage tube in and maintaining the stasis and regeneration fields. I see no reason to alter the current treatment."
Beverly nodded.
"Agreed. Now that he's regained consciousness, I want to stimulate him as much as possible. To that end, I want to create a roster of people…people he's comfortable with…to read and talk to him."
Selar bowed her head and clasped her hands in front of her.
"Doctor Crusher don't you think the Captain would be…embarrassed by his current condition? In past instances of him being confined to Sickbay, he had shown a marked dislike of visitors and it was my understanding that he was uncomfortable being seen as…helpless."
Beverly pursed her lips and looked down at her lover.
"What you say is true but under these circumstances I think he could benefit greatly from stimulation. Don't you think the chance for a better or faster recovery is worth a little embarrassment?"
Selar lifted her head and looked directly into Beverly's blue eyes.
"I agree with you Doctor, however I am worried about how he might take it. The therapy will be useless if he resents it and shuts himself off from all of us."
Beverly sighed expansively. She lifted her hands and gestured, giving form to her words.
"Look I know he can be a recalcitrant patient, but I know him Selar. If he resists, I'll handle him."
The Vulcan considered her words then nodded.
"Very well Doctor, who do you wish to put on your roster?"
Smiling, Beverly picked up a PADD.
"Commander Riker, Counsellor Troi, Commander Data, Commander LaForge and me."
"Do you want me to contact them?"
Beverly grinned, shaking her head.
"No I'll do it."
The Vulcan bowed her head.
"Very good Doctor. I will leave you now."
As she turned to leave Beverly's soft voice reached her.
"Thank you Selar, you've helped me a great deal."
Once again alone with her lover, Beverly picked up his hand and gently sighed.
"I will get you back…I swear it!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two hours later the people on the list were sitting around the large table in the Sickbay conference room. Will stroked his beard and voiced what they were all thinking.
"How will this help the Captain?"
Beverly sat forward and clasped her hands on the tabletop.
"At the moment he has very little control over his body. As he becomes more aware of his condition and his situation, frustration will surface and he'll most likely begin to dwell on what's happened to him. I want to prevent that…or at least stall it for as long as possible. What I propose is that we keep him occupied during his waking hours, which at first won't be very long. We read to him, talk to him, get him to think about things other than his situation."
Geordi shook his head.
"I don't know Doc. What you say makes sense but Captain Picard can be…stubborn when he's in Sickbay. Let's face it, he usually shuns visitors."
Sighing, Beverly nodded.
"I know how he can be but we need to do this. And I warn you, there will be times when his emotions will surge out of his control and he'll be unable to express what he's feeling. It won't be easy but for the next ten days until we reach Earth I want to do everything humanly possible to improve his chances of recovery."
Will said quietly,
"And just what are his chances of a full recovery?"
Beverly sat back and ran her fingers through her hair.
"Truth? I don't know…yet. The fact that he's regained consciousness and has the ability to respond to us gives me hope, but until a full assessment is done at Medical we won't know."
The Counsellor traced her fingers over the tabletop.
"It says in your report that he has a partial paralysis."
"Yes. As the injury involved the right side of his brain, the paralysis exists on his left side. But…he has some movement that in itself is very encouraging."
Data, fascinated by the intense emotions circulating in the room, tilted his head and kept his voice soft.
"Doctor I have taken the liberty of accessing the medical databanks, specifically the most successful methods of treatment of injuries such as the Captain's. The most recent regime utilises nanites to repair and reconstruct the damaged neural pathways. Do you consider this appropriate for Captain Picard?"
Beverly sat back and smiled at the inquisitive android.
"I couldn't say Data. The Captain's treatment will depend fully on the assessment he faces at medical. I can only surmise that if he is found suitable, then yes, nanites will be used."
"And Doctor what of his rehabilitation? Who will..?"
Placing her hands palm down on the table, Beverly glanced at Will.
"I will Data. I have made arrangements to take an extended leave of absence and, if it turns out Captain Picard will need full-time care, I will resign to care for him. In my absence, temporary or permanent, Doctor Selar will be the Enterprise's CMO."
Data and Geordi looked at each other, the Engineer frowning.
"Doc…that's a hell of a sacrifice. Are you sure?"
Summoning a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes, Beverly nodded.
"Oh yes Geordi, in fact I've never been so sure of anything in my life."
Deanna's lyrical voice was heard.
"And what about us Beverly? While we're at Earth can we still have some input in the Captain's recovery?"
"Uh huh. As long as the ship is there, you can help."
Will nodded decisively.
"Right! When do we start?"
Beverly handed out some PADDs, causing the gathered officers to pick them up and frown as they read.
"As you can see, I've set out a roster. At first it won't be much…he'll be sleeping a lot, but later on, I hope we can keep him going for longer periods of time. Data you're first. I'll call you when he wakes and, depending on how he is, you'll either read or talk to him."
Data nodded and tilted his head.
"What shall I talk about Doctor?"
Somewhat stumped, Beverly snorted.
"Well…anything Data. Regale him with stories of your Academy days, service on other ships…experiences you found interesting, ship's business…anything to keep his mind active."
The android blinked and raised his eyebrows.
"Very well Doctor."
Beverly turned to the others.
"It's only for these initial ten days. Once he's been assessed we'll have a better idea how to handle him. OK?"
She received nods all round and sat back in her chair.
"Right. Data be ready when I call."
"Aye Doctor."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was oh three twenty and Beverly was sleeping restlessly in her quarters when the call came from Sickbay.
"Sickbay to Doctor Crusher."
"Crusher here."
"Doctor Captain Picard is awake."
"On my way."
As she hurriedly dressed she made a call.
"Crusher to Data."
The reply was immediate.
"Data here Doctor."
"The Captain is awake Data. Meet me in Sickbay, your shift is about to begin."
"Understood Doctor, I am on my way. Data out."

 

 

 

 

 

Data was already there when Beverly arrived in the medical facility. She went straight to Jean-Luc's room and found the android standing silently to one side as the duty Doctor talked quietly to the Captain. Beverly went to her side and gently dismissed her with a nod and a smile. Taking Jean-Luc's right hand, she said tenderly,
"It's me Jean-Luc."
His hand slowly curled until he held her weakly. His head fell to one side and his tongue appeared. Beverly noticed his eyes were closed and guessed the restless movement was unpleasant for him.
"Shh my love, everything is going to be all right, you just relax."
His head lolled to the other side and Beverly gently gripped his jaw to centre it on the pillow.
"Data is here Jean-Luc. Would you like him to read to you for a while?"
His eyes opened sluggishly and Beverly frowned at their lazy movement. His hand jerked in an attempt to tighten and Beverly sighed.
"Jean-Luc it's very late…I have to go back to my quarters and sleep. I promise I'll be back in the morning…ok?"
As soon as she released his jaw his head fell to one side. The Doctor straightened and gestured for Data to bring a chair closer.
"Sit here Data."
Obeying her suggestion, the android sat and opened the book. He looked up at Beverly and nodded.
"I think we will be fine Doctor. Good night."
Frowning and beginning to doubt her strategy, Beverly backed to the doors and watched as Data began the story. Just as she turned, she saw Data place his hand in the Captain's. With tears in her eyes she went back to her cabin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next five days things progressed well. Each of the rostered personnel took their turns to sit with Jean-Luc and each reported nothing of note. Without exception, they all held his hand as they sat with him, the need to provide comfort and reassurance uppermost in their minds. On the sixth day however, Will was sitting beside his CO going over ship's business when the Captain suddenly jerked his hand free of Will's grasp and lolled his head on the pillow. Alarmed, the First Officer stood and bent over his friend.
"Captain…what is it?"
Jean-Luc gurgled and his respiration increased markedly. A quiet alarm sounded and Beverly quickly joined Will. She checked the monitors then questioned the Exec.
"What happened?"
"I don't know. I was giving him an update on the ship's status when he jerked his hand free and became distressed."
Beverly took Jean-Luc hand and stroked his face.
"Jean-Luc what's wrong?"
His head flopped from side to side and tears slid from his eyes. Turning her head, the Doctor said quietly,
"It's ok Will you can leave now."
Hearing more in the request than what was said, Will nodded and acquiesced. Beverly lifted Jean-Luc's hand to her face and held it to her cheek.
"It's all right Jean-Luc…everything's all right. Try to relax."
Tears continued to stream from his closed eyes and his rapid breathing began to hitch. Beverly stroked his face, gently hushing and crooning until he finally calmed.
"I know you're confused and scared Jean-Luc but I'm here."
His restless eyes opened and his head stilled. With weak muscles, his trembling hand gripped hers as he tried to communicate his need for her. Beverly leaned forward and kissed him, laying her hand along his cheek.
"You don't want your staff to see you do you."
He swallowed and two tears slipped free.
"Jean-Luc you have sustained damage to your brain and we need to keep you stimulated while you're awake. I thought the best way was to have your senior staff sit with you to read or talk to you. I know you're embarrassed, but honestly, it's the best we can do for you at the moment. If you want to blame anybody…blame me."
Summoning all his strength, Jean-Luc tried to still his eyes to look into hers, to absolve her of guilt, but it was useless, he simply lacked the necessary control. Frustrated, angry and frightened, he turned his head as more tears flowed. The Doctor took him in her arms and held him while he wept.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was calmer during the remaining visits by his friends, allowing them to hold his hand and interact with him as they chose. Beverly was a constant companion and the days passed quickly.
Will was on the Bridge when Tactical announced,
"Commander we are approaching sector zero zero one."
"Acknowledged. Once we're past Jupiter drop to half impulse and hail Starfleet Command."
"Aye Sir."
The response to the hail was instant.
"Enterprise this is Admiral Forrester. Welcome home."
Will smiled and lifted his chin.
"Thank you Admiral, it's good to be home."
"Ah…Commander Riker isn't it? How is Captain Picard?"
"Yes it's Riker Sir. Captain Picard's condition is stable although I'm happy to report he's regained consciousness."
"Yes I've been reading your reports. Tell me what are you recommendations regarding the S'Run?"
Will frowned and stood.
"I think we should return as soon as we can Sir. They wish to make amends for what's happened and their leader has invited us to attend a ceremony that may go a long way in repairing relations with them."
"Understood Commander. When you've achieved orbit, beam down and we'll discuss it. Forrester out."
Will regained his seat and lifted his head.
"Riker to Crusher."
"Crusher here."
"Beverly we'll be in orbit around Earth in fifteen minutes. Has Medical been appraised of the Captain's impending arrival?"
"Yes Will, they're waiting for him."
"OK. Is he ready for a site-to-site transport?"
"Yes."
"Right I'll advise you when we're ready."
"Thank you Will. Crusher out."
Will sat and stared at the viewscreen, lost in thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly breezed into Jean-Luc's room and dismissed the nurse that was bathing him. Taking the sponge, she dipped it in the warm water and squeezed it before gently wiping it over his stomach. The sleeping man didn't react and the Doctor allowed her eyes to drift over his naked, uncovered body, noting the healed injuries and obvious weight loss. She was washing his right thigh when she saw his hand move. Looking up she smiled at seeing him trying to look at her.
"I'll be finished in a minute my love. We have to have you looking your best, you're due at Medical soon for a very important assessment."
His head lolled and Beverly kept chatting.
"You've been shaved and now that you're washed, we'll put you in clean pants and you'll look like pure latinum."
His right hand moved jerkily up to his chest and on up to bump his chin. In spastic movements Beverly realised he was trying to feel his jaw.
"What? Don't you think we did a thorough job of shaving you?"
His eyes opened and he gurgled, his tongue protruding slightly.
Beverly chuckled and finished his wash before dressing him in new pyjama pants. She then covered him with a blanket and sat beside him, taking his hand.
"We'll be beaming directly to Medical as soon as we get clearance from the Bridge. Don't worry my love I'll be with you."
His head turned to face her and he closed his eyes.
Will's voice came through the speakers.
"Beverly? Are you ready?"
Smiling down at her lover and tightening the grip on his hand, Beverly replied,
"Yes Will…we'll see you down there."
"Count on it. Transporter Room, two to beam from Sickbay directly to set coordinates at Medical. Energise."
As they dissipated into sparkling blue particles, Beverly sent up a prayer.
"Please let them be able to help him…please…"

 

 

 

 

 

 

It had been three hours since they beamed down and Beverly was frustrated…frustrated and exasperated. Unable to take part in the extensive assessment, she sat in the office of Doctor Thomas Hulm, fuming…and fretting.
Twice his staff had made offers of light refreshments and drinks, but Beverly refused, her stomach too nervous to partake in anything.
Utilising the desk computer, she called up the latest research in brain rehabilitation and winced at the percentages. Of the total number of patients treated with the new techniques in the past five months, only sixteen percent had made what could be considered a full recovery. The others had enjoyed varying degrees of recovery, some managing to rejoin society, others doomed to spend the rest of their lives in medical facilities, forever obliged to accept the aid of those around them.
Beverly groaned and rested her elbows on the desk, cradling her head in her fingers. A soft cough made her spin in her chair.
"I'm sorry…did I startle you?"
A nondescript Human male of indeterminable age stood in the doorway, a PADD in his hand. Beverly stood, butterflies taking flight in her stomach.
"No! Well…maybe a little. Have you finished the analysis?"
He walked around the desk and went to the replicator, saying over his shoulder,
"Can I get you anything?"
Quelling her impatience, Beverly swallowed a sigh and summoned a smile.
"Yes…coffee would be fine. Hot, black and no sweetener."
Hulm's eyebrows rose and he placed his order.
"Unsweetened black coffee? Don't tell me…habit or nerves?"
"A bit of both I'm afraid."
Unable to contain herself any longer, Beverly sat at the desk and asked,
"How is Captain Picard? Can you treat him successfully?"
Still withholding his answer, Hulm sat and sipped his steaming raktajino. He sighed and looked Beverly in the eye.
"May I call you Beverly?"
She nodded mutely and he smiled.
"Beverly under normal circumstances I would be optimistic about Captain Picard's prognosis. The damage is severe and extensive, but not what I would consider irreparable."
The red head guarded her surging hope, sobered by the worried look in her colleague's eyes.
"But?"
"But…we have a problem."
Beverly sat back and briefly closed her eyes.
"And that is?"
"The Borg."
Bowing her head, Beverly lifted her hands and covered her face for a few seconds. Taking a deep breath, she faced Hulm again.
"Tell me."
The neurologist picked up the PADD and scrolled to the pertinent information. Pushing the device across the desk, he sighed.
"It's this."
Beverly picked up the instrument and read quickly, her stomach souring.
"The infiltrating micro filaments and microscopic constructs we couldn't remove?"
"Exactly. I've long been familiar with Captain Picard's history concerning his assimilation…you did some remarkable work disconnecting the hardware from his body and brain by the way and I've kept up with other cases of retrieved personnel and their subsequent surgeries…hell I've performed some myself, but Picard's case stands alone in it's complexity. Unlike all the others we've dealt with, he wasn't simply converted into a drone, he was made as a subservient conduit…and as a result there was far more hardware installed in his brain than the others. Physically there were other differences, as you know. He didn't lose his genitals for instance, but it's those filaments and constructs in his brain that are our major concern."
Beverly frowned and shook her head.
"But why? He's been functioning perfectly well for years…there's not been any problems associated with his assimilation…"
Holding out his hand, Hulm took the PADD and placed it on his desk, laying his hands loosely on the top.
"You are aware we intend to use nanites to effect most of the repairs?"
Beverly nodded.
"Well therein lies our problem. The nanites we have are incompatible with what exists in his brain. The Borg technology is going to prevent the nanites from doing their job."
Beverly closed her eyes and shook her head, despair and fear welling in her heart.
"Is there nothing you can do?"
Hulm's eyes softened and he frowned.
"There is something…perhaps."
Looking up sharply, Beverly held her breath.
"If I can remove a tiny piece of the Borg hardware from his brain there's a chance…admittedly a very small chance, but a chance nonetheless, that I can use it to re-programme our nanites…in effect teach them how to interact with the existing alien structures in his brain. But…it's a long shot."
Unable to sit any longer, Beverly stood and paced behind her chair.
"You'll be taking a hell of a risk. Those filaments and constructs were left in place because it was deemed too dangerous to remove them."
Hulm nodded, his green eyes tracking the restless woman.
"Granted, but we've come a long way since then. We've moved forward in leaps and bounds where it comes to de-assimilating victims of the Borg. I am confident I can do the surgery successfully; my only reservation is that it may prove ultimately pointless. If we can't re-programme our nanites…"
Beverly turned to him, her blue eyes glistening.
"Do it."
Hulm regarded her in silence then nodded once.
"I see in his file that you have medical power of attorney. What arrangements have you made with his family?"
Beverly gripped the back of her seat and sighed.
"I've contacted his only living relative, but until we know more she has opted to stay in France."
"I see. Well as there are no legal obstacles the surgery will take place tomorrow morning. I take it you would like to see him?"
Beverly's intense gaze made him hesitate. Cocking his head, the neurologist asked,
"Was there something else Beverly?"
Swallowing and taking a large breath, Beverly made her request.
"I want to stay with him full time...and I want to assist on his case."
With an appraising look, Hulm stood and picked up the PADD. He nodded once.
"I'll make the arrangements."
Smiling with relief, Beverly followed Hulm from his office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will always found it uncomfortable to be surrounded by too much brass and in his present situation he thought he might shrivel up and blow away. No less than five Admirals sat around the table, all with their attention firmly fixed on him. The spokesperson, Admiral Forrester, repeated his question, his voice betraying his impatience.
"Commander Riker…how did it happen?"
Snapping his brain into gear, Will answered.
"It was a simple case of ignorance on both sides Admiral. We knew so little about each other…I suppose this kind of disaster was inevitable."
A kindly looking woman sat forward and nodded.
"Indeed Commander but the fact remains we need their dilithium. Your report states that they are willing to sponsor another visit to their planet…and that you have been specifically invited to attend some sort of atonement ceremony?"
Will sat up and clasped his hands on the tabletop.
"Actually Admiral they really wanted Captain Picard but I explained that may not be possible and they reluctantly agreed to accept me instead."
Another Admiral interjected, this time an elderly Andorian, his antennae twitching.
"And you feel confident in seeing this mission through Commander?"
"Aye Sir. Especially now we know what to avoid."
The Admirals looked at each other and a female Bolian asked,
"Tell us Commander…is there any news of Captain Picard?"
Shaking his head, Will frowned.
"No Admiral. As far as I know he's still being assessed at Medical."
The blue woman sighed.
"It's such a tragedy…he's our most experienced Captain…a man of considerable ability…his loss will be…"
Will's anger rose quickly.
"Sir? He's not gone yet…we certainly haven't given up hope."
Smiling sympathetically, the Bolian nodded.
"Of course Commander, my apologies."
Forrester cleared his throat.
"Very well Commander. When we have a more definitive report on your Captain we'll contact you with your orders. Until then you and your crew have been granted leave on Earth. Dismissed."
Will stood to attention, bowed his head and left the room, breathing a heartfelt sigh of relief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the officers entered the restaurant Deanna slipped her hand into Will's, the waves of worry emanating from her best friend eroding her mental barriers. Will looked down at the petite woman and gently squeezed her hand. Following a waiter, they negotiated their way between the tables and smiled when they caught Beverly's eye. The attendant seated them and Deanna immediately took Beverly's hand.
"Tell us."
The Doctor took a sip of her Riesling and sighed.
"Well it's a case of good news and iffy news. Which would you prefer first?"
Deanna looked into Will's eyes then shifted to refocus on Beverly.
"The good news."
Nodding, Beverly placed her wine glass on the table and stared at it.
"Right. Doctor Hulm thinks the damage is repairable and the prognosis under normal circumstances would be good."
The Counsellor sensed the rising fear, anguish and frustration in her friend.
"Go on."
"But…the Borg technology left in the Captain's brain is preventing the use of nanites which are crucial in the treatment. They're incompatible with the Borg hardware. So…unless something radical is done…they can't successfully treat him."
Will draped his arm around Deanna's shoulders and kept his voice low.
"Something radical? Has Hulm got anything in mind?"
Taking another sip of her wine, Beverly nodded.
"Uh huh. He proposes surgery to remove a tiny piece of the hardware with which he hopes to be able to re-programme our nanites. If he's successful, treatment can commence."
Will stroked his beard and frowned.
"Risks?"
Beverly waved her hand and scowled.
"Where do you want me to begin? The technology we're talking about is fully integrated into the Captain's brain. To attempt to remove even a tiny piece is to put him at grave risk. It was left in situ for a very good reason…the thought of disturbing it terrifies me."
Deanna frowned and sat forward.
"But Hulm must be confident…"
Beverly nodded, reaching up and pushing her hair back.
"He is and he's experienced in retrieval it's just that this is such a complex case…that and the fact that he's not done a surgery with such a degree of intricacy before where the stakes have been so bloody high. One wrong move…one slip and we could lose Jean-Luc, that's providing there'll be no ill effects from removing a piece of something his brain has absorbed so completely."
About to say more, a waiter interrupted to take their order. Several minutes later, the conversation resumed. Will asked softly,
"How is he? How did he handle the assessment?"
Beverly rubbed her forehead and sighed.
"It was very difficult for him. Unfortunately I wasn't with him, but I saw him afterwards and he was exhausted. I sat with him for a while but they sedated him to slow the neuron function in his brain. The surgery is scheduled for early tomorrow morning and the preparation has already begun."
Deanna's sympathetic voice was soft.
"It must be very frustrating for you."
Beverly snorted and shook her head.
"It could be worse I suppose. At least I've got Hulm to allow me on the treatment team. As of tomorrow, I'm officially one of Jean-Luc's medical team."
Will and Deanna shared a smile and Will nodded.
"Well that's good news."
Beverly smiled tiredly and tilted her head.
"What about you? Have you received new orders?"
Will selected a dinner roll from the basket and placed it on his plate. As he proceeded to break and butter it, he responded.
"For now the entire crew has been granted leave. Command is waiting for a definitive report on the Captain and, once informed, they intend to send us back to S'Runnin where I will endeavour to smooth troubled waters."
Beverly gaped and shook her head.
"But that's insane…you can't go back! Those people have no regard for Human life…any life…Will they're ruthless. Their way of life is so different from ours…you'll be walking in a minefield blindfolded. For God's sake doesn't Command read the reports we send? If a man like Jean-Luc…an experienced Captain and consummate diplomat couldn't avoid being severely injured by these people…through absolutely no fault of his own…how the hell are you supposed to cope? No offence Will but you might find yourself out of your depth."
The big man sat back and swallowed his injured pride. Taking a large breath, he let it out slowly and smiled inwardly as Deanna's hand made warm contact with his thigh under the table.
"I have had some discussions with them Beverly…enlightened them to a few discrepancies between our people and they seemed genuinely keen to redress what's happened. They've apologised and even gone so far as to wait for our return when they will conduct a ceremony of atonement. I admit I'm second choice, their original request was for the Captain, but once I explained he probably wouldn't make it, they accepted me. In any case it's moot. Starfleet wants their dilithium and we've been chosen as the ones to secure good relations with these people."
Beverly stared at her wineglass as she absently rotated it.
"OK Will, have it your own way but heed me…they've got some screwy social rules and values and nobody but they understands them. Be on your guard at all times and try to avoid interacting with them…it's injurious to your health."
The First Officer grinned, his eyes twinkling.
"Understood Doctor…but I must ask you…have a little faith."
The waiter appeared, his arms laden with their meal and they settled into eating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly had been staring at the secondary monitor for over three hours as Doctor Hulm worked diligently to remove a tiny piece of selected Borg hardware from Jean-Luc's brain. With the assistance of robotic and laser technology, he utilised every scrap of both his own skill and the available high level computer aid in performing the most delicate neural surgery Beverly had ever witnessed.
The procedure was watched by colleagues and recorded in extreme detail but ultimately the burden was Hulm's alone. Completing a delicate microscopic incision, he sat back from the eyepieces of the operating microscope and closed his eyes.
"It's done."
Beverly looked up and saw her fellow medic's exhaustion.
"Did you get enough?"
He nodded and rolled his head.
"Yes. It's a tiny piece but hopefully it will suffice. In any event we won't be repeating the procedure so we can only hope."
Reaching under the sheet that covered the Captain, she sought his hand and held it. Swallowing, Beverly kept her eyes on Hulm.
"Do you think there'll any repercussions? Can you tell if the missing piece will have any effect on him?"
Hulm stood and arched his back.
"I don't know. Working that deep inside the brain…anything is possible."
Beverly frowned.
"What now?"
"We take the salvaged piece and analyse it thoroughly. Then if we're lucky, we input what we've learned and hopefully the computer will be able to re-programme our nanites. If we can achieve that, treatment will commence soon after."
Beverly's eyes drifted to her lover.
"How long?"
Hulm shook his head.
"I don't know."
"And what happens to Captain Picard in the mean time?"
The Neurologist looked down at Jean-Luc and sighed.
"The only thing we can do for him until we have an answer one way or the other is to keep him sedated. I want as little neural activity as possible."
Beverly's mouth opened and she shook her head.
"But if he's sedated we won't know if he's been adversely affected by this operation. Surely we should allow him to waken then assess his condition?"
Hulm lowered his eyes and sighed. With a few short steps he was standing in front of the worried red head. He took her hands and looked into her eyes.
"Beverly…after a procedure like this…especially considering the unknown elements involved, I think it only fair to warn you that there's a very real chance he might not wake up. By sedating him we at least buy some time…time enough to do our analysis and hopefully come up with a solution."
Beverly tore her eyes away from the Doctor and focused on her Captain. For several seconds she stood in silence, then removed her hands from Hulm's and straightened her shoulders.
"So that's all there is then? With all this marvellous technology at our disposal…all the knowledge and skill…we are reduced to biding our time and…hoping?"
She shook her head savagely.
"Dammit Thomas there must be more we can do!"
His warm hand settled on her arm.
"Beverly sometimes you have to put your faith in the Gods and admit you're fallible. I understand your frustration…I share it…but we've done all we can so far. Be assured if it's at all possible, we'll win this war…it's just that the battles in the meantime can be a tad trying."
Her deep frown slowly faded and she sighed, nodding slowly. Hulm turned and instructed his support physicians to close Jean-Luc's skull and prepare him to be returned to his room. Beverly stood back and watched morosely, never before feeling so helpless.

Over the next five days Beverly spent most of her time with Jean-Luc. Initially she had haunted the analysis team, but her presence was unnecessary and she eventually realised she could offer nothing constructive so she opted to stay with her lover.
She read to him and took care of the minutiae of his condition, washing him, monitoring his intravenous feed, massaging his limbs and maintaining a constant flow of inconsequential conversation.
Visitors from the Enterprise dropped by frequently, the senior staff most often and Beverly found some comfort in being able to voice her worries to her friends. They offered resolute support but ultimately all any of them could do was wait.
On the morning of the sixth day Beverly had just applied a new bag of fluids to the intravenous line when Hulm entered the room. Beverly froze in trepidation. Seeing the look of fear in the woman's eyes, Hulm was quick to raise his hand and smile.
"It's good news."
Beverly closed her eyes and swallowed. She felt Hulm's hand at her elbow and allowed herself to be guided to a chair. Once seated, the Neurologist folded his arms across his chest.
"We finished the analysis two days ago and last night the computer finally succeeded in coming up with the algorithms necessary for the re-programming. The nanites are undergoing the readjustment as we speak."
Beverly's gaze was intent.
"When will we know?"
The tired man rubbed a hand over his unshaven cheek.
"If the programme is successful it will be a simple matter to instigate a simulation. I'd say this evening if all goes well."
Beverly's eyes drifted to the unconscious man beside her.
"And the surgery?"
"Tomorrow morning, first thing."
Beverly nodded, a frown creasing her forehead.
"So it's another case of keeping our fingers crossed?"
Hulm smiled and shook his head.
"Well on the surface maybe, but I'm very optimistic."
Beverly summoned a smile and sighed.
"Right. Well we'll be ready."
Hulm patted her shoulder.
"I'll see you in the morning. Have faith Beverly."
She watched as he left and looked down at her lover.
"Stay strong my love, the battle has only just begun."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Considering the trouble they'd been through, the procedure to introduce the nanites was relatively straightforward. Once again Jean-Luc's skull was opened, the targeted area identified and the nanites applied. The Captain was monitored closely for two and a half hours and, when his vital signs remained stable, the skull was sealed and the wound closed. It was all over in four hours. Instead of being taken back to his room, Jean-Luc was installed in intensive care, connected to several sensitive monitors and the sedation maintained.
Beverly was by his side holding his hand when Hulm came in. She turned to him and summoned a warm smile.
"You did very well."
He returned the smile and bowed his head.
"Thank you, but I'd prefer it if you held your praise until we have a satisfactory result from all this."
The red head chuckled and nodded.
"Very well."
She looked down at Jean-Luc and sighed.
"What now?"
Hulm checked the readouts and inspected the thin tube protruding from the Captain's skull.
"It will be some time before the nanites make any significant progress. For the next four days at least I want him kept unconscious. We'll be monitoring him very closely and if we see what we hope to see, we'll bring him out of the induced coma and assess his condition. Depending on how he is, is whether or not he'll be allowed to remain conscious."
Beverly nodded.
"Four days then."
Hulm made some notes on a PADD and lifted one of Jean-Luc's eyelids.
"I'll be checking in on him three or four times a day, but don't hesitate to call me if you have any questions or concerns. My staff has told me how devoted you are to the Captain. For what it's worth I think you're very selfless to give so much of yourself to your Commanding Officer. He must be a remarkable man to garner such devotion."
Beverly smiled and looked down at her lover.
"Well let's just say I'm motivated."
Hulm grinned and tapped the PADD against his thigh, his face softening.
"Beverly…if I might be so bold…would you care to have dinner with me tonight? I'm sure you could do with a change of scenery."
Her soft smile and apologetic look warned him of the coming refusal.
"I'm sorry Thomas. I'll be staying here."
Her eyes drifted to Jean-Luc and the realisation hit Hulm with an almost physical jolt.
"My God…you're in love with him. That's why…"
Beverly turned to him and nodded.
"Yes and I intend to stay by his side as long as he needs me."
The Neurologist frowned and stepped closer.
"But what of your objectivity? How can you treat him…be his Doctor? For that matter how do you cope with what you know about his condition?"
Beverly hitched her hip and sat on Jean-Luc's bed, her grip on his hand never faltering. Without taking her eyes from her lover, she replied,
"I have been his Doctor for a very long time. I have also loved him for many years. I learned a long time ago to separate myself into two people, one professional, the other private and he does the same thing. So far it's worked although I admit this episode is proving to be very difficult for me, however I would speculate it's going to be harder for the Captain in the long run. As for my objectivity…I maintain my equilibrium quite simply by knowing that if I weren't a Doctor…his Doctor…situations like this would've driven me mad years ago. At least this way I have some input…some way of contributing to his well-being and I'm grateful for that."
Hulm lifted a hand and tapped his chin.
"In that case I amend my observation. Not only are you selfless, you're also very brave. I commend you Beverly…I don't think I could do what you're doing…I haven't got the guts."
Looking into Hulm's eyes, Beverly smiled.
"Love gives you wings Thomas."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Towards midday on the second day Will and Deanna dropped by and by their frowning faces Beverly knew something was wrong. Dispensing with small talk, she confronted them.
"What is it?"
Will scowled and rubbed a hand over his face. Taking a large breath and puffing it out he shook his head.
"Command has ordered us back to S'Runnin. We leave within the hour."
Beverly sat suddenly in a chair and shook her head.
"But Jean-Luc's not…"
Deanna knelt at the Doctor's feet and took her hands.
"We know Beverly but we've got no choice. Apparently Command isn't willing to wait to see how he comes out of this, they feel the mission with the S'Run is more important.
Beverly's eyes lifted from their contemplation of her hands and glared at Deanna.
"Those bastards! They've given up on him!"
Will stepped closer, gripping her shoulder.
"More likely they're hedging their bets. Look Beverly this whole business stinks but we've got to obey our orders, still…will you do something for us?"
Beverly stared up at the big man and nodded distractedly.
"Keep in contact with us. We want to know everything, every little bit of news, no matter how small. If we can't be here with the Captain then keep us in the loop so we can follow every moment of his recovery. OK?"
Before Beverly could reply, a call came through.
"Enterprise to Commander Riker."
Will scowled and slapped his communicator.
"Riker here."
"Sir we're ready to beam you up. We have clearance to leave orbit immediately."
"Acknowledged Enterprise, wait."
His gaze settled on Beverly and Deanna stood by his side. Beverly sighed and smiled.
"I'll be in touch."
Will nodded and raised his hand to activate his combadge. Beverly's soft voice made him hesitate.
"Will promise me something?"
The big man nodded.
"For God's sake be careful. You'll have to be on your toes at all times with the S'Run…don't be intimidated."
His grin was irrepressible. Deanna smiled and gripped his arm.
"Don't worry Beverly he'll have me to answer to if he steps out of line."
Beverly's chuckle was masked by Will's request to beam up. The blue light flared then her friends were gone. She looked to her unconscious lover and sighed.
"Well my love, it's just you and me."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As promised Hulm was a regular visitor. He ran extensive scans and took many deep analyses from probes inserted into Jean-Luc's brain but he was troubled by the results. On the evening of the fourth day he rubbed his face and sighed. Beverly stood by his side at the Captain's bed, knowing something was wrong.
"It's the depressed neuron activity isn't it?"
Hulm nodded and checked his PADD.
"That and the sluggish synaptic receptors. We should be seeing accelerated firing…some spontaneous electrical activity…"
Beverly closed her eyes and turned to lean against the bed.
"But there's nothing."
Hulm shook his head and scratched his cheek.
"I don't understand this at all."
"What are you going to do? Is it worth keeping him sedated?"
Shaking his head decisively, Hulm came to a decision.
"No. I'm going to withdraw the drugs…see if he'll wake up."
Beverly swallowed and took a large breath.
"And if he doesn't?"
Hulm gripped her shoulder and stared hard into her distressed eyes.
"I'm not willing to contemplate that. I still think we have a chance to save him Beverly and I'm not going to give up…not yet. How about you?"
Pushing her hair back and straightening her back, Beverly gathered her defiance around her like a shield.
"You know damn well I won't give up!"
Returning her defiance, Hulm glared back.
"Then show me a little fight! It's not over Beverly…not by a long shot."
He left abruptly and Beverly seethed.
"Show some fight? I'll show him bloody fight!"
She went to the replicator and ordered a new bag of liquid nutrients for Jean-Luc, this time without the sedating drugs. She changed the bags and watched as the untainted fluid slowly flowed into the Captain's veins.
"Come on my love…all you have to do is open your eyes."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three days later both Doctors were studying the latest scans. Jean-Luc lay silently on the bed, his condition unchanged.
"Dammit Beverly…the stimulants should've worked!"
Beverly was gently sponging the Captain's face, her face a mask of concentration.
"That's five doses over six hours Thomas. You're pushing the boundaries of safe medication."
"I know that dammit but what else can we do? How the hell can we coax him back to consciousness?"
The red head gently dried her lover's face, straining to keep her voice steady.
"You said yourself he might not wake up after the first surgery. Maybe the damage was too great."
Tossing his PADD onto the table in disgust, the Neurologist scowled.
"No I can't accept that! Look the last scan showed the nanites are doing their job. There has been significant improvement in the damaged areas…there's no feasible reason why he should still be unconscious."
"And yet he is. Tell me something Thomas…how long will you fight this? How long will it be until you give up?"
His startled look made Beverly hold up her hand.
"Oh don't worry, I'll still fight for him…I haven't given up…but I'm concerned by what all the drugs are doing to him. What else are you going to do to him?"
Hulm folded his arms and looked at his feet.
"Actually there's only one more thing that's reasonable under the circumstances."
"And that is?"
"Electro stimulation."
Beverly winced and shook her head.
"Oh God Thomas…no."
He looked up and shrugged.
"It's indicated in situations like this. Passing direct current through his brain might be the kick start he needs."
"What about the nanites? Surely their functions will be disrupted?"
Hulm shook his head.
"No we can shield them from the current. The areas I want to stimulate are deeper in the brain, closer to the Borg microfilaments."
Beverly sighed and pulled the blanket up over the sleeping man. She turned slowly to face Hulm and looked him in the eye.
"You want to reactivate the Borg technology?"
Thomas shook his head.
"Not exactly…just give it a jolt, enough to send a message to the rest of his brain."
Beverly folded her arms and crossed her feet, leaning on the bed.
"That's a hell of a risk. What if the damned stuff reactivates and takes over his functions?"
Hulm lifted his chin and pursed his lips.
"That's a chance I'm willing to take. Look Beverly…can you honestly say there's any other way?"
Sighing, Beverly shook her head.
"No…but I'm not sure the risk is yours to take."
Shaking his head, Thomas chuckled.
"Well we can't ask the Captain can we?"
Unfolding her arms, Beverly gripped the bed behind her.
"No, but you can ask me."
Realisation struck Hulm and he lowered his head.
"My apologies Beverly…I overstepped my bounds. You are his medical guardian…what do you think?"
There was a protracted silence and Hulm lifted his head and watched as Beverly took Jean-Luc's hand and held it to her cheek. When she spoke her voice was very soft.
"Do you know how to pray Thomas?"
In an equally soft voice he answered.
"Yes."
"Then pray that you're right. Do it."
Hulm left the room and Beverly's eyes filled with tears as she looked down at her lover.
"Forgive me my love."

 

 

 

 

 

 

In all it took over two hours to set up for the procedure in the surgery suite. Special stasis beams were aimed at the nanite sites and specific probes were guided through Jean-Luc's brain, targeted by laser guidance and assisted by the computers.
Beverly was at Hulm's shoulder when he was finally satisfied all was in readiness. Peering through the microscope eyepieces, his voice was subdued.
"Well we're as ready as we're going to be."
He straightened and checked the computer monitor. Glancing at Beverly, he gave her an encouraging smile and nodded.
"Ready?"
She frowned slightly and sighed.
"Yes."
Hulm's voice took on a note of authority.
"All staff stand clear please."
Once he was certain all was right, he pressed a button on the computer and settled his eyes in the eyepieces. Outwardly Jean-Luc's condition remained unchanged but Hulm growled and gritted his teeth. Again he depressed the button and, as he concentrated on what he could see, his hands worked independently at the computer controls. About to deliver another charge, he was abruptly halted by Beverly's alarmed voice.
"He's seizing!"
Jean-Luc's body suddenly began to contort, before rhythmically jerking. As his head was held securely, his body continued to convulse them subside into tremors. As he calmed a nurse reconnected him to the bio waste unit and cleaned up the leaked urine. Beverly watched the neural output readouts intently noting the erratic readings. With growing dread she hissed,
"Thomas talk to me…what the hell's going on?"
Hulm looked again at the monitors and checked the microscope.
"I think it's ok…just a synaptic overload."
Beverly clenched her jaw.
"You think? Do you know or not?"
"Yes! It's all right."
Beverly's eyes flicked between the computers and her lover. He'd quietened now and his brain waves had settled.
"What about the Borg technology? Has it reactivated?"
Hulm swallowed and rubbed his chin.
"No…no…but the surrounding tissue responded, I'm sure of it."
Exasperated, Beverly was curt.
"So?"
"So it just might be the spark we need."
He straightened and began to remove the probes. With infinite care he slowly withdrew the hair-thin fibre optic filaments and, when he was finished, turned off the stasis field and instructed the computer to reactivate the nanites. His final actions were to seal Jean-Luc's skull and close the skin wounds. Sighing he sat back and rubbed his neck.
"We should know very soon."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly sat morosely beside Jean-Luc, holding his hand as Hulm made notations on his PADD. It had been thirty-two hours since the electro therapy and nothing had happened. It was very early in the morning and both Doctors were exhausted. Hulm gently placed the PADD on the bench and rubbed his face, sighing and shaking his head.
"OK I'm at my wit's end. We've tried everything and he's still deeply unconscious."
Beverly turned her head to him and sighed.
"So that's it? You're giving up?"
His reply was heated.
"No I'm not bloody giving up! I just don't know what else we can do!"
He lifted his hands and ran them over his head, closing his eyes and screwing up his face.
"This is so bloody frustrating! There's no reason for this continued state of unconsciousness. I don't understand…what could I have missed?"
Beverly turned listlessly back to her lover and shrugged.
"You're forgetting your earlier warning Thomas. You said he might not wake up…looks like you were right."
Stepping closer and lifting one of Jean-Luc's eyelids, Hulm snorted.
"Beverly I've seen the damage first hand…and I almost certain we did no lasting damage when I removed that piece of Borg hardware. By all accounts he should be awake!"
Beverly's voice was soft and tired.
"It's very late Thomas go to bed."
"But…"
The red head looked at him with sorrowful sympathy.
"It's pointless Thomas…go to bed."
Lowering his head he nodded.
"Very well, but I'll be back later. I'm not ready to let this rest."
He left and in the silence of the intensive care room, Beverly wept.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around midday the next day, Beverly was settling Jean-Luc back in a normal room. With the help of a nurse she replaced his intravenous bag with a fresh one, washed him and massaged his limbs. The nurse had just left and Beverly was at the bench selecting a book when she thought she heard something. Turning to her lover she gasped at seeing his eyes open. Dropping the book she went to him and gripped his hand.
"Jean-Luc? Jean-Luc can you hear me?"
His mouth opened and his eyes slid lazily searching for the source of the voice. Beverly took his face in her hands and leaned forward.
"Here Jean-Luc…I'm right here."
Suddenly his eyes stilled and he saw her. The Doctor held her breath and smiled but soon frowned. There was no recognition in his vacant gaze. Lifting one hand, she slapped her communicator.
"Crusher to Hulm."
"Hulm here."
"He's awake Thomas."
"I'm on my way!"
Leaving Jean-Luc momentarily, Beverly retrieved a small torch and proceeded to flash it in both his eyes. She was about to scan him when Hulm arrived.
"How is he?"
Beverly carefully used the tricorder to scan his head and frowned.
"Unresponsive but his pupils are reactive. He doesn't know me."
"Damn. Any vocalisations?"
"None, but I think he sighed. I thought I heard something before I discovered he was conscious."
Hulm scratched his chin.
"Beverly pick up his right hand and ask him to squeeze it."
She did as he suggested and was about to shake her head in defeat when she suddenly stilled.
"Thomas!"
The Neurologist moved closer and asked urgently,
"A response?"
"Yes I think so. Jean-Luc…again, squeeze my hand again."
Beverly closed her eyes and nodded as she felt the very weak action.
"He did it!"
Hulm grinned and picked up Beverly's discarded tricorder.
"Right! There's some swelling around the affected areas and his temperature's up a tad…we've got work to do!"
Hulm abruptly left the room and Beverly looked down at the vacantly staring man.
"Hang on my love…I'll find you."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was subjected to a battery of tests and Beverly stayed by his side throughout every one. When the paraphernalia and staff were finally cleared from his room, Beverly took his hand and stroked his head. Hulm glanced over and smiled.
"Well generally speaking it's good news. The neurons are firing in a much stronger fashion and the synapses are far more stable. The neural output is somewhat erratic and I'd like the delta waves to be a little more solid, but I'm not complaining. Considering what he was like only hours ago, I think this is bloody marvellous."
Beverly smiled, her eyes never leaving her best friend.
"And what of the left side paralysis? I know he has some command over his right side."
The Neurologist frowned and came to the other side of the bed. He watched as Beverly continued to stroke the Captain's head.
"It's still evident but as the nanites progress in their repair work I think we may see some improvement. In any case he's in for a lot of therapy to restore him Beverly, you know that."
Looking up at her fellow medic for the first time, the red head sighed.
"Oh I know Thomas believe me I know. Tell me this state he's in now…is he aware of anything do you think?"
Thomas snapped his fingers over Jean-Luc's face and garnered no response.
"I don't think so…not yet, but keep talking to him Beverly…you never know."
Beverly smiled and laid Jean-Luc's hand on the bed.
"I was thinking it might be time to start stimulating his muscles."
Hulm nodded.
"Electro bands?"
"Uh huh. I thought twice daily for now to augment the massages."
The man chewed the inside of his mouth and nodded again.
"Agreed. Do you want any help?"
With a warm smile, Beverly shook her head.
"No but if you could have someone bring me two large and two small bands I'd be forever grateful."
Chuckling under his breath, Hulm winked at his colleague.
"Consider it done."
He left soon after and Beverly was delighted when an aide arrived thereafter with the requested bands. Once again alone with Jean-Luc, she attached the large bands around his thighs and the smaller ones around his upper arms. Activating them, she entered some commands into the bed's computer and watched intently as his limbs stiffened and jumped in small increments.
The electric stimulation lasted for half an hour then Beverly freed him from the bands and spent some time massaging a warmed medicated oil into his muscles. For the entire time Jean-Luc had lain silently, staring unseeing at the ceiling.
When he was once again dressed and covered with a blanket, Beverly caressed his cheek and frowned.
"You need a shave."
Taking an isorazor from Jean-Luc's personal bag, she expertly removed his stubble, concentrating on her work. She stilled when she realised he was looking at her.
"Jean-Luc?"
There was no vocal response but his brow crinkled sightly.
Encouraged, Beverly took his face in her hands.
"Come on my love…I know you're in there."
As she watched his face relaxed and his eyes drifted away. Sighing, Beverly stroked his head and leaned forward to gently kiss his forehead. Leaving the bed she retrieved a chair and a book then sat by his side. With her head slightly raised she said,
"Computer contact Commander Deanna Troi on the Enterprise and route the channel to my current location, authorisation Crusher Gamma Beta one five."
"Requested communication will take eighteen point seven minutes."
"Acknowledged."
With the book open in her lap, Beverly began to read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will was in the Ready Room when the door chimed.
"Come in."
He smiled fondly at his visitor, noting her happy eyes.
"You're supposed to be in your office."
Her smile infectious, the Counsellor took a seat opposite her lover and nodded.
"Correct Sir, however I have news you need to hear."
Will's eyebrows shot up and he sat forward.
"The Captain?"
"Uh huh. He's regained consciousness Will."
The big man closed his eyes and tilted his head back.
"Oh thank God! How is he?"
A frown marred Deanna's face and she sighed.
"Well…not so good, but Beverly was quick to point out it's early days. He is still partially paralysed down his left side but he has some command over his right side."
Will frowned.
"He had that before. Isn't there any improvement?"
"Not yet although he can control his eyes. They no longer slide around haphazardly."
Snorting, the First Officer sat back and ran a hand through his beard.
"After the hell he's been through these past weeks I'd have hoped he'd have more to show for it all. The nanites are doing their job aren't they?"
Deanna nodded cautiously and Will noted the change.
"What?"
Sighing, Deanna's voice softened.
"He doesn't recognise Beverly at all."
"What?"
"Doctor Hulm thinks it's only temporary and Beverly's optimistic but Will can you imagine how hard it must be for her?"
Will picked up Jean-Luc's crystal shard and rotated it slowly in his fingers, his eyes reflecting the prismatic light.
"These reports we've been getting…she's been up beat, always optimistic even when the reality was so much more sinister…how much longer can she do it?"
Deanna shrugged and pulled the corners of her mouth down.
"Your guess is as good as mine. We both know she's adopted a cheery demeanour for our benefit…it didn't take much to see the underlying seriousness of her reports but Will she's committed to stay with Captain Picard no matter what. Regardless of the amount of recovery he makes she intends to be at his side…caring for him under any circumstances. If she doesn't handle what's going on now I hate to think what the future may hold for her…for both of them."
Will's eyes left the shard and settled on his lover.
"Have you talked to her about it?"
Deanna's smile was rueful.
"I've tried but you know how she is…particularly when it comes to the Captain. All I can do is sift through the veneers of cheerful optimism and try to see the real situation. Hard at the best of times and at the moment…almost impossible."
Tossing the shard on the desktop Will snorted.
"Dammit Dee! This is so bloody frustrating…our hands are tied aren't they?"
The Counsellor lowered her head and rubber her face.
"Pretty much. What's our ETA at S'Runnin?"
"Another two weeks."
Deanna stood and looked steadily at the big man.
"Well all we can do is hope that we get better news between now and then."
Will stared at his hands and nodded.
"Agreed."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next week Jean-Luc was subjected to an ever-increasing regime of physical stimulation. Along with the electro bands and massages, he was taken from his bed and placed in an assisting apparatus that moved his limbs under resistance thereby strengthening his muscles and increasing the blood flow. Five days after regaining consciousness he had demonstrated control over his bodily functions and he was removed from the bio waste unit. Beverly soon discovered he would slowly move his right hand onto his lower abdomen when he needed to relieve himself and she assisted him in privacy.
One evening after his treatment was finished for the day, Beverly was reading to him. In the quiet of his room he would slip into sleep and the Doctor was waiting for that to happen. She turned a page and looked up to see that he had turned his head towards her and was watching her. She smiled and continued to read but was distracted as Jean-Luc's hand began to move. Thinking that he wanted to relieve himself, Beverly stood and was about to fetch the appropriate equipment when she halted in amazement. Very slowly the Captain inched his hand to his mouth where he moved his lips, a slight frown on his face.
Beverly sat on his bed and took his hand, lifting it to her mouth. Taking his fingers, she gently laid them on her lips as she said gently.
"It's me Jean-Luc…Beverly."
His eyes moved from her mouth to her eyes, the confused frown still evident. His mouth opened and closed a few times then a low gurgle escaped. Beverly smiled, tears welling.
"You want to speak don't you my love? Be patient my sweet lover it will come."
As she spoke softly to him he stared intently at her mouth, making faltering attempts to copy the movements of her lips. Watching his efforts, Beverly had an idea.
"Well if you're so keen we'll put that mouth to some use."
Laying his hand on the bed, she left him but returned quickly bearing a tray. She took the time to raise the head of his bed then propped him securely with pillows. She positioned the mobile table next to him and placed a napkin under his chin. Taking a large breath she looked into his eyes.
"Right. Let's see if you can eat."
Dipping the spoon into the vegetable soup, she brought it to his mouth and he stared mutely at her. She gently rubbed the spoon over his lower lip and was inordinately pleased when he opened his mouth to take the spoon. She withdrew the utensil and held her breath as he remained motionless. Several seconds passed and Beverly began to frown when his throat suddenly moved as he swallowed. Beverly beamed at him and filled the spoon again.
Over some minutes Jean-Luc slowly finished the soup. A very satisfied Doctor then picked up a plastic cup that had a lid attached with a spout for drinking. She tested the temperature before offering it to him. As before as soon as the spout touched his lips he opened his mouth and Beverly carefully tipped the cup. Warm Earl Grey tea entered his mouth and he coughed, tea going everywhere. Ready for this mishap, Beverly dabbed him dry and tried again. With his eyes fixed on the Doctor, Beverly repeated the manoeuvre and was gratified with a better result. He held the liquid in his mouth and Beverly found herself swallowing in anticipation. When his throat moved she sighed.
"This is your favourite Jean-Luc. For as long as I've know you you've always enjoyed a cup of Earl Grey."
To her immense gratification Jean-Luc opened his mouth and waited. She gave him more tea, slowly emptying the cup over several minutes. When he'd finished she removed the napkin and made sure he was comfortable. Taking his face in her hands she said softly,
"Tomorrow morning you can have a light breakfast. If you manage that all right and there're no unpleasant repercussions we'll remove your intravenous line. How about that?"
He stared intently into her eyes and she noticed the vacancy had gone from his gaze. That he still didn't know her was obvious but as he stared she could see him trying to understand what he saw.
Beverly lowered the bed and removed the pillows. She made him comfortable then disposed of the dishes and tray. Settling in her chair, she opened the book and began to read. After a few pages she glanced up to see him once again watching her. She smiled and continued.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast the next morning was successful, the drip removed two hours later. The next three days were taken up with more therapies but late one morning Jean-Luc stunned the support staff by moaning and slowly touching the right side of his head, his face screwed up.
Beverly was immediately by his side, scanner working diligently. Her summons to Hulm was tight.
"Crusher to Hulm."
"Hulm here Beverly."
"Thomas he's in significant pain and his temperature's spiked."
"I'm on my way."
Beverly dismissed the two nurses and sat on the bed, taking Jean-Luc in her arms. She rested his head on her shoulder and gently rubbed his back.
"Hold on Jean-Luc…we'll help you I promise."
Hulm came straight to his patient and helped Beverly ease him down onto the bed. Taking Beverly's tricorder, he frowned over the displayed information. Jean-Luc groaned again and closed his eyes, his right hand holding his head. Beverly watched her lover with worry and muttered,
"Aspernal?"
Hulm nodded.
"Yes…fifteen cc's."
While Beverly administered the analgesic Hulm activated the main computer and downloaded the tricorder's information. He was brooding over the results when Beverly appeared at his shoulder.
"What is it?"
The Neurologist sighed, raking his fingers through his hair.
"It's the nanites. The phase of repair has deepened and re-awakened his pain receptors."
Beverly nodded, her eyes tracking the extent of nanite infiltration.
"And the temperature?"
"A side effect. Once his brain accommodates the repaired tissue his temperature should drop. What concerns me is the pain. I think it's going to be difficult to treat it effectively…at least for a while. Until the nanites complete this phase it's going to be damned uncomfortable for him."
Beverly looked over her shoulder to see Jean-Luc lying quietly with a frown on his face. She sighed and turned back to the monitor.
"Another one of those battles you spoke of?"
Hulm grunted and shook his head.
"As long as we win the war Beverly…we've got to keep looking at the big picture."
Beverly swallowed, her eyes briefly closing.
"Provided the warrior survives intact."

 

 

 

 

 

The next four days were very difficult for the couple. Jean-Luc suffered continually from severe pain and Beverly fretted as the drugs had little effect. All she could do was comfort him and hope it soon abated.
One evening, as Beverly caught some much needed sleep in a private room; she was awakened by the night staff's urgent call.
"Gant to Doctor Crusher!"
Sitting up immediately and pushing her hair back, Beverly answered the hail.
"Crusher here."
"Doctor Captain Picard is very distressed and we can't calm him. He seems to be trying to say something as well, but we can't understand."
"I'm on my way."
Several minutes later Beverly entered Jean-Luc's room to find a male nurse holding the Captain's shoulders to the bed as he writhed, his hand pressed to his head. Beverly went to Jean-Luc's side and spoke quietly to the nurse.
"Let him go."
The young man looked incredulously at the Doctor and shook his head.
"I'm sorry Doctor but he may hurt himself if I release him."
Her eyes hardening, Beverly adopted her command voice.
"Let him go!"
The nurse reluctantly obeyed and Beverly immediately took Jean-Luc's head in her hands and spoke firmly.
"Jean-Luc!"
The suffering man stopped and held his breath.
"Jean-Luc it's Beverly. I need you to lie still now while I put something cold on your head. OK?"
Hearing her request, the nurse replicated a cold pack and placed it beside Jean-Luc's pillow. Beverly took it and gently eased his hand away from the right side of his head. With gentle pressure she held the pack to the afflicted area. Jean-Luc groaned and weakly gripped her hand.
"Shh my love it's all right, this should help."
Tears slid from under his closed eyelids and Beverly wiped them away with her free hand. The nurse left and soon returned with a hypospray.
"It's a little early Doctor but maybe he can have some more analgesic?"
Beverly nodded her agreement and watched as the drug was administered. Jean-Luc slowly relaxed and Beverly sat on the side of his bed.
"Is that better?"
He sighed and opened his eyes. Frowning, he looked up at the Doctor and his mouth moved. Beverly gasped and leaned forward.
"What Jean-Luc? Say it again my love."
With some difficulty he repeated the single word.
"Beverly."
Tears welled in her eyes and she kissed his brow.
"You know who I am?"
He blinked and tried to smile, the left side of his face not fully cooperating.
"Yes."
The Doctor used her free hand to stroke his face.
"Welcome back my love…I've missed you."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Enterprise was under escort having crossed the border into S'Runnin space. At either side of the mighty ship, two immense battle cruisers flanked her and although their weapons were inactive, their shields were up as were the Enterprise's.
Data turned to the Commander and delivered his report.
"They are very impressive ships Sir. On a one-to-one basis we would probably hold our own in battle, but with two of them we would be severely disadvantaged."
Will nodded and stared at the viewscreen.
"Can we discern their weapons technology?"
"That is proving problematic Commander. They employ selective particle scramblers in key areas of their ships. At present our sensors cannot penetrate those sections, however Commander LaForge assures me we will gain access, but it will take some time."
Will scowled.
"Well keep on it Data, I really don't want to remain blind when it comes to these people. They're too unpredictable."
"Understood Commander."
Will settled to study the information on the ship's status when Tactical gently called,
"Commander we are receiving a hail from the lead ship. Audio only Sir."
"Thank you Lieutenant. Open channel."
A deep voice sounded.
"Commander Riker the leader of my government wishes to speak with you. Master Fendon is waiting."
"Thank you Captain I will speak with him now."
There was a momentary hiatus before Fendon spoke.
"Commander Riker you will arriving in eight hours. I would like to extend an invitation to attend the chamber. A sitting has been called in your honour."
Will stood and slowly paced the front section of the Bridge.
"Thank you Master Fendon, but before I come down to the surface I have some requests that must be met."
Fendon's voice was tight.
"And what are these requests?"
Will took a big breath and crossed his fingers.
"Firstly I would like us to exchange information packages about each of our cultures. If possible, I would like to try and avoid any…unfortunate incidents…by learning more about you and in return you can be better informed about us."
"We already know about the Federation Commander, however I see no reason why I should refuse. We will send a data package soon. What else do you require?"
"Master Fendon I must insist on having unimpeded two way contact with my ship at all times and I want my ship to have a sensor lock on any crew who beam down. Also if I or any member of the crew stays long enough to require rest, we will beam back to our ship. No offence Sir, but we will not stay for any extended periods of time on the surface."
There was a protracted silence and Will waited patiently. Eventually Fendon's gruff voice was heard.
"I am puzzled by your caution Commander but I will grant your requests. Captain Vazz will inform you when we are ready."
"Thank you Sir, I look forward to meeting you. Riker out."
The big man regained his seat and Data muttered,
"Well done Sir…I am sure they are curious as to what sort of a man you are."
Will snorted.
"As long as I come out of this in one piece Data, I don't care what they think."
The information exchange took place and Will sequestered himself in the Ready Room to read and absorb the lengthy report. In anticipation of hidden difficulties, he had ordered Data to read the same package and the android was soon at the door.
"Come in."
Nodding to the Second Officer, Will gestured to a seat and once Data was seated Will stopped reading and looked up.
"OK Data what have you got for me?"
His golden eyes gleaming, Data tilted his head.
"I must say Commander the S'Run are a very complex people. Their society has elements of Klingon barbarity, Gorn brutality, Vulcan stoicism and Human Ingenuity. They would make a formidable enemy."
Will sighed and rubbed his beard.
"Well hopefully that won't ever happen, especially if I do my job right. What should I look out for…what should I avoid?"
Data settled his hands on the desktop and sat forward.
"They live an intensely structured existence, governed by ceremony and protocol, the origins of which are ancient. The population is strictly divided between the warrior classes and the workers. The upper echelons of government are made up of the warriors. They rely heavily on symbolic gestures and rituals, the purpose of which is to supplant more deadly forms of negotiation. My advice to you is to avoid any form of physical contest or attempts to entice you to prove your worth as a leader by indulging in tests of strength. In addition I must warn you about matters of sexuality. There are no predominating preferences between the sexes. The only time heterosexual practices are enforced is for breeding purposes, at all other times sexuality is based on mutual need or attraction. Gender is irrelevant. It is also employed as a means of gaining status. One's station in life can be improved by mating with a more powerful person. I believe Captain Picard fell foul of at least two rituals. One was sparring with a warrior, the other being chosen as a prospective mate. There are also matters of property. Apparently in winning a physical contest, the victor becomes the owner of the vanquished."
Will sat back and ran his hands over his head.
"OK I think I've got all that, but how do I avoid these situations? I take it they'd be deeply offended if I simply refused."
Data slowly blinked.
"Yes Sir they would, but hopefully after reading our information package they will realise we have very different ways of conducting ourselves. Perhaps when you meet with Master Fendon you can explain that you are not in a position as a representative of your government to indulge in alien practices."
Folding his arms across his chest, Will studied his friend.
"That's sound advice Data, thank you. It is my intention to ask if you can accompany me when I beam down. We know they won't accept Counsellor Troi and I would feel better if you were with me."
The android nodded.
"Thank you Sir…that is a wise decision."
Will smiled and tilted his head.
"Anything else?"
Data stood and shook his head.
"No Commander. I believe you are well informed."
"Very well. Dismissed."
As Data left Will's eyes drifted back to the computer screen.
"God I hope no one takes a fancy to me."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deanna stood in the Transporter room facing her lover. Data stepped up to her side and said quietly.
"I will look after him Counsellor."
Will heard the comment and smiled down at the petite woman.
"See? Now will you stop worrying?"
She sighed and shook her head.
"No. Until this mission is over and you're safely back aboard…I will worry. I can't help it."
Will stepped off the platform and took her hands. He kissed her forehead and said softly,
"I'll be fine. The ship is yours until I return. Keep a lock on us at all times and stay alert. I'm sure everything will be ok."
Smiling up at the tall man, Deanna concentrated on keeping calm, quashing the urge to cry. Will mounted the platform and cast a look at Data. The android took his place at the Exec's side and nodded. Will winked at Deanna, his voice soft.
"Energise."

 

 

The subdued lighting in the receiving Transporter room surprised Will. As his eyes adjusted he became aware of an immense being standing in front of him. The alien bowed his head and spoke his greeting.
"Welcome to the parliament building Commander Riker and Commander Data. Your presence honours us."
Both Starfleet officers bowed their heads and stepped off the platform. Will cast his eyes about, noting the walls were covered with intricate paintings. Another S'Run entered the room and their host stepped to one side, engaged in deep conversation. Taking the opportunity to satisfy his curiosity, Will walked over to the nearest wall to study the paintings. Data went with him and stood silently as Will gasped. Whispering, Will asked,
"Data…do you see what I see?"
The android cocked his head.
"If you are asking if I see depictions of graphic images of sexual activity…then yes Sir I do see what you see."
"My God…this is like some kind of alien Karma Sutra."
Data stared intently at the images.
"Indeed Commander, although I would not recommend some of these practices, I believe they would be injurious to one's health."
With his mouth slightly ajar, Will started when the host's vice came from his side.
"I see you're enjoying our Frenn'Pa. Beautiful isn't it?"
Will swallowed and turned to the alien.
"Ah…yes I suppose it is. Tell me, are all these…techniques…practiced here on S'Runnin?"
The huge man grinned.
"Of course Commander! It is by these acts that we celebrate life. Do you not celebrate your existence by joining?"
Will smiled and nodded.
"Well yes…perhaps not so imaginatively, but yes we celebrate our Humanity and the sanctity of life with sex."
An immense hand clasped Will's shoulder.
"That is good! The more we have in common, the better it will be between us. My name is Grunn and I am the chamber Reeve. Please come with me."
The officers followed the alien from the room and down a corridor. After some turns they emerged in the atrium, then entered another corridor that eventually led to a pair of huge white doors. After Grunn had placed his hand on a scanning pad, the doors silently swung open and the rumble of noise inside halted immediately. Will took a large breath and straightened his spine. He cast a look at his Number Two and noted with pride how Data kept his eyes front and his bearing immaculate.
Tucking in his chin, he followed Grunn into the chamber.
They were led to a table that faced the large front bench. Grunn explained that the blue padded area was sacred and they could not touch it without invitation and then only once they had removed their boots. The chamber etiquette had already been illuminated in the information package so, as Grunn retired to his seat, Will and Data bowed to Master Fendon, seated behind his bench.
"Welcome honoured guests! I trust your journey here was uneventful?"
"Will bowed again and smiled.
"It was Master Fendon and thank you for your greeting, we are indeed honoured to be here."
A deep voice from Will's left made him turn his head.
"Tell me Commander…how is Captain Picard?"
Keeping his smile in place, Will asked,
"And you are..?"
There was a murmur of disgruntled annoyance, which Fendon silenced with a glare. The speaker bowed and spread his hands.
"My apologies Commander. I am Qon."
"Ah Qon…yes I've heard of you. The Captain is still under medical care, his condition is unchanged."
There were gasps and mutterings from the chamber. Qon held up his huge hand.
"I was under the impression that Federation medical technology was of the highest standard Commander. Why can't your Doctors repair the Captain?"
Will frowned and shrugged.
"The damage to his brain was quite severe. Even with our level of expertise there are times when brain injuries defeat us. We can only hope that Captain Picard recovers. Certainly everything is being done to help him."
Qon nodded and sat, allowing Fendon to add,
"You must think us barbarians Commander but the truth is we don't treat the severely injured or ill. If it seems a person is unable to recover from injury or disease we help them to achieve Sra'Kon. They take their place with the honoured dead."
Will swallowed and briefly closed his eyes.
"Is that what you would have done to Captain Picard?"
"Yes. To prolong his suffering would have been cruel. We are a benevolent people Commander. On this planet nobody suffers. Your own people allow euthanasia Commander…is it not the same?"
Will sighed.
"Not exactly Sir. Euthanasia is only practiced as a last resort and only when the patient has requested it. There aren't many instances where the practice is seen as a viable method of resolution, but I admit is does happen and is often a blessing to the afflicted."
Fendon grinned, his sharp rows of teeth catching the light.
"There you see! Something else we share. Tell me, do you think Captain Picard will request…euthanasia?"
Will scowled.
"I don't know Sir. At the moment he's not capable of making such a decision."
Fendon nodded sympathetically.
"Well let us hope he does. I'm sure a warrior like Captain Picard would not want to be a burden on society."
Will smiled wanly and nodded.
"No Sir."
Fendon took a deep breath and seemed to leave the subject.
"Commander we are aware of your reluctance to indulge in any of our rituals, however your companion…Commander Data…intrigues us. Is it true he possesses great strength? Greater than any Human?"
Will nodded.
"Yes Sir it is."
Fendon looked over to Qon and smiled.
"Then may I make a request? If we guarantee that he won't be subject to our laws, regardless of the outcome, would you allow him to take part in a simple contest of strength against our greatest warrior?"
Will looked down at Data and raised his eyebrows.
"What about it Data?"
The android stood and said quietly,
"I will be fine Sir."
He then bowed to Fendon and said boldly,
"I would be honoured."
Qon stood, stretched his arms out wide and lifted his head. As he howled the chamber members joined in and Will's hair rose on his body. Fendon drew order with a loud grunt and Qon left his seat, beckoning to Data to join him. They removed their shoes, bowed to each other then stepped onto the Darr. Meeting in the middle of the padded square, Qon spoke quietly.
"The test is a simple one. We will hold our arms out wide and clasp hands. The aim is to bring your hands to touch either side of the other's head. Are you ready?"
Data nodded.
"I am."
Qon smiled in a predatory fashion.
"Then we begin!"
The immense male strained against Data, the huge muscles of his body bulging and cording with effort. Data stood remarkably still, showing nothing of the strength he possessed. Qon began to growl and sweat beaded his forehead. Data turned his head and looked at Will. The Commander nodded and Data turned back to his opponent. With speed that was breathtaking, Data closed his arms and brought his hands to touch either side of Qon's head. The huge man stepped back, shaking his head. There were sounds of dismay and disbelief from the chamber and Qon stood to his full height, glowering down at the android.
"How dare you!"
Data raised his eyebrows and shrugged.
"Did I not carry out my instructions correctly? I was under the impression that I had."
Qon stepped closer, his hands balled into fists. Fendon's sharp voice stopped him in his tracks.
"Qon! You have been defeated. The only honourable thing to do is yield."
The dark man closed his glaring eyes and took a deep breath. He bowed to Data then slowly kneeled.
"My life is yours. I beg of you…please finish it and end my shame."
Data's mouth opened and he looked over to Will. The Commander stood and bowed.
"That is not necessary! My people do not take the lives of those defeated, either in battle or in games of strength."
Fendon leaned forward.
"That may be so Commander but here it is unacceptable to suffer defeat. He…"
Will risked censure by interrupting.
"You said there would be no repercussions…regardless of the outcome!"
Glaring at Will, Fendon kept his temper in check.
"None to your officer Commander. Qon must obey the laws of our people."
Will frowned, searching his mind for a solution to the disaster. Suddenly hopeful, he looked up and schooled his features.
"Very well, I understand, but I would like you to consider something."
"And that is?"
"Qon was not defeated by a living being. Data is an android…a machine deliberately constructed to be physically stronger and smarter than Humans. In my opinion the test was unfair and if you wish I will take Data's place in the same test."
Data was about to protest when Fendon grunted. He said to Qon,
"What are your thoughts on this?"
The big male slowly stood and looked down at Data.
"He is a remarkable being Master but perhaps Commander Riker is right. Our laws pertain to living beings not machines. If you allow it, I will be happy to play the game with the Commander."
Fendon sat in silence for several seconds before nodding. He smiled at Will and bowed his head.
"Same rules Commander?"
Will grinned and nodded.
"Fine by me."
Data and Will swapped places and the bout took four seconds to be completed. With Qon's hands resting on his temples. Will smiled up at the huge male and bowed.
"Well played Sir."
Qon laughed and stepped back.
"I like you Commander. Under different circumstances I would have liked to join with you."
Will swallowed and summoned and sickly smile.
"Ah…thank you."
Fendon and the chamber laughed and a gong was heard. Several servants came in bearing trays covered with tall glasses each filled with a dark green liquid.
Fendon brought the chamber to order.
"We will now begin the ceremony of Gui'Lim."
Data took a small sip of the drink and reported.
"It is a narcotic Commander. Although you will be affected, I do not believe it is addictive."
Will nodded then said sotto voce,
"Data…what I said about you being not alive…"
Data smiled and shook his head.
"Think nothing of it Sir, I understand."
Smiling bravely at his colleague, Will followed the others by raising his glass.
"To Captain Picard! If he does not survive, may he find his place amongst the honoured dead!"
"Captain Picard! Ge-Na!"

 

Beverly kept her hand under the cup as Jean-Luc slowly sipped the warm tea. The straw sat in the right corner of his mouth and he'd improved in swallowing without spilling too much liquid. Out of bed and sitting in a chair, Beverly sighed as she took in his weight loss and pale appearance.
His hand began to tremble and she took the cup, dabbing his mouth and smiling at him.
"Well done. Now finish the scrambled eggs and I'll consider another cup of tea."
He sighed and tried to pick up the fork but was rapidly tiring. Beverly saw his difficulty and gently closed her hand over his.
"Here let me help you."
Before she could lift his hand, he jerked free and growled. In his slurred speech he snarled,
"I can do it."
Plastering a sunny smile on her face, Beverly kept her voice light.
"I know you can but you're getting tired. Let me help you and it'll be over sooner."
He glared ineffectually and Beverly sighed.
"Please Jean-Luc…just let me help."
He grunted and turned his head. The Doctor closed her eyes and gritted her teeth.
"Have you had enough?"
Another grunt was heard and she removed the tray.
"Would you like another cup of tea?"
He turned back to her and nodded.
"Hotter."
The red head shook her head.
"Now you know I can't make it too hot…you'll burn your mouth. Tell you what…I'll make it a little warmer, how's that?"
Lifting the right side of his mouth, he sneered.
"Suppose so."
When Beverly returned from the replicator Jean-Luc was massaging his left hand. As the Doctor watched he sighed.
"Doesn't work."
She sat before him and offered the cup.
"It will my love, it'll just take time. Try and be patient."
He snorted and took the cup. As the tea entered his mouth he closed his eyes and sighed. Hulm came in and Jean-Luc opened his eyes, looking up at the tall man suspiciously. Beverly grinned and waved her hand.
"Well Doctor here he is…out of bed, sitting in a chair and drinking a cup of Earl Grey."
Hulm beamed at Jean-Luc and dragged over a chair.
"Excellent! Now Captain I know we've put you through the wringer with our tests but there's a few simple exams I'd like to do now. OK?"
Sighing, Jean-Luc allowed Beverly to take the cup and nodded at Hulm.
With practiced ease, Hulm removed Jean-Luc's pyjama top then produced a needle.
"All you have to do is keep your eyes on Beverly and tell me if you feel anything."
Jean-Luc grunted and concentrated on his lover. Hulm slowly began to gently prick different areas of Jean-Luc's arm, from his shoulder to his fingertips. Every now and then the Captain would mutter,
"Yes."
As he felt the sensation of the pricks. At one stage Hulm pressed harder than he intended and Jean-Luc jumped, glaring at the Doctor. He apologised and continued, completing the exam and nodding in satisfaction.
"Well as unscientific as that was…it told me a lot. You have increased sensitivity Captain and I believe it's improving all the time. Poke out your tongue."
Jean-Luc obliged and Hulm muttered to himself.
"Good. Now puff out you cheeks."
That was easier said than done, but the Captain nearly succeeded.
"OK good. Now blink your left eye."
Very slowly Jean-Luc complied.
"Good."
He then knelt at Jean-Luc's feet and eased off his left slipper.
"Can you splay your toes?"
Jean-Luc was partially successful and Hulm looked up at him, a grin on his face.
"Well done! How is the pain?"
Jean-Luc nodded slowly.
"Not too bad."
The next question was directed to Beverly.
"And his temperature?"
"Still a little elevated…thirty-nine at the last scan."
Hulm stood and stretched his back.
"It'll come down."
Looking down at his patient, the Neurologist exuded confidence.
"You're doing very well Captain…better than expected. With Beverly's dedicated care and my expertise I'm sure you'll be restored in next to no time. Well I'll be off…I'll see you tonight. Cheerio."
As he went to the door, Beverly called after him.
"Thomas can I see you outside a minute?"
They met some metres away from Jean-Luc's room and Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose.
"Thomas do you think it's wise to give him the impression that his recovery is going to be quick?"
Hulm took a step back, a look of hurt on his face.
"I only told him that to bolster his spirits Beverly. You know as well as I how important it is to keep the patient's morale up."
Beverly nodded, softening her hard eyes.
"Yes I do know Thomas but we both know his recovery is going to be protracted. How do you think he's going to feel when he doesn't sustain the rate of recovery you've told him to expect? He'll be devastated. Look I know him and I can assure you he will accept only the truth. Anything else will be considered an insult."
Hulm sighed and rubbed his face.
"I see your point Beverly. What shall I do?"
"Come back inside and tell him the truth."
Jean-Luc looked up from his contemplation of his bare foot. As Beverly replaced his slipper and pyjama top, Hulm sat and faced him.
"Captain Picard it would seem that I have erred in my estimation of your recovery rate."
A look of fear crossed Jean-Luc's features and Hulm saw it.
"Oh no Captain please…I believe you will recover…fully, however it may not be as fast as I led you to believe. It will take some time Captain…and a lot of hard work but I am sure we'll get there. Apparently I underestimated your capacity to understand your situation and I was a little over enthusiastic with my predictions. My apologies."
Jean-Luc nodded slowly and sighed.
"S'right."
Hulm smiled at him and gripped his knee.
"You'll get there Captain…just be patient."
He stood and left. Jean-Luc grunted.
"Patient."
Beverly sat in front of him and took his hands.
"There's something else my love…something very important."
He raised his right eyebrow in a gesture so familiar Beverly smiled.
"You just remember you're not alone. I'll be with you every step of the way."
His smile was lopsided but tender and the Doctor leaned forward and kissed him.
"Now my love, you're due for another session on the resistance machine."
Jean-Luc grunted and shook his head.
"Charming."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the third time Will passed his hand in front of his face, fascinated by the afterimages it left. He sighed and felt his blood pumping through his body and frowned when he realised he couldn't feel his legs. Leaning to one side he called softly,
"Data?"
The android gently pushed Will upright and answered him.
"Yes Sir?"
Will smiled, his look of affection open for all to see.
"My legs…are they there?"
Data frowned.
"Sir?"
Will sighed.
"Legs Data…my legs…are they there?"
"Are they where Sir?"
Will's face crumpled.
"Where they should be. I think they've gone."
Data's eyebrows rose and he tilted his head, casting his eyes over Will's lower appendages.
"You need not worry Commander. Your legs are where they should be."
The smile reappeared and Will leaned back onto Data's shoulder.
"Oh. Oh that's very good Data…I would've really missed them."
Once again righting the listing man, Data said softly,
"I recommend you watch the screen Commander. The S'Run are going to play a tribute to Captain Picard."
Will lifted his head and intoned,
"Captain my Captain! Here's to Jean-Luc Picard! My mentor, friend and CO. May he live forever!"
Fendon frowned at Will and grunted. Data offered an apologetic smile and gripped Will's arm tightly.
"Ow Data! Steady on there my good man…no need to bruise the merchandise."
"Sir you are under the effects of a narcotic drink and your behaviour is less than would be expected for an officer of your standing. I respectfully suggest you attempt to modify your conduct before you cause angst among our hosts."
Will's eyes were riveted on Data's mouth. Rapt and enthralled, he raised a hand and feathered his fingers over the android's lips. Data sighed and turned Will's head.
"Watch the screen Sir."
With his mouth ajar, Will's attention was drawn to the huge screen situated on the wall behind Fendon's chair. The chamber settled and images of Jean-Luc appeared. His arrival, his adjudication of the dispute and the sparring were displayed, but what transfixed Will were the multiple images of Jean-Luc and Beverly making love. In a breathy whisper Will remarked,
"I'll be damned…the old dog…I never knew he had it in him."
The screen darkened then reactivated to show a naked Jean-Luc having the spikes driven through his wrists. At this juncture Fendon stood and raised his arms.
"Our fellow warrior became one of us that day. His name and that of his mate Beverly Crusher will be entered into the texts. It is with great sadness that this government recognises our part in his demise. We will give thanks and offer our sacrifices in the hope he may one day be restored to us."
Will's glazed eyes tracked a procession of people into the chamber. Five young people, three males and two females were led onto the Darr and stripped of their clothing. Their spikes were scanned and Fendon called for silence.
"You have been chosen as the vessels of the Gods! In accordance with our laws you will die for a greater good. As a personal gesture of my appreciation of your gift, I have requested our greatest warrior to send you on your journey. Qon!"
The immense male stood and came to stand before the trembling youngsters. Two aides placed a black headdress upon his head and offered him a gleaming blue sword. He pointed to the first in line and said gently,
"Kneel."
The terrified teenager fell to her knees and bowed her head. Qon was very quick. The sword descended in a blurred arc and the girl's head rolled onto the padded floor, her decapitated body slumping sideways. Will lurched to his feet but before he could protest Data's hand covered his mouth, his urgent whisper making Will hold his breath.
"No Commander! Do not say anything…we have no jurisdiction here, we are their guests. Please remain silent."
Will swallowed his rising stomach contents as the second and third executions took place. After that he closed his eyes, slumping back into his seat, very suddenly sober.
He soon heard a murmur from the chamber that slowly grew in volume. Soon all the members were chanting and Will dared to open his eyes. The heads had been placed in ornate boxes and two guards were using an instrument to seal the stumps of the necks of the bodies. Fendon raised a golden staff and brought it down loudly on the desk.
"Come forward and honour those who gave of themselves!"
The two hundred members of the chamber formed a line and one by one stepped up to the dark pool of blood on the floor, bent and trailed their fingers through it before smearing the gore on their foreheads. When every member had completed the ritual Fendon gestured to Will and Data.
"Approach honoured guests."
Will turned panicked eyes on Data but all the android did was help him to his feet.
Once at the edge of the Darr, they removed their boots and stepped gingerly onto its surface. Qon bade them closer then, when they stood beside the headless bodies, he bent, covered his fingers in blood and anointed their foreheads.
Fendon beamed down at the two officers, obviously pleased with himself.
"You may not understand the significance of that gesture Commanders but I assure you it is a great honour. What Qon has just bestowed upon you has only ever been given to proven warriors. Although we don't know you or your personal battle history, the fact that you are allied with Captain Picard is enough to encourage us to believe in your hearts."
Will closed his mouth and nodded.
"Thank you Master Fendon. We accept the honour in the spirit it was given."
Qon gripped Will's shoulder and winked.
"As recognised warriors in our society you have the opportunity to pick any mate you want."
The huge male stood to his full height and flexed his considerable physique.
"I would be proud and delighted if you were to chose me."
Will swallowed and looked up at the imposing male, trying to muster a confident smile.
"Unfortunately Qon I already have a mate…but thank you for offering…I'm…flattered."
Disappointment crossed Qon's eyes but he hid it well. Turning slightly, he addressed Data.
"And what of you Commander. Do you have a mate?"
The Second Officer straightened and adopted a formal pose.
"In memory of a deceased shipmate with whom I was intimate, I prefer to remain unattached. However I am honoured by your offer."
Frowning down at the pale android Qon tilted his huge head.
"You do not wish a mate? What a curious being you are."
Fendon lifted his arms and raised his voice.
"We will now assemble outside for the feast."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An hour later Will was rapidly tiring. His stomach full to bursting and with alcoholic beverages flowing freely the Commander was wilting under the pressure of keeping up appearances. Acutely aware of the blood on his head and the obligations of his mission, he forced a smile on his face and kept up a stream of inane conversation with a seemingly never-ending flow of members who insisted on talking with him.
It was with heartfelt relief that he felt Data's hand on his shoulder.
"Excuse me Sir, but Master Fendon has something he wishes us to see."
Working their way out of the middle of the large crowd, Will and Data spotted Fendon, Hak and Qon standing with their backs to the gathering. The officers approached and Will cleared his throat. Fendon turned and smiled broadly.
"Commander Riker, Commander Data…having witnessed the profundity of the Gui'Lim now comes the joy of Frenn'Pa. He stood aside and extended his arm.
"Look upon them my friends…the celebration of life…the joining!"
On a wide raised plinth surrounding the massed members in a one hundred-metre circle couples were copulating. Same sex couples, mixed sex couples… Will's eyes widened and he gulped. Qon's hand gripped his shoulder and he sighed expansively.
"Is it not beautiful? After the sorrow of death it is only right to savour the joy of life. Soon it will be the member's turn. Perhaps you would like to bring your mate down."
Will briefly closed his eyes and lowered his head.
"Actually Qon I am feeling rather tired. If it's all right with the Master, Data and I would like to return to our ship. It's been a long day."
Qon stiffened and frowned.
"Well it is unusual but if that is what you wish, so be it."
The warrior relayed Will's request to Fendon and the leader nodded solemnly.
"Very well Commander. When you return tomorrow we will meet in private to discuss the dilithium trade."
Will bowed.
"I look forward to it Sir. Thank you for your hospitality. Good afternoon."
Stepping to one side, Will and Data stood to attention. Will tapped his combadge.
"Enterprise two to beam up."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc scowled and waved away the cup.
"No!"
Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose and counted slowly to ten.
"Jean-Luc you need to keep your fluids up."
He shook his head.
"Earl Grey."
Baring her teeth in frustration Beverly closed her eyes.
"No…water."
The Captain raised his right hand and poked her shoulder.
"Tea is made with water."
Abruptly finding a limit to her patience, the Doctor snapped,
"It's not the same and you bloody well know it! Now stop being so deliberately obtuse and drink the damn water."
His eyes travelled up and he snorted. With his hand he gestured for the cup, sneering when he saw its contents. Beverly helped position the straw and he drank doggedly, not pausing until he finished the entire amount.
The Doctor then wiped up the small spills and sat back, sighing.
"There was that so hard?"
He glared and turned his head, slurring,
"Don't like water…like tea."
Raising her hand in a gesture of exasperation, Beverly groaned.
"You know as well as I that you can't drink only tea! It's a stimulant Jean-Luc and the last thing you need right how is loss of sleep. The best, kindest thing for your body is to drink water. Yes you can still have your precious tea…just not all the time."
Jean-Luc sighed in defeat and nodded.
"All right."
"Good. Now I want you to try your best to eat everything on your plate. Your digestive system is a little sluggish and we've tailored your meals accordingly. Lots of fibre and nutritious items I'm sure you'll like."
She placed a tray on his knees and he grimaced at seeing all the food cut into small pieces. Beverly ignored the display and picked up the fork.
"Do you want me to help?"
He shook his head brusquely and took the utensil. With dogged determination he slowly managed to eat most of the meal. Just as he was chewing the last mouthful he suddenly gasped and dropped the fork. Beverly, who was replicating a dessert, heard the clatter of the fork and turned to see Jean-Luc's hand pressed to his cheek and his face screwed up in pain. Immediately at his side, she gently removed his hand and saw a trickle of blood escaping from the corner of his mouth.
"What happened?"
Opening his tightly closed eyes, he ground out,
"Bit my mouth."
Retrieving a tricorder, she eased his mouth open.
"OK let me see."
She scanned the injury and frowned.
"Damn it's deep. Hold on I'll just get a tissue regenerator."
She was gone only a minute or two but Jean-Luc found his mouth filling with blood. Holding his head over the plate he opened his mouth and allowed the blood to dribble free. Beverly lifted his chin and wiped the mess with a damp cloth.
"Now open wide…"
He complied and waited patiently as the wound was healed.
"There…how's that?"
He ran his tongue over the site and nodded.
"Better. Thank you."
The Doctor sat once again and frowned.
"This may be an on-going problem. With diminished muscle control on your left side you're bound to bite the inside of your cheek again. Hmm. Leave it with me, I might have a few ideas."
Still probing gently with his tongue, Jean-Luc grimaced again.
"Wash my mouth?"
Beverly smiled and stood.
"Of course, wait a minute."
She retrieved a bowl and a cup of warm water.
"Here you go."
He managed the cleansing with minimal mess and smiled when Beverly cleared away the equipment. Standing over him, arms akimbo, he couldn't help but admire her. Smiling up at her he sighed.
"You're beautiful."
Her alabaster skin flushed and she chuckled.
"And you my dear Captain are a rogue. Here I think you'll enjoy this."
Onto his lap came another tray, his nose picking up the scent of a warm fruit compote. As he watched Beverly drizzled thick cream over it.
"Decadent I know…and not strictly beneficial for your health…but I know it's one of your favourites and I happen to think you deserve it."
Grinning lopsidedly, Jean-Luc winked his right eye.
"That's my girl."
Laughing, Beverly watched as he slowly ate the dessert and noted with satisfaction that he thoroughly enjoyed it. When he finished, she removed the tray, wiped his mouth and took his hands.
"Now my love we have some work to do."
He sighed and yawned.
"Tired."
"I know but it's important Jean-Luc. Just an hour then you can rest. OK?"
The Captain took a large breath, held for a moment then expelled it slowly.
"'Kay."
Beverly became all business.
"Right. Wait here a minute while I get some help."
Ten minutes later Jean-Luc, with the help of two male nurses, had been wheeled into the therapy room and was lying on a reclining bed with some strange apparatuses attached to his left side. Beverly stood at his head and gently stroked his brow.
"OK. Up to now you've been doing some very low-grade resistance exercises with your affected muscles, mostly to improve circulation and sensation. This time I want you to do some actual work…encourage the muscles to load bear, but I have to warn you…and this is very important Jean-Luc…don't expect too much. Remember the nanites are still working away and they've got a hell of a lot more work to do and this early on there are still a lot of connections they have to repair. So…take it slow and be patient. OK?"
Still staring at the bulky machinery enclosing his left side, the Captain nodded absently.
Beverly noted his preoccupation and sighed.
"Right, I want you to lift your left arm."
His eyebrows raised, Jean-Luc began to smile as he complied but the smile froze on his face and a frown appeared when his arm barely moved.
"What?"
Beverly gently gripped his shoulder and kept her voice steady.
"It's ok Jean-Luc. Try again."
Gritting his teeth, Jean-Luc exerted all his strength and this arm trembled and rose off the bed. Marshalling his determination he closed his eyes and held his breath, forcing his unresponsive muscles to obey his commands. When the arm was perpendicular to his body Beverly's soft voice cut into his concentration.
"Ok that's enough. Lower it…slowly."
"It took as much effort to achieve that as it did to raise the arm. Sweating and growling low in his throat, his arm finally contacted the bed and he gasped, letting out an explosive breath. A soft damp cloth wiped his head and he opened his eyes, his vision starred.
"That was very good Jean-Luc. Have a rest and we'll do it again."
The Captain frowned, closing his eyes.
"Do it again? Mon Dieu who does she think I am…Hercules?"
Beverly's gentle voice interrupted his thoughts.
"OK Jean-Luc…ready?"
With his eyes still closed he clenched his teeth and applied his mind and body to the task. Minutes later he was trembling and panting. In all he endured five lifts in total before the torture moved to his leg.
By the time he had achieved five lifts with his left leg he was almost sobbing with exhaustion. Beverly had him gently lifted into a wheelchair and taken back to his room where he was bathed and put into his bed. Before she dressed him in his pyjamas she massaged the spasming, spastically jerking muscles and slowly Jean-Luc relaxed. Seeing his drowsy state Beverly smiled tenderly.
"You did very well Jean-Luc. Tomorrow you might be a little sore but with use your affected side will slowly gain strength. It'll take…"
"…Time I know."
His deep voice was ragged and he sighed.
"And I must be patient."
Her soft kiss to his lips made him smile.
"Sleep my love. I'll be with you."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will stood in the doorway of their quarters and took a moment to watch his sleeping lover. It was very late in the ship's cycle and he was very tired. On returning to the Enterprise he'd filed a report, contacted Command and saw to his accumulated work before retiring to their quarters. He showered and sat for a while in the darkness, sipping a neat scotch and listening with mild amusement to the soft snores coming from the bedroom.
Pushing away from the doorframe he approached the bed and very gently eased under the covers. Deanna sighed and immediately turned to him, flinging an arm over his chest and entwining their legs. In a sleepy murmur she said.
"'Bout time you came home."
He kissed the top of her head and hugged her to his body. She sighed and mewed.
"Bad day?"
He sighed, making Deanna rise and fall.
"You've no idea. Amongst other things I was propositioned by a huge male warrior intent on rearranging my anatomy."
Deanna chuckled lazily.
"Was he good looking?"
Will glared down at the top of her head.
"Does it matter? Do you have any idea what kind of physical damage a being of that size would do to me if we..?"
He yelped as Deanna took a fistful of his chest hair.
"Ow! What was that for?"
Rising up on an elbow, Deanna stared down at her lover. Will could see her eyes glittering.
"For thinking about it."
"But…"
Her soft lips silenced him and he sighed into the languid kiss. When they parted Deanna whispered,
"I heard from Beverly while you were gone."
Will immediately stilled.
"And?"
"Good news. The Captain recognises her and is talking, albeit with some difficulty."
Will rested his head on the pillow, closed his eyes and sighed expansively.
"Thank God! And the prognosis?"
Deanna laid her head on Will's chest and snuggled into him.
"Hulm still thinks he'll make a full recovery but Beverly's a little more conservative. Either way it'll be a long time before we know one way or the other."
Will nodded.
"But she's confident right? She does think he'll recover"
Deanna's hand slowly drifted down his stomach and into the thick growth of pubic hair. Will ignored it as he waited for a reply. Eventually Deanna sighed.
"Yes…but I don't think she's as positive as Hulm that it will be a complete recovery. All I can think is that she's trying to insure against failure. Deep down she's afraid the Captain will be somehow incapacitated and she's preparing herself for that eventuality. Time will tell of course, I can only hope she's wrong."
By now her skilful hand had teased Will into an erect state. He endured her caresses for a little longer before rolling and pinning her under him. She stared up at him and smiled.
"Love me Will."
He kissed her passionately and pushed his erection inside her.
"With all that I am."
Fendon slapped his broad hand down on the desk and grinned at Will, his fierce eyes chilling the Commander.
"It is done! We will supply dilithium and the Federation will allow us free passage within your territory."
Will returned the grin and stood, extending his right hand. Fendon frowned at him, slowly standing and staring at the offered hand. Will explained,
"It is a custom on Earth to shake hands in greeting and to seal deals."
The Master's face brightened and he nodded.
"Yes I have heard of this. Your information package refers to ancient people using the gesture to put others at ease…to reassure them of good intentions."
Will nodded.
"That's right. Humans have a dominant hand, usually the right and that's the one that would carry a weapon. To shake hands the weapon was placed in the left hand thereby effectively putting the person at a tactical disadvantage. It was a gesture of good faith."
Fendon stared at the First Officer.
"What a complex people you are. The S'Run would never give anybody such an advantage."
Will pursed his lips and looked down at his hand. Fendon gripped his hand and Will shook it.
"You know Master Captain Picard put himself at great risk coming down to you."
Surprise registered in the dark male's face.
"How so Commander? We assured the Captain that he would be treated well."
Will smiled to take the sting out of his words.
"Yes but look what happened The Captain placed himself in your hands and ended up nearly dying."
Fendon growled.
"He is a warrior! That sort of thing is a risk fighting people take."
"Captain Picard is not a fighting man Master…he is a man of peace."
The immense male frowned, a look of confusion crossing his face.
"But I have seen his record! He has triumphed in many battles…his ship is a ship of war. Why do you insult him?"
Will sighed.
"I don't. Yes Captain Picard has been successful in defending the ship but he would always prefer to avoid conflict. Death weighs heavily on him Master."
Fendon scowled.
"Why are you telling me this when we have honoured him as a warrior?"
"Because I want you to know the true value of a man like Captain Picard. Even though he knew he was entering a situation that had the propensity for danger, he cast aside his misgivings and did his duty. He put his weapon in the other hand."
Silence settled between the two men and Fendon slowly nodded.
"I see Commander. It would seem not all battles are fought with weapons."
Will smiled and bowed.
"I will leave you now Sir. Thank you for your hospitality and your generosity."
Fendon returned the bow but raised a hand.
"There is something I would ask of you Commander Riker… a personal request."
Will's blue eyes settled on the Master and he nodded.
"Yes Sir?"
Looking down at the desk, Fendon's voice was low.
"Would it be possible for you to let me know what happens with Captain Picard? I find I want to know how he fares."
The Commander smiled and nodded.
"Of course Sir. I'll send you regular updates."
Fendon walked around the large desk and gripped Will's shoulder.
"Thank you Commander…and farewell."
A few minutes later Will was on the Bridge of the Enterprise. Data, who had just ceded the Command chair to his CO, turned to Will and reported.
"Sir we will have two escorts for our journey to the border. ETA three days at warp five."
"Splendid Mr.Data. Helm set course and speed and engage when ready. You have the Bridge Data, I'll be in the Ready Room getting our new orders."
"Aye Sir."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas Hulm studied the latest readouts and rubbed his chin. Beverly waited patiently in the office, occasionally sipping her rapidly cooling chamomile tea. The Neurologist ran a hand through his hair and sighed.
"So he's been doing these exercises for fifteen days and there's been no improvement?"
Shaking her head, Beverly's face registered her disappointment.
"None whatsoever. All we seemed to have achieved is to aggravate him. The whole process is so exhausting for him he's beginning to baulk at cooperating and frankly I don't blame him. It takes a hell of a lot out of him for no gain."
Hulm frowned at the PADD and chewed his lip.
"Well these results are promising anyway. My guess is the nanites are simply working on a different area than the one we need at the moment. I'm sure when they repair the relevant connection your Captain will reap the benefits."
Beverly ran her fingers lightly around the rim of her cup.
"Agreed but what shall we do in the meantime? I know he should continue with the current therapy but Jean-Luc is getting fed up. It won't be long before he flatly refuses to cooperate. He needs rewards for his efforts and he's not getting any."
Hulm frowned and lifted his hands.
"Then vary the method. What about hydrotherapy? Would he be conducive to that?"
The Doctor pinched her lower lip thinking hard.
"Well he does like swimming…oh hell why not? Even the change of scenery will help."
Hulm nodded decisively.
"Right. Make sure you have the help you need and let me know how it goes. I'll drop by tonight."
Standing, he looked down at the pensive woman.
"He's a very lucky man Beverly…to have you."
She smiled up at him and sighed.
"Actually I always thought I was the lucky one. He's a remarkable man."
The tall man tilted his head.
"Well if he does come through this in one piece he'll have you to thank."
Beverly shook her head.
"I think you're underestimating your skill Thomas. His life was in your hands and you saved him. That's no small thing."
Hulm smiled self depreciatingly.
"Well how about we agree that we've both had a hand in his well being and leave it at that?"
Beverly chuckled.
"Agreed."
Hulm left and Beverly returned to Jean-Luc's room to find nurse Garnsworthy shaving him. While the Captain was preoccupied Beverly went to the replicator, soon reappearing at the foot of the bed. The nurse finished his task and Beverly smiled brightly at her best friend.
"My don't you look handsome."
Jean-Luc glared in disgruntled embarrassment and pointed to the hidden hand behind her back.
"What have you got there?"
Her smile turning fiendish she slowly showed her hand and twirled the held object.
Jean-Luc frowned and shook his head.
"And that is?"
With her eyes sparkling, Beverly employed her free hand and held the article out in front of her. Jean-Luc's eyebrows rose and he said cautiously,
"That's a pair of bathers."
The Doctor nodded.
"Uh huh. We're going swimming."

 

 

 

 

 

 

It went well, although it took a while for Jean-Luc to overcome his embarrassment at having to be carried in and out of the pool by a rather large male nurse. Once in the warm water with Beverly however, he relaxed and allowed her to lead him through a series of exercises that left him tired and hungry.
Back in his room he sighed as Beverly fitted a moulded synthetic dam inside his mouth to protect it from being bitten. As she withdrew to retrieve his meal, he pushed at the dam with his tongue, settling it and making it comfortable. He disliked the thing in his mouth. He understood its purpose and was grateful for Beverly's efforts on his behalf but as it sat on one side of his mouth it occasionally threatened to make him gag and that quelled his precarious appetite. The Doctor was aware of his difficulties and tried to make his meals as tasty as possible.
He smelled the dish before she placed the tray on his lap.
"Beef in Burgundy, mushrooms and onions, mashed potato and asparagus tips, basted in butter and garlic."
He smiled and sighed.
"Thank you."
"Would you like me to help you?"
He picked up the fork and shook his head.
"You ask me that every time. No I don't."
Somewhat exasperated by his stubbornness, Beverly watched as he slowly fed himself but noticed towards the end of his meal he was struggling to continue. Knowing if she took over he would be angry, she clasped her hands together and fought the urge to take the fork. With a small amount remaining on the plate, Jean-Luc dropped the utensil and pushed the plate away. The Doctor could see he was exhausted. Summoning help, he was lifted onto his bed and Beverly thanked then dismissed the helpers. As the Captain lay on his bed, Beverly undressed him and retrieved some scented oil. With strong knowing hands she massaged his body and was surprised when he became erect. She looked up at his face to find his eyes closed and his features calm.
Applying more oil to her hands, she took his erection and stroked him slowly, watching as his body responded. His nipples pebbled and his skin flushed. He took several deep breaths and made a conscious effort to relax as the tension slowly built.
In silence Beverly expanded her caresses, gently cupping his testicles and squeezing his penis. His right hand took a handful of sheet and his left attempted to do the same thing. Beverly could see some of his muscles flexing as he began to thrust into her sliding hand. His breathing increased until he began to pant, his mouth open and his eyes screwed shut.
The Doctor felt his testicles lift and his penis harden further as he approached his orgasm.
He suddenly arched up off the bed and cried out softly as he came. Beverly slowed her caress and loosened her grip until he began to soften. She left him then, returning quickly with a bowl of warm water and proceeded to wash him. When she was finished she looked up at him to find his hooded eyes following her every movement. He smiled tenderly and lifted his right hand. Beverly took it and leaned down, kissing him lovingly.
"Sleep my love."
She pulled the blankets up and sat on the side of the bed as he drifted off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"So there's been no real progress?"
Beverly shook her head and Deanna could see the worry entrenched in her features. "What sort of therapy is he doing?"
"The usual… gentle resistance work…nothing taxing just exercises to encourage the affected muscles to work. He grew annoyed with the machine so we've been swimming. That seems to help."
The Counsellor's surprise was evident.
"Swimming? I didn't know the Captain swam."
Beverly's wistful smile warmed the Counsellor.
"Oh yes he enjoys swimming. I remember once…"
She drifted off and Deanna frowned.
"What is it Beverly?"
The Doctor looked up and shook her head.
"What if he doesn't..?"
Deanna sat forward inwardly cursing the vast distance that separated them.
"Don't Beverly…don't you give up! He needs you right now and he desperately needs you to be strong. If he gets so much as an inkling that you're losing faith he'll give in."
Beverly shook her head again and stared at her friend.
"No…you're wrong. I know him Dee; he'll never give in. He may become despondent and irascible but underneath it all he'll fight tooth and nail and that's what worries me so much. There may well come a time when he has to accept the limitations he's left with…and that would be devastating. I fear that more than anything else."
Deanna frowned and clasped her hands on the desk.
"But surely he must know there's a chance he might be left with a permanent disability?"
Beverly sighed and pushed her hair back. Her pale face and the dark circles under her eyes showed just how exhausted she really was.
"Not officially, that is no one, including me has said anything of the sort, but being the man he is, analytical and logical he would have come to that conclusion I'm sure."
"Then why are you so worried?"
Beverly bit her lower lip and sighed.
"Because thinking it and being confronted with it are two separate things. I just don't know how he'd handle the reality of permanent disability no matter how severe or mild it may be."
Deanna sat back and folded her arms.
"Is there any way to predict, any signs that might tell you what to expect?"
"No not really. This current inability to respond to his therapy may be simply because the nanites aren't working in the corresponding area of the brain. He could suddenly improve at any time, there's no way to know."
Deanna nodded slowly and shrugged.
"So apart from frustration, how is he?"
Beverly frowned and sighed.
"All in all he's putting up a brave front. He's easily tired and his emotions are running high, in fact he's been a little emotional, something that's normal for people in his situation. Of course telling him that doesn't help…he's mortified every time it happens and all I can do is leave him alone for a while to regain his equilibrium. I'm afraid crying jags don't go down too well with our Captain."
Deanna smiled sympathetically.
"I could well imagine. And what about you? It's no secret you're burning the candle at both ends. When are you going to get some decent rest?"
Waving her hand, Beverly snorted.
"Don't worry about me Dee, I'm fine. I…"
Deanna's voice was uncharacteristically sharp.
"Don't patronise me Beverly! You're exhausted and it shows!"
Her head snapped up and her eyes narrowed.
"Deanna I'm fine. Please confine yourself to the Captain. I can look after myself."
Placing her hands palm down on the desktop, Deanna looked deeply into Beverly's eyes. Seeing the determination in them she sat back and sighed.
"Very well but promise me you'll look after yourself? I mean it Beverly, you're no good to the Captain if you succumb to exhaustion."
A small smile slowly emerged and Beverly nodded.
"OK. Now tell me what are your orders?"
Huffing in exasperation, the Counsellor flapped a hand.
"We have the dubious honour of escorting a delegation of Cardassian politicians to Earth for the Marcus conventions. Since the ending of the Dominion war Cardassia has been increasingly eager to ally themselves with the Federation. The conventions are seen as an opportune time to introduce new dialogue between us."
Beverly whistled and sat back, languidly stretching.
"That's big news. And the Enterprise was given the task? That's a feather in Will's cap."
Deanna scowled and shook her head.
"Not really…they requested the Enterprise because they wanted Captain Picard to lead them into sector zero zero one. He was asked for by name. Apparently one of the delegates knows him and wanted to renew old acquaintances."
Beverly's eyebrows rose.
"Oh and who would that be…do we know him…her?"
The Counsellor rubbed her face and sighed.
"No we know nothing except that we're to escort their ship and ask no questions. It all very hush-hush. Even Data has been unnaturally quiet about it."
Beverly smiled and leaned forward.
"And what about Will? Don't tell me you can't…encourage …him to open up?"
Deanna sighed and shook her head.
"I'm not even going to try. He's the acting Captain Beverly…I can't compromise his position."
Beverly nodded, suddenly sombre.
"I understand, it was like that with the Captain and me. Usually he would share things with me but there were times when the burden was his alone. God I hated that."
The was a moment's silence before Deanna brightened.
"Anyway it means we'll be able to see you in about three weeks."
The Doctor summoned a smile and her eyes brightened.
"Now that's good news. I'll tell Jean-Luc, I'm sure he'll be happy."
Deanna frowned and tilted her head.
"Are you sure Beverly? If I know our Captain he's not going to want to see anybody in his present condition."
The red head flapped her hand in dismissal.
"Oh he can be difficult but I'm sure he warm to the idea. I'll tell him tomorrow."
Deanna nodded and stretched, arching her back and kneading her lower spine.
"Well I better get to the Bridge. Tell me, what time is it there?"
Beverly's eyes flicked to the chronometer and she sighed.
"It's oh two fifteen."
Deanna gasped and shook her finger at the screen.
"You should be in bed! Go! Shoo! I'll talk to you again in a couple of days."
Beverly chuckled and waved saucily.
"Goodnight Dee."
The screen went blank then reverted to show the Starfleet logo. Beverly stared at it for some time, her fingers absently tracing the laurel sprigs either side of the star field.
"Have we given enough to you yet? Are you satisfied?"
Shaking her head, she rose stiffly and left the office. She wandered into Jean-Luc's room, checked that he was sleeping peacefully then made her way to her room where she took a leisurely shower and an equally protracted time sitting on the sofa in a darkened room looking out over the lights of San Francisco. Eventually she stood, sighing pensively.
Once in bed she settled and closed her eyes. Her last thoughts were of her lover.
"Come back to me Jean-Luc…I want all of you."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly watched as Jean-Luc chewed over what she'd just told him and bit her lip as his face hardened.
"No."
Sighing, Beverly sat on the edge of the bed, looking down at the Captain, seated in a chair.
"Jean-Luc…"
"No! I won't allow it."
Sliding off the bed, Beverly knelt in front of him and took his hands.
"Jean-Luc listen to me. They're your friends! They want to see you, they want to talk to you, they…"
The Captain's face screwed up in distaste.
"I don't want them to see me like this."
He used his right hand to pick up his left and glared at the weakened appendage.
Beverly rubbed her forehead and decided to take a harder line.
"Too late."
He looked up sharply, his dark hazel eyes glittering.
"They saw you on the Enterprise remember? Look Jean-Luc a visit from your friends will do you the world of good. So far your world has been confined to Hulm, the nursing staff and me. Broaden your horizons for God's sake!"
"No."
Exasperated by his stubbornness, Beverly stood and put her hands on her hips.
"Well they're not due for three weeks. It'll give you the opportunity to have something to work for."
Glaring and sneering, the Captain muttered,
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well look at it this way, you can concentrate on getting more control so you can show off when they come to see you."
His anger was plain on his face.
"I hope you don't think I haven't been trying my damnedest to improve? I've endured your bloody therapies…I've been constantly poked and prodded, I put up with complete strangers doing very private things to me…and you infer I've not been trying?! Damn you Doctor! In fact damn all you fucking Doctors!"
Somewhat taken aback by the vehemence of his outburst, Beverly reached for his hand. Jean-Luc snarled and picked up the cup from his side table and hurled with considerable force across the room.
"Get out!"
Her lips compressed, Beverly strove to calm him.
"Jean-Luc…"
He closed his eyes and the Doctor noted the fisted hand. His voice was low and deadly.
"I said get out."
With little option but to obey, Beverly left the room and stopped a nurse who was about to enter.
"No Cheryl…leave him alone for a while."
Nodding her understanding, the dark woman left and Beverly stared at the closed door.
"OK Jean-Luc have your way…for now."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc sat stewing in his chair. He stared sightlessly at the spilled water on the floor and brooded over his harsh words.
"Dammit! Why do I have to make these bloody allowances? I don't want anyone to see me like this!"
He sighed and lifted his right hand to rub his face. Feeling the need to relieve himself he scowled at the call button sitting next to him and ground his teeth. Growling, he muttered,
"I won't give them the bloody satisfaction."
Gripping the chair arm with his good hand and straining with his right leg, he pushed himself to his feet.
He slowly pivoted and looked towards the back of the room where the bathroom was. Gritting his teeth, he used the chair to steady himself and took a tentative step. All went well until he ran out of hand holds. Faced with three metres of space he resolutely hopped forward, dragging his useless leg behind him. Too late he realised he was losing his balance. Toppling to his left, he was unable to break his fall. The point of his left shoulder struck the floor first, followed by his head. Stunned he lay still until he felt blood pooling beneath his face. With some difficulty he pushed himself upright and raised a hand gingerly to his split eyebrow.
"Oh shit!"
He wiped at the free flowing blood and only managed to spread it further. He stared at his objective and growled, hitching himself across the floor and into the bathroom. Finally at the toilet, he used the handrails to pull himself upright and, with a sigh, emptied his bladder. By now he was tired and shaking, his head beginning to pound.
He flushed the toilet and put the lid down, turning and sitting on it, lowering his head into his hand. There was a call button beside the unit but he still bridled at the prospect of calling for help. As he sat blood trickled through his fingers and dripped down onto his pyjama top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly busied herself for half an hour in the office before she decided to go and see if Jean-Luc felt any better. It was time for a therapy session and she preferred to keep up with his regimen rather than let his sour mood upset their routine. She tabbed off her computer and strolled to his door, mentally preparing herself in case he was still angry. She frowned at finding him missing.
"Jean-Luc?"
His muffled, slurred voice came from the bathroom.
"I'm in here."
Not understanding how the Captain could have got from his chair to the bathroom unaided, a very curious Doctor entered the bathroom and halted in shock.
"My God…what happened?"
Jean-Luc felt Beverly grip his shoulder then push his head up. The sound of the processing tricorder annoyed him, as did Beverly's clipped tone.
"How the hell did you get in here? And how did this happen?"
Biting back and angry reply, he sighed.
"I wanted to use the toilet and…"
Snapping the tricorder closed, Beverly pulled his hand away and placed a wad of gauze against the split. She pressed hard and Jean-Luc winced then growled.
"Must you?"
"Yes I must. Why didn't you use the call button?"
Closing his eyes, the Captain huffed.
"Because I thought I could do it myself! Dammit Beverly I'm sick and tired of being so bloody helpless."
Striving to keep her anger in check, the Doctor asked,
"And the injury?"
He snorted angrily.
"I fell."
He felt her pick up his right hand and place in on the gauze.
"Here hold this."
He did as she requested and she momentarily disappeared, returning quickly with a tissue regenerator. She removed the wadding and expertly healed the split. With a damp cloth she cleaned the blood from his face and chest then called for the duty nurse. Together the two women helped Jean-Luc back into his room and seated him in his chair. Once he was dressed in clean pyjamas, the nurse left and Beverly sat before him.
"OK you made it to the toilet. Did you go?"
He nodded in silent anger.
"And after? Why didn't you call for help then?"
He shook his head.
"Same reason."
"Even though you were hurt and incapable of getting back into your room, you still wanted to sulk and make some pointless gesture?"
He snapped his head up and tried to glare but the pain in his head precluded any action. He winced and lifted his hand to his temple. Beverly sighed and deployed the tricorder again.
"And now you have the headache from hell."
He grunted and Beverly rose to get a hypospray. He felt the cold nozzle against the skin of his neck and sighed when she injected him.
"I don't really have to explain to you that with nanites working to repair the damage in your brain, the last thing you want to do is go banging your head on the floor?"
His silence angered the Doctor.
"Jesus Jean-Luc! Look pride and stubbornness have their place but what you did was plain stupid! You could've really hurt yourself and set things back significantly. I…"
He glared up at his lover and snorted.
"Set things back? Set what back Beverly? I've no improvement whatsoever! I might as well give up here and now. This whole exercise is pointless!"
Fear now coloured Beverly's emotions. Gripping his hand she stared into his eyes.
"Don't say that! Don't you dare say that! You will improve Jean-Luc…I can't say when, I can't say how but I know it will happen. Now you straighten up mister…I want a major attitude adjustment from you! I know it's hard Jean-Luc but there's absolutely no need to be such a pain in the arse! You frightened the bejeezus out of me."
With his pain now gone Jean-Luc slowly realised what he'd done. He swallowed and softened his eyes, his voice gentle and very deep.
"Beverly…I'm sorry, it was anger and frustration talking…take no notice."
The Doctor regained her seat and took his hand.
"All right I can understand that but you must promise Jean-Luc…no more trying to do what is obviously impossible…at least for now."
He smiled and nodded.
"Agreed."
Beverly sat back and allowed a cheeky grin. Jean-Luc frowned and tilted his head.
"What?"
"It's time for your therapy. Feel up to it?"
He grimaced and huffed.
"Do I have to?"
Becoming serious, Beverly's voice softened.
"No my love."
Looking into her eyes, the Captain summoned a grin.
"In that case I will acquiesce."
The Doctor frowned.
"You're sure?"
He nodded.
"Yes my love. Lead on."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An hour later he was lying on his back, naked and relaxed as Beverly massaged his tired body. Sighing expansively his voice was ragged.
"Beverly?"
She looked up and smiled at seeing him so sleepy.
"Hmm?"
"Tomorrow can I wear some clothes?"
"I take it you mean other than pyjamas?"
"Hmm."
Running her hands up his left thigh, Beverly enjoyed feeling the muscle under her fingers.
"I don't see why not. Tell you what. After the morning therapy, how would you like to go outside into the grounds?"
He was silent so long Beverly thought he'd drifted off to sleep. However his deep voice rumbled through his chest.
"All right."
Beverly finished the massage and pulled up the blankets. Her whisper broke the quiet of the room.
"Sleep well my love."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the third time that morning, Jean-Luc gritted his teeth and returned the bright greeting. Nodding, he refrained from speaking, not wanting the well-meaning people to hear his slurred speech. Beverly pushed his wheelchair over to a shady tree and found a bench where she parked him and sat down. She noted his tight expression and sighed.
"They mean no harm Jean-Luc…they're just happy to see you."
His dark muttering made Beverly frown.
"Does everybody know what happened to me?"
Keeping her voice soft, Beverly strove to cheer him up.
"They don't know what happened to you Jean-Luc they simply know you're a patient here and they want you to get well. That's all."
He sighed then grunted.
"This was a bad idea. I hate being on display."
The Doctor sighed.
"You're not on display. You're a patient taking a bit of air in the garden. Don't act so self important."
His glare waned and he chuckled.
"I do sound pompous at times don't I?"
"At times?"
He growled playfully,
"Careful Doctor."
Beverly summoned her own chuckle and gently punched his shoulder.
"You need to relax my love. You're not on duty now."
He sighed and tilted his head back, closing his eyes against the patterned sunlight.
"I know. I'm sorry I'm such a pain Beverly. I'm my own worst enemy."
They sat in silence for a while before Beverly broached a delicate subject.
"Have you given any more thought to seeing the senior staff when they arrive?"
Jean-Luc pursed his lips and nodded slowly.
"Yes and you were right, I do need to see them…and hopefully I will have made some improvements by then."
Beverly beamed at him and moved to put an arm around his shoulders, kissing his temple.
"That's my intrepid Captain."
They stayed in the gardens a further two hours before Beverly took them back to his room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next two weeks very little changed for Jean-Luc. There were no improvements but he swallowed his disappointment and threw himself into his therapy, which was expanded to include exercises done while he was suspended in a harness.
His sister-in-law Marie visited. Jean-Luc found it difficult to see her, the strain of maintaining polite conversation leaving him tired and emotional when she left.
Beverly held him in the privacy of his room as he wept, helpless and frustrated by his situation. Beverly was in her office one afternoon when she was hailed.
"Garnsworthy to Crusher."
Crusher here."
"Doctor Captain Picard is experiencing severe pain."
Beverly's heart squeezed in her chest.
"Understood, on my way."
When the Doctor entered Jean-Luc's room she was confronted by a concerned nurse and a writhing moaning patient. Taking a tricorder, Beverly scanned the Captain and scowled down at the results.
"Aspernal, fifteen cc's."
While the nurse retrieved the medication, Beverly took Jean-Luc's head in her hands and spoke softly to him.
"Hold on Jean-Luc we're getting something for the pain."
She then tapped her communicator.
"Crusher to Hulm."
"Hulm here."
"Thomas Captain Picard is experiencing another pain episode. His temperature is a forty point one and I'm about to administer fifteen cc's of Aspernal."
"Understood, I'll be there directly."
The analgesic was injected and Beverly was dismayed when it had absolutely no effect. She replicated a bag of crushed ice and held that against his head but he continued to suffer. Thomas arrived and checked the monitors before scanning Jean-Luc again. Muttering under his breath he growled,
"I take it the Aspernal hasn't helped?"
Beverly shook her head.
"No. What else can we give him?"
Hulm sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
"I'm reluctant to try any other analgesics Beverly, I want to keep his body chemistry as stable as possible to protect the nanites."
The red head glared and gestured with her head.
"Don't tell me you're going to leave him like this? For God's sake Thomas he's in agony!"
The older man patted her arm and said placating,
"Of course not."
He turned to the nurse and said quietly,
"Halopel, twenty cc's."
Beverly stared at him.
"You're going to sedate him?"
Hulm sighed and gently gripped Jean-Luc's shoulder.
"Can you think of a better idea?"
Beverly scowled and shook her head.
"But Thomas, by not treating the pain, he's likely to still feel it, even though he'll be unconscious."
Hulm closed his eyes and nodded.
"I'm aware of that Beverly but I must protect the nanites. Their work is vital to his long-term health."
He took the offered hypospray and injected the Captain. Jean-Luc's body immediately relaxed into unconsciousness and Beverly kept staring at Hulm.
"What you're doing is very cruel Thomas and bordering on medical negligence. I've a mind to report you."
Hulm stood straight and shook his head.
"I stand by my decision. In the overall view I'm doing what's best for the patient."
Their eyes locked and the tension grew. Eventually Hulm sighed.
"Look Beverly we'll revive him every six hours. If he's still in pain he'll be sedated again until he's finally rid of it. Surely you can see I've no choice?"
Beverly frowned and looked down at the unresponsive man.
"But you have no idea how long this episode will last! It could be hours, days or weeks."
Hulm shook his head.
"No you're wrong. I believe this will be relatively short in duration. In any case I don't think there's any other option."
Beverly sighed and shook her head.
"You're taking a hell of a liberty with his rights as a patient."
Hulm closed his eyes and shook his head.
"Don't fight me on this Beverly."
Beverly cast her eyes down to her lover and willed her tears to remain unshed.
"I just hope you're right."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the next three days Hulm was a constant presence in Jean-Luc's room. Every time the Captain was revived the pain would send him into writhing and gasping but he managed twice to beg not to be sedated. Hulm apologised profusely but ignored his pleas. Beverly was so devastated she almost left the room each time, Jean-Luc's suffering becoming too much to witness. Early in the fourth morning Jean-Luc was revived and, as he opened his eyes Beverly immediately knew the pain was gone. Two hours previous his temperature had dropped and the Doctors were confident the end to the episode was near. Jean-Luc swallowed painfully and Beverly sat next to him ready with a cup of water.
"Here you go, this should help."
He sipped slowly and Beverly noticed he did so with ease, there was no spillage and he seemed to have no trouble holding the water in his mouth. After he finished his drink, Beverly stroked his head and frowned.
"How do you feel?"
The Captain sighed and summoned a tired smile.
"Remarkably well and blessedly pain free."
Beverly gasped and held his head.
"Jean-Luc! Your speech…it's clear…you're not slurring."
Hulm stepped closer and scanned Jean-Luc, his dark eyes glued to the tricorder.
"Beverly we need to do some tests. I think there's been some significant changes."
Beverly had to concentrate to keep from snapping.
"Give him some time Thomas! He's just woken up for God's sake."
Wisely, Hulm retreated and left the room. Beverly blinked back tears of happiness as she watched her excited lover touching his mouth.
"Jean-Luc puff out your cheeks."
He did it with ease and Beverly giggled. Her mirth died in her throat when he lifted his left hand and gently squeezed her arm.
"My God…your hand!"
Quickly taking his left hand in hers, she said urgently,
"Squeeze my hand as hard as you can."
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and concentrated. Beverly felt a gentle pressure…not very much, but a definite improvement.
The Doctor stood and pushed the blanket down, exposing his legs. Pushing aside the bio waste tubes, she placed her hand on his left leg and said,
"Lift it Jean-Luc."
He tried mightily but had little success. The changes hadn't affected his leg. Disappointment showed on his face but Beverly was ecstatic.
"This is wonderful Jean-Luc!"
He couldn't help but smile at her obvious delight.
"Almost worth all the pain."
Beverly's mood sobered and she came to sit beside him.
"I'm so sorry about that…I was overruled."
He shrugged and Beverly grinned at seeing both shoulders react.
"It doesn't matter Beverly it seems to be over now."
Beverly leaned forward and kissed him.
"Would you like to be disconnected from the waste unit?"
"Yes please."
As Beverly was busy doing that, Hulm returned and stood at Jean-Luc's head.
"Well captain…feel up to a few tests?"
Jean-Luc nodded and sighed.
"Very well then once Beverly has you comfortable I'll take you."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three hours later the Doctors left a sleeping Captain in his room and met in the office.
"This is good news."
Beverly sipped her tea and waited.
"There have been significant changes in the brain. He demonstrates increased control over his upper left side and his speech is almost normal. In all a very satisfying result."
Beverly idly ran her fingers around the rim of her cup.
"It seems you were right…you must be very happy."
Hulm shot Beverly a look of forbearance.
"Don't judge me too harshly Beverly. Yes I gambled and won but I still think what I did was the right thing."
Beverly sat up and dismissed the argument.
"So…what now? I take it the nanites will continue their work?"
Hulm nodded.
"Indeed, although I'm not sure how much more they can do. I foresee he will regain the strength in his upper body but I have my doubts about his leg. The major repairs seem to have been completed, the remaining work is fine tuning really."
Beverly was incredulous.
"But Thomas…he can't walk! There must be something we can to for him…what about more nanites…specifically programmed to focus on the relevant connectors?"
Hulm shook his head and stood.
"It doesn't work like that Beverly. They repair only what is viable. Obviously some of the brain tissue was too badly damaged to be salvaged. Look he's lucky. He's not mentally impaired, he can communicate and he'll have the full use of his upper body and right leg. That's not bad considering."
Beverly rose and leaned forward, pressing her hands onto the tabletop.
"That's not good enough Thomas. He's a Starfleet Captain…he's going to want to return to his ship and he can't do that if he's crippled!"
Hulm rubbed his nose and shrugged.
"Well he'll have to consider a career change Beverly. We've done all we can."
The stunned woman straightened and frowned.
"How much longer will he be here?"
With a shrug, Hulm raised his eyebrows.
"Probably another two months. It will take some time for the nanites to complete their work, and then he'll have surgery to remove them. Once all that is done he can be released."
Beverly sat heavily in the chair and rubbed her forehead tiredly.
"Are you going to tell him?"
Gripping the back of his seat, Hulm nodded.
"Uh huh, I intended to do that tomorrow…that is unless you prefer to do it?"
The red head stared vacantly at the desktop.
"I'll do it…he might take it better coming from me."
"Do you want me to be there?"
"No…thanks Thomas but he'll want privacy."

 

As Jean-Luc ate his breakfast, revelling in the fact he could use both hands, he kept glancing at his companion. Something was bothering her but he trusted her enough to know she would broach whatever it was when she was ready.
Picking up his tea, he sipped with great satisfaction and sighed.
"You know tea tastes better in a real china cup…and hot!"
Beverly grinned.
"Well now that you can drink properly and there's no danger of you burning yourself, we threw caution to the winds and decided to trust you with the crockery."
He chuckled and took another sip.
"And I for one am delighted."
His lover retreated into silence and Jean-Luc frowned.
"You haven't told me my test results."
Beverly frowned and the Captain started to feel uneasy.
"Beverly?"
The Doctor sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.
"The news is mostly good Jean-Luc. The general consensus is you'll regain the full use of your upper left side, including your left hand."
"But?"
"But…it would seem it's unlikely your left leg will recover."
Jean-Luc swallowed convulsively and took a large breath. When he spoke his voice trembled.
"But Beverly…I can't walk."
The Doctor left her seat and knelt at his knees.
"I know. Look I haven't given up on this…there's ongoing research…new treatments are being trialled all the time. I'm sure…"
Jean-Luc soft voice interrupted her.
"I would like to be alone."
Beverly looked up into his eyes and saw he was struggling to control himself.
"Jean-Luc please listen to me…"
He shook his head slowly.
"No Beverly…please…leave me alone."
She reluctantly stood and moved to the door.
"All right my love…I'll come back later."
There was no reply and she left, tears brimming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc sat very still staring at his afflicted leg. With absent movements, his rubbed his hands over his left thigh a frown creasing his forehead.
"This can't be happening! Surely they're wrong? I can't go through the rest of my life dragging this useless fucking leg behind me! How the hell am I supposed to captain my ship like this? What do they think I'm going to do…Command from a wheelchair? Dammit! Shit! Fuck!"
He savagely punched his thigh and tried to choke the sob that tore from his throat.
"NO! This is intolerable!"
He covered his face with his hands and gasped, ultimately failing to stop the sobs that wracked him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will stood in front of the mirror and tugged at his uniform tunic, earning a chuckle from his lover.
"Do you realise you've picked that up from the Captain?"
Will huffed and repeated the manoeuvre.
"They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."
The petite woman sidled up behind the big man and slipped her hands over his shoulders.
"You don't need to imitate the Captain Will…you're in a class of your own."
He turned in her arms and rested his hands on her trim waist.
"Thank you, but you must admit if one has to imitate anyone, one could do no better than to choose Captain Picard."
He bent and kissed the Counsellor, savouring their closeness.
"Have you contacted Beverly?"
"Uh huh. She said we're expected but warned me about the Captain's demeanour. Since he was told about his prognosis he's been sullen and withdrawn. Beverly's hoping our visit will cheer him up."
Will's eyes travelled to the ceiling and he sighed.
"It's so unfair Dee. Imagine what he must be feeling…to be told that he'll be permanently disabled…dammit I feel so bloody helpless about this."
"I know Will it must be very hard for him but I think with time he'll come to terms with what's happened. He'll be ok, you'll see."
The big man kissed the top of Deanna's head.
"It's not like he has a choice Dee. Still, I suppose he has Beverly. At least he's not alone."
Deanna stood back and cast an appraising eye over her lover. Nodding with satisfaction, she pointed to the door.
"We'd best be going."

 

 

Beverly escorted Will and Deanna into Jean-Luc's room and cleared her throat. The Captain was reading, something he'd been working on. When he first attempted to read he found it almost impossible to concentrate on the words but over the weeks he'd persisted and gradually improved until he was able to settle with a book for some hours.
He glanced up and Deanna frowned at the emptiness in his eyes.
"Hello Captain."
He nodded, his eyes giving the Counsellor a cursory glance then settling on Will. He nodded to his Exec and closed the book. Will stepped closer and gestured to the chairs.
"Hello Sir. Mind if we sit?"
His only reply was a silent wave of Jean-Luc's hand.
The officers sat somewhat nervously and Beverly said softly,
"I'll be in the office. Call if you want anything."
Not sure to whom she was addressing, Will turned to thank her only to see her departing form. He turned back to his CO to find him staring into his eyes. Jean-Luc's deep voice was deceptively quiet.
"What do you want Will?"
Summoning a bright smile, Will shook his head.
"Nothing Sir other than to see you. I must say you look well."
As Jean-Luc continued to stare Deanna attempted to discern his emotions. Always very adept and shielding himself from her empathic senses, she frowned at the tight rein he was keeping on himself. His glittering dark eyes suddenly shifted to her and he shook his head.
"No Counsellor. I have endured enough violations of my privacy. Kindly desist."
Deanna bowed her head and clasped her hands in her lap.
"Very well Captain. However may I ask…how are you feeling?"
He gave her a tight smile that failed to reach his eyes.
"I'm fine."
Not the least convinced, Deanna pressed on.
"Beverly has told us of your prognosis. Would you like to talk about it?"
Jean-Luc sighed theatrically then said succinctly,
"No."
Will, growing uncomfortable in the tense atmosphere, attempted to change the subject.
"Did you hear of our latest mission Sir?"
Focusing his unwavering attention on Will, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes. You escorted a Cardassian ship to Earth, bringing a contingent of dignitaries to the Marcus conventions."
Will nodded enthusiastically.
"Yes Sir. Actually the Enterprise was requested and you in particular. Apparently one of the delegation knows you and wanted to renew your acquaintance."
That piqued Jean-Luc's curiosity.
"Indeed? Do you have a name?"
"No Captain I'm sorry I don't."
Jean-Luc shrugged and sighed.
"It's probably not important Will. How is the ship?"
Deanna noticed he didn't say, "my ship."
"She's just fine Sir…just as you left her. The big chair is still there waiting for your return."
Jean-Luc bowed his head and his voice held a note of resignation.
"I think we both know that's not going to happen Commander."
Will leaned forward and rested his hand on Jean-Luc's knee. He earned a glacial glare causing him to quickly pull his hand back. Regrouping, Will sighed.
"Captain don't think like that…of course you'll be back."
His eyes cold and hard, Jean-Luc's voice became sarcastic.
"And just how do you envisage me on the Bridge Number One? On crutches? In a wheelchair perhaps? Grow up Commander! I cannot…I will not command the Enterprise as a cripple!"
Deanna sought to diffuse the growing anger in the man.
"Captain…"
He dropped his eyes to his lap and said in a flat voice,
"It was nice of you both to drop by. Thank you for coming."
Hearing the implicit dismissal, the ingrained response to an order had both officers on their feet and moving to the door. Deanna hesitated and turned back.
"Captain if you want…"
His eyes still downcast, the Captain said softly,
"Goodbye Counsellor."
Outside his room, Will looked down at Deanna and scowled.
"We need to talk to Beverly."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her frustration was clear in her voice.
"I don't know what to do! So far I can't get through to him. He's built a wall around himself and I can't breach it."
Will sat back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair.
"I've rarely seen him so bloody minded Beverly. It's as if he wants to cut himself off from all of us…as if he's trying to deny his previous life existed."
Deanna placed her hands on the desk and entwined her fingers.
"It's not uncommon for people in his situation to hide in denial. If he can subjugate his past experiences he may fool himself into believing it never happened. A simple case of what you don't know can't hurt you."
Beverly stood and went to the replicator.
"No Dee I can't agree with that. He's not hiding, he's trying to figure out a way to beat this and it's making him angry to realise he can't. One of the things he cannot abide is loss of control, either of himself or his situation. There's nothing he can do about this and it's driving him crazy."
Will studied his cup and sighed.
"And Hulm is absolutely certain the leg won't recover?"
Beverly sat and sipped her tea.
"Uh huh. The nanites have done all the major work they can. What we've got is what we're stuck with."
Scratching his beard, the big man nodded.
"OK what about ongoing research? Anything on the horizon?"
The Doctor pushed a PADD across the desk and pointed at it.
"I've been scouring the databanks. All I could find is there."
Will picked the device up and scrolled through the information. With his eyes on the screen he asked,
"Bottom line?"
Beverly sighed.
"Nothing much. There's some promising work being done in Australia but it's years away from completion."
Deanna let out a deep breath.
"And in the meantime?"
"We continue with therapy and try to make the best with what we've got."
Will snorted.
"How long do you think he'll put up with that?"
Beverly rubbed her forehead, her eyes hardening.
"As long as I say! He's not due for release for another two months and I intend him to do everything he needs to."
Deanna's voice was soft.
"Beverly you can't force him to comply."
The Doctor's shoulders slumped in defeat.
"I know Dee but what else can I do? He's virtually shut me out."
The pain in her best friend's voice reached into Deanna's heart. Leaving her seat, she rounded the desk and took Beverly in her arms.
"Give him time Beverly…let him come to terms with what's happened. I'm sure he'll come back to you."
Sniffing wetly, Beverly wiped at her tears.
"I hope so Dee, God I hope so."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An hour after Will and Deanna left, Beverly went to Jean-Luc's room to find him in a wheelchair in the bathroom. He was washing his hands and a nurse stood at his side. Softly dismissing the aide, Beverly went back into his room and waited for him. She was reading some information on the computer when he entered, her back to him. When she heard his quiet deep voice she was shocked by the raw anger prevalent.
"Amputate it."
She turned and cocked her head.
"I beg your pardon?"
He poked at his left leg disdainfully.
"Amputate it…cut it off. It's nothing but a useless mass of flesh and bone. I'd be better off without it at least then I could have a working prothesis."
Biting back her own anger, Beverly strove to keep calm.
"Don't be ridiculous Jean-Luc. I'm not going to amputate a perfectly good limb."
His head snapped up and he growled,
"Perfectly good limb? Have you been absent these last weeks? The bloody thing is useless!"
Pursing her lips, Beverly leaned against his bed and folded her arms.
"And just what do we do when technology provides a treatment that will give you back the use of that leg? Hmm? Sew it back on and hope for the best?"
He savagely poked his leg again and scowled.
"A prothesis will allow me mobility. I demand…"
"You can shove your demand! I will not condone such a outrageous suggestion Jean-Luc."
"How dare you! I order you…"
Beverly's tired chuckle halted him abruptly.
"You can't order me about in this situation Jean-Luc…not over a medical matter."
His jaw muscles flexed as he clenched his teeth. In a quieter tone he said,
"Then I want to see Doctor Hulm."
Beverly nodded and loosened her arms to grip the edge of the bed.
"Well that's predictable. You know I can section you…report you as being psychologically unstable?"
His eyes squinted and his breath hissed between his teeth.
"You wouldn't! You have no grounds."
"Don't I? Let me run this by you and then you can tell me what you think. Here we have Captain Jean-Luc Picard, victim of an over enthusiastic people who managed, through ignorance, to inflict a severe brain injury. Said captain has undergone several surgeries and has, in the main, made a remarkable recovery. However…being left with an afflicted limb, he expresses a desire to have said limb amputated against the express objections of his Doctor. It is this Doctor's opinion that his request is grounded more on an inability to accept his disability than any other reason. How am I doing so far?"
Jean-Luc grunted and waved his hand.
"I disagree. I have accepted my…disability Beverly, you forget I am reminded of it every time I look at my leg…and I admit my suggestion may seem a little extreme, but surely you can see the benefit of a prothesis? If I can regain my mobility I might retain my Captaincy."
Beverly frowned and rubbed her face.
"All right I agree you may have a point, but I want you to think about this. Would you rather stand on your own two feet, or on one leg, the other a foreign piece of machinery? If you give up your own flesh and blood, you're also giving up on the medical profession and any chance of staying whole."
She stood away from the bed and looked at her hands.
"I'll see you at dinner."
With that she left and Jean-Luc stared down at his leg.
"Shit!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the following month Jean-Luc regained the strength in his left arm and hand and took to visiting the gym, working hard with weights to build up his upper body strength. Now very proficient with the wheelchair, he would, when not required for therapy or scans, roam about the facility and its gardens, spending a lot of time alone and in deep thought. The subject of the amputation was not raised again, although it sat just beneath the surface, unresolved and festering.
Beverly spent her days split between spending time with Jean-Luc and scouring the medical databanks. She made sure they had breakfast and dinner together and their relationship stayed strong.
One afternoon, while Beverly was in conference with Hulm, a Cardassian from the delegation arrived at Jean-Luc's ward. He was greeted by the duty nurse and, after a brief conversation, was led to the Captain's room. Jean-Luc had just been visited by the barber and was in the bathroom washing his face. The nurse called,
"Captain Picard? You have a visitor Sir."
"I'll be right out."
The nurse smiled at the imposing Cardassian and left. Jean-Luc dried his face then wheeled himself out into the main body of his room. His smile died on his lips and his face paled.
"Hello Jean-Luc. How nice to see you again."
Jean-Luc's heart began to hammer in his chest and his mouth gaped. He attempted to speak but his voice failed him.
The Cardassian smiled and moved to stand over the shocked man.
"Come now Jean-Luc…haven't you anything to say?"
The Captain's lips opened and closed twice before he managed to make a sound. It was one word.
"Madred."
The Cardassian beamed.
"Ah! There I knew you remembered me. When people share each other's company as we did I suppose the memories are indelible."
Jean-Luc swallowed struggling for control.
"What…what are you doing here?"
"Why I came to see you! When I heard you'd been injured I was concerned."
The Captain closed his eyes and frowned, attempting to quell the fear and dread this man elicited in him. Taking a deep breath and fisting his trembling hands, Jean-Luc strove to keep his voice from breaking.
"What are you doing here on Earth?"
Madred waved his hand dismissively.
"Oh that. I am an advisor to the delegation. It seems my previous job afforded me the position of expert in Human behaviour. We Cardassians know so little about your species Jean-Luc. I was considered one of only a very few with any real knowledge of you at all."
Anger burned brightly in Jean-Luc and he spat,
"This is an outrage! You are a torturer…a murderer…how can you go unpunished for what you did? How the hell can you walk free within the Federation let alone be a member of a delegation devoted to peace between our peoples?"
Madred grinned at the incensed man and folded his arms across his broad chest.
"You forget Jean-Luc a lot has changed. Since the end of the Dominion war there have been several changes of governments on Cardassia. Now that the military is no longer in power I and many like me had to diversify to survive. In exchange for offering information about things deemed secret and bearing in mind my extensive knowledge of Humans and their organisations, I was fortunate to be considered valuable to my superiors. Generally speaking I was lucky. I kept my wife and daughter…oh I have a son now too…and I've been granted diplomatic immunity for any past…unpleasantness."
His smile widened and he chuckled.
"I'm what you would call 'a survivor'."
Jean-Luc shook his head brusquely, baring his teeth.
"You're not a survivor Madred, you're a cruel, sadistic, reprehensible being who's very existence is an affront to civilised people everywhere! You disgust me."
The Cardassian sighed and spread his hands.
"Understandable I suppose but very short sighted. I don't regret what I did to you Jean-Luc…you and all the others who found themselves in my company were there because they were enemies of my people. I did my duty and I slept very well at night. Don't tell me you wouldn't do anything to protect your family…your way of life?"
Jean-Luc's clenched fist hammered the arm of his chair.
"I would never torture an innocent being! What you suggest is unconscionable..."
"Innocent Jean-Luc? Are you sure?"
The Captain gritted his teeth and fought to control his surging anger.
"I see no reason to continue this pointless discussion. Get out!"
The Cardassian smiled patiently down at the livid man and shook his head.
"I don't think so."
With deliberate slowness, Madred turned a chair to face Jean-Luc and sat, spearing the Captain with a cold gaze.
"What do you want Madred?"
Brushing at a speck on his dark trousers, the Cardassian tilted his head.
"Actually Jean-Luc it's not what I want…it's what you want."
Jean-Luc was in no mood for riddles.
"What the hell does that mean?"
"From what I hear your injuries have left you with a permanent disability…specifically your left leg is virtually useless. Is that so?"
"Yes. What of it?"
Madred's eyes settled on the leg, his look speculative.
"I take it you can't walk."
Jean-Luc growled,
"Get to the point damn you."
The Cardassian steepled his fingers under his chin.
"Tell me Jean-Luc…do you remember the device you were implanted with during your visit with me?"
Unwilling to recall the memories, Jean-Luc nodded, his voice ragged.
"The torture device…the pain inducer…yes Madred I remember."
The large grey man sighed.
"A remarkable piece of technology."
The Captain shook his head.
"No Madred it was a thing unworthy of your people. It was…"
"Hush Jean-Luc. I understand you rather jaundiced view but it's misguided. That device was the first of many, each one better than the last. Our scientists were diligent Jean-Luc…they worked hard and with each device came greater knowledge and in our efforts to perfect the technology, we discovered that the device would be more proficient if it were situated in the brain of the subject. We found that stimulating the nervous system through the body was inefficient. Direct interface with the pain receptors within the brain delivered a much better result and afforded the user greater control. Unfortunately early trials had some…unfortunate results…but in endeavouring to remedy the faults came a truly stunning discovery. Our scientists found that with careful administration, the device was capable of reversing brain damage. Even tissue thought to be too severely damaged to be viable was healed."
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and shook his head.
"How many poor souls died in this quest for a better torture instrument?"
Madred waved his hand.
"Don't trouble yourself Jean-Luc their deaths served a higher purpose."
Jean-Luc bowed his head and rubbed his forehead.
"You have no remorse, no guilt…my God what a monster you are."
Madred's voice was cutting.
"You flatter me. Listen to me Jean-Luc…don't you understand what I'm offering?"
The Captain looked up and frowned.
"No I don't."
Sighing, Madred closed his eyes and shook his head.
"So stubborn. I have it within my power to provide one of the devices Jean-Luc. With careful use, you could regain the use of your leg."
Jean-Luc gasped and sat back, recoiling from the barbaric Cardassian.
"You think I would…"
Madred sneered.
"What is it you most want Captain? To retain your command…your precious ship? You can have it Jean-Luc."
They sat in silence, Jean-Luc's mind racing.
"Why? Why would you do this for me?"
Madred shrugged.
"You will no doubt not believe me, but I am not the same man who tortured you all those years ago Jean-Luc. I changed…I had to and over these past years I have listened closely to those who speak of peace. For the past month I have sat beside the delegates as they forge an alliance between the Federation and Cardassia and for the first time in my memory I can see a future for my people. As I said, I have no regrets about my past, but I would be pleased if you would consider my offer as a token of peace between us."
He stood and placed the chair against the wall.
"No doubt you would like to think, I will leave you now. You can tell your doctors we have in the delegation a physician well trained in the device's uses…including how it applies to Humans."
He turned and left, leaving Jean-Luc stunned and shaken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three and a half hours later Beverly found the Captain out in the garden. A light rain was falling and judging by his wet clothes, he'd been out in it for some time.
"Jean-Luc you're soaking! Why didn't you seek shelter?"
The pensive man sighed, his eyes never leaving the horizon.
"Hmm?"
Beverly frowned and came to stand in front of him, effectively blocking his view. His unfocused eyes cleared and he looked up into Beverly's face.
"Beverly? What are you doing here, I thought you were in conference with Doctor Hulm?"
Placing her hands on her hips, the Doctor huffed.
"That was hours ago. Have you been sitting here in the rain all this time?"
Jean-Luc frowned and looked up, blinking as the gentle drops hit his face.
"It's raining?"
Exasperated and annoyed, Beverly went behind him and began to turn his chair. His hands went to the wheels, preventing any further movement.
"No…I want to stay here."
Sighing and shaking her head, Beverly once again came around to face him.
"Jean-Luc you're wet. Let me take you inside and get you into some dry clothes."
The Captain shook his head and lifted one hand to rub his fingers over his lower lip.
"No…I…"
Seeing his very distracted state, Beverly squatted in front of him and took his hands.
"What is it Jean-Luc?"
Jean-Luc's distant eyes settled on Beverly's and he stared vacantly. The Doctor gently stroked his face and he sighed.
"I…I had a visitor today…a Cardassian visitor."
Beverly's eyebrows rose and she smiled.
"Was it the one who had asked for you?"
Jean-Luc frowned and his eyes clouded.
"I don't know…perhaps."
Beverly was troubled by the Captain's vague answer and sought more information.
"OK…did your visitor have a name?"
Jean-Luc's dark hazel eyes suddenly cleared.
"Oh yes he had a name."
Smiling, Beverly asked gently,
"And what was it?"
The preoccupied man's voice dropped to a whisper.
"Madred."
Beverly jerked back in shock so violently she lost her balance and fell on her behind.
"What?"
Jean-Luc looked down at her and absently rubbed his eyes.
"It was Madred."
Immediately back on her feet, Beverly gripped his arms.
"What is he doing here?"
His eyes fixed on his knees, Jean-Luc shrugged tiredly.
"He says he's part of the delegation…the Human expert on the team."
Beverly gritted her teeth.
"Well we'll see about that! That sadistic bastard should be facing a trial for what he's done…not swanning around with a bunch of diplomats. Come on Jean-Luc, we're going to make some very loud noises about this!"
Just as she was rising, the Captain grabbed her arm.
"You won't get anywhere Beverly…he's been granted diplomatic immunity, he's out of the reach of the law. And besides these current talks are too important…no one is going to allow past indiscretions by any members of the team to derail the convention. In return for a lasting peace with the Cardassians I'm afraid it will be a case of turning a blind eye."
The incensed Doctor shook her arm free and stalked in front of the watching man.
"This is…this is…an outrage! Since when did the Federation cast aside its values and tenets…its fundamental principals… to accommodate murders and torturers? It's obscene!"
Jean-Luc lowered his head and rubbed his forehead tiredly.
"Look I agree with you, but think of the lives that will be saved by a lasting peace. I know the ends don't justify the means but in the long term some real good may come of this."
Beverly paced restlessly in silence for a few minutes before halting and spearing Jean-Luc with a hard look.
"What did he want? Did he taunt you? Try any of his sick little mind games?"
The tired man slowly shook his head.
"No…actually he came to make a rather extraordinary offer."
Her face registering her disbelief, Beverly's voice was scornful.
"Oh really? And what was this offer Jean-Luc? A promise to behave? To make reparations to all the families he bereaved?"
Jean-Luc's voice was so soft; Beverly had to move closer to hear him.
"No Beverly…he came to offer a solution to my problem. He told me they have a device that, when implanted in my brain, could be used to rectify the damage the nanites couldn't repair. In essence he told me I would regain the full use of my leg."
Beverly's mouth opened and closed and she shook her head.
"But you know damn well that their scientists test all their technology, especially medical technology, on captives and slaves! How many innocent victims do you think suffered and died for their advances Jean-Luc?"
Anger caused his face to blanch and his eyes to glitter.
"I said much the same thing to him Beverly! Do you think me insensitive to the suffering of others? Especially those who fell into his hands?"
Realising her mistake, Beverly knelt in front of the Captain and shook her head.
"Of course not! Look Jean-Luc I'm sorry but you can't seriously be considering his offer? It's an affront to all civilised people, not to say legitimising their methods. And besides…why did he make the offer in the first place? What's his agenda Jean-Luc? What hasn't he told you?"
Jean-Luc ran his hands over his thighs and closed his eyes.
"As for his agenda…hidden or not, I don't know. His explanation was that he wishes peace between us and I am coming to the conclusion that he may well have been telling the truth. A lot has happened on Cardassia Beverly, both to the governments and the people. He says he's changed, admittedly by virtue of external factors not by choice and he views his past atrocities as that of a loyal servant doing his job for his people, however he seems genuine in his efforts to help me and I must face the fact that I am beginning to lean in favour of his offer."
Sarcasm coloured her voice.
"Are you so desperate to regain the use of your leg that you're willing to ignore the known barbarity of these people and then blithely put yourself in debt to a monster like Madred? My God Jean-Luc…how could you?"
The Captain looked up his eyes soft.
"I think you're forgetting something Beverly. What of the benefits to our people? If this procedure was to take place and succeed, think of all the people that could be spared a lifetime of disability. Surely as a Doctor you can see how this could herald a new era in treating the brain injured?"
Beverly snorted.
"So what…you think of yourself as some kind of pioneer? A hero?"
His reply was filled with anger.
"Of course not! But I am willing to be the first."
Beverly turned and looked out over the bay, ordering her thoughts. Slowly turning back, she scratched her head.
"And what about compatibility? Humans are fundamentally different to Cardassians."
"He assured me there is a physician in their group well versed in the use of the device in Humans."
Beverly sneered.
"And that doesn't bother you? How do you think they came by that knowledge Jean-Luc?"
The Captain folded his arms and lowered his head.
"I believe we've already discussed that. Look you know I'm aware of what they've done in the past…the atrocities, the torture and murder of the innocent, but I still believe there can be some good in this."
He looked resolutely into her eyes.
"At least allow their physician to talk to Doctor Hulm. If he refuses I'll abide by his decision, but equally, if he agrees with the procedure you will cease your objections and allow me to undergo the surgery."
Beverly clenched her jaw and stared down at her lover.
"Are you aware of the Hippocratic Oath?"
He nodded silently.
"The first rule Jean-Luc…first and foremost, do no harm! You are putting your head in a noose…and you're placing yourself in debt to one of the most reprehensible beings ever to draw breath. Don't expect me to condone your decision Jean-Luc, I can't, but I do recognise your right to choose. If Thomas Okays it I won't stand in your way just don't look to me for approval. I can't give it to you. I won't abandon you…I'll be by your side but I won't like it."
Jean-Luc nodded grimly.
"Agreed. I'll contact Madred tonight and ask him to arrange a meeting between the Doctors."
Beverly refrained from replying, instead going to the back of his chair and turning him.
"Now I want you changed out of those wet clothes. If you catch a cold there'll be hell to pay."
Nothing more was said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"You can't be serious! Tell me this is some sort of joke Beverly."
The Doctor sat back and slid her fingers through her hair.
"I wish I could Dee."
The Counsellor frowned deeply and shook her head.
"But Beverly the Cardassians have always tested their technology on imprisoned beings…people with no say in their destiny. How could Captain Picard even consider this? It tacitly condones their past actions."
Beverly rubbed her forehead and sighed.
"It's complicated Deanna. On one hand he desperately wants to regain the use of his leg and on the other Madred is making an irresistible peace offer. Deep down I think Jean-Luc wants to find some sort of closure between him and Madred, I just wish it wasn't like this."
Deanna's fathomless obsidian eyes glittered.
"Do you think Madred has an ulterior motive? Perhaps he's dangling this miracle cure in front of the Captain to achieve something else…something we're not yet aware of."
The Doctor grimaced and shook her head.
"If he's up to something he's playing his cards very close to his chest. Over the past two days Jean-Luc has had exhaustive scans and tests to assess his suitability for the procedure. Thomas has been with the Cardassian Doctor for hours discussing the technology and assessing the risks involved. Of course they're working with a clean slate…Jean-Luc has already given his consent, he's just waiting for their verdict."
Deanna nodded.
"And Madred?"
Beverly scowled and sipped her rapidly cooling tea.
"Oh he's been around. He spent an hour with Jean-Luc yesterday. I asked the Captain about it but he doesn't want to talk."
Beverly snorted and sighed.
"This is really bugging me. I understand what he's going through Dee, but this is so out of character…"
The Counsellor's eyes pierced Beverly's, their intensity not the least diminished by the vast distance that separated them.
"Is it Beverly? I know his motivation is probably seventy percent personal, but I also know, with absolute assuredness, that he would also be seeking to help others in some way. If this works it'll have far reaching effects right throughout the Federation. Once the accords are ratified we'll be sharing technology with the Cardassians and I'll tell you now, no one is going to complain about their methods when our people are reaping the benefits."
Beverly rubbed her face and huffed.
"Jean-Luc said much the same thing and as a Doctor I can see the truth of his words but still…"
Deanna watched the worried woman and said softly,
"How's your relationship with him?"
Beverly's smile was tired.
"A little strained at the moment. Of course we've not been intimate for so long…I'm hoping we can get through this in one piece. Time will tell I suppose."
Deanna nodded.
"Maybe, if the procedure works, he can leave the hospital and you can have some time alone together."
"Beverly bolstered her smile and lifted her chin.
"Maybe. So…what's the big E up to?"
Deanna flapped a hand and rolled her eyes.
"We're on a mapping survey out near the rim. Will's bored and the crew are getting sick of him haunting their departments trying to find something to do."
The Doctor chuckled, her blue eyes sparkling.
"Ah…the joys of Captaincy."
She pressed her fingers to the screen and winked.
"Well I have to go Dee. I'll be in touch."
The Counsellor mirrored her actions and sighed.
"Tell captain Picard we're thinking of him and Beverly…keep your chin up. Troi out."
Beverly sat back and sighed before tabbing off the terminal and leaving the room.

 

 

 

 

Two days later Jean-Luc was wheeled into a conference lounge. Hulm, the Cardassian Doctor, Beverly and Madred were seated around the table, the glossy surface of which was covered with a scattering of PADDs and monitors. The Captain was parked next to Beverly and he took a large breath, holding it for several seconds before letting it out slowly. Nodding to everyone, Jean-Luc prepared himself as best he could for their decision.
Hulm gestured to the Cardassian Doctor and introduced her.
"Captain Picard this is Doctor Feydin M'Rok. Doctor, Captain Jean-Luc Picard."
The elegant woman bowed her head then fixed Jean-Luc with an intense stare.
"I am honoured Captain."
Jean-Luc smiled and returned the gesture of respect.
"Thank you Doctor."
Hulm sat forward and clasped his hands on the tabletop.
"Well Captain I suppose you want to hear what we've got to say."
Jean-Luc's face sobered and he nodded.
"Indeed Doctor."
The Neurologist picked up a PADD and briefly glanced at it.
"Right. Basically we think you're a good candidate. We do have one or two concerns and unfortunately we won't be able to address them until we commence the surgery, however with the expertise of my Cardassian colleague and backed up by the extensive assessment you've been through, we're confident of a favourable outcome."
Jean-Luc's eyes fell to his hands and he sighed.
"That's good news Doctor. When will it begin?"
Hulm looked to M'Rok who sat back and studied the waiting Captain.
"First the nanites have to be removed, they have all but completed their work. We were going to give you a few days rest between surgeries but I convinced Doctor Hulm to progress with the implantation at the same time. I see no reason to delay."
Beverly snorted and M'Rok cast her a withering glare.
"Once the device is implanted we will activate it and its embedded programme will initiate. Your injury is in the moderate range and it should not take very long…perhaps seven or eight days…for the repairs to be effected."
Jean-Luc nodded and rubbed his chin.
"And while this is in progress what happens to me?"
"You will be sedated."
He pursed his lips and frowned.
"I see. How long after I'm revived until we know how successful the procedure has been?"
M'Rok smiled, although her eyes remained cold.
"You should know almost immediately Captain. In cases like yours the impulses from the brain to the affected limb should be evident even before the repair is complete. To that end you will be carefully monitored."
Hulm grinned at Beverly.
"And due to the diligence of Doctor Crusher, your leg should be able to function almost normally. Her insistence on therapy and muscle stimulation will pay very handsome dividends Captain. You're a lucky man."
Jean-Luc smiled warmly at Beverly and nodded.
"That I am."
Hulm placed his hands on the table and brought the meeting to a close.
"Very well, we'll see you tomorrow morning Captain."
Jean-Luc held Beverly's gaze, not really hearing his specialist. Once they were alone, Beverly kissed him and stroked his face.
"I'll be with you my love."
He nodded and took her hand.
"I know."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc lay quietly on the operating table, willing his heart to slow down. Its rapid beat was the only evidence of his nervousness. Beverly glanced at the monitor and gently gripped his shoulder.
"Hey there…calm down, it's going to be ok."
He smiled up at her and swallowed. A nurse approached the gowned Doctor and pressed a hypospray into her gloved hand.
"I'm going to give you something that will make you drowsy Jean-Luc. Just relax and let the medicine take you."
He nodded but lifted a hand to stall her.
"Beverly there's something I want you to know…something important."
Beverly smiled down and bent to gently kiss his cheek.
"What?"
"I love you…with all that I am."
He sighed, closing his eyes briefly.
"Our new relationship means more to me than I can adequately put into words, but more than that…your friendship has been so precious to me…I don't know how I would have lived without it."
The red head blinked back her tears and smiled.
"I have recently contacted my solicitors and emended my will. You are now the sole beneficiary of my inheritance. My share of the vineyard, everything I own…in the event of my death it all goes to you."
Beverly gasped and gripped his shoulder.
"Jean-Luc…no…"
He shook his head.
"There's more. If I'm left mentally impaired by this procedure you have legal guardianship over both me personally and my affairs. I know you have medical power of attorney…this will give you complete control of everything."
Biting back her desperate need to take him in her arms, Beverly swallowed her distress.
"Are you sure Jean-Luc?"
He smiled, his dark eyes glittering.
"Oh yes my love, I've never been so sure."
The Doctor nodded and gently turned his head, placing the nozzle of the hypospray against his warm skin and saying softly,
"Sleep well my sweet lover, I'll be with you when you awaken."
Jean-Luc heard the hiss of the instrument and immediately felt his body relax and his mind slow. Vaguely, as if from a great distance, he heard the voices of Hulm and M'Rok and somebody touched his head.
He smiled and closed his eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The surgery was protracted by modern standards. For over seven hours the surgeons toiled over their tasks, removing the nanites then implanting the Cardassian device. They overcame problems as they found them, once reacting with well-oiled efficiency when Jean-Luc suffered a sub arachnoid haemorrhage. It was sealed before any significant damage was done and M'Rok assured both Thomas and Beverly that the device would repair that as well as the other damaged areas.
Once sited the device was activated and Hulm smiled tiredly.
When Hulm and M'Rok had finally finished they stood back, allowing Beverly and her staff to insert the large piece of bone that had been removed back into Jean-Luc's skull, then close the gaping wound. Once his scalp had been cleaned he was connected to a bio waste unit and wheeled out of the operating suite and into intensive care. There he was placed on a special bio bed that would monitor every bodily function and his brain output. Beverly watched as the computer started to display his vital signs then she checked his intravenous drip.
Assured that, at least for now, he appeared to be resting comfortably; she pulled up a chair and opened a book. In a soft voice she said,
"Well now Jean-Luc, where were we? I believe Fagin was organising the urchins."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hulm was at the replicator in his office. Over his shoulder he said,
"Would either of you like a raktajino? We have it on file."
M'Rok looked at Madred and shrugged.
"Yes Doctor Hulm that would be fine."
Taking a tray from the replicator, Thomas carried it to his desk and smiled as Madred moved some PADDs out of the way. The Neurologist distributed the drinks, sat and leaned back, running his hands through his hair.
"Well that went well."
M'Rok sighed and took a sip of her hot drink, closing her eyes with obvious appreciation.
"This is good Doctor. Whoever programmed it managed to capture the subtly of both the aroma and taste."
She sat back and looked him in the eye.
"I agree with you, the procedure went well but I must admit I am concerned about the neuron matrixes. The damage was more extensive than the scans showed. If not for the work the nanites had done…I think your Captain Picard would have been severely disabled."
Thomas sighed and nodded.
"When he first came to us he was totally unresponsive. I thought we'd have our work cut out with him, but he surprised us. He's a fighter…he doesn't know how to give up. I've been a Doctor for many years and I've seen a lot, but I've always been humbled at the capacity of some people to persist, sometimes in the face of insurmountable odds. We call it Human spirit, although I'm sure it exists in other species."
M'Rok nodded and Madred grunted. The Cardassian Doctor glanced at her compatriot and he smiled.
"I know from personal experience that Captain Picard is exceptionally strong willed. I am not surprised in the least by his fighting…spirit. I would expect nothing else."
Hulm took a long sip of his coffee and watched Madred over the rim of his mug. Tilting his head he said quietly,
"I'm curious Madred, how do you know the Captain? Have you been to Earth before? Met him in battle maybe?"
The large grey man laughed and the sound sent a chill up Thomas' spine.
"No Doctor. Let's just say the gallant Captain has been my…guest…in the past. We got to know each other quite well."
Intrigued, but knowing instinctively that Madred wouldn't elaborate, Hulm shrugged.
"How interesting. Well I'm sure that when the Captain's once again awake you can visit him. Now Doctor M'Rok I propose a steady infusion of seratinin into his drip. Do you agree?"
M'Rok picked up her PADD and read quickly, frowning a little.
"Yes…but we will have to be acutely aware of swelling. Seratinin will keep him unconscious and slow the firing of the neurons, but the ganglia receptors must remain undisturbed. For the device to operate at its premium it needs a stable environment."
Hulm nodded.
"I understand that's why I chose seratinin. Not only will it stabilise the damaged area, it will, hopefully, keep his temperature down. We had some instances of febrile and pain episodes when the nanites were working. I want to avoid that if possible."
"Agreed. The longer we can keep him unconscious the better."
She lifted the PADD and nodded.
"I will go to him now and download the latest readouts."
Hulm smiled.
"I will accompany you."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madred waited outside while the Doctors tended to the Captain. They exited after fifteen minutes, both deep in conversation neither giving Madred any notice. He watched their retreating backs with mild amusement then entered the room, standing just inside the door allowing his eyes to take in the scene.
He noted the red headed woman standing at Jean-Luc's shoulder and squinted, his mind recalling the details of Jean-Luc's interrogation. His cold eyes widened with the memories and he softly cleared his throat.
When Beverly turned she had a smile on her face. It was replaced with wariness.
The Cardassian smiled and bowed slightly.
Beverly stood in silence for several seconds before her cold voice rose slightly.
"Get out!"
Madred held up a hand and shook his head.
"Please Doctor I only want to see how Jean-Luc is doing. I mean no harm."
With boldness born of seething anger, Beverly stepped up to Madred and hissed,
"Mean no harm? You bastard! You tortured him mercilessly, you drugged him…implanted him with a device that not only caused excruciating pain, it damaged his nerves…and for what? He couldn't answer your damned questions! Yet you continued to torment him in a cruel effort to break his will! And do you want to know what I find utterly reprehensible? More than what you did to him? You enjoyed it! You're a sick, sadistic piece of excrement and if I could get away with it I'd kill you where you stand! Now get out!"
Holding her blazing gaze, Madred smiled unctuously.
"You are an impressive specimen Doctor. No wonder Jean-Luc held to your memory so stubbornly. I take it you are…mated?"
Baring her teeth, Beverly spat in his face.
He raised a hand slowly and wiped the spittle from his cheek.
"I will leave, but I ask you to consider something. If Jean-Luc's happiness is your prime concern then you must concede that I am instrumental in bringing that about. If not for that device you so easily disparage, he would not be facing the prospect of regaining the use of his leg."
Beverly turned on her heels and went back to Jean-Luc's bedside. Her voice was tightly constrained.
"I admit you gave him information he might not have got from anywhere else, but it remains to be seen if this procedure has been successful. Also, as a Doctor, I deplore your people's methods in testing these…devices. I find your scientific experimentation on innocent victims totally barbaric and not worthy of a sentient species."
Madred smiled and spread his hands.
"But you won't reject the technology once it's proved your mate will walk again. You see Doctor I find your protests somewhat hollow. We both know the Federation will embrace all our technology, as we will yours. No one will complain when they see the benefits."
Beverly turned her head and stared at the imposing man. She sighed and shook her head.
"You know you're the third person that's said that to me…and I hate to admit it, but you're right of course. However…what your people have done is still wrong. I can only hope such inhuman methods are no longer practiced. As for myself, again you're right. I would love nothing more than to see Jean-Luc walk again, my only regret is that he will be in your debt."
Madred's eyebrow rose.
"Debt? There is no debt Doctor. All I seek with the Captain is a lasting peace between us. I look forward to the day when we can build a relationship based on equality and a mutual desire to see our peoples prosper. Remember I know him Doctor…quite intimately. He is highly intelligent, resourceful, deeply committed to Starfleet and the Federation and possessed of a phenomenal strength of will. I would consider it an honour to debate him in a wide variety of subjects."
Beverly's smile was cold.
"Well forgive me Madred but I don't believe you. You may have convinced Jean-Luc of your benign intentions but I know you too and I know that people like you don't change. You're fundamentally flawed and it's only a matter of time before your veneer of civility slips and the real monster emerges. Just rest assured I'll be waiting."
Madred shrugged his broad shoulders and bowed.
"I see you retain the prejudices of your species. Perhaps with time you will come to see the truth of my words."
He bowed and abruptly left.
Beverly let out a shaky breath and leaned against the bed, fisting her shaking hands. She closed her eyes and took a large breath, held it then exhaled slowly.
"Shit!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three days later the medical alarm sounded, bringing personnel at the run. Hulm entered Jean-Luc's room to find Beverly activating the computer.
"What is it?"
Keeping her eyes on the screen, Beverly's voice was laced with fear.
"Haemorrhage! It's in the…medial lemniscus! Dammit Thomas…"
M'Rok appeared at Beverly's shoulder, her index finger pinpointing the bleeding area. Pulling out the stool in front of the computer, she sat and began to input commands at an alarming speed. Beverly's eyes remained glued to the screen as the device altered its programme and sent tendrils to the affected area. Within minutes the bleed had been stopped. Beverly glanced down at the Cardassian, her voice tight.
"What now? We've got to remove the blood."
M'Rok nodded absently.
"Agreed Doctor, but in the meantime the device will add that injury to its repair schedule. In the interim, I suggest the Captain be taken to surgery immediately."
Hulm issued the necessary orders and Jean-Luc was whisked away, Beverly in tow.
The surgery was uneventful and Jean-Luc was back in intensive care three and a half hours later. The following five days went by without mishap but when the sedating drugs were withdrawn Jean-Luc didn't wake up.
The Doctors knew from their tests and scans that the repairs had been successful, the impulses passing down his afflicted leg were strong and the muscles responded accordingly. But Jean-Luc's continued unconsciousness stymied them.
On the morning of the eleventh day after the implantation the Doctors met in the conference room. Beverly was short on patience.
"What the hell is going on?! Why is Captain Picard still unconscious?"
Hulm sighed and looked at M'Rok.
"We think it's the Borg technology."
Slamming her palm down on the tabletop, Beverly's voice was incredulous.
"But surely you inputted the information we had about that! I can't believe this is happening! You assured him it was safe!"
M'Rok leaned forward and glared at the incensed woman.
"Doctor Crusher control yourself! There was always a risk with this procedure, Captain Picard knew that and accepted it. You're histrionics are not worthy of a person in your position. Kindly strive to maintain some clinical objectivity!"
Beverly stood abruptly and raised her voice.
"Oh you'd know all about clinical objectivity wouldn't you? Your people created the damned device as a method of torturing innocent people. Tell me Doctor, how many people died by your hand?"
Hulm stood and barked,
"That is enough Doctor! You will sit and be civil or I will ask you to leave…and I'll remove you from the team!"
Beverly's mouth snapped shut and the glowering woman regained her seat. Hulm glared down at her a moment before seating himself.
"Now if I have your attention Beverly, allow me to elaborate. Captain Picard's Borg implants are causing some trouble. We think that when I passed current through them, there was a degree of reactivation, not enough to register, but enough to interfere with the Cardassian device. It seems that when the device completed the repairs, when it attempted to withdraw the tendrils, the Borg technology somehow prevented it and in turn, the resulting dichotomy between the technologies is causing Captain Picard to remain unconscious."
Beverly took a large breath and nodded.
"OK what do we do?"
M'Rok clasped her hands in front of her.
"As I see it, we have only two choices. We either leave him as he is and wait to see what happens, or we operate and manually withdraw the tendrils as we remove the device."
Beverly closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose. Swallowing, she asked quietly,
"And what is your recommendation?"
Without hesitation, M'Rok said,
"Operate."
Nodding slowly, Bevery turned to Hulm.
"And you Thomas?"
He sighed heavily and shrugged.
"I must agree with Doctor M'Rok. If we don't act there could be damage we can't anticipate."
Pursing her lips, Beverly nodded.
"OK, when?"
Hulm fisted his hands.
"Within the hour."
Beverly stood to attention and kept her eyes straight ahead.
"Very well, if you will excuse me, I'll be with the Captain."
The Neurologist nodded and Beverly left. M'Rok sighed.
"She protects him fiercely. I assume they are mated?"
Hulm nodded once and stood.
"Shall we Doctor?"
They left to prepare for the surgery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the surgeons struggled to remove the device Beverly could do little but stand by and watch. Again Jean-Luc's skull was opened and the small, but powerful device was coaxed out millimetre by millimetre, the hair-thin tendrils slowly being extricated one by one. It was painstaking work, requiring a steady hand and nerves of steel. The Doctors took turns to perform the delicate task and in all it took five tense hours before the device and its tendrils were finally free. While they had direct access into Jean-Luc's brain, a fibre filament was slid deep into the tissue to assess the Borg technology. Low-level energy readings were detected and it was noted the surrounding tissue was reactive. Hulm attempted to shut down the hardware but in the end had to admit defeat. It was felt that the technology would eventually cease functioning on its own.
Once the exhausted surgeons stepped away, Beverly and her team moved to complete the operation. Within the hour Jean-Luc was back in intensive care.
Beverly made herself comfortable in the chair and settled in to wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eighteen hours later Jean-Luc's hands slowly travelled to his head and he groaned softly. Wakened immediately, Beverly was instantly at his side.
"Jean-Luc? Can you hear me…it's Beverly."
With his eyes tightly closed and his face screwed up he gasped.
"Pain!"
Tapping her combadge, Beverly summoned Hulm. At the same time, she deployed a tricorder and scanned Jean-Luc's head.
"Hold on Jean-Luc, we'll try to treat it."
Thomas entered, closely followed by M'Rok.
"What is it?"
Frowning over her readings, Beverly shook her head.
"I'm not sure. I'm getting unusual spikes in the delta waves…his pain levels are morbidly high."
Hulm went to the computer for a deeper analysis. Jean-Luc gripped his head and rolled onto his side, curling up in a foetal position. Beverly gently grabbed his shoulder and leaned close to his ear,
"Try to lie on your back Jean-Luc, the sensors work better that way."
With obvious difficulty the suffering man slowly turned onto his back and straightened his legs. However he didn't release his head. In a broken voice he pleaded,
"Beverly please…the pain…it's too much!"
She glanced at the two Doctors and grimaced.
"Hold on my love, we'll do something soon I promise."
Hulm took one final look at the readings before turning to Beverly.
"Hastopen. Twenty cc's."
Beverly gasped.
"That will knock him senseless! Can't we just treat the pain? At that dose he'll be affected for hours, he'll be out of his mind!"
Hulm's face hardened and he silently beckoned for Beverly to look at the computer screen. This she did and her face blanched.
"Oh God!"
Thomas kept his voice low.
"Exactly. The damned Borg hardware is re-integrating. If we saturate his brain tissue with a massive dose of hastopen I believe we can fool the hardware into assuming the brain tissue is no longer active. And if that happens it should shut down."
Beverly's eyes bored into Hulm's.
"You're taking a hell of a risk! What if he doesn't come out of it? There have been cases of permanent impairment from dosages that high Thomas…and dependency. Are you sure this is the only course of action?"
Hulm glanced back at the screen, scowling at the insidious technology.
"Yes Beverly, I'm sure."
The red head closed her eyes and nodded slowly.
"OK."
Within minutes Hulm had used his command codes to authorise the dose. Hastopen was a restricted drug and its use was strictly regulated. He injected Jean-Luc and the effect was instant. The Captain's body abruptly relaxed and his eyes opened, staring vacantly at the ceiling. His mouth slowly gaped and Beverly gently closed it. She took his hands and laid them on the bed. M'Rok's voice came from nearby.
"Look at the monitor Doctor."
The first thing Beverly saw was the pain indicator. It had subsided to nominal levels, but the brain waves were also severely depressed. Only barely functioning, Jean-Luc was in a state of drug-induced stupefaction, completely unaware of himself or his surroundings.
Dragging her eyes back to her lover, she pulled the blankets up to his shoulders and sighed.
"Fight it my love…for God's sake don't succumb."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next nine hours were difficult for everyone. Jean-Luc's quietude disappeared and he experienced dreadful hallucinations, convulsions and episodes of vomiting and profuse sweating and to make matters worse, he had no perception of self. He endured all the debilitating episodes without the comfort of knowing his beloved Beverly was doing everything in her power to help him. Lost and alone in his delirium, he endured the terrors of his mind and the ravages of the drug as it altered his brain and turned him into a non-person.
Hulm and M'Rok stayed, alternating their concentration between the monitors and the suffering man, occasionally helping Beverly restrain the Captain as he thrashed about. At oh three fifteen Hulm gasped.
"Oh my God…it's working!"
Beverly was gently wiping the sweat from Jean-Luc's face when she quickly turned her head.
"The Borg hardware…it's shutting down?"
"Yes! Not only that…the surrounding tissue is already starting to revert. Oh Christ this is fantastic!"
M'Rok came to Jean-Luc and scanned his skull. She frowned over the readings, then showed them to Beverly. The red head smiled at her colleague, the first genuine warmth she'd showed her so far.
"The brain waves are stabilising."
M'Rok nodded and looked down at the twitching man.
"So it would seem. Now he has to overcome the effects of the drug. If he can do that I believe we may be close to a full recovery."
Beverly smiled grimly.
"Doctor I've know him for many years and I can tell you he's been to hell and back…many times. He'll do it, just give him time."
M'Rok's smile actually reached her eyes and Beverly was surprised at how it softened her harsh face.
"I have always put a lot of emphasis in the faith of one's mate. If you believe he can do this then I do not doubt you. He is a fortunate man to have such a loyal mate. It would seem you are well matched."
Beverly placed the soft cloth in a bowl of water before lifting it and wringing out the excess water. She placed it on Jean-Luc's brow and sighed.
"We have loved each other for a very long time. It is the strength of our love that sustains us and it is the depth of our love that will bring him back to me."
M'Rok bowed slightly, her voice gentle.
"In that case I envy you."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just after two fifteen the following afternoon Jean-Luc opened his eyes. He stared up at the ceiling and blinked slowly, trying to ascertain just where he was. His right hand jerked and flexed before slowly travelling to his face where his fingers encountered several day's growth of beard.
The gentle medical alarm brought Beverly to his side in seconds.
"Well hello there Jean-Luc. How do you feel?"
His eyes slid to her face and he immediately closed them, grimacing deeply. Beverly gripped his hands and said tensely,
"What is it?"
His deep roughened voice croaked,
"Dizzy!"
Beverly stroked his face and said softly,
"I think I can help. Wait just a minute."
She left him and Jean-Luc took deep even breaths. Finding the spinning disorienting he half turned onto his side and pushed himself up on one shaking arm. Just as he opened his eyes, Beverly reached his side.
"Hey slow down! I want you to…"
The Captain suddenly gasped,
"I'm going to be sick!"
There was a bowl nearby and Beverly grabbed it, holding his shoulder as he heaved. His already empty stomach rebelled again and again until the Doctor administered a hypospray. He calmed and Beverly gently urged him to lie down. Once he was flat on his back, she encouraged him to open his eyes. He grunted and shook his head.
"No…everything's spinning."
Sighing with well-practiced patience, Beverly's voice was soft.
"That medicine I gave you should help. Come on…try."
He cracked first one, then both eyes and looked suspiciously up at his lover. His frown lessened and Beverly smiled warmly.
"How is it now?"
He nodded slowly and swallowed.
"Better."
"Good. Now I'm going to raise the bed a bit OK? If you experience anything unpleasant just tell me."
Jean-Luc sighed and nodded again.
With a barely discernable hum, the top half of the bed rose. Beverly gauged his reactions and stopped it before it became too high. She retrieved more pillows and made him comfortable then fetched a cup of water.
"Here you might be needing this."
He took the cup gratefully and the Doctor noticed his trembling hands. As he drank his eyes watched her. Beverly smiled and took the cup when he finished and smoothed his blankets. He cleared his throat and again felt his beard.
"How long have I been unconscious?"
"Thirteen days."
His eyebrows rose and he gaped.
"Thirteen days? It was supposed to be only six days…seven at most."
Beverly sighed and shook her head.
"There were complications Jean-Luc. The Borg technology that still resides in your brain reactivated and prevented the Cardassian device from deactivating properly. Added to that, the brain tissue surrounding the Borg hardware began to revert to its previous state. We had to employ some pretty dangerous methods to stop the whole thing. You my love have been extremely lucky."
In a very comforting gesture, Jean-Luc rubbed his fingers over his lower lip. He then stared at his left leg. Beverly followed his intense gaze and gently squeezed his hand.
"Go on…move it."
He lifted his knee and the look of astonished delight on his face was worth more to Beverly than she could adequately describe. His gripped his raised knee and grunted with deep satisfaction.
"I can feel it and the bloody thing works!"
Beverly beamed at him.
"Uh huh. When you're a bit stronger we'll get you up and you can try walking."
He looked at her and frowned.
"What about now? I feel fine."
She shook her head.
"No my love. You've been through hell and your body needs time to recover. Be patient. Besides I want to investigate that dizziness…that wasn't supposed to happen."
Jean-Luc sighed and again squeezed his knee, a small smile appearing.
"All right but will you do something for me?"
Beverly chuckled and stroked his face.
"Anything."
"Would you please shave off this damned beard? It itches."
The Doctor stood and nodded.
"OK and I'll disconnect you from the bio waste unit, but then I have to call Doctors Hulm and M'Rok. They're going to want to go over you with a fine toothed comb."
Jean-Luc's reply was dry.
"How delightful."
Fifteen minutes later a now clean-shaven Jean-Luc was lying quietly as numerous scans were taken. Beverly gave him frequent smiles of encouragement, knowing as she did how he detested being under the microscope.
One and a half hours later Hulm compared notes with M'Rok.
"This is excellent. The tissue is fully restored with no residual fluid or abnormal function. Going by these scans he should be well enough to be discharged as a day patient soon."
M'Rok nodded her agreement but frowned over one reading.
"Doctor Hulm, what do you make of this? I am unfamiliar with this structure."
"Ah that is the organ of corti. It is responsible for converting the mechanical energy of the inner ear into electrochemical energy that can be conducted down the auditory portion of the cranial nerve via the spiral ganglia to the brain for interpretation."
M'Rok nodded thoughtfully.
"And balance? Would it affect balance?"
Hulm nodded.
"Yes, any interference in the aural system can produce disruption of hearing and balance. The system is linked."
M'Rok compared some readings.
"There is a five point eight micron difference in the diameter of the left cranial nerve. I believe there has been undue compression, possibly due to swelling. It would explain the Captain's reported vertigo."
Hulm grunted and squinted at the screen. His fingers traced the nerve and his eyes flicked between the two sets of figures. Running a hand through his hair he grunted.
"I think you're right. He may benefit from regen treatments but my gut feeling is it will heal itself."
Hulm looked over to Jean-Luc and cleared his throat.
"Captain have you experienced any further episodes of vertigo since Doctor Crusher medicated you?"
Jean-Luc pulled down the corners of his mouth and shook his head.
"No Doctor."
Hulm nodded absently and left the monitor to amble over to Jean-Luc.
"Tell me Captain, how do you feel? Any residual pain?"
Jean-Luc raised his eyebrows and lowered his head in thought.
"I feel well and no, there's no pain. Had it not been for the dizziness I would've been completely unaware of my treatment."
Hulm nodded and folded his arms, his eyes clouding as he was lost to thought. M'Rok appeared at his side and asked,
"Captain Picard may I examine your leg?"
Jean-Luc smiled.
"Of course."
The Cardassian woman pulled the covers down exposing the Captain, clad only in pyjama pants and scanned his leg. She then looked into his eyes.
"Can you move it for me?"
Jean-Luc complied and M'Rok's hands gripped his calf. Her fingers pressed into the muscle and she ordered,
"Can you resist the pressure?"
Silently Jean-Luc flexed the muscle and her fingers were pushed outwards as the flesh expanded. She repeated the action on his thigh and nodded mutely as she pulled the covers up.
"That was very good Captain. With the concurrence of my colleague I see no reason why you cannot get out of bed tomorrow."
She turned to Thomas.
"Do you agree Doctor?"
Hulm's head snapped up and he started.
"What? Oh yes…that's fine."
He smiled down at Jean-Luc and patted his shoulder.
"And I want to be here to see it!"
Turning to Beverly he wagged a finger.
"Be sure to call us."
The red head grinned and nodded.
"Aye Sir."
The two Doctors left and Beverly came to sit on the bed.
"Well that drip can come out now…are you hungry?"
Jean-Luc frowned and sighed.
"Not really but I know from extensive experience you are going to insist I eat something. Can we come to an agreement?"
Beverly folded her arms and lifted her chin.
"That depends on what you have in mind."
Jean-Luc smiled, his dark eyes twinkling.
"I merely wish to suggest that a small meal of toast and tea would be sufficient…for now. I will eat more later. Agreed?"
Beverly allowed a few theatrical seconds to pass before breaking into a happy grin.
"Agreed."
Within minutes Jean-Luc was free of the drip and happily eating his requested meal. Beverly watched him avidly, still sending prayers of thanks to any deities who might be listening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At oh five eighteen Beverly was woken from a deep sleep. Disoriented, she sat up and frowned, trying to find what had wakened her. Jean-Luc's voice sounded overhead, he sounded distressed.
"Picard to Crusher."
"Jean-Luc it's Beverly, what's wrong?"
"I'm dizzy again and I can't stop shaking. Can you..?"
Already out of bed and shrugging into her robe, the Doctor replied as she left her room,
"I'm on my way."
She entered Jean-Luc's room and called for illumination.
"Lights!"
Her eyes quickly adjusted to see Jean-Luc curled up in his bed soaked in sweat and shaking violently. His hands gripped the side of the bed and his eyes were screwed shut.
Beverly retrieved a hypospray, loaded it and came to him, grabbing his shoulder as she injected him in the neck. His ragged voice issued from between his clenched teeth.
"What's happening to me?"
The worried woman sat on the bed and silently encouraged the relaxing Captain to straighten his body.
"It's a combination of things. As well as the damage to your cranial nerve, which is causing the dizziness, your body is suffering the effects of a very powerful drug that was used in your treatment. The sweating and shaking are symptomatic and hopefully will stop soon."
Jean-Luc raised tired arms and rubbed his face with his hands, then grimaced at the sweat covering them. Beverly's soft voice made him open his eyes.
"Why don't you go and have a shower? I'm sure it'll make you feel better and if you're steady, I'll get you some breakfast."
He nodded slowly and Beverly helped him to sit up. With her arm supporting him, he slipped forward and eased his feet onto the floor. Taking a moment to catch his breath, he straightened his back and stood.
His slight gasp and closed eyes made Beverly grip him tightly.
"What?"
He shook his head and opened his eyes, taking a deep breath.
"Nothing…just a little light headed."
"To be expected. How's the leg?"
Surprise registered on his face as he stared down.
"It's…wonderful. I didn't give it a thought, I simply stood up and it supported me. Beverly this is miraculous!"
The red head smiled and kissed his stubbled cheek.
"You've no idea. Now come on and see if you can walk to the bathroom."
Devoting himself to the task, Jean-Luc had taken four slow steps when he stopped.
"Weren't you supposed to call the Doctors to see this?"
Beverly grunted and shook her head.
"Not now, besides it's too early. You can give them a demonstration later, right now this is just for us."
He kept his eyes on the floor, but he grinned rakishly.
"Agreed."
Beverly helped him remove his sweat-soaked pyjama pants then assisted him into the shower. She stayed long enough to satisfy herself that he could manage, then left. Setting out his clothing, she was ordering breakfast from the replicator when she heard his isorazor gently humming. In scant minutes he appeared in the room, a white towel wrapped around his slim waist. Beverly went to him and wound her arms around his neck, resting her forehead on his. The silently communed before she stepped back and gave him a critical appraisal.
"You've lost way too much weight."
Jean-Luc frowned and shook his head.
"And you're obsessed. Why is it you're so totally engrossed by my weight? Since you came aboard all those years ago you've badgered me about eating. Anyone would think you've got some sort of ulterior motive."
Her offended scowl gave way to a sly smile.
"Maybe I have. Did it ever occur to you that I might have been considering you as a lover all along and I was motivated to ensure you'd be…up…to it."
His look of complete astonishment melted into frank desire. His hazel eyes darkened and he took her in his arms.
"Want to give me a physical?"
Beverly's head lolled back as the Captain nuzzled her neck. Almost purring with happiness she had to concentrate to make him stop.
"Jean-Luc…"
He lifted his head only to kiss her passionately. As he crushed her to his chest, Beverly groaned into his mouth. One of his hands cupped her breast and she felt his arousal press against her. She shook herself mentally and pulled back just in time to grab Jean-Luc's arm as he staggered backwards. He closed his eyes and brought a hand to his lowered head as Beverly ushered him to a chair.
"Here sit down, it'll pass."
His body trembling, Jean-Luc allowed Beverly to guide his head down.
"Deep even breaths."
He complied and the dizziness abated. He slowly sat up and summoned a weak smile.
"That was some kiss."
The Doctor chuckled and rubbed his bare back.
"Actually you've always had that effect on me."
He wiped a hand across his face and sighed.
"I suppose that was another after effect?"
Beverly knelt before him and took his hand.
"Yes. Between the damaged nerve and the drug, it's going to take a while before you're free of symptoms."
"How long?"
Beverly sighed and rubbed the tip of her nose.
"Well the nerve should heal fairly quickly, especially if you have regen treatments, but the drug…that could take some time. It is very potent Jean-Luc and its effects vary from person to person. So far you've been relatively lucky. Some poor souls fare much worse and some battle dependency as well as everything else."
Jean-Luc sat back and looked up at the ceiling.
"All right I can accept that. Will these symptoms…the sweating, the light headedness and the shaking…is that all I can expect or will there be more?"
Beverly stood and went back to the replicator.
"To be brutally honest I don't know. While under the effects of the drug, which is called hastopen by the way, you experienced seizures, hallucinations and vomiting. Some or all of those symptoms could appear…although as time goes by the likelihood diminishes. If you want a definitive answer I can't give you one, but I am confident it will pass. Be patient, I'll be with you."
Jean-Luc frowned and rubbed his lower lip pensively.
"Doctor Hulm mentioned yesterday that I might be released as a day patient. Will these after effects preclude that?"
Beverly placed a tray on the table and shook her head.
"No I don't think so, as long as I'm with you and you have unimpeded access to the medical facilities I see no reason why you can't be discharged."
Jean-Luc's eyes twinkled and his smile was warm.
"So they examine me later this morning then I'm set loose?"
The Doctor's chuckle warmed him.
"Not exactly. You'll be under my care, we'll have to stay close to the hospital and you'll be reporting every day for scans."
The Captain clasped his hands in his lap and rolled his lip.
"Fair enough. How early can you call them?"
Beverly shook her head and smothered a smile.
"Well let's have breakfast first…and you should get dressed."
Jean-Luc looked down at his semi-naked form and grinned.
"Ah…I see your point. Pour the coffee, I won't be long."
Beverly's appreciative gaze followed him as he picked up his clothes and retreated into the bathroom. Letting out a slow breath, she shook her head and swallowed.
"You sexy rogue Jean-Luc."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hulm's grinning face was complimented by his clapping hands.
"Well done Captain! My God it's good to see you on your feet, there was a time when I doubted it would happen."
Jean-Luc smiled and hitched his backside against his bed. M'Rok, standing with her hands behind her back nodded slowly.
"How do you feel Captain?"
Schooling his face into a serious visage, Jean-Luc looked her in the eye.
"Apart from some residual after effects of the hastopen and a little random dizziness I feel fine."
M'Rok turned her gaze to Beverly and asked,
"I take it there is medication to counter the vertigo?"
"Yes."
Hulm stepped up to Jean-Luc, waving his hand to forestall the Captain from standing.
"How would you like to get out of here?"
Jean-Luc grinned and shot Beverly an excited look.
"That, Doctor, would be absolutely marvellous."
The Neurologist nodded and gripped Jean-Luc's shoulder.
"Has Beverly outlined what we have in mind?"
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes. I am to be under her care, close to the hospital and I must return on a daily basis for scans."
Looking deep into Jean-Luc's eyes, Hulm considered his patient.
"And you agree?"
"Yes…wholeheartedly."
Nodding decisively, Hulm grinned.
"Pack your bags Captain…you're being set loose."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Beverly carrying his bag, Jean-Luc stopped outside Hulm's office. He pressed the chime and heard the invitation to enter. Hulm and M'Rok were standing in front of a monitor, deep in conversation. The Captain waited patiently until Hulm noticed him.
"Captain Picard…why are you still here? I would've thought you'd leave a vapour trail in your haste to leave."
Jean-Luc smiled ruefully and bowed his head.
"I just dropped by to thank you Doctor…to thank you both. I am in your debt."
Hulm waved a hand and pointed to the door.
"On your way Captain, I was just doing my job."
Jean-Luc smiled and half turned but M'Rok's quiet voice stopped him.
"Captain Picard?"
He turned to face her.
"Yes?"
"How do you feel about us now?"
Jean-Luc frowned and lowered his head.
"That Doctor is a very difficult question. Your technology has restored me and I'm grateful, however I cannot condone the methods your people used to perfect the device you employed. In truth this situation has left me deeply torn. I have to balance what is right against the far reaching benefits this technology has for our people. It is a dilemma I must come to terms with, yet I can tell you I deeply appreciate your help in my recovery."
M'Rok bowed slightly and clasped her hands in front of her.
"Perhaps, with time, the deeds of our past might be redeemed by the actions in our future. I can see a time, in the not too distant future, when our peoples may live in peace, benefiting from each other's technology, free from suspicion and aggression."
Jean-Luc smiled and nodded.
"I too look forward to that Doctor."
The Cardassian pursed her lips.
"Well then Captain, until tomorrow. Oh by the way, Madred wants to see you. Will you let him know where you will be staying?"
Jean-Luc bowed.
"Of course. Good day."
Once outside, Jean-Luc stood still and took a deep breath. Beverly watched him carefully and smiled when his eyes caught hers.
"Ready?"
He nodded once and offered his arm.
He left the hospital with his back straight and his shoulders square.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The apartment was light and airy. Situated on the third floor of an accommodation block, it was well designed and appointed. The master bedroom had a spacious en suite, the living area boasted a state-of-the-art sound system, the kitchen was small but thoroughly modern, and the balcony offered two chaise lounges, a table and a spectacular view over the bay towards the Golden Gate Bridge.
Lowering himself into a softly padded lounge in the living area, Jean-Luc sighed and rested his head back on the cushions.
"Tired?"
He grunted and closed his eyes.
"A little."
They had walked from the hospital to the block, Beverly's objection about the distance overruled by a determined Captain, too long held prisoner by the Doctors. The red head recognised his desire for autonomy and relinquished control to him, however she kept a close watch and now, seeing him exhausted, she cursed her soft heartedness. The operating tricorder made him scowl.
"Must you? Can't I simply relax without medical technology intruding?"
Taking just enough time to check the readings, Beverly snapped the instrument closed and sat beside the vexed man. She sighed and reached for his hand.
"You know I have to do this Jean-Luc…I'm worried about you."
He snorted and opened one eye.
"Why? I'm fine."
Smiling benignly and with great forbearance, Beverly's eyes twinkled.
"Oh you're fine are you? Then why are you beginning to sweat?"
His opened the other eye and scowled, raising a hand to wipe his beaded brow. Beverly noted the slight tremor. She was about to tell him to take some deep breaths when he surprised her by doing just that. She watched his chest expand and contract as he closed his eyes to concentrate. She left him briefly and returned with a wet face cloth. Waiting until he opened his eyes, she placed the cloth on his forehead and he smiled his appreciation. His hands rose and took possession of the cloth, wiping it across his brow and over the rest of his face. He gave his lover a rueful grin and sighed.
"All right…say it."
Beverly chuckled and shrugged.
"Do I really have to? I think you've adequately demonstrated why you should do less and rest more. Apart from everything else, even despite all the therapy you've had, you have been in a bed for an awfully long time and it will take your body time to adjust. Be patient."
Jean-Luc snorted and allowed his head to rest on the cushioned backrest. His hands sat limply on his lap and his legs stretched out in front of him. Beverly's sympathetic eyes took in his posture and saw his tiredness.
"It's almost lunch time. How about I get us something to eat?"
He grunted and nodded.
Smiling tenderly, Beverly entered the kitchen and replicated a plate of salad sandwiches and cold juice. By the time she went back into the living room, Jean-Luc was asleep. She placed the tray on the low table then went to the couch and positioned two cushions at one end. Then, with careful motions she eased Jean-Luc over to his side and swung his legs up. The Captain stirred and opened his eyes, but Beverly stroked his face and softly spoke to him, lulling him back to sleep. Once he settled she went to the bedroom, emerging with a blanket. She covered him then took the tray back into the kitchen, disposing of their meal in the recycler.
Wandering to their bags, she retrieved a book and settled into a chair to wait for Jean-Luc to waken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Approximately three and a half hours later, Beverly was woken from her doze by a soft touch to her face. She opened her eyes slowly to be greeted by her lover, kneeling at her feet, a look of tender love in his dark hazel eyes.
"Hello sleepy."
She smiled and stretched languidly.
"Computer what is the time?"
"Fifteen ten hours."
A yawn suddenly overtook the Doctor and she heard Jean-Luc chuckle.
"And you said I needed rest."
A giggle escaped and Beverly mewed.
"All right I admit to being a tad tired. Am I to be punished for this transgression?"
Jean-Luc leaned forward and nuzzled her neck. His voice was soft and very deep.
"We'll have to see about that…the jury's still out."
Delighted by his amorous attentions, Beverly gasped softly as his hands cupped her breasts. Before she could respond he kissed her, tenderly at first but then with increasing passion. Beverly felt the bloom of desire flower in her groin and travel up through her body, staining her alabaster skin a dusky pink. With a moan she pulled back and stared at her extraordinary lover. Breathlessly she asked,
"Jean-Luc…are you seducing me?"
He growled low in his throat and replied,
"Quite possibly Beverly…why?"
She swallowed and struggled to gain control of herself.
"Well I have a suggestion…actually I have two suggestions."
Jean-Luc smiled, one eyebrow quirking in amused forbearance.
"Oh? And what are they?"
Taking a large breath, Beverly steeled herself for his reaction.
"Firstly I want you to have something to eat and secondly I want to give you some anti-vertigo medication."
Suddenly angry, Jean-Luc pulled back and sat on his heels.
"What? Now?"
Beverly sat forward and stroked his cheek.
"Jean-Luc it's very important. You don't think I would suggest it if it wasn't?"
The irritated man stood and stalked out onto the balcony. Beverly decided to give him time to calm down. She went to the kitchen and replicated another plate of sandwiches and a jug of cold juice. She re entered the living area and debated waiting for him, but shook her head and went out onto the balcony. She placed the tray on the table and made herself comfortable on one of the lounges, her eyes fixed on Jean-Luc's straight back.
For ten minutes Jean-Luc stood in complete silence, his hands gripping the railing. He heard Beverly pouring some drinks and her turned, watching her through hooded lids. With a snort he went to her lounge and sat on the side.
"Better now?"
He grunted and rubbed his face.
"That was very frustrating."
Beverly smiled sympathetically.
"I know but it was necessary. Tell me…what would you have done if you got an attack of vertigo while we were making love? How frustrated would you have been then?"
The Captain snorted and ran a hand over his scalp.
"Point taken…and I do appreciate you caring about my ego. It would have been devastating."
"Not to say exceedingly unpleasant, especially if you became nauseous to the point of vomiting."
He held up a hand and grimaced.
"Enough! I understand. Are those salad sandwiches?"
Beverly grinned.
"Uh huh and chilled orange and pineapple juice. Remember?"
He frowned then his face crinkled into a warm smile.
"You, Jack, Walker and me at Port Douglas. What was that we put in the juice…rum?"
The Doctor giggled.
"Uh huh. You said juice that fresh should be enhanced. Jack opted for vodka but you pulled rank and insisted on dark rum. Boy did we get drunk!"
Shaking his head, Jean-Luc sighed.
"It was delicious though wasn't it?"
"Actually I think it was helped by the fact that the juice was so damned cold and it was so hellishly hot out on the beach."
Jean-Luc laughed.
"That was your idea. The bungalow was air-conditioned but you wanted to sit on the sand. We tried to talk you out of it…but…"
"But what?"
He sighed.
"None of us could bear to see you disappointed."
Beverly smiled knowingly.
"Especially you."
He nodded and sighed.
"Particularly me."
The Doctor sat up and stroked his back.
"You loved me then?"
He nodded mutely.
"And you stayed silent so long…years…how did you do it Jean-Luc? You have so much passion…it runs so deep within you…how the hell did you suppress it?"
The man shrugged and looked out over the horizon. When he spoke his voice was soft.
"I had to Beverly. I was so afraid that if you knew you would run from me and I couldn't bear the though of my life without you in it…even if that meant as a friend and nothing more."
Beverly swung her legs down so that she was sitting shoulder to shoulder with him. She wrapped an arm around him and rested her head on his shoulder.
"And now we're lovers. How do you feel now?"
He turned to her and smiled tenderly.
"Now I'm the happiest man in the universe. You have completed me Beverly…you have filled a space in my heart I never thought could be healed. I love you…with every fibre of my being."
She kissed him gently and pulled back to look into his eyes.
"I never thought I would love anyone as much as I loved Jack…but I was wrong. My love for you transcends anything I've ever felt before and I am absolutely ecstatic. I love you Jean-Luc…with all that I am."
He lowered his head and captured her lips in a searing kiss, one that left them both breathless. He then surprised her by leaning to the table and picking up a sandwich. Eyebrows raised he took a big bite and smiled cheekily around the food.
Beverly laughed and followed his example. After two sandwiches, Beverly rose and disappeared into the flat, reappearing with a hypospray. Sipping his juice, Jean-Luc sighed theatrically and tilted his head, exposing his neck. With a soft smile of thanks, Beverly injected him. She placed the hypo on the table and took an offered glass of juice. Jean-Luc swallowed and asked,
"Now what?"
Beverly smiled saucily
"Oh I though perhaps when we'd finished this late lunch we might repair to the bedroom for a lie down."
His eyebrows rose.
"A lie down? Do we have to sleep?"
She chuckled warmly.
"No, although I think we will eventually."
"I see. So…just to clarify things…we're going to bed but not to sleep at least not at first."
"Uh huh."
"Hmm. So…am I right in assuming there'll be some…physical activity?"
"Uh huh."
"Oh…what an intriguing thought. And this physical activity should be most pleasurable?"
"Hmm."
"Ah. I've had enough lunch."
Beverly giggled.
"Well it just so happens…so have I."
He stood slowly and held out his hand.
"Shall we?"
Standing, she turned and kissed him softly.
"Make love to me Jean-Luc."
He sighed into her mouth and hugged her to him.
"With everything that I am."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stood at the side of their bed, they took time slowly divesting each other of their clothing. Once naked, Jean-Luc encouraged Beverly to lie on the bed while he stretched out beside her. With languid caresses, he heightened her arousal, the flush of desire tainting her skin. He suddenly rose and knelt between her legs, burying his face in her sex, his tongue probing and swiping, making her writhe. When his fingers invaded her she moaned and sat up, grasping his head and pulling him against her. He growled deep in his throat and abruptly lifted his head, coming up her body and pushing her down onto the soft mattress. With quick movements he took his erection and found her entrance, sliding into her with one hard stroke.
Beverly arched at the sudden invasion and gasped. Unhearing, Jean-Luc began to thrust hard and fast. She gripped his shoulders and tried to talk to him.
"Jean-Luc," she panted, "Slow down…let me catch up…"
He ignored her. For the first time in his life he was paying no heed to his partner. Driven by an overwhelming need, he lowered his head to her neck and increased his pace. He slid his hands under her, gripping her buttocks and lifting her to his thrusts. Beverly closed her eyes, trying to make some sense of what was happening. He suddenly stiffened and bit her shoulder as his body flexed with ecstasy, a growl of release rumbled up from his throat. In all it had taken about three minutes.
He lay on top of her panting, his eyes screwed shut. Beverly tenderly gripped his head, lifting it until she could see his face.
"Jean-Luc?"
His voice was ragged.
"I'm sorry."
There was a moment's silence as Beverly watched tears creep from his closed eyes. She kissed him gently and was about to say more when he suddenly rolled off her and flung an arm across his eyes. The Doctor turned onto her side and gently ran a hand through his chest hair.
"Want to talk about it?"
His one word answer was curt and cold.
"No."
Beverly sat up, supporting herself on one arm.
"Well I do. What was that all about?"
He lowered his arm and glared at her.
"I said I'm sorry!"
Beverly sighed and stroked his face.
"You don't need to apologise Jean-Luc I just want to know why."
He swallowed and sighed, obviously uncomfortable.
"I was…overwhelmed. I just needed to…I…I wanted to…I had to…dammit! I had this driving need to fuck something! There! Are you satisfied?"
While Beverly watched him, he covered his face with his hands and tried to stifle a sob. She lay back down and took him in her arms.
"It's all right Jean-Luc. What you just experienced was a need to reaffirm your humanity. You've been through an awful lot and nothing has been under your control for a very long time. Ever since the accident, which occurred because things were out of your control, people have been pulling your strings and you've simply had enough. This…physical manifestation of taking back you life is perfectly understandable and though not very flattering for me, I do understand."
He rolled to his side and buried himself in her embrace. His voice breaking with sobs he managed,
"I'm so sorry Beverly…I never meant to…I didn't want…"
"Hush my love. Relax and rest everything's all right."
Beverly held him as he cried himself to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three and a quarter hours later Jean-Luc woke to find his head resting on Beverly's breasts. He slowly lifted his head and watched his lover sleeping, a deep frown marring his face.
"Oh God what have I done? How could I have treated her like that…as if she was nothing more that a convenient receptacle? What the hell was I thinking?"
He sighed and rolled onto his back, staring at the ceiling.
"Perhaps that was the problem…I wasn't thinking! All I wanted was to fuck until I came. Any woman would have sufficed. God what an animal I am…to treat the only woman I've ever truly loved like that…how can she forgive me?"
As if sensing his troubled thoughts, Beverly stirred and opened her eyes. Seeing the stony look of self-recrimination, Beverly turned to him and gently gripped his chin.
"Hey."
He allowed her to turn his head and was surprised when she kissed him tenderly. When he didn't respond, Beverly broke the kiss and stared hard at him.
"Stop it!"
He scowled and looked back at the ceiling.
Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed.
"Jean-Luc it's all right, I understand."
His voice was cold.
"Well I sure as hell don't!"
She gently rubbed his stomach and persevered.
"Do you remember what I said…about taking back your control?"
He grunted.
"That doesn't excuse what I did. For God's sake Beverly I treated you like a piece of meat! I have never treated a woman like that…even as a callow youth I tried to make the act mean something for both of us."
Beverly rose over him and smiled down at his angry face.
"Jean-Luc you are the gentlest, kindest most altruistic man I've ever known. I know what happened was out of character and driven by a very primal need. Why are you beating yourself up over this? You didn't hurt me either physically or psychologically. Forget it…it's in the past."
She leaned slowly down and kissed him softly. He resisted for a few seconds then suddenly grabbed her head and deepened the kiss, taking her breath and venting his passion. She relaxed over him and his arms embraced her.
When they parted they were both panting. His eyes brimming with unshed tears, he croaked,
"I do love you my Beverly."
She smiled and kissed him again.
"I know."
He rolled them both and draped his body over hers.
"Care to try again?"
She giggled and bit his earlobe.
"Are you…up…to it?"
In response he ground his hips against her and she felt his considerable erection. She gasped and grinned.
"Oh my…it seems you're more than ready."
He growled and drifted a hand down her body, slipping into her sex and teasing her clitoris. Beverly arched under him and mewed, her vocal excitement turning into a moan of desire as his mouth found her nipples. He caressed and teased until she was panting with need.
"Please Jean-Luc…now…I want you now…"
He removed his probing fingers and gripped his erection. Releasing her nipple he rose and kissed her and as his tongue invaded her mouth, his penis entered her body. Beverly's hands gripped his buttocks and squeezed the firm flesh, pulling him down to her. He slid in slowly, centimetre by centimetre, Beverly feeling every contour, every vein until his hips met hers. With his testicles gently bumping her buttocks he began to thrust slowly, easing almost all the way out before sinking slothfully back inside her.
Already highly aroused, Beverly writhed under him mindless and incoherent with desire.
Determined to make amends for his recent lapse, Jean-Luc rose upon his arms and watched with hawk-like intensity as his lover twisted and flexed helplessly under him.
He closed his eyes and tried to ignore the slick silken heat that gripped him so wonderfully, devoting himself to pleasuring this extraordinary woman.
Beverly's hands released his behind and lifted to grip his arms. Shaking her head, she began to cry out in time with his quickening thrusts. Suddenly her neck arched and she shouted his name. He gritted his teeth as her internal muscles contracted rhythmically around him and concentrated on her pleasure. Not altering his pace he elicited another, then another climax leaving Beverly trembling and panting his name.
Unable to hold off any longer, he abandoned his iron control and plunged into her hard and fast. Beverly's body arched and she screamed as a final orgasm ripped through her. Jean-Luc flung his head back and cried out as he buried himself deep within her and pumped his essence into her.
Panting and barely holding himself up on trembling arms, Jean-Luc forced his eyes open to watch Beverly recovering from her ecstasy. With her hair spread over the pillow and her skin flushed with passion she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. Lowering himself shakily, Jean-Luc held her tenderly, lazily kissing her face and neck.
He felt her body stretch beneath him and she kissed his brow.
"Thank you my love."
He raised his head and placed breathy kisses to her lips.
"Though it doesn't erase what I did, I hope it conveyed my true feelings for you. I would do anything to please you Beverly…you have only to ask."
Beverly smiled and kissed him languidly.
"I know my sweet lover. I am yours Jean-Luc to do with what ever you want."
Another deep kiss was shared and he sighed.
"What I want is to give you nothing but exquisite pleasure for the rest of our lives."
Beverly chuckled and gently bit his lower lip.
"Lucky me."
He rolled to his side and took her into his arms. Still joined they drifted off to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc had showered, shaved, dressed and was sitting at the computer in the living area while Beverly still slept. He had contacted the Cardassian delegation and left his new address with an aide for forwarding to Madred. He then contacted the Enterprise. There was a wait of twenty-five minutes for the connection so he passed the time trolling through the medical database. He typed in 'Hastopen' and sat stunned as he read the information about the drug. He didn't notice Beverly entering the room. She walked over to him and stood at his shoulder, frowning when she realised what he was reading.
"You don't really need to know all that."
He started and pointed to the screen.
"This is a controlled substance! Are you positive I should've been given it?"
Beverly tightened the belt of her robe then pushed her unruly hair back.
"I didn't have much choice Jean-Luc, Hulm is your primary physician and a specialist at that. Neurology isn't my field you know. I was lucky to be included on your team."
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"But Beverly it's a drug of dependence…and these side effects…bloody hell!"
The Doctor sat on the desk and swung her feet.
"Yes it was a risk but really we had no other options. We had to convince the Borg hardware that your brain was inactive to fool it into deactivating. Hastopen was the only way we could do it."
The Captain sat back and slumped in frustration. Rubbing his neck with one hand, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"All right, you had no choice but what does it mean for me?"
Beverly pursed her lips and tilted her head.
"As I've already explained, you'll have residual symptoms that will pass with time."
"And the dependency? Is it a one hit hook?"
The Doctor frowned.
"In some cases yes. But I think with you no. So far you've exhibited only minor symptoms. My guess is you'll be fine."
"Your guess?"
Beverly sighed.
"It's an inexact science Jean-Luc…you'll just have to trust my judgement."
He stared up into her cerulean eyes, a frown on his face, but it soon melted away. A rueful smile appeared and he reached for her hand.
"I always have my love…no need for me to stop now."
Just then the computer beeped.
"Attention Captain Picard. Incoming transmission from USS Enterprise."
"Acknowledged. Display on this screen."
The Starfleet logo disappeared to be replaced by the smiling face of Will Riker.
"Captain! It's good to see you Sir!"
Jean-Luc smiled warmly and nodded.
"And you Number One. How is my ship?"
A grinning Commander slid his eyes to someone off screen.
"Just as you left her Sir, waiting for your return."
The Captain sighed and sat forward.
"That Commander is on the cards. I've been discharged as a day patient, Doctor Crusher and I are staying in the accommodation block not far from the hospital. I'm to report to my Doctors every day, but all in all things are progressing well."
"That's wonderful news Captain. And your leg?"
Jean-Luc made a show of slapping his left thigh firmly.
"Functioning well Will. I'm able to walk."
A beaming First Officer nodded happily.
"I knew Beverly would pull you through Captain."
Jean-Luc looked tenderly up at his lover before returning his attention back to the screen.
"That she did, but credit must go to Doctors Hulm and M'Rok…and to Madred."
Will's grin disappeared.
"Madred? Gul Madred?"
"Yes Will, although he's not a Gul any more. It was his offer of a new Cardassian device that allowed my recovery."
Will's eyes hardened.
"But Captain…they…"
Jean-Luc held up a hand.
"I know Will…it's complicated. I'll explain later. In the meantime I expect Counsellor Troi would like a word with Beverly."
Not the least bit happy, Will nodded and gestured to Deanna, seated at his side. The view on the screen shifted and Deanna smiled at her Captain.
"Hello Sir."
He nodded cordially.
"Counsellor."
He stood and Beverly took his place.
"Hi Dee."
As the women settled in for their conversation, Jean-Luc went to the replicator and set about retrieving breakfast. By the time Beverly signed off, there was a plate of hot croissants and a pot of fresh coffee on the table. Beverly wandered over and took some time inspecting the array of preserves. Sitting next to the Captain, she took a croissant, tore it and studiously buttered it, all the while keeping her own counsel. Not fooled in the least, Jean-Luc mirrored her actions then ate half the pastry before softly asking,
"What?"
Beverly waved her hand as she finished chewing and washed her mouthful down with a sip of coffee.
"Will's not happy."
"I know."
"What are you going to do about it?"
He looked up, his dark eyes glittering.
"I don't have to do anything about it! He will accept whatever I tell him."
Beverly pulled her mouth down and raised her eyebrows.
"That's hardly fair. He's aware of how the Cardassians test their technology. He's going to want to know how you came to accept Madred's offer."
Jean-Luc stared down at his meal and grunted.
"And just how will I explain that when I'm not sure myself?"
Beverly shrugged.
"Tell him what you told me."
Jean-Luc sighed and laid down his knife.
"It sounded false then and it still sounds false now. How can I justify myself Beverly? In accepting their help I tacitly condoned their methods. There's no escaping it."
"Agreed, but there is the very real benefit to the people of the Federation. That must count for something."
Jean-Luc rubbed a finger over his lower lip.
"And what of all those who suffered under the Cardassians? Who speaks for them?"
"You can."
His sharp eyes stared at her, and then he smiled.
"I suppose I can. I will speak to Madred about it, perhaps we can issue a joint statement."
Beverly was aghast.
"You're going to continue to see that…that…monster?"
The Captain looked up in surprise.
"Of course I am, in fact I'm waiting to hear from him, he's going to visit us."
Beverly stood abruptly and thew down her serviette.
"He's coming here? To the apartment?"
"Yes."
With her hands on her hips she glared down at him.
"Well I won't be here! I refuse to be in the same room as that bastard! I had to put up with his smarmy comments at your assessment with Hulm and M'Rok, and the prick had the temerity to visit you when you were unconscious, but I don't have to put up with him in my own home!"
Jean-Luc sighed and reached for her hand.
"Beverly…"
"I mean it Jean-Luc!"
His eyes hardened and he gritted his teeth.
"Very well."
Beverly stalked off into the bedroom and Jean-Luc savagely pushed his plate away.
"Shit!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that afternoon, having returned from the hospital, Jean-Luc received a message on the computer. It was from Madred informing the Captain that he would be free to visit that evening. Jean-Luc acknowledged the message then went out onto the balcony to speak to Beverly.
"I've had a message from Madred. He's coming at twenty hundred hours tonight."
Her nose buried in a book, the Doctor merely grunted. Jean-Luc sighed and sat on the edge of her lounge.
"Beverly?"
When she didn't respond he gently pulled the book down, causing her to glare.
"I don't know why you're telling me Jean-Luc, you know I don't want him anywhere near us."
The Captain closed his eyes and lowered his head.
"Is there no way you can find it in yourself to see him as a changed man? He…"
"Changed man? Are you completely insane? Jean-Luc I think you forget just who it was that nursed you through the aftermath of your involvement with Madred. I remember the nightmares, the screaming, the pleading for mercy…in fact I'll never forget what he did to you and I can't understand how you can blithely cast aside his past as if it never happened."
Jean-Luc's head snapped up and his dark eyes glittered.
"I can assure you Doctor I too remember only too well what my recovery was like and I'll thank you to cease reminding me of it. Of course I know what kind of man he was and I'm personally acquainted with how brutal he was but what I'm trying to do is put that where it belongs…in the past. Look he's not a Gul any more and he's apparently devoted himself to the peace delegation. That has to count for something."
Beverly grunted.
"Once an animal, always an animal."
Jean-Luc struggled to keep his growing irritation in check.
"Oh really? Then explain to me how you managed to work so well with M'Rok. As a Doctor within the military regime on Cardassia she would've done her fair share of experiments on innocent victims. How is she different to Madred?"
Glaring defiantly up at her lover, Beverly shook her head.
"For starters I did protest but Hulm warned me that if I didn't behave he would dismiss me from the team. I had no choice…however I grant you I did eventually come to have a grudging respect for her…she's a damn fine Doctor, despite her past."
The Captain nodded.
"So you admit it is possible for people to redeem themselves by their actions?"
With guarded caution, Beverly nodded.
"I suppose so."
"Then what about Madred? Look I was his victim. If I can come to terms with him, why can't you?"
Beverly lay back and rubbed her face.
"Maybe you need to Jean-Luc. I think, on some level, you seek to find some sort of closure by establishing a new relationship with him. Me…all I can feel for him is hatred…for what he did to you and others like you."
Jean-Luc sighed and stretched his neck.
"All right I can accept that but Beverly…it's important to me that you be here when he comes. Will you stay…please?"
She stared into his eyes for several seconds before sighing and shaking her head.
"I must be a fool, but yes Jean-Luc I'll stay…just don't expect me to like it."
He leaned forward and kissed her softly.
"Thank you."

 

 

 

 

At the appointed time there was a chime from the door. The couple shared a glance before Jean-Luc rose and walked to the entrance, pressing the release. The tall grey being bowed slightly and smiled.
"Good evening Jean-Luc."
The Captain felt his heart accelerate and his stomach tighten. Savagely quelling the unsettling symptoms of disquiet, Jean-Luc stood back and gestured with his hand.
"Welcome Madred, come in."
Beverly sat stiffly in one of the chairs, her eyes tracking the Cardassian's movements as he came into the room. His eyes lit up when he saw her and he bowed again.
"Doctor Crusher…how delightful."
She nodded curtly.
"Madred."
Jean-Luc went to the replicator and said over his shoulder,
"Would you like a drink? We were just about to have some tea."
Madred sat on the lounge and looked out the windows.
"A raktajino would be nice, thank you."
While Jean-Luc retrieved the drinks, the silence became oppressive. Beverly kept a constant vigil, her eyes never leaving the alien. Madred returned her gaze, a slight smile on his face. Suddenly his low voice broke the silence.
"Tell me Doctor…if you had the chance…you would kill me would you not?"
Beverly smiled coldly, her blue eyes glittering.
"In a heart beat."
Madred nodded as Jean-Luc sat, placing a tray on the low table.
"I see. But wouldn't that be in violation of your healer's oath?"
Still smiling, Beverly shook her head.
"Not at all. In fact in your case I would consider it a community service."
Jean-Luc's deep low voice gently admonisher her.
"Beverly…"
Madred chuckled and shook his head.
"No Jean-Luc, it's all right. I understand your mate; in fact I applaud her spirit. I can see how devoted she is to you…you're well matched."
Jean-Luc sighed.
"Nevertheless I would like this meeting to be at least civil."
He cast a meaningful look at his lover and she lowered her eyes. Turning his attention to his guest, Jean-Luc asked,
"Doctor M'Rok said you wanted to see me?"
Dragging his eyes from the red head, Madred looked at the Captain and again Jean-Luc felt a tightening in his stomach.
"Yes indeed. I wanted to see for myself how you recovered. I see you're walking."
Jean-Luc nodded and summoned a warm smile.
"Yes. Although I have experienced some general muscle stiffness, that is to be expected. By and large I am very well."
Madred's smile seemed genuine.
"I'm glad."
The Captain frowned and sat back, crossing his legs and folding his hands in his lap.
"Madred there's something I wish to discuss with you, something rather important."
The Cardassian sat back and gave Jean-Luc his full attention.
"Yes?"
"I have been deeply troubled by the problem of accepting technology which your previous government tested on unwilling victims. By allowing such technology to be used in my recovery it could be seen that I was condoning such activities. That of course is totally wrong…I could never accept the methods your people used, to do so would be unconscionable. What I would like, to address this problem, is to issue a statement, preferably in conjunction with you, denouncing the past atrocities and offering assurances that such methods were no longer practiced. Hopefully, in this way, others that may find themselves facing the decision to use the technology, can do so with a clear conscience."
Madred laughed softly and shook his head.
"Jean-Luc…always so concerned for your fellow Humans."
He sighed and steepled his fingers.
"What you ask is no simple matter and in truth I might not be the one in a position to make such a statement. You may have forgotten, but I am merely an advisor to the delegation, I have no power. What troubles me though is that by making such an announcement we might be incriminating ourselves. You are asking us to admit to things we would rather keep to ourselves."
Beverly snorted.
"Denying what you did won't make it go away. If the peace treaty is signed then at some point your people are going to have to face what they did, not only to your own people but to Federation citizens as well."
The Cardassian raised his hands.
"Oh I agree with you Doctor, but is now the time? When the talks are so delicately poised? I would think that reminding people of our less than benevolent past may only cause more trouble than it's worth."
Beverly's chin came up defiantly.
"Oh I don't know Madred…if they can wipe your slate clean with a stroke of a pen I think anything's possible."
Jean-Luc held up his hand placatingly.
"Be that as it may I still think my suggestion has merit. Perhaps we can look into it at a later date? When things are more settled."
Madred nodded and rubbed his hands over his thighs.
"Agreed and if I am able I will be pleased to be a party to your statement."
He rose to his feet and stared down at the Captain.
"I will leave you now Jean-Luc. Thank you for seeing me."
He lifted his eyes to Beverly and smiled.
"And you Doctor…a pleasure as always."
Beverly stared at him and nodded once silently. Jean-Luc stood and walked his guest to the door.
"Goodnight."
When the door closed Jean-Luc sighed and turned to see Beverly rubbing her forehead. He wandered over and sat on the arm of her chair, taking her hand and raising it to his lips.
"Was that so bad?"
She sighed and softened her face.
"I suppose not, but I really would like to kill him."
Jean-Luc chuckled and stood, pulling her to her feet. His arms encircled her and she relaxed in his strong embrace.
"I had no idea you had such a violent streak. I'll have to be more careful."
The Doctor nuzzled his neck making him sigh.
"Only when my lover is threatened. Any other time I'm a pussycat."
He suddenly pulled back and looked deeply into her eyes.
"Pussycat? More like a tiger!"
Beverly growled and Jean-Luc laughed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next two weeks passed uneventfully although Jean-Luc was becoming increasingly bored. His daily visits to the hospital began to take on a tedious repetition that rankled him, causing Beverly to find a quiet moment with Hulm.
"Thomas how long will he have to keep coming in for scans? It's been two and a half weeks and everything's been fine."
Hulm sat back and crossed his legs.
"Have there been any more reactions to the hastopen?"
Beverly shook her head.
"No he's been symptom free for five days now and he hasn't had the anti-vertigo medication for days either. To all intents and purposes he's fit and well…and bored."
Hulm sat up and picked up a PADD, scrolling slowly through its information. Beverly bided her time and kept her impatience under control. Eventually Hulm sighed and tossed the device on the desk.
"All right…no more scans."
Beverly was about to cheer when he held up his hand.
"But…I still want him to take it easy. I know he's itching to return to duty, but I think it would be wise to take another fortnight before he's passed as fit."
Beverly frowned and nodded.
"Okay but do we have to stay on the grounds?"
Hulm grinned and shook his head.
"No. Take him away, somewhere stress free and quiet. I expect you to monitor his health and report anything at all, no matter how small. If after two weeks he's still all right, he can have one final scan here and if I'm happy, he can go back to his precious ship."
Beverly grinned and shot out her hand, surprising the Neurologist who took her hand and shook it.
"You've got a deal."
He was still shaking his head in amusement as she left his office.

While Jean-Luc was saying goodbye to the staff, Beverly secured a light lunch for them both and was waiting for him when he left the ward. Threading her arm through his, she steered him through the building and, once on the ground floor, out a side entrance into a secluded garden. She guided him to a bench seat under a tall eucalypt and sat, patting the wooden slats beside her. Smiling softly, Jean-Luc sat and sighed.
"Where is this?"
Beverly sat back and closed her eyes, allowing the dappled sunlight to caress her face.
"This garden area is supplied by the hospital for the staff to de-stress in, somewhere they can come to find peace and solitude."
He nodded slowly.
"I see. And why are we here?"
Keeping her eyes closed, Beverly smiled.
"Because we have some decisions to make."
Jean-Luc turned and sat back, adopting the same pose as his lover. He closed his eyes and sighed.
"Some decisions? Such as?"
"Well, Thomas has decided you don't need any more scans."
"I know that."
"Yes, but he wants you to go somewhere peaceful for two weeks."
Jean-Luc frowned.
"Oh."
"Uh huh. And he also said that if everything's okay in two weeks…and providing you pass a final scan here at the hospital, you can go back to the Enterprise."
Jean-Luc's eyes shot open and he sat up.
"I can resume my Captaincy?"
"Yep."
He sat back and rubbed his face. Silence settled between them and birdsong filtered around their heads. After a while, Beverly said softly,
"Do you want to go back?"
His quiet reply shook her.
"I don't know."
The Doctor sat up and turned to face him.
"Jean-Luc?"
He opened his eyes and sighed.
"These last months…I've been doing a lot of thinking and I've come to a few rather unsettling conclusions."
He swallowed and shook his head.
"As long as I stay in my present position I'll be at the mercies of the vagaries of my job…and that includes the risk of personal injury. Now in the past I accepted that but since we…now that we've finally found each other I'm not so ambivalent about my well-being. I want to spend the rest of my life with you…preferably in one piece and I might not be able to do that as Captain of a Starship. "
Beverly reached for his hand and squeezed it gently.
"That's a big decision to make my love, one that requires thought from both of us. Don't make up your mind yet…let's go somewhere quiet to think about it."
Jean-Luc nodded and smiled.
"Where shall we go?"
Beverly shrugged and pursed her lips.
"I don't know. What about your home? Would you feel comfortable there?"
He sighed and turned his hands palm up.
"I…perhaps I should ask Marie first…she may have other plans."
Not wishing him to descend into melancholy, Beverly said brightly,
"Well we can contact her, but in the meantime have a think about other places…and it needn't be here on Earth. We can go anywhere you like."
He turned and smiled warmly.
"Agreed…and thank you, I'm well aware of what you're trying to do."
Nodding with satisfaction, Beverly gave his hand a final squeeze.
"Right. Now let's have this lunch then go back to the flat. I have plans for you."
He chuckled and shook his head.
"Aye Doctor."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc had regained a remarkable amount of fitness over the weeks. He no longer tired easily and the muscle soreness was a thing of the past. Beverly watched him appreciatively as he walked across the room, her eyes settling on his rear.
"You've gained some weight."
He grunted and went into the bedroom, soon re-emerging without his jumper. The soft blue polo shirt he wore accentuated his well-defined chest and Beverly slowly licked her lips. She stood and he looked up, coming to a halt in the middle of the room, transfixed by the hooded heat of her eyes. With glittering dark eyes he watched as she approached. She came up close and leaned forward sniffing delicately, infusing her senses with his unique scent. Standing perfectly still, he concentrated on keeping his breathing even as she placed her hands on his chest and gently caressed him, dallying at his nipples making them pebble and peak under the fabric of his shirt. She pulled back slightly and slowly walked around to stand behind him. He felt her press her body against him while her hands kneaded his buttocks, her lips nuzzling his neck. He sighed and began to harden. Beverly's hands left his behind and snaked around his waist before flattening on his stomach and sliding down to tease his growing erection. One of her hands softly massaged his shaft, the other cupped his testicles. As she caressed him she rubbed her body against him, biting and sucking his ear. Her hands suddenly left him and he started to turn but her hands on his shoulders stopped him.
"No…stand still."
He obeyed with difficulty. His ears picked up the sounds of clothing being shed. When next she touched him it was to remove his shirt, trousers, socks and shoes leaving him standing in his grey briefs aroused and curious. Still standing behind him, Beverly ran her hands over his behind and lower, down the backs of his legs then up the insides of his thighs. She allowed her fingers to feather under his scrotum and he groaned softly, parting his legs. She lifted her hands and, while tracing her fingers over his torso, walked around to face him. He stared intently into her eyes and took a large breath. Beverly smiled sultrily, seeing his attempts to keep control of himself. Her eyes trailed down his body and settled on his confined, straining erection. A well-endowed man, his briefs were barely containing him. The dark wet spot on the material enticed her fingers to trace the outline of his penis and when she glanced up at him, his eyes were closed. Falling gracefully to her knees, the naked woman pushed her face into the bulging underwear and rubbed gently, his clean musky smell heightening her desire. Using her hands, she gripped the waistband and slowly began to pull the briefs down. As his penis appeared she kissed it tenderly then gently licked his testicles. While her mouth was busy, her hands rid him of his underwear then she employed the slender, elegant hands to add to what her mouth was doing.
With determination, she relaxed her throat and took him deeply into her mouth while her hands gripped and massaged. Her eyes flicked up to see him with head bowed, watching with dark intense eyes. She felt his hands tangle in her hair and his thighs and buttocks tense as he thrust gently into her mouth. His mouth opened and he began to pant. Beverly slid him slowly in and out of her mouth, her tongue teasing and lavishing him while her hands caressed and coaxed.
The sound of his breathing changed and Beverly glanced up to see he was clenching his teeth and grimacing. Feeling him near his limit, Beverly pushed him deep into her throat and sucked hard as she slowly withdrew. Jean-Luc groaned loudly and rose up on the balls of his feet, thrusting his hips forward and gripping her head tightly. He swelled in her mouth and she abruptly released him, taking his penis in her hand and squeezing firmly just under the head.
Jean-Luc gasped then growled. He scowled down at his lover and shook his head, trying to steady his breathing.
"What the hell are you up to? Are you trying to do me a mischief?"
In response, Beverly lay back on the floor at his feet, opened her legs and proceeded to pleasure herself. Jean-Luc stared and licked his lips, but when he attempted to join her, she shook her head.
"No. You stand there and watch."
His eyes darkened considerably and his hands fisted at his sides. He watched as Beverly's hands travelled over her body, teasing her nipples until they protruded and darkened then slowly descending to her sex. She parted her labia and moistened her fingers before slothfully sliding them through her folds.
Jean-Luc swallowed, his hand going to his penis to slowly stroke himself.
Beverly sighed and said huskily,
"Yes Jean-Luc…play with yourself."
His free hand gripped his testicles as he spread the bead of pearl liquid, his eyes never leaving the tantalising view spread before him.
Within minutes Beverly was close, her body flexing and flushed with excitement. She opened her mouth and called,
"Now Jean-Luc…I want you now…hurry!"
Quickly on his knees, he guided himself inside her as his mouth descended on hers for a searing, passionate kiss. He eased his hands under her shoulders and up the back of her head, so he could cradle her as he lost himself in her tight, hot depths.
Beverly lifted her legs over his hips and gripped him, matching his hard fast thrusts with movements of her own. She broke from the kiss and entreated him,
"Oh God yes…more Jean-Luc…more…quickly…"
Almost there, Jean-Luc closed his eyes and devoted all his formidable resources to his partner. Savagely ignoring his own barely restrained need, he pushed in and out of his lover vigorously, intent on her pleasure. When she suddenly stiffened under him and cried his name he smiled grimly and continued to thrust purposefully causing two more climaxes before he finally lost his composure. With a guttural growl he plunged into her and groaned low in his throat as his orgasm surged through him, transporting him to physical and emotional bliss.
Some time later he became aware of gentle hands caressing his back. Lifting his head he stared blearily down at his lover.
"Am I dead?"
Beverly chuckled and kissed him softly. Her voice had a dreamy quality.
"If you are then I am too. God Jean-Luc that was fabulous! You really out did yourself."
He blinked slowly and summoned a weary smile. His deep baritone was husky.
"You inspired me."
He slowly rose up on his arms and pulled back, slipping from her and causing both of them to frown. Kneeling between her legs, he offered his hand and helped her to sit up. After a tender embrace he whispered,
"Shower?"
Beverly nodded and they helped each other to their feet.
Twenty minutes later they were lying on the bed, dressed in warm robes and drowsily kissing, neither wanting to give in to sleep. Beverly sighed and ran a finger from his brow to his endearingly dimpled chin.
"I love you." She whispered.
He smiled and kissed her softly.
"And I you."
They lay quietly for a while before Beverly snuggled deeper into his embrace.
"Have you thought where we might go?"
His reply was sleepy.
"Perhaps."
She mewed and nuzzled his neck.
"Where?"
"Karronis."
Beverly stilled momentarily then resumed her oral exploration of his shoulder.
"Not home? Okay, but we'll need to make arrangements soon. That's two day at warp...?"
"Eight point five, however that can wait. For now we'll sleep."
Beverly sighed and closed her eyes.
"Hmm…aye Captain."

 

 

 

They ate a late dinner seated on the bed. Beverly had risen before Jean-Luc and had spent an hour on the computer making reservations. She could do nothing about their transport, for that she needed Jean-Luc's rank and influence. Once he'd wakened it took no time for him to secure the use of a new class of runabout. It had accommodation for four and was capable of warp nine. By the time they started their belated dinner everything was in hand.
Beverly chewed thoughtfully on the fresh prawn and sipped some chilled wine.
"Why Karronis?"
With a mild grimace, Jean-Luc wiped his fingers and shrugged.
"I visited there some years ago and was very taken with the ambiance. I appreciated the fact that the inhabitants have tried to get by without the gratuitous use of technology."
Beverly raised her eyebrows.
"No technology? Just how primitive is it?"
He smiled, his eyes twinkling.
"It's not primitive at all. The technology is there just not displayed overtly. For instance the cabin we'll be staying in has a fully functional kitchen. All the essentials are supplied, but as you're expected to cook for yourself, there is a well-stocked shop you visit to pick up any supplies to suit your needs. However…if you're totally devoid of culinary expertise, replicated meals will be provided. It's the same with medical matters. For minor accidents or illnesses, basic first aid is applied, but in the event of something serious, there is a state-of-the-art hospital available. The Korronans long ago decided to live with technology but not be dependent on it. They have, I think, achieved a very tasteful balance."
Beverly regarded him silently, a ghost of a smile on her face. Jean-Luc grew unsettled under her scrutiny and snorted.
"What?"
The Doctor's smile grew and her eyes twinkled with amusement.
"I find it interesting that a man who eschewed his family's traditional way of life and embraced technology with open arms finds himself so enamoured with the seemingly simple life of Karronis…to the point where he seeks to retreat there to heal. Full circle do you think?"
Grunting with annoyance, Jean-Luc picked up a large prawn and tore off the head.
"Am I in the company of a Counsellor or the woman I love?"
Chuckling, Beverly proffered her glass and waited while Jean-Luc refilled it.
"Sorry my love, professional curiosity."
He looked up, his irritation slowly giving way to forbearance.
"Accepted. Now tell me this…what got into you earlier? Squeezing me like that to forestall my orgasm was very bad of you. Then blatantly teasing me with your wanton display…you're damn fortunate I kept control. You very nearly got ravished."
Keeping eye contact, Beverly licked each finger suggestively the winked saucily.
"Actually Jean-Luc I think I did get ravished…and it was fucking unbelievable."
He shook his head and chuckled.
"This relationship is going to be very interesting isn't it?"
Beverly pushed aside the platter and kissed him soundly.
"Yes. I always wanted my very own sex toy."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two days later they entered orbit around Karronis. On their way they had contacted the Enterprise and received the news that the ship was en route back to Earth and would arrive in three weeks. Although avoiding any explanations Jean-Luc welcomed the news and told Will he was looking forward to seeing his ship again. The communication was short and Will wasn't entirely happy with what was said however he kept his misgivings to himself and made a show of appearing enthusiastic. Jean-Luc severed the connection, sat back and rubbed his face. Beverly went to his back and massaged his tense shoulders.
"Why didn't you tell him how you feel?"
The Captain sighed deeply.
"Because I'm not sure myself."
"He suspects something's wrong…he a very astute man."
Jean-Luc nodded and shook his head.
"I know…and I also know I owe him several explanations for my recent behaviour but until it's clear in my own mind I can't…actually I won't say anything. He has been my trusted right hand for too long for me to be anything but honest, both with him and myself."
Beverly came to stand in front of him and smiled.
"I understand my love."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their cabin was situated beside a fast-flowing river in a mountainous area two hundred kilometres from the nearest city. Because of its remote location there was a communication station discreetly housed in a small alcove off the main room and an emergency activator just inside the front door. The accommodation consisted of two bedrooms, each with an en suite, a kitchen, living area and on the balcony, an outdoor table setting sheltered by a large sail. The furniture was comfortable and well used and a fireplace beckoned, a supply of cut logs readily available.
It was winter at this latitude but the sun shone, taking the chill off the air. Jean-Luc had checked the weather before beaming down and knew that an intense low-pressure system was moving in and snow was predicted.
Their arms laden with bags of groceries, they made their way into the kitchen and eased the bags onto the table. Beverly flexed her fingers and pulled her ponytail tighter.
"Will the ground car be all right in that shed? If we get a really big dump of snow we might not be able to get it out."
Jean-Luc grinned and put a hand in his pocket, pulling out his communicator.
"It doesn't matter, we can always beam up to the runabout. I'm sure the management can retrieve the car later."
Shaking her head, Beverly turned slowly, taking in all the appliances. She walked to the stove and ran her fingers over the controls. Over her shoulder she said,
"And you reckon you know how to use one of these?"
Jean-Luc came to her and settled his large hands on her waist.
"Uh huh. One of the benefits of my traditional upbringing. Maman taught me how to cook…on a stove remarkably similar to that one."
Beverly sighed and tilted her head as his hands moved to her neck and his lips soon followed.
"Well it's nearly lunchtime. How about you make some coffee and I'll make some sandwiches? Then we'll discuss the menu for tonight's dinner."
The Captain growled softly and gently bit her shoulder through the material of her jacket.
"Hmm…you, naked on a platter."
Beverly chuckled then gasped as he sucked at the skin of her neck.
"With an apple in my mouth?"
"Mmm…surrounded by parsley."
The Doctor turned and wound her arms around his head.
"So you want to eat me?"
He kissed her rapaciously pushing her hard against the stove.
"Actually I want to devour you."
Gently pushing him backwards, Beverly rubbed her behind, easing the discomfort of having the stove controls embedded in her soft flesh.
"Well my Captain you'll have to curtail your appetite. It's sandwiches and coffee for now."
He smiled and added his hands to rubbing her behind.
"And afterwards?"
Rolling her eyes theatrically, Beverly sighed.
"God you're insatiable! We'll see. Okay?"
Jean-Luc stepped back and looked around for the coffee pot. Spotting it on the bench he nodded.
"All right but I intend to hold you to that."
Beverly huffed.
"Why am I not surprised?"
Their lunch was a happy one.

 

 

 

Later that afternoon it started snowing and didn't stop for three days. Late one evening the couple were lying beneath a thick blanket in front of the fire. Having made love, they were quietly caressing each other, the silence of the room accentuating the low noises of the fire. Jean-Luc sighed and pulled his lover closer within his arms.
"Beverly?"
Sleepily, Beverly answered, her eyes closed.
"Hmm?"
In a deep rumble Jean-Luc asked,
"What will you do if I leave the Enterprise?"
Lifting her head, Beverly brushed her hair back then resettled on his chest.
"Like you my love, I have spent an awful lot of years in space. I wouldn't mind something a little more sedate."
He frowned and pursed his lips.
"So…if I take a position on Earth, you'd be happy with that?"
"Uh huh. You know that you'll probably be offered an Admiralty."
He grunted and shifted slightly. Stroking her hair softly he sighed.
"I'm not particularly interested. Beverly…what if I resign?"
Beverly stilled then slowly sat up. Staring down at her lover, she frowned.
"Resigned? Jean-Luc are you serious? What would you do?"
Shrugging, Jean-Luc settled his hands under his head.
"I don't know, but it is an option. The thing is…what would you do? Would you leave Starfleet?"
Frowning deeply, Beverly's mind struggled with the question. Slowly lowering herself, she eased on top of him and folded her arms across his chest, resting her chin on her hands.
"I don't know Jean-Luc…there's so much to consider. I mean…what about my research? I would be hard pressed to find a facility that would allow me to continue and then there's the fact that within Starfleet I have access to the best available technology…cutting edge medicine at the forefront of science. I don't know that I'm ready to give that up to become what…a GP?"
Jean-Luc nodded slowly obviously seriously considering her words. Beverly loosened one hand and trailed her fingers through his chest hair.
"But it's important you know that whatever you choose to do I won't be far away. Somehow I'll make sure I'm with you my love…we've waited too long to mess this up with simple logistics."
Jean-Luc's low chuckle eased her worry. He removed his hands from under his head and embraced her, his fingers tracing random patterns over her spine.
"You're not the only one who places a very high priority on our being together. My God Beverly without you in my life I would cease to function. No…I'll find a way that suits us both and just so you know…I haven't ruled out returning to the Enterprise."
Inching up his body, Beverly kissed him languidly and then slowly kissed his neck, sucking lightly on his Adam's apple. Jean-Luc sighed and gently lifted her head.
"As much as I like what you're doing…this rug we're lying on is beginning to lose its softness and the underlying floor is both cold and unforgiving. I suggest we retire to our bed and snuggle under those delightfully thick comforters."
Smiling down at him in the darkness she could only see the glittering of his eyes in the soft glow of the fire.
"Okay."
They slowly rose, wrapping the blanket around each other as they made a quick dash to the bedroom. Once under the covers, they moaned in pleasure as the bed warmer supplied the delicious sensation of comfort. Jean-Luc lifted his arm and accessed the controls, switching off the device. Beverly snuggled into his body and murmured,
"We should've put more wood on the fire…it'll be out in the morning."
The Captain growled and pulled the covers up higher.
"No problem, I set the computer to warm the cabin at five am. I spent my youth waking up to a freezing house in winter and I'll be damned if I'm going to do it as an adult."
Beverly frowned and lifted her head.
"The cabin has central heating?"
"Uh huh. In the communication alcove I found access to the controlling computer. It was a simple matter to set it."
Beverly shook her head incredulously and snorted.
"We've been relying on that fire for three days! Just when were you going to tell me about the computer?"
Jean-Luc's confused look made her relent.
"Look I'm not angry I just would've liked to know that's all. Is there anything else I should know?"
He shook his head and blinked slowly.
"No I don't think so."
Smiling brightly, Beverly settled back into his embrace.
"Good. Now go to sleep."
They lay quietly for a while before Jean-Luc said quietly,
"Beverly?"
"Hmm?"
"Would you like to continue what you were doing in front of the fire?"
The Doctor raised her head slightly and frowned.
"What was I doing?"
"You were kissing me."
Pushing her tongue into her cheek, Beverly studied her lover.
"You've got a hard on haven't you."
Jean-Luc's eyebrows rose and he grinned.
"Ah…that would be a yes."
Her exasperation was tinged with disgruntled amusement.
"God Jean-Luc…"
His eyebrows waggled suggestively and what he said made her laugh.
"Hey…you did say…several times in fact…you wanted your very own sex toy. Well here I am!"
Lifting the covers, Beverly slid over his body.
"You're correct my insatiable lover. So…you want me to play with you."
Still grinning, the Captain nodded.
"Uh huh."
"Then be prepared to be ravished my Captain."
His reply was lost in a passionate kiss. The next hour was passed in sensuous delight leaving them both boneless and senseless. They were smiling as sleep finally took them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Something's not right."
Deanna watched as her agitated lover pushed his coffee mug around the tabletop. She sighed and came to sit with him.
"What's not right?"
Will grunted and shoved the mug away. He sat back and scratched his cheek.
"The Captain. When I spoke to him he seemed…I don't know…closed. As if there was something he wasn't telling me."
The Counsellor frowned and shook her head.
"Will he'd just been ordered to take two week's medical leave. He was bound to be unhappy about that, you know how he is."
The big man scowled and stood, restlessly pacing around their quarters.
"Of course I know but I still think there's something wrong. When I told him we were returning to Earth it was almost as if he didn't want to know. And what the hell was that business with Madred all about? Since when did Jean-Luc Picard sell out his deep sense of justice to pursue personal gain? I mean…accepting a Cardassian medical device? That's tantamount to condoning torture and murder."
Deanna watched Will's pacing and stiffened her mental barriers against his anger.
"Will I think you're forgetting just how badly the Captain wanted to recover. If he couldn't regain the use of his leg, his career as a Starship Captain would be effectively over. Would you deny him the opportunity to keep his captaincy?"
The Commander stopped in the middle of the room and snorted.
"The Jean-Luc Picard I know would rather suffer in silence than legitimise what those bastards have done. For God's sake he was one of their victims! He of all people should be intimately aware of their methods."
Sighing at his intractable attitude, Deanna stood and went to the replicator. Turning to her lover she asked,
"Want another coffee?"
He shook his head and she addressed the machine.
"Hot chocolate with two marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles."
Will chuckled and she turned to see him shaking his head.
"Depressed?"
Ignoring his jibe, Deanna sat in the chair and sipped tentatively. Will resumed his pacing and Deanna gritted her teeth.
"Will think for a moment. Captain Picard was offered two important things. First, he was given an opportunity to find closure concerning Madred and a face-to-face meeting in which there was safety and equality was obviously a very powerful factor for his psyche. "Second…and this is the crux of the matter, the same man who tortured him so mercilessly offered him, without any seemingly ulterior motive, a way to recover full use of his leg after being told Federation medicine was unable to help. Yes he would've agonised about the moral and ethical ramifications but he would also have known of the far reaching implications for the Federation…and other brain injured people."
Will sat next to the Counsellor and let out a long breath.
"So you're saying it was a trade off? That he buried his scruples in order to heal himself and provide the Federation with much needed medical technology?"
He sighed.
"That's a big ask."
Holding her mug in both hands, Deanna sipped thoughtfully.
"Is it? Tell me Will…given the same dilemma, what would you have done? Remained crippled and lose the career that has been the cornerstone of your life or swallow your ethics for a greater good? You know him as well as I…why do you seek to condemn him when you know deep down he made the right choice?"
Will sat silently, chewing the inside of his mouth. Grunting he sat back and ran his hands through his hair.
"Why wasn't he happy that we were coming home?"
Deanna sighed.
"That I can't answer. With all that he's been through these past months…he may have undergone some fundamental changes…and we may have to consider how his relationship with Beverly could affect him. All I can advise is to wait and see. He trusts and respects you Will, he won't leave you in the dark."
Will stared fixedly at the wall and sighed expansively. Turning slowly he smiled tenderly at his lover.
"Thank you Deanna."
She leaned to him and stroked his whiskery cheek.
"You're welcome."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cold weather system finally moved on and the happy couple spent some time removing snow from the balcony. In watery, cold sunshine they dried the chairs and sat quietly, enjoying the view of pristine white.
After a while Beverly retreated indoors taking ten minutes to make a pot of tea. Jean-Luc stood and helped her with the laden tray as she reappeared. She poured and regained her seat, glancing at her pensive companion. He sipped appreciatively and sighed.
"I think I know what I want to do."
Beverly blew on her tea and remained silent.
"I believe it's time I devoted myself to Starfleet in an administrative capacity."
Beverly sipped then held her mug, watching a small furred animal descend from a nearby tree.
"How?"
Keeping his eyes on the animal, Jean-Luc said,
"I want to have a hand in the policy making…the engine that drives the organisation. I believe my years as a Captain would be a benefit to those who form the core tenets and philosophies. I want to be one of those people."
The Doctor nodded and sipped again.
"You can't do that as a Captain."
Jean-Luc sighed and nodded, his deep voice laced with resigned defeat.
"I know. As unpalatable as it is, I would have to accept an Admiralty."
"Why so unpalatable? You deserve an Admiralty Jean-Luc…for crying out loud you would be one of the few Admirals with extensive space-borne experience. Those stuffed shirts wouldn't know what hit them."
He turned to her and held out his hand. Beverly took it and he smiled tenderly.
"Thank you dear friend, your unstinting support is, as always, appreciated…however I think you misunderstand."
Beverly raised her eyebrows and waited.
"I have been a Captain for a very long time…and in many ways it has come to define who and what I am. Accepting an Admiralty alters that considerably…in effect I will be entering uncharted waters."
Beverly's mouth opened and she shook her head.
"I don't believe it!"
Somewhat confused, Jean-Luc frowned.
"I beg your pardon?"
"I've known you for thirty years and I've never…never heard you express self-doubt. Why the lack of confidence Jean-Luc? Stepping up to Admiral is a natural progression…I would've thought you'd have been prepared long ago."
Smiling ruefully, Jean-Luc downed the rest of his tea.
"I think it was a case of ostrich syndrome."
Beverly frowned and shook her head.
"Pardon?"
He chuckled, his eyes twinkling.
"I put my head in the sand. Over the years I've made a conscious effort to ignore the fact that if I wanted to remain in Starfleet then at some point I would have to give up my ship and accept a promotion. I was so happy being a Captain I simply forced any other considerations from my mind…foolish I know, but there you are."
They sat in silence for a while before Beverly asked,
"What about an ambassadorship? You've had extensive experience."
He nodded slowly and pursed his lips.
"I considered that but it has several drawbacks. One…I would be required to leave Earth for extended periods of time and two…there is an unacceptable level of danger involved. I've seen too many diplomatic missions go awry to place myself in a position where I might be injured or killed. I'm trying to avoid that."
The Doctor nodded thoughtfully and tilted her head.
"And resigning?"
He shook his head.
"Like you said…what would I do? I've spent my life serving an organisation that I firmly believe in. To walk away when I have a chance to have a hand in the policy making would be very foolish indeed. No…I believe my future lies with Starfleet, all I have to do is find my niche."
He sat forward and again took Beverly's hand.
"Now tell me…what about you? Would you be happy at Medical? Or would you prefer to teach at the Academy in conjunction with your research?"
The red head frowned and shrugged.
"I'm not sure. I'm happy enough to leave the Enterprise…I think it would be nice to settle down somewhere with you, the idea is very appealing, but as to work…I need to talk to some people…test the waters. I know Medical will take me back, but in what capacity I don't know. I suppose as long as I can practice hands-on medicine and continue my research I'll be happy."
Jean-Luc nodded and pulled his jacket tighter around his torso.
"All right. When we beam back to the runabout I'll make some enquires…get the ball rolling."
"You could use the communication equipment here."
He shook his head.
"No I don't want Starfleet intruding. We have nine more days together and I want those days to be exclusively ours."
She smiled and shivered.
"Agreed. Now how about we go inside and thaw out?"
Grinning, Jean-Luc stood and held out his hand.
"That my dear Doctor is a very wise suggestion. I can't feel my nose."
She was still giggling as they went inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five days later they had just returned from a long walk. Rain had set in and created an icy cap on the snow making their constitutional difficult. Several times they had both fallen and Jean-Luc had torn a muscle in his hip. They made slow progress back to the cabin, the Captain hobbling and grumbling with heartfelt discomfort.
"Here lean on me."
He scowled and stood upright.
"I don't need to lean on you…I'm perfectly capable of getting inside under my own power."
Gritting her teeth, Beverly left his side and opened the door, gesturing grandly with her arm.
"After you Captain."
With as much dignity as he could muster, the vexed man limped past and entered the structure, going immediately to a chair and sitting abruptly. He turned to one side and stretched out the injured leg, massaging his hip. The Doctor cast a sidelong glance in his direction as she went to the bedroom to retrieve her med kit. She was soon at his side.
"Stop rubbing it Jean-Luc…let me scan it."
Obeying her request, the Captain sat still, a grimace of pain marring his handsome face.
"Hmm. Torn sartorius muscle…very nasty. No wonder you're in so much pain."
Grunting softly, Jean-Luc closed his eyes and asked,
"Can you fix it?"
Smiling gently, Beverly nodded.
"Uh huh."
She closed the tricorder and took out a tissue regenerator, but before she started treatment she tugged at his trousers. He opened his eyes and frowned in question.
"I need to be accurate my love…I'd rather not do this through your pants. He sighed and undid his belt and fly, lifting his hips so he could lower the pants to his thighs. With gentle hands, Beverly coaxed him onto his side and pushed up his briefs. Using firm pressure with her fingers, she felt around the injury site, knowing she had located it by Jean-Luc's low growl. She situated the regenerator over the afflicted area and activated it. The warmth permeated his flesh and he slowly relaxed. Five minutes later she switched off the instrument and sat back, watching Jean-Luc as he sighed with relief.
"Better?"
"Hmm…thank you."
His hands fell to his trousers but Beverly stopped him.
"No…I like you like that."
He moved in the chair until he was sitting more comfortably and watched with interest as Beverly knelt between his legs. She moved her med kit to one side and leaned forward to kiss him. His hands went to her head and he prolonged the kiss, his tongue plundering her mouth. Breathless, Beverly pulled back, her eyes darkening with passion. She looked down at his groin and smiled.
"I always liked briefs on a man…they become so tantalising when he has an erection." To emphasise her point she caressed him boldly causing him to lift his hips and moan sensuously. With growing arousal and enjoyment, Beverly lowered her face and nuzzled the confined hardness placing her mouth over the head and releasing a hot breath. Jean-Luc's hands gripped her head and he growled low in his throat.
Sitting up, Beverly took hold of his trousers and pulled then down his legs to his ankles. Next she gripped his briefs and repeated the manoeuvre. Then she stood and slowly toed off her boots, undid her trousers and lowered both them and her underwear, kicking them free with her stockinged feet.
She slowly hovered over Jean-Luc's seated form and lowered herself onto his lap, straddling him. With her knees either side of his upper thighs, his erection was placed directly in contact with her slick, heated sex. She gripped his face, rasing it and kissing him passionately at the same time sliding herself up and down his throbbing stiffness.
Jean-Luc growled and pulled at her jacket, striping it from her body. Next came her thick jumper…it too was soon on the floor. He didn't bother with the buttons of her shirt…tearing it open and pushing her bra out of the way. He tore his mouth from hers and took a nipple in his mouth. Beverly threw her head back and mewed loudly, lifting herself and taking his erection in her hand. Jean-Luc released her breast and stared up at her as she slowly lowered, impaling herself on him.
Overcome with the momentary high of penetration, they fell into a hungry kiss, devouring each other with rapacious need.
Beverly broke the kiss. Panting, she pulled Jean-Luc's jacket open and pushed up his jumper and shirt until she could grip his shoulders. Then she started to slide up and down his penis, her pace ever quickening. The Captain grabbed her hips and began to thrust up into her, accentuating each movement with a soft grunt.
Every time she came close to climaxing, Beverly would slow, drawing out the sensation with long slothful strokes. Willing to let her set the pace, Jean-Luc would take the opportunity to suck a nipple into his mouth and lavish it with his tongue. Beverly was soon mindless with need. With her nails slicing through the skin of his shoulders, she hastened her actions giving full rein to her passion. Jean-Luc felt his orgasm approaching and growled, his fingers finding her clitoris and caressing it. Beverly exploded. Her head lifted and she shrieked as she came, the sensation of Jean-Luc's warm expulsions heightening her experience. Her lover's guttural cry was lost as she climaxed again, then again as he began to soften. She fell forward, her head bumping his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her as they struggled to regain their breath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many minutes later Jean-Luc shifted under her. In a soft rumble he said,
"Beverly?"
She lifted her head slowly and blinked owlishly.
"Hmm?"
Smiling with amused tenderness. The Captain pushed her hair back off her face.
"I think I've hurt my hip again."
Her dreamy smile stayed in place for several seconds while she processed what he'd said. Then it disappeared and her eyes focused.
"What?"
He sighed.
"My hip. I think I've torn that muscle again."
Beverly sat up quickly and looked down at her lover. Rivulets of sweat ran down his face and his skin was flushed.
"You look hot."
He smiled ruefully.
"I am a little warm. What with our…activities, my jacket and jumper and the central heating…"
Smiling apologetically, Beverly gingerly left his lap and gestured with a thumb over her shoulder.
"I'll just go to the bathroom…you stay put, I'll be back in a jiffy."
As she went she picked up her clothing. While she was gone, Jean-Luc removed his jacket and jumper and pulled up his briefs and trousers, but left his pants at his thighs knowing Beverly would want to find the injury again. She was back in short minutes once again dressed. Kneeling at his legs, she dragged her med kit within easy reach.
"Now let me see…"
Ten minutes later he was once again healed. But Beverly didn't stop with his hip. Making him sit up, she divested him of his shirt, exposing the torn skin of his shoulders. With expert ministrations he was soon mended and Beverly stood, holding out her hand.
"Come on let's have a shower then I'll make dinner."
Smiling widely, Jean-Luc came to his feet, one hand hitching up his trousers.
"You cook?"
Placing one hand on her hip, she used the other to wag a finger under his nose.
"Don't be so cheeky! Yes I cook…how do you think Wesley and I survived at the flat after Jack died? There was no replicator for two years."
Holding his hand up in surrender, Jean-Luc grinned.
"All right I apologise! You cook, we eat then we relax by the fire. Sound good?"
Her face melted into tender softness.
"Sounds wonderful."
Still holding his pants with one hand, he took hers in the other and led them to the bedroom. Under his breath he muttered,
"Anyway you have your med kit…"
For that he received a slap to his behind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too soon their leave came to an end. Standing in the living area, their bags beside them, Jean-Luc took Beverly's hand and looked her in the eyes.
"This has been wonderful."
She studied him dressed in his uniform straight and proud.
"Yes it has."
"We can come back…any time."
Smiling tenderly, she stroked his cheek.
"Yes…any time."
He took a deep breath, held it for some seconds then let it out slowly. Tapping his com badge he said softly,
"Computer two to beam up."

 

 

 

 

They were two hours into their journey back to Earth when Jean-Luc contacted Command. Beverly left him alone as he talked at length with the hierarchy, outlining his intentions and desires. When he finally closed the channel and joined her in the lounge he was silent and pensive. Beverly left him to his thoughts and quietly retrieved two hot drinks. She placed his by his chair and retreated to her seat, picking up her book and trying to conceal her curiosity.
For over forty minutes he continued to stare into space, ignoring his tea. When he sighed and crossed his legs, Beverly knew he was back. She looked up and lowered the book.
"Well?"
He smiled and nodded.
"Generally speaking they're happy and willing to concede to my wishes. In one month I will be an Admiral assigned to Command, to be specifically involved with policy structure and formulation."
Beverly nodded but frowned.
"Well that's wonderful. But you say they're generally speaking happy. What's the catch? And why are they making you wait a whole month? We'll be back tomorrow."
His eyes fell and he brushed at a miniscule speck on his trousers. Keeping his voice low he replied,
"They have a mission for me."
"A mission?"
"Hmm."
Becoming impatient, Beverly's voice hardened.
"What bloody mission?"
Sighing, Jean-Luc briefly closed his eyes.
"They what me to go back to S'Runnin."
Beverly was on her feet immediately.
"What?"
He waved his hand and frowned.
"Sit down Beverly. Look the S'Run are upset by what's happened and even though Will's been giving them regular updates as to my condition they still want to see for themselves that I've made a full recovery. It's not too much to ask."
The Doctor was incensed and refused to sit.
"Not too much to ask? Those brutes damned near killed both of us! How can you calmly sit there and tell me you're going back? It's insane!"
His face hardening, he retreated behind his Command façade.
"Nevertheless Doctor I have my orders and I will obey them. The treaty with the S'Run is far more important than my discomfort. I…we…will return and do our duty."
Seeing his intractable face and knowing arguing would be pointless, the angry woman stalked out of the living area and into the cockpit. Jean-Luc sighed and stared at his cold tea with distaste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

They stayed apart until dinnertime but then remained silent, each getting their own meal. Soon afterwards Beverly settled in the living area, her nose buried in a book. Jean-Luc tried to read but the cold tension in the room unsettled him. Quietly closing his book, he sighed softly and spoke gently.
"Can we discuss this?"
Her reply was cold.
"There's nothing to discuss. You became my Commander and reminded me of my place."
His lips compressed into a thin line, Jean-Luc remained calm.
"It's not like that Beverly and you know it."
Lowering her book, she speared him with a glare.
"Oh really? Tell me…will any of my objections make the slightest difference? Will you change your mind?"
He frowned and shook his head.
"You know damn well I won't. Look it's quite simple. I've been given a mission and I intend to see it through. My feelings are irrelevant."
Her blue eyes hardened.
"And what of mine?"
He took a deep breath and lowered his head.
"You know your feelings are important to me Beverly but what am I suppose to do? I must obey my orders."
The Doctor rose and went to the replicator, a raised eyebrow asking if he wanted anything. He shook his head and she shrugged.
"With what you have planned I'm sure you could insist on foregoing the mission. If necessary I could make it a medical decision."
He stood and joined her at the replicator, sliding his hands around her waist.
"Whom are you more concerned about? You or me?"
She turned and looked into his eyes.
"Both of us Jean-Luc. I just don't see why we should have to go back to where we almost died. It seems so…pointless. The treaty is in effect, everyone's happy…this is just window dressing…at our expense."
He sighed and shook his head.
"I will admit I feel apprehensive about returning and because the S'Run are such an unknown quantity your involvement is unfortunate, however I do believe their contrition is genuine and if I can bolster the treaty by simply making an appearance then I must do it. If you want I can request that you be left out of the proceedings."
She smiled ruefully and settled her hands on his shoulders.
"Not on you life! If you go down to the surface I'm going with you. Who else will keep an eye on you?"
He chuckled and kissed the tip of her nose.
"The soon-to-be Captain William Riker. I'm sure he'll have something to say about security."
Beverly's eyes widened and she gasped.
"Will…a Captain? Is it the Enterprise?"
Jean-Luc nodded, a grin on his face.
"Uh huh. Command was so keen to get me they capitulated to one of my…demands. That is…that Will gets the Enterprise."
Laughing delightedly, Beverly bumped her forehead to his.
"When are you going to tell him?"
"As soon as I beam aboard. It'll be the first order of business."
Beverly sighed and kissed him softly.
"By the way…where are we going to live?"
He took her hand and led her back to the chairs. They sat and he leaned his elbows on his knees, his hands dangling between his legs.
"We need to discuss that but I do have some thoughts on the matter."
She smiled and nodded.
"Go on."
"Well how do you feel about dividing our time between France and San Francisco? I thought perhaps we could spend our working week somewhere near Command and our weekends and any spare time at the Chateau. Of course I'd have to run this by Marie but what do you think?"
Pursing her lips, Beverly ran her hands through her hair.
"Well that sounds okay…but what sort of accommodation in San Francisco do you have in mind? I really want something more than a flat."
He nodded and sat back.
"Agreed. We could purchase something modest…a home, possibly by the bay. Would that suffice?"
She grinned and crossed her legs.
"With a garden?"
"If you wish."
Her face sobered and she looked deeply into his eyes.
"With play equipment in the yard?"
He frowned and tilted his head.
"Beverly?"
She left her chair and came to sit on his lap.
"It's not too late Jean-Luc. You need not be the last of your family."
He wrapped an arm around her waist and shook his head.
"But…"
He looked up into her face.
"How long have you been thinking about this?"
She sighed and kissed the top of his head.
"A very long time actually. You'd make a wonderful father Jean-Luc…at least think about it…don't dismiss it out of hand."
The Captain lowered his head and sighed.
"Very well but I must say you've taken me by surprise."
She stood and held out her hand.
"You did say this relationship was going to be interesting. Come on let's go to bed."
Gripping her hand he rose and shook his head.
"You my dear Beverly are a master of the understatement."
An hour and a half later, after making love, Jean-Luc was uncharacteristically sleepless. Usually after sex he slept easily and soundly but not this time. Beverly had given him much to think about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly and Jean-Luc spent the week while waiting for the Enterprise house hunting. They eventually found a very nice modern home overlooking the bay only fifteen minutes by land car from Command and the Academy. The sale was completed and Jean-Luc had contacted Marie successfully with a day to spare.
With temporary accommodation at Command, the officers prepared for their ship's arrival.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will tugged down on his tunic and stretched his neck. Deanna placed a hand on his arm, a sympathetic look on her face.
"Calm down."
Taking a deep breath, the First officer straightened his spine and squared his shoulders. About to complain about the wait, the Transporter operator interrupted.
"Commander Riker they're ready now. Initiating transport."
Coming to attention, the two officers watched the pad expectantly. Two shapes shimmered into existence and Will grinned.
"Captain, Beverly…welcome back!"
He stepped forward and offered his hand to his CO. Jean-Luc smiled warmly and accepted the handshake as he stepped down from the platform. Beverly and Deanna hugged then Will engulfed the Doctor in a bear hug while Jean-Luc accepted a kiss on his cheek from the Counsellor.
The Captain turned to his CMO and smiled.
"Doctor I want to discuss a few things with Will. Perhaps you could take our bags to my quarters?"
Nodding with a smile, the women left, each carrying a bag. Will and Jean-Luc exited and made their way to the Bridge. In the turbolift Jean-Luc informed Will,
"I have a new mission for us…we can go over it in the Ready Room."
Will nodded.
"Aye Captain."
On entering the Bridge, the attending staff all came to attention. Jean-Luc paused and acknowledged their greeting. Data came forward and stood before him.
"Captain Picard may I say how pleased we all are at your return and how happy we are at your recovery."
Quelling his embarrassment, Jean-Luc straightened.
"Thank you Mr.Data."
He turned to his Bridge staff.
"Thank you all, it's good to be back."
The two officers made their way to the Ready Room and Will took a seat on the sofa at his Captain's behest. Jean-Luc went to the replicator and retrieved a cup of Earl Grey. He sat beside Will and spent a moment looking at his First Officer, causing Will to frown.
"Sir? Is there something wrong?"
Shaking his head and with a gentle smile on his face, Jean-Luc sipped his tea and sighed.
"I suppose you want to know what I've been up to."
The big man shrugged and nodded.
"Well yes…but only if you want to tell me."
Sipping again, Jean-Luc stared into his cup.
"And I expect you have some questions too."
At that Will frowned.
"Yes Sir I have."
The Captain twisted and put his cup on the arm of the sofa. Turning back to his Exec he nodded.
"While I won't answer anything of a personal nature there are some things you should know, as they impact directly upon you and this ship."
Will remained expectantly silent.
"As to our mission…we're going back to S'Runnin."
The Commander held his tongue.
"Command wants me…and possibly Beverly…to put in an appearance to smooth their feathers. For the next month I will be in command as your Captain. At the end of that time this ship will have a new commander."
Will could stay silent no longer.
"Captain? What are you talking about? Who will have the Enterprise?"
Jean-Luc smiled and gently gripped Will's shoulder.
"You will Number One."
Will stood, his mouth opening and shutting.
"But…what about you? Where will you be?"
"At Command. I have accepted an Admiralty, I will be involved in the policy making, something that has interested me for some time."
The big man paced slowly around the room. Suddenly stopping, he turned to his CO.
"And Beverly?"
"She will leave with me. We've bought a home in San Francisco and intend to split our time between there and my home in France."
The First Officer ran his hands through his hair and blew out a breath.
"So let me get this straight. You're becoming an Admiral and you and Beverly are leaving the ship…and I'm to become Captain of the Enterprise."
Jean-Luc stood and nodded.
"Uh huh, but not for a month. You have that much time to get used to the idea. Command already has your next mission in the works…you're going to be very busy."
He offered his hand.
"Congratulations…Captain."
Will stared at his Captain's outstretched hand and slowly shook it. Jean-Luc rounded his desk and activated the monitor.
"Now…S'Runnin. I know you attended a ceremony held in my honour…what can you tell me about it?"
Gathering his racing thoughts. Will sat before the desk.
"Well Sir…"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deanna entered the Captain's quarters and watched as Beverly took both bags into the bedroom. With eyebrows raised, Deanna followed and stood in the open doorway.
"This is rather cosy. Do you intend to stay in his quarters?"
Beverly breezed past and chuckled.
"Uh huh. They're bigger than mine."
With her hands clasped behind her back, Deanna sauntered across the living area and took a seat opposite her best friend.
"How is he?"
Beverly gathered her hair in her hands and flicked it over her shoulder.
"He's fine…more than fine actually…he's magnificent."
The Counsellor smiled knowingly and tapped her temple.
"You're up to something."
The Doctor sat back and crossed her legs adopting an innocent look.
"Who me?"
Mirroring her friend's posture, Deanna closed her hands over her knee.
"Yes you. Out with it."
With a triumphant grin, Beverly supplied the reply.
"Our Captain has accepted an Admiralty. We leave the Enterprise a month from now and take up residence in a house we've bought in San Francisco. We'll both be stationed in 'Cisco and divide our time between the house and LaBarre."
Deanna's grin was delightful.
"Oh Beverly…I'm so happy for you!"
They hugged and laughed at their tears. Deanna regained her seat and frowned.
"But why wait a month?"
At that Beverly scowled.
"Command has given Jean-Luc one final mission and he's decided to accept it."
"And that is?"
Rubbing her forehead, Beverly couldn't keep the bitterness out of her voice.
"We're going back to S'Runnin."
Deanna gasped.
"Oh."
The Doctor stood and stalked around the room.
"I objected of course and at first he shut me out, but then we talked about it and I saw how committed he is to the treaty. Leave it to Jean-Luc to remind me of our duty to Starfleet."
The Counsellor stood and stopped Beverly's restless pacing.
"This must be very hard for you…both of you."
Beverly smiled weakly and nodded.
"It is."
Taking Beverly's hand, Deanna led her back to the seats. Once settled she looked the Doctor in the eye.
"Tell me about Madred."
Beverly covered her face with her hands and took a deep breath.
"There's not much to tell. He instigated contact with the Captain and once they'd talked he offered Jean-Luc a Cardassian device that could heal the brain damage our technology had been unable to. It threw Jean-Luc for a loop and he agonised over it, but in the end allowed the procedure. And, as you can plainly see, it was an astounding success."
"And what about you…how do you feel about it?"
Beverly fisted her hands and pounded her thighs.
"How do I feel? I'm outraged! Not only was that monstrous bastard accepted into the delegation with a clean slate, but he offered a device that had been tested on unwilling, innocent victims…and Jean-Luc's acceptance of his offer legitimised their methods! Do you know that unctuous, vicious, smarmy animal actually came to our accommodation one night…with Jean-Luc's approval? It took all my will power not to phaser him into oblivion."
Deanna sighed and took Beverly's hands.
"Surely there has been some good come of this? Not only has the Captain completely recovered but with the ratification of the treaty, which is all but sealed, the ramifications to the Federation are immense. I don't doubt that was a large part of the Captain's motivation in this matter."
Beverly sank back in her chair defeated.
"You're right of course and I know he shouldn't be condemned for doing what he did, but as a Doctor I'm terribly torn. I too want our people to have use of technology that can save or heal those who previously would have been out of our reach, but the knowledge of how that technology was tested and developed makes my blood run cold. So many victims Dee…and then there's my feelings as his lover and best friend. I would've done anything…anything at all to heal him…to restore him to full health, but when I was confronted with a method that compromised my ethics I got cold feet. What does that make me? What kind of lover…what kind of partner am I?"
Deanna's voice was soft and low.
"What does he have to say about it?"
Beverly snorted.
"Jean-Luc? Oh he's still torn by his decision but he's completely exonerated me. It's typical…he wants to shield me, protect me even from myself. God Dee…sometimes I think I don't deserve him."
It was Deanna's turn to snort.
"That's nonsense and you know it! You two are the most evenly matched couple I know. Now tell me what is our Captain going to do about it? If I know him, he's got something up his sleeve."
Smiling ruefully, Beverly sighed.
"You're right of course. He plans to release a statement…with a Cardassian endorsement, detailing regret over their past methods and an assurance such heinous actions are a thing of the past. He asked Madred to do it and he agreed, but only if he has permission from his superiors."
Deanna sat back and grinned.
"There you see? I'm sure all this will have a wonderful resolution. Now I must be getting back to work. When are you back on duty?"
Beverly smiled and sighed.
"Tomorrow morning, bright and early."
Deanna stood and made for the door, stopping just shy of the sensor. Turning she asked,
"Beverly I suppose you know who gets the Enterprise."
Beverly frowned and lowered her eyes.
"Yes I do but I can't tell you…I hope you understand."
Deanna summoned a brave smile and nodded.
"Of course."
Beverly watched the closed doors for a while with a sly smile on her face before rising slowly and stretching.
"Well I'd better unpack."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After his shift was over Will strolled to his quarters lost in thought. He wandered inside and went straight to his bedroom, shedding his uniform as he went. A bemused and ignored Counsellor watched her distracted lover strip and enter the bathroom. She heard the shower running and shook her head. She settled back into her chair in the living area and waited patiently.
Ten minutes later he re-emerged with nothing but a towel around his waist, his beard sparkling with jewels of water. Deanna's soft voice made him jump.
"It's about time."
With his hand over his heart he shook his head.
"Christ Deanna…you scared six month's growth out of me!"
She looked up at him with disdain.
"Serves you right…ignoring me will always lead to dire consequences."
Will went to the cupboard and removed an elongated bottle containing a glowing amber liquid. As Deanna watched, he placed two tumblers on the table and poured a liberal amount in each. He then placed the bottle in a special holder and put it on the table. They both picked up their glasses and Deanna took a long sniff of the contents.
"Saurian brandy? What's the occasion?"
His smile was enigmatic and his eyes twinkled but he was mounting an enormous effort to keep her from discerning his emotions. Puzzled, Deanna tilted her head.
"Will…what's going on?"
He sighed and raised his glass.
"You're looking at the next Captain of the Enterprise."
Her mouth gaped and for several seconds she simply stared, absolutely dumbfounded. Then she surged from her chair and hugged her lover.
"Oh Will that's wonderful! When did you find out?"
Will settled the excited woman on his lap and chuckled as she kissed him.
"After we left you and Beverly we went to the Bridge. Captain Picard took me into the Ready Room and told me then."
Deanna sat up and gripped a handful of his chest hair.
"That was hours ago! Why didn't you tell me?"
He sighed and shook his head.
"To be honest I've been in a daze…it's probably why I didn't see you when I came in. Dee…do you realise what this means?"
She released his hair and smiled tenderly.
"What?"
He looked deeply into her eyes.
"We can get married. Now that I know I have a permanent place…that I won't be transferred or offered another ship…we can finally formalise our relationship."
Deanna settled against his chest and sighed.
"Will…did you just propose?"
He stilled and took a deep breath.
"Ah…well…yes I guess I did. What's your answer?"
Instead of replying the Counsellor stood and went to her abandoned tumbler, picking it up and downing the contents in two long swallows. Resisting the powerful urge to cough and gasp, she smiled at her lover with tears in her eyes. Her voice roughened by alcohol she managed,
"Yes."
Following her example Will stood and tossed back his drink then came to her and scooped her up in his arms. As he carried her into the bedroom her giggles hung in the air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three days later Beverly and Deanna were in the forward lounge eating a belated lunch. Deanna had deliberately left Beverly alone for a day or two, giving the Doctor time to settle back into the ship's routine. She also wanted to talk to Beverly about some of the issues she'd raised the last time they spoke. Gauging her mood, the Counsellor saw her opening.
"So how is it living in the Captain's quarters?"
Beverly smiled conspiratorially and waved her fork.
"I like it. He has more room…and a bigger bed."
Deanna chuckled and shook her head.
"You two are behaving like teenagers. Shame on you."
Lifting her chin defiantly, the Doctor gently admonished her best friend.
"I refuse to feel anything but unbounded joy. Look we waited an awful long time for this and if you think we're going to let any opportunities pass you're very much mistaken. He loves me…I love him and we're deliriously happy."
Deanna chuckled.
"So there?"
Beverly scowled ineffectually and snorted.
Sobering, Deanna said quietly,
"When we last spoke you voiced concerns about your reactions to the Captain's decision. You questioned your worthiness as a partner. I'd like to talk about that."
Immediately uncomfortable, Beverly tried to dismiss it.
"Oh that…I was tired, forget it."
With a look that brooked no nonsense, Deanna caused Beverly to blush.
"Beverly?"
Utilising the precise placement of her cutlery on the plate as a delaying strategy, the Doctor gathered her thoughts.
"All right I have some reservations about my behaviour. So what?"
Ignoring the defensive anger, Deanna kept her voice soft.
"Well for starters I think you should understand your feelings were not only justified, but perfectly normal given the circumstances. In essence you reacted predictably but that doesn't nullify the emotion behind your feelings."
Beverly pushed her plate away and snorted.
"Can you believe I told Madred I would kill him if I had the chance? Not only that, but when he questioned be on it I told him I would consider it a community service. Dammit Dee…what sort of Doctor am I?"
Smiling gently, Deanna took one of Beverly's hands.
"When you told him that were you speaking as a Doctor…or as an aggrieved and outraged lover?"
"What difference does it make? I…"
"Stop it! You know damn well what sort of difference it makes. Why are you wallowing in self-recrimination? What aren't you saying Beverly?"
The Doctor glared at her friend and gritted her teeth. In a low voice she muttered,
"I couldn't help him. I had to stand back and let others treat him and then watch as he accepted an unknown alien device with little care as to the consequences. He was willing to put his life on the line in a desperate attempt to recover and I could do nothing to help him! I tell you Deanna those weeks were hell incarnate."
The Counsellor sat back and folded her arms.
"I think you're underestimating the influence you have on the Captain. Do you really think he would've got through all that without your unwavering love and support? Who did he confide in? Who did he unburden to? Who did he trust above all others?
You're an intelligent and resourceful woman Beverly and it pains me to hear you denigrate yourself so unfairly."
Beverly rubbed her forehead and sighed expansively. Deanna studied her closely.
"It's about time you truthfully accepted your relationship with the Captain Beverly. It's not make believe and he's not going to abandon you. You and he have the rest of your lives to become true partners but you have to be his equal. Stop thinking of yourself as his guardian and saviour I can tell you now he'll come to resent it. Embrace what you have and go forward…leave your fears behind."
The Doctor looked over at her friend, anger and effrontery warring for dominance, but with the resolute determination exuding from the Counsellor, Beverly relented. She lowered her head and the tension left her body. Nodding, she sighed.
"I'll try."
Rather than allowing the atmosphere to become further clouded, Deanna switched tactics.
"Will proposed."
Beverly's head snapped up, her eyes wide.
"What? When?"
Grinning, Deanna gestured to a waiter. Ordering two cups of tea, she chuckled.
"A couple of days ago."
"What did you say?"
The counsellor stretched out her arms in front and clasped her hands.
"Yes."
Beverly grabbed her hands and squeezed.
"Oh Dee…I'm so happy for you! Can I tell Jean-Luc?"
Deanna laughed.
"Uh huh…and Beverly…I know who gets the Enterprise."
The Doctor reddened and she had the good grace to look embarrassed.
"Sorry about that…Jean-Luc made me promise."
"Think nothing of it."
In happy camaraderie they finished their drinks and left the lounge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Enterprise's three-week journey to S'Runnin was almost over. They were a day away from the border and had been contacted and advised of their escort, due to meet them when they entered S'Runnin space.
One evening Jean-Luc and Beverly were relaxing, reading and listening to music when the door chime sounded. The Captain looked up and called,
"Come."
Will stepped in, looking a little uncomfortable.
"Good evening Captain…Beverly…I hope I'm not intruding?"
Jean-Luc smiled and gestured.
"Not at all, come and sit down. What can I do for you?"
Will glanced at Beverly and swallowed.
"Well Sir I have a favour to ask…a personal favour."
His face becoming serious, Jean-Luc closed his book and laid it on the table.
"Of course Will…anything."
Will cleared his throat and rubbed his hands over his thighs in an uncharacteristic display of nervousness. The Captain glanced at his lover, frowning.
"Will?"
The big man looked up and smiled.
"Captain Picard…would you do me the honour of being my best man?"
Jean-Luc's look of shock quickly gave way to one of surprised delight.
"The honour would be mine Number One. I accept."
The two men shook hands and Will sighed. Glancing again at the Doctor, Will frowned.
"There's one more thing Captain, but it's…personal."
Beverly stood and smiled down at the serious man.
"It's okay Will…I'll go pester Deanna about my matron of honour dress. I don't want to look like a kewpie doll."
Both man watched her leave then Jean-Luc sat back and waited. Will took a big breath and clasped his hands.
"Captain I know you said you wouldn't answer any questions of a personal nature, but there're some things I really want…no actually need to know."
The Captain sighed and briefly closed his eyes.
"You want to know how I could accept the use of a Cardassian device when I knew it and its predecessors had been tested on unwilling innocent victims."
Will let out a deep breath.
"Yes Sir. I won't judge you Captain, it's not my place or my right to do so…I just need to understand."
Jean-Luc stood and faced the viewports, his eyes tracking the prismatic elongated stars as the streaked by at warp.
"It wasn't easy I can tell you. When Madred first came to me I was torn between fear and fury. One part of me wanted to kill him, another wanted desperately to make peace with him…to try and find some understanding of the man and what drove him. He proved himself to be earnest and genuine in his involvement with the peace delegation, in fact it was as a gesture of peace between us that he offered the device. Of course I was aware of Cardassian methods…intimately so…but I was being given a chance to regain the full use of my leg, thereby restoring my career, my dignity…in many ways my very existence. And I also had to weigh the ongoing ramifications to the Federation. But could I balance those who could benefit against those who had suffered…or died?
In the end I realised I could not. It was not my place to act as judge or confessor for the Cardassians. All I could do was allow the procedure and, if it was successful, try to find a way to get the Cardassians to renounce and perhaps apologise for what had taken place in the past. Did I corrupt myself? Subjugate my ethics and scruples? Possibly, but I have to believe the good that had come about because of this somehow outweighs the bad."
He turned and faced his exec, a deep frown creasing his brow.
"Do you understand Will?"
The First Officer smiled and nodded.
"Yes Sir I do. It must have been a very difficult time for you Captain…I don't envy you."
Jean-Luc shrugged and sighed.
"Putting aside what happened to me, the treaty with the Cardassians is perhaps the most important thing that's happened to the Federation in the last hundred years. It can only be good for both our peoples."
"Agreed Sir. Well Captain I'll be getting back to my fiancé. Thank you for your candour Sir, I really appreciate it."
Jean-Luc stood and smiled.
"Goodnight Will."
The Captain's amused voice stopped Will just as the doors opened.
"And send Beverly back will you. Once she and Deanna start talking they could be at it for hours."
Will's laughter echoed in the corridor.
"Aye Captain."

 

 

 

 

 

 

The promised escort met with them and the two and a half day trek to S'Runnin was taken at a leisurely pace. The accompanying ship, the Dart was captained by an impressive woman named Garn. She was well aware of the unfortunate events of Jean-Luc's last visit and made an effort to set him at ease.
The Captain was standing on the Bridge trying to keep his face neutral.
"That's very interesting Captain Garn, but really there's no need. I have a mate…I don't require another one."
The dark woman straightened and flexed her massive muscles.
"But Captain Picard a warrior of your stature should have a mate that equals you in courage and strength! I am unattached and willing to serve in that capacity…in fact I would consider it an honour, even though you are an alien."
Keeping a straight face, Jean-Luc bowed his head.
"I am flattered and honoured by your offer Captain but I can assure you my mate is my equal in all things except rank. I am satisfied…really."
Garn frowned in puzzlement and shrugged.
"As you wish Captain, but I find your attitude most strange."
Jean-Luc smiled and opened his hands, palm up.
"It is our differences that I hope to overcome. Hopefully, as we learn more about each other, we can come closer as partners both in trade and culture."
Garn grinned and bowed.
"Spoken like a true diplomat! You amuse me Captain. It is a great pity you spurn me as a mate…we would have had…fun."
The communication was broken before Jean-Luc could reply. He sighed and took his seat, ignoring the grin from his First Officer.
"Con, what's our ETA?"
Data took the necessary time to glance at his board, not something he needed to do, but he knew Humans did it and he wanted to do the same. Turning to his Captain he said,
"Two point eight hours Sir."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Very well. The Dart will leave us soon to take station near the second moon. Place us in a standard orbit while we wait for instructions. When I beam down with the team I want a continuous lock on us at all times."
Data nodded and turned back to his console.
"Aye Sir."
Will stoked his beard and asked,
"How many will you take?"
Jean-Luc sighed.
"I think it'd be wise to keep the numbers to a minimum…I don't want to offend our hosts. Perhaps two security officers, Beverly and myself would do."
Will sat up and placed his hands on his knees.
"Captain…"
Jean-Luc turned his head and smiled.
"I know Will, you want to come. I think you should stay aboard, I'd feel better with you keeping your finger on the pulse from up here."
The big man snorted.
"I can keep my finger on the pulse much more effectively if I were with you Captain."
Jean-Luc tugged down on his tunic and pursed his lips.
"That may be so Number One, however you will stay aboard."
Hearing the finality in his words, Will backed down.
"As you wish Sir."
Data, hearing the end of the discussion, turned to his Captain.
"Captain Picard why do you think the S'Run are now communicating visually? Until now all their communication had been audio only."
Jean-Luc glanced at Will and shrugged.
"I don't know Data, perhaps it's indicative of improved relations with them…it could be a sign of greater trust."
Data nodded.
"I see. Will you ask them Captain?"
Jean-Luc smiled with great forbearance.
"If you wish Mr.Data."

 

 

They were left to establish orbit on their own and quickly received beam down instructions and coordinates. Jean-Luc left orders to maintain their present orbit and met with the security staff and Beverly in the Transporter room. To his guards he said,
"Keep your weapons set on heavy stun and holstered. I want this to be a peaceful occasion…do not react to challenges or displays of bravado. Unless either Doctor Crusher or I are threatened directly, I want you to stay calm and collected. Understood?"
Lieutenant Fraser Gheric and Ensign Holly McBride nodded in unison."
"Yes Sir."
Jean-Luc turned, hesitated and turned back.
"One other thing. These people are very tall and are of an impressive build. Their very presence is intimidating. Try to keep in mind your stature as Starfleet officers and ignore the discrepancies in our sizes."
The two officers smiled and nodded.
"Aye Captain."
Jean-Luc nodded with satisfaction and all four stood on the pad. The Captain looked up and kept his voice soft.
"Energise."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As soon as he rematerialised on the receiving pad, two huge hands grasped his shoulders.
"Captain Jean-Luc Picard…we welcome you!"
Seeing his security personnel going for their weapons, Jean-Luc lifted a hand and spoke firmly.
"As you were!"
To his host he smiled.
"Master Fendon…it is a pleasure to meet you again."
Fendon stepped back and swept his arm wide.
"And here is Qon and Lady Hak. We have waited for this time Captain…you have no idea what we went through during your illness. To know that we were the cause was of great concern for us."
He stepped forward and gripped Jean-Luc's hand, lifting it and pressing it to his forehead.
"We grieved for you Captain."
Jean-Luc smiled warmly and gently retrieved his hand.
"Well as you can see I am completely restored. I would be pleased if we can put the past behind us Master Fendon, your distress over me is unwarranted."
Qon stepped forward and bowed.
"Perhaps Captain, but as usual your words are wise. Did Garn inform you of our plans?"
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes. She said we would be presented to the chamber, attend a formal dinner and complete the evening with a ceremonial rite."
Qon grinned and nodded.
"Correct Captain. The rite is an ancient one but harmless I assure you. Now, if you would permit it, I will escort your brave and lovely mate to the chamber."
Jean-Luc bowed and gestured with his arm.
"After you Qon."
Fendon linked arms with Hak and Jean-Luc. They followed Qon and Beverly out, the security personnel bringing up the rear. As they walked Jean-Luc asked,
"We noted you now communicate with us visually. Why the change?"
Fendon smiled widely.
"We have decided your ship is worthy of the honour Captain."
Jean-Luc smiled.
"Thank you."
They reached the anteroom to find an armed escort of eight immense warriors. As they passed down the double phalanx the men and women bowed and grunted.
The huge black doors swung noiselessly open and in complete silence the group walked down the long aisle to the front. The Starfleet members took their places at the long table, Qon to one side and Fendon and Hak behind the upper desk.
Once they were seated the entire membership of two hundred and fifty beings stood and shouted,
"Hail Picard and Crusher!"
Jean-Luc and Beverly stood, faced the membership and bowed deeply. A loud coughing grunt followed by a rumbling moan signified the end of the formal salutation.
Still standing, the Captain and Doctor turned to face Fendon. The Master stood, his arms upraised.
"Behold! Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation has returned to us. We caused the injuries that kept him away and in our ignorance we also almost took the life of his courageous mate. Let it be known that we regret what happened and we rejoice in their return! Praise the Gods!"
The membership stood and shouted thunderously,
"Praise the Gods!"
Fendon's upraised hands fisted and he bellowed,
"Praise Picard and Crusher!"
The membership echoed his words.
"Praise Picard and Crusher!"
Qon left his position and, skirting the padded square, came to stand in front of Jean-Luc. In his hands was a sash of gold linked mail. He raised it above his head and waited for silence.
"I claim Captain Picard as my brother before the membership! As Doctor Crusher is his mate, she will become my sister. From this day forth I will protect them with my life!"
Fendon shouted,
"Who bears witness to this vow?"
All two hundred and fifty members answered,
"I will!"
Qon grinned and gestured for Jean-Luc to bow. As he did, the sash was placed over his head to rest on his right shoulder.
"It is done. You are now members of the house of Hurk."
The huge dark man grinned and stuck out his hand. Jean-Luc took it and shook firmly.
"We are honoured."

 

 

 

The formal dinner was surprisingly subdued after the tumultuous meeting in the chamber. Now in their dress uniforms and without their security escort, Jean-Luc still wore the golden sash. With only ten people present the Starfleet personnel could relax a little as the atmosphere was restful and easy.
During the third course, Junn, the minister for trade cleared his throat.
"Captain Picard it would seem the Federation is pleased with our dilithium."
Jean-Luc swallowed, took a sip of his drink and nodded.
"Indeed Minister. As you know your dilithium is the purest example of the crystal we've ever seen."
Junn smiled and glanced at the Master.
"I wonder if we couldn't expand our trade agreement?"
Jean-Luc's eyebrows rose and he lowered his cutlery.
"What do you have in mind Minister?"
"We have developed some technologies your organisation might be interested in. I know you may think our medical expertise is lacking, but I can assure you it's not. There is a very good chance we could share some very profound discoveries with you. And you can rest assured they've all been thoroughly tested."
He chuckled.
"After all our enemies have some uses eh?"
Swallowing again, this time with a dry mouth, Jean-Luc took a deep breath.
"That's a very generous offer Minister but the Federation does not share technology with non-member worlds. You would have to join the Federation to do that."
Junn frowned.
"But what of Cardassia? From what I hear there will be sharing of technology with them and they're not joining your Federation."
The Captain closed his eyes briefly and sighed.
"That is an isolated incident. We have been at war with Cardassia for a very long time. In order to build a lasting peace, concessions were made. One of them was to share technology as it was determined our levels of technology were so similar."
Junn sat back and placed his cutlery on his plate with great deliberation. Adopting an innocent face he asked,
"That wouldn't have anything to do with your injury would it? My information tells me you opted to use a Cardassian medical device before the treaty was ratified. What was that…a gesture of good will…or desperation?"
The Captain's eyes darkened and his face became a stoic mask.
"Tell me minister, what business is that of yours?"
Somewhat taken aback by his cold, suppressed anger, Junn held up his hands.
"Oh it's none of my business at all. My dear Captain I only seek a better trade agreement for my people."
Jean-Luc nodded curtly.
"Then kindly confine yourself to what is relevant. If you require more trade I will inform Starfleet and they will send appropriate personnel to negotiate with you…within the bounds of our laws."
The chastened Minister bowed his head.
"Thank you Captain."
Fendon's booming laugh resounded around the table.
"Well done Captain! You are a warrior with the spoken word too."
The rest of the dinner was uneventful and, as the last of the dishes were cleared away, the lighting changed, plunging the room into darkness. Beverly's hand found Jean-Luc's under the table and he squeezed in encouragingly.
Suddenly two bright spotlights illuminated a cleared area and four naked, oiled people emerged from the shadows. Two men and two women adopted classical poses then remained absolutely still. Minutes ticked by as the tension slowly rose.
Gradually the assembled guests began to hear soft music. It grew in volume and as it did the figures started to move. At first they danced alone, their solo interpretations of the music mesmerising but as the music slowed in tempo they paired off and the dance became decidedly erotic. For fifteen minutes the dancers indulged in a public display of foreplay, the men erect and the woman's skin flushed darker with arousal. The music mirrored their escalating desire, the tempo slowly increasing and the volume growing.
With a cacophonous crash of cymbals the couples fell to the floor, copulating furiously. Behind them, on a huge screen were images of Fendon and Hak, Qon and an unknown male and Jean-Luc and Beverly all making love.
In the darkness Beverly looked at her lover to see his head bowed, his hand rubbing his brow. She squeezed his hand under the table and he looked at her, seeing her rueful smile. He sighed and shook his head.
With the triumphant cries of the couples on the floor, the lights came back up and the screen deactivated. Fendon stood and smiled at his guests.
"As we celebrate the lives of Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher, we pay homage to the Gods with this expression of the continuance of life. The offspring conceived here tonight will be called Picard and Crusher."
Jean-Luc and Beverly stood and bowed. The Captain cleared his throat and willed his flushed skin to subside.
"We are honoured, thank you."
As they regained their seats waiters brought out large jugs filled with sparkling deep purple liquid. Beverly and Jean-Luc watched as the viscous fluid was slowly poured into huge goblets. Fendon stood and addressed his guests.
"It is the custom of the S'Run to end this particular ceremony by drinking all of the Xarr in your goblet. It will do you no harm, but it will enhance your act of sex. Enjoy, honoured guests."
It took some time to swallow all of the thick liquid, the taste intriguing both officers. With their mouths warm and tingling, Fendon took their hands.
"Farewell Captain, Doctor. I hope you return one day…or perhaps I might come to Earth. May your journeys be safe."
Both officers bowed and Jean-Luc said,
"I hope we can return one day Master Fendon and if you ever come to Earth I will personally escort you on your tour."
Fendon stepped back and Qon said quietly,
"Farewell my brother and sister. Fight well."
Jean-Luc tapped his badge.
"Enterprise two to beam up."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again on their ship, Jean-Luc stepped off the pad and turned to his lover.
"I want to file my report to Starfleet. You go to our quarters, I'll meet you there soon."
The Doctor smiled and nodded silently. Within minutes Jean-Luc was in his Ready Room engrossed in his work. Beverly, having arrived in their quarters, took a leisurely shower then, dressed in nothing but panties and T-shirt, seated herself at Jean-Luc's desk. She was idly filing her report when she became aware of feeling somewhat aroused. She shifted in her chair and frowned, endeavouring to keep her mind on her work, but the sensations continued to grow.
Jean-Luc absently rubbed the back of his neck and tried for the fourth time to concentrate on what he was doing. Images of a naked Beverly kept infiltrating his mind and he had an erection that wouldn't subside. With an exasperated snort he tabbed off the computer and pushed his chair back from the desk. Looking down at himself, he shook his head and growled softly.
"God woman…what have you done to me? I have no control."
He stood and walked stiffly into the bathroom where he splashed cold water onto his face. He was leaning forward, gripping the basin when a call came through.
"Crusher to Picard."
He looked up and closed his eyes; even the sound of her voice aroused him. He struggled to keep his voce even.
"Picard here."
"Are you alone Captain?"
He swallowed and took a steadying breath.
"Yes."
There was a moment's silence before she spoke again, the desperation clear in her voice.
"Jean-Luc come back to your quarters…now! I need you."
He flexed his jaw.
"I'm on my way."
He was only two steps away from the door when he realised he couldn't exit the Ready Room in his current physical state. He stood still, closed his eyes and concentrated fiercely. It was no use. His mind was filled with erotic images of Beverly serving to make matters worse. With an annoyed grunt, he doffed his tunic and held it in front of himself; by now so desperate to get to his lover he really didn't care who saw him. He walked briskly out of his inner sanctum and marched straight to the Turbolift, ignoring the officer on watch.
It took all his control not to run through the corridors.
Beverly was restlessly pacing in front of the desk when the doors suddenly sighed open and a very agitated Captain barrelled in. They stood motionless, staring at each other for several seconds before rushing into each other's arms and kissing passionately.
Jean-Luc pushed Beverly backwards until her behind met the desk. By the time she registered that, she had torn off Jean-Luc's vest and undershirt, exposing his chest to her hands and mouth. The Captain grabbed her shirt and dragged it up and over her head. His mouth descended to her breasts as her hands frantically wrestled with the closure of his trousers. Pulling back, he suddenly gripped her buttocks and lifted her onto the desk. With one broad arc of his arm, he swept all the items on the desktop onto the floor.
Beverly succeeded in undoing his pants and pushed them down, taking his erection in her hand and stroking him quickly. He growled hungrily and eased her back to lie cross the desk. While his mouth again attacked her breasts, his hands ripped her panties from her body. She arched up to him, biting his shoulder. He pushed her legs wider and brushed her hands away from his penis, taking it in his hand and guiding it into her with one hard stroke. Beverly cried out, her hands gripping his shoulders. Jean-Luc set a punishing rhythm as his hands kneaded her breasts.
The both felt their climaxes approaching rapidly and Jean-Luc quickened his thrusts but an astonishing thing occurred. They reached the point of fulfilment and stayed there, on the brink…teetering on the edge but not toppling over.
They both cried out in anguish and ecstasy as they hovered, so close but unable to achieve release. Jean-Luc leaned down and slowed his thrusts until he was sliding very slowly in and out of his lover. Beverly mewed and wrapped her legs around him, savouring the delicious sensations. He kissed her tenderly and nuzzled her neck as he continued to make love to her, their entire nervous systems converted into one super-sensitive erogenous zone. Everywhere they touched excited them, every kiss; every breath was laced with fire as his inexorable slow thrusts carried them back to the brink.
As the sensations escalated, Beverly's panting moans became continuous. With sweat running freely down their bodies, Jean-Luc rose up and placed his hands either side of Beverly's head. He looked down at her and gasped roughly,
"I love you."
Unable to reply, tears welled in her eyes as he began to thrust vigorously again. This time they travelled to the brink and fell over it. With their cries echoing around the cabin, they found physical and emotional nirvana.
Jean-Luc collapsed on his lover, their panting and soft moaning the only sounds in the otherwise silent quarters. After some minutes Jean-Luc lifted his head and kissed Beverly's brow.
"My God Beverly…that was…"
She smiled blearily up at him and nodded.
"Yes it was wasn't it?"
He pushed himself upright and pulled her up with him, enfolding her in his embrace. After some minutes of silence Beverly pulled back and lifted a trembling hand to caress his face.
"Do you think it was that drink Fendon gave us?"
Jean-Luc shrugged.
"Probably. He did say it would enhance our lovemaking."
Beverly chuckled and nuzzled his neck.
"Boy if ever there was an understatement…"
The Captain sighed as Beverly nibbled his earlobe.
"Do you know I had to walk through the ship with a raging hard on? It started in the Ready Room and the bloody thing wouldn't go away. All I could think about was you and doing that only increased my arousal. Good God Beverly…if I couldn't have you…"
The Doctor sighed and ran her fingers over his nipple making him shiver.
"I know, it was the same for me. I was filing my report and I suddenly became aware of being…horny. Very horny. All I wanted was you…immediately."
Jean-Luc chuckled and kissed her softly.
"Can you imagine what Will could do with that drink?"
Beverly laughed.
"Oh my Lord, Deanna would be in our debt forever."
The Captain eased back and slipped out of his lover. Beverly glanced down and grinned saucily at seeing him still semi hard. Her finger trailed down his length.
"Haven't had enough yet?"
He took her hands and encouraged her off the desk.
"Let's go have a shower and we'll see."
Their shower was protracted and highly erotic. They made it to their bed where they made love again. The last thing that crossed Jean-Luc's mind before oblivion took him was,
"Thank you Fendon."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day the couple had a rare shared day off. After a leisurely sleep in, they rose reluctantly and settled in for a late breakfast. Beverly was daintily eating a croissant when she offered,
"I've been talking to medical."
Jean-Luc's eyebrows rose and he tilted his head.
"Oh? What did they say?"
The Doctor sipped her coffee and waved her hand dismissively.
"The usual rigmarole but the bottom line is I'll be welcomed back. They're interested in letting me continue my research and…here's the juicy bit…the current head, Doctor Hovv J'Kul is rumoured to be after a posting to a Starship. Admiral Burran intimated that if he gets it, I'd be a shoe in for the position. And this time I'll be promoted."
Jean-Luc hands stilled.
"Promoted? To what?"
"Captain."
His face split into a rare full grin.
"Beverly that's marvellous! I can't think of anyone who deserves it more…congratulations."
She chuckled and winked at him.
"Yeah well I haven't got it yet so let's not count our chickens."
The Captain resumed eating.
"And what about your desire for…hands on medicine?"
Beverly smiled widely.
"No problem. I can have any case load I want."
Jean-Luc sighed with happiness and nodded.
"Excellent. You must be very happy."
"I am, but mostly I'm looking forward to settling down with you."
He smiled tenderly and sat forward.
"Actually I have some news on that front. I hand command to Will tomorrow and take my position as Admiral. Two days after that we're rendezvousing with the Hargraves for a lift back to Earth."
Beverly refilled their cups.
"The Hargraves? Who's the Captain?"
Jean-Luc's eyes twinkled.
"Stewart Bligh. Do you know he's a direct descendant of William Bligh?"
Seeing his obvious excitement over this titbit, Beverly frowned.
"William Bligh?"
His face animated with enthusiasm, Beverly hid her amusement.
"William Bligh was Captain of the HMS Bounty. He suffered a mutiny led by Fletcher Christian in seventeen eighty-nine. He and some loyal crew were set adrift and it was only through superior seamanship that they reached Java. Later in his life, in eighteen oh five he was appointed Governor of New South Wales in the fledgling colonial Australia. Eventually, in eighteen oh eight the people and government troops rebelled against his severe rule and arrested him, incarcerating him for two years. He was taken back to England…still under arrest but was exonerated and in time made Admiral. In all a wonderful life and a fascinating man."
The Doctor smiled and wiped her mouth with a serviette.
"Well let's hope his grand, grand, grand whatever he is keeps a lower profile."
Jean-Luc snickered.
"Indeed."

 

 

 

 

 

The change of command ceremony took place in the forward lounge. As Will assumed command, Jean-Luc personally added the fourth pip to his collar, taking it from his own uniform. Gripping the younger man's shoulder he said softly,
"It has been an honour Will. Do me and the Enterprise proud."
The big man straightened and nodded.
"Aye…Admiral."
Jean-Luc returned to his quarters to begin the arduous task of packing. Beverly had already made a start and he'd achieved a remarkable amount when she came home from her shift. He looked up, surprised when she disappeared into the bedroom without greeting him. She soon appeared with her hands behind her back.
He stood and closed the carton he'd been packing.
"What have you got there?"
She smiled enigmatically and produced a small box.
"Gregory Quinn gave me this with strict instructions to tell you…'it's about time'."
She opened the box and took out two gleaming Admiral's bars. She pinned them either side of his collar then stood back to admire him.
"Hmm, not bad."
He straightened and adopted his command visage.
"Aren't you supposed to salute or something?"
The Doctor sniggered and stepped up to him, sliding her hands up his chest to encircle his head.
"I'd prefer the something."
As she nuzzled him he growled softly.
"I think that can be arranged."
He picked her up and carried her into the bedroom. The next hour was lost to passion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three days later Jean-Luc was standing in the spacious guest quarters on the Hargraves. In his hands was the blue and white plaque from the wall outside his former quarters on the Enterprise. With a wistful sigh, he ran his fingers over the printing and shook his head.
"So many years…"
His unsettling introspection was broken by warm hands encircling his waist. Beverly's chin rested on his shoulder as she solemnly looked down on the plaque.
"Second thoughts?"
He smiled.
"No…no regrets either, just…nostalgia. This…", he raised the plaque, "signified who I was…what I was and for too many years to admit to, it was enough."
He turned in her embrace and tossed the sign onto the sofa.
"But then there was you."
The Doctor smiled, her blue eyes sparkling.
"And then?"
His smile widened into a grin.
"And then that…", he pointed at the plaque, "faded into insignificance beside my love for you. When you let me make love to you that first time on S'Runnin I was so happy…so awed by the reality of what we'd done, I feared my intensity would scare you away."
Kissing him softly, Beverly shook her head.
"Never Jean-Luc. It was just as profound for me…and in truth I always knew it would be. I had considered making love to you so many times…but it would never be just sex, it was always going to be something that touched our souls and I feared I would ever be ready for that. You, my darling Admiral, changed all that in one glorious night of passion and I've not been the same since. Thank you my love."
The kissed tenderly then parted to sit on the sofa. Beverly sat back and contented herself to watch him.
"Are all our possessions safely in storage?"
Jean-Luc smiled.
"Uh huh. I was down in the cargo bay this afternoon. Everything is there and ready to be transported to the house."
Beverly leaned her head back and closed her eyes.
"Good. Now we need furniture…I've got almost everything else we need in a storage facility in Canada. How long until you have to report for duty?"
Jean-Luc leaned back and encouraged her to settle against him.
"Two weeks. What about you?"
"The same. Well that should be long enough to settle in. Will command supply a ground car?"
Jean-Luc's voice was a deep quiet rumble.
"Hmm. I'll be having a transporter installed too."
Beverly chuckled.
"Ah the privileges of rank."
"Hmm."
They sat in companionable silence for several minutes before Jean-Luc stirred.
"Beverly?"
She adjusted her position and mewed.
"Hey come on…I want to talk to you."
Sighing, she sat up, but maintained contact with him. Smiling into his eyes, she tilted her head.
"What is it?"
He took her hand, frowning.
"Do you remember what you asked me to think about? What you requested I not reject out of hand?"
The Doctor took a deep breath, her smile fading.
"You mean the subject of having children?"
He nodded, the frown deepening. Beverly sighed and squeezed his hand.
"Jean-Luc don't worry over it, I never meant it to trouble you. I'll be perfectly happy with just the two of us."
He looked up and Beverly was shocked at the intensity of his hazel eyes.
"I've been thinking Beverly and I'm beginning to realise just how much I want to have children with you. Somehow you've awakened something buried so deep inside me I never knew it existed, but the more I think about it, the more appealing I find it."
She lifted her hand and tenderly caressed his face.
"You'll be a wonderful father."
He smiled ruefully and lowered his head.
"There's one thing though…and you can blame my traditional upbringing…again. If we're to have a child…or children…I want us to be married."
He lifted her hand and kissed it.
"Beverly, will you marry me?"
The Doctor swallowed, her eyes shadowed. Jean-Luc saw her expression and frowned.
"Beverly? What is it?"
She broke contact with him and stood, going to the viewports. Wrapping her arms around herself, she stared out at the passing stars. Jean-Luc rose and went to stand behind her, watching her refection in the clear aluminium. His voice was soft, but the Doctor heard his uncertainty.
"Beverly?"
She raised her eyes and addressed his reflection.
"Jean-Luc…I love you, you know that."
He nodded silently.
"And you know I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
He nodded again.
"Well why marriage? If we have children they will take your name, I have no objection to that, in fact I'm all for it. Why do you want to use marriage to formalise our relationship? There're other, less stringent ceremonies we could use."
Jean-Luc lowered his head and rubbed his brow. His voice reflected his confusion.
"Beverly you married Jack…I can only assume you, at one time in your life, accepted the institution of marriage. I want to marry you because of the commitment it implies, not the legality. My parents married and spent their lives together, very happily I might add. I want that for us."
Beverly turned and folded her arms.
"That wasn't because they were married Jean-Luc. They loved each other and chose to devote themselves to their relationship. Look, you're right that I did, a long time ago, believe in marriage, but I've changed over the years and I'm not so sure now. What concerns me now is hurting you."
He smiled and pursed his lips.
"I'm not hurt Beverly, just somewhat confused. Nevertheless I have a request, one that you asked of me recently."
Beverly smiled.
"And that is?"
His smile was crooked but sincere.
"Think about it…don't reject it out of hand."
The Doctor relaxed and held out her hand, her eyes filling with tears as he took it.
"Okay my love. Who knows I might just change my mind."
He took her in his arms and whispered in her ear,
"You'd be such a beautiful bride."
She sighed and rested her head on his shoulder.
"Perhaps."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It had been a hectic twelve days. After the three-week's journey aboard the Hargraves, the couple spent the following days setting up their new home. With engineers installing all manner of things underfoot, the couple went to bed each night exhausted and rose early to plunge back into the mayhem.
Finally, with two days to spare they were settled. All the work was done and their home was equipped and functioning. After dinner, they sat out on the balcony, enjoying a glass of wine. Beverly stretched out her legs and rested her feet on the railing.
"I got a communiqué from Medical this afternoon."
Jean-Luc sipped his Chablis and closed his eyes.
"Oh? What did they want?"
"They informed me that Hovv J'Kul has got her position on a Starship. I am now officially being considered for the head of Medical."
Jean-Luc's eyes snapped open and he grinned.
"Well, that's good news. When will you know?"
"Next week some time."
He grunted softly and snapped his fingers.
"I had a message too…from Will. He wants to throw a party next time they're back in this sector."
Beverly huffed.
"And what does he think that little…soiree was in the lounge before we left? That was real alcohol he served…my hangover was evidence of that."
Jean-Luc chuckled.
"Apparently by Riker standards that was merely a warm up."
Beverly sipped her wine and waved her hand.
"Whatever. When are they due back?"
The Admiral yawned.
"Six months. Their wedding is being arranged…my God I certainly don't envy Will…he'll have Lwaxana Troi as a mother-in-law!"
Beverly sniggered.
"There I told you…marriage gets you into trouble."
Jean-Luc sat up and placed his, then her glasses on the table and rose, pulling her to her feet.
"If there's any trouble to be had, I'll instigate it. Now let's go and make a baby."
Beverly chuckled.
"You know you can be awfully cute sometimes."
He raised his chin and stared imperiously.
"Cute? I have it on good authority that Admirals don't do cute."
Beverly kissed his nose but her expression sobered.
"Jean-Luc…about the baby thing…I'll probably need fertility treatment, it won't happen quickly."
His eyes softened and he nodded.
"I know."
Then he brightened.
"But that doesn't mean we can't practice."
The Doctor giggled and sighed.
"Okay not cute…how about endearing?"
He thought about that for a moment then nodded once.
"Very well, I can live with that."
Beverly nuzzled his neck and purred,
"I love you."
He kissed her temple and closed his eyes.
"I know."