A Hand In Fate.
Beverly Crusher, CMO of the Starship Enterprise sighed as she listened to her best friend and CO, Captain Jean-Luc Picard. He scowled down at his croissant, applying butter in short angry strokes. His obvious annoyance piqued her curiosity and, as she always did, she decided to do a little digging.
"So tell me…what's wrong with him? You're acting as if he's some sort of…monster."
The Captain's eyes lifted from his contemplation of his breakfast and he took a moment to settle his anger.
"Beverly look, I've heard things about him…unpleasant things. He's not the sort of officer I want on this ship, albeit even as a short stint as an observer."
Beverly sipped her coffee thoughtfully and chuckled.
"Admit it Jean-Luc, you don't want a Commodore looking over your shoulder in any event. What you resent is that Headquarters deemed it necessary to send an observer in the first place. I happen to have heard a few things about Desmond Harris and from what I can tell, he's quite an accomplished officer."
Shoving his plate to one side, Jean-Luc picked up his coffee and glared at his CMO.
"Well I've heard different."
The Doctor, warming to the task of baiting her best friend, leaned forward and cupped her chin in her hand.
"Have you ever served with him?"
The Captain sighed and shook his head.
"I've not had that pleasure, but friends of mine have informed me he is a tyrant…a stickler for rules, unbending on matters of protocol and rigid beyond the norm. I tell you Beverly he will be a disruptive influence on this ship."
Unused to hearing her Captain be so negative about any officer, especially a superior one, she decided to drop the subject. That was until Jean-Luc added one final comment.
"And he's quite the ladies man Beverly. You'd be well advised to stay away from him."
Now her own anger bubbled up. Looking directly into his eyes, she kept her voice soft.
"You wouldn't be trying to tell me I can't make up my own mind on this would you?"
Noting the soft timbre of her words and the hardness in her blue eyes, Jean-Luc held up his hands.
"All I'm doing is warning you. All right?"
Somewhat mollified, Beverly sat back and brushed some crumbs off her lap.
"Very well I will take your concerns under consideration. When is he due to come aboard?"
Jean-Luc stood and dropped his serviette on the table. Tugging down on his tunic, he stretched his neck slightly.
"This afternoon. The Endeavour will rendezvous with us and he will transfer then."
Seeing that breakfast was over, Beverly stood then, on an impulse, stepped up to her friend and rubbed his arm.
"Don't worry about me Jean-Luc. I'm a big girl…I can take care of myself."
He dredged up a smile and snorted when she gently punched his shoulder.
They left his quarters to begin their day.

 

 

Later that afternoon, in the inky blackness of space, two bright white starships held a close course together as the transfer of personnel was made. The Captain stood in the Transporter Room with his First Officer, silently mulling over his orders. Will Riker, the tall bearded Commander stood at his Captain's shoulder frowning as he cast a glance at his taciturn friend and CO.
"Captain Picard? We are receiving a request to beam our guest aboard."
Nodding curtly to the transporter operator his one word reply was tight.
"Energise."
The form coalesced on the pad to reveal a tall broad shouldered man of middle age. Dark haired and black of eyes, he stared down at his welcoming party, a small smile present on his square face. Jean-Luc stepped forward and offered his hand.
"Commodore Harris, welcome aboard."
The officer stepped off the pad and took the Captain's hand in a firm but brief handshake.
"Captain Picard…it is an…honour to meet you at long last. I've heard a lot about you."
His voice was emotionless and higher pitched than Jean-Luc expected. Not wanting to prolong the moment, he gestured to his companion.
"May I introduce you to my First Officer? Commander…"
" William Riker, I know. I've been looking forward to this Commander. Scuttlebutt has it you host a lively poker game."
Smiling at the Commodore, Will's eyes twinkled.
"Yes Sir I do. Perhaps you can join us one night."
Clapping his hand on Will's shoulder, Harris chuckled,
"Anyone so keen to get their hands on my credits deserves to be taken down a peg or two. You're on!"
Softly clearing his throat, Jean-Luc gained their attention.
"Number one please take Commodore Harris to his quarters, then return to the Bridge. I'll…
"Actually Captain I'd like to come up to the Bridge as soon as possible. I'll come up with the Commander."
Bowing his head slightly, Jean-Luc clenched his jaw.
"As you wish Commodore."
Nodding to both men, the Captain left and the two officers gathered the three bags from the Transporter pad.
Exiting the room, they traversed the corridors in silence until Harris asked,
"Your Captain…is he always so…tight?"
Will grinned broadly and shook his head.
"Oh no Sir. Captain Picard is a very reserved man but once you get to know him he's warm and friendly."
"Hmm. He seems to me to be rather stern. He calls you Number One? I haven't heard a Captain do that in years. Who does he think he is…Nelson?"
A slight frown graced Will's brow as he detected a note of derision in Harris' voice. Defending his Captain and friend, he kept his voice even.
"Actually Commodore I kind of like it. It makes me proud that he calls me that and the fact not many other Captain's call their First Officers by that particular moniker makes it even more…special."
There were a few moments of silence until they reached their destination. Just before Will opened the doors, Harris muttered,
"It still sounds like an affectation to me."
Nothing more was said as Will placed the bags in the main room. Not waiting for the usual tour of the quarters, the men hastened from the cabin and made their way to the Bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was seated in the command chair and nodded to Will as he took his seat at the Captain's right. Harris stood directly in front of the Captain, too close for Jean-Luc's comfort, and put his hands on his hips. Jean-Luc looked up at his guest and composed himself.
"Captain I would like to discuss the mission with you."
Jean-Luc turned to Will and asked,
"Please assemble the senior staff in the Observation Room. We will…"
Harris shook his head brusquely.
"Belay that Commander. I want to speak with you privately Captain."
Jean-Luc stared pointedly at the space on the floor between them and Harris snorted and took a step back. The Captain rose to his feet and gestured to the Ready Room.
"After you Commodore."
As the doors hissed closed, Will stroked his beard and sighed. It was going to be a long three weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc rounded his desk and stood as Harris went to the replicator.
"Can I get you anything Captain?"
"No thank you Sir."
Gaining a cup of coffee, the Commodore seated himself in front of the Captain and crossed his legs. Jean-Luc sat and waited.
"This is quite a ship Jean-Luc, I've never been on a Sovereign class before. Do you miss the 'D'?"
Relaxing slightly, the Captain found a small smile.
"There are times Commodore, but by and large I'm happy with this ship."
"So you should be, she's magnificent. I've gone over the service records of your senior staff and I have some questions."
Curious at the turn the conversation had taken, Jean-Luc raised his eyebrows and said,
"Of course Sir."
Harris sipped his coffee and took a large breath.
"Your CMO is Doctor Beverly Crusher. Was she not married to a Commander Jack Crusher?"
Frowning, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes that is so."
"Jack Crusher served with you on the Stargazer…he was your First Officer."
"Yes."
Another pause was affected as Harris again sipped his drink.
"He died under your command."
"Yes."
The Commodore placed his cup in its saucer and placed his hands on the desk.
"And yet we find that his widow serves with you on this ship…and the previous Enterprise. In fact she's been your CMO for twelve years. Don't you find that odd?"
Clasping his hands in front of him on the desk, Jean-Luc willed his anger into manageable portions.
"No Sir I do not. Where Doctor Crusher chooses to serve is her business."
Harris sat back and regarded the Captain with his hard black eyes. Sniffing softly he tilted his head.
"Come now Captain let's clear the air shall we? What is your relationship with the Doctor?"
His anger now towering, Jean-Luc gritted his teeth.
"Commodore my relationship with Doctor Crusher is, with respect Sir, none of your business."
Pursing his lips Harris shrugged.
"Very well. What about your First Officer and the Counsellor…Commander Deanna Troi? It's no secret they had a past relationship and indeed are in a relationship now. Is it normal on this ship for the Command staff to be intimate with each other?"
Wishing to wrap his hands around the man's neck, Jean-Luc instead rose and went to the replicator for a calming cup of tea. Harris waited as the Captain regained his seat and sipped his brew.
"Well Captain?"
Jean-Luc sighed and stared implacably at his superior.
"Sir I believe we came in here to discuss the mission. Perhaps we should do that?"
Harris picked up his now cool beverage and scowled at the contents.
"As you wish Captain. You have an android serving as Second Officer. Have it supply the latest updates and bring it in."
Frowning at the cavalier attitude displayed towards Commander Data, Jean-Luc raised his voice.
"Mr.Data please access all relevant information on Terath II and bring it to the Ready Room."
"Aye Captain."
Focussing his attention on his guest, Jean-Luc sighed.
"Commander Data's status as a fully sentient being has been enshrined in Starfleet law, in fact I was instrumental in making it so. Please refer to him by rank or name…not as 'it'."
Harris sat back and clasped his hands on his knee.
"Ah yes the hearing with the JAG officer…Captain Phillipa Louvois wasn't it? She was also the prosecuting officer in your court martial over the loss of the Stargazer. As I understand it, you had quite a fling with her. Tell me Captain, are you in the habit of using former lovers to settle your legal problems?"
With startling speed and grace, Jean-Luc rose to his feet. His outrage was plain on his face and his dark eyes glittered dangerously.
"Commodore Harris I must protest! You have no right…"
Harris held up a hand, a sardonic smile on his face.
"Calm down Jean-Luc! My apologies that may have been out of line. I'm sure as men of the world we have all done things we're not proud of. Let's forget it eh?"
Simmering with pent up anger; Jean-Luc sat and fisted his hands. The two men sat in silence until the chime rang.
"Come."
Data entered and stood at attention before his Captain.
"Report Data."
"Captain Picard I have amassed a substantial amount of information. Exactly how much do you want Sir?"
Finding a smile, Jean-Luc looked up at his subordinate.
"Only that which is pertinent Mr.Data."
The pale android hesitated only a moment before plunging into his discourse.
"Terath II is a class M world, one of eight planets in orbit around a dwarf white star. Studies taken by a variety of ships over a period of eighty-five standard years have shown a proto Bolian species. The inhabitants live a peaceful, structured life, attaining sophisticated tool use, complex language structures and a largely agrarian lifestyle. The last vessel to visit…the USS Trieste, was sent seven years ago and noted that the only inhabited land mass, the equatorial continental band, was in the grip of a severe drought. Investigations revealed that the outer of the three moons in orbit around the planet had been involved in a heavy collision with an asteroid, resulting in a subtle shift in its orbit, thus affecting the seasons on the planet. The Trieste noted that the population was suffering and requested assistance from Starfleet. It was decided that the Prime Directive should be invoked and that no assistance would be given."
Jean-Luc held up his hand, halting the verbose android.
"What of the other land masses Data? Do you think the inhabitants could emigrate to a kinder locale?"
"I do not think that would be viable captain. Due to the distance from their sun, the other land masses are quite inhospitable, and crop growing would be nigh impossible."
The Captain pursed his lips and sighed.
"Did Counsellor Troi leave any notes before she left for the symposium?"
Data nodded eagerly.
"Yes Captain."
With great forbearance, Jean-Luc sighed.
"Yes?"
"After consultation with the psychology department at Headquarters, she found that the Betazoid Counsellor on the Trieste was easily able to 'read' the population from orbit. He noted that the inhabitants were trying desperately to come up with solutions to their problems, including some remarkable engineering feats, albeit with wood, stone and metal, to channel water from distant sources, including underground. Counsellor Troi stated that these people were intelligent, resourceful and determined and that it would be a great pity if they were simply allowed to perish."
There was silence then as the three officers digested the information. Jean-Luc glanced at Harris only to see the hard look of resignation on his face. Not wishing to give up just yet, Jean-Luc said softly,
"And what do you think Mr.Data?"
Somewhat surprised by his Captain's question, Data shrugged.
"It matters not what I think Captain."
Shaking his head slowly, Jean-Luc continued in his soft deep voice.
"It matters to me Data. Are there any options?"
His pupils contracting, Data raised his eyebrows.
"I had devoted some…extraneous thought to the problem Captain."
"And?"
"Well Sir, in the interim it would be a simple matter to create, then seed some cloud, producing the required rain. In the long term we could put a weather regulator in orbit to sustain a viable weather pattern. It is also within our capabilities to rectify the lunar orbit, although that would take considerably more of our resources."
Harris slapped his hand down on the desk.
"Preposterous! This case hasn't altered in any way since it was first noted. The Prime Directive explicitly forbids us to interfere in any non-warp culture. This is a cut-and-dried situation!"
Ignoring his superior, Jean-Luc aimed his enquiry at Data.
"Tell me Data, what would the population make of the weather grid when they eventually found it?"
Data thought for a moment before allowing a small smile.
"Well Captain, presuming they would have achieved space travel by that stage, they may conclude that some benevolent, well-meaning people decided to give them aid at a crucial time in their history."
His voice soft, the Captain almost whispered,
"Yes I suppose they would."
Harris shook his head brusquely.
"Captain Picard! Please tell me you're not considering this…this…folly?"
Dragging his eyes to the incensed man, Jean-Luc sighed.
"Not really Commodore, but I must admit to being tempted. I…"
"Enough Picard! This discussion is closed and you Commander Data, are dismissed!"
When the android had left, Harris stood and leaned over the desk, once again invading Jean-Luc's personal space.
"I thought better of you Picard. That was a blatant display of flouting Starfleet policy in front of a junior officer and I am informing you that I intend to enter your indiscretion in my personal log."
Jean-Luc looked calmly up at the Commodore and said softly,
"So noted Sir."

 

 

 

 

 

 

The senior staff were in attendance for the briefing at oh eight hundred the next morning. Everyone was seated except Beverly and Commodore Harris. They eventually arrived five minutes late, Beverly earning a stern look from her Captain. The fact that the two had entered laughing, with the Commodore's arm draped across the Doctor's shoulders did little to alleviate the Captain's mood. Beverly had missed breakfast with him that morning, citing a medical emergency and he sorely missed starting his day in the gentle company of his best friend.
Beverly reddened slightly and sinuously disengaged the errant arm. Harris grinned wolfishly and winked as she took her seat, turning his head to face Jean-Luc.
"I'm sorry we're late Captain, I pulled a muscle in the gym this morning and the good Doctor was kind enough to see me in Sickbay."
With a forced smile at his superior, Jean-Luc bowed his head slightly then cleared his throat, bringing the meeting to order.
"I would hope, by now, that you have all brought yourselves up to speed on the situation on Terath II. It has been…recently reinforced that the Prime Directive will take precedence in this matter. To that end, I propose we…"
Beverly snorted and slapped her PADD down on the obsidian tabletop.
Effectively silenced, a tightly annoyed Captain turned his attention to his CMO.
"You have something you wish to say Doctor?"
"Captain we cannot simply turn our backs on these people! We're talking about three million beings…sentient, intelligent…blameless beings that will die a horrible, lingering death through no fault of their own! For God's sake…it would be tantamount to murder."
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and sighed.
"Doctor Crusher…I understand your…"
Beverly huffed and sat back in her seat, glaring at her best friend.
"I've spoken with Data and Geordi…what's so wrong with the weather grid idea? By the time they discovered it they would be on the cusp of space travel themselves! Where's the harm? I believe…"
Harris shook his head and barked,
"Is every officer on this ship so cavalier Captain? I see your example has infected your crew."
Turning to Beverly, Harris all but sneered.
"There will be no weather grid Doctor! Those people, as unfortunate as it is, will die and we will do nothing to stop it. This is a very large universe and in it all sorts of things happen, both tragic and miraculous. I would've thought Doctor, that with your training, you would more easily assimilate the concept of the randomness of life. In this matter you will follow my orders and…"
Jean-Luc's voice was deceptively soft, a sure sign of suppressed anger.
"Commodore may I remind you that you are aboard this ship as an observer. I am in command of the Enterprise and Doctor Crusher will obey my orders."
The Commodore's mouth snapped shut and he glared at the Captain. Squaring his shoulders and fisting his hands, he ground out,
"Very well Captain."
Jean-Luc took a large breath and regarded his assembled staff.
"Commander Riker what is our ETA at Terath?"
"Seventeen hours Sir."
Jean-Luc nodded decisively.
"Mr.Data, Geordi on our achieving orbit, I want you to continue your scans of the planet. I want to know just how much longer these people have. Will, initiate a theoretical scenario, one where a weather grid is put in orbit and extrapolate how long the computer estimates it will take the population…should they survive, to make it into space to find it. Then I want you to contact Headquarters and put it through to the Ready Room, I'll be there shortly."
He looked around the table, noting with satisfaction that his trusted officers were at their usual level of attention.
"If that is all? Dismissed. Doctor Crusher would you stay a moment please?"
The other officers filed out and Beverly had the good grace to bow her head, hiding behind the curtain if her vibrant red hair. When the room had emptied, Jean-Luc said gently,
"I missed you this morning."
He was greeted with silence.
"Why didn't you tell me you were treating the Commodore?"
Lifting her head and giving it a slight shake to settle her hair, the Doctor arched an eyebrow.
"I would've thought that was obvious."
Jean-Luc sighed and shook his own head. With a wry smile he asked,
"Did you think I'd be jealous?"
Beverly's eyes twinkled and her grin was mischievous.
"Are you?"
He leaned closer and gently grasped her hands.
"Would it matter if I said yes? Would it matter if I told you I didn't like seeing the way you two were together when you arrived for the briefing, that I didn't like the way your cheeks were flushed and your eyes were dancing?"
Her whispered plea went unheard.
"Don't Jean-Luc…"
"It matters to me Beverly…it matters a lot."
Freeing herself from his hands, the Doctor left him to stand at the viewport, her back to him. He slowly stepped up to her and she felt his warm breath on her neck as he spoke in his gentle baritone.
"If I told you it didn't hurt to see you with someone else it would be a lie. But for God's sake Beverly…not him. Please…not him."
She spun suddenly and he saw the anger in her eyes.
"Don't do this to me dammit! I will see whomever I damn well please and I'll do it without the guilt trip!"
She stalked past him and left the room, the doors sighing shut the only sound in the otherwise silent space. Jean-Luc turned and looked out at the stars, anger and heartache simmering just under his outwardly calm surface.

 

 

 

 

Beverly's arrival at Sickbay caused some alarm. She marched straight to her office, ignoring her staff, locked the door then promptly picked up and threw a stylus across the room. Slumping down into her chair, she propped her elbows on the desk and settled her head in her hands entwining her fingers in her hair.
"Damn him! Who the hell does he think he Is?!"
For ten minutes she raged silently not willing to admit the only reason she was so angry with Jean-Luc was because she loved him, something she had been denying for many years. She knew he loved her, had done for so many years, but she wouldn't give in to her feelings…not now, maybe not ever. Tears welled up and spilled down her cheeks, a sob hitching in her throat. Her door chime went unanswered the first two times it rang, but the third broke through her funk. Sitting up and wiping at her red eyes, she pushed her hair back and cleared her throat.
"Come in."
A disembodied voice came through the overhead speaker.
"It's locked."
"Oh! Hang on…"
The Doctor rose quickly and pressed the release, allowing the doors to slide open. She was shocked to be confronted by a concerned Commodore Harris. His eyes swept over her face, taking in her tearstained cheeks and red eyes. Tenderly he reached up and pushed an errant wisp of hair behind her ear.
"What is it Beverly?"
She turned and sought the safety of her chair, putting the desk between them and separating herself from his overpowering presence.
"It's nothing Commodore…I'm just a little emotional right now."
He came further into the room and sat, his black eyes never leaving her.
"Nonsense Beverly…something has upset you…or perhaps someone?"
Acquiring a tissue, Beverly delicately blew her nose and raised a small sigh. Before she could respond, Harris pressed on.
"What did he say to you to upset you so?"
Her heart thudded in her chest as she looked at the handsome man sitting in front of her. His voice, though unpleasantly high pitched, oozed concern and Beverly felt herself helplessly drawn to him.
"Really Commodore…it's…"
"It's Desmond Beverly and don't tell me it's nothing, I don't believe you. Now tell me…what did he say to you?"
Her fidgeting hands tore the tissue in half as she floundered for a reply.
"Look…Desmond…it's a long story. We have this…history…we go back a long way. Sometimes we get too close and…"
"And he's jealous."
Beverly didn't see the unpleasant grin on the man's face; her attention was on her wringing hands. If she had it would've given her cause for thought.
"Well my dear Doctor you're an adult and I believe you have the right to see whomever you wish…that is as long as you want to?"
Beverly looked up only to see resolute concern in his eyes. Nodding, she found a smile.
He reached across the desk and wrapped his hands around hers, stilling their restless dance.
"In that case…have dinner with me tonight."
Her refusal teetered on the tip of her tongue…she came so close to saying no…but he delivered the coup-de-grace.
"After all, I'm sure a feisty woman like you can make up her own mind in these matters…it's not as if you require permission."
Her face softened and her smile grew. A chuckle of wicked delight erupted from her lips and colour flushed her cheeks.
"Yes."
He quirked an eyebrow and tilted his head.
"Yes? To what?"
"Yes I'll have dinner with you."
He released her hands and sat back in his chair, a self-satisfied grin on his face.
"Excellent! I'll pick you up at nineteen thirty sharp. And Beverly…wear something…slinky."
Her eyes smouldered and the tip of her tongue darted out to wet her lips. Nodding her acquiescence, she sat back to watch him rise from his chair and leave her office. She retired to her private bathroom to wash her face and brush her hair. When she came out she was humming.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc waited patiently at his Ready Room desk and, although outwardly he appeared calm, inside a storm raged.
"Fuck! She can be so bloody pig headed! Why…oh why is it that the only emotion I seem to be able to inspire in her is anger? No good can come of this…she'll get hurt…shattered most likely and he'll drop her like a stone when he's finished with her. And once again I'll have to pick up the damn pieces. Fuck! What a cock up!"
His angry ruminations were cut short by a hail from the Bridge.
"Captain Picard I have Admiral Handorff on line for you."
"Thank you, I'll take it in here."
"Very good Sir, rerouting now."
Jean-Luc pressed the activator on his terminal and focussed his attention on the screen. The Starfleet logo gave way to reveal and old friend, Kurt Handorff.
"Hello Jean-Luc. How's our most illustrious Captain these days?"
A self-depreciating smile on his face, Jean-Luc chuckled.
"Hello Kurt, I'm fine. How's Emma?"
The greying man smiled softly and sat back, patting his ample girth.
"As you can plainly see, her strudel is still as good as always. She told me to tell you that you owe her a…Timmorian Rising Glimmer. Would you care to enlighten me?"
Reddening slightly, Jean-Luc cleared his throat and tried to cover his embarrassment.
"Unfortunately Kurt, Emma's memory is as sharp as ever. A TRG was the ultimate gadget every up and coming young male officer wanted. Emma found out about them and asked me to…acquire one for her. I believe she wanted it for you."
The Admiral frowned and blew out his ruddy cheeks.
"All right I can accept that…but what the hell is a TRG?"
Sighing and rubbing his hand over his face, Jean-Luc swallowed.
"It's a sex toy Kurt."
The older man's eyes widened and his mouth gaped.
"And Emma wanted one…for me?"
Stifling his laughter, the Captain managed,
"Well this was over thirty years ago Kurt. As I said, Emma has a very long memory."
Gathering his dignity, the Admiral straightened the PADDs in front of him and sniffed loudly.
"Yes…well. What can I do for you my friend?"
All levity gone, Jean-Luc's face became serious.
"Are you aware of our current mission?"
"Yes I am. You're investigating the situation on Terath II."
Jean-Luc sat back and clasped his hands on the desktop. Nodding, he frowned.
"And are you aware Admiral, of our observer?"
Kurt's face darkened, his mouth curling in distaste.
"Commodore Desmond Harris."
"Precisely. Admiral we have a problem here. Although on the surface this appears to be a simple matter of invoking the Prime Directive, I have been given some options…some solutions that are rapidly becoming somewhat…attractive."
Admiral Handorff sat forward and frowned deeply.
"Are you suggesting ignoring the Prime Directive?"
Jean-Luc sighed and watched his friend in silence for a few minutes, a ghost of a smile on his face.
"Are you willing to listen to what I have to say…and give me an unbiased hearing?"
It was the Admiral's turn to regard the Captain. With a determined nod, Handorff barked,
"Computer encrypt current transmission, level four. Authorisation Handorff delta two eight."
"Encrypted."
"All right Jean-Luc, let's hear it."
"Ostensibly we have two options with which we can save three million people. One is to re-align the errant moon. That would be difficult and time consuming. The other, and my personal recommendation, is to create, in the short term, rain for the planet and then, install an orbiting weather grid to initiate a regular weather pattern."
Handorff sat back and scratched his chin.
"Why Jean-Luc? Why are you willing to go out on a limb for these people? It's not as if we haven't been faced with this sort of sad situation before. I would be the last person to lecture you on the sanctity of the Prime Directive and why it is so imperative we uphold it."
The Captain sighed and ran a hand over his bald pate.
"Kurt these people are peaceful, intelligent, resourceful and determined. I believe in time they will make it into space if given the chance. If you were in their shoes and achieved that momentous leap, what would you think when you discovered an automated weather grid in orbit?"
The Admiral's eyebrows rose as he considered the question. Sighing, he began to see Jean-Luc's point.
"I suppose I would be gob smacked…then I would access the history files and probably make the connection between the end of the drought and the age of the grid. From that I would extrapolate that someone, somehow helped my planet during a time of great need."
Jean-Luc smiled and sighed.
"My thoughts exactly. Now do you think that scenario would irrevocably alter space or time?"
The Admiral snarled.
"You know I can't answer that! What if a survivor of that race went on to become the next Karl Noonien Singh or...?"
Jean-Luc held up his hand.
"Granted Admiral but by the same token what if, in their demise, we lose the next Einstein of our time? There is no logical answer to this conundrum. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't. All I'm asking is permission to try."
The Admiral sat back and loosened his fisted hands. Sighing he slowly blinked.
"If it were anyone but you I would reject this out of hand."
He shook his head and rubbed his face with his hands.
"Look, let me talk to a few people and I'll get back to you, but my friend, don't get your hopes up. This is quite a can of worms."
Jean-Luc smiled and nodded.
"Thank you Kurt. All I ask is a fair hearing. Picard out."
The Captain sat back, raised his arms above his head and stretched. Checking his terminal and finalising his work, he left the Ready Room and took his place on the Bridge.
"Well my dear Commodore…we shall see."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly leaned forward and squinted in the light of her bathroom mirror. Applying the mascara in deft even strokes, she blinked rapidly and stepped back to study her reflection.
"Hmm, not bad. Now just a touch of blusher…"
With her makeup finished she entered her bedroom and stood before the full-length mirror. Turning from side to side, she smoothed the lustrous blue material of her form-fitting evening dress and slid her hands over her flat stomach. Nodding with determined satisfaction, she glided into the living room and sat on the sofa to put on the matching blue sandals. Just as she settled the straps, the door annunciator sounded. Butterflies took to flight in her stomach and she sighed.
"Well it's now or never!"
Standing, she adopted a feminine pose and called softly,
"Come in."
The doors parted to reveal a vision of masculine urbanity. Harris was dressed in a black tuxedo, his snowy white shirt and black bow tie emphasising his height and strength. He stepped into Beverly's cabin and swept his eyes hungrily over her stunning form.
"Well Hot Shot…you scrub up nicely."
Beverly's eyebrow rose archly at the comment and she took a few sultry steps towards him.
"Hot Shot? Is that to be my nickname?"
As she came closer, he could smell her perfume. He lifted his head and looked down at her, a predatory smile on his face.
"Nicknames are usually earned. We'll have to wait and see."
Beverly stood in front of him and absently ran her finger up the lapel of his jacket.
"So…where are we going?"
He offered his arm and gestured to the door.
"Holodeck four. I've programmed something I think you'll like, at least I like it."
Smiling, Beverly and Harris left her quarters and walked slowly to their destination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a tired Captain that approached his quarters. He was just about to enter when an insistent voice stilled his feet.
"Captain! Captain Picard!"
He raised his head and frowned as a Lieutenant came jogging towards him. Before the young man could speak, Jean-Luc adopted his Command persona and grilled the youngster with a withering glare.
"Would you care to tell me why you felt the need to run through the corridors?"
Looking pointedly at the wall display, he emphasised his question by adding,
"There doesn't appear to be a red alert in progress."
Coming immediately to attention, the Lieutenant swallowed nervously.
"I'm sorry Captain. I asked the computer where you were and when I found you were approaching your quarters I wanted to catch you before you entered."
Jean-Luc sighed and relented.
"Very well Lieutenant…Paull isn't it?"
"Yes Sir, Adam Paull."
Doing his best to hide his tiredness, The Captain focussed his attention on the junior officer and attempted to appear interested.
"What can I do for you?"
The young man blushed and shifted his feet.
"Well Sir I…I…that is, well you…"
Jean-Luc closed his eyes briefly and folded his arms across his chest.
"Lieutenant take a big breath and calm down."
The flustered officer did as his Captain suggested and licked his lips.
"The thing is Captain…I write music. I also play the flute and I write music for that instrument. I was told you play a flute too and I thought…maybe…Captain Picard would you like to play along with me…try my new pieces?"
The gentle smile was slow emerging but the young man relaxed a little when he saw it. Jean-Luc's eyes twinkled as he replied,
"I would like that Lieutenant. Tomorrow morning send me your schedule and I will see if I can arrange some time to suit us both."
The look of gratitude that swept over Adam's face warmed the tired man. The grin was irrepressible as the officer nodded enthusiastically.
"Thank you Captain I'll look forward to it. Goodnight Sir."
Jean-Luc smiled and nodded, turning to his door. He stepped closer and the entrance opened, it was then he noticed the Lieutenant was still standing in the corridor, watching him. Casting a glance in his direction, Jean-Luc was sure he was standing a little taller. Still, the Captain was curious.
"Lieutenant…was there something else?"
With an embarrassed smile the young man shook his head.
"No Captain. I just wanted to see you safely into your quarters."
Suppressing the smile that threatened to break free, Jean-Luc made a show of looking around himself before again facing his protector.
"Everything seems to be in order Lieutenant. I think I can manage."
The grin grew impossibly wider as the obviously hero-struck youngster nodded.
"Yes Sir."
Sighing, Jean-Luc entered his quarters and the doors sighed closed. He walked to the viewports and lifted his head.
"Computer is there anyone standing outside my quarters?"
"Negative."
He sighed and shook his head.
"Thank God for small mercies."
With no interest in food, he wandered to the replicator and called up a cup of Earl Grey tea. Taking it to the low table, he sat in his favourite chair and toed off his boots, placing his feet on the table and resting his head back on the cushion, he allowed his eyes to drift closed. Keeping his eyes closed he raised his voice slightly.
"Computer where is Doctor Crusher?"
"Doctor Crusher is on Holodeck four."
The man sighed and frowned.
"Is she alone?"
"Negative."
"Who is she with?"
"Commodore Harris."
Jean-Luc scowled and sighed again.
"Damn!"
The dinner had been delightful. The locale was a romantic bistro on the banks of the Seine. They had dined sumptuously then danced under subdued lighting in the outdoor courtyard. As they strolled through the corridors, Beverly leaned on his shoulder, her arm resting in the crook of his. Silence followed them as the walked; the crewmembers they encountered were ignored. By silent agreement they went to Beverly's quarters and stopped at her door.
"I've had a lovely time tonight Desmond."
The tall man picked up her hand and softly kissed her palm.
"It need not be over."
Beverly smiled and tilted her head, her eyes twinkling.
"What did you have in mind?"
He leaned forward slowly and Beverly thought he was going to kiss her neck. Instead he whispered in her ear,
"Well we could have a nightcap and see what happens."
He was so close, the warmth of his body mixed with his aftershave, caused the red head to close her eyes. Turning her head, she placed a gentle kiss to his cheek.
"Maybe next time."
He straightened and looked down at her. She was startled to see a flicker of anger spark in his eyes but it was gone so quickly she had to ask herself if she really saw it. Schooling his face into a jovial visage, he grinned and winked.
"OK Hot Shot. I may be busy the next few days, how about we have dinner again the night after next?"
Beverly smiled and ran her hands up his chest.
"I'd like that, and this time I'll pick the restaurant."
His eyes locked on to hers and he lowered his head, their lips meeting in a soft kiss.
"You're on. Goodnight Hot Shot."
"Goodnight Desmond…and thank you."
He waited until she was in her quarters then he spun on his heel and marched to his cabin, his mouth a grim line, his eyes flat and hard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning found Jean-Luc, Will and Data bending over the science station at the back of the Bridge. The Captain sensed the person standing behind him; he also smelled his cloying aftershave. Straightening, the Captain turned.
"Commodore."
Harris nodded curtly then insinuated himself between the officers and looked at the information on the screen. It took several minutes, but Jean-Luc could see the anger building in the officer. Harris straightened and jabbed an accusing finger at the screen.
"What's the meaning of this?"
Jean-Luc kept his voice low, his tone even.
"That Commodore is the preliminary schematics for a theoretical weather grid for Terath II."
His high-pitched voice rose, taking on a whining quality.
"This is useless Picard! Why waste ship's resources on unnecessary and fatuous whims? I thought we'd settled this. There will be no weather grid Picard, as regrettable as it is we must let the population die…we have no choice!"
Drawing himself to attention, Jean-Luc said softly,
"Will you join me in the Ready Room please Commodore?"
Glaring at the Captain, Harris flexed his jaw and brusquely nodded. In icy silence the two men made their way to Jean-Luc's office. The second the doors sighed closed, Harris rounded on the Captain.
"Picard do you understand the chain of command? I explicitly ordered the invocation of the Prime Directive in this matter. What the hell are you pussy footing around with pie-in-the-sky schemes for when you already have your orders?"
Jean-Luc concentrated on keeping an even temper. He walked behind his desk and waited politely until his superior sat, then seated himself. Clasping his hands on the desktop, Jean-Luc took a large breath.
"Commodore last night I contacted Headquarters and spoke with Admiral Handorff. I explained the situation and asked him if our options could be considered in this case. His response was that he wished to discuss it further with others and he advised me he would get back to me. To that end, with no definitive order preventing it, I have proceeded to explore the efficacy of designing a weather grid."
Harris' face blanched making his black eyes even darker. In an outraged whisper he hissed,
"You went over my head? How dare you!"
The Captain stood his ground.
"Sir I am, as Captain of this ship, within my rights to seek clarification of any order that effectively impacts on three million people. This situation is too important to be arbitrarily ignored."
Seeing his words were having little effect, Jean-Luc sighed.
"I'm sorry Commodore…I had to."
Harris stood and walked stiffly to the model starship on the counter. His silence worried the Captain but he had no alternative but to wait. When he spoke, the Commodore's voice was stained.
"My Jean-Luc you have taken the moral high ground haven't you? Am I right in presuming Admiral Handorff is an old friend?"
Jean-Luc closed his eyes briefly and nodded.
"As a matter of fact, yes he is."
"Then I am to assume the people he will…discuss this with are also known to you?"
"I could not say Sir."
Harris turned and his dead black eyes bored into Jean-Luc.
"You could not say? Oh come now Captain…please no false modesty. We both know you have many powerful friends, both in Starfleet and on the Federation Council and please…don't tell me you're not above using them when you see fit."
About to protest, Jean-Luc rose to his feet. Harris held up a hand and shook his head.
"No don't bother Picard. You may think you've out manoeuvred me but I assure you I will have the last say in this!"
Closing his eyes, Jean-Luc sighed.
"Commodore can't you see that we are trying to prevent the wholesale destruction of an entire species? This is above politics, and certainly above egos. If you would only reconsider…"
Harris strode to the desk and pounded his fist angrily.
"That is enough Picard! You may think you can hoodwink me with flowery speeches but I know you! Somehow you've found a way to profit from this little game and I intend to find out exactly how."
The Commodore straightened and glared at Jean-Luc for a moment before stalking from the room. The Captain sat heavily and shook his head.
"Fatuous idiot!"

 

 

 

 

 

The next night Will, Beverly, Geordi and Data were in Will's quarters for their regular poker night. The mood was happy, all the officers relaxed and enjoying each other's company. The door chime came unexpectedly. Will turned his head, frowning slightly.
"Come on in."
The doors opened and Harris stepped in. Beverly frowned and flushed slightly, her reaction not lost on the Commodore.
"I'm not intruding am I? I heard there was a game on and decided you all needed a lesson in superior tactics."
Will grinned and got up to secure another seat. Placing it at the table, he gestured grandly.
"All right by me…if you're game, so are we."
Data supplied the newcomer with some chips and Will explained the game.
"Five card stud."
Harris made a show of rubbing his hands together and grinned at the players.
"Do your damnedest."
They played a few hands and quickly discovered Harris was utterly ruthless. His face was inscrutable, his manner brusque. Only between hands would he indulge in conversation, whilst he played, he was totally absorbed. After one particularly intense hand, in which all but Harris and Will had folded, Harris scowled and threw down his cards in disgust when Will successfully called his bluff.
"Damn you Commander! You'll pay for that!"
The players were startled and looked nervously at each other. Seeing their reaction, Harris slapped his hand loudly on the table and laughed heartily.
"Oh come on…lighten up! I was joking."
The smiles were a little slow in emerging but within minutes the incident was forgotten.
Beverly gathered the cards and began to shuffle. With a sly look, she muttered to Harris, who was seated beside her,
"I thought you said you'd be busy tonight?"
He lowered his head as his fingers slid from her knee to her thigh. The others were involved in a lively post mortem of the last hand and were unaware of the byplay.
"I said I may be busy. As it turned out I found myself free and asked the computer where you were."
The Doctor smiled and leaned closer to him.
"So are you here for the poker, or to be with me?"
His wandering hand squeezed the muscle of her upper thigh.
"I would've thought that was obvious. You left me in quite a state last night."
Beverly's delighted snicker caused the others to stop their conversation and look at her. Reddening, she cleared her throat and dealt the cards.
"Right! The game is Federation, kings and queens are wild and the sky's the limit."
Will chuckled and shook his head.
"You should be ashamed of yourself Beverly, taking the Captain's words so brazenly."
She grinned up at her friend and shook her head.
"Hey it worked for him!"
Harris stifled the scowl that threatened and kept his voice friendly.
"I wouldn't have thought the Captain was a card player. Does he join you often?"
Will studied his cards and said with some degree of awe,
"He's phenomenal! Best poker face I've ever come across and wily…Captain Picard is a consummate poker player."
Beverly's chuckle made Will scowl.
"The Captain has taken the good Commander to the cleaners on more than one occasion. In fact it's a pity he's not here tonight, Will's been far too successful for my liking."
Harris forced a smile and shook his head.
"Well I must say I'm surprised. Men like Captain Picard are often too repressed to interact with their crew."
Data looked up from his cards and tilted his head.
"The Captain is not repressed Commodore, he is simply a very private person. Over the years we, that is the Command Staff, have grown quite close to him He is a remarkable man and a superlative officer."
Harris stared coldly at the android then lowered his eyes to study his cards. Will broke the awkward silence that followed.
"Well I'm in for twenty. Anybody else?"
That hand and many others were played, the officers relaxing and enjoying themselves. Late in the evening, Geordi stretched and stifled a yawn.
"OK that's me for the night…I'm bushed."
He stood and waited while Data stood with him.
"I too must be going. I promised Lieutenant Brooks I would be available for consultation on her helm studies. She is on Gamma shift and will not be relieved until oh seven thirty."
Will looked up at his friends and smiled.
"OK, see you in the morning. Don't forget we have a briefing at eight."
The departing officers bid them goodnight and left. Will, Harris and Beverly filled their glasses and sat back in their chairs.
Harris sipped his drink then addressed Will.
"So what do you think about the current mission?"
Will's fingers slowly turned his glass as he contemplated the liquid. Keeping his head lowered his voice was soft.
"Commodore…I'm with the Captain on this one. We can't let three million people…"
"What!?" Spat the Commodore.
"And what of the Prime Directive? Are we to simply ignore it every time we're confronted by something that makes us uncomfortable?"
Beverly gently placed her hand on his forearm.
"Commodore we understand fully the ramifications of what we're proposing. It's just that these people have so much promise! Three million souls Commodore…can't you see...?"
He stood abruptly and scowled down at the other two.
"I am appalled! You…both of you took an oath to uphold Starfleet policy…what of that? What of your integrity?"
Beverly looked up at the angry man and said quietly,
"It's our integrity that has caused this conundrum. If we didn't care about what we do, we'd have no problem with it. Your displeasure is understandable Commodore, but I…we…sometimes have to make a stand and question the rules. We're not automatons, we're thinking, feeling Human beings with a mind of our own. The Captain's actions reflect this, and I, for one, say good on him."
His cold black eyes made her shudder involuntarily. Straightening his spine, he lifted his chin defiantly.
"Very well, I see that he has corrupted you both. Commander, Doctor."
He nodded to them both then walked stiffly from the room. Once the doors had closed Beverly sighed.
"He's as stubborn as Jean-Luc! No wonder they don't get along."
Will reached over and clasped her hands.
"Rumour has it you're seeing Harris socially. Do you think that's wise?"
Beverly snatched her hands back and glared at the big man.
"Now don't you start!"
His eyes wide, Will raised his hands in surrender.
"Whoa! Hey come on Beverly…I'm on your side."
The red head stood and fisted her hands on her hips. She snorted and glared icily down at her friend.
"Well mind your own bloody business then."
His mouth agape, still with his hands raised, Will could only nod.
"OK."
Taking pity on him, Beverly relaxed and lowered her head.
"Oh Will I'm sorry, it's just that Jean-Luc tried the same tactic and I did to him what I just did to you. I guess I don't take to being told how to run my private life."
Will stroked his beard and shook his head.
"Do tell?"
The Doctor walked around the table and patted his broad shoulder.
"Look…I promise to be careful, ok?"
He reached up and gripped her hand, then stood to face her.
"I would be a liar if I said I was happy, but I concede…it's your life. Just be on your guard Beverly…there's something about Harris…"
Will shrugged and found a smile.
Beverly tapped the tip of his nose and chuckled.
"Admit it Will, you're all pent up and tense because a certain Betazoid isn't on board. If Deanna was here you wouldn't be so…big brotherly."
He sighed and touched his forehead to hers.
"You're right of course. God I miss her."
"Well it's only two more weeks. Hang in there Will, she'll be home before you know it."
He stood back and grinned at his friend. Nodding, he walked her to the door.
"Thank you Beverly, and good night."
She left and Will took his time packing up the cards and chips, his mind mulling over the problem Harris presented.

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning Jean-Luc was seated at his dining table frowning at the rapidly cooling croissants. He sipped his coffee and was about to query the computer again when his door chimed.
"Come."
Beverly breezed in, her lab coat folded over her arm and her hair in an uncharacteristic ponytail. The flustered woman took her seat and cleared her throat softly.
"I'm sorry I'm late Jean-Luc."
In silence he rose gracefully and took the plate of now cold croissants to the recycler and disposed of them. His voice deep and controlled, he ordered some more and said nothing further as he brought the pastries to the table. Beverly watched him intently as he selected a croissant and tore it apart. He was reaching for the butter when she spoke.
"OK, what's up?"
He paused in his action and regarded her with innocence.
"I beg your pardon?"
The Doctor frowned and huffed.
"Come on…why the silent treatment?"
He raised his eyebrows and continued to butter his pastry.
"I wasn't aware that I…"
"Jean-Luc! For God's sake get off your high horse and just tell me why you're upset with me."
His face hardened and he made an effort to put his knife down gently.
"When you were late I asked the computer where you were."
Now Beverly's face showed the beginnings of anger.
"So you found I was in the gym with Desmond? What of it? What business is it of yours?"
Keeping himself calm with increasing difficulty, Jean-Luc picked up his knife and made a show of spreading raspberry jam on his croissant. He took the time to bite and chew, all the while cognizant of Beverly's irritation. After he swallowed, he picked up his coffee and paused with the cup half way to his mouth.
"I find it troubling that, despite my explicit warnings, you seek to establish a relationship of some sort with the Commodore."
Beverly closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. Sighing, she shook her head.
"Look we've been through this Jean-Luc. I thought we'd agreed that I'm old enough…and wise enough to run my own life."
His silence saddened her.
"Jean-Luc…not that it's any of your concern…this isn't anything of any significance! We're just enjoying each other's company, a dinner here, a poker game there and maybe a little early morning workout. Really, it's nothing."
He looked at her and his face softened. Of all the women he'd ever met, only this one could melt his heart with just so much as a glance. He summoned a brave smile and nodded.
"Very well Beverly I will say no more on the matter."
The breakfast proceeded, albeit a little quietly, until Jean-Luc asked,
"Have you been keeping up with the latest information on Terath?"
The Doctor refilled her cup and waited as the Captain proffered his too.
"Yes. Data says they have maybe eighteen months before their existence becomes unviable. The water sources are almost depleted and it won't be long before disease starts to ravage the population."
Blowing on his beverage, Jean-Luc sipped tentatively and closed his eyes briefly in appreciation.
"Have you compiled a report for the briefing?"
"Uh huh. It's pretty comprehensive…and compelling."
The Captain raised his eyes and looked at her speculatively.
"Are you prepared for Harris' condemnations?"
Beverly sat back and sighed.
"Yes. It's the one thing we don't see eye to eye on. Why is he so…unbending on this Jean-Luc? Why can't he see what we're trying to do?"
The Captain shrugged and put his now empty cup on its saucer.
"I've no idea. Sometimes it's a case of inferiority that brings out such rigid behaviour, as if giving in would be seen as losing face, but I don't think that's the case here. As far as I know, he's been a stickler for regulations his entire career. He's made quite a few enemies in the process too."
The Doctor wiped her mouth and placed the serviette on the table.
"Well hopefully he won't win this one. Have you contacted Command?"
Jean-Luc nodded, a small smile gracing his face.
"Uh huh."
"And who did you speak to?"
"Admiral Handorff."
"Kurt Handorff? My you did go for the big gun. What did he say?"
"He said he'll talk to a few people, at least he gave me a fair hearing. He did however tell me not to get my hopes up."
Jean-Luc stood and shook his head.
"God Beverly…if Command allows this…slaughter to take place…"
Beverly came to him hand gripped his shoulders.
"Don't even consider it Jean-Luc. We're doing everything we can, we just have to hope the powers that be show compassion…and common sense."
His eyes met hers and their breathing stilled. As always the repressed sexual tension between them sizzled to the surface and darkened their eyes. In an involuntary action, he leaned to her, his eyes half lidded. Caught in his mesmerising gaze, Beverly felt her heart flutter and a warmth fill the pit of her stomach. Abruptly releasing him, she stepped back and lowered her head.
"Well! We should be getting to the briefing."
He saw her reddened face and cursed his lapse. Clearing his throat, he slipped into his Captain's persona and gestured to the door.
"Yes, that would be wise. Wouldn't do to be late would it?"
Her forced chuckle made him wince but she didn't see it. They left his quarters together and soon arrived at the observation lounge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time Data, Geordi and Beverly had delivered their reports Harris was pounding the tabletop.
"This is pointless! What use are these irrelevant reports when it's obvious the planet should be left to its own devices?"
The Captain placed his hands palm down on the table and said softly,
"Commodore…please. Until we have orders from Command to the contrary, we will proceed with our plans to save the inhabitants. Data, Geordi, how long until we have an operating weather grid?"
Data cocked his head.
"I would envisage two more days Captain. We have to keep in mind that this grid will require periodic maintenance, however we will endeavour to construct a sturdy module, one that should withstand the rigours of space well."
Jean-Luc nodded and aimed his next query at Will.
"As for creating cloud and seeding it, will the deflector dish be required for prolonged use?"
The big man shook his head.
"No Sir. Meteorology informs me that it will take about three hours."
"Good. I've read the reports about the concentration of particles in orbit. I don't want any mishaps."
"No Captain. I think if we stay in our present geosynchronous orbit we should avoid any significant collisions."
Jean-Luc nodded curtly and looked around the table.
"If there's nothing else?"
Heads shook in unison and the Captain sighed.
"Very well, dismissed."
As the officers rose, Harris made a show of walking to Beverly's side and saying just loud enough for Jean-Luc to hear,
"I'll pick you up at nineteen thirty Hot Shot."
Blushing and studiously avoiding Jean-Luc's eyes, she nodded and walked briskly out of the room. Harris waited until he caught the Captain's eyes and grinned wolfishly, winking and deliberately licking his lips. With his legendary stoicism, Jean-Luc ignored the unpleasant display and left for the Bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

The Captain was seated in the Command chair when Data called him from the aft science station.
"Captain? We have the computer's extrapolation concerning the likelihood of the inhabitants making it into space."
Jean-Luc rose with his usual controlled grace and joined Data at the station.
"What is the estimate?"
Data straightened and looked down at the information, a frown on his pale face. His hesitancy intrigued the Captain.
"Data?"
"Sir this has been a very unusual request. The computer had many unknown variables to consider."
Jean-Luc sighed and studied the figures.
"You feel it's inaccurate?"
The android shook his head.
"No Sir I do not. I am simply warning you that this is an extrapolation, not a conclusion based on hard facts."
"I understand, go ahead."
"As far as we can estimate, the inhabitants will reach the level of technology necessary for space travel in approximately two hundred standard years. They already exhibit a remarkable grasp of engineering and science and have begun to refine high-grade metals. The sophistication of their designs points to intelligent and complex thinking, I do not think they will be constrained much longer…provided of course, they survive the current crisis."
Jean-Luc turned and gazed at the misty green planet lazily turning below them.
"Two hundred years. Not very long Mr.Data."
"No Sir. And if they survive, who can say what occurrences might accelerate their technology? They may be visited by a non-aligned space faring race willing to share technology…or they might be blighted by conflict. Earth history clearly shows quantum leaps forward in technology during times of war."
The Captain looked up at his Second officer and frowned.
"I for one hope that doesn't happen Data. Hopefully they will progress at a natural pace and find their way to the stars when they're ready…and not before."
The android regarded the thoughtful man and asked,
"So you are willing to go ahead with the weather grid? Despite Commodore Harris' objection?"
"Yes Data I am."
"But Captain…what of the Prime Directive?"
Jean-Luc sighed and shook his head.
"Data…rules…all rules are not meant to be irrevocable. As thinking autonomous beings, we must have the right to question rules when there is an obvious travesty in progress. To do otherwise would be unconscionable."
"I understand Captain, but are we truly autonomous? Does not our allegiance to Starfleet and its laws prevent us from being genuinely free to act in this way?"
The Captain looked deep into Data's golden eyes and smiled.
"No Data. We must always remember that Starfleet…indeed the Federation Council itself is made up of individuals, each with a mind of its own. The Prime Directive is our most important law…and I uphold it, but there are times when we must look at the broader picture. Tell me, do you think it's right to stand by and do nothing while three million people die needlessly?"
"No Sir I do not."
"Nor do I. Ultimately I will obey the orders of my superiors. If, in their wisdom, they decide we must allow this…disaster to take place, I will comply…knowing that I did all I could to prevent it. But if their orders are to save them, then we can proceed, knowing that a higher authority has agreed with us. It is an imperfect system Data, but it is the only one we have."
Data watched his CO intently, admiring how the Captain always stayed balanced in any seeming conflict. Nodding he sighed.
"And what of Commodore Harris Captain. Will he not be…obstructive if he feels he has lost control of this mission?"
Jean-Luc smiled and placed a warm hand on the android's shoulder.
"I will deal with him Data, don't worry."
The Captain returned to his seat and Data resumed his studies of the planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly had chosen a restaurant that was situated at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Again dressed in eveningwear, Harris was charming and attentive, his black eyes mostly on her face, but she caught him glancing at her décolletage more than once. Her emerald gown was skintight; a split ran up both sides exposing the length of her shapely dancer's legs and a tantalising amount of cleavage was offered by the plunging bodice. They dined, drank fine wines and danced and, at Beverly's request, returned to their table to enjoy a coffee. She was thinking about her escort when he tilted his head and smiled.
"What?"
Brought out of her reverie, Beverly smiled and sighed.
"You don't like the Captain do you?"
Harris sat back and fiddled with the teaspoon. A deep frown darkened his face and Beverly felt a chill slither down her spine as his black eyes glittered.
"To be absolutely honest…no I don't."
The Doctor sat up and asked softly,
"Why?"
Harris picked up his coffee, then changed his mind and put the cup back down. He wiped his mouth with the serviette and sighed.
"Does it matter? Is it important that you know? I know you two are close…are you sure you won't get upset?"
Now curious, Beverly nodded.
"I'm ok, tell me."
The Commodore placed his large hands on the table and levelled his gaze at her.
"Wolf 359."
Her gasp was heard over the soft background music. Beverly sat back and put her hand to her mouth.
"Oh God…don't tell me you blame him…please Desmond…"
Still his cold black eyes bored into hers.
"Oh I blame him all right. I lost a lot of dear friends to Picard. He…"
"It wasn't Jean-Luc dammit! It was Locutus! He had no say…he was tortured, mutilated…they took…"
Harris slapped the flat of his palm on the table, silencing the exasperated Doctor.
"It was Picard! He, and he alone, was instrumental in the destruction of the fleet and the deaths of over eleven thousand people! And now the sanctimonious bastard is quibbling over a planet of proto Bolians in the grip of a drought. That man is a monster and should be rotting in a dark cell somewhere where he can't hurt anyone else."
Beverly stood and threw down her serviette. Glaring at Harris, she straightened her spine and said coldly,
"Thank you for dinner. Goodnight."
He sat in icy stillness as she left, his anger just under the surface.

 

 

 

 

The incensed Doctor went straight to her quarters and paced angrily in front of the viewports. Kicking off her shoes, she was about to call Jean-Luc when her door chime sounded. She stopped her restless pacing and faced the door.
"Come in."
The open doors revealed Harris. He stood tall, his hands behind his back. Tilting his head, he kept his voice soft.
"I have come to apologise Beverly. I understand he is your friend and that your instinct is to defend him…I should not have vented my spleen. Would you accept a peace offering?"
He brought his hands into view and Beverly smiled at seeing a bouquet of pink long stemmed roses. She lowered her head and gestured with her hand.
"Come on in."
Harris stepped into the cabin, his smile growing. He placed the flowers on the low table and stood close in front of the Doctor, settling his hands on her bare shoulders.
"Am I forgiven?"
Beverly looked into his eyes and nodded.
"I suppose, but we really should talk about it Desmond. You're wrong about him and I…"
Harris lifted his hands and cradled her face.
"Shh."
His kiss was harder then Beverly expected and she drew back, licking her lips.
"Desmond I don't think…"
He sighed and took a step back. The slap to her face was sudden and explosive.
"You really are too full of yourself Hot Shot. If there's one thing I can't abide…it's a cock tease. You denied me once, you won't do that again…will you?"
Beverly's hand flew to her flaming cheek, shock registering on her face.
"How dare you!"
The second blow made her see stars.
"How dare I? You, my dear Doctor, will do as you are told!"
He grabbed her wrist and dragged her into the bedroom, roughly pushing her onto the bed.
"What you need Hot Shot is a real man…someone to teach you some manners. And don't think you can call for the cavalry. If you say anything about this, I'll contact some friends of mine that will make your dear Captain's life a living hell. You'd be surprised how many senior officers would like to pay him back for what he did…God knows the animal deserves it! And my little toy…I have some interesting news for you. I have a reliable source that tells me that the illustrious Jean-Luc Picard deliberately sent you loving husband into a no win situation to get rid of him so he could pursue the grieving widow himself…not only that, but I also have evidence that your dearly departed was implicated in the trafficking of under aged females for prostitution with the Orions. How about that Hot Shot? You keep your mouth shut and I'll keep your dirty secrets. I'm sure you son would be mortified to find his father was such a complete prick."
Tears sliding down her bruised face, Beverly's trembling voice was soft.
"You're lying."
"Am I? Are you willing to find out?"
He shrugged of his jacket and undid his tie, sliding it through his collar and unbuttoning is shirt.
"Women like you have a vastly overrated opinion of yourselves. You get a little power, find yourself a comfortable niche and you think you can push people around. Well I'm here to re-educate you…show you how a woman should behave."
He slipped off his shoes and socks then doffed his trousers. Beverly slid up the bed and cowered at the head. Harris climbed onto the bed and grabbed her ankles, dragging her down the bed. He gripped the bodice of her gown and tore it in two all the way to the hem. Outraged, Beverly raised her hands and slapped her assailant, only to have blows rain down on her face and chest. Undaunted, she fisted her hands and beat him about the head. He snarled and hit her hard in the head.
"Stop that or I'll really give it to you! Just relax Hot Shot and enjoy what I'm about to give you, believe me, it'll be the best you've ever had."
His hands tore her underwear off and he paused to leer at her nude body. He pushed his briefs down and covered her with his body, forcing himself inside her. Beverly pushed at his chest, attempted to bite him but he grabbed her hands and struck her with his forehead.
Dazed and in shock, through it all Beverly closed her eyes and gritted her teeth. She laid rigid and unyielding, tears sliding down her face. Finally, with a loud grunt, Harris spent himself and rolled off her. He rose up on an elbow and cruelly pinched her face with his rough hand.
"Not bad Hot Shot, but it could've been better. Next time don't be such a zombie."
He left the bed and slowly dressed. Beverly pulled the remnants of her dress over her and wiped her nose. He strode to the door and turned to leer at her.
"Now you remember Hot Shot. If you want your precious Captain to continue in Command of this bucket and your dear husband's good name to remain unsullied you'll keep your pretty mouth shut!"
He left and Beverly rolled onto her side, the tears flowing faster. She gasped when the hard hand gripped her shoulder and painfully rolled her over.
"And one more thing. I'll be seeing you tomorrow night. I want you in something tight and revealing. No underwear and I want you bare foot. And Hot Shot…if you don't want to be slapped around, do as you're told. It's all your fault you understand…I'm only doing what someone else should have done years ago."
He disappeared from view and Beverly remained lying stiffly on the bed. She heard the outer doors open and close and she slowly dragged a pillow closer and buried her face in it. It only just muffled her sobs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning Beverly put down the tissue regenerator and looked at herself in the mirror. Thanks to modern technology, no marks remained on her face from her assault of the previous night. She had cancelled her breakfast with the Captain and eschewed the meal herself, her stomach still knotted and churning. Noting that her hands were shaking, the Doctor left the bathroom and entered the living area. Searching through her med kit, she selected a vial and loaded a hypospray. With practised ease she injected herself with a very mild sedative then took a moment to gather herself. When she felt in control, she left for Sickbay.
It was late in the morning when Beverly heard the gentle knock at her office door. Looking up, her heart skipped a beat to see Jean-Luc smiling at her. As soon as he looked at her face he frowned.
"Beverly are you all right?"
He came into the room and sat opposite her, concern clouding his clear hazel eyes.
Summoning a warm smile, Beverly nodded.
"Yes of course."
He tilted his head, examining her.
"And breakfast? I hope you're not going to make a habit of cancelling on me. I missed you."
She managed a chuckle and reached for the now cold cup of chamomile tea on the desk. As her hand reached forward, her sleeve slid back a little. Jean-Luc's hand shot out and grabbed her hand.
"Beverly! How did this happen?"
The Doctor's eyes slid down to her arm to see a livid bruise. Inwardly cursing, she detached his hand and wrapped her other hand around her wrist.
"Oh that? I knocked it on the dresser this morning. I meant to fix it but I forgot."
Jean-Luc frowned at his best friend and sighed.
"You're holding out on me aren't you?"
Swallowing and trying to quell the queasiness rising in her stomach, Beverly asked,
"What?"
Jean-Luc sat back and folded his arms across his chest.
"You didn't get any sleep last night did you."
Steadying her breathing, she plastered a rueful grin on her face.
"Guilty Sir."
"Why didn't you call me? Occasional insomnia plagues both of us and we've always helped each other through it."
Unable to sit still any longer, Beverly quickly rose and went to the replicator, ordering herself another tea.
"Oh you have a lot on your plate at the moment Jean-Luc. I didn't want to disturb you."
He stood and stopped her regaining her seat. Taking the cup from her and placing it on the desk, he gently grasped her hands and looked deeply into her eyes.
"What is it Beverly? Why couldn't you sleep?"
She almost told him. With his soft eyes gazing into hers, her heart swelled and she teetered on the edge. She opened her mouth and took the necessary breath, when her head nurse, Alyssa Ogawa, appeared at her door.
"Doctor Crusher?"
The Captain immediately released her and took a step back. The spell broken, Beverly gave herself a mental shake and looked over his shoulder.
"Yes Alyssa?"
"The computer has completed its analysis. Shall I start the next sequence?"
Smiling apologetically at Jean-Luc, the Doctor stepped around him and replied,
"Yes get started, I'll be right there."
She half turned to the Captain and squeezed his hand.
"I'm fine Jean-Luc…really."
He watched as she left the office and couldn't help feeling she had just lied to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commodore Desmond Harris glowered at the screen of his computer. Alone in his quarters, he'd made sure the transmission was both encrypted and hidden from the usual alerts over unauthorised communications. He barred his teeth and sneered at the face on the screen.
"Don't tell me you don't know! That bastard Picard contacted Handorff and set in motion some sort of irrelevant debate over this piddling mission. The fact that the bloody snake- in-the-grass went over my head only makes me more determined to see him hung! Now I'm telling you…use every trick in the book, call in every favour…and find out what the decision will be. I need to know before he does."
The Captain on the screen sneered.
"And what if they side with Picard?"
"Then I'll have to take action here. Don't forget I outrank him. I'm sure I can find something, some flaw in his oh-so-shiny armour."
"What about his crew? From what I hear, they're pretty loyal."
Harris' grin was ugly. His flat black eyes gleamed and he shook his head.
"Ken my friend, I have an ace up my sleeve…I'll just have to be very careful as to when I play it."
"OK I'll do what I can. Will you contact me at the usual time?"
Nodding, the big man sat back and glanced at the chronometer.
"Yes. Look for me on another frequency though…the cretins on this ship monitor almost everything. I have to be very careful."
"Understood. Carmichael out."
Stretching his arms and clasping his hands behind his head, Harris looked up at the ceiling and sighed.
"I'll get you yet you bastard. I'll make you pay…I swear it."

 

 

 

 

 

Will was in the Command chair when the soft call came from behind him.
"Commander Riker, could you come here please?"
The tall man left his seat and strode to the aft section of the Bridge. Ensign Megan Hunt stood to attention and swallowed.
"What is it Ensign?"
Pointing to a display on the screen, she frowned.
"Sir I believe an unauthorised transmission has taken place."
Will's eyebrows rose and he studied the schematic.
"From where?"
Exasperated, the Ensign rubbed her brow.
"That's just it Sir, I don't know. See here…that spike? That's a disturbance in the EM band. Normally such a spike would be ignored…presumed to be a normal subspace occurrence, but this is focussed…you'll note that it doesn't vary. It's a transmission Sir, I'm sure of it, but it's been…jacketed some how. I don't know from where it originated or to where it was directed, but it definitely came from this ship."
Will scratched his cheek and sighed. Lifting his head he called,
"Commander LaForge, Commander Data to the Bridge."
He ignored the acknowledgements and smiled at the Ensign.
"Well done, this was a good pickup. We'll get the experts on it and I'll inform the Captain."
Flushing with pride, Megan turned back to her duties as Will strode to the Ready Room doors. He pressed the annunciator and waited.
"Come."
Jean-Luc was seated at his desk, a cup of tea nearby. He smiled at Will and gestured to the seat in front of him.
"What can I do for you Number One?"
Will turned the chair and straddled it, laying his arms across the back.
"We have a mystery Captain."
Jean-Luc sat forward and clasped his hands on the desktop.
"Really? What sort of a mystery?"
"Ensign Hunt just showed me what looks like a covert transmission emanating from this ship."
The Captain frowned and sniffed.
"I see. Do we know who?"
"No Sir, in fact we know very little."
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"By that I take it you don't know where it was directed."
"No Captain we don't. I've asked Geordi and Data to come to the Bridge…I'm hoping they can unravel the puzzle."
Rubbing his face with his hands, Jean-Luc sat back and sighed.
"Very well Will. Keep me informed."
"Aye Sir."
Just as the Commander approached the doors he stopped and turned to his CO.
"Captain what time are you due off duty?"
Jean-Luc looked up with a suspicious frown.
"Twenty thirty. Why?"
The big man shrugged.
"Why don't you consider knocking off a little earlier tonight? Get a decent rest? I will look after things here."
The stony face and the glare were menacing and Will swallowed convulsively. About to apologise, he was surprised to see the Captain's face relax and a small smile appear.
"If I acquiesce will you keep it between us?"
Will's grin was wide.
"You mean will I keep it from Beverly?"
Jean-Luc sighed and sat back.
"Yes. I've not been sleeping well, but I know she's also been blighted by insomnia lately. The last thing I want is to worry her."
The bearded man briefly considered calling his Captain a chicken, but one look at the tired man stilled his tongue.
"Fine by me Sir. Just be sure you eat a proper meal and get to bed early."
Jean-Luc's grin was sardonic.
"Cluck cluck Commander."
Will lowered his head and stifled the chuckle that lurked just beneath the surface. Jean-Luc's next word held a hint of amusement.
"Dismissed."

Data and Geordi were waiting for Will when he emerged onto the Bridge. Without preamble, he led the officers to the station. He brought up the display and gestured for Megan to be part of the discussion.
"We've just discovered what we think is a covert transmission from this ship. We don't know where it came from or where it went. I want answers and I want then fast."
There was a quiet chorus of "Yes Sir." And he left them to it.

 

 

 

 

 

It was evening and Beverly was seated on her sofa, nervously nibbling the skin of her thumb. When the door chimed she jumped, nausea rising quickly in her stomach.
"Computer, who is at my door?"
"Captain Jean-Luc Picard."
Sighing with relief, Beverly went to the door and pressed the release.
"Hello Jean-Luc."
The Captain smiled then frowned.
Beverly? Are you all right?"
Shaking her head and gently punching his shoulder, she snorted.
"We've been through this Jean-Luc. I'm fine, just a little tired."
He regarded her closely, not liking what he saw. Dark rings underscored her usually bright eyes, but they were dulled and wary. Her shoulders were stooped and her uniform hung from her svelte frame."
"Well you don't look fine. Perhaps you could do with some time off?"
Shaking her head she chuckled.
"Oh no you don't! If I'm off duty, who will keep an eye on you? You don't look so chipper yourself."
He chuckled and was about to ask if he could come in, when an unpleasantly high-pitched voice grated in his ears.
"Captain Picard…still up I see?"
Jean-Luc stiffened and suppressed the scowl of distaste.
"Good evening Commodore."
Harris stood beside the Captain, his black eyes sliding up and down Beverly's body. Anger sparked deep within his eyes but he quickly hid it. Turning his head, he asked,
"Are you coming in Jean-Luc?"
The Captain's eyes travelled to Beverly to see her gaze lowered and her face pale. Feeling anger and discomfort, he shook his head curtly.
"No I'm just on my way to my quarters. Good night Doctor…Commodore."
Harris stayed where he was and watched the Captain until he disappeared around the corner. He casually looked up and down the corridor and, seeing no one, roughly shoved Beverly inside her cabin. He stepped in and shoved her again, causing her to lose her balance and fall.
Standing over her he snarled,
"I see you are still in uniform! What did I tell you?"
Before she could respond he kicked her in the stomach. She curled up clutching her midriff as he circled around her kicked her again, this time in the back.
Beverly moaned and retched, writhing as he kicked her again. He suddenly bent down and gripped her hair, hauling her to her feet. He punched her face twice, then dragged her to the bedroom, flinging her onto the floor. Slightly panting, his wretched voice cut through her pain.
"Now you bitch! Get changed into something I'll like and be quick about it. You've got five minutes…and believe me my dear Hot Shot…you don't want to keep me waiting!"
He stalked out into the living room and Beverly could hear him ordering a scotch from the replicator. Using the bed for support, she staggered to her feet and wiped at the tears that clouded her vision. Her hand came away wet with both tears and blood. Lurching to her closet, she grabbed the first dress she felt and flung it on the bed. Her uniform came off slowly, the pain of her injuries hindering her movements. Sliding the dress over her head, she groaned as she managed to do the zip up. Remembering his order to be barefooted and without underwear, Beverly went to the bathroom to brush her hair, but was suddenly overcome with nausea. She only just made it to the toilet in time, vomiting and retching piteously. When she was once again in control of her body, she washed her face and mouth, studiously ignoring the mirror and, with eyes downcast, brushed her hair. She turned to her bedroom just as he called,
"Hurry up damn you!"
Beverly entered the living room, her eyes focussed on the floor. She heard his grunt of approval as he walked over to her and grabbed her bare arm in a cruel grip. He dragged her to the sofa and forced her to sit. He sat beside her and pinched her chin, lifting her head.
"Look at me!"
With one eye swollen and the other obscured by tears, Beverly bravely glared at her assailant. He snarled and kissed her, brutally forcing his tongue into her mouth. His halitosis and the aftertaste of the whisky almost made her gag. One of his hands gripped her breast in a painful caress, his fingers pinching the nipple. She gasped in pain and he increased his assault, leaving her mouth to bite her neck and shoulder.
"You like that Hot Shot? I knew it…all you needed was a real man."
He pushed her down onto the sofa and pushed up her dress, finding her without underwear. Roughly pushing his fingers inside her, he laughed when her breath hissed through her teeth.
"Oh yeah Hot Shot…you want it so bad don't you?"
He stood and opened his pants, pushing them and his briefs down to his thighs. As he covered her with his body and rudely pushed his erection inside her, he grabbed her battered face and kissed her so hard he split her lip. The taste of blood seemed to spur him on and he thrust into her savagely, making her sob into his mouth. Very quickly he reached his climax and grunted his release. He took a moment to regain his breath before climbing to his feet and pulling up his trousers. As he tucked himself in he snarled,
"For God's sake make yourself presentable. You look like someone's two dollar whore."
With shaking hands, Beverly pushed her dress down and drew herself up to a sitting position. Tears coursed down her face, but she remained silent, her eyes closed.
"That's better. Now I want something to eat, a good fuck always makes me hungry."
Rising unsteadily to her feet, the traumatised woman went to the replicator and stood there numbly. When he saw her inaction he growled,
"What are you waiting for?"
Her voice just audible, she asked,
"What do you want?"
There was a moment's silence while he thought.
"Roast beef, beans, roast potatoes, cabbage and gravy."
The order was delivered and when she turned, he was seated at the dining table. She placed the plate in front of him then suppled cutlery and condiments. About to move away, he grabbed her wrist.
"Oh no Hot Shot. I want you near by. Sit at my feet."
Humiliated and devastated, Beverly sank to the floor and tried to stop the falling tears. Her heart almost stopped when he muttered,
"After I eat and have a few drinks…if you're lucky maybe I'll fuck you again. We'll see."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although it was quite late, Jean-Luc was still up. He had taken his First
Officer's suggestion and left early from his shift but he'd had too much on his mind to relax. He did eat a reasonably good meal but then asked the computer to inform him when Beverly came off duty. Now he was back in his quarters, his mind still worried about his best friend. Restless, he went to his computer and called up Harris' service record. He couldn't put a finger on it, but something about the man disturbed him.
As he read he was surprised to find the Commodore had been present at Command during the battle of Wolf 359. Noting that he'd played an important part in the deployment of the fleet and the subsequent defence of Earth, Jean-Luc wondered why he was still a Commodore. The fleet had been so depleted of ranking officers, it was almost a given that all surviving officers went up in rank to fill the gaping holes.
He read the rest of the record, but by the time he finished, he was no further enlightened.
He tapped his combadge.
"Bridge this is Picard.
"Yes Captain."
"I want you to place a call to Admiral Alynna Nechayev, Starfleet Command. Put it through to my quarters when you have her."
"Aye Sir."
In all it took two and a half hours. He dozed at his desk and snapped awake when the call came through.
"Bridge to Captain Picard."
"Picard here."
"I have the Admiral Sir. Putting her through now."
He focussed on the screen of his computer, blinking away the sleep. The Starfleet logo suddenly disappeared and the face of the Admiral appeared.
"Captain Picard…what can I do for you?"
Jean-Luc smiled. As was typical of the abrupt woman, she cut straight through the amenities.
"There is something I want to know about a senior officer and I thought you might…be amenable to telling me."
Her smile was measured, although her eyes were speculative.
"And who might this senior officer be?"
Before he could answer she held up a small hand and shook her head.
"No Let me guess. Would it be Commodore Desmond Harris?"
"Jean-Luc lowered his head and smiled, his eyes showing his respect and amusement. Nodding he said,
"Correct of course. What can you tell me about him Admiral?"
The officer sat back and placed her hands on the desk.
"He is competent…obedient…his record shows satisfactory service."
Jean-Luc looked at her speculatively.
"And?"
Huffing, Alynna shook her head.
"To be honest Picard…and this is only a woman's point of view…I don't like him. I've heard things…nothing that could be proved, but sufficed it to say, he's not my idea of the perfect gentleman. And there's one other thing…he really hates you. When I found he was seconded to the Enterprise I was surprised…even more so when I found he'd requested it himself. Do you know what's going on?"
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"No, although his distaste for me is fairly obvious. Tell me, do you know of my request to Kurt Handorff?"
Her scowl would have frightened a lesser man.
"As a matter of fact I do. Hell Picard what are you trying to do? You've got the entire Admiralty AND the Federation Council scratching their heads over this. Is it really that important?"
The Captain's eyes glittered and he held his temper.
"Yes Admiral. When there's three million lives at stake…"
She held up her hand and sighed.
"Granted. I think some of us forget what it's like at the coalface. Is there anything else?"
"No Admiral, thank you for speaking with me."
The Admiral smiled and nodded.
" You're welcome…and Picard…take care of yourself. Nechayev out."
The screen reverted to the Starfleet logo and Jean-Luc sat back in his seat. Rubbing his face, he lifted his head.
"Computer where are Doctor Crusher and Commodore Harris?"
"Doctor Crusher and Commodore Harris are in the Doctor's quarters."
"Are they in the living room?"
"Negative. They are in the bedroom."
The Captain slammed his fist down on the desk.
"Merde!"

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly lay stiffly on the bed as Harris bit and sucked at the sin of her neck. Her dress was on the floor with his uniform and more bruises showed on her arms and breasts. He thrust hard and fast, biting her shoulder deeply when he came. He left her almost immediately and she heard the shower running as if from a great distance. Within minutes he was back in the bedroom covering her with the sheet.
"You're a mess Hot Shot. Make sure you take care of the marks before you go on duty tomorrow…wouldn't do to let anybody know would it?"
His laugh was harsh and it cut into her brain. He sat on the bed and gripped her face, turning it to face him.
"Now listen up Hot Shot. You've got tomorrow night free, I'll be busy. But I'll be back the night after so you be ready. Wear something nice…no underwear and no shoes…right? Remember you behave and I'll be nice. There's no need for me to have to knock you around…it's your own damn fault."
He got up from the bed and slowly dressed, humming to himself. He bent low and kissed her forehead before he left, tossing over his shoulder,
"I bet you can't wait 'til the night after next!"
The sound of the outer doors closing was Beverly's signal to race for the bathroom. She retched violently, bringing up little except bile. She dragged herself into the shower and slid to the floor, sobbing under the gentle spray.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc entered the Ready Room the next morning still tired and now he had a headache. He sat at his desk and worked for four hours, ignoring the pounding in his head. His computer chimed and he stabbed at the button, more to silence the irritating noise rather than answer the hail. He read and sighed.
"Picard To Lieutenant Paull."
"Paull here Sir."
"Lieutenant I have just been reminded of our meeting tonight. Unfortunately I will be busy. Can we re-schedule?"
There was a moment's silence.
"Of course Captain, I will resend my roster."
"Thank you Lieutenant, Picard out."
Jean-Luc sat back and rubbed his temples. Noting that the light was beginning to hurt his eyes, he sighed and slowly stood, allowing the pounding in his head to surge then recede before he left his office. Not stopping, he barked,
"You have the Bridge Number One, I'll be in Sickbay."
Will's reply was lost as the turbolift doors hissed closed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly's hands shook as she administered another dose of sedative. The second since she'd arrived in Sickbay, she also had to increase the dose. Under the newly healed bruises and cuts on her face, her head throbbed, the skin tender and tight. Makeup hid the delicate skin, its pinkish colour a dead giveaway to a trained eye. Her other injuries she left untreated. She didn't know why, but it was important to her to be able to see in the flesh what she'd gone through…what he'd done. Livid bruises, cuts and bites marked her arms, chest and breasts; she also suffered abrasions and cuts to more intimate parts of her body. She sat gingerly in her chair and tried to concentrate on her work when a call came from her head nurse.
"Ogawa to Crusher."
Taking a large breath and wincing at the pain it caused, Beverly replied.
"Crusher here."
"Doctor could you come out into Sickbay please? Captain Picard is here and he…"
Sighing, Beverly rose slowly and took a moment to steady herself.
"On my way."
As she approached the examination room, she could hear Jean-Luc grumbling.
"Really Lieutenant it's just a headache. If you'll just…"
Beverly stepped into the private room and quietly dismissed her nurse. In silence she took a medical tricorder and scanned the fidgeting man, noting the pain levels were quite high. Raising her eyes, she frowned at her best friend.
"How long have you had it?"
His voice was deep and rough.
"I woke up with the damn thing."
"And how long were you going to put up with it?"
He sniffed and absently rubbed his temple.
"I'm here aren't I?"
Beverly snapped the tricorder closed and looked into his eyes.
"It's stress Jean-Luc. I can fix it but it will return if you don't get some decent rest. How did you sleep last night?"
He lifted his hand and gently cupped her chin.
"I'll answer that if you will tell me how you slept last night."
Turning her head out of his grasp, Beverly fussed with the detachable module of her instrument.
"Jean-Luc…"
He reached for her again but she stepped back. His fingers caught in her collar, pulling it down slightly. His eyes widened when he saw the bruised bite mark.
"Beverly?"
Blushing, the Doctor pulled up her collar and moved to the tray of implements nearby. She picked up a hypospray, selected a vial and loaded it. She turned to her patient to find him frowning at her.
"Is he being rough with you?"
Her lips compressed into a thin line, she tugged down his collar and injected the analgesic.
"Beverly?"
In an uncharacteristic display, she abruptly threw the hypospray across the room.
"For God's sake mind you own bloody business!"
Shocked, angry and hurt, the Captain slid off the biobed and stepped past the seething Doctor. He got to the door and relented when he saw tears sliding down her face. In a soft voice he said,
"Beverly if you need someone…for anything…you know you can come to me."
Her silence saddened him. As he left his mind sifted through all the information he had on Desmond Harris. What he was concluding wasn't nice…in fact it was downright deadly.

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling much better, at least physically, Jean-Luc returned to the Bridge. His already dark mood worsened when he stepped out of the turbolift to find Harris in the Command chair. An embarrassed Will sat at his side and the Captain came to stand at attention before his superior. Taking his time, Harris casually checked the readouts before acknowledging the Captain's presence. His smile was unctuous.
"Captain Picard…I suppose you want your seat back?"
Keeping his anger in check, Jean-Luc said mildly,
"If you please Commodore."
Harris ran his hands over the arms of the chair and made a show of testing the padding with his behind.
"It's really quite comfortable Picard, I can understand why you spend so much time in it."
Saying nothing, Jean-Luc waited patiently. Out of the corner of his eye, the Captain could see Will's displeasure at this unseemly display.
Enjoying himself, Harris looked up at Jean-Luc and adopted a look of derision.
"I must say Captain, there are several areas where your crew are somewhat deficient in their duties. The latest round of drills was…slack to say the least. Beta shift in particular was sloppy. What have you to say about that?"
Jean-Luc adopted a parade rest stance and lifted his chin.
"Commodore since the Dominion war, the Enterprise has had a huge turnover of junior staff. Starfleet needs to rebuild the fleet and our ship is used as a melting pot…a measure of how these junior officers cope with their duties in deep space. If we…"
Harris held up his hand and shook his head. His grating voice took on a whining quality.
"My dear Captain please! Do you think me a fool? What, pray tell, would these fledglings do if you were attacked by say…the Borg?"
His cold black eyes bored into the Captain, the Commodore hoping…indeed wishing that the mention of the Captain's nemesis would evoke a reaction. Jean-Luc however was not going to give him the satisfaction. Keeping his face neutral and his voice level, the Captain replied,
"I would expect they would do their duty Commodore, as would all the officers on this ship."
His voice rising, Harris said snidely,
"Tell me Captain…did you do your duty…as Locutus?"
Will sprang to his feet and growled,
"With all due respect Sir, that is way out of line! Captain Picard…"
Jean-Luc lowered his head, swallowed and raised his hand.
"Number One please sit down. Commodore has this got anything to do with our current mission?"
Harris shook his head curtly.
"Then may I suggest Sir, with respect, you let me get on with commanding my ship."
Harris stood slowly and glared down at the implacable Captain.
"Very well Picard, the Bridge is yours."
The stymied man strode stiffly to the lift and disappeared. Jean-Luc sighed and sat down, his First Officer still outraged.
"What the hell did he think he was doing? For God's sake…launching a personal attack on you on your own damned Bridge! I've a mind to…"
Jean-Luc absently patted the incensed man's forearm.
"Let it go Number One…he's not worth the effort."
Both men settled into silence for a while before Will said quietly,
"Are you all right Captain?"
Jean-Luc sighed and nodded.
"I'm fine Will, thank you. I'll…"
Data's soft voice drifted down from behind them.
"Captain could you come here please?"
Jean-Luc turned to see Data behind him at the Science Station. Rising, he joined his Second Officer.
"What is it Data?"
"I believe we have narrowed the search for the covert transmission. It appears to have originated from deck twelve, section eight. Whoever sent it, jacketed the stream in a random pulsing sub space plexor. It will take some time to disentangle the body of the message Captain, but I believe it is possible."
Jean-Luc rubbed his lower lip as he digested the information.
"Are we monitoring all frequencies?"
Data brought up another screen.
"Yes Sir. As you can see, some frequencies are easier to watch than others. However I feel confident we will know if another transmission takes place."
Jean-Luc smiled at the android and gripped his shoulder.
"Very good Data. Keep me posted."

 

 

 

 

 

That evening Harris was standing in the shadows of a small observation room on deck nine. His enquiries to the computer had confirmed the section of the ship he was in was sparsely populated at this time of night. With a quiet command he locked the doors then sat at the table and activated a PADD.
"Computer access personal PADD at station twelve."
"Accessed."
"Computer select a random fluctuating frequency for transmission of encrypted message, level four. Jacket transmission in a neutrino stream and focus strength at level nine point six."
"Warning! Such strength, in conjunction with jacketed neutrino stream will render the transmission unstable. Suggest reconfigure to…"
"Negative! Proceed with original instructions."
The computer sounded its musical chirps as it complied. Several seconds later it responded.
"Ready."
Looking down at his PADD, Harris waited only a moment before he pressed the send key. Knowing he didn't have to respond to the reply, and also cognizant that said reply would take several hours to arrive, he stood and looked out of the viewport. In a soft voice he said,
"Computer route reply to my quarters then delete all evidence of transmissions, authorization Harris Gamma Delta two five."
The answering chimes made him smile. Tapping the PADD against his thigh he walked to the doors.
"Computer unlock observation room doors."
The doors sighed open and he strode out, his course set, a determined glint in his eyes. He ignored the few crewmembers he passed, entering the turbolift and stating his destination. The ride was short one and he left the lift, soon finding himself at Will's quarters. Pressing the chime, he absently erased what was on the PADD he held and was calling up some new information when Will answered his door.
"Good evening Commander, may I come in?"
Will suppressed his displeasure at seeing this particular man and stood back, nodding his head.
"Of course Commodore, come on in."
Harris ambled in and stood with an unpleasant smile on his face when he saw the holograph of three beautiful women paused in the process of playing musical instruments. Pointing at the display, he winked at the Commander.
"Pretty aren't they? What's the matter Will…feeling lonely?"
His voice hard, Will barked,
"Computer end holograph!"
The images winked into nothingness and Harris sighed. He turned to Will and cocked his head.
"I take it you disapprove of me."
Will said nothing, maintaining a formal silence.
"Pity really. I thought we'd established some sort of rapport over the poker night. Let me guess…you don't like my attitude towards your Captain?"
Standing at his full height, Will was at eye level with the Commodore.
"To be honest Sir…no I don't."
Harris arrogantly strolled around Will's quarters, disdainfully inspecting the curios Will kept on display. Irritated, the Commander asked,
"What can I do for you Sir?"
Ignoring the question Harris stopped by the viewport and spent some moments gazing out at the planet below. Sighing, he slowly turned and looked at Will.
"What would you say if I told you that I felt Captain Picard was no longer fit to command this ship?"
Will's eyes widened and his jaw clenched.
"I would say Commodore that you were completely and utterly wrong!"
Harris sighed again and clasped his hands behind his back.
"I'm not the only one who feels this way Will. Since the incident where the Borg tried to go back in time and assimilate Earth, we've been having serious doubts about Picard."
Will's disgust bubbled to the surface.
"That is absurd! Captain Picard saved Earth. He…"
The Commodore smiled ingratiatingly and held up his hand.
"What he did, was to disobey a direct order to keep out of it! And to add to his flagrant disregard for orders, we find he's still connected to the collective. By his own admission he heard the Borg! Now here I am on this vessel only to find he's at it again. Refusing a righteous order from a superior officer, disregarding the chain of command and blatantly ignoring the rightful protest of the ranking officer aboard. How would you view his actions Commander…in the strictest sense?"
Flustered, Will balled his fists.
"It's not like that Commodore…you weren't there! If Captain Picard hadn't…"
Harris crossed his arms over his chest and rocked back on his heels.
"Enough Commander. Look I know you're loyal to him…you've been through a lot, but he's at the end of his rope. If he continues with this hair-brain scheme to save those people I will relieve him of command. And Commander I will expect your support."
He abruptly walked towards the door but stopped just before they opened.
"One more thing Commander. If you say anything to him…if you say so much as one word of what we've discussed, I'll demote you and have you off this bucket quicker than you can blink. Understood?"
Mute with outrage Will could only nod. Harris left and he slumped into a chair.
"Fuck!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lieutenant Paull was frowning over his notations, pencil poised, flute resting across his thighs. Raising his hand, he was about to make a correction when his door chimed. Absently, he sighed and called out,
"Come in."
His eyes stayed glued to the sheet music and he gestured with his free hand.
"Steve won't be back until tomorrow, he's on delta shift. Leave the stuff on the table."
The softly cleared throat made him freeze. Turning his head slowly, he was shocked to see his Captain standing just inside the door. With alacrity Adam left his seat, knocking over the stand and depositing his flute on the carpeted floor. The sheet music fluttered prettily down and landed haphazardly.
"Captain!"
Holding up his hand and smiling softly, Jean-Luc sighed.
"At ease Lieutenant. I'm sorry to interrupt you, I found myself at a rather rare loose end and I noted that you had some free time. I thought perhaps we might..?"
He lifted his left hand and Adam was interested to see a small metallic instrument. Relaxing and finding his own smile, Adam looked sheepishly at the mess on the floor.
Sighing, his twinkling eyes made Jean-Luc grin.
"I really must perfect coming to attention from a seated position without causing such…mayhem. Sir."
The Captain walked over to the Lieutenant and joined him in contemplating the disarray.
"Well it's long been my experience that a job halved is a job quickly finished. Shall we?"
Grinning, Adam nodded and together the two men straightened up.
Jean-Luc held some sheets in his hand, studying them.
"You actually write the music…by hand?"
Adam Sighed, shrugging his shoulders.
"Yes Sir. I tried using a PADD, but somehow it seems to help if I do it long hand."
Adam spent some time sorting his music, but hesitated when it came time to show his CO. Understanding his officer's insecurity, Jean-Luc gestured to the sofa.
The officers sat and the Captain took the sheets, studying them closely. Adam held his breath, silently praying that his Captain would like what he'd written. As he surreptitiously watched Jean-Luc, his eyes drifted to the instrument he still held in his hand. It was a flute, albeit a small one, and different to any he'd seen before. He remained silent until Jean-Luc looked up and smiled.
"This is very intricate Lieutenant, I think the melodies will be harmonic and the coda should be satisfying."
Beaming with relief, Adam pointed to the Captain's flute.
"Sir…your instrument…I've never seen a flute like it."
Jean-Luc held up the instrument and smiled.
"No I don't suppose you have. It comes from a very old civilisation…one no longer in existence. It was called Kataan."
Adam frowned and sighed.
"Captain…my music was written for a conventional flute. Will you be able to convert it to suit your instrument?"
Nodding and with a smile gracing his handsome face, Jean-Luc replied,
"Oh yes. I've become quite adept at converting music. You must realise there's no music written for this."
He held up his flute and Adam could plainly see how much the instrument meant to him. The Lieutenant rose and retrieved the stand, lowering it so both of them could see it while seated. He opened the music sheets and picked up his pencil.
"Sir…see here…this movement? I was thinking it would sound better like this."
With a few deft stokes, Adam altered the notes then picked up his flute. Closing his eyes, he played what he'd just written. Jean-Luc tilted his head and said softly,
"Again Lieutenant…play it again."
Adam repeated his movements and was delighted when the smooth sound of the Captain's flute joined him. They finished together and Jean-Luc gestured for him to continue. As Adam played, Jean-Luc accompanied him, the lighter tone of his instrument complimenting the rich sound of Adam's flute. The end took them to a peaceful silence, broken by Jean-Luc's sigh.
"Wonderful Adam, simply wonderful."
Adam glowed both from the praise and the use of his given name.
"Thank you Captain. I think we can improve it though…don't you?"
Smiling, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes and I will eagerly accompany you one condition…actually two conditions."
Curious, Adam asked,
"Sir? What would they be?"
"One, that we record the final outcome. And two…we perform it for those who may like to hear it."
Adam frowned.
"Perform Sir? I really don't think…that is I…I…"
Raising his eyebrows, Jean-Luc peered closely at the young man.
"You have a problem with performing?"
The Lieutenant sighed and stared at his flute.
"It's ok if I'm in a large group of musicians, but on my own or at least with the spotlight on me…I'm useless…I clam up."
The Captain sighed with sympathy.
"While I'm not all that keen on performing myself, I do believe, however, your work is too good to be kept hidden. How about we make a deal? If I can overcome my natural tendency to not make a spectacle of myself, will you give it a go? Will you give others the opportunity to hear your work?"
Looking frankly at his CO, the resolute determination and respect showing in the older man's face tipped the balance. With a small smile Adam shrugged his shoulders.
"OK Captain, you're on."
They spent the next two hours amending and practising, the Captain eventually returning to his quarters more relaxed than he had been in weeks. That night he slept reasonably well.

 

 

 

 

Harris was asleep when the computer chimed. He awoke immediately, rising from his bed and entering the living area, seating himself at his desk. He activated the terminal and stared intently at the screen. It flickered and rolled before a grainy image appeared.
"Carmichael, have you got anything for me?"
The image of the younger man nodded. His voice was slightly distorted but came through loud and clear.
"Yes Commodore. They agree with him. Handorff will be contacting him via sub space tomorrow afternoon. He has to wait for final ratification from the Council, but it's all but a given. Picard will get his consent."
Slamming his fist down on the desk, Harris muttered,
"Shit! God that prick just keeps on gathering kudos doesn't he? Now it seems he's the saviour of Terath II. It wouldn't surprise me if he didn't put his name on the fucking grid so the future generations will know what he did. Egotistical bastard!"
The answering chuckle was cold.
"Tell me about it! Do you know there were virtually no objections to his bloody proposal? It would seem he's inveigled himself into the minds of both Command AND the Council."
Harris stared hard at the screen.
"Well hopefully not for much longer. It's about time someone exposed him for the traitor he is…and I intend to be that person."
"Good on you Commodore…we're all behind you."
Harris nodded and sighed.
"This will be the last transmission Carmichael. When the shit hits the fan I'll be busy…I'll contact you when it's over and I'm in Command."
"Understood Sir. Carmichael out."
The screen blanked then reverted to the Starfleet logo. Harris sat back and licked his dry lips, feeling his arousal growing. He stood abruptly and went to his bedroom, donning a robe. He then left his quarters and, ascertaining his privacy, made his way to Beverly's cabin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Doctor slept restlessly and the chime woke her with a start. Her heart pounding, she slipped on her robe and crept tentatively to the door. Her voice trembling she called softly,
"Who is it?"
Harris grinned cruelly and feathered his fingers over the door activator.
"It's me Hot Shot. Let me in…now."
Tears welled in Beverly's eyes as she backed towards the viewport.
"It's very late…I was asleep…"
His voice was high and hard.
"So was I until I got a certain urge. Now open the bloody door or I'll make you wish you'd never been born!"
Beverly ignored the tears that slid down her face. She swallowed and cowered behind the sofa.
"Come in."
Harris strode into her quarters, frowning when he didn't immediately see his quarry. Smiling wickedly, he walked slowly around the room, his cold black eyes searching restlessly.
Beverly saw his shadow approach and sank back against the wall, closing her eyes. When the cruel hand gripped her arm, she cried out in pain and fear. Whistling tunelessly, Harris hauled the Doctor to her feet and shook her violently. Keeping his unpleasant voice at a conversational level, he asked,
"What were you doing Hot Shot? I do hope you weren't hiding from me."
Her frightened blue eyes opened and she gasped,
"Please…please don't hurt me…"
Gripping her arm hard, Harris feigned looking around her quarters before suddenly punching her in the face. Her head snapped back and blood ran freely from a split lip.
"Don't hurt you? Hot Shot I'm beginning to think you don't listen to me. What did I say about doing what you're told?"
He punched her again and she sagged in his grip. He shook her and slapped her face.
No you don't Doctor! Stay with me now…I have already explained to you what happens if you disobey me, and here I find you won't let me in straight away and then you hide from me! What did you expect? Hmm?"
Beverly opened her dazed eyes and stared at her attacker. Blood, tears and mucous trailed down her face and Harris snorted.
"What a mess! Go and clean yourself up. I'll wait for you in bed."
He let her go and strode to the bedroom. Beverly swayed on her feet then staggered after him. She saw him undressing and stifled a sob as she entered the bathroom. Avoiding looking in the mirror, she washed her face and gingerly patted the damaged tissue dry. She wanted to hide there in the bathroom but knew what that would bring. With more courage than she believed she possessed, she entered the bedroom, head down and eyes focussed on the floor. She sensed rather than saw his approach and she flinched when his hands gripped her nightie and pulled it up and over her head. He roughly tugged her panties down then stood back admiring his victim.
"I heard you are a dancer Hot Shot. Dance for me!"
His harsh words cut through her terror. In complete confusion she lifted her head and looked at him with one functioning eye.
"What?"
Sighing, Harris snapped his fingers.
"Come on don't act dumb! Dance you stupid bitch…show me some sexy moves."
When she remained motionless, he moved closer, his rotten breath washing over her face.
"What is it Hot Shot? Do you want some encouragement?"
He raised his fist and Beverly cowered. Harris laughed and lazily slapped her head.
"Now stupid…dance."
Beverly slowly straightened and swallowed. Hesitating at first, she started to sway slightly, and grimaced when Harris licked his lips and said gutturally,
"That's it…make your tits jiggle."
The Doctor closed her eye and shook her shoulders. The cruel man laughed and stepped up to her, painfully squeezing her breasts.
"Lift your arms up and sway those hips…"
She did as she was told and stifled a cry when he forced his fingers inside her.
"That's it Hot Shot…oh you're hot aren't you my little pet?"
Grimacing in pain, she was shocked when he suddenly grabbed her arm and threw her on the bed. He covered her immediately and forced himself inside her, his quick hard thrusts brining him rapidly to his climax. Panting, he raised himself up on his arms and gripped her face with a cruel hand.
"I have new orders for you Hot Shot. Next time your pal Picard mentions this stupid idea of his about the weather grid, you're to tell him you've reconsidered. You now believe he should go with the Prime Directive. Don't offer any explanations, just tell him he's wrong and should reconsider his opinion. OK?"
Beverly's silence incensed him. He let go of her face and slapped her hard twice before grabbing her again and shaking her head.
"I didn't hear you Hot Shot!"
Through swollen bleeding lips, she answered him.
"All right."
He nodded with satisfaction and ground his hips hard against her bruised and traumatised flesh. She gasped and he chuckled.
"You're quite the sex kitten aren't you? Well you'll just have to wait until tomorrow, I've got bigger fish to fry."
With that he pulled free of Beverly and climbed off the bed. She lay stiffly on the bed staring at the ceiling as he dressed and she barely registered it when he leaned down and bit her nipple.
"See you Hot Shot."
He strode from the room, whistling and Beverly's stomach heaved as she smelled his body odour on her skin. Rolling slowly, she waited until she heard the outer doors open and close then slid off the bed and crawled into the bathroom. On her knees she opened the shower stall and crawled in, reaching up to activate the water controls. Only when the water hit her did she allow herself to sob.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a rested and happier Captain that strode onto the Bridge next morning. He was early, wishing to get a status report before the morning briefing. He checked the readouts on the monitors displayed on his chair arms, then took a stroll around the Bridge stations, familiarizing himself with their status. He was seated in his customary chair in the Observation lounge when Will and Data walked briskly in.
"Good morning Captain."
Jean-Luc smiled at his Exec, but refrained from responding as Geordi and Harris walked
in. He settled his hands on the tabletop and studied his nails as they waited for Beverly. The minutes ticked slowly by and Jean-Luc sighed. About to query the computer as to her whereabouts, the doors sighed open and the recalcitrant Doctor entered. Jean-Luc's eyes widened and he frowned as she took her seat; he noticed her hands were trembling. He looked around at his staff and noted they all looked at Beverly with concern. Keeping his deep voice soft, he asked,
"Doctor Crusher, are you all right?"
Avoiding his eyes, Beverly strained to keep her voice even.
"I'm fine Captain…just a rough night that's all."
Unconvinced, Jean-Luc brought the meeting to order.
"Commander Riker how are the preparations proceeding with the weather grid?"
Will glanced at Geordi and Data and offered his Captain a confident nod.
"We're all but finished Captain. Between Data, Geordi and the rest of the Engineering staff, we have created a module that will handle the job superbly."
Jean-Luc nodded and smiled.
"Splendid. And the cloud seeding? How are we on that?"
Before Will could answer, Harris snorted.
"This is really preposterous Picard. Must I remind you, there has been no notification from Command about this situation? You're going out on a limb here."
Turning to his superior, Jean-Luc sighed.
"I am cognizant of the situation Commodore, but while I have the complete support of my entire senior staff, I will continue to try and help those people."
Before he could turn back to his companions, Harris' whining voice interrupted.
"Your entire staff Captain? I don't think so."
About to request a clarification of that statement, Beverly softly cleared her throat.
"He's right Captain. We shouldn't be interfering here…this is a cut and dried situation for invoking the Prime Directive."
Stunned, The Captain's mouth momentarily gaped.
"What?"
Beverly stood abruptly and, avoiding everyone's startled looks, muttered,
"I'm needed in Sickbay. If you'll excuse me?"
She walked unsteadily to the door and bumped the frame on her way out. Harris broke the stunned silence.
"So Captain…what do you say now?"
Taking a calming breath, Jean-Luc strove to keep his face a stoic mask.
"We will proceed as planned Commodore, I've heard nothing to sway my decision."
Harris came suddenly to his feet and glowered down at Jean-Luc.
"You are a bigger fool than I thought Picard. If you don't retreat from this…insanity I will relieve you of Command!"
Fisting his hands, Jean-Luc rose slowly and faced his antagonist.
"Do what you think best Sir, but I don't think you will have any back up."
Harris towered over Jean-Luc, his foetid breath buffeting the Captain. Without looking at him, Harris barked an order at Will.
"Commander Riker, confine Captain Picard to his quarters for disobedience and dereliction of duty!"
Will rose and stood motionless, his eyes darting between the two officers. Unwilling to compromise his friend, Jean-Luc held up his hand.
"It's all right Commander, I will see myself to my quarters."
With dignity and grace, Jean-Luc turned and, with a ramrod straight back, left the room. Harris sniffed loudly and turned to Will.
"Commander make preparations to leave. I want to be at the nearest Starbase in the shortest possible time."
About to reply, Will was cut off.
"Bridge to Captain Picard."
Harris held up his hand, silencing Will.
"That Captain is unavailable. I am the ranking officer, what is it?"
"Sir Counsellor Troi is requesting rendezvous with us at our present coordinates. ETA, seven point five hours."
Harris turned to Will and barked,
"What the hell is this about?"
Will straightened and replied,
"Commander Deanna Troi, our ship's counsellor has been at a symposium at Dellos these last two weeks. She was not due back for another week…something must have happened. Sir we cannot rendezvous with her if we're under way at maximum warp. She's in a class three runabout and…"
Harris' curt shake of the head silenced the First Officer. He thought for a moment before lifting his head.
"Bridge this is Commodore Harris. Maintain current position. We'll receive the Counsellor when she arrives."
"Aye Sir."
Will sighed with relief. With Troi aboard things might change.

 

The senior officers filed out onto the Bridge. Will took his seat and tried not to glare as Harris seated himself in the Command chair. The Commodore made a show of studying the readouts then stood and faced the Bridge proper.
"Attention please. I have relieved Captain Picard of duty and I am assuming command of this vessel. Once Counsellor Troi is aboard, I will issue new orders. Until that time, I will be in the Ready Room. Tactical I want a channel opened to Admiral Kostas at Starfleet Command, route it to me when you're ready. Commander Riker you have the Bridge…I don't want to be disturbed."
Will stood and nodded curtly.
"Aye Commodore."
As soon as Harris entered the Ready Room, Will went to stand beside Data at the Con. Bending over he whispered,
"Data I'm going to see the Captain. You have the Bridge."
Data nodded and Will turned to his staff.
"I know you're all shocked and have a lot of questions. In the interim, just do your duty and leave this situation to the senior staff…and please, until we can resolve this one way or another, I'd appreciate it if you could keep it to yourselves."
He received a heartening chorus of "Yes Sir." Nodding, he left the Bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc paced in front of the viewport in his quarters, his jaw clenched painfully. Seething with helpless rage, he stopped and rubbed his hands over his head. He was about to start pacing again when the door chime sounded.
"Come!"
Will strode in fearlessly and walked right up to his Captain. Squaring his shoulders, he shook his head and said,
"I'm so sorry Captain. I knew he was going to do it…but there was nothing I could do. He ordered me, in fact he blatantly threatened me what he'd do if I said anything to warn you."
Will took a breath to continue but Jean-Luc shook his head.
"It's all right Number One, this has been coming for quite a while. Tell me…what is he doing now?"
"He's in your Ready Room and has ordered a channel opened to Admiral Kostas at Command."
Will was surprised to her his CO swear under his breath.
"Sir?"
Jean-Luc took Will's arm and directed him to the chairs. Once seated, the Captain sighed.
"Admiral Nicholas Kostas…formally Captain Kostas of the Intrepid. Ring any bells?"
Will frowned then gasped as his memory supplied the relevant information.
"Oh no! You're not telling me it's that bastard that attempted to have you tried over Wolf 359?"
Jean-Luc nodded and sat back, closing his eyes.
"He wanted me charged with the wilful murder of over eleven thousand Federation citizens. It was only after he was ordered to undergo a competency test that they found he was delusional."
Will snorted and shook his head.
"Then how the hell did he become an Admiral for Christ's sake?"
Jean-Luc stood and went to the replicator, returning with a tea for himself and a coffee for Will.
"Since the Dominion war…many people have found themselves on the fast-track for promotion. My guess he's just one of many."
Will absently stirred his drink, his mind mulling over the situation.
"This whole thing stinks of a conspiracy! They've set some kind of trap and somehow managed to snare you."
Nodding, Jean-Luc sipped his brew.
"Oh I agree. I recently found out the Harris is here by his own request. I've long known that there were some people who were…less than happy that I was never censured or punished for what happened at Wolf 359. Fortunately, until now, wiser heads have prevailed. Will he must not take control of this ship! He's not a line officer; he's never had command of a ship. My God the damage he could wreak with the Enterprise…it's mind blowing."
Will placed his cup on the table and fisted his hands.
"I know Captain, but what can we do?"
Jean-Luc leaned forward and offered a small smile.
"Have Data monitor all incoming messages. I don't particularly care about Harris' communications right now, but I'm expecting something important from Command that will change everything. If I'm right, Harris will try to keep it from me, as it will dissolve his presumption of Command. Anything that comes in for me, surreptitiously reroute to my quarters. I'll call you if I need to."
Hearing the gentle dismissal, Will rose and looked fondly down at his Captain.
"Will do Sir."
He turned and stopped as Jean-Luc's soft voice caught him.
"And Will, look in on Beverly. Something's drastically wrong…see what you can find out."
The big man nodded and smiled.
"Aye Captain."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly was kneeling at the toilet in her private bathroom, trying to calm her heaving stomach. Suspecting she had at least two broken ribs, every time she retched, pain bloomed in tight bands on the right side of her chest.
She breathed as deeply as she dared she slowly won the battle with her stomach. Rising unsteadily, she flushed the toilet and staggered over to the basin. With tender strokes she washed her face and rinsed her mouth then, blinking back the threatening tears, injected herself with an analgesic and a sedative. She stood by the basin until the drugs took hold then entered her office and sat gingerly at her desk. She'd just resumed her work when Alyssa came in.
"Doctor Crusher, can I see you for a moment? We seem to have a problem."
Looking up and struggling to keep her face impassive, Beverly cleared her throat.
"What seems to be the trouble?"
Alyssa stood in front of the desk and offered a PADD.
"We've just completed the latest inventory and we seem to be missing several doses of sedative…Phentamine…and more recently, an analgesic, Tropamine. I've searched the database and questioned the staff and I can't account for the discrepancies."
Beverly swallowed and strived to keep the colour from rising to her cheeks.
"Have you questioned the night staff?"
Alyssa frowned and shook her head.
"Well no…they're all asleep now."
"OK, wait until you can question them and we'll take it from there."
Looking doubtfully at her CO, Alyssa frowned.
"Well if you're willing to wait Doctor…you're sure you don't want to alert security?"
Beverly snorted.
"To what? We don't have any information to give them yet. Let's do a thorough investigation first. OK?"
Still with a lingering doubt, Alyssa nodded and turned to leave. She almost bumped into Commander Riker.
"Oh sorry Sir, I was just on my way out."
The big man smiled down at the petite woman and nodded.
"No problem Alyssa."
He watched the Lieutenant leave then turned back to Beverly. He winced at what he saw.
"You look like hell."
Glaring up at her friend, Beverly hissed,
"What do you want? I'm not in the mood for your stupid games!"
Frowning, Will held up his hands and eased into the seat in front of the desk.
"Whoa Beverly…come on cool down."
The Doctor fisted her hands and took a small breath, willing herself to calm.
"I'm sorry Will. What can I do for you?"
Will cast a look over his shoulder and stared back at Beverly.
"Perhaps you could close the door?"
Stabbing at the control, Beverly closed the door then looked expectantly at the Commander. Will leaned forward and said softly,
"What's going on? You look a wreck, you've been avoiding everybody and this morning, at the briefing…what the hell was that about? You don't actually agree with that megalomaniac do you?"
Beverly rested her brow on her hand and sighed.
"Will…"
"You know he's relieved the Captain of command?"
Her head shot up.
"What?"
"Yep, just after you left. The Captain's confined to his quarters and Harris is holed up in the Ready Room, talking to Nicholas Kostas."
The incensed woman spat,
"That bastard? Do you know what he tried to do to the Captain after Wolf 359?"
"Yeah the Captain told me. Look Beverly there's more going on here than we know. There's been a series of covert transmissions we've yet to track down and the Captain tells me that Harris is here by his own request. Somehow we've become embroiled in some kind of conspiracy to bring down the Captain. Has Harris said anything to you? Did he..?"
Beverly slapped her hand down on the desk.
"What the hell are you asking? Do you honestly think that if I heard anything about this that I wouldn't say something? Jesus Will what sort of a friend do you think I am?"
The Commander reached for her hands, stilling their restless dance on the desktop.
"OK I'm sorry! Forget it…it's just that there's so much going on. After Harris relieved the Captain he ordered us to leave Terath and proceed to the nearest Starbase at maximum warp. If not for a message announcing Deanna's impending arrival, we'd be on our way right now."
Beverly sat bolt upright and withdrew her hands.
"Deanna's coming? Why, she's not due for another six days."
Will shrugged and stroked his beard.
"I don't know it's just another little mystery to solve."
Beverly's heart pounded and she began to feel light headed. Will noticed her distress and stood, leaning over the desk.
"Beverly?"
The Doctor gripped the arms of her chair and lowered her head.
"Look Will I have a lot to do here. We'll talk later, OK?"
Unconvinced, the Commander straightened and sighed.
"Well all right, but maybe you should talk to Dee when she comes aboard? I know she'll be wanting to catch up with you."
Summoning a wan smile, Beverly nodded.
"Ok, I'll do that."
Nodding, Will left and Beverly gasped with shock.
"My God…she'll find out…how can I keep it from her?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harris sat back in Jean-Luc's chair, sneering at the volume of Shakespeare encased under glass across the room. His feet rested on the desk and his hands were behind his head.
"Sanctimonious bastard!"
His black eyes roamed around the room, his look of disdain increasing with every item of the Captain's he saw. About to rise and rearrange things, he stopped when he was hailed from the Bridge.
"Commodore Harris, I have Admiral Kostas. Routing it to your terminal now."
As he swung the monitor around he said absently,
"Acknowledged."
The face that appeared was rugged and sly, the eyes shifting restlessly as they strove to look around Harris' surroundings.
"Report!"
"Admiral all is proceeding according to plan. I have relieved him of command and, as soon as we pick up a crewmember, we'll be on our way to the nearest Starbase. Have you selected the right JAG officer?"
The Admiral smiled unpleasantly.
"Yes. Do you remember Captain Daniel Haysom of the Sydney?"
A look of sadness passed quickly across Harris' face, to be replaced with hardness.
"Indeed I do. Yet another valiant officer killed by the hand of the duplicitous prick Picard."
"May he rest in peace. Well the JAG officer I've picked is his son. Believe me there's no love lost between them. Young Christopher will eat him alive. By the time he's finished with Picard he'll be lucky to get a pension."
Harris fisted his hands and scowled.
"What about incarceration? Any chance we can throw him into a correctional facility and forget about him?"
"The Admiral frowned.
"Probably not. Let's not forget he has some powerful friends. No, I think the best we can do is have him dishonourably discharged. If I know him, that will be punishment enough. Loosing his precious ship will hurt, loosing his Captaincy will hurt too, but being thrown out of Starfleet in disgrace will, hopefully, destroy him."
Grinning sinisterly, Harris rubbed his hands together.
"I've got to hand it to you Nicholas, this is brilliant! And will I get to keep the Enterprise as planned?"
"I'm still working on that, but I don't see why not. I'll disband the senior staff and give Riker command of a mining colony somewhere. That should keep him quiet. I take it you've silenced Crusher?"
Sitting back and fingering his Commodore's bars, he chuckled.
"Oh yes I brought her to heel some time ago. No problem there."
"Good she's another one of that damn crew with far too much power. It'll be good to see her wings clipped as well. After all, it's their own bloody fault for aligning themselves with him in the first place!"
Harris nodded and grinned.
"I couldn't agree with you more…although I'm considering keeping her as CMO when I get command."
The Admiral's face split into a knowing grin.
"You're a rake Desmond! Right, contact me when you're approaching the Starbase and I'll dispatch young Haysom. Kostas out."
Harris tabbed off the signal and sighed with deep satisfaction.
"Soon you bastard…I can almost taste it!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Data, now bent over the aft Science Station, stood abruptly upright and smiled. He called softly over his shoulder,
"Commander Riker, could you come here please?"
Will was on his feet instantly. His long stride carried him quickly to Data's side and he kept his voice low.
"What is it Data?"
"Sir I have detected another covert transmission. It occurred some time ago, but was so well disguised I only just discovered it."
The android pointed to the screen and Will scowled.
"Can you make anything of it?"
"Yes Sir I can. In fact I have disentangled both transmissions and I can, with the computer's aid, render a legible audio copy."
"OK let's hear it, but keep the volume down."
Nodding Data played both transmissions and watched in fascination as Will's usually jovial face clouded with suppressed anger.
"That bastard Harris! He's been plotting all along. Data call up the service record of Captain Ken Carmichael. I want to know why he would side with Harris in this."
Data turned to the screen just as the Ensign at Tactical said quietly,
"Commander? There's an incoming message for Captain Picard. Shall I reroute it to his quarters like you said?"
Will nodded and smiled, clapping Data on the back.
"If that's the news Captain Picard is waiting for, things are about to get very interesting."
The android said nothing, keeping his golden eyes on the screen, reading the scrolling information at a phenomenal speed. He suddenly straightened and faced his superior.
"Commander I believe I know why Captain Carmichael would be antagonistic towards Captain Picard. His younger brother, Commander Steven Carmichael was the First Officer of the Melbourne…destroyed, as you know, at Wolf 359 with the loss of all hands."
Will wiped his hand over his face.
"God this just keeps getting worse. OK, thanks Data. Keep monitoring for covert signals, but now that Harris has played his hand, I don't think he'll keep up with the subterfuge. He's made his bed, now he has to sleep in it."

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was at his desk going over the mission brief when the alert came from the Bridge. He stabbed the computer on and turned the screen to face him, smiling when the kindly face of Admiral Handorff appeared.
"Hello Kurt…I do hope you bring good news."
Keeping his face neutral, the older man sighed.
"Jean-Luc…do you have any idea what sort of hornet's nest you've stirred up?"
The Captain sighed and rubbed his face in an unmistakable display of tiredness.
"Kurt there're some things you and Alynna should know. Commodore Harris has relieved me of command and confined me to my quarters. He cites disobedience and dereliction of duty as the cause and I know for a fact he has the backing of Nicholas Kostas. Unless you have something I want to hear, I'm heading for a drumhead trial at the nearest Starbase and a doubtful future in Starfleet."
Shock momentarily silenced the Admiral. He snapped his mouth closed and his face darkened.
"He what?"
Jean-Luc held up his hands and shrugged.
"We have detected covert transmissions emanating from this ship. My guess he's been in contact with someone…someone who could give him the verdict quicker than you could."
Shaking his head the Admiral sighed.
"Jean-Luc I'm so sorry. I've always known there were people who resented you after Wolf 359 and in truth it was understandable in some cases…but to go to these lengths…are you sure?"
Nodding slowly Jean-Luc sighed.
"Oh yes I'm certain. Kurt please tell me…what is the decision?"
The older man's eyes sparkled.
"You have consent from both Command and the Council Jean-Luc. Implement your plans and save those people. And Jean-Luc you can take it from me…officially…you have command of the Enterprise. I will get things moving here to weed out the perpetrators…Kostas has been hanging on by his teeth anyway, Admiral material he's not! If Harris resists have him contact Alynna, she'll set him straight."
Breathing a heartfelt sigh of relief, Jean-Luc nodded to his friend.
"Thank you Kurt, I owe you one."
The Admiral winked and chuckled.
"Go get 'em Jean-Luc, I only wish I could be there to see his face. Handorff out."
Tabbing off his computer, the Captain stood and tugged down his tunic. Taking the time to calm himself, he stepped through his doors on the way to the Bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deanna sat in the pilot's seat of the runabout 'Flourey' and peered intently at a point just above the planet that was beginning to fill her viewscreen. It was, in many ways, a useless gesture. Her instruments told her the Enterprise was there and her own gift of empathy sensed her friends as she got closer, nevertheless her visceral need to see the ship for herself persisted. She leaned forward and muttered,
"Where for art thou Enterprise?"
Her obsidian eyes suddenly sharpened as she picked out the unique shape of the elegant ship. Smiling with wistful satisfaction, she sat back in her seat and checked her instruments. Opening a channel, she said,
"Enterprise this is the runabout 'Flourey' requesting clearance to dock."
Her smile widened as the voice of her lover filled the cabin.
"Runabout 'Flourey' good to hear from you! You are cleared to land in Shuttle Bay two."
"Acknowledged Enterprise."
Will grinned and stood, intending to hand the Bridge to Data so he could greet Deanna himself, but instead was delighted to see the turbolift doors open to disgorge the Captain. Jean-Luc looked around slowly as he walked purposefully towards his First Officer. Will straightened and schooled his features.
"Captain."
Jean-Luc nodded and inclined his head towards the Ready Room doors.
"I take it he's..?"
Will nodded.
"Yes Captain. And your recent incoming message…I trust it was good news?"
Allowing a small smile, Jean-Luc eyes glittered.
"Exceedingly so Number One. Will you accompany me please?"
With satisfaction warming his stomach, Will fell in with his Captain.
"Gladly Sir."
Jean-Luc walked to the Ready Room and, not bothering to press the chime, walked straight in. Harris was drinking a cup of coffee and spluttered at the sudden appearance of the two officers.
"What's the meaning of this? I confined you to quarters! Are you incapable of obeying even so simple an order as that?"
Concentrating on staying calm, Jean-Luc kept his voice quiet and even.
"Commodore Harris it is my duty to inform you that I have, with the authority of Starfleet Command, been reinstated as Captain of this vessel. In addition, I have received confirmation from both Command and the Council to proceed with our efforts to save the population of Terath II. I have been instructed to tell you if you have any objections, to contact Admiral Alynna Nechayev. I believe my current status can be viewed in writing if you so desire."
His face paling the Commodore stood rigid behind the desk.
"This is outrageous! Commander Riker I order you to take Picard to the brig! Immediately!"
Will's impassive face never changed as his body stayed ramrod straight.
"I am sorry Commodore, I cannot comply."
Harris' mouth gaped but before he could say anything further, Jean-Luc's quiet voice interrupted.
"Number One please escort the Commodore to his quarters and place a guard outside."
Resisting the urge to grin widely, Will instead kept his voice professionally crisp.
"Aye Captain. If you will come with me Sir?"
Harris moved as if his joints were stiff. As he passed the Captain he hissed, spittle hitting Jean-Luc's face.
"You haven't heard the last of this Picard!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deanna exited the runabout and frowned, the undercurrent of disquiet on the ship swirling through her mind. Concentrating, she singled out Will and gasped at the tightly contained anger and savage happiness he felt. Next she settled on the Captain and again she was buffeted by strong anger, relief and excessive stress. But when she concentrated on Beverly she gasped and took a step back. Black despair, fear and panic surged through her empathic receptors, momentarily blinding her. Hastily erecting her mental barriers, she became aware of a crewmember waiting to gather her bags from the runabout. Smiling wanly at the Ensign, she followed him from the shuttle Bay wondering what the hell was going on.
Her journey through the corridors was thankfully quick. Entering her cabin, she thanked and dismissed her helper and set her bags on the bed. Intending to unpack, she first went and replicated a mug of hot chocolate and was half way through it when her door chimed. Smiling widely, she turned to the door, already knowing who was there.
"Come in Will."
The big man strode in and gave Deanna just enough time to set down her mug and half rise before he scooped her effortlessly up into his arms and kissed her deeply. The Counsellor relaxed and sighed, opening her mind and connecting with him empathically. Will felt the gentle presence caress his mind and he sent back one whispered word.
"Imzadi."
The kiss eventually ended and Deanna rested her head against Will's chest. Sighing, she asked,
"What's going on?"
The Exec chuckled and kissed her curls.
"What…no 'I've missed you my love'?"
Her frank look made him set her carefully on her feet and they both sat side by side on the sofa. Will ran a hand through his hair and blew out a frustrated breath.
"Oh God…where do I start?"
He spent the next ten minutes outlining all that had transpired in Deanna's absence. To her credit she contained her questions, but when Will told her of Beverly's capitulation to Harris over the Terath situation, she could stay silent no longer.
"Oh Will…surely not! Beverly would never abandon her principles, it would be against everything she stands for."
Shrugging Will frowned.
"To be honest Dee, we've all been worrying about her. The Captain asked me to drop by and see her while he was confined to quarters but although I asked, she all but shut me out. Something's going on that's for sure, but what is anybody's guess."
Deanna frowned and lowered her barriers to concentrate once again on her best friend. Again the tumult of fear, pain and hopelessness washed over the Counsellor and she moaned piteously, quickly she erected her barriers. Alarmed, Will grabbed her shoulders and said forcefully,
"Deanna…what is it?!"
Opening her expressive eyes, Deanna gasped.
"It's Beverly Will…something's terribly wrong! I must go to her."
Both officers stood and Will cautioned her.
"Remember Dee, it's quite late, she may be in bed."
The sudden realisation that she may have misinterpreted a nightmare from her friend made Deanna pause.
"You're right of course and I had completely forgotten the time. If the Captain's still awake I might go and see him and I'll see Beverly first thing tomorrow."
Smiling down at his lover, Will nodded.
"Fair enough. You unpack and make yourself comfortable; I've got one or two things to do before I knock off. I'll be back soon."
He bent down and kissed the beautiful woman, making her sigh with happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

With uncharacteristic calm, Harris stood before the viewport in his quarters quietly sipping a neat scotch. It was his fourth drink from an authentic supply he'd brought aboard with him. Anger, resentment and jealousy roiled within him making his jaw clench rhythmically. Coming to a decision he swallowed the remaining liquor in one gulp and went into his bedroom. A few short minutes rummaging in his bags produced a hypospray. He held it up and checked the vial of drug it contained. Smiling evilly, he walked back into the living area and took up a stance with his hands behind his back in the middle of the room, facing the door. Raising his voice slightly, he called,
"Lieutenant could you come in please? I need your assistance with something."
He stood still, part of his mind wondering if the young officer would be so foolish as to comply with his request. His musings stopped when the door opened and the officer stepped uncertainly in.
"Sir?"
Turing slightly he gestured with one hand vaguely towards the low table.
"I dropped something that's rolled under the sofa. Could you help me move it? My back's not so good these days."
With his warmest, most disarming smile in place he waited patiently. He almost sighed with pleasure when the Lieutenant grinned and stepped towards him.
"I know what you mean Sir. My back plays up sometimes too."
As the young officer stepped by the Commodore he smoothly gripped his shoulder and quickly applied the hypospray to the hapless man's neck. The action was so quick the Lieutenant didn't know what hit him. His body abruptly went limp and Harris caught it and lowered it slowly to the floor. He took the time to check the pulse before replicating some cord and a gag. In minutes the guard was trussed up and silenced.
Harris stood and looked down at his victim dispassionately.
"There'll be no place for you on this ship when I take control."
The last thing he did before he left his quarters was remove his combadge and replace it with the Lieutenant's, thereby hiding himself from the computer. He went through the doors unchallenged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being quiet late he encountered no crew as he walked briskly through the ship. He arrived at his destination, looked up and down the corridor then pressed the chime.
Beverly was curled up in bed, silently crying. The chime sent a chill of terror through her body and she shrank into a tighter ball under the covers.
It chimed again and she swallowed. Trembling, she left the bed and went to her bedroom door, holding tightly to the frame as she blinked away her tears.
"Computer who is at my door?"
"Lieutenant Ronald Dinsdale."
With that unexpected reply, Beverly straightened and wiped at her tears. With shaky steps she walked towards the door.
"Come in."
She stopped dead in her tracks when Harris stepped into her quarters. Her hand flew to her mouth and she shook her head.
"How..?"
Quick steps brought him to stand in front of her, his alcohol laden bad breath washing over her.
"That's none of your business Hot Shot. I'm here for two reasons. One…we need to have a little chat about how you're going to change Picard's mind about this mission, and second…I'm feeling horny, so I guess you get lucky again."
Beverly took a step back, shaking her head.
"No…you must know he won't change his mind! Not even for me…I'm telling you, he won't…"
Harris stepped forward and backhanded Beverly so hard she stumbled to the floor. Harris bent over, grabbed her hair and hauled her to her feet. With aggressive power he tore her nightie off and wrenched her panties from her body. He pulled her head up and hit her again.
"I don't get it Hot Shot! You're supposed to be intelligent but really you're as thick as two planks! Now listen carefully and I'll tell you how to go about re-educating Picard."
Beverly got her eyes open just in time to see the descending fist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking around the quarters she shared with Will, Deanna snorted with satisfaction. With her barriers still firmly in place, she was unaware of what was happening only a few metres away. With her hands on her hips, she lifted her head and said softly,
"Computer where is Captain Picard?"
"Captain Picard is in his quarters."
"Is he asleep?"
"Negative."
Nodding with determination, Deanna left her quarters and soon found herself outside the Captain's abode. Pressing the chime, she smiled tenderly at his anticipated response.
"Come."
She entered to find him sitting at his desk.
"Counsellor…welcome back!"
He rose and Deanna was gratified to see his genuine smile of affection.
"It's good to be back Sir."
"Why did you leave early? No problems I hope?"
He gestured to the sofa and they both sat.
"No Captain. I had finished my course and I felt there was nothing more to be gained from staying."
His knowing grin charmed her.
"Homesick?"
She chuckled and nodded.
"Yes Sir."
He sighed and his face lost its amusement.
"I take it Will has told you about all that's been happening?"
"Yes Captain. I must say I was shocked…but Captain I'm very worried about Beverly. Since I came aboard I've sensed some very disturbing emotions coming from her. In fact it was so bad I had to block her out."
Jean-Luc rubbed his face and sighed.
"I know. Her behaviour of late has been unusual to say the least. I suppose you know she sided with Harris over Terath II? In effect she was agreeing to allow three million people to die needlessly."
Deanna frowned and shook her head.
"Well that's certainly atypical behaviour. I intend to speak with her tomorrow."
The captain nodded and stood, subtly brining the visit to an end.
"I would like you to report to me when you've spoken with her. Deanna…I need to know if she's all right."
Smiling, Deanna stood and nodded.
"Of course Captain. Goodnight Sir."
He nodded and watched as his guest left. Settling once again at his desk, he tried to ignore the tiredness that was dogging his brain.
Twenty minutes later, after re-reading the same paragraph three times, Jean-Luc dropped the PADD onto his desk in disgust. Rubbing his face, he sat back and addressed the computer.
"Computer where is Doctor Crusher?"
"Doctor Crusher is in her quarters."
"Is she awake?"
"Affirmative."
Setting his jaw, Jean-Luc stood and tugged down his tunic.
"Maybe she'll talk to me over a calming cup of tea."
He left his cabin with an optimistic mindset.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will sat in his chair unmoving as his eyes tracked his lover as she moved around their quarters. Already quite aroused, he was well aware of the game she was playing. She would ignore him, heightening their desire until it became almost painful, then…he smiled at the thought of the boneless ecstasy that awaited him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc stood outside Beverly's cabin and mentally prepared himself to stay calm and reasonable. He lifted his hand to activate the chime when he heard a loud thump and the sound of breaking glass. His voice tight he barked,
"Computer override lock at this door, authorisation Picard theta two nine!"
The doors obediently sighed open and the Captain stepped in immediately freezing in shock. Harris was holding an obviously semi-conscious, naked Beverly by her hair as he hit her again and again. His eyes faithfully showed him the welts, bruises and blood as the helpless woman; the only woman he'd ever truly loved was brutally assaulted.
With a blood-curdling roar, Jean-Luc charged the assailant and barrelled into him, forcing his grip on Beverly's hair to rip free. The men tumbled to the floor and Jean-Luc got to his feet first. He grabbed the tunic of the bigger man and hauled him upright before delivering a full-blooded blow to the man's face. Harris staggered back then snarled, wiping the blood flowing freely from his nose. He stepped closer to Jean-Luc and feinted left then suddenly landed a jarring fist flush on the Captain's jaw. As Jean-Luc staggered back, Harris kicked him squarely in the groin. Jean-Luc fell to his knees clutching his crotch on agony. Harris pushed his head back to deliver another telling blow, but Jean-Luc swept his hand up, the palm of which connected solidly with Harris' jaw. His teeth clicked loudly and he stumbled backwards. Jean-Luc lurched to his feet and landed another blow to Harris' face. While his hands came up to ward off any more attacks, Jean-Luc kicked him as hard as he could in the groin and grunted with satisfaction as the bigger man went down. Knowing that he'd damaged both hands, Jean-Luc instead aimed a well-placed kick at the Commodore's head. There was a meaty sound as the connection was made and Harris went down on hands and knees. Another vicious kick to his stomach had Harris rolling on the floor. Jean-Luc hazarded a glance around him and saw Beverly curled up in a corner, covered in shadow. Rage surging he turned to find Harris crawling towards the door. With quick strides, Jean-Luc caught him and dragged him back by his collar. Harris rolled onto his back and held up his hands as the savage blows rained down on him. Unfeeling of his damaged hands, Jean-Luc was out of control and mindless of the consequences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deanna was writhing under her lover as his knowing hands caressed her delightfully. He trailed kisses down her neck as he slothfully undid her tunic and she was about to gently bite his ear when alarm blazed in her mind. She sat up so quickly she dislodged her lover and she grimaced, holding both hands to her head. Startled, Will gripped her shoulder.
"Deanna?"
The Counsellor's head snapped back and she cried out.
"Will! The Captain…Oh God…he's…he's…"
She sprang from the bed and grabbed Will's arm.
"Quickly! We must go…"
"Where!"
Deanna stood motionless and lowered her barriers. With a cry she staggered backward and would have fallen if not for Will's steadying hand.
"Beverly's quarters! Quickly!"
As they ran for the door, Will shouted,
"Security to Doctor Crusher's quarters on the double!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly's doors opened to Deanna's override code and both officers rushed in. Will pulled Deanna back as blood splattered across his uniform. In shock, Will shouted,
"Captain stop!"
Unhearing, Jean-Luc kept bashing his now unconscious adversary. His face was covered in blood, as were his hands and chest, in fact he had blood covering most of his body…who's was moot.
Will ran at his CO and wrapped his arms around him in a bear hug, bringing both men to the floor.
"Captain stop! For God's sake you'll kill him!"
Jean-Luc's body flexed and strained, taxing Will's strength. The low growl emanating from his captive was unnerving and Will sought to break through to his friend. Raising his voice he barked,
"Captain Picard…At ease!"
Jean-Luc stilled momentarily then relaxed in Will's arms. The First Officer felt his Captain sigh expansively and he tentatively loosened his embrace. When nothing untoward happened, Will let him go all together and sat up.
"Captain?"
Jean-Luc sat up and rested his bloodied hands on his bent knees. Shaking his head, he said softly,
"Doctor Crusher needs medical assistance. Please see to…"
The doors opened again and the security detail entered, phasers drawn. Will scowled up at the Lieutenant in charge and shook his head.
"You took your time!"
Reddening the woman straightened.
"We got here Sir, but I didn't have the current authorisation to override the lock. Someone had tampered with it. I had to ask Commander Data to open the door manually."
Will looked up to see Data kneeling beside Deanna who seemed to be talking softly to someone in the corner. He tapped his combadge and said,
"Medical emergency in Doctor Crusher's quarters!"
"On our way Commander."
Will watched as Jean-Luc climbed unsteadily to his feet, the First Officer noting that the older man seemed to be in pain. Climbing to his own feet. Will looked around him, taking in the broken furniture and overturned tables.
"Do you know what happened Captain?"
Jean-Luc bent forwards, rested his hands on his thighs and breathed steadily.
"When I overrode the lock, I found Harris beating Doctor Crusher. She was naked and quite obviously semi-conscious."
Will gently gripped his Captain's arm and led him to an overturned chair. With a flip of his hand, he righted the chair and guided the Captain into its soft depths. Jean-Luc shifted uncomfortably, wincing and moving to sit on the edge.
"What did you do Sir?"
His voice soft, Jean-Luc sighed.
"I attacked him and he released Beverly…then we fought."
Out of the corner of Will's eye he saw Data move to the bedroom and re-emerge with a blanket. Deanna kept her vigil in the corner and Will prayed all was well. He was about to ask more when the med-team arrived. Will nodded to the Doctor in charge and pointed to Deanna. The officer left and a nurse approached, opening a tricorder in preparation to scanning the Captain. The First Officer saw another nurse scanning the unconscious Harris and noted that security was waiting for orders. Sighing he gained the attention of the Lieutenant.
"Delphin when Commodore Harris is taken to Sickbay I want a guard by his side at all times. When he's recovered he'll be confined to the brig."
"Aye Sir."
As the woman turned to walk away, Will said,
"And Lieutenant, go to the Commodore's quarters and find out what happened to his guard."
"Yes Commander."
Turning his attention back to the Captain, he saw the nurse close the tricorder. Facing the Commander she reported,
"Sir the Captain has several injuries that require immediate treatment. With your permission we will beam directly to Sickbay.
Will nodded and stood only to be stopped by the Captain's soft voice.
"I'm not leaving until I know how Doctor Crusher is."
Nodding, Will moved over to Deanna and knelt by her side. He peered into the shadows and had to suppress a gasp. Beverly, now covered by a blanket was curled up and whimpering. Her swollen, bruised and bloodied face was streaked with tears as Deanna tried to coax her from her retreat. The big man gently squeezed Deanna's shoulder and raised his eyebrows. The Counsellor backed away and whispered,
"She's been severely traumatised Will. If I can't get her out of there, we'll have to sedate her."
He lowered his head and concentrated on staying calm.
"Will she recover?"
"I think so, in time…but it will require all our help."
Will squeezed her shoulder again and made his way back to the Captain.
"Sir Beverly is in deep shock. They'll probably have to sedate her before she's transported to Sickbay, but Deanna thinks she'll recover…in time."
Jean-Luc looked at his friend and sighed.
"While she might recover physically Will…what about her mind? What did that bastard do to her...and for how long?"
The First Officer bent and helped his Captain to his feet. He looked over his shoulder at the kneeling Counsellor and listened to her soft voice.
"Like talking to a frightened animal."
Seeing the Captain into the safe hands of the nurse, he stepped back and watched as they were beamed away. His eyes travelled around the devastated cabin and came to rest on the Commodore.
"You'll pay you prick…somehow we'll make you pay."

 

 

 

 

 

Will and Deanna were seated in Beverly's office hearing the report from Doctor Selar. With her customary Vulcan calm, she dispassionately described the injuries of her patients.
"I will begin with Doctor Crusher. Her most recent injuries include a broken jaw and several fractures to the bones of the face. There are a total of five fractured ribs, although two of those were already present at the time of the current assault. She has a severely bruised liver and abdomen, consistent with kicking or heavy punching. There is a plethora of soft tissue injuries, some requiring deep regeneration and repair to the underlying nerves. She has typical defensive injuries to her arms and fingers, several of which are broken. I feel I must also report that there is significant evidence of non-consensual sex. The abrasions, tearing and bruising, both internal and external speak of brutal violation."
Will sat back, clenching his jaw and striving for control. Deanna softly gripped his hand and asked softly,
"I take it you have healed all her injuries?"
The elegant woman inclined her head.
"Yes Counsellor."
Deanna frowned and leaned forward.
"You said her most recent injuries and you mention already fractured ribs. In your opinion how long do you think the abuse has been going on?"
Placing her hands on the desk and knitting her long fingers, the Vulcan tilted her head.
"There is evidence of tissue regeneration on the face, abrasions and bruising in varying stages of healing on the torso and arms…I would estimate she has endured perhaps three beatings over a week."
Will sighed and swore under his breath. Shaking his head he asked,
"What is her prognosis?"
"Physically she will recover fully, in fact she's mostly healed now. It will be the psychological trauma that will be difficult to deal with. Although it is hard for us to understand how, Commodore Harris has somehow forced Doctor Crusher to accept his mistreatment of her in such a way as to preclude her seeking help. I believe it will help her if we can discover what he did to facilitate this because failing that we will have to find out from her and that might be too much to ask."
Will and Deanna sighed and Will gently squeezed her hand.
"And what about Captain Picard?"
"He has been sedated while regeneration therapy repairs his deep tissue injuries. His jaw was broken and several bones in both hands were fractured, as were two ribs. There was severe bruising to the testes and a three-centimetre tear to the anterior wall of the urethra. I expect he will be discharged in the morning in full health with no long lasting effects."
Will nodded then scowled.
"And Harris?"
Selar unclasped her hands and placed them palm down on the desk.
"He was severely injured. He has numerous fractures to the face and ribs, with the right lung punctured. There are internal injuries to several organs, his right testicle was ruptured but by far his worst injury is the most troublesome. He has an acquired brain injury that I cannot repair."
Will clenched his teeth and sighed.
"Why?"
"Not only am I not qualified for that level of surgery, this facility is not equipped for such a procedure."
Deanna said softly,
"Just as a matter of interest, if Sickbay did have the facilities…would Doctor Crusher be able to do it?"
The Vulcan cast her sharp eyes on the Counsellor and arched an eyebrow.
"Yes Counsellor, I believe she could."
The lovers looked at each other and Will shook his head.
"Right. I suppose that means Harris will be staying here in Sickbay."
"Yes Commander."
Will released Deanna's hand and they both stood.
"I hope you understand Doctor, the guard will stay at the Commodore's side."
Selar bowed her head.
"Of course Sir."
He half turned, the hesitated and turned back.
"Selar, considering the evidence of sexual assault, as well as the other injuries, when do you think Doctor Crusher can be interviewed?"
The Vulcan looked at Deanna and tilted her head.
"I will need to confer with Counsellor Troi Commander. I will advise you as soon as we reach a consensus."
Will looked down at Deanna and nodded.
"Fair enough. If it's all right with you Doctor, the Counsellor and I will look in on Doctor Crusher and Captain Picard before we leave."
"As you wish Sir, but I believe they are both asleep."
Nodding, Will stood back and allowed Deanna to precede him. They crossed first to Beverly's room and stood silently beside her bed. Will watched the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest and noted how pale she was. Deanna opened her senses and felt the swirling eddy of fear, pain and disgust. Even in sleep Beverly was tormented.
Next they went to the Captain's private room and watched the sleeping man, his body bathed in the bright blue glow of the regeneration beams. Will's eyes travelled to Jean-Luc's groin and he winced internally at the pain that injury must have caused.
Once they were out in the main body of Sickbay and heading for the doors, Will asked softly,
"I think the Captain's going to need your help too Dee. He was totally out of control…if I hadn't stopped him he would have beaten Harris to death with his bare hands."
Deanna waited until they were out in the corridor before replying,
"You're right. At first all I sensed from him was savage fury…total emersion in rage, but later, after he'd calmed, he was devastated and full of remorse. Although I must admit he feels totally justified in doing what he did, he does however know he went too far. I worry how the news of the Commodore's brain injury will affect him."
Will sighed as they walked. Shaking his head he asked,
"Do you think it will complicate things when you try to help him?"
It was Deanna's turn to sigh.
"With him it's always difficult, he really has an aversion to therapy, although he's better than he once was. Worst-case scenario is that they won't be able to repair the damage. That will harm him deeply psychologically and added to that is his knowledge that Beverly was being abused…he'll probably somehow blame himself for that, or at least for not discovering it sooner."
Will snorted angrily.
"We all share the blame for that! God the evidence was staring us in the face and we ignored it!"
Deanna took his hand and squeezed gently.
"Don't be too hard on yourself Will. Abuse like that is so rare…if not for the Dominion war and the quick promotions it caused, the psyche evaluations at Command would have weeded Harris out well before he could hurt anyone. The sad truth is that he's probably done this many times before, but his victims were too intimidated, frightened or ashamed to come forward."
The Commander brusquely shook his head and snarled.
"That lowlife bastard! You know…if the Captain hadn't beaten the crap out of him, I would have!"
Deanna suddenly stopped; bringing Will to an abrupt halt.
"What?"
"You know we should do some digging. If we can unearth some previous victims we could strengthen the case against him."
Will's eyes glittered and he bent down to place a kiss to her forehead.
"Good thinking."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc stood in front of the desk in Beverly's office, angrily staring down at Selar. The stoic Vulcan was unaffected by his anger, calmly sitting and holding his gaze.
"Look Doctor I just want a few minutes, I won't upset her, I just want to see her…make sure she's all right."
Selar remained expressionless.
"I am sorry Captain but Doctor Crusher has requested that she have no visitors and while she remains in Sickbay I will accede to her wishes. Perhaps when she is discharged to her quarters she might see you then."
With his hands and forearms encased in light plastic casts, his urge to fist his hands was stymied. In frustration he lifted his hands only to drop them to his sides in frustration. Letting out an irritated breath, he tried to relax his tense body.
"Very well Doctor. I take it I'm off duty?"
"Yes Captain."
With his dark hazel eyes glittering, he kept his voice even.
"And how long will that be in effect."
"Five days Captain."
Anger spiking, he barked,
"Five days! Really Doctor is that absolutely necessary? I'm sure these casts won't interfere with…"
Holding up her hand she silenced his protest.
"Captain Picard I am unconcerned about your casts. It is your internal injuries that give me cause for concern…that and you psychological well being. I…"
"My psychological well being? I can assure you Doctor that is not a matter of consideration. I am fully cognizant of all relevant ramifications of what has transpired and I…"
"Captain please. Until you are evaluated by Counsellor Troi I cannot pass you as fit for duty. To do so at this point would be negligent."
Now clearly furious, Jean-Luc was about to vent his displeasure when a gentle hand gripped his elbow. His head snapped around and he found himself looking into the inky black eyes of the Counsellor.
"Captain I know you are upset, but you shouldn't direct your anger towards Doctor Selar. She is only doing her job, as you would expect her to. Why don't we go to your quarters and talk about what has upset you?"
His anger spiked but he quashed it savagely. Taking a deep breath and realising the futility of continuing with the argument, he nodded curtly to Selar and turned on his heel, leaving the office with his back ramrod straight. Deanna offered Selar a sympathetic smile before following her Captain out the doors.
They walked in silence, Deanna having to hurry to keep up with Jean-Luc's brisk pace. They reached his cabin and entered, the Captain striding to the viewports and staring blankly out into space, studiously ignoring Deanna.
The Counsellor went to the replicator, obtained two teas and went to the sofa, placing the hot drinks on the low table. She sat back and closed her eyes, meditating while she waited for the Captain to acknowledge her.
Eventually Jean-Luc sighed and turned. He studied the Counsellor and noticed the drinks. Sitting, his picked up his cup and sipped appreciatively. Deanna sensed his calm and opened her eyes, smiling at her Captain. She looked at his casts and sighed.
"How long will they be on?"
He shrugged, pulling down the corners of his mouth.
"I'm not sure…a few days."
"Are you in any pain?"
He frowned and grimaced.
"There is some residual discomfort of a personal nature but I have been assured it will ease soon."
There were a few moments of silence before Deanna asked softly,
"Do you want to talk about it?"
He scowled and took another sip of tea.
"Not really, but you're not going to take no for an answer are you?"
Deanna let that pass and pushed back her hair.
"What do you remember of it?"
Jean-Luc put down his cup and sat back, rubbing his face with his fingertips.
"I went to Beverly's quarters to see if we could talk about whatever was troubling her. She'd been acting strangely for some time and I was worried about her. As I got to her door, I heard sounds coming from inside…breaking glass, thumps, I overrode the lock and went in."
He stopped and Deanna let him gather his thoughts.
"At first I froze, I didn't believe what I was seeing. Then I registered the injuries…I could see the bruises and the blood and something in me snapped. I think I yelled…I charged him and we ended up on the floor. Once I realised he'd let go of Beverly I let him have it."
Deanna let him sit quietly for a time before gently asking,
"Were you out of control then?"
He shook his head and sighed.
"No that happened later. I had Harris down and helpless and I took a moment to look for Beverly. I saw her curled up in the shadows…looking like a beaten, cowering animal and I felt the rage escalating. I turned back to find Harris crawling towards the door and I went to him and dragged him back. He rolled onto his back and held his hands up…in surrender I think…and all I could see was Beverly, the blood, the bruises and the tears. That's when I lost control. I started to hit him and I couldn't stop."
The Counsellor crossed her legs and kept her voice soft.
"Will says that if he hadn't stopped you when he did, you would have killed Harris. What do you think about that?"
Jean-Luc stood and walked to the viewport. In an abortive attempt, he tried to put his hands in his pockets only to be frustrated by the casts. Jerking his hands to his sides, he sighed.
"I think he's right. I had no intention of stopping, in all probability his death would've been the only thing to make me cease."
Deanna's next question made him frown.
"You have always valued you total control of yourself. How do you feel about this lapse?"
He turned abruptly and snarled.
"I hope you don't think I feel sorry for what I did? He deserved what happened! For God's sake he was beating my oldest and dearest friend and he's probably been doing it for some time. And you can be certain Beverly wasn't his first victim. Men like him make a habit of that kind of behaviour."
"That's not what I asked Captain. How do you feel about loosing control?"
He maintained his glare, but slowly relented. Slowly walking back to the sofa, he sat and leaned his head back, closing his eyes. In a soft deep voice he replied,
"I'm appalled. The very thought that I am capable of perpetrating such an act as beating a man to death with my bare hands makes me feel physically ill."
Denna let that statement hang before saying gently,
"Captain everyone, including you, has a breaking point. I am aware of how deeply you feel for Beverly and I believe it's the depth of that feeling that has caused this situation. You love her Captain…you have loved her for a very long time. You were confronted by your worst fear…Beverly was being hurt and you had to act. The fact that you lost control means, to me at least, that you're Human. Your actions were understandable, if somewhat extreme. What you have to remember is that Will stopped you. You didn't kill Harris."
Jean-Luc's voice grew husky
"I was going to."
"But you didn't and I know for a fact you felt remorse Captain, I was there remember."
Jean-Luc sighed and nodded.
"As long as you can feel that, you have a proper perspective on this situation. Now, have you spoken to Selar about Harris' condition?"
The Captain shook his head and Deanna took a deep breath.
"Well the news isn't very good. He had several serious injuries but there was one Selar can't treat."
Jean-Luc opened his eyes and looked deeply into Deanna's.
"Go on."
"Captain he has an acquired brain injury that cannot be treated here on the Enterprise."
There was silence as the Captain closed his eyes, rubbed his face and swallowed.
"Is it permanent?"
"We don't know. He'll have to be taken to an appropriate facility with the proper surgeons."
The Captain shook his head and sighed.
"God what a mess. And what of Beverly Deanna? How is she?"
"I haven't seen her yet Captain, I can only tell you about her injuries."
He nodded and she went on.
"She had several broken bones and soft tissue injuries. Selar said there were injuries in several stages of healing, indicating the abuse had been happening for some time."
Deanna leaned over and gently picked up Jean-Luc's hand, carefully touching his fingers.
"And Captain there is evidence of sustained sexual assault."
Jean-Luc pulled his hand free, splayed his fingers and rested his brow upon them, willing his anger, outrage and pain into manageable proportions. Taking a steadying breath, his voice showed his torment.
"Oh God Deanna how will she cope?"
Deanna gently gripped his shoulder and felt his trembling.
"It will take time Captain, but I think, with our help, she will recover. Provided of course, she lets us help."
He lifted his head and Deanna wasn't surprised to see tears tracking down his cheeks.
He shook his head as words failed him.
Deanna sat closer and wrapped an arm across his shoulders.
"Captain I believe that it will be you that can be the most help. She will attempt to distance herself from all of us, but you, I think, will be the only one she will eventually turn to. Once she does, we can help her."
Jean-Luc sniffed and sighed.
"I hope you're right Deanna, God I hope you're right."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The concerned face of Kurt Handorff filled the screen and Jean-Luc was reminded of the many years of friendship shared with this man and his wife. The Captain sighed and answered the question he'd just received.
"Well, as for the mission, it is proceeding as expected. A substantial cloud mass has been generated and successfully seeded. It's been raining on the continental band for some hours now, and it's a regulated rain not a devastating deluge. Our meteorologists calculated the absorption rate of soil so long deprived of moisture. The rainfall will be gentle but sustained. The weather grid is complete and my Chief Engineer informs me it will be deployed this afternoon. Our long-term calculations predict maintenance will be required at a rate of every five years. In all, I can only say it is a good outcome…for all."
Kurt nodded and smiled. He picked up a PADD, his smile fading.
"Jean-Luc we've been turning over some stones, trying to find whom else beside Kostas and Carmichael were in on this whole sorry business."
The Captain remained silent, his stomach souring.
"It's not good news, but so far it's not as bad as we first feared."
Jean-Luc closed his eyes briefly and nodded his understanding.
"Tell me Admiral."
"Do you remember Daniel Haysom?"
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes. He died at Wolf 359."
Kurt's voice dropped to almost a whisper.
"His son, Christopher was going to be the JAG officer to act for the prosecution at your 'trial'."
"Oh God. Who else?"
"Captain Jenna McLean, Commander Brian Pelegrinni and Captain Michael Henderson are all we have so far. Most, if not all of them have a direct connection to Wolf 359 through a deceased relative."
Jean-Luc's silence troubled the Admiral and he sighed.
"There's more."
"Go on."
"Apparently there was a subversive movement amongst the group to have you stripped of all your decorations. It seems they were not satisfied with having you dishonourably discharged and disgraced…they wanted you to have absolutely nothing from either Starfleet or the Federation Council to recognise your years of service."
Jean-Luc lifted his hands and pressed his fingertips to his brow. Kurt saw the casts and asked,
"How are you Jean-Luc…medically speaking?"
Lifting his head, Jean-Luc lowered his hands and offered a small smile.
"Oh I'm fine Admiral."
Kurt frowned and sat back.
"I read all the reports Jean-Luc. You suffered some nasty injuries. As I recall, a kick to the gonads is usually quite painful."
Jean-Luc's snort of amusement made the older man chuckle. He let the moment linger before he said,
"We have sent Harris' injury report to Starfleet medical. Doctor Selar says that he will not suffer any deterioration while he's with you, so your orders are…complete your mission then come home. Make best speed and when you arrive dock at McKinley Station. We're bringing forward the upgrade of the deflector dish and that will give you about ten days leave for all hands on Earth."
Jean-Luc nodded and sighed.
"Kurt there is the matter of me striking a superior officer. Granted I was defending another officer and there are witnesses, but will this make matters worse?"
The older man shook his head and smiled with obvious affection.
"No Jean-Luc. You have the overwhelming support and respect of the vast majority of Command. We'll find all the members of this…cadre and I'm sure that will be the end of it. Put it out of your mind my young friend, consider it as nothing more than an unpleasant anomaly."
Trying to show confidence he didn't feel, Jean-Luc smiled and nodded.
"Aye Sir. Thank you Kurt, for all your help, and thank Admiral Nechayev too, I know she's been hard at work behind the scenes…as usual."
The Admiral chuckled and held up a hand.
"I'll do that. See you in two weeks. Handorff out."

 

 

 

 

For the rest of the day Jean-Luc kept himself busy in his quarters updating ship's business and overseeing the deployment of the weather grid. He called Will to his cabin and together they sat by the viewscreen.
"Tell me Number One, what is the status of the grid?"
Knowing full well the Captain already knew the answer, Will supplied the information anyway.
"Everything is operating within normal parameters Sir. Already there has begun a fundamental shift in the weather pattern, Terath should experience rain for the next three days, followed by a period of fine weather. Then a pattern of stable, eventually predictable weather will establish itself and the crisis should be over."
Jean-Luc sat back and crossed his legs.
"Splendid! Please pass on my appreciation to both Engineering and Meteorology. They have done an excellent job."
Smiling, the big man nodded.
"I'll do that Sir, with pleasure. Have you got our new orders Captain?"
"Indeed Number One. We are to proceed to Earth at best possible speed."
Will frowned and stared at his clasped hands.
"And what awaits you there Captain?"
Jean-Luc sighed and glared angrily at his casts.
"I'm not sure Will. So far they've found six members of this clandestine group, all it would seem, totally dedicated to bringing about my downfall."
Will swore softly under his breath and the Captain ignored his lapse.
"As for the ship, we will dock at McKinley for an upgrade of the deflector dish. Command has authorised ten days leave for the entire crew."
There was silence for a few moments before Will asked softly,
"And Harris? What about him and what he did to Beverly?"
Jean-Luc frowned and pursed his lips, rubbing his finger over his lower lip.
"He will be transferred to Medical where they will endeavour to treat his brain injury. If he recovers, I intend to see him charged with numerous offences. Rest assured Will, he will feel the full weight of the law."
The First Officer nodded and sat forward, his eager eyes boring into the Captain's.
"Sir Deanna and I were wondering if it wouldn't be wise to try and dig up other victims. It's almost certain he's done this before…if we could find some women willing to testify…"
Jean-Luc held up his hand and shook his head.
"No Number One. If this goes to trial it will be up to the prosecution to do that. If any of this crew tried such a thing it could be viewed as prejudicial. No we must leave this to the JAG office and trust they do their jobs properly."
His shoulders sagging in defeat, Will shook his head.
"I understand Captain but it's so damn frustrating sitting around doing nothing!"
"Oh I heartily agree with you Number One, but that's how it will be."
Will sat up and stroked his beard. Gauging his Captain's mood, he broached a difficult subject.
"Sir…have you spoken to Beverly?"
Jean-Luc's dark eyes glittered dangerously, his stare glacial. The Captain closed his eyes briefly and took a large breath, realising his anger towards Will was unjustified.
"No Will I haven't. I know she's been discharged to her quarters and I'm waiting on a report from both Selar and Deanna."
Will nodded and said quietly,
"We have to interview her…without her version of events we can't charge Harris. In fact without Beverly's corroboration, your actions become less sound."
Jean-Luc sniffed and stretched his neck.
"I know. Despite the circumstances I struck a superior officer, if fact I beat him so badly he has been left with a brain injury…I'm well aware of the ramifications Will."
Will's hands curled as he articulated his words.
"Captain I was there. I saw what he'd done to Beverly and you stopped when I asked you to. Your actions were understandable."
Jean-Luc summoned a wan smile and shook his head.
"To you and Deanna maybe, but to a dispassionate jury? I'm not so sure. In any case it's out of our hands. Please make ready to break orbit and set course for Earth, maximum warp."
Standing, Will nodded.
"Aye Sir."
The doors sighed closed and Jean-Luc watched out his viewport as, within moments, his mighty ship lazily turned on her axis and made the effortless jump to warp. The stars elongated and attained their prismatic splendour as the Enterprise made her way home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having discussed her case with Selar, Deanna stood outside Beverly's quarters and took a moment to centre herself. Erecting her barriers, she activated the chime. Expecting to hear Beverly's voice admitting her, she was surprised when the doors opened to reveal the Doctor looking pale and tired.
"Hello Beverly, may I come in?"
The red head turned silently and walked into the living area. Deanna followed and noted with relief that her quarters had been cleaned and repaired in her absence.
Beverly listlessly sat on the sofa, pulling her legs up and shrinking into the corner. The Counsellor sat on a chair beside her and lowered her barriers. Dark emotions, fear, helplessness and anger swirled around Beverly's mind and Deanna left her barriers down, wishing to closely monitor her best friend.
"Have you eaten Beverly?"
Dragging her dull eyes up from their contemplation of her fisted hands. Beverly absently nodded.
"Good. Would you like a cup of chamomile tea?"
The doctor shrugged and Deanna took a moment to retrieve two hot drinks. She put them on the table and sat on the edge of her seat.
"Beverly…tell me how you feel."
Her eyes stared blankly at the Counsellor, before slowly filling with tears. Her trembling voice was just a whisper.
"Empty…afraid"
Deanna slowly rose and came to sit next to her friend. Gently taking her hand, Deanna said softly,
"It's very important that you know it wasn't your fault. You did nothing wrong…nothing to deserve what happened. Harris is to blame, totally and utterly. Over the next few days I will see you regularly and we'll talk. Will that be all right?"
For the first time, Beverly's eyes cleared and she actually saw her friend. She nodded tentatively and Deanna gently squeezed her hand, immensely gratified when Beverly weakly squeezed hers in return. Deanna sat up and opened her arms. Beverly hesitated only a few seconds before settling into her embrace and resting her head on the Counsellor's shoulder. She wept quietly, her tears soaking Deanna's uniform.

 

 

 

 


Three days later Jean-Luc was sitting on his bed in Sickbay staring vacantly at the blue regeneration beams aimed at his wrists and hands. His mind was elsewhere; going over the last contact he'd had with Admiral Handorff. Two more officers had been found, a Commander and another Captain. Both men were known to Jean-Luc either first hand or by word of mouth. Handorff had voiced the opinion that these two were the last of the group and that they could discuss the legal ramifications of the groups actions upon the Captain's arrival on Earth. He was stirred out of his reverie by the entrance of Selar and Deanna.
The Doctor scanned his hands before switching off the regen beams. With her usual dispassionate delivery she asked Jean-Luc,
"Captain Picard please flex your wrists to their full extent."
Jean-Luc complied and watched the Vulcan as she entered information into a PADD.
"And now Captain, make a fist with both hands, then splay your fingers."
This he did and sighed when the Vulcan remained silent. Placing the PADD on the bed, the Doctor gripped his left hand firmly and manipulated his wrist. Her dark eyes studied the Captain and when he offered no reaction, she swapped to the other hand and repeated the procedure, garnering the same result. Satisfied, she released his hand and stepped back.
"I believe your bones have healed satisfactorily Captain. We can do without the casts, but you will have to return to Sickbay once a day for regeneration therapy."
Jean-Luc nodded and sighed.
"How many days?"
"I would envisage four Captain."
He nodded again and was about to slide off the bed when Deanna stepped forward and gently gripped his arm.
"Captain I think it's time we three had a talk about Doctor Crusher."
Jean-Luc caught Selar's eyes and she nodded, stepping back and gesturing to the office. Once seated in Beverly's sanctum, Deanna started.
"Over the past few days I've taken the opportunity to be with Beverly as often as possible. We've talked, not I hasten to say, about what happened to her, but about how she feels, how she's sleeping and eating, generalities I hope to establish a strength of communication between us that will make it easier for her to be able to tell me what happened. Commander Riker tells me that we really need to formally interview her and I think that time is rapidly approaching, but…Captain I think you should be there."
Jean-Luc's startled look halted the conversation momentarily. He took a deep breath and said in his deep baritone,
"Me? But Counsellor I thought…that is you have…"
Deanna smiled at his confusion and sought to put him at ease.
"Captain Beverly misses you. Several times now she's admitted to me she misses your company…I believe you habitually share breakfast together?"
"Yes we do."
"Well Captain maybe it's time you reinstated that pleasure. Tomorrow morning why don't you go to her quarters…she'd be more comfortable with that I think, and have a quiet breakfast with her?"
Jean-Luc frowned and rubbed his fingers over his lower lip, a sure sign of deep thought.
"Would I be required to…ask her anything? Do you expect me to…interrogate her?"
The Counsellor grimaced and frowned.
"Oh no Captain. All I want is for you two to re-establish something pleasant, something normal and stress free, something Beverly needs and misses."
His smile was slow in emerging but it warmed the Counsellor.
"That Counsellor would be a pleasure."
He focussed his attention on the Doctor.
"What is Doctor Crusher's medical condition?"
Selar tilted her head.
"Her physical injuries are completely healed and there are no residual complications. Psychologically she is progressing as well as can be expected. If she handles your morning ritual with equanimity, I would envisage the formal interview could take place some time over the next three days. And Captain I agree with the Counsellor…you should be present."
There followed a moment's silence. Jean-Luc stared at his hands, and suddenly remembered why he'd come to Sickbay.
"Doctor Selar I take it I can return to duty?"
The Vulcan cast her dark eyes over to Deanna who frowned and sighed. She turned to Jean-Luc and said quietly,
"Captain I'm still not fully convinced you're completely over what happened. You've managed to sidestep my recent efforts to counsel you and…"
The Captain held up a hand and sighed.
"All right I admit I've been avoiding you, I've had a lot on my mind, but really Counsellor can you honestly say I'm not fit to command?"
Sighing with exasperation, the Counsellor shook her head.
"Captain that's what counselling is for! How can I answer that when you deliberately absent yourself from your sessions? You ask if I can make an honest judgement and the answer is no, I can't."
The vexed man sat back and angrily crossed his arms over his chest.
"Dammit Counsellor what do you want from me!"
In a quietly controlled voice, Deanna said,
"Your full cooperation Sir."
Jean-Luc was irritably rubbing the bridge of his nose when Selar's steady voice intervened.
"Captain would it help you if I made counselling an official part of your ongoing therapy? Perhaps if you thought of it as a medical imperative..?"
Jean-Luc snorted and shook his head in anger.
"Are you suggesting you're willing to order me to undergo counselling?"
With her customary stoicism, Selar looked at him with equanimity.
"You would, of course, have to obey."
With abruptness that startled the two women, the Captain stood and glowered down at the Doctor.
"And are you issuing such an order?"
Selar looked up at him with complete calm.
"Yes Captain I am. I believe in the long term, it would be to your benefit."
His body stiff with indignation, Jean-Luc moved his blazing eyes to Deanna.
"When Counsellor?"
"Keeping herself centred, the Counsellor met his gaze.
"This afternoon Captain, would fourteen thirty be all right with you?"
"His jaw flexing, he ground out,
"Do I have a choice?"
Deanna let that pass and tried to filter out his anger. The Captain glared once more before turning and marching out the door. Both women sat in silence before Selar said,
"He can be a most difficult patient. I do not know how Doctor Crusher manages him."
At that, Deanna smiled, her black eyes twinkling.
"I think for him, she has a specialised bed-side manner."
The Vulcan's eyebrow rose.
"Indeed."

 

 

 

 

 

Deanna glanced again at the chronometer and sighed. She knew he would be on time, the Captain always was, but she wasn't looking forward to the coming session. Tilting her head slightly, she plexed and was relaxing when she sensed his tightly controlled anger and irritation approaching. Sitting primly in her chair, she faced the door and waited.
"Come in."
The doors sighed open and the Captain entered. Although dressed in civilian clothing, he still exuded a commanding presence. His face was an unreadable mask, but his dark hazel eyes glittered dangerously.
"Please Captain come in and have a seat. Can I get you something? A tea perhaps?"
The sullen man remained silent as he took his seat, his body rigid and plainly showing his anger.
His voice, when he replied, was tight.
"No thank you Counsellor."
Using every method she possessed to deflect his angst, Deanna adopted a professional calm.
"Well Captain how are you feeling?"
His glare was glacial.
"I would've thought that was patently obvious."
Sighing, Deanna struggled to keep her equilibrium in the face of his stubborn anger.
"Captain please…your attitude isn't helping. You know as well as I that you need to talk about what happened. I don't understand why you're fighting me."
The Captain stood abruptly, his hands fisted at his sides. Motionless, he glared down at the petite Counsellor before suddenly closing his eyes and drawing a deep breath. Deanna clearly felt him struggle to calm himself and appreciated his effort. His shoulders lowered and his body lost some of its tenseness. Concentrating, he forced his hands to open then slowly rolled his head. Feeling better, he regained his seat and sighed. His voice when he spoke was deep and soft.
"I'm sorry Counsellor. I seem to have made the mistake of taking out my frustration on you. That is both unfair and unprofessional."
Smiling gently at her commander, Deanna nodded.
"That's all right Sir…as long as you tell me what those frustrations are."
Jean-Luc let his body relax and leaned back in his chair, resting his head on the backrest.
"There have been two more officers discovered, a Captain and a Commander…both relatives of people who died at Wolf 359. I'm beginning to wonder when it will all be over…or will it ever end? Am I doomed to be cursed, hounded by grieving people hell bent on retribution? Will it ever stop?"
Deanna sat silently, her mind pitying the man before her. She and Beverly knew only too well how difficult the Captain's recovery was after his assimilation by the Borg. He came so close to insanity…to suicide…the burden of the knowledge of what he was forced to do nearly so very nearly killed him. And even when he'd turned the corner and accepted he was not at fault there was the debilitating nightmares and crushing guilt. There were times during those long dark days that both women believed he would never fully recover, but such was the man, such was his dedication, he made it back. Scarred, bowed and terribly battered, but once again whole. And now he was being forced to relive it all again. Damn them!
"Captain does Command think there are any more? Do they think they've got them all?"
His silent nod worried the Counsellor.
"So how many were there?"
His voice now a husky whisper, he said,
"Eight."
Deanna stood and came to sit by his side. Gently she took his hand and he opened his eyes.
"Captain you do the maths. There were over eleven thousand casualties after Wolf 359 and of all those grieving families; eight people took it upon themselves to act in a cowardly, underhanded and devious way. I'd say that's not too bad considering."
Her lightness of tone was not lost on the perturbed man. He raised an eyebrow and snorted.
"Are you suggesting I'm lucky it wasn't more?"
"No Captain. What I'm suggesting is that the vast majority forgave you a long time ago. These people Captain are deluded. If they can't accept Starfleet's handling of the entire episode then they've alienated themselves from the very organization they purport to serve! They're rogues! My advice to you is let Command deal with it. They've always stood by you in the past, let them sort this mess out."
Sighing, Jean-Luc retrieved his hand and crossed his legs. He knitted his hands in his lap and smiled at his Counsellor.
"I must say Deanna, that makes remarkably good sense."
Grinning, Deanna inclined her head.
"Thank you Captain. Now Sir…tell me how you feel about what happened to Beverly."
The Captain sighed expansively and shook his head.
"Every time I think about it I become very angry. Do you know I warned her about Harris? Before he came aboard I'd heard things…nothing substantiated but unpleasant rumours nonetheless. Over breakfast one morning I tried to tell her he was bad news but all I managed to do was anger her. Why is it Deanna, that the only emotion I seem to be able to elicit from her is anger?"
Deanna sighed and shrugged.
"It's the nature of the beast Captain. Her rebellious streak and her disdain for taking advice, especially from her Captain…well let's just say it's an unfortunate mix."
Jean-Luc snorted and shook his head.
"I can't help but feel I let her down somehow. I saw bruises, I knew she was acting strangely…why didn't I put two and two together? For God's sake it was staring me in the face."
Deanna lowered her head and sighed.
"Captain men like Commodore Harris are a rarity these days. Such tendencies, the propensity for violence, is usually recognised and treated at an early age. As I said to Will, even though he'd gotten through the Academy undiscovered, had it not been for the rapid promotions after the Dominion war, he would've been found out. You aren't to blame Sir, nobody but Harris himself is to blame and I'd wager he's got some unresolved issues that may have caused his behaviour too. Until he's counselled about it we'll never know."
Jean-Luc nodded slowly and pursed his lips.
"I worry how Beverly will come to terms with this. Obviously he had some sort of hold over her…I can't imagine her accepting his abuse without a substantial reason and for the life of me I can't imagine what it must have been. That it was strong…overwhelming is obvious, but what the hell was it? What could he have said or done to make her accept the abuse?"
"I don't know Captain and unfortunately we're going to have to ask Beverly herself. I'd hoped to interview Harris and ask him, but as that's not possible, we're forced to ask her."
"Do you think she'll tell you?"
"I don't know Sir, we can only ask."
They sat in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Eventually Jean-Luc sighed and tilted his head towards the Counsellor.
"So can I return to duty? Please?"
She looked at him so long he thought she'd decline, but she suddenly smiled and nodded.
"Yes Captain…provided we still meet every two days for a session."
He scowled in mock anger and shook his head.
"You Counsellor are a tyrant."
"But?"
Jean-Luc sighed then smiled.
"Agreed."
She watched as he rose to his feet and stretched.
"You know Captain it wouldn't do any harm to take the remainder of the day off and rest."
He grunted and turned for the door. Over his shoulder he tossed,
"Not on your life! You just restored me to active duty."
The doors opened and he stepped through, his back straight, his shoulders square.
Deanna chuckled and leaned back in her chair.
"Yes…you're well on the way to recovery."

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning Jean-Luc stood outside Beverly's quarters waiting for her to answer the chime. He tugged down on his tunic and resisted the urge to roll his shoulders, his night's rest not as peaceful or as long as he'd hoped. He heard Beverly's call for him to enter and he concentrated all his thoughts on making his best friend feel better.
"Hello Beverly."
The Doctor was sitting on the sofa under the viewport. Dressed in casual clothes, she looked pale and tired. The Captain walked over to her and waited until she granted permission for him to sit.
"What are you doing here?"
Jean-Luc smiled warmly, his eyes twinkling.
"I thought perhaps you might enjoy having breakfast with me."
She was silent, so silent that he thought she would refuse. Then she summoned a small smile and he saw tears in her eyes.
"I would like that."
The Captain rose to begin preparations but stopped when she gently gripped his hand. Her voice was barely a whisper.
"Jean-Luc…can we go to your quarters?"
He regained his seat and frowned.
"Of course…if that's what you want. I just thought you'd be more comfortable here."
Beverly looked around her cabin and a shudder passed through her. Shaking her head she said softly,
"No I would really like to go someplace else…please."
Nodding slowly, Jean-Luc stood and gently held her hands as she rose. Together they exited her quarters and walked the short distance to his in silence. Once inside his abode, Jean-Luc sat her at the table and set about creating breakfast. As he worked, bringing things to the table, he chatted amiably but noted her reticence. With the final plate of hot croissants on the table, he sat and shook out his serviette.
"Are you hungry?"
Beverly smiled and wrinkled her brow.
"To be honest I wasn't but smelling those croissants…I think I can manage one or two."
His warm smile was the one she knew he reserved for her only. Her heart swelled and tears brimmed making her stop what she was doing. Jean-Luc's voice was soft and tender.
"It's all right Beverly, you're not under any microscope with me. Let it out."
Dropping the pastry she'd been tearing, her hands came up to her face. He was beside her immediately, taking her into his arms and settling her head on his shoulder. Her quiet sobs tore at his heart and his own eyes filled with tears. Beverly's broken hiccups made her jerk in his arms and he felt her body trembling. Gently rubbing his large hands up and down her back, he found himself humming an old tune his mother used to sing to him when he was young. Lifting one hand he stroked her hair and wrapped the other around her back. Many minutes passed before he felt her slowly regain control. The sobbing stopped, her breathing evened out, and her hands, which had been clutching the front of his uniform, released their grip. She slowly pulled back, but kept her eyes lowered. Jean-Luc picked up her serviette and used his fingers to lift her head. With tender strokes, he wiped away her tears and cleaned her face. Her eyes slowly lifted to meet his and she sighed. Her voice a whisper she said,
"I love you Jean-Luc."
He smiled tenderly and leaned forward to kiss her brow.
"I know. Now you go to the bathroom and wash your face and I'll replicate some fresh croissants and coffee."
By the time she came back to the table, he'd made good on his promise. They ate in silence for a while, content just to be in each other's company. Over a second cup of coffee, Beverly sighed.
"I seem to be doing a lot of this."
Jean-Luc's eyebrows rose in a characteristic enquiry. Flapping her hand, she elaborated.
"Sitting around doing very little except crying."
He smiled sympathetically and offered,
"I would've come to you sooner but Deanna said…"
Beverly held up her hand and waved it.
"Oh I know you don't have to tell me. In fact I wouldn't mind betting breakfast was her idea?"
Jean-Luc nodded and sighed.
"Yes but she thought you'd want to stay in your quarters."
Beverly stood and ambled over to the viewports, wrapping her arms around herself. To Jean-Luc she looked particularly fragile and isolated. He left the table and came to stand behind her, gently resting his hands on her hips. Without warning she turned and wrapped her arms around his chest. His arms gently embraced her and she rested her head on his shoulder.
"Hold me Jean-Luc. Make it all go away."
He gently pulled her closer and kissed her hair.
"If only I could Beverly."
They stood quietly for a time before Beverly stepped back and took a large breath. Pushing her hair back, she lifted her chin.
"I suppose I have to be interviewed?"
Jean-Luc took her hand and led her to the sofa where they both sat.
"Yes."
"I've been expecting it…what's the hold up?"
The Captain smiled ruefully, admiring her spirit.
"Actually we've been waiting for you. Deanna wanted to be sure you'd be up to it."
Her noncommittal grunt was expected. Jean-Luc took her hand and found her eyes.
"Beverly there're some questions we'll have to ask…you may find them distressing. Originally we hoped to interview Harris, but he's…not well enough so we have to ask you."
The Doctor nodded and breathed deeply.
"I understand. Tell me, what's wrong with him?"
Looking directly into her eyes, Jean-Luc kept his voice even.
"He has an acquired brain injury."
Beverly swallowed and closed her eyes. Her voice trembling she said,
"You fought…I remember. Did he hurt you?"
Knowing she wouldn't be satisfied with anything but the truth, Jean-Luc answered.
"Broken jaw, cracked ribs, broken hands and wrists, bruised and swollen testicles and a torn urethra."
She sat in silence then said,
"He kicked you…God that must've hurt."
"It did indeed, however I returned the favour and managed to rupture his right testicle."
Beverly's breath hissed through her teeth.
"And the brain injury?"
Jean-Luc's silence made her open her eyes and look under his brow.
"Jean-Luc?"
The Captain sighed, his voice low and full of remorse.
"I lost control Beverly. He was down and helpless and I started to hit him and I couldn't stop. It was Will who finally stopped me…if he hadn't I would've beaten him to death. As it is, I inflicted the brain injury."
They were both silent for a while and Beverly's next words were welcome.
"You're in uniform. I take it you're completely healed and that Deanna has passed you fit for duty?"
The Captain smiled, nodding slowly.
"Well that's good! I suppose you should be getting to the Bridge."
At that Jean-Luc chuckled.
"Beverly I'm the Captain. I can be late if I want to."
Leaning forward, she kissed his cheek tenderly and trailed her fingers down his face.
"So it really is good to be the king."
He grinned delightedly and nodded.
"Well even kings have to do their duty. Off you go."
He stood and frowned down at her.
"You're sure?"
She nodded then tilted her head.
"Would it be ok if I stayed in you quarters, at least for a while?"
He smiled tenderly and said softly,
"Stay as long as you want."
She nodded her gratitude and watched as he left. Sitting back on the sofa, she looked out at the streaking stars and allowed her mind to drift, soon falling into a light sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two and a half hours later the door chime roused the somnolent Doctor. Sitting up, she pushed her hair back from her face, cleared her throat and bade the caller to enter. Deanna came in, her face smiling and frowning at the same time.
"I went to your quarters and when you didn't answer the door, I asked the computer where you were. I must say I was surprised to find you here. The Captain has been on the Bridge for over two hours."
Beverly stood and stretched. She sauntered over to the replicator and to her silent enquiry; Deanna nodded and waited while the Doctor retrieved two hot drinks. The women settled on the sofa and Deanna allowed Beverly to take her time.
"The Captain came to my quarters this morning, offering breakfast. I accepted but requested we have it here."
The Counsellor studied her friend and opened her mind. She sensed calm and determination, two things missing lately in the Doctor's emotions.
"You had a nice time."
Beverly smiled and sipped her chamomile tea.
"Yes it was very pleasant. Jean-Luc was just what I needed. He was calm and supportive…and refreshingly open and honest. Tell me Deanna how is he coping with what happened?"
Marvelling at Beverly's strength, Deanna replied,
"He struggled at first. I take it you know about his loss of control…and the consequences?"
Beverly nodded and Deanna continued.
"As you would imagine, he took his lapse badly and the damage he wrought weighs particularly heavy on him. Added to that the circumstances involved…well suffice to say there have been some very strong emotions roiling around the ship these last few days."
Beverly nodded and put her cup down to rub her face.
"What are our orders?"
"We're on our way back to Earth. Once there Harris will go to medical for treatment and you will be interviewed by the JAG office and security. Now that the cadre has been rounded up, I'd say once your case has been heard we can be on our way."
Beverly frowned and shook her head.
"What cadre?"
Realising her lapse, Deanna frowned and shook her head.
"Oh nothing for you to worry about. I'd rather talk about…"
The Doctor held up her hand and shook her head.
"Uh uh Counsellor. Come on out with it…what are you trying so hard to keep from me?"
Deanna sighed and looked down at her hands. She felt Beverly's impatience and slowly building suspicion. Deciding honesty was the only cure; Deanna looked her in the eyes and confessed.
"Harris was part of a group of eight officers, all committed to ruining the Captain's career. Their plan was to make it appear he was no longer fit to command and have him summarily tried and railroaded out of Starfleet. They even went so far as to plan to have his decorations rescinded, leaving him ostensibly disgraced and dishonourably discharged."
Beverly's shaking hand covered her mouth.
"My God! Who? Who are these people?"
"An Admiral, a Commodore, three Captains, two Commanders and a Lieutenant. All of them have deceased relatives from the battle of Wolf 359."
The doctor sat forward and cradled her head in her hands. Her repeated mutterings made Deanna lean closer to hear.
"He said…My God he said…"
"Who said Beverly?"
The Doctor looked up her face ashen.
"Harris! He said he would bring Jean-Luc down!"
Deanna sighed and clasped Beverly's shoulder.
"Will told me that Harris came aboard at his own request. Apparently they've been planning this for a long time."
Fisting her hands, Beverly pounded her thighs.
"The bastard! The absolute bastard! Deanna call Will. I want to be interviewed now!"
Startled, Deanna sought to calm her friend.
"Beverly are you sure? You're very upset now…the interview will be hard."
"I don't care! I want that miserable prick to get what he so richly deserves!"
The Counsellor raised her head to place the call but hesitated.
"Beverly…do you want the Captain here?"
Beverly gasped and swallowed before nodding slowly.
"Yes…yes Deanna I do."
"Troi to Captain Picard."
"Picard here."
"Captain will you and Commander Riker please come to your quarters? Doctor Crusher has requested to be interviewed."
There was a moment's pause before he replied.
"We're on our way."

 

 

 

The tension in the room was palpable. Beverly sat on the sofa, Jean-Luc next to her, Will and Deanna facing her in the other chairs. Deanna's empathy measured the level of tension in the Doctor and noted it fell when Jean-Luc gently took her hand and held it. Beverly turned to him and smiled, the love and affection exchanged made Deanna's heart swell.
Will cleared his throat and opened a log entry, marking the time, who was present and the purpose of their meeting. He then turned his attention to the Doctor.
"Doctor Crusher on star date 4209.3 an incident occurred between you and Commodore Desmond Harris that resulted in the Commodore being assaulted by Captain Jean-Luc Picard. As we already have the Captain's version of the events as he recalls them, can you please tell us how the incident came to be?"
Beverly sat up straight and Jean-Luc felt her grip of his hand increase.
"Commodore Harris came to my quarters that night…he wanted two things. First he wanted me to use my friendship and influence with the Captain to make him change his mind about saving the population of Terath II."
When she said nothing more, Will prompted,
"And second?"
Her voice small and trembling, Beverly answered.
"He wanted sex."
Will kept his face neutral and made some notes on his PADD.
"What happened?"
"After he told me what he wanted me to do about the Captain I protested. I told him that no matter what I said or did, Captain Picard would not change his mind. He became angry and informed me that he would show me how to effect the Captain's change of mind."
Deanna said softly,
"What did he do?"
Beverly sniffed and lowered her head.
"He tore off my nightie and underwear and proceeded to beat me."
"Did you resist?"
"No."
"Why?"
The Doctor wiped absently at an escaping tear and lifted her head.
"Because it would have provoked a worse beating."
Will sat forward and gripped the PADD.
"Had he beaten you previously?"
"Yes."
Both Will and Deanna glanced at the Captain. Jean-Luc's face was a stony mask, but his eyes glittered with suppressed anger. Will's voice was tender.
"Do you recall the arrival of Captain Picard?"
Beverly looked at Jean-Luc and smiled.
"Yes. Harris had me by my hair and one particularly hard punch left me dazed, but I looked up and saw the Captain standing just inside the door. I wanted to call to him to help me but my voice didn't work. The Captain stood motionless for some seconds then…I think he yelled…and he ran to Harris and grappled him, knocking them both to the floor. Harris released my hair and I crawled to the corner to hide."
Will stroked his beard and nodded.
"Did you witness the ensuing fight?"
Beverly frowned and sighed.
"Yes I did. Both men landed significant blows but Captain Picard got the upper hand. I saw him look at me and I cowered lower into the shadows and didn't see the rest of the fight. My next recollection is Counsellor Troi and Commander Data. They were trying to help me…at that stage I was in deep shock."
Will rubbed the bridge of his nose and sniffed. Closing his eyes briefly, he asked,
"In your opinion what would have happened if Captain Picard had not intervened?"
Deanna watched as Beverly clenched her jaw and wiped at her flowing tears.
"Harris would have forced me to have sex with him."
"Are you saying he would've raped you?"
"Yes."
Deanna's gentle voice caused Beverly to sob.
"Had he raped you before?"
"Yes."
Will gave her a moment to compose herself then asked,
"Given the accusations of physical abuse and rape, why didn't you report him…seek help?"
Beverly took a shaky breath and looked at Jean-Luc. With their eyes locked she answered the question.
"The first time he abused and raped me he told me that if I said anything…to anybody…he would destroy Captain Picard's career. He also accused the Captain of deliberately placing my late husband in a lethal situation so his ultimate death would allow him to pursue me romantically. And finally he said he had proof that my late husband had colluded with some Orions to traffic underage females for the purpose of prostitution. I challenged him…told him I didn't believe him, but he threatened to go public with what he had and in the end I decided the risk was too great I had my late husband's and my son's reputations to consider, to say nothing of Captain Picard's standing. I had hoped to investigate his claims myself but the opportunity never arose."
"Did you resist?"
Beverly nodded and sighed.
"Yes. At first I fought him but the beating was worse. Ultimately it was easier to accede making the experience over sooner."
"But you never gave permission? The sex was non consensual?"
"Yes."
Will sat back and looked at Deanna. She concentrated on the Doctor and asked,
"And your injuries? What did you do about them?"
Sighing and breaking eye contact with Jean-Luc, Beverly stared at their hands.
"Those injuries not covered by my uniform I repaired privately. The rest I left untreated…it seemed to upset Harris to see them and I drew comfort from that."
Will scrolled through some information on his PADD, read for a second or two then faced the Doctor.
"Doctor Crusher are you aware of a discrepancy in the pharmaceutical log in Sickbay?"
Beverly nodded and sniffed.
"Yes I am."
"Can you shed any light on it?"
"It was me. In order to stay at my post…to function at my job, I self medicated. I used sedatives and analgesics and when the problem of the misappropriated drugs was brought to my attention, I deflected the enquiry in an effort to remain undiscovered."
"Are you saying that if you reported yourself as unfit for duty, suspicions would be raised?"
"Yes. There would have been several people who would've questioned me about it and I felt unable to deflect their attention. At all costs I felt I had to hide what was happening to me. Too much was riding on it."
Will nodded and Deanna said softly,
"Each time he came to your quarters, you admitted him. Why, when you knew what would happen?"
Beverly closed her eyes and shuddered. Jean-Luc's arm went around her shoulders and she borrowed some of his resolute strength.
"On one occasion I tried to dissuade him…prevent him from entering, but he threatened me with more violence and I relented. I then tried to hide but all that did was provoke a more severe beating."
Will's voice was showing his strain to keep calm.
"How long Doctor…how long did this abuse go on for?"
"We went out socially once and everything seemed fine. He was courteous and charming. The next time he came into my quarters and made an unwelcome sexual advance. When I resisted he struck me. He then beat and raped me. This was repeated five times over approximately ten days. He was of the opinion that I required re-educating to make me a more suitable partner. My feeling is that he has this opinion of all women and I would hazard that he would be sexually inadequate without exerting violence."
Will carefully placed the PADD on the table and clasped his hands.
"Doctor Crusher I am formally asking you if you wish to press charges of assault and aggravated rape against Commodore Desmond Harris?"
Beverly sat up straight and lifted her chin.
"Yes Commander Riker I do."
Will nodded with satisfaction and lifted his head.
"Computer end interview. Note time and file for submission to Starfleet Command at a later date."
"Affirmative."

 

 

 

 

 

Will and Deanna stayed long enough to be sure Beverly was all right before they left. Jean-Luc took Beverly in his arms and slowly reclined on the sofa until they were both lying comfortably. The Doctor rested her head on the Captain's chest and they remained silent for some time. Her voice, when she finally spoke was soft.
"Deanna told me about the cadre."
Jean-Luc refrained from replying. He closed his eyes and frowned.
"She said they caught them all. It must have been a shock for you."
He sighed, making Beverly rise and fall on his chest.
"Yes it was. Do you remember Daniel Haysom?"
Beverly frowned in thought before replying,
"Yes. He was a Captain. He died at…"
"Uh huh. Wolf 359. Well his son, Lieutenant Christopher Haysom was the hot shot lawyer they were…"
Beverly suddenly wrenched herself upright and gripped fistfuls of his uniform.
"Don't say that! Don't you ever say that!"
Jean-Luc grasped her hands, worry and alarm etched into his face.
"Beverly? Say what? What did I..?"
The Doctor released his uniform and moved quickly to the end of the sofa. She sat on the edge of the seat, covering her face with her hands, her body trembling. Jean-Luc sat up and moved slowly to her side. The unnerved man tentatively rested his hand on her quaking shoulder and spoke softly.
"What is it Beverly? What must I never say?"
Her response was so quiet he had to ask her to repeat it. She lowered her hands and sniffed, tears sliding down her face.
"Hot Shot. That was what he called me."
Jean-Luc closed his eyes, gritting his teeth as anger surged through him. With desperate effort, he deliberately calmed himself and gently gripped her shoulders, turning her slowly until she faced him.
"I will not say those words again my love. I'm sorry."
Smiling lopsidedly, Beverly lifted a hand and trailed her fingers down his face.
"I much prefer that."
He raised his eyebrows in enquiry and she sighed.
"My love."
His smile was tender and he sighed.
"I have waited a very long time to call you that."
Tears slid slowly down Beverly's cheeks as she looked deeply into his eyes.
"I know. I told you today that I loved you…and I do. It's taken me an awful long time to admit it and I also know how much I've hurt you over the years, but know this Jean-Luc. I love you with all my heart and I think I always will."
He remained silent, his face unreadable. Beverly's heart began to pound as the realisation that she may have left it too late to tell him slowly dawned on her. She swallowed and barely dared to breathe as tears slowly brimmed in his eyes, then overflowed the lids and slid down his face. He leaned forward and kissed her softly, the tenderness and love expressed making her shiver. His hands crept up and wrapped around her, drawing her closer. She went eagerly, winding her arms around his head and sighing into his mouth. He slowly tapered the kiss and touched his forehead to hers. They stayed like that for some minutes, silently communing, sharing each other's love…basking in it. Jean-Luc straightened slowly and held her head in his large hands.
"The coming weeks will be difficult my love…for both of us."
Beverly nodded and smiled ruefully.
"I know, but we'll have each other."
More silence ensued before Jean-Luc sighed.
"My God Beverly if I'd only known…I'd have…"
"Shh my love, I understand. When I found out what he'd done to you I was outraged too. We're both victims here and it's up to us to see him punished for what he did."
Jean-Luc sat back and settled his hands on his thighs. He frowned as his next question formed in his mind.
"Beverly…his accusations about Jack and me…you know there's absolutely no truth..?"
The Doctor summoned a tired chuckle.
"Of course I know Jean-Luc! I never believed him, but I couldn't allow him to go public with them Even though I was certain they would be found to be false, the smear on both you and Jack would remain. You know as well as I how the fleet loves gossip."
Jean-Luc sighed and nodded.
"Oh yes I'm well aware of the rapacious appetite the fleet has for scurrilous rumours. Some of the things I've heard would curl your toes."
Her outright laughter pleased him, but raised his curiosity nonetheless.
"What?"
The Doctor tilted her head and regarded him with open affection as she debated telling him what was on her mind.
"Have you never heard the gossip about you and me?"
His shocked expression drew another chuckle.
"You and me? But there was nothing to talk about! We never…"
Beverly ran her hands through her hair and sighed.
"That doesn't mean people didn't speculate Jean-Luc. You are the most celebrated Captain in the fleet…and one of the most eligible bachelors. I, on the other hand, am the widowed ice queen that spends all her off time…and her breakfasts with the unattached Captain. Come on Jean-Luc…even you can see where people would come to the obvious conclusion. They've had us paired off for years. I really am surprised you hadn't heard sooner."
Jean-Luc scowled and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"Hear it sooner? I bloody well never heard it at all! Honestly haven't they got anything better to do than speculate about our private lives?"
The Doctor snorted and rubbed her face.
"Nope. Apparently we make an intriguing topic of conversation."
Jean-Luc lapsed into sullen silence while Beverly went to his bathroom and washed her face. When she came back she placed two steaming cups on the low table. Smiling his thanks, he picked his cup up, blew on the contents before sipping his favourite brew.
Beverly watched him and sighed with pleasure. He heard her and gave her a rare full grin. Delighted, Beverly wrinkled her nose and batted her eyes at him, making him chuckle. They finished their drinks in silence and Beverly was happy when he coaxed her to lie with him on the sofa. Safely ensconced in his warm embrace, she drifted off to sleep.

 

 

 

Four days later Jean-Luc was in his office studying the impending upgrade schematics for the deflector dish. The chime was a welcome interruption.
"Come."
Deanna walked in and sat before the desk, smiling gently at her CO.
"Counsellor. How can I help you?"
Deanna frowned and tilted her head.
"Captain I've come to see you for two reasons. First, I want to talk to you about Beverly and second I want to speak to you about you being absent yesterday from your appointment."
The Captain's face became an inscrutable mask as he made to brush off her admonishment over his non-compliance with her session.
"Counsellor I have a lot to get through over the next few days. I hope you understand when I say that we can pick up the sessions once we're docked at McKinley."
Deanna sat silently, her obsidian eyes boring into Jean-Luc's He maintained his stoic demeanour but inside his heart accelerated.
"Captain you know full well that is unacceptable. Your return to active duty was only granted on the proviso that you attended regular sessions with me. Non-compliance with that provision leaves me with an unpalatable decision. If you don't accede to my recommendations, I will be forced to reinstate your relief of duty."
The Captain's dark hazel eyes glittered as he struggled to keep his anger in check. Deanna stiffened her mental barriers and rode out the waves of anger as she waited for him to gain control. She watched as his body lost some of its rigidity and he sighed, bowing his head.
"My apologies Counsellor. I have allowed my absorption in ship's business to override my obligations to you and my treatment. It will not happen again."
Deanna lowered her barriers and smiled as she felt his genuine contrition.
"Thank you Captain your cooperation is welcomed."
Jean-Luc smiled then his face grew serious.
"Tell me Deanna, how is Beverly? How are the sessions progressing?"
The Counsellor took a moment to order her thoughts.
"Generally speaking she'd doing well…better I think, than we expected. She is determined to see Harris punished for what he did, but I think her motivation is more to seek justice for you than for herself. I have a suspicion that she somehow blames herself at some level for what happened to her…perhaps it's the fact that she was warned about Harris and chose to ignore those warnings or perhaps it's an intrinsic belief that she deserved the abuse for some imagined fault or misdemeanour…I'm not sure. It has become somewhat difficult for me to discuss the instances of rape and violence with her without her descending into a hysterical rage and although such a reaction is perfectly understandable, she is appalled by the outbursts. For a woman such as Beverly…a woman dedicated to healing and doing no harm, her urge to inflict bodily harm upon Harris is not sitting well with her."
Jean-Luc rose from his desk deep in thought and made his way to the replicator. He placed his order and returned to his seat, placing two hot drinks on the desk. He sat and picked his up, sipping before offering,
"After my assimilation by the Borg, I was assailed by deep urges to harm the Borg. In my dreams, in fact almost all the time my mind was occupied with fantasies of inflicting violence against them. I needed to attempt to at least try to do to them what they'd done to me. It took a long-time…and some very difficult sessions with you and Beverly before I was finally able to let that rage …that burning need for retributive revenge to subside. Perhaps Beverly also feels that need? That righteous driving urge to visit upon Harris the pain and terror, the humiliation and despair that he caused her."
Deanna nodded and sighed.
"You are most certainly correct Captain, but as I said, such needs flies in the face of what kind of person Beverly is. If she continues to accede to these dark emotions I'm afraid of the long-term repercussions. It could irrevocably damage her psychologically."
Jean-Luc studied the dark brew in his cup and sighed.
"What can we do? How can we help her?"
Deanna smiled and sighed once again grateful for his compassion and insight.
"I think you can help Sir. With your experience in this kind of situation, you're uniquely situated to help her through this."
Jean-Luc grimaced and frowned.
"How?"
"I want you to attend the next session I have with her."
The Captain finished his tea and meticulously placed the empty cup on the desk. His hand gently gripped the rim and he thoughtfully allowed his fingers to trace the circular lip.
"Can you give me any idea what will happen?"
Deanna sat back and crossed her legs.
"If it goes as the others have, when she attempts to tell me how she feels about remembering what happened to her, she will be overcome with rage and descend into an incoherent semi-hysterical parody of her usual self. That's when I think you'll be able to help. If you can reach her…touch her internally with compassion and understanding, I feel we might achieve a breakthrough."
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and rubbed his face tiredly. He nodded and sighed.
"All right Counsellor, I agree to help in any way I can."
Concerned, Deanna uncrossed her legs and sat forward.
"Captain I sense your tiredness. If it's any consolation, this experience could be very therapeutic for you too. You're suppressing anger and anguish over the recent events and you also have the stress of the impending legal investigation. Let Beverly feel that. She needs to know she's not the only one suffering, that others have been Harris' victims too."
Jean-Luc knitted his fingers on his lap and summoned a wan smile.
"And when can I look forward to this…event?"
Deanna stood and pushed in her chair.
"This afternoon Sir, at fourteen thirty."
Jean-Luc nodded and asked,
"Where?"
Deanna gripped the back of the chair and softened her gaze.
"In Beverly's quarters."
She noted the look of surprised concern on the Captain's face and sought to reassure him.
"I am aware of the discomfort she feels in her quarters, but for the purposes of this session, I think we can use that unsettling characteristic to our advantage."
She watched as the Captain's eyes lowered to stare at the desktop. Sensing his withdrawal, she moved to the door.
"I'll meet you outside her quarters Captain."
She received no reply so she left.
Jean-Luc remained motionless for some time, his mind recalling past horrors at the hands of the Borg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly was in the bathroom washing her hands when the door chime sounded. She dried her hands and walked into the living area, calling out,
"Come in."
She sighed when Deanna entered, but stilled and frowned when the Counsellor was followed by Jean-Luc. He entered and stood uncomfortably in the living area, his gaze on the floor. Beverly took in his nervous stance then shifted her eyes to the Counsellor, her face with a look of enquiry.
"I have asked Captain Picard to join us this afternoon, I think his presence will be helpful."
Beverly's face registered her confusion but she said nothing. Gesturing, she offered her guests seats and sat herself on the sofa. Jean-Luc hesitated then rose from his chair and sat next to Beverly, casting a shy smile at her. She returned the smile and sat back, forcing herself to relax.
Deanna took a moment to plex, then focussed her full attention on the Doctor.
"Beverly during our last session, we attempted to delve into your feelings as you recounted the instances of rape and abuse. This afternoon I would like to revisit those feelings. Can you recall how you felt when Harris first abused you?"
Feigning nonchalance, Beverly propped an elbow on the back of the sofa and balanced her chin on her splayed fingers.
"Well…I suppose at first I was shocked. I mean…how dare he! He slapped my face and called me a cock tease and I was dumbfounded. I said something like…"how dare you" and he slapped me again. At that stage I was going to call security but he was too fast. He dragged me into the bedroom, threw me on the bed and proceeded to tell me what he'd do if I said anything."
Deanna nodded and sighed.
"I sense your efforts to be dispassionate Beverly but that's not what I asked of you. How did you feel?"
Beverly glared at the Counsellor and sniffed. In a quiet voice that broke, she exclaimed,
"I was livid! The bastard was going to rape me and I could do nothing! How the hell do you think I felt?"
Deanna's black eyes bored into Beverly as her voice grew harsh.
"I don't know! Tell me!"
Beverly abruptly stood and fisted her hands. Her jaw clenched so tightly the muscles stood out in stark relief. Her face drained of colour and she growled.
"If I could've, I would have killed him! He beat me, he raped me…he treated me like a possession! I hate him! I hope he never recovers…I hope he rots in hell!"
The last words rose in a shriek. Tears flowed down her cheeks as she started to sob. Deanna looked pointedly at the Captain and he stood and gripped Beverly's shoulders.
"Yes! That would be good…that would be just! If you could only have ten minutes with him alone…you'd make sure he never hurt anyone again!"
His deep insistent voice reached into her fury and she stilled. A cruel smile marred her beautiful face.
"Yes! Oh God yes! I would take something…a club…maybe a knife…I would beat him, smash him…I would emasculate him! He would never hurt another woman again!"
Jean-Luc grimaced and closed his eyes. Stepping closer, he kept his voice low and intense.
"And the blood! His blood would be on your hands, you arms…your face."
Beverly's hands came up to her face and she howled.
"Yes! He was covered in my blood…it's only fair…it's only right!"
"He would scream…beg…"
"Let him! It would be music to my ears!"
"And afterwards…if he lived…who would treat him?"
Beverly was panting, her body shivering. Colour had returned to her face and her eyes suddenly opened in confusion.
"What?"
Jean-Luc softened his voice and gently gripped her shoulders.
"If he survived, who would treat him?"
Beverly swallowed and sat heavily on the sofa. She shook her head, dazed and confused.
"I…I don't know."
Jean-Luc sat beside her and took her hands.
"Well a Doctor would have to treat him…that's what Doctors do. They don't discriminate where their patients are concerned."
Beverly turned her dazed face to Jean-Luc, her mouth opening and closing. Jean-Luc continued.
"A Doctor wouldn't let what he'd done prevent them from treating him, after all, he's just a insignificant, flawed Human in need of help."
Beverly's gaze left Jean-Luc and travelled to Deanna. In an awed whisper she said,
"What have I done?"
The Counsellor left her seat to kneel in front of Beverly and grip her hands.
"It's all right! What you felt was perfectly normal Beverly…you didn't hurt him."
Tears slid down the Doctor's cheeks as she looked into Deanna's eyes.
"But I wanted to…I would have…My God…what have I become?"
Jean-Luc used gentle fingers to turn her head. Cradling her face in his hands he said in earnest tones,
"It's all right Beverly, I understand. I know what that rage feels like…that need to hurt, as you've been hurt. It doesn't mean you're a bad person or anything less than what you were. Admit those feelings my love, accept them then put them aside. They won't define who you are, you're better, much better than that."
Beverly frantically searched his eyes for verification of what he'd just said. Finding it, as well as resolute love and compassion, she cried out and flung her arms around his head. He took her into his embrace and let her sob, holding her shaking body and struggling with his own tears.
Deanna withdrew to her chair, closed her eyes and allowed the emotions swirling around her to eddy and slowly wane. When she sensed the couple had regained control, she opened her eyes and called softly,
"Beverly?"
The Doctor stiffened in Jean-Luc's arms and lifted her head. She smiled tenderly at Jean-Luc before turning to Deanna and focussing on her.
"Yes?"
"What you have just experienced won't be the last time you will harbour violent thoughts about Harris, however I feel that you will be able to see more clearly how your feelings can be justified, examined then dissipated without you descending into incomprehensible rage. From now on you will be in charge, not the rage."
The Counsellor stood and regarded the couple.
"I will leave you now. Captain I recommend you take the rest of the day off and I will see you later this evening in your quarters."
His nod was his only reply. Satisfied, Deanna made for the door.
"I will inform Commander Riker that you won't be back to the Bridge until tomorrow morning."
The doors sighed open and the Counsellor left.
Jean-Luc looked at Beverly and frowned at her defeated slump. He gently placed two fingers under her chin and tenderly lifted her face.
"Hey…it's not as bad as you think."
The Doctor closed her eyes and two tears slipped free.
"Isn't it? For God's sake Jean-Luc I'm a Doctor! I'm not supposed to entertain thoughts of violence against my fellow beings. I am first and foremost a healer! How the hell could I have such dreadful thoughts?"
Jean-Luc eyes hardened and his voice grew harsh.
"Because the bastard beat and raped you! Beverly this may come as a surprise to you but you're Human and subject to all the dark emotions and primitive reactions that go with it. No amount of training can exempt you from wanting revenge! It's a normal as breathing!"
Beverly gasped and moved away from him. He radiated anger and an icy viciousness rarely seen in him. He saw her reaction and concentrated on calming himself. Beverly's next words wounded him deeply.
"He wasn't the Borg Jean-Luc!"
He closed his eyes and sighed.
"No he wasn't but the feelings are the same."
The Doctor stood and stared out the viewport.
"Are they?"
Jean-Luc slowly came to his feet and stood behind her, wishing to hold and comfort her, but knowing she wasn't ready to accept it.
"Yes. I admit I wanted to destroy the Borg…every last one of them and I entertained thoughts of the most gruesome violence, but with your and Deanna's help I came to realise those thoughts were counter-productive. They held me back, kept me rooted in a mindset that concentrated solely on revenge and as long as I stayed there, I couldn't go forward…I couldn't leave it behind me. It's the same for you. Regardless of your profession and your ethics, you still feel like you what to hurt Harris. That's normal, but eventually you have to leave it Beverly…discard it like an old skin and embrace your recovery. It'll take time and effort, but the end result is worth it. Believe me."
They stood in silence for some time before Beverly slowly turned and faced him. Tears slowly tracked down her cheeks and she sighed.
"It's been hard for you hasn't it?"
Jean-Luc shrugged and sighed.
"I love you. Any form of distress in you is going to upset me."
She stepped up to him and wrapped her arms around him, sighing as he closed his arms around her. She rested her head on his shoulder and kissed his neck.
"In a way we're lucky."
His voice rumbled through his chest and she smiled at the sensation.
"Oh? How so?"
"We have each other."
He softly stroked her hair and kissed her cheek.
"We do indeed."

 

 

 

 

 

 

At nineteen fifteen that evening Jean-Luc was sitting at his desk in his quarters talking to Admiral Nechayev. His attention was focussed on the small blonde woman, her words causing his heart to accelerate.
"You?"
Nechayev sat back, a sardonic grin on her face.
"Why not? Look Jean-Luc I'm fully qualified, thoroughly acquainted with the facts as they've been presented and willing to do my duty as prosecutor in this case."
Jean-Luc sat back and ran a hand over his head.
"Granted, but you're an Admiral…don't you think that's a bit of…overkill?"
Her chuckle lacked warmth. Sitting forward, she stabbed a finger at the screen.
"When you asked me for my opinion of Harris I was as honest as I could be under the circumstances. However…my sources tell me that the behaviour exhibited by Harris is by no means an isolated incident. With that in mind I have already made preliminary enquiries to former female associates of Harris to see if we can't establish a pattern of abusive behaviour. If we can find women willing to testify who have been abused by him it will make it a water-tight case."
The Captain devoted some thought to that and nodded.
"All right I concede you have made a promising start but what if Doctor Crusher refuses your advocacy? It's entirely possible she has someone in mind…or she may be happy to accept counsel from the JAG office."
Nechayev shook her head abruptly and flattened her palms on the desktop.
"She would be foolish to turn me down Picard and you know it! I have greater resources available to me than just the JAG office and my position as a Fleet Admiral will open more doors than some lowly JAG Lieutenant no matter how hard they knock."
Jean-Luc's shoulders slumped and he nodded.
"Agreed."
"Right! I'm counting on you to get Crusher on side Picard. Make her see the sense in this."
Jean-Luc nodded and took a large breath.
"As you wish Admiral."
"Excellent. Now about the other matter. As we have all eight members of the covert group in custody it has been decided to charge them with conduct unbecoming, bringing Starfleet into disrepute, felonious and malicious actions against a serving officer of the fleet and the wanton disregard of Starfleet tenets and protocols. To that end, and considering your choice of counsel in previous legal instances, I have asked Captain Phillipa Louvois to be your advocate."
Jean-Luc's shocked face made Nechayev frown.
"What is it Picard? Are you unhappy with my choice? Did you have someone else in mind?"
The Captain regained his composure and shook his head.
"No Admiral. Captain Louvois will be acceptable, thank you."
Nechayev studied the Captain and tilted her head.
"It's interesting Picard…Louvois had a similar reaction when I approached her about this case. Is there something I should know?"
Reddening slightly, Jean-Luc cleared his throat and concentrated on relaxing.
"We had a…relationship many years ago. It was rather…intense."
The Admiral allowed a few seconds silence before asking,
"I see. And I take it that it's over now?"
"Yes Admiral…completely."
"And what is your relationship with her now? Are you talking at least?"
Jean-Luc chuckled and nodded.
"Yes Admiral. We are on amicable terms."
"Good! It's settled then. You can expect a call from Louvois in the near future and as soon as I receive your go-ahead, I'll contact Crusher."
"Very well Admiral I will await your call…and Admiral, thank you for your help in these matters it is much appreciated."
Nechayev graced Jean-Luc with a sly grin, somewhat confusing the Captain. Her chuckle was unexpected.
"Actually Picard it is I who should thank you. You are aware that I am an old friend of the Handorffs?"
Jean-Luc nodded, by now intrigued.
"Well I had a very amusing communiqué from Emma recently concerning a Timmorian Rising Glimmer…which you were supposed to get her."
Jean-Luc groaned and covered his eyes.
"Oh God Admiral…that was years ago! I told Kurt Emma's memory was too good."
Nechayev's chuckle grew sinister.
"Oh I know how long ago it was but the fact that she wanted it for Kurt has really tickled my fancy. You should've seen his face when I asked him about it."
Jean-Luc shook his head and sighed.
"I'm going to pay for this somehow aren't I?"
Her chuckle turned into laughter.
"That depends."
"On what?"
"On wether or not you have any more juicy titbits about Kurt you'd like to share?"
The Captain held up his hands and shook his head.
"No! If you want any more ammunition you'll have to ask Emma. My life is worth more to me than my Captaincy."
Nechayev's laughter waned and she quickly became no-nonsense once again.
"Very well Picard. I'll see you when you dock. Nechayev out."
Jean-Luc tabbed off the monitor and leaned back to stretch. His door chime sounded and he sighed.
"Come."
Deanna walked in, hands behind her back, a smile on her face.
"Good evening Captain."
"Good evening Counsellor. What brings you here tonight?"
Deanna frowned and gave him a frank look of disbelief. He recognised the look and shook his head.
"All right, wrong question. How can I help you?"
The Counsellor silently debated prolonging the game but instead adopted a stern face.
"Captain I told you I would be coming tonight to counsel you over this afternoon's events. Don't tell me you've forgotten?"
Jean-Luc stood and had the good grace to look guilty. His mood heartened the Counsellor and she chuckled.
"Oh come on then…sit down and tell me how you feel."
Once settled the Captain sighed and let his mind focus on his feelings. Deanna sensed his disquiet and gently urged him to speak.
"Start anywhere Sir, it doesn't have to be at the beginning."
His voice was soft and very deep.
"After you came to see me in the Ready Room I started to think about the Borg and what they'd done to me. It took a concerted effort to put that aside and help Beverly…it was so fresh in my mind. Later, after you'd left her quarters, we were talking and I became angry…again provoked by memories of the Borg. Beverly picked up on it and rather succinctly reminded me that we were dealing with Harris and what he'd done, not the Borg. It hurt. In fact I was surprised how deeply it hurt and I realised that perhaps I haven't completely exorcised my demons."
Deanna allowed a moment's silence before softly saying,
"I've already told you that your feelings towards Beverly were going to make this whole situation hard for you to deal with. In essence you've both been violated and abused and this recent event has caused you to re-examine your feelings about it. It's no wonder you've been experiencing the feelings of hatred and revenge."
Jean-Luc sat forward, propped his elbows on his thighs and rested his brow on his fingers.
"I understand what you're saying Counsellor, but I'd rather not have these feelings. I thought I was over them, that I'd left them behind me. Now I find that here they are ready to drag me down again. Believe me when I say I never want to descend into that particular madness again."
Deanna left her seat and came to sit beside him. She gently eased him back until his head rested on the backrest, his eyes closed and his hands sat loosely on his lap.
"Captain I can assure you that won't happen. As Beverly recovers and you see for yourself that she's regaining her equilibrium, you will grow stronger too. I must warn you however, it's highly likely that you will experience nightmares. To that end, I will monitor you closely and I will come to you if I feel your distress is overwhelming you. I know you value your privacy, but I think it's necessary."
Jean-Luc sighed but nodded his acquiescence.
"Very well Counsellor."
Deanna sensed his willingness and took the opportunity to forge ahead.
"Tell me Captain, have you given any further thought to your loss of control?"
Jean-Luc's eyes opened and she saw his tiredness.
"Yes. I understand why it happened and I can even accept that such a lapse was within the bounds of the situation as I found it, considering who was being assaulted, but I'm still appalled and deeply regret my actions."
"Do you think you could've done anything differently?"
Taking a deep breath, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"No. I had to stop him and quickly. I don't regret what I did, only the fact that I lost control and went too far."
"Well as it is I agree with you Sir. As either an officer or a friend I don't think you could've done anything else. I think what you should concentrate on is what you saved Beverly from. By her own admission, if you hadn't intervened she would've been raped. Take comfort in that."
Jean-Luc turned to face the Counsellor and sighed.
"Take comfort? Counsellor a man lies in Sickbay with an acquired brain injury I inflicted. I can hardly take comfort in my actions with that as a consequence."
Deanna folded her hands in her lap and smiled lopsidedly.
"All right I'll grant you that, but still you did save Beverly and in doing so ended the abuse once and for all. That has to count for something."
Jean-Luc's face remained stern before a small smile emerged.
"You, my dear Counsellor, are an eternal optimist! But thank you nonetheless."
Deanna stood and looked down at her CO.
"I'll leave you now Sir. If you need me during the night, I'll come."
He looked up at the Counsellor and smiled.
"Thank you Deanna, but you will forgive me if I say I hope I don't see you?"
Chuckling, Deanna made her way to the doors.
"You're forgiven Captain. Goodnight Sir."
Jean-Luc sighed as the doors closed and allowed his eyes to drift shut. In the blackness of his own choosing he saw the shadowy shapes of the inhuman Borg. His eyes snapped open and he grunted. It was going to be a long night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning found Deanna sitting with Beverly in her quarters. Deanna sipped her hot tea and frowned.
"This is different. Did you put something extra in it?"
Beverly lifted her eyes from their contemplation of the tabletop and blinked.
"What?"
Deanna smiled and gestured to the cup.
"The tea…it's different."
A smile spread across the Doctor's face and she nodded.
"Uh huh. Cinnamon. Do you like it?"
The Counsellor sipped again and savoured the taste. Closing her eyes, she smiled.
"Yes I think I do. It lifts it somehow."
The women sat in silence, drinking their tea. Deanna finished first and put her cup down.
"How are you sleeping?"
Beverly shrugged and frowned.
"Not all that well. Selar gave me a sedative last night and I managed a few hours. It bugs me you know…even when I suffered insomnia I never resorted to sedatives."
Deanna pursed her lips.
"What did you do then?"
"Read, listened to music. Most often I went to Jean-Luc's quarters. He's well acquainted with insomnia and would sit up with me. We'd just sit with each other mostly…we didn't have to amuse ourselves, simply being with each other was enough."
The Counsellor sighed, worry skittering across her face. Beverly saw it and was immediately wary.
"What?"
Deanna berated herself over her lapse and sought to direct Beverly's concern elsewhere.
"Oh nothing. This morning I want to…"
Beverly held up a hand and growled.
"Oh no you don't Counsellor. What the hell is it? What are you worried about? It's the Captain isn't it?"
Deanna knew the futility of trying to deflect Beverly at this stage. Sighing, she nodded.
"I knew it! It's the Borg isn't it?"
"Yes. He had a particularly bad nightmare last night. It took me several minutes to calm him and many more before he could talk to me about it and even then I don't think he was entirely forthcoming."
Beverly shook her head and scowled.
"Damn! Do you think he got much rest?"
Deanna's sceptical look was all Beverly needed.
"Dammit all to hell! I knew this would stir up his ghosts. How can we..?"
Deanna shook her head.
"Beverly…stop. I will take care of the Captain. For now, let's concentrate on you."
"But…"
Deanna placed her hands firmly on the table.
"NO! Leave him to me."
Beverly sat back and folded her arms defiantly across her chest. Her eyes glittered and her mouth was set in a grim line.
"Very well…if you insist."
The Counsellor relaxed her tense shoulders and concentrated on calming herself.
"Beverly have you any lingering questions…any unvoiced things you may have felt too uncomfortable to say?"
Beverly's show of bravado faltered. Her face fell and her shoulders slumped. Uncrossing her arms, she knitted her fingers and held them under her chin.
"I keep asking why. There were hundreds of women on this ship he could've chosen…why did he pick me? Did I somehow ask for what happened…did he pick up some sort of subliminal message from me that encouraged him to do what he did? I've been looking back over what happened…every instance of abuse, trying to see what was the trigger…and I come up blank. For the life of me I can't see why it happened."
Deanna sat forward and rested her hands on Beverly's knees.
"Beverly I told you some days ago that it was very important you knew that you were not at fault. I can tell you categorically that you did nothing to deserve what happened to you. Harris may well have a reason for being the way he is, then again maybe not. It's quite likely we may never find out why he is the way he is, but I can tell you why he chose you."
The Doctor looked up and frowned.
"Why?"
"Because of your association with Captain Picard. Harris was one of the leaders of the covert group. Subjugating you was a high priority for him, as it would give him greater leverage over the Captain. The very strength of your relationship with the Captain was all he needed to tip the balance. I believe the threats and fabrications about Jack were an afterthought. He knew he needed something devastating to keep you silent so he used the only two Achilles heels you have. Jack and the Captain."
Beverly's mouth opened and shut several times as she tried to articulate her outrage. Eventually she gasped,
"The bastard…the duplicitous bastard! You know Dee, Jean-Luc warned me about him, three times…God, even Will warned me…if only I'd had the good sense to listen instead of getting angry with them! I was such a bloody fool!"
The Counsellor rose and sat beside the incensed woman. Taking her shaking hands in hers, Deanna gripped them hard.
"Listen to me! He would've found a way to get at you regardless of how many warnings you had. It's not your fault!"
Their eyes remained locked as Beverly struggled to believe the words. The sob that escaped was soft and the doctor slowly leaned until her head rested on Deanna's shoulder. The Counsellor wrapped her arms around her and used her empathy to commiserate as the Doctor quietly wept.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc felt like hell incarnate. What little sleep he was getting was shattered by horrific nightmares, dreams so bad even Deanna had trouble calming him. The previous night was no exception. After he'd convinced the Counsellor to finally leave, he hadn't had the courage to go back to bed. Instead he sat up drinking coffee and trying to read. Now morning had come he was feeling very fragile. He went about setting the table and disgusted himself by dropping two cups. Fortunately they didn't break, but his jerky movements and trembling hands annoyed him more than he was willing to admit. The door chime, when it sounded, made his head snap up, a frown on his face.
"Come!"
Beverly came in cautiously, his barked command putting her ill at ease. Seeing her tentative movements, Jean-Luc swallowed and calmed himself.
"Beverly…please come in. I've nearly finished getting breakfast ready."
Smiling and growing more confident, the Doctor came over to the table and watched as he placed the coffee pot on the warmer. He looked up, smiled and lifted a hand.
"Won't you sit? I have a new preserve I thought you might like to try."
Beverly sat and studied the man as he passed the plate of croissants. She selected one and he put the plate down, choosing a pastry for himself. Before he tore it apart, he lifted the coffee pot and suddenly swore loudly when it slipped in his hand. In a reflex action he used his free hand to grab the bowl of the pot and burned himself in the process. He quickly put the pot down and shook his hand, swearing under his breath. Beverly stood and went to his side, firmly gripping his wrist.
"Stop that! Let me have a look."
She examined the reddened skin and sighed. Going to the replicator, she ordered a med kit and returned to the table. Taking a tissue regenerator from the kit, she passed the instrument several times over the burns until the skin was completely healed. In silence she returned to her seat and picked up her cup, proffering it with a sardonic grin on her face.
"Do you think you can manage it this time?"
Jean-Luc's eyes glittered and his mouth was set in a sneer, but he filled both their cups and ignored the jibe. Beverly allowed the silence to stretch before observing,
"You probably wouldn't have dropped it if your hands weren't shaking so much."
Caught in the process of buttering his croissant, Jean-Luc raised his eyes and glared. His voice was deep and tight.
"My hands are not shaking!"
Beverly chewed thoughtfully for some moments before examining the preserves. Keeping her voice light and conversational, she said,
"Actually they are. My diagnosis would be too much coffee and not enough sleep. You my dear Captain have been afflicted by debilitating nightmares and are suffering the consequences."
Jean-Luc meticulously placed his knife beside the plate and put the portion of croissant he was topping with jam down. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes before opening them and adopting his 'Captain's' persona.
"While I appreciate your concern Beverly, I would rather we concentrated on your well-being. My current…difficulties…are nothing compared to what you must be going through. Please, tell me, how are you coping?"
Beverly held his gaze then tilted her head.
"Uh uh Jean-Luc…that won't work either. We're caught in a bind. I'm worried about you…and you're worried about me. How about we admit to each other that we feel like shit and be done with it?"
Jean-Luc's back stiffened and he frowned. He continued to stare, but gradually a small smile made an appearance and his face softened. He allowed a quiet chuckle.
"All right, you win. I agree we both feel like…shit. There does that make you feel better?"
Her warm smile made his heart swell. She nodded and popped another piece of croissant into her mouth. They finished breakfast in relative silence, but it was warm and full of promise. Later they went and sat on the sofa. Jean-Luc sighing happily when Beverly snuggled under his arm, making herself comfortable in his embrace.
"How is the counselling going?"
Beverly groaned and closed her eyes.
"Short answer is I hate it! I know it's necessary and I do try to be…compliant…but poor Deanna has worn the rough side of my tongue on several occasions."
Jean-Luc nodded slightly and sighed.
"Between the both of us I'm afraid we've given Deanna quite a full workload. She spends her days with you and her nights with me. Poor Will."
Beverly snorted and rubbed her nose.
"Jean-Luc you are getting help for the nightmares aren't you?"
His silence prompted her to nudge him.
"Jean-Luc?"
"Yes Beverly I am seeking help, but the truth is they will fade anyway. Whenever I'm really stressed or over-tired I can expect a visit from the Borg. I've grown accustomed to it…it's nothing, really."
"But…"
"Hush. Beverly have you given any thought as to who you want as your counsel for the trial?"
Beverly frowned and shook her head.
"No not really. The fact is I try to not think about it too much, after all if Harris can't be treated for his brain injury, there'll be no trial."
Jean-Luc nodded and took a deep breath.
"I understand your thinking but I think it wise you accept an offer that's been made…a very powerful offer."
Beverly twisted in his arms and looked into his face.
"What kind of offer?"
With another deep breath, Jean-Luc answered her question.
"Admiral Nechayev has taken it upon herself to be your counsel."
The Doctor's mouth gaped and she shut it abruptly.
"Alynna Nechayev? 'Iron arse'?"
"Beverly!"
The red head snickered and poked his shoulder.
"You're having a lend of me! There's no way that icicle would deign to represent me! She wouldn't pee on me if I was on fire!"
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and sighed.
"Be that as it may, I've had a talk with her and I'm telling you she's most keen to be your advocate. Apparently she has it in for Harris and has been waiting for a chance to get at him legitimately."
Beverly turned over again and settled her back against his chest. She considered his words and came to a decision.
"All right, I accept! One thing's for sure…it'll scare the pants off the defence when they see they're faced by old iron arse!"
Jean-Luc casually slapped her hip and grumbled,
"You have absolutely no respect for your superior officers."
The Doctor snorted then turned in his arms again. He saw the mischief on her face and sighed.
"What?"
"If I get Nechayev…who do you get?"
Jean-Luc frowned and cleared his throat, willing his rising colour to subside. Beverly noted his discomfort and digged him in the ribs.
"Come on…out with it!"
His voice only just audible, he replied,
"Phillipa Louvois."
There was silence as Beverly took in a large breath. She struggled to keep a straight face and almost succeeded, that was until Jean-Luc sniffed and shifted his shoulders. The giggle was sinister.
"Oh this is too good. Whose bright idea was that?"
The Captain grimaced and snorted.
"Nechayev's."
Beverly ran her fingers down his face and whispered,
"She really hates you doesn't she?"
With glittering eyes, Jean-Luc sought to admonish his best friend.
"I think no such thing! The Admiral has chosen the two people she thinks best able to represent us at the trials. You'd be better served trying to find a way to thank her."
"Thank her? She's using me to satisfy an urge to wreak revenge on an officer she doesn't like…and she chose a former lover AND the woman who prosecuted you in the Stargazer hearing! Thank her? For what?"
Jean-Luc pinched the bridge of his nose and took a moment to calm himself.
"Look Beverly this is largely out of our hands. Let's just accept the situation…as unpalatable as it is and try to keep our dignity until it's over."
Beverly stared down at her best friend and sighed.
"OK, but I've got a feeling this will be anything but comfortable…for either of us."
Jean-Luc summoned a smile and lifted his head to kiss her softly.
"Always remember my love, above all else, we have each other."
The Doctor smiled and lowered her face to meet him in another kiss. She settled into his arms and sighed as his embrace encircled her.
"I love you Jean-Luc."
"I know…and I love you."

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next eight days Deanna spent her time between Jean-Luc and Beverly. With the Counsellor's quiet insistence, Jean-Luc was on restricted duty, spending only six hours a day on the Bridge. Beverly and Jean-Luc spent as much time together as possible, finding comfort and solace in each other's company.
Jean-Luc was alone in his quarters going over his statement when he received a call from Will.
"Riker to Captain Picard."
"Picard here."
"Sir we're approaching the Sol system. ETA at Earth is four hours."
"Thank you Number One. Please open a channel to Command; I would like to speak to Admiral Nechayev. You can put it through down here."
"Aye Sir."
Within moments his terminal activated to show the Starfleet insignia. Jean-Luc had enough time to get a cup of tea before the image of Alynna Nechayev filled the screen.
"Welcome home Picard."
Jean-Luc smiled and sat back.
"Thank you Admiral, it's been a while since the Enterprise has been back to Earth."
He was about to say more when the Admiral leaned to one side with a sly grin on her face. Frowning at her actions, Jean-Luc was about to ask if she was all right when he heard a familiar voice.
"Hello Jean-Luc. Tell me…are you still insufferably stuffy? Or have you learned to lighten up?"
The face of Captain Phillipa Louvois appeared, a smug smile on her face, her dark eyes twinkling evilly. Jean-Luc remained relaxed with effort. His eyes hardened, but otherwise he remained calm.
"Captain."
Phillipa smirked and tilted her head.
"Oh really Jean-Luc…is that all you've got to say?"
Jean-Luc summoned a tight smile and shifted slightly in his chair.
"I would have thought we'll be saying quite a lot to each other over the coming weeks."
Phillipa frowned and turned to Nechayev.
"Still stuffy AND uptight to boot."
Turning back to the Captain she winked.
"We'll have to see if we can get you to loosen up Jean-Luc."
Admiral Nechayev put an end to the jousting. With a sidelong look at her companion, she directed her attention to Jean-Luc.
"As soon as you're docked beam down to headquarters. We've already got quite a lot done and Louvois wants to go over a few things with you."
Jean-Luc sat up and nodded.
"Of course Admiral. Shall I bring down Doctor Crusher with me?"
"Not yet. This will be very stressful Picard. I think it best she stay where she's most comfortable."
"Understood Admiral. I'll contact you when we've docked."
Nechayev nodded and just as she was about to sever the connection, Jean-Luc heard Phillipa's voice.
"Some flowers would be nice Jean-Luc…"
His fingers stabbed the button severing the connection. Irritation surged through him and he sighed in helpless anger.
"Dammit! Of all people it had to be her. This is going to be a bloody nightmare!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phillipa was seated at her desk when Jean-Luc entered her office. He came to the desk and stood stiffly and although his eyes met hers, he was unreadable. Louvois sat back and folded her hands on her lap. Silence stretched between them until Louvois sighed and gestured to the chair.
"Please Jean-Luc don't stand on formality…sit."
With the same blank cold air, the Captain sat and placed his hands on his knees. Phillipa picked up a PADD and offered it to him.
"I take it you've read this?"
He leaned forward and took the device, taking the time to glance at it. With an abrupt nod, he handed it back.
"Yes I have. Your report was most…informative."
Louvois crossed her legs and shrugged.
"So it should be! We've got them and they know it. With what they were attempting to do, not to mention the way in which they were going to do it…well let's just say they haven't got a leg to stand on."
Jean-Luc frowned and allowed some of the stiffness to leave his posture.
"But surely they will mount a defence?"
Phillipa's smile was predatory.
"Of course they will! They're not stupid…neither is their counsel. I would expect they'd trot out the old tried and true…'He killed our loved ones, they must be avenged'…and go for the sympathy vote."
Jean-Luc shifted uncomfortably and sighed.
"They have a point Phillipa. That's exactly what I did."
The Advocate slammed the PADD down and leaned forward, her finger pointing aggressively.
"I don't believe it! That's absurd and you know it! I've read all the medical reports Picard…how many times do you need to be told? It wasn't your fault! For God's sake you saved Earth! Yes thousands died…but billions lived."
Jean-Luc lowered his head and sat in silence. Phillipa watched as his shoulders sank.
"You've been having trouble with this, haven't you? Recent trouble?"
The Captain shrugged and sighed.
"I have experienced some…difficulties, yes."
The solicitor left her desk and went to the replicator.
"Still drinking Earl Grey?"
His nod was his only reply. She returned to the desk and placed a hot cup of his favourite brew before him then regained her seat and sipped her coffee. Her voice was gentle.
"How would you feel about a visit to Starfleet medical?"
His head snapped up, his eyes hard.
"What for?"
"I think it would be in our best interests to get an up-to-date report on your…competency."
He was on his feet with speed that shocked the woman.
"What! You can't be serious? If you want a recent report as to my mental well-being, contact my ship's Counsellor. I'm sure she will be happy to provide you with anything you want."
Phillipa held up her hands and waited patiently while the outraged man took his seat.
"I'm afraid that wouldn't do Jean-Luc."
"Why the hell not?"
Louvois sighed and rubbed her brow.
"How long has she been you Counsellor?"
"Over twelve years."
"And you don't see a problem with that?"
Snorting angrily, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"NO! As a matter of fact I think it's a plus."
Phillipa allowed a moment's silence before she muttered,
"And just how do you think a jury would see your relationship with your Counsellor?"
About to say something, Jean-Luc's mouth snapped shut and he glared. His voice low and deadly he ground out,
"I do hope you're not insinuating my relationship with the Counsellor is anything but completely professional?"
Louvois shook her head and sighed.
"Of course not! But see it from a different perspective. Here we have a woman who's served with you for years…who knows you probably as well as you know yourself. How do you think she would react to any…abnormalities? How much would you think she would desire to protect you? And her reputation?"
Jean-Luc grunted and made a chopping motion with his hand.
"That's utterly absurd! Counsellor Troi would never compromise either her ethics or her professional responsibilities. She would give an honest opinion in any event."
"Granted…you and I know that, but what do you think the defence would make of it?"
The Captain scowled then let a frustrated breath out. Shrugging, he acceded.
"All right I admit they could make it look bad…but…"
"But nothing! I want a clean, uncompromising bill of mental health for you and the only way to achieve that is for you to submit to a competency test. Look at it this way…it'll knock the wind out of their sails…it'll be irrefutable."
His quiet muttering caused her to ask,
"What was that?"
He looked up and, for the first time, she saw worry in his face.
"If I pass."
For the first time Phillipa saw what a strain the whole situation had been for her former lover. Sitting forward she said softly,
"You'll be ok Jean-Luc. You're the finest Captain in the fleet…and still damned sexy."
What started out as a glare, slowly turned into an embarrassed smile. Jean-Luc sighed.
"Thank you Phillipa, your confidence is appreciated."
The solicitor grinned and opened a drawer to take out several more PADDs.
"Right! Now let's go over your statement."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will stood at attention as the form of Admiral Alynna Nechayev and her Adjutant materialised on the transporter pad. The small blonde woman locked eyes with the Commander as she stepped from the pad and looked up at him as he said,
"Welcome aboard Admiral."
Nodding her greeting, she said curtly,
"Please take us to Doctor Crusher's quarters."
Gesturing to both women, Will led them into the corridor. They were silent during their journey and it was with some relief that he stopped at Beverly's door.
"Here we are Admiral. If there's nothing else?"
"No Commander you're dismissed."
As the big man strode away he said a silent prayer for his friend.
Beverly answered the door and stood back as the two women entered. Gesturing to the lounge, Beverly offered light refreshments, earning her a broad smile from the Adjutant and a glimmer of a smile from the Admiral.
"Please Admiral and..?"
"Lieutenant Wendy Adams. She will be recording this meeting and assisting throughout the future proceedings."
Nodding her thanks to the Admiral, Beverly waited until both women were seated before she sat and composed herself.
The Adjutant handed Nechayev a PADD then set a tricorder on the low table, Beverly noticing the red 'record' light on. Clearing her throat Nechayev stated the time and who was present. She then asked Beverly,
"You have laid charges of assault and aggravated rape against Commodore Desmond Harris. Are you cognizant of the ramifications of your actions?"
Keeping her voice firm and even, Beverly replied,
"Yes I am."
"I have gone over your statement in great detail and, following my interviews with fellow crewmembers, I find that you have a very strong case against the Commodore. However there are some questions I must ask which you may find upsetting. Are you prepared for that?"
Knitting her fingers tightly together, Beverly swallowed and nodded.
"Yes Sir."
"Very well, we will proceed. In your opinion did you do anything…anything at all which might have given the Commodore the impression you wanted him to act in the way you accuse?"
Taking a deep breath, Beverly shook her emphatically.
"No Admiral I did nothing to give him that impression."
Nechayev nodded and Adams made some notes on a PADD.
"In your statement you make note of accusations and threats he made towards Captain Picard and your late husband, Commander Jack Crusher. Did you make any effort to seek the validity of those accusations and threats?"
"No Sir. I intended to, but things got out of hand and progressed too quickly for me to act."
"I see. And when Captain Picard entered your quarters on the evening of star date 4209.3 to find you being attacked by the Commodore, how did you feel?"
Beverly frowned and sighed.
"At the time I was dazed and in great pain. When I saw Jean…that is Captain Picard, I felt great relief."
"And when Captain Picard tackled your assailant? Did you feel vengeful?"
Shaking her head, Beverly grimaced.
"NO! I dragged myself into a corner…I was in the first stages of shock. I witnessed the initial part of the ensuing fight but as for the rest of it…I don't know. My clearest memory is of Counsellor Deanna Troi and Lieutenant Commander Data helping me."
Nechayev compared notes with Adams before turning to Beverly. To her credit, the Admiral attempted an encouraging smile.
"I see. Well Commodore Harris has been transferred to medical…we should be getting a prognosis any time now. Tell me Doctor, if it proves his injury is untreatable and there is no trial…how will you cope with that? With not having him pay for what he did?"
Rubbing her hands thoughtfully on her thighs, Beverly shrugged.
"Admiral for that scenario to take place, would mean he's irretrievably brain damaged. I think that would be punishment enough, don't you?"
The two women regarded each other then the Admiral abruptly stood.
"As it is I agree with you Doctor. We will leave you now; I expect our next meeting will be at Command. Good day Doctor Crusher."
Beverly stood and mustered her warmest smile.
"Good day Admiral, Lieutenant. Thank you for all your help."
Once again alone, Beverly sat and stared out at the beautiful blue and white planet sitting below the ship. Usually any view of Earth from space filled her with awe and warmth, but on this day nothing seemed to help. She was depressed and lonely.
"I wonder how you're doing Jean-Luc?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

It took some juggling, but Beverly and Jean-Luc managed to meet for breakfast the next day. The Captain surreptitiously watched his best friend, worried at her pale, gaunt appearance. Once seated at the table, he encouraged her to eat, but she could only manage one croissant, although she did have three cups of coffee. Beverly knew he was watching her and it began to irritate her. Trying to deflect his study, she was about to ask him how his meeting with Louvois had gone when she caught him staring at her. Anger spiked and she threw down her serviette and left the table to stand at the viewport. Jean-Luc didn't need to be told what was wrong. He sat at the table for a few minutes then rose and walked slowly over to the upset woman, standing behind her and gently resting his hands on her hips. His voice a whisper, he said,
"I'm sorry…I can't help it. Your well being is the most important thing to me at the moment and I'm worried about you."
Beverly stood stiffly, her arms wrapped around her. His hands left her hips and slid up to her shoulders and under the curtain of her vibrant red hair. With gentle pressure he massaged the tense muscles and was gratified when she relaxed and sighed.
"Mmm that feels good."
He reached down and took her hand, tugging gently.
"Come…sit on the sofa so I can do a proper job."
Once she was settled he manoeuvred behind her and devoted himself to easing her tension. His large warm hands found and released the tight muscles as he found them and when he finished, Beverly leaned back into him, her eyes closed.
"Better?"
"Mmm. Where did you learn to do that?"
He chuckled gently and stroked her hair.
"That would be betraying a confidence."
There were a few moment's of silence as they took comfort in each other. Beverly sighed and muttered,
"Did she like it as much as me?"
Jean-Luc smiled and softly kissed the crown of her head.
"Hush Beverly, just relax."
She settled further into his embrace and Jean-Luc was delighted when she dozed off. He relaxed his own body and rested his head on the backrest, allowing his eyes to drift shut. He was only asleep for a moment when the gentle chiming of his computer woke him. Beverly stirred but he stroked her hair and whispered her back to sleep. With careful movements, he extricated himself from her and walked over to his desk. He activated the terminal and, keeping his voice low, greeted his Counsel.
"Good morning Phillipa."
His fellow Captain wasted no time on pleasantries.
"We may have a problem Picard."
Jean-Luc glanced over at the sleeping Doctor and asked,
"What is it?"
"Harris has been successfully treated…so successfully that he was able to make a statement this morning."
Jean-Luc noted the tightness in Phillipa's face and sighed.
"And?"
With a look of complete disgust, Phillipa ground out,
"He states the sex and beatings were consensual…that Doctor Crusher wanted it that way!"
The Captain fisted his hands and squeezed his eyes shut.
"Bastard!"
"There's more Jean-Luc. He wants you charged with assault. He claims you attacked without provocation and he's making noises that the charge could well be upped to attempted murder. He claims that he tried to surrender but you ignored that and continued to beat him when it was clear he could no longer defend himself."
Jean-Luc sat back and rubbed his face.
"Dammit Phillipa! Look I've admitted I lost control…but under the circumstances…"
Phillipa held up her hands.
"Hey you're preaching to the choir."
Placing his hands on the desk, Jean-Luc composed himself.
"What do we do now?"
Mirroring his posture, Phillipa's face became animated.
"It's not all bad news Jean-Luc. We've managed to contact five former lovers of his. If we can get just one to admit his abusive behaviour is not only non-consensual but part of a pattern, then we'll have the low-life bastard."
Jean-Luc leaned forward and tilted his head.
"Tell me Phillipa…what sort of women are they?"
"It seems he has very particular tastes. All the women, Beverly included are, or were, highly ranked professionals. All were in Starfleet, although three have since resigned their commissions and taken positions in the private sector. It's as if he takes delight in debasing them…making a mockery of their successes."
Jean-Luc nodded thoughtfully and sighed.
"Yes that sounds about right. When will you know…do you expect a quick response?"
Phillipa sighed and frowned.
"That depends. Unfortunately the UNS has got wind of this and are sniffing about. Don't be surprised to see it splashed across the front page in the very near future. After all, we've never known the United News Service to hold back have we?"
The Captain scowled and grunted.
"Those vultures! Surely Phillipa, we can hold them off? After all this is Fleet business."
"Are you kidding? For God's sake Jean-Luc where have you been lately? You are the most celebrated, most highly decorated Captain in the fleet! You're a living legend for Christ's sake! Now consider the impact of the news. Starfleet's most illustrious Captain is…A) the victim of a secret cadre bent on disgracing him…B) The said Captain's supposed lover is viciously abused by…not only a fleet Commodore, but one of the cadre and C) the said Captain beats the Commodore to a pulp in defence of his supposed lover. Come on Jean-Luc…do you honestly think the UNS will leave that alone?"
Jean-Luc rested his head in his hands and propped his elbows on the desk. His voice a low growl, he muttered,
"I think I've died and gone to hell."
"You and me both! Look I'll keep the hounds at bay as long as I can…but it's inevitable my friend. Get used to the idea."
Sighing, Jean-Luc sat back and regarded Phillipa with a tired look.
"Very well. Is there anything else?"
Phillipa's face fell and she shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
"As a matter of fact there is. You're due at Starfleet medical…psychiatric wing at oh ten thirty. Take a bag with a change of clothes and toiletries…you'll be there three days."
Jean-Luc said nothing. He sat back and rubbed the bridge of his nose, slowly nodding.
Phillipa frowned and offered her sympathies.
"Look I'm sorry Jean-Luc. Try to think of this as nothing more than a…reaffirmation of your abilities. I for one expect you to pass with flying colours."
The Captain raised his head and summoned a wan smile.
"Thank you Phillipa. Picard out."
He sat at his desk a while before checking the chronometer.
"Oh eight fifteen."
He rose and walked over to the sleeping Doctor, taking some time to watch her.
"So beautiful."
Very carefully he lay beside her and took her into his arms. Beverly stirred, muttered something incoherent then nestled into his body. His unique scent, a mixture of clean maleness and his subtle aftershave infused her senses, rousing her. As she rose towards consciousness she detected his tenseness and she paused to listen to his breathing and heartbeat. Sure that something was amiss, she woke fully and pushed gently against his chest, lifting her head so she could look him in the eye.
"Something's wrong. What is it?"
He sighed and tried to gently pull her back into his arms.
"It's nothing my love…go back to sleep."
Beverly resisted his efforts and shook her head.
"No Jean-Luc, something's wrong. Tell me what it is."
His eyes darkened and became very intense making Beverly softly gasp. He lifted his fingers and gently stroked her face.
"I've just been contacted by Louvois. Harris has been successfully treated and has been interviewed. He claimed what he did was at your request, that the abuse was consensual."
Beverly closed her eyes, her hands fisting his shirt.
"Oh no."
Jean-Luc gently embraced her and kissed her forehead.
"There's more. He wants me charged…primarily with assault, but he's made a request that it could be attempted murder."
Tears slipped from underneath her closed lids. In a whisper she said,
"Oh Jean-Luc…no…no…he can't can he?"
The Captain sighed and rested his cheek on her head.
"There were no witnesses Beverly. It'll be your word against his."
"But what about Will and Dee? They saw…"
"They saw me savagely beating an obviously defenceless man. He will testify your injuries were the result of overly rough…and willing… foreplay."
"Oh God Jean-Luc…what can we do?"
"For now we wait. Phillipa's Adjutants have contacted several of his former lovers. If we can establish a pattern of non-consensual abusive behaviour we'll have him."
"And if not? What then?"
Jean-Luc kissed her head and sighed.
"Look for now we lay low and wait. Phillipa has warned me that UNS has got wind of this so be prepared to be under their spotlight. I'll be unavailable for the next three days, but I want you, where possible, to stay here on the Enterprise. Talk to no one but your Counsel or the legal team. You should…"
Beverly sat up and gripped his shoulder.
"Stop! Stop right there! Where will you be?"
Jean-Luc took her hand from his shoulder and turned it gently. He leaned forward and tenderly kissed the inside of her wrist.
"That's not important. I…"
"Not important? Dammit Jean-Luc…I need you!"
He closed his eyes and allowed her anguish to wash over him.
"I know my love but I can't get out of it. They…"
Now choking back sobs, Beverly fisted his shirt.
"They what? Tell me damn you!"
Taking both her hands, he gently removed them from his shirt and looked deeply into her eyes.
"I will be in the psychiatric wing of medical undergoing a competency test."
"What! That's…that's absurd! Why don't they just ask Deanna for an evaluation?"
Jean-Luc sighed and lowered his head, his voice a deep rumble.
"My Counsel feels it could be seen as prejudicial. It would seem that in this case at least…familiarity may indeed breed contempt."
Beverly raised her hands and smoothed her hair.
"So they're going to put you through a full competency test to prove to the defence you're still command material…that you should retain your Captaincy?"
Jean-Luc shrugged and smiled.
"So it would seem."
Beverly glared at him and poked his shoulder.
"It's not funny Jean-Luc! It's a bloody outrage!"
The Captain closed his eyes and sighed.
"I agree with you…wholeheartedly, but I have no say in the matter."
Tears slipped free and Beverly sniffed.
"Bastards."
With tender strokes, Jean-Luc wiped away her tears and gently brought her head down to his.
"Kiss me my love…I'll miss you."
Their lips met in the softest of kisses. Beverly sighed deeply and wound her arms around him. His heart swelled and he tapered the kiss.
"Remember Beverly…talk to no one but your team or your closest friends aboard. And try to ignore all the outrageous things that are bound to surface in the press."
"I will."
He kissed her again, this time deepening the connection and gently easing his tongue into her mouth. After some moments Beverly moaned and clung to him, returning the kiss with equal fervour. She suddenly broke the kiss and rested her brow against his.
"I'll miss you Jean-Luc."
"I know my love, but always keep in mind…we have each other. No one can change that, no matter how far apart we are."
With gentle tenderness Beverly initiated another kiss and Jean-Luc drew her down until they lay in each other's arms.
"When do you have to go?"
He sighed deeply.
"In about an hour."
"Can we stay here…like this until you have to go?"
He kissed her again and whispered.
"Yes my love."
The Doctor nodded, two tears slipping free.
"Come back to me soon."
"I will."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that afternoon Nechayev and her assistant again visited the Doctor. They breezed into her quarters and seated themselves without saying a word. Beverly sat and waited for the Admiral to disclose the reason for her visit.
"Doctor Crusher have you heard anything of the latest developments?"
Beverly nodded and brushed her hair back.
"Yes Sir. Captain Picard told me about Commodore Harris' successful treatment and the results of his interview. I would like, at this time, to go on the record to refute…utterly…his claims. Also I would like to stress his accusations against Captain Picard are spurious and baseless."
Nechayev nodded and summoned an almost warm smile.
"Are you also aware of the efforts by my staff to contact former lovers of the Commodore?"
"Yes Sir. I can only hope we have a satisfactory result."
The smile grew marginally wider, although her eyes remained hard.
"And finally, have you been informed about UNS's interest in this case?"
"Yes Admiral."
Nechayev shifted in her seat and scrolled through some information displayed on the PADD.
"Captain Picard has informed me he advised you to stay aboard the Enterprise. How do you feel about that?"
Beverly smiled fondly and tilted her head.
"I'm happy to stay aboard Sir. I know I would be more comfortable here."
The curt nod heralded the vanishing of her smile.
"Agreed. You know, of course, to restrict your contact to your legal team only?"
"Yes Sir, although I have one or two very close and trusted friends aboard that I feel I would be comfortable talking to."
Her eyes glittering, the Admiral shook her head.
"No Doctor! I must insist you confine yourself to your team. We don't want anything to prejudice this case. The less outsiders know about it, the better. Is that clear?"
Knowing a protest would be unsuccessful, Beverly acquiesced.
"Very well Sir."
The Admiral stood and looked up as the taller Doctor rose to her feet.
"Have you any questions Doctor?"
Beverly clasped her hands in front of her and nodded.
"Aye Sir. I'm worried about Captain Picard. Are you aware he's being forced to undergo a competency test?"
Nechayev's curt nod was her only reply. Frustrated, Beverly sighed.
"Well Admiral…don't you think that's…unfair? After all, in the case against the cadre, it's not him who's on trial."
Nechayev handed her PADD to her assistant and took a moment to order her thoughts. Lifting her chin, she kept her voice even.
"In relation to the case pending against the cadre, you're quite correct, but I'd wager the test is more to establish his credentials in the face of the recent accusations. In any case, it will certainly do no harm to either case. I fail to see why you're protesting."
Keeping her own voice even, the Doctor still couldn't keep the exasperation out of it.
"But Admiral…after all he's been through…don't you think..?"
"What I think is immaterial. Captain Picard is a Starfleet officer and he will obey orders. You would be better served concentrating on your own troubles Doctor. You're not out of the woods yet."
Accepting the mild rebuke, Beverly lowered her head and nodded.
"Aye Sir."
Relaxing her posture a little, Nechayev sighed.
"I know you care for him Doctor…I'm sure he'll be fine. If you like I'll keep tabs on how he's going and if I can, I'll keep you informed."
Her face brightening, Beverly smiled warmly at the older woman.
"Thank you Admiral."
Nodding, Nechayev turned for the door, but hesitated and turned back.
"I know it's tedious Doctor, but would it be possible for you to stay in your quarters for the foreseeable future? If we know exactly where you are at any given time…it would facilitate things considerably."
Sighing, Beverly nodded.
"As you wish Admiral."
The Admiral and her assistant were almost at the door when Nechayev stopped. Over her shoulder she said,
"By the way Doctor…do you know Commander Alison Brady?"
Beverly frowned, then her face cleared.
"Yes! We were assigned to the Hobart…oh God…years ago. We were both Lieutenants, junior grade, then. May I ask why?"
There was a moment's silence before Nechayev came to her decision.
"She is one of the women we've contacted."
Shock registered on Beverly's face. The colour drained away and the Doctor felt light headed.
"Oh no…not Alison! Have you heard from her yet?"
"No Doctor, but it's early days. Have confidence."
With that the women left. Beverly sat heavily on the sofa, shaking her head.
"Alison Brady! Of all people…God what a complete prick that Harris is! Five minutes…just five minutes with a laser scalpel and that piece of excrement would never harm another innocent woman!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Towards evening Beverly's door chime sounded. Curious to see who was visiting, considering her imposed isolation, she was delighted when Deanna entered.
The two friends stood grinning at each other before Beverly chuckled mischievously.
"You're not supposed to be here. I'm not allowed visitors."
Deanna clasped her hands behind her back and smiled mysteriously.
"I know."
The Doctor's eyebrows rose incredulously, her smile growing larger.
"So what are you doing here? It's not like you to ignore a directive from an Admiral."
Keeping an enigmatic smile in place, Deanna wandered to the replicator and took her time obtaining two hot drinks. She then sauntered to the sofa and raised her eyebrows at Beverly, silently inviting her to join her. The bemused Doctor sat with the Counsellor and sipped her chamomile tea. Deanna made a show of swirling the marshmallow in her hot chocolate and her reticence began to eat at the Doctor.
"Deanna! For crying out loud…tell me!"
Revelling in her role, Deanna sat back and crossed her legs. In an imperious voice she announced,
"As a matter of interest, I don't subscribe to the Admiral's directive. I am here under the auspices of Starfleet medical. They have given me permission to be here."
Beverly gasped, her hand covering her mouth involuntarily. When then Doctor spoke, it was in an astonished whisper.
"Oh my God…you went over Nechayev's head?"
Lifting her head defiantly, Deanna snarled,
"Damn right I did! You have been under my care since this whole dreadful mess surfaced and I'll be damned if I was going to simply hand you over to a complete stranger. Fortunately…medical agreed with me."
Beverly clearly heard the relief in her voice. Taking her hand, Beverly smiled softly.
"Thank you my dear friend…I owe you big!"
Deanna snickered and grimaced.
"You're damn right! It's not every day I defy an Admiral…especially when it's old iron arse."
The friends laughed and Deanna patted Beverly's knee.
"Besides, this way I can keep Will informed and he'll stop nagging."
Beverly's chuckle faded and she became serious.
"I suppose you've heard about Jean-Luc?"
"The competency test?"
"Uh huh."
The Counsellor scowled and fisted her hands.
"It's a complete waste of time and energy, not to say adding excess stress to an already exhausted and fragile man. Honestly Beverly, what the hell do they think they'll find?"
The Doctor shrugged and sighed.
"Beats me. You know…Jean-Luc tried to make a joke of it! Bloody hell if it were me I'd be spitting chips!"
Deanna smiled tenderly. She gazed at Beverly frankly and sighed.
"You know as well as I he did that to ease your mind. It's typical of him…altruistic to a fault, especially where it concerns you."
Beverly smiled wistfully and Deanna sensed the underlying happiness. She leaned over to grip her hand.
"Tell me."
Her voice soft and full of wonder, Beverly said,
"I love him Deanna. I've finally come to terms with my feelings and I was stunned at how simple it ended up being. It came down to a fundamental truth. No beating around the bush, no rationalising just a simple acceptance. I love him…I'm in love with him…and God it feels so good to finally admit it!"
The two women hugged and Deanna revelled in the strong happy emotions welling up from the Doctor.
"Does he know?"
Wiping stray tears from her face, Beverly smiled lopsidedly.
"Uh huh."
"What did he say? How did he take it?"
The Doctor snorted and smirked.
"Actually he was fairly typical. When I first told him he said, "I know" and little else. It was the second time I told him that he told me he loved me. I know it's early days, and the current troubles notwithstanding, we have a lot of baggage to overcome, but when we're together Dee…we're so happy, so content…"
The Doctor sighed and more tears slid down her cheeks. Deanna took her hands and looked into her eyes.
"Beverly eventually all this trouble will be gone and you and the Captain can take the time you need to cement your relationship. In the meantime keep him in your heart and draw comfort from the fact that you have the devoted love of an extraordinary man. He will stand by you Beverly…always."
The Doctor nodded and shook her head.
"Do you have any idea how long he's been in love with me?"
Deanna smiled wickedly and nodded.
"As a matter of fact I do. When I first came aboard and he had that difficulty when he found you were his CMO…he was scheduled for a routine session at about that time and when I mentioned you he all but lit up. I quickly realised what a private man he was so I never said anything, but over the years the sexual tension coming from him…actually both of you…well let's just say I never understood why you never did anything about it. It was so obvious to the rest of us."
Beverly sighed and picked up her drink, staring into the clear brew.
"Oh I was such an idiot! I let fear and pride cause us to waste years we could've been together."
Deanna patted her knee and gave her a sympathetic look.
"Well that's all behind you now. Live for the future Beverly, embrace every opportunity to love him…don't waste another second!"
Laughing ruefully, Beverly winked at her best friend.
"Oh you have my word on that!"
The two women hugged and settled down to concentrate on the session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the following three days Beverly had regular visits from her legal team. They discussed the case, went over the sequence of events and settled their strategy. Late in the afternoon of the third day, Nechayev came aboard and wasted no time in meeting with Beverly. She was alone on this occasion and somehow it made her more forbidding. The Doctor sat on the sofa and noted the lines of strain around her Counsel's face. Instinctively knowing something was wrong, Beverly swallowed her fear and concentrated on keeping her voice even.
"What is it Admiral?"
Alynna stood, dropped a large bag on the seat, paced some steps then returned to her seat. Taking a large breath, she locked eyes with the Doctor.
"I have unfortunate news Doctor. Of all the women we contacted, none of them are willing to testify against Harris."
Beverly struggled to keep the dismay from her face.
"Oh. That's not very helpful for us, is it?"
Shaking her head, Nechayev opened the bag.
"No. Without corroborating evidence it once again becomes ostensibly your word against his. And there's this."
The Admiral pulled out two newspapers from the bag. She unfolded them and laid them on the table. Beverly stared open-mouthed at the blazing headlines.
"CUCKOLDED CAPTAIN BEATS RIVAL TO NEAR DEATH."
And the other,
"NOTED CAPTAIN THE VICTIM OF SECRET CADRE."
Pushing the offending papers away from her, Beverly didn't bother to read the text. Covering her face with her hands, she moaned and shook her head. Nechayev picked up the first paper and skimmed over the article.
"Basically they've got the gist of what happened and it's all here. Harris' team have leaked some details…beneficial to him of course, enough to make Picard look like a spurned lover bent on revenge. They also…and I find it hard to understand how they got this information, printed the names of the women we contacted. The worst of it is on the front page and it continues in three parts on pages two and three. There are photos of you, Picard and Harris…and I'm sorry Doctor, they've managed to obtain photos of your son and late husband."
Beverly stood and walked to the viewports. She rubbed her face and struggled to remain in control. Nechayev picked up the second paper.
"This one simply spills the story of the cadre, what they did and why. Harris has been mentioned and the connection made between the two cases. There is a good chance we could successfully take legal action against UNS, but I must warn you it would significantly increase public interest in the cases."
Beverly turned and folded her arms across her chest.
"So we're damned if we do and damned if we don't?"
Nechayev sighed and shrugged.
"Pretty much. My advice is let it go and weather the storm."
Beverly stalked back to the sofa and sat with a growl.
"I don't like the idea of those vultures getting away with this! I feel so helpless…I've got no way to fight back!"
The Admiral's voice grew harsh.
"Yes you have! We fight back by winning this case! Once we expose Harris for the lowlife he is, it will clear both you AND Captain Picard."
Beverly sighed and nodded.
"OK Admiral, I'm in this for the long haul. Tell me, have you heard anything of Captain Picard?"
Nechayev's face became unreadable.
"Ah…no. He's been undergoing extensive psychological and physical tests and his testers haven't been very…forthcoming with information. I suggest we wait until it's over and he has returned."
Unnerved by her attitude, all Beverly could do was nod her acceptance.
"Very well Admiral."
The smaller woman stood and watched as Beverly observed protocol and rose to her feet.
"I will leave now Doctor. Try and ignore these…rags. People have a very short memory; this will be forgotten as soon as something else takes their fancy. Stay strong and focussed."
Beverly summoned a smile and stood straighter.
"I will Admiral."
She remained standing until Nechayev had left. She then sat and picked up the first paper. Sighing deeply, she began to read.

 

Very late that night and exhausted fragile Captain entered his quarters. He came far enough into his cabin to allow the doors to shut, then dropped his bag on the deck, closed his eyes and breathed deeply. The past three days had been hell.
At first he endured the evaluation team. They probed his mind, questioned him at great length about all manner of things both mundane and personal. He kept his irritation in check and answered their questions, even submitting to a mind meld with a Vulcan Doctor. He was finally left in his assigned quarters tired and angry…sleep was fractured and restless. The next day came a battery of tests in a holodeck. Different scenarios were thrown at him, and to unsettle him, he found himself on unfamiliar ships with untested crews. He did well until late in the afternoon. The final scenario of the day placed him on the Bridge of the Enterprise, although the crew were different. He was instructed to sit in the Command chair and the simulation began.
"Captain, ship on long-range sensors approaching at high warp."
"Identify."
"Unknown Sir."
Jean-Luc crossed his legs and frowned.
"Hail them."
Several seconds passed.
"No response Sir, except they have increased velocity. ETA at our position in three point five minutes."
The Captain stood and turned to tactical.
"Can you scan them?"
The young Ensign shook her head.
"No Sir, they've got some sort of shield…we can't penetrate it."
Turning back to face front, Jean-Luc barked.
"All stop."
Just as this command was executed, the Ensign at tactical called.
"I have a visual Sir."
Tugging down on his tunic, Jean-Luc said quietly,
"On screen."
The image that appeared made his stomach clench. Before him was the dreaded form of a Borg cube. His voice crisp, Jean-Luc ordered,
"Red alert! Shields up! Helm come to course eight five mark nine seven. Maximum warp!"
The Lieutenant's fingers danced across the console, but before he could initiate the command, the Enterprise shook under the force of hammer-like blows. Bolts of energy strafed the weakening shields and blasts of concentrated fire punched into her crucial systems. Loosing his balance, Jean-Luc quickly gained his seat and had to shout to be heard above the din.
"Tactical return fire! All phasers full intensity, full spread of quantum torpedoes. Fire at your discretion. Helm, get us out of here!"
Already heavily damaged, the beautiful ship turned and jumped to warp. Jean-Luc checked his monitors and called,
"Damage report!"
The First Officer frowned as she amassed the incoming information.
"It's not good Captain. Shields are down and there's been massive damage to the primary hull. Engineering reports warp power will fail in approximately ten minutes. Emergency force fields are protecting hull breeches but with failing power we won't be able to maintain them. Casualties…two hundred and seventy at this time."
Jean-Luc nodded curtly and addressed the Con.
"Lieutenant scan for any nearby nebulas, asteroid fields, areas of concentrated gasses, anything we can hide in. Lieutenant get down to Engineering and see what can be done to eke out more warp power."
He turned to tactical but his words died in his throat.
"Captain! The Borg ship is closing on us rapidly!"
Jean-Luc stabbed at the call button on the arm of his chair.
"Now hear this! This is the Captain. We will imminently be faced by a hostile boarding. I want all personnel to arm themselves. All civilian staff are to gather on decks eighteen and nineteen. Tune your weapons to randomly fire at different wavelengths. Do not hesitate to fire on the intruders they are deadly. That is all."
He took a calming breath and looked up.
"Computer initiate auto self destruct sequence, authorisation…"
"Auto self destruct sequence off line."
He was about to curse when suddenly the ship staggered out of warp and shuddered as a cutting beam lanced out and began to gouge into the hull. Jean-Luc stood and caught a phaser rifle that was tossed to him by his First Officer. It was a shout from Tactical that alerted them to the first intruders. Three Borg materialised on the Bridge and all were immediately cut down by phaser fire. Eight more followed but only five fell as they adapted to the weapons. One by one the Bridge crew were struck down until only Jean-Luc was left. His rifle now useless, he swung it like a club crushing skulls and ripping dead flesh until it suddenly broke. He quickly bent and scooped up a hand phaser, again and again depressing the trigger, firing now harmless bolts of orange energy at the advancing Borg. They surrounded him then grappled him to the deck. One turned the Captain's head and lifted a fist in preparation to inject the nanites that would begin the process of assimilation.
In one final burst of defiant fury, Jean-Luc roared and raised his phaser, aimed it at his own head and fired.
The simulation ended immediately. With the safety protocols in place, the phaser was deactivated before it could discharge and the surroundings disappeared, reverting to a cavernous black room, covered in a lattice of golden squares. The Captain was on the floor, curled on his side, holding tightly to the phaser and sobbing. Two Doctors entered quickly and one injected Jean-Luc with a mild sedative. Together the medicos helped the Captain to his feet and assisted him to his room. They encouraged him to lie on the bed and one Doctor stayed until the traumatised man fell into a disturbed sleep.
Several hours later Jean-Luc woke up screaming. Internal sensors alerted the medical staff and they were with him quickly. It took many minutes before they could calm the Captain and even once he was fully awake, he still exhibited distressed behaviours. A short conference between the medical personnel had Jean-Luc transported to the Sickbay within the facility where he was heavily sedated and observed for the rest of the long night.
The next day he was subjected to a protracted analysis of what had happened. Jean-Luc was disgusted to find it was the mind meld that supplied the necessary information that encouraged his inquisitors to expose him to the horror of the Borg. They quizzed him about the nightmares and he was scrupulously honest, admitting that he was beset with them whenever he was stressed or exhausted, but he insisted, and they eventually had to agree, it had never interfered with his ability to command.
They found particular interest in Jean-Luc's choice to end his own life rather than endure assimilation. The Captain was adamant as he explained that the agony and subjugation of assimilation was not something he would endure again under any circumstances. He pointed out his decision to take his life was a logical one as it deprived the Borg of his knowledge, thus stopping a repeat of the mental rape that he suffered before in which the Borg had used his extensive knowledge to attack the fleet and almost assimilate Earth.
All day the Doctors questioned and delved, probed and quizzed. At last, in the afternoon, they finally came to a consensus. They compared notes and muttered amongst themselves for some hours then approached Jean-Luc with a request. Because of the way things had turned out, they wished to postpone the remainder of his tests, mainly physical responses and neural scans, until the next day, extending his stay by fifteen hours.
The Captain was both furious and intractable. He insisted they complete their tests and discharge him as promised. Somewhat cowed by his anger, they acquiesced and Jean-Luc endured further tedious tests and scans. When it was finally over, he glared at the Doctors, nodded his head curtly and strode from the building with his back straight and his shoulders square. If they knew just how much effort that took, they would've dragged him back inside.
Now he stood in his quarters aboard his beloved ship, brittle and exhausted. His eyes opened and tracked around the room, settling on the softly blinking light of his computer. He debated ignoring it, but his ingrained sense of duty won out and he wearily sat at his desk and activated the monitor.
There was a report that two crewmembers had been involved in a bar fight in London, another of his junior crew had injured himself in an abseiling accident in southern Australia, there were several status reports and lastly a report from Will informing him that the refit of the deflector dish was well ahead of schedule and the ship would be space worthy and ready to leave the dock the following day. Lifting a heavy hand, Jean-Luc closed the screen, rose and picked up his bag before shuffling into his bedroom. Calling for subdued lighting, he froze when he saw the delightful shape of Beverly in his bed. She was sleeping soundly and he felt tears well as he watched her. Moving slowly, he placed the bag in the closet and undressed. Slipping on some satin sleep shorts, he gently slid into the bed and lay on his side facing the sleeping woman. Careful not to touch her, his eyes drank in her peaceful beauty until they clouded with tears. He sighed deeply and closed his eyes, allowing sleep to finally claim him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The scream tore into Beverly's brain, shattering her dream and terrifying her. She sat bolt upright, her hands involuntarily going to her ears as the anguished screaming continued. Her eyes found the source and her heart filled with dread. Taking Jean-Luc's shoulders, she yelled loudly,
"Jean-Luc wake up! Wake up…it's a dream…for God's sake wake up!"
He lashed out, his swinging arm knocking Beverly off the bed. With his face a mask of horror, he shrank against the headboard and screamed again. Beverly heard the door hiss open and Deanna helped her to her feet.
"Get my med kit…it's in the living area!"
The Counsellor ran from the room as Beverly crawled onto the bed. A strong smell of urine permeated the air and Jean-Luc was sobbing and whimpering. Keeping her voice soft, Beverly crept up to him and gently stroked his arm.
"It's all right Jean-Luc, it's a dream, just a dream. Come on let me hold you."
Moving closer, she ran both hands up his arms and tenderly held his head. He flinched but she shushed him and slowly he relaxed.
"That's it Jean-Luc, it's over now. You're safe my love, it was just a bad dream."
Deanna stood beside the bed and Beverly said softly,
"Give me a hypo loaded with triox."
Keeping her eyes locked on Jean-Luc, Beverly felt the instrument pressed into her hand. She gently injected the Captain and he sighed, his body slackening.
"Is he awake?"
Beverly sighed.
"Not really, but he knows we're here. Come on, help me change the bed and get him cleaned up."
Within fifteen minutes Jean-Luc was lying in a clean bed, dressed in fresh shorts. Beverly left him briefly and returned with two small objects. She placed them on his temples and when they were activated, lights came on and a gentle humming could be heard. Deanna sat on the bed and watched as Beverly tenderly stroked Jean-Luc's face.
"You're initiating delta wave sleep."
"Uh huh. It's the only way he'll get any rest, this way he won't dream. You can go if you want Dee. I'll be ok now."
Deanna nodded and stood.
"I'll come by for breakfast, I take it you'll be here?"
Beverly reddened slightly and nodded.
"Yes. I'm supposed to be in my quarters but…"
"Hey no problem. I'll inform medical that you're needed here. I'm sure there'll be no trouble."
Smiling her gratitude, Beverly watched as Deanna left. Checking once more to see he was comfortable, Beverly slid into bed and pulled the covers up. With her hand resting over Jean-Luc's heart she waited for sleep to claim her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the door chimed next morning, Beverly opened it herself rather than call out. Deanna came in and Beverly put her finger to her lips in the classic 'be quiet' gesture. Raising eyebrows, Deanna nodded towards the bedroom. Beverly nodded and both women went to the bedroom door and peeked in. Jean-Luc was fast asleep on his back, one arm flung across his chest, the other thrown over his head. The friends moved back into the living area and, after gaining a light meal and drinks from the replicator, sat on the seats beneath the viewport. Keeping their voices low, it was Deanna who spoke first.
"You've removed the neural inducers."
Nodding, Beverly swallowed some toast.
"Uh huh. He needed some natural sleep. I've set a tricorder next to him, it will alert me if he has any difficulties."
Deanna smiled then grew serious.
"Beverly, Medical has sent me the results of the competency test."
Noting the Counsellor's mood, Beverly quashed her misgivings and asked,
"How did he do?"
Deanna frowned and Beverly feared the worst.
"He passed. But…"
The Doctor stifled her sigh of relief and sat forward.
"But what?"
"They have some…concerns, notably how badly he's been affected by his experiences with the Borg."
Snorting, Beverly scowled.
"Bloody hell what do they expect? The man was assimilated for God's sake! Of course there's going to be after effects."
Deanna nodded and took a deep breath.
"Beverly their testing was very thorough. Apart from the standard mental processing, he spent a whole day in their holodeck being subjected to simulation after simulation. The final one was something they cooked up after the Captain had a mind meld with a Vulcan Doctor. Beverly it was a scenario involving the Borg. They deliberately made it a no-win situation and made it so at the end he was about to be reassimilated."
Beverly was on her feet instantly.
"They what? My God…how could they do that to him! It borders on medical negligence to put a patient with his history through something like that. Jesus they could've done irreparable psychological damage!"
Standing, Deanna took the incensed Doctor's hands and encouraged her to sit.
"Shh Beverly it's ok, I've already filed a vigorous protest with Command. What we have to concentrate on is helping him get through this. We know he's exhausted and now we know he's also badly traumatised, but Beverly…are you up to this? I am worried about you too."
Flicking her hand, Beverly mustered a sardonic smile.
"It'll keep my mind off my troubles!"
Deanna was about to say more when the tricorder alarm sounded. Both women ran to the bedroom to see Jean-Luc curled up and clutching the blankets, moaning. Beverly went to him, gripped his shoulders and spoke soothingly.
"Hush Jean-Luc, it's all right. You're safe and in your bed, hush now, it's all right."
She stroked his head and he slowly relaxed. His eyes opened sluggishly and he stared unfocussed across the room. Beverly gently urged him to turn over and he did so slowly. His eyes settled on Beverly and she watched as they cleared. His voice was rough and very deep.
"Beverly?"
She kept stroking his head and face.
"Yes my love it's me. Everything's all right, you're in you quarters on the Enterprise."
He sighed and closed his eyes. Suddenly his body tensed and he struggled to sit up.
"NO! Beverly…there's…I…they…"
"Shh Jean-Luc it's ok, it was just a dream. You're safe I promise."
He looked over his shoulder and a shudder passed through him. Sighing deeply, he lay back down and swallowed painfully.
"Sore throat?"
He nodded.
"Wait right there."
As she stood, Jean-Luc made a grab for her hand. Beverly took his hand and put it on the mattress.
"It's all right I'll be right back."
Deanna, standing in the doorway, watched as the Doctor disappeared into the bathroom and re-emerged with a glass of water. She sat on the bed and helped Jean-Luc to raise his head.
"Now you drink this and I'll stay with you until you go back to sleep."
His eyes never left her as he downed the liquid. She took the glass, placed it on the side table, then pulled the covers straight, making him comfortable.
She saw his lips move and bent forward to hear his words.
"I'm afraid."
Kissing him softly, Beverly stroked his face and smiled down at him.
"Don't be my love, I'll be here."
He sighed and relaxed and his eyes slowly drifted closed. Soon his breathing evened out and Beverly used the tricorder to scan him. Deanna stepped closer and looked over her shoulder. Her voice a whisper, she asked,
"He's asleep?"
Beverly nodded, reset the tricorder and stood, leading Deanna out of the room. Under her breath she was cursing.
"Those incompetent bastards! What the hell did they think they would achieve by doing this to him?"
Deanna ran her hand up and down Beverly's arm in an attempt to calm her.
"I intend to make some enquiries don't you worry. Look I have to get back to work. I'll drop by later ok?"
The Doctor nodded absently and stared back at the bedroom. Deanna left reluctantly, going straight to the Bridge. She had to talk to Will.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc woke with a start. A beeping beside him had his eyes searching for the source, scowling when he spotted the noisy tricorder. He was just reaching for it when a voice made him stop.
"Leave it Jean-Luc, I'll turn it off."
He turned his head and watched as Beverly sat on his bed, picked up the tricorder and silenced it. She looked down at him and smiled, her eyes twinkling.
"How do you feel?"
Jean-Luc let his head fall back heavily onto the pillow. He swallowed and sighed.
"What was it we agreed on?"
Beverly chuckled softly and stroked his bare chest.
"I believe it was that we were free to admit to feeling like shit."
He nodded, his face stern but his eyes warm.
"Ah yes. So succinct and descriptive. It's true Beverly, I feel like shit."
Leaning down, the Doctor kissed him softly and his sigh provoked an unusually ardent response. She deepened the kiss, sliding her hand down his stomach to the waistband of his shorts. One of his hands tangled in her hair, the other quickly grabbed the wandering hand and stopped its downward progress. Beverly felt her arousal heighten and she tapered the kiss, disengaging then lightly biting his lips. He moaned softly and she twisted her hand free, sliding it further down and over the obvious evidence of his arousal. His voice a ragged whisper, his body trembling, he pleaded,
"Beverly stop…please stop. I won't be able to stop if we…"
Noting the strain in his voice, Beverly pulled back and looked deeply into his eyes.
"It's all right Jean-Luc I…"
He closed his eyes and swallowed.
"No you don't understand. I want our first time to be…not like this. I want us both relaxed and happy…and somewhere else."
Beverly pondered his words and smiled, her eyes taking on a wicked twinkle.
"OK…but there's nothing that says I can't apply a little…therapy? Something to relax you?"
Jean-Luc frowned in confusion. He tilted his head and whispered,
"What do you have in mind?"
By way of answering, Beverly kissed him passionately and resumed caressing his erection. Startled, he froze before slowly relaxing and returning the kiss. With the kiss continuing, Beverly swung her legs up until she was lying alongside him. She let his erection go and gently pushed his shorts down before again taking him in hand and tenderly stroking him. He moaned into her mouth and Beverly thrilled when he started to thrust into her hand. She broke the kiss and pushed him onto his back. Rising up on one arm, she watched hungrily as she gripped him firmly and quickened the strokes.
Jean-Luc had closed his eyes and started to pant. Beverly leaned forward and licked his nipples. She glanced down at her pumping hand and saw a bead of pearl liquid appear at the tip. She moved down the bed and took the bead with her tongue. Jean-Luc gasped and when her mouth closed over him, she heard his breath hiss through his teeth, followed by a deeply sensuous moan.
Rising to her knees, she moved to his hips and used her free hand to gently squeeze his hardening testicles. Already highly aroused, the sensation caused Jean-Luc to raise his hips up from the mattress, pushing himself deeper into Beverly's mouth. Beverly's eyes roamed over his lightly sweating body and noted how his hands were fisted into the sheets. His knuckles showed white and the muscles of his arms, neck and shoulders stood out in stark relief. Suddenly she felt him swell in her mouth and his ragged voice warned,
"Beverly…I'm going to come…"
She increased her actions and Jean-Luc's body stiffened and rose from the bed. He cried out and spasmed as he pumped his essence into his beloved Beverly. As his pulsing slowly ceased, Beverly gently slowed her actions until he began to soften and slip from her mouth. With one final tender kiss to the tip, she moved up the bed and lay with him, taking him into her arms and stroking his back as he recovered.
When he regained his composure he lifted his head and kissed her with remarkable tenderness. Beverly sighed and melted into the kiss and when one of his hands cupped her breast, she moaned quietly into his mouth. Not breaking the kiss, Jean-Luc undid her blouse and slipped his hand inside. He pushed up her bra and gently kneaded the breast, his fingers rolling the nipple until it stiffened. Growling low in his throat, Jean-Luc left her lips and nuzzled down her neck, while his hand pushed the material aside, exposing her breasts. Beverly's hand cradled his head, pushing his head down, begging silently for more. When his mouth fastened on her turgid nipple, Beverly arched her back and moaned. As did Beverly, he eased her down onto her back and used both hands to push her shirt off her shoulders. Swapping breasts, he lavished the neglected nipple while his skilful fingers teased the other. He left her breasts and kissed his way down her belly while his hands undid her skirt. Sliding the garment down her legs, he then attacked her panties, pulling them down with his teeth. Beverly rose on her elbows and caught his eyes. Slowly licking her lips, she grinned at him and suddenly flung her head back as two of his thick fingers slid inside her. Before she could properly process the sensation, his mouth descended onto her sex, his tongue probing and sliding through her wet folds. She mewed and writhed as his free hand gripped her hip to push her down onto the bed. When his tongue finally swirled over her swollen clitoris she shrieked and abruptly orgasmed, her body flexing and shuddering.

 

 

 

 

 

"Deanna arrived at the Captain's quarters and pressed the chime. Nothing happened. After waiting a few moments, she pressed it again and, as before, no one answered. Frowning, she opened her senses and almost immediately gasped.
"Oh my God!"
Aloud she asked,
"Computer where are Doctor Crusher and Captain Picard?"
"Doctor Crusher and Captain Picard are in Captain Picard's quarters."
"Where in his quarters are they?"
"They are currently in the Captain's bedroom."
"Computer give me an audible readout of their vital signs."
This was done and an evil grin surfaced on the Counsellor's face.
"Computer I will be in the lounge. Please inform me when both sets of vital signs return to normal."
"Affirmative."

 

 

 

 

 

Just as Beverly was coming down from her first climax, Jean-Luc started again. His fingers slothfully slid in and out as his tongue continued its quest to bring her to mindless ecstasy. It didn't take long…neither did the three subsequent orgasms that Jean-Luc sensuously coaxed from her. As she lay panting and softly moaning his name, the Captain moved up the bed and mirrored her earlier actions by taking her in his arms and stroking her back.
Her panting slowly gave way to deeper breaths and the moaning subsided. In silence they lay together, the Captain naked, Beverly almost so. Jean-Luc leaned back and ran his fingers over her breasts in a feather-like caress. Beverly stretched lithely and sighed.
"Oh God Jean-Luc that was absolutely wonderful."
He growled softly and kissed her.
"I concur my love. It's been a long time for me…that was something I usually do by myself…with you in my mind."
His frank confession surprised the Doctor. She kissed him tenderly and tilted her head.
"Did you do it often?"
He shrugged and watched his fingers as they continued to caress her nipple.
"Often enough."
"And you thought of me? Every time?"
His eyes travelled over her face and settled on hers. His voice a whisper, he nodded.
"Yes…each and every time it was you…always you."
He kissed her and Beverly's heart swelled at his tenderness and love. When they parted she ran her fingers down his face.
"Want to know a secret?"
He growled low and nuzzled her neck.
"When I did it…and it was often…I thought only of you too."
He raised his head; his expression was of surprise and delight.
"You did? Every time?"
"Uh huh. Oh you've got no idea Jean-Luc. My erotic fantasies involving you are very…imaginative."
He rose up on one elbow, a wicked grin on his face.
"Really…is that so? Well my dear Doctor, I have a wealth of imagination where it comes to you and erotic fantasies."
Beverly giggled and kissed him.
"Well it would seem when we finally get started we're going to become explorers."
His voice now a sexy baritone, Jean-Luc kissed his way to her breasts.
"Hmm. And of course you know how I feel about exploring."
Beverly sighed and looked sightlessly at the ceiling as he rekindled her desire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was an hour and a half before the computer contacted Deanna. She left the lounge and arrived shortly at the Captain's cabin. As she pressed the chime, she had to concentrate on keeping the knowing grin off her face.
"Come."
The Counsellor entered to find both officers sitting at the table in bathrobes eating a late breakfast. Crossing the room, Deanna detected the unmistakable scent of sex coming from the bedroom. She opened her senses and felt contentment and warm love emanating from the couple and she was particularly gratified to feel how relaxed the Captain was.
"Good morning Captain, Beverly."
They both nodded, as their mouths were full. Gesturing, Jean-Luc offered a seat and a cup of coffee. Smiling, Deanna sat and sipped her drink,
"So Captain how do you feel this morning?"
Jean-Luc glanced at Beverly before smiling softly and answering the question.
"Actually Counsellor I feel better that I have in many weeks. Beverly has a new…therapy, one that we can both use. We found it very…beneficial."
Smiling blithely, Deanna shot Beverly a knowing look.
"Really Captain? Perhaps you could tell me about it…I might be able to utilise it with my patients."
Spluttering over his coffee, Jean-Luc reddened and looked helplessly at Beverly. With a smirk on her face, the Doctor said quietly,
"Oh I don't think it's anything you could use Deanna. It's something I tailored specifically for the Captain. The fact that I can use it too is only…fortunate happenstance."
Schooling her features into sorrow, Deanna pouted.
"Oh. Well maybe I'll find something like that too, something I can share with Will."
Jean-Luc coughed and brought the subject to a close.
"Ah if you ladies will excuse me, I'll go and get dressed."
Both women smiled innocently up at him making him feel decidedly nervous.
"Take your time Jean-Luc."
With a snort, he left them for the relative safety of his bedroom.
Once seated together on the sofa, Deanna dug Beverly in the ribs.
"You old tart! I know exactly what you two have been up to. I came by earlier and had the computer monitor your vital signs."
"You what! Deanna I didn't know you were a voyeur."
The Counsellor giggled and sighed. In a conspiratorial whisper she asked,
"What was it like?"
Keeping her voice low, Beverly glanced over to the bedroom.
"Well we didn't actually…you know…not in the traditional sense. We just pleasured each other. Him twice and me…I lost count."
"Wow! Was he…attentive?"
Beverly sighed and said wistfully,
"I'll say! He…"
The Captain's shadow silenced Beverly. With a smirk, she looked up at her casually dressed lover.
"What are you two up to? Whispering in the Captain's quarters is strictly against standing orders."
Beverly batted her eyelids smiled sweetly.
"Standing orders? Who's?"
He stood beside her and resisted the temptation to run his fingers through her vibrant hair.
"Mine of course. Are you questioning my authority?"
The Doctor sat up straight and threw a mock salute.
"Me Captain? Never Sir!"
Chuckling, he was aware that Deanna had left Beverly's side and was now seated on one of the chairs. He quickly debated taking the other chair but just as quickly dismissed that idea. He felt enormously happy and wanted to be near his newfound lover. With a determined smile on his face, he sat next to Beverly and lowered his head when she gently took his hand.
Deanna allowed a few moments' silence before she subtly cleared her throat.
"Captain medical has sent me your file concerning the competency test."
His eyes hardened and he sat up straight.
"Oh? And what is the result?"
Sighing, Deanna sat forward and looked him in the eye.
"You passed Sir…with reservations."
Letting out a suppressed breath, Jean-Luc sat back and closed his eyes.
"I passed."
The Doctor caught Deanna's eye and frowned. The Counsellor held up her hand.
"Yes Captain."
He sighed then stilled.
"With reservations? What does that mean?"
Beverly gently squeezed his hand and garnered his attention.
"Jean-Luc, I've already gone over this with Deanna. What they're saying is…yes you passed the tests, but they have some problems with how you've been affected by your experiences with the Borg."
Jean-Luc's head gently thumped back on the backrest. He lifted his hands and rubbed his face.
"I see."
The two women looked at each other and Deanna continued.
"Captain it's not necessarily a bad thing. Yes they have some concerns, but they did pass you. You've not lost your captaincy or your command."
He was silent as he digested those words. Abruptly he sat up and became business-like.
"All right, will there be any further tests? Will I have to undergo any more of their…inquisitions?"
Inwardly Deanna winced at the wave of suppressed anger emanating from the man.
"At this stage I don't know Captain. I must warn you however…the defence team will be given the same reports and it's highly likely they will contest the results on the grounds that you're…incapacitated by your…experiences."
Placing his elbows on his knees, Jean-Luc leaned forward and cradled his head in his hands. Beverly frowned at Deanna and moved closer to him, sliding her arm over his shoulders.
"Look Jean-Luc I'm sure it won't come to that. Phillipa will have the report too and I'm certain she'll have a strategy in mind. For now put it out of your mind."
Deanna felt dismay and dread well up in the tormented man. She spoke quietly.
"Captain, as a result of some very vigorous complaints over your treatment at medical, you have been relieved of duty for the foreseeable future. My superiors have told me to tell you to take the time you've been given to relax and recuperate. As Beverly is also temporarily off duty, I advise both of you, at least until the trials are set, to take some time down on Earth together."
There was silence as the couple considered the options. When Jean-Luc stood, Beverly wasn't surprised with his words.
"I'm going to the Bridge. This ship is due to leave the dock today and I want an update."
Both women stood as he nodded to them. In silence they watched as he left his quarters.
Beverly sat and sighed.
"How is he taking it Dee?"
Deanna sat and crossed her legs.
"He's angry, dismayed and scared. To be honest I wouldn't be surprised if he refused any further testing."
Snorting, Beverly pulled her robe tighter.
"Do you blame him? Christ those Einsteins at medical did everything they could to break him! AND they failed! It's no wonder he wouldn't go through that again."
Deanna sighed.
"Hey I believe you, but what if it comes down to an order from the trial judge? He'll have no choice."
Beverly's cerulean eyes glittered with unshed tears.
"Yes he has Dee…he'll resign his commission. Every man has his breaking point and I think Jean-Luc is very close to his."
Deanna pondered those words and sighed.
"And what about you. How did you handle your…activities this morning? Any fear? Any flashbacks?"
The Doctor's chuckle surprised the Counsellor, considering the subject.
"As a matter of fact it was my idea! He tried to stop me…he wants to wait until things are cleared before we…you know, but when I offered my therapy he became curious…then very horny. And as for myself…Harris and what he did never entered into my mind. I was highly aroused and all I wanted was to have Jean-Luc make love to me in any way he chose to do so. The fact that we did what we did so successfully proves to me that Harris can rot in hell. He has no influence over me whatsoever."
Deanna smiled widely and took Beverly's hands.
"I'm so glad. I know your sleep has been fractured of late, but when you do sleep…do you have any nightmares?"
Beverly sighed and closed her eyes momentarily.
"There were some when I was alone in my quarters, but since I've been here there's been nothing. His presence is like a balm to my soul Deanna. As long as Jean-Luc is nearby, I'm all right."
"I'm very pleased to hear that."
Beverly rose and retrieved two hot drinks from the replicator.
"Tell me Dee, have you seen the papers?"
The Counsellor scowled and blew on her hot chocolate.
"Oh God yes. What a total disgrace. It's a wonder how they get away with printing such utter tripe."
"Tell me about it. Do you know they even printed photos of Jack and Wesley?"
Deanna nodded.
"I know, Will has a couple of copies, he showed me in the ready Room."
Beverly froze.
"The Ready Room! God Deanna that's where Jean-Luc is now!"
Deanna's hand flew to her mouth.
"Oh no! He hasn't seen them, he was in medical when they came out."
Beverly stood, took a few agitated steps then turned to her friend.
"What can we do? He's probably seen them by now."
The Counsellor sighed and rubbed her forehead.
"For now nothing, but both of us are going to bear the brunt of this."
Both women stared at each other. Beverly's mind sighed.
"Oh God…what else!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will was at the Science Station with Data when Jean-Luc entered the Bridge. The First Officer's face split into a warm grin as he greeted his CO.
"Captain! Welcome home Sir…it's good to have you back."
His face stern, his eyes nonetheless held warmth for his Exec.
"Thank you Number One. I would like to go over ship's status…shall we?"
He began walking towards the Ready Room when Will remembered the papers strewn on the desk.
"Ah Captain…maybe we could discuss it out here? I'm sure Data would like to add his opinion."
Frowning, the Captain shook his head.
"I would prefer the surrounds of my office Commander."
He continued to the Ready Room and the doors parted for him. He strode in and Will swallowed, making his feet move to follow his Captain.
Jean-Luc stepped into his inner sanctum and froze as his eyes beheld the papers on his desk. Walking slowly behind the desk, he absently picked up the first offending rag and read the headline. He dropped it with disgust just as Will came in. The big man stood in silence and watched as the Captain picked up the second paper and stared at it. With mechanical movements he let the paper slide from his fingers and stood motionlessly for a few seconds. Then with an explosion of energy he swept the disgusting papers onto the floor and took his seat.
Will nervously seated himself and resisted the urge to wipe the sweat from his brow. Jean-Luc's one word was harsh.
"Report!"
"Yes Captain! The upgrade of the deflector dish is complete and Commander Data has finished initialising the computer. The crew have been recalled and we are fully staffed and ready to leave dock. Command wishes to have the Enterprise deliver supplies to the Calista mining colony. We would be gone approximately fifteen days."
The Captain's dark hazel eyes glittered dangerously, his face a stoic mask.
"Very Well Commander. Doctor Crusher and I have been relieved of duty for the interim and we will both be going planetside this afternoon. The ship is yours, please see to it she is returned to me in one piece."
Will tried to see any humour in his CO's face. There was nothing. His voice was flat and hard, but Will felt he had to say something about the papers.
"Captain about the papers…I'm sorry Sir. An Ensign brought them aboard and I confiscated them. I left them in here with the intention of putting them in the recycler."
"After you read them of course."
The First Officer reddened and squirmed in his seat.
"I'm sorry Captain."
Jean-Luc stared at his subordinate with glacial angst. His voice was soft, a sure sign of great anger.
"Who else has seen them?"
By now sweating freely, the big man swallowed.
"Ah…Deanna and I think Beverly, but maybe not, and some of the crew. I issued a general order to the crew to ignore the press and to not bring any more copies aboard. They'll comply Captain, they're very loyal to you, they respect you Sir."
Jean-Luc sat in silence, his dark eyes glittering, his hands fisted on the desktop.
"You are dismissed Commander."
Will stood automatically but hesitated at the door.
"Captain I…"
Jean-Luc's eyes fell to the surface of the desk, his voice just audible.
"Dismissed Commander."
Once out on the Bridge Will called Deanna.
"Riker to Troi."
"Troi here."
"Deanna can I see you in your office? I think we have a problem."
"Yes Will, Troi out."
Will took one more look at the Ready Room door before saying to Data,
"You have the Bridge Data. I'll be back soon."
"Aye Sir."

When Will entered Deanna's office he was not surprised to see Beverly. Raising his eyebrows at his lover, Deanna answered his silent enquiry.
"Beverly has seen them too Will. How is he?"
Will ran an exasperated hand through his dark hair and blew out a frustrated breath.
"He's clammed up. When I walked in he was staring at the headlines, then he stood motionless before sweeping both papers off the desk and onto the deck. After that he ignored them, but he became very…closed…and I think, very angry. I tried to talk to him about it but he all but shut me out. He eventually dismissed me and wouldn't hear what I had to say."
Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose and sat heavily on a chair.
"Damn! I was hoping to spare him this. I was shown yesterday…Nechayev kindly exposed me to the brutal spotlight of the UPS. Bloody hell…what vultures they are."
Deanna took Will's arm and led him to a seat. Once seated the big man watched as Deanna sat on the edge of her chair.
"What can we do Dee? How can we help him?"
The Counsellor shook her head.
"What are our orders Will?"
Shrugging, Will stroked his beard.
"For the next fifteen days we'll be ferrying supplies to the Calista mining colony. Nothing special."
"I wonder...?"
Beverly tilted her head.
"What are you up to?"
"I wonder if I'd be allowed to accompany both of you to Earth as your personal Counsellor? I mean like Will said, the mission is a milk-run."
The First Officer growled.
"After the blast we gave medical over what they did to the Captain…do you think they'll see us in a kindly light?"
Deanna shrugged.
"Well we won't know unless we try. I'll put in the request now."
Moving to her desk, Deanna activated her terminal and in a quietly professional voice, put her request to medical. She received the standard 'wait' message then snorted when one word appeared.
"Denied."
Beverly, looking over Deanna's shoulder said what they were all thinking.
"Shit!"
They were about to discuss the issue further when Jean-Luc's emotionless voice came through the speakers.
"Picard to Riker."
"Riker here Captain."
"Report to the Bridge immediately, you are to assume Command and the ship is due to leave dock."
"Aye Sir, on my way. Riker out."
Casting a meaningful look at Beverly, will kissed her cheek.
"Keep in touch."
Nodding, the women watched as he left.
"Well I suppose I'd better get to my quarters and pack."
Deanna took her hand and looked deeply into her eyes.
"He's going to be difficult to handle Beverly…are you sure you don't want help?"
Smiling ruefully, Beverly sighed.
"I've known him a very long time Deanna. If I can't handle him, no one can."
The Counsellor surprised Beverly by hugging her.
"I know Beverly, but you must look after yourself too. If you let your guard down…even for a minute…you might be overwhelmed."
Returning the hug, Beverly took a moment to let Deanna feel her strength.
"I'll be all right Dee. Jean-Luc told me as long as we have each other we'd be ok. As for the rest of them…they can all go to hell!"
They shared a gently chuckle and Deanna watched as her friend left.
"Take care dear friend."

 

 

 

 

 

After handing over to Will, Jean-Luc stalked through the ship, his mind churning with dark thoughts. He dropped by his quarters and scowled when he found it empty. Packing a bag, he put in a call.
"Picard to Lieutenant Paull."
"Paull here Captain."
"I need to speak to you Lieutenant, are you free?"
"Ah yes Sir."
"Good. Report to my quarters. Picard out."
He had finished his packing and was finalising his notes on the computer when the door chimed.
"Come."
Adam Paull stepped in, a smile on his face.
"You wanted to see me Captain?"
Nodding, Jean-Luc stood and faced the young man.
"I will be spending some time on Earth while the Enterprise completes her current mission. I require the services of an Adjutant and I was wondering if you would care to serve me in that capacity?"
Adam's mouth opened then snapped shut. Drawing himself up to attention, he lifted his chin.
"It would be a pleasure Captain."
Jean-Luc's smile was warm, but it didn't reach his eyes.
"Splendid. You will be kept busy but there's a chance you may have some free time. Your family are in South Africa are they not?"
"Yes Sir."
"Well perhaps there'll be time for you to visit them."
Grinning widely, Adam nodded.
"I'll go pack Captain…shall I bring my flute?"
The Captain frowned and shook his head.
"I don't think so Lieutenant. It is unlikely I will have the time."
"Very good Sir."
Jean-Luc nodded and dismissed the enthusiastic young man. Sighing, he called Beverly.
"Are you ready?"
"Yep. I've had a call from Admiral Nechayev…I'll have to go and see her almost as soon as we settle into our quarters."
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and snorted.
"I suppose I'll have to face Louvois soon too."
"By the way Jean-Luc, where are we staying? Can we share quarters?"
"For now, at least until the trials are over we'll be staying at Command, in the senior officer's accommodation. Unfortunately I will be in the Captain's section and you will be in the Commander's section, on the floor below."
There was silence and Jean-Luc rubbed his face.
"Beverly?"
Her voice held a trace of anger.
"We can't share?"
The Captain sat and took a deep breath.
"Beverly please understand…I love you, you know that, but I'm not ready to go public just yet. With the trials hanging over our heads and the press sniffing around…wouldn't you rather we kept our relationship quiet? I don't mean that I'm ashamed or that I think we have anything to hide…I simply don't think it's the right time."
He sat through the ensuing silence, holding his breath. When he heard her voice, he could hear her capitulation.
"Ok Jean-Luc we'll do it your way, but hear me…I intend to spend all my off time with you. I need you Jean-Luc…I feel…incomplete without you and I'll be damned if I'll let those bastards in the press come between us."
"Agreed…and for what it's worth Beverly…I am incomplete without you."
They agreed to meet in Transporter Room three and closed the channel. Jean-Luc rose and took a long look around his quarters then, sighing, left to meet his lover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The three officers, Jean-Luc, Beverly and Adam beamed down late in the afternoon. Their arrival raised a few eyebrows and they felt eyes follow them as they made their way to their accommodation.
As Beverly predicted, she was sitting in Alynna Nechayev's office within the hour.
The small woman kept her eyes on a PADD, ignoring Beverly who sat patiently. Eventually the Admiral looked up and sighed.
"I have some very good news Doctor."
Surprised, Beverly smiled.
"Well that's good to hear Admiral…I could do with some."
Sitting back in her chair, Alynna knitted her fingers across her stomach.
"Two hours ago I received a communiqué from Alison Brady. Apparently she contacted all the women named in the press and they met and over several drinks each admitted to the others that they had been abused by Desmond Harris."
Beverly sat up and gasped.
"They did?"
"Yes. It would seem that once they knew who had laid charges against Harris, it gave them the courage they needed to come forward. Apparently you have quite a reputation as a formidable and strong woman Doctor. Their thinking is that if a woman like you could fall victim to a man like Harris, it could happen to anybody. You gave them back their self-esteem Doctor; in fact two of the three that resigned their commissions are reconsidering. There's a chance they might come back to Starfleet."
Beverly sat back, completely stunned. Her voice showed her shock.
"They're willing to testify?"
"Yes. I've already contacted Harris' team…I'm waiting to hear from them."
Beverly swallowed and shook her head.
"What do you think will be the outcome?"
With a predatory grin, Nechayev's eyes glittered.
"They'll fold! They have to…his claims will be indefensible."
Beverly's eyes left the woman seated in front of her and settled on her lap. In a small voice she said,
"It'll be over."
"For you, yes. And there's more. I believe this will damage Harris' credibility to such an extent, it will add weight for the prosecution in Picard's case. It's good news all round Doctor, you should be happy."
Absently, Beverly nodded and sighed. Dragging her eyes up to meet the Admiral's, she noticed the look of confusion on the smaller woman's face.
"I am Admiral…really I am, it's just so sudden. I've been preparing myself for all the impending unpleasantness…to find it all over…"
Placing her hands on the desk, Nechayev's voice was uncommonly soft.
"Well we have yet to hear from his team, but I'm optimistic. Until we hear from them you'll be free to do as you please…as long as you stay here at Command. What do you think you'll do?"
Frowning, Beverly gave the question some thought.
"I suppose I'll go over to Medical and look up some old friends. Tell me Admiral; would it be ok if I contacted Alison Brady? I'd like to talk to her…and the others."
"I don't see why not. I'll contact her and if she's amenable, I'll give her your contact details."
Standing Beverly smiled down at the Admiral.
"Thank you Sir."
Nodding Alynna said quietly,
"Dismissed Doctor."
Beverly hurried to Jean-Luc's billet only to find him absent. Enquiring, she found he was with Phillipa.
"Good luck my love."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc's hand slammed down on the desk and his eyes bored into his fellow Captain's.
"What the hell do you mean you can't? You're a solicitor dammit! Sue the bastards!"
Phillipa closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Calming herself, she opened her eyes and met his angry glare.
"Sit down Captain!"
Containing his anger, Jean-Luc sat and folded his arms across his chest, his demeanour sullen.
"It would be stupid to sue the press over this Jean-Luc. All that would achieve is a feeding frenzy! It would further drag not only your personal life, but Doctor Crusher's, into the spot light. Do you want that? Are you prepared to have every little thing, every past lover, every event of your life in Starfleet splashed in detail, across the front pages?"
Jean-Luc grimaced and shook his head.
"You must be able to do something! They can't just get away with this."
"What I can do is win this bloody case! Look Jean-Luc the papers can't loose. Even if you sued and won, the money they'd make on the public interest in this story would more than compensate them for any damages they would have to pay you. Let it go and concentrate on the problems at hand."
Noting the tired frustration in her voice, Jean-Luc quelled his anger and sniffed.
"What problems?"
Tossing a PADD on the desk, Louvois pointed at it as if it would bite.
"That."
The Captain picked it up and began to scroll through the information. Looking up he frowned.
"It's the report from my competency test."
"Uh huh. I suppose you know the results?"
Jean-Luc gently returned the PADD to the desktop and shifted in his seat.
"Yes. I passed…with reservations."
Phillipa sat back and crossed her arms.
"Ah yes…the reservations. The cadre's legal team contacted me this morning. They're going to contest the findings. They purport that the tests show unequivocally that you are fundamentally unfit to command on the basis of your unstable behaviour as a result of being assimilated by the Borg."
Jean-Luc sighed and turned his head to stare out the third floor window.
"I see."
Frowning, Phillipa tried to gauge his mood.
"It's utter rubbish of course and we'll fight it, but it may come down to the judge. If the presiding judge deems it necessary, you might have to be re-tested."
His quiet voice was succinct.
"No."
Phillipa leaned forward and frowned.
"No what?"
He turned to face her and she could see his resoluteness.
"I will not endure the tests again."
"But…"
His eyes darkened and he lifted his chin.
"I mean it Phillipa…under no circumstances will I allow myself to be tested again."
The solicitor sat back and studied the man before her. Coming to a decision, she nodded curtly.
"Very well we'll have to work around it…somehow. Now, apart from Harris, do you know any of the other accused?"
Sighing, Jean-Luc brushed at a speck of lint on his dark blue trousers.
"No, although I know of some of them. The others I know only as relatives of deceased personnel from Wolf 359."
"OK, have you ever had any contact with any of them? At the memorial services perhaps, or at your subsequent decoration ceremony maybe?"
The Captain shook his head.
"No…never."
"So this…attack on you came completely out of the blue? You never had even an inkling that such bad feeling was directed at you?"
Jean-Luc sighed and cleared his throat.
"I've always known there were people who resented me over what happened at Wolf 359 it is, after all, understandable, but as the years passed and my career progressed, I put it behind me."
Louvois nodded and made some notes on a PADD. Throughout the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening she questioned him at great length about the case and Harris' behaviour on the Enterprise. She finally sat back and dropped the PADD onto the desktop.
"OK that's it for the day. Meet me here at oh nine thirty tomorrow and well go over your crew's reactions."
Standing, Jean-Luc stretched and smiled ruefully.
"I'm certainly glad you're on my side Phillipa…you're a hard task-master."
Snorting, the Captain waved her hand in dismissal.
"Be off with you Sir."

 

 

 

 

 

As Jean-Luc walked slowly through the corridors, he tapped his combadge.
"Picard to Crusher."
Her happy lilt made him smile tiredly.
"Crusher here."
"I am finally free Beverly. Care to meet me for dinner?"
"Yes! How about Alexandro's on the wharf?"
"All right. I need to shower and shave…how about I make the reservations for eighteen thirty? I'll pick you up at eighteen fifteen."
"Done. And Jean-Luc? I have some wonderful news."
He grinned and sighed.
"Then I can't wait to see you."
Her giggle was the last thing he heard.
"Picard out."

 

 

 

 

 

 

As promised, Jean-Luc was punctual and the couple strolled to the restaurant mindful always of the loitering press. Fortunately the reporters were absent on Starfleet grounds, but once on the street, they were accosted by a boisterous group armed with PADDs and holovid recorders. A barrage of questions was fired at them and they were surrounded and herded towards the gates of Command. Tapping his combadge, Jean-Luc called security. Within minutes six burly men appeared and dispersed the hungry reporters. The Captain sought the leader of the detail, a large Bolian and thanked him.
"No problem Captain Picard. Admiral Handorff clued us up…we were waiting for your call."
Smiling, Jean-Luc dismissed the detail but the Bolian shook his head.
"Sir we have orders to keep you and the Doctor in sight for the rest of the night and any other times you go off grounds."
Lowering his head, Jean-Luc sighed.
"Look Lieutenant I'm sure that won't be necessary. The wolves have dispersed and I would appreciate a quiet time with Doctor Crusher."
"I understand Captain, but I have my orders Sir."
Now growing angry, Jean-Luc straightened and adopted his Captain's voice.
"Lieutenant! I…"
He got no further. A cool hand gently gripped his arm and soft voice cut in.
"Let it go Jean-Luc. I'm sure the Lieutenant and his men will be very discreet…won't you Lieutenant?"
Smiling widely, the big Bolian nodded.
"Of course Doctor. You won't even know we're there."
"See? It'll be ok…come on, relax."
With one final glare, Jean-Luc swallowed his anger. Sighing, he turned on his heel and waited until Beverly took her place at his side. His muttered…
"I'll bloody know they're there." Passed without comment. They had only walked a few metres when Jean-Luc stopped and looked around in amazement. The guards were gone.
Beverly looked around then boldly slipped her arm through his.
"I told you. Now just forget about them and get a move on or we'll be late."
The Captain snorted but hastened his steps and by the time they reached the restaurant he was in a much better mood.
The dinner was delightful. They dined on roast venison with seasonal vegetables and followed it with crème caramel. There was a good selection of wines, including some from the Picard vineyard. By the time coffee was taken they were happy and relaxed.
"You've been teasing me all night you wench! What is this…good news of yours?"
Breaking her chocolate mint and nibbling on a corner, Beverly's eyes sparkled impishly and Jean-Luc decided…again…he'd never seen a more beautiful woman.
The sapphire blue of her dress accentuated her eyes and her hair, piled up with wisps hanging down each side, perfectly framed her face. His eyes wandered over the milky skin of her neck and he found himself imagining how it would taste as he kissed it. Moving down his hazel eyes darkened at the view of her cleavage, a single pearl and diamond pendant nestled between her breasts.
"Crusher to Picard."
Caught in his sensuous dreaming, the Captain lifted his eyes and concentrated on keeping the blood from his face. Clearing his throat, he said softly,
"I beg your pardon? I'm sorry I wasn't listening."
Smiling knowingly, Beverly slid her hand across the table and rested it on his. With a gentle squeeze, she absolved his guilt.
"I said I had a wonderful talk with Admiral Nechayev this afternoon."
"A wonderful talk? That's not how I would describe my talks with the Admiral."
Beverly grinned and sat back, eating some more of the chocolate mint.
"Well that's probably because she wasn't telling you that you may well have won your case."
Jean-Luc's breathing halted.
"What?"
Nodding, Beverly grasped both his hands.
"It's true! Apparently the women who were named got together and confessed to each other that they all had been abused by Harris…AND the best part is they're willing to testify! Alynna says it will blow him out of the water."
Jean-Luc's frowning face slowly gave way to a broad smile.
"Beverly that's wonderful! What made them change their minds?"
Reddening slightly, the Doctor lowered her head and looked embarrassed.
"Oh Alynna said something about them being heartened by the fact that a woman like me could be a victim too. It somehow gave them courage."
Jean-Luc's silence made her look up at him.
"What?"
He sighed and leaned forward.
"More likely it was your wonderful, well earned reputation. Admit it Beverly…you're at the top in your field and very well respected."
Now fully blushing, Beverly shook her head.
"Hey you…no need to gild the lily. I love you remember?"
He chuckled lightly and sat back.
"Still it's wonderful news. You must be relieved."
Beverly smiled and let out a big breath.
"I will be when we hear from Harris' team. Once it's certain he's given up…then I'll celebrate. And Jean-Luc…Alynna says it may strengthen you position too. If one of their leaders is so thoroughly discredited…it can only help your case."
At the mention of his case, Jean-Luc's eyes hardened and Beverly saw him withdraw into himself. Determined to stop it, she reached for his hands and spoke insistently.
"No you don't! Don't you dare shut me out! We're together now Jean-Luc…we share everything. Now tell me…what is it?"
He battled with himself and capitulated. The fact was…he wanted to share his worries with Beverly. After a lifetime of solitary existence, he yearned for the intimate familiarity of having someone so close that he could unburden himself.
"Phillipa warned me that the defence will contest the results of the tests. She outlined the basis of their concerns and told me that the presiding judge may well order a repeat of the tests."
Knowing her lover all too well, Beverly asked,
"What did you tell her?"
The Captain took a large breath and let it out slowly.
"I told her I categorically refuse to be re-tested."
"I see. What did she say?"
"She, rather surprisingly, accepted it. She said we'd work around it…somehow."
Beverly primly wiped her mouth with the serviette, stood and moved to stand at his shoulder. Leaning down, she whispered in his ear,
"Well I don't know about you Captain, but I could do with some…therapy. Care to walk me home?"
He was on his feet instantly. Offering his arm, they stopped briefly at the desk to pay for the meal, then walked briskly out into the misty night.
As before, their guards kept out of sight, but they were both relieved when they reached Command territory. In silence they entered the lobby, by now walking together, but not touching. Entering the lift, both of them stood stiffly as they rose to the fourth floor. With barely a look at him, Beverly exited and, after a second or two, Jean-Luc followed her. They entered her quarters moments later.
He took her arm and turned her. Before she could say anything he kissed her passionately and she melted into his embrace. It took little time to divest each other of their clothing, leaving a haphazard trail towards the bedroom. Once naked, they lay on the bed taking time to bring pleasure to each other. Still eschewing actual intercourse, Jean-Luc brought Beverly to orgasm repeatedly using his mouth and hands. Sated, she lay in his arms and grinned wickedly as she felt his erection pressed against her hip. Snaking a hand down, she stroked him and soon he was lost in carnal ecstasy as Beverly used her skilful mouth to bring him to a shattering climax.
They dozed in each other's arms until Jean-Luc woke and sighed. Beverly stirred and nuzzled into his neck.
"I have to go."
The Doctor moaned her displeasure and bit his earlobe.
"Do you have to?"
He snorted and rolled her over, covering her body with his.
"You do realise that my presence at this hour in you quarters is strictly forbidden?"
One look into her mischievous eyes told him she didn't give a damn. He sighed and tried again.
"Beverly…"
Lifting her head she kissed him and, at the same time, ground her hot wet sex against his growing erection. He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth.
"Oh God Beverly…don't…I can't…"
Sliding a hand between them she gently gripped him and guided him to her entrance. He was still shaking his head when he slipped inside her. His protest turned into a deeply sensuous moan. Beverly gasped and adjusted her hips, taking him in deeper. They lay perfectly still, letting the exquisite sensations wash over them. Beverly stirred and kissed his neck, her hands travelling down his back to grip his buttocks. Her breath was hot and moist in his ear.
"Now Jean-Luc…do it now…"
He slowly withdrew until only the tip of his penis stayed inside her. Beverly groaned and arched up sheathing herself on him. He waited until she retreated then plunged down, burying himself deeply in her. She cried out and writhed beneath him, biting his shoulder.
"Again…oh God again!"
Obeying her plea, he repeated the manoeuvre and quickly established a cadence that rapidly drew Beverly into sexual madness. She clutched at him, biting and kissing, all the while begging for release. Jean-Luc rose up on his arms and watched intently as he increased his thrusts in both frequency and power. He could feel her internal muscles gripping him and the flow of her lubricant told him she was close. With a low growl he abandoned his control and began to thrust vigorously. Beverly cried out and arched under him, her body flexing and shuddering as she came again and again. His name ripped from her throat caused his own capitulation. With an inarticulate cry he plunged deeply into her and held himself still as he pulsed within her. His arms gave way and he collapsed on top of her panting and moaning. It was some time before he gently rolled to one side and covered his eyes with his forearm. Beverly basked in the afterglow, her body delightfully boneless. With an effort, she rolled onto her side and was concerned to find Jean-Luc with tears flowing down his face. Taking his arm, she uncovered his face and gently stroked his head.
"What is it my love?"
He sighed raggedly and sniffed.
"I've wanted to do that for so long…but I wanted us to be somewhere else…somewhere away from Starfleet, alone, just the two of us…"
Beverly silenced him with a tender kiss.
"It's my fault Jean-Luc. I wanted you and I wasn't prepared to wait. I guess the news tonight freed me…to be honest, until we actually did it…I didn't know if I could."
He turned to her and asked,
"Was it all right? I didn't hurt you?"
Idly running her hand through his chest hair, Beverly sighed blissfully.
"It was wonderful Jean-Luc…absolutely fabulous. Better in fact than my dreams."
He finally smiled and nodded.
"It was for me too. My fantasies pale into insignificance compared with the reality of making love to you. You are magnificent."
Beverly rested her head on his shoulder and chuckled.
"And you, my dear Captain, have been keeping secrets from me."
Jean-Luc frowned and the Doctor thrilled as his voice rumbled through his chest.
"Me?"
"Uh huh. For starters I didn't know you were so well endowed. Yes, I know I've seen you naked before, but really Jean-Luc…what a pleasant surprise!"
"And?"
"And…you're scandalously good at making love. My God I thought I'd died and gone to heaven."
He snorted and weaved his fingers through her hair.
"You forget…I'm French. It's axiomatic."
Beverly giggled and stretched against him. He sighed and kissed her hair.
"I really do have to leave you know."
Her whisper made him sad.
"I know."
To cheer her up, he reached down and lifted her face.
"How about we meet in my quarters tomorrow night? After all, we might be needing some more…therapy by then."
Beverly rose up on her elbow and kissed him soundly.
"You realise you've spoiled me for any other lover now?"
He scowled and growled,
"There won't be any other lovers!"
Nuzzling his neck she muttered,
"Aye Sir."
He rose reluctantly and dressed slowly, watched intently by his lover. When he bent to kiss her good night, she gripped his shirt.
"I can't wait to see you tomorrow."
He kissed her again and whispered,
"I love you mon coeur."
Her eyes tracked his movements across the darkened room and she waited until she heard the outer doors open and close. Sighing she settled down in her bed and smiled.
"Hmm…it's like waking a sleeping giant."
Sleep soon claimed her.

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning Beverly wandered over to Medical and spent some hours looking up old friends. Most of the staff knew she was at Command and were delighted she'd found the time to visit. At lunch a group of her friends took her to the cafeteria and they had a riotous time, twice told by the on duty Commander to keep the noise down. After lunch Beverly's friends all had to get back to work and the Doctor found herself at a loose end. She'd just arrived back at her quarters when she received a hail.
"Nechayev to Crusher."
"Crusher here Admiral."
"Doctor I have Alison Brady on line…would you like to speak with her?"
Beverly grinned, sat at her terminal and activated it.
"Yes Admiral I would. Thank you Sir."
"Transferring now. Nechayev out."
The Starfleet insignia flickered and gave way to the image of Beverly's old friend. The woman on the screen was smiling broadly and the Doctor grinned in return.
"Alison! How are you?"
The brunette brushed her short hair backwards and laughed.
"I'm fine Beverly…how are you?"
"Oh you know… same as always. You're looking good…since when did you go for short hair? The last time I saw you your hair was almost down to your waist."
Alison's face fell and she nervously tugged at the short hair near her ear. Fear crossed her eyes and Beverly's fingers automatically touched the screen.
"Alison? Are you all right?"
Sighing, Alison shook her head and braved a sad smile.
"It's that bastard Harris. I had all but managed to get him out of my mind when your Counsel contacted me and it all came rushing back."
In what Beverly recognised as a nervous gesture, Alison brushed her hair back again.
"He's responsible for this do…it wasn't until I had it all cut off that I remembered he used to drag me around by my hair…"
Beverly lowered her head and sighed.
"I'm so sorry Alison. I certainly never intended that my troubles should affect anyone else."
Looking up and squaring her shoulders, Alison shook her head decisively.
"No Beverly you shouldn't be sorry, you've done nothing wrong…in fact you've managed to help five lost women regain their souls. We owe you a great deal."
Beverly touched the screen again and felt tears threaten.
"Alison can we meet…all of us? I would really like to see you again and I think it would be helpful to us all to talk about this."
Alison smiled and wiped her own tears.
"I think that's a wonderful idea. When?"
Beverly frowned and tapped a manicured nail against her teeth.
"Umm, look until these trials are set it's a bit hard to make any arrangements. I'm stuck here at Command for the duration…how about I contact you when it looks like I can get free?"
The brunette grinned.
"OK sounds fine. I'll leave my details on your computer…and Beverly, I'm really looking forward to seeing you, it's been too long."
Smiling brightly, Beverly nodded.
"Me too. See you."
The Doctor tabbed off the computer and sat quietly thinking over the meeting. Generally she felt encouraged, but saddened that other women had fallen victim to a man like Harris. Sighing, she asked the computer,
"Computer where is Captain Jean-Luc Picard?"
"Captain Picard is in the office of Captain Phillipa Louvois."
Shaking her head, Beverly rose and picked up a book Jean-Luc had loaned her. She stood at the window hugging the book to her chest and looking out over the grounds towards the Academy.
"Hang in there my love."

 

 

 

 

 

Having arrived at oh eight thirty Jean-Luc found himself immersed in legal wrangling. In between endless questions about Harris and his crew, Jean-Luc had to wait while Phillipa dealt with the many calls and interruptions from her team, all tasked with gathering information pertaining to the case. They ate a light lunch Phillipa's desk and continued the inquisition into the afternoon. It was a call from Admiral Nathan Buckley's aide that halted proceedings completely. Holding up her hand to silence her staff, Phillipa composed herself.
"Yes lieutenant, how can I help you?"
"Admiral Buckley has been chosen to hear your case and the preliminary hearing will commence tomorrow morning at oh nine hundred. All parties are required to attend."
"I see. Where?"
"In conference room five."
"And will it be an open enquiry?"
"No Captain, the press will be excluded and those wishing to view the proceedings will have to state their interests."
"Very well Lieutenant, thank you. Louvois out."
There was silence while everyone digested the information. Phillipa stood and shooed her staff out of the office then came to sit on the edge of the desk, facing Jean-Luc.
"So! It starts."
Jean-Luc nodded and looked up at his former lover.
"Are we ready?"
"I think so. Apart from the contentious problem of your competency test I think we have a very strong case, after all they've all but admitted their collusion. All we have to do is prove intent. Once that's established beyond all doubt we should get a favourable verdict."
Jean-Luc sat back and ran a hand over his head.
"How will you handle examination of my crew?"
"Direct video conferencing. With a ship called away on a mission, it's common practice to take testimony via electronic means."
The Captain folded his hands in his lap and sighed.
"What sort of punishment do you think they'll get?"
Phillipa stood and walked around the desk, turning her chair and sitting.
"Why are you concerned?"
Jean-Luc pursed his lips and shook his head.
"Because besides their nefarious actions, they've all been exemplary officers."
Louvois stared at Jean-Luc, her mind trying to figure out where he was going with this line of thought.
"So? Their actions against you were illegal…in fact in a civil court they could be sued for slander and conspiracy. They deserve to be punished for what they did. Surely you don't hold to the idea that with forgiveness they will reform, apologise to you and behave themselves?"
The Captain shook his head and snorted.
"Of course not! I'm not that naïve, but it does seem to be such a waste…so many fine careers…"
"Don't waste your energy worrying about them Jean-Luc. If they had had their way, you'd have been thrown out of Starfleet, stripped of your decorations and left to live out a lonely existence, shunned and rejected. You owe them nothing, especially sympathy."
Jean-Luc frowned and bowed his head.
"I suppose you're right."
"You bet I am. Now tell me about the incident in Crusher's quarters."
Looking up wearily, Jean-Luc rubbed his face.
"We've been over that at least a dozen times."
Phillipa hit the desk, startling the tired man.
"And we'll go over it another dozen times until I'm satisfied I know everything there is to know!"
Jean-Luc pinched the bridge of his nose and nodded.
"Very well."
For the rest of the afternoon and into the night the team hammered out their strategy. When Phillipa finally called an end to the interrogation it was twenty-one twenty.
Exhausted, Jean-Luc made his way to his quarters and flopped fully clothed onto his bed. Toeing off his boots, he tapped his combadge.
"Picard to Crusher."
"Crusher here. Jean-Luc are you just finished now?"
"Yes. We got through a lot today."
"You sound tired."
He smiled and closed his eyes.
"I'm absolutely exhausted. Would it be all right if we postponed our…tryst?"
Beverly giggled at his archaic use of the language and sighed.
"Of course Jean-Luc…anything you like."
There was a moments' silence before Jean-Luc remembered.
"Oh…the trial starts tomorrow at oh nine hundred, conference room five. It's closed, so if you want to attend you'll have to show your bona fides."
"I'll be there my love! Are you ready? Does Phillipa think you'll win?"
"Uh huh. There is the sticking point about the tests, but she thinks we can get through."
"Excellent! Well you get some rest and I'll see you tomorrow."
"Goodnight mon coeur."
Jean-Luc heard the unmistakable sound of a kiss.
"Goodnight my sweet lover."
Closing the channel, Jean-Luc rested his head on the pillows and ordered his tired body to relax. It did so reluctantly and the sleep he slipped into was restless and disturbed. Two hours later when he woke screaming, he had to contend with his terror on his own. After he'd calmed his racing heart and ragged breathing, he left the bed and called for all the lights in his quarters on full. He then stripped and showered, washing away the sour sweat that coated his body. Next he wrapped himself in a robe and seated himself at his desk with a large mug of strong coffee. He spent the remainder of the night going over his testimony. When morning came he rubbed his reddened eyes and sighed.
"And so it begins."

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Jean-Luc took his seat in the conference room, he studiously ignored the eight officers sat across the room. When all Counsels, Advocates and court officials had taken their places, all parties were asked to rise as the presiding judge entered. Once he was seated, everyone else sat and the names of the accused were read out. Then came a listing of the charges and finally Judge Buckley asked the all-important question.
"How do you plead?"
The cadre's main Counsel stood and faced the judge. In a firm loud voice he stated,
"Not guilty your Honour."
Judge Buckley took a PADD and read for some time before asking Phillipa and four of the defence Counsels to approach the bench. There followed a period of intense conversation, sometimes leading to raised voices, over which the Judge's voice barked for order.
Over an hour passed and Jean-Luc was getting bored. He turned in his seat and scanned the audience. There were some people he knew and some he didn't but what warmed his heart was the flash of red that signified Beverly's attendance. Leaning slightly to one side, he managed to get a look at her face and, as he did, their eyes met.
The Doctor's eyes twinkled and her smile was tender. Jean-Luc returned the smile in kind and only just managed to suppress a large sigh of a besotted man.
He was considering leaving his seat when the gavel cracked down and he turned to see the Counsels returning to their clients. He waited until Phillipa was seated before he leaned close and whispered,
"What's going on?"
She shushed him and faced front. Judge Buckley cleared his throat and read from a PADD.
"It would seem there is some contention over the competency tests undergone by Captain Picard. As consensus cannot be reached, and the court recognises the Captain's reluctance to undergo further tests, I am ordering a recess until tomorrow morning. In the interim, I will meet in camera with Counsel for both sides in the hope we can resolve this matter."
He gently placed the PADD on the desktop and looked directly at Jean-Luc.
"All rise."
As everyone stood to attention, the Judge, still looking at Jean-Luc, stood, bowed and left the room. Sighing, the Captain turned to his Counsel.
"What was that all about? Why was he looking at me like that?"
Phillipa was busy sliding PADDs into her briefcase. With her head lowered she mumbled,
"Oh I think he feels sorry for you. There's a rumour going around that he once had to undergo a competency test. Maybe he sympathises."
Jean-Luc frowned and shook his head.
"But wouldn't that make him prejudiced? If indeed he's had the tests it could be a basis for challenging his unbiased position."
Snapping the case closed, Phillipa looked at Jean-Luc. Sighing she gripped his shoulder and turned him.
"Look the defence knows the rumours as well as we do. If they're happy to let it lie so should we. Now I want to meet with you in my office after lunch…ok?"
Jean-Luc nodded absently, his eyes searching for Beverly in the crowd at the doors. He heard Phillipa's snort but chose to ignore it. Just when he thought she'd already left, he spotted her off to one side obviously waiting for him. Leaving his bemused Counsel, Jean-Luc waited until almost everyone had left before walking to Beverly and standing closer than was absolutely necessary. He smiled softly and whispered,
"My quarters?"
Looking around, Beverly nodded surreptitiously and whispered,
"I'll give you ten minutes."
His eyes gave his consent and he stepped aside, going through the doors with his shoulders square. He walked straight into a throng of insistent press. The shouted questions and the lights from their holovids blinded him. With anger rising quickly, he roared,
"Make a hole!"
In shock, the reporters parted and Jean-Luc strode through. Once in clear air he turned and addressed them, his voice low and iron-hard.
"When this trial is over I will release a statement. Until that time, I have no comment!"
He turned on his heel and marched away, his eyes dark and glittering dangerously. The one or two people he met gave him a wide berth.
Beverly, having witnessed Jean-Luc's troubles with the press, waited the ten minutes in the conference room. Peeking out, she found herself alone and hurried up to the fifth floor, to the Captain's quarters.
He answered the door with some of his uniform missing. He'd stripped off the tunic and undershirt and stood in his trousers, boots and vest. Obviously still angry, he nodded to Beverly, stepped back and beckoned with his head for her to enter. The doctor noticed his tops hanging limply on the furniture, resting where he'd flung them. She turned to find him at the replicator.
"Authentic scotch, authorisation Picard, Jean-Luc epsilon delta three seven."
"Those codes are inoperative. Captain Picard is listed as temporarily relieved of duty. Please contact Admiral Kinna for further information."
"Blast!"
Beverly walked up behind him and gently massaged his tense shoulders. Keeping her voice soft, she murmured,
"It's a little early for scotch anyway. Try some Earl Grey."
He snorted and shook his head. Nevertheless, he ordered not only his tea, but also a chamomile tea for Beverly. The Doctor let him go as he walked to the sofa and placed the cups on the low table. He sat back and rubbed his face, sighing expansively.
"I suppose you saw the hyenas?"
Chuckling, Beverly nodded.
"Uh huh. You certainly made them shut up."
Snorting again, Jean-Luc ground his teeth.
"Low life bastards!"
Beverly sighed and picked up her tea, blowing on it gently.
"I agree entirely, but they do have their purpose. How else would the esteemed public satisfy their voracious appetite for news of celebrities?"
Looking aghast at his lover, Jean-Luc gaped.
"Celebrities? Beverly may I remind you I am simply a Starfleet Captain? It's not as if I…"
Returning his incredulous look Beverly shook her head.
"Oh Jean-Luc come off it! You're the most celebrated Captain in the fleet. For God's sake there are so many references to you in the text books, a cadet cannot even complete year one without being totally in awe of you and what you've achieved."
Shaking his head, Jean-Luc picked up his tea and sipped, closing his eyes in appreciation of the dark brew.
That's absurd, there're plenty of references to other Captains. You make it sound like I'm the only one."
Beverly's voice dropped but he heard the respect and warmth in it.
"The only one who matters a damn."
He smiled tenderly and ran a finger down her face.
"While I do appreciate your loyalty, I think you could broaden your horizons a little by researching the accomplishments of other Captains."
Eyebrows raised, Beverly's voice took on an amused quality.
"Is that an order Captain?"
Shaking his head, his eyes darkened.
"No…but this is."
He put his cup on the table and took hers to place it beside his. He then moved closer and cradled her head in his hands. His voice a mellifluous, silken wave that washed over her, he said,
"I'm going to kiss you, then I'm going to make love to you. I order you to let your inhibitions loose and throw control to the winds."
She had only time to whisper,
"Aye Sir",
Then his lips descended on hers.

 

 

 

 

They awoke to the sound of a hail. The bed a complete mess, they were stretched across the mattress diagonally; their bodies still joined, pillows, sheets and blankets lay on the floor.
"Captain Louvois to Captain Picard! Respond please."
His first attempt at speaking was a disaster. Clearing his throat, he tried again.
"Picard here, go ahead."
Her voice showing her irritation, Phillipa was short.
"I've been hailing you for five minutes! You were expected at my office an hour and a half ago. Where the hell have you been? The computer says you're in your quarters…what did you do…leave your combadge behind?"
By now on his feet and picking up his clothes, Jean-Luc paused as Beverly approached him with a tissue regenerator. Shaking his head and holding up a finger, the Captain said curtly,
"I was unavoidably detained. I'll be with you shortly. Picard out."
Once he closed the channel, he nodded to Beverly. With slow gentle strokes of the instrument she erased all the physical evidence of their very energetic lovemaking from his neck, shoulders, back and buttocks. With a satisfied nod, she gave the instrument to Jean-Luc and he proceeded to do the same for her. Casting critical eyes over each other, they saw nothing that would incriminate them. Beverly was sorting out her clothes, separating them from the bedding when Jean-Luc chuckled. Looking up she saw him pointing to the bathroom. There, balanced on the basin edge was one of his boots.
Snickering, Beverly retrieved it and, as he sat on the bed, she eased it onto his foot.
Once he was dressed, they took time enough for a tender embrace and kiss before Jean-Luc left. Beverly looked around the devastated room and smiled wistfully.
"Well the giant seems to be awake now."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly showered and was dressed and eating a late lunch when she was hailed.
"Nechayev to Crusher."
"Crusher here."
"Doctor Crusher you've been a little hard to contact. I called you some time ago and received no response. The computer shows you in Picard's quarters…is there anything wrong?"
Blushing slightly, Beverly grinned.
"No Admiral everything's fine. I'm sorry I was not responding…I was unavoidably detained."
There was a momentary silence as the obviously unconvinced Admiral allowed the lie to pass.
"I see. Well can you come to my office immediately? I have news for you I'd rather not deliver over the internal comm system."
"Yes Sir, I'm on my way. Crusher out."
Beverly rose and looked out the windows. Tugging down here tunic, she smiled as she felt her skin brush against the soft undershirt she'd 'borrowed' from Jean-Luc. Wearing something of his made her feel somehow closer to him.
Tem minutes later she was standing at attention before Alynna's desk. Without looking up, the Admiral waved her hand and said,
"Please sit Doctor."
Keeping her nervousness at bay, Beverly concentrated on staring at her clasped hands. Alynna's voice made her lift her head.
"I have heard from Harris' Counsel."
Sitting up straight, Beverly tried to prepare herself for the worst.
"And?"
"He's capitulated. His Counsel wishes to inform you that he had decided to plead guilty to all charges."
Her first reaction was to whoop with delight. With fists raised Beverly glowed with righteous delight. The Admiral allowed the behaviour, in fact she felt like doing the same things herself. The Doctor quickly realised her lapse and curtailed any further celebratory gestures. Seeing that she'd calmed, Nechayev smiled.
"You must be very happy."
Nodding, Beverly grinned at her superior.
"Yes Sir I am…and not only for myself. This victory also vindicated five other women who have been victimised by a brute of a man who has no place in our organization…or in society in general."
Nechayev pursed her lips and nodded.
"Indeed. He will probably be court martialled, stripped of rank and dishonourably discharged. In fact there is a good chance his other victims could pursue him through the civil courts."
Beverly sat back and sighed.
"Well it's not as if he doesn't deserve it. Will I have anything to do with the court martial?"
Shaking her head, the Admiral picked up a PADD.
"No. Now that he has entered a guilty plea, he foregoes the formality of a trial. His Counsel will try to present evidence to mitigate his behaviour but my gut feeling is that he's simply a man who cannot function sexually with women unless he's brutalising them. He's probably always been like that, without a reason for it…it's just the way he is."
Beverly slowly turned her head and looked out the windows. It had started to rain and she felt a shiver cross her body.
"Well at least he won't hurt anyone else. Do you think he'll be ordered to undergo some form of therapy?"
"Most probably, as part of his sentence. Of course it may well be useless, only time will tell."
The Admiral noted Beverly's sombre mood and sought to cheer her.
"So Doctor you're free and clear. Now that the case is over, you're free to leave Command. Where do you think you'd like to go?"
Smiling softly, Beverly sighed.
"Actually Admiral I'll be staying. I want to be there for Captain Picard…he needs friends around him now."
With a knowing stare, Alynna nodded.
"Ah yes his trial. This latest development will no doubt help him…tell me Doctor what exactly is your relationship with the Captain? I know you've been close friends for many years."
Gathering herself, Beverly adopted a professional demeanour.
"Just that Admiral. Friends…best friends actually."
"I see. Well I'll keep you no longer Doctor. Congratulations again, you're dismissed."
Standing Beverly looked down at the small blonde woman.
"Admiral Nechayev…thank you for all you've done. It was an honour to have you as my Counsel."
"Smiling warmly, Nechayev nodded.
"You are entirely welcome Doctor. I must admit your case gave me the opportunity to rid Starfleet of an undesirable officer. I should be thanking you."
Beverly chuckled and bowed slightly.
"Good afternoon Admiral."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was twenty-two forty and completely dark in Jean-Luc's quarters. Captain Arthur Hunt stood in the deep shadows just inside the doors. In his steady hand he held a dagger. Despite the opinion of the officials, they had not rounded up the entire cadre. He and he alone was the sole surviving member and he was determined to put an end to the whole affair. With Picard's death, their mission would be achieved. Punishment didn't deter him, neither did the thought of what might happen in the aftermath of his actions…all he knew was that he had to kill Picard. Nothing else mattered. His latest surreptitious enquiries showed Picard would most likely win the case. That could not be allowed to happen and he was the one with the opportunity to end it once and for all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc had finally been released form Phillipa's office. Checking the chronometer, he found that it was twenty-two fifteen. As he strode through the corridors, he tapped his combadge, calling Beverly.
"Picard to Crusher."
"Crusher here. Where are you Jean-Luc?"
"On my way to my quarters. Look Beverly I'm exhausted…again. Can we meet for breakfast?"
"Hmm, ok. Your quarters?"
"I think that would be best. Say oh seven thirty?"
"I'll be there. Sleep well my love."
"You too mon coeur. Picard out."
He sighed as he approached his door and stepped through as they obediently opened for him. Before he could call for lights, a hand slipped around his mouth and the sharp point of a knife pricked the skin of his neck. He froze, feeling a trickle of blood make its way down his throat. A deep voice moistened his ear.
"You will be silent Picard…not a word."
He nodded and the hand left his mouth, dropping to his breast to remove his communicator. He heard the badge being flung away in the darkness and tried to find a way to talk to his captor.
"Who are you? I…"
The knife jabbed deeper into his neck and he winced.
"I told you to be silent! All you need to know is that you are going to die tonight…and if you're lucky, I just might tell you why."
Jean-Luc nodded and took a large breath. The disembodied voice continued.
"I suppose you thought all the cadre had been rounded up?"
Jean-Luc nodded, grimacing as the knife bit again.
"Well you, like all the others was wrong. I am the last one…and the leader."
The Captain stiffened and tried to turn his head.
"Uh huh Captain…you stay still. I take it you thought Kostas was the leader?"
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Ha! That fool couldn't organise a school fete. He and Harris were useful, nothing more. I'm in control, I always was."
Jean-Luc risked one word.
"Why?"
He was suddenly turned and a hand gripped his throat.
"Why? Lights up fifty percent."
As Jean-Luc's eyes adjusted to the light, he saw his assailant for the first time. The man was in uniform and by his pips, he could see he was a Captain, but it was his face that made Jean-Luc inwardly cringe. The man's face was hideously disfigured, probably by burns.
"This is why Picard! I was a Lieutenant on the Melbourne at Wolf 359. I made it to an escape pod and floated in space for thirty-six hours…alone with nothing but the agony of my burns to keep me company. And you know what? Every time I closed my eyes do you know what I saw? YOU Picard…Locutus of Borg ordering the destruction of my ship."
Jean-Luc shook his head and Hunt squeezed tighter. With blood suffusing his head, Jean-Luc tried to reason with the demented man. With difficulty he said,
"You could've had the scars removed."
Hunt's smile was evil and quite mad.
"Oh no Picard. I wanted to remember…every time I looked in a mirror, every time someone averted their eyes, every time a woman shunned me I wanted to remember you and what you did to me and thousands of others…most of whom can't speak any more."
In an involuntary movement, Jean-Luc gripped Hunt's wrist in an effort to breath. Shaking his head he managed,
"It wasn't my fault!"
Hunt's mad eyes glittered.
"Wasn't it? Then whose was it eh? Mine? Harris'? No Picard admit it…it was your fault! You're about to die…at least be a man and admit your guilt."
Feeling faint with lack of oxygen Jean-Luc's legs sagged and Hunt sneered.
"Stand up you dog! Stand up and meet your maker!"
In rapid succession Hunt stabbed Jean-Luc three times deeply in the chest. He then moved behind the Captain and pulled his head back, baring his unprotected throat.
"And now Picard I'll slit you throat and watch you bleed to death!"
He raised the blade and placed it against Jean-Luc's skin. With blood flowing freely from his chest wounds, Jean-Luc suddenly threw himself backwards. Both men staggered back and Jean-Luc rallied for one final burst of action. He jerked his head back sharply and felt it connect with Hunt's nose. The assailant cried out and lost his balance and as he fell, he pulled Jean-Luc with him. There was a sharp crack and the body under Jean-Luc shuddered and twitched before loosing all rigidity and relaxing. The hands around his neck fell away and Jean-Luc rolled onto his side. With his sight failing, he saw Hunt lying with his head at an unnatural angle. He'd struck the small table and broken his neck. Slowly getting to his knees Jean-Luc tried to call for security but his voice failed him. The last thing he saw was the floor rushing up to meet him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lieutenant Adam Paull had just finished playing his flute and was contemplating getting ready for bed. It was late and he had a busy day to follow. He was walking to his bedroom when his computer chimed. Sitting at his desk he received an update of the trial commencement the next day. He made a note in his PADD and raised his head to call the Captain to let him know of the change. He hesitated and decided to go to the Captain himself. He'd been worried about his Captain, the man appeared tired and he was sure he was loosing weight. Suspecting the Captain wasn't sleeping Adam thought he could reassure himself as to the Captain's well being if he went to his quarters himself.
Ten minutes later he was at Jean-Luc's door. He pressed the chime and waited. Nothing happened. Before he pressed the chime again, he addressed the computer.
"Computer is Captain Picard in his assigned quarters?"
"Affirmative."
"Is he asleep?"
"That is inconclusive."
Adam scratched his head.
"Explain."
"Captain Picard's bio signs show unconsciousness not exemplified by sleep."
Frowning, his stomach clenching, Adam tapped his combadge.
"Paull to Captain Picard."
There was no reply. Taking a large breath, Adam lifted his head.
"Computer open Captain Picard's door."
"Attention. You do not hold sufficient rank to issue such an order. Please refer all enquiries to Admiral Kinna."
"Shit."
With both his heart and head telling him something was very wrong, Adam ran down the corridor and called for the lift. In minutes he was at Beverly's door. He pressed the chime twice before she answered. She answered tying her robe.
"Lieutenant? This better be good!"
"I'm sorry Doctor Crusher but I've just been to Captain Picard's quarters and he's not responding to anything. Not his chime or his communicator. I asked the computer if he was asleep and it said his condition was inconclusive…that he was unconscious but not asleep."
Beverly frowned and pulled her robe more tightly around her. Lifting her head she said sharply,
"Doctor Crusher to Captain Picard…respond please."
When there was no reply, she exited her quarters and ran to the lift.
"Come on Adam, you're with me."
They arrived at Jean-Luc's door in minutes. Beverly called to the computer,
"Computer unlock Captain Picard's door. Authorisation Crusher Beta Delta six five."
"Attention. Doctor Crusher is temporarily relieved of duty. The command codes quoted are no longer active."
Slamming her fist on the door, Beverly cursed.
"Dammit! Computer is Doctor Crusher a registered medical practitioner with Starfleet?"
"Affirmative."
"Then under those conditions I insist you open this door. It is to be considered a medical emergency!"
There was a moments' inaction while the computer mulled over the request. Then the doors whispered open.
Adam held Beverly back and entered first. They both saw the bodies and Beverly ran to Jean-Luc, calling,
"Medical emergency in Captain Picard's quarters! Security attend on the double!"
While Beverly felt for Jean-Luc's pulse she heard Adam say,
"This Captain's dead Doctor. He has a knife in his open hand."
Beverly gritted her teeth, rolled him over and tore open Jean-Luc's tunic and pushed up his undershirt and vest. Blood pumped freely from the wounds and the Doctor pressed her hands hard over them.
She was just about to call the emergency again when four people ran through the open doors, carrying equipment. Kneeling beside Jean-Luc the new Doctor said briskly,
"You may stand aside Doctor I will take over."
"Not bloody likely! Look he's bleeding profusely from three wounds in his upper chest and I can't control it! He needs…"
"Doctor Crusher! You are relieved of duty. Please relinquish control to me!"
With no other choice, Beverly lifted her bloody hands and watched as the Doctor took over. Curt commands were issued and quickly Jean-Luc and his medical team were transported out to Sickbay. Security had, by this time, arrived and were interviewing Adam. Over the next hour both Adam and Beverly were thoroughly quizzed about their actions then finally released to their quarters. Beverly washed her hands and dressed quickly. Leaving her quarters, she set her course for Sickbay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The doors to the Sickbay opened but Beverly was immediately confronted by a Lieutenant from security. The hard eyed woman placed a firm hand on Beverly's chest and shook her head.
"I'm sorry Commander, only authorised personnel are allowed in this facility."
Gritting her teeth, Beverly strove to keep calm.
"Lieutenant I am Doctor Beverly Crusher, CMO of the Enterprise. My Captain was brought in here a short time ago badly injured and I wish to see him."
The security officer looked over her shoulder and called a nurse. The young man came over and the Lieutenant passed on Beverly's details.
"I see. Wait here Doctor and I'll see if someone can come and talk to you."
Curbing her frustrated impatience, Beverly resisted the urge to tap her foot and pace. After five irritating minutes a middle aged man bearing Commander's pips met her at the door.
"Doctor Crusher? I'm Doctor Conrad Wadds. Please, would you like to come to my office?"
Clenching her jaw, Beverly ground out,
"What I would like Doctor is to see Captain Picard."
Wadds sighed and placed a calming hand on her shoulder.
"I'm sure you do, but that's not possible at the moment. Please…come to my office."
With no other option, Beverly nodded curtly and followed the man to his office. Once seated she contained her impatience as he asked and received orders for drinks from the replicator.
"Now Doctor Crusher you want to know about Captain Picard?"
Sitting up straight, Beverly nodded.
"Yes Doctor. How is he?"
Opening a drawer, Wadds took out a PADD and spent some time reading it. Sighing he sat back and tapped the PADD against his thigh.
"Let me reassure you first…he'll be fine. He sustained three deep, nasty wounds to the upper thoracic area, but there was no damage we couldn't repair."
Beverly sat forward and put one hand on the desk.
"What about his prosthetic heart?"
Wadds consulted the PADD.
"It was slightly damaged as it deflected one of the stabbings. Luckily it's a robust construction. There was a punctured lung with accompanying pneumo thorax…all remedied of course and a severing of the oesophagus. Nothing to trouble us really, we had him healed in under an hour. His main problem and what's keeping him here now, is blood loss. He had almost no discernable blood pressure when we got him into theatre."
Beverly frowned and looked Wadds in the eye.
"I take it you are replacing blood volume intravenously?"
"Yes. He's been heavily sedated…I don't expect him to waken until tomorrow, at which time he should be able to be discharged."
Beverly placed both hands on the desk and adopted her most appealing look.
"Doctor Wadds…may I see him…please?"
The Doctor sighed and frowned.
"It would be most irregular Doctor. You are not a member of his immediate family and, added to that, you're not even officially on duty."
Beverly took a deep breath and tried one last time.
"Please…Conrad."
Blushing slightly, Wadds rubbed his nose. Sighing, he shook his head.
"Oh very well. Come on, I'll take you to him."
Covering her triumphant smile by rubbing her upper lip, Beverly rose and followed the man out into the main area of Sickbay. She had to wait patiently while the Doctor answered some question from his staff before being ushered into a small private room. There, under the gently glowing blue lights of regeneration beams lay her lover. She stepped up to his bed and gently took his hand.
"Lights up twenty-five percent."
With the lights up, Beverly studied his sleeping form. He was dressed in pyjama pants and a blanket was pulled to his waist. His bare chest had been swabbed with dark yellow antiseptic and the fading pink lines of his surgery and the closed stab wounds ran down his sternum. Into the crook of his right elbow ran the intravenous line; two bags of whole blood were suspended above him on a steel pole.
She let her eyes wander to the bio readouts on the screen behind his head. Noting all was well she sighed.
"You've done a marvellous job Doctor. My compliments."
From the doorway, Conrad's voice was warm.
"Thank you Doctor. You serve on his ship I hear?"
"Yes."
"You're his CMO?"
Turning, Beverly smiled.
"Uh huh."
"How long?"
Beverly sighed and turned back to her lover.
"A very long time Conrad. We're very good friends…it's hard for me to watch while others treat him."
"I understand…Beverly. Would you like to be alone for a little while?"
Looking over her shoulder, Beverly smiled.
"Yes please that would be nice."
The door closed quietly and Beverly sighed. Leaning forward she tenderly kissed Jean-Luc's brow.
"I'm here my love…you just sleep and get well."
After ten minutes the door opened and Conrad gently cleared his throat.
"Doctor?"
Beverly turned and nodded.
"I'll be right out."
She kissed Jean-Luc again and gently laid his hand on the bed. With one final look, she left, calling for the lights to extinguish as she went. Once out in the main area she was greeted by a very animated Phillipa Louvois. The Captain grabbed Beverly's elbow and led her to a quiet corner.
"How is he? Nobody will tell me anything."
"Bottom line? He's going to be fine. He was stabbed three times in the chest and sustained some nasty injuries but the worst of it was blood loss. He's been in surgery and everything's been repaired…he's sedated and his blood volume is being replaced intravenously. Do you know anything about his attacker? All I know is that he was a Captain."
Phillipa looked around and kept her voice low.
"He was Captain Arthur Hunt. We think he's another member of the cadre."
"Why?"
"He was a survivor of Wolf 359. He was badly burned and scarred as a result and insisted on keeping his disfigurement. Psychology was always trying to counsel him but he refused and because his work never suffered, eventually they left him alone. He rose quickly to Captain after the Dominion war. At the moment we're trying to tie him to the others."
Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose.
"For God's sake! Are there any more of these nutters?"
Shaking her head, Phillipa scowled.
"That will be my first question! When can we talk to Picard?"
Beverly looked over at his room and sighed.
"If all goes well he should be discharged tomorrow."
"Right! I take it you'll want to be there when I question him?"
The Doctor nodded but frowned.
"Yes but what about security? They'll want to interview him."
Chuckling, Phillipa poked Beverly's shoulder.
"No client of mine will be interviewed by anyone without me being present!"
Beverly's eyes twinkled and she chuckled.
"That's the way! You know he'll hate it."
"Oh yes I'm well aware of Jean-Luc Picard's highly developed sense of privacy. Don't you worry, he'll get through unscathed."
Sighing, Beverly gripped Phillipa's shoulder.
"Well we better get out of here before we're thrown out. Just let me talk to Doctor Wadds for a minute and I'll walk you to Command."
Receiving a nod of acceptance, Beverly wandered over to the busy Doctor. Gaining his attention she smiled.
"Well I'll be going Conrad. Thank you again for all your help. Can I ask a favour of you?"
Smiling, Conrad bowed slightly and held up his hand.
"You want me to let you know when he's about to be discharged."
"Yes…and…"
"And?"
Bowing her head, Beverly sighed.
"Would you allow me a copy of his medical file?"
With an indulgent smile, Conrad reached into his pocket and produced a PADD.
"It's all here. I'm fully aware of what it's like when a loved one is hurt and you're unable to do anything. I hope this eases your helplessness."
Beverly stepped forward and gently kissed the man's cheek. Whispering in his ear, she said,
"Thank you…I won't forget your kindness."
Blushing, Conrad blustered.
"Oh be off with you! I'll see you tomorrow."
With a wide grin, Beverly collected Phillipa and the two women made their way back to Command.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some time in the early morning, the intravenous line was removed from Jean-Luc's arm. The regen beams were switched off and the blanket was pulled up to his shoulders. He slept blissfully through all this, not waking until almost nine fifteen. His eyes opened slowly and he looked around as far as he could see without moving his head. Previous experience with Sickbays told him that any movement would sound a quiet alarm that would bring medical personnel. He wanted to assess himself first.
He took a deep breath and felt the signature tightness of repaired muscle, skin and bone. Generally he felt well and swallowed experimentally to find his throat dry and tight. By now thinking it was time for his growing number of questions to be answered, he lifted a hand and gently fingered the area where the dagger had pierced the skin of his neck. Sure enough the alarm quietly sounded and his door opened moments later.
A tall thin woman entered and took his hand, placing it on the bed. With practised patience, Jean-Luc waited while she scrutinised the bio readouts on the screen before she addressed him.
"Captain Picard, how are you Sir?"
Swallowing, he frowned and pointed at his throat. Realising his problem, the nurse said,
"Oh yes, of course. I'll just be a moment Sir."
She turned from him and he heard the sound of water being poured. Once again facing him, she offered a plastic cup.
"Here you are Sir…this will help your dry throat."
With her help, Jean-Luc sat up and gratefully drank the deliciously cold water. Smiling his thanks, he waited while she raised the bed and positioned his pillows. He sat back and sighed happily. Clearing his throat, he asked,
"May I see my Doctor?"
The nurse smiled and nodded.
"Of course Captain. I'll get him now."
He was alone only a few minutes. Conrad entered and smiled benignly down at the inquisitive Captain.
"Good morning Captain Picard, I am Doctor Conrad Wadds. How are you…any discomfort?"
Shaking his head, Jean-Luc raised a smile.
"No Doctor, I'm fine. What was the damage?"
Clasping his hands behind his back, the Doctor frowned.
"You had a punctured lung, severed oesophagus and minor damage to you artificial heart. Everything's been repaired and the only thing keeping you here was the intravenous application of whole blood to replace what you'd lost…which, I might say, was quite a lot."
Jean-Luc nodded thoughtfully and kept his expression neutral.
"And when can I be discharged?"
Frowning, Conrad rocked on his feet.
"Why is it that Starfleet Captains always want to run out of Sickbay the minute they think they're healed? Anyone would think they have an aversion to medicine."
Jean-Luc smiled and shook his head.
"I can't speak for other Captains Doctor, all I can tell you is that Sickbay is the very last place I like to find myself in."
Harrumphing, Conrad ran his hand through his thinning hair.
"I see. Well to answer your question, you may be discharged as soon as you've eaten a decent breakfast. Scans show you've been going without regular meals lately and your blood sugar is quite low. I'd like to redress that before you leave."
Nodding, Jean-Luc sighed.
"Very well Doctor."
Conrad turned to leave but was stopped by the Captain's low hesitant voice.
"Doctor…did I have any…dreams while I slept?"
Conrad turned to Jean-Luc, his face one of curiosity.
"I take it you mean bad dreams…nightmares?"
Jean-Luc nodded silently.
"No Captain, although the drugs we gave you would have produced a remarkably deep sleep. It's not unknown to have dreamless sleep under those circumstances."
Jean-Luc smiled and nodded curtly.
"Thank you Doctor."
With a speculative nod, Conrad left. He gave instructions to the head nurse and went into his office.
"Wadds to Crusher."
"Crusher here."
"Doctor Captain Picard will be released within the hour. Would you like to come over to walk him back to his quarters?"
He could plainly hear her delight.
"Yes Conrad! I'll be right there. Crusher out."
The Doctor sat back in his seat and picked up the PADD with Jean-Luc's notes. Frowning, he re-read it. Putting it down on his desk he sighed and rubbed his prominent nose.
"I think I'll have a little talk with Beverly Crusher. Something's not right here."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having called Phillipa and told her of Jean-Luc's imminent release, Beverly strode purposefully to the medical building, her mood buoyant. The doors obediently parted and she stepped into Sickbay, sighing with the rush of familiarity it provoked. Before she could make her way to Jean-Luc's room, Conrad called her.
"Doctor Crusher? Could I see you in my office?"
Seeing her reluctance, the older man smiled and tilted his head.
"Please Doctor…it'll only take a minute or two."
Sighing and summoning a warm smile, Beverly changed course and entered the office. Once settled in a chair, Wadds sat and took a moment to gather his thoughts.
"Doctor…Beverly…I have some concerns about Captain Picard. Would you be willing to answer a few questions?"
Immediately on her guard, Beverly adopted a professional demeanour.
"That depends Conrad. I won't divulge anything of a private nature unless it's connected to his current treatment."
Conrad smiled warmly and nodded.
"Of course. That's perfectly understandable and acceptable."
"Then how can I help you?"
Conrad picked up the PADD and scrolled down to a specific paragraph.
"Are you aware of these readings?"
Beverly took the PADD and read quickly.
"His blood sugar levels? Yes."
"These readings indicate he's not been eating properly for some time and it concerns me that a man in his position would neglect himself in such a manner. Also, he asked me if he'd been dreaming while he was sedated. I asked him if he meant by dreaming to mean nightmares and he said yes. If you scroll down a bit further on that file, you'll find he's been going without sufficient sleep. I put two and two together and I don't like what I've found. Do you know why this has been happening to him?"
Beverly stared unseeing at the PADD and sighed. Gently placing the device on the desk, she faced the concerned Doctor.
"Conrad what do you know of Captain Picard?"
The older man sat back and folded his hands on his ample girth.
"I know he's famous, that he's been at the forefront of exploration and diplomatic missions for years. He's the Captain of the flagship isn't he?"
Beverly nodded and crossed her legs.
"And do you recall the Borg incursion of 2366?"
His eyebrows raised, Wadds nodded silently.
"Then you must remember that Captain Picard was assimilated by the Borg and, despite being surgically mutilated and mentally raped by the Borg, he still managed to find a way to defeat them and save Earth."
Still silent, Wadds nodded. Beverly paused and rubbed her face.
"Well unfortunately recent events have caused him to be forcibly reminded about that time in his life and, as a result, he's been unable to eat or sleep properly. It is something that happens to him when under high stress or when he's exhausted. Right now he's suffering from both."
Conrad dropped his chin to his chest and sighed.
"This attack…was it something to do with it?"
"Yes."
He nodded slowly and lifted his head.
"I take it that despite your off duty status, you'll be caring for him once he's discharged?"
Beverly smiled and nodded.
"Oh yes, you can bet on it."
The Doctor stood and held his hand out to Beverly, assisting her as she rose.
"In that case I will pursue this no further and I'll leave him in your capable hands. However…I don't need to tell you how important it is for him to seek appropriate help? If left untreated this could develop into a major debilitating situation, one I wouldn't like to admit I did nothing about."
Sighing, Beverly offered a tired smile.
"Thank you Conrad. Once we contact his Counsellor on the Enterprise I'm sure we'll get him through this."
They said nothing more as they crossed Sickbay to enter Jean-Luc's room. Beverly grinned at seeing her lover awake, dressed and obviously impatient to leave.
"Beverly! Come to rescue me have you?"
Laughing, the red head slipped her arm through his and bowed slightly.
"Yep. Come on Captain let's go before Conrad here decides to carry out some more tests."
Jean-Luc nodded and the pair left the room, pausing and thanking Conrad as they went.
The journey back to Command was taken slowly and in silence. Once in Jean-Luc's quarters, the Captain stood by the windows while Beverly retrieved some hot drinks. As she placed the cups on the low table, she told him,
"Phillipa will be here soon with a representative from security."
Jean-Luc nodded and sighed.
"The ubiquitous interview."
"Uh huh. Phillipa insisted on being here…you know how she is."
The Captain snorted.
"Like a starved dog with a meaty bone."
Beverly chuckled and then sighed.
"Did they tell you anything at Sickbay?"
He turned and sat next to Beverly, picked up his tea and sipped.
"About the attack?"
"Hmm."
"No. They told me about my injuries and treatment but nothing else. Who was he Beverly?"
The Doctor took his hand and noticed a slight trembling.
"His name was Arthur Hunt."
Jean-Luc shook his head slowly.
"Arthur Hunt? I don't recall…he said he was a Lieutenant on the Melbourne at Wolf 359. He was badly burned…God Beverly…why don't I remember him? I was responsible…"
Beverly's voice was hard.
"Stop it Jean-Luc! We've been over this too many times! Yes he suffered, both physically and mentally, but he chose to shun help. He nursed a grudge that grew into a festering hatred and in the end he was deranged. The fact that he managed to draw others into his madness only shows how pervasive he was. It…was…not…your…fault!"
Jean-Luc sighed and sat back, making an effort to relax his tense body.
"He told me he wanted the scars to remain unhealed…that he wanted to be reminded every time he was made aware of his disfigurement that it was me who was responsible."
Beverly ran her fingers lightly down his face and spoke softly.
"Jean-Luc you cannot be held responsible if an individual chooses to make a personal tragedy into a vendetta. It was his choice! He shunned all help; everything medical had to offer and chose to wallow in his own self-pity. In the end he was beyond help Jean-Luc…his death might prove to be the kindest event for him."
The Captain closed his eyes and sighed. Beverly was about to massage his shoulders when the door chimes rang. Jean-Luc sat up immediately and adopted his Captain's persona.
"Come."
Phillipa breezed in followed by a Commander from security. They were armed with PADDs and looks of determination. Jean-Luc clenched his jaw and surrendered to the inevitable.
Over the next two hours, Jean-Luc was subjected to a thorough grilling. Every detail of what had transpired was dissected and viewed from every angle. The inquisition delved back into Jean-Luc's past and it took much to convince the Commander that indeed, Captain Hunt was completely unknown to Jean-Luc. Towards the end of the interrogation, and after the Commander had left, Jean-Luc was finally allowed to ask Phillipa some questions of his own.
"Tell me Phillipa, how have the other members of the cadre taken the news?"
Smiling wickedly, Louvois rubbed her hands together.
"Actually it seems to have put the cat amongst the pigeons! Now that their leader…and yes he definitely was the leader, has been removed from the equation, they've begun scrambling to point the finger at each other."
Beverly snorted.
"Like rats deserting a sinking ship!"
"Exactly! It's interesting though. They've already admitted to plotting and collusion, the evidence was too strong for them to deny it, but now they seem to be absorbed in singling out just one to take the blame. They don't seem to realise they'll all be punished."
Jean-Luc stood and stretched. Facing the windows he said softly,
"When will the trial recommence?"
Casting a concerned glance at Beverly, Phillipa replied,
"Providing you're up to it…tomorrow at oh nine thirty. Admiral Buckley wants you to know you can take as much time as you need. Medical will back you up."
Clasping his hands behind his back, Jean-Luc turned and lifted his chin.
"Tomorrow morning will be fine Phillipa. Please inform Admiral Buckley that I want this matter dealt with as soon as possible."
Again looking to Beverly for reassurance, Phillipa frowned.
"Are you sure Jean-Luc? You've been through a very…"
The Captain held up his hand and shook his head.
"No. Tomorrow morning Phillipa…I'll see you there."
Hearing his dismissal, the solicitor stood and nodded. Beverly gave her a nod of assurance and Phillipa turned for the door. Over her shoulder she said,
"I'll make it quick and painless Jean-Luc…don't worry."
The doors sighed shut and Jean-Luc rubbed his face. Beverly stood and took him into her arms. Kissing him softly she whispered,
"We have each other my love…nothing else matters."
He rested his head on her shoulder and hugged her tightly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several hours later, Beverly finally managed to coax Jean-Luc into having a nap. She'd successfully inveigled him to eat a light lunch and, once he'd settled in bed, she waited until he drifted off.
Seating herself at the desk, she activated the computer and placed a sub-space call to the Enterprise. Only having to wait a few minutes, she was soon facing Deanna.
"Beverly! How are you?"
Smiling broadly, Beverly answered her friend.
"I'm fine Dee. I've won my case; Harris capitulated and pleaded guilty to all charges. He'll be sentenced sometime in the next few days."
Deanna's warm smile made her beautiful face glow.
"That's wonderful Beverly…I'm so happy and relieved for you."
"Me too. Deanna I need to talk to you about the Captain."
The Counsellor's face fell and she frowned.
"He's having trouble isn't he."
Beverly nodded and glanced at the bedroom.
"Uh huh. Last night he was attacked in his quarters by the leader of the cadre…a Captain Arthur Hunt. Jean-Luc was stabbed three times in the chest and lost a dangerous amount of blood. He's ok now, in fact he was discharged from Sickbay this morning, but over the past week he's not been eating or sleeping properly and he's been plagued by nightmares. It's the whole Borg thing again. I've tried to help him and I'm making some headway, but I really think he needs to talk to you."
Deanna's frown deepened and she sighed.
"I see. Well it's doable from my end, when do you think you can arrange it?"
Looking again at the bedroom, Beverly nodded, deep in thought.
"Would later this afternoon be ok? I managed to get him to take a nap and I want him to sleep undisturbed until he wakes. The trial recommences tomorrow and I know he'll be exhausted by the end of the day, so maybe I can coax him into contacting the Enterprise this afternoon for an update or something, then you could somehow get him to talk to you. Of course you'll have to word Will up…if this is going to work, it'll take a bit of doing."
Deanna chuckled softly and nodded.
"Oh I think where it comes to skulduggery we can manage. I'll inform Will and we'll be ready when you call."
Beverly smiled and touched the screen.
"Thanks Dee. I'll speak to you soon, Crusher out."
She left the desk and wandered to the windows and although her eyes watched the view of a yacht sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge, her mind drifted as she sought ways to help her lover. She was deep in thought when she heard his piteous moaning. Running to the bedroom, she found him curled up on top of the covers and growing increasingly distressed. Just as he screamed, Beverly reached him and gripped his shoulder. Shaking him she shouted to be heard over his screams.
"Jean-Luc! Wake up…come on my love, it's me Beverly…wake up!"
He suddenly stilled and held his breath. In the lull, Beverly stroked his head and said softly,
"It's just a dream Jean-Luc…you're safe and I'm with you…wake up my love…please, wake up."
His eyes snapped open and his breath came out in a shaky rush. He turned his head and Beverly watched as his eyes cleared. His voice a deep ragged whisper he said,
"Beverly?"
She leaned down and kissed him. He turned over and sat up, looking lost and frightened. Beverly took him in her arms and he abruptly embraced her in a hug so fierce she could barely breathe. His trembling body began to shudder as he wept silently, the Doctor could feel his clenched jaw muscles against her cheek. She gently stroked his back and spoke softly to him, crooning and calming. Slowly he relaxed and after almost half an hour he eased his embrace and lifted his head.
Beverly tenderly took his face in her hands and kissed him. As her thumbs wiped away his tears she whispered,
"Better?"
He nodded and sighed shakily. With a rueful half smile, he found it difficult to look his lover in the eyes, bowing his head instead.
"I feel somewhat ashamed that you should have to witness such…deplorable outbursts from me."
With gentle fingers under his chin, she lifted his face and met his gaze. Smiling she let him see her unconditional love.
"I don't think your…outbursts are deplorable. I think you're an exceptional man who's struggling with an almost unbearable burden. I only wish I could help."
He sighed and lifted his hand to gently run his fingers down her face.
"Your mere presence is a balm to my tortured soul mon coeur. I truly don't know what I'd do without you."
Kissing him softly, Beverly stroked his face.
"Jean-Luc, my love…will you do something for me?"
He briefly closed his eyes and sighed.
"Anything within my power."
Taking his face in her hands, she looked deeply into his eyes.
"Talk to Deanna Jean-Luc. Call the Enterprise, get the update I know you've been hankering for and talk to Dee. Please my love, if not for yourself…then for me."
As she watched his eyes hardened and his face lost its open gentleness, settling instead into a stoic mask. Before he could refuse her plea, Beverly suddenly gripped the front of his shirt.
"Listen to me Jean-Luc! Doctor Wadds is aware of how you've been neglecting yourself and he also knows about the nightmares. Through me he knows why this has been happening and let me tell you…he wasn't very happy. If he gets so much as an inkling that you're in any psychological strife whatsoever, he'll have you back in Sickbay in a heartbeat! And I dear Captain would be the one to tell him!"
Stiffening, he glared down at her fisted hands in his shirt then slowly raised his eyes to meet hers. His voice deceptively soft, he said,
"Unhand me"
Ignoring his growing anger, Beverly tightened her hands.
"I'll do it Jean-Luc! Don't push me."
His hands closed over her wrists and he exerted enough pressure to make her wince. His voice even lower and softer, his eyes glittered dangerously.
"I said, let me go."
Beverly abruptly released him and he slowly raised her hands. With his dark eyes boring into hers, he muttered,
"What you are suggesting is blackmail Doctor."
Swallowing, Beverly held his deadly gaze. Nodding slowly she kept silent.
Relaxing his hands slightly, he sighed softly.
"Am I to take it you've already contacted Counsellor Troi over this matter?"
Beverly nodded, her eyes never leaving his. He released her wrists and slowly lowered his head. Beverly watched as his body lost its rigidity and knew she'd won. Tentatively, she brushed her fingers over his pate and leaned forward to kiss the crown of his head.
"I'll be with you my love."
His quiet snort made her frown.
"What?"
He lifted his head and looked at her speculatively.
"Would you really have ratted on me to Wadds?"
Tears slowly welled in Beverly's eyes as she nodded. Taking a shaky breath, she feathered her fingers over his lower lip.
"My love…I would do anything…anything in my power to help you, even if it means you end up hating me."
Lifting his hands, he brushed away the falling tears and kissed her tenderly. In a hushed whisper he said,
"My beautiful Beverly, no matter what you did to me I would always love you…with all that I am."
His arms wrapped around her and she rested her head on his shoulder, her own arms encircling his chest. Gently nuzzling his neck, Beverly sighed.
"We'll get through this Jean-Luc…soon it'll be nothing but a fading memory."
He kissed her cheek and nodded.
"I know my love, I know."

 

 

 

 

 

 

An hour later they were both seated at the desk, waiting for the connection to the Enterprise. The Starfleet insignia suddenly disappeared and Will's smiling face filled the screen.
"Captain! It's good to see you Sir."
Returning the smile, Jean-Luc noticed Deanna seated at Will's left.
"And you Number One. Tell me, how is my ship?"
"She's fine Sir…ship shape and Bristol fashion I believe is the term."
Nodding, Jean-Luc's smile faded.
"And the mission? How is that proceeding?"
"No problems there Captain, although the heavy ionisation in the atmosphere has been playing hell with the sensors."
Nodding, the Captain frowned.
"You might want to modulate the shields through the EM band. It may also improve transporter range."
Smiling, Will nodded.
"Thank you Sir, we'll do that."
Jean-Luc sat up and rubbed his hands on his thighs.
"Very well Will…ah it would seem I'm to have a word or two with Deanna."
The Counsellor stood and walked closer to the screen.
"Only if you want to Captain."
Beverly smiled encouragingly as Jean-Luc caught her gaze. Summoning a wan smile, he shrugged.
"Actually Counsellor I've been given somewhat of an ultimatum. It's talk to you or be given up to the witch doctors here at medical."
Chuckling, Deanna clasped her hands behind her back.
"Better the devil you know Captain?"
"Hmm."
Turning to Will, Deanna pointed to the Ready Room. Nodding, the big man ordered Tactical to transfer the call to Jean-Luc's office.
Beverly's hand gently insinuated itself into his and she squeezed it lovingly. He looked at her and smiled, his dark eyes warm. Deanna appeared on the screen and looked at Beverly. The Doctor smiled and said,
"I'll stay long enough to get him started, then he's all yours."
The Counsellor nodded and her face settled into one of intense concentration.
"Captain this will be a little different from what you're used to from me. At this distance I can't sense you at all. I will have to rely on you being scrupulously honest with me and in return I will allow you take as much time as you need."
Jean-Luc nodded and sighed.
"Actually Counsellor we've been over this so many times, I hardly think it's necessary."
Deanna frowned at that remark and Jean-Luc held up his hand.
"My apologies Counsellor. That was glib and facetious."
Beverly shook her head and told Deanna,
"He's been avoiding this for some time Dee."
The Counsellor nodded slowly.
"I take it you've been going without food or sleep? That you've been afflicted by recurring nightmares?"
Jean-Luc pursed his lips and shrugged.
"It is true that my diet has been a little sparse and what sleep I get is marred by nightmares, but we both know it will settle down eventually. Once the trial is over and I get back to the Enterprise things will return to normal."
Deanna sighed and shook her head.
"And in the meantime? Are you telling me you're willing to accept things as they are and simply ignore the consequences?"
"No! Look I admit I'm having trouble but I'm sure…"
"Tell me about the nightmares."
Jean-Luc's head jerked up and he gasped softly.
"What?"
Deanna leaned forward and softened her voice.
"Tell me about the nightmares. Are they the same? Or have they changed?"
The Captain wiped his mouth nervously and closed his eyes.
"I…they…they're different now…worse."
"How are they worse?"
Swallowing Jean-Luc lowered his head and both women could see the colour drain from his face.
"Captain?"
He took a large breath and looked at the screen.
"They're worse because now Beverly is in them. The Borg are assimilating her and I can't stop it. I try…I try everything…I offer myself…but I can't stop them. She screams…"
His hands lift to cover his ears as his eyes close. Beverly grips his shoulder and softly calls his name.
"Jean-Luc…it's all right."
He opens his eyes and sighs. Deanna's soft lilting voice asks the question he knows is coming.
"Why is Beverly in your nightmares now Captain?"
He gripped her hand and lifted it so Deanna could see.
"Because we love each other Counsellor."
Deanna smiled and sighed.
"I'm very happy for you both…and may I say…it's about time!"
Quietly chuckling the couple looked at each other and Deanna could plainly see, even over sub-space, the love and dedication they had for each other. She allowed a silence before nodding decisively.
"I think this new development could be used to our advantage Captain."
Jean-Luc looked at the screen and raised his eyebrow.
"Indeed?"
"Yes Sir."
Nodding to Beverly, Deanna let her know she could leave them alone. The Doctor stood and kissed the top of Jean-Luc's head, before moving over to the windows and picking up a book. Over the next three hours Jean-Luc and Deanna were in deep conversation. When he finally closed the channel, he sat back and stretched, yawning expansively. Beverly watched as he slowly stood and wandered over to the replicator. Over his shoulder he asked,
"Are you hungry?"
Smiling, the Doctor nodded and soon could smell the spicy aroma of a curry. She made her way to the table and sat, a plate of lamb curry on white rice in front of her. She leaned forward and sniffed appreciatively.
"Mmm, this smells delicious."
Already eating, Jean-Luc smiled and winked. Happy that he was eating, Beverly finished her meal quickly and was at the replicator before Jean-Luc's plate was empty. With a supercilious grin she placed a bowl of chilled mixed fruit and cream in front of him, then stood with her hands on her hips, daring him to refuse the delightful dessert.
He sighed theatrically and made a show of picking up his spoon and inspecting it for spots. Rubbing the utensil dramatically with his serviette, he poised his spoon over the bowl and looked up at his lover.
"Well? Are you going to stand there all night or are you going to join me in dessert?"
Snorting, Beverly took her seat and secretly cheered as Jean-Luc ate everything in the bowl. Having cleared the table, they retreated to the sofa. In comfortable silence, they left the lights off and watched the lights come on outside. Sighing with pleasure, Jean-Luc pulled Beverly into his arms and settled her against his chest.
"So what have you been up to while I was so busy?"
Mewing, Beverly snuggled into him.
"Let me see. Oh…my case is over."
His body stiffened and his voice registered his surprise.
"What?"
"Yep. In the face of the testimonies of his former victims, he pleaded guilty to all charges. He'll be sentenced tomorrow."
Jean-Luc was silent, but he hugged her tighter. Kissing her hair, he eventually said,
"That's just about the best news you could've given me mon coeur. I hope he rots in hell."
"Me too. Alynna tells me some of the women may pursue him through the civil courts too."
Jean-Luc snorted.
"It would give me immense satisfaction to see him publicly vilified for what he's done. Men like him have no place in any civilised society."
Beverly lifted her head and kissed his neck. After a gentle silence she asked,
"What did Deanna say?"
Jean-Luc sighed and closed his eyes.
"Mainly she explained how I can use you to help me defeat and then banish the Borg from my nightmares. Using a technique called directed dreaming I can manipulate my psyche to my advantage."
"Directed dreaming? I've heard of that…in fact you've used it before haven't you?"
Nodding, Jean-Luc stroked her hair.
"Uh huh. Over the years we've found it's a potent weapon to employ, although I don't think it's ever been so powerfully bolstered. Your presence will make a big difference I think."
Beverly sighed and closed her eyes as his warm scent infiltrated her senses. Her voice just a sultry whisper, she asked,
"Jean-Luc…how do you feel?"
He frowned and replied,
"I'm fine…why?"
Turning slowly in his arms, she took his hand and placed it on her breast.
"Because I want you my love…I need you. Do you think..?"
In response he gently kneaded the breast and kissed her deeply. Sighing into his mouth, Beverly gave herself over to him. His hands roamed over her slowly, easing her clothes from her. In return she undressed him, revelling in the newly exposed flesh, kissing and gently biting his skin and slowly driving him to distraction. With a low growl, he stood and pulled her to her feet. Crushing her lips in a passionate kiss, he held her up as she swooned. He tapered the kiss and she caught his eye and held it as her hand tracked down his bare chest and slipped under the waistband of his briefs. His eyes drifted closed and he moaned seductively as she took his erection and slowly stroked him. When her warm hand suddenly retreated his eyes snapped open and he watched as the naked woman walked slowly into the bedroom. His feet moved before he was aware of it. Standing in the doorway, he watched intently as Beverly crawled onto the bed, positioned herself comfortably and opened her legs. Not taking his eyes off the vision of wantonly beautiful seduction that awaited him; he stripped off his briefs and stepped to the bedside. Her blue eyes darkened with passion as he took his straining erection in his hand and slowly stroked himself. With their eyes locked, Beverly slid a finger into her mouth and thoroughly wet it before trailing her hand down her torso to dally in the copper curls upon her mons. His breathing deepened as she slid her wet finger between her folds. Her free hand cupped her breast, her fingers gently pinching the stiff nipple.
Jean-Luc reached out and gripped her raised knee, gently pushing it down to afford him a better view of what she was doing. As her finger slid through her wetness, Beverly started to writhe slothfully, her lissom body sinuously moving on the bed.
With his hand still stroking his throbbing penis, Jean-Luc slowly got on the bed and knelt between her legs. Her intimate scent rose to meet him and he inhaled deeply.
"Exquisite."
He breathed.
Beverly opened her eyes and the tip of her tongue appeared to wet her lips. She began to pant and Jean-Luc's excitement grew.
"That's it mon coeur…do it for me…I want to watch you come…come for me my love."
Beverly gasped as the sexually explicit words flowed over her. She could hear his desire…his need in his deeply passionate voice. Closing her eyes, she quickened the rhythm of her sliding finger.
"No…open your eyes…please Beverly open your eyes."
A moan escaped her mouth and her eyes opened. He leaned forward and rubbed the tip of his penis over her slick finger and her need escalated. He used his free hand to push her legs wide and suddenly she was on the brink. Her back arched and her hips lifted off the bed. His thick penis pushed inside her and her orgasm ripped through her.
Again and again she climaxed as he vigorously plunged in and out of her. Mindless with sexual insanity, she screamed his name as her nails opened the skin of his heaving back in long bloody scratches.
Carried to the edge of his own oblivion, Jean-Luc lowered his head and bit her shoulder as he lost himself in a sea of exquisite sensual overload. His climax surged through his body and his sight failed. Every nerve end responded with electrical intensity and his cry of libration preceded a sob of heartfelt capitulation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some time later, as the roaring in his ears receded, Jean-Luc lifted his head and kissed Beverly with tired, loving, warm familiarity. Beverly returned the kiss and sighed. With careful movements, Jean-Luc rolled to his side and took Beverly in his arms. The Doctor rested her head on his shoulder and idly drew runes through his chest hair.
"It's late…we really should get some rest. You've got a big day ahead of you tomorrow."
Jean-Luc sighed and rubbed her back.
"I know. Hopefully Phillipa will be as good as her word and end this…farce quickly."
Reaching down, Beverly drew up the covers and snuggled back into his embrace.
"Well go to sleep my love. I'll be here, both in the flesh and in your dreams."
He hugged her and smiled.
"I love you mon coeur."
"And I you my Captain."

 

 

 

 

Risking the threat of discovery and staying all night, Beverly was delighted to wake up wrapped in Jean-Luc's embrace. She sighed happily and shivered as his breath washed over the skin of her neck.
"So you're finally awake."
Mewing, she stretched languidly.
"Mmm. What time is it?"
He nuzzled her neck and one hand eased over her breast.
"I don't know…early I think."
Beverly sighed and felt her desire quickly waken. His erection pushed against her back and she could feel the tension in his body. About to surrender, she decided to make sure they had the time.
"Computer what is the time?"
"Oh seven fifty-eight."
They both froze. Jean-Luc growled and Beverly chuckled. Turning in his arms, the Doctor kissed the tip of his nose.
"We have to get up."
Jean-Luc's eyes glittered and he kissed her softly.
"I'm already up. I could always call in and say I needed more time."
Gasping in mock shock, Beverly reached over and lightly smacked his behind.
"Jean-Luc you should be ashamed of yourself. Fancy putting off your trial so you can lie in your bed and ravish your CMO."
With a snort, Jean-Luc pushed Beverly onto her back and kissed her, covering her with his body and sliding his erection over her folds.
"Are you complaining?"
Her low groan told him she was quite happy. He reached down and positioned himself at her entrance. In a husky whisper, he said,
"We'll just have to cut a few corners, that's all."
Beverly's eyes opened and she gasped
"What?" as he slid inside her. Her body arched up to him and he quickly set a vigorous rhythm. Beverly gripped his buttocks and lifted her hips to meet him all the while panting his name. He closed his eyes and abandoned his control. His thrusts became hard and fast and Beverly was transported into her orgasm in a rush of emotional bliss. She shrieked his name and he growled, his hips grinding against hers as he came in a thunderous rush.

 

 

 

 

 

Panting, Beverly gently bit his earlobe.
"If we don't get to the shower you really will have to call in."
Jean-Luc lifted his head and grinned tiredly down at his lover. With exaggerated slowness he rolled over and guffawed when Beverly attacked his ribs with her fingers. He grabbed her hands and gasped, trying to regain his breath.
"Stop! Gods woman, what are you trying to do to me?"
Chuckling, Beverly sat up and pointed to the bathroom.
"If you've got the energy to resist me, then you've got the energy to shower."
As he groaned and rose from the bed, Beverly rubbed her cheek.
"And shave."
He frowned at the reddened skin and leaned down to kiss it softly. Beverly sighed and ran her fingers down his face.
"I suppose I'd better take care of your back too. I'll join you in a minute."
His eyebrows rose and an irrepressible grin emerged. Sighing, Beverly shooed him with her hands.
"Oh don't you go getting any ideas! I'll repair your back…that's all."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although they indulged in semi erotic games in the shower, both knew they didn't have the time. Jean-Luc was dressed first and he was setting out breakfast when Beverly arrived at the table. They sat and ate quickly, coffee sipped in between bites. They were almost finished when the door chimed.
"Come."
Phillipa marched in, her face stern.
"Aren't you ready yet?"
Jean-Luc stood and wiped his mouth. He sighed and closed his eyes briefly.
"I can assure you Captain, I am more than ready."
Phillipa's eyes roamed over the table and settled on Beverly.
"You must have got here early."
Smiling benignly, Beverly rose and nodded.
"Yes I did. I would like to accompany both of you…would that be all right?"
The Counsel glanced at Jean-Luc and shrugged.
"It's all right by me."
With a nod of satisfaction, Beverly waited while Jean-Luc put on his tunic, then together, the three officers left his quarters.

 

 

 

 

 

There was a substantial crowd outside the conference room, some eager onlookers but mostly hungry press. When they spotted the approach of the three officers, there was a cacophony of clamour as they surged forward, shouting their questions and pushing holovids in their faces.
Gritting his teeth, Jean-Luc took the lead and motioned to the women to follow him closely. With his head bowed, he strode forward with an uncompromising attitude, his body language clear…get out of our way or be trampled. Suddenly through the doors, the abrupt quiet of the conference room made the occupant's heads turn as the officers barged in.
With a nod of apology, Phillipa and Jean-Luc took their seats and Jean-Luc glanced over his shoulder, his eyes meeting Beverly's. A quick smile was shared before the Counsel leaned to her client and whispered for him to pay attention. Taking a large breath, Jean-Luc straightened his spine and devoted his considerable intellect to the situation at hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judge Buckley entered the room at exactly oh nine thirty. Once the room's occupants were standing he bowed and took his seat. Phillipa stood and faced the bench.
"Your Honour it is my belief that, with the death of Captain Arthur Hunt, the self-professed leader of this group, the remaining members should shoulder equal responsibility for what transpired."
Immediately, the senior Counsel of the defence was on her feet.
"I object! There was never any intention of these officers to do physical harm to Captain Picard! Captain Hunt acted alone and, in his deranged state, took matters into his own hands. This group knew nothing of his actions and shouldn't have to suffer the consequences."
Phillipa smiled, her eyes flinty.
"My esteemed colleague seems to forget that her clients were only too happy to do Hunt's bidding…they knew exactly what they were doing. What is the difference here? Hunt wanted Captain Picard dead…this group wanted him stripped of both rank and decorations and summarily dismissed from an organization he's served faithfully for most of his life. To do that to a man such as he would be tantamount to killing him…and they knew it!"
Two more Counsels leaped to their feet and the Judge hammered the gavel loudly. Having got everyone's undivided attention, Admiral Buckley called all the Counsels to the bench. There ensued a spirited, lively discussion, Jean-Luc somewhat amused with the ostentatious displays of waving arms and chest thumping. He watched Phillipa in particular, noting how much she appeared to enjoy the theatrics, knowing of course she had the upper hand. Eventually an agreement of sorts was reached and the Counsels returned to their clients. The Judge cleared his throat and made some notes on a PADD. Looking up, he focussed his attention on the accused and addressed the senior Counsel.
"Do you have something to say Captain McKinnock?"
The tall raven-haired woman stood and squared her shoulders.
"Yes your Honour. Taking in to account recent events and admitting that it is understood these officers do not deny the charges, I would like to offer a plea of guilty Sir. Guilty on all charges."
Phillipa sat back, a smug smile on her face. Jean-Luc sighed and lowered his head. Admiral Buckley sat up straight and nodded slowly.
"I see. Tell me Captain Picard…what do you have to say about this?"
His head snapping up, Jean-Luc scrambled to his feet, stood to attention and frowned. His protracted silence drew a soft smile from the Judge.
"Come now Captain, you must have an opinion on this, after all you've suffered quite extensively…in fact you very nearly lost your life. What would you like to see happen to them?"
Sighing, Jean-Luc tilted his head.
"To be honest Admiral I haven't devoted too much thought to their punishment, although I feel I should say that it would be a waste to end their careers. Apart from what they did to me, they are still good officers…their records speaks to that."
There was silence as Buckley sat back and steepled his fingers under his nose. His brown eyes never left Jean-Luc as he pondered the question. Coming to his decision, the Judge sat up and nodded.
"While I find it astounding that you, as the victim Captain Picard, can find it in yourself to be compassionate, I cannot. However I do agree that we cannot afford to loose these eight officers. So this is the sentence of this court. All of you will be reduced in rank two levels and be denied space borne duty. As of this time, you will be confined to Command and you will work only under strict supervision of experienced fellow officers. Also, all of you will undergo intensive therapy, to be administered by Starfleet Medical at their convenience and they will be the ones who will hold your futures in their hands."
The gavel fell and the sharp sound reverberated around the room. Buckley stood and waited until everybody else rose before bowing and leaving the room. Jean-Luc was turning to catch Beverly's eye when his upper arm was grabbed by his enthusiastic Counsel.
"What did I tell you? Am I good…or am I good?"
Smiling, Jean-Luc carefully extricated his arm and nodded.
"You're the best, without a shadow of a doubt. Thank you."
Seeing that his attention was elsewhere, Phillipa leaned to his ear.
"We need to prepare a statement."
Nodding distractedly, Jean-Luc said as he started to walk away,
"Fine."
Exasperated, Phillipa watched as the Captain made his way to his lover. They stood close together, not touching, but their eyes spoke volumes. Realisation crept over Phillipa and she reddened. Her hand fluttering over her mouth, the Counsel swallowed and shook her head.
"The crafty old dog! He's managed to…under everyone's noses…my God what a nerve."
She sighed again and watched as the couple left the room.
"She's drop-dead gorgeous and he's…still as sexy as hell."

 

 

 

 

The press surged forward and the couple stopped in their tracks. Finding it impossible to put any space between them, Jean-Luc again took the lead, shielding Beverly with his body. He held up his hand and waited until the noise subsided.
"As I have previously said, I will give a statement soon. Until that time I ask that you afford me some privacy as this has been a rather tedious experience. Thank you."
Before any of the press could react, Jean-Luc grabbed Beverly's hand and strode forward, cleaving his way through the throng. They were in the lift before Beverly stated to chuckle. Jean-Luc's eyebrow rose imperiously and he muttered,
"And just what do you find so amusing?"
Regaining her control, Beverly squeezed his hand.
"Did you see their faces? My God they were dumbstruck."
"Yes well…I had to say something to shut them up."
They reached his floor and Beverly released his hand. Together they walked to his quarters and Jean-Luc didn't relax his posture until the doors sighed closed. The Doctor took him in her arms and kissed him tenderly. Jean-Luc sighed and let his brow rest on hers. They were communing deeply when the door chimed.
His face falling into a dark scowl, Jean-Luc barked,
"Who is it?"
"It's me, Phillipa."
Beverly let him go and moved to the window. The Captain fisted his hands and growled,
"Come."
The svelte woman entered, her hands behind her back.
"I have something for you Jean-Luc."
His voice soft, Jean-Luc muttered,
"I'm not in the mood for games Captain. What do you want?"
Her face changed from playful to business-like in seconds. From behind her back she produced a PADD.
"Here. It's your statement to the press."
With a scowl fixed on his face, Jean-Luc took the device and read. Snorting, he nodded brusquely.
"It's perfect, thank you."
Stepping closer, Phillipa ran her fingers over his rank pips.
"Why don't you admit it Jean-Luc…I know you better than you know yourself."
With a glare and an uncomfortable step backwards, Jean-Luc was about to remonstrate with her, but he was cut off.
"Nechayev to Crusher."
Beverly turned and swallowed.
"Crusher here."
"Doctor I've just been notified that sentencing will take place tomorrow morning. I take it you'll be there?"
"Yes Admiral."
"Very well, oh ten hundred in conference room three. By the way Doctor…I see you're in Captain Picard's quarters…again…I heard the verdict, will you congratulate him for me?"
"Of course Admiral."
"Good. Nechayev out."
Phillipa stepped back to Jean-Luc and pointed at the PADD.
"When will you do it?"
The Captain looked down at the device and frowned.
"Oh…this afternoon probably."
"Fine, I'll set something up and give you a call…that is if you hear the hail."
Glaring, Jean-Luc lifted his head and growled,
"Is that all Captain?"
Chuckling, Phillipa turned and sashayed to the doors. Over her shoulder she said,
"Just remember…don't overtax yourself Picard."
The doors sighed shut and Beverly moved to her lover, standing behind him and winding her arms around his torso.
"She's jealous."
Jean-Luc snorted.
"Beverly that's ridiculous. To be jealous she would have to know about us…and I don't think she does."
Beverly turned her lover and kissed his nose.
"Oh she knows all right. You know for a usually astute man you can be really obtuse sometimes."
His eyebrows rose with outrage and he would have argued, but she kissed him. With languid passion, she stole his breath and his heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

True to her word, Phillipa organized a press conference for that afternoon. Despite her catty teasing, Jean-Luc arrived calm, however it was clear he dearly wanted to be elsewhere. While Jean-Luc stood at her side, Phillipa outlined the protocols of the conference, insisting that there would be no questions at the completion of the statement. Acceding the podium to Jean-Luc, she watched as the Captain took his place and steadied himself. The statement was a moderate one in which he confessed his dismay at the events and his wish that the perpetrators not be banished from Starfleet. He briefly went over the attempted murder and opined that Captain Hunt should be remembered for his outstanding service and pointed out that anyone, if sufficiently motivated, was capable of committing many acts, not all of them lawful. He thanked the press for their attendance and brought the conference to an end.
Despite instructions to the contrary, the gathering immediately threw questions at him. With a thunderous scowl, Jean-Luc gave the PADD to Phillipa and left the room with alacrity. Security, supplied by request from Phillipa, prevented the mob from following the harried man and they found themselves in the foyer watching as the dedicated security staff did their jobs.
"So Jean-Luc it's over. What will you do with yourself now?"
Dragging his eyes away from the scene only metres to his left, Jean-Luc sighed.
"I've no immediate plans except for accompanying Beverly to the sentencing tomorrow morning."
With a grimace at the mob, she gently gripped his elbow and led him to the lift.
"Why don't we go back to your quarters? I'm sure we could find something to do."
Her expression left no doubt as to what she had in mind. Jean-Luc allowed her to lead him to the lift, but he disengaged her hand and sighed. His voice gentle, he looked her in the eyes.
"Phillipa…I'm not interested."
Her face went through several expressions, eventually settling on capitulation.
"Damn, you know me too well. I'm filled with all this energy and here you are telling me sex is not an option. What's a girl to do?"
Chuckling quietly, Jean-Luc lowered his head.
"My dear Captain I've never known you to be without a 'plan B'."
Phillipa sniggered and nodded.
"You're right of course. Tell me Jean-Luc…is it love...real deep abiding love?"
The Captain sighed and smiled warmly, knowing exactly what she was referring to.
"Yes Phillipa it is."
"And she loves you with the same commitment?"
Jean-Luc nodded silently, the tender smile never leaving his face.
Phillipa sighed and punched his arm.
"Lucky dog! I always suspected you know…when you looked at her there was this longing in your eyes."
Nodding, Jean-Luc grinned.
"It's taken us thirty years but it's been worth the wait."
Phillipa looked over her shoulder and snorted.
"Thirty years! It's just as well you're happy, patience like that should be rewarded. OK, I'll leave you in peace. Tell Beverly from me I'm really happy for you both and tell her to look that bastard Harris right in the eye as he's sentenced. His comeuppance has been a long time coming."
Jean-Luc nodded and watched as she walked away. Shaking his head, he entered the waiting lift and returned to his quarters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly again stayed the night. Although they both became aroused, by mutual silent agreement they refrained from making love, content instead to hold each other until sleep claimed them. Jean-Luc suffered one nightmare but employed his learned technique of directed dreaming and managed to thwart the unpleasant experience and settled back into a deep sleep. Beverly wasn't so lucky. In the early hours of morning, she woke weeping and clutching Jean-Luc's arm. Coming to instant wakefulness, Jean-Luc gathered her into his arms and lulled her back to sleep. He lay beside her in the darkness, holding her gently for the remainder of the night, watching as she slept restlessly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As they approached conference room three, Beverly noticed that the press had been banished. Admiral Nechayev was seated at a desk to one side of the room and, as proceedings had yet to start, the Doctor walked over to ask some questions. Standing to attention before her Counsel, Beverly waited patiently to be acknowledged.
"Yes Doctor Crusher?"
"Good morning Admiral. Would you like me to sit with you?"
Nechayev smiled thinly and placed her hands on the desktop.
"That is entirely up to you Doctor…however, from a personal point of view, I would be pleased to have you sit with me."
Smiling, Beverly nodded once.
"Thank you Sir. Would you mind if I just went and informed Captain Picard of my intentions?"
"Not at all."
Beverly turned then hesitated.
"Admiral do you know why the press have been excluded?"
Opening her briefcase and rummaging, Nechayev said from a bent position,
"That was my idea. After hearing what Picard experienced, I took pre-emptive action and banned everyone except those with a specific interest in the proceedings. You'd be wise to issue a statement, if only to set the record straight from your point of view…as a matter of fact I've drawn up something you might find useful."
Shifting through several PADDs, the Admiral selected one and handed it to Beverly. She read it thoroughly, a smile creeping onto her face.
"This will do nicely Admiral, thank you."
Nodding, Alynna watched as Beverly made her way to Jean-Luc and sighed as the couple exchanged tender smiles. Beverly rejoined her quickly and they had only a little time to wait before the presiding Judge entered. Having ignored Harris completely up to that point, Beverly kept her attention on the Judge as he brought the procedure to the actual sentencing. He read the charges again and noted the guilty plea. He then pronounced,
"Commodore Desmond Harris you have, by your own admission, been found guilty of all charges. As this was a violent and heinous crime, and one which seems to be part of a systematic pattern of unacceptable behaviour, this court has only one option. You are to be demoted of all rank and sent to the Starfleet correctional facility in New Zealand for a period of twenty-five years, during which time you will be required to undergo intensive therapy in hope you can rid yourself of these uncivilised predilections. At the completion of your incarceration, you will be dishonourably discharged."
Harris remained stoic but his eyes were restless. Beverly stared at him defiantly and felt a surge of satisfaction as their eyes met and she saw his fear and defeat. He then bowed his head and stood as the session was brought to a close. Beverly watched as security led him away and jumped slightly as Alynna took her arm. The Admiral felt the Doctor's tension and caught Jean-Luc's eye, beckoning him to approach. Once Jean-Luc was at the table, Alynna let go of Beverly's arm.
"Doctor I have arranged for a small press conference to take place in the forecourt. I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to put this behind you as soon as possible."
Beverly nodded and smiled bravely.
"Thank you Admiral, I will."
"Excellent. Now what do both of you have planned? The Enterprise isn't due back for another eight days and you're both still temporarily relieved of duty."
Beverly frowned and looked at Jean-Luc, who surreptitiously shrugged his shoulders. She sighed and asked,
"Are we still confined to Command?"
Alynna smiled and the watching officers were surprised to see it reached her eyes.
"No Doctor, you're free to go wherever you please."
Jean-Luc cleared his throat and said softly,
"In that case Admiral, I have a few ideas."
"Good, I'm glad."
Beverly looked around to see they were the last people in the room. She sighed and turned back to her Counsel.
"So the press is waiting in the forecourt?"
"Yes, but don't worry, there's a security detail to keep things orderly."
Beverly grinned and nodded.
"Thank you Admiral, you seem to have thought of everything."
Alynna nodded but her face became inscrutable, her eyes piercing.
"One thing though…when Starfleet makes a rule about non-fraternisation at Command accommodation, they expect it to be upheld. I would've thought two seasoned officers such as yourselves would've know better that to flout the law."
Beverly blushed and was about to speak, but Jean-Luc answered the accusation.
"It's entirely my fault Admiral. I was experiencing…difficulties and, in the absence of my ship's Counsellor, I took advantage of Doctor Crusher's professional expertise."
There was a moments' silence before Alynna sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. In a tiredly amused voice, she said softly,
"Who are you trying to fool Captain? Look personally I don't care, in fact I applaud your…situation, all I'm asking is that you be a little more…circumspect. After all, we can't have the fleet's most illustrious Captain accused of ignoring standing orders just because he's hopelessly in love with his CMO."
It was Jean-Luc's turn to blush. Nodding mutely, he eventually found his voice.
"I understand Admiral, and I apologise whole heartedly. Thank you for your discretion, I…we appreciate it."
With the return of the warm smile, Alynna sighed.
"Very good. Doctor attend to your press conference and please inform me when you've made solid plans. Dismissed."

 

 

 

Fortunately the conference went off without a hitch, Jean-Luc wisely refraining from attending. After returning to his quarters, Beverly shared a cup of tea with the Captain as they discussed where they would like to go. In a very short period of time, they agreed on a tropical island in the South Pacific. Jean-Luc went to the computer and made all the necessary arrangements, then put in a call to the Enterprise, updating Will with their plans. When he was finished, Beverly took over and contacted Alison Brady. They agreed to meet in San Francisco in seven days and Alison promised to get in touch with the other women. As she terminated the connection, she sighed expansively as two strong warm hands began massaging her shoulders.
"Mmm that's wonderful."
She tilted her head, giving him greater access to her neck. Just as she relaxed and deepened her feeling of supplication, she gasped softly as he kissed her just under the ear. His whispered voice moistened her inner ear.
"Why don't we replicate what we need and get down to the shuttle bay? I don't know about you, but in the face of our enforced celibacy in these quarters, I can't wait to get to Thursday Island."
His lips nibbled down her neck as his fingers undid the tunic enough for him to assail her shoulder. Shivering and sighing, Beverly raised her hands and gripped his, effectively stopping his seduction although she did nothing about his nuzzling mouth.
"Oh God Jean-Luc…if we're going to get out of here we better make it quick, because if you continue…so help me I'll drag you to the floor and have my way with you, the rules be damned!"
He chuckled deeply and gently bit the junction of neck and shoulder.
"Very well my sensuous lover, I will acquiesce."
He straightened and Beverly stood slowly, turning to face him. Her lips curled into a wicked grin and her blue eyes twinkled knowingly at seeing the considerable bulge in his pants.
"Are you going to be able to contain this?"
She ran one finger over the outline of his erection and he sighed, closing his eyes.
"Not if you continue to do that."
"Well we better pack then."
He sensed her moving away from him and he opened his eyes to stare appreciatively at her retreating behind. Swallowing, he took a deep breath and ordered his body to stand down.
"Easier said than done."

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc finished first and took his bag out into the living area. Hearing Beverly rummaging around in the bathroom, he stepped into the bedroom and called,
"There's something I have to do. Will you contact Admiral Nechayev with our plans? I'll be back in about twenty minutes."
"OK, I'm just about done here. I'll see you when you get back."
He nodded and left his quarters. To the computer he said,
"Computer location of Lieutenant Adam Paull."
"Lieutenant Adam Paull is in the main archive room, section A 33, delta building."
It took several minutes to find him, but the young man smiled when he saw his Captain.
"Hello Sir."
Nodding, Jean-Luc managed a smile.
"Lieutenant. What brings you to the main archive?"
Adam stepped forward and gestured for Jean-Luc to follow him. Within a short time they were situated at a long bench, the top of which was strewn with PADDs, computers and scanners. Sighing Adam faced his Captain.
"Since your trial ended, and as it seems you have no further use of me, Captain Louvois has had me researching her next case, one involving a system of illicit trading in Starfleet spare parts through several Star bases. Apparently it's an ongoing problem."
Jean-Luc smiled and folded his arms across his chest.
"I see. Tell me Lieutenant, would you like some time off? Although I'm still relived of command, I can make it official if you so desire."
Adam looked at the PADD in his hand and frowned.
"I don't know Sir…Captain Louvois really needs the help…and one of her junior staff and I have been getting to know each other…"
Jean-Luc held up his hand.
"All right I can see where this is going. I will inform Admiral Nechayev that if you wish, you can take the next seven days off. All you have to do is contact her secretary to implement the leave."
Smiling broadly, Adam nodded.
"Thank you Captain Picard I really appreciate you thinking of me."
Jean-Luc smiled and tilted his head.
"Have you been able to practice?"
Frowning, Adam placed the PADD on the bench.
"Not really Sir. How about you?"
Jean-Luc shook his head and sighed.
"Ah no…I've been a little busy. Perhaps when we're both back aboard the Enterprise we can get the recital up and running."
Adam nodded and noted the Captain's sudden sobering.
"Lieutenant I haven't had the chance before now…I want to thank you for your actions the other night. If not for your outstanding devotion to duty and some damned quick thinking, I may well be dead."
Jean-Luc extended his right hand and Adam took it in a firm warm handshake.
"Thank you Adam."
Standing taller, the younger man flushed with pride. In a hushed voice he managed,
"You're welcome Captain…I'm just glad you're all right."
The Captain squared his shoulders and sniffed lightly.
"It is my intention to note your actions in my log and to recommend you for a commendation."
"Thank you Sir."
Nodding, Jean-Luc looked Adam in the eye.
"Carry on Lieutenant."
Adam watched as his Captain walked away and waited until the footfalls softly grew silent. He tapped his combadge and said,
"Paull to Wilkerson."
A soft feminine voice answered.
"Wilkerson here."
The elated Adam sighed and closed his eyes.
"Peggy you'll never believe what just happened."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc walked into his quarters to find both bags sitting side by side on the floor near the door and Beverly standing at the windows looking dreamily out across the bay. She turned to him and afforded him the most loving and gentle smile he'd ever seen. They walked to each other and met in the middle of the room. Quickly in each other's arms, they kissed deeply then slowly tapered, resting their cheeks together and simply enjoying the intimacy. Jean-Luc closed his eyes when he was hailed.
"Shuttle Bay five to Captain Picard."
"Picard here."
"Sir your shuttle is ready for you. Please verify your identity with the flight supervisor before boarding."
"Understood Shuttle Bay. Picard out."
The couple enjoyed a few more moments if closeness before Beverly gently pinched his backside. He chuckled and released her.
"Did you get everything you wanted from your quarters?"
"Uh huh. What I don't have I'll replicate."
He looked at her appreciatively, noting the pretty white sundress and the lovely blue scarf tying up her hair. Beverly basked under his gaze and sighed happily.
"I replicated some appropriate clothes for you. They're on the bed."
Adopting a look of incredulous innocence, Jean-Luc asked,
"What…you don't want me to go on holidays in my uniform?"
The Doctor giggled and turned him towards the bedroom.
"Scat you and be quick about it or I'll come in and help you and we'll never get out of here."
He laughed softly as his feet carried him to the bedroom. It took only moments to change into a white silk shirt and dark tan slacks. He removed his rank pins and communicator and sent his uniform into the cleaner knowing it could be picked up at any time in the future. With a satisfactory glance in the mirror, he left the room to join his lover.
"Well mon coeur...shall we?"
They left together, their spirits high.

 

 

 

Thursday Island lay off the tip of Cape York Peninsula, the northern most end of Australia. The island had been extensively rehabilitated and was covered in thick tropical foliage, the beaches clean and white. On the leeward side of the island, five bungalows had been built, each separately contained and surrounded by a hectare of bush and a private beach. Having landed the shuttle at the pad, the couple entered the main building to check in. While Beverly wandered around the gift shop, Jean-Luc approached the front desk. As soon as the attendant looked at him, Jean-Luc knew he'd been recognised. The middle-aged woman gaped then flushed. Jean-Luc sighed inwardly and gritted his teeth.
"My name is Picard. I have a reservation for one of the leeward bungalows."
Staring, the woman nodded. With a few taps on a terminal, the relevant information was displayed.
"Ah yes…here we are Captain Picard, that would be the cassowary. Everything is in order…if you would please put you thumb print on this…"
She pushed a PADD over to him and he applied his thumb. The instrument chirped and the woman smiled impossibly brighter.
"Thank you Captain Picard…may I say Sir…it's an honour to have you staying here. I…"
Jean-Luc smiled but it didn't quite reach his eyes.
"Thank you madam, but I do have some requests. Please refer to me as Mister Picard, not Captain and please see to it that we're not disturbed unless it's urgent. I chose this resort for it's well deserved reputation for seclusion. I take it we can stay in our bungalow or use the beach in complete privacy?"
The woman smiled and nodded making her ponytail flip up and down.
"Oh yes Cap…sorry, Mister Picard. There are sensors at the boundaries between bungalows and the beaches are scanned automatically from both seaward and our broad cover surveillance systems. I can assure you that you will have complete privacy."
Summoning a warmer smile, Jean-Luc felt a gentle touch on his back. He relaxed and sighed. The woman behind the desk gestured to a waiting young man.
"Steve here will take you to the transporter, your bags are already at the bungalow. I hope you have a pleasant stay."
The couple followed the youngster into a side room and took their positions on the pad. In seconds they rematerialised on the front veranda of the bungalow called Cassowary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly stepped to the handrail and closed her eyes, lifting her head and drawing a deep breath, infusing her senses with the smells and sounds of her surroundings. Over the gentle hissing of the swaying palms, the sea could be heard and she was delighted to also hear the sound of a nearby running creek. The sun was getting low in the sky and Jean-Luc stood silently, mesmerised by the sight of his stunning lover as the glowing rays lit the highlights in her fiery mane of red hair. Minutes passed in silence, words unnecessary as they allowed their minds to wander. Slowly turning, Beverly placed her hands on the rail behind her, leaning back and crossing her ankles.
"Hungry?"
Jean-Luc shrugged and smiled.
"Not really. You?"
"I could do with a bite…and so could you."
Shaking his head, Jean-Luc stepped up to her and wrapped her in his arms.
"Oh no you don't! We're on holidays, the Doctor and the Captain are back at Command."
Beverly's chuckle at his capriciousness quickly turned into a low moan of escalating need as he kissed her passionately. She could feel the growing heat of his body through his shirt and it fed her desire. Lifting her hands, she undid the buttons slowly and then pulled the shirt free of his trousers and opened it to allow her hands to roam over his chest and gently pinch his nipples.
Jean-Luc's hands went to the fastening of her dress. With deft fingers he undid it and slowly eased the material off her shoulders and down her torso. Next he attacked her lacy white bra. As it was released, he pulled it gently off her skin and kissed his way down her neck to teasingly nuzzle her breasts. Beverly sighed and held his head, guiding his questing mouth to her swelling nipples. He resisted her at first, exciting and frustrating her as he nibbled all around her nipples, but refusing to touch them. In retribution, Beverly released his head and employed her hands in undoing his trousers and reaching inside his briefs to gently tease his testicles and lower stomach but not his stiffened penis. As her fingers slid through the coarse hair, Jean-Luc growled low in his throat and pulled the dress down the rest of her body. He trailed his fingers up the insides of her thighs and lightly brushed the wet crotch of her panties. Beverly gasped as his mouth suddenly covered her lips in a searing kiss. She was abruptly lifted and, as he deepened the kiss, he carried her to one of two lounges on the veranda. Gently laying her down, he broke the kiss and quickly divested her of her dress, panties and sandals. Beverly opened her eyes to watch as he stared down at her. His shirt lay open exposing tantalising glimpses of his muscular chest and as her eyes lowered, she gasped with desire at the sight of his undone trousers and the bulging briefs underneath. His dark eyes never leaving hers, he shrugged off the shirt and slid his pants down his legs. With a flick of his foot, his shoes came off one by one and he stooped to rid himself of his socks. Now standing proudly aroused in nothing but his black briefs, his eyes grew intensely dark as he stared at his naked lover. With breathless abandon, Beverly whispered,
"I want to see all of you."
Slowly he hooked his thumbs into his briefs and pushed them down. His penis arched then sprang free as the material receded. A delighted Beverly crooked a finger at him.
"Come here my love."
He stepped up to her and she drew herself to her knees. Reaching out, she gently gripped his penis and pulled him closer. She could see he was panting with anticipation and she debated whether or not to tease. Deciding she couldn't wait, she guided his hard length into her mouth and slid her tongue lavishly up and down his shaft and over the head. Jean-Luc groaned and tangled his fingers in her hair. She tasted his first droplet and closed her eyes in passionate happiness, devoting herself to pleasuring her mate.
Jean-Luc had let his head loll back on his neck, his eyes closed in sensuous wonder. When Beverly sucked at him and took him deeply into her mouth, he growled and let his head fall forward, watching with open eyes and a slack mouth. Feeling the tension in his body, Beverly slowly withdrew, easing his throbbing penis from her lips a centimetre at a time. Her hands massaged his testicles and pushed up into the sensitive area between the scrotum and anus making him groan and thrust. When he finally slipped free of her mouth she rubbed her face against his erection filling her senses with his musky scent.
He leaned down and took her shoulders in his hands. Easing her onto her back, he knelt between her legs and kissed his way up to her breasts, his tongue swirling over the swollen peaks making Beverly arch her back and moan. When he sucked strongly and took a nipple deep within his mouth, Beverly gasped and sinuously stretched under him. He gave liberal attention to her firm breasts before leaving them and licking his way down the flat plain of her stomach. His fingers feathered over her folds, drawing a wanton moan from her and when his mouth covered her sex, she cried out his name. With the fingers of one hand, he spread her lips and slid his tongue over her, paying special attention to the turgid clitoris. Beverly shuddered and jerked and when he slid two thick fingers inside her she arched up, pressing her head hard into the pillow and gripping the cushion in a death like hold.
Her climax came rushing towards her but Jean-Luc suddenly left her and straightened his back. Without the necessary stimulation, the impending orgasm receded and a frustrated woman stared helplessly up in the falling dusk ready to beg if needed to make him give her the release she so desperately required. Seeing his dark eyes glittering and his face almost impassive, Beverly growled and slid her hand down to her sodden sex and began to masturbate. Jean-Luc caught her sliding hand and lifted to his face where he sucked her dew from her fingers. His voice was very deep and suffused with passion as he quietly said,
"Turn over my love."
Wasting no time, she did as he bade her and gasped in mindless need as she felt his large penis slide in her folds as his thighs and stomach made contact with her buttocks and legs. His hands went to her hips, positioning her and when he was satisfied, he leaned forward and cupped one breast in his hand, kneading and tweaking the nipple. In a desperate attempt to get him to enter her, Beverly pushed back into his gentle thrusts and reached back with her hand, trying to guide him inside her. Jean-Luc allowed her hand to grip him and he altered the angle of her hips until he slid into her, filling and joining them in one deeply satisfying action. With his free hand, he gripped her hip and pulled her to him as he thrust, deepening each incursion. Beverly took up his rhythm, gripping the sides of the lounge and moaning continuously. Every time Jean-Luc felt their climaxes approaching, he lessened his thrusts and concentrated on staying in control and each time he did this, Bevery called his name in desperation, her senses rapidly reaching overload. He let go of her hip and gently grabbed a handful of her hair. With soft pressure, he pulled her head back and said in a coarse voice,
"I am going to make you scream with ecstasy."
Beverly closed her eyes and whimpered.
"Yes my love…yes. I am yours."
He changed hands, swapping breasts and resuming his slow thrusts. His now free right hand caressed her side as it moved down and over her hip, seeking then finding her hot wetness.
Now as he slid in and out he tapped and swiped his fingers over her clitoris. In response, Beverly spread her knees wider and choked back a sob as he pushed deep inside her, his thumb broadly stroking the tight pearl of her desire. Suddenly her body tensed and she cried out.
"Oh yes…yes…more Jean-Luc…more…harder please God please…"
He increased his thrusts and used two fingers to slide over her clitoris. With her internal muscles clenching and milking him, he waited until her orgasm was almost upon her then stopped all movement. Beverly shrieked and bellowed his name, her entire body quaking and jerking. Taking his left hand from her breast, Jean-Luc gripped her hip and let loose his control. Plunging into her and continuing his bold digital caresses, Beverly was abruptly transported into erotic euphoria as she finally surrendered to a cataclysmic climax. Losing all control of her body, she collapsed forward and Jean-Luc followed her, his own release imminent. She climaxed again and again, her voice one long soft, tremulous scream as he bowed his head and bit her shoulder as he came in a tumultuous, reverberating, roaring orgasm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As their breathing steadied and their hearts slowed, Jean-Luc's body relaxed in total satiation. Still buried deep within his lover, he closed his eyes and eased his hands under her trembling form to embrace her. Unwilling and unable to move, Beverly felt him unwind and sighed with abiding happiness. The night sounds of the insect life became evident and Beverly realised her lover was falling asleep. With one hand she reached up and feathered her fingers over his sensitive scalp.
"Hey you…wake up. I really don't fancy feeding the mosquitoes out here."
His reply was to snuggle closer and kiss her hair. Beverly tried again.
"Come on my love, we have to go inside. We've had very little to eat today…how about I knock us up some cold roast chicken and salad? Hmm?"
He sighed and groaned piteously. Beverly raised her hips and he slipped out of her, making them both gasp softly. Realising she would not let the matter rest, Jean-Luc let her go and rose slowly to his knees, bowing his head. Beverly turned over and knelt in front of him, taking his face and kissing him tenderly.
"Come on Jean-Luc, we need to shower too and you need to fix my shoulder… that was quite a bite."
In the darkness he lifted his hand and gently felt the injury.
"I'm sorry mon coeur…did I hurt you?"
Kissing him again, Beverly shook her head.
"No I'm all right."
Taking his hand, she led him into the bungalow.
"Lights fifty percent."
In the bedroom they found what they needed in their cases and took time admiring the beautifully appointed room and en suite. Beverly gave Jean-Luc a tissue regenerator and he frowned at the bruised, reddened bite mark. Sighing and shaking his head, he passed the instrument back and forth over the area until the mark disappeared altogether.
They showered and dressed, Beverly in a sheer peach nightie and Jean-Luc in satin shorts. They replicated their meal and took it out onto the veranda, only now noticing the table and chairs. With a bottle of chilled wine, they ate and drank, listening to the close sounds of the night creatures and the stream, the thumping rumble of surf not far away. Beverly watched her lover in the dim light spilling out from inside and smiled at seeing him so relaxed. In the warmth of his company and the southern summer, Beverly finally felt the tension of the past weeks slowly leaving her. His voice was quiet and contemplative when he spoke.
"Happy?"
She sighed and closed her eyes.
"Oh yes, very. How about you?"
Jean-Luc chuckled lazily.
"I have just made the most extraordinary love with the love of my life, my stomach is full and there's no one seeking my attention for anything. Truth? I'm in seventh heaven."
Beverly laughed then reached for his hand.
"You've thought about what we did tonight, haven't you."
"Oh you've no idea. You my lovely Beverly have been the unrivalled focus of my sexual fantasies for thirty years."
There was companionable silence while Beverly digested that. In a hushed voice she confessed,
"Me too. Next time can we try one of mine?"
He lifted her hand and kissed the inside of her wrist.
"Anything my love, you may have anything within my power to provide. You have only to ask."
An hour later they were inside reading. Two hours after that they were asleep in bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning the couple ate a leisurely breakfast and, after cleaning up, took the time to thoroughly explore the bungalow. Although not overly large, it had everything they could possibly need and all of the high-grade technology was discreetly out of sight. If you wanted to forego modern conveniences, the cabin was well equipped to handle any tastes but it was the spa in its own atrium that caught Beverly's eye. She took in the floor to ceiling windows on three sides, giving an uninterrupted view of the jungle and the creek, while overhead the clear aluminium panels of the roof gave an unhindered vista of the sky. Imagining what it would be like to soak luxuriantly with her lover, fragrant oils and soft bubbles caressing their bodies…she sighed and blushed when she turned to find Jean-Luc staring at her intently. He stepped closer and smiled.
"You like?"
Beverly took one more look at the spa and sighed.
"Oh yes I do!"
"Then perhaps we can avail ourselves of it later tonight."
With a wicked smile, Beverly gently pinched his cheek.
"That's a certainty my Captain."
Chuckling, Jean-Luc took her hand and led her out into the living area.
"So what do you want to do?"
Beverly untucked his shirt and slid her hands over his chest.
"Actually my seductive lover, I'd like to go swimming. Then afterwards we can lay in the sun for a while and do absolutely nothing."
Jean-Luc sighed and shook his head in mock wonder.
"Absolutely nothing? My God what a concept."
Giggling, Beverly took his hand and coaxed him into the bedroom. Releasing him, she went to her drawers and opened one, rifling through the contents until she snorted with satisfaction.
"Here you are!"
Jean-Luc moved closer and smiled as Beverly held up a pretty sea-green pair of bathers. He folded his arms across his chest and stood his ground. Seeing that he wasn't going to leave the room, Beverly poked her tongue at him and made a dash for the bathroom, only just getting the door shut in time. She quickly stripped out of her clothes and slipped on the swimwear. Opening the door a crack, she saw that he was sitting on the bed, waiting patiently.
"Ta da!"
Her pirouette was watched appreciatively and when she came to stand between his legs, he leaned forward and kissed the valley between her breasts. Flushed, the beautiful woman held his head and lifted it.
"Now it's your turn."
He frowned slightly and shrugged.
"I don't have any swimwear…I'll just wear a pair of shorts."
Mutely Beverly shook her head, only just containing her glee. With exaggerated movements, she left his embrace, rummaged in her top drawer and turned triumphantly hoisting a light blue pair of speedos. His face fell and he shook his head.
"Oh no you don't! I'll be damned if I'll wear those…those…whatever they are."
Huffing Beverly came to sit on his lap.
"What's the big deal? They're hardly different from your briefs and I don't hear you complaining about them."
"That's just it! I don't relish the thought of parading around in my underwear."
"Oh come on! Tell me…truthfully…do you like seeing me in my bathers?"
Pursing his lips, Jean-Luc silently knew she would win this, but stubborn pride made him take the bait.
"You know I do."
"Then how come I don't get to see you in a pair of sexy men's bathers? Hmm? A bit of a double standard don't you think?"
Sighing, Jean-Luc closed his eyes.
"Beverly it's not the same. I…"
"Codswallop Jean-Luc! Admit it, you're only too happy to ogle me, but I can't do the same thing."
"Beverly…"
"All right, fine. I'll go and replicate a costume from the eighteen hundreds, something in heavy wool that covers everything…they even had hats! Why I bet I could even…"
"But…"
"No don't tell me. You're afraid you'll be seen. By whom Jean-Luc?"
He grabbed the hand holding the speedos and shook his hand.
"Stop! Enough, you win."
She eased off his lap and stood triumphantly, a huge grin on her face. He looked up and sighed. Standing, he undressed and stepped into the bathers, pulling them up and tying the drawstring snugly low on his hips. Frowning, he looked up to see two dark blue eyes simply devouring him. He stood a little straighter and flexed some muscles in his arms, chest and abdomen. Beverly gasped softly, the tip of her tongue appearing to wet her dry lips. His voice was husky and very deep.
"Well, what do you think?"
To answer him, she stepped forward and ran her fingers lightly around the upper edge of the speedos. He took her head and kissed her soundly. Breaking the kiss, Jean-Luc took her hand and chuckled.
"Well it's off to the beach then."
Dazed, Beverly looked up at him, her eyes slightly unfocussed.
"What?"
He leaned in and kissed her cheek.
"The beach Beverly…we're going for a swim."
Beverly smiled dreamily at him and sighed.
"Oh."
Suddenly her mind cleared and she blushed.
"Oh yes, of course. Come on then Jean-Luc time to move."
He was still chuckling as the stepped onto the path through the palms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The water was deliciously warm and the surf was boisterous. They swam and body surfed until tired then retreated to their towels to lie in the sun. Beverly used a spare towel to dry off and watched as Jean-Luc stretched out face down and cradled his head on his arms. Looking around, she saw a small bay truncated at each end by fingers of rocky land that jutted out into the azure sea. The creek entered the beach on the right side, the water fresh and clean but darkened with tannin. Just above the high tide mark, the jungle encroached, smaller shrubs and trees closest, growing progressively larger the further away from the beach they got. Birds called loudly and occasionally the Doctor could see brightly coloured parrots nibbling on seedpods in the canopy. Running her fingers through her hair, Beverly sighed and contemplated Jean-Luc, his steady breathing indicating sleep. She eased herself down on the towel, on her side and close to her lover. Her hand lifted and her fingers traced the outline of his shoulder blade as it rose and fell. She leaned over and sniffed his skin, feeling the warmth and closing her eyes. Her tongue crept out and she tasted him, the saltiness making her mouth water. Flattening her hand on his back, she gently slid it over his spine and he sighed deeply. Her eyes drifted down to his tight firm buttocks and her hand drifted downwards. She was about to caress his behind when he suddenly turned over. The Doctor froze but he seemed to relax and slip further into sleep. Beverly swallowed, the heat climbing slowly through her body as her eyes roamed over his magnificent body. The wet speedos did little to hide his genitals and Beverly grinned wickedly, her choice of colour perfectly delivering the delightful sight. Emboldened, she bent and lightly licked his nipple, amazed as it immediately stiffened and pebbled. Employing her hand, she softly ran her fingers through the curling hair of his chest and stomach, her caresses descending centimetre by centimetre towards the edge of his bathers. Her attention stayed on his nipples, licking first one, then the other. As her fingers slipped over the material of his bathers, she gasped softly as her hand encountered his erection. Turning her head, she was greeted by the extremely alluring sight of an aroused man in very sheer attire. Smiling, she was about to move down his body when he suddenly slid one hand into her hair. Her heart skipped a beat as he gently pulled her down to him. When her face was very close, he whispered,
"What a pleasant way to wake up. Tell me…are you a mermaid…risen from the sea to seduce me?"
Beverly kissed him softly and shook her head.
"Alas no my intrepid Captain…I am nothing more than an ordinary woman who just happens to be head-over-heels in love with you."
Lifting his other hand, Jean-Luc held her head and kissed her.
"Ordinary? I hardly think so! But tell me…just what were you hoping to achieve by such delightful caresses?"
Beverly giggled and turned to look at his impressive erection.
"I think that's obvious."
Jean-Luc snorted and shook his head.
"But that's too easy! My God…I only have to think of you and that happens. Why do you think I spent so much time in the Ready Room?"
Beverly sat up and gasped incredulously, one hand flying to her mouth.
"What? Are you telling me you had to hide in there 'cause you had a hard on?"
Jean-Luc sniffed and lifted his chin.
"Well not every time…but occasionally…yes."
Resting her weight on one hand, Beverly leaned forward and kissed him with slow passion, her free hand lightly pinching his nipple. Tapering the kiss, she lifted her head and licked her lips.
"So…did you ever…do it?"
His eyes darkening, he gazed at her.
"Once or twice."
Beverly turned her head and stared at his bulging bathers. Idly, she ran her fingers over the hard flesh and felt a rush of arousal as he twitched in response. Turning back to face him, her voice was a husky whisper.
"Would you show me?"
He frowned and tilted his head.
"You want me to..?"
Licking her lips again, Beverly nodded mutely, her blue eyes dark with desire. Jean-Luc swallowed, his natural reticence making him hesitate. Beverly kissed him then caught his eyes in a blatant stare of sensuous need.
"Please…"
As she spoke, her hand deftly undid the drawstring of his bathers. She gently nibbled his nipple as she freed him and ran her fingers up his length. She raised her head and kissed him again.
"Please Jean-Luc…"
His right hand flattened on his chest and moved slowly down his torso. Beverly sat up and watched intently as he took himself in hand and gently squeezed. She took his bathers and moved them down his thighs, his hips lifting to help her. He slowly started to stroke his hardness and Beverly mewed with pleasure. He lifted his other hand and touched her breast. She straightened and slipped the shoulder straps off, lowering the garment and exposing herself to him.
He growled low in his throat and pinched her nipple. Beverly groaned softly as she watched his pumping hand and her eyes widened as he began to thrust as well. Returning her attention to his face, she leaned forward, taking a breast in her hand and offering it to his mouth. Closing his eyes, he sucked gently on the swollen nipple, his free hand caressing the other. The Doctor moaned and turned to watch his pumping hand. His heels dug into the sand as he pushed upwards, his body tense and straining. His free hand suddenly left her breast and quickly traversed the distance to his testicles. Taking them in his fist, he squeezed rhythmically and gasped around Beverly's nipple. She saw him swell and the skin darken in colour. He released her breast and growled as his climax approached. Hips bucking, he abruptly twisted towards her and grunted. Mesmerised, Beverly watched as his semen left him in strong spurts, anointing his hand and lower stomach. Rolling back onto the towel, he sighed and stilled his hand. When he had his breathing under control, he whispered,
"Well?"
Beverly kissed him and ran her fingers over his sensuous lower lip.
"I think that was probably the most erotic thing I've ever seen. Thank you my love…I'll never forget it, or the trust you placed in me."
She kissed him again and he sighed.
"Will you do it for me?"
Beverly giggled and bumped her nose to his.
"What…now?"
He grinned and shook his head.
"No…but will you?"
She looked deeply into his eyes and nodded.
"Yes."
Smiling, he kissed her.
"Now that is something to look forward to!"
Beverly giggled and gently slapped his chest.
"You make it sound like Christmas."
He sat up slowly and grimaced at his messy state.
"It is! Have you any idea how many times I've imagined you doing that very thing?"
The red head smiled her eyes warm.
"Well no, but you don't have to fantasise any more my love. You can have me any time you want."
Jean-Luc smiled and sighed.
"I love you mon coeur."
"And I you. Now how about we go back into the water?"
Looking ruefully down, Jean-Luc nodded.
"And then we can go back and have lunch."
Pleasantly surprised, Beverly laughed.
"Don't tell me you're hungry?"
Looking wounded, the Captain frowned.
"Well I have been busy after all. If I'm going to continue with this particular sort of physical activity then I need sustenance."
Beverly snorted and helped him to his feet, suppressing a giggle at the sight of his bathers hanging on his thighs.
"Very well, I'm certainly not about to argue."
Once his bathers were again securely on his hips, he took her hand and together they walked back into the waves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch they explored the creek and the surrounding bush. While sitting on some rocks beside the swiftly flowing stream, Jean-Luc suddenly gripped Beverly's arm and pointed upstream. There, a very large bird scratched and searched through the leaf litter beside the creek. Beverly gasped and whispered,
"What sort of bird is that?"
Keeping his voice soft, Jean-Luc replied,
"It's a cassowary. See the horny crest on the head?"
"Uh huh."
"That denotes it as a male. The colours are also indicative, the females being a drab brown."
Beverly turned and looked disbelievingly at her love.
"And you know this how?"
Looking superior, Jean-Luc sniffed.
"I read it in a brochure at the cabin. These birds are common here…it's why the bungalow is so named."
They watched until the bird disappeared back into the undergrowth. Standing, Jean-Luc took Beverly's hand and they followed the creek upstream until they came to the boundary. Two metre high posts, spaced every ten metres hosted thin red laser beams. Jean-Luc broke one beam and a feminine voice said,
"Attention. You are encroaching out of your area. Please withdraw."
Beverly giggled and squeezed Jean-Luc's hand.
"God it sounds like the Enterprise security. I wonder what it would do if we walked through?"
Jean-Luc snorted and looked along the beams.
"Probably nothing, except to warn the occupants of the next area…and it's likely someone from the complex would be dispatched."
"So we wouldn't be disintegrated?"
The Captain frowned and looked at his lover askance.
"I hardly think that would be good for business."
Beverly chuckled and looked up as a black and white sea bird pecked at some seeds. With a large breath she smelled the thick bush and sighed.
"Come on, let's go back to the cabin."
Nodding, they held hands and followed the creek back to their accommodation. Once inside, Beverly sat and picked up a book while Jean-Luc replicated some hot drinks.

 

 

 

 

 

As the Captain set about creating dinner, Beverly went and activated the spa. She poured scented oils and bubble bath into the heating water then went to the replicator and retrieved a bowl of hulled strawberries and a chilled bowl of chocolate sauce. With covers on the bowls, she nodded with satisfaction and left to join Jean-Luc. He was just putting the steaming dishes on the table and Beverly sidled up to him and encircled his waist with her hands.
"Mmm…marinara pasta, hot rolls and cheese. Perfect. How did you know?"
He turned in her arms and smiled, kissing the tip of her nose.
"I know you."
The Doctor sighed and tilted her head, sneaking under his nose and kissing him languidly. Eyebrows raised, Jean-Luc returned the kiss and smiled when she broke it to stare at the table.
"Come on…let's eat."
Half an hour later, two full people stood on the veranda enjoying some wine. Beverly held up her glass and toasted her lover.
"Here's to you my love. Intrepid Captain, consummate lover…and smart enough to have a case of wines delivered to our accommodation. Bravo!"
Jean-Luc chuckled, raised his glass and sighed.
"And here's to you mon coeur. Wonderful Doctor, exquisite lover and love of my life."
They gently touched glasses and sipped. Jean-Luc's eyes were closed when Beverly said sultrily,
"I've activated the spa."
His eyes opened and he smiled, his handsome face softening.
"Have you now? What did you have in mind my sensuous lover?"
Running the tip of her tongue around the rim of the glass, Beverly's eyes darkened and glittered.
"I have replicated some strawberries and chocolate sauce. How do you think we should employ them?"
Jean-Luc took a large sip of his wine, seemingly lost in thought. He allowed his eyes to look at the night sky as Beverly stepped closer and rubbed his nipples through his silk shirt. His deep voice sent a thrill up her spine.
"I have a few ideas."
With her free hand, she took his hand and silently led him to the spa. Once there, she took his glass and placed it beside hers next to the berries and chocolate. Then she slowly stripped Jean-Luc of his clothing, stepping back to admire his naked body. Taking his cue, Jean-Luc took his time divesting her of her apparel kissing and caressing the skin as it was exposed. As he slid her panties down her legs, he dropped to his knees and used his nose and tongue to nuzzle her folds. Beverly mewed and shifted her feet, opening her legs and taking his head in her hands. He feathered his fingers over the sensitive skin inside her thighs and Beverly sighed. He slowly stood, kissing his way up her torso until he reached her breasts. There he teased and tantalised, nipping and swirling his tongue around the swollen buds. The Doctor released his head and slid her hands down to his erection. With one hand, she stroked him, the other cupped his testicles, hefting and gently massaging them. Jean-Luc growled and suddenly took a nipple into his mouth. Beverly moaned and threw her head back. Taking the offered expanse of alabaster skin, Jean-Luc sucked and licked his way up her neck to her face where he kissed her passionately. They stopped their caresses and stood close, panting and staring into each other's eyes. The Captain took Beverly's hand and led her down into the spa. The water was comfortably warm and Beverly pressed a button, activating the water jets. Bubbles soon gathered and the heady scent of the oils pervaded the atmosphere.
Jean-Luc sat and pulled Beverly to him, encouraging her to straddle him. With her knees either side of his thighs, both of them gasped as his stiff erection slid through her folds. Even in the water, Jean-Luc could feel her slickness. He kissed her and used his fingers to tweak her nipples, enjoying her reactions.
Beverly tapered the kiss and dipped one finger in the chocolate. Spreading the sauce across his lower lip, she grinned evilly before licking him clean. A deep kiss followed and Jean-Luc gently eased her back. With his own fingers coated in chocolate, he smeared the sticky sauce over her nipples then took time as he meticulously cleaned them with his tongue. Beverly sighed and moaned. Not to be outdone, she picked up a strawberry and smothered it in chocolate. When she had Jean-Luc's attention, she bit it in half then kissed him, passing the fruit into his mouth. He smiled and copied her, delighted as they fed each other six berries. Suddenly Jean-Luc placed his hands on her waist, lifted and turned, placing her on the spa's edge. Standing between her legs, he took the chocolate bowl and drizzled sauce over her sex, parting the lips and covering her thoroughly. Before she could react, he bent and feasted on her.
"Oh God…yes!"
Emboldened by her wanton reaction, he slipped two fingers inside her and sucked her clitoris into his hot mouth.
Her orgasm took her unawares. With her head arched back she shrieked and cried out his name. Undaunted, Jean-Luc persisted with his intimate caresses, bringing two more climaxes before he finally relented and allowed her to recover. He stood and took her into his arms as she whimpered and shook. Stroking her hair, he waited patiently while she regained her breath. Eventually, she lifted her head and grinned, wiping a finger over his lips and sucking off the residual chocolate.
"Mmm," she mewed…
"French chocolate."
Jean-Luc snorted and kissed her. He was surprised when she whispered,
"Stay standing."
She slipped off the edge and sat on the submerged seat. Taking the chocolate bowl, she held his stiff penis while she covered it in sauce. Looking up at the transfixed man, she licked her lips before slowly attacking the object of her passion. He growled loudly and gripped her head, unable to resist the gentle thrusts that pulsed in his hips. She marvelled at his hardness and the silky soft skin that covered him. Gently massaging his testicles, she sucked and licked bringing him to the edge and holding him there. He groaned and pulled her head back, making him slip from her mouth.
"No," he panted…
"I want to be inside you."
Beverly nodded and stood as he sat down. Taking her place on his lap she sighed as he guided his erection into her. Beverly gripped his shoulders and leaned back, staring at the stars, offering her breasts. His hands covered her and kneaded, his fingers rolling the nipples between them. Flexing her legs, she slid up and down his shaft, rising until he almost slipped free, then plunging back down, burying him deeply inside her. Unable to resist, she leaned back to him and groaned sensuously as he took a nipple in his mouth. As he sucked, she felt her climax approaching and tried to slow down, but he sensed her intentions and grabbed her hips, lifting her pushing up into her rapidly. Lost in ecstasy, Beverly arched in his hands and cried out, her internal muscles clenching him rhythmically. He clenched his jaw and tried valiantly to forestall his own orgasm, but he couldn't. With a shout of liberation, he drove deeply into her and held her to him as he came.
Later, after he'd regained his breath and opened his eyes, he realised that she'd bitten him. Her head rested on his bleeding shoulder and when she slowly raised it, her forehead was smeared in blood. He lifted a wet hand and cleaned her, her dreamy smile and glazed eyes indicating she'd no idea what he was doing.
They stayed in the spa for another half an hour, then Beverly repaired his shoulder and they retired to their bed, exhausted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next four days they spent their time swimming, lounging, and making love. On the seventh day, in the afternoon, they stood in the living area, relaxed and tanned, in uniform, their bags beside them. Jean-Luc lifted his head and said,
"Computer, two to transport to the main complex."
"Affirmative. Energising."
The materialised in the complex and Jean-Luc went to the desk to finalise their stay. The clerk smiled knowingly at the Captain and instructed him to validate a PADD. This he did, then they were escorted out to the shuttle. Their bags were already aboard, so they entered and quickly went through the pre-flight check. As they lifted off, Beverly watched the land recede beneath them and sighed. Jean-Luc caught her sadness and said softly,
"We can come back."
Beverly chuckled wryly and snorted.
"You? Take a vacation with me?"
He tried to look offended but couldn't quite manage it. His face broke into a grin and he nodded.
"Indeed. In fact I intend to do quite a lot with you…including, if you agree, moving you into my quarters."
Her silence began to worry him. Fearing he'd overstepped his bounds, he said quietly,
"Beverly?"
Broken from her reverie, she turned to him and smiled tenderly.
"Do you mean it?"
He raised his eyebrows and tilted his head.
"About moving in with me? Yes."
Beverly sighed and leaned over to kiss him.
"Is that a yes?"
"Uh huh. Tell me…how long have you been thinking of this?"
"Ever since we first made love. Once we did that I knew I could never be happy without you in my life."
The Doctor chuckled.
"Oh Jean-Luc…I'm already in your life…I have been for years!"
He nodded, his face speculative.
"That's true, but it was never as I wanted. I love you mon coeur, you have filled my dreams for decades. I want to share every part of my life with you."
Beverly smiled and wiped at an errant tear.
"Do you realise just how happy you've made me?"
Taking his eyes from the viewport, Jean-Luc smiled tenderly.
"As happy as you've made me?"
She nodded and they both chuckled. Twenty minutes later they touched down at Command.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning three officers, Jean-Luc, Beverly and Adam stood in the transporter room, smiling down at Admiral Nechayev and Phillipa Louvois. A pretty female Lieutenant stood behind the women, smiling shyly at Adam. Nechayev caught Jean-Luc's eye.
"Well Captain you're back on active duty. How does it feel?"
Jean-Luc took a deep breath and smiled.
"It feels wonderful Admiral. I am looking forward to stepping back onto the Bridge."
Phillipa clasped her hands behind her back and said in a saucy voice,
"I thought Starship Captains could only have one mistress?"
Looking straight into her eyes, Jean-Luc replied,
"That's for the ordinary ones."
Snorting with laughter Phillipa shook her head.
"Goodbye Jean-Luc. Try to stay out of trouble."
He nodded and lifted his head as the call came through.
"Enterprise ready for transport."
Nechayev turned to the operator and nodded, her voice soft.
"Energise."
After the Enterprise officers had gone, Alynna said softly,
"Safe travels."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will was waiting to greet his friends. He stood to attention as a mark of respect and grinned broadly as the three appeared on the pad.
"Welcome back Captain, Beverly…you too Lieutenant."
He gestured and two Ensigns came forward to take the bags. The officers stepped down and Jean-Luc smiled at his First Officer.
"It's good to be home Number One. How is my ship?"
"Just fine Captain, except for loosing the port nacelle. We…"
"What?"
Holding up his hands, the big man smiled.
"Just kidding Sir…she's fine."
Jean-Luc glared but couldn't hold it. Lowering his head he shook it ruefully.
"Let's go to the Bridge."
Grinning Will stood aside and bowed as Jean-Luc walked past. The Captain paused and muttered to Beverly,
"It'll take days to get him back to normal."
Beverly chuckled and gripped his arm.
"I'm going to Sickbay. See you tonight?"
He nodded and sighed happily, watching as she walked away from him. Momentarily lost in his thoughts, he started when he heard Will clear his throat.
"Sir?"
Brought back, Jean-Luc flushed slightly then walked briskly towards the turbolift. Will had trouble keeping the shit-eating grin off his face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next hour, Jean-Luc went over the ship's status. Once up to date, he retired to the Ready Room and updated his logs then sat quietly, sipping his favourite Earl Grey tea. Lifting his head he called,
"Picard to LaForge."
"LaForge here."
"Would you join me in the Ready Room please Commander?"
"Aye Sir, on my way. LaForge out."
He had only minutes to wait. The door chimed and Jean-Luc said softly,
"Come."
Geordi entered and smiled at his Captain.
"Hello Sir, welcome back."
"Thank you Geordi, it's good to be home. Please have a seat."
The Captain waited until his Chief Engineer was settled then he took a large breath.
"Commander I would like Engineering to make some alterations to my quarters. Specifically I want a larger bedroom with more closet space and a bigger bed, a larger bathroom with a hot tub and more space in the living area with provision for another desk."
Nodding, Geordi smiled and tilted his head.
"That should be no problem Captain, sounds like you're taking company."
Quelling his rush of irritation, Jean-Luc forced a smile on his face.
"As a matter of fact I am. I would like you to personally oversee the work and have it completed as soon as possible."
"Of course Sir, it will be my pleasure."
"Very well, that is all, you're dismissed."
Standing Geordi smiled down at his Captain.
"Thank you Captain…and Sir? Congratulations."
The Engineer left and Jean-Luc smiled to himself. He debated how long it would take for the news to get around the ship. An hour later he received a hail from Sickbay.
"Crusher to Picard."
"Picard here Beverly."
"You don't waste any time do you?"
"Well I thought we'd be best to get it done. Are you alone?"
"Yes I'm in my office."
"In that case the truth is I don't want to be without you for one minute more than I have to."
He heard her sigh.
"I had no idea you were so romantic."
"Well mon coeur I hope to show you quite a few things you didn't know."
"I look forward to it."
He smiled wickedly and lowered his voice.
"Beverly."
"Yes."
"Do you remember you said you would show me something? Something like I showed you?"
There was a moments' silence followed by Beverly's quiet voice.
"Yes."
"Would you show me tonight?"
This time the breathlessness was unmistakable.
"Yes."
"Good. I'll see you at seventeen thirty."
"OK."
"Picard out."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Jean-Luc finally finished his shift, he was running late. A call from Command regarding the next mission had kept him in the Ready Room and he hurried through the corridors, cursing his luck.
The doors to his quarters parted obediently and he came to a halt just inside as his eyes became accustomed to the dimness. He smelled roses and his eyes swept the room, seeing a trail of rose petals leading to his bedroom. He undid his tunic and stripped it off, dropping it on the floor as he made his way, following the trail. His bedroom door opened and the breath was caught in his throat as he saw Beverly spread naked on the bed. She seemed to be dozing but as he silently approached, she opened her eyes and smiled sultrily up at him.
"Hello lover. I've been waiting for you…I'm so hot…"
He stood beside the bed and drifted his fingers over her breasts. Stretching languidly, Beverly whispered,
"Take off you clothes."
In silence, his eyes never leaving her nude body, he doffed his clothing and stood aroused and still beside the bed.
Beverly reached up and began to play with her breasts. Jean-Luc reached for her but she shook her head.
"No. Just watch."
Keeping her eyes locked on his, she built her desire. Sighing and undulating her hips, one hand crept down and slid through her folds, the other continued to caress her nipple. As her fingers slid over her clitoris, she gasped his name. Jean-Luc stepped closer and smelled her intimate scent, his erection stiffening even more.
Beverly began to writhe and moan, her body flushing with arousal. She felt the bed dip and watched as Jean-Luc knelt between her legs, his eyes transfixed on her sex. The hand on her breast left and joining the lower one. Lifting her hips, she inserted a finger and cried out at the sensation. Jean-Luc groaned gently and the sound spurred her on. Quickening her actions she bucked as her fingers tantalised her pearl bringing her ever closer to her climax. She felt Jean-Luc's hand on her thighs then heard his husky deep voice.
"That's it Beverly…come for me…come for me my love."
It was all she needed. With one final caress she arched off the bed and called his name. His body covered hers immediately and he entered her in one powerful stroke. Unable to control herself, she writhed as he plunged vigorously in and out of her, each orgasm stronger than the last. Inevitably, Jean-Luc was swept up in her passion and gave in to his own release. With a guttural shout he came hard, losing sight and hearing, his head spinning.

 

 

 

 

He heard her voice as if from far away.
"Jean-Luc? Jean-Luc are you all right?"
He opened his eyes and swallowed. Finding his voice he answered,
"Yes…yes I'm all right."
Beverly sighed under him and chuckled.
"You gave me a fright. I thought you'd passed out."
He snorted and lifted his head.
'"I very nearly did. My God Beverly what did you do to me?"
She kissed him tenderly and sighed.
"Now you know what you do to me."
He chuckled again and tiredly rolled to one side.
"If this continues I will never want to leave my quarters."
Beverly sat up and tickled his stomach, making him snort and grab for her hands.
"Come on lover. We have to have a shower and eat some dinner."
He sighed.
"Very well. Tell me what did you hear about my orders?"
"You mean about your quarters?"
"Uh huh."
"You want them enlarged."
"Do you approve?"
"As a matter of fact yes, but next time consult me first, ok?"
He nodded and smiled.
"I've had another idea."
Beverly sat on the bed and stroked his face.
"And what is that?"
"A nursery."
She was silent, but a small smile emerged.
"Well we'll see."
"Is that a yes?"
"Maybe. Give me some time…I need to think about it."
He stood and held out his hand, guiding her to her feet.
"All right I understand but here's something else to think about. Will you marry me?"
Beverly's knees gave out and she sat heavily on the bed.
"What?"
"Come on, it's a simple question. Will you marry me…please?"
She looked at his naked body, then at her own nakedness and started to laugh. Jean-Luc frowned down at her…this was not quite the reaction he'd hoped for.
"Beverly?"
With an effort, the Doctor regained control.
"Let me get this right. First you suggest we start a family, then you propose marriage. Don't you think you've got that arse about?"
Jean-Luc sat beside her and took her hand.
"Does it matter? We love each other, that's all that counts."
Beverly sighed and chuckled.
"Being married to you is going to be an adventure isn't it."
He grinned irrepressibly and nodded.
"Indeed. Is that a yes?"
"To what…marriage or kids?"
"Both."
Sighing, Beverly nodded.
"Yes…to both."
Jean-Luc stood and pulled her into his arms.
"I will make you happy mon coeur, I swear it."
Beverly's heart swelled and she laughed happily.
"I'll hold you to that."
Together they showered, ate dinner and retired for the night.
In each other's arms Beverly sighed and snuggled into his embrace.
"Well the next few years are going to be interesting."
Jean-Luc kissed her and said softly,
"I'll make it so."
Sleep claimed them.