Confessions From The Edge.

 

Jean-Luc Picard was where he'd wanted to be for nearly thirty years. He should have been deliriously happy, but he wasn't. The woman he loved…the only woman he ever truly loved, lay beneath him, her legs gripping his waist as her fingernails dug into the muscles of his shoulders. They were having sex, hot, sweaty, mindless sex, but it wasn't what he wanted.
These past months…had it been eight months already?...should have been the happiest of his life. Instead he'd been left feeling hollow, hollow and very, very sad.
As she had instructed, his eyes were open, and to her, it appeared as if he was staring at her intently, but in reality he had retreated inside his mind.
He went back, back to the beginning, to the moment where he had let his cowardice overrule his heart.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc hummed as he laid the table for the evening meal. His friendship with Beverly Crusher, CMO of his mighty Starship, was the most cherished thing he possessed. It was a deep friendship, covering nearly thirty years and it seemed to him, it had grown stronger recently. They shared breakfast almost every morning, often ate lunch together and dinner was usually taken together too. Yes, he sighed, things couldn't be better. Then he paused and shook his head, a wistful grin on his face.
"Well, Jean-Luc, actually it could be better."
He loved Beverly, had done so since the first time he'd seen her. For most of the years of their friendship, he had loved her silently, not the least because she had chosen to marry his best friend and even after he died and he and Beverly grew apart, he continued to love her. Then, twenty years after the death of her husband, she came back to him, to serve as Chief Medical Officer on his new ship, the indefatigable, Enterprise.
It was difficult as first, indeed he had tried to stop her appointment, but as time went on, he realised he could live with her in close proximity. He still loved her, but he was willing to suffer the pain of unrequited love just to have her in his life. For Beverly, their relationship became comfortable, like a favourite old pair of slippers. She came to rely on Jean-Luc for many things, not the least to be her emotional anchor.
Once, after an intriguing experience with an alien culture who captured them and implanted neuro-cortical stimulators in their brains, they developed the ability to read each other's mind. Around a fire, late one night on the alien planet, Beverly had learned of Jean-Luc's love for her. She acted surprised, but Jean-Luc was privy to her thoughts too and he felt the echo of her love for him. Later, once again back on board the Enterprise and the stimulators removed, Jean-Luc took a terrible risk. He invited Beverly to dinner and afterwards and offered her his heart. She turned him down, saying that perhaps they should be afraid of what he proposed. He had been deeply wounded by her rejection, at night alone in his bed he almost writhed in pain, but over a period of time he came to understand her reasoning and determined to keep her in his life, if not as his lover, then as his best friend.
Things went well for over two years. Then, one night after dinner, an uncharacteristically restless Beverly put her brandy balloon down on the low table and turned to the man who was seated at her side.
"Jean-Luc…we need to talk."
Surprised, Jean-Luc turned to her, put his glass down and devoted all his attention to her.
"Go on."
Crossing her legs, then snorting and uncrossing them, Beverly steepled her fingers under her chin and took a deep breath.
"Over the past few months I have been feeling increasingly…"
She stopped talking and Jean-Luc noticed a flush colour her milky white skin.
"Yes?"
She sighed and briefly closed her eyes.
"I'm horny, Jean-Luc…horny all the time. I think it's hormonal and I've scanned myself, but everything seems fine."
Somewhat taken aback, Jean-Luc's mouth gaped before he snapped it shut.
"Well…er…I…"
She held up her hand.
"You don't have to say anything, I understand, but I have a proposal for you."
Now dumbfounded, all Jean-Luc could do was nod.
"I need release, Jean-Luc, masturbation just isn't enough. I want to have sex with you."
He sat still and silent while his mind went into overdrive. Before he could say anything, Beverly elaborated.
"Now I know you probably have some ideas in your head, all sorts of romance and violins, but I don't want that. I want to be able to come to you when I need to, have uncomplicated sex, then leave…no strings attached."
Still he sat silently, trying to comprehend what she was offering. His reticence was beginning to rankle Beverly. She took a short breath and abruptly stood. Looking down at the stunned man she said crisply,
"Of course if you're unwilling, I'm sure I can find someone else to…help me."
She turned and took only three steps towards the door when Jean-Luc sprang to his feet, saying roughly,
"Beverly."
She stopped and turned to him, one eyebrow raised in query.
"Don't go."
She covered the distance between them and locked her eyes with his.
"Well?"
He nodded silently and in that moment he betrayed himself and the love he had always held for her.
So it started. At first, Beverly would only appear, usually late at night, twice a month, then weekly, and then two or three times a week and each time it was the same. Little foreplay and absolutely no tenderness.
Jean-Luc was heartsick. He didn't want to have sex with Beverly; he wanted to make love to her. Every time she told him to fuck her, his artificial heart squeezed in sympathy with the tears in his eyes he never let her see…and she would never allow.
As his penis slid in and out for her, he was overwhelmed with the need to tell her he loved her. He slowly closed his eyes and savoured the sensations coursing through his body. He also slowed, however slightly, his actions, wishing to prolong the pleasure, the connection…tenuous as it was, but of course she noticed.
Although she was panting her voice was sharp.
"Stop that, Jean-Luc!"
His eyes snapped open and two tears slipped free. Beverly screwed up her face and lifted her hips higher.
"I'm nearly there…stop that sentimental crap and just fuck me!"
Unable to say no, Jean-Luc did as he was asked and, when she came; he registered his own bleak, cheerless orgasm. He wanted to enjoy the afterglow, to hold her in his arms and whisper endearments, but she wouldn't permit it. She allowed a few minutes for them each to regain their breath before she urged him to roll off her. Then, as he lay quietly in the bed, she would quickly exit, sometimes going into the bathroom for a quick shower, sometimes not, but in any case, she was out his door in scant minutes, leaving him bereft and desolate.
As the outer door whispered shut, Jean-Luc sat up and swivelled until he was seated on the bedside. He lowered his head into his hands and wept. He couldn't go on like this, living a lie and denying his feelings.
Something had to give…and soon.

 

 

 

As soon as she entered his quarters next morning she could see there was something amiss. He was very quiet and the dark circles under his eyes told her he'd not slept the previous night.
Not wishing to break the brittle silence, she sent him a smile as she sat at the dining table. He returned the smile, but she couldn't miss the haunted melancholy in his eyes. Beverly considered Jean-Luc to be her best friend and, under normal circumstances would do anything within her power to help him, but deep inside she knew what was wrong and chose to ignore it.
Breakfast was uncomfortable and Beverly was relieved when it was finally over. She stood, placed her serviette on the table and smiled, saying brightly,
"Well, that was nice. Shall we do lunch?"
Jean-Luc got to his feet slowly and shook his head. In a soft voice he said,
"How can you do it, Beverly?"
Immediately on her guard, the Doctor feigned innocence.
"Do what, Jean-Luc?"
He smiled at that. It was a sad smile that made him bow his head.
"You know what I'm talking about, Beverly."
Anger bubbled up to the surface, making Beverly's voice uncharacteristically sharp.
"I don't have time for games. Say what it is you have on your mind…I have to get to work."
That stung, but compared to his deeper hurt, it was nothing. Jean-Luc looked at the woman he loved and sighed.
"Beverly…I can't go on the way we are."
Clinging to her veneer of innocence, Beverly shook her head, seemingly confused.
"What? What do you mean? Don't you want me to come for breakfast any more?"
How he kept his features calm and his voice under control, he didn't know.
"No, Beverly, that's not what I mean."
Impatient…and frightened, Beverly said snidely,
"What the hell are you on about?"
What he said made her panic.
"I love you, Beverly. And I want to show you that love when we…"
He got no further. Beverly spun around and hastened from his quarters, leaving Jean-Luc alone…again.

 

 

 

To make sure she didn't have to see him over the next few days, Beverly sent her Vulcan Second in Command, Selar to attend the morning meetings with the senior staff. She avoided him at meal times and politely refused his requests to see her.
Jean-Luc spent each long night tossing and turning in his bed, one part of him wishing she would come to him, another part mourning her loss.
Two weeks passed and Jean-Luc became more and more distant from his crew. Then, late one night, not long after he had gone to bed in the forlorn hope he would find peaceful sleep, she came to him. He was awake when she entered his bedroom. In the starlight emanating from his viewport she slipped out of her nightie and slid into his bed. He closed his eyes, trying desperately not to succumb, but her scent reached him the same time as her hands and he fell into her spell. He had meant to say something…anything to make her see, but as soon as she caressed him, he was lost.
Their desire escalated quickly and before he knew it, he was over her…entering her and he was powerless to stop it. She pulled him down to her and whispered hoarsely into his ear,
"Oh God…fuck me, Jean-Luc…quickly, fuck me!"
He rebelled. Finally he found the courage to deny her. In the darkness he shook his head and kissed her. She fought him, trying to wrench free, but he wouldn't let her go. After several moments he broke the kiss to say roughly,
"No, Beverly. Tonight it will be as I want."
He could see her eyes glittering as she glared at him. She shook her head, hissing,
"Then it will be your last time, Captain."
Her use of his rank, rather then his name stung. He relented slightly, hating the sound of his voice as he begged,
"Please, Beverly…please let me make love to you."
A strong hand gripped his face, focusing his attention.
"I want you to fuck me, Jean-Luc. Either you do that, or I leave right now."
Tears sprung into his eyes.
"But…"
"Oh for God's sake…just do it!"
She lifted her hips and squeezed with her internal muscles. He gasped and thrust involuntarily. Beverly hissed.
"Yes…"
And he complied. Rising up on his arms he began to thrust hard and fast, just the way she wanted him to. It was over in mere minutes. He rolled off her and covered his eyes with his forearm, lest she witness his tears. But she did something completely unexpected. She turned to her side and placed her head on his shoulder. Shocked, he lay absolutely still. When she didn't leave the bed, he carefully and slowly wrapped one arm around her. She snuggled into his embrace and went to sleep.
Overcome with joy and relief, Jean-Luc slipped into slumber, a smile on his face.

 

 

 

 

Of course she was gone when he awoke. Obviously to expect her to be there in the morning was too much. He sighed and stared up at the ceiling, knowing it was only a matter of time before his body betrayed him and refused to cooperate. What, he wondered, would she think of that? His limp declaration confronting her?
He sighed and exited his bed, making quick work of showering, shaving and dressing. He was laying the table when she arrived.
She seemed normal; in fact he was taken aback, yet again, by her beauty. She shot him a bright smile and took her customary seat at the table.
"Good morning, Jean-Luc."
He smiled, trying to keep his despondency from his eyes.
"Good morning, Beverly."
They began to eat and Jean-Luc marvelled at how blasé she was being. He tore apart a croissant and laid the pieces on his plate before looking up and smiled with what he hoped was genuine warmth.
"I appreciated what you did last night."
She was putting some jam on her croissant and she shrugged.
"Think nothing of it."
He frowned.
"I can't…it meant too much to me."
Beverly put her knife down with great deliberation and looked at him.
"Jean-Luc, don't make more out of it than it deserves. It was nothing."
Hurt, Jean-Luc swallowed the lump in his throat.
"Nothing? You say that so very easily, Beverly. You must know what it meant to me."
Her eyes descended to the table and she sighed.
"Stop it, Jean-Luc."
Anger began to colour his voice.
"Why? Because you find it distasteful? Beverly, I love you! I don't want this…cold, meaningless sex any more. If we are to continue, I want to make love, not rut like damned animals."
She was on her feet immediately, her cerulean eyes blazing.
"How dare you! Who the hell do you think you are, Jean-Luc? I told you at the very beginning what I wanted…and you agreed! Now you want to change everything because of the way you feel? Well it's not about you and your fucking feelings!"
She stalked to the doors and, as they opened she turned and speared him with an icy gaze.
"I told you at the beginning, if you weren't willing, I would find someone else. Consider that now in effect!"
The doors whispered shut and Jean-Luc sat stunned. He looked down at his half-eaten breakfast and his stomach heaved. He bolted to the toilet and only just made it as he brought up the remains of his breakfast.

 

 

 

 

Over the following few weeks, Jean-Luc saw little if anything of Beverly. Scuttlebutt, not normally something he paid any attention to, informed him that indeed, Beverly had found a new companion.
He tried to ignore the pain, but it ate away in small increments, eroding his barriers and undermining his strength. During the day he coped, although he was becoming increasingly distant from this crew, but at night he suffered. What little sleep he got was tormented by dreams, dreams of his beloved Beverly and what he really wanted to do with her. Masturbation offered a shallow, physical release, but his mind and his heart yearned for her. As weeks turned into months he slowly resigned himself to his loneliness.

 

 

Beverly was discontented. Yes, she was getting what she wanted from the hunky Lieutenant Commander from Astrometrics, but there was something missing. After every assignation she would return to her quarters feeling…bereft, as if she was grieving. The sex was great, but left her feeling empty. In the back of her mind she knew she needed Jean-Luc, needed his love and affection, but she was too proud and too independent to admit it. Years of living as a single woman had inured her to the needs of her heart…or so she thought. Savagely shoving her misgivings aside, she concentrated on the here and now, completely dismissing what was so blatantly obvious to those who cared about her. So she searched for a physical reason for her heartache. At first she though she was suffering a mild depression, but further analysis proved that wrong. She briefly considered talking to Deanna Troi, the ship's Counsellor, but the hybrid woman was well aware of what had transpired between Beverly and Jean-Luc and had already voiced her opinion, leaving her with only one other option. No, this was something Beverly had to work out for herself.
She was in her office, tackling the mountains of paperwork that were a consequence of her job, when she was hailed from the Bridge.
"Riker to Crusher."
Looking up., she smiled.
"Crusher here, Will. Go ahead."
"Beverly, we are receiving a 'code three' for you."
She frowned.
"A code three? Okay, send it down here, Will, thanks."
She turned her monitor and waited as the Federation Logo gave way to a blank, blue screen. She sighed and said softly,
"Commander Crusher, Beverly, Doctor. CMO of the Enterprise, NCC 1701 E."
The computer acknowledged her identification, then intoned,
"Level five clearance required for viewing code three communiqués."
"Epsilon, daystar, yellow delta, delta. Enable."
"Clearance verified."
The screen pixilated, then an unknown image appeared. It was that of a Bolian male.
"Doctor Crusher, greetings."
Beverly allowed a small smile.
"Hello, to whom am I speaking?"
The blue being's face remained impassive.
"You need not know my name, Doctor, just that I am a Commander with the department of Temporal Investigations."
Alarm skittered through Beverly's body, but outwardly she remained calm.
"I see. How can I be of assistance?"
"You are being seconded for a mission. You are required to leave the Enterprise as soon as possible. A ship is being sent to pick you up; it will rendezvous with the Enterprise in two hours."
Beverly gaped, then snapped her mouth closed.
"May I know the nature of this mission?"
"No, nor may you discuss it with anyone. Your Captain will be told you are being reassigned, nothing more."
Beverly was struggling to stay in control of her rising temper.
"I see. Can you tell me how long I will be away?"
The being shook his head.
"No. You won't need to pack anything, all you require will be supplied. Please be ready to transport at oh eleven thirty. And remember, Doctor, you are forbidden to discuss this mission with anyone. End transmission."
The screen went blank and Beverly snorted angrily.
"How can I discuss something I know nothing about, you idiot?"
She pushed away from her desk and rose.
"Well, I'd better go shower and put on a clean uniform. Who knows where the hell I'm going."

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was in his Ready Room when Will contacted him from the Bridge,
"Sorry to disturb you, Captain, but there is a ship closing at high warp."
Jean-Luc looked up from his work and frowned.
"Can you identify it, Commander?"
"No, Sir, nor can we identify its warp signature."
Jean-Luc sighed.
"I see. Have you hailed them?"
"No, Sir."
"Then do so now, Number One."
"Aye, Captain."
A few minutes passed before Will's voice once again intruded on Jean-Luc's dark thoughts.
"Captain, there were no answers to our hails directly, but they are transmitting. They are sending a code four to you, personally."
Jean-Luc's eyebrows shot up.
"A code four? Captain's eyes only."
"Yes, Sir."
"Very well, Commander, I will take it in here."
"Aye, Captain."
As Beverly did, Jean-Luc identified himself and gave the necessary code to clear the channel. The screen of his computer pixilated and Jean-Luc frowned at the image that appeared.
"Admiral."
The elderly human nodded, his face solemn.
"Captain. My name is irrelevant; I am merely contacting you to inform you that your CMO, Doctor Beverly Crusher is being reassigned immediately. She is required to transport over to the approaching ship."
Jean-Luc managed to hide his shock, but his dark hazel eyes glittered.
"I see, Sir. May I ask the nature of her new assignment?"
The Captain thought he saw regret in the older man's eyes.
"No, Captain, you may not."
Dismay, anger and anguish surged through Jean-Luc. He and Beverly may be estranged, but he had never stopped loving her. The thought of her being absent from the ship…gone from his life made his gut wrench. He gathered his shattered thoughts and kept his Captain's persona intact.
"Then may I know how long she will be gone?"
The Admiral sighed.
" Captain Picard, I know you wish to keep your CMO…and I am aware of the close…association…you have with Doctor Crusher, but I am sorry, I cannot furnish any details of her secondment. She will be leaving the Enterprise in one point three hours so I suggest you get used to the idea."
He opened his mouth to end the transmission, but paused.
"And Captain, please don't talk to her about this matter, in fact I am making it an order. You are forbidden to discuss this with anyone."
On the verge of panic, Jean-Luc clung to his years of experience to keep his face stoic and his voice neutral.
"Yes, Sir."
The connection was severed and Jean-Luc placed his elbows on the desk, cradled his head in his hands and struggled to keep from weeping.

 

 

 

 

When the mysterious ship got within one thousand kilometres of the Enterprise, Will received a message.
"We are standing by."
The big, bearded man scowled and called his Captain.
"Sir? The approaching ship is here and has told us they are standing by. For what, I have no idea. Shall I hail them again?"
Jean-Luc lifted his head and closed his eyes.
"No, Commander, you are to have no contact with the other ship. Picard out."
He sighed, opened his eyes and stared at a picture on his desk, one of him and Beverly, taken at his last birthday.
"Transporter room prepare to beam one to the other ship. Picard to Crusher."
Was that regret he heard in her voice?
"Yes, Captain."
"Transporter Room two is ready for you."
"Thank you, Sir."
He should have closed the channel then, but his heart was crying out for his love.
"Beverly…I…"
Her voice was crisp, but he was sure there was an undertone of sorrow when she interrupted him.
"I have to go, Captain."
He closed his eyes, sending two tears down his cheeks.
"Yes, of course. Picard out.
Just as the channel closed he heard,
"Goodbye, Jean-Luc."
His mouth opened to call her again, but he knew it would only prolong the inevitable. He was sitting stock still and staring sightlessly at the far wall when the call came from the Bridge.
"Riker to Picard."
In a flat monotone, Jean-Luc muttered,
"Picard here."
"Transport complete, Captain."
He swallowed and strove to keep his voice even.
"Acknowledged. Resume present course."
"Aye, Captain."

 

 

 

The Bolian Captain was there to welcome Beverly to the new ship. He said nothing, merely gestured for Beverly to accompany him as he escorted her to her quarters. At the door he spoke for the first time.
"You will be aboard seventeen days; we will be going back to Earth. I will not discuss your mission, nor are you to mention it to the crew. You are permitted to go to the lounge, the gym and the officer's dining room if you so desire, no where else. Once on Earth, you will be briefed."
Beverly frowned as she assimilated the information. She knew she should stay quiet, but her pugnacious nature got the better of her.
"How can we reach Earth in seventeen days, Captain? We're at least two months away at maximum warp."
The Bolian's eyes glittered, but he offered a wry smile.
"This ship is like none you are familiar with. Suffice it to say, we will have no trouble reaching Earth in seventeen days. Now if there is nothing else?"
Beverly shook her head, her mind roiling.
"Then I will leave you now. You may contact me via the comm. system if you wish, but I must reiterate, I will not discuss your mission."
With a nod of acceptance, Beverly said quietly,
"Thank you, Sir."
The doors whispered shut and Beverly turned slowly to stare forlornly at her quarters.

 


 

 

 

Over the following three weeks, Jean-Luc operated on auto pilot. Their present mission, the mapping of a distant star cluster would normally have enthralled him, but the absence of Beverly, both from the ship and his life stole his enthusiasm. In fact it stole his very zest for life. On duty he was taciturn and closed. The usually gregarious Will Riker soon learned to leave his Captain alone. Deanna Troi, ship's Counsellor, tried valiantly several times to get the Captain to talk about his feelings with her, but he refused and, as his work wasn't suffering, she had no reason to order him to undergo counselling.
At least, while he was on duty, he could keep his mind occupied with work, but in the privacy of his cabin, he suffered terribly. The nights were, by far, the worst time. In his bed alone he spent many sleepless hours yearning for his lost love and in the fractured snippets of sleep he caught, he was tormented by dreams of her. Life, for him, had lost its meaning.

 

 

 

As the Bolian Captain had assured her, the odd ship made it back to Earth in seventeen days. Instead of landing or orbiting any of the numerous space docks, the Doctor was escorted to the transporter room and bidden farewell. She rematerialised in a room she didn't recognise. Apart from the transporter apparatus, there was little that was familiar. The lighting was low, making her squint. As her eyes adjusted, she made out the form of a human male, one in an Admiral's uniform. He smiled and bowed his head, saying softly,
"Doctor Crusher…if you will come with me?"
He gestured to the doors and Beverly had no option but to step off the pad and accompany the mysterious Admiral. As they walked, he asked conversationally,
"Are you rested?"
Confused and somewhat wary, Beverly nodded, saying cautiously,
"Yes, I've had little to do these last seventeen days."
The old, grey haired man nodded.
"That's good."
Nothing more was said as they traversed the corridors, heading for who knew where.
The only thing Beverly noticed was the lack of other people. They saw no one and, when they finally came to a closed set of doors, the Admiral said, with a trace of amusement,
"I take it you have some questions."
Before Beverly could answer, the doors opened and she squinted again as bright light spilled out as they entered.
The room was austere; the only furnishings were a long table with several chairs. There were no windows and no computer terminals. Standing around the table was an assortment of people, men and women of various ranks and species, two of which Beverly could not readily identify.
With his hand firmly on Beverly's back, the old Admiral urged her forward and indicated a chair for her. Once she was seated, everyone else took their seat.
The old Admiral cleared his throat and faced the nervous red head.
"I will not introduce you to those present, it is unnecessary for you to know their names."
Beverly nodded.
"You are aware this is an operation conducted by the department of Temporal Investigations?"
Swallowing to wet her suddenly dry mouth, Beverly nodded.
"So I was told, Sir."
Casting a look around the table, the Admiral took a deep breath and settled his rheumy eyes on Beverly.
"It has come to our attention, that in the not too distant future an attempt will be made by a renegade Starfleet officer to manufacture a biological weapon to annihilate the Keloran."
Beverly frowned.
"The Keloran? I am not familiar with that species."
The old man smiled kindly.
"I'm not surprised, the Federation will not have dealings with them for some years yet, but they will become very important to us in the future."
Nodding slowly, Beverly chewed her cheek.
"Important enough to save."
Bowing his head, the Admiral nodded.
"Yes."
Her interest now piqued, Beverly sat forward in her chair.
"What is it you want me to do?"
Once again casting a look at his colleagues, the Admiral sighed.
"We wish to send you forward, into the future to dissuade the officer from her course of action."
Knowing more had been said than what she had heard; Beverly decided to make him lay his cards on the table.
"And if I can't…dissuade her?"
The old man's eyes darkened.
"Then you are to do whatever it takes to stop her."
Beverly gritted her teeth and stared back into his eyes.
"I need you to say it."
The old man didn't flinch.
"Very well, if you find you cannot prevent what she intends to do, you are to kill her and destroy her laboratory."
Beverly briefly closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Once she had controlled her racing heart, she sighed and nodded.
"I see. I take it this…person...is a scientist."
The Admiral nodded.
"Yes, in fact she is a brilliant medical Doctor and a gifted researcher."
Alarm skittered through the red head.
"She's a medical Doctor?"
The old man nodded.
Beverly's mind was racing.
"But what on Earth is a Doctor doing creating a lethal biological weapon? It flies against everything the medical community stands for."
The old man's face took on a curious sadness.
"That is something we hope you can find out. You see, Doctor Crusher…the person you are going after is…you."

 

 

 

 

Weeks slowly morphed into months and Jean-Luc became more and more despondent. He tried every avenue he could to track Beverly down, but got absolutely nowhere. He called in every favour, spoke to everyone they both knew to no avail. It was as if she had simply disappeared. He even tried to find out something about the mysterious ship that had come for her, the ship that had no warp signature or call sign, but again, it was as if it never existed. In the end, he gave up, the pain of continuing too great to bear. Deanna finally persuaded him to talk to her, but nothing she could say could ease the pain in his heart. Eventually, lying awake one night in bed, Jean-Luc came to a decision. He exited his bed and strode to his desk in the living area. Activating his computer, he cleared his throat and spoke.
"Computer, message to Admiral Alynna Nechayev, Starfleet Command."
He waited the few seconds while the computer made the correct connection.
"Message reads, Admiral Nechayev, due to personal matters, I am resigning my commission and retiring from Starfleet, effective immediately. Signed, Jean-Luc Picard, Captain, USS Enterprise."
He sat back and sighed.
"Computer, send."
He ignored the chimes of compliance and ambled back to his bed. As he waited to see if he could sleep, he wondered,
"Will I ever see you again, Beverly?"
He was surprised to find he had managed to get some sleep. He woke before the alarm and laid staring up at the ceiling for a few minutes. When the alarm sounded he muttered,
"Off."
And exited the bed to shower, shave and dress. He debated whether or not to put on his uniform, but years of ingrained habit won and he presented himself to the dining table looking the consummate officer he'd always been.
He couldn't bring himself to eat anything, so he was quietly sipping a hot black coffee when there was soft chime of an incoming message from his computer.
Taking his coffee with him, he ambled over to his desk and tabbed the monitor on. The message was succinct.
To: Captain Jean-Luc Picard, USS Enterprise, 1701E
From: Admiral Alynna Nechayev, Starfleet Command.
Message reads…
Captain Picard, re your resignation. Be advised it has not been accepted. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.
Signed, Alynna Nechayev, Admiral, Starfleet Command.
End Message.
Jean-Luc sat back and sighed. He had expected this and was prepared for a protracted battle to win his freedom. He looked up at the ceiling, briefly closed his eyes and called,
"Bridge, this is Picard."
"Bridge, aye, Captain. Go ahead."
"I want an open channel to Admiral Alynna Nechayev, Starfleet Command."
"Acknowledged, Sir."
The wait was, mercifully short. He knew that she must have been off world to answer so quickly, as the Enterprise was deep in space, a long way from home. The screen flickered to reveal the stern face of the Admiral. She wasted no time on pleasantries.
"What's this insanity about you retiring?"
Keeping his face neutral, Jean-Luc made his well rehearsed speech.
"Admiral, with all due respect, I have personal reasons I don't wish to discuss that have brought me to this decision, however, I would like to point out that I have served faithfully for most of my life and I feel I have a right to know when to walk away."
Nechayev sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.
"Granted, Captain and I doubt there would be anyone in Starfleet who could possibly deny you have given superlative service…but retire? Captain…", she sighed, "Jean-Luc…there is so much more you can offer. Am I correct in surmising it is just your Captaincy you wish to resign?"
Warily, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes. It is my intention to return to a quieter life on Earth."
Her small, hard eyes glittered.
"You want a quieter life?"
She snorted softly, then held up a placating hand.
"Forgive me, Captain, but I find that very hard to believe. As you have so eloquently put it, you have served for most of your life. You have been at the forefront of exploration for nearly fifty years! And you've been at the pointy end of too many sticky situations to mention. Now you say you want a quieter life? After all your years in space…what the hell do you think you're going to do?"
That hit home. It was the one thing Jean-Luc had not fully addressed. He knew he wanted off the Enterprise, he knew he had had enough of being a Captain, but as to what he was actually going to do with himself…
He sighed.
"Admiral…"
She held up her hand again.
"Let me run something by you. There is trouble brewing between the new Cardassian Government and the task force we sent to assist them in their rebuilding efforts. What we need is a new Ambassador, someone with the experience of years in space…someone who knows the Cardassians and how they think…and someone who will not be intimidated by them."
Jean-Luc's eyes darkened.
"And you think I can fill that role?"
Alynna smiled, but it was a predatory expression.
"Yes."
Knowing there was no such thing as a free ride; Jean-Luc affected a nonchalant pose and asked softly,
"What's in it for me?"
Triumph gleamed in Nechayev's eyes as she sat back and made a grand sweep with her arm.
"Any mission you want. Since the Dominion war, there have been a multitude of Federation worlds who have been reconsidering their membership. We need a hard-nosed, no-nonsense Ambassador who will go to these…lily-livered world leaders to talk sense to them, make them see it is in their best interests to stay in the Federation. I believe you are that man."
Jean-Luc's heart accelerated. What she was suggesting was very tempting. He was aware of the recent instability within the Federation and it was a job he felt he could do, but what was more important…it would keep him too busy to feel his pain. If he could immerse himself so deeply that he could finally banish Beverly from his mind…if not his heart, then it would be worth staying in Starfleet, if only to ease his pain. He locked eyes on the Admiral and slowly nodded.
"You make an attractive proposal, Admiral."
Trying to keep her excitement at bay and only succeeding moderately, Nechayev smiled with what she hoped was warmth and sat back in her chair.
"So…are you accepting?"
He took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds and slowly let it out.
"Yes, Admiral, I accept."
She bent forward and pressed something on her computer.
"You are now Ambassador Picard. I am redirecting the Enterprise to Starbase thirty four where you will disembark and await transport to Earth."
Before she could say anything further, Jean-Luc quietly interrupted.
"If I may, Admiral…give the Captaincy of the Enterprise to Commander Riker. He has served his apprenticeship and has earned the right to sit in the big chair."
Nechayev looked up and gave Jean-Luc a long, speculative look. She knew she owed this man at least this much, so after a few seconds she gave a brief nod.
"Done. Do you want to tell him?"
Jean-Luc smiled.
"Yes. When do you want the transfer of Command to take place?"
All business now, Nechayev said crisply.
"ASAP. We have a new mission for the Enterprise; tell Riker I will be contacting him as soon as he assumes command."
Jean-Luc bowed his head.
"Of course, Admiral."
"I will be sending you a mission brief about the Cardassian situation. Read it well, Ambassador, I want you to hit the ground running."
Offering a curt nod, Jean-Luc sat up straight and tugged his tunic down. Nechayev looked up and managed a smile, but it didn't reach her eyes.
"Contact me once you're on your way to Earth."
Jean-Luc nodded, but before he could say anything, Nechayev smiled again.
"Oh and congratulations…Ambassador, Nechayev out."
Picard sat for a few moments, staring at the Federation logo on the screen. He then looked down at his uniform and sighed before slowly standing and making his way to his bedroom to change.

 

 

 

Will came onto the Bridge half an hour after Jean-Luc. Seeing his Captain was in his office, the First Officer took the Command chair and settled down to his shift. When Jean-Luc called Will to the Ready Room, the big man thought it was to be briefed on the current mission. However, once inside his CO's inner sanctum, he was surprised to see his Captain out of uniform. Will grinned, his blue eyes twinkling.
"Having a day off, Sir?"
Jean-Luc smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes, something Will had come to expect.
"Not exactly, Number One."
The older man paused, sat back and quietly regarded Will with searching eyes. Feeling a little uncomfortable, Will frowned, saying softly,
"Sir? Is there anything wrong?"
Jean-Luc smiled again, and this time it did reach his eyes.
"No, Will, I was just thinking of these past years…how you have served as my trusted right hand."
Now somewhat alarmed, Will pointed to the chair in front of the desk. Jean-Luc nodded silent permission and the big man sat.
"Captain…what is it? Can I help you with something?"
The older man's smile became sad and he sighed.
"No, it is I who can do something for you."
Now confused, Will shook his head, but before he could say anything, Jean-Luc sat forward and placed a small box on the desktop. He pointed to it and said softly,
"That is for you."
Clearly nonplussed, Will took the box and opened it. Inside were four gold rank pins. Will looked up at his Captain, obviously confused.
"Sir?"
Jean-Luc sat back and folded his hands on his lap.
"I have resigned my Captaincy, Will. As soon as we make the change of Command, the Enterprise will be yours."
Will gaped and twice tried to say something. Jean-Luc smiled and held up his hand.
"Let me explain. This morning I spoke at length with Admiral Nechayev. I had intended to retire from Starfleet all together, but she persuaded me to take an Ambassadorship. I accepted and asked that you be given the captaincy of the Enterprise. She agreed."
Will finally found his voice.
"But, Captain…leave the Enterprise?"
Jean-Luc sighed, his eyes falling to his hands. When he spoke it was with deep sadness.
"Will, since Beverly left I have been…"
He sighed deeply.
"Let's just say that my life hasn't been the same since she left and I have found I no longer have the appetite for my job anymore."
Will knew Jean-Luc was speaking the truth and he did understand, but part of him rebelled at the thought that his Captain would give up his life's work so easily. He took a deep breath and looked his Captain in the eye.
"Sir, there is no need for you to do this! I'm sure that Beverly will come back once she's completed her mission. You just need to hang on."
With a shake of his head, Jean-Luc sighed.
"No, Will, she's gone. I've tried everything; talked to everyone I know…I can't find her. I don't even know if she's alive or dead."
He sighed again and tried to make the younger man understand.
"Will…my life has lost its meaning. I can't do…"
He waved a despondent hand.
"This any more."
Defeated in the face of the man's pain, Will slowly nodded.
"I understand, Sir…and I'm sorry, sorry it had to be this way."
Jean-Luc smiled sadly and sighed.
"Do you want a formal hand over of Command, or a private ceremony?"
Will stood and came to attention.
"Private, Sir, please."
Jean-Luc stood and nodded solemnly.
"As you wish."
The ceremony was a simple one and, within mere minutes the computer acknowledged the change of command. Will slowly removed his Commander's rank pins and, with great deliberation, replaced them with Jean-Luc's. He knew without the older man saying so, that they were his own rank pins. As he finished his task, Jean-Luc extended his hand and shook Will's.
"You will make a fine Captain, Will. Make me proud."
With his eyes glittering with tears, Will nodded and said quietly,
"Yes, Sir."
Will turned to leave, but hesitated and turned back to face his former Captain.
"When do you leave, Sir?"
"Three days. The Enterprise has been redirected to Starbase, thirty-four. I will disembark there and catch a transport to Earth."
Will nodded thoughtfully.
"Ambassador, eh? The Cardassians?"
Jean-Luc smiled wryly.
"Yes…at least at first. Then I'm going to be thrown to the wolves."
Will frowned.
"Sir?"
With a sardonic chuckle, Jean-Luc folded his arms across his chest.
"I am to get the frightened Federation worlds back into the fold."
Will rolled his eyes.
"Oh god…I wish you luck!"
Jean-Luc's chuckle became a snort.
"I think I'm going to need it."
Will nodded again, then smiled with mischief.
"So…Sir…your resignation party…"
Jean-Luc held up his hand, his eyes darkening.
"No, Will."
"But…"
"No, Will, I don't want any sort of celebration. Let me leave quietly, no fanfare…please."
Wishing to obey his former CO, but unwilling to let him leave without a sending off party, Will shook his head.
"Come on, Sir…"
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"Will, I will invite the senior staff to my quarters for a quiet drink…nothing more, please."
He had no option but to acquiesce. He sighed and bowed his head.
"Very well, Sir."
Just as Will was about to leave, Jean-Luc placed a paternal hand on the younger man's shoulder.
"I want you to know, Will, it has been an honour to serve with you."
With a lump in his throat, Will straightened and said softly,
"You too, Sir, I've learned from the very best."
Will left and Jean-Luc turned to look out at the stars. He sighed and gently placed his fingers against the cold, clear aluminium.
"Where are you my love?"
He stayed there for over half an hour before leaving to go to his quarters to pack.

 

 

 

The weeks that followed his resignation flew by. As Nechayev had told him, he did hit the ground running. He was thoroughly briefed at Command, then transported by Starship to the Cardassian home world where, for over five weeks, he butted heads with the most recalcitrant people he'd ever met. Jean-Luc was a patient man, patient and fair, but he was sorely tested on Cardassia.
It wasn't until the very end of his diplomatic rope that his counterparts finally conceded to his wisdom. The treaty was ratified and Jean-Luc could at last take some time to begin to study his next assignment.
The work had been gruelling and time consuming, but no matter how immersed he was, some part of him, hidden deep within his heart, yearned for Beverly. During the negotiations he'd slept sparingly and ate less, too busy to think of anything but the mission, yet somehow a part of him grieved. At times, mostly in his bed, the melancholy swept over him, leaving him bereft and lonely. He savagely pushed it aside, but it never truly left him.
Now that the Cardassian crisis was over, Jean-Luc was on his way back to Earth to begin the task of tackling the skittish citizens of the Federation. His transport for the journey was the Starship, Excelsior. Her Captain, Michael Hussey, was an old friend of Jean-Luc's and, one night over dinner, Captain Hussey broached a sensitive subject.
"I hear Beverly Crusher has disappeared off the radar."
Jean-Luc paused in his eating, but only for a second. When he looked up at his friend, his face was unreadable.
"So I hear too."
Hussey knew Jean-Luc well enough to know he was hurting.
"That must be difficult for you."
"Hmm."
Frowning, Hussey said quietly,
"If anyone had known where she was, I would've thought it'd be you."
Snorting, Jean-Luc put down his cutlery and wiped his mouth with the serviette.
"I don't want to talk about it, Michael."
The younger man shrugged.
"I hear you, Jean-Luc, but that doesn't mean I agree. How long have you been missing her?"
His voice roughened with emotion, Jean-Luc muttered,
"Since she left the Enterprise."
Hussey let out a low whistle.
"But that's months…haven't you heard from her at all?"
Shaking his head, Jean-Luc sighed.
"No, nothing. It's as if she's completely disappeared."
Hussey grunted.
"I take it you've called in the usual suspects?"
Jean-Luc sat back and sipped his tea.
"Oh yes, I even went as far as trying to get information out of Section 31."
That brought a snort of disgust.
"Those bastards would sell their own mothers if they thought they could get some sort of advantage. Did they know anything?"
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"No."
Hussey leaned forward, and dropped his voice to a conspiratorial tone.
"I heard that she left in a ship that had no warp signature or call sign."
"That is so.", Jean-Luc agreed.
His voice even lower, Hussey almost whispered,
"Well I heard the ship belonged to Section 31."
Growing tired of the conversation, Jean-Luc rubbed his face and sighed.
"Well either way, I can't find out anything more than she left my ship and disappeared."
Offering a sympathetic smile, Hussey sat back and sighed.
"How long has it been?"
Jean-Luc voice was desolate as he replied,
"Seven months."
The younger Captain refilled Jean-Luc's cup as he remarked casually,
"Well she's bound to surface sooner or later, Jean-Luc. You just have to be patient."
Jean-Luc summoned a smile, but inside he wept.

 

 

 

He was met in the transporter room at Command by none other than Admiral Nechayev herself. She escorted him to her office and provided a cup of Earl Grey before she dropped her bombshell.
"You are to get yourself to the Hepbraum system to mediate a trade dispute."
Years of diplomatic skill held him in good stead. He didn't question his superior, at least not directly.
"The Federation worlds can wait?"
Nechayev snorted.
"A lot has been happening while you were away, Ambassador. We have managed to recruit a few handy men and woman to handle the busy work. A man of your talents needs to be put where he can do the most good."
Jean-Luc's shrewd mind honed in on what she was saying.
"And that is mediating a trade dispute?"
Nechayev had the good grace to look embarrassed.
"All right, it's a little more than that."
Jean-Luc offered a wry smile.
"I thought as much."
Gesturing for them to both sit, Nechayev outlined the mission.
"We have, for many years, been fortunate enough to get large quantities of dilithium out of the Hepbraum system. In return the Hepbraums have enjoyed Federation protection and technology. That has recently changed. A new species, the Keloran, have offered the Hepbraums a better deal, including medical technology banned in the Federation. Now as you know, our rebuilding efforts since the Dominion war have left us severely depleted in dilithium. Put succinctly, we can't afford to lose the Hepbraums. We need them and we need them to realise they need us. That, Ambassador, will be your job."
Running a hand over his bald head, Jean-Luc let out a long breath.
"That, Admiral, sounds like a can of worms. What, may I ask, can I offer them to sweeten the deal?"
Nechayev grimaced and the Ambassador knew whatever it was, it was distasteful.
"Weapons technology, Ambassador."
The gravity of the situation was not lost on Jean-Luc. He bowed his head and briefly closed his eyes.
"They are that important?"
Nechayev sighed.
"They are more than just important, Ambassador, they are vital."
"I see. Very well, when do I leave?"
Nechayev looked up and Jean-Luc saw both respect and sorrow in her eyes.
"Immediately. I know this will be difficult…Jean-Luc…and I do apologise, but I believe you are the man for this job. Get it done."
Offering a short bow, Jean-Luc's face became passive.
"I will do my utmost, Admiral."
He left the room, only to be stopped by the Admiral's adjutant.
"Sir? I have your itinerary. You are to travel to the Hepbraum system aboard the Faragut. Unfortunately she cannot stay while you complete your mission, the Hepbraums have permitted you leave to stay on their home world for the duration of the talks."
Jean-Luc sighed, resisting the urge to rub his tired eyes.
"I see. And what do I do at the completion of my mission?"
The young Adjutant grinned.
"Just give us a call, Ambassador, we'll send someone."
Offering a wan smile, Jean-Luc muttered,
"How comforting."
He accepted a briefcase full of PADDs from the officer and left the building, heading for the transporter rooms.

 

 

 

It took almost three weeks to get to the Hepbraum system. Jean-Luc spent the time going over and over all he could find on the Hepbraums. Of the Keloran he knew nothing. He sighed, not liking entering into negotiations without all the information he needed, but he cast aside his misgivings and concentrated on what he did know.
The Hepbraums were a humanoid species, unremarkable but for one important ability. They had a phenomenal sense of smell, reputed to be so accurate, they could literally smell emotions. Jean-Luc knew he was going to have to be scrupulously honest. It was in his nature to be so anyway, but he knew there were times, especially during tense negotiations, when it was sometimes necessary to…gild the lily. The Hepbraums were well aware of the value of their dilithium and he wondered just what it was the Kelorans had offered. Medical technology was too vague a term, Jean-Luc liked to deal with specifics. He needed to know the Keloran's strengths…and their weaknesses. And so he worked tirelessly, preparing himself for the coming battle.
He grew used to getting by on only a few hours sleep a night and those who knew him would have remarked at how much weight he'd lost. Yet he drove himself remorselessly, anything to avoid thinking about Beverly.

 

 

 

Nechayev had not understated the difficulty of the mission. Three days into the negotiations, Jean-Luc found the Hepbraum negotiator to be honest and very forthcoming, in fact, seemingly willing to continue their association with the Federation, making the Ambassador wonder what had precipitated the rift in the first place. That was until he met, at a dinner held by the Hepbraums, the Keloran negotiator.
To say the being was intimidating was a gross understatement. Tall by human standards, what made Jean-Luc's blood chill was the total absence of any colour to the being's skin. Beneath a black robe that covered most of her body, what skin that could be seen was inky black, almost translucent and offering the appearance of making her limbs shimmer in and out of shape. Her eyes glowed softly yellow and she was quite unlike anything Jean-Luc had ever seen before. When the Hepbraum chief negotiator introduced her, it was all Jean-Luc could do to refrain from staring into her cold, glowing eyes. He noticed she offered her hand and he took it, but instinct told him to shun her, to run immediately, but years of diplomatic experience had him plaster a warm smile on his face as he took her hand, its coldness making his skin crawl. Her voice was a raspy whisper.
"I have heard of you, Ambassador, you are a worthy opponent."
An odour, reminiscent of burnt cloves wafted to him and Jean-Luc frowned slightly.
"Then you have me at a disadvantage, madam."
The Hepbraum negotiator bobbed his head and made a coughing sound.
"Forgive me, Ambassador. This is Loran, prime negotiator for the Keloran."
Her name meant nothing to Jean-Luc, but he noticed how very nervous his Hepbraum counterpart was in her company, indeed, as soon as he could, the negotiator excused himself, leaving the human and the Keloran alone. There was an awkward silence, broken when Loran said abruptly and with sinister intent,
"I do not intend to lose these people to you, Ambassador."
Jean-Luc kept his face inscrutable as he replied,
"I rather think that is up the Hepbraum."
The being shrugged, making the fabric of her robe rustle unpleasantly.
"We do not purport the lofty ideals of the Federation, Picard, we deal in realities. The Hepbraum have something we want and if they won't give it to us, we will take it."
Surprised by the vehemence of her statement, Jean-Luc softened his voice, but it lost none of its steel.
"If the Hepbraum choose the Federation, they will enjoy our protection. Are you willing to take on the entire Federation to get what you want?"
Her inky black features showed no surprise, but he heard it in her weird voice.
"You would go to war over a trade agreement?"
Jean-Luc smiled coldly.
"The Federation honours all its agreements. Those with whom we have treaties or trade agreements enjoy our protection."
The being shimmered slightly and seemed to grow substantially taller.
"Are you threatening me, Picard?"
His smile remained and he stayed glacially calm, be he couldn't stop his heart accelerating.
"Not at all, I am simply stating the facts as they are."
The odour grew stronger and the being opened her mouth. There was nothing to see, no teeth or tongue, just a black opening in the black tabloid of her face.
"Do not oppose me, Picard; you will not live to regret it."
Keeping his eyes glued to hers, Jean-Luc's smile vanished as he allowed warning to colour his voice.
"Are you threatening me, Loran?"
Her mouth twisted into what Jean-Luc surmised was a smile.
"Not at all, I am simply stating the facts as they are."
With his own words thrown back at him, Jean-Luc frowned. He looked up at the being and said with absolute determination,
"I will not be intimidated."
She shrugged again and Jean-Luc couldn't help but think the sound must be like that of a moving shroud.
"I am not trying to intimidate you…Ambassador, I merely feel it necessary to warn you of the consequences of your actions."
"I will do my duty to the best of my ability, regardless of any…warnings."
The cold, glowing eyes seemed to waver. Loran's body shivered and she stepped away, leaving Jean-Luc feeling vaguely unsettled. He left the dinner as soon as protocol allowed.

 

 

 

The talks wore on over a period of ten days. During this time, Jean-Luc did not see Loran, but he felt her presence. His Hepbraum counterpart, a gentle being called Frey would come to the negotiation table visibly rattled, taking over an hour to calm himself. Jean-Luc came to understand it was after a meeting with the Keloran.
It took every diplomatic skill he possessed, but at the end of the twelfth day, Jean-Luc secured a trade agreement with the Hepbraum.
Having said his goodbyes, Jean-Luc was in his assigned quarters, packing, when his door chime sounded. Rather than bid the caller entry, he went to the door and pressed the release. The appearance of his visitor made him take an involuntary step back. Taller and more menacing than at any other time he'd seen her, Loran towered in the doorway, her eyes glowing angrily.
"You have defied me, Picard."
Straightening his spine and schooling his features, Jean-Luc said coldly,
"I suggest you leave before I call the authorities."
An odd sound emerged from the black pit of her mouth.
"I will not forget the damage you have wrought, Picard…damage to me personally and to my people. You will pay."
Looking up into those cold eyes, Jean-Luc suppressed a shudder.
"But not today, I think."
The being seemed to smile.
"No, not today, but I'm sure our paths will cross again…Ambassador."
Loran stepped back and the door closed. Jean-Luc stared at the beige panelling until a call came through.
"Ambassador Picard?"
He snapped out of his brown study and cleared his throat.
"Picard here, go ahead."
"Sir we have been in contact with the Faragut. They will be here in two days."
"Understood, thank you, Picard out."
Now that the mission was all but over, the despondency crept back. Angry that he couldn't rid himself of these debilitating emotions, Jean-Luc brusquely called the communications centre.
"This is Ambassador Picard. I wish to talk to Admiral Alynna Nechayev at Starfleet Command."
The reply was a little hesitant.
"Err…of course, Ambassador, but it will take some hours."
"Acknowledged. Please route the call to my quarters when you are able."
"As you wish, Ambassador."
He managed to doze while he waited. It was the gentle chime of his computer that woke him. He rose and went to his desk, saying huskily,
"Computer, on."
He had to smile...he'd never seen Nechayev looking like she had just got out of bed.
"Admiral."
The vexed woman tried to smile, failed and instead, scowled.
"Do you know what time it is, Picard?"
The man smiled, but covered it with his hand.
"Ah...no. I'm sorry if I woke you, Admiral."
Nechayev waved a hand dismissively.
"Well, now that I'm up, what is it?"
All business, Jean-Luc's eyes darkened.
"Would you please send me the briefs of all the impending missions on the list?"
Nechayev's gaze sharpened.
"Why?"
Jean-Luc shrugged with what he hoped looked like nonchalance.
"I thought perhaps I might choose my next assignment."
The Admiral sat back, her gaze speculative. She sighed.
"Well, I suppose you have earned that right. Very well, I will transmit it immediately. Is that all?"
Jean-Luc summoned a smile.
"Yes, Admiral, goodnight, Picard out."
The screen went blank and Jean-Luc stared at it. He muttered quietly,
"So…it seems I have my destiny in my own hands now."
He should have recognised his bloody mindedness, but all he felt was sadness and despondency. He rose from his desk and made his way to the window, his gaze going upwards.
"Wherever you are, Beverly, I love you."

 

 

 

Over the next seven months, Jean-Luc gained a reputation as the man who would go into the most dangerous situations to settle disagreements. Nechayev came to rely on him to do the jobs no one else would take.
In all those lonely months, Jean-Luc kept looking for Beverly, his love for her never diminishing. His work was a means to an end, a way to keep his mind occupied while his heart ached.
Will Riker learned of his former Captain's devil-may-care attitude and contacted him one bleak afternoon on a distant planet.
"Ambassador? You have an incoming transmission from a Starship called, Enterprise."
His eyebrows went up, curiosity warring with concern.
"Very well, put it through to this terminal, please."
The screen suddenly switched from standby mode, flickered once or twice before clearing to reveal Will's familiar image. Jean-Luc couldn't help but smile warmly.
"Will! How the hell are you?"
The big bearded man grinned and it was such a familiar gesture, Jean-Luc felt a deep pang of regret.
"I'm well, Sir. More to the point, how are you?"
Waving his hand dismissively, Jean-Luc gave a shake of his head.
"Oh I'm fine…Captain."
There was a friendly glint in Jean-Luc's eye that made Will sigh.
"That's not what I hear, Sir."
Always an intensely private man, Jean-Luc's smile faded.
"Oh? And what is it you've heard?"
Will sat forward in his Ready Room, making eye contact with his friend.
"I've heard you've become a bit of a maverick, Sir…that you'll go where no one else will, that you are taking your life in your hands…way too much."
Jean-Luc shrugged, suddenly wishing to terminate the connection.
"Will, you know how delicate these negotiations can be. I'm just lucky I've been able to settle a few sticky situations, that's all."
Will's blue eyes darkened.
"I've heard you've been deliberately seeking dangerous assignments."
Growing somewhat irritated that he should be cross examined by his former First Officer, Jean-Luc sighed and struggled to keep his tone even.
"All diplomatic assignments carry an element of danger, Captain."
Hearing the suppressed anger, Will shook his head, unwilling to back down.
"I understand that, Sir, but there is no need for you to consistently choose the most dangerous assignments. A man of your experience and service has the right to take some easier work. You've earned it, Sir."
Jean-Luc understood Will's concern, but he was unable to explain his actions. Instead he tried to make light of it.
"Oh I know that, Will, but the other Ambassadors aren't quite as experienced as me. I'm just holding the fort while they catch up."
A new voice came over the channel and Jean-Luc had to concentrate on not grimacing.
"I think there's another reason, Sir."
Deanna Troi came into view. Will moved over as she perched on the arm of his chair.
"I think you're missing Beverly so much, you've lost your sense of self preservation."
Jean-Luc immediately dismissed the notion. He smiled condescendingly and waved a hand.
"Oh I'm sure that's not right, Counsellor."
"Isn't it, Ambassador?"
She leaned forward, her obsidian eyes glittering.
"I think you have a death wish."
Angry, Jean-Luc spat,
"That's absolutely absurd! Just because I choose to do the difficult assignments doesn't mean I have a death wish, Counsellor. You would be better served tending to the needs of your shipmates."
Deanna's face didn't alter.
"You mean, mind your own business, Counsellor."
Jean-Luc said nothing, just stared balefully at the screen. Deanna sighed and softened her gaze.
"Ambassador you are grieving. Why don't you take some time off…go somewhere and recover."
By now absolutely furious and feeling patronised, Jean-Luc's face became unreadable.
"I appreciate your concern, Counsellor, but I have a lot of work to do…so if you don't mind…?"
Deanna's face saddened and she sighed.
"Sir…"
Jean-Luc dragged up a cold smile and lifted a hand in farewell.
"I am very busy, I have to go. Picard out."
The screen went blank and Jean-Luc sat staring at it for some minutes before he went back to his work.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc's work had twice involved him in negotiations that included the Keloran. Loran was the negotiator in both cases and, as before, they had an acrimonious relationship. Parting after the last encounter, the angry being confronted Jean-Luc and issued an overt threat.
"This is the last time you demean me and my people, Picard. The next time we meet, you will die."
Jean-Luc looked Loran in the eyes and shook his head.
"I fail to see why you take it so personally. I am just doing my job, as are you. Surely we can put this aside?"
The inky black being stepped closer, the odd smell of burnt cloves becoming stronger.
"You Federation…you are expanding faster than a fungal infection. My people are being deprived of what we desperately need…and it's your fault! You are an emissary of a vast, hungry conglomerate who takes what they want from worlds far from your boundaries. Your appetite is insatiable! And, to make matters worse, you belittle me! You, human, are beneath contempt."
Jean-Luc sighed.
"Loran…"
The being held up a warning hand.
"Say no more, Picard, my threat stays. The next time we meet, you will die…slowly."
The human Ambassador summoned a dry smile.
"Then you will forgive me if I say I hope that doesn't occur."
The glowing yellow eyes of the Keloran shone brightly as she snarled softly. She turned and stalked away, leaving Jean-Luc to pack his belongings.

 

 

Two months later, a concerned Nechayev visited Jean-Luc at Star Fleet Medical. The Ambassador had been badly injured in a negotiation that went horribly wrong. Whilst in the process of negotiating a trade agreement on a world that was experiencing political turmoil, terrorists detonated a bomb in the meeting chamber, killing several delegates and injuring over a hundred. Jean-Luc had been one of the injured. So bad were his injuries that he was placed in stasis, his condition too frail to attempt repair on a Starship. He was taken immediately to Earth, where he underwent hours of delicate surgery to heal him.
It had been ten days since he had cheated death and the Admiral was going to suggest he have some time off.
As expected, Jean-Luc was resisting. Nechayev was running out of patience.
"Look, Ambassador, I'm not suggesting retirement…just a holiday for goodness sake."
The stubborn man shook his head.
"I appreciate your concern, Admiral, but I can assure you, a holiday is not necessary."
Adopting a different tack, Nechayev retrieved a chair and sat, crossing her legs and appearing relaxed. Summoning what she hoped was a warm smile, she said softly,
"Ambassador…"
She lowered her head and the smile broadened.
"…Jean-Luc, you have been at the pointy end for most of you career. First as a Starfleet Captain, and now as one of the Federation's most respected Ambassadors. Surely you can see that if you don't take some time to recuperate, you just might burn out."
She uncrossed her legs and leaned forward, dropping her voice confidentially.
"I am aware of how Crusher's…disappearance affected you, and I know you haven't fully recovered from it, but really…can you honestly say you can't do with the rest?"
Jean-Luc opened his mouth to rebut her, but she held up her hand.
"I could make it an order."
The bluff failed miserably. Jean-Luc smiled wryly and shook his head.
"Nice try, but you and I both know you can't do that. My orders may come through you, but they originate with the Federation Council."
He sat up straighter in bedside chair and sighed.
"Admiral, I need to get back to work, the sooner the better."
Stymied, Nechayev sat back and huffed.
"Very well, but will you at least take some easier assignments? There is absolutely no reason why you have to consistently take the most dangerous jobs."
Jean-Luc smiled, but it was a sad smile.
"I would prefer to make my own choices, Admiral, but I do appreciate your concern."
The small woman sat back and shook her head.
"You're a stubborn man, Jean-Luc. Very well, it seems you will carry on just as before, but I must tender my protest with the Federation Council. I believe you are acting in a self-destructive manner."
The Ambassador sighed and lowered his head.
"Admiral, with all due respect, all the Federation Council sees is results. They won't…in fact they can't acknowledge how the results were gained. I understand why you're protesting, but it will fall on deaf ears."
Nechayev's eyes darkened.
"You're right, of course, but I can't sit idly by while one of the most respected men I have ever known quietly goes about killing himself."
Jean-Luc's smile was self-depreciating.
"Oh I think that's a little dramatic."
"Is it?"
Growing tired of the conversation, Jean-Luc sighed.
"My mind is made up, Admiral."
She stood and looked down at the man she had known for so long.
"I do hope I don't have to deliver your eulogy, Ambassador."
He looked up at her and smiled.
"As do I, Admiral."
He was out of Medical and back in space in under ten days.

 

 

Two months and three assignments later, Jean-Luc found his new assignment very pleasing and for once it hadn't appeared dangerous. It was a simple matter of a new world wishing to join the Federation. He found the Dereen a lovely people, if not a little off-putting in their appearance. They were a very tall people, averaging over three metres in height, but what most humans had trouble with was that their 'heads' were in their midriffs. They possessed five violet eyes, arranged in a straight line across their middle. Four arms were attached to their upper bodies and four legs managed to propel them with great speed in the low gravity of their world. They had wide, splayed feet and tufts of dark blue hair, which contrasted nicely with their light blue skin colouring, on the tops of their bulbous bodies.
He had taken this assignment simply because it was in a region of space he'd never been. The negotiations had been going well, although Jean-Luc was aware there was another negotiator, but, as was the habit of the Dereen, the protagonists were never to meet.
His Dereenian counterpart made a facial expression Jean-Luc had learned was a smile. The slit of a mouth seemed to stretch and small, hard, bone-like gums were exposed.
"You are pleased, Ambassador."
The universal translator had had some difficulty with Dereenian language, so, to facilitate matters, the Dereen spoke in very simple sentences.
Jean-Luc smiled and offered a slight bow.
"I am, Ambassador. This treaty is beneficial to both our worlds."
The Dereenian bent his top half.
"Yes, but you represent more than one world, Ambassador, while I represent simply my people."
"And you do so very well."
The being smiled again.
"Thank you, Ambassador. I must say I prefer you're way of negotiating. You have made our impending entry into the United Federation of Planets most exciting. The other Ambassador concentrated on causing us fear if we did not join with her world. She did say some very…unpleasant things about the Federation."
Jean-Luc sighed, making the alien smile again.
"It is true the Federation has enemies, Ambassador, but by joining us, you will enjoy our protection as well as our prosperity."
The being bowed again.
"That is our hope. Now, Ambassador, with the signing of the documents your duty is complete. Would you like to enjoy our hospitality before you return to your ship?"
With his smile reaching his eyes, Jean-Luc sadly shook his head.
"No, Ambassador, but thank you. I will go and pack my things then beam up to my ship."
"As you wish, Ambassador. Please know you are welcome to return any time you wish."
Jean-Luc watched the remarkable being walk away and sighed.
"Time for my next job."
He was about fifty metres from his lodgings when he sensed someone behind him. He turned, but too late. Something sharp pierced the skin of his neck and immediately he lost feeling in his body. A dark arm wrapped around him, keeping him upright as he smelled burnt cloves.
"You are mine now, Picard."
The last thing he saw was the sparkle of a transporter beam.

 

Jean-Luc woke up in a darkened room. He moved experimentally and found he was immobile, lying flat on a table of some sort. His eyes felt gritty and his mouth was bone dry, but apart from that, he seemed to be unhurt. Wishing to face his abductor, Jean-Luc cleared his throat and called out,
"Who are you and what do you want?"
A familiar voice came from the shadows to his left.
"I told you what would happen the next time you belittled me and my people, Picard."
With a sigh, Jean-Luc managed to shake his head a little.
"This is so unnecessary, Loran. Let me go, you don't think the Federation will do nothing about this?"
The alien snorted.
"I don't give as damn about your precious Federation. By the time they know you're missing, you will be dead."
Showing little regard for his own life, Jean-Luc laughed outright.
"What do you hope to achieve, Loran? You kill me and someone will take my place. You will gain nothing."
The anger in Loran's voice thickened it.
"What will I achieve, Picard? I will get my honour back and my people will be rid of a thorn in their side."
Jean-Luc's bravado provoked the alien into stepping up to him menacingly.
"And what then? Hmm? Will you kill the next Federation Ambassador who annoys you? And the next and the next?"
The punch made a meaty sound as it connected under Jean-Luc's eye. Outwardly, he didn't react, saying softly instead,
"End this, Loran. Let me go."
The Keloran stepped back and reached into the folds of her black robe. Her sooty hand re emerged with a remote control. She pointed it at Jean-Luc and activated it. The table he was on began to rise, continuing until it was upright. The restraints that held him didn't give at all and Jean-Luc found he couldn't move. She moved closer and ran her fingers through the blood that trickled from the wound under his eye her punch had caused.
Her tone of voice was almost conversational.
"I had considered stripping you naked, Picard, but the sight of a naked human male was just too repulsive. Her hand once again disappeared inside the folds of her robe. This time it emerged with a weapon.
"You would be familiar with collumnated energy weapons?"
Jean-Luc said nothing. Loran ignored his silence and went on as if he had acknowledged her.
"This weapon is somewhat different; it's more akin to a disruptor type weapon. It has a most intriguing effect on human flesh. Let me demonstrate."
With lazy indifference she aimed at his right knee and fired.
The beam was only activated for a second, but the effect was devastating. Jean-Luc's knee disintegrated, but that wasn't all. As he screamed in agony, the flesh around his knee was eaten away until his lower leg was separated from his thigh.
"You see? Wasn't that wonderful?"
She laughed, a dry, cruel sound and aimed the weapon again and fired. This time his left knee disintegrated.
"How much time do we have, Picard? I could do this for hours, it's most amusing."
The wretched man blinked away his tears and glared at the Keloran. Though he was panting, his voice was strong.
"This is meaningless, Loran. You demean yourself with this behaviour."
Anger glittered in her glowing yellow eyes as she shouted,
"You know nothing about me, Picard!"
She aimed and fired again, separating his lower arm at the elbow. Although Jean-Luc screamed, his eyes remained fixed on the alien. Loran didn't wait for him to say anything, instead disintegrating his other elbow.
His voice ruined by screaming, Jean-Luc lifted his head and ground out,
"Why prolong this, Loran. Why don't you just kill me?"
The alien screeched in rage.
"Why don't you beg, human?"
Jean-Luc managed to shake his head, almost whispering,
"I won't beg, Loran."
The Keloran stepped back, taking several deep breaths. Having calmed herself, she seemed to smile.
"I have heard that human male's genitals are particularly sensitive. I wonder how it would feel if I did this?"
With deliberate sloth, she raised the weapon, aimed it Jean-Luc's groin and fired.
Jean-Luc's scream was truncated as he lost consciousness.
He came to with someone slapping his face. He gasped in agony, his violated body resonating with searing pain.
"You don't deserve oblivion, Picard! I haven't finished with you yet."
Despite his agony, Jean-Luc summoned his ruined voice to rasp,
"You are a coward, Loran."
She raised the weapon again, anger seething through her every pore, but she hesitated and smiled.
"You are crafty, Picard. You wish to provoke me, but I am cleverer than that."
She held up a device in her free hand.
"My scanner tells me you have an artificial heart. I wonder how long you would live without it."
As Jean-Luc watched, Loran inputted an instruction to the weapon. She stepped up to Jean-Luc and gripped his chin, whilst pressing the muzzle of the weapon against his left breast. As she depressed the trigger she hissed,
"I hate you Picard."
The intense beam immediately disintegrated his heart and all of the tissue around it, until a hole existed right through Jean-Luc's body. Surprisingly, there was little blood loss. When the poor man had stopped writhing, Loran stepped back and consulted her scanner.
"I'm timing you, Picard; don't let me down by dying too quickly."
Breathing was becoming increasingly difficult as Jean-Luc's brain was deprived of life sustaining blood and oxygen. His vision began to grey as he managed to say softly,
"This will haunt you for the rest of your life, Loran. I pity you."
As Jean-Luc's life faded away, his last thought was of his beloved Beverly.
Loran approached him slowly and scanned his dead body. She spat into his face and left the room.

 

 

 

Beverly stood, mouth agape as she stared down at her lifeless body. Shocked to her very core, her nerveless hand dropped the phaser that had so efficiently taken her life. It clattered on the floor, the sound shaking her from her numbness.
Her training took over. Stooping quickly, she picked up the phaser and systematically went around the lab, destroying all the biological specimens she could find. Then she shook her backpack off her shoulders and removed the explosive devices.
The facility she was in wasn't large, consisting of a laboratory and a small suite of rooms containing a bedroom, bathroom and a tiny eating area.
With practiced efficiency, Beverly went from room to room, placing her explosives with care. Satisfied that the job was complete, she exited the facility and made off into the thick undergrowth, heading for her shuttle. Whilst travelling through the undergrowth she kept her mind occupied with only one set of thoughts. Get back to the shuttle and send the signal to detonate the explosives. With her mouth set in a grim line, she forged her way through the foliage, desperately trying to keep her emotions under control.
Although her tricorder clearly showed the position of the shuttle, she was startled when she burst out of the bush and found it. She made quick work of getting inside and, once she was seated in the cockpit, she activated the link to the explosives and lifted her hand to depress the switch. Hesitating momentarily, she took a deep breath and savagely stabbed her finger down. She didn't hear the resultant explosion, but her sensors told her the task had been completed.
In an almost trance-like state, Beverly left the cockpit and walked stiffly to the aft section, before dropping into a seat and lowering her head into her hands. As she quietly began to weep, the memories of the past months came back to her.

 

 

 

After her meeting with the mysterious officers, Beverly had been taken to a medical facility where her appearance was surgically altered. Then she was thoroughly briefed on her mission. She was told that two years from now, she was going to resign from Starfleet and disappear with the intent to manufacture a biological weapon with the express objective being to exterminate the entire Keloran species. Beverly was given a crash course in the deployment of explosives, the last known whereabouts of her future self and a new name. She was now known as Cheryl McFadden.
The last thing she had to do was to be transported into the future. The Admiral she had come to think of as the leader took her to an odd room which was perfectly round and shiny on the inside. In the exact centre was a bio bed. The old Admiral smiled in a kindly fashion and gestured for Beverly to lie down. She did so reluctantly, but when the Admiral gently patted her hand, she felt oddly reassured. He produced a hypospray and said softly,
"You cannot be awake for this."
Beverly wanted to argue, but instead held her tongue. The hiss of the hypo was loud in the otherwise silent room. As her consciousness fled the room began to glow.

 

 

 

There was a woman there when Beverly regained her senses. The Doctor didn't recognise the uniform the woman wore, nor did she like the way the woman said brusquely,
"Get up, we have much to do."
Her mind was a little foggy, but Beverly rose and followed the woman from the room. She was led through a series of corridors until she came to a conference room. There, to her astonishment, stood the old Admiral, now looking even more ancient. He smiled and gestured to a seat. Beverly sat numbly, trying to make sense of her surroundings.
"I know you feel disorientated, but it will pass. We have made available a shuttle, it is voice activated, you will have no trouble operating it. Take this device, it will tell you all you need to know to begin your search."
Beverly took the device and frowned. It was small, round, almost flat and silver in colour. She turned it in her hands, her confusion complete.
"I don't understand. How do I use this?"
The elderly Admiral went to her and took the device. He smiled and pressed it against her right temple. Suddenly information flooded into Beverly's head. She gasped and held up her hands. The Admiral removed the device and all was silent.
"While you were being surgically altered, Doctor, your brain was implanted with the necessary hardware to receive this device. It makes matters much more…simple."
Before Beverly could voice her disquiet, the Admiral went on.
"We have found a woman who was a close friend…of yours…she seems to be the only person Doctor Crusher confided in. We do know the last place you were living at, but that information is at least a month old. It is hoped, if you can befriend this other woman, that she will be able to tell you where you went."
He smiled in his gentle way and sighed.
"We do understand what it is we are asking of you, Doctor, and we also understand how difficult this must be for you, but what your future self intends to do is monstrous. She must be stopped, at whatever the cost."
Beverly nodded slowly and sighed.
"I can't believe what she intends and I can't imagine what may have happened to bring her to this, but I agree with you. I'll stop her…somehow."
The Admiral stepped closer and gripped her arm with surprising strength.
"Let me make this clear, Doctor. If you cannot stop her, you must kill her and destroy her work. It is imperative!"
Swallowing, Beverly nodded.
"I understand."
The old man relented slightly.
"There is something you must know, something which we think might make things clearer for you."
Beverly's eyebrows rose.
"Two years ago, your friend…Jean-Luc Picard…was murdered. By a Keloran."
The colour drained from Beverly's face. She gripped the arms of her seat, her voice barely a whisper.
"Jean-Luc…is …dead?"
The Admiral nodded sadly.
"We can't go into details, suffice it to say his death was a terrible blow for the entire Federation."
Beverly took a long, steadying breath.
"Well I can see how…she…would take that hard."
The elderly man nodded.
"Yes."
Beverly stood and summoned a wan smile.
"So…where do I start?"
The woman who had brought Beverly into the room stepped forward.
"The woman you are to meet has Grave's disease. Your cover is that of her new treating physician."
Beverly scowled.
"I'm not sure I want to use a patient as a source of information. That seems a little unethical."
The Admiral snorted.
"Don't you think that's quibbling over trivialities? When you look at the bigger picture…"
Beverly held up a hand, her face showing her contrition.
"I understand, Sir. My apologies."
The woman briskly walked to the door, obviously waiting for Beverly to follow her. This she did and, as they walked, the woman kept up a constant barrage of instructions.
"The shuttle is already programmed to take you to the woman's home on Gault. You should know that Grave's disease is not the fatal illness it once was, although the treatment is protracted. All the information you need is on your infodisc, including a comprehensive update of medical advancements. Your patient, Helen Parker, has no known relatives. Her current status is on the infodisc. Her interests include herbal medicine and music, before the onset of her disease she was an accomplished classical pianist. You will find her file most interesting."
They had come to a transporter room.
"You will transport to your shuttle, all you have to do is identify yourself and the computer will take over. I suggest you use your travel time to bring yourself up to date with the mission as it stands."
The woman stuck out her hand.
"Good luck, Doctor Crusher."
In a daze, Beverly shook the woman's hand but never had the time to say anything further. She rematerialised in a shuttle, the likes of which she'd never seen before.
She walked forward into the cockpit, sat and said tentatively,
"Crusher, Beverly."
She got no further. The engines came on line and the sleek craft lifted off. The computer said softly,
"Good afternoon, Doctor McFadden. From this moment on, you must think of yourself as Doctor Cheryl McFadden. Our journey to Gault will take six days. I hope you enjoy the trip."
Saying absently,
"Thank you.",
Beverly went aft. It wasn't until she thought to look out the viewscreen that she noticed the planet she was leaving wasn't Earth. She frowned and asked,
"Computer, what planet are we leaving?"
"That information is classified. Please confine yourself to queries pertaining to ship's business only."
Beverly glared at the ceiling and huffed, muttering to herself,
"Over officious bucket of bolts!"
She looked around and noted a black backpack leaning against the starboard bulkhead. That, she knew, contained all she would need to complete her mission. She sighed and dug in her pocket, fishing out the infodisc. She raised her hand and tentatively held the disc against her right temple.

 

 

 

Despite thinking the journey may have been boring; Beverly found it was quite the opposite. The computer turned out to be a good companion, once she found it was willing to engage in non-consequential conversation. She arrived on Gault in the early afternoon and was met at the landing point by a young man in his early twenties.
"Doctor McFadden?"
Beverly smiled warmly, noting that a light rain was falling.
"Yes, I'm Cheryl McFadden."
The young man offered his hand.
"Doctor Marcus Key. I hope you had a pleasant journey."
He gestured to a small building and together they went inside.
"Just a routine quarantine check, Doctor. This is a farming colony and we are very careful to make sure no dangerous pathogens make their way here."
Smiling and giving a nod, Beverly stood still while she and her carry case were scanned. Receiving a smile of acceptance from Marcus, Beverly asked,
"Are you a medical Doctor?"
The young man nodded.
"Yes I am and I must say I am pleased you are here. Helen Parker is progressing, albeit slowly, but unfortunately I can't afford the time she needs for me to be with her as much as I should. Our colony has grown a lot these past five years and I find my services are in constant demand."
Beverly nodded thoughtfully.
"So I take it not only am I to be her physician, but I am also to augment your services."
Marcus offered a rakish grin and nodded.
"If you don't mind."
His boyish charm amused Beverly and she chuckled.
"Well I don't see why not."
Waving his hand towards the door, Marcus led Beverly outside.
"You will have the use of this flitter. I'll take you to your accommodation first, then I'll take you to the Parker residence."
Beverly nodded her acceptance and the both got into the flitter. Like the shuttle, it was fully automated.
Beverly liked her accommodation. It consisted of four rooms, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and dining room, but what really pleased her was the balcony at the rear. It overlooked a vista of rolling hills and, in the light of late afternoon, the scent of flowering plants wafted in. Marcus could see his colleague liked what she saw. He waited while Beverly put her case in the bedroom then, armed with a med kit, she left her new abode and got back into the flitter.

 

 

 

Helen Parker was tall for a human woman. Beverly had to look up to see into her dark green eyes, even though Grave's disease had made the woman stoop. Beverly and Marcus were invited in and shown to seats in the living area. Helen's gaze was a penetrating one and Beverly knew she was being appraised. Her voice deep for a woman, Helen asked,
"How long have you been in medicine, Doctor McFadden?"
Offering what she hoped was a confident smile; Beverly recalled what she had learned about her new identity.
"Actually, not that long. I had originally been a pharmaceutical scientist, my change to medicine occurred only about five years ago."
Helen nodded thoughtfully, then asked,
"May I know why you changed?"
Beverly smiled warmly.
"Of course. I just felt I was isolating myself too much, spending too much time on research and losing touch with people. I gave it a lot of thought and decided I could use my knowledge in medicine…and re-integrate myself into the population"
Helen smiled, but remained somewhat wary. Beverly maintained her air of quiet friendliness and asked,
"I have read your notes. I see that you had a long-term physician before Marcus."
The wariness increased.
"Yes."
Beverly made a show of retrieving a PADD and looking at it.
"That would be…Doctor Beverly Crusher?"
All Helen did was nod. Sensing she was becoming closed, Beverly looked up and smiled.
"Well I'm sure Marcus can fill in the blanks. Would you like to sort out your treatment schedule now?"
The woman shrugged.
"Tomorrow would be better, I'm rather tired now."
Beverly nodded.
"All right, I'll come back tomorrow, say ten?"
Helen nodded.
"Yes, that would be fine."
Beverly left the house with the distinct impression she was going to have to work hard to gain Helen's trust.

 

 

 

Marcus was able to tell Beverly all she needed to know as he took her back to her lodgings. They agreed she could do with a quiet evening, so Marcus arranged to meet with her the next morning. He would bring her flitter at the same time. Beverly waved as the little craft left the ground and went off up the road, the hum of its engine barely disturbing the peace. Sighing wistfully, Beverly went inside and made her way into the bedroom. On the wall next to the bathroom door was a full length mirror. Beverly stood in front of it and grimaced. Gone was the shoulder length red hair, in its place short cropped dark brown hair, greying slightly at the temples. Her cheek bones had been flattened a little and her lips thinned. She now possessed green hazel eyes and her chin was less pronounced. Even her breasts had been altered, now somewhat larger than they had been before. Extra fat had been added subcutaneously, giving her a slightly dumpy appearance with a thickened waist and a slight tummy bulge. Integrated into the skin of her hands was a film giving her new fingerprints. Her superiors had told her they didn't think she'd be fingerprinted, but they wanted to err on the side of caution.
With one hand on her hip, Beverly scowled at herself, muttering wryly,
"You've let yourself go, woman."
Deciding to take a shower, she undressed, but avoided looking in the mirror once she was nude. Twenty minutes later she was sitting on a lounge on the back deck, taking advantage of the last of the light. Soon after she went inside, ate a light meal and went to bed.
She was up early and ready when Marcus came by. He was with a friend who was driving the spare flitter. Once they arrived at Beverly's home, she was given the chip to her own craft.
The days passed quickly. At ten o'clock each day, Beverly would spend two hours with Helen, administering her treatment, then for the rest of the day she helped Marcus with his practice. She saw a wide variety of cases, from farming accidents to childbirth, but what she really devoted herself to, was befriending Helen Parker.

 

 

 

One day, a month after Beverly had begun her tenure on Gault, she arrived at Helen's home at the appointed time to find the front door open. Wafting outside was the sound of someone trying to play the piano. Silently, Beverly entered and stood just inside the living room, watching as Helen tried in vain to play. As yet another note was played badly, Helen let out a yell of frustration as she slammed the key cover down. Beverly went to her, saying quietly,
"I may be able to help."
Helen's head snapped around, her blue eyes flashing.
"How did you get in here?"
Pointing over her shoulder, Beverly said softly,
"The front door was open."
Realising her mistake, Helen flushed.
"Oh…sorry."
Beverly shrugged and went to the piano.
"Don't be."
She pointed to Helen's hands.
"I think I can help."
Holding up her twisted and gnarled hands, Helen snorted.
"What…cut them off and give me prostheses?"
Beverly chuckled quietly and shook her head.
"No, although that's not a bad idea. However I think we can do quite a bit with what you have."
Curious now, Helen tilted her head and for the first time, looked at Beverly with something other than wariness.
"How?"
Gently taking one of Helen's hands, Beverly traced her forefinger over one of the contorted tendons.
"I can cut and regenerate these. It would take about two months to successfully treat both hands, but when finished, you would have regained the ability to manipulate your fingers."
Helen looked down at her hands and sighed.
"But would I be able to play?"
It was Beverly's turn to sigh.
"I'm not sure you would be able to play as you once did, but you most certainly would be able to play proficiently."
Looking into Beverly's eyes, Helen said softly,
"When can we start?"
Beverly grinned and took out a PADD from her med kit.
"I'll just check my schedule."
There was a momentary silence, broken when Beverly looked up and smiled.
"Marcus can do without me today. Would you like to begin immediately?"
Helen's eyes danced.
"Yes!"
With a chuckle, Beverly gave a nod.
"Then I need to set up. Give me ten minutes."
Helen laughed and looked incredulously at her hands.
"I can't believe it. I thought I was going to be stuck with these for the rest of my life."
As Beverly went about her work, she chatted.
"Grave's disease attacks the sinews and tendons as well as the muscles, but the treatment to repair the damage has only recently become available. I was going to discuss it with you; I was just waiting for the opportune time."
Helen laughed.
"And hearing my pathetic efforts on the piano opened the window?"
Beverly grinned lopsidedly.
"Well it did seem like an ideal way to broach the subject."
Helen's smile faded and she gave Beverly a speculative look.
"You know…you're a lot like my last Doctor."
Beverly's heart accelerated, but outwardly she didn't miss a beat.
"Oh really? In what way?"
Helen shrugged.
"Oh lots of ways. You're very direct, you have a wicked sense of humour and you're very compassionate."
Beverly looked up and grinned.
"All good qualities of being a reasonable Doctor."
With a thoughtful nod, Helen went to Beverly as she beckoned to her. Sitting at her dining room table, she lay her forearms on the sterile sheet Beverly had laid out. Beverly activated the sterile field and administered a nerve block to both arms.
"Now this will take a while so I will need you to keep absolutely still. Okay?"
Helen nodded and Beverly began her work, noticing that the woman's eyes never left her.
Almost an hour later, Beverly straightened then stretched.
"There, I've finished this treatment."
Helen looked down at her hands and smiled.
"I can't feel them."
Beverly returned the smile.
"I know. The nerve block will take about two hours to wear off, then I expect you will need some analgesics, but not for long. By tomorrow you should begin to feel the benefits of what I did today."
Helen nodded, then asked,
"Why does the treatment take two months?"
"Because I have to wait for you to heal before I can do more."
Helen nodded slowly, then frowned.
"What about regen therapy?"
With her eyebrows raised, Beverly smiled wryly.
"Trying to tell me how to do my job?"
Helen flushed and shook her head.
"Not at all, I just thought it might speed things up, that's all."
Offering a conciliatory smile, Beverly shook her head.
"Regen therapy won't help. There's nothing wrong with your tissues per se, we just have to wait while your body reassesses what it now has. You have to remember, you've been debilitated by Grave's disease for over seven years, the damage that's caused can't be eradicated overnight. What I've done today is to free up and lengthen the sinews and tendons in your fingers. We have yet to do the palms and thumbs and I can't even attempt those jobs until your fingers have completely healed."
Helen looked down at her now straight fingers and smiled. It was with gratitude that she said softly,
"Well I just want you to know I'm very happy with what you've already done…Cheryl."
It was the first time Helen had referred to Beverly by her new name and the Doctor was inordinately pleased. She grinned up at her patient and winked.
"Just as long as you invite me to your first concert."
Helen chuckled and nodded.
"You're on!"

 

 

 

Over the next few weeks Beverly and Helen grew closer. Now much more relaxed with each other, Helen would often invite Beverly to stay for a cup of tea before she left. In the heat of the morning sun and in the leafy shade of the arbour on the back balcony, Beverly sipped her tea, watching Helen over the rim of her cup. Judging her moment carefully, Beverly put her cup down and ran her fingers around the rim.
"You know, it would help me a lot if I could talk to your previous physician."
Helen looked up and frowned.
"But I thought you got all you needed from Marcus?"
With a shrug, Beverly picked up a biscuit and nibbled it.
"I got a complete update of your current treatment, but we are dealing with the after effects of Grave's. Doctor Crusher treated you through the disease's active phase. I haven't ever had a patient in the active phase of Grave's and it would help me a great deal if I could talk to Doctor Crusher about your case."
Helen's face hardened and her eyes glittered.
"Professional concerns…or morbid curiosity?"
Beverly pursed her lips.
"That's not fair."
They held each other's gaze for a few seconds before Helen lowered her head and sighed.
"You're right, it's not. Sorry, Cheryl…I just feel very protective towards Doctor Crusher, she'd been through a lot before she came to Gault."
Beverly picked up her biscuit and dunked before quickly lifting it to her mouth to bite. She chewed thoughtfully for a few seconds then sighed.
"I've always felt that a burden shared is a burden halved. Want to talk about it?"
Helen shrugged.
"I'm not sure if I should."
Beverly offered her most winning smile.
"I'm a Doctor; I know how to keep a confidence."
Helen hesitated, then sighed.
"Doctor Crusher was a very sad person. She never told me the entire story, but from what I could gather, she was responsible for the death of someone she loved...a man."
Beverly's mind reeled.
"Jean-Luc!"
Outwardly she remained calm and asked,
"Did she ever tell you who it was?"
With another sigh, Helen shook her head.
"No. I kinda worked out…from bits and pieces she told me that she was once in Starfleet. I think this person was too…or maybe not. I once heard her refer to him as an Ambassador. In any case, his death had a terrible effect on her. She became really bitter; she lost interest in being a Doctor and eventually left Gault. In fact, I think she left medicine all together."
Taking a risk, Beverly asked softly,
"Do you know where she went?"
Helen's eyes sharpened, then her face softened.
"Not really. I think she went initially to Harrun, but I got the impression she wasn't going to stay there."
She sighed pensively, then quickly lifted her head.
"One thing though…she was obsessed with a person called Loran…a Keloran, I think. Beverly once told me she really needed to find this woman, though I don't know why. She spent endless hours trawling through the data base looking for her. I don't know if she ever found her."
Beverly drained her tea and smiled.
"Well I suppose we'll never know. I will make a few enquiries…see if I can track down Doctor Crusher."
Helen smiled wanly.
"If you do find her, tell her I'm thinking of her will you? We were quite close."
Coming to her feet, Beverly nodded.
"Of course. Now I'd best be going, I'll see you tomorrow."
Helen went to rise, but Beverly waved her back to her seat.
"I can see myself out, thanks."
Instead of going to Marcus's clinic, Beverly drove to the hanger at the space port. Once inside her shuttle she said quietly,
"Computer, access the personnel file for the station on Harrun."
The wait was only a few seconds.
"Accessed."
"Is there any record of Doctor Beverly Crusher visiting the station?"
"Yes. On Stardate 8429.21"
Beverly thought for a few seconds, then asked,
"How long did she stay?"
"Five days."
"Do you know what her purpose for being there was?"
"She searched the data base, secured some supplies and hired a small spacecraft."
Clenching her jaw, Beverly asked the most crucial question.
"When she left, did she file a flight plan?"
"Yes, but only as far as her next destination."
"And that was?"
"Starbase Lindbergh."
Sitting back, Beverly took a deep breath and then sighed, rubbing her eyes.
"Computer, contact Starbase Lindbergh and ask if they have any record of Doctor Crusher's visit. I want to know how long she stayed and where she went when she left."
"Acknowledged. There will be a wait of several hours"
" Also, scan the data base again at Harrun and see if you can find anything pertaining to a Keloran national named Loren."
"Acknowledged."
There was a wait of a few seconds.
"The Keloran national named Loren is deceased. She was found, presumably murdered on Stardate 8436.89 on the planet designated 668K by a survey team led by…"
"Enough. Was the murderer ever found?"
"No, the investigation is ongoing."
Beverly frowned and chewed her lower lip.
"Who is leading the investigation?"
"That information is unavailable. The Keloran authorities do not share their investigation notes with the Federation."
Sighing, Beverly sat back and stared at her hands. There were some questions she wanted to ask about Jean-Luc, but she dreaded the answers. Taking a large breath, Beverly cleared her throat and tried to steady her voice.
"Computer, what are the details of the death of Jean-Luc Picard?"
"Ambassador Jean-Luc Picard's body was discovered by Lieutenant Francis Jones on Stardate 8421.01. When the Ambassador had not contacted or returned to his ship, a party was sent to find him. He was eventually found in a subterranean room beneath a merchant's store on Dereena II. He had been there to negotiate the admittance of the Dereen into the Federation. It was evident by his injuries that he had been tortured. Death was due to lack of blood and oxygen to the brain. His heart had been vaporised."
Wiping at her tears, Beverly asked shakily,
"Was the murderer ever found?"
"No. The investigation bogged down due to lack of evidence and witnesses. During the course of the investigation, it became clear that the chief negotiator for the Keloran, an individual by the name of Loran, made it abundantly clear she had a grudge against Ambassador Picard, the root of which seemed to stem from other situations the two individuals had met over. However the Keloran delegation left Dereena before they could be questioned and, to date, have refused all requests for interview. Loran remained the chief suspect in the Ambassador's murder until her death on Stardate, 8436.89."
Bowing her head, Beverly took a deep, shaky breath and closed her eyes.
"Computer, on what date did Jean-Luc Picard resign the captaincy of the USS Enterprise?"
"That occurred on Stardate 8419.07."
She sighed and whispered,
"He lasted just on a year after I left."
She sighed again.
"Computer, where are Jean-Luc Picard's remains?"
"Ambassador Jean-Luc Picard was cremated and his ashes interred in the family plot in LaBarre, France."
"And was there a memorial?"
"Yes. There was a formal memorial, hosted by the Federation Council in collaboration with Starfleet. That was followed by a private ceremony for family and friends at his home in LaBarre."
Sniffing softly, Beverly asked gently,
"Do you have any images or vids of his memorial?"
"Yes."
Beverly lifted her head and turned the nearby monitor until it faced her.
"Display all images and vids on this terminal."
"Acknowledged."
An hour later she was openly weeping. Sobbing quietly she managed,
"Oh Jean-Luc…what have I done?"
She slowly regained control and lifted her head to stare at the ceiling. Her blue eyes glittered and she felt a strange quiet fill her soul. With resolute determination she whispered,
"I am going to put this right…somehow I am going to stop this."
She swallowed and took a deep breath.
"Computer encrypt all evidence of my recent enquiries."
"Acknowledged, however such encryption will not preclude investigation by your superiors."
"Understood. I will return tomorrow."
"Acknowledged."
Beverly travelled to her lodgings and spent the rest of the day in deep contemplation.

 


 

 

 

As it turned out, Beverly's prediction of two months to repair Helen's hands proved to be wrong. Being an exceptional healer, Helen recovered much quicker from each treatment than anyone could have hoped for. So it was that a mere five weeks passed before the treatment came to its end.
Beverly smiled with quiet pride as Helen sat at her piano and played Beverly's favourite piece. As the exquisite strains of Debussy's Claire DeLune drifted through the rooms, Beverly could not help but quietly weep. Engrossed in her playing, it was not until Helen finished that she looked up to see Beverly's emotions laid bare. Immediately concerned, Helen left the piano and went to Beverly, taking her hands and leading her to the sofa. Once both woman were seated she asked gently,
"Are you all right?"
The Doctor raised a wobbly smile and nodded, but the tears kept flowing. Wishing to ease her pain, Helen smiled wryly and snorted.
"It can't have been my playing; I'm not that good…yet."
Beverly chuckled sadly and shook her head. She recovered enough to sigh and explain.
"That piece is a favourite of mine."
Helen nodded, but remained sceptical.
"But you didn't appear to be taken by the music, Cheryl. Yours were tears of sadness."
Her eyes filled again, but Beverly wiped at them.
"It was also the favourite piece of someone very dear to me; in fact it was he who introduced me to it in the first place."
Her frown deepening, Helen said warily,
"Okay, but why does it make you so sad."
Barely whispering, Beverly said shakily,
"Because he died."
Helen's eyes fell.
"Oh."
Knowing she had to move on with her investigation, Beverly took a shaky breath and squeezed Helen's hands.
"Helen, there's not much more I can do for you now. Your treatment for Grave's disease is almost complete and I feel I have to move on."
The words didn't come as a surprise to Helen, she had suspected Beverly was becoming restless, but her face fell and she sighed.
"I thought we had become friends."
Closing her eyes briefly, Beverly tried to ease the woman's pain.
"We have, but there's something I have to do. I can't stay."
Helen looked into Beverly's eyes and whispered,
"It was the music, wasn't it."
Beverly smiled and lowered her head.
"It reminded me of what I have to do."
"Because of him…the one who died?"
Shocked that she should be so transparent, Beverly momentarily contemplated lying, but just as quickly dismissed the idea. She looked into Helen's eyes and nodded.
"Yes. I loved him and I never told him. I owe him."
Confused, Helen said quietly,
"But he's dead."
Her eyes filling with fresh tears, Beverly smiled lopsidedly.
"Yes, that's the point."
The two women held each other's gaze for a few minutes, then Helen took her hands out of Beverly's gentle grip and sighed.
"I won't pretend I understand, Cheryl, but if you have something you must do to find inner peace, then do it."
Her glittering eyes clearly showing her gratitude, Beverly nodded.
"Marcus will be able to oversee what little remains of your treatment."
With a wave of her hand, Helen dismissed the words.
"Don't worry about me, Cheryl. You go and do what it is you must, I'll be fine."
Beverly stood and smiled down at her friend and patient.
"Thank you."
She was almost at the door when she heard Helen's gentle voice for the final time.
"I hope you find what you're looking for, Cheryl."
Beverly looked over her shoulder, smiled then left the house.
Beverly spent the remainder of the day with only half her mind on her job. Who was Loran and what did Beverly want with her? How did she die…and who killed her?
And did this Loran person kill Jean-Luc? One thing was certain…she had to find out.

 

 

 

Beverly left Gault two days later. Marcus was sad to see her go, the colonists had warmed to her and Marcus had found he was learning a lot by simply watching her work, but after he quickly discovered she would not yield to his pleas for her to stay, he gave up trying and wished her well.
Her journey to Harrun was uncomplicated, if a little boring. She stayed only long enough to learn if Beverly had told anyone of either her eventual destination or her intentions.
She was back underway in less than three hours, knowing little more than she already did. Starbase Lindbergh was only two days travel, so Beverly spent her time going over the files pertaining to Jean-Luc's missions as an Ambassador. She had only been reading for ten minutes when it became patently obvious that a pattern of reckless behaviour was becoming evident. It seemed Jean-Luc was undertaking ever more dangerous missions and Beverly was quickly overcome by a wave of guilt. The more she read the more she realised that Jean-Luc was deliberately putting himself in dangerous situations…and Beverly thought she knew why. She thought back to their acrimonious parting, how his pain and sorrow had shown so clearly in his eyes. Then, with a stab in her heart, she recalled how desperately he had wanted to be able to love her, to show his love…to make love to her…and she had forbidden him.
Beverly sat back and squeezed her fingers into her eyes, hoping the pain would overcome her guilt. She had thought she knew what she was doing, that the relationship she had demanded from him was right…at least for her, but was it? Really?
How long had she denied her feelings for Jean-Luc? Months? Years? Yes, dammit, she knew she loved him, but she thought a romantic relationship would be too…what? Binding? Confining?...Wonderful? She sighed and realised she was crying. In denying her true feelings for Jean-Luc what had she set in motion? Rising from her seat, she stalked around the interior of the shuttle, seething with too many emotions. Why had she not returned to the Enterprise? Why had she allowed Jean-Luc to virtually kill himself? She must have known what he was doing, must have known what was in his heart.
Beverly simply couldn't believe that her future self would have severed all contact with Jean-Luc. If nothing else they had been best friends for thirty years. No, something had changed, if not with their relationship, then with Beverly herself. The only way she would ever find answers to her questions was to find Beverly…find herself.

 

 

 

 

Had it not been for her mission, Beverly would have enjoyed a protracted stay at Starbase Lindbergh. It was one of the older stations, but had undergone several extensive refits. It now boasted one of the most sophisticated laboratories devoted to the pharmacological benefits of plant life. In their vast arboretum grew specimens from all over the quadrant, many very rare. Given time, Beverly would have happily immersed herself in research, expanding her already prodigious knowledge of medicinal plants.
However, she was on a mission and time was of the essence. And, as luck would have it, fortune smiled on her. She found very little of Beverly's plans in the database, but a seemingly innocuous comment had the recipient directing her to a small cabin, situated on level nineteen. Not knowing quite what to expect, Beverly arrived at the quarters and pressed the chime.
The door opened to reveal an elderly woman. Somewhat taken aback, Beverly struggled to introduce herself.
"Oh, I beg your pardon…ah; my name is…ah…Cheryl McFadden. I was told you might be able to tell me something of the plans of…Beverly Crusher."
With very bright, knowing, pale blue eyes, the old woman smiled, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. When she spoke, Beverly was surprised by the strength and timbre of her voice.
"Do you know Doctor Crusher?"
Beverly smiled, feeling confident again.
"Yes, actually I know her quite well."
Still barring the door, the old woman slowly looked Beverly up and down and sighed.
"I never heard her mention you."
Suspicious, Beverly said firmly,
"If I may ask, just what is your function on this base?"
The smile widened and Beverly could plainly see amusement in the woman's eyes.
"What you mean to ask is…What is an ancient old crone like me doing in space?"
Letting out a soft chuckle, Beverly nodded.
"Okay, what are you doing here?"
Instead of answering, the old woman turned and beckoned Beverly inside by crooking her gnarled fingers. The Doctor followed her inside and came to a halt, her mouth agape. Everywhere, upon each and every surface, shelf, table and chair sat small pots bearing seedlings. Some were several centimetres tall, but most consisted of just a little sprig.
The old woman turned to Beverly and folded her hands.
"I seem to have a knack with these."
She swept her arm, making Beverly laugh delightedly.
"You also have a gift for understatement! My God, how many plants are here?"
Shrugging, the woman went to the kitchenette and retrieved an atomiser. As she walked among the seedlings she sprayed water.
"I lost count a long time ago. The head botanist comes and goes…he takes what he wants and gives me seeds or cuttings in return."
While the old woman was busy, Beverly took the time to have a good look at her. She frowned and said hesitatingly,
"Forgive me for asking, but are you…fully human?"
Smiling mysteriously, the old woman tilted her head.
"I will tell you if you answer a question for me."
Beverly shrugged.
"Fair enough."
"Are you a medical doctor?"
Beverly nodded.
"Yes, as a matter of fact I am."
With a thoughtful nod, the old woman smiled.
"Very well, I will answer your question. No, I am not fully human. I am a hybrid. Half human, half Deltan."
Beverly gasped.
"I didn't think such a mixture was possible."
The old woman chuckled and gestured to her plants.
"Like most of my children. Many of them are cross breeds, but under my care, they flourish."
Still stunned, Beverly asked quietly,
"How old are you?"
Turning to face Beverly, there was a mysterious glint in her pale eyes.
"In your terms, one hundred and eighty seven Terran years…and before you ask, yes, I produce the sexual pheromones so prized by my Deltan forebears. I have five lovers amongst the crew of this station and they are well pleased. I, on the other hand, am barely satisfied."
She moved closer to Beverly and placed the atomiser at her dainty feet.
"Now, Cheryl McFadden, just what is it you wish to know about Beverly Crusher? And why do you want to know it?"
Sensing that nothing but honesty would be acceptable; Beverly took a large breath and steadied herself. Looking into the fathomless eyes of the old woman, Beverly said softly,
"It is very important that I find her. The life of someone I love…someone we both love is in the balance."
The old woman's eye's softened and she lowered her head, shocking Beverly by muttering softly,
"Jean-Luc Picard."
Beverly almost stumbled backwards. The old woman looked up into her eyes and smiled sadly.
"Yes, Cheryl McFadden, I know about Jean-Luc Picard."
Recovering slightly, the rattled Doctor gathered her wits and summoned a steady voice.
"What do you know?"
Beckoning Beverly to an overstuffed sofa, the old woman moved some plants to allow them both to sit. Once settled, she sighed and stared at her wizened hands.
"The death of Jean-Luc Picard destroyed all that Beverly was. All her hopes…dreams, her faith in humanity died with him. In its place came bitterness and a thirst for revenge, the strength of which I've never witnessed before. She became utterly consumed with vengeance…but her madness blinded her to the one truth she could never accept. The one truth that might have set her free and eased her troubled soul."
The old woman looked beseechingly into Beverly's eyes and the Doctor found herself whispering,
"What was it?"
With a breathy sigh, the old woman shook her head.
"That what happened to Jean-Luc was her fault."
A wave of crushing guilt surged through Beverly and she briefly closed her eyes, trying to quell it. The old woman went on, seeming to relish in the opportunity to unburden herself.
"Beverly told me about their relationship on the Enterprise and how terribly sad it had made Jean-Luc. She described his efforts to try and initiate a romantic relationship and how she spurned him, how she caused him immeasurable pain and how eventually it tore them apart. She was estranged from him for some months and she ignored how despondent the situation had made him. She was angry with him, she couldn't…or wouldn't see that what he had wanted was so much better…so much more true to the way she actually felt about him, but she refused to admit to that. She would rather hide, hide from him and herself.
"Then she accepted a mission and left the Enterprise. Having been briefed, she refused to take the mission, risking a court martial and demotion, but she stuck to her guns and eventually settled for a change of posting and agreed to help section 31 with some clandestine research, provided she could keep her whereabouts secret. She found her time away from the Enterprise…and Jean-Luc, to be a relief and, over a period of time, managed to convince herself it would be better for both of them if she severed all contact with the man. She even managed to delude herself into believing that Jean-Luc would be better off without her in his life, that he would somehow prosper in her absence. She took a posting on a distant world and eschewed all efforts from anyone who tried to contact her. Over time she just faded from everyone's memory…except Jean-Luc. He kept trying to find her, without success. She did keep tabs on him, however. She was aware when he resigned his captaincy and followed his new career as an Ambassador, but when she found he'd been murdered a part of her died and what emerged from her grief was a different Beverly. She became obsessed with finding his killer. Of course her frequent unauthorised absences from her work soon became a problem and she was brought up on charges. Her response was to resign from Starfleet. She hired a runabout and left everything she'd ever known. For three months she travelled the quadrant, following leads, questioning people until she became certain of whom she sought.
"She tracked her prey to a small world in the Heloran sector. Utilising her Starfleet training, she abducted the suspect and took her to a planet designated 668K where, with the aid of a phaser, she tortured the woman until she confessed to Jean-Luc's murder. The woman was a Keloran, named Loran.
"Once Beverly had the confession, she killed the woman and left her remains to rot."
The old woman seemed to need a rest, leaving Beverly to ask breathlessly,
"How do you know all of this?"
Smiling sadly, the old woman sighed.
"Because I was there."
The two women sat in silence for a few minutes before the old woman sat back, her pale blue eyes watering.
"I first met Beverly when she was working for section 31. You were amazed that I should exist…that a human/Deltan mix was untenable? I have Beverly to thank for my being."
Beverly shook her head in confusion.
"But you said you were one hundred and eighty seven years old."
The old woman chuckled.
"I did and I am."
"Then how…?"
The old woman closed her eyes and sighed.
"For one hundred and eighty five of those years I existed in a state of flux…neither solid nor gaseous. Section 31 had been working diligently for over two hundred years, trying to find a way of allowing corporeal beings to phase into a state of flux, thereby permitting them easier access to alternate universes. One of the things they discovered was that hybrids stand a greater chance of success than full bloods…of any species. They experimented with many mixtures and found a human/Deltan mix was the most sustainable.
"I was created by invitro fertilisation and incubated in a simulated uterus. I never knew the donors whose genetic material was used to create me and, as the experiments on my being began when I was eleven months old, I was never permitted to take corporeal form once my gestation was complete. That was until Beverly discovered my existence during the course of her research. Once she found how long I had been kept in flux, she insisted I be allowed to form into a corporeal being. That occurred on Stardate 4367.28. I consider that date my birth date. I was put under Beverly's care and we very quickly became inseparable. When she resigned, I insisted on my rights as a Federation citizen and left with her, having undergone a memory wipe, which…"
She chuckled mischievously,
"Failed miserably!"
She sighed again and smiled in a kindly fashion.
"Which brings us to you….Cheryl…or should I call you…Beverly?"
Alarmed and shocked, Beverly swallowed and said weakly,
"I beg your pardon?"
The old woman smiled again and tapped her nose.
"You are forgetting the phenomenal sense of smell the Deltans possess. I knew who you were the minute I opened the door. You may have altered your appearance significantly, but you are Beverly Crusher, I would bet my life on it."
Her mind racing to try and make sense of what she'd been told, Beverly asked the first thing that came to mind.
"What do you intend to do?"
The old woman's almost non-existent eyebrows rose in surprise.
"With you?"
Beverly nodded.
"Yes."
A kind smile appeared.
"Why nothing my dear, except to help you. You are here to make amends…to set things right?"
Nodded apprehensively, Beverly said softly,
"That is my intention."
The old woman nodded with determination.
"Then I will do whatever I can to help you."
Relaxing slightly, Beverly sat back and rubbed her face. She took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds then let it out slowly. Looking into the old woman's eyes, she said quietly,
"Where can I find her?"
Bending slightly, the old woman patted Beverly's knee.
"Give me five minutes."
She got slowly to her feet, leaving Beverly to sit and think.
When the old woman came back, she was carrying a PADD. She sat next to Beverly and offered the device, but before Beverly could take it, the old woman speared her with an uncompromising look.
"I give you this information on one condition."
Returned her gaze steadily, Beverly said softly,
"And that is?"
"That you let me know what happens. Beverly Crusher means a great deal to me and if this is going to end as I think it will, I feel I have a right to know."
Beverly sat in silence for a few seconds, considering the request. Eventually she nodded, but her gaze was troubled.
"I will do as you ask, but if you think this is going to end badly, why are you helping me?"
The old woman sighed and dropped her eyes.
"Because I think Beverly's death is the only thing that is going to stop her…and bring her peace."
Beverly nodded, guilt once again surging through her. She took the PADD and stood.
"Well thank you, I will leave you now, but before I go…what is your name?"
The old woman chuckled, waving one gnarled hand.
"For over one hundred and eighty years I had no name, just a number, but Beverly named me. My name is Isabelle."
Beverly smiled.
"A lovely name."
She held up the PADD.
"Thank you, Isabelle."
Beverly left the old woman's quarters and made her way back to her own. There she locked her door and sat in the living area, staring at the PADD and wishing she were back on the Enterprise. It was with great reluctance that she activated the device.
An hour later, Beverly was back in her shuttle, plotting a course that would take her out of Federation space and into the unknown.

 

 

 

 

Her journey was not too long, seven weeks at high warp and she found that she could manage the boredom by reading, exercising and talking to the computer, so it was with some pleasant surprise that early one morning the computer woke her to say,
"Doctor McFadden, we are entering the designated system. I am reducing speed to full impulse."
Sitting up and knuckling her eyes, Beverly said sleepily,
"Thank you. Time to the planet?"
"Fifty-five point six minutes."
With a small grumble, Beverly slid out of the bed.
"Just enough time for a shower and breakfast."
Over her morning meal, Beverly once again read the information on the PADD. After resigning from Starfleet, Beverly had pooled her resources and left Federation space to set up a laboratory on a distant planet. It had no name or designation that she knew of, so she called it Destiny. It had taken almost three months to set up her lab and another month to begin her research, but she was well on the way to producing a deadly biological weapon that would be fatal to the Kelorans. What she didn't know was that the Federation and the Kelorans had recently made overtures of peace and a delegation of Kelorans were on Earth, hammering out a treaty.
The shuttle took up an orbit around Destiny as Beverly used the scanners and sensors to try and locate the facility. She was lucky. With the enhanced technology of the shuttle, she found what she was looking for in under two minutes. She sat back and sighed.
"So, there you are."
She was about to leave the cockpit when a transmission from the surface reached her.
"Vessel in orbit, identify yourself."
Frowning, Beverly considered her options, then shrugged.
"My name is Doctor Cheryl McFadden. I come with a message for Doctor Beverly Crusher, from Isabelle."
The voice, so familiar, responded with an edge to it.
"Is she all right?"
Beverly knew she had to play this right.
"Yes…but she specifically wanted me to see you face to face."
"That is not possible."
With a sigh, Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose.
"That may be so, but my instructions were very clear. Isabelle said…"
"I don't care what she said; no one may beam down to my facility."
Frowning and chewing her lower lip, Beverly gave some thought to her dilemma.
"Well, what about somewhere else? Would you consider coming up to my vessel?"
"No."
"All right, how about somewhere else near your facility?"
There was a momentary silence before Beverly heard a very tentative reply.
"Well…all right, I will send coordinates."
"Acknowledged."
But before any information came through, Beverly received a warning.
"You will come alone and unarmed."
With a wry smile, Beverly nodded.
"Understood."
The necessary information soon came through and Beverly rose to go aft to the transporter pad. As she prepared to beam down, she thought to herself,
"So…now I will see."

 

 

 

Having heard so much about her future self, Beverly wasn't sure what to expect when she rematerialised on the surface, but the business end of a type five phaser pointed at her head wasn't high on her list. She slowly raised her hands and stood still while the older woman circled her with a scanner. It wasn't until she said,
"You seem to be unarmed",
That Beverly lowered her hands. While the older Beverly studied the readouts on her scanner, Beverly took the opportunity to have a good look at herself. Obviously several years older, that didn't account for the streaks of grey in her dull hair, or the lines that had appeared on her face. Weight loss had given the woman a gaunt image and her once straight shoulders were stooped. The younger Beverly's eyes settled on the older woman's hands and she almost winced. They were red and chapped and gnarled, no longer capable of the delicate surgery they once did with ease. Beverly's eyes travelled up, only to find the older woman was looking at her with deep suspicion. Her brusque question left nothing to the imagination.
"What is Isabelle's message?"
Beverly's eyes hardened and she made sure her voice was steady.
"Stop what you are doing and return to Federation space."
With a snort, the older Beverly gestured with the phaser.
"That's it? Well, you've delivered your message, now you can leave."
Shaking her head, Beverly took a step closer to the older woman.
"Isabelle is very worried about you."
The sound of the power setting being raised reached Beverly's ears. The older Beverly's eyes showed nothing but madness.
"She always was a worrier. Now, are you going to leave, or am I going to vaporise you?"
Showing boldness she didn't know she possessed, Beverly said quietly,
"Like you did to Loran?"
Anger flashed across the older woman's eyes.
"She got what she deserved!"
Shaking her head slowly, Beverly said softly,
"No one deserves to be tortured then killed and left to rot."
The sudden screech made Beverly flinch.
"She killed Jean-Luc!"
Steeling herself against the woman's insanity, Beverly kept her tone soft.
"Perhaps she did, but she should have answered for that in a court of law."
Now beyond reason, the older Beverly began to sob brokenly.
"Do you know what she did to Jean-Luc? She tortured him! I only did to her what she did to him! It was an eye for an eye! She deserved what she got!"
Beverly stepped a little closer and said quietly,
"And now you would kill me. How many more, Beverly? How many more must die before you see what you have done?"
The older Beverly suddenly snapped her mouth closed and glared.
"What I have done? I haven't done anything…yet."
Beverly moved closer still.
"But you're going to, aren't you. You're going to wipe out an entire species to try and ease your guilt."
In a broken whisper, the older Beverly managed,
"What are you talking about? What guilt?"
Beverly smiled sadly.
"The guilt you can't bear to admit to. The guilt that comes from knowing you caused Jean-Luc's death."
Staggering backwards, the older Beverly shook her head.
"No! Jean-Luc was getting reckless; he was taking all the dangerous missions…that's how he came to cross swords with Loran. She killed him, not me!"
Keeping her voice low and steady, Beverly was remorseless.
"Why do you think he was being so reckless? Why do you think he ignored the warnings of friends and former shipmates and took on those dangerous missions? I can tell you, if you like, but you already know, don't you."
The older Beverly suddenly raised the phaser and screeched,
"Leave or die!"
Knowing she could not be reasoned with, Beverly quickly tapped her comm. badge.
"Computer, one to beam up!"
As Beverly rematerialised on the shuttle, she took a large breath and ran her hands over her body. She wasn't certain, but she got the distinct impression the phaser had been fired as she beamed up. If not for the fact that she had lost molecular cohesion at the time, she might well be dead.
She went straight to the cockpit and monitored the older Beverly from orbit.

 

 

 

For over an hour the older Beverly stayed where she was, at the beam down point. Beverly could only surmise she was taking time gaining control of herself again. Eventually she moved off and went back inside her facility. The scanner in Beverly's pocket had taken some very detailed readings of the older woman and Beverly knew she was desperately in need of sleep. Deciding to take advantage of that, Beverly formed a plan to infiltrate the lab that very night.
With only a few hours before the planet's nightfall, the younger woman set about inputting instructions into the computer.

 

 

 

 

Rather than beam down, Beverly landed the shuttle about two kilometres from the facility. Being a very modern craft, she was able to deploy camouflage that made the vessel absolutely invisible to the naked eye and well hidden from sensors and scanners. Dressed in black clothing and with her backpack over her shoulder, Beverly left the shuttle and set off into the thick foliage.
She wasn't surprised when her modified tricorder detected the presence of booby traps. Utilising the deactivator she'd been given, she moved cautiously closer until she came to the south wall of the building. There was a door, magnetically sealed and alarmed. It was the work of mere minutes to deactivate the alarm and override the seal. There was an exchange of atmosphere as the door opened and, perhaps too late, Beverly realised she might be dealing with a sealed environment, tainted with airborne particles. Having already breathed the new atmosphere, Beverly reasoned she may as well continue.
Her hope was to destroy the facility after having made her older self see reason. To that end, she intended to set the charges before going in search of the older Beverly.
She had only gone approximately ten metres into the building when a cold voice stopped her in her tracks.
"You are persistent, aren't you."
Turning slowly, Beverly raised her hands, knowing she had a phaser in a flat holster near the nape of her neck.
"I wanted to talk to you. How did you know I was inside?"
Waving the phaser towards a door, the older Beverly ushered Beverly into a new suite of rooms. Inside there was scientific equipment and several large sealed analysis cubicles.
"My sensors detected your biological signal the instant you stepped inside."
The younger Beverly looked around and nodded.
"You seem to be very well set up."
With a snort, the older woman gestured for Beverly to sit on a nearby stool.
"It took everything I owned…and then some…to get all this…but I am close. I should have what I want within the week."
The younger Beverly sighed.
"And then what? You go to Kelora, deploy your weapon and annihilate millions?"
The coldness with which she answered sent a chill down Beverly's spine.
"Yes."
Keeping her voice soft and even, the younger Beverly said softly,
"They don't deserve it. The Keloran you hated is gone, why kill all the rest? It makes no sense."
Her faded blue eyes glassy with insanity, the older Beverly grinned, but it was more like a rictus, a parody of her usual lovely smile.
"They are all the same, the Kelora. Who's to say another one won't decide to torture and kill another Federation Ambassador? They are a blight, a cancer in the universe and I intend to eliminate them."
Steeling herself for another mad outburst, Beverly said quietly,
"You would kill them all to ease your guilt? Every Keloran must die because you can't face what you've done?"
Predictably, the older Beverly raised the phaser with a shaking hand.
"I've already told you…Loran killed Jean-Luc! Not ME! I couldn't have killed him…I…I loved him."
Nodding slowly, Beverly almost smiled.
"Yes you did, but did you ever tell him? Did you ever give him any inkling of how you felt? Or did you hide and use him mercilessly. You did, didn't you. You used him to satisfy your sexual needs, never once letting him show you how much he loved you. You knew though, didn't you. You knew, you knew how much it was hurting him, how every time you left his quarters after making him fuck you, you all but stabbed him in the heart."
The phaser began to waver as tears welled in the older woman's eyes.
"How do you know all this?"
With tears in her own eyes, Beverly's lip trembled as she whispered,
"Because I am you."
The older woman shook her head in disbelief.
"No…"
Beverly nodded.
"Yes. I have been sent from the past to make you stop."
Still shaking her head, the older Beverly's voice trembled.
"But how...?"
"The Department of Temporal Investigations."
The older woman sneered.
"Not Section 31?"
The younger Beverly shrugged.
"They may have some involvement, I don't know."
Seeming to rally, the older woman dragged herself upright and her grip on the phaser tightened.
"It makes no difference. I will do what I have set out to do, regardless."
Younger Beverly's eyes darkened.
"You mustn't! Can't you see what you intend is unconscionable? What happened to your Hippocratic Oath? First and foremost, Beverly…Do no harm!"
The woman screeched,
"They killed Jean-Luc!"
With her hands still raised, Beverly gripped the butt of her phaser. Keeping her voice steady she said softly,
"No they didn't, Beverly…you did."
With a scream of rage, the older Beverly lifted the phaser, spittle flying from her mouth as she screamed,
"Fuck you! I don't care who you are, I will kill you anyway!"
The younger Beverly didn't give her a chance to press the trigger. She whipped the phaser from its holster and fired. The older woman was hit in the chest. Younger Beverly knew by the setting that it was a lethal blow. Flung backwards, the older Beverly hit the wall and bounced off, coming to lie sprawled on the floor at younger Beverly's feet, quite dead.
The phaser in her numb hand fell and clattered onto the floor as she dropped it. Shocked out of her stupor, Beverly quickly went around the room, vaporising all the biological material she could find. She then set the charges throughout the facility, took one last look at the body, and then left, making the journey back to the shuttle with no trouble. Once inside she went to the cockpit and, after a moment's hesitation, pressed the switch that would send the signal to the explosives to detonate. She then left the cockpit, staggering into the day area, where she collapsed in a chair, lowered her head into her hands and began to weep.

 

 

 

It occurred to Beverly, as she made the journey back to her point of origin, that she should look in on Isabella and Helen, but such was her desperate need to get back to her own time that she eschewed her new friends, opting instead to sending subspace messages. It was a long trip, almost seven weeks and because she didn't know the name of the planet she sought, she had to rely on the computer to get her there. She had found the computer to be a good companion, but where it came to her mission, it was reticent, to say the least, in offering information.
But her enforced ignorance, coupled with her longish journey proved to be beneficial. It afforded her the time she needed to get what had happened into its proper perspective. Yes, she had killed and yes, she had, in effect, killed herself, but it had been necessary. If her older self had been allowed to live, millions would have died. That was simply not permissible. Had Beverly been able to reason with herself, make her see the insanity of what she intended, perhaps it would have ended differently, but the woman was too far gone. Overcome with hidden guilt and overwhelmed by crushing grief, the older Beverly had descended into madness, lost to all who had once known her.
Yes, her death had been, in a way, inevitable. What Beverly had to do now, was get back to her time and repair what she had wrought with Jean-Luc. And so she spent the weeks of her journey coming to terms with what had happened and her part in it, eventually becoming impatient to get back to the Enterprise to right a terrible wrong.

 

 

 

 

It was the old Admiral who greeted Beverly when she finally disembarked from the shuttle. He smiled his gentle smile, knowing by the look in her eyes that she had successfully completed her mission. That, however, didn't mean she didn't have to be debriefed. She endured eight very uncomfortable hours being very thoroughly grilled by the Admiral and his staff. It was with heartfelt relief that she was finally told to go to her assigned quarters for the evening, but she would only go once they told her she would be returned to her proper time the next morning.
She slept little that night and was showered and dressed when the mysterious woman she had previously encountered came to her quarters to escort her to the transporter.
Once again she was greeted by the elderly Admiral. He took her hand and smiled.
"I will be seeing you again…soon."
Beverly returned the smile and asked,
"How much time will have passed?"
The old man shrugged.
"I cannot be sure; you'd better ask that question again once you're back where you belong."
In silence, Beverly nodded and lay down on the bed. Before the hypo was administered, the Admiral said softly,
"You have performed a great service, Doctor. We thank you…we know it must have been very difficult."
Before Beverly could respond, the hypo was pressed against her neck and everything melted away.
When she next opened her eyes, the Bolian Captain took her hand, gently encouraging her to rise. Feeling a little groggy, Beverly got up from the bed and immediately noticed there were more people in the room. Standing to one side was the old Admiral and another woman. As the Bolian Captain kept a steadying hand on Beverly's arm, the Admiral stepped forward and held out his hand.
"Welcome back, Doctor Crusher."
Beverly smiled, but couldn't keep the impatience out of her voice when she asked,
"How soon can I return to the Enterprise?"
The gathered officers shared an uncomfortable look and the Admiral sighed.
"That may not be possible, Doctor."
Alarmed, Beverly snapped,
"Why the hell not?"
The Admiral dismissed the others with a look, took Beverly's arm and led her in silence from the room. He said with a smile,
"I take it you would like to be restored to your former self?"
Beverly returned the smile and nodded, quelling her irritation.
"Yes."
"Then come with me."
The procedure took some hours and it was a tired Beverly who met again with the Admiral.
They travelled down some corridors and eventually entered the conference room Beverly remembered from her previous visit. She was ushered to a chair and waited while the old Admiral seated himself, but anger was beginning to surface, making her tone sharp.
"You haven't answered my question."
The Admiral frowned.
"About what?"
Keeping her voice even with difficulty, Beverly said firmly,
"About me returning to the Enterprise."
His tone was patient and conciliatory.
"Ah, that."
He sighed, his face falling as he shook his head.
"There are some things you need to know."
Now clearly furious, Beverly barked,
"Like what?"
Admonishing her with a stony look, the Admiral calmed himself and sighed.
"Ten months have passed, Doctor. Your position on the Enterprise has been very adequately filled by Doctor Selar; it would be unfair to ask her to take a demotion in position to allow you to return as CMO."
Thinking quickly, Beverly all but blurted,
"Then I won't go back as CMO, I will take a position as a staff Doctor."
The old man sighed again and Beverly got the distinct impression he was trying to shield her from something. She took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds before expelling it slowly.
"What ever it is…just tell me."
The Admiral looked deeply into Beverly's eyes and spoke very softly.
"Captain Picard is engaged to another woman."
Shocked to her very core, all Beverly could do was whisper,
"What?"
With a deep sigh, the old man explained.
"After you left, Captain Picard suffered a psychological breakdown of sorts. He was relieved of duty to take indefinite leave to recover at a mental health facility. While there he developed a relationship with his therapist. Once he was discharged and deemed fit for duty, he was reinstated as Captain of the Enterprise. After some weeks he requested the therapist be assigned to his ship where their relationship blossomed. He proposed to her five weeks ago."
Still whispering, Beverly asked,
"Who is she?"
Trying to ease her pain, the Admiral asked gently,
"Does it matter?"
Beverly lifted her head and said with firmness,
"Yes, it does."
He sighed and rubbed his forehead.
"She is a Vulcan psychiatrist named T'Krel."
With a frown, Beverly shook her head.
"A Vulcan?"
The Admiral nodded.
"Yes."
They sat in silence for a few minutes before Beverly stood, gathering her ravelled thoughts and trying to salvage her dignity.
"If it's alright with you, Admiral, I would like to take some time off…I need to reassess my options."
He stood and offered a sympathetic smile.
"Of course, Doctor, take as much time as you need."
As Beverly turned to leave, she hesitated and turned back. Lifting her chin defiantly, she said with an impassive voice,
"I don't want Captain Picard to know I am back, or anyone else, for that matter."
The old man bowed his head.
"It will be as you wish, Doctor. We are in your debt."
Having left the room, Beverly was escorted from the building and taken by shuttle back to Starfleet Command in San Francisco. She stayed only six hours and tried to make sure no one saw her. She was there only long enough to organise passage to Caldos.

 

 

 

T'Krel was satisfied with her position on the Enterprise. Being one of Deanna's staff, she found the job of Counsellor on such a large ship to be quite gratifying, although being a Vulcan, she did not actually feel gratified, rather she felt nothing at all. But it was satisfying. She was finished for the day, it was late and she was on her way back to her fiancé's quarters. She found her life mate to be intriguing for a human. His mind was highly analytical, he was honest and honourable and he was not held hostage by his emotions, at least not under normal situations. He had suffered a psychological breakdown, but even so, during his extensive therapy, he had regained control to the point where he completely clamped down on all of his emotions. It had taken T'Krel some time to get him to feel again.
His proposal had come as a surprise, she was unaware he harboured romantic feelings for her. She was aware they had become remarkably close, both during his long therapy following his breakdown and later, when she had been assigned to his ship. Their sexual relationship was satisfying, that he was so accomplished was a pleasant surprise, but that too had been unexpected. Secretly, she was pleased he had the ability to surprise her. Her last mate had been rather…stolid…even for a Vulcan. His death had left T'Krel feeling somewhat…dislocated. It had taken many years for that feeling to dissipate, but she had never considered taking another mate, mostly because she was too engrossed with her work.
She was fully aware of the reason behind the Captain's breakdown and was also fully cognizant that deep down he still pined for his lost love, but he had come a long way, far enough to bury his grief and wish to go forward into the future with her as his new love.
Love. What an interesting concept. From a human point of view, it was perhaps the most defining emotion of the human condition. A human without love was considered to be incomplete. But from a Vulcan point of view it was a nonsensical manifestation which did little but cloud the waters of perfect thought. She did not love Jean-Luc, nor would she ever, but she did care for him and found him suitable as a candidate for a long term relationship. When he had proposed marriage, she almost declined, but she knew two immutable things. One: a refusal would hurt him. Two: she would outlive him by decades. Weighing up these facts tipped the balance and she accepted. She was pleased to see he took her acceptance with grace and little emotion. Yes, he was suitable.

 

 

 

 

The doors to his quarters sighed open and she entered to find the rooms in darkness. By the light of the pin pricks of starlight outside she saw him sitting in his favourite chair by the viewports, a tumbler of rich amber liquid in his right hand.
In her customary silence she crossed the room and took her seat opposite him. His gaze never wavered from the stars but he smiled and said softly,
"It's late, you must be tired."
Adopting his soft tone, T'Krel agreed.
"You are correct; it has been a long day."
His eyes finally moved to settle on her.
"Would you like a drink?"
She shook her head.
"No, thank you."
He nodded and sipped, closing his eyes as he swallowed. She sensed his melancholy and tilted her head.
"You are…grieving. Still."
He smiled, but it was a sad smile.
"I have my moments. I know it is selfish of me, but sometimes…I just can't help it."
T'Krel shrugged.
"It is very human of you, Jean-Luc."
His smile grew.
"So you approve?"
"I neither approve nor disapprove. If you feel this way, you should express it. As long as you do not dwell on your…grief…then I believe it is acceptable to recognise it."
They sat in companionable silence for a while before Jean-Luc took a deep breath and tossed back the remainder of his drink. When he smiled, it was with warmth.
"Have you eaten?"
T'Krel shook her head.
"No, I have not."
He rose, holding out his hand.
"Neither have I. What's say I get us some dinner? Perhaps you would like to shower?"
Knowing she liked to shower before she went to bed, T'Krel offered a small smile and took his hand, coming to her feet.
"That is acceptable…thank you."
To make him feel more comfortable, T'Krel was making an effort to be more…human. She used gestures and phrases that humans would and she knew he appreciated her kindness.
They ate a nice meal, a mixture of human and Vulcan dishes, read for a while, then retired for the night. She knew when he caressed her face when he kissed her that he wanted sex. She also knew she did not need the emotional tie of romance and he seemed to accept this. He aroused her proficiently, bringing her to orgasm several times before he penetrated her, but even so, she tempered her responses, her true sexuality was too intense for any human to experience. She knew he craved some sort of emotional connection, but she was unable to provide it. To his credit, he never showed his pain as they had sex and in truth, their sexual life was satisfying, but T'Krel knew something was missing, something she was simply unable to find in herself.
She allowed him to hold her afterwards, although what she wanted to do was get out of bed to go to the bathroom to clean herself, but she knew he needed this physical closeness, so she permitted it. He would soon sleep, allowing her to leave the bed without disturbing him. His mumbled comment, however, caught her by surprise.
"We should set a date."
She frowned in the darkness.
"For what?"
She clearly heard the smile in his voice.
"For the wedding."
"Is there a time constraint?"
He sighed.
"No, but it is customary."
She sighed.
"I see. Well, I will be very busy for the next four months, and you have to negotiate the trade agreement with the Grizzellas, then the Enterprise will be returning to Earth for the upgrades."
Jean-Luc rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling.
"Well what about a small ceremony on Earth? Or would you prefer Vulcan?"
She thought for a few seconds, the shook her head.
"No, Earth will be sufficient. What is entailed?"
"In the ceremony?"
"Yes."
He sighed and closed his eyes.
"Human wedding ceremonies can be very elaborate, or very simple. It depends on what the couple want."
T'Krel gave a short nod.
"I see. Is there a religious component?"
Jean-Luc idly scratched his cheek.
"Again, it depends on the couple. The ceremony can be religious or secular or both."
"What is you preference?"
He sighed.
"To be honest, a small, secular ceremony with as few people as possible would suit me, but if you wish for something more elaborate…"
She shook her head.
"No, I think something simple will suffice. Why does there have to be other people there?"
Jean-Luc smiled.
"Because there has to be an official to conduct the ceremony and at least two witnesses."
T'Krel nodded.
"Ah, yes, I believe I am aware of that. The…Best Man and the…?"
"Maid of Honour."
"Yes, the Maid of Honour. Who chooses these people?"
Jean-Luc chuckled.
"The male, known as the Groom, chooses the Best Man and the female, known as the Bride, chooses the Maid of Honour. Traditionally, one chooses one's best friend to fulfil the duties."
T'Krel sighed.
"I have no…best friend."
Raising himself up on one elbow, Jean-Luc frowned down at his fiancée.
"Do you not have one special female friend? A childhood companion or a colleague perhaps?"
She shook her head.
"No."
In exasperation, Jean-Luc ran his fingers over his lower lip.
"Well, what about here on the Enterprise? Is there no one you work with that you feel could do the job?"
There were several seconds of silence before T'Krel said quietly,
"Commander Troi."
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and flopped back onto the mattress. He sighed.
"That may not be a good idea."
Confused, both by his reaction and by his comment, T'Krel shook her head.
"Why?"
Instead of answering her, Jean-Luc pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.
"Forget it. Let me talk with her first. All right?"
Still confused, T'Krel let it go. She waited until Jean-Luc gently kissed her and fell asleep, before she left the bed to go to the bathroom.

 


 

 

It was the end of the day shift and Deanna was looking forward to knocking off. She planned a long bath, a light meal and an early night. She was just entering the last of her notes into the computer when she became aware of someone at her door…and not just anybody, it was the Captain. Curiosity warred with irritation as she composed herself and waited for the door to chime. She made sure her voice was light as she bade her caller to enter.
"Hello, Captain, what brings you here?"
Knowing his Counsellor was less than pleased with him, Jean-Luc appreciated her making the effort to be civil.
"Hello, Counsellor…I was wondering if I might have a word with you?"
The only outward sign of Deanna's tension was a slight tightening of her jaw.
"Of course, Sir. How can I help?"
Silently asking permission to sit and receiving a nod of acceptance, Jean-Luc made himself as comfortable as he could under the circumstances and summoned a smile, which didn't reach his eyes.
"You are aware that T'Krel and I are to be married."
Deanna nodded, her obsidian eyes glittering.
"Yes, Sir."
Unfortunately she couldn't keep her disapproval from her voice. Jean-Luc sighed and shook his head.
"You still can't accept my relationship with her."
Schooling her features, Deanna struggled to maintain a professional demeanour.
"It isn't a matter of acceptance, Captain. It is more like my wanting what's best for you."
Jean-Luc's eyes darkened and his voice became deceptively soft.
"And you think my relationship with T'Krel isn't what's best for me."
Holding his gaze boldly, Deanna said softly,
"No, Sir, I do not."
Anger permeated Jean-Luc's being, but he had known Deanna a very long time…known her and trusted her. He let out a long breath and tried to calm himself.
"Why?"
Exasperated, Deanna clasped her hands and lowered her head.
"We've been over this, Sir."
Jean-Luc was beginning to struggle to keep his voice down.
"And I have already told you, T'Krel and I did not form our current relationship until she was assigned to this ship! And she is no longer my therapist."
Deanna lifted her head and speared Jean-Luc with an uncompromising look.
"But you admit you were attracted to her while she was your therapist."
Sitting back in his chair, Jean-Luc attempted a nonchalant air.
"You know I was."
With a snort of irritation, Deanna sat back and crossed her legs.
"And you can't see any problem with that?"
"No."
Suddenly uncrossing her legs and sitting forward, Deanna said harshly,
"And you don't think it's significant that you chose for a mate a woman incapable of showing you love and affection, especially after what happened between you and Beverly?"
Immediately on his feet and with his hands fisted by his sides, an outraged Captain shouted,
"How dare you!"
Keeping calm and trying her best to remain unintimidated, Deanna looked up and said softly,
"I dare because I know what you went through. Captain, your grief and heartache after Beverly disappeared were so severe you suffered a psychological breakdown so profound that you were confined to a medical facility for intensive therapy! Now I admit you have made a remarkable recovery and, under different circumstances I would applaud your efforts to get on with your life, but in choosing T'Krel you have made a grave error in judgement."
Jean-Luc paced across the room twice before he calmed himself enough to retake his seat. He took a steadying breath and said very softly,
"I love her."
Deanna bowed her head, shaking it slowly.
"You may think so, Sir, but I doubt you really do. You had a relationship with Beverly that nearly destroyed you. It was cold and unfeeling, the exact opposite of what you desired and when it ended you were left feeling bereft. Then, after months of acrimony and unresolved issues, Beverly disappeared, never to return and you fell apart. Now, almost a year later you have recovered enough to resume your captaincy and to go forward with your life, even to the point of looking for a life partner…but Captain, look carefully at whom you've chosen. A Vulcan. A woman of a species who pride themselves on their lack of emotions! She is by her very nature, cold and unfeeling. Does that remind you of anyone?"
His dark eyes glittering, Jean-Luc barely kept control of himself.
"You are accusing me of deliberately choosing a mate to what…punish myself?"
Deanna looked into his eyes with deep compassion.
"You still grieve, don't you."
Some of the tension left the man and his eyes showed his fathomless sadness. He whispered,
"Yes."
Deanna left her seat to kneel at his knees. Taking his hands she tried to see under his lowered brow.
"It's alright to grieve, Captain, but you need to see the truth of what you have done."
He looked up and there were tears in his eyes.
"You don't think we can be happy?"
With a sad sigh, Deanna shook her head.
"No. Maybe for a few years, perhaps, but ultimately your enduring love for Beverly will eat away any affection you now feel for T'Krel."
Taking a deep, shuddering breath, Jean-Luc gathered himself and wiped away his tears. He straightened his shoulders and looked down at the petite woman.
"I have to try, Deanna."
Her own eyes welling with unshed tears, all Deanna could do was nod sadly. Jean-Luc cleared his throat and summoned a wan smile. In a lighter tone he said softly,
"T'Krel would like you to be her Maid of Honour."
As Deanna smiled, two tears slipped down her cheeks.
"It would be a privilege. Who will be your Best man?"
"I thought I'd ask Will."
Her smile genuine, Deanna nodded.
"He'll be very pleased."
Jean-Luc stood and turned to the door, but before it could open, he turned back and said softly,
"I have to try, Deanna. The pain is slowly killing me."
Deanna stood and nodded.
"I know, Captain, I know."
He left and as the doors closed, Deanna sat down and tried not to sob.

 

 

 

To recover himself after his visit to Deanna, Jean-Luc went to the Arboretum. He knew if he returned to his quarters upset, T'Krel would insist on knowing why and he wasn't ready to talk about it yet. So he found a seat in the Arboretum and quietly composed himself. It was an hour before he felt he could return to his home.
He was greeted by his fiancée and she allowed him to kiss her. They shared an aperitif, then sat down to their dinner. Jean-Luc was pensive, not ignored by the woman.
"You are troubled."
Offering a small smile, Jean-Luc sighed and laid down his cutlery. He gave T'Krel a long look and frowned.
"Do you see our relationship being a problem, seeing as how you were my therapist?"
With typical Vulcan bluntness, T'Krel replied.
"No. If I did I would not have allowed it."
Unconvinced, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"But it does fly in the face of standard patient/therapist protocols."
She looked up and frowned.
"Only if we had become involved while you were still my patient."
Jean-Luc sat back, a wry smile in place.
"Did you know I was attracted to you while I was your patient?"
Sighing, T'Krel put down her cutlery and gave Jean-Luc an uncompromising look.
"You know I was not aware of it."
She lifted one perfect eyebrow.
"But why are we discussing this? We have already gone over this at some length."
Taking the time to wipe his mouth with his serviette, Jean-Luc gathered his thoughts.
"I spoke with Counsellor Troi this evening."
T'Krel offered little reaction.
"And she still disapproves of our relationship."
Rather than tell her the complete truth, Jean-Luc merely said,
"Yes."
T'Krel sighed.
"That is unfortunate."
With a nod, Jean-Luc managed a smile.
"Yes it is, but she did agree to be your Maid of Honour."
The Vulcan frowned.
"That is illogical."
Chuckling, Jean-Luc sat back and shook his head.
"Yes, it is."
T'Krel gave Jean-Luc a hard look, and then resumed eating.

 

 

 

Beverly only spent two weeks on Caldos. Not even her old friend, Governor Maturin knew she was on the planet. She had herself beamed into her late Grandmother's cottage from the transport ship that had brought her and spent the fortnight holed up in its rustic interior. She didn't even venture out into the garden. The tangle of herbs and other medicinal plants grew in massed profusion, desperately needing a loving hand to weed and prune, but Beverly only peered at them through the window.
After the first three days she roused herself and went on a cleaning spree. She scrubbed, dusted and polished until the little cottage gleamed. Then a sort of torpor set in and she took to her Grandmother's chair and sat in complete silence, stirring only in the evening to climb the stairs to bed. This lethargy lasted almost eight days before it slowly lifted and she began to be able to once again think.
"I have to get over this. He's moved on with his life, I should do the same."
Moving to the kitchen, she put the kettle on. While it heated, Beverly sat at the kitchen table and considered her options.
"Well, I'm a Doctor, I can work any where I want. The thing is…do I want to remain in Starfleet?"
She sighed and rose slowly to fill the teapot with boiling water. While the tea brewed she sighed, getting out a cup and some milk. It wasn't until she poured the brew that she realised it was Earl Grey. Stifling a cry of anguish, she tossed the liquid down the sink and then lifted her hands to her face.
"I can't do this…I miss him…I want him…"
She found a seat and plonked down, tears streaming down her face. Through her sobs she wailed,
"What am I going to do without him?"
A sudden realisation settled over her. She lifted her head and gasped.
"Oh God…this is how it must have started with the other Beverly. She couldn't handle it and went mad. Is that what's going to happen to me?"
She gave it some thought and shook her head.
"No! Her Jean-Luc was dead, mine is still alive."
She slapped her hand down on the table.
"So do I fight for him or not?"
She stood and stalked into the living room. Glaring at the embers in the fire, she stooped, grabbed a poker and savagely shoved at the embers, bringing them to life. She then put some wood on the fire and watched dispassionately as the flames took hold. As she came to her decision, she gritted her teeth.
"No, I won't fight for you Jean-Luc. You have moved on, I shall do the same, but it won't be with Starfleet. This has to be a clean break; I never want to see you again. It would be too painful…for both of us."
With a decisive nod, Beverly went to the home's computer and called up the visiting ship's schedules. Within ten minutes she had booked passage to Gault. Her next chore was to tender her resignation. It wasn't as painful as she thought it was going to be. As she pressed the send key she sat back and took a deep breath.
"My new life begins today."

 

 

 

The months had passed relatively quickly. Jean-Luc had mediated the talks and the Enterprise was on her way to Earth. It was late in the ship's night and Jean-Luc and T'Krel had just made love. As usual, T'Krel was permitting Jean-Luc to hold her afterwards but Jean-Luc felt her barely concealed tension. He sighed, let her go and rolled onto his back. In a rough grumble he muttered,
"You don't like me to hold you afterwards."
T'Krel had no wish to hurt her partner, but she wouldn't lie to him.
"It is not what I prefer."
He sighed again.
"Why didn't you say something?"
Staring up at the ceiling, T'Krel had to think about it before she answered.
"I did not wish to hurt your feelings."
There was silence between them for a little while before Jean-Luc asked quietly,
"How many other things have you kept hidden to spare my feelings?"
She turned to face him in the darkness and said softly,
"What does it matter?"
He rose up on his elbow.
"It matters to me. I want our relationship to be based on honesty, not denials or hidden agendas."
T'Krel sighed.
"I am not denying anything, nor do I have any hidden agendas. The reason I have been…less than forthcoming, is simply because of the inherent differences between us. You require a modicum of physical closeness. I do not, however that does not mean I can't allow you what you need. To do otherwise would be both selfish and cruel."
Jean-Luc lay back down and sighed.
"You always seem to be holding back…like you are hiding something from me when we're having sex."
T'Krel sighed.
"You are correct, I am holding back. Vulcan sexuality is far too intense to be experienced by a human, even one as proficient in sexual matters as you."
Jean-Luc frowned. He'd just been complimented, but he felt like he'd been insulted. He turned his head and when he spoke, he tried to keep the hurt out of his voice.
"Why don't you let me be the judge of that?"
T'Krel shook her head.
"You would be unable to judge anything if I unleashed my inner sexuality."
His hurt gave way to curiosity.
"How so?"
Sitting up, T'Krel went to leave the bed, but Jean-Luc gently grasped her arm.
"I want to know."
She shook her head.
"That is not possible. For you to find out what it is like would put you in danger. I will not permit that."
He let her go and, as she exited the bed, he followed her.
"You said you have no hidden agendas. What about your sexuality? How long were you going to hide that from me?"
She detected the slight anger in his voice and stopped, just inside the bathroom door.
"I was not hiding it from you, Jean-Luc. I deliberately held it at bay to protect you. There is a difference."
Not convinced, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"When two people who care about each other make love, it is supposed to be with equality and honesty, not with one hiding from the other. I don't know about you, T'Krel, but I am at my most vulnerable, both physically and emotionally when I make love. I would hope you felt the same, that you trusted me as I trust you."
The Vulcan sighed and lowered her head.
"It is that trust that I wish to preserve, Jean-Luc. What would you think of me if I injured you? How would that equate to honesty and equality? Please believe me; Vulcan sexuality is too intense for humans."
She entered the shower, leaving Jean-Luc to mull over her words. Some minutes later she re entered the bedroom to find him sitting up in bed, the side light on. His eyes followed her naked body as she crossed the room and got into the bed. She was beautiful. Lean and graceful with ample breasts, he found her very attractive. She knew he was watching her and she sighed.
"You are not going to give up on this, are you?"
He shook his head, but offered a small smile.
"No."
She sighed. Jean-Luc took her hand and said quietly,
"I want to experience what you feel."
She frowned.
"That is illogical; you cannot experience what I feel."
His smile grew.
"Not literally, no, but I want to experience what your full sexuality is like. I want to see…and feel…for myself."
T'Krel looked long and hard into his dark hazel eyes and eventually sighed.
"You realise you are putting yourself in danger?"
His smile became a grin.
"You have my permission to call Sick Bay if you need to."
She frowned.
"It won't be for me, it will be for you."
He shrugged.
"So be it."
"And when did you envisage this taking place?"
He lifted a hand and gently caressed her breast.
"What about now?"
Surprise registered in her dark eyes.
"You are…capable?"
He leaned to her and softly nuzzled her neck, whispering,
"If I receive enough…stimulation, then yes, I think I can…rise to the occasion."
A human woman may have laughed. T'Krel merely nodded. She turned to him, her eyes smoky.
"Then let us begin."
At first Jean-Luc noticed nothing out of the usual. T'Krel was attentive and skilful at arousing him, but as time passed and he spent more and more time arousing her, he noticed that her skin was becoming hot; in fact when he pushed his fingers inside her he almost winced. He was suckling her nipple as he used his fingers inside her when she suddenly arched up from the bed and grabbed his wrist. As she rolled him over, the bones in his wrist broke, but before he could register the pain she had impaled herself on him. He cried out as the searing heat enveloped his penis. Her grip settled on his shoulders and she squeezed mercilessly as she rode him. He tried to keep up with her, grabbing her hips and pushing up into her as hard and as fast as he could, but she was oblivious. She leaned forward, suddenly pressing his shoulders down into the mattress with such force that she separated his collar bones. He cried out again but her grip only increased. Internally her vagina clamped down on him, each time she slid up his shaft it almost tore his penis from its root. Helpless and lost Jean-Luc came in a frantic wave of pain and ecstasy, but T'Krel wasn't aware of his climax. Gripping him ferociously inside and out she rode him, her head craned back as a low scream began to emerge from her throat.
Overwhelmed with pain and sensation, all Jean-Luc could do was howl, his hands gripping her and trying to slow her down, but T'Krel was lost in her ecstasy. Suddenly her grips increased to unbearable proportions and she came, her greenish tinged skin almost glowing with a lustre Jean-Luc had never seen before.
There was an incredible pressure on his penis and, even though it was by now semi flaccid, he felt the head tear. He cried out and tried to lift T'Krel from him, but her grips were too strong. Wave after wave of pulsations swept through her body, a long continuous scream deafening him.
He lost consciousness. His next recollection was the soft voice of a man, whose voice he didn't recognise. He cracked his eyes open and realised he was in pain. He tried to say something, but all that came out was a low groan. The bed dipped as someone pressed a hypo against his neck. He tensed, but the hiss of the device heralded the relief of his pain.
He opened his eyes and frowned. T'Krel was sitting next to him on the bed and there was a man with a tricorder scanning him. Jean-Luc raised an enquiring eyebrow and T'Krel said softly,
"This is Doctor D'Arcy. He is treating your injuries, but you will have to present to Sick Bay for further treatment."
Jean-Luc nodded, then turned his attention to the Doctor, saying huskily,
"What is the damage?"
The Captain noted that the young man was a little pale.
"You have a broken right wrist, both collar bones have been separated from your shoulder joints and you have two tears to the glans of your penis. Also there is damage to the muscles at the base of your penis."
The Doctor could tell by his CO's stoic look that privacy was very important. He cleared his throat and offered a small nod.
"I will be very discreet, Captain. I can repair some of these injuries here, but you do require extensive regen therapy in Sick Bay."
Summoning his voice, Jean-Luc was annoyed to find it gravelly.
"Fine. Will tomorrow be all right?"
The medic smiled wanly.
"Yes, Captain, although some of your injuries will be…uncomfortable during the rest of the night. I have given you an analgesic, but it will need to be repeated in six hours."
T'Krel offered,
"If you leave a hypospray here, I can administer it."
Shaking his head, D'Arcy frowned.
"That is not really permissible, Sir."
Jean-Luc tried to sit up and failed. Taking a deep breath he looked the Doctor in the eyes.
"You said discretion was assured. Surely you can see by allowing Lieutenant T'Krel to administer the pain killer, you are maintaining that discretion."
Somewhat intimidated by his Captain, D'Arcy relented. He sighed and nodded.
"Very well, Captain."
He turned to T'Krel.
"No more than one dose between the hours of oh five hundred and when he reports to Sick Bay at oh eight hundred."
T'Krel bowed her head.
"As you wish, Doctor."
The young man stood and risked his Captain's displeasure by saying with a glint in his eye,
"No more sex…for tonight."
Both Jean-Luc and T'Krel remained silent until he left. Jean-Luc made himself comfortable in the bed and watched as his fiancée took off her robe and joined him. She sighed and looked deeply into his eyes.
"I apologise for injuring you, Jean-Luc."
He shrugged.
"I wanted to find out what it was like. Now I know."
She smiled and inside Jean-Luc sighed. As T'Krel settled down to sleep, Jean-Luc looked at the ceiling and thought,
"I think I prefer human sexuality."
He muttered,
"Lights out."
But as he was drifting off, a stray thought intervened.
"I wish her eyes were blue."

 

 

 

On her way to Gault, Beverly had more time to think. Ensconced in her cabin, the red head mulled over her situation, silently cursing her misfortune.
"Why has this time line diverged so differently? He was supposed to pine, but my return would have solved that. My God…we could have been happy by now!"
She flung her shoe across the room, then stared balefully at its partner. Sighing, she shook her head and went to her monitor.
"Computer, this is Doctor Beverly Crusher. I want to talk to Doctor Marcus Key. He can be found at the Gault medical facility."
"There will be a delay of twenty eight minutes."
"Acknowledged. Crusher out."
Casting a leery eye around her quarters, Beverly decided to go to the commissary to get a cup of coffee. She had only just entered the large room when a tall, blonde man noticed her. With a wink directed at his grinning colleagues, he sauntered over to the Doctor and introduced himself.
"Stan Marriott."
He stuck out his hand, causing Beverly to glare at him. Shooting an incredulous look back at his mates, Stan tried again.
"I've not seen you before. Would you like to join me for a drink?"
Turning her most icy look at the cocky man, Beverly enunciated very clearly.
"No. Now leave me alone."
The foolish man seemed to be oblivious.
"Oh come on, you don't mean that. A good looking woman like you needs company."
Her desire to leave was becoming urgent. She went to brush by the man when he grabbed at her arm.
"Hey, don't go gorgeous, I can show you a good time."
Years of Worf's Mok'bara classes had honed Beverly reactions to a knife's edge. She dropped the cup she was carrying and, in a blur of liquid motion, gripped and snapped the man's right arm. He screeched in pain as Beverly stood over him, saying softly,
"Listen to me, you Neanderthal. Not all women like to be accosted by hulking brutes like you. I told you to leave me alone; you should have listened to me."
She stepped over the writhing man and left the room. Twenty minutes passed before her door chime sounded. She got up from her desk and opened the door, schooling her features when confronted by the ship's Captain. His light green eyes glittered as he offered a small bow.
"Doctor Crusher, may I come in?"
Knowing she couldn't really refuse, Beverly stepped back and gestured him to enter. As he passed her, she bowed her head and said softly,
"I take it this visit is about what happened in the commissary."
The rotund man turned to face her, his visage grave.
"It is."
Beverly stood to her full height, determined not to back down.
"I was provoked."
The Captain slowly nodded.
"So the witnesses have corroborated. However I deplore violence, Doctor…couldn't you have found another way to…dissuade your suitor?"
Keeping her voice moderate with an effort, Beverly shook her head.
"He wasn't my suitor, Captain. He was a chauvinistic idiot who wouldn't take no for an answer."
The Captain sighed, his face softening.
"I do understand what you are saying, Doctor, but it is a little more complicated than a simple matter of bad manners. Stanley Marriott is Francis Marriott's son."
Beverly shrugged.
"Is that supposed to mean something to me?"
"It should. Francis Marriott owns a whole fleet of ships, this one included."
Beverly's blue eyes began to glitter.
"Are you suggesting I should have tolerated that idiot's behaviour just because his father owns this ship?"
The Captain shook his head, raising both hands.
"Of course not! But you must see my dilemma. I have a very important man with a broken arm. I have to answer for that."
With a frown, Beverly asked,
"Why do you have to answer for it? What happened was between me and him."
Smiling wryly, the Captain sighed.
"I am employed by Francis Marriott."
Beverly's eyebrows rose.
"Oh."
"So you see my problem."
"Yes."
Beverly thought for a few moments before smiling.
"Would you like me to apologise to Stan?"
Relief washed over the Captain's face.
"That would be wonderful."
Beverly smiled.
"Think nothing of it. Where is he now?"
"In his quarters."
With a decisive nod, Beverly's eyes twinkled.
"Well, I have something I have to do now, but it will only take a few minutes. I will go and see him immediately afterwards."
The Captain offered a small bow.
"Thank you, Doctor Crusher; I am in your debt."
He left and Beverly sighed. She went back to her terminal to see the light flashing. Activating the unit, she smiled at the face she saw.
"Hello Marcus, sorry to keep you waiting."
The young man grinned in surprise.
"Beverly! You're a sight for sore eyes. How the hell are you?"
She grinned back.
"I'm fine…you?"
"Couldn't be better. What can I do for you?"
Beverly smile softened.
"Want some help?"
"Are you offering?"
Her smile grew.
"Yes."
"That would be wonderful. We've not had another Doctor since Doctor McFadden left. Can I tell Helen you're on your way?"
"Yes, I'll be another week."
"I look forward to seeing you, Beverly, it's been too long."
"You too, Marcus, Crusher out."
She sat back from the monitor and sighed.
"Now…Stanley Marriott. Here's hoping I can keep my temper under control."

 

 

 

 

 


Stanley Marriott knew who was at his door and deliberately refused to answer the chime until he was good and ready. To her credit, Beverly merely sighed as she waited, knowing this was more about his ego than anything else.
Eventually the door whispered open and Stanley gave a petulant pout.
"What do you want?"
Looking pointedly at his arm, which was in a sling, Beverly managed to sound contrite.
"I have come to apologise for breaking your arm."
Lifting his head to stare imperiously, the young man sniffed disdainfully.
"And what if I refuse your apology?"
Beverly shrugged, her patience beginning to wear precariously thin. She gave one long look and went to turn.
"Then I will simply leave."
When he called out, there was a note of pleading in his voice.
"Oh! Don't go…I…I accept your apology…and I thank you for making it."
Looking at him over her shoulder, Beverly gave a cheeky smile.
"Well it's the least I can do…although I do believe you got what you deserved."
Shock and anger played out across his face until he saw the smile on Beverly's lips. He lowered his head and shook it.
"You really are something."
He stepped back into his quarters, gesturing with his free arm.
"Come in, have a drink with me."
Shaking her head ruefully, Beverly chuckled.
"You don't learn, do you."
Offering what he hoped was a rakish grin, Stan shrugged.
"Well you can't blame a man for trying…you're a good looking woman."
Laughing outright, then holding up a placating hand, Beverly said with amusement,
"And I'm old enough to be your mother."
She then sobered.
"Look, Stan, no offence, but I would like to be left alone. Okay?"
His disappointment was obvious, but he smiled graciously.
"Okay, but if you change your mind, you know where I am."
Beverly gave a small bow and smiled.
"Thank you."
She felt his eyes on her as she left and she felt a bit better for having apologised. She was quite used to men, young and old, making passes at her and up until now she had always ignored them, but it suddenly occurred to her that she should be happy she was still obviously attractive to the opposite sex. The only problem was…the only man she really wanted now seemed to be taken.
She went back to her quarters and settled down to read.

 

 

 

It took four days for Jean-Luc's injuries to completely heal. Doctor D'Arcy had been true to his word and to the Captain's knowledge, no one else on board was aware of the nature…or cause…of his injuries.
T'Krel had been unusually quiet, even given she was reticent as a matter of habit and Jean-Luc was puzzled by it. One evening, after he'd been declared fit by the medics, Jean-Luc decided to ask what the problem was.
"T'Krel, I have noticed you seem to have something on your mind. Would you like to talk about it?"
The Vulcan looked into her fiancé's eyes and gave a slow nod.
"I believe I would."
She sat back and gathered her thoughts.
"I am unsettled by what happened between us."
Jean-Luc frowned.
"T'Krel, I asked for you to do what you did and you have already apologised for what eventuated."
She bowed her head.
"That is true but I cannot help but be concerned for the future."
Moving closer, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"I'm not sure I understand."
With a sigh, T'Krel clasped her hands in her lap.
"Marriage is a life-long commitment, is it not?"
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Usually, yes, at least that is the usual intention."
T'Krel offered an uncharacteristic sigh.
"Then it is that commitment that troubles me."
Alarmed, Jean-Luc muttered quietly,
"Why?"
"I am to assume that the union will be monogamous?"
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes."
She sighed again.
"Then I think we have a problem."
Moving until he was sat close to her, she allowed him to take one of her hands.
"Just tell me what the problem is."
Looking into his eyes, T'Krel said softly,
"I will not be able to keep my real sexuality at bay indefinitely. There will be times when I will be compelled to express myself sexually and our recent experience has shown I cannot do that with you."
Jean-Luc smiled and squeezed her hand.
"T'Krel…"
She shook her head.
"No, Jean-Luc. I cannot…no, I will not injure you again."
Concern was mirrored in his eyes.
"Then what are we to do?"
Her face was impassive, but her eyes showed her discomfort.
"If we are to marry, there is only one thing we can do."
His reply was wary.
"And that is?"
"Our marital contract must be an open one."
He sat back, frowning.
"An open contract?"
She nodded.
"Yes. I must be free to seek a Vulcan partner when I need to."
He thought for only a few moments before giving a decisive nod.
"That is logical."
T'Krel nodded slowly, trying to gauge his mood.
"It would benefit you, as well."
He frowned deeply.
"How so?"
Feeling slightly uncomfortable and not really knowing how he would take her next words, T'Krel kept her voice soft.
"You too would have the opportunity to seek a more…emotional partner, one who may better suit your needs."
He let go of her hand and stood, wanting to pace, to shout, but settled for gritting his teeth and fisting his hands. When he spoke, his voice was deceptively soft.
"I need no one but you, T'Krel."
She knew him well enough to know he was very angry. She stood to face him.
"Were you unaware that I know you need more than I am capable of giving you?"
Calming himself, Jean-Luc took her hands and looked into her eyes.
"T'Krel you give me all I need. Please don't think otherwise. I am willing to agree that you should seek whatever you need to be happy. Let us leave it at that."
Unconvinced, but unwilling to press the issue, T'Krel merely bowed her head and sighed.
"Thank you, Jean-Luc. Please know my actions will not impair our marriage in any way. In all other matters, I will be faithful to you."
He smiled but there was sadness in his eyes.
"I know you will, T'Krel, I never doubted you."
They made love that night and T'Krel made a concerted effort to be more than she was, but at its end she knew she had failed.

 

 

 

The Enterprise entered orbit around Earth early in the day. They had to wait three hours before the great ship could berth at McKinley Station.
Having made some enquiries, Jean-Luc was on his way down to the surface to see an old friend. Jean-Luc and T'Krel had agreed to have one of Jean-Luc's old Academy friends marry them. The man in question was stationed at Starfleet Command.
The Captain beamed down and exited the transporter room to cross the gardens. He was enjoying the morning crispness when a voice stopped him in his tracks.
"Jean-Luc? Is that Jean-Luc Picard?"
He turned, a slight frown on his face. Approaching him was a woman of about his age, her grey hair swept up in an elaborate bun. As she neared the Captain, her piercing green eyes jogged a memory. He smiled.
"Anita Keating!"
The woman laughed, shaking her head.
"Actually, it's Anita Simmonds."
Jean-Luc held out his arms.
"I don't care, come here."
They embraced before kissing each other. Jean-Luc sighed, his eyes dancing with delight.
"I didn't know you were here, last time I heard of you, you were on the Hermes, heading out to the Jurase sector."
Anita flapped her hand.
"Oh that was months ago! I've been here at Command for weeks."
The sprightly woman snapped her fingers, her eyes dancing.
"Hey, why don't we get together, you know, the old firm? You me and Beverly."
Jean-Luc's face fell.
"That isn't possible, I'm afraid. Beverly went on a mission just over a year ago. She never returned."
Confusion swept over the woman's face.
"But that can't be right, I saw her only a week ago."
Jean-Luc's head snapped up and when he spoke, it was so sharply that Anita took a step backwards.
"What? Where?"
Now nervous, as well as confused, Anita said warily,
"Here at Command. Look, Jean-Luc, I only saw her through a window, but I'm absolutely certain it was her. It's odd though. When I went to see her, she had gone and nobody could tell me where she went…or that she had ever been here in the first place."
Suddenly overcome with the need to move, Jean-Luc squeezed Anita's hand and offered her an apology.
"I have to go, Anita, there is something I have to do."
He was walking away when a very confused woman uttered,
"Okay, I'll see you around."
Jean-Luc made his way immediately to another old friend's office. He didn't seek admittance via the secretary, nor did he knock, instead he opened the door and barrelled right in. The woman behind the desk looked up, a darkening glower on her face, but when she saw who it was that had just disturbed her unannounced, the glower gave way to a tentative smile.
"Jean-Luc?"
Not standing on ceremony, Jean-Luc placed his hands on the desk and leaned forward menacingly.
"I have just been told that Beverly was seen here at Command a week ago."
Admiral Marta Salvado sat back and steepled her fingers under her chin. Being in charge of the deployment of individual officers put the Admiral in a difficult position. She sighed and briefly closed her eyes.
"Jean-Luc…"
The Captain's voice dropped to a deep, soft rumble.
"Was she here?"
Many years of friendship warred with the Admiral's need to keep a confidence. She sighed again and lifted a hand.
"Jean-Luc…I can't verify that either way."
Confused and angry, Jean-Luc barked,
"Why the hell not?"
Herself becoming angry, Marta stood and glared at the vexed man.
"Two reasons…Captain. One: I am under orders not to divulge information on a certain officer…and two: I made a promise I intend to keep."
Stymied, Jean-Luc ground his teeth.
"So you won't help me."
Sadness crept across the Admiral's face.
"I'm sorry, Jean-Luc, I can't."
He turned on his heel and made for the door. Marta called as he left,
"Don't try anyone else, Jean-Luc; the answer will be the same."
As he stalked briskly out of the building, his communicator chirped.
"Kline to Picard."
The Captain stopped and grimaced.
"Picard here, Henry. Go ahead."
"Where are you, Jean-Luc? We were supposed to meet fifteen minutes ago. It's not like you to be late"
Closing his eyes, Jean-Luc tried to will his heart from pounding.
"Ah, yes, I'm sorry, Henry, something has come up. I'll…get back to you."
An obviously confused man responded with,
"Well it's your wedding I'm going to officiate in…okay. Kline out."
Once out of the building, Jean-Luc made a bee line for Admiral Brand's office.

 

 

 

 

The secretary outside the Admiral's office was more officious than Admiral Salvado's secretary. He was out from behind his desk the instant he saw the determined Captain stride into the anteroom. He raised a hand, almost placing it upon Jean-Luc's chest.
"Captain, how may I help you?"
Jean-Luc came to a halt and glared at the young Lieutenant.
"I wish to see Admiral Brand. Now."
Staying remarkably calm, the Lieutenant shook his head.
"I'm sorry, Captain, but Admiral Brand is too busy to see anyone right now."
Taking a deep breath, Jean-Luc strove to calm himself.
"If you would tell her that Captain Jean-Luc Picard needs to see her urgently, I'm sure she would make herself available."
Recognition flashed across the young man's eyes.
"Oh, I see. One moment please, Captain."
The Lieutenant disappeared through the large door and was gone mere seconds before he reappeared. With a smile, he gestured to the door.
"The Admiral will see you, Sir."
Muttering,
"Thank you."
Jean-Luc went into the inner office to see his old friend standing at her replicator. Before he could say anything, she held up her hand.
"I know it's urgent, Jean-Luc, but there's nothing that can't be settled without a cup of tea. Earl Grey?"
Sighing to quell his exasperation, Jean-Luc summoned a smile and nodded.
"That would be lovely, thank you."
Once they were both seated, Admiral Brand pre-empted Jean-Luc by saying quietly,
"This is about Beverly, isn't it."
Equally quietly, Jean-Luc said,
"Yes."
Jacqueline Brand sighed and rubbed her brow.
"And I take it you've already been to see Marta Salvado."
"Yes."
"And now you won't take no for an answer."
Jean-Luc remained silent as the Admiral sipped her tea. Eventually she put her cup down and looked him in the eye.
"What I'm about to tell you must be held in the strictest of confidences."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"I understand."
Brand shook her head.
"No, I don't think you do. It involves both the Department of Temporal Investigations and Section 31."
Jean-Luc paled, muttering softly,
"Oh, shit."
Brand smiled.
"Exactly."
Jean-Luc sat back and ran a hand over his head. Brand watched him, knowing he would ask her what he wanted to know.
"Can you tell me what her mission was?"
The Admiral shook her head.
"No."
With a nod, Jean-Luc sighed.
"And I suppose you can't tell me where she is?"
Brand's face fell.
"Not as of this moment, but I can tell you where you might be able to find her…but…I advise you to leave her alone, Jean-Luc."
Unable to sit still any longer, the Captain got to his feet and began to pace.
"I can't do that, Jacqueline. I have to find her; I have to see her…"
The Admiral rose and went to him, taking his hand to stop his pacing.
"You can't, Jean-Luc. Look, I can't tell you what her mission was, other than to say it was extremely traumatic. You need to leave her alone."
When Jean-Luc looked into her eyes, she saw there were tears in his.
"You know I am about to be married."
She nodded silently.
"I can't, Jacqueline…I can't marry T'Krel if I know Beverly's alive! I have to see her!"
Looking into his eyes and seeing his profound anguish, the Admiral relented. She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose while shaking her head.
"I must be mad…and if this gets out I'll be cashiered…but,"
She sighed again and squeezed his hand.
"Go to Gault, that's all I can tell you."
Jean-Luc placed his hand against her cheek and kissed her, whispering softly,
"Bless you, Jacqueline."
He was gone before she could say anything further.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was on his way back to the transporter suite when his communicator chirped.
"Salvado to Picard."
He slowed his steps and frowned.
"Picard here, go ahead, Marta."
"I have just spoken to Jacqueline. I take it you will insist on going to Gault?"
Jean-Luc's reply was guarded.
"Yes…"
"Will you tell her something for me when you see her?"
Jean-Luc stopped, a frown on his face.
"Yes."
He could hear sadness and regret in Marta's voice.
"Tell her it wasn't my fault…that everything that happened was because of Section 31. Not even the Temporal Investigators had any say."
Jean-Luc cursed softly under his breath.
"I think I understand, Marta, I'll tell her."
"Good luck, Jean-Luc…I think you're going to need it."
He shook his head.
"Why?"
"Because she knows about your engagement."
For the second time that day, Jean-Luc muttered,
"Shit!"
Marta's voice was sympathetic.
"I agree, wholeheartedly. When will you leave?"
Jean-Luc closed his eyes, trying to quell his racing heart.
"As soon as I've spoken to T'Krel."
It was Marta's turn to swear.
"Oh, shit."
Jean-Luc's smile held no warmth.
"Yes, exactly. I have to go, Marta…is that all?"
"Yes, Jean-Luc, Salvado out."
Five minutes later, Jean-Luc was in the transporter suite.
"One to beam to my quarters on the Enterprise."
"Aye, Captain."

 

 

 

As Jean-Luc rematerialised in his quarters, he immediately saw he was alone. Tapping his comm. badge he said quietly.
"Picard to T'Krel."
"T'Krel here, go ahead, Captain."
"I have to see you T'Krel, immediately."
"Can you come to my office? I have some time free."
Jean-Luc sighed. He would have rather met her in his quarters.
"Yes, that's fine, I'm on my way. Picard out."
He left his quarters and strode through the ship, his mind roiling. As soon as he walked through the door, T'Krel knew something was wrong. She gestured to a seat, but Jean-Luc shook his head, instead going to her and taking her hands in his. He looked into her eyes, his stomach clenching.
"What I have to tell you will come as a shock…and I apologise in advance for the hurt I am about to inflict."
She nodded silently, so Jean-Luc took a deep breath and continued.
"I haven't seen Henry yet. As I was crossing the gardens I met an old friend, Captain Anita Keating. She told me she saw Beverly last week at Command."
T'Krel's eyes widened and she took a backwards step.
"Oh, I see."
Closing his eyes briefly, and hating himself, Jean-Luc pressed on.
"I went to see Admiral Salvado, but she wouldn't tell me anything, so I went to Admiral Brand and she eventually confirmed Beverly had been at Command a week ago. She told me I might be able to fine Beverly on Gault."
T'Krel looked up into Jean-Luc's eyes and said softly,
"And you will go to her."
Tears welled in Jean-Luc's eyes.
"I have to, T'Krel."
The Vulcan removed her hands and turned to walk away from Jean-Luc, needing some distance between them. Near the viewport she turned back and lifted her head.
"I am aware of the feelings you have for Doctor Crusher. Even after your extensive therapy and recovery, you never lost your love for her. It is logical that you should want to go to her now. I take it our marriage will not now take place?"
Jean-Luc went to his fiancée and took her hands.
"I don't know."
T'Krel nodded once.
"Then I will wait until your return."
Jean-Luc desperately wanted to say something to ease the situation, but all he could come up with was,
"I'm sorry, T'Krel."
He was surprised when she shrugged.
"Don't be, it is no one's fault."
Feeling confused and guilty, Jean-Luc turned on his heel and left the room. T'Krel turned back to the viewport and sighed, her vision blurring as she strove to meditate to calm herself.

 

 

 

Beverly was met by Marcus as she beamed down to the medical clinic on Gault. The young man grinned as he shook her hand.
"Greetings, Doctor Crusher, it's so good to have you back."
Her smile a warm one, Beverly was pleased to be met so well. She was ushered outside to find a gleaming new flitter at her disposal.
"Is that for me?"
Marcus nodded eagerly.
"Yes! We've been upgrading everything here and part of the package was better equipment for any visiting Doctors. You also have new digs."
They got into the flitter with Marcus at the controls. A short, ten minute flight brought them to Beverly's accommodation. She was astonished by what she saw. A low lying building, it was set on a high bluff overlooking a bright blue sea. There was a plunge pool situated beside the house and an outdoor spa, but what really took Beverly's fancy was the back balcony. It was large, with stunning white sails strung up for protection from the sun. There were tables and lounges scattered about and Marcus took delight in showing Beverly the controls that operated the tilt of the sails, the temperature of the pool and spa and the volume of the music centre. To say she was pleased with her lodgings was a gross understatement. She was, in fact, highly delighted. On his request, Beverly took Marcus back to the clinic in her flitter, with a promise to report for duty the next day. She spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in the dying sun on the balcony.
It was after dinner that Beverly contacted Helen. The delight she saw on the older woman's face made Beverly's heart swell.
"Beverly! Marcus told me you were coming back, but he didn't say when. God…it's good to see you!"
The red head grinned.
"I think he was being cheeky, Helen. He knew when my transport was due. So, how are you?"
In response Helen held up her hands and wriggled her fingers. Beverly had to be careful to look surprised.
"Wow! When did that happen?"
Helen's eyes were dancing.
"Not long after you left another Doctor came. She did it."
Not being able to resist the urge, Beverly asked,
"What was she like?"
Helen sighed, her smile still evident.
"Actually, she was a lot like you. Similar sense of humour and a damn good Doctor."
Beverly nodded.
"And quite handy, it seems. Are you playing again?"
With a chuckle, Helen nodded.
"Yes! In fact I gave a short recital last week."
Beverly beamed.
"Well I'm very pleased. Are you still receiving any treatments?"
"No, not for about a month now."
Beverly's eyes showed her delight.
"Well that's just wonderful! Can I come by tomorrow?"
Helen laughed.
"You better! I'll make that boiled fruit cake you like so much."
Beverly held up one finger.
"As long as it has no…"
"…cherries! I know. How about three o'clock?"
Beverly nodded.
"I'll be there."
Helen leaned forward to end the call, but hesitated. She looked carefully at Beverly and said softly,
"How do you feel, Beverly? Are you over…him?"
Her smile faded and Beverly found she couldn't quite meet Helen's eyes.
"Oh I'm fine…no worries. I'll see you tomorrow. Bye."
Beverly severed the connection before Helen could restate her second question. She sat back and took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds before slowly letting it out. Shaking her head, she gazed through the sliding glass doors at the starry night.
"I have to move on. He has found someone else."
She was tired when she went to bed that night, but sleep didn't happen. She lay awake most of the night, trying in vain to rid her mind of thoughts of Jean-Luc.

 

 

Jean-Luc had to pull a few strings, cajole and eventually pull rank to get the use of the Captain's yacht. With the Enterprise docked in McKinley Station it was difficult to take the yacht, but Jean-Luc wanted the Calypso for her superior speed and handling, not to mention her luxurious appointments.
Admiral Brand had contacted him, effectively giving him a leave of absence. Apparently Admiral Salvado had also informed Will Riker, second in command of the Enterprise, that it was possible her Captain may not return before the ship was deemed once again, space worthy. To his credit, Will never questioned the edict; however he was intrigued that his Captain should take an extended leave on the eve of his supposed wedding. It was Counsellor Troi who finally contacted Jean-Luc. He had just left the Sol system and was in the gym, pumping iron. The computer alerted him to the incoming communiqué.
He wiped his head and torso with a towel and went to the living area, turning the monitor to face him.
"Computer, route incoming communiqué to this terminal."
"Acknowledged."
The face that appeared made him frown. There could be only one reason why she was contacting him, and he wasn't sure he was ready to deal with her.
"Counsellor."
Deanna smiled, but he could see her obsidian eyes glitter.
"Captain."
Wishing to end the contact as soon as possible, Jean-Luc dispensed with the amenities.
"I take it this is about me taking leave."
Deanna nodded slowly.
"On the eve of your wedding, Sir."
He sighed heavily.
"I am not willing to discuss it at this time, Counsellor. All you need to know is that Beverly was seen at Command just over a week ago and I believe she is now on Gault."
Deanna's steady gaze speared her Captain.
"And so you have abandoned T'Krel to go and find Beverly."
Lowering his head, Jean-Luc said softly,
"I am terminating this channel."
Deanna sighed.
"Very well, Captain, but you should know, I will be counselling T'Krel."
He gave a curt nod.
"As you wish, Picard out."
Jean-Luc sat staring at the blank screen and then sighed and closed his eyes, muttering,
"I will seek your counsel over this once I have it sorted out in my head, Deanna."

 

 

Deanna glared at the screen, then sighed. She spent a few minutes plexing before she lifted her head and said firmly,
"Troi to T'Krel."
The reply was a few seconds in coming, but the voice that answered was steady.
"T'Krel here. Go ahead Counsellor."
Deanna took a deep breath to calm herself.
"I have just spoken with Captain Picard. I feel you may benefit from some counselling."
"That is not necessary, Counsellor."
Gritting her teeth, Deanna stuck to her guns.
"I think it is, T'Krel. Please report to my office immediately."
There was the merest few seconds before T'Krel replied.
"As you wish, Counsellor. I am on my way."
Feeling an overabundance of nervous energy, Deanna replicated herself a hot chocolate and was sitting in her usual chair when the chime rang out. Centring herself, Deanna called softly,
"Come in, T'Krel."
The Vulcan entered and immediately took her seat. She was, as usual, completely composed, the epitome of studied indifference. Deanna plastered a smile on her face and plunged in.
"You must feel betrayed by what has happened."
To Deanna's surprise, T'Krel shrugged.
"I do not feel betrayed, Counsellor, in fact I feel nothing at all."
With a sigh, Deanna tried again.
"The man who professes to love you…who has proposed marriage to you, has just left you on the eve of your wedding, to pursue another woman. Surely that is enough to make you feel something?"
Again, the Vulcan shrugged.
"Captain Picard's unresolved feelings for Doctor Crusher are well documented. That he chooses to go to her now is not surprising."
Deanna let out a plosive breath, trying to keep her exasperation at bay.
"But surely you feel…abandoned?"
T'Krel seemed to give that some thought, but she surprised Deanna again by changing the subject.
"I am not certain you should be counselling me in this matter."
Thrown somewhat, Deanna frowned and asked,
"Why?"
"Because you have disapproved of our relationship from the beginning."
Deanna rubbed her forehead and sighed.
"T'Krel you must see the difficulty you presented by forming a relationship with a former patient. Even though he was no longer your patient when the relationship began, you must have been aware he was attracted to you during his treatment."
T'Krel shook her head.
"No, I was not. Captain Picard was in a very precarious mental state when I first saw him. For a man who prides himself on his emotional control, he was in desperate trouble, but once we established a…connection…he regained his control. In fact he was so successful at burying his feelings, I had serious trouble in getting him to express himself adequately.
"In all that I had no inkling he was at all attracted to me."
Deanna lifted a hand to give form to her words.
"But later, once he'd been discharged and returned to duty, didn't you think it odd that he would request you to be assigned to this ship?"
T'Krel shook her head.
"Not at all. When the request was presented to me, I accessed the crew list, in particular the mental health professionals and decided it would be a good place to further my career. I found the present staff to be…exemplary."
Ignoring the compliment, Deanna shook her head.
"But when Captain Picard initiated the relationship, why didn't you stop it? As you said, you knew of his unresolved feelings for Doctor Crusher…you must have known he was sublimating."
T'Krel stiffened.
"I knew no such thing! When he suggested we embark on a romantic relationship I studied the situation…and the man…and I found both to be satisfactory. I admit I am unable to provide him with some of the more…human…traits he desires, but he has assured me it is of no consequence. Our relationship has been…satisfactory."
Deanna tried not to glare, but it happened anyway. She sighed and shook her head.
"Satisfactory. That's a sad word for a relationship with a man whose passions run so deep."
Deanna pulled her hair off her shoulders.
"Tell me, T'Krel, are you going to fight for him?"
The Vulcan briefly considered feigning ignorance, but just as quickly squashed the idea. Instead she shook her head.
"No, Counsellor, I will not. Despite all you have said, I find it logical that Captain Picard should embark on his present course of action. I can only hope he finds what he is looking for."
Deanna spent a few minutes staring incredulously at the Vulcan before she had an epiphany. In a very quiet voice she said,
"You never really recovered from losing your first mate, did you."
T'Krel stared emotionlessly at the Betazoid before she suddenly stood. She took a deep breath and seemed to gather herself.
"I see no further need to continue with this session. Good afternoon, Counsellor."
In the silence of her now empty room, Deanna smiled grimly.
"You may think this is over, T'Krel, but I've only just begun."

 

 

 

As promised, Helen had made Beverly a boiled fruit cake…sans cherries. As Beverly knocked on the front door she could hear the kettle whistling.
Helen's cheery,
"Come on in, Beverly."
Made the Doctor smile warmly. She entered the house and made her way to the kitchen to see Helen pouring boiling water into the teapot. Drawing a deep breath in through her nose, Beverly hummed with delight.
"Mmm, that smells so good!"
Helen chuckled.
"Baking always makes a welcoming aroma. Come on, I've laid the table in the living room."
Both women walked into the light, airy room, dominated by the grand piano which was situated near the double glass doors that led out onto the back deck.
While Beverly watched, Helen cut and served the cake, then poured each of them a hot cup of tea. With a cheekily raised eyebrow, Helen gestured to the open doors.
"It's a lovely afternoon, why don't we take this outside?"
Beverly nodded and grinned.
"Great idea."
They quickly settled in their chairs and Beverly couldn't help back lift her head, her eyes squinted in the dappled light.
"It really is lovely our here. Have you seen my new place?"
Helen nodded, using a finger to remove a crumb of cake from her lip.
"Uh huh, Marcus took me over there about a fortnight ago. It's wonderful."
Raising her eyebrows, Beverly nodded enthusiastically.
"It certainly is! Did you go inside? Did you see the balcony?"
Shaking her head, Helen mumbled around her cake,
"No, I only saw it from the outside."
Beverly blew on her tea then took a tentative sip.
"Then you must come by tomorrow. I'll give you the grand tour."
They ate in silence for a few minutes before Beverly asked,
"How have your hands been?"
Lifting her right hand and flexing it, Helen smiled wistfully.
"Really good. As you can see I have full movement now. I only wish Cheryl could have seen the results of what she did."
Feeling a little uncomfortable, Beverly smiled nervously.
"I'm sure she knows, Helen. She would have been aware of what you'd be able to do before she undertook the procedures. The methodology she employed has been very well documented as has the results. In cases like yours the rate of impairment is in direct correlation to the amount of repair that can be achieved. The onset of Graves was slow in your case and a quick diagnoses was vital. Once that was achieved, the treatment was rapid and effective, so she was only dealing with a moderate amount of impairment."
Helen nodded thoughtfully.
"So you're saying if you had been here around that time, you would have done the surgeries?"
Beverly nodded, a smile on her face.
"Yes. When I left, you were still undergoing treatment; there was no way I could have done it then."
Helen sighed.
"Well I'm just glad it was done."
She looked into Beverly's eyes and the Doctor felt unnerved.
"You two are so alike…she was sad too and like you, she did her best to hide it."
With a shrug, Beverly tried to give a light hearted reply.
"Well, we all have our demons."
Not swayed by her flip response, Helen said quietly,
"Are you over him, Beverly?"
Flushing slightly, Beverly struggled to keep the smile on her face.
"Over who?"
Her expression showing her compassion, Helen said softly,
"The Ambassador…the one who died."
Beverly tried to chuckle but it came out almost as a sob.
"Oh him? Yes, I'm well over him."
Completely unconvinced, Helen decided to change the subject.
"Would you like to hear me play?"
Blinking back her threatening tears, Beverly smiled gaily.
"Yes, that would be lovely."
They went into the living room and Helen took her place at the piano. She looked over to Beverly, who was standing at the instrument and asked,
"Classical or contemporary?"
Giving the question only a moments' thought, Beverly said decisively,
"Classical."
Helen nodded slowly, then said,
"Have you a favourite piece?"
While she nodded, Beverly said softly,
"Debussy's Claire De Lune."
Mild shock registered on Helen's face. Beverly saw it and frowned.
"What?"
As she started to play, Helen said quietly,
"That was Cheryl's favourite too."
Nothing more was said until Helen finished playing. Beverly sighed, her eyes closed.
"I have always loved that piece."
Helen nodded.
"It is lovely, isn't it. How did you come to love it so much?"
Knowing the question trod on dangerous ground, Beverly waved her hand dismissively and said flippantly,
"Oh you know, it's one of those pieces you hear once and it sticks with you."
Again unconvinced, Helen simply nodded.
"Would you like me to play something else?"
Deciding to steer well clear of any other pieces she shared with Jean-Luc, Beverly chuckled and said capriciously,
"Country Gardens."
Helen gave an incredulous look.
"Grainger's?"
Beverly nodded.
"Uh huh."
Rising from the piano, Helen laughed.
"For that, I will need the music."
Beverly waited patiently while Helen retrieved the sheet music for the piece. Then, as she played, both women laughed as Helen played it in a jaunty manner. When she finished, Beverly went to her and gently lifted her hands, inspecting them minutely. Helen sat passively then smiled as Beverly let go of her hands.
"Do they pass?"
With a warm smile, Beverly nodded.
"Yes, Cheryl has done an exemplary job."
Just then a call came through on Helen's computer. She answered it, then spoke quietly for a few seconds before turning to Beverly and saying,
"It's Marcus. There's been an accident at the granary. He needs your help immediately."
Giving a curt nod, Beverly switched abruptly into her professional mode.
"Tell him I'm on my way."
Beverly was in her flitter, powering it up when Helen appeared at the door. She lifted a hand and smiled.
"Thanks for coming. Let me know about tomorrow."
Beverly smiled, but her mind was already on the coming job.
"Will do. Bye."
It was a very thoughtful woman who watched the Doctor lift off and fly away.

 

 

 

 

Beverly entered the granary to see Marcus treating an obviously badly injured man. He looked up as Beverly knelt beside him.
"There're two more men trapped inside the chute. The rescue team is on their way, but they've been called out to a flitter accident. ETA is almost an hour."
Beverly looked up to see a group of men and women trying to prise the end of the chute open. She asked with grim urgency,
"Do you have any idea of the status of the injured?"
As he applied pressure to a bleeding wound, Marcus shook his head.
"No. They're not responding to any calls and I couldn't scan properly with all the interference from the electro magnetic field, caused when the generator blew up. It's also preventing the use of transporters."
Beverly frowned.
"Why did the generator blow up?"
Grunting softly as he repaired a broken bone, Marcus shook his head.
"We don't know yet, but it could be that some kind of blockage in the chute caused an overload. In any case it's shut down the entire plant."
Beverly looked down at the patient and asked softly,
"Are you okay here?"
Marcus nodded.
"Yes, but I'll have to stay with him until the ambulance arrives and even then, I'll probably have to accompany him to the hospital."
Giving a decisive nod, Beverly gently squeezed his shoulder.
"Right. I'll stay here then."
She rose and went over to the group to find they had managed to prise the chute open enough for someone to get in. Without hesitation, Beverly said firmly,
"Okay, stand back, I'm a Doctor, I'd better get in there."
As she stepped forward, a large hand gripped her arm.
"I'm not sure you should go in there doc. There's about eighteen tonnes of grain in the header. If the gate fails it'll come down and you'll be suffocated."
Offering a wan smile, Beverly said wryly,
"Then we'd better hope the gate doesn't fail."
Putting the strap of the med kit over her shoulder, Beverly knelt and peered into the black chute. She took a deep breath and lay down on her stomach so she could wriggle inside.
It was inky black and very dusty inside the chute. Once she was past the damaged end, it opened up a little, allowing her more room for movement. Using her fingers to feel her way, she negotiated almost fifty metres before she saw dim light. Hurrying, she emerged from the end of the chute into a large hopper. A huge mass of tangled machinery almost filled the hopper and at its base she saw a pair of legs.
Utilising her lithe body, Beverly insinuated herself into the haphazardly tangled mass of metal only to find the first victim was very dead. His head had been completely crushed. Dismissing him from her mind, Beverly immediately began to look for the second victim. In the dim light it was difficult to see in the shadows of the mass, but after ten minutes of fruitless endeavour she spotted a hand. She couldn't see the rest of the body, but she was close enough to be able to scan it, only to register faint life signs. With no way to lift any of the steel that was trapping him, all Beverly could do was administer coagulants and analgesics. She then made her way back to the chute. She laid her body full length inside and shouted,
"Can you hear me?"
She just heard the faint reply.
"Yes!"
Taking a large breath, she yelled,
"I have located both victims! One is dead, the other trapped. I need lifting equipment!"
"Okay, we'll do what we can! The rescue team is coming soon!"
Beverly had just eased herself out of the chute when there was a loud screech, followed by a deafening explosion. Grain began to pour into the hopper at a terrifying rate. Something hit Beverly's head. Her world went suddenly black as her consciousness fled.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc found it difficult to quell his impatience. The small gym in the Calypso was well appointed and he used it regularly, but no matter how hard he worked out, he could not tire himself enough to get adequate sleep. He read, he meditated, he did everything he could to occupy himself, but as the hours turned to days his impatience grew.
Eventually his nerves became so raw he knew he had to do something to ease his tension. He retreated into his bedroom, stripped off his clothing and replicated some warm oil. Stretched out on his bed, he closed his eyes and summoned images of Beverly as she had lain beneath him as they had sex.
Although it was not as he had wished it to be, his memories were erotic enough for him to quickly respond. He hardened rapidly and he groaned softly as he dipped his hands into the warm oil to coat his stiffening penis.
He knew from long years of personal experience he could prolong this as long as he wished, but as his desire escalated, his need became urgent. He gripped himself firmly and pumped his hand quickly as visions of Beverly in the throes of sexual ecstasy flickered behind his closed eyelids. All too quickly his orgasm rushed at him. He used his free hand to grip his testicles gently and pull them down. As he ejaculated he called out Beverly's name in one long groan of empty pleasure.
He lay panting, feeling the tension slowly leave his body. He would change the bed and shower later. For now he sought the oblivion of senseless sleep.

 

 

 

 

Deanna had asked the computer where T'Krel was and, having ascertained her location, was on her way to see her. Deanna knew her arrival would be unwelcome and, as it would be also unannounced, it would be a case of counselling by ambush, but so closed was T'Krel, and so averse to allowing Deanna to help her, the Counsellor felt she had no other option.
Having arrived at her destination, Deanna frowned at the plaque next to the doors.
"Captain Jean-Luc Picard."
She sighed. It would have been far better to have done this on neutral ground, but as T'Krel was currently in her fiancé's quarters…her quarters…Deanna had no other choice.
Taking a steadying breath, she pressed the annunciator.
To her credit, when T'Krel saw who was at her door she showed nothing in her expression, but her voice held a trace of disquiet and Deanna felt a hint of anger coming from the Vulcan, but it was quashed so quickly, it was almost non-existent.
"Counsellor Troi, what can I do for you?"
Smiling, Deanna said softly,
"May I come in?"
T'Krel stepped back and gestured with her hand.
"Of course."
Deanna entered, but before she could take a seat, T'Krel said with a trace of wariness,
"What is the purpose of your visit?"
With a sigh, Deanna said gently,
"We need to talk."
T'Krel was still standing by the open doors. She stiffened and said with rising annoyance,
"I do not think so, Counsellor."
Deanna clasped her hands in front of her and tilted her head, trying to soften her next words.
"T'Krel, you are a member of my team and you are subordinate in rank. It is my professional opinion you require counselling. Now I can make it an order, compelling you to submit, but I'd rather not. However, it's up to you."
Anger blazed briefly in the Vulcan's eyes before she got control of herself. With great dignity, T'Krel moved to a chair and sat, waiting with stoic patience while Deanna did the same. She waited until the Betazoid was comfortable then said firmly,
"As a Vulcan…and as a psychiatrist…I deem myself to be mentally fit. I do not require counselling."
Deanna gave consideration to the statement, then shook her head.
"I'm sorry, I disagree. I think you are unable to see your situation dispassionately, you are too close to the core of the matter."
Raising one perfect eyebrow, T'Krel said archly,
"And that is?"
Modulating her voice to a sympathetic lilt, Deanna said softly,
"That you chose the Captain as a partner because he represented no emotional outlay as your first partner did."
T'Krel glared hotly.
"That is preposterous. I am a Vulcan; I have no emotions to outlay."
Shaking her head sadly, Deanna said softly,
"Not true. You loved your first partner…didn't you."
Shifting slightly in her seat, T'Krel's eyes darkened.
"I admit…we were close…we cared for one another."
Deanna was gentle, but relentless.
"You loved him and he died and you were devastated."
Having received no reply to that, Deanna went on.
"You were so devastated you thought you would never take another partner again, you would never allow yourself to be vulnerable, to be the recipient of so much pain ever again. Captain Picard was exactly what you needed. A damaged man, a man who loved another woman, a man who you could use to ease your pain."
T'Krel angrily shook her head.
"Not so! Our relationship is…"
"…satisfactory, I know. T'Krel you are a very good mental health professional. Why can't you see the truth in what I'm saying?"
Standing and glaring down at the seated Counsellor, the Vulcan woman almost seethed.
"Because I believe you have a hidden agenda. You have been against our relationship from the very beginning and I think you will do anything you can to break us apart."
Deanna sighed and rubbed her forehead.
"T'Krel, your fiancé is at present on his way to find the woman he truly loves. Don't you think that is going to break you apart?"
Sitting again with a ramrod straight back, T'Krel's eyes glittered dangerously.
"Captain Picard has to go to her…he has to find out if he still loves her and if she still loves him. Our relationship will depend on what he finds, but I am confident he will return to me. To do otherwise would be illogical."
Deanna almost gaped.
"Illogical? How?"
The Vulcan tilted her head.
Captain Picard knows that only with me can he express himself fully…without the threat of repercussions."
Deanna had to concentrate on not snapping,
"Because you are devoid of emotion."
Inclining her head gracefully, T'Krel offered a small smile.
"That is correct."
With a sigh, Deanna rubbed her eyes.
"In your therapy sessions with the Captain, you have stated that once he regained his equilibrium, he buried his feelings so deeply, you had trouble getting him to feel anything at all."
T'Krel nodded.
"That is true."
"And now you can't see that this passionate, sensitive man is going to an equally passionate, sensitive woman and you don't think he will like what he finds? That is absurd, and you know it."
T'Krel folded her hands in her lap, a slight frown evident.
"I would not have described Captain Picard as passionate and sensitive."
Struggling to keep control of her temper, Deanna swallowed her anger and tried to modulate her voice.
"That is because you don't know the real Captain Picard."
With a curt shake of her head, T'Krel dismissed the statement.
"That is ridiculous. I spent many months in intensive therapy with him; I would say I know him quite well, better in fact than he knows himself."
Deanna sat back and regarded the Vulcan with a measuring stare. Eventually she sighed.
"Tell me something, T'Krel, if Captain Picard had acted passionately, or romantically towards you, what would you have done?"
The woman frowned.
"I am not sure I know what you mean."
Briefly closing her eyes, Deanna took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"All right, let me ask you this. If he had courted you…sent you flowers and gifts and pursued you relentlessly, then, when he had your attention, behaved in an overtly romantic way towards you, what would you have done?"
Seeming to give the scenario appropriate thought, T'Krel tilted her head and said firmly,
"I would have rejected him, of course. Such behaviour is illogical."
With a wry smile, Deanna nodded.
"Yes, I suppose it is, but it is very human. However, that's not how he courted you, is it. He was attracted to you. He let you know and gave you the opportunity to assess him as a suitable mate. You found him acceptable and the relationship started. But T'Krel, what I said about him is true. He is damaged. Emotionally and psychologically damaged and it is that damage that has attracted you."
The Vulcan shook her head vehemently.
"That is not true! As his therapist I would have seen if he was not functioning properly!"
Deanna sighed, wishing she could find a way through the stoic woman's armour.
"T'Krel, you never saw it because you were still grieving for your deceased mate. Subconsciously you were looking for someone…or something to assuage your pain and the Captain represented an ideal candidate. His very need was what attracted you."
The Vulcan stood and stalked to the doors, getting close enough to trigger the opening mechanism. Keeping her head bowed, she said softly,
"I think you should go now, Counsellor."
Deanna stood and went to the open doors, but stopped beside the Vulcan.
"It will not get any better until you admit it to yourself."
With her eyes downcast, T'Krel said,
"Good afternoon, Counsellor."
Once the doors closed, T'Krel walked to the viewscreen, her hands clasped behind her back. It was a good thing Deanna wasn't there to see how hard she clenched her hands.

 

 

 

A huge gout of dust and grain spewed from the end of the chute, forcing back the knot of people who had gathered there. A shout of alarm went up, causing Marcus to stop what he was doing. The ambulance crew were loading the patient into the craft when Marcus began to run towards the chute.
"Beverly!"
A large man stopped him from entering the chute.
"You can't go in there doc, the header's released the grain."
Marcus struggled against the man's big hands.
"But Beverly's in there!"
The man sighed and shook his head.
"Then she's a goner, doc."
The young Doctor shook his head.
"I can't accept that! Where's the engineer?"
The big man jerked a thumb over his shoulder.
"Still at the generators."
At a dead run, Marcus bolted from the gathering, sprinting into the building that housed the generators. Slightly out of breath, he gasped,
"Who is in charge here?"
A tall, cadaverous man stepped forward, his hands and face grimy with grease.
"I am."
Marcus grabbed his shoulder.
"We have three people trapped in the hopper and the header has released the grain."
The skinny man shrugged.
"Then there's nothing that can be done."
Exasperated, Marcus raised his voice.
"That's bullshit! I need to be able to use the transporters."
Casting a sideways look at his companions, the tall man shrugged again.
"Well until we can stop the discharge of electro magnetic energy, there won't be any transporter usage."
Trying to keep control of himself, Marcus said through gritted teeth,
"Okay, how do you stop it?"
The tall man ran a hand over his bald head, leaving a smear of grease mixed with his sweat.
"It's not as simple as you think, doc. The entire generator bed is live, we can't get near it."
"Then cut the bloody power!"
Glowering down at the smaller man, the engineer growled,
"We can't! That would isolate this entire facility!"
Losing the battle with his temper, Marcus reached up and grabbed the man's shirt and shook him.
"Do it just long enough for us to transport out the victims, you idiot!"
Grabbing Marcus's hands and forcibly removing them, the tall man stalked over to the power distribution board and pulled down a large switch. Suddenly the building was plunged into darkness. Marcus pulled out his land communicator and barked,
"Transporter suite…get them out…now!"

 

 

 

Beverly's body was as tangled as the mass of metal around her. Blood from a devastating head wound had pooled under her, mixing with the errant grain to make a sticky, inspissated puddle. Luckily for her, she was bent over a steel beam and above her; a conglomerate of iron formed an umbrella, affording her vital breathing space. But her scant supply of oxygen was quickly running out, and what air remained was contaminated by thick dust. Her lungs were having great difficulty in getting sufficient oxygen and life was beginning to drain away. She was completely unaware when the blue sparkle of the transporter beam took her and the two other victims out of their tomb.
They rematerialised on the grassy expanse near the ambulances. While Marcus went straight to Beverly, the medics went to the other two, but quickly ascertained they were dead. Applying pressure to her head wound, Marcus called out,
"We have to get her to the hospital…quickly!"
It seemed like only minutes before the ambulance was lifting off.
Beverly was rushed into surgery, her life hanging on by the merest of threads.

 

 

 

 

On final approach to Gault, Jean-Luc tried to keep his excitement at manageable levels, but all he could think of was seeing Beverly after so very long. As he received instruction to land at the local airport, he found he couldn't keep the grin off his face as he replied,
"Thank you Gault, Calypso descending now."
On his long journey he had taken the time to thoroughly familiarise himself with the colony. Largely agrarian, Gault supplied many Federation worlds with agriculture, especially grains. A hybrid grain had been developed that was capable of feeding many species and was also able to be held in storage for a very long time without spoiling or germinating. And it grew only on Gault. Most of the colony's population had something to do with farming, but of course there were also administrators, medical and social personnel as well as engineers and a small group of Starfleet members who ran the modest defensive instillations. In all, the population of the Gault colony was approximately eight hundred, small by most standards, but healthy enough.
Having landed his craft and secured it in a hangar, Jean-Luc disembarked and made his way to the flight centre office. After he'd been thoroughly scanned, he was warmly greeted by a middle aged woman.
"Captain Picard, welcome to Gault. I must say it is a privilege to meet you, I've heard a lot about you"
Offering a self-depreciating smile, Jean-Luc shook the woman's hand and swept his eyes over the office. The woman noticed his scrutiny and chuckled.
"You must be used to so much more, Captain, but this little office does all that we need."
Jean-Luc's smile grew. He was beginning to like this gregarious woman.
"I'm sure it does. Now, can you tell me where I might find Doctor Beverly Crusher?"
The woman shrugged, her smile turning into a frown.
"Oh no, I'm afraid I can't help you, Captain. But…if you make your way to the town centre, I'm sure central records will be able to help you."
"Thank you. How far is it?"
The woman smiled again.
"Only about three kilometres. You can borrow a flitter if you like."
Offering a rare full grin, Jean-Luc said with gratefulness,
"That would be grand, thank you."
Five minutes later he was on his way and four minutes after that, he was entering the central records building.
The clerk was busy, so Jean-Luc bided his time for a few minutes, finding his impatience was growing now that he was so close. The young man soon finished what he was doing and come to the counter.
"Yes, Sir, how may I help you?"
Dressed in civilian clothing, Jean-Luc realised he may have gotten quicker service had he been in uniform. The woman at the airport recognised him, but it was obvious this young man did not.
"I am looking for a colleague of mine…Doctor Beverly Crusher."
The young man's face fell.
"I'm sorry, Sir, there has been an accident at the granary. Doctor Crusher has been listed as one of the casualties."
Immediately alarmed, Jean-Luc barked,
"Where is she?"
Somewhat taken aback, the young man stammered,
"The local hospital."
Jean-Luc was out the door before he realised he didn't know where the local hospital was, but rather than go back inside for directions, he boarded his flitter and brought up the satnav. He was on his way in seconds.
There was a small crowd outside the hospital. Jean-Luc shouldered his way through and entered the building, only to be confronted by an officious officer.
"How can I help you, Sir?"
Taking a steadying breath, Jean-Luc composed himself.
"I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard and I have come to see Doctor Beverly Crusher."
The man consulted a PADD and shook his head.
"I'm sorry, Captain, but Doctor Crusher has been listed as critical. She is not receiving visitors at this time."
Struggling with the urge to shout, Jean-Luc gritted his teeth and ground out,
"Where may I wait?"
Gesturing to his right, the official said kindly,
"There is a visitor waiting area down the hall."
Offering a curt nod, Jean-Luc turned and left.

 

 

 

Will Riker was a very busy man. With his Captain off the ship, it fell to him to oversee the refit that was in progress. He was in the Ready Room, going over the next set of schedules when the door chimed. It was an unwelcome intrusion and he was sorely tempted to tell the caller to come back later, but years of discipline had taught him better, making him only slightly scowl as he called,
"Come in."
He looked up, somewhat surprised.
"T'Krel. What can I do for you?"
Wasting no time on pleasantries, the Vulcan said quietly,
"I wish to take a leave of absence."
Will sat back, a little confused that the request hadn't come from the appropriate department head…namely Deanna Troi. He gave a slow nod, bearing in mind that the woman had recently been abandoned on the eve of her wedding.
"I see. How long did you have in mind?"
The Vulcan clasped her hands and sighed.
"I do not know."
Will nodded slowly.
"May I ask the reason?"
Stiffening slightly, T'Krel's eyes glittered.
"I am sorry, Commander, it is of a personal nature."
Folding his arms across his broad chest, Will pursed his lips.
"Well with the ship undergoing a major refit…and your department is not really required to be at full strength, I suppose we could spare you. Have you spoken to your department head?"
The Vulcan shook her head.
"No, Sir and with respect, I do not intend to."
Knowing there was much more going on than he was cognizant of, Will merely nodded.
"Very well, but you must realise I will be contacting your department head."
"Understood, Sir, but may I have your decision now?"
Sensing the urgency in the woman, Will nodded.
"You have my consent, Lieutenant. Please stay in regular contact so we can advise you of the ship's status."
Offering a slight bow, T'Krel said softly,
"Thank you, Sir. May I also request the use of a shuttle?"
Now intrigued, Will nodded.
"Check with engineering, but it should be okay."
"Thank you, Sir."
Once T'Krel had left, Will lifted his head to call,
"Riker to Troi."
"Troi here, go ahead, Will."
"I need to see you, Dee. Can you come up to the Ready Room?"
"On my way, Troi out."
Will sat back and sighed.

 

 

 

Helen looked up as the distinguished looking man walked in, his back straight and his shoulders square. He was of medium height, bald, slightly built and with a prominent nose, but the overall impression was of calm dignity and authority. He took a seat near the window and stared sightlessly outside. After an hour of uncomfortable silence, Helen said softy,
"I take it you are here because a loved one has been hurt."
Jean-Luc turned to the speaker and gave a curt nod. He then sighed, rose and went to the replicator.
"Tea, Earl Grey, hot."
"This unit is not programmed to replicate that beverage. Please reorder."
With a sigh of exasperation, Jean-Luc barked,
"Coffee, hot, black, no sweetener."
He retrieved his drink and retreated to his seat. He had only taken a few sips when a young man entered. Helen was on her feet immediately.
"Marcus! How is she?"
Taking Helen's hands, Marcus was about to sit with her when he noticed Jean-Luc. The Captain had stood, his expression tense. Offering Helen an apologetic smile, Marcus went to the older man.
"I am Doctor Marcus Key. How can I help you?"
"Captain Jean-Luc Picard. How is Doctor Beverly Crusher?"
Helen stepped closer to hear what Marcus was about to say.
"She has undergone extensive surgery for several very serious injuries. She is listed as critical, but stable."
Jean-Luc dark hazel eyes were piercing.
"May I ask the nature of her injuries?"
Marcus studied the man before him.
"Are you a relative?"
"No, I am her commanding officer."
"Oh, I see. Well, she has a significant skull fracture with an accompanying subdural haematoma, several broken ribs, a torn spleen, several broken bones and a ruptured liver. Everything but the subdural haematoma has been successfully repaired."
Jean-Luc nodded once.
"I see. Do you feel your facility has the personnel and equipment to treat her adequately?"
Marcus bridled at that.
"What are you suggesting, Captain? That you bring a Starship here?"
Lifting a placating hand, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"Not at all, but it does remain an option if you feel her injuries can't be successfully treated here. After all, it is her well being we must keep in mind."
Somewhat mollified, Marcus subsided.
"I will bear that in mind, Captain, thank you, but I think she will do all right here with us. Now, I take it you would like to see her?"
Jean-Luc nodded. Marcus turned to bring Helen into the conversation.
"You may both go and see her, but be warned, she is unconscious and I expect her to remain so for some time to come."
Jean-Luc Cast a glance in Helen's direction and sighed.
"Very well, Doctor."
Marcus led them through the building to Beverly's ward. There, lying in a bed and attached to several monitors and intravenous feeds lay the love of Jean-Luc's life. Helen stayed back with Marcus as Jean-Luc went to her bedside. He took her hand and lifted it to his cheek, closing his eyes and saying softly,
"Oh Beverly, my love…what has happened to you? I am here, Beverly, I will stay until you can open your eyes and see me."
He opened his eyes and gently laid her hand on the bed. Then, ignoring his small audience, he bent to her and tenderly kissed her cheek, whispering in her ear,
"I love you, Beverly."
He then stood upright and glanced at Helen, giving her tacit approval to come forward. She did so and together they stayed over two hours before the charge nurse told them it was time to leave. They left the hospital together and once outside, Jean-Luc realised he had nowhere to go. Helen seemed to guess his problem and said quietly,
"I can direct you to Beverly's place, I know the access code."
Summoning a wan smile, Jean-Luc said softly,
"Thank you, that is very kind."
In the dying light of the day, Jean-Luc powered up his flitter and followed Helen to Beverly's home.

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc watched silently as Helen inputted the access code. She stepped aside and gestured to the door.
"There you go."
Feeling he should do something to repay her kindness, Jean-Luc said softly,
"Would you like to come in?"
Curious as to who this man was and what he meant to Beverly, Helen nodded and offered a smile.
"I can make you a cup of Earl Grey. If I know Beverly, she will have some here."
Summoning a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Thank you, that would be lovely."
Helen aimed for the kitchen, saying over her shoulder,
"Have a look around; I'll put the kettle on."
Jean-Luc felt like an intruder. He wandered through the house, but gave only a cursory look in each room. He was standing by the large glass double doors at the balcony when Helen called him.
"Tea's ready."
He found her in the kitchen, the teapot poised over a mug.
"How do you like it?"
"Hot, black and no sweetener."
She smiled, but she was still wary.
"Done."
He took the offered mug and sipped experimentally. As the fragrant brew infused his senses, he felt some of the tension leave his shoulders. He looked over the rim of his mug to see Helen watching him. He sighed and briefly closed his eyes before saying,
"You're not having any?"
She pointed to a mug on the bench.
"I don't like Earl Grey; I've made myself a coffee."
Pulling out a chair from the table, Helen sat, making Jean-Luc do the same. As he didn't seem to want to talk, Helen decided it was she who had better start the questions.
"May I ask how you know Beverly?"
He didn't like the question, but felt he should offer some kind of answer.
"Up until about a year ago, Beverly served on my ship. I was her CO."
Helen nodded thoughtfully.
"I see. Have you known her long?"
Offering a tight smile, Jean-Luc said tersely,
"About thirty years."
Her eyebrows went up at that.
"Oh, that's a long time."
Sitting forward in her chair, Helen lowered her eyes and said softly,
"Have you ever been an Ambassador?"
He shook his head.
"No, but an Ambassadorship was offered to me recently. I turned it down."
Seeming to be very interested, Helen idly drew runes on the tabletop.
"So…you're a Captain."
"Yes."
"What ship?"
"The Enterprise."
Helen's face registered surprise.
"Oh, I've heard of her, she's famous."
Growing tired of the gentle inquisition, Jean-Luc stood and gripped that back of his chair.
"Well…Ms…"
"Parker."
"Ms. Parker, thank you for your assistance."
Hearing the dismissal but ignoring it, Helen stared boldly up at the Captain and said with a warning tone to her voice,
"Beverly and I are good friends, Captain…I don't want to see her hurt. Do you understand me?"
His expression was utterly closed but his eyes glittered when he said,
"I understand perfectly, Ms. Parker."
With great dignity, Helen rose and left the house. Once he was alone, Jean-Luc relaxed a little and finished his tea. He then replicated some toiletries and some clean clothing, then went and showered and shaved before lying on the sofa in the living room. Despite his tension and worry, he slipped into a troubled sleep.

He was awakened several hours later by the computer. At first disorientated, Jean-Luc was on his feet, his eyes darting about before his memory kicked in and he remembered his surroundings. He located the computer and activated the screen. Marcus's face greeted him.
"Hello, Captain. I thought I should tell you that Beverly has been placed in a medically induced coma and will be unconscious for the next few days, so there's not much use in you coming in to see her."
Giving a curt nod, jean-Luc couldn't keep the worry out of his voice when he asked,
"Why have you deemed this treatment necessary?"
The Doctor sighed.
"There has been further bleeding in the brain and a build up of fluid around the injury site. We have put a shunt in and drained off the blood and fluid, but until I can go in and completely stop the bleeding, she will be kept comatose."
"Why can't you stop the bleeding now?"
"Because the tissue is too traumatised. I want the brain tissue to heal more before I go poking around in it. The bleed is very small; it may even stop by itself. In any case, we're watching it very closely."
Folding his arms across his muscled chest, Jean-Luc pursed his lips.
"I see. Well, I understand what you have said, Doctor, but I will be coming in to see Beverly any way."
Seeing his resolute expression and hearing the determination in his voice, Marcus sighed and nodded.
"Very well, Captain."
Jean-Luc was about to sever the connection when a question occurred to him. He lifted his head and asked,
"Doctor, who told you I was staying here?"
The young man smiled.
"Helen Parker."
Jean-Luc's eyes darkened.
"Thank you, Doctor. Picard out."
It was a very thoughtful man who went to the kitchen to replicate himself a light meal. Once he had eaten, he went out to the flitter and powered it up. He piloted it into the town centre and managed to find somewhere he could purchase a bunch of flowers. He then drove to the hospital. He wasn't surprised to find Helen sitting beside Beverly's bed, a large bouquet sitting on the end of the bed. The woman rose, holding out her hand.
"Give those to me, I'll go and find a vase."
Recognising the ploy to give him some privacy, Jean-Luc summoned a smile and handed the flowers over.
"Thank you."
He waited until he was alone before he bent down and tenderly kissed Beverly's pale lips, whispering in her ear,
"It's me again, my love."
Perching on the bedside, he took her hand and lifted it to his chest, holding her hand over his heart. He kept his voice low and soft.
"I have been told you will be unconscious for some time, Beverly. I will wait for you, mon coeur."
He then contented himself to sitting quietly, just holding her hand. That was how Helen found him, fifteen minutes later. She gave him a speculative look and sighed.
"We should coordinate our schedules."
Dragged out of his study of Beverly's face, Jean-Luc frowned.
"I beg your pardon?"
Smiling with more warmth than she had yet shown, Helen pointed to Beverly.
"It's silly both of us being here at the same time. We should coordinate our visiting times."
His eyebrows rising in comprehension, Jean-Luc's mouth opened.
"Ah, I see. Yes, that would be a good idea."
Helen suddenly decided she liked this taciturn man. There was something about him that engendered trust. Besides, she trusted Beverly opinion of people and if she was willing to serve under this man, perhaps he was worthy of her trust.
She decided to see if he would loosen up a little.
"So, are you a morning person?"
The glower was back.
"What bearing does that have on the present discussion?"
Helen sighed.
"Okay, not much of a sense of humour."
"It was a joke, Captain. I was trying to see if you wanted the early morning visit."
Jean-Luc took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds then let it out slowly. He offered a rueful smile and shook his head.
"My apologies, Ms. Parker, I misunderstood you. I don't mind what time I visit, as long as it's as often as possible."
She smiled, but the wariness was back.
"Apology accepted, Captain. As far as visits go, Marcus told me we can only come in twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon."
Bowing his head slightly, Jean-Luc sighed.
"Very well. What would you prefer, Ms. Parker?"
She frowned.
"Well, I have to help out with the lunches at the local school, so early morning and late afternoon would suit me."
Before Jean-Luc could say anything further, Helen smiled and said,
"And it's Helen, Captain."
Smiling with genuine warmth, Jean-Luc said softy,
"In that case, I'm Jean-Luc."
Frowning and tilting her head, Helen said,
"Jean-Luc? Sounds foreign."
"It's French."
Pulling the corners of her mouth down, Helen raised her eyebrows.
"Are you French?"
He sighed.
"Yes."
"You don't sound French."
Growing a little tired of the conversation, Jean-Luc gritted his teeth and ground out,
"No, I don't suppose I do."
Her curiosity still unsatisfied, Helen easily sensed he would not supply any further information about himself. She smiled and went back to their previous subject.
"So you come in late morning and early afternoon."
His smile returned, but it was a little strained.
"That would be fine."
"Right. I'll just say goodbye to Beverly then."
Jean-Luc rose and went to the window as Helen said her goodbyes. Then suddenly she was gone and he was once again alone with his beloved Beverly. He sat on the bed again and took her hand. Keeping his voice to a soft, deep rumble, he murmured,
"Come back to me Beverly, my life is not complete without you."
He sat quietly with her for another half an hour before a nurse came and told him it was time to go.

 

 

 

T'Krel was two days into her journey when she received a call from the Enterprise. She took a seat in the cockpit of the little craft and composed herself. When the screen cleared, she was not surprised to see Deanna.
"T'Krel, how are you?"
The Vulcan bowed her head.
"I am well, thank you, Counsellor."
Knowing the woman could sever the connection at any time, Deanna was careful to be very calm.
"Have you given any thought to what we have discussed?"
Tilting her head slightly, T'Krel decided to indulge her superior.
"Yes, Counsellor, I have."
Buoyed somewhat by that, Deanna asked softly,
"And what was your conclusion?"
The Vulcan's face was completely closed.
"That I need to speak with Captain Picard."
Deanna nodded, but couldn't keep her concern from her eyes or her voice.
"T'Krel…he might not have the answers you seek."
T'Krel shook her head.
"That is illogical, Counsellor. You do not know what questions I will ask."
Deanna's smile was a sad one.
"I have a fair idea, T'Krel, but I doubt the Captain will be able to answer you. I don't think he knows himself yet. At the present moment, he has only one imperative on his mind…and he is consumed by it."
T'Krel almost snorted.
"I find that hard to believe, Counsellor. What you are describing is a man obsessed. I know Captain Picard. He is not obsessive."
Deanna sighed.
"Not normally, no, but these are extenuating circumstances, T'Krel. If he is with Doctor Crusher when you find him, I doubt he will be able to find time for you."
The Vulcan clasped her hands.
"Well I will see, won't I?"
Deanna nodded, again sadly.
"Yes you will, I just want you to be prepared."
T'Krel smiled, but it was a cold expression.
"You forget I am incapable of being hurt by his actions…or his inactions."
Inclining her head, Deanna acknowledged the statement.
"That is true, but you are capable of being hurt, T'Krel. Your previous partner's death hurt you deeply."
The Vulcan smiled thinly.
"You always come back to that, Counsellor. Why can I not convince you that you are incorrect?"
Deanna smiled.
"Because I know it's true. T'Krel I ask you one more time….why would you form a relationship with a damaged man who you knew was in love with another woman?"
T'Krel sighed. Her patience was almost limitless, but she was reaching the end of her tether.
"And I will tell you one more time…Captain Picard is not damaged and his enduring love for Doctor Crusher is of no consequence, either to him, or me."
Deanna opened her mouth to say more, but T'Krel abruptly terminated the channel. She sat, staring at the Federation logo on the screen before rising and moving to the aft section to meditate. It took her some time to find her equilibrium.

 

 

 

A very angry Betazoid threw her empty cup across the room, the china smashing as it made contact with the doors, leaving a smear of chocolate across the grey metal. As she tried to rein in her anger, the doors suddenly parted and a very concerned Will Riker stepped cautiously into the room. He hovered on the threshold and said warily,
"Are you all right?"
Pinching the bridge of her nose, Deanna took a large breath, held it for a few seconds then let it out quickly, as if trying to expel her anger.
"I just had another go at trying to make T'Krel see sense."
Coming into the room, Will sat next to Deanna, perching precariously on the arm of her chair.
"I take it you had no success."
Deanna snorted and tried to plex, but she was still too angry. Will gently ran his hand over her hair and said softly,
"Want to talk about it?"
Defeated, Deanna sighed and closed her eyes.
"I don't think I should, Will. I have to respect patient confidentiality."
Nodding pensively, Will smiled,'
"Okay, let me tell you what I know and we'll go from there."
Nodding cautiously, Deanna sat back in her chair and tried to relax. Will looked at the ceiling and took a deep breath.
"Okay. Beverly and the Captain have a relationship that isn't what he wants. He tries for more, is rejected and it ends acrimoniously. After a couple of months of bitter standoff, Beverly suddenly leaves the ship and doesn't return. The Captain is devastated. He goes down hill fast and eventually suffers an emotional and psychological breakdown. He is relieved of command and sent to a mental health facility where he undergoes intensive treatment. His therapist is T'Krel. After a lot of hard work, he makes a good recovery, is reinstated to the captaincy and returns to the Enterprise.
"A month or two later, he requests T'Krel to join him on the ship. She agrees. She arrives on the ship, but she is no longer the Captain's therapist, in fact, as far as I know, you are his therapist."
To that, Deanna gives a slow nod.
"Okay. She's aboard only a fairly short time and they begin some sort of relationship. If you believe the scuttlebutt, it's sexual. Then, out of the blue, the Captain proposes, in fact he asks me to be his Best Man. T'Krel accepts and they're supposed to be married while the ship is here at McKinley. And then he up and takes off, on the eve of their wedding, offering no explanation and leaving T'Krel here on the ship. Then two days ago, T'Krel comes to me, by passing the usual chain of command, in this case her immediate department head…you…and requests a leave of absence."
He paused and Deanna smiled up at him.
"How am I doing so far?"
She shrugs.
"Spot on."
Will nodded decisively.
"Okay. Now just before the Captain hot foots it out of town, I get a very concerned Admiral Marta Salvado calling me, telling me the Captain might be gone for some time, so obviously the brass knows what's going on."
Deanna nods again and Will sighs.
"Right. Well I don't expect you to go all clinical on me Dee, but what the hell is going on?"
The petite woman gathered her thoughts and looked up at her lover. She sighed and rubbed her eyes.
"I guess you already know that the Captain never stopped loving Beverly, even though he first formed a relationship with, then proposed to T'Krel?"
Will nodded silently.
"Well…Beverly was seen at command a week before we arrived."
Will stood, his mouth agape.
"Holy shit!"
He paced twice around the room, watched by the seated woman while he put the pieces of the puzzle together. He suddenly snapped his fingers.
"So he's gone after Beverly…and T'Krel has gone after the Captain."
Deanna sighed.
"Put at its most basic, yes."
Will regained his seat and shook his head.
"What an unholy can of worms! What the hell is he going to say to Beverly? And what about T'Krel? Christ…she's been left at the altar and now she's going to do what? Fight for him? Against Beverly? And what about the Captain? Does he love T'Krel or not? He's not the sort of man to treat anybody so badly, especially a woman he has professed love for, love enough to marry."
Deanna took Will's hand, trying to calm him.
"Will, my love, it's very complicated. We're dealing with people who have serious emotional issues…even T'Krel. I don't know how this is going to turn out, but one thing's for sure. It won't be pretty."
Will looked askance.
"Do tell."
He stood again and went to the replicator, silently asking his lover if she wanted a drink. She shook her head and he shrugged, turning to the machine and ordering,
"Coffee, hot, milk, double sweetener."
He retrieved his drink and went back to sit on the arm of Deanna's chair. He sipped pensively before he scratched his head.
"I wonder where the hell Beverly has been all this time…and why the hell didn't she come back to us?"
Deanna sighed, idly picking at some lint on Will's trousers.
"As to where she's been, I haven't a clue and believe me, I've tried to find out, but as to why she didn't come back to the Enterprise, I can only think of two reasons."
Will looked down, his eye brow raised in silent enquiry.
Touching her index finger, Deanna said,
"One: she may have still been angry with the Captain and too bloody minded…and proud…to come back and face him."
Will nodded thoughtfully, gently stroking his beard.
"Okay, I can see that. What's the second reason?"
Deanna sighed deeply.
"Number two I really hope isn't the one. That's where Beverly has been told by an outsider about the Captain's engagement."
Will gasped as the ramifications hit home.
"Oh Christ…I hope not! My God…I don't think she'd take it very well, do you?"
Rubbing her gritty eyes, Deanna sighed again.
"Well, she may have absented herself to get away…to prevent herself from doing something she regretted…or…"
Will grunted.
"She may be off somewhere licking her wounds."
With a sad nod, Deanna muttered,
"Exactly. A year is a long time, Will, a long time to stay angry, especially with someone who shares as much history with her as the Captain does."
It was Will's turn to sigh.
"Yeah, they've been best friends for donkey's years."
Deanna nodded her agreement.
"So if she returned feeling different than when she left…"
Will groaned softly,
"And then found out that in her absence the Captain has got engaged…"
Deanna's voice clearly showed her dismay.
"She would've been devastated."
Tossing back the remainder of his coffee, Will growled,
"Fuck! For once I'd really like things to go right for those two."
Deanna smiled sadly.
"You and me both."
Looking down at his lover, Will asked quietly,
"There's absolutely nothing we can do…is there."
It wasn't a question and Deanna didn't treat it as such.
"No, Will. All we can do is stand back, watch the fireworks and be there to help pick up the pieces."
Running his fingers through his beard, Will suddenly frowned.
"Dee, bearing in mind what happened to the Captain when Beverly disappeared, how do you think he would take it if he finds her and she rejects him again?"
Lowering her head into her hands, Deanna almost moaned.
"I don't want to think about it, Will, but if he stays true to form, he may well suffer another breakdown…one he might not recover from."
They were silent for a few moments before Will said softly,
"And having T'Krel there isn't going to help matters, is it?"
Shaking her head slowly, Deanna muttered.
"No, Will, not in the slightest."
Slumping on his perch, Will lowered his head in defeat.
"Oh shit, what a bloody mess."
Deanna didn't add to that. She didn't have to.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc had only been in Beverly's home ten minutes when the front door chimed. He briefly considered ignoring it, but in the end curiosity won him over. He went to the door and opened it. Standing under the porch was Helen, a large, covered ceramic dish in her gloved hands. To his silent enquiry she said briskly,
"I don't know if you can cook, Jean-Luc, but I thought you might appreciate some home cooking."
The aroma of the meal in the dish wafted to the Captain and his stomach rumbled in response. He reddened slightly and Helen chuckled.
"I'll take that as a yes."
Jean-Luc stepped back and gestured for her to enter. She went unerringly to the kitchen, followed by the bemused Captain.
"If you get two plates, I'll join you. I haven't eaten yet."
Speaking for the first time, Jean-Luc smiled to cover his annoyance and dutifully retrieved two plates.
"This is very kind of you, Helen, but I assure you, I am fully capable of looking after myself."
The woman smiled in a kindly fashion.
"I'm sure you are, Jean-Luc, but I just wanted Beverly to know her friend is being well cared for."
That dissipated his annoyance. He smiled and watched as Helen ladled out two portions of beef stew with dumplings. Always the gentleman, he waited until Helen was seated before he took his own seat and they began their meal.
Sensing he was in no mood for small talk, Helen remained silent, but Jean-Luc eventually felt the quiet to be oppressive. He smiled and gesture to his meal.
"This is very good."
Heartened by his comment, Helen nodded.
"Thank you. I have Beverly…and another Doctor to thank for it."
That brought a frown.
"I can't believe Beverly taught you to cook…I know for a fact she's hopeless in the kitchen."
Helen laughed.
"Oh I know! No, what I mean is…I had Grave's disease. Beverly saw me through the bulk of my treatment. After she left Gault another Doctor took over my case and was able to restore my hands. If not for that, cooking, like my piano playing, would have been a thing of the past."
Intrigued, Jean-Luc asked softly,
"You play the piano?"
Helen nodded.
"Yes. I was quite good…once."
Smiling wistfully, Jean-Luc said softly,
"I played when I was young."
Helen was delighted.
"Do you still play?"
His face lost its dreamy look.
"No, I gave it up a very long time ago."
Suddenly feeling like she was on to something, Helen asked gently,
"Do you have a favourite piece?"
His smile was a warm one.
"Oh yes! Debussy's Claire De Lune."
Helen sat back and put her spoon beside her plate.
"I knew it! You're the man she pined for!"
But then she frowned.
"But…she said you were dead."
Feeling decidedly uncomfortable, Jean-Luc cleared his throat and looked over at the kettle.
"Would you like a cup of coffee before you go?"
Realising he would not be drawn, Helen shook her head.
"No, I have to be up early tomorrow, I'd best be going."
Jean-Luc stood and put the lid back on the dish, picking it up to give back to the woman, but she shook her head.
"No, you keep it; you'll get another couple of meals out of it."
Jean-Luc showed her to the door, but she hesitated on the way out. Turning to Jean-Luc, her gaze was confused.
"Who are you, Jean-Luc Picard?"
He offered a slight bow and said softly,
"Thank you for a delightful meal. Good night."
Once in her flitter, Helen spent ten minutes silently looking at the closed front door. Before she powered up and left she shook her head, whispering,
"Who the hell are you, Captain?"

 

 

 

 

In the deep recesses of her mind, the unconscious Beverly struggled restlessly with images that emerged, one after another, all of them, pictures of Jean-Luc. That he had chosen to wed another woman had hurt her deeply, but she clearly remembered how they had felt when they parted…the bitterness, the acrimony, it was little wonder that he chose to find solace in the arms of another woman. But still, it felt like a betrayal. She acknowledged that, during the time that had passed, and given the nature of her mission, she had had the time to come to terms with her feelings, finally admitting her love for the man. Why she had ever denied those feelings in the first place was a mystery to her and the tragedy of what had transpired since distressed her deeply, but knowing she had to be responsible for her actions and thereby necessitating her withdrawal, made her even more sure that she was doing the right thing. But it hurt so very much. The thought of him with another woman tortured her.
"Did he make love to her as he had always wanted to make love to me? Is he tender? Considerate?"
She snorted.
"Of course he is…he doesn't know how not to be."
Her thought wandered to the sex they had had. The intensity of it, the mindlessness of it and she marvelled, not for the first time at how he had managed to hide his emotions for as long as he had. She sighed silently.
"I wonder what it would be like to make love with him…to share that exquisite intimacy, the vulnerability…that profound connection."
She sighed again, then gasped as images unbidden flashed inside her mind. The dreadful pictures of his body as he had been found. The evidence of torture…God how he must have suffered, but oddly, the serene look on his face in death.
With a surreal certainty, a moment of utter clarity, Beverly suddenly knew why he had looked that way.
"He was thinking of me."
Guilt, so terribly familiar by now, washed over her, seeping into each and every crevice of her being. In her mind she sobbed, knowing she would never get the opportunity to assuage that guilt, knowing that she would carry it with her until the end of her days. But even that did not distress her as much as the knowledge of how much she had hurt the man she loved.
"Oh Jean-Luc … am so very sorry. How could I have been so blind?"
Overwhelming sadness pervaded her mind and, in the private depths of her thoughts, she wept.

 

 

 

He slept restlessly, tossing and turning as his dreams tormented him, so he wasn't in the least bit surprised when he woke in the darkness of his room. A quick look at the bedside clock told him it was oh four twenty. Rolling onto his back, he sighed, acutely aware that he would sleep no more on this night.
As always, his thoughts were filled with Beverly, but he made a determined effort to push them aside to consider the situation…and how it would impact on T'Krel.
Jean-Luc Picard was an honourable man and in his relationship with women, at least once he matured into the responsible adult he eventually became, he had always striven to be honest and kind. If Beverly recovered and his hopes were realised, the ramifications that entailed troubled him deeply.
On one level he was aware that, as a Vulcan, T'Krel should be impervious to hurt, but he knew her well and the knowledge that he had the ability to hurt her, that she had the capacity to be hurt, troubled him deeply. He sighed, closing his eyes as the guilt soured his stomach. Using the darkness to hear his confession, he muttered softly,
"Oh dear God, if only there was some other way. I don't want to hurt you, T'Krel. You have been wonderful; you were exactly what I needed at a very precarious time in my life. If not for you I would have languished in my depression…my command gone, my heart damaged beyond repair. You let me love you, you let me heal. I'm so sorry."
And then another thought intruded. Jean-Luc had always been an intensely private man. For many years there had been an ever-present undercurrent of speculation about his relationship with Beverly. The standard line they both used was that they were very good friends. Close, exceptionally so, but nothing more.
The way their relationship had suddenly deteriorated did not go unnoticed, nor did Beverly's departure from the Enterprise. Jean-Luc's subsequent breakdown was the source of much gossip as was the speculated cause, but his engagement to T'Krel caused a furore. His crew on the Enterprise were loyal but even there the gossip mill went into overdrive. He endured the looks, the sudden silences whenever he entered a room and the subtle sense of unwanted curiosity he engendered, but he was well aware that if, by some miracle he was able to pursue a relationship with Beverly…the public scrutiny of what he felt was such an intensely private matter would be extremely intolerable.
He sighed, knowing that if his heart's dreams came true, such scrutiny would be not only inevitable, but unavoidable. He grimaced and clenched his teeth.
"Oh God…what will Beverly make of it?"
He spent a few idle moments going through different scenarios, trying to find some way of either minimising the fallout, or somehow finding a way to be absent while the storm raged. But, of course, such cowardice was alien to him. No, he…they…would have to face the music, to do otherwise would be to break a lifetime of habit. But the knowledge of the terrible hurt he was about to inflict made him almost writhe in shame and sadness.
"If only there was some way I could make it right."
Little did he know that in the cold darkness of space, the object of his recriminations was only a day away from re-entering his life.

 

 

 

 

Marcus surreptitiously watched Helen as she sat at Beverly's bedside. It was fairly early, the day shift had only just begun the ward rounds and he had been surprised when Helen arrived, but once she'd explained her arrangement with Jean-Luc he smiled and gave a cheery nod. But as he went about his work he noticed that Helen was uncharacteristically pensive. From the other side of the room he caught sight of Helen talking to the comatose red head and the look of worry on the woman's face gave him cause for concern. He ambled over and smiled with what he hoped was a confident expression.
"Her readouts were encouraging this morning."
Helen looked up and gave a tentative smile.
"That's good. What about the bleeding?"
His smile faded a little, but he offered a decisive nod.
"It has slowed significantly; in fact I'm no longer particularly concerned. I think by later today it will have stopped all together."
Helen looked back at Beverly and sighed.
"So when will she wake up?"
Perching on the side of the bed, Marcus checked Beverly's intravenous feed as he said softly,
"Well the brain tissue is healing, albeit slowly. It's probably best she be kept in a medically induced coma for a couple of days yet. It's in her best interest."
They were silent for a few moments before Helen looked at Marcus and said suddenly,
"What do you think of Captain Picard?"
Somewhat taken aback, Marcus frowned.
"Ah…I'm not sure what you mean. I have heard of him or course, he has a very impressive record, but as for the man himself…"
He shrugged.
"I haven't a clue, but he seemed…pleasant…if a little tense, but I think that was understandable, considering the circumstances."
He watched as Helen again looked at Beverly, her concern obvious. Lowering his voice, Marcus leaned closer and said,
"Why do you ask?"
With a sigh, Helen shook her head in frustration, hissing,
"I don't know! There's something…I'm not entirely sure he is who he says he is."
Confused, Marcus scratched his head.
"What do you mean? He is Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Helen, he's very well known right throughout the Federation. He has served in Starfleet for most of his life."
Giving an irritated snort, Helen jerked a thumb at Beverly.
"I know that, Marcus, but who is he to Beverly?"
His confusion deepening, Marcus said uncertainly,
"Her Commanding Officer?"
Helen snapped her fingers.
"That's it! He said that, didn't he…but I know for a fact that Beverly left his ship over a year ago…he hasn't been her CO for ages. Why do you think he told you that?"
Growing increasingly lost in the conversation, Marcus shrugged.
"Look, Helen, it wasn't the best of ways to meet the man. A woman he obviously cares for has been badly injured. He just used whatever leverage he could to get information about her; I don't think he had any ulterior motive."
Helen shrugged too.
"Possibly not, but if this is the same man I think Beverly told me about…he should be dead."
Marcus's eyebrows rose.
"I beg your pardon?"
Sighing with impatience, Helen elaborated.
"Beverly told me that she loved a man…an Ambassador, and that she caused his death. It's why she left Starfleet and came to Gault."
Now clearly nonplussed…and growing increasingly concerned for Beverly's friend, Marcus said gently,
"Well it can't be the same man. Captain Picard has never, to my knowledge anyway, been an Ambassador. And I think I should point out…he's still well and truly alive."
Giving a thoughtful look, Helen said softly,
"He was offered an Ambassadorship recently, but he turned it down."
Keeping his patience with difficulty and growing increasingly irritated with Helen's doggedness, he restated the obvious.
"But, Helen, Captain Picard is very much alive."
Thumping her closed fist into her thigh she hissed.
"I know that, dammit! But I'm almost certain he's the same man. I don't know what's going on, Marcus, but something's definitely fishy here, something I think is going to hurt Beverly and I'll be damned if I'm going to stand idly by and let it happen!"
Over head the speakers came to life.
"Doctor Key, please report to ward nine."
He reached into his pocket and retrieved a small device. Pushing a button on its smooth surface, he sent an acknowledgement of his page. He sighed, put the device back into his pocket and stood. Looking down at Helen he said firmly, but not unkindly,
"Let it go, Helen. It's none of your business."
He left the room and Helen looked back at Beverly.
"I'll do everything I can to protect you, Beverly. I promise."

 

 

 

It was oh twenty two thirty when T'Krel landed her shuttle. The flight office had been closed for hours, so she had been directed to her hangar by the automated system. She exited into a slightly chilly night and sighed as she realised there was no transport into the town centre. Hefting her bag over her shoulder, she began the three kilometre walk.
Fortunately there were some people around when she finally arrived in the town. She was directed to the central records building, having been assured there was a computer she could access after hours. Suer enough, in the foyer of the building was a terminal which came to life as she spoke to it.
"I am searching for the whereabouts of Captain Jean-Luc Picard."
There were a few seconds lapse before a softly feminine voice replied,
"Captain Jean-Luc Picard is situated at 53, The Bluff, Harbour View."
"How far is that from this location?"
"Eight point nine kilometres."
"Can you provide me with a hard copy of a map?"
"Yes. Printing now."
With the map in hand, T'Krel walked back to the only bar, quickly finding someone who was willing to take her to the address.
The man who took her soon gave up on trying to make casual conversation. Answering only in monosyllables, T'Krel's seemingly cold attitude quickly killed any attempt at social niceties. He breathed a sigh of relief as they arrived at their destination. T'Krel barely had time to thank the driver before he lifted off and flew back into the night.
Standing in the night, looking at the dark house, the Vulcan had a momentary uncharacteristic pang of nervousness. The name of the occupant of the house on the print out she held was Beverly Crusher. She sighed. This meeting was going to be awkward.
Resettling her bag on her shoulder, she strode up to the door and pressed the chime.
Jean-Luc had been sound asleep, the restlessness of the night before taking its toll. It was the third ringing of the chime that finally roused him. His heart missed a beat as he assumed it was something to do with Beverly that had him quickly donning his robe, to trot barefoot to the door, but when he opened it, there was no one there. But as he squinted into the gloom, he saw someone near the gate.
He snapped the light on and called out.
"It's all right, I'm here."
T'Krel froze the second she heard his unmistakable voice. She had assumed both Jean-Luc and Beverly were out for the night. She slowly turned and walked back into the light of the porch. Her superior hearing picked up Jean-Luc's gasp.
"T'Krel?"
Stepping closer, she said softly,
"Good evening, Jean-Luc."
Scrambling to make sense of what he was seeing, Jean-Luc stammered,
"What…what are you doing here?"
She sensed his near panic and strove to put him at ease.
"I needed to see you. We need to talk."
They stood in silence staring at each other. One with limitless patience, the other in turmoil. T'Krel tilted her head and raised one eyebrow.
"May I come in?"
Coming to his senses and rather belatedly remembering his manners, Jean-Luc summoned a wan smile and gestured her inside.
"Of course."
As she passed him, he took her bag.
"I'll...ah…put your bag in the living room."
But before he could do that, T'Krel caught his hand, bringing him to a halt.
"I understand how uncomfortable this must be for you and I'm certain Doctor Crusher would not like me to stay. Once we have talked, I will go back into town, I'm sure I can find accommodation there."
Bowing his head, Jean-Luc said softly,
"Beverly isn't here."
He looked up to see confusion on the Vulcan's face.
"She has been in a terrible accident and is in hospital. I am staying here at the behest of her close friend."
T'Krel's face remained impassive, but was that hope he saw in her eyes?
"I see. How is she?"
Sighing, Jean-Luc ran a hand over his stubbled jaw.
"She is in a medically induced coma to treat a subdural haematoma and associated intracranial bleeding."
"I am sorry to hear that. What is the prognosis?"
"Guarded, but optimistic."
Smiling for that first time, T'Krel reached for Jean-Luc's hand and gave it what she hoped was an encouraging squeeze.
"I am pleased."
Again they stood in an uncomfortable silence. Jean-Luc, wishing she had not turned up at his door, mustered his shattered composure and gestured to the kitchen.
"Can I make you a cup of tea?"
Her own smile somewhat weak, T'Krel nodded.
"Yes, that would be nice, thank you."
The silence as Jean-Luc went about making the tea was oppressive, filled with unspoken words. Once they were both seated at the table, Jean-Luc took a deep breath and expelled it slowly.
"You said you wanted to talk to me."
T'Krel nodded slowly.
"Yes."
She surprised Jean-Luc by sighing deeply.
"I have given a lot of thought to our situation. Initially, of course, I was not concerned by this turn of events, but on introspection I have found, to my dismay, that I have been feeling…jealous."
Jean-Luc sat back in his chair and bowed his head in to his hands, saying softly,
"I'm so sorry, T'Krel…I never intended for this to happen."
She smiled sadly.
"I know that, Jean-Luc, and on some level I should have been ready for it. I am aware you have never lost your deep and abiding love for the Doctor, but the fact remains you are engaged to me."
Jean-Luc's head snapped up.
"You aren't going to hold me to that, are you?"
T'Krel's gaze became speculative.
"No, I am not. To do so would be utterly pointless, but I would like to make you aware of what you are so willing to throw away."
Guilt and sadness washed over the Captain. He sighed, his eyes beseeching his fiancée.
"T'Krel, I am well aware of what you offer and I know on some level I still love you…but…"
T'Krel moved closer and lifted a hand to gently caress Jean-Luc's scalp, something she knew he enjoyed and found both erotic and erogenous. He sighed and closed his eyes.
"T'Krel…"
Moving closer still, the Vulcan whispered,
"Let me show you how much I care for you, Jean-Luc."
Jean-Luc was out of his seat in a shot. He pulled his robe tighter around him, his eyes blazing.
"I think you should leave."
T'Krel rose slowly, moving closer to him.
"Why, Jean-Luc? You know you always enjoyed having sex with me."
Not wanting to be cruel, but unable to stop the words from tumbling out, Jean-Luc spat,
"But that's just it! It was just sex for you…not making love!"
He took a calming breath.
"T'Krel…I need more…much more."
Confusion flashed across T'Krel's face.
"But…you always said it was enough. I knew you wanted more…but Jean-Luc, you stated emphatically that you were satisfied with our physical relationship as it was."
Trying to both make her see and ease her pain, Jean-Luc struggled to find the words he needed.
"T'Krel…it was. But once I knew Beverly was alive…"
Anger welled in the Vulcan and internally she marvelled at his ability to make her feel it.
"But she hurt you! She only wanted sex with you…it was the cause of your terrible break up of your relationship with her!"
Lifting his hands in exasperation, Jean-Luc bowed his head.
"I know! But once I knew she was alive…something deep inside me told me that if I could only see her…explain myself…then maybe, just maybe we could repair the damage and find the love together that I've always felt for her."
He took T'Krel's hands in his.
"T'Krel, I have to try."
Taking her hands from his, T'Krel took a backwards step, the pain and anger in her eyes obvious.
"I will not relinquish you easily, Jean-Luc. I have invested too much in you already."
He sighed deeply.
"T'Krel…"
She said abruptly,
"I should go."
Snapped into a decision, Jean-Luc said gently,
"It's very late, where will you go?"
She shrugged.
"I will return to my shuttle, I suppose."
Shaking his head, Jean-Luc gently admonished.
"That's over eleven kilometres away. Stay here."
Her expression softened.
"Are you sure?"
He nodded decisively.
"Yes. Come on, I'll show you to your room."
They both knew there would be no sleep for either of them that night.

 

 

 

Helen left early as usual, but on her way to the hospital she decided to drop by Beverly's home to see Jean-Luc. She wasn't sure he had had the chance to talk to Marcus and she wanted to tell Jean-Luc the good news Marcus had told her about Beverly.
As she walked up the path to the front door, she once again frowned as her thoughts turned to the enigmatic Captain. She muttered as she raised her hand to press the chime,
"I wonder just who you are, Jean-Luc Picard?"
She heard the chimes and waited patiently.
Jean-Luc was in the shower, but T'Krel was already showered and was in the kitchen putting the kettle on and washing some cups when she heard the chimes. Knowing Jean-Luc wouldn't have heard them; she left the kitchen and went to the front door, drying her wet hands on a towel.
Helen gaped when she saw the Vulcan woman. T'Krel noticed her shock, but in typical Vulcan fashion, ignored it to ask,
"May I help you?"
Finding her voice, Helen stammered,
"Ah…is Captain Picard here?"
Bowing her head, T'Krel offered a small smile.
"Yes he is. He is in the shower at the moment, but if you would like to wait, I will tell him you are here. Whom may I say is calling?"
Almost speechless at what she thought she had interrupted, the woman muttered,
"Helen Parker."
Gesturing her inside, T'Krel said kindly,
"If you would wait here?"
Helen nodded dumbly as T'Krel went into Jean-Luc's bedroom. She lost sight of the Vulcan, but clearly heard her call,
"Jean-Luc? There is someone here to see you."
His reply was muffled but by T'Krel's response, Helen guessed what he had asked when T'Krel replied,
"Helen Parker."
Again the muffled voice, followed by T'Krel coming out of his room.
"He will be out momentarily."
Suddenly feeling very uncomfortable, Helen lost her nerve, saying quickly,
"Ah…look I have to be somewhere. Maybe I'll come back later."
T'Krel frowned.
"Oh, please stay, Jean-Luc will be out soon."
Shaking her head, Helen backed towards the door.
"No, I must go."
She had the door open before T'Krel could say anything further. As the door slammed shut the Vulcan muttered,
"How odd."
Jean-Luc came out, buttoning his shirt. He gave a confused look and asked,
"Where is Helen?"
T'Krel pointed to the door.
"It is most odd. She seemed to…panic. She left rather abruptly."
Sighing and rubbing his brow, Jean-Luc muttered,
"Merde."
The Vulcan tilted her head and moved closer to him.
"You are upset."
Plonking down into one of the lounge chairs, Jean-Luc pensively rubbed his lower lip. Eventually he sighed again and elaborated.
"I had hoped to explain your presence here. She is a close friend of Beverly's and she already has…suspicions…about me. This isn't going to make matters any more…bearable."
T'Krel went and sat opposite him.
"Does she know why you are here on Gault?"
He shook his head brusquely.
"No, I haven't told her, but she is astute enough to make the connections herself. My behaviour has been self evident."
"How unfortunate."
Jean-Luc grunted.
"Yes."
They sat in silence for a few minutes before T'Krel asked,
"Why is she suspicious of you?"
With a sigh, Jean-Luc shrugged.
"I'm not completely sure, but she knew Beverly after she'd left Starfleet. Apparently Beverly told her she had loved a man and caused his death. Now I'm not sure what all that is about, but Helen believes I am that man."
T'Krel shook her head in confusion.
"But, Jean-Luc…you are alive."
He sighed again.
"I know, I cannot explain her beliefs."
The Vulcan sighed too.
"Will this be a problem?"
She had difficulty discerning his mood when he said quietly,
"I don't know."
He sat in quiet contemplation for a moment or two, then said softly,
"T'Krel, it would be better if you didn't stay here."
Irritated, but not showing it, the Vulcan inclined her head.
"Yes, I can see how my continued presence could cause undue speculation. If you will take me to the town centre, I will find accommodation."
He smiled for the first time, his eyes warm.
"Thank you."
They ate a quick breakfast then Jean-Luc took T'Krel to the only hotel in town. He then went to the hospital.

 

 

 

He knew as he entered the building that Helen was most likely still there. It was relatively early, much earlier than he usually made his visit, but he felt he needed to explain, at least partially, why T'Krel was at Beverly's home.
Sure enough, as he entered Beverly's room, Helen cast him a venomous look. He sighed inwardly and summoned a smile.
"I take it you have some questions for me."
Helen shrugged, studiously refraining from looking at him. Her silence angered Jean-Luc, but he controlled himself to say gently,
"It's not what you think."
Turning to look at the Captain, Helen sneered,
"Oh I think I can draw my own conclusions. That woman seemed very comfortable in Beverly's home."
His voice dropped to a deceptively soft timbre, a sure sign of great anger, but Helen was ignorant of it.
"T'Krel is a colleague of mine."
Helen's smile was cruel.
"A colleague who calls you Jean-Luc and is comfortable enough to enter your bedroom while you are in the shower."
His eyes darkened and glittered dangerously and, for the first time, Helen realised she had managed to really anger the man.
"I am not accustomed to airing my personal business, Helen. What transpired between T'Krel and me is none of your concern, however I will tell you it does not impact on my relationship with Beverly."
Boldly, Helen glared up Jean-Luc and hissed,
"Just what is your relationship with Beverly, Captain?"
His patience at its end, Jean-Luc all but barked,
"That is none of your business!"
On her feet remarkably quickly, Helen stood toe-to-toe with the man.
"I'm making it my business! I told you once before I would protect Beverly, she is a dear friend. Do I have to protect her from you?"
He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself.
"No, Helen, you do not. I intend no harm to Beverly…in fact I will tell you this, however I will not elaborate. I love her."
Helen took a step backwards and looked down at the sleeping Doctor. With a sigh she said softly,
"All right, Captain, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, but I'm warning you. If you hurt her I will make you pay."
Jean-Luc gave a curt nod.
"Fair enough."
Helen soon left, leaving Jean-Luc to spend some time with the love of his life.

 

 

 

 

Later that same day, Marcus was standing beside Beverly's bed, watching the monitors intently as they faithfully documented her slow rise to consciousness.
His eyes slid from the screens to settle on her face, his concentration making his youthful face seem severe. Beverly's eyes fluttered then cracked open to mere slits, causing Marcus to say softly,
"Hello there, Beverly."
Her tongue came out to wet her dry lips. Marcus turned and poured a glass of water before gently easing his hand under her head and lifting it so she could take the straw in her mouth. He didn't need to say it, Beverly was well aware of the procedures, but habit won out.
"Easy now, just a few sips."
He watched as she sucked and swallowed, then took the glass away. Beverly closed her eyes as Marcus quietly summoned a nurse. To Beverly he said softly,
"I know you are in pain, just hold on a minute and I will give you a hypo."
Beverly nodded imperceptibly, then waited patiently until she felt the cold nozzle of the hypospray against her neck. It delivered its dose of analgesic and, as the insidious pain subsided she sighed and opened her eyes again, squinting slightly.
Marcus hitched his backside onto the edge of the bed and grinned down at his colleague and friend.
"You gave us a hell of a scare."
Beverly smiled wanly, but her confusion was plain to see. She licked her lips again and mumbled,
"What happened?"
Immediately concerned, Marcus leaned forward, his voice tense as he asked,
"What do you remember?"
Beverly's frown creased her forehead as she struggled to make the fog in her mind dissipate.
"Ah…I was at Helen's home…we were having cake and tea."
Sitting up, Marcus sighed.
"You have no memory of the accident?"
Growing somewhat irritated, Beverly rasped,
"What bloody accident?"
Smiling at her feistiness, Marcus took her hand and gently squeezed it.
"Take it easy Beverly, I'll tell you what happened."
Obviously fighting the urge to sleep, Beverly blinked rapidly and tried to focus. Marcus was well aware of what she was going through, but he also knew just how stubborn Beverly could be.
"While you were at Helen's there was an explosion at the granary. You were summoned to help. Unfortunately, a flitter accident had tied up our emergency services and you and I were the only medical personnel to attend. When you arrived, I was concentrating on a critically injured patient, so you took it upon yourself to get into the granary to try and rescue two trapped men. Incredibly, you did get to them, but another explosion caused the header to collapse. You were badly injured in the blast, then buried under tonnes of grain. If not for the scant protection of the tangled metal you were in, you would have suffocated before we could get you out."
She was failing fast, but her innate compassion came to the fore.
"The two men?"
With a deep sigh, Marcus said gently,
"They didn't make it…I'm sorry, Beverly."
Her whispered,
"Damn." Made Marcus gently touch her cheek, causing Beverly to open her eyes. He smiled down at her.
"You need to rest."
Offering a small shake of her head, Beverly all but growled,
"What were my injuries?"
Making her angry by patting her hand condescendingly, Marcus shook his head and said with gentle firmness,
"That can wait. I want you to rest now."
She surprised him with her vehemence.
"I want to know my condition, Doctor, and I want to know it now!"
Taken aback and irritated by her stubbornness, Marcus gritted his teeth, although part of him was resigned to the fact that she would not give up and rest until she had the information she sought. He closed his eyes briefly and sighed, trying to dispel his irritation.
"Very well, Beverly, I will tell you, but I insist when I am finished, you will rest."
Her small smile was a triumphant one, but she had the good grace to say softly,
"Thank you, Marcus."
He grunted softly, trying unsuccessfully to hide his smile.
"Okay. Your most serious injury was your skull fractures and subsequent subdural haematomas. It was difficult to treat and you suffered from a troublesome intracranial bleed which we found to be very stubborn to treat. However it stopped yesterday and the surrounding tissue has responded very well to regen therapy. I would say that injury is the cause of your slight memory loss."
Beverly could feel the slight discomfort of other injuries in her body and she sighed.
"What else?"
Marcus consulted a PADD.
"Oh um…broken ribs, lacerated liver and ruptured stomach and spleen…one kidney shattered, the other badly bruised and sundry other broken bones. Need I go on?"
Offering a rueful smile, Beverly shook her head.
"No, I think that about covers how I feel. I take it everything has been repaired?"
"Yes, you're well on the mend. Urinating is going to be uncomfortable for a while once we remove the catheter, but with regen treatments I expect a full recovery."
Beverly's eyes were closed and he could tell she was fighting sleep. Her voice was just audible.
"How long here?"
He smiled and said softly,
"About a week."
"'Kay."
He knew she had slipped into slumber, but he glanced up at the monitor to confirm his suspicions anyway. Gently running his fingers over her brow he said softly,
"Rest, Beverly…rest and heal."

 

 

 

Beverly slept for some hours and became aware of her surroundings again as she felt the tell tale chill of a hypospray against her neck. She lay with her eyes closed; patiently waiting the scant seconds it took for the medication to take effect.
With the easing of her pain, she sighed gratefully and opened her eyes, blinking rapidly to focus them. A gentle voice reached her ears.
"It's about time."
Turning her head to the sound of the voice, Helen Parker came into view, grinning down at her friend.
Beverly smiled with delight, making Helen chuckle.
"I've been here an hour waiting for you to wake up. I was just about to leave."
Beverly frowned.
"Why didn't you wake me?"
Helen gaped, her eyes wide.
"And risk being chucked out? Oh no, Beverly. The staff here are very efficient and protective. If I had so much as raised my voice, I think I would have found myself outside in seconds."
With a rueful smile, Beverly whispered,
"Then I'm sorry."
Shaking her head, Helen's face showed her compassion.
"Don't be, my friend, you needed to rest, in fact, you still do."
Beverly smiled her gratitude then took a deep breath and decided to change the subject.
"So…what's been happening since the accident?"
With a shrug, Helen pulled down the corners of her mouth.
"Not much. Work has been going on to repair the granary and an assistance call has gone out to find a way to store the salvaged grain, but apart from that…it's business as usual."
Helen took a deep breath and tried to gauge Beverly's mood. Deciding that she was calm, Helen bit the inside of her mouth before she said, rather off-handedly,
"There are some strangers in town."
Knowing the colony had few frequent visitors, Beverly's eyebrows rose.
"Really? I suppose they've got the town talking."
Helen's smile was cold.
"Indeed, especially since they've been staying in your home."
That caught Beverly by surprise. She struggled to sit up, pushing at her unruly red hair. Her efforts triggered a silent alarm.
"Who are they and why are they in my home?"
One part of Helen wanted to spare Beverly any alarm, but a larger part wanted to protect her. She tried to tell herself there was no maliciousness as she said softly,
"One was Captain Jean-Luc Picard; the other was a Vulcan woman who seemed to be very well acquainted with him."
Beverly gaped and there was absolute silence for several seconds. It was broken by the arrival of a nurse. The officious woman adopted a no-nonsense approach.
"You are required to lie quietly, Doctor Crusher. If you can't do that, we will have to sedate you."
Before Beverly could argue, the nurse turned to Helen.
"You have been here some time, Ms. Parker. I suggest it's time for you to leave."
Somewhat intimidated and a little concerned that she had harmed Beverly by her actions, Helen nodded and said quietly,
"Of course, I'll leave immediately."
She turned to go, but Beverly gripped her forearm, saying forcefully,
"I don't want to see him."
Helen tilted her head.
"Captain Picard?"
"Yes!", Beverly hissed. She then stated formally to the nurse,
"I do not want to be visited by Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Please see that my wishes are upheld."
The nurse bowed her head and said firmly,
"As you wish, Doctor Crusher. Now, lie quietly and rest."
Helen looked down at Beverly and smiled with sympathy.
"I'll talk to him, Beverly…don't worry, he won't bother you."
As Helen left the hospital she told herself she wouldn't really relish the job, but deep inside she knew she would.

 

 

 

Helen was waiting outside the hospital when Jean-Luc arrived. He cast her a speculative look, then dismissed her from his mind, however, she wasn't to be so easily brushed aside. She blocked his path and looked at him defiantly.
"Captain Picard?"
He stopped and quelled a sigh of irritation. He had a burning desire to get to Beverly and this interruption was not what he wanted or needed. Her formality in the use of is rank made him respond in kind.
"Yes, Ms. Parker?"
Trying to her hide her malicious glee but not really succeeding, Helen said almost triumphantly.
"Beverly doesn't want to see you."
Shock registered on Jean-Luc's face before anger at the woman's obvious satisfaction in delivering this news came to the fore. He kept his voice low, but the angst was plain to hear.
"What the hell is that suppose to mean?"
Helen shrugged, enjoying herself immensely.
"Just what I said…Beverly has given instructions to the staff that you are not permitted to visit her."
His eyes darkened and glittered dangerously.
"And who, may I ask, precipitated that edict?"
Again Helen shrugged.
"I'm not sure."
Jean-Luc took a step towards the woman, making her back up.
"It wouldn't have been you, would it Ms. Parker…telling tales?"
Bridling at his temerity, Helen's voice grew loud with self-righteous outrage.
"If you mean by 'telling tales' that I informed Beverly that you and that Vulcan woman were staying in her home…and that you both seemed very…comfortable with each other…then yes, I told her."
His anger now towering, Jean-Luc all but seethed.
"You had no right to do that, you interfering harpy! How dare you put your nose into my business?!"
Boldly refusing to be cowed, Helen hissed,
"I told you I would protect Beverly! I'm doing no more than that."
Deciding the exchange was at an end, Jean-Luc glared at the woman and said succinctly,
"If you will excuse me, madam?"
And stalked past her to the hospital entrance. Helen grinned cruelly, shouting triumphantly,
"They won't let you see her!"
His hands fisting as he strode purposely into the building, Jean-Luc did his best to put the vexatious woman out of his mind. However, he got no further than the front desk, where an administrative clerk's gentle voice stopped him in his tracks.
"I'm sorry, Captain Picard, but Doctor Crusher has requested you not visit her."
Trying to keep his dismay and anger in manageable proportions, Jean-Luc went to the desk and adopted his most urbane countenance.
"Surely there has been some mistake? Doctor Crusher is not only a valued colleague of mine, but also a very dear friend. I'm sure if you would just let me see her, this matter can be quickly resolved."
The clerk's face didn't alter from polite indifference.
"I'm sorry, Captain Picard. Hospital policy is to uphold the wishes of the patients in these matters, and Doctor Crusher has clearly stated she does not want to see you."
His urbanity slipped and he growled,
"This is utterly ridiculous!"
Turning away from the desk, he strode to the lifts, only to be stopped by two burly security men. The bigger of the two said not unkindly,
"We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. It's up to you, Captain."
Defeated and feeling utterly desolated, Jean-Luc held up his hands and shook his head, muttering,
"It's all right, I'll leave."
The big man nodded, a sad smile on his face.
"Wise choice, Sir."
Not knowing quite what to do, Jean-Luc exited the hospital, only to hear Helen's snide voice as she said,
"I told you so."
Anger flashed through the man as he took three long strides to bring him toe-to-toe with the suddenly frightened woman.
"What you have done is appalling…and utterly malicious! I will not forget this, Ms. Parker!"
He turned on his heel and stalked away. For the first time since she had embarked on this course of action, Helen realised she may have done the wrong thing.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc had been back at Beverly's home just over an hour before the door chimed. He considered ignoring it, but the thought that it might be news of Beverly made him stride to the door and wrench it open. A slightly startled T'Krel took a step back, saying softly,
"Jean-Luc…are you all right?"
He shook his head brusquely, saying roughly,
"No I'm not! And I don't think you being here is a good idea."
Knowing innately that his mood would have something to do with Beverly, T'Krel followed Jean-Luc inside the house and gently closed the door. One part of her understood his turmoil, but another part, the greater part, wanted to exercise her rights as his fiancée.
She went to him, gently taking his arm and turning him to face her.
"Jean-Luc, we have shared a great deal over this last year. Surely you can tell me what is wrong?"
The need to unburden himself overrode the inappropriateness of her being with him. He sighed, nodded and flopped into one of the lounge chairs, gesturing for T'Krel to sit with him.
She did so and slightly annoyed him by adopting her classical therapists pose. Sitting back, legs crossed, hands folded in her lap and her face inscrutable.
"Tell me."
He ran a hand over his head and tried to calm himself.
"I went to the hospital, as usual and was met by Helen parker at the doors. She told me that Beverly had told the staff she was refusing to see me."
He stood, pacing the room with pent up anger.
"I didn't even know she had regained consciousness!"
He took a steadying breath.
"I went inside, but the administration clerk refused me entry, stating that Beverly had requested I not be allowed to visit her."
He sighed with both frustration and embarrassment.
"So I tried to go up to her room anyway, only to be stopped by security."
He flushed, his mortification clear.
"I had no other option but to leave. Of course Helen was waiting outside to gloat. When she said 'I told you so' it was all I could do not to hit her, I was so bloody angry. She of course, had told Beverly that she found you and me here in her home."
In silence, T'Krel rose and went to sit on the arm of his chair. She began by massaging his tense shoulder muscles and, against his better judgement, he started to relax. She felt this and smiled to herself. How well she knew him.
When she judged he was relaxed enough, she gently lifted one hand and drew her fingers lightly over his bare scalp. It was something she knew he enjoyed, in fact to him, it was erogenous. He immediately tensed again and quickly rose to his feet, almost dislodging the woman. He spun around, glaring down at her.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
With inherent grace, T'Krel stood and stepped closer to her fiancé.
"You are both tense and upset. I know how much you need sex right now, Jean-Luc and I want you to know I am available."
His emotions in turmoil, he didn't know whether to kiss her or strike her. Instead he gripped her shoulders in a cruelly tight grasp and gasped.
"Get out!"
Completely unfazed by his outburst, T'Krel used her superior strength to break his hold. She lifted both hands to cradle his face, pulling him down to her where she kissed him passionately. Unwillingly, he responded, appalled when his body began to react.
When one of her hands drifted down to cup his growing erection, the fog of passion lifted from his brain and he wrenched himself out of her embrace. His voice was husky and filled with self loathing as he ground out,
"No! I will not do this!"
Her face the epitome of self control, T'Krel stated matter-of-factly,
"I am your fiancée, Jean-Luc. I have a right to expect certain things from you."
His anger had returned. He gripped her elbow, propelling her to the door.
"Well sex isn't one of those things!"
She stopped him near the door.
"Am I to assume our engagement is at an end?"
He deflated before her eyes. Bowing his head, he sighed and whispered,
"I don't know."
Trying her best to remain dispassionate, T'Krel kept her voice quiet and conversational.
"So I am what…your fall back position? If Doctor Crusher rejects you, you will return to me? Is that it?"
Despite her efforts to remain clinical, Jean-Luc heard the pain in her voice and he hated himself for causing it. He looked into her eyes and tried to make her see that he still cared.
"T'Krel, I need time. I don't want to hurt you…God, I loved you…but Beverly…"
The Vulcan held up her hand, silencing him.
"How telling, Jean-Luc. You loved me. Past tense. Has that love evaporated with the discovery of your real love, Jean-Luc? Has this past year meant nothing?"
She turned from him, facing the door so he couldn't see her pain. In a low voice she said quietly,
"I have invested a lot of effort in you, Jean-Luc and, as Counsellor Troi has so eloquently pointed out, you filled a void I didn't know existed within me."
She turned back to face him and he was taken aback by the determination in her green eyes.
"I will not let you go easily, Jean-Luc."
With that said, she left, the softly closing door a counterpoint to the utter desolation Jean-Luc felt.

Over the next four days Jean-Luc tried twice a day to gain entry to Beverly's room and each time he was refused. With growing frustration, he rose on the morning of the fifth day and searched the house for an old fashioned pen and writing pad. Finding neither, he replicated what he wanted and sat at the desk in the living room, trying to compose himself so he could write what was in his heart.
It took seven attempts before he was satisfied with his efforts.
"Dearest Beverly,
I don't know what I've done to make you refuse to see me, I can only surmise that what Helen Parker told you has caused you pain, but let me assure you, I am here because I love you and I desperately want to see you.
This past year has caused me more pain than I am willing to admit to. After you left I descended into a deep depression, eventually suffering a complete mental and physical breakdown, necessitating my admission into a mental health facility. Needless to say, I was relieved of command of the Enterprise for the duration of my treatment.
It was only with the help of a consummate professional who I found I could talk to, that I eventually recovered.
I regained my captaincy and found, to my surprise, that I had developed feelings for my therapist. Of course, once I was back aboard the Enterprise, Deanna took over my care.
But I missed my former therapist, so, out of loneliness, I requested she join our crew…and I admit I was delighted when she agreed.
Over a period of time, we formed a relationship. But…Beverly my love, I never stopped loving you. I had tried everything I could…called in every favour I was owed, but I couldn't find you. As far as I knew, you might as well have been dead. So in desperation and again, loneliness, I proposed to T'Krel in the hope our marriage might assuage my pain.
The day I discovered you were indeed alive was supposed to be my wedding day. To my unending shame, I abandoned my bride and left Earth to find you. I tried to explain to T'Krel…and on some level she understood, she knew well of my undying love for you, but I hurt her and I will have to live with that shame for the rest of my life.
But, Beverly, finding you…knowing you are alive has filled me with unmitigated joy, it's as if I have been given a new lease on life.
Please, Beverly…please allow me to see you, if only for a short while. To do so would be a balm to my tortured soul.
I love you with every fibre of my being…that will never change.
Your humble servant,
Jean-Luc."
He put the letter in a replicated envelope and wrote Beverly's name on the outside. Then, with determination, he left her home for the hospital.

 

 

The clerk at the desk looked up and sighed. She closed her eyes briefly, preparing the spiel she had delivered twice a day for the last four days, but before she could utter so much as one syllable, Jean-Luc held up his hand and smiled.
"May I see Doctor Marcus Key, please?"
Somewhat taken aback, the young woman had to gather her thoughts.
"Ah…Doctor Key isn't due in for about half an hour."
Jean-Luc cast a look at the uncomfortable looking seats in the waiting area and smiled with what he hoped was warmth.
"Then you wouldn't mind if I waited?"
The clerk shook her head.
"Not at all, Captain, but I must warn you, if Doctor Key is called to any emergencies, he will be delayed."
Keeping his smile in place, Jean-Luc nodded.
"I understand."
He went to what he hoped was the best of the chairs and made himself comfortable. As it turned out, he waited almost two hours. Marcus reported to the desk and turned as the clerk pointed to the waiting Captain. The young man smiled and came over.
"Captain Picard, it's a pleasure to meet you again."
Smiling graciously, Jean-Luc shook the younger man's hand.
"Thank you, Doctor Key."
Marcus's face sobered.
"I take it you are here about Beverly?"
Jean-Luc nodded, making Marcus sigh.
"I can only apologise for her stubbornness, Captain…I don't know why she won't see you."
His smile faltered, but Jean-Luc kept his voice low and even.
"I think I know what's wrong, Doctor."
He reached inside his jacket and pulled out the envelope.
"It would be especially kind if you would give this to Beverly…I can assure you I doubt it will upset her."
Marcus's face showed his uncertainty.
"I'm not sure, Captain. I have to see to my patient's every need and this…"
He pointed to the envelope,
"Might not be in her best interests."
Throwing caution, and his ingrained sense of privacy to the winds, Jean-Luc looked intently into the young man's eyes and said quietly,
"Have you ever been in love, Doctor…in love with all your heart, all your being?"
Wistfully, Marcus nodded.
"Yes I have actually, some years ago."
"Then you will know how I feel about Beverly. Doctor Key...Marcus, I love her with that kind of intensity and this enforced separation is killing me. Please…please, just give her the envelope. I will take full responsibility for whatever repercussions result. I'm begging you."
Humbled by the heartfelt confession, Marcus relented.
"Very well, Captain, but I can't guarantee she will read it."
Jean-Luc smiled, his eyes suspiciously moist.
"I will live in hope."
Marcus turned to leave, but hesitated and turned back.
"Where can she contact you?"
With a rueful smile, Jean-Luc said softly,
"I'm staying at her home."
"No problem, Captain, I'll see to it."
Smiling his farewell, Jean-Luc turned to leave, but hesitated and turned back. He pointed to the envelope.
"You won't forget?"
Marcus shook his head.
"No, Captain, I won't forget, but I can't guarantee she will read it."
Giving a final nod, Jean-Luc sighed.
"I will just have to keep my hopes up then, won't I."
He left before Marcus could comment further.

 

 

 

He arrived at the hotel after first going to Beverly's home to pick up his possessions. As he suspected, there were no rooms available. He was about to leave when a familiar voice made him turn.
"Jean-Luc?"
T'Krel crossed the lobby and gently laid her hand on his forearm.
"What are you doing here?"
He offered a wry smile.
"Trying to get a room. Beverly is being discharged tomorrow and it was decided it would be better if I wasn't there in her home when she arrived."
T'Krel frowned.
"I do not understand. Why wouldn't she wish to see you? I would have thought she would have been overjoyed."
Grimacing, Jean-Luc took T'Krel's hand and led her into a quieter area of the lobby.
"I haven't seen her for five days."
The Vulcan was obviously confused.
"Why?"
Anger glittered in his eyes as he explained.
"Helen Parker was with Beverly not long after she regained consciousness and she took it upon herself to tell Beverly that not only was I here on Gault…staying in her home, but that you were there with me and that we seemed to be very…comfortable with each other."
The Vulcan showed no emotion, but her voice betrayed her.
"That is very…unfortunate."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes, it is."
"What are you going to do about it?"
With a sigh, Jean-Luc ran a hand over his bald head. He looked into T'Krel's eyes, trying to impress upon her his remorse.
"T'Krel, this really doesn't concern you. I think it would be best if we didn't discuss it any further."
Anger flashed briefly in her eyes.
"Doesn't concern me? You are my fiancé, Jean-Luc yet you are here on Gault with the express intention to win back the love of a woman you have been in love with for over thirty years! I think I have every right to discuss it!"
Immediately seeing his mistake, Jean-Luc bowed his head.
"I'm sorry, T'Krel, that was very insensitive of me."
Taking a calming breath, the Vulcan schooled her features to their usual stoic visage.
"Did you manage to secure a room?"
He shook his head.
"No, they're booked out."
Coming to a quick decision, T'Krel said quietly,
"Then you must stay with me, I have a suite."
Jean-Luc smiled, but shook his head.
"Thank you, but I think it would be best if I stayed on the yacht."
"Nonsense, you would kilometres away. What if you were urgently needed?"
He shrugged.
"I have the use of Doctor Key's flitter."
T'Krel stared into Jean-Luc's eyes.
"Are you frightened of staying with me, Jean-Luc?"
Bridling, the Captain couldn't hide his glare.
"Certainly not! I just don't think it's appropriate."
T'Krel's gaze became piercing.
"Perhaps not, but I feel you are going to need to talk to me eventually."
Still angry, Jean-Luc muttered sullenly,
"Professionally, or to simply satisfy your morbid curiosity?"
Her expression didn't falter, but her voice showed her hurt.
"That was unnecessary."
He swallowed, briefly closed his eyes and tried to quell his anger.
"Again, I apologise."
With a sigh, he took her hands and said gently,
"I think it would be best if we stayed apart, at least until I've had a chance to talk to Beverly."
Unconvinced, but knowing he wouldn't change his mind, T'Krel gave a curt nod.
"Very well, Jean-Luc, but I must tell you I feel this matter between us will only fester until we can resolve our differences and the longer that takes, the harder it will be."
He sighed, his face and voice showing his sorrow.
"I do understand what you are saying; T'Krel, but I must follow my heart. You know that."
She nodded slowly,
"Yes, I do, but I never considered I would be caught in a war of attrition with you, Jean-Luc."
Desperate to end the conversation and escape to the safety of the yacht, Jean-Luc said softly,
"I'm sorry."
And left. T'Krel watched him go, her anger and hurt just under the surface.

 

 

 

 

When Marcus came into Beverly's room, he was delighted to see her sitting in a chair beside her bed. She looked up from the PADD she had in her hands and grinned.
"Hello there, Marcus."
The young Doctor chuckled.
"Hello to you too, Beverly."
He hitched his backside onto the edge of the bed and looked down at his patient.
"Well, look at you! I know the catheter was removed this morning, how's the pain?"
Beverly grimaced.
"It's a bit uncomfortable, but I know it will improve."
"Do you need analgesics?"
She shook her head.
"No, I'd rather see if I can cope."
He nodded.
"Fair enough. So, I take it you know I'm going to discharge you tomorrow morning."
Her cerulean eyes sparkled.
"Yep."
Growing serious, Marcus said gently,
"Do you think you'll be okay on your own, or would you like me to assign a nurse?"
Giving the offer some thought, Beverly eventually shook her head.
"No, I think I'll be all right on my own. Besides, I will still have to come in twice daily for regen treatments."
Marcus nodded.
"Yes, but you're going to find you will tire easily for a while yet and there is the pain to consider."
With a sigh, Beverly pulled her hair back off her shoulders. She knew he was only trying to help, but her strong independent streak made it difficult to admit to needing help. Marcus knew this, but he also knew Beverly was smart enough to decide by being dispassionate. She looked up and smiled.
"Okay, how about this. I give it a go on my own, but if I can't cope, I'll call you."
He looked intently into her eyes.
"Promise?"
She chuckled and put her right hand over her heart.
"You have my word."
With a happy grin, Marcus stood and was about to leave, when he suddenly snapped his fingers.
"Oh, I nearly forgot."
He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the envelope. He handed it to a curious Beverly.
"I promised to give that to you."
He bent low and whispered in her ear,
"Give him a chance, Beverly…he loves you."
Beverly watched him leave before she looked at the envelope. She immediately recognised Jean-Luc's handwriting. Anger and anguish marred her face as she threw it unopened onto the bed, muttering,
"Damn you, Jean-Luc!"

 

 

Beverly was still very tender in places as she entered her home. She stood just inside the door as a nurse took her bag and placed it in her bedroom. The young man came back to Beverly, smiling as he said,
"You have some lovely flowers waiting for you."
Coming into the living area, Beverly was delighted to see two bouquets lying on the table. She went to the closest and grinned as she read,
"Welcome home, Beverly, I'll be around later with some boiled fruit cake…without cherries! Love, Helen."
While Beverly was preparing to read the card on the second bouquet, the nurse said softly,
"I'll put them in a vase for you."
Absently nodding her thanks, Beverly undid the small envelope and frowned as she read,
"Dearest Beverly, I am so very happy you are recovering well. Please, let me visit you, I can be contacted on my yacht at the local airport. All my love, always, Jean-Luc."
She tossed the card onto the tabletop, picked up the bouquet and went into the kitchen, dumping the flowers into the recycler. The nurse frowned in confusion.
"You didn't want those?"
Trying to keep her anger out of her voice and failing, Beverly barked,
"No, I didn't!"
Not knowing quite what to do, the nurse said softly,
"Would you like me to unpack your bag?"
Taking a deep, calming breath, Beverly summoned a smile.
"No, that won't be necessary, thank you. In fact, I think you can go, I'll be fine."
The young man looked dubious, but was somewhat intimidated by the formidable Doctor. He sighed and nodded.
"Very well, Doctor Crusher. I'll be back later this afternoon to collect you for your regen treatment"
Wishing the young man gone, Beverly smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes.
"Thank you, good bye."
Now alone, Beverly wandered into her bedroom and took her time unpacking her bag. Jean-Luc's letter fluttered to the floor and she stood, staring at it for a full minute before she finally picked it up and put it on the nightstand.
Having succeeded in her task, she went into the kitchen and put the kettle on. There was a replicator, but Jean-Luc had long ago introduced her to the delight of real brewed tea. It was without thought that she rinsed the teapot and took down the caddy from the shelf.
She had just put three spoonfuls of tea in the pot when the front door chimed.
Somewhat annoyed at being disturbed, Beverly went to the door, fully intending to send away her unwanted guest, but she was greeted by the grinning face of Helen Parker, a covered cake tin in her hands.
"May I come in?"
Pushing aside her irritation, Beverly returned the grin and gestured her friend inside. As they made their way into the kitchen, Helen said warily,
"I hope I'm not intruding…I know how it can feel when you're finally set free from hospital."
There was truth in those words, but what Beverly really wanted was time alone to think about Jean-Luc. However, she set aside those thoughts and shook here head.
"No, it's okay. Besides…is that boiled fruit cake?"
Helen put the tin on the kitchen table and prised off the lid. The aroma hit Beverly immediately.
"My God…that smells still warm."
Helen grinned.
"It is. It only came out of the oven an hour ago. I thought you could use some comfort food."
As Beverly retrieved some plates and a knife, the kettle came to the boil. Helen chuckled.
"Impeccable timing?"
Beverly laughed, then winced and put a hand to her side. Immediately concerned, Helen went to her.
"Are you all right?"
With a nod, Beverly waved her off.
"Yeah, just a bit of residual soreness."
Helen ushered Beverly to a chair, annoying the red head, but she hid it well.
"You just sit; I'll take care of everything."
Deciding it was easier to acquiesce than argue, Beverly did as she was told and soon both women were eating cake and sipping hot, freshly brewed tea.
They chatted about inconsequentialities, but Beverly knew Helen wanted to say more than she was letting on. Not one to evade anything, even unpleasantness, Beverly chose to bite the bullet.
Idly running her fingers around the rim of her cup, Beverly tried to sound nonchalant, but Helen detected the undertone of hurt.
"So…tell me about Captain Picard and the Vulcan woman. You said they were staying here?"
Helen shrugged, trying to quell her delight in answering the seemingly innocuous question.
"Well they were both here the morning I dropped by…and it was pretty early. The Vulcan answered the door and, when I asked to speak with the Captain, she told me he was in the shower. She then left me to go into the bedroom to tell him I was here."
Beverly nodded pensively, trying to keep the colour of anger from her face.
"So what did he have to say for himself?"
Again, Helen shrugged.
"I don't know, I left before he came out of the bedroom. I felt really uncomfortable…like I was interrupting something."
With a snort, Beverly tossed back the remainder of her now cold tea. She placed the cup forcibly on the tabletop.
"You probably were."
Helen leaned forward and took Beverly's hand. Her look of sympathy made Beverly want to punch her.
"What are you going to do? He's obviously two-timing you. My God, he had the temerity to have his lover stay here with him in your home while you were lying dangerously ill in hospital."
Suddenly tiring of the conversation, Beverly stood and tried to smile with some warmth.
"Helen I'm feeling a little tired. Would you mind if I asked you to leave? I could do with some rest."
Disappointed, Helen stood and Beverly didn't miss the flash of irritation and sly calculation that passed across her face. But the smile that emerged seemed genuine.
"No problem, Beverly, I understand. Maybe I call later this afternoon, you know…see how you are."
As Beverly escorted Helen to the door she nodded.
"That's probably a good idea. I have a regen treatment later."
At the door, Helen took Beverly's hand and looked into her eyes.
"Forget him, Beverly; he's not worth the effort."
It took all her strength to maintain the smile until the door closed. She leaned against the door and closed her eyes, thinking to herself,
"But you don't know him like I do, Helen. Something's not right here. One thing he would never do is deliberately hurt me."

 

 

 

It was just after midnight and Jean-Luc had waited in the vain hope that Beverly would contact him. He was tired and very dispirited. Giving up for the night, he showered, dressed in a pair of satin sleep shorts and went to bed, but sleep was a long time coming.
In the early hours of the morning, the hatch silently opened and a figure entered the Calypso. Moving with liquid grace, the intruder went unerringly into the bedroom and silently disrobed, slipping with great care into the bed beside the sleeping man.
A hand gently insinuated itself under the waistband of his shorts to take his flaccid penis and very gently squeeze it. He slowly began to harden, but he didn't waken. He sighed in his sleep and turned over. The ethereal touch became bolder and he moaned softly as his erection grew. It was when the intruder kissed him that he began to respond. Rising to consciousness, his tongue pushed inside the mouth of his phantom lover, but the instant it did he immediately woke. He recoiled in the bed, but the intruder kept a firm grip on his now aching penis. In a roughened voice he barked,
"Lights!"
T'Krel, her eyes darkened with desire, moved closer, trying to nuzzle his neck, but he grabbed her shoulders and shoved her away, breaking her grip of his penis.
"Get out!"
Licking her lips, T'Krel breathed deeply through her flared nostrils.
"You don't want me to leave, Jean-Luc, I can smell how much need me."
Outraged, Jean-Luc sat up, moving further away.
"What you are attempting is tantamount to rape!"
Her smile was predatory.
"Rape? I am your fiancé, Jean-Luc…and don't tell me you didn't want what I offered."
Jean-Luc gaped.
"I was asleep! I thought you were…"
"Beverly?"
Flushing, Jean-Luc whispered very quietly,
"Yes."
Completely unfazed by her nakedness, T'Krel left the bed and looked down at the rattled man.
"I am a patient woman, Jean-Luc, but if this situation is not resolved soon, I will take matters into my own hands…and you might not like the consequences."
She dressed in an oppressive silence and left, leaving Jean-Luc to wonder exactly what she had meant.

Beverly also had a restless night. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get Jean-Luc out of her mind. What was his fiancé doing here? What did it mean, both for their relationship and their future? She spent a night of fitful sleep, filled with dark and disturbing dreams, eventually waking far too early and lying in bed, still mulling over her unsettling thoughts.
In the pinking light of dawn she looked over at the letter, lying so innocuously on the nightstand. With a sigh of exasperation and capitulation, she snatched it up and tore the envelope open. As she read, tears formed in her eyes.

 

 

Helen Parker was a very astute woman and she was well aware that Beverly had not been swayed by what she had said about the redoubtable Captain Picard. As dawn broke she was in her flitter, making her way to the airport. If Beverly was too weak to sever her ties with this man, then Helen would do it for her…permanently if need be.
The flitter carrying T'Krel passed Helen in the growing light of day, but neither woman was aware of the other, each having their own agenda. T'Krel reached Beverly's home before Helen had even taken the turn off to the airport.
Beverly was still in bed, clutching the letter to her breast when the door chimed. Thinking it may be Jean-Luc; she bolted out of her bed and ran to the door, her heart swelling with suppressed joy. She flung the door open and her joy died on her face. Cold anger took its place.
"What are you doing here?"
Brazenly brushing past the Doctor, T'Krel entered Beverly's home and casually looked around. In a very glib, conversational tone she said,
"I take it you are alone?"
Her anger growing, Beverly hissed,
"You are not welcome here. Leave. Now."
T'Krel completely ignored Beverly, saying instead,
"You are close friends with Counsellor Troi, are you not?"
The non sequitur caught Beverly off guard. Warily she said softly,
"Yes."
The Vulcan nodded thoughtfully.
"A remarkable woman, Counsellor Troi. On the outside meek and compliant, but in reality, hard and uncompromising…and very good at her job, especially in ferreting out the truth."
Intrigued, but still very wary, Beverly shook her head.
"What are you talking about?"
T'Krel smiled, but it was a cold and calculating expression.
"Long ago I was bonded with a Vulcan male. It was a very satisfactory relationship and grew, over the decades, to be most profound. Then he died in a totally avoidable accident. Now, as a Vulcan, I accept death as the logical conclusion to life, after all, none of us will live forever, but I was completely unprepared for the effect his death would have on me. I thought I coped, coped well. I went about my work; I continued my research and in general carried on as if nothing of import had happened. Many years passed and I believed I had put the entire episode behind me."
She smiled again and it sent a chill down Beverly's spine.
"Then I met Jean-Luc. Did you know I was his therapist when he suffered his breakdown?"
Beverly shook her head, by now fascinated.
"No? Well I was. But what I didn't know was as I treated him, he became attracted to me."
A look of incomprehension flashed across the Vulcan's face.
"I should have noticed, of course, but he was such an interesting patient…so intense, yet so controlled."
She sighed.
"In any case, it became moot once he was deemed successfully treated and left the facility and my care. He regained his captaincy and returned to the Enterprise. Imagine my surprise when he requested I join his crew. I accepted of course, it was a wise career move."
Beverly went into the living room and sat, part of her wanting to hear the rest of the story, but another part dreading it. T'Krel followed her and sat opposite.
"Of course, once he was back aboard his ship, Counsellor Troi resumed her position as his counsellor. I was placed under her command as part of her staff."
The smile returned and Beverly had to quell a shudder.
"Our relationship began slowly, I was, of course, cautious, but it soon became obvious that Jean-Luc harboured romantic feelings for me and, as I analysed the situation, I found him to be a suitable mate."
This time the smile was malicious.
"I was pleasantly surprised to find he was so proficient in sexual matters…so many human men are…inept.
"There were, of course, inequities in our relationship. I could not, for instance, provide the…human comfort he required, the emotional and physical closeness he craved, but he assured me he was satisfied with our relationship as it was and I accepted his word."
She sat forward, her green eyes piercing.
"But you know what that is like, don't you, Beverly? Do you have any idea how badly you hurt him…damaged him? He spent many painful months trying to get over you and never really succeeded. And do you want to know something, Beverly? I believe his attraction towards me was because of how you treated him. I am a Vulcan, trained from birth to suppress my emotions, to be what humans would call…cold. Sound familiar?"
Tears welled in Beverly's eyes as she bowed her head. T'Krel took no notice.
"Now Counsellor Troi watched all this unfold and bided her time. Initially she expressed her opposition to our relationship, but I think it was her overriding feelings of compassion for Jean-Luc that stopped her from doing more than she did to stop it. But she had no intention of sparing me. I won't go into the details, suffice it to say she made me see a truth I had hidden for far too long. But I will tell you this, Beverly. Jean-Luc Picard is my fiancé. Yes, he left me on our wedding day to find you, but I have invested far too much of myself in him to allow the pain of losing him, as I lost my bond mate."
She stood and glared down at the distressed human.
"Give him up, Beverly. He is mine."
Looking up, and with tears streaming down her face, Beverly whispered,
"I can't…I love him."
T'Krel tilted her head and smiled that cold smile again.
"Then you should know we had sex last night. I think he is finally over you."
She left without another word, leaving Beverly sobbing in her chair.

 

 

 

 

He had no appetite, but Jean-Luc was trying to eat some toast and tea. When the hatch alert sounded his mechanical heart skipped a beat. Was it Beverly?
Rushing from the table, he upset his cup, spilling the tea. He pressed the release, a look of joyous anticipation on his face. He was met with the business end of a phaser. Helen Parker smiled with malicious glee and stepped inside, causing Jean-Luc to slowly retreat. He kept calm, trying to defuse the situation.
"What is this all about?"
In a very matter-of-fact way, Helen explained,
"Beverly Crusher saved my life and now you are trying to destroy her. I can't…in fact I won't allow that to happen."
Anger rose in Jean-Luc, but he knew to stay calm.
"Now look, Helen…"
He got no further. She fired the phaser at point blank range, hitting Jean-Luc square in the chest.
The force of the blast threw him across the living area to slam into the forehead bulkhead. His body collapsed in a crumpled heap on the deck. Helen slowly walked over to him and toed him with her foot. With a grim smile she uttered,
"With you gone, Beverly can move on. She deserves much better than you."
The woman left the yacht, careful to close the hatch as she went.

 

 

 

 

Beverly attended the hospital that afternoon but her mind was barely functioning. Once again home, she sat in the sunlight, streaming into her lounge, trying to make some sense of what T'Krel had told her. Over and over again, one thought repeated itself.
"Why would he write that letter, professing his love for me if he was prepared to have sex with her last night?"
It just didn't make any sense and then there was her certainty that he would never deliberately hurt her. No, something wasn't right and she knew she had to get to the bottom of it. Being the forthright woman she was, the time of vacillation was over. She rose and strode purposefully to the computer and put in a call to the yacht.
When there was no reply, she was overcome with a terrible fear that he was with T'Krel at the hotel, but she had made up her mind to resolve this, so, without hesitating, she contacted the establishment.
Not wishing to risk talking to the Vulcan, Beverly confined herself to questioning the concierge
"This is Doctor Beverly Crusher, I wonder if I may speak with Captain Jean-Luc Picard? He may be visiting with one of your guests, a Vulcan named T'Krel."
There was a momentary pause, then the man said with respect,
"I am sorry, Doctor Crusher, but to my knowledge, T'Krel has no visitors at the moment. I know she is in her room, she ordered a late lunch only an hour ago."
Beverly thanked the concierge and closed the connection. She sat back and scratched her head, muttering,
"Where the hell could he be?"
With an angry slap of her hand on the tabletop, Beverly got up and hurried to the door, taking the chip for her flitter out of her pocket.
"If Mohammad won't go to the mountain…"
Her arrival at the airport was met by a worker who directed her to the correct hangar. She smiled grimly when she saw the elegant yacht, remembering past journeys she had taken with Jean-Luc. Although, as Captain of the Enterprise he had exclusive use of the yacht for any purpose he chose, he rarely used it. An egalitarian man, he disliked the impression of superiority above and beyond the already generous privileges his rank afforded him that such usage implied. But…there had been the odd occasion when he had succumbed to the urge to treat Beverly to a little luxury and so, once or twice he had used the yacht to take them on simple missions, mostly seminars.
It was with those memories in her mind that she approached the closed hatch and inputted her entry code. It obediently opened and she stepped inside, fully expecting to find the craft empty, and, at first glance, that was exactly what she thought. About to settle into one of the comfy chairs to await Jean-Luc's return, in the periphery of her vision she saw something she knew immediately was not right. She turned and gasped, calling out,
"Jean-Luc!"
She ran to his fallen body, her fingers going to his neck to check his carotid pulse. There was one, but very weak and erratic. Leaving him for just a moment, she ran to a locker to get a med kit, while calling,
"Computer, this is Doctor Beverly Crusher. Connect with Gault central transporter facility. Request two to beam directly to Gault hospital."
The response was immediate.
"Doctor Crusher, this is the transporter facility. We are unable to transport from the airport, the molecular dissemination interferes with the flight controller's instruments. An upgrade to remedy the problem isn't due for six months."
Gritting her teeth in frustration and anger as she began to scan Jean-Luc, Beverly almost yelled,
"Then I need an ambulance, STAT! Hangar four. I have a patient who has taken a phaser shot to the chest and he's barely alive."
"We are relaying your request, one moment please."
Beverly very carefully turned Jean-Luc onto his back, wincing at the deep burn that marred the flesh of his chest. The overhead speakers came to life again.
"Doctor Crusher? ETA for the ambulance is eight minutes. The police will meet you at the hospital. Transporter one, out."
With only a med kit to assist her, Beverly was severely limited in what she could do for her best friend, but she did what she was trained to do. She administered drugs to augment the function of Jean-Luc's damaged artificial heart and supplied oxygen to help him breathe, but with all her efforts he began to further fade. Those eight minutes were the longest of her life as his life hung in the balance.

 

 

 

It was with almost sheer force of will that Beverly kept Jean-Luc alive while waiting for the ambulance. The sound of the approaching siren was one of the best things she had ever heard. The three medics, two women and a man, went to work on the Captain immediately, doing what they could to further stabilise him. One of the women looked over at Beverly, saying quietly,
"Doctor Key is waiting for us."
As Beverly watched the monitor show his slightly improved condition, she gave a curt nod of her head.
"Right, let's get going!"
Once inside the ambulance, the vehicle rose to a level higher than that of the normal flitter traffic and zoomed off at a break-neck speed. Beverly barely noticed, however, her concentration was centred on Jean-Luc. It wasn't until she felt the slight bump of landing that she realised they had reached the hospital.
The large back hatch swung upwards and two orderlies came forward to ease out the stretcher. Marcus took a PADD from one of the medics, scanning it quickly. He gasped, looking up at Beverly with panic in his eyes.
"His artificial heart is badly damaged…the bio regulator is all but fused."
Grimly, Beverly followed the cluster of people into the intensive care facility.
"I know, Marcus, but it's okay, I am qualified to give him a replacement."
As Jean-Luc was being attached to a machine to augment the function of his heart, Marcus shook his head.
"No, Beverly, you don't understand. We don't have a replacement here on Gault."
She paled and looked into Marcus's eyes, all but pleading to him to say it was a mistake.
"What?"
Raising his hands in frustrated exasperation, Marcus shook his head.
"You're out in the sticks here, Beverly. We don't have access to that kind of technology."
She cast a stricken look at the dying man and all but shouted,
"Then we have to get one!"
Trying to keep the panic out of his voice, Marcus's tone was sympathetic.
"The next supply vessel isn't due for two months."
Beverly gaped.
"Are you trying to tell me that we can't get a replacement heart for TWO MONTHS? What the hell do you do if you have a patient who needs one? Just sit around and watch them die while you wait for the next supply ship?"
Growing angry, but keeping in mind how distraught Beverly was, Marcus struggled to keep calm.
"Of course not! We request a medical transport and send them to a Star base."
Beverly's blue eyes were blazing.
"And how long does that take?"
Now flushing slightly, the embarrassed young Doctor mumbled,
"A week…maybe ten days."
Slamming her fist down on the biobed, Beverly yelled,
"He doesn't have that long! Even if we could stabilise him enough for transport, which I doubt we could do, he wouldn't last the journey! We need a heart within a day or two at the very most."
Exasperated, Marcus flung his hands in the air.
"Well what the hell do you expect me to do? My hands are tied!"
Beverly glowered, then tried to remind herself that this situation wasn't Marcus's fault. She took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, then let it out slowly.
"Does this hospital have a subspace relay?"
Marcus nodded.
"Yes, just off the main foyer."
She looked down at Jean-Luc and came to a decision.
"I have a call to make. While I'm gone, see if you can stabilise him enough to put him in stasis…you can do that, can't you?"
Knowing there was no sarcasm, only desperation in the question, Marcus merely nodded, part of him curious as to what she was going to do…or more succinctly, who was she going to call.
Beverly quickly left the room and soon found the subspace relay. She powered up the unit and made her call.
"This is Doctor Beverly Crusher, calling the USS Enterprise. I need urgent assistance. Please respond immediately."
She sat before the unit, willing it to respond. It was ten minutes before she got her reply.
"Doctor Crusher, this is the Enterprise. How can we help?"
Recognising Will's voice, Beverly almost sobbed with relief.
"Will, Captain Picard has been badly injured and needs a new heart. The specs are on file, but you will probably get a better one at SFM. I need it within two days…three will be too late."
"Where are you?"
She gritted her teeth.
"On Gault."
"Gault? Jesus, Beverly, that's a stretch in two days."
She sighed, rubbing her brow.
"I know, Will, but if you cut through the Stenson Nebula at warp nine-point-eight you could just do it."
There was a momentary silence before Will's voice showed a trace of his trade-mark amusement.
"Well, it'll be one hell of a ride. We'll leave within the hour."
A very relieved doctor managed a smile. She couldn't see Will, but she'd bet her life that he was grinning too.
"Thanks, Will, I owe you."
His voice sobered.
"You just keep the Captain alive until we get there."
Her smile disappeared.
"I'll do my best."
"Enterprise out."
As Beverly left the communication alcove, she was met by two policemen. Both had PADDs in their hands. The older of the two stepped forward, his expression grim.
"You are Doctor Beverly Crusher?"
Standing to her full height, Beverly nodded, then pointed to the intensive care facility.
"Yes I am, and I am willing to answer all your questions, as long as it's done in there."
Seeing the look of resolute determination on her face, the man nodded.
"That's fine, Doctor."
Once Beverly had checked Jean-Luc's readouts and conferred briefly with Marcus, she turned her attention to the police.
"How can I help you?"
The older man, a sergeant, glanced at his PADD.
"We've interviewed the medics and Doctor Key. I take it you found the victim?"
Beverly nodded.
"Yes, I did."
"And you called for help."
"Yes."
"And while you waited, you gave medical assistance to the victim."
"Uh huh."
Again consulting his PADD, the man looked at Beverly and asked softly,
"How well do you know the victim?"
Beverly was prepared for the question, but it still made her heart skip a beat.
"Very well, actually. We have known each other for over thirty years and, until just over a year ago; he was my Commanding Officer on the Enterprise."
The man nodded slowly.
"That's right…he's a Captain, isn't he."
The question was rhetorical so Beverly remained silent.
"So you've known each other a long time. Just how well do you know him?"
Beverly bridled but kept her cool.
"I'm not sure I know what you mean."
The man's eyes hardened.
"Oh come now, Doctor. You've known the Captain for years, served with him for a very long time; in fact you were his CMO weren't you? Are you telling me you didn't get…close?"
Now clearly angry, but knowing that was what the man wanted, Beverly kept calm, but her voice was icy.
"If you are implying that we were lovers, then yes, you are correct, but that hasn't been so for over a year now."
The man nodded.
"So you're telling me this wasn't a lover's quarrel? That you didn't have an argument and shot him in anger?"
Taking a deep breath, Beverly shook her head.
"No, Sir, I did not."
Pursing his lips, the man nodded again.
"Very well, do you have any idea who might have been responsible?"
Beverly shrugged, but her expression was calculating.
"There is a Vulcan woman staying at the hotel, her name is T'Krel. She is the Captain's fiancée. Perhaps you should direct your enquiries to her."
Snapping the PADD off, the man offered a small inclination of his head. He gestured to his younger companion and they turned to leave, but not before he said,
"We may have need to question you further, Doctor. I would advise you to stay on Gault."
Beverly didn't dignify that with a verbal reply; she merely nodded and returned her attention to Jean-Luc.

 

 

 

T'Krel was meditating when the chime sounded. She frowned, knowing she had asked the concierge that she not be disturbed. She stood from her position on the floor and went to the door, pulling her satin robe tighter around her. There were two men standing outside, both holding identification chips. The older of the two nodded.
"You are T'Krel?"
The Vulcan nodded.
"Yes."
Offering his chip, he said not unkindly,
"If you would like to verify our credentials?"
T'Krel shook her head.
"Unnecessary. Who are you and what do you want?"
The older man smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes.
"I am Sergeant William Styles and my colleague is Constable Anthony McMahon. We are investigating the assault on Captain Jean-Luc Picard."
Her face remained impassive, but shock and alarm registered in her eyes.
"Captain Picard has been assaulted?"
"Yes, Ma'am. May I ask…where were you at approximately fourteen thirty today?"
Wishing desperately to know more, T'Krel had to concentrate on answering the question.
"I was here, in my rooms."
The Sergeant nodded.
"And can anyone corroborate that?"
Bowing her head, T'Krel had to think. Eventually she nodded.
"I think so, yes. I ordered a late lunch and the Concierge told me there was a call, not for me, but for Captain Picard, about fourteen hundred."
"I see. Do you know who the call was from?"
T'Krel nodded again.
"Yes, Doctor Beverly Crusher."
Consulting his PADD, Sergeant Styles sighed.
"So how long have you been in your rooms today?"
"Since about oh ten hundred."
The policemen checked his chronometer.
"It's now past eighteen hundred. That's a long time to stay in one's rooms. What were you doing all that time?"
T'Krel quickly quelled the spike of anger. She calmed herself and said quietly,
"I have some personal issues I need to work through. I have spent most of the time meditating."
The man pursed his lips, nodding thoughtfully.
"Personal issues? How interesting. You're Captain Picard's fiancée, aren't you?"
"Yes."
"And would these…personal issues…have anything to do with him?"
Her first instinct was to tell the man it was none of his business, but she knew that would not stop him questioning her further, so she opted for the truth.
"Yes."
"I see. Can you elaborate?"
T'Krel sighed, doing her best to stay calm.
"Captain Picard has long harboured a deep and abiding love for Doctor Crusher. She went missing for over a year and he suffered a breakdown, believing she was dead. I was his therapist. Later, once he'd recovered, I joined his ship and we developed a relationship. He eventually proposed marriage and I accepted.
"On the day we were to be married, he discovered Doctor Crusher was alive and where she was. He left the same day to find her. I followed some days later."
The more experienced Sergeant showed no emotion, but the younger Constable muttered,
"Holy shit!"
An admonishing look silenced the younger man. Sergeant Styles spent a few minutes inputting information into his PADD. He then looked into T'Krel's eyes.
"I am formally asking you…did you assault Captain Picard?"
The Vulcan's eyes were gimlet like.
"No, I categorically deny assaulting him, or anyone else."
There was a moment's silence before T'Krel asked softly,
"May I ask the nature of the assault?"
Styles sighed, briefly closed his eyes and nodded.
"He was shot at point blank range with a phaser on a pretty high setting. He took it in the chest."
"And his condition?"
"Critical. They have him on life support. Apparently, unless they can get a new artificial heart to him in two days…he won't make it."
T'Krel paled and said quietly,
"Then this will become a murder investigation."
The man nodded.
"Yes, Ma'am."
Styles tabbed his PADD off and wearily spoke.
"I may have more questions for you, please don't leave Gault."
T'Krel nodded.
"Of course."
Once they had left, T'Krel closed her eyes and willed herself to remain calm, but inside she cried out…
"If only he had his Katra to give me…then he would live inside me forever."

 

 

 

Although they had managed to stabilise Jean-Luc enough to put him in stasis, Beverly hovered at his bedside until well after midnight. It was Marcus who took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze.
"There's nothing you can do now, Beverly and you're still recovering from your own injuries. Go home…get some rest."
Knowing he was right didn't make her feel any better. She felt that by leaving Jean-Luc, she was deserting him when he needed her…again. But tiredness won out. She offered a weary smile and nodded.
"Okay, but it'll be on one condition."
Marcus smiled.
"If anything happens, I call you ASAP."
Beverly's smile grew and she embarrassed the young man by kissing his cheek. She whispered in his ear,
"Thank you."
And left.
When she got home, she was surprised to see a flitter parked in her driveway. As her headlights swept past, she saw someone seemingly asleep inside. As it was nearly one am, she frowned, thinking,
"Who the hell could that be?"
The sound of Beverly's flitter woke the sleeping person and, as Beverly was exiting her vehicle, Helen got out of hers.
In no mood for any lectures, Beverly said tightly,
"I'm tired, Helen. I just want to go to bed."
Helen gave a sympathetic look and proffered a basket.
"I bet you haven't eaten. I have some lamb stew, it's still hot."
In defiance of Beverly's words, her traitorous stomach rumbled with complaint. Summoning an embarrassed smile, the weary Doctor invited her friend inside.
Helen seemed to know Beverly was on edge, but she couldn't help but mention what had happened.
"I heard about what happened to Captain Picard, it's all over town."
Sitting back and wiping her mouth, Beverly nodded sadly.
"Yes, I just hope they catch whoever is responsible."
Helen shrugged and gently pushed her empty plate away.
"Well, if you ask me, he got exactly what he deserved."
Immediately on her guard, Beverly sat up straight.
"That's a horrible thing to say, Helen. He did nothing to deserve that, my God…he came here to see me!"
Suddenly on her feet, Helen went to Beverly's chair, turning it until she was looming over the Doctor.
"You don't need someone like him, my sweet Beverly. What you need is someone like me!"
She abruptly kissed Beverly full on the mouth. A stunned red head pulled free, gasping with shock.
"Helen!"
The woman took Beverly's hands in hers and looked beseechingly into her eyes.
"All I'm asking is that you think about it, Beverly. We could be so happy…you could move in with me, continue your practice with Marcus…it would be paradise, paradise here on Gault, just you and me."
Beverly rose to her feet and backed away a few steps.
"Helen…I'm heterosexual."
The intense woman shrugged.
"So was I…once. But that was before I met you! Beverly…can't you see? You saved my life so we could be together. It was kismet."
Scrambling with her shattered thoughts, Beverly suddenly remembered something. Adopting a very conciliatory tone, the Doctor said gently,
"Helen, you may not be aware of this, but it is a known effect of recovered Grave's disease sufferers that they sometimes experience confusion about their sexuality. I think that's what's happened to you."
Anger flashed in the woman's eyes as she advanced on the retreating Doctor.
"That's not true! I love you Beverly and I want you to love me!"
A dreadful thought suddenly occurred to Beverly. She almost whispered as she asked,
"Did you shoot Jean-Luc?"
Helen waved away the question, obsessed in her delusional state.
"I don't give a flying fuck about him! I want you! Please Beverly…can't you find it in yourself to love me?"
Knowing she was in mortal danger, Beverly slowly backed into the living room, followed by the unhinged woman
"I care for you, Helen…of course I do, we're friends, good friends."
Helen shook her head vehemently.
"But do you love me?"
Beverly's thigh bumped into the communication console and she slipped a hand behind her, surreptitiously tabbing the unit on. Bravely facing Helen, Beverly shook her head.
"No, Helen, I don't love you…I love Jean-Luc."
The scream of anguish pierced Beverly's ears. She watched in fascinated horror as Helen literally pulled out clumps of her own hair.
"Then what can I do? How can I make you love me?"
Keeping her voice soft and calm, Beverly said sympathetically,
"You can't. My heart belongs to another. It always has."
There was a deadly silence before Beverly asked again,
"Did you shoot Captain Picard?"
Helen looked up and scowled.
"What if I did? He deserved it!"
Still displaying courage she didn't know she possessed, Beverly said gently,
"Helen, I have some medicine in my med kit that will make you feel much better. How about you let me give it to you?"
The distraught woman looked into Beverly's eyes and sighed.
"Will it make me love you any less?"
With a compassionate smile, Beverly nodded.
"It will help, yes."
With a feral snarl, Helen picked up a vase off the table and threw it across the room.
"Then I don't want it! How can you be a Doctor to me now when I want you as so much more?"
She turned and rushed to the door. Beverly called out,
"Helen!"
But her call was met by the slamming of the door. After a second or two of stunned silence, Beverly turned to the communication console and toggled the channel key.
"Who is there?"
The reply made her sigh with relief.
"Sergeant Styles, Doctor. Your open channel was picked up by the hospital and they re-routed it to the station. Luckily, I am still on duty."
Beverly briefly closed her eyes and sent a prayer to any Gods who might be listening.
"Sergeant, I think Helen Parker is responsible for the attack on Captain Picard, but as a medical practitioner I have to say I believe she is a victim of diminished responsibility. She is almost certainly suffering impaired mental functions as a result of suffering Grave's disease."
The man sighed.
"Is it treatable?"
Beverly nodded, even though she couldn't see to whom she was speaking.
"Yes."
"Do you know where she went?"
Beverly shrugged.
"I have no idea…home, presumably."
"I'll go there now. I suggest, in the meantime, you lock all your doors and windows. If you have any concerns during the rest of the night, don't hesitate to call."
"Thank you, Sergeant, Crusher out."
Beverly did as he suggested and eventually went to bed, but no sleep came that night.

 

 

 

After the police had finished their interview with T'Krel she wasted no time in quickly showering and dressing. She was at the hospital in under twenty minutes.
At first she was refused admittance to the intensive care ward, but her quiet insistence that, as Jean-Luc's fiancée she had a right to see him, eventually paid dividends.
As she stood beside his bed, her eyes taking in the readouts on the monitors, she had enough medical training to know his situation was dire. Although outwardly she appeared calm and unemotional, inside her heart wrenched. She had an almost overwhelming desire to hold his hand and, eventually it became to strong for her to control. She picked up his hand, noting its coolness and lifted it to her own heart.
"Oh Jean-Luc…who has done this to you? Why has this happened?"
One of the attending nurses kindly offered a chair and T'Krel sat, never letting go of Jean-Luc's hand. She stayed there throughout the long night.

 

 

Being the Sergeant of the local police force made William Styles the ranking officer on Gault. His superior, an Inspector, was situated on a distant Starbase, Gault considered too small to require any more than its current two officers, and it was true, crime on Gault was almost unheard of, especially serious crime.
An assault such as had occurred was rare and, if the victim did indeed die, then Sergeant Styles would be facing his very first murder investigation which, he knew with certainty, would bring not only the Inspector, but a whole slew of other officers to his small community.
His young colleague was off duty, so it was up to Styles to go and check on Helen Parker. From what he had heard over the open comm., he was relatively sure she was the assailant, but he had enough experience in his job to know that nothing was cut-and-dried.
It was almost two am when he pulled into Helen's driveway. Her flitter was parked haphazardly across the gravelled drive and, on inspection, no lights showed in the house. Styles got out of his police flitter and activated a powerful portable searchlight. Unholstering his phaser, he approached the front door and tried the handle, unsurprised to find it locked. With little confidence of success, he rang the chime, once, then twice and then three times over a five minute period. When there was no response, he began to circle the house, checking the windows and any other doors he could find. Having twice circumnavigated the building, he found himself in the backyard. Swinging the searchlight out across the back yard, he disturbed some nocturnal animals which seemed to be very interested in something just under the canopy of a large tree. He crossed the lawn and the animals scattered into the darkness. As he neared the area he noticed a pair of legs. Hurrying forward, the beam of his light quickly illuminated the headless body of Helen Parker. In her right hand was a phaser. With the intensity of the beam that had been used, there was very little blood, cauterisation having been achieved as her head vaporised. Clutched in her left hand was a crumpled piece of paper. With a sigh of resignation, Styles went back to his flitter and retrieved a stasis bag. Once he had secured the body within the confines of the bag, he called the hospital.

 

 

The ambulance arrived quickly, but silently. There was no need for lights and sirens. While he had waited, the Sergeant had scoured the surrounding area for clues and, finding nothing out of the ordinary, was entering data into a PADD as the medics rounded the corner of the home.
He turned and pointed to the body.
"Take it to the morgue. I'm pretty sure what the cause of death was, but I need to know if it was suicide or not."
The senior medic nodded.
"Sure thing, Sergeant. Doctor Key is waiting."
Styles sighed.
"A long night for both of us."
The medic nodded as they loaded the body onto a litter. Styles watched them go, but called out,
"Tell Doctor Key I'll want his report by oh seven hundred."
"No worries, Sergeant."
The policemen took one last look around, then made his way back to his flitter. Time to go home and try to get some sleep. He would have a very early start in the morning.

 

 

 

Beverly's sleepless night had left her feeling very fragile. Her eyes felt gritty and there were still vague pains from her injuries which she knew would dissipate with a regen treatment, but her overriding need was to get to the hospital. Not only was she eager to see Jean-Luc, but she also wanted to ask Marcus if she could take a more active role in his treatment. She knew that, in the event they got the new heart in time, it would be her who would do the transplant, but protocol required she at least ask the treating Doctor if she could join him on the case.
By six thirty should stand it no longer. She left her home and had the flitter launched in mere minutes.
Giving the desk clerk nothing more than a nod, Beverly entered the intensive ward only to stop in her tracks. There, sitting beside her beloved Jean-Luc was T'Krel…holding his bloody hand, no less! Taking a deep, calming breath, Beverly approached the bed, offered a tight smile which didn't reach her eyes and then totally ignored the Vulcan as she scoured the monitors. When she heard the soft voice she considered pretending she hadn't heard her, but Beverly was not by nature petty and she wasn't about to start now.
"He is going to die, isn't he."
Turning her head to look at the woman, Beverly's face showed her defiance.
"Not if I can help it, no."
T'Krel's eyes fell to Jean-Luc and Beverly almost gasped at seeing the flash of anguish that so very quickly passed over her face.
"But his heart…"
Taking pity on her rival, Beverly's voice was soft as he said,
"One is on its way; we just have to hope it arrives in time."
T'Krel sighed.
"Time. It is time that is his enemy."
With a sigh of her own, Beverly inclined her head.
"It is the enemy of us all, I think."
Silence descended for a while before Beverly asked,
"How long have you been here?"
Not looking up, T'Krel muttered,
"All night."
Jealously flared in Beverly, but she quickly quashed it. Adopting professional briskness in her tone, she asked,
"How was he during the night?"
Sitting up straighter and mirroring Beverly's stiffer posture, T'Krel reported,
"No change."
With a nod, Beverly made a minute adjustment to the intravenous feed, more to have something to do than actually needing to do it.
"Well being on total life support and in stasis I would expect little else."
Another silence settled over them, but T'Krel wanted more information.
"If the new heart doesn't arrive in time…what will happen? How will it…"
Beverly's eyes glittered.
"How will he die?"
T'Krel's reply was almost inaudible.
"Yes."
Trying to be utterly dispassionate, Beverly only partly succeeded.
He will quickly suffer a cascading, systematic failure of his vital organs. The breakdown will rapidly spread to his brain, resulting in a mercifully quick death."
"He will feel nothing?"
Beverly shook her head.
"No. He is, at present, in a medically induced coma. He will stay that way, whether he gets a new heart or not."
T'Krel sighed deeply.
"If only he had a Katra to give me."
With a frown, Beverly hitched her backside onto the side of the bed and asked softly,
"A Katra?"
T'Krel looked up, the sadness in her eyes making them darker.
"What you would call a soul. In Vulcans, we are able to pass on our Katra…the very essence of who and what we are, to a loved one, thereby remaining with them for life. Over time, our Katra can be preserved for eternity."
Beverly looked down at Jean-Luc and couldn't stop the tears from forming.
"He lives in me, my memory."
With a shake of her head, T'Krel said not unkindly, but with brutal honesty,
"But with your death, he will die too. Again."
Defiantly, Beverly glared at her impassive colleague.
"But his exploits…all he has done and achieved are in Starfleet's archives! Cadets learn from his experiences on a daily basis. His name will live forever."
T'Krel sighed and shook her head.
"His name, even all his vast experiences, yes, they have been preserved, but not the man. Will those cadets ever know what sort of man he was? How deep his passions…his convictions…his flaws? No, Doctor Crusher, when his life finally leaves him, all that he was will be lost forever."
Devastated and very angry, Beverly hissed,
"You are talking as if he's already dead! Unlike you, I have hope!"
There was a tense silence as Beverly strove for calm. Then she said quietly,
"Do you believe in an afterlife?"
Somewhat surprised by the question, T'Krel looked up at Beverly with a speculative gaze.
"With the ability to pass on our Katra, we need none. So no, I do not."
She then asked quietly,
"Do you?"
Beverly didn't answer immediately. She sat motionlessly, staring down at Jean-Luc before she almost whispered,
"I don't know, but if such a thing exists, I'd like to think, once we're both…gone…we would be together for eternity."
T'Krel's softly worded question seemed to come from a great distance.
"You love him with intensity, do you not."
Beverly looked into the Vulcan's eyes and finally admitted out loud what had been in her heart for a very long time.
"For more than thirty years."
The next question made Beverly swallow to wet her suddenly dry mouth.
"Will you survive if he dies?"
She tried to summon her voice, but it failed. All she could manage was a strangled whisper.
"I don't know."
T'Krel's face settled into an emotionless mask. She gently placed Jean-Luc's hand on the bed, then stood. Looking at Beverly she said softly,
"If he survives we will have much to discuss, however logic tells me he is destined to be with you. I will leave now…I will give you this time with him. I hope…for your sake, that he survives."
Beverly, tears trickling down her face, whispered,
"Thank you."
T'Krel bowed her head and left.

Sergeant William Styles was becoming increasingly annoyed. He had requested the autopsy report at seven. It was now seven forty-five and he was still waiting. Constable McMahon had learned early in his tenure that when his boss was in this sort of mood, it was best to leave him alone, but he did brave the Sergeant's demeanour to quietly enter the office and put a mug of steaming coffee on the desk. Styles looked up and quickly turned his glare into a wan smile.
"Thanks Tony, I think I need that."
The younger man offered a wary smile.
"Let me know if I can help."
Styles sighed deeply.
"Bloody Doctors…they're a law unto themselves."
Just then his desk monitor came to life, displaying none other than Doctor Marcus Key.
"Good morning, Sergeant Styles."
The cheery greeting made Styles grit his teeth. In a barely controlled growl he rumbled,
"Do you know what time it is?"
Making a show of looking at his antique wrist watch, Marcus nodded.
"Yes, it's nearly eight."
Sighing to keep his temper under control, Styles asked with barely stifled irritation,
"Didn't I request the autopsy report for seven?"
Marcus adopted a sympathetic look that made Styles want to punch him.
"Ah yes…that. Look, I'm sorry, Susan Harmony went into labour last night…she had a boy, by the way…and I was a little busy. But…"
He held up a PADD.
"I have finished the post mortem."
"And?"
Marcus's bonhomie slowly disappeared.
"Suicide, no question."
Styles sighed.
"And the crumpled piece of paper?"
"Her suicide note. Actually…"
Marcus flushed, making Styles immediately curious.
"What?"
With a deep sigh, Marcus briefly closed his eyes.
"It was a love letter, Sergeant…to Doctor Crusher."
Despite his years of experience, the Sergeant's eyebrows rose.
"Really. I wasn't aware they were lovers."
Marcus shrugged.
"As far as I know they weren't, in fact…and I'd known Helen Parker a long time, I didn't even know she was gay. I don't know what was going on Sergeant, but Beverly Crusher is in love with Captain Jean-Luc Picard, that I do know for certain."
His memory kicking in, Styles rubbed his gritty eyes. Not enough sleep last night.
"As I recall, what I heard last night sounded like unrequited love gone awry. In any case, I need to see that letter."
Feeling protective, Marcus frowned.
"But it's addressed to Doctor Crusher."
His glare was enough to stamp out any further protests.
"It is evidence, Doctor. Crusher will get it when I am finished with my enquires, not before."
Marcus nodded his compliance, but a spark of defiance remained.
"Can I tell her about it at least?"
Styles shook his head.
"I'd rather you didn't, Doctor. I don't interfere in your work, please don't dabble in mine. I'll come by the hospital in ten minutes. Have the letter there for me to pick up. Styles out."
Marcus glared at the blank screen and muttered,
"Officious bastard!"
But the letter was waiting for Styles when he got to the hospital.

 

 

 

Will Riker gripped his seat with all the strength he possessed as the mighty ship was pummelled as she fought her way through the nebula at warp nine point eight. As another blast made her stagger, the red alert siren sounded. The calm voice of the computer informed Will,
"The inertial dampeners are off line."
Maintaining his grip of his seat with one hand, Will looked up as he pressed the general call button on his console.
"Attention all personnel. Inertial dampeners are off line. Brace for continuous impacts!"
The words had just left his mouth when an enormous blast tilted the ship off her axis. Most of the Bridge crew managed to hold on, but an unfortunate few were thrown off their feet, slamming against the port bulkhead. Sparks showered from the aft stations and smoke rose insidiously from broken conduits. Grimly, Will lifted his head and called,
"Engineering, this is the Bridge. Geordi…can we keep this speed up?"
Over the klaxons and shouts of his staff, Geordi could be heard giving frantic orders.
"That depends, Commander. Just how much longer until we're clear?"
Will grinned mirthlessly.
"If we can maintain this speed, only about seven minutes."
He heard Geordi sigh.
"Okay, I think I can hold her together, but she's going to be in one hell of a mess once we get to the other side."
"Understood, but can we maintain the speed until we reach Gault?"
Geordi was aware of why such undue haste was vitally necessary.
"I'll make sure we can, Sir. I'll take power from life support if I have to."
Will's grin became fixed.
"Just get us there, Geordi, the Captain's life depends on it."
"I know, Sir. Engineering out."
The Ensign at the Con was gripping her console with both hands as the ship was tossed about like a cork in a stormy sea. The pale young woman half turned her head to say loudly,
"Three minutes, Commander."
Another teeth shattering blast hit the ship and she staggered again, but her forward velocity remained unchanged. Will looked up at the ceiling, seeing ruptured conduits and exposed optical cabling. He closed his eyes briefly and gritted his teeth.
"Just hold together lady, your master needs you."
Down in Sick Bay, Selar twice went to check on the stasis container that was carrying the new heart. It was situated within a force field, but, such was the dreadful shaking the ship was experiencing, the Doctor felt the need, illogical as it was, to check to see that it was undamaged. Lieutenant Alyssa Ogawa, Beverly's friend and now head nurse, caught Selar's eye as she came out of the stasis lab. The Vulcan Doctor gave a curt nod and Alyssa uncrossed her fingers. As the two women got close, Alyssa shouted to be heard over the cacophony of breaking equipment.
"How much longer?"
Selar tilted her head, then lurched to one side, grabbing a biobed as the ship violently tilted again. Alyssa wasn't so lucky; she was thrown off her feet and slammed into the bulkhead. Selar crawled to her, taking her arm and holding it up.
"I believe you have broken your ulna."
Alyssa looked down at the unnatural angle of her arm and paled considerably.
"I think you're right."
Just then, the lights went out. It took only seconds for the auxiliary lighting to come on. Then, as the Sick Bay staff looked on in awe, the gravity ceased to function. Selar yelled over the racket,
"Hold on to something fixed to the deck!"
As items began to float around the facility, and as the ship lurched and shuddered, these seemingly innocuous items became lethal. Then, just as the staff were beginning to think the hell would never cease, there was a sudden silence. The ship stopped her mad dance and the lighting flickered.
On the Bridge, the young Lieutenant at the Con said shakily,
"We're out, Sir."
Will's death grip of his chair eased and his knuckles creaked in protest. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, before tapping his comm. badge.
"Bridge to Engineering."
Over the sounds of organised chaos, Geordi responded.
"LaForge here, Commander."
"How bad is it Geordi?"
There was some gallows humour present as Geordi replied,
"Well, we're going to need a space dock to repair most of the damage, but we're maintaining warp nine point eight….just don't ask me how."
"What systems are out?"
Will heard Geordi sigh.
"Main power is on auxiliary, inertial dampeners are down, gravity and climate control are malfunctioning and life support is iffy on some decks, but I've managed to keep up minimum requirements until we can evacuate those affected areas."
Will smiled, but there was no humour in it.
"Well done, Mr.LaForge. Do what you can, once we get to Gault you can take all the time you need."
He heard Geordi chuckle.
"It won't be time I'll need, Commander; it'll be a space dock. I wasn't kidding."
Shaking his head, Will rubbed his eyes, stinging from the smoke.
"Understood, Bridge out."
He turned his attention to the Con.
"ETA at Gault?"
Now that she didn't have to hang on to her console and the terrifying ride was over, the young woman turned and smiled at her CO.
"Five point three hours, Sir."
Will nodded his acceptance and lifted his head.
"Riker to Data."
"Data here, Commander, go ahead."
"Data, I want you to go through the ship, identify the worst areas of damage and evacuate those areas if necessary."
"Aye, Sir. Geordi has told me Sick Bay is without adequate lighting or gravity. I believe we should make that a priority."
Will nodded.
"Agreed. Bridge out."
He wanted to cross his fingers, but it seemed un-Commander-like, so instead he just mentally said a prayer.
"Bridge to Sick bay."
It was Selar who answered.
"Sick Bay here."
"How are things down there, Doctor?"
"We have many injured and more arriving all the time, Commander. I suggest you send any personnel with medical training to assist us."
"Understood. Engineering is making you a priority. Hopefully you will have gravity and full lighting restored soon."
"Thank you, Commander. Is that all?"
Will grimaced.
"I know you're very busy, Doctor, but did the heart make through unscathed?"
"Yes, Commander. The container in which it is stored was fixed to the counter. I do not believe in luck, Sir, but it was fortunate to have survived without damage."
Will chuckled mirthlessly.
"I only wish the rest of the ship had been so fortunate, Doctor. Riker out."
The forward viewscreen was, miraculously, still functioning and Will looked at the prismatic passage of the stars with grim satisfaction. That was until they suddenly became pinpoints of icy light. Before he could call Engineering, Geordi's frustrated voice came through.
"Bridge, we've just lost warp power."
Will's barked,
"Why?"
Made Geordi sigh.
"The fusion reactor chamber has suffered a shut down. I'm still running diagnostics, but as yet, I don't know why."
Will's voice showed both his frustration and his desperation.
"Geordi we need warp power!"
The dark engineer replied with perfunctory anger.
"I know!" Then he remembered himself. "Sorry, Commander, we're working on it, I know how important it is."
Will rubbed again at his eyes, wondering why the environmental controls had not yet cleared the smoke from the air.
"Do we have impulse engines?"
"Yes, Sir."
Not bothering to close the channel to Engineering, Will turned his attention to the Ensign at the Con.
"Engage at full impulse and give me a revised ETA at Gault at that speed."
The young woman didn't want to deliver the news.
"Two days, eight hours, Sir."
Slamming is fist down on his thigh, Will closed his eyes and shook his head.
"Oh Christ, he'll die before we can get there! Riker to Data."
"Data here, Sir."
"Data, which of our shuttles or runabouts is the fastest?"
The reply was instant.
"The runabout, "Monash" is the fastest, Commander. It is capable of warp seven point five."
"Can we do anything to it to increase the speed?"
"Yes, Sir. If we…"
"Do it, Data. Get down to the Shuttle Bay and do whatever you need to make that bloody craft go faster."
"Aye, Commander."
Geordi's voice came through again.
"Bridge, this is Engineering."
Will sighed, knowing it would be bad news.
"Go ahead, Geordi."
"I can't fix it, Sir. The reactor is cracked, I've had to initiate isolation protocols, half of Engineering is now sealed off. I guess the stress proved too much after all."
Will closed his eyes and sighed.
"Understood, Geordi. Shift your focus to repairing the downed systems, especially Sick Bay."
Will could hear the defeat in his friend's voice.
"Aye, Sir. LaForge out."
Turning in his seat, will looked up at the Lieutenant at Tactical.
"Have we got subspace communications capabilities?"
The man tapped a few areas of his console and nodded.
"Yes, Sir."
Will nodded curtly.
"Right. Contact Gault hospital and request to speak to Doctor Crusher. If you can, put her on viewer."
There was a wait of nearly ten minutes, during which Will kept an eye on the incoming damage reports. Finally the Tactical officer said quietly,
"I have Doctor Crusher, Sir. On screen."
The image of the stars gave way to a grainy visage of Will's dear friend. She knew immediately it wasn't a social call. She tried to keep the alarm out of her voice as she asked softly,
"What's wrong?"
Will sighed.
"Our ride through the nebula didn't go exactly as planned. We maintained speed alright, but once we were clear we lost warp drive. We've got massive damage all over the ship and we've been reduced to impulse power."
Beverly's eyes shone with unshed tears.
"But Will…"
He held up one hand.
"I know. Right now, Data is modifying our fastest runabout…we may be able to get warp eight, perhaps a bit more out of it and I intend to send it to you with the heart as soon as I can. But…it's going to be about eight hours before you get it."
Shaking her head in stunned disbelief, Beverly all but stuttered,
"Eight hours?…but Will…"
Holding up both hands, Will tried to keep the anger and frustration out of his voice. He was only partially successful.
"You're just going to have to find a way to keep him alive!"
Then he calmed himself.
"I'm sorry, Beverly, but my hands are tied. We're doing all we can, but the runabout is all I can offer. Our warp drive is going to require the services of a space dock to repair."
Her mind finally seeing the situation from Will's perspective, Beverly summoned a wan smile.
"And I suppose your report to Command is going to be somewhat…uncomfortable."
Will grinned, but it was a tired expression.
"They're not going to be too pleased with me. Ploughing through the Stenson Nebula at warp nine point eight was always going to cause trouble when the recommended speed is three quarters impulse. And then there's the little matter of the Enterprise just out of McKinley station after a major refit."
Beverly sighed, her eyes dropping.
"I'm sorry, Will."
He shrugged, the grin acquiring some of his trademark cheekiness.
"Nothing I can't handle, Beverly…don't worry about it."
His grin faded.
"How's the Captain?"
Beverly looked over her shoulder towards the intensive care ward. She slowly turned back to the viewer.
"Not so good. He was holding his own in stasis, but the organ failure has begun. I don't know if we can slow it down enough for you to get here in time."
Speaking very softly, Will felt his eyes moisten.
"You have to, Beverly, please…"
Smiling through her tears, the red head's eyes shimmered.
"I'll do everything humanly possible, Will, I promise."
Lifting his hand in a sad farewell, Will said with as much conviction as he could muster,
"If anyone can do it, it's you, Beverly. He's in the best of care with you by his side."
Beverly kissed her fingers and waved. Barely able to speak, she managed,
"Hurry, Will…Crusher out."
Will had to swallow the lump in his throat before he could bark,
"Riker to Data!"
"Data here."
"How are things going with the runabout?"
"I have almost finished, Commander."
Offering up yet another prayer, Will asked with trepidation,
"How fast will it go?"
"Warp eight point eight."
About to breathe a sigh of relief, Data's voice continued.
"However there may be a problem. In order to achieve this amount of speed, I have sacrificed many of the onboard systems. There is a very good chance the warp core will not sustain the velocity long enough to reach Gault."
Will's explosive curse shocked the Bridge crew.
"Fucking hell!"
Data was not shocked. He carried on as of Will had not spoken.
"I may, however, have a solution."
Short on patience and frustrated beyond his limit, will shouted,
"What the hell is it?"
His voice calm, Data replied,
"I will volunteer to pilot the runabout."
That brought Will up short.
"Why Data, why you? Why not me, I am the most highly qualified pilot aboard."
"Two reason's Commander, although I do recognise your superiority in this field. One: I can adjust to compensate for the failing systems faster than anyone else and two: If a hull breach occurs, which is a distinct possibility, I can operate in a vacuum."
The iron clad logic of Data's pronouncements still didn't quell Will's overriding need to be the one to pilot the runabout. However he was too good a leader not to admit that his Third in Command was inexorably right. Will took a deep breath, trying unsuccessfully to calm himself. He made a concerted effort to unclench his fists and sighed, the frustration and anger subsiding to a smouldering fire within him.
"Very well, Data, I give you my permission to volunteer…and my gratitude. When will you be able to leave?"
"The runabout is ready, Commander. All I have to do is secure the heart from Sick Bay."
Will gave a decisive nod.
"Then do it, Data and get going ASAP."
"Yes, Sir."

As Beverly neared Jean-Luc's bed, Marcus was barking orders to the support staff.
"His blood pressure is dropping too low…we have to find a way to raise it without stressing the other organs."
One of the staff, a young man said tentatively,
"Hydro plasma?"
Beverly reached the bed, saying tersely,
"No! Whole blood."
Marcus looked up, giving a nod of agreement. He looked down at Jean-Luc's body and shook his head.
"He's bleeding internally."
Beverly sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"And he's too weak for surgery. Is he still making red blood cells?"
Marcus shook his head.
"No, his haemoglobin levels have almost bottomed out."
"Then he needs a whole blood transfusion and we need to find a way to reactivate his bone marrow into making red blood cells."
Marcus grimaced.
"Without the accompanying stress to the other organs."
Beverly looked up, then cast her eyes over the machine that was acting as his heart. It was years out of date and barely doing its job; such was the damage it was trying to compensate for. The phaser blast hadn't merely damaged Jean-Luc's heart; it had also injured his lungs. Getting enough oxygen into what little blood he had was also causing problems. Beverly sighed and looked into Marcus's troubled gaze.
"I've just been told that the Enterprise can't make it in time. They're sending a modified runabout, but it won't be here for just on eight hours."
A new voice interrupted their conversation.
"The Captain's yacht is capable of warp nine point five."
Beverly's head snapped around to see T'Krel standing near the bed. The red head struggled to keep her tone calm.
"Can you pilot it?"
T'Krel nodded.
"I can."
Urgency crept into Beverly's voice.
"Then get moving! I'll contact the Enterprise and get them to send the runabout's flight plan to you. You can meet it, transfer the heart, then high tail it back here!"
T'Krel nodded once.
"I will leave immediately."
Beverly turned back to Marcus.
"Are you all right here for a few minutes?"
Nodding, but not looking all that confident, Marcus lifted his chin and tried to put some force into his voice. He was only partially successful.
"Yes, we'll cope…but don't be too long."
Smiling her encouragement, Beverly left to go to the communication centre. Within minutes she was talking to Will again.
"….so you can see, we need you to send the flight plan to the Calypso."
Will nodded.
"The Monash is already on its way. I'll contact Data. Wait."
Beverly was chewing her nails by the time Will got back to her.
"Beverly? Data can't transmit, but he received our message. Communications are one of the systems he disabled. We'll transmit the flight plan, but the Calypso is going to have to look for him. The warp signature has been altered and he's not emitting any subspace signals."
Beverly nodded, about to say something, but Will interrupted her.
"One more thing…the Monash's transporter has been disabled as well. To make the transfer, they're going to have to make a manual docking."
Beverly paled.
"Can that be done at warp?"
Will's expression was grim.
"It's not recommended, but if anyone can do it, Data can. Who is piloting the Calypso?"
"T'Krel."
Will's muttered,
"Shit!"
Made Beverly realise just how difficult this was going to be.
"The alternative is for both ships to come out of warp to make the transfer, but we don't have the time."
Will nodded.
"I know. I'll contact Data and warn him. He may be able to rig something that will do the job."
Beverly's voice showed her anguish.
"And if he can't?"
Will shook his head, making a cutting motion with his hand.
"No! I won't contemplate that! We'll get this done, Beverly, have faith."
Beverly looked over at the intensive care ward and sighed.
"I have to go, Will. Good luck."
The big bearded man smiled.
"You too."
Beverly had been back at Jean-Luc's side when Marcus said quietly,
"Beverly…if we get the heart in time, who is going to assist you? I've never done anything like a heart transplant and we don't have the equipment you need."
Not looking up from what she was doing, Beverly muttered,
"If we get the heart in time…you don't think I'm going to let a few little hiccups like that stop me, do you?"
Marcus smiled, but his confidence was low.
"I suppose not, but really…what are you going to do? Without the Enterprise…we're buggered."
Beverly looked up briefly and smiled, although it didn't reach her eyes.
"Are you a quick learner, Marcus?"
Somewhat nervously, he nodded.
"I guess so."
"Then you are going to learn a lot in a very short time. As for the equipment, they've been doing heart transplants since the 1960's and with equipment we would consider primitive by today's standards. We'll cope, Marcus…if we get the heart in time."
The young Doctor looked down at Jean-Luc and felt the first stirrings of confidence.
"I suppose we will."

 

 

 

 

Once T'Krel had cleared Gault's atmosphere, she opened a channel to the Enterprise. Will answered and dispensed with any amenities.
"I have contacted Commander Data to let him know what's going on. He can't transmit, so I can only hope he can work something out to get this transfer completed in as little time as possible. Just what is your pilot rating, Doctor?"
T'Krel's face showed absolutely no emotion as she replied,
"I have completed the basic course, no more than that."
Will ran an exasperated hand through his hair.
"Then how do you know how to pilot the yacht? Its systems are much more sophisticated that a standard shuttle."
The Vulcan remained calm.
"Captain Picard once took me through a holo deck simulation of the yacht. We ran through the systems. I got the impression he was going to allow me to one day pilot the actual vessel, albeit under his tutelage."
Will grunted.
"Well thank God he did. Now…do you have the runabout on long range sensors? Remember, the computer won't recognise it, you will have to scan for an unidentified craft."
There were several tense seconds before T'Krel said dispassionately,
"I have it, Commander."
"ETA?"
"Three point seven hours."
Will smiled wanly.
"Right. I take it you are at maximum velocity."
"Yes."
"Then you must remember to reduce your speed to match the runabout's before you meet it. Do you know how to input that instruction into the computer?"
T'Krel hesitated momentarily, then nodded.
"I believe I can."
"Good, do it now."
Another few tense seconds passed before T'Krel said,
"Input successful."
Will sighed and took his seat in the Command chair.
"Okay, you've done all you can for now. All we can do now…is wait."
The Vulcan tilted her head.
"Indeed."

 

 

For the first two hours of Data's journey, he coped well with the failing systems, as one at a time the jury rigged ship began to falter under the stress of maintaining a speed it was never designed to do. However, it soon became obvious that the warp core was going to breach. For ten tense minutes, Data did everything he could to prevent the catastrophic annihilation of the propulsion system to no avail. With a sharp jerk of his head, he deactivated his emotion chip, finding the fear and frustration too distracting to cope with.
With little time to spare, he donned an evac suit and picked up the sturdy container that housed the heart. He then brought the crippled ship out of warp and blew out the aft hatch. Utilising the thrusters on his suit, he manoeuvred himself through space to the front of the vessel and brought up his flight plan on the internal screen of his visor. Setting his course, he inputted the command for maximum propulsion and began an internal countdown.
He got to four minutes and twenty-six seconds before the runabout exploded. The debris pummelled him, reducing his suit and his outer body to tatters, but he protected the container with his body, ensuring its integrity. He waited a scant few seconds more before the blast radius hit it with a hammer-like blow, pushing him forward at an astonishing speed and fortunately more or less still on course.
The Lieutenant at Tactical who had been tracking the runabout's progress suddenly called out,
"Commander! We're registering an explosion. It's the runabout, Sir…it's…gone."
Immediately on his feet, Will swung around, his blue eyes registering his shock and dismay.
"Are you sure?"
The young man nodded, his eyes glued to his console's screen.
"Yes, Sir. It was a warp core breach."
"Can we scan for survivors?"
The Lieutenant nodded.
"I think so Sir, but it will be at the very edge of our ability."
There were a few dreadful seconds before the report came in.
"I have something, Commander, but no life-signs."
A frustrated First Officer had to quell the urge to shout.
"Explain."
"Something is travelling at the leading edge of the blast radius…almost on the same flight path of the runabout. It's not debris…in fact it has the mass of a humanoid, but like I said, no life signs."
Almost whispering, Will muttered,
"It could be Data."
He ran a hand through his beard.
"Open a channel to the Calypso."
"Aye, Sir."
Closer now, T'Krel's image appeared on the viewscreen. Will immediately began his instructions.
"The runabout has been destroyed, but there's a chance Mr.Data survived and is riding the leading edge of the shock wave. As far as we can tell, he's still on course. Have your scanners look for an object with similar mass to a humanoid body. Keep in mind there will be no life signs."
No bothering to waste time with any acknowledgement of her orders, T'Krel spent several frustrating minutes trying to do as she was asked. Eventually she looked up and nodded once, curtly.
"I believe I have it. I had to eliminate any debris that did not match Mr.Data's component parts. He is travelling at sub warp speed, but I believe I will be within transporter range in under two hours."
Will grunted.
"As soon as you have him aboard, contact me. We can only hope both he and the heart have survived so far."
"Understood, Commander, Calypso out."

 

 

 

Beverly lifted her bloody, gloved hands from the gaping hole in Jean-Luc's chest and took a step back. A nurse dabbed at the sweat on her brow and Marcus emitted a low whistle.
"I didn't think that was possible."
Offering a wry smile, Beverly directed her gaze to the monitor at the head of Jean-Luc's bed.
"Technically it wasn't, but I didn't think we had much choice. It was either put a derma patch on the rupture, or he would have bled out. He's still bleeding into his lungs, but as long as we can keep pumping whole blood into him, we should be able to keep ahead of it. We can also put back what we're gathering from the pneumothorax intubation."
Marcus looked down at the Captain and sighed.
"He's held on longer than I thought he would."
Beverly's smile grew wistful as her eyes gazed down at the man she loved.
"You don't know him, Marcus…he's a fighter, he won't give up easily."
The young Doctor nodded as Beverly stripped off her gloves. He checked the monitors and, seeing that his patient was once again relatively stable, he looked over to Beverly and said quietly,
"Can I speak to you in private?"
Curious, Beverly nodded and indicated they should go to the other side of the room. Once there, Marcus looked nervously over his shoulder before facing his colleague.
"Beverly…Helen Parker is dead."
Shock registered on Beverly's face and she gasped.
"What? How?"
With a sympathetic look, Marcus took Beverly's hands.
"She committed suicide."
Struggling to school her features, Beverly asked quietly,
"How? How did she do it?"
Marcus sighed and dropped his gaze.
"A phaser blast to the head. It must have been a high setting, her head was vaporised completely. But…"
He squeezed Beverly's hands.
"It would have been quick and painless."
Extricating her hands, Beverly turned away from Marcus, trying to stop her tears from falling. In a faltering whisper she asked pitifully,
"But why, Marcus? Why would she do something so…extreme?"
Again looking around to ensure their privacy, Marcus said softly,
"I don't know, but there was a letter…addressed to you."
Beverly spun around, her eyes wide in anger and shock.
"What? Where is it?"
With a sigh, Marcus shrugged.
"The police have it."
He put a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"Look, I wasn't supposed to say anything about this to you, in fact I was ordered to keep quiet, but I thought you had a right to know."
With her eyes flashing in anger, Beverly muttered darkly,
"What's the name of that Sergeant?"
Marcus sighed, knowing he had unleashed a gathering storm.
"William Styles."
Beverly's gaze went to Jean-Luc, then settled back on Marcus.
"Well I think it's time I had a little chat with Sergeant Styles…don't you?"
Swallowing to wet his suddenly dry throat, Marcus looked earnestly into Beverly's eyes.
"Just don't let him know it was me who told you."
Beverly's wink held no humour.
"Don't worry, Marcus, he won't hear it from me."

 

 

 

Not wanting to leave the hospital, Beverly put her call through to the police station from the communication alcove near the intensive care ward. Constable McMahon answered and his first glimpse of Beverly's angry face told him something was up. Before he could open his mouth, the Doctor said curtly,
"I want to speak to Sergeant Styles."
Anthony was only twenty three but he wore his uniform well. He straightened and adopted a no-nonsense, professional attitude.
"Sergeant Styles is very busy. Perhaps I can help?"
Keeping her anger in check by sheer force of will, Beverly clenched her fists and her teeth and shook her head.
"No, you can't. This has to do with the death of Helen Parker and I won't speak to anyone else but Sergeant Styles. And I'm short on time, so make it snappy!"
Unnerved by her brutal attitude, Constable McMahon quickly decided this was one of those occasions where discretion was the better part of valour. He gave a short nod and said quietly,
"I'll put you through."
Beverly's fingers tapped a devil's dance as she waited. Obviously the Constable was explaining why he was interrupting the Sergeant. When his image appeared on the screen, he looked tired and irritated.
"Yes, Doctor Crusher, how can I help you?"
His condescending tone further angered Beverly. She brought her fisted hands up and rested them on the table so he could see them.
"You have a letter from Helen Parker addressed to me. I want it."
His brown eyes darkened.
"And just how do you know that?"
Beverly smiled coldly.
"Are you denying it?"
Styles sat back in his chair, and moved it from side to side as he steepled his fingers under his chin. His unremitting stare was lost on Beverly. Her many years of service in Starfleet, both as a junior officer, then as a senior one, had inured her to every authoritarian strategy known to man. She smiled again, this time with genuine amusement.
"You really don't think that's going to work with me, do you?"
Realising she was right, Styles grunted and sat forward in his chair, folding his hands on the desktop.
"The letter is evidence. I can't hand it over until our investigations are complete."
With a sigh, Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose.
"Helen Parker committed suicide. She vaporised her own head. What more investigation is required, Sergeant?"
He sat back again and scratched his cheek.
"Oh I don't know…how about…what was your relationship with her?"
Knowing he had heard Helen's tirade at her home the night she killed herself, Beverly shrugged.
"She was a friend, nothing more, other than that of a Doctor and patient, we had no relationship."
He nodded thoughtfully.
"Nothing more? You weren't perhaps…romantically involved?"
Anger flashed through Beverly, but she kept control of herself.
"You know that's absurd. You heard me that night, trying to tell Helen I wasn't interested in her advances."
Styles offered a cold smile.
"Yes, I find that very interesting…that you would conveniently open a channel for all to hear."
Outrage surged through Beverly's being.
"She was the one who tried to kill Captain Picard! I thought she might try the same thing with me!"
Styles sighed and briefly closed his eyes.
"But she didn't, did she. She left your home, went to hers and phasered off her own head."
Beverly lowered her head and took a deep, calming breath. She looked up and said quietly,
"I am going to break patient confidentiality here, Sergeant, I can only hope you will honour Helen and keep it to yourself."
Intrigued, Styles sat forward, eager to hear what the Doctor had to say.
"Helen Parker had suffered from Grave's disease. Not too long ago, that would have been a death sentence, but with medical breakthroughs, a cure was found. Her treatment was protracted, but ultimately successful. However, one of the more unpleasant manifestations in patients like her, is a risk of mental impairment, including confusion about sexual orientation. Now this is absolutely treatable, but the patient has to recognise their need for treatment. I believe Helen was in the latter stages of delusion and focused all her pent up sexual urges on me. After all, we had become friends after her treatments had ceased. I also believe it is why she attacked Captain Picard. She knew of my feelings for him and saw him as a rival for my affections."
It was if a light had gone on inside Styles's head. He picked a stylus, looked at in intently for a few seconds, then threw it down on the desk. When his eyes met Beverly's there was anger present.
"Why the hell didn't you tell me this before?"
With a sigh of exasperation, Beverly flapped her hand.
"Because of patient confidentiality!"
The Sergeant almost shouted,
"But she's dead! What harm could there have possible been in letting me know all this?"
Holding up a placating hand, Beverly bowed her head.
"All right, you have a point. I apologise. Now…can I see the letter?"
Grudgingly, Styles gave a curt nod.
"Yes, come to the station."
Beverly looked over her shoulder to see Marcus standing at the door, his expression grim. She quickly turned back to the screen.
"I'm sorry, I can't leave the hospital. Could you bring it over…please?"
Before Styles could reply, Beverly said abruptly,
"I have to go. Crusher out."
Styles stared disbelievingly at the blank screen and swore softly under his breath.
"Fucking Doctors…who the hell do they think they are?"
Nevertheless, he opened his drawer and took out the letter before summoning Constable McMahon. The young man entered the office cautiously.
Styles held up the letter between thumb and forefinger.
"Take this to the hospital and give it to Doctor Crusher. No one else! Once she's read it, bring it back to me."
The young man gave a curt nod.
"Yes, Sergeant."
As the Constable was leaving, Styles called out,
"And be quick about it! We've got better things to do than act as damn couriers for bloody Doctors!"

 

 

 

The computer alerted T'Krel that they were in range for transport. It was the matter of mere seconds before the crumpled body of Commander Data appeared on the transporter pad. He was hunched over and, as he materialised, he fell to one side, revealing the stasis unit containing the heart. T'Krel knelt beside the android and took the unit, placing it carefully in an already prepared holder. She then went back to Data and gently touched his shoulder.
"Can you hear me, Sir?"
There was an odd electrical buzzing sound before Data managed to utter softly,
"Yes, I can hear you."
"Can you move, Sir?"
Ice had formed on his naked body and it crackled as he slowly lifted one arm. Again there was the odd buzzing sound before he spoke.
"Perhaps…if you help me…"
Together, they managed to get Data to one of the lounge chairs. T'Krel said quietly,
"I will get you a blanket."
When he spoke this time, it was without the buzzing sound, but his speech was hesitant.
"I do not require a blanket for warmth, however for modesty's sake, I would appreciate being able to cover myself."
T'Krel nodded.
"Of course. In that case, would you prefer a uniform?"
Knowing his back and legs had been shredded and he was leaking fluid, Data shook his head.
"No, I think a blanket would be sufficient."
T'Krel retrieved the blanket and crouched in front of the android.
"I am not an engineer, Sir. I cannot repair you."
Data jerked his head and reactivated his emotion chip. He offered a smile and slowly lifted a hand to touch T'Krel's shoulder.
"I know, Doctor, it is all right. I can function until I can get back to the Enterprise, There, Commander LaForge will repair me."
The Vulcan nodded.
"You feel no pain?"
Data's smile grew.
"None."
Then he frowned.
"But we must stop talking. You have to get the heart to Gault with all possible speed."
T'Krel stood.
"Yes. I will set a course and engage at maximum warp immediately."
Data could only nod, idly hoping his leaking fluids wouldn't stain the chair.

 

 

 

Will let out a long breath and ran a hand through his short, dark hair.
"Thank God! So let me get this straight. You have the heart and it's undamaged, but Data is damaged?"
T'Krel nodded.
"Yes, Commander, that is correct."
Will gave a curt nod.
"Right. Wait one moment; I want Commander LaForge in on this. Can you put Data on?"
"Yes, Sir."
Will summoned Geordi and soon both men were looking at a very impaired android. To his credit, Data tried a brave smile.
"Hello, Geordi, Commander."
It was the dark engineer who stepped closer to the viewscreen.
"How badly are you injured, Data?"
"Several of my sub processors are no longer functioning, my dorsal servos have been severed and my exodermal covering has been severely lacerated. I am leaking servo fluid and the back of my cranium has received detrimental damage, necessitating the reinitialising of my speech processor."
Geordi's face registered his dismay.
"We're about sixteen hours away, Data. Can you hold on until we get there?"
With his smile still in place, Data nodded.
"If necessary I can ask Doctor T'Krel to shut me off, thereby essentially putting me in stasis. Do not worry, Geordi, I will be fine."
Geordi gave a wan smile.
"Well, we're coming, Data…you just hold on."
Before the android could say anything further, Will said to T'Krel,
"ETA at Gault?"
"Three point four hours, Commander."
Will nodded once, then asked tersely,
"Have you contacted Doctor Crusher?"
The Vulcan shook her head.
"No, Sir."
Keeping his voice moderate only with a concerted effort, Will said quietly,
"Well do so immediately, Doctor. She needs to know your ETA."
T'Krel nodded.
"Understood, Commander. I will do so now."
Will waited impatiently while he listened to T'Krel contacting the Gault hospital. She was unable to speak to Beverly, but was assured her message would be passed on immediately. The Vulcan reappeared on the screen, her face impassive.
"Message sent, Commander."
Will sighed with relief.
"Now you know you might have to shut Mr.Data down?"
"Yes, Sir."
Geordi spoke up.
"If you do, make sure he is lying face down and put super absorbent gel packs over the worst of his wounds. I want to try and limit his fluid loss. It will make his repair that much less complicated."
T'Krel nodded.
"I understand."
Will stepped closer.
"One last thing, Doctor. Mr.Data's "off" switch is something he likes to keep confidential. Once he tells you, I expect you to keep it to yourself."
Inclining her head, T'Krel said softly,
"Of course, Commander, I will treat him as I would any other patient. His confidentiality will be assured."
With a decisive nod, Will retreated to the Command chair. Once seated he looked at T'Krel and gave her and encouraging smile.
"Let us know when you arrive on Gault, Doctor…Godspeed."
Ignoring the illogic of the emotional epithet, T'Krel merely nodded.
"Calypso out."
Will closed his eyes and let out a long breath.
To no one in particular he muttered,
"Well, it's in the lap of the Gods now."
Geordi chuckled and shook his head.
"Actually, Commander, it's in the hands of a Vulcan."
Will's glare lacked any real venom. A smile lurked under his stern visage.
"Don't you have something you need to do in Engineering?"
As Geordi left the Bridge, he said over his shoulder,
"Enough to keep me busy for about a month…Sir."
With a snort, Will idly asked the officer at the Con,
"I don't suppose we can go any faster yet?"
The young woman turned and smiled.
"No, Commander, and I don't think we're going to be able to for a very long time."
Sighing, Will scratched his beard.
"No harm in asking."
The Ensign grinned.
"No, Sir, no harm at all."
The urge to kick the antiquated machine that was acting for Jean-Luc's heart was almost overwhelming. Beverly clenched both her fists and her teeth as she yet again performed a medical miracle to keep the love of her life alive. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Marcus talking to a nurse and when he approached she paused in her work and stepped back, trying to keep her emotions under control. She had been a Doctor for a very long time. She had seen more than most and had experienced more than her fair share of dicey situations where the life of her patient hung in the balance while her skill as a physician was tested to its limits, but no one had ever evoked a response in her like the man lying before her on the table.
Every glance at the monitors, every time she touched him, her heart squeezed in her body and her mind cried out for help, both for him and her.
And if he survived…if she somehow defeated the odds and won this battle…what then?
He was engaged to another woman, a woman he deserted on their wedding day and who had followed him on his quest to find her. What was she to do? Embrace him with open arms? Shun him? And if she did try to excise him from her life…could she? Could she live without him, knowing that he still loved her and she him?
Tears welled in Beverly's eyes as she stared down at Jean-Luc's body; the torment was gradually tearing her apart. Just before she gave into her turmoil, Marcus went to her and gently gripped her elbow. The door to her emotions slammed shut as her professionalism came to the fore. Turning to her colleague, she blinked away the moisture in her eyes and quietly said,
"Yes?"
Marcus summoned a warm smile.
"I've just been told the heart will be here in about three hours."
Relief flooded through Beverly, but she knew the battle was far from over.
"That's wonderful, Marcus. Now, have you been studying the simulations I gave you?"
The young man nodded, but she could see the hesitancy in his eyes.
"Yes, but…Beverly, this is so far beyond anything I've ever attempted. And then there's our lack of the necessary equipment. I still don't see how you're going to do it."
With a smile of encouragement, Beverly cast her eyes down over her patient.
"The procedure itself isn't all that complicated, it's just that there is peripheral damage that's going to make our job that much more…interesting."
Her smile turned into one of warmth.
"I'm sure, with your help, we'll manage."
Marcus's eyes went to Jean-Luc and he winced.
"Interesting? My God, Beverly, you have a talent for understatement!"
With a soft chuckle, Beverly tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear.
"Have you instigated the cloning of the tissue I requested?"
The young Doctor nodded.
"Yes, the specimens are well on their way to completion."
Beverly nodded with satisfaction.
"Good. We're going to need that connective tissue if we're going to successfully integrate the new replacement into his chest cavity."
She then asked,
"And the lung tissue?"
Marcus frowned.
"That's still causing us some problems. Our systems aren't calibrated for cloning such fine samples. It's the alveoli…I think we can do it, but it's going to take time."
Scratching her head, Beverly sighed, her frustration just under the surface.
"Well if we get the heart implanted successfully, we can buy some time…as long as we can keep the blood loss in the lungs to a minimum and ventilate him adequately. Once the alveoli are replaced, I think the rest of his lung tissue should respond well to intensive regen treatments."
Marcus sighed.
"It's a pity the alveoli are too delicate for regeneration treatment. It would've made everything so much simpler."
With a wry chuckle, Beverly rubbed her eyes.
"If you wanted simple, you shouldn't have chosen medicine."
Marcus laughed but it sounded a little forced. He ran a hand over his face and sighed.
"We're in for one hell of a time, aren't we."
Beverly sighed and nodded.
"Yes, we are."

 

 

 

When the message came to tell her Constable McMahon was waiting for her in reception, Beverly was fortunate to be able to leave Jean-Luc's side for a little while. When she got to the young man, she could see he was nervous. With a smile of greeting, Beverly graciously said,
"Hello there, Constable. What can I do for you?"
He proffered a clear plastic envelope within which was a sheet of paper, obviously at one time severely crumpled, but now quite flat.
"This is the letter you requested, Doctor. I am to return it as soon as you've read it."
Taking the envelope, Beverly's smile became a tad forced as irritation with the Constable's boss rose. Gesturing to a nearby seat, she said softly,
"If you will just give me a moment? I won't be long."
Taking his seat, the young man offered a small smile, then said softly,
"Sergeant Styles isn't so bad, Doctor, it's just that he's been really busy lately and there's just then two of us and I'm not long out of training."
With a sigh and a nod, Beverly's smile produced some warmth.
"I think I understand, Constable. I'll be right back, okay?"
He nodded and Beverly went to the Doctor's lounge. Making sure she had some privacy, she took the letter out of the envelope and began to read.
"Dearest Beverly,
I know my death must have come as a shock to you and for that I apologise, but after our last words together it became clear to me that you would never be the person I wanted…no…needed you to be.
I knew I had fallen in love with you some time ago, but I thought I had the luxury of time…time to introduce you to my love, time to allow us to share and grow in our love…but the arrival of Captain Picard ruined all that.
When I realised just how strong your feelings were for him I was devastated. How could I compete with that? I knew you had loved him for a very long time, even though the bastard was engaged to another woman you still loved him. That was the kind of love I had hoped we could share.
Your revelation about the after effects of my disease shook me to my core and made me, for perhaps the first time in my life, question myself. But on reflection, I knew what was in my heart was pure. I loved you, and it wasn't the effect of some damned disease, despite what you may think.
I know what I did to Captain Picard was wrong, but I cannot find it within myself to be sorry. He took you from me and for that I can't forgive him. He deserved what he got.
Before I end this, my last words of my life, I must also tell you I think the disease is returning. I have had the same sporadic loss of sensation in my hands and feet and the excruciating pains in my head.
I can't go through the treatment again, my love, especially with you as my Doctor…and I wouldn't have anyone else but you treat me.
So I will end my life. I will end my misery, my heartache. My only regret is that my death may have caused you some sadness. I wish I could have been able to alleviate that.
I loved you Beverly and I can only hope that that love extends into the eternity that awaits me.
Helen."
With tears slowly tracking down her face, Beverly carefully put the letter back in its envelope. She took a few minutes to compose herself before she took the letter back to the waiting Constable. Upon her arrival he stood, his face showing his concern as he said gently,
"Are you all right, Doctor?"
Beverly nodded then muttered distractedly,
"I must be getting back to my patient. Thank you, Constable McMahon…and thank Sergeant Styles for me too please."
She turned and left before he could respond.

 

 

 

With the Calypso on auto pilot, T'Krel had indeed needed to shut Data down. As instructed, he was placed face down and the super absorbent gel packs were covering the worst of his many wounds. The rate of fluid loss had slowed, but even the emotionless Vulcan, (who had discovered recent events had evoked more emotion in her than she ever thought possible), was somewhat disconcerted at being able to see so much of Data's inner workings. She wondered with some scepticism just how Commander LaForge thought he was going to be able to repair such extensive damage. However she readily recognised that was out of her expertise and turned her attention to the parthenogenetic heart that sat, suspended in a bio sustainable fluid within the stasis unit.
She studied it dispassionately, but even so, she felt the stirrings of hope that this marvel of medical technology could restore her fiancé to his former state of robust health. At least his physical health. His mental health was another thing entirely. With the time she had had on her hands, after careful consideration, T'Krel had come to believe the Captain was on the verge of another psychological breakdown. His actions, his behaviour, had caused her to surmise they all pointed to a manifestation of mental impairment…and she felt she was the one to see him through it…again. The one thing that gave her cause to consider her choice of action was the little complication of one Beverly Crusher. As long as that woman stayed in Jean-Luc's mind, she felt he would never make a complete recovery. But…there were treatments that could remedy that. All she had to do was get him away from Gault and that woman…back to a mental health facility where his memory could be…altered.
"Yes.", she nodded with absolute conviction. "I can and I will help him. I could do no less for the man who loves me."

 

 

 

It was the airport that alerted the hospital that the Calypso was entering a landing pattern. Beverly had assembled a team, but none of its members had ever taken part in a heart transplant. While she had been devoting her time exclusively to Jean-Luc's care, Marcus had been taking the chosen staff through the simulations Beverly had given him. It was only sheer luck that the programs had been in the hospital's data banks.
They were as ready as they could be…all they needed was the heart.
A quick call to the police station had an interested Sergeant Styles agree to pick up the heart and transport it with all possible speed to the hospital. He was a little annoyed when T'Krel insisted on accompanying it, but with no time to argue, he grudgingly allowed her into the flitter. With lights and sirens activated, they exceeded all flight speed laws and had the heart at the hospital in under eight minutes.
Beverly had prepared Jean-Luc as best she could, taking into account the limitations of the available equipment. When she heard Marcus say tightly,
"Thank God you made it!"
She looked up, her eyes darkening as she saw T'Krel standing with Sergeant Styles, the stasis unit in her hands.
The red head held out her hands, willing them to remain steady.
"Give it to me, please."
As T'Krel handed over the heart she said quietly,
"Save him, Doctor…for both of us."
Beverly took the unit and offered a tight smile. Keeping her voice low and even, she replied,
"I'll do my best."
Seeing that the team were assembling, T'Krel turned to leave, but she hesitated and said over her shoulder,
"Well we will have to hope that will suffice…won't we."
With so much on her mind and the intricacies of what she faced, Beverly dismissed the Vulcan within seconds, but deep in the depths of her mind, T'Krel's words festered.
"Will my best be good enough?"
Silencing her doubts with a concerted effort, Beverly looked up to see many faces, all trained on her. And every one of them showed uncertainty.
Summoning an encouraging smile, Beverly activated the sterile field and donned her surgical attire, as the staff did the same. Once all was in readiness she said with forced lightness,
"Well, you have all studied the simulations and I have done this procedure before…so let's get to it."
They began the operation at oh eight fifteen hours.

 

 

 

Two hours into the procedure Beverly said urgently,
"Marcus, you are going to have to control that bleed, I can't integrate this tissue if he bleeds out!"
The young Doctor gritted his teeth and called for another instrument.
"I'm having trouble…the surrounding tissue is too badly damaged…"
"Then use a synthetic patch!"
Marcus's desperation showed in his voice.
"I can't! I've nothing substantial enough to attach it to!"
Turning her head slightly, Beverly barked,
"Have we any more cloned tissue?"
The old nurse checked and nodded.
"Two more pieces."
Knowing she would be short later, Beverly's eyes lifted to Marcus as she said resolutely,
"Use one."
He shook his head.
"But…"
Almost shouting, but managing to control herself, Beverly said,
"We have no choice. We'll just have to improvise."
T'Krel's words rose to the forefront of Beverly's mind, but she savagely quashed them. Lifting her head, she called one of the nurses who was standing by.
"Contact the Enterprise. Put it through to here, audio only."
Beverly ignored the nurse's reply as she struggled to find enough viable tissues to make the vital connections. Within seconds the overhead speakers came to life.
"Riker here, go ahead."
"Will, I need to speak to Selar immediately."
"Putting you through…"
The next voice Beverly heard was her Vulcan second in command of Sick Bay.
"How can I help, Doctor Crusher?"
Wasting no time on pleasantries, Beverly barked,
"I need you to start cloning some tissue for Captain Picard. We need…"
She was interrupted.
"I am sorry, Doctor, but at present we are unable to clone anything. The cloning unit is one of many pieces of equipment that was damaged in our transition through the Stenson Nebula."
Gritting her teeth and briefly closing her eyes, Beverly growled,
"Put me through to Commander LaForge."
Geordi sounded very tired.
"How ya doin' Doc?"
Beverly's smile was a grim one.
"I'm up to my elbows in Captain Picard's open chest and I desperately need some cloned tissue. We can clone here but not nearly as fast as your Sick Bay can. Is it possible for you to repair the cloning unit?"
"I'm on my way to Sick Bay now. I'll have to get back to you once I've taken a look at it."
Hope that had resided so resolutely in Beverly began to fade.
"Okay, I'll wait. Crusher out."
Marcus looked at her and said softly,
"What do we do until then?"
Beverly sighed.
"We control the bleeding and pray to whatever Gods you believe in."
The young Doctor offered a wry smile.
"Now isn't the time to tell you I'm an atheist, is it."
Beverly snorted.
"Right now I don't think it matters, Marcus. If we can't control the bleeding, he will die; it's as simple as that."
Marcus looked down into the cavity of Jean-Luc chest and sighed.
"Then we'd better get busy."
He held out his hand.
"Give me anther haemostat."
Beverly smiled at her young colleague, grateful for his endeavours. She said softly, looking down at her patient,
"He wouldn't give up, neither should we."
Marcus gave a short nod.
"Then we fight."
Beverly agreed.
"Indeed."

 

Geordi got back to Beverly in fifteen long minutes.
"LaForge to Crusher."
Mentally crossing her fingers, Beverly didn't take her eyes off what she was doing as she said softly,
"Crusher here, Geordi."
"I can do it, Doc, give me half an hour."
Sighing her relief, Beverly nodded and said,
"Thanks, Geordi, you may well have saved the Captain's life. Would you put me through to Selar please?"
"No problem, Doc, hold on…"
Selar's voice was, as usual, dispassionate.
"Yes, Doctor?"
Beverly grimaced as yet another patch began to leak blood.
"Once Commander LaForge repairs the cloning unit, I want you to clone as much cardio/pulmonary tissue as you can so I can attach the new heart. I need connective tissue mostly and some lung tissue. Captain Picard's samples are stored on file, you should have no trouble accessing them, they are in his notes."
"Understood, Doctor, I will begin as soon as the unit is operational"
Swearing softly under her breath as anther haemorrhage occurred, Beverly said grimly,
"I need to speak to Commander Riker."
"I will put him on."
Will's voice clearly showed his tension.
"What can I do, Beverly?"
There was a momentary hiatus while the Doctor clamped the bleed.
"I need your ETA!"
"Well it's better than it was. Don't ask me how, but Geordi has managed to form a warp field and coaxed the ship into warp one and a half. We estimate we'll be with you in about six hours."
Desperation coloured Beverly's voice as she said brokenly,
"No sooner?"
Will sighed.
"No, that's the best we can do. I'm sorry, Beverly."
Gritting her teeth, Beverly briefly closed her eyes.
"Well it will have to do."
"Can you hold on?"
Shaking her head, Beverly's eyes began to tear up.
"I don't know…I don't think so, Will."
Geordi came onto the channel.
"Is Data there with you?"
Frowning at the non sequitur, Beverly shook her head.
"No, I haven't seen him."
His voice portraying his urgency, Geordi said curtly,
"You might be able to use his exodermal covering. It's inert, I doubt there would be any rejection concerns…in any event, it might just do until we can get to you."
Looking up, Beverly saw that both T'Krel and Sergeant Styles were still waiting by the door.
"T'Krel, I need Data here now!"
The Vulcan turned to the Sergeant and, before she could say anything, he asked,
"Who is Data and where is he?"
T'Krel took his arm and began to lead him from the room as she explained.
"Lieutenant Commander Data is an android officer who serves on the Enterprise. He is injured, so I had to deactivate him. He is on the Calypso."
Styles nodded curtly.
"Then we'd better haul arse and go and get him!"
Her eyebrows raised, all T'Krel could do was nod as they hurried from the hospital.

 

 

They made it back to the hospital in twenty minutes. A gurney was waiting and Data was wheeled into intensive care just as Beverly and Marcus, both with blood up to their elbows were tersely conversing. It was Beverly, who said,
"I don't care of you pinch it with your fucking fingers….stop the bleeding!"
The gaping wound in Jean-Luc's chest had so many instruments hanging in and out of it, there was barely enough room for their hands. Marcus grunted, thrust his hand into the cavity and did just as Beverly suggested, pinching a leaking artery with his fingers. The nurse at his elbow muttered,
"We are getting short of haemostats, Doctor."
Beverly growled,
"If he keeps haemorrhaging like this we won't need any more! He'll be dead!"
Sergeant Styles lifted his voice to be heard.
"We have the android."
Beverly glanced up and jerked her head to one side.
"Wheel him over here, beside me."
She then looked up at Marcus.
"I'm going to have to take my hands out…can you cope?"
He swallowed, and turned his head so a nurse could wipe away the sweat on his brow.
"Yes, I think so, but Beverly…be bloody quick!"
Lifting her gory hands from Jean-Luc's chest cavity, Beverly picked up a scalpel and paused as she inspected the damage to Data's back. Finding the 'skin' was too badly damaged to salvage anything from that area, she turned her attention to his thigh. Without any hesitation she began to cut squares of his outer layering of exodermal covering. Some were small, only a few centimetres in area, but others were larger. As she harvested each one, she passed them to a nurse who dipped them in a solution to cleanse them. They were then passed to Marcus.
Thirty tense minutes later, Marcus looked up and offered a shaky smile.
"I think we did it."
With her eyes riveted on the new heart, Beverly said quietly,
"Terminate the cardio assist."
As blood began to flow through the artificial heart, there were a few leaks around the joins, but with deft hands, they were quickly repaired with Data's skin patches. Wiping her brow and leaving a streak of blood across her forehead, Beverly lifted her head to study the monitors. She frowned and sighed.
"We'll need to keep ventilating him and his blood pressure is dangerously low, but I think we can give him some hydro plasma now."
She turned her head to look at Marcus.
"What was the result of the latest bone marrow study?"
The young man shrugged.
"It's still a mystery. If it wasn't for an almost normal white cell count, I would have said it was Aplastic anaemia."
Once again consulting the monitors, Beverly shook her head.
"That can't be right."
She took an instrument from the nearby tray and inserted the tip into Jean-Luc's hip. On withdrawal, the fine tip was bloody.
"Here's a new bone marrow sample. Check it again; I think he's making haemoglobin again."
Marcus nodded, then smiled.
"You've done a blood panel."
Beverly returned his smile.
"I have and it's far too rich in red blood cells for him not to be manufacturing them, despite the blood loss. Mind you, he's still slightly anaemic, I think it's going to take a while to right itself."
Now grinning, Marcus offered a slight bow of admiration.
"You're a wily Doctor, Beverly."
She chuckled.
"Stay in this business long enough and you learn a trick or two."
Hearing a soft hemming, Beverly looked up to see T'Krel standing only a metre or two from the bed. Adopting a soft voice, Beverly smiled and gestured at her patient.
"Looks like he's going to make it after all."
All T'Krel did was incline her head. Slightly annoyed, Beverly strove to keep her voice even when she asked,
"Where is Sergeant Styles?"
The Vulcan clasped her hands in front of her and gave a slight rise of one eyebrow.
"He felt somewhat…uncomfortable…watching the procedures. He left some time ago."
Realising for the first time that she was covered in blood, Beverly lifted her hands and smiled.
"I should go and change."
Stepping forward, T'Krel said quietly,
"I will stay with him."
Anger flashed in Beverly but she did nothing more than remove her gloves with more force than was necessary. With the eyes of her team on her, Beverly issued her orders.
"Marcus, I want round the clock one-on-one monitoring of Captain Picard. I will be returning once I've showered and changed. In the meantime, watch his blood pressure and his oxygen levels. Any trouble, you call me immediately. I'll relieve you when I return."
Marcus nodded, then looked down at the gaping wound.
"Should we close?"
Beverly shook her head.
"No, we may need to get in fast. As long as he stays in the sterile field, he'll be fine."
Giving a nod of understanding, Marcus was about to direct his staff to their duties when Beverly turned with one more instruction.
"T'Krel, you may stay for ten minutes, no longer."
The Vulcan looked blankly at Beverly before slowly inclining her head. Marcus looked between the two women, feeling the cold tension in the air. Beverly turned on her heel and left the room.

 

 

 

In the time it took for the Enterprise to finally achieve orbit of Gault, Beverly, Marcus and the team had dealt with two major crises, but managed to avert disaster both times. Beverly had been correct about Jean-Luc's bone marrow, it was now making haemoglobin, but still too slowly to replace what he was losing. The hydro plasma was helping, but what he desperately needed was for the surgery to be completed, the wound closed and the time for his battered body to recover with the help of regeneration therapy. When the call came through, Beverly was dozing by Jean-Luc's bed.
"Riker to Crusher."
She snapped awake, her heart accelerating.
"Crusher here, Will. Have you arrived?"
"We've just entered orbit."
Beverly stood, giving the nurse on duty a smile.
"Then beam us up, we need to see Selar."
She knew as soon as she heard his voice that something was wrong.
"I'm sorry, Beverly, but our transporters are still down. We'll have to send a shuttle for you."
Casting her eyes over her patient, Beverly sighed, defeat colouring her voice.
"Don't bother, Will, he can't be moved like that."
Trying to bolster her spirits, Will said firmly,
"Well tell us what you need. We have managed to get a lot of the Sick Bay equipment up and running."
Beverly's despondency was replaced with hope.
"Oh! Well, apart from the cloned tissue I requested, we need more whole blood, a better ventilator and more sophisticated regen units."
Will tapped his comm. badge.
"Selar, did you hear that?"
"Yes, Commander, I am preparing the items to be taken to the Shuttle Bay now."
Will smiled with satisfaction.
"Did you hear that, Beverly?"
The Doctor was grinning.
"Yes! And can I have some more staff? Everyone here is just about out on their feet…me included."
Will gave that some thought.
"Well…we have a lot of casualties, but I think we can spare some medical staff. I'm sure Selar will want to come down for a while too."
With a sigh of relief, Beverly's eyes welled with tears.
"That would be great, Will…thank you."
Taking a moment to enjoy the warmth of her words, Will then said softly,
"How is he?"
Looking back down at the man she loved, Beverly sighed.
"He's hanging in there, but it was a battle I hope I never have to fight again."
"Because it was so hard?"
Beverly's tears slipped free and trickled down her face.
"No…because we so very nearly lost."
There was a poignant silence before Will said softly,
"Three shuttles will be with you soon with all you need, we've obtained permission to land near the hospital."
With a soft sniff, Beverly wiped at her tears.
"Thanks, Will, I'll see you soon."
"You bet. Riker out."
Beverly reached down and gently ran her fingers over Jean-Luc's stubbled cheek.
"They're here, my love. You'll soon be all right."
Looking around, she noted the nurse was busy observing the monitors. Beverly quickly bent down and kissed Jean-Luc, whispering,
"We have a lot to talk about, my love…get better soon."
She rose to see the nurse smiling shyly at her. Beverly blushed and made a show of checking Jean-Luc's intravenous drip.

 

 

 

As promised, the shuttles quickly arrived. Beverly left her patient, feeling he could do without her constant vigilance for a few minutes. But what she never saw was T'Krel quietly slipping into the room. She waited until the nurse was momentarily distracted before taking a hypospray loaded with a powerful sedative. She slipped it into her pocket and was standing passively by the bed when Beverly returned with several of the Enterprise's medical staff.
There were some stiff greetings amongst the newcomers as they recognised their fellow crewmate but Beverly chose to devote her time to setting up the new equipment.
The new lung tissue was quickly transplanted and Jean-Luc's oxygen levels immediately began to rise. Selar, late because she was bringing even more cloned tissue, spent the better part of three hours assisting Beverly in replacing all of the patches made with Data's skin.
The terrible, gaping wound was finally closed and the regen therapy started.
T'Krel, who had stood stoically some distance from the bed, silently approached and noticed the remarkable change of colour of Jean-Luc's skin. Where before he had been deathly pale, his skin now had a pinkish tinge. He was still being ventilated, but the Vulcan overheard Selar saying to Beverly,
"We should be able to extubate him within the next five hours."
Beverly nodded.
"Yes, scans are showing improvement in the lung tissue already. He'll be breathing on his own soon enough."
T'Krel said softly,
"It seems he has avoided death…again. I commend you, Doctor Crusher. It seems you were up to the task after all."
It was a back-handed compliment and Beverly had trouble not responding with a cutting remark of her own. Summoning a chilly smile, Beverly said lightly,
"Well we were lucky, weren't we."
T'Krel's green eyes darkened.
"I do not give any credence to luck, Doctor. It is more likely that it was simply not his time to die."
She looked down at Jean-Luc and inclined her head.
"Of course medical expertise has its place also. I'm sure your team did an exemplary job."
Again, Beverly had been slighted. Growing tired of the mental jousting, Beverly tried to put her anger aside to say with professional formality,
"Yes, well, Captain Picard needs to rest now. I suggest you come back tomorrow."
Holding her ground, T'Krel lifted her chin to ask,
"Will he be conscious then?"
Pursing her lips and not really wanting to give an honest answer, Beverly nevertheless was forthcoming in her reply.
"He should be, yes."
The Vulcan looked around at the several nurses, all busy with varying tasks. With typical Vulcan stoicism, T'Krel said emotionlessly,
"Well he seems to be in good hands, I will return tomorrow."
With her patience wearing dangerously thin, Beverly smiled coldly.
"You do that."
The red head's eyes bored into T'Krel's back as she left the room. Selar, who had silently witnessed the exchange, commented dryly,
"It would seem Lieutenant T'Krel has a less than glowing opinion of you, Doctor."
Beverly sighed and lowered her head.
"Considering what has happened, I can't say I blame her."
With the tactlessness of her species, Selar observed,
"Her fiancé leaving her on the day of her wedding to pursue another woman would have made an impression she would find hard to reconcile."
Trying not to snap, Beverly ground out,
"I know! But it should be recognised I had nothing whatsoever to do with that. I had no idea Captain Picard had located me until he appeared at my bedside. In fact, I had done everything in my power to make sure he couldn't find me. I still don't know how he did it."
Selar frowned.
"He was at your bedside?"
Realising how that must sound, Beverly waved a hand dismissively, but blushed anyway.
"I'd been injured. At the time, I was here in this hospital as a patient."
The two Doctors shared a momentary silence before Selar asked gently,
"Doctor Crusher, are you aware of the Vulcan ritual of bonding?"
With a shrug, Beverly shook her head.
"Not really, other than it serves much as our marriage ritual serves humans."
Selar gave a nod.
"It has its similarities, yes, but when a Vulcan couple bond it is a profound event and is considered a life-long commitment. I realise marriage mirrors this, at least as a concept, but when you take into account our much longer life spans, the profundity of our bonding becomes even more apparent. Doctor Crusher…divorce is unknown in Vulcan culture. It is because of this that Vulcan couples do not bond unless they are certain they are life mates, what you might call soul mates."
With a slight frown, Beverly asked softly,
"Why are you telling me this?"
Selar sighed with both sadness and regret.
"I do not believe Captain Picard and T'Krel are life mates."
This wasn't news to Beverly, but what Selar said next shook her to her core.
"I do believe however…you and Captain Picard are."
Beverly looked down at Jean-Luc and felt what she had always felt. Love, certainly, but more…a connection, a deep yearning that was almost overwhelming in its intensity. As she was trying to come to grips with the truth of what Selar had said, the Vulcan Doctor said more.
"I most certainly should not be telling you this, but T'Krel was once bonded with a Vulcan male. It was a very successful union, ending with his premature death. From what little she has shared with me about it, I have come to the conclusion she never fully recovered from the trauma of having her life mate taken from her. This does not, of course, explain why she consented to marry a human male who she knew was not a life mate, nor does it explain why she does not yield to the logic of your connection to Captain Picard, but if I may make a suggestion…perhaps you should talk to Counsellor Troi."
It was as if a light had gone on in Beverly's mind. Placing a gentle hand on Selar's shoulder, Beverly said softly,
"Perhaps I will. Thank you, Selar."
The Vulcan bowed her head, then resumed her treatment of her patient.

 

 

In some ways, Deanna was waiting for Beverly's call. She sighed as her best friend said succinctly,
"I need to talk to you about T'Krel, Dee."
Knowing it would breach patient confidentiality; Deanna closed her eyes and said softly,
"I'm not sure I can, Beverly."
The Doctor was fully aware of the dilemma she was placing on her friend, but she persisted anyway.
"Will you at least come down here and talk to me?"
Deanna found a tired smile.
"Of course I will. As soon as one of the shuttles returns, I'll come down."
Sighing with relief, Beverly said softly,
"Thanks, Dee."
As it turned out, Deanna arrived in only an hour. Beverly was in the Doctor's lounge, getting a quick meal. She saw Deanna enter and stood, a wide smile on her face.
"Dee!"
The embraced warmly and Deanna felt some of the tension leave her friend. The diminutive woman stepped back and cast a critical eye over her.
"You've lost weight and I bet you haven't been getting nearly enough sleep."
Offering a wry smile, Beverly put her hands on her hips.
"Thank you very much!"
Deanna grew serious.
"No, Beverly, I mean it. You don't look so good."
The Doctor sighed and gestured to the seats. Deanna motioned for Beverly to continue with her meal and then red head offered an appreciative smile. As she ate, she explained.
"I was injured trying to rescue some men caught in an explosion at the granary. Jean-Luc arrived while I was still unconscious here at the hospital. When I did awaken I was told he was here on Gault and I gave instructions that he not see me. I also found out he was staying at my home…with T'Krel."
Deanna said nothing, but lowered her eyes. Beverly sighed.
"Deanna, I know about how T'Krel lost her Vulcan mate and I also know that she and Jean-Luc are unsuited for each other. What I don't know is why T'Krel is persisting with her assumption that Jean-Luc will want to continue with their plans to marry."
Deanna rubbed her eyes and sighed,
"You mean once you and he reconcile?"
Beverly blushed and bowed her head.
"Touché."
Beverly put down her cutlery and Deanna took one of her hands.
"He loves you, Beverly, he always has. The thing is…are you willing to finally admit you love him too? And then accept the consequences such an admission will inevitably bring?"
Leaning forward, Beverly took her hand back and covered her face, mumbling,
"I don't know!"
With an uncharacteristic edge to her voice, Deanna said firmly,
"Well you'd better make up your mind, because if you spurn him again he probably will seek solace with T'Krel…providing of course he doesn't suffer another breakdown."
Guilt washed over Beverly and she struggled to keep her tears at bay. Whispering softly, she said,
"I did that, didn't I."
Deanna sighed.
"The situation brought it on, Beverly…it was both of you."
Looking into her friend's eyes, Beverly had trouble getting her lip to stop trembling.
"Yes, but it was me who caused it all. I wanted…God…I don't really know what I wanted, apart from the sex, but I did know it wasn't what he wanted. He tried to tell me, ask me for more but I shut him out and in the end I left him."
Deanna retook Beverly's hand.
"Beverly, you accepted a mission…"
Wrenching her hand free, Beverly shook her head vehemently.
"No! Before that…I left him. I walked out on what we had and what he hoped for and I took another lover. I flaunted it under his nose! Then, months later I accepted the mission. And even then, once it was over and I returned I never contacted him, never let him know that I was all right."
She stood and began to stalk around the room.
"I caused his breakdown and I made it so he reached out to T'Krel."
With tears brimming, Beverly whispered,
"I got what I deserved."
Deanna stood and went to her friend, gripping her shoulders and stilling her restless feet.
"Beverly, what has happened is in the past and can't be undone. What you must now focus on is how you feel about him in the here and now. We both know you love him, that you have been in love with him for a very long time."
Looking deeply into the fathomless obsidian eyes of the Betazoid, Beverly took a deep breath, held it for a second or two, then let it out slowly. She nodded.
"Yes, that's true."
Deanna offered an encouraging smile.
"Then it's up to you to do something about it!"
That was met with a deep frown,
"But what about T'Krel? She seems to think she has some kind of prior hold on him."
Deanna shrugged.
"Well being his fiancée would make her think that, but if it were possible for you all to sit down and talk about it…discuss this situation and be absolutely honest with each other, I think a resolution may be found."
Hope began to brighten Beverly's eyes.
"I do love him, Deanna…and I think I'm ready to tell him. Surely T'Krel must see the logic in giving up her claim on him?"
Beverly immediately saw the troubled look in her friend's eyes.
"While I believe honesty amongst you all may be the solution to this situation, I am concerned that T'Krel might not apply logic to this."
"Why?"
Deanna sighed and rubbed her brow.
"I can't go into details, Beverly, suffice it to say there are…complications."
Turning, Beverly took a few steps away from the petite woman, then turned back, her frown a deep one.
"Is she dangerous?"
A stillness settled over the two women as Deanna said softly,
"I don't know."
Her meal forgotten, Beverly went to leave the room, but as she passed Deanna, the Betazoid grabbed her arm.
"You can't do anything overt, Beverly. T'Krel has done nothing wrong."
With her blue eyes blazing, the Doctor hissed,
"Maybe not, but I can prevent her from seeing him."
Not letting go of her arm, Deanna said mildly,
"You have no right to do that, Beverly. She is, until we know otherwise, his fiancée and as such she has every right to see him…regardless of how that makes you feel."
Defeated but still defiant, Beverly's voice was brittle as she said,
"Then I won't leave his side. If she wants to visit him, it'll have to be under my supervision."
Deanna sighed.
"That's a little draconian, don't you think? Look, Beverly, if you want a resolution to all this, you are going to have to give them time to talk…alone. Then, once they have sorted out their feelings, perhaps you could join in. Who knows…the Captain may want you there anyway, but in any event, you have to give T'Krel the benefit of the doubt."
With an irritated sigh, some of the tension left the Doctor. She nodded and gave a hesitant smile.
"All right, we'll do it your way."
Feeling pride and gratitude, Deanna smiled warmly.
"It's the only way, my friend. Now, go back and finish your meal and while you do, you can tell me about the past year."

 

 

 

Beverly got her first good night's sleep that night. Trusting the staff to watch over Jean-Luc, she had finally acquiesced to Marcus's plea that she return home for a decent meal and a good night's sleep. She awoke feeling refreshed and energised. As the kettle was set to boil, she contacted the hospital to find that Jean-Luc had spent a comfortable night and was nearing consciousness.
Gulping down a quick meal of toast and tea, a showered and determined Beverly flew her flitter straight to the hospital, eager to see the man she loved.
As she walked briskly into the intensive care ward she head the duty nurse saying firmly,
"Take it slowly, Captain Picard. I will get you a drink."
As the man turned to get a glass of water, Beverly arrived at Jean-Luc's bedside. She could see he was still slightly disoriented and his eyes were barely open, but he saw her and tried to speak. All that came out was a dusty croak. He lifted his hand though and Beverly took it, smiling brilliantly.
"Hello there, Jean-Luc, welcome back, you gave us quite a scare."
Before he could attempt to speak again, the nurse gently lifted his head and guided a straw into his mouth. He sucked greedily, but knew when to stop. Once his head was again on the pillow he swallowed again and grimaced. Beverly frowned, saying with concern,
"Sore throat?"
He nodded and she explained,
"You were intubated, Jean-Luc, but the soreness will soon pass."
He tried his voice again and this time it came out as a gravelly rumble.
"What happened to me?"
Hitching her backside onto the side of the bed, Beverly kept hold of his hand as she asked,
"What's the last thing you remember?"
He closed his eyes and frowned before muttering,
"Helen Parker. She had a phaser…I think she shot me."
With a sad smile, Beverly nodded.
"That she did."
"Why?"
Beverly sighed.
"It's a long story, Jean-Luc. I'll tell you when you're stronger."
He sighed then asked,
"What was the damage? I know my heart was affected, I can feel something different about it."
Beverly's smile grew bright.
"That's because you have the latest model."
His frown deepened.
"You had to replace my heart?"
With a gentle squeeze of his hand, Beverly nodded.
"Yes and some lung tissue. The phaser setting was quite high; there was a lot of damage."
There was a momentary silence while Jean-Luc digested the news. He then asked,
"How long have I been here?"
"A few days."
His eyes opened wider as alarm crept in.
"A few days? A cardio replacement takes only a few hours! What the hell went wrong?"
With a sigh, Beverly stood and took a PADD from his bedside and activated it before giving it to him. He had to squint to read as she explained,
"There was a significant amount of tissue damage, Jean-Luc. We had hell's own delight trying to connect the implant, in fact, if it wasn't for Data you wouldn't be here now."
Before he could say anything, Beverly continued,
"Then there was the lung damage. You were bleeding so badly we could barely keep up with your loss and for a while there, you weren't making any haemoglobin. Initially we couldn't use hydro plasma so we collected what you were losing and put it back into you, along with all the whole blood we could get our hands on. You are one very lucky man, Jean-Luc."
He smiled, his eyes warm.
"I had the best Doctor."
Beverly flushed and shook her head.
"Not so. We were a team. Marcus and the staff here worked their collective butts off with me."
His smile still gracing his handsome face, his eyes twinkled.
"That may be, but it was you who possessed the knowledge they needed…am I right?"
Just then, Marcus appeared at Beverly's side. He grinned down at his patient, obviously delighted to see him conscious.
"Captain Picard, it's good to see you awake, Sir."
Jean-Luc had to drag his eyes away from Beverly to smile at the young Doctor.
"I believe I have you and your team to thank."
Marcus reacted with a shake of his head and a wry smile.
"We did our part, Captain, but it was Beverly who saved your life."
The young man looked at Beverly with obvious hero worship.
"She was outstanding, breathtaking in her skill and knowledge. It is her you owe your life to, Captain."
Jean-Luc's gaze settled once again on Beverly and he revelled mischievously in her obvious embarrassment. Wishing to change the subject, Beverly fussed with the intravenous drip, saying with professional brevity,
"Once you have eaten, we can take you off this and move you to an ordinary ward."
Knowing Beverly felt highly embarrassed, Jean-Luc decided to let her off the hook. He nodded thoughtfully and altered his smile to one of a compliant patient.
"Thank you, Doctor."
Two hours later, having successfully eaten a light meal, Jean-Luc was taken off the drip and moved to a general ward.

 

 

 

T'Krel had been biding her time. Keeping mostly out of sight, she had witnessed the comings and goings of the Enterprise shuttles as she slowly formed her plan. She was aware of the J'naii process of psychotectic therapy to reorientate individuals and felt that it would be the ideal procedure to rid Jean-Luc of his memories of Beverly. She would have to be very careful to make sure he did not lose his male sexuality, but she was aware of studies done on a distant planet in streamlining the entire process, making it far more able to be tailored to the individual. All she needed was the opportune time to put her plan into action.
That came late on the evening of the first day Jean-Luc was in the general ward. Beverly, on Jean-Luc's insistence, had gone home to eat dinner and get a good night's sleep. She didn't tell him that she would do that simply because she knew he was well on the mend, she was happy enough to just acquiesce.
Hidden in the shadows to one side of the hospital entrance, T'Krel noted Beverly's exit and observed her getting into her flitter and taking off. The Vulcan was already aware that Marcus was off duty for the night and that Selar was back on the Enterprise.
She slipped into the building, going straight to the Doctor's lounge where she found an unsecured locker. Inside was just what she wanted, a white coat. She had already manufactured an official looking identification card and clipped it to the front upper pocket. Then, with cunning and guile, she obtained a gurney and went to Jean-Luc's ward, only to find him unattended. He was dozing but woke as the cold nozzle of the hypospray pressed against the skin of his neck. With only enough time to gasp,
"T'Krel."
He lost consciousness.
It was the work of mere seconds as the strong woman manoeuvred Jean-Luc from his bed and onto the gurney. She was wheeling him out of the ward when the duty nurse returned. The young man frowned, asking,
"What are you doing?"
Not looking up from her 'patient', T'Krel muttered,
"He is due for some more tests."
The nurse almost gaped in astonishment.
"Now?"
T'Krel nodded.
"Yes, his blood oxygen levels are a little low."
Nonplussed, the nurse stood aside as T'Krel trundled her unconscious captive out the doors.
T'Krel wasted no time in utilising one of the empty shuttles parked near the hospital side doors. She had Jean-Luc secured inside and the gurney discarded and was in the cockpit before the alarm was raised. The nurse she had so easily befuddled came barrelling out the doors, waving his hands.
"Stop! Where are you going?"
Utilising the speakers, T'Krel said calmly,
"I am taking Captain Picard to the Enterprise for his tests. Please stand clear during take off."
Again confused, the nurse hesitated, then ran back inside the hospital. There was no one on duty at the desk at that hour, so he went into the communication alcove and called the Enterprise.
"Nurse Elders to the Enterprise, respond please."
The night watch officer on the Bridge yawned as he answered.
"This is Lieutenant Andrew Symonds. Go ahead."
"Has your Sick Bay scheduled Captain Picard for any tests tonight?"
Sitting up a little straighter in the Command Chair, Lieutenant Symonds frowned.
"Not that I'm aware of. I'll contact Sick Bay, wait please."
"Acknowledged."
Doctor Andrea Pierce was on duty in Sick Bay and she shook her head as the question was posed.
"No, Lieutenant, we have no knowledge of having Captain Picard aboard for anything."
Symonds nodded grimly.
"Right! Thank you, Sick Bay. Nurse Elders?"
"Here, Lieutenant."
"Captain Picard is not, repeat, not scheduled for any procedures aboard the Enterprise this evening or any other time."
"Understood, Enterprise. I think we have a problem. One of your shuttles just took off with the Captain; a Vulcan woman seemed to be in charge."
Symond's frown deepened.
"A Vulcan, you say?"
He lifted his head, saying firmly,
"Computer, location of Doctor Selar."
"Doctor Selar is currently in her quarters."
"Has she been there for long?"
"She has been aboard the Enterprise since returning from Gault at fourteen twenty-three hours."
Symonds scratched his head.
"Elders?"
Here, Lieutenant."
"We'll try and track the shuttle, but in the mean time, I think you should notify your authorities."
"Understood, Lieutenant, Elders out."

 

 

 

Beverly was in a deep sleep when her computer chimed softly, it took several chimes for the sound to seep through to wake her. Somewhat disorientated, she sat up, pushing her unruly hair out of her face, before suddenly realising she should answer the call.
Jumping out of bed, she rushed into the living room, slapping the tab that activated the monitor. A worried Marcus held up a hand.
"We have a problem."
Her stomach clenching, Beverly struggled to keep her voice calm. Expecting her colleague to tell her Jean-Luc had relapsed, she steeled herself for the worst.
"What is it?"
The young man looked a little perplexed as he said with a frown,
"Captain Picard seems to have been abducted."
Beverly gaped, blinked several times, then said with disbelief,
"What?"
Marcus shrugged, his eyebrows raised.
"It looks like T'Krel came in earlier tonight, sedated him and took him to a shuttle. They lifted off about half an hour ago."
As well as the shock she felt, anger was building.
"How the hell did she get away with it? What were the staff doing? There was supposed to be someone with him at all times!"
With a sigh, Marcus held up his hand.
"Beverly, you know that's unfair. We're short staffed as it is and the duty nurse does have to have regular breaks. Besides, apparently T'Krel was dressed as a Doctor, ID card and all. She was challenged by the duty nurse, but she told him the Captain was being taken for tests aboard the Enterprise. He had no reason not to believe her."
Containing her growing fury and fear, Beverly ground out,
"Does any body know where they've gone?"
Marcus shook his head.
"No. I contacted the Enterprise, but their scanners and sensors are still off line. They can't help."
Finally unable to stifle her anger and frustration, Beverly shouted,
"Well I'm not going to sit here on my arse while Jean-Luc is being taken to who-knows-where! There are perfectly good scanners and sensors in the Calypso. I'm taking her and I'm going to find him."
Trying to ease the situation, Marcus urged caution.
"Beverly, Captain Picard still needs medical attention. Don't let your anger override your need to think as a Doctor first and foremost. We both know he shouldn't have been removed from the hospital and I've absolutely no idea what T'Krel has in mind, but your first priority is his well being. In fact, if I were you, when you finally track them down, I'd use that to try and make T'Krel see sense. She's had enough medical training to realise she is endangering his health by her actions. Use that, get her to see that what she is doing could really make him very ill."
Taking a calming breath as she realised he was right, Beverly gave a short nod.
"Understood…and thank you, Marcus. Have the police been notified?"
Nodding, Marcus grimaced.
"I really thought Sergeant Styles was going to throttle me! He's put out an alert, but with such little interstellar traffic coming our way, it's unlikely anyone will have seen the shuttle."
A thought suddenly occurred to Beverly.
"Marcus, what has become of Helen Parker's remains?"
The young man frowned,
"She had no family, Beverly; her remains are still at the morgue awaiting disposal."
"I want you to run some additional tests. Helen was sure she was experiencing the onset of Grave's disease again. I'm not sure that is possible, but if it's true, then something went wrong, either in her treatment, or there was some kind of biological or environmental trigger we missed. Either way, we have to find it."
Marcus gave a curt nod.
"I'll get right on it. What are you going to do?"
With a determined lift of her chin, Beverly said firmly,
"I'm going to get dressed and go to the airport. I hope to be space borne within half an hour"
"And how will you track her?"
Beverly's smile was cold.
"All warp capable space vehicles leave an ion trail. With so little traffic, it shouldn't be too hard to find it."
Marcus smiled and gave a nod.
"Good luck."
Beverly smile back.
"With the Calypso's advanced technology available to me, I'm hoping I won't need luck, my friend."
"Then good hunting."
Pointing with her index finger, Beverly snorted.
"Now that I will take!"
She deactivated the computer and ran into her bedroom. She was out of the house in five minutes, in her flitter and on her way to the airport.

 

 

As Data lay face down with his eyes wide open on the diagnostic table, his best friend, Geordi LaForge fought the urge to avert his intense gaze from into the inner workings of his friend. Geordi's half stifled sigh made Data frown.
"What is it, Geordi?"
Knowing that truth was the cornerstone of their friendship, the dark engineer shook his head.
"I just think it would be better if you were deactivated for this."
Data pulled down the corners of his mouth and raised his eyebrows.
"I assure you, Geordi, I feel no pain."
Geordi sighed, the pupils of his blue ocular implants dilating.
"I know, Data, but you've been pretty badly injured. It doesn't make pleasant viewing and knowing you're conscious is a little…unsettling."
The android's face showed his confusion.
"But I cannot perform the necessary internal diagnostics required if I am deactivated."
Geordi sighed again.
"I know, Data, I know."
Consulting the PADD in his hand, Geordi made a minute adjustment to one of Data's processors in the back of his now repaired cranium with the implement in his other hand.
"How's that?"
Data raised his left arm and flexed his fingers.
"That is much better, thank you. That completes the repair of my limb functions. If you can realign my central sub busses I believe my internal damage will have been successfully repaired."
Relieved that the macabre situation was nearing its end, Geordi smiled.
"Just give me a minute…"
The procedure was carried out and Data immediately sat up. He blinked several times, tilted his head, then lifted both shoulders before rolling his head. Geordi stood by, eagerly awaiting Data's opinion. The android looked at his friend and offered a small smile.
"I am well again, Geordi. Thank you."
Warmly clasping Data's shoulder, Geordi mirrored Data's smile.
"Well, now we have to get you to Sick Bay to replace all the skin you lost. And you have to regrow some hair on the back of your head."
Giving a nod of agreement, Data suddenly tilted his head, his golden eyes wide.
"Perhaps I should shave my head completely."
Geordi gaped, then frowned.
"Why on Earth would you even think of doing something like that?"
Eager to expound on his reasons, Data sat forward, his face a study in excitement.
"During my tenure aboard the Enterprise, I have often overheard crewmembers, both male and female, express the opinion that Captain Picard's appearance makes him very attractive. I tried to analyse these remarks, comparing what I knew of human sexuality, where it applies to what most people find attractive in others and I was astonished to find I could not quantify their reasons for their opinions."
Data stood up, flexing his arms as he continued.
"Captain Picard is not what would be considered the quintessential example of a human male. He is under average height; he is advanced in age, he is rather…stern, would rather seek his own company given the choice between being alone and being with others and he is bald. And yet both men and especially women find him very attractive. When one first meets Captain Picard, it is his baldness that initially stands out because, as you know, such conditions as inherited alopecia are preventable these days. That Captain Picard chose to allow his genetic make up to proceed on its inevitable path without interference was, at first, puzzling to me, but now that I know him better, I realise such issues as physical appearance means little to him."
Pausing only long enough to begin to flex his legs, Data gave a short nod.
"He is physically very fit and keeps to a rigorous fitness regimen that has obviously been very significant in his ability to recover quickly when either illness or injury strikes, but it is his prodigious intellect that I find most compelling about him. However, I easily out perform him in intellect and I am physically much stronger and impervious to almost anything that would injure a human so I have come to the inevitable conclusion it is his baldness and his decision to do nothing to prevent it that is what has made him so attractive to others. So the obvious way for me to become more attractive, at least physically, may be to shave my head."
Geordi took a step back, suddenly overwhelmed with the need to sit down. Concerned by the look of consternation on his friend's face, Data gently gripped Geordi's arm, saying softly,
"Are you all right, Geordi?"
The engineer gathered his scrambled thoughts and summoned what he hoped was a warm smile.
"Data, you don't have to shave your head to become more attractive, you're just fine the way you are."
Data frowned and shook his head.
"But, Geordi…"
Now a little more in control of himself, Geordi stood straighter and tried to explain.
"Data, Captain Picard is the most senior officer on the ship, yes?"
Data nodded.
"And that carries a hell of a lot of responsibility, doesn't it."
Again, Data nodded.
"And have you ever noticed how Captain Picard exudes authority? He is the epitome of the perfect senior officer. Yes, he is a little…remote sometimes, but when you get to know him…and I admit that takes a while, him being such a very private man, you find he's actually really warm and nice. He's a gentle man, Data, filled with deep compassion and an overriding conviction in Starfleet and what it stands for. And he's a passionate man, Data, passionate about what he finds compelling."
Geordi leaned back against the island console and sighed.
"His physical appearance has little to do with why others find him attractive, although I do think he's a handsome man, it's what's inside I think others find so fascinating. They want to get inside him, Data, find out what lies beneath his austere exterior. It's a very potent aphrodisiac my friend."
Data's face fell.
"Then it would seem I will never attract a mate."
Geordi immediately frowned and gripped Data's shoulder.
"Why do you say that, Data?"
The Second Officer sighed deeply.
"I do not possess the nuances you have just outlined, Geordi. With me, what you see is what you get. I can never be a mystery…or an aphrodisiac…to others."
Being the kind and compassionate man he was, Geordi grinned and offered a wink.
"You are far more mysterious than you give yourself credit for, my friend. Almost everyone I've met has been curious about you and wanted to get to know you…and that includes a healthy amount of women."
Gently punching Data's shoulder, Geordi's grin widened, then he sobered.
"Data, many people go through their entire lives never having experienced a long-term relationship. Some prefer it that way, while others have just never met the right person. Hell, look at me, I'm still single, but I'm also still looking. You may find someone, Data, or maybe you won't, but I can tell you…when it happens it'll be at a time when you least expect it."
Data considered what Geordi had said, then offered a solemn look.
"Then it would appear I am just as much a hostage to the emotional vagaries of any sentient being's existence as you are."
Mirroring Data's serious demeanour, Geordi nodded, saying softly,
"Yep."
With a sudden smile, Data's eyes lit up.
"I find that very comforting, Geordi."
The engineer chuckled.
"Well I'm glad. Now let's get to Sick Bay…and Data? Activate your hair growth subroutine. The quicker you regrow your missing hair the better."
The android smiled.
"Indeed."

 

 

Having achieved reaching clear space, Beverly sat in the cockpit and activated the scanners and sensors, muttering to herself,
"Now T'Krel, where did you go?"
As she suspected, the only recent ion trail she found was that of the Enterprise. Such a huge ship was bound to leave a significant foot print. But a little shuttle was much more subtle and Beverly knew she would have to calibrate the sensors to find what she sought.
Frowning over the controls and with the aid of the computer, it was the work of only a few minutes before she sat back, offering a coldly triumphant,
"Gotcha!"
Knowing the shuttle's top speed was only warp five; Beverly inputted the course and set the speed at warp eight. Her calculations had her intercepting the shuttle within the hour.
She sat back in the pilot's chair and said with satisfaction,
"Engage!"
However, her euphoria didn't last long. Fifteen minutes into her chase the computer said calmly,
"Warning! Current flight path will cause the ship to encounter the Kalema ion field. Recommend changing course to…"
Beverly sat up and scowled.
"Computer, explain. What is the Kalema ion field?"
"The Kalema ion field is an area of space that is subjected to continuous ion storms. Travelling through this area of space is not recommended."
Clenching her fists, Beverly asked curtly,
"Is it possible to travel through that area of space?"
"With shields at maximum, and speed reduced to half impulse, it is possible, however damage may occur."
Giving quick thought to her dilemma, Beverly then asked,
"Computer, taking into account the differences between this vessel and a standard shuttle, how would a shuttle fare in the ion field?"
"It would not be possible for a standard shuttle to traverse the field."
"Then if a pilot wished to mask their ion trail, but knew they couldn't go through the field, what would they be likely to do?"
"On approaching the field on this course, the pilot would have the choice of skirting the edges of the field, but as in which direction, is unknown."
With an irritated sigh, Beverly rubbed her brow.
"And I suppose even the edges of the field would mask their ion trail?"
"Yes."
"Shit!"
The computer then said matter-of-factly,
"You are approaching the Kalema ion field. Recommend you drop out of warp now."
Through gritted teeth, Beverly ground out,
"Computer take the ship out of warp and come to a full stop."
"Acknowledged."
The stars that had been streaking by with prismatic splendour suddenly came to points of cold light as the ship came to a halt. Beverly sat back in her seat and rested her head on the headrest, her eyes trained on the ceiling.
After a moments' thought she said quietly,
"Computer, open a channel to the Enterprise."
The connection was almost instant. An obviously young voice said,
"This is the Enterprise, Lieutenant Symonds speaking."
"Lieutenant, this is Doctor Beverly Crusher. I need to speak with Commander Riker."
"The Commander is off duty at present, Doctor, perhaps I can be of assistance?"
Gritting her teeth, Beverly strove to keep calm.
'"No, I'm afraid I must speak to the Commander."
She could hear the hesitancy in the young man's voice, but he stuck to his guns.
"It is the night cycle at the moment, Doctor. Commander Riker would be asleep."
By now losing her control, Beverly barked,
"Lieutenant, I may not be the CMO of the Enterprise any more, but I hold the rank of full Commander and I am giving you a direct order. Put me through to Commander Riker right now!"
The next voice she heard was a sleepy Will Riker.
"Beverly?"
Sighing with relief, Beverly summoned a small smile.
"Yes, Will, it's me."
Knowing she would not have disturbed him without good reason, Will shook off his sleepiness and became all business.
"What can we do for you?"
Beverly adopted his no-nonsense approach.
"You know that Captain Picard has been abducted."
He nodded.
"Yes, a Sergeant Styles contacted us about an hour ago."
Beverly nodded.
"Well I'm on the Calypso, following the shuttle's ion trail, but T'Krel has reached the Kalema ion field and is using it to mask her trail. Have you got sensors or scanners yet?"
Holding up one hand, Will said,
"Hang on a minute; I'll have to contact engineering."
Her fingers tapping a devil's dance on the arm of her chair, Beverly waited impatiently.
Will was back in a few minutes. His face was grim.
"We have scanners, short range only and still no sensors."
Making a fist of her hand, Beverly punched the arm of her chair.
"Dammit!"
Will sympathised, then snapped his fingers.
"Hang on, Beverly. If we came to you, we just might have enough power in the scanners to penetrate the ion field enough to put you on the right track."
Sitting up straight, Beverly asked breathlessly,
"You have warp power?"
Will nodded enthusiastically.
"Yes! We can only do warp four, but we can get to you in about two hours."
With grim determination, Beverly gave a short nod.
"Do it, Will, I'll be waiting for you."
"The big man smiled.
"Send us your coordinates; we'll be there before you know it."
Her face relaxing into a smile, Beverly nodded.
"Will do, I'll see you then. Crusher out."
She did as requested, then sitting back, Beverly devoted some thought as to just where T'Krel might be taking Jean-Luc. Suddenly inspiration struck and she sat forward, eagerly saying to the computer,
"Computer, display all known information on the Harrison symposium on Earth, Stardate 42383.1."
The screen of her monitor began to fill with text. Beverly settled in to read.

 

 

 

When Will strode onto the Bridge, Lieutenant Symonds expected to be upbraided for waking his CO. However, Will just grinned and lifted his head to say,
"Riker to LaForge."
A tired Geordi answered.
"LaForge here, Commander."
Will's grin faded.
"I know you're beat, Geordi, but I need to take the ship to the Kalema ion field and I need to do it as fast as possible."
The engineer sighed.
"You'll really be pushing the repairs, Sir. You know warp four is our absolute maximum at the moment."
Will nodded.
"Yes, I know, but it's the scanners and sensors we're really going to need."
Geordi's curiosity was piqued.
"May I ask why we need to get to the field so fast?"
Running a hand through his beard Will sighed and briefly closed his eyes.
"Doctor T'Krel has kidnapped Captain Picard and is using the ion field to mask her trail. Beverly is on the Calypso, chasing her, but has had to stop at the field. She needs us and our scanners and sensors."
Suddenly the tiredness in Geordi's voice disappeared.
"Well with Data back I'm sure we can get things sorted out soon. I might even be able to coax warp five out of the old girl."
Will's grin returned.
"Do what you can, Geordi, for both Captain Picard and Beverly."
Will could easily hear the determination in Geordi's voice when he replied,
"We're on it, Commander."
Turning to Lieutenant Symonds, Will smiled,
"You can have the rest of the night off, Lieutenant, I'll take the watch."
The young man turned for the aft turbolift, but hesitated and turned back.
"If it's all right with you, Sir, I'd like to stay on the Bridge."
Knowing the young man wanted to do anything he could to help, Will nodded.
"Okay, make yourself useful by monitoring the engineering station."
Will then turned to face forward, saying firmly,
"Helm, prepare to leave orbit and once we're clear of the Gault system, set course for the Kalema ion field and engage at warp four."
The young Ensign nodded.
"Aye, Sir."
Will took his seat in the Command chair and watched as the stars suddenly transformed into elongated streaks of prismatic light. His usual affable expression grim, he thought to himself,
"Hang on, Beverly, we're coming."

 

 

 

 

Already familiar with most of what she was reading, Beverly was skimming through the text when she suddenly paused and backed up a little. There it was…the information she thought was pertinent. She read aloud.
"The psychotectic therapies of the J'naii have been extensively studied and it is believed the procedure can be utilised to expunge selective memories. The medical community on Serral IV have devoted the last five years undergoing experiments with the procedure and have reported an eighty-seven percent success rate in their subjects."
Beverly paused the text and sat back, scowling.
"Serral IV isn't a Federation world…no wonder they can get away with this kind of outrage!"
She then lifted her head.
"Computer, show me a flight path from this point to Serral IV."
On the screen in front of her the flight path appeared. It wasn't far off the course already set.
"I think I know where you're going; T'Krel…and I think I know why."
However, her suspicions would have to wait until the Enterprise arrived. Wishing to utilise the time, Beverly went and showered, something she'd not had time for when she left her home so suddenly. Replicating a new uniform, Beverly smiled to herself, feeling comfortable to be once again clad in such familiar clothing. She then ate some fruit and drank two cups of coffee before accessing more information about the studies taking place on Serral IV. The more she read, the angrier she became.

 

 

 

The hail from her old ship startled her. Casting a quick look at her scanners, she could see that the great ship was almost with her. Will's face filled the screen, his trade-mark grin firmly in place.
"We're about ten minutes away, Beverly. Our scanners are picking up an ion trail, but it's attenuated, dissipating very quickly."
The Doctor sat up and brought up the flight path she'd been studying, sending the image to the Enterprise.
"Do you think she's headed to Serral IV?"
It was Data who answered.
"Although there are any number of planets she could be heading for, Serral IV does seem likely. She only has to skirt the ion field for a short distance before she changes course to make for the planet. May I ask why would she be headed there?"
Beverly grimaced and sent the text she'd been reading. Will paled as he read it.
"Psychotectic therapy? Do you mean to tell me someone other than the J'naii is doing that to people?"
Beverly nodded sadly.
"Yes. Serral IV isn't a Federation world, Will, there're no restrictions to what they can do."
The big man's face grew grim.
"And you think T'Krel is taking the Captain there?"
With a nod, Beverly highlighted some of the text.
"As you can see, they have perfected the procedure to expunge selective memories. If T'Krel won't give him up, and he resists her efforts, how better to make him compliant than to erase me from his memory?"
Deanna appeared on the screen, her face a study in anguish.
"Beverly, if that is true, if this is what she really intends then she is psychologically unstable. I think I should contact the Vulcan mental health directorate. If you can apprehend her I think she would benefit from their expertise."
With a nod of agreement, Beverly sighed.
"If she really has gone over the edge, the VMHD will be the only ones who can help her."
Suddenly a great shadow was cast over the Calypso. Through the viewscreen Beverly could see the Enterprise, taking up a position eighty kilometres above her. She smiled and gave Will a look of sheer delight.
"I've rarely seen anything so beautiful, Will."
The First Officer grinned ruefully.
"Well she's not exactly at her best at the moment, but she soon will be, once we get to a Starbase."
Data came back on screen.
"Doctor, we have noted a change of course of the shuttle. I would estimate, with a ninety-seven-point-three percent degree of accuracy, that T'Krel is headed for Serral IV."
Inputting her new course, Beverly said flippantly,
"Want to come along for the ride?"
Will shook his head, but she could see the regret in his eyes.
"We'd love to, but we simply have too many repairs to do yet. Hell, I can't even spare you any crew. Are you sure you can handle this alone? Vulcans are pretty strong, especially when they're pissed."
With a determined lift of her chin, Beverly said firmly,
"I'm faster and I have superior weapons and shields. I will disable the shuttle first, then I'll see if I can't make her see reason."
Deanna said quietly,
"And if that fails?"
Bending down, Beverly picked up a phaser.
"Then I will board the shuttle and take her on."
There was a stunned silence before Will said quietly,
"Good luck, I hope we see you and the Captain again soon."
Showing jauntiness she didn't feel, Beverly gave a cheeky salute and tried to keep her dread from showing in her eyes. It may have worked too, if not for Deanna saying,
"I'm so sorry it has come to this."
Beverly slumped and sighed, bowing her head.
"Me too, Dee, but I love him and I can't let her do this...not now, not ever."
As Beverly began to move the Calypso off onto her course, Will's parting words made Beverly feel very much alone.
"We'll keep listening for you."
She smiled bravely, but there was suspicious moisture in her eyes.
"Crusher out."

 

 

 

As Jean-Luc slowly rose to consciousness, he felt the pounding in his head and the unpleasant taste in his mouth that told him he had been given a particularly potent sedative. Knowing it was unlikely Beverly would have done such a thing, he attempted to lift his head, only to find he was under a restraining field.
Looking around as best he could, he realised he was on a shuttle. Summoning a gravelly voice, he called out, wincing at the pain in his head.
"T'Krel?"
He heard movement and within seconds the Vulcan was at his side. She took out a tricorder and scanned him.
"You are in pain; I will give you something to relieve it."
There was silence between them as she injected him with a hypospray. He tried to catch her eyes but she refused to look at his face. Frustrated, he muttered,
"Why am I restrained?"
T'Krel sat on the bunk beside him and looked at him for the first time.
"You have not been thinking clearly, Jean-Luc. I am taking you to a place that will help you. Once you are well again, we can get married and you will be happy once again."
Recognising the signs of mental instability in his captor, Jean-Luc said mildly,
"What would make me happy would be if you took me back to Gault. You know by now my happiness lies with Beverly Crusher. It always has."
T'Krel's eyes took on a dark tinge and her dusky green pallor paled with anger.
"That woman is not what you need; Jean-Luc, only I can provide your happiness."
Deciding to see if he could change the subject, Jean-Luc said softly,
"Where are you taking me?"
The Vulcan's anger vanished. She offered an encouraging smile and said lightly,
"Serral IV."
That meant nothing to the Captain, so he asked,
"And what will happen there?"
Her smile never faltered as she delivered the devastating news.
"You will undergo psychotectic therapy to rid you of all your memories of Beverly Crusher. With her gone from your mind, we can go on with our lives together unimpeded."
Shock, followed by dread was quickly replaced by anger. But Jean-Luc knew the person he was dealing with was unhinged. He remained calm as he said mildly,
"I'm sure that is completely unnecessary. Why don't you drop the retraining field and we can talk about it. I'd really like to sit up."
T'Krel scanned him again then shook her head.
"No, your blood pressure is still somewhat low and you are in need of regeneration therapy, which I cannot supply until we reach Serral IV. It would be best if you remained restrained."
Quelling his rising panic, Jean-Luc nodded and managed to offer a wan smile.
"I see. Tell me, T'Krel, how long have you been planning this?"
The Vulcan shrugged, seeming to become a little confused.
"I…I didn't give it a lot of thought. The idea came to me and I decided to act on it."
Jean-Luc nodded slowly.
"How interesting, but don't you think it's illogical? I would have thought the most logical course of action in our situation would have been to talk about it…all three of us, then decide on a course of action."
With a derisive snort, T'Krel glared at her fiancé.
"There was nothing to discuss! You are infatuated with Doctor Crusher; you would have cast me aside and begun a relationship with her!"
With a sigh, Jean-Luc briefly closed his eyes.
"That may be true, but what you are about to do will make me nothing more than your slave…and a mindless one at that."
The Vulcan actually gaped.
"How can you say that, Jean-Luc? With the Crusher woman gone from your memories we will be able to form a long and happy life together. You love me."
His face showing his sadness, Jean-Luc said softly,
"I once thought I did, T'Krel, but I was mistaken. I knew it the moment I saw Beverly again."
He sighed and tried to explain.
"T'Krel, Beverly has been part of my life for over thirty years. How do you think you're going to be able to remove all those years of memories and not leave me severely impaired? You will be removing the very essence of who and what I am."
Abruptly coming to her feet, T'Krel glared down at the man.
"I will not listen to this! You are mine, she cannot have you!"
As she stalked back to the cockpit, Jean-Luc called out,
"Let me go, T'Krel, end this now."
The Vulcan ignored his plea and plonked herself into the pilot's seat. It was then that she noticed the approaching ship.

 

 

 

Deanna didn't mean to gape, in fact she was unaware she was staring open-mouthed at the monitor in her office. The Vulcan man on the screen was calm and serene, in direct contrast to the astonished Betazoid. Regaining her composure somewhat, Deanna snapped her mouth closed and glared.
"Why wasn't this on her records?"
The male tilted his head, his eyes narrowing slightly.
"The Vulcan Mental Health Directorate does not make its patient's notes available unless it can be demonstrated that such a disclosure is necessary."
Deanna tried not to show her exasperation, but it was evident in her voice.
"But you have just told me she is mentally unstable! Why was she deemed fit for duty?"
The Vulcan sighed.
"Doctor T'Krel had undergone extensive treatment at our facility and it was the considered opinion of her physicians that she had overcome her anomalous mental state."
Sitting back in her seat, Deanna rubbed her brow.
"But surely the very fact that she suffered her breakdown in the first place should have made you suspicious that she might succumb again. For a Vulcan to become mentally unstable as a result of the death of a mate is…incomprehensible! Your philosophy recognises death as the inevitable and logical conclusion of life."
Bowing his head slightly, the Vulcan conceded Deanna's point.
"That is so, but it would appear the bond between Doctor T'Krel and her mate was very profound. It is also possible she carried a genetic trait for this kind of instability. Among my people, it is not unknown, although it is extremely rare, for some unfortunate individuals to carry a recessive gene that gives the propensity to suffer from instability. It manifests as the increasing inability to think logically and the almost obsessive single mindedness when in pursuit of a goal."
Deanna's eyes blazed as her voice became brittle.
"Doctor T'Krel has kidnapped Captain Jean-Luc Picard and is, at present, on her way to Serral IV to force him to undergo psychotectic therapy. She has done this because he has broken off their engagement to rekindle a long standing relationship with Doctor Beverly Crusher."
The Vulcan sat up, his face grim.
"What is being done to stop her?"
Deanna sighed.
"Doctor Crusher is in pursuit. She is piloting a superior craft and possesses superior piloting skills. She should be able to bring the shuttle to a halt without too much trouble."
Leaning forward, the Vulcan said softly,
"You cannot assist her?"
Deanna shook her head.
"No. The Enterprise was badly damaged and is at present in orbit of Gault, making enough repairs so we can get to a Starbase to complete the work."
The Vulcan sat back, obviously very worried.
"T'Krel must be stopped, but I doubt your Doctor Crusher will be able to do it. Can you send me their flight path?"
"Yes."
"I will dispatch a team to their location immediately. The VMHD will take T'Krel into their care."
Sadness filled Deanna as she said softly,
"Do you think you can help her?"
The male's face remained emotionless, but his eyes showed sorrow.
"Considering this is the second and subsequently worse episode of mental instability in Doctor T'Krel I have my doubts that we will be able to completely heal her."
Deanna bowed her head.
"What will happen to her then?"
The Vulcan's voice was sad as he said quietly,
"She will be confined to a mental health facility."
Deanna looked up, surprised.
"I was unaware such things existed on Vulcan."
"It is not something we advertise, Counsellor. Mental instability in Vulcans is very rare and subsequently, very difficult to treat."
The Betazoid sighed with sympathy.
"Will you keep me apprised of her condition and progress?"
The male bowed his head.
"I will, but I must ask you to keep in mind patient confidentiality. What you learn may never be disclosed."
Deanna gave a nod.
"You have my word, both as a psychologist and as a Starfleet officer."
The Vulcan slowly bowed his head.
"Send the coordinates, we will leave immediately."
Deanna smiled, saying,
"Will do, Troi out."

 

 

 

The speed of the Calypso was easily outstripping the shuttle. Taking a deep, calming breath, Beverly opened a channel.
"Crusher to T'Krel."
She waited some seconds and, when there was no reply, she repeated,
"Crusher to T'Krel. Respond please."
When there was again no response, Beverly gritted her teeth and said with obvious anger,
"T'Krel, if you do not respond immediately, I will open fire and disable your vessel."
On the display in front of her, Beverly noted the shuttle raised shields and armed weapons. With a sigh, Beverly did the same, but she persisted in her efforts to communicate.
"T'Krel, you must know I have superior shields and weapons. You can't outrun me or out manoeuvre me. Drop out of warp and lower your shields."
She waited, watching for any change in her quarry's course or speed and was startled when the comm. system came to life.
"If you try to board me, I will kill Picard."
Tabbing off the comm. system, Beverly said with urgency,
"Computer, can you identify the bio signs of Captain Jean-Luc Picard?"
"Yes."
"What are they?"
"Captain Picard's blood pressure is low and his cardio/pulmonary system is under stress. He requires medical attention."
Her hands fisted, Beverly spat,
"Beam him to the Calypso!"
"Unable to comply. Captain Picard is under a restraining field."
Uttering a particularly vulgar Klingon curse, Beverly said roughly,
"Then beam the Vulcan female aboard."
"Unable to comply. There is a dampening field present within the target vehicle."
Beverly slammed her fist down on the console, shouting,
"FUCK!"
She then took a deep breath and said with remarkable calm,
"Computer, target phasers to disable shields and weapons on the target vehicle and fire when ready."
The chirrup of compliance was ignored as Beverly dispassionately watched the bright orange beams lance out from the calypso to impact on several targets on the shuttle. The little ship shuddered, the suddenly dropped out of warp. Ready for such an event, Beverly immediately brought the Calypso out of warp. The shuttle, trailing vapour from one of her nacelles, staggered to a halt, listing slightly to port. Giving a satisfied nod, Beverly opened a channel.
"As you can see, T'Krel, I mean what I say. You are now dead in the water and I can take out your long range communication array if I so choose. Stop this…let me come aboard to see Jean-Luc; I know he needs medical attention, attention you can't give him."
Beverly scowled as she could see the channel was open and the transmission received, but she was greeted with nothing but silence. She was about to try again when the computer chimed.
"Incoming communiqué from the Enterprise."
Distracted, Beverly switched channels and knew immediately by the grim look on her best friend's face that something was wrong.
"Deanna?"
The petite Counsellor leaned forward and tried to keep the panic out of her voice.
"Beverly I have just been in contact with the VMHD and what I have learned is very disturbing."
"Can you tell me?"
Deanna sighed, briefly closing her eyes.
"Under the current circumstances, I think you have a right to know of T'Krel's past, but I will not be able to tell you about what may happen in the future."
Beverly gave a curt nod.
"I understand."
With a sad sigh, Deanna clasped her hands on her lap.
"You are aware of the effect on T'Krel over the death of her bond mate."
Beverly nodded.
"Yes, it had a profound affect on her."
Deanna grimaced.
"It turns out it was even worse than we were led to believe. She became increasingly erratic and was eventually treated for a mental breakdown. The Doctor I spoke to also told me it is possible she carries a recessive gene that gives her the propensity to this irrationality. Two of the manifestations are illogical thought patterns and obsessive compulsions. Sound familiar?"
Rubbing her brow, Beverly struggled to come to grips with what she'd been told.
"So how was she allowed to re-enter the medical profession? She's been a practising psychiatrist for years."
Deanna sighed again.
"She was deemed to be cured. It wasn't until I alerted the Directorate of the current situation that they realised she had relapsed."
Growing angry, Beverly slapped her thigh.
"So what the hell am I supposed to do? She has Jean-Luc in a restraining field, preventing me from beaming him off the shuttle and she's got a dampening field in place to protect herself. And I know Jean-Luc needs medical help."
With a shrug, Deanna's worried look belied her racing thoughts.
"I don't know what to say, Beverly. You are dealing with a woman who is, to all intents and purposes, insane and quite capable of perpetrating any irrational act she thinks of."
The red head held up her hands to illustrate her words.
"She's already threatened to kill Jean-Luc if I board the shuttle."
Deanna sat back, running her hands through her hair.
"You're going to have to play this very carefully, Beverly. Talking to her will be almost useless; she's well past seeing reason."
A thought suddenly entered Beverly's mind.
"What if I get her to focus on me, instead of Jean-Luc?"
Confused, Deanna asked,
"How?"
"Make her angry with me."
Fear skittered across Deanna's face, widening her obsidian eyes.
"Do you realise just how dangerous that would be?"
Beverly shrugged.
"If I can get her to forget about Jean-Luc for a few minutes, I might have enough time to beam over and get him."
Deanna's gaze hardened.
"And she might kill you the second you rematerialise."
Beverly had made up her mind.
"It's my only hope, Dee. She is unhinged and obsessed with Jean-Luc. I have to find a way to distract her and I think getting her angry with me will do it."
Deanna could see the truth in what Beverly was saying, but her fear for her friend's safety made her protest.
"But, Beverly, she is so much stronger than you! Even with a weapon you would be at a disadvantage."
Beverly's gaze strayed to the crippled craft so tantalisingly close, knowing the man she loved was being held prisoner inside it. Taking a deep breath, she gritted her teeth.
"I have to do this, Dee."
The two women looked at each other until Deanna lowered her eyes.
"Be very careful, Beverly."
Summoning a wry smile, Beverly sent her friend a wink.
"I can look after myself, don't worry."
As Deanna leaned forward she made sure Beverly could see her love.
"You contact me as soon as it's over."
Trying to keep her smile confident, Beverly couldn't stop the tears welling in her eyes.
"I promise."
"Enterprise out."
Needing a few moments to compose herself, Beverly sat back, her gaze intent on the shuttle. After a minute or two, she opened a channel.
"T'Krel, I am really surprised you never saw how much Jean-Luc loved me."
There was no reply, so Beverly continued.
"Everybody knew, it was common knowledge. We had quite a fling too, lots of really good sex. Did he ever do that thing, you know, that thing with his tongue with you? My God, that used to drive me wild. He was the best lover I'd ever had. Sometimes we'd…"
The overhead speakers came to life.
"You left him! He wanted more and you threw his love away! Then you left the Enterprise and never returned, causing him to have a breakdown! You don't deserve a man like Jean-Luc!"
Beverly smiled coldly.
"And you do? Look what happened the second he found out I was alive. He abandoned you on your wedding day! He loves me, T'Krel, he always has and I have come to realise I love him. You know what bond-mates are. That's what he and I are…bond-mates."
The shriek that came through the speakers carried the unmistakable sound of insanity.
"NO! He is MY bond-mate! He loves me!"
Keeping her voice very matter-of-fact, Beverly said calmly,
"No he doesn't, T'Krel, his heart, his mind belongs to me, they always have."
Over the speakers, Beverly could hear the sounds of things being thrown around the inside of the craft. T'Krel screamed,
"I am going to kill you!"
Hefting the phaser she had taken from the weapons locker, Beverly struggled to keep her voice calm.
"You can try, T'Krel, but I doubt you'll succeed. Jean-Luc and I were always destined to be together, you have no part in his life."
There was an eerie silence of a few seconds before the sound of a transporter could be heard. Beverly raised the phaser as T'Krel materialised in the living area. Coming from the cockpit, Beverly was about to tell T'Krel to stay put, when the enraged Vulcan lunged across the room. Beverly fired once and hit T'Krel, but the stun setting didn't work. Beyond reason, beyond control, T'Krel's body slammed into Beverly's, driving her to the deck, the phaser dislodged from her hand. T'Krel recovered her balance and straddled the red head, her hands going to Beverly's throat. Beverly gripped T'Krel's hands, trying to break her grip, but as she looked up into the insanity lurking in the Vulcan's eyes she knew she would never be able to overpower her. As oxygen deprivation began to grey her vision, Beverly reached up and dug her fingers deeply into T'Krel's eyes with all her waning strength. T'Krel screamed and green blood emerged from the corners of her eyes. Her grip loosened and Beverly managed to wrench her hands from her neck and, with what remained of her strength, Beverly shoved T'Krel sideways and rolled free, but as she struggled to her hands and knees, a boot connected solidly with her cheekbone. Stars exploded in her vision, her head spinning, but before she could recover, T'Krel aimed another kick, this one into Beverly's stomach. With all the air driven from her lungs, Beverly rolled onto her back, her blurred vision just clear enough to see the final blow approaching. The savage kick to Beverly's head rendered her unconscious and opened a nasty laceration on her scalp. The mad Vulcan stood over Beverly, her face oddly tranquil. Whether or not she thought Beverly was dead was irrelevant. She needed to get back to the shuttle and beam Jean-Luc over to the Calypso so she could continue her journey to Serral IV.
In a dispassionate voice she said softly,
"Computer, one to beam to the shuttle."
Within seconds of T'Krel's departure, Beverly woke. She rolled to her side, retching painfully and needing to wipe away the blood that flowed over her face. Instinctively knowing that T'Krel was gone, Beverly got to her hands and knees and crawled across the room to find the phaser. Luckily she found it quickly. Utilising some furniture to regain her footing, she said shakily,
"Computer, one to beam to the shuttle."
It took a few seconds to orient herself, but the scream of rage soon had Beverly backing away from the mad woman. T'Krel advanced on Beverly, her teeth bared. Aiming the phaser, Beverly upped the intensity and said with as much force as she could muster,
"Stay where you are!"
T'Krel let out a growl and, in the small confines of the shuttle, attacked the red head. Beverly fired, but she was off balance, the beam hitting T'Krel's shoulder. The Vulcan screamed in both agony and rage and lowered her head, charging Beverly and hitting her in her already damaged midsection. Both women tumbled to the floor, but this time, Beverly kept hold of the phaser. Unable to get a clear shot, she instead brought it down repeatedly on T'Krel's head, bringing green blood to flow from several wounds. Suddenly T'Krel broke her grip of Beverly and quickly got to her feet, once again kicking the helpless Doctor. First, Beverly rolled into a ball, unwilling to expose herself to take a shot with the phaser, but the kicks were so many and so painful that she began to crawl across the small area, looking for some protection.
As if from a great distance she heard Jean-Luc call,
"The restraining field, Beverly, deactivate it!"
Taking a quick look, Beverly could see she was only a meter away from the control pad on the wall. Still being savagely kicked, Beverly made her way to the bulkhead, then gritted her teeth, as she knew what she was about to do was going to expose her to severe punishment.
Keeping her back to her assailant, Beverly slowly got to her feet and deactivated the restraining field. In the mere seconds it took for her to achieve that, T'Krel smashed her fists into Beverly's kidneys, driving the human to her knees. As she moaned loudly, T'Krel delivered a round-house kick to Beverly's unprotected head. She slumped sideways, the phaser falling from her hand.
T'Krel was bending to pick up the phaser when Jean-Luc hit her from behind. With little strength, all he could do was wrap his arms around the Vulcan and cause her to over balance. They both fell to the floor and T'Krel quickly began to free herself from under Jean-Luc. He saw the phaser and grabbed the hand that held it, but she was far too strong for him. With a savage back-hand, she knocked him senseless and was rising to her knees when Beverly managed to kick her in the stomach. As the Vulcan doubled over, Beverly wrenched the phaser out of her hand and fired at point-blank range.
On setting twelve, T'Krel was driven back across the small space, slamming into the aft hatch. Beverly paused only long enough to make sure she was truly unconscious before she knelt beside the man she loved. Cradling his head in her hands, she sniffed back tears to say urgently,
"Jean-Luc…talk to me!"
He opened his eyes and frowned as Beverly's blood dripped onto his face.
"You're hurt."
She smiled lopsidedly and shook her head.
"I'm fine; it's you I'm worried about. How do you feel? Does it hurt to breathe?"
He tried to shake his head, but Beverly almost shouted,
"Tell me!"
He swallowed and gave a slow nod.
"Yes, it hurts to breathe, I feel like there's a great weight in my chest."
Beverly tried to stand, but found she couldn't. Dizziness overcame her and she fell sideways. Jean-Luc attempted to sit up, but failed. He said urgently,
"Beverly! Beverly, are you all right?"
With glazed eyes, Beverly looked at Jean-Luc as tears slipped down her face. She whispered,
"I'm sorry."
Before passing out.
Knowing he had to secure T'Krel, lest she wake and attack them again, Jean-Luc rolled onto his stomach and pulled himself across the room to the security locker. He dragged himself to his knees and opened the locker, taking out two sets of manacles. Then, with painstaking slowness, he made his way to T'Krel and manacled her feet and hands.
He rested for a few moments, fighting off the pain, dizziness and weakness by sheer force of will before he could summon enough voice to say,
"Computer, beam three to the Calypso."
They rematerialised in the living area. With his strength nearly gone, Jean-Luc said roughly,
"Computer, open a channel to the Enterprise."
It was Will who responded.
"Enterprise here. Beverly? Is that you?"
All Jean-Luc could do was lie beside Beverly, sweat covering his face as he panted,
"We need help, Will…quickly."
Alarmed and frustrated, Will said urgently,
"Captain, our warp core is off line, it will take some time to reinitiate it. Set a course for us at maximum warp and we'll meet you if we can. We're still at Gault."
Jean-Luc had to pant for a few seconds before he said weakly,
"Understood."
He swallowed and closed his eyes, willing himself to stay conscious.
"Computer, set course for Gault and engage at maximum warp."
As the chirrup of compliance was heard, Jean-Luc managed to take Beverly's hand and turn his head to look at her. With her face swollen and her eyes blackened, blood covered one side of her face and her vibrant red hair was matted with clotted blood. He felt the ship make the jump to warp and let his head rest on the deck, striving to stay awake.

 

 

 

Will called Deanna immediately and, although it was late in the ship's night cycle, she responded quickly.
"The Captain just contacted us, they need help."
Fear and shock coloured Deanna's voice.
"What can we do?"
Frustration made Will bark,
"At the moment, bloody nothing! Our warp core is cold. I told him to make for us at maximum warp. The computer has identified the call as coming from the Calypso."
"I'll let the VMHD know, they're on their way to intercept them as we speak."
Will grunted, then muttered,
"Don't forget to warn them about the Kalema ion field. If the Calypso is on the far side, they'll never see her."
"Understood. Open a channel to the VMHD will you, I'll take it down here."
Pulling her robe around her, Deanna was pushing back her unruly hair when the same Vulcan male she had spoken to before appeared. She quickly brought him up to date and requested help.
"Our ship is nearing the Kalema ion field. What is the maximum speed of the target ship?"
Deanna had to think for a few seconds.
"Ah…warp nine-point-five, I believe."
The Vulcan Doctor steepled his fingers under his chin.
"Then they will be emerging very soon. I will instruct our ship to look for them."
Deanna sighed with relief.
"Thank you, Doctor. Enterprise out."
She sat back, staring at the ceiling.
"Whatever's happened, come home…we miss you both."

 

 

 

As the Vulcan had predicted, the Calypso emerged from the far side of the ion field just as the Vulcan ship entered the area. The Captain of the ship, N'Rell, opened a channel.
"Calypso, this is the Vulcan runabout Ferrun. What is your status?"
Jean-Luc opened his eyes; suddenly realising he had dozed off. Sending a quick glance at Beverly and grimacing at how very pale she was, he summoned his gravelly voice.
"We require help."
"Your ship is travelling too fast for us, reduce speed to full impulse."
Panting and finding it increasingly difficult to breathe, Jean-Luc swallowed and said with as much volume as he could muster,
"Computer, decrease speed to full impulse."
He was about to acknowledge the Vulcan's request when a cold voice behind him made him turn his head.
"I will kill you both."
T'Krel was on her knees, green blood covering one side of her face. Charred material and flesh gave off a sickly aroma as the phaser blast impact blackened the front of her uniform. She leaned forward and began to make her way to Jean-Luc and Beverly. Her altered voice gave no resemblance to the woman he had known.
"The woman I can understand, she was deluded, but you, Jean-Luc, you betrayed me. I will make you pay for that."
She made quick work of covering the short distance between then and rose up on her knees, her manacled hands raised above her head.
"We would have been happy, you and I. Now you will have to die."
She brought the metal manacles down on Jean-Luc's face, shattering his nose. He howled in agony as she hit him again. Semi conscious, he was remotely aware of the cold steel being pressed against his throat. His last thought as consciousness fled was,
"I'm so sorry I couldn't save you, Beverly."
He never heard the whine of the transporter, nor the quick but efficient tussle that separated T'Krel from Jean-Luc. The hiss of a hypospray sent the insane woman into deep unconsciousness.
While two Vulcan medics began to treat Jean-Luc and Beverly, a third went to the cockpit and contacted their ship.
"Captain N'Rell we have the situation under control; however both Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher are in urgent need of medical attention. I suggest I utilise the superior speed of this craft to get them to the Enterprise."
"Acknowledged, proceed. We will meet with you when we arrive."
"Yes, Sir, Calypso out."

 

 

 

 

The drumming of Will's fingers on the arm of the Command chair was beginning to irritate the Ensign at Tactical. He sighed, wishing he could do something, anything to get the ship moving. The call from engineering made him jump.
"LaForge to Bridge."
Will sat up, his fugue vanished.
"Riker here, Geordi, go ahead."
"We're up and running, Commander. I can give you warp three, but only for a few hours."
Will nodded, the said brusquely,
"Understood. Helm, break orbit and set course for the Calypso, warp three."
"Aye, Sir."
"Engage. Tactical, open a channel to the Vulcan ship in pursuit of the Calypso."
"Aye, Sir."
The image of a Vulcan male appeared on then screen.
"Enterprise, I am Captain N'Rell."
Will nodded.
"Commander William Riker. Have you found the Calypso?"
"Yes, Commander. The ship is at present on course for your ship at maximum warp. Both Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher are in need of medical assistance. We have medics aboard, but they are unqualified for the level of assistance your crewmates require. "
Will grunted, but nodded his understanding.
"What about T'Krel?"
"She has been rendered deeply unconscious, but is still aboard the Calypso. I suggest you place her under custody once the ship arrives."
Will's usually bright blue eyes darkened with anger, but he kept control.
"We are at present on course to intercept the Calypso in approximately two hours."
The Vulcan bowed his head.
"Then you will wish to contact them. I wish you well, Commander, N'Rell out."
As Will turned to the Ensign at Tactical, the young man nodded, saying,
"Opening a channel now, Sir."
The Vulcan male who appeared on the screen might have been young, but with his species, it was hard to tell. Will didn't bother with pleasantries.
"This is the Enterprise. We're on route to intercept you in just under two hours."
"Understood, we have you on long range sensors. Request you transport Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher as soon as you are within range."
Will shook his head.
"No can do, our transporters are off line. When you are within one hundred thousand kilometres of us, drop to full impulse and we will do the same. It should be just a matter of minutes until we meet, then we'll send a shuttle."
"Understood, Enterprise. May I speak with your CMO?"
With a motion of his hand, Will had the call transferred. Doctor Selar was in her office.
"Selar here, how may I be of assistance?"
The Vulcan sent the readouts of both Jean-Luc and Beverly. He sat back, his usually serene face troubled.
"I am not fully cognizant with human physiognomy. These humans are dangerously ill and we do not know what to do to help them."
After studying the information, Selar gathered her thoughts.
"Both require assistance to breathe and both need urgent intravenous fluids. Have you saline on hand?"
The male nodded.
"Yes."
"Doctor Crusher is bleeding internally and has a fractured skull, amongst other things. Captain Picard's left lung has collapsed and his blood pressure is dangerously low. Do you know how to reinflate a human lung?"
The male nodded.
"I believe so."
"Then do so, immediately. Then begin intravenous fluids."
"Understood."
The Vulcan turned and issued some orders before returning his attention to the screen.
"It is being done."
Selar nodded.
"Good. Keep sending me a continuous stream of their conditions. I will monitor them from here."
"Understood, Doctor."
Apart from one crisis with Beverly, not much else happened until Will, sitting tensely on the Bridge, heard,
"This is the Calypso. We are within one hundred thousand kilometres. We have dropped to full impulse."
Coming to his feet, Will barked,
"Helm, drop to full impulse. Shuttle Bay Two, this is the Bridge. Are you ready?"
"Aye, Commander."
"Prepare to launch."
"Yes, Sir."
Will retook his seat and ran a nervous hand through his beard.
"Once you're clear of the ship, make for the Calypso at best speed. You are authorised to make a micro jump to warp one to shorten the time."
"He could hear the nervousness in the young woman's voice as she replied,
"Ah…yes, Sir."
Tense seconds passed before Tactical reported,
"Shuttle launched."
Will sigh, rubbing his gritty eyes.
"Can we track them?"
The Ensign at the con nodded.
"Yes, Sir, they will be within our reduced sensor range."
Giving a grunt of wry satisfaction, will said softly,
"On screen."
He watched as the shuttle suddenly made the micro jump. It came out of warp only seven hundred kilometres away from the Calypso.
The Vulcans hailed the little craft.
"We have prepared the dorsal airlock."
The Lieutenant smiled, trying to appear unruffled.
"Thank you, Calypso, docking in…two minutes, eight seconds."
"Understood, we are ready, the patients are prepared for transfer."
"Acknowledged."
The humans on the shuttle felt the slight bump as the connection was made. There was as a slight hiss as the exchange of atmosphere was made and the ladder extended.
Lieutenant Davidson looked down into the face of a Vulcan male. He offered a smile, but the Vulcan remained stoic.
"We have the patients secured in stretchers. The Vulcan Doctor has been rendered deeply unconscious and is restrained. She will not wake for several hours."
Davidson nodded.
"Right, let's get them aboard."
Moments later, and mostly because of the superior strength of the Vulcans, Jean-Luc, Beverly and T'Krel were aboard the shuttle. Nothing more was said as the ensign at the helm called,
"The Enterprise is here."
The Lieutenant and a nurse were securing their patients as the senior officer looked up and said,
"Then get us to her, ASAP."
Will and Selar were waiting in the shuttle bay, the big human pacing, the stoic Vulcan standing motionlessly as the shuttle broke through the protective barrier and entered the bay. Behind the two officers was a team of medical personnel. As soon as the hatch opened, the team swung into action. Gravi beds were brought forward and Jean-Luc and Beverly were gently placed on them, then whisked off to Sick Bay. T'Krel was also placed on a litter, scanned and then taken to the detention cells.
As will walked briskly along with the team through the corridors, he almost snarled as Selar said quietly,
"T'Krel requires medical assistance."
He grunted, barely keeping the anger out of his voice.
"You can see to her once the Captain and Beverly have been treated."
Keeping her emotions and her opinions to herself, Selar merely said softly,
"Yes, Commander."
Once in Sick Bay, the well-oiled efficiency of the personnel swung into action. Will could only stand to one side and watch as his friends were scanned, then rushed off to surgery. The call from the Bridge was unwanted and he almost refused to respond, but his ingrained sense of duty won out. He slapped his comm. badge, barking,
"Riker here!"
"Ensign Henderson, Sir."
He clearly heard the hesitancy in the young woman's voice and he sighed, saying more quietly,
"It's all right, Ensign, what is it?"
"The Calypso is being docked, Sir, and the Vulcan ship is approaching. Captain N'Rell would like to speak with you."
Will sighed again, took one more look towards the surgery suite and turned, making his way to Selar's office.
"Put the call through to the CMO's office, I'll take it there."
"Understood, Commander, putting it through now."
Captain N'Rell bowed his head, acknowledging Will's tension.
"May I enquire how your Captain and Doctor are?"
Will sighed and sat back in his seat.
"They are both undergoing surgery at the moment, but the prognosis is good."
"That is gratifying, Commander. And Doctor T'Krel?"
Will's usually happy blue eyes hardened.
"She is in one of our detention cells. She does need medical treatment, but it has not been deemed urgent."
The Vulcan steepled his fingers under his chin.
"Perhaps I could send some of our medics?"
Seeing the logic in the suggestion, Will nodded.
"That would be helpful, Captain, thank you. I'll have the coordinates of the detention cells sent to you."
The Vulcan bowed his head.
"What are you intentions regarding Doctor T'Krel?"
Will shrugged.
"I'm not certain. She has broken several federation laws, she has acted out of accordance with Starfleet protocols and orders and she has contravened Gault local laws. I will have to sort this out with my superiors, but if what I've been told about her is true, then perhaps the best thing would be to simply take her back to Vulcan for treatment."
N'Rell sighed, briefly closing his eyes.
"It is a very unfortunate situation, Commander, one which the Vulcan High Command does not want made public. May I offer a suggestion?"
Wary, but willing to listen, Will nodded.
"Okay."
"After she has been treated, allow me to beam her to my ship and I will take her back to Vulcan."
Thoughtfully scratching his cheek, Will leaned back, studying the man before him.
"She is a Starfleet officer, Captain."
"I am aware of that, Commander, but what good can come from making her face a court martial? She is severely mentally impaired…any practitioner of jurisprudence would certainly use that fact in her defence. I doubt she would ever be punished for her actions."
Again, the logic hit Will like a hammer and he had a sudden desire to get the Vulcan woman off his ship. He gave the male on the screen a measuring look, then slowly nodded.
"Agreed."
"Then we may take her?"
Will nodded, saying brusquely,
"Yes, you can take her any time you wish."
Again bowing his head, the Vulcan laid his hands flat on his desktop.
"I will send a team to treat her. She will need to be conscious to be transported as part of her treatment."
Quickly tiring of the entire situation, Will grunted.
"To be frank, Captain, I don't care. Just get her off the ship."
"As you wish Commander. I await the coordinates."
Will lifted his head, saying with some force,
"Riker to Bridge."
The nervous Ensign answered,
"Henderson here, Commander."
"Send the coordinates of the detention cells to the Vulcan ship."
"Aye, Sir, sending."
N'Rell's eyes slid sideways and he gave one curt nod.
"Received, Commander, thank you."
Will's expression was grim as he muttered,
"Enterprise out."

 

 

 

As Will waited impatiently in Sick Bay for news of his friends, two Vulcan medics arrived at the detention cells. At the behest of the senior officer, the force field was lowered and they entered. While T'Krel was unconscious her burns were treated and the manacles around her feet removed. She was then given a counter-agent for the drug she'd been rendered unconscious with.
She opened her eyes slowly, looking around her cell. The medics allowed her to sit up.
"I am on the Enterprise."
The senior medic gave a short nod.
"That is correct."
T'Krel seemed to give that some thought.
"I take it Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher survived?"
"Yes."
She sighed and lowered her eyes.
"I am gratified."
Standing each side of the Doctor, each medic gripped an elbow, lifting her to her feet.
"You are to be transported to our ship, where you will be taken back to Vulcan for treatment."
T'Krel nodded, but then hesitated.
"May I be taken to Sick Bay? I wish to say goodbye to me former fiancé."
The senior officer shook his head.
"That would not be possible. Your presence is required on our ship."
T'Krel turned to look into his eyes.
"I am aware my behaviour has been…erratic…and I wish to apologise to those whom I have victimised. I ask you as one Vulcan to another, please allow me to say goodbye to the man I was to marry."
Knowing the profundity of the bonding ritual, the Vulcan male hesitated, then gave a curt nod.
"Very well, as long as we accompany you."
T'Krel bowed her head.
"That is acceptable."
With her hands still manacled in front of her, T'Krel was led through the corridors, on her way to Sick Bay.

 

 

 

Deanna had arrived and was with Will in Selar's office when the Doctor came in to report. Will was on his feet immediately.
"How are they?"
Selar took her seat behind her desk and placed her hands on the desktop.
"They are both in recovery, their injuries healed."
Will and Deanna both let out a breath neither knew they had been holding. It was Deanna who asked,
"Prognosis?"
Selar tilted her head, one perfect eyebrow raised.
"I expect them both to make a complete recovery and I foresee no future problems associated with this situation."
Will's grin was radiant, but it soon disappeared as a nurse came in and said,
"I beg your pardon, Doctor, but two Vulcan medics have brought Doctor T'Krel into Sick Bay. She wishes to see Captain Picard."
Shaking his head vehemently, Will snarled,
"No way! That fruitcake should have been beamed aboard the Vulcan ship immediately!"
Deanna, grimacing at the term 'fruitcake', gripped Will's arm and said quietly,
"I take it she is under guard?"
The nurse nodded.
"Yes, and restrained."
The Betazoid then turned to Selar.
"Are Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher conscious?"
The Doctor shook her head.
"Not fully. They are in twilight sedation, but will react to stimuli."
Nodding thoughtfully, Deanna said softly,
"Like a voice?"
Selar nodded.
"Yes."
Turning to her outraged lover, Deanna looked into his eyes and let him see the depths of her feelings.
"She needs to say goodbye, Will. In all probability she will never see the Captain again."
Still angry, but seeing Deanna's point of view, Will turned to Selar.
"What do you think?"
The Vulcan Doctor's eyes were resolute.
"I believe the Counsellor is correct. The drug Doctor T'Krel received to sedate her would have had a calming effect upon her. It is highly likely she is thinking quite clearly now."
The big man ran a hand through his beard.
"So you don't think she's dangerous?"
Selar shook her head.
"No, not at the moment, however in the long term that will change."
Will considered for only a few seconds before letting out a plosive breath.
"All right then."
Together the three officers went out into Sick Bay to see the two Vulcan guards and their charge. Will walked up to T'Krel and said tersely,
"You can have five minutes, not a second longer."
T'Krel nodded silently as the nurse directed them to Jean-Luc's private room. Will, Deanna and Selar went to wait by Beverly's side. Once inside, T'Krel stood silently, looking down at the sleeping man. Being a touch telepath, she lifted her hands and very lightly touched Jean-Luc's left hand. She closed her eyes, lest her guards see her anguish. Even in sleep, Jean-Luc's thoughts were for Beverly.
Turning to the senior guard, she said softly,
"May I have a few moments alone?"
Mistaking her request as one of a bond mate wishing to say goodbye to a fellow bond mate, the guard cast a quick look at his companion and gave a small nod.
"We will be just outside."
Once alone, T'Krel spoke quietly.
"Can you hear me, Jean-Luc?"
Sluggishly his eyes opened. Confused, he lazily looked around, trying to get his bearings. While he was waking up, T'Krel went to the replicator, softly saying,
"One laser scalpel."
Her appearance at his side made Jean-Luc tense. He summoned a husky, gravelly voice.
"T'Krel?"
She lifted her manacled hands and activated the scalpel before drawing it across her own throat. As her green blood spurted out of the ghastly wound, she smiled down at Jean-Luc and dropped her hands, beginning to cut his throat. He shouted, but his larynx was severed. It was enough, however, with the Vulcan's sensitive hearing, to summon the guards. Just as the medical alarm sounded, one of the guards reached T'Krel and delivered a Vulcan nerve pinch, rendering her unconscious. Selar rushed into the room, the urgency of the situation evident in her raised voice.
"I require a trauma team in Captain Picard's room, STAT!"
While one of the Vulcan medics tried to staunch the flow of blood from T'Krel's neck wound, Selar was trying the same thing on Jean-Luc. The sudden appearance of Alyssa Ogawa at Selar's side with super absorbent packs made the job easier as the Vulcan Doctor began to seal the severed blood vessels. Another team arrived to work on T'Krel, her blood loss making her greenish skin sickly pale.
Unaware that the other team had removed T'Krel from the room, Selar heard Will's voice from behind her.
"That mad bitch! My God…she never gives up, does she."
Quick and exceptional work soon had Jean-Luc's wound closed. His eyes showing his distress, he tried to talk, but Selar put her finger on his lips, shaking her head.
"No, Captain, you must not talk. Your larynx has been severed and I must take you to surgery to complete the repair. You will require regeneration treatments on it; you will be without your voice for at least two days."
He nodded his understanding as he was being taken from the room. Selar paused by Will and Deanna as all three watched their Captain being guided into the surgery suite.
"It was fortunate Captain Picard was able to alert the guards when he did. T'Krel was unable to completely sever both sides of his neck. If she had, he may well have died of massive blood loss before I could save him."
Will turned to look at the team working on T'Krel.
"What are her chances?"
Casting a look at her gory hands, Selar said almost matter –of –factly,
"Quite good, actually. Vulcans cope much better with massive blood loss than humans do. Our bodily systems close down non-essential organs to minimise damage."
Will grunted angrily, muttering,
"What a pity."
He then turned his attention back to Selar.
"The absolute second that woman is fit to transport, I want her beamed off this ship!"
Selar bowed her head.
"I will tell my Second in Command."
As Selar went to speak with one of the other Doctors, Deanna gently took Will's hand.
"We should be with Beverly; she's going to need us when she wakes up."
Still angry, Will took a deep breath, held it for a second or two, then let it out slowly. He looked down into Deanna's fathomless eyes and nodded.
Together they went to their friend and colleague.

 

 

 

Beverly knew before she opened her eyes that she was in the Enterprise Sick Bay. Far too many years of service in that facility had made her intimately aware of the sounds and smells of her former habitat. She took a deep, steady breath through her nose and detected the faint, but unmistakable scent of lilacs, Deanna's favourite perfume. Her small smile brought a soft and lyrical voice near her right side.
"How do you feel?"
Opening her eyes, Beverly looked into her best friend's eyes and her smile widened.
"I'm okay."
Her memory kicked into gear and her smile disappeared. She struggled to sit up, but two large hands gently pushed her back down. Will bent over Beverly, his hands on her shoulders.
"You stay put."
Shaking her head and beginning to feel frantic, Beverly all but shouted,
"Jean-Luc!"
Deanna took Beverly's hand, saying softly,
"He's in surgery at the moment, but he's going to be fine."
Some of the tension left the Doctor and Will removed his hands. Beverly turned her head from side to side, looking around the main Sick Bay area, but not seeing what she sought. She looked up at Deanna, a frown on her face.
"T'Krel?"
Will's expression soured, but before he could say anything inflammatory, Deanna quickly told Beverly all that had occurred, including the latest assault. The red head's blue eyes darkened in anger, her hands fisting.
"Where is she now?"
It was Will who said with some distaste,
"In surgery, but the minute she's deemed fit to move, she's out of here. I have given orders that she's to be beamed to the Vulcan ship as soon as possible."
A half an hour had passed since Jean-Luc had been taken into the surgery suite and Selar's appearance at Beverly's bedside made the human Doctor ask urgently,
"How is Captain Picard?"
Selar, serene as always, merely tilted her head as she replied,
"He is doing very well. I have repaired the damage to his larynx and, once he undergoes intensive regeneration therapy over the next two days, I expect him to fully regain his voice with no detriment."
Sighing with relief, Beverly then asked,
"When can I see him?"
Selar gave that some thought.
"Do you feel strong enough to walk a short distance?"
Beverly nodded enthusiastically.
"Yes."
The Vulcan pursed her lips.
"Then as long as you allow Commanders Riker and Troi to assist you, you may go to the Captain's private room and spend a few minutes with him."
Beverly was happy, but confused.
"Thank you, Selar, but I don't think I need any help."
Selar sighed.
"Doctor Crusher, you have suffered several serious injuries, including a fractured skull. Once you get to your feet you will experience dizziness and nausea. I will medicate you, but I wish to keep you as drug free as possible so I will not be giving you a high dose, however, the medication will make you feel a little disorientated."
Knowing exactly what Selar meant, Beverly nodded slowly.
"Oh, I see. Very well, I accept your proposal and I will allow the assistance of my friends."
She began to sit up and Will and Deanna immediately went to her aid. As predicted, as soon as Beverly stood she swayed a little and let out a small moan. The hiss of the hypospray made her smile her appreciation.
"Thank you, that feels much better."
The walk was indeed a slow one but it gave Selar the opportunity to say,
"Captain Picard will wake if you speak to him, but he will not be able to reply to anything you say vocally. He is not to use his voice for the next two days."
Beverly was slowly nodding her understanding as they entered Jean-Luc's room. As soon as she saw him, tears sprung into Beverly's eyes. Deanna sent Will a look of sympathy and the big man caught on. He said softly,
"Would you like to be alone for a little while?"
Beverly's lopsided smile of appreciation made Will's heart swell with affection for his remarkable friend. Once Will, Deanna and Selar were convinced Beverly was steady enough to stand alone, they left.
Beverly remained silent for a few minutes, taking the opportunity to just drink in the image of the man she loved. Then, with great gentleness, she took his hand and said softly,
"Jean-Luc?"

 

 

 

Will was going to wait with Deanna just outside the door, but Selar said quietly,
"Commander, may I see you in my office please?"
Casting a curious look Deanna's way, the First Officer nodded.
"Of course."
As usual, once they were inside the office, Selar took her seat behind her desk and invited Will to sit. She clasped her hands on the desktop and surprised Will by actually hesitating somewhat. Eventually she seemed to gather her thoughts enough to begin.
"Commander, I am going to request a transfer from this ship."
Shocked, Will sat back, looking at Selar as if seeing her for the first time.
"Doctor, you must be aware that the post of CMO on the Flag ship is a most prestigious position. If you leave I can't guarantee you will ever get it back."
The Vulcan bowed her head.
"Yes, Commander, I am aware of that."
Will sat back, his mind racing.
"May I ask why?"
Selar's expression was interesting. Normally stoic, she exhibited a trace of worry and regret.
"You may not be aware, but I have known Doctor T'Krel for many years, we could be what a human would describe as friends and I have been deeply distressed by her mental impairment. The first time it occurred, I was on the team that worked with her to re-establish her mental discipline. Then our lives took different paths and, although we rarely saw each other, we remained in touch. I was immensely gratified when she became a member of this crew; however her relationship with Captain Picard gave me cause for grave concern. I knew something was wrong when she was not willing to discuss it with me and I admit, I was remiss in not doing something about it then.
"However, that is in the past. My request for a transfer is so I can once again join the team that will be working to try and restore T'Krel to full mental health, although it does seem unlikely that will ever happen, nevertheless, I wish to assist."
As Will sat and considered what Selar had told him, the Vulcan said softly,
"Of course that would leave the way open for Doctor Crusher to return to the Enterprise as CMO if Captain Picard were to offer her the position and she accepted it."
Giving Selar a measuring look, Will sat forward, his gaze intense.
"You're sure about this…you're absolutely sure this is what you want to do?"
Selar stared into Will's eyes and he could see the calm resolve in their depths.
"Yes, Commander, it is what I desire."
Offering a slight smile, Will remarked,
"I will give you a glowing reference and I think Captain Picard will too."
Bowing her head again, Selar accepted the praise with grace.
"Thank you, Sir, that is most gratifying."

 

 

 

At the sound of her voice, Jean-Luc opened his eyes and stared intently into Beverly's. He frowned at seeing her tears and a wave of frustration washed over him as he remembered he couldn't speak. Instead he lifted the hand she held and brought it to his lips, kissing it with great tenderness. Unable to stop herself, Beverly bent and kissed Jean-Luc softly on his lips. She then straightened and summoned a shaky voice.
"I can't stay long; I just want you to know two things. First, I love you…I think I always have. And second, I'm sorry, sorry for what I did to you and what I caused."
Despite his instructions to the contrary, Jean-Luc said with a broken voice,
"I love you Beverly and it's me who should apologise. I…"
She silenced him by putting her fingers on his lips. Wiping away her tears, Beverly bent and kissed him again, whispering in his ear,
"We have a lot to talk about, my love. Be patient, I'm not going anywhere."
He smiled as tears formed in his eyes. They stayed in silence, holding hands until Deanna came in and said softly,
"You really should be getting back to bed now, Beverly."
Jean-Luc tried to sit up, but Beverly gently pushed him back down. She could clearly see the distress in his face and strove to reassure him.
"I'm fine, my love, I'm just recovering, like you. As I grow stronger, I'll come and see you more often, I promise."
Not wanting her to leave, but understanding the reasons why she had to, he lifted her hand again and kissed it. Smiling with love and tenderness, Beverly bent and kissed him again, whispering,
"I love you, Jean-Luc."
They reluctantly released their hands and Jean-Luc watched Beverly leave his room, Deanna gently holding her elbow as she ushered her away from the man she loved.
Once again alone in his room, Jean-Luc was overcome with emotion and one thing kept playing over and over in his mind, bringing untold joy.
"She loves me!"

 

 

 

Over the next two days Beverly did indeed spend more and more time with Jean-Luc. Although there was much she wanted to say, she knew she had to wait until he was able to talk, so that they could discuss everything together. So in the meantime she read to him and chatted about inconsequentialities, hoping to make the time pass more quickly for the impatient man.
Her own recovery was going well, each day she required less and less medication and regen therapy. By the time Jean-Luc was given the all-clear to leave Sick Bay to convalesce in his quarters, Beverly was discharged too.
Even though he was now allowed to talk, Jean-Luc said very little as he and Beverly stood facing Will Riker. The big First Officer smiled down at his CO, giving him his report.
"We'll be here in orbit around Gault for another week, but the repairs are going well. We now have the transporters back on line and the long range sensors are up and running again. It's the warp core that's holding us up. Geordi needs to get it able to sustain at least warp six if we're to get to Starbase 179 to complete the repairs."
Jean-Luc sighed.
"And that will take a week?"
Will nodded.
"Just about."
The Captain lowered his head and Will could see how tired he was. A bad patient at the best of times, Jean-Luc never slept well in Sick Bay. Will cast a look at Beverly and, seeing her concerned expression, adopted a light tone.
"You go to your quarters, Captain, I'll look after everything and I'll keep you apprised of our progress."
Knowing he meant well, but still somewhat disgruntled at being treated like an invalid, Jean-Luc grunted his acceptance of Will's suggestion. Grabbing the opportunity, Beverly gently took Jean-Luc's hand and began to lead him from his room. He allowed it only until they got to the door, then he retrieved his hand, but not before giving Beverly a look that begged her understanding. She smiled and gave it and they walked out of Sick Bay together.

 

 

 

The Vulcan ship had left the day before with T'Krel and Selar on board. Jean-Luc had been notified of the CMO's departure and he was deep in thought as he and Beverly entered his quarters. Sensing his mood, Beverly said quietly,
"You go and sit down; I'll get us both a cup of tea."
He smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes.
"Thank you."
While Beverly was busy at the replicator, Jean-Luc wandered to the viewports and stared out at the stars, vaguely grateful that he couldn't see the planet below. It was the sound of the cups being put on the low table that broke his reverie. He turned to see Beverly seated on the sofa, her expression sad.
She looked up at him and said softly,
"Want to talk about it?"
He sighed as he took his seat beside her and took her hand.
"I don't know where to start."
She offered a small smile, tilted her head to see under his lowered brow and said gently,
"At the beginning?"
He was silent for a while, thoughtfully sipping his tea. He then sighed and gave Beverly his full attention.
"Where did you go when you left the Enterprise?"
Knowing this particular question was coming didn't make it any easier to answer, but Beverly took a deep breath and told Jean-Luc everything. She ended by saying,
"I thought I'd done everything I could to remain anonymous during my short stay at Command. I had no idea I'd been seen by someone who knew me."
Jean-Luc's smile was a wry one.
"Anita Keating."
Shock registered on Beverly's face.
"You've got to be joking! She hasn't been back to Earth in years."
Jean-Luc shrugged.
"Well I bumped into her on my way to see someone else. Oh and by the way, she's Anita Simmons now. She got married."
Beverly rubbed her brow.
"And she saw me?"
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes, but only through a window. It was enough; however, she was certain it was you."
"And she told you."
Jean-Luc reddened and gazed into his now empty teacup.
"She had heard about my upcoming wedding and wanted to get together with you and me to celebrate."
Beverly sat back and stared at the ceiling.
"Ah yes, that."
Jean-Luc cast her an unsettled glance and sighed. Taking pity on him, Beverly took his hand and asked softly,
"Why, Jean-Luc…why marry…and why T'Krel?"
He sighed, closed his eyes and sat back, stretching his legs out in front of him.
"To be honest, I'm not sure. I thought I loved her, I certainly found myself attracted to her and I was willing to commit to her for the rest of my life…until I found out you were alive."
"And then?"
"It all fell apart. As soon as I knew you were alive and I found out where you were I became frantic to get to you, to see you again…to try and rekindle what we once had."
It was Beverly's turn to close her eyes.
"What we had was horrible, Jean-Luc…and it was my fault."
He sighed and squeezed her hand.
"That last eighteen months, maybe, but before that, Beverly…our friendship…that was something I treasured beyond measure."
Tears welled in Beverly's eyes as she said softly,
"Me too. We were best friends, weren't we."
He nodded.
"Yes, and I'd like to think we still are, but Beverly…"
Two tears overflowed his eyes and slid down his face.
"I love you, my heart…and I can't let you go, not from my career or from my life."
She smiled through her tears.
"Then it's a good thing I feel the same, Jean-Luc. What I said in Sick Bay was true, my love, I love you with all of my being, I'm just so ashamed it took me so damned long to realise it."
They kissed tenderly, their tears mingling. The kiss ended and they stayed with their foreheads touching. It was Jean-Luc, who spoke first, softly saying,
"Will you come back to the Enterprise, Beverly, be my CMO?"
Unable to find her voice, all Beverly could do was nod. Jean-Luc took both of her hands in his and whispered,
"And after a suitable courtship, will you marry me, Beverly?"
Still unable to speak, Beverly whispered,
"As long as you make love to me tonight, Jean-Luc…the way you've always wanted to."
His heart too full to speak, he instead showed his love in his kiss. It left them both breathless and yearning for more.
With his large hands firmly gripping hers, he rose to his feet, encouraging her to stand with him. They kissed again and Jean-Luc whispered,
"I adore you, mon coeur."
Nuzzling him under his ear, Beverly murmured,
"I have been waiting for this for a very long time."
He surprised her by chuckling.
"Not as long as I."
Beverly lifted her head to look into the smokiness of his dark hazel eyes and gasped at seeing the depths of his passion swirling there. Her eyes travelled down his body, noticing the bulge in his pants. Raising her eyes to stare into his, she traced one finger over his erection and smiled as he closed his eyes and sighed. She leaned slightly forward, and gently bit his earlobe, whispering,
"I think we've waited long enough."
He responded with another deeply passionate kiss, then took her hand, leading her to his bedroom. Once inside he began to slowly undress her, but she stilled his hands, saying sultrily,
"Let me…you just watch."
He stood, rooted to the spot as Beverly slowly divested herself of her clothing. His eyes roamed over her body, taking in each newly exposed area of skin. It was as if he was seeing her for the first time. Once she was standing in front of him clad in nothing but a peach coloured thong he could stand it no longer. He fell to his knees and buried his face in her crotch, taking a deep breath through his nose, infusing his senses with her intimate scent. Lolling her head back on her neck, Beverly gently drew her fingers over his sensitive scalp as he took each side of the thong and dragged it down her legs. Freeing it from her feet, he tossed it across the room then used the fingers of one hand to spread her labia as he leaned forward to tease her with his tongue.
Beverly moaned as he darted his tongue in and out of her, only to then flick it over her clit. When she felt him slide two, then three fingers inside her she began to tremble as she felt her climax approach. But she wasn't prepared for its intensity. She arched her back, going up onto the balls of her feet as a strangled cry was ripped from her throat. She was pulling Jean-Luc's head hard against her, almost smothering him in her sex.
Somehow he kept up his ministrations, bringing about another orgasm. She lost the ability to stand and, if it wasn't for Jean-Luc's lightning fast reflexes, she would have crashed to the floor. He was on his feet in an instant, taking her in his arms and holding her up.
With her head resting on his shoulder, she moaned his name breathlessly over and over. He gently eased her onto the bed and, before he stripped off his clothing, took a few seconds to stare at her, marvelling at her sensuous beauty. Her alabaster skin was stained a dusky pink and her vibrant red hair was spread over the pillows like a flaming halo.
Once naked, he got onto the bed and lay beside her, kissing her with tender desire while the fingers of his free hand played with her nipples.
She moaned into his mouth as her hand sought his erection. When her fingers closed around his rigid shaft he gasped and groaned sensuously, but when she used her palm to spread his precome over the head he thrust involuntarily into her hand.
He tore his mouth away from hers and descended to her breasts where he lavished each nipple, sucking and nipping until Beverly was squirming with desire.
While his mouth was busy, his hand slothfully slid down her body to slide through her folds, alternatively dipping inside her and sliding over her clit. In retaliation, Beverly began to stroke him making him impossibly harder in her hand.
She knew he was going to bring her to orgasm again, but she also knew he was nearing his limit. With her free hand she coaxed his head up to look into his eyes, whispering,
"Now, Jean-Luc…I want you inside me now."
He swallowed and rose above her, waiting while she spread her legs and bent her knees. Then, with excruciating slowness he entered her with one long stroke.
They both cried out at the heady high of penetration. Beverly reached down and gripped Jean-Luc's buttocks, urging him to move. He pushed into her hard, grinding himself against her, then pulled almost all the way out before plunging back inside her.
She was surprised when he suddenly gasped,
"Oh God…"
And came.
Beverly lifted her hands, hugging him to her, about to whisper that it didn't matter, but he beat her to it, saying urgently,
"It's all right…just give me a minute…I was…overwhelmed."
Sceptical, but willing to oblige, Beverly caressed his back and gently undulated her hips, rhythmically clenching her internal muscles and was stunned when he began to stiffen once again. She could hear the desire in his voice as he said huskily,
"It would take more than one to satiate me with you, my love."
Within scant minutes he was thrusting again, Beverly clinging to him as he filled and stretched her.
As he plunged in and out of her, he insinuated his hands under her shoulders and up to her head, cradling her as he kissed her, his tongue mirroring the actions of his penis.
She could feel his balls slapping against her buttocks and she knew her orgasm was close. He suddenly withdrew one hand and slid it between them, unerringly finding her clit and caressing it. She remembered screaming, but nothing else until she became aware of Jean-Luc gently stroking her face. He was still erect and inside her but was motionless, waiting for her to regain consciousness. Her eyes fluttered open and she smiled dreamily up at her lover. He kissed her and very gently began to thrust again as if in question. She nodded and closed her eyes, giving herself over to the delicious sensations of being made love to by a consummate lover.
He gently encouraged her to wrap her legs around his waist then rolled to his side, still gently thrusting. He used his free hand to play with her nipples and Beverly gasped, almost overcome with sensation. When she began to quicken the movements of her hips, Jean-Luc increased both the speed and intensity of his thrusts. His hand left her breasts and went to her buttocks pulling her to him as he pushed into her hard and fast. Beverly's fingernails dug into the muscles of his back as she suddenly shuddered and flexed through another cataclysmic orgasm, but this time she was aware of Jean-Luc's guttural shout of liberation as his own orgasm consumed him. Even though she was floating in euphoria, she felt his pulsations as he ejaculated deeply inside her. His rigid body trembled and he moaned her name before hugging her to him, almost crushing her in his embrace. They clung to each other, hearts racing; lungs striving for breath before Jean-Luc slowly eased his embrace. Beverly nuzzled his neck and sighed, utterly sated.
Whispering shakily, Beverly said,
"Oh God…I had no idea."
Jean-Luc's deep, mellifluous voice rumbled through his chest as he said softly,
"I have waited my entire life to share that with you, Beverly, my love."
Tears welled in Beverly's eyes as she struggled to find her voice.
"I was such a fool. We could have shared that so long ago."
He kissed her, then smiled, his own eyes filled with tears.
"Don't dwell on the past, Beverly, let's just live in the moment."
She sniffed and kissed him before saying,
"I love you, Jean-Luc Picard."
He smiled and replied,
"And I love you, Beverly Crusher."
They drifted off to sleep, still in each other's arms.

 

 

 

In the early morning they made love again, but although it was tender and satisfying, it wasn't with the intensity that had consumed them the previous night. As Jean-Luc lay on his back with Beverly cradled against him, she said softly into the darkness,
"Can you tell me about your breakdown?"
Jean-Luc sighed and was silent for a while, but Beverly waited patiently. Eventually he sighed again and closed his eyes against the painful memories.
"When we ended our…relationship…I became increasingly disconnected, from my job, my friends and myself. All I wanted to do was hide behind my Captain's mask and pretend that I wasn't hurting as much as I was. Seeing you with that other man was excruciatingly painful, but such was my love for you that I rationalised that whatever made you happy was all right with me…and damned the consequences. But when you left the ship I started a downward spiral and, as time went on and all my efforts to contact you failed, I became more and more despondent. It wasn't until almost a year had passed that I finally began to believe you were dead. I tried everything, Beverly, contacted everyone I knew, pulled in every favour owed me to try and find out what had happened to you or where you were, but I came up empty. It was the thought that you were most likely dead that proved the final straw that broke this camel's back. I had been trying to compensate by working long hours…"
He laughed humourlessly.
"You are familiar with my habits…work, work, work. Little sleep or food, just try to dull the pain with work, but one night, very late in the night cycle, I had finally returned to my quarters and something just…broke. I was found the next morning when I didn't show up at the morning briefing. I was curled up under my desk…comatose. I had finally reached the end of my endurance."
Beverly reached up and caressed Jean-Luc's face, trying to keep her tears at bay.
"What happened then?"
Jean-Luc shrugged.
"To be honest I don't really know. I assume I was taken to Sick Bay, but I have no memory of that, or what happened after. My next memory was becoming aware of my surroundings at the SFM mental health facility on Earth."
He sighed.
"And you know what really scared me?"
Beverly shook her head.
"No, what?"
"I didn't care. They told me I had been relieved of Command and that I wouldn't be leaving the facility until my doctors deemed me mentally healthy again and I just didn't care…I didn't give a damn. I thought you were dead and that was all that seemed to matter to me, and that thought made everything else immaterial."
"And then you met T'Krel."
He sighed deeply.
"Yes, then I met T'Krel."
Keeping her voice soft and trying to keep the anger and hurt out of it, Beverly said quietly,
"Tell me."
He sighed again and drew her closer to him.
"I'm not sure exactly when I began to find her attractive. Certainly she was physically appealing, but in retrospect, I think it may have been her austere manner that attracted me. She seemed to care about what she was doing, but remained…remote…detached and I suppose it reminded me of what we'd once had."
Beverly closed her eyes against the pain in his voice.
"She represented what I thought I'd lost forever, I suppose and I clung to that."
His silent tears showed in the shuddering breath he took.
"As the therapy went on I became more and more dependent on her, relying on my attraction to her to allow me to open up to her. In a way I suppose it was a beneficial…I doubt I could have been so honest with someone I felt no connection with."
Beverly sighed,
"But it became more."
He nodded in the darkness.
"Yes. I thought I'd fallen in love with her. Looking back I can see how it happened, but hindsight is twenty-twenty vision looking backwards. All I knew was that I thought I needed her in my life…permanently."
"So, after you regained your Captaincy, you requested her to join the crew."
He nodded again.
"Yes. And to be honest, I was surprised she accepted. I thought she'd refuse, quote Doctor/patient protocols, but she seemed pleased to be asked and within mere weeks she was aboard."
Beverly sat up and looked down at her lover in the dark, trying to understand.
"Was she aware of your attraction to her when you were her patient?"
Jean-Luc was aware Beverly was upset, but he also knew he could be nothing but brutally honest.
"I don't know…perhaps. I didn't do or say anything inappropriate, but I suppose it was obvious that I was far more comfortable with her than any of the other therapists."
He could hear an edge in her voice as she asked,
"And no one thought to separate you? That you may be harbouring inappropriate feelings for her?"
He shook his head.
"No…but that may have been because with her I made such good progress. My psyche profile clearly showed I was naturally reticent concerning matters of a personal nature, but with T'Krel I was forthcoming. It was as if…"
He stopped talking and Beverly knew he was embarrassed, embarrassed and worried he was going to hurt her.
"As if what?"
He sighed and swallowed, saying very softy,
"As if I was talking to you."
Sitting up straighter, Beverly crossed her legs. All she could see of Jean-Luc's eyes were the pinpricks of light from the stars outside.
"So she came aboard and you initiated a relationship."
He sighed with a modicum of irritation.
"You make it sound so premeditated."
Anger crept into her voice when she snapped,
'"Well wasn't it? Wasn't that the reason you requested her presence on the ship in the first place?"
Dismay surged through his mind. He sat up, reaching for Beverly's hands, but she stymied him by folding her arms over her bare breasts.
He sighed sadly.
"No it wasn't. I'm not sure what I wanted, Beverly, except that I knew I needed her near me, on my ship, if not in my life…much the same as our relationship used to be before…"
He stopped again and Beverly gasped softly, whispering,
"Before I used you as my personal sex toy."
He lowered his head and shook it.
"Of course once I returned to the ship, Deanna once again became my counsellor, so when T'Krel came aboard there was no professional barrier between us. I slowly began to seek her company, inviting her to the occasional breakfast or dinner much like we used to. And the more I saw of her, the more convinced I became that I needed her in my life. Beverly…I was still in pain and I didn't know what to do to ease it, if anything could. I suppose, deep inside I knew she couldn't assuage my grief, but I had to try, my love, the alternative was endless misery."
Pity warred with jealousy. Beverly lifted her chin, the starlight picking up the bitterness in her eyes.
"So you became intimate. I suppose the sex was stupendous."
Jean-Luc sighed, his tone reproachful.
"Beverly…"
She suddenly deflated and lowered her head, saying softly,
"I'm sorry Jean-Luc, that was uncalled for."
He reached forward and took her forearms, uncrossing her arms. Finding her hands in the darkness he said with great tenderness,
"Do you think I could make love like we did last night with anyone but you?"
Tears glinted in the starlight as Beverly shook her head.
"No."
He tightened his grip of her hands.
"And do you think any other woman could make me leave my betrothed on my wedding day but you?"
She shook her head again.
"No."
He moved closer, letting go of her hands to cradle her face.
"Then what more can I say? I have loved you for more than thirty years with all my heart and soul. I am yours, Beverly, to do with as you wish. You hold the key to my happiness, I am incomplete without you."
Silence filled the bedroom as they stared into each other's eyes in the darkness until a quiet sob from Beverly broke the spell. She fell forward into Jean-Luc's embrace. Brokenly she said softly,
"Oh, Jean-Luc, my dear love…how I've hurt you. I'm so very sorry. How could I have not seen what you are? How you felt? I have caused us to waste so many years, years we could have been together…"
He hugged her to him, shaking his head.
"No, Beverly, no more recriminations. We have each other now and forever and every time I see you I will know that no other woman could ever take your place."
They made love again, this time once more with the intensity of that first night, but as they loved each other, they wept, both in sadness of past regrets and with joy for the future.

 

 

 

The next morning over breakfast, Jean-Luc, sipping his coffee, asked quietly,
"Beverly, forgive me for asking, but I'm curious. What was it like to kill yourself?"
Holding her cup in both hands, Beverly stared into the dark brew as she gathered her thoughts. She slowly put the cup down and ran her fingers around the rim.
"Actually not as difficult as you might imagine. At the time…she…was going to kill me, so in a way it was self defence, but, as you know, I was under orders to kill her if I couldn't stop her anyway."
She sighed deeply.
"And she was totally insane, Jean-Luc, well beyond any means of help or redemption."
Finished with his coffee, Jean-Luc gave Beverly a look of sympathy.
"Still, it must have been traumatic for you."
She nodded.
"Yes, I suppose it was. I don't remember much about my journey back to the shuttle, although I do remember activating the explosives I'd planted around her facility. I suppose I was in a daze for a while.
"And all this because I'd been murdered."
Nodding, Beverly couldn't disguise the wince.
"You know, what I find really scary is that given the same circumstances I might do the same thing. I mean I did it in that time line, who's to say I wouldn't do it now?"
Reaching across the table, Jean-Luc took Beverly's hand.
"You wouldn't do it, Beverly, I'm certain of that."
She smiled, but it was with little confidence.
"How can you be so sure?"
He smiled with tenderness and warmth.
"Because we've resolved our differences. If anything were to happen to either of us, the other would be able to carry on; knowing that we'd shared our love."
Thoughtfully, Beverly nodded.
"I think you may be right, Jean-Luc. Part of what had driven the other Beverly mad was the guilt that she had been responsible for your death and that you had died never knowing how much she loved you."
She sighed,
"But living without you, especially now, after what we've shared…I don't want to think about it, I don't want to even contemplate it, it's just too painful."
Jean-Luc rose from his seat and knelt beside Beverly, taking her into his embrace.
"Then don't, my love. If the Gods be willing, we will have many, many years to share together."
Their moment was broken by a call from the Bridge.
"Riker to Picard."
Getting to his feet, Jean-Luc smiled down at his lover and gently caressed her face.
"Picard here, Number One."
"Captain, a Sergeant Styles has requested a meeting with both you and Beverly and he said Doctor Key would also like to see you both."
Beverly made a cutting motion across her throat. Jean-Luc said,
"Give me a moment, Number one."
"Aye, Sir."
Jean-Luc closed the channel and gave Beverly an expectant look. She smiled up at him and explained,
"We should meet with them, Jean-Luc."
He nodded.
"Here on the ship?"
She shook her head.
"No, let's go down to the surface, it would be more polite."
With a nod, Jean-Luc tapped his comm. badge.
"Will?"
"Yes, Captain?"
"Doctor Crusher and I will be beaming down to the surface. Please inform Sergeant Styles we will meet with both he and Doctor Key at their convenience."
"Aye, Captain, Riker out."
Beverly stood and cast an appreciative eye over her civilian clothed lover and blushed as she realised he was doing the same thing to her. He chuckled at seeing the flush reddening her face and took her hand.
"You are so beautiful, Beverly."
She smiled saucily and leaned forward, whispering,
"And you, my lascivious lover, are exceptionally handsome."
She laughed delightedly as her declaration coloured the tips of his ears red. He shook his head and tightened his grip of her hand.
"Come on, you minx."
They left his quarters and Beverly was inordinately surprised when he didn't release her hand. Somehow sensing her surprise, Jean-Luc looked at her and sent her a radiant smile.
"I'm not going to hide my feelings for you, Beverly, I'm simply too happy. Besides, if we're to marry, the crew are going to have to get used to the idea of seeing their besotted Captain showing the love of his life how much she means to him."
Blinking back tears of joy and contentment, Beverly lifted her chin and smiled glowingly, so very proud and in love.

 

 

 

 

Their beam-down point was just outside the police station. Still holding hands, they went inside to be met at the desk by Constable McMahon. The young man gave them a cautious smile and gestured for them to follow him. After knocking on the Sergeant's door and being given admittance, he opened the door, then left to return to his duties.
Sergeant Styles rose to his feet and offered a guarded smile.
"Good morning, Captain, Doctor. I must say it is good to see you both in such fine health."
Jean-Luc gave a smile of his own and bowed his head slightly.
"Thank you, Sergeant; I know I owe you a debt of gratitude for all your diligent work on my behalf."
The big man shrugged.
"That's my job, Captain."
He quickly glanced at the clock on his monitor and straightened.
"I think it would be best if we took this meeting to the hospital. I happen to know Doctor Key is free right now and we could use one of the conference rooms."
Jean-Luc shrugged and gave a nod.
"Fine by us."
They made the journey in the police flitter. Marcus was waiting for them and surprised Beverly by giving her a hug.
"Gods, Beverly, it's good to see you! From what I've heard you really went through the wringer."
Extricating herself and blushing furiously, Beverly tried to deflect the attention away from herself.
"Thank you, Marcus, it's good to see you too, but look here…Captain Picard all in one piece!"
Jean-Luc stiffened immediately when the young man clapped his hands on the Captain's shoulders.
"The last time I saw you, you weren't looking so hot, Captain. It does me a power of good to see you so well."
Marcus sensed Jean-Luc's well disguised indignation at being manhandled and stepped back, but still, a cheeky smile lingered.
"Well, come inside, we've a lot to discuss."

 

 

 

Once they had taken their seats, it was Sergeant Styles who began.
"As I understand it, Doctor T'Krel has been taken to Vulcan for treatment."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes. It would appear she is mentally impaired. The Vulcan Mental Health Directorate is the best place for her."
Before the Sergeant could say anything further, Marcus sat forward, saying eagerly,
"What is the nature of her impairment?"
Beverly frowned, lifting her hand to give her words form.
"It's not yet known. Many years ago she suffered a breakdown of sorts following the death of her bond mate. She was successfully treated, but recent events suggest she has either suffered a relapse, or there is an underlying mental aberration that needs to be addressed. I was told, in confidence I must add, that it is possible for Vulcans to carry a recessive gene that offers the propensity for mental instability. It may be that she carries that gene."
The Sergeant grunted.
"That may be so, Doctor, but from my perspective her absence simply means a criminal has escaped justice."
Making an effort to keep her voice steady and her anger under control, Beverly waved Marcus into silence as she said softly,
"Sergeant, she was not responsible for her actions. Surely you're not suggesting we punish the mentally impaired?"
The big man sighed and shook his head.
"Certainly not, Doctor, but we have one dead and two who very nearly died. As there is no statute of limitations on murder…or attempted murder…I can only hope that if she does indeed recover, she can be brought back to Gault to answer for her actions."
Both Doctors sat back, letting out quiet snorts of irritation. Jean-Luc, who had been watching the exchange with interest, sat forward and said quietly,
"Sergeant…would it be of any help if I insisted no charges be laid?"
Immediately seeing what Jean-Luc was doing, Beverly sat up, her face animated.
"Yes! You can count me in on that too, Sergeant, I won't press charges either."
The big man scowled.
"Are you telling me you're willing to let the woman who tried…on more than one occasion to try to kill you…to get off scot free?"
Both Jean-Luc and Beverly nodded, saying in unison.
"Yes."
Styles sat back and studied a PADD in his large, meaty hands. He grunted and looked at Jean-Luc with faint amusement.
"And I suppose the charge of kidnapping won't be pursued either?"
With sympathy, Jean-Luc said quietly,
"She is ill, Sergeant, I can only feel compassion for her, not vengeance."
Marcus crossed his legs and put his clasped hands behind his head.
"You know if she does recover she may well come back of her own volition. Vulcans take their behaviour very seriously."
Beverly nodded, but her expression was one of sadness.
"That's true, but I really don't think she's going to recover."
The young Doctor nodded thoughtfully then suddenly sat up and brought his hands to the front, snapping his fingers.
"Oh yes, by the way, Beverly, about Helen Parker. It wasn't a relapse. I found a lesion in her brain. It mimicked the symptoms of early onset Grave's disease."
Intrigued, Beverly sat forward.
"Really? And there was no connection…no pathology to suggest it was caused by the original diagnosis of Grave's?"
The young Doctor shook his head.
"None. I did a complete workup of the samples I took. She was simply unlucky."
Beverly sighed heavily and rubbed her brow.
"You know if she hadn't committed suicide I may have found that lesion."
She slapped her hand on the table.
"Dammit, I could have prevented her death!"
Jean-Luc took one of her hands and said softly,
"Hind sight, remember? You can't change the past, my love, but you can learn from it. Both you and Marcus will now know to look for lesions in patients that exhibit the symptoms she had. It will make you better doctors."
She sighed.
"You're right, I suppose, but, Jean-Luc, her death was such a waste. She was an articulate, talented woman with so much to give. She took her life because she thought she was facing another painful and lengthy treatment for a disease she erroneously thought had returned. In effect, she thought I had failed in my job."
Smiling tenderly, Jean-Luc said softly,
"You and I both know that's not true. Like Marcus said, she was unlucky. Surely you've had situations occur like that before?"
With a heavy sigh, Beverly nodded.

"Yes, but that doesn't make it any more palatable. I hate losing patients, Jean-Luc, especially when it's a preventable death."
The four people sat in silence for a few minutes before Sergeant Styles pushed his chair back and stood.
"Well, as there's nothing for me to do here, I might as well call this case closed. I take it you'll be leaving us, Doctor Crusher?"
Beverly smiled, directing her answer to both Styles and Marcus.
"Yes, I'm returning to the Enterprise as her CMO."
The big man studied Beverly for a few seconds, then gave a curt nod.
"Well, it's our loss."
He stuck out his hand to Jean-Luc.
"Goodbye, Captain Picard, I hope you can come by and visit us now and then."
Jean-Luc stood and shook the man's hand.
"Goodbye, Sergeant and thank you again."
Styles turned his attention to Beverly and grinned.
"It's a pity you're leaving, Doctor…you're a damned sight prettier than Marcus."
Beverly chuckled and shook his hand. Marcus grinned and said with quiet menace,
"I'll remember you said that when you come in for your next physical, Sergeant."
Styles left and Marcus turned to Jean-Luc and Beverly.
"So, what now?"
Beverly, knowing to what he was referring, smiled radiantly and said softly,
"We're going to marry."
Surprising her with a bear hug, Marcus laughed, saying heartily,
"Well that's no surprise, it's written on both your faces.
He turned to Jean-Luc, but the Captain held up his hands, forestalling any physical contact.
"A simple 'congratulations' will suffice, thank you."
Marcus laughed and took Jean-Luc's hand, pumping it with enthusiasm.
"Congratulations…to both of you. Now, Beverly, I suppose I won't be seeing you again."
The red head shrugged.
"I wouldn't say never, Marcus, but unless the Enterprise is sent to this sector again, you will have to wait until we can take shore leave."
She bent forward and whispered with a conspirator's glee,
"But the Captain hates taking leave…so don't hold your breath!"
Jean-Luc frowned, grumbling,
"I heard that, Beverly and it's not true, especially as I now have a gorgeous woman to accompany me on leave."
Marcus chuckled and shook his head.
"Go! Get back to your ship and have a long and happy life together."
They all laughed but then Jean-Luc sobered and shook the young man's hand again.
"Thank you, Marcus, for all you have done for us...and for me, Beverly has told me how difficult things were."
Marcus shrugged.
"I learned a lot."
Jean-Luc smiled and then he then tapped his comm. badge.
"Enterprise, two to beam up."
Once they had materialised on the transporter pad, Beverly said with a soft smile,
"Well, seeing as I'm the CMO again, I suppose I should get to Sick Bay to inform my staff."
Jean-Luc returned her smile and took her hand, saying quietly,
"And I should be getting to the Bridge. Dinner in my quarters?"
Offering a saucy smile, Beverly leaned forward to whisper,
"You mean…our quarters, don't you?"
He looked into her eyes, joy and disbelief making them darken.
"You're sure?"
She nodded.
Keeping sotto voce, Jean-Luc muttered,
"I'll knock off early to help you move in."
Beverly's eyes were full of love and mischief.
"I can't wait."
They parted then, each experiencing the euphoria of intense love.

 

 

 

Dinner that evening was filled with unspoken promise. Despite Jean-Luc's quarters being cluttered with unpacked boxes of Beverly's things, there was an intangible tension in the air as the couple ate their meal, each knowing this was the first night of the rest of their lives.
After they had finished their meal, Jean-Luc decided to prolong the tension by inviting Beverly to share a brandy with him on the sofa. She surprised him by acquiescing without complaint.
They spent a happy half an hour, sipping and chatting in an almost desultory manner, until Beverly suddenly rose and went to her blue lab coat, draped over the back of Jean-Luc's desk chair. She took something from the pocket, but the Captain was unable to see what it was.
Once again seated beside him, she tucked something behind her before idly tracing her fingers up the inside of his thigh, while nuzzling his neck. He growled softly, moving to lift her head so he could kiss her. The kiss left them panting and wanting more, but before they did anything, Beverly placed her hand on Jean-Luc's chest.
Panting slightly and with eyes darkened with passion, Beverly said sultrily,
"I have something I want to try with you."
Intrigued, Jean-Luc pulled back slightly, his eyebrows raised.
"What is it?"
She reached behind her and produced a hypospray.
Frowning slightly, Jean-Luc said softly,
"What does it contain?"
Beverly kissed him again and whispered,
"A stimulant."
Now somewhat confused, Jean-Luc rumbled,
"A stimulant? We don't need stimulants."
He could tell by her mischievous smile that something was afoot. She grinned and said pertly,
"It's not an ordinary stimulant, Jean-Luc…it's a sexual stimulant."
His expression became decidedly libidinous. His deep, soft baritone making a shiver course down Beverly's spine.
"Really? How interesting. And just how will it affect us?"
Already aroused, he noted the pink flush that was beginning to colour Beverly's skin. Her tongue came out to lick her lips.
"Well…I already know you have extraordinary recuperative powers, but this…"
She held up the hypo,
"Will allow us to make love several times during the night…and into the morning."
Jean-Luc closed his hand over the one holding the hypo and kissed Beverly passionately before saying sensuously,
"What a wonderful idea."
Her desire escalating quickly, Beverly panted,
"Of course we can only use it occasionally…"
He responded with another kiss before rumbling,
"Let's take this to the bedroom."
The pile of Beverly's clothes that was on the bed went into an untidy heap in the corner of the room before the couple quickly undressed each other.
They kissed deeply and passionately before Beverly pulled back and pressed the hypo against Jean-Luc's neck and injected him. His pupils dilated as the drug coursed through his blood stream, but he took the hypo from her before she could inject herself. He looked into her eyes, saying softly,
"Let me."
Smiling sultrily, she tilted her head, exposing the side of her neck. Jean-Luc gently brushed her hair aside and then bit her, sucking hard. As Beverly gasped, he withdrew his mouth and injected her where he had raised a bruise.
Suddenly overwhelmed with an overpowering desire for sex, they fell onto the bed, grappling with each other, trying to get into position to satiate themselves. They ended up across the bed and Jean-Luc grabbed Beverly's hands, pinning them to the bed near her head as he used his knees to part her legs. She did so willingly, raising her legs to grip him around his waist. Their need was urgent, but Jean-Luc poised over her, lust and love making the shadowed plains of his face seem surreal.
Still hovering above her, he kissed her again, then said huskily,
"I love you."
As he penetrated her with one short, hard stroke.
A cry was torn from Beverly's throat as she gripped his buttocks, rising to meet his thrust. Jean-Luc began a punishing rhythm, grunting loudly. Beverly met every one of his thrusts, moaning,
"Oh God yes…fuck me, Jean-Luc…fuck me!"
In the back of his mind he remembered her saying the same thing, but under very different circumstances. This time, instead of feeling used and hollow, he felt exhilarated, almost liberated as he pounded in and out of her. Such intensity couldn't last long and neither was surprised by their sudden climaxes.
They lay, panting and sweating as Beverly softly groaned at feeling Jean-Luc begin to harden again.
Over a period of two hours they made love four times before finally succumbing to sleep. But their rest was only short. Within an hour they were making love again, although more slowly this time and they found, as time went on their lovemaking became calmer and more tender.
They slept again, longer this time and, in the early hours of morning, they made love much as they had that first time, with love and mutual respect. Finally spent, they lay in each other's arms. The bed was a mess and so were they, but they drifted off to sleep anyway, oblivious.
It was the alarm that woke them, and, as Jean-Luc gruffly ordered it off, he groaned softly.
Beverly lifted her head from his shoulder, concern on her face.
"What's wrong?"
He sighed, but there was a ghost of a smile lingering on his face.
"I'm sore. My back, my penis…Gods, I feel like I've been put on a rack and stretched."
Beverly chuckled and attempted to stretch, but she abruptly stopped, exclaiming.
"Ow!"
Jean-Luc grinned.
"You too?"
Beverly groaned.
"My vagina and my hips. We might need regen treatments."
That brought a scowl to the Captain's face.
"And just how can we make that discreet?"
Giving him and exasperated slap to his chest, Beverly said dismissively,
"I can do it here, in our quarters."
His mood changed immediately for the better.
"I really like the sound of that."
Sitting up gingerly, Beverly spent a few minutes trying to tame her tangled hair, but gave up in disgust. Looking down at her amused lover, she poked out her tongue before saying cheekily,
"What…the regen treatments or the 'our quarters'?"
He sat up slowly, stifling a groan. Kissing Beverly tenderly, he whispered.
"The 'our quarters'. Do you have any idea how long I've imagined you saying that?"
Beverly gently caressed his face and kissed him. She then pulled back, her eyes bright.
"This courtship you mentioned. How long will it be?"
He shrugged but this time couldn't stifle the groan of pain. Beverly chuckled and he scowled at her. She made him smile again with another kiss. He sighed with happiness and answered her question.
"As long…or short…as you want."
Gently easing him back down onto the mattress, Beverly slowly straddled him, wincing and earning a chuckle from her lover. She looked down at him, overwhelmed with love. There was a lump in her throat as she said softly,
"Short. I want to marry you as soon as possible."
He pulled her down for a protracted kiss and they both moaned as the dregs of desire once again surfaced. Beverly lifted her head to whisper,
"Do we dare?"
Pushing his slowly stiffening penis against her, Jean-Luc grinned.
"I'm game."
They were late for the morning briefing.

 

 

They were married three weeks later. It was a small, simple ceremony, held in Ten Forward. Will Riker was the Best Man and Deanna Troi was the Matron of Honour. The ceremony was performed by Captain Barry Wilson, simply because his was the closest ship to the Enterprise at the time.
They honeymooned on Pacifica and, on their final night, after making extraordinarily tender love, Jean-Luc held Beverly in his arms and whispered,
"What are your thoughts on children?"
Lifting her head, Beverly frowned.
"I'm not sure what you mean. Kids with you or kids in general?"
He hugged her closer.
"Children with me."
She was silent so long he began to think he had upset her. He was about to apologise when she said softly,
"Two or three might be nice."
He couldn't hold back his tears, with his voice breaking he said softly,
"Thank you, my love."
Beverly snuggled further into his embrace and sighed happily.
"It's going to be interesting, isn't it."
He chuckled.
"Oh, I think that's a given."
She kissed him and whispered,
"I love you, Jean-Luc Picard."
He blinked away his tears to say,
"And I love you, Beverly Picard."

Finish.