The Dichotomy Of The Heart.

 

 

 

                            Jean-Luc Picard sat back in the café chair, taking the time to admire his companion. As he sipped his cappuccino, his mind wandered, mulling contentedly over the events of the past two months.

It had stated quiet inauspiciously. He had been ensconced in his office, intently studying the information regarding the next mission. The door chime was unwelcome. He ignored it the fist time, but when it sounded again he scowled and barked,

“Come!”

He didn’t look up at his caller; instead he kept his eyes on the monitor and growled,

“Yes, what is it?”

When there was no response, he looked up with irritation and glowered at the person who had interrupted him. His eyes caught two blue orbs and he realized just who his visitor was. Striving to quell his angst, he calmed his features and nodded.

“Doctor Crusher.”

The red headed Chief Medical Officer smiled at her Captain, her expression clearly acknowledging his efforts to be civil. She grasped the back of the chair in front of his desk and raised her eyebrows.

“May I?”

He nodded silently and sighed, then clasped his hands on the desktop. Before she could speak, he grumbled,

“I hope this won’t take long Doctor…” He gestured at the computer.

“I have a lot to do.”

Beverly kept her smile in place with an effort and concentrated on relaxing.

“I know you’re busy Captain, but what I have to say is rather important…at least it is to me.”

Jean-Luc frowned and gritted his teeth.

“Doctor I’m very…”

But then he hesitated and took a large breath, sighing again.

“It can’t wait?”

“No.”

The Captain nodded and sat back, picking up his crystal shard and devoting all his attention to his best friend.

“What is it?”

With butterflies taking flight in her stomach, Beverly resisted the urge to run from his office. She took a large breath, swallowed to wet her dry mouth and began.

“Jean-Luc you and I have been best friends for many years now and I know you have wanted to take our relationship further…to a more intimate level.”

Jean-Luc nodded, his dark hazel eyes glittering.

“Well it has slowly dawned on me that I feel the same way.”

The Captain sat up, his body frozen. His voice when he spoke was a hushed whisper.

“What are you saying?”

Reaching forward, Beverly gripped the edge of the desk and stared into his eyes.

“I love you and I want to take our relationship to the next level.”

Jean-Luc’s mouth opened and shut twice before any sound came out. He briefly closed his eyes and laid the shard carefully on the desk, the action giving him time to think. When he again found Beverly’s eyes, he wasn’t surprised to see tears in them.

“Are you sure?”

As she nodded, two fat tears slipped free and slid down her cheeks. Her voice trembled when she spoke.

“Oh yes. For the past few months I have been growing closer to you. I think of you all day and dream of you at night. I’m in love with you Jean-Luc and I want to spend all my time with you…if you’ll have me.”

In silence the Captain slowly stood and came around to the front of his desk. He offered his hands and took Beverly’s, drawing her to her feet. He bowed his head, staring at their joined hands and sighing deeply.

“Beverly mon coeur, I have loved you for thirty years. Today, with simple words, you have liberated my poor heart and set me free. I love you Beverly, to the depths of my soul and if you will be patient with me, I’ll show you that love…every day.”

Freeing one of her hands, Beverly gently lifted his chin and gazed with wonder at her extraordinary Captain.

“Dinner tonight?”

He blinked away the welling tears and nodded, a wide smile gracing his handsome face.

“Yes.”

Beverly leaned closer and kissed him tenderly.

“Nineteen thirty in your quarters…you replicate.”

Keeping her gaze he nodded again.

“Very well.”

Beverly gently extricated her hand and turned for the door. Jean-Luc’s gentle grasp of her elbow halted her. She turned her head back to him, her eyebrow raised.

He smiled and cocked his head.

“May I have another kiss before you go?”

Turning her body, she stepped to him and slowly raised her hands, curling her arms around his head. He encircled her within his strong grasp and tilted his head, nudging under her nose. The first kiss was a mere brush of the lips, making them both sigh. The next was longer and languid. The third was deeper, Jean-Luc feathering his tongue across Beverly’s lips, seeking admittance. She opened slowly to him and he sighed into her mouth as his tongue slipped inside. The kiss slowly becoming more passionate, Beverly tapered it and opened her eyes to see Jean-Luc’s still closed. Slowly his eyes opened and he smiled.

“I can’t wait until tonight.”

Beverly returned his smile.

“Me either. Will you be able to work now?”

The smile turned wry.

“Probably not.”

Beverly’s look of contrition was unconvincing.

“Sorry.”

Jean-Luc growled softly and nuzzled her neck, his voice a deep rumble.

“You are not.”

Beverly’s chuckle made him raise his head.

“You’re right, I’m not.”

Taking a deep breath, the Captain stepped back and released the woman in his arms.

“We have to be strong.”

The Doctor nodded, although her look was mischievous.

“But tonight..?”

With a rare full grin, Jean-Luc’s eyes twinkled.

“Yes…tonight.”

Beverly backed to the door.

“You’ll wear something casual?”

He nodded.

“And you?”

“Uh huh…I’ve something in mind.”

His eyes darkened.

“Will you leave your hair down?”

With a show of sultry seductiveness, Beverly raised her hands and ran her fingers through her vibrant red locks.

“If you like.”

The Captain growled.

“I like.”

The Doctor stopped just shy of the door sensor and grinned coyly.

“You like my hair?”

The Captain nodded, folding his arms across his chest.

“Yes.”

“You’d like to entangle your fingers in it?”

Jean-Luc’s voice deepened.

“Yes.”

“When?”

His gaze becoming intense, Jean-Luc’s voice became a rough whisper.

“When we make love…when you come.”

Her gasp was soft in the otherwise silent room.

“You’ve thought about it?”

“Often.”

Beverly sighed, a small smile appearing.

“Me too.”

They stood, silently regarding each other until Beverly broke the spell.

“Well I must be going. I’ll see you tonight.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Tonight.”

She left then and the Captain closed his eyes, striving to put her from his mind so he could concentrate on his work.

It was as a futile effort.

 

 

 

               Dinner that night was delightful. Resisting the urge to be overly romantic, Jean-Luc settled on a simple table setting and a straightforward meal, choosing Beverly’s favourite dishes and saving the menu while he went to shower and shave. He was in the living area, opening a bottle of his family’s red when the door chimed. He frowned as he had given Beverly permission to alter her com badge to allow her admittance to his quarters without needing to use the chime some time ago. That she should choose to use the chime now confused him.

With a shake of his head, he walked to his door and pressed the release. As soon as his eyes settled on the Doctor, it was all he could do not to gape. She wore a sheer peach blouse, the sleeves gathered at her elbows and the neckline plunging. Tiny buttons went from her ample breasts to her midriff where the blouse ended in a ruche of gauzy material. His eyes took in her navel as they went lower, to the silky sapphire skirt that fell in sensuous folds around her long dancer’s legs. His eyebrows rose at seeing her bare feet. Dragging his eyes up to her face, he cleared his throat and found his voice.

“You look lovely Beverly…would you like to come in?”

Beverly grinned knowingly and stepped past her Captain, the scent of her perfume tantalising the man. She made her way confidently to the sofa and sat, crossing her legs and placing one arm along the back of the chair. As Jean-Luc crossed the room to join her, he felt her eyes roving over him. He had taken care with his appearance, selecting clothing he knew she liked. A soft emerald green shirt, open down the front in a deep vee, paired with dark blue slacks and black leather shoes completed his outfit and it obviously met with Beverly’s approval. He picked up the wine bottle and two glasses and joined her on the sofa. As he poured he asked softly,

“How was your day?”

Beverly’s chuckle made him look up with curiosity.

“The part before I went to your Ready Room was awful. I was so nervous! Then afterwards time seemed to drag. All I wanted to do was be with you. Work was the furthest thing from my mind.”

Jean-Luc smiled wryly.

“Me too. Up until you came to me I was totally absorbed in work, but later I found I couldn’t concentrate at all. My mind was filled with thoughts of you.”

They both chuckled and looked deeply into each other’s eyes. Breaking the spell, Jean-Luc lifted his glass and presented Beverly with hers.

“To beginnings. May we be happy for ever.”

They clinked glasses and sipped, Beverly closing her eyes in appreciation.

“This is superb Jean-Luc.”

The Captain swallowed slowly and nodded.

“Yes it is. The manager Marie engaged has been experimenting with new blends. This is his blended merlot.”

The Doctor grinned.

“So the Picard vineyards are in good hands?”

Jean-Luc nodded, his face serious.

“Yes. I’m very pleased the wine produced seems to be of high standard. If our name is going to be on it, I want it to be as good as it’s always been.”

They sat together and drank two glasses each before moving to the dining table. Throughout the meal, they were quiet, each feeling the slowly rising tension, their hearts beating rapidly, their skin flushing. After dessert, Jean-Luc asked the computer to play some music then surprised Beverly by asking her to dance. She rose to him and he took her in his arms, closing his eyes as his body took up the rhythm. They danced slowly, their bodies pressed closely together, Beverly resting her cheek against his.

With his subtle aftershave teasing her senses, Beverly gently nuzzled his neck making his feet still their movement. She lifted her head and licked her lips at seeing the desire swirling deep within his hazel gaze. Their lips met in a protracted kiss, the passion building quickly. Parting breathlessly, Jean-Luc’s husky baritone made Beverly shiver.

“I want to make love to you Beverly.”

All she could do was nod…words failed her. He took her hand and led her to his bedroom, his eyes never leaving hers.

They made love three times that first night. Initially they couldn’t control their passion, the act urgent and heated. The second time was playful and joyous and, after sleep, the third time, in the small hours of morning, was languid and slow, each taking the time to learn and please the other.

Over the next three weeks they spent every free moment together eventually agreeing that Beverly should move into Jean-Luc’s quarters. This was a wise move. Not only was it more expedient with their new relationship, but, as they couldn’t seem to keep their hands off each other, it was hoped it would facilitate matters concerning getting to work on time. Twice they had almost been late for duty because breakfast became a little heated, on one occasion they had made love on the dining table, necessitating a run through the corridors to get to their stations on time.

Since Beverly had settled into his quarters, Jean-Luc had been immeasurably happy. He had everything he ever wanted. Life, he thought, simply couldn’t get any better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Beverly looked over the rim of her cup and smiled at seeing the hazy hooded stare coming from her lover. She reached across the table and touched his hand.

“Jean-Luc…you’re staring.”

Snapping back to the present, the Captain sat up and cleared his throat.

“Sorry…I was wool gathering.”

Beverly smiled and inclined her head, immediately forgiving his lapse, however her curiosity was piqued.

“About what?”

Allowing a rueful grin, Jean-Luc shrugged.

“The last two months.”

The Doctor’s smile widened and she sighed.

“It’s been wonderful, hasn’t it.”

The Captain nodded.

“Indeed.”

Breaking off some of her blueberry muffin, Beverly chewed thoughtfully then asked,

“So what are we going to do with this afternoon?”

Jean-Luc lifted a hand and swept it wide.

“As I understand it, this Star base has a whole deck of holosuites. We could go on a picnic, or a hike, or a swim, or…”

Beverly held up her hands.

“Okay I get the idea. What about the arboretum? I hear it’s a beaut.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes it is and…”

He was interrupted by a call from the ship.

“Enterprise to Captain Picard.”

Jean-Luc smiled his apology and answered the hail.

“Picard here.”

“Sir we have a small craft approaching, two life forms aboard. They are hailing us and requesting you personally.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“What is the registry?”

“It’s a private craft Captain…from Earth.”

Jean-Luc and Beverly shared a look and the Captain sighed.

“Very well Enterprise. Allow it to enter the shuttle bay and I’ll come aboard. Picard out.”

Beverly finished her coffee and stood.

“Will we have time to collect our parcels?”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“Oh I think so…this doesn’t seem to be urgent.”

“Good. I’ll come back to the ship with you; I’d like to change into something else.”

Jean-Luc’s eyebrow rose dramatically.

“You’ve decided what you want to do?”

Beverly grinned.

“Uh huh and I think you look great in shorts.”

The Captain grunted and shook his head.

“The beach.”

“Yes and I want you to wear those black speedos I replicated.”

Jean-Luc sighed theatrically.

“But…”

She nudged him in the ribs, causing him to softly yelp.

“If you want me to wear the two piece you like so much, the least you can do is wear the speedos.”

He tried to glower but it was pointless. He couldn’t deny her anything. With a sigh of capitulation, he gave in.

“Oh very well…but I insist on the privacy lock being engaged.”

Beverly’s grin was triumphant.

“Of course.”

Twenty minutes later they were back on the Enterprise.

 

 

 

 

 

               There was a member of security outside the observation room. Jean-Luc nodded cordially to the young Ensign as he entered, the slight smile on his face turning to a frown as he saw the people seated at the table. With a nod to the Lieutenant on duty, the Captain rounded the table and took his seat. Facing him was a middle aged man, with intense green eyes and a sandy-haired young boy, whose face was down turned.  The man stood and offered his hand, bringing Jean-Luc to his feet.

“Captain Picard I presume?”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes, I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard. And you are?”

The tall man smiled.

“Graham Rutherford. I am a solicitor with Rutherford and Flintoff.”

Jean-Luc smiled and gestured to the seat. Once both men were again seated, the Captain said,

“And what can I do for you? My staff tells me you asked for me specifically.”

Taking a moment to lift a brief case onto the table, Rutherford opened it and produced three isolinear chips and two PADDs. He set the devices before him and gathered his thoughts.

“Captain Picard what I have to say will come as a shock. This young boy,” he gestured to the lad seated beside him, “Is your son.”

To his credit, Jean-Luc kept his command façade in place. There was a momentary silence before the Captain asked.

“Would you care to explain yourself?”

The solicitor sighed and nodded.

“Of course. I ask you to cast your mind back ten years Captain, to the time you spent on Earth, at the Academy, whilst awaiting the commission of the Enterprise D.”

Jean-Luc nodded once, curtly.

“I remember.”

“During your tenure at the Academy, you were assigned an Adjutant…one Eve DesLandes, a countrywoman of yours I believe.”

Jean-Luc remained silent, giving his permission to continue with a slow nod.

“You had a relationship with her.”

A deep frown appeared as the Captain shook his head.

“I think at this juncture it would helpful if the boy were to leave the room until we have finished discussing this matter.”

Rutherford nodded, sitting back and gently squeezing the boy’s thin shoulder.

“Go with the Lieutenant.”

Jean-Luc looked up and ordered,

“Take him outside Lieutenant..?”

“Reynolds Sir.”

“Thank you Lieutenant.”

Once alone with the solicitor, Jean-Luc stood and pushed his hands into his pockets.

“Mr.Rutherford it was my understanding that Ms.DesLandes was using an implant.”

The solicitor agreed.

“That she was Captain, but do you remember she was quite ill with what turned out to be Azzinin ‘flu?”

Jean-Luc rubbed his lip and nodded.

“Yes.”

“Well, one of the side effects of that particular bug is a massive disruption of the immune system, effectively negating any implants. Medical only isolated the effect recently.”

The Captain sighed.

“So after she recovered from the ‘flu, she was fertile.”

“Yes.”

“And what of Ms.DesLandes? Is she no longer able to raise the boy?”

Rutherford’s face took on a look of sympathy.

“I’m sorry Captain, she died three weeks ago.”

Jean-Luc sat back down and clasped his hands on the tabletop. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“I see. I take it there is no chance the boy isn’t mine?”

A look of distaste crossed the solicitor’s face but he hid it well.

“None Captain.”

“You must realise Mr.Rutherford, that as I am Captain of this vessel, it is almost impossible for him to stay here. Perhaps it would be better if he went to another relative, at least until he’s older?”

The solicitor shook his head.

“I’m sorry Captain; you are his only living relative. We have, of course, done an extensive search of both sides of the boy’s parentage to find a suitable home, but I’m afraid you were the one and only choice.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and lowered his head into his hands, taking a moment to gather his thoughts. When he lifted his head it was plain to see he had come to a decision.

“Very well Mr.Rutherford. Does the boy know who I am? That is does he know I’m his father?”

The solicitor nodded.

“Yes but he only found out yesterday. Apparently his mother only told him his father served in Starfleet, nothing more.
The Captain sighed.

“And how did Ms.DesLandes die?”

Sadness crossed Rutherford’s face.

“Ultimately it was the Azzinin ‘flu. Four months ago Ms.DesLandes was on a first contact mission in the Hegamon system. Whilst on the planet she contracted an unknown virus that activated dormant cells in her body left over from the ‘flu. She was brought back to Medical as fast as possible but it was already too late. The virus attacked the cell structure throughout her body and she died a very painful death. In all, it took just on three months for her to die.”

The solicitor picked up an isolinear chip and handed it to the Captain.

“She recorded this for you Captain. These others are her last will and testament and a message for her son. These,” he gestured to the PADDs,

“Contain everything you need to know about the boy. His medical history, school records and images of his life.”

Jean-Luc stared at the chip in his hand, nodding absently. As almost an afterthought he asked softly,

“What is his name?”

“Tobias DesLandes. And Captain there are some things you should know. Ms.Deslandes’ death was very traumatic for all involved, especially her son. In fact the boy was so traumatised he has been silent ever since her death. He does not speak…at all. We’ve been trying therapy, but so far…nothing.”

Jean-Luc rubbed his forehead and sighed.

“How old is he?”

“Nine…actually he turns ten in eleven days.”

Rutherford stood and picked up his brief case.

“All Tobias’ possessions are on my runabout. What shall I do with them?”

Jean-Luc gathered his ravelled thoughts.

“Ah…I’ll have them put in a cargo bay. You’re leaving now?”

The solicitor smiled gently.

“Yes Captain my job ceased with the safe delivery of the boy. All the legal paperwork has been done, although there are several documents you must sign. I’ll leave them with you, I’m sure you’ll want your own legal representatives to see them first.”

The Captain nodded.

“Yes or course.”

He tapped his com badge.

“Ensign will you step inside please?”

The young woman entered and Jean-Luc ordered,

“Please escort my guest to his runabout and make sure all the cargo he has on board is safely loaded in cargo bay two.”

The Ensign nodded respectfully.

“Aye Captain.”

The men shook hands and Rutherford peered into Jean-Luc’s eyes.

“You’ll be fine Captain, just be patient.”

Once the solicitor left Jean-Luc tapped his badge again.

“Picard to Lieutenant Reynolds.”

“Reynolds here Sir.”

“Please escort your charge to my quarters, I’ll meet you there.”

“Aye Captain.”
Tapping his com badge one final time he called,

“Picard to Troi.”

Counsellor Deanna Troi answered the call immediately, although Jean-Luc could hear the query in her voice.

“Troi here Captain.”

“Deanna I know you’re off duty and enjoying some down time on the Star base, but I need you to report to my quarters immediately.”

“On my way Captain. Troi out.”

The obsidian eyed beauty looked at her lover, a frown marring her classical beauty. Will Riker, the Enterprise’s First Officer shook his head.

“What do you think that’s about?”

Deanna shrugged, her eyes clouding as she extended her empathic senses. With a sigh she closed her eyes.

“I don’t know, but the Captain is very tense. He’s got his shields up…but the tension is leaking through.”

The big bearded man scratched his whiskery cheek.

“Do you want me to go with you?”

Deanna shook her head.

“No.”

“Okay but keep in touch.”

She kissed his cheek and stepped away from him.

“I will. Enterprise, one to beam to the Captain’s quarters.”

Will sighed as he watched his lover disappear.

“Now what?”

As Jean-Luc rounded the bend near his quarters he saw Lieutenant Reynolds and Tobias standing outside his cabin. With a nod to the officer and a curt,

“Wait here.”

He entered his home and immediately called for his lover.

“Beverly? Are you here?”

Hearing the terseness in his voice, Beverly emerged from the bedroom, a frown on her face.

“Of course I’m here…where else would I be? We’re both off duty.”

With quick steps, Jean-Luc covered the distance between them and took the Doctor’s hands in his.

“Beverly my love…something has happened. We need to talk.”

Noting his urgency, Beverly swallowed her anxiety and nodded.

“Okay.”

Jean-Luc lead her to the sofa and encouraged her to sit with him.

“I have just seen the person who requested my presence. It was a solicitor from Earth. He has brought aboard my…son.”

Beverly blinked and shook her head.

“Your what?”

The Captain sighed and briefly closed his eyes.

“My son…a child I never knew about. Do you remember Eve DesLandes? My Adjutant while I was teaching at the Academy?”

Beverly’s eyes clouded in thought.

“You mean the French woman…the one who told Walker he was too old for that woman he was pursuing?”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes. We…we had a relationship.”

The Doctor’s voice grew hard.

“It seems you had a little more than a relationship Jean-Luc. You had a child!”

Jean-Luc squeezed Beverly’s hands and speared her with his intense gaze.

“I didn’t know! She assured me she was using an implant. The solicitor informs me that a bout of Azzinin ‘flu…”

Beverly pulled a hand free and covered her mouth.

“Oh God…the immune system suppression! She wouldn’t have known.”

Jean-Luc snorted,

“Exactly. Not long after she recovered I took command of the Enterprise D and we parted. Happily I might add.”

Beverly stood and pulled her hair back.

“And she never told you she was pregnant?”

The Captain shook his head vehemently.

“No! We corresponded sporadically over the years but she never mentioned it.”

Beverly shook her head.

“But your mutual friends…no one said anything?”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“No. Not long after I left she took a position with the Diplomatic Corps. She went off world and was gone for years.”

Beverly fisted her hands.

“And there’s no doubt about your being the father?”

Jean-Luc shrugged.

“Apparently not.”

The Doctor snorted.

“Well I want to do a DNA test.”

Jean-Luc stood and gently gripped her elbow.

“Granted but in the meantime the boy is waiting outside the door. Deanna should be here soon; unfortunately the boy has some psychological problems relating to his mother’s death.”

Beverly grimaced.

“Like what?”

The Captain’s eyes darkened.

“He’s mute. He’s not said a word to anyone since Eve’s death.”

Beverly muttered,

“Oh that’s just great!”

Causing Jean-Luc to scowl.

“Beverly I need your help! I haven’t a clue what to do.”

The Doctor took pity on her lover.

“Okay Jean-Luc…sorry. Let’s bring him in.”

Still feeling very unsure, Jean-Luc went and opened the door. He wasn’t surprised to see Deanna kneeling in front of the boy, gently talking to him. At seeing her CO, she rose to her feet and greeted him.

“Captain.”

He nodded and gestured with his hand.

“Tobias, Deanna, will you come in please?”

Once inside, Jean-Luc spoke directly to his son.

“Tobias I wish to speak privately with Counsellor Troi. Would you sit with Doctor Crusher over there?”

He pointed to the sofa and Beverly smiled warmly, holding out her hand. In silence the lad made his way across the room, ignored Beverly’s hand, took his seat and never once made eye contact with anyone.

In hushed tones, Jean-Luc explained what was going on. Deanna wisely kept her questions to herself, this wasn’t the time. When he was finished, the Captain and the Counsellor joined Beverly and Tobias under the view ports. Taking a seat in his favourite chair, Jean-Luc softly cleared his throat. Despite Deanna’s presence, the Captain took Beverly’s hand.

“Tobias you know who I am. This is Doctor Beverly Crusher. She is my…partner. This other officer is Counsellor Deanna Troi. I know you have been having problems recently and I want you to know that Counsellor Troi can help you.”

The lad kept his eyes trained on his hands, his head bowed and silent.

Beverly reached out and took one of his hands, eliciting no response.

“We can make room for you here in these quarters Tobias. Would you like that?”

The boy remained mute.

Beverly smiled with false bravado and turned to her lover.

“Captain why don’t you call Geordi and ask him to design a new bedroom for Tobias? I’m sure the alterations can be done in no time.”

Jean-Luc nodded but his eyes showed his distress. He hadn’t given thought as to where the boy would stay. It was now patently obvious. He would stay with his father. Swallowing his discomfort, Jean-Luc kept his voice soft and friendly.

“Yes, that’s a good idea. Once it’s finished we can put all your things here too.”

When there was no response, Deanna stood and surreptitiously gestured for Beverly to join her across the room. Once out of earshot, Deanna sighed.

“Beverly we need to know more about the boy. Can you access his mother’s medical file? I want to know more about her death and how it affected Tobias.”

Beverly nodded.

“I agree. I’ll put in a request right away.”

Rejoining father and son, Beverly said,

“Captain I’m going to Sick bay with Troi. Why don’t you call Geordi now?”

Jean-Luc successfully suppressed the panic he felt, instead nodding solemnly.

“All right Doctor. Will we see you soon?”

Beverly smiled her encouragement and nodded.

“Yes, I’ll be back soon.”

Jean-Luc’s smile didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Very well.”

As the women left, Jean-Luc tapped his com badge.

“Picard to LaForge.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Geordi took no time in designing the new addition to Jean-Luc’s quarters. Of course both Geordi and the Captain would have appreciated input from Tobias but the boy continued his silence not even looking at the Chief Engineer when Geordi asked for his opinions. With the schematics displayed on a PADD, the dark man assured his CO the work would be completed within three days. After Geordi left, Jean-Luc went to the replicator and ordered himself an Earl Grey tea. Turning to his son he asked,

“Are you hungry Tobias? Would you like anything?”

Receiving no reply, Jean-Luc obtained a cheese sandwich and a glass of milk for the boy. He placed the light meal on the low table and sank into his favourite chair, sipping his tea while he contemplated the situation.

Tobias took half of the sandwich and ate it, then drank some of the milk, but maintained his silence and refused to look at his father. Eventually tiring of the oppressive quiet, Jean-Luc finished his tea and addressed his son.

“This must be very hard for you Tobias…I’m sorry these last weeks have been so difficult for you.”

The boy kept his gaze affixed to his knees, his hands fisted in his lap. Swallowing his impatience with the lad, Jean-Luc tried again.

“I suppose you’ve been on many Starships. Have you ever been on a Sovereign class before?”

Silence. Refusing to admit defeat, the Captain kept his gentle voice going.

“If you look out the viewports you can see Star base 8. If you like I can take you there; they have holosuites, many shops and a huge arboretum.”

The lad picked up the remainder of his sandwich and ate it, then finished off his milk. Jean-Luc watched with growing frustration. He sighed and tried again.

“Tobias I’m very sorry about your mother. She was a lovely person.”

Tobias’ head slowly lifted and Jean-Luc was riveted by the anger and pain in the boy’s eyes as he glared at his father. Not a word was spoken as their eyes stayed locked, but Jean-Luc got the distinct impression his son hated him…hated him to the bone. Summoning his voice Jean-Luc said softly,

“I’m so sorry Tobias.”

As soon as he spoke, the boy’s eyes slid down to once again gaze at his knees. Jean-Luc’s head bowed and his eyes closed.

“Oh God…what the hell do I do now?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Beverly closed her eyes and shook her head, causing Deanna to come to her side.

“What is it?”

The Doctor gestured to the monitor.

“It’s Eve DesLandes’ medical file. My God Dee…it’s a nightmare!”

Deanna went to the replicator and ordered two hot drinks, a hot chocolate for her and a chamomile tea for Beverly. Taking the seat in front of the Doctor’s desk, Deanna made sure the office door was closed before she spoke.

“Tell me.”

With a deep sigh, Beverly’s cerulean eyes glittered in sadness.

“She died a horrible death Deanna. Her body slowly lost its molecular cohesion, system after system collapsing under the onslaught of the mutant cells.”

As the waves of sympathy and sadness washed over the Counsellor, she stiffened her mental barriers and centred herself.

“What could be done for her?”

Beverly shrugged in savage exasperation.

“Bloody nothing! The wretched woman died an agonising, protracted death…not even palliative measures gave any relief. When death finally occurred it was due to massive systemic failure and believe me, it was the kindest thing to happen to her. My God…how she must have suffered.”

Deanna sat back and took a steadying breath.

“I’ve been reading Tobias’ school records. Throughout his entire life, he lived aboard various ships, never staying long in any one place. Formal schooling was a rarity, he was taught mostly by tutors but he is a gifted child…in the top ten percent for his age. Interestingly though…and very telling, the psyche reports all agree that he is a loner, on almost every occasion preferring his own company. Also, although he is fluent and literate in Standard, he prefers to communicate in French. Apparently it was the language of choice between he and his mother, who I might add, was the single most important person in his life. There were no lasting friendships with his peers and it would seem he had no use for role models…there is no evidence of him ever bonding with a male of any age.”

Beverly snapped off the monitor and sat back, drawing up one leg and resting her chin on her knee.

“While it’s not unusual for kids in his position to be especially close to their only parent, I can see how losing that parent would be particularly devastating…and when you consider the manner of his mother’s death…well you can easily see how the trauma of it would push him into a mental box.”

Deanna nodded thoughtfully.

“Indeed. Inside that box he feels safe. There’s no pain, he doesn’t have to face the reality of what’s happened.”

“And,” Beverly sighed,

“He doesn’t have to acknowledge his newly found father.”

The Counsellor sipped her drink and grimaced.

“I doubt he will do so willingly anyway. To do so would be to admit that his mother’s gone and at the moment that’s simply too painful. Staying the way he is, he can remember her as she was…before the illness that killed her.”

Beverly snorted and rubbed the bridge of her nose.

“So how the hell does the Captain handle this? In a way he’s suffering too.”

Deanna nodded.

“Yes and it’ll get worse for both of them before it gets better. I’m afraid they’re both in for significant pain in the near future and it’s going to take a lot of patience…and love…to get through.”

Both women sat in quiet contemplation, each occupied with their thoughts. Eventually it was Deanna’s soft lyrical voice that intruded into Beverly’s mind.

“What about you?”

The Doctor looked up and frowned.

“What about me.”

Deanna sighed at Beverly’s attempt to deflect her.

“Beverly you know damned well what I mean. The Captain made it quite clear to his son…in front of me…that you two are in a relationship and that’s good, but surely you realise the stress this is going to put on both of you?”

Beverly considered angrily denying her best friend’s observations, but just as quickly squashed her angst. With a sigh and a rueful smile, the Doctor bowed her head.

“You know…I think we have the absolute worst timing in the known universe. Do you know how long we’ve been a couple?”

Deanna shook her head.

“Not exactly, but if I had to guess I’d say not that long. I’ve sensed contentment and joy in you recently and, although our Captain is inordinately proficient at blocking me, I’ve still sensed his underlying happiness.”

Pointing her finger in confirmation, Beverly grinned.

“Spot on! Two months Dee. For the last two months we’ve been in seventh heaven.”

She sighed and the smile disappeared.

“Now this. Jesus can’t we ever just have a normal relationship?”

Deanna’s quietly insistent voice made Beverly wince.

“There’s more.”

Absently picking up a stylus from the desktop, Beverly fiddled with it before throwing it down in disgust.

“Damn it Dee…I don’t want to share him!”

She briefly covered her eyes then sighed.

“Look I feel sorry for the boy…God who wouldn’t? But he’s not ours. He’s Jean-Luc’s son. If we were to have a child of our own that would be different…but this way I have to share my lover with a stranger, a boy who will sneak into Jean-Luc’s heart…leaving less room for me.”

Placing her elbows on the desk, Beverly cradled her head in her hands.

“Oh Christ listen to me…how selfish can you get?”

She lifted her head and scowled.

“It’s just that our relationship is so new…we’re still learning so much about each other.”

Deanna stood and rounded the desk, taking the Doctor’s hands.

“Beverly the Captain loves you…unreservedly. Yes, in time he will come to love his son, but he has loved you for most of his life. Have faith that his love for you…and yours for him, will weather this storm. Be patient and wait. In time he will come to terms with what’s happened and when he does you will see there is ample room in his heart for both of you…and any children you might have.”

Beverly freed one hand and wiped at the suspicious moisture in her eyes. With a watery smile she sighed.

“Thank you dear friend. Now we’d better get back to the Captain…he must be panicking by now.”

Encouraged by Beverly’s strength, Deanna returned the smile, nodding.

“Agreed.”

They left Sick bay holding hands.

 

 

 

               When the women returned to Jean-Luc’s quarters, they felt the tension the moment the doors opened. Stepping through, Beverly spied her lover, standing at the viewport, his back to the room, his hands pushed deep into his pockets. By the rigidity of his spine and the set of his shoulders, the Doctor knew he was very tense. Casting her colleague a sidelong glance, Beverly silently asked for help. Seeing the look and giving a surreptitious nod, Deanna softly cleared her throat and spoke.

“Captain perhaps it might be helpful if I took Tobias on a tour of the ship?”

Jean-Luc turned, his lips pursed in thought. After giving the suggestion appropriate thought, he nodded once, curtly.

“Yes Counsellor, that would be acceptable.”

Deanna went to the seated boy and held out her hand.

“Will you come with me Tobias?”

Ignoring the hand, the lad stood, his head bowed and his eyes on his feet. Deanna gave her Captain an encouraging smile and left his quarters, Tobias in tow. Jean-Luc watched them go then grunted and turned back to the viewport. Beverly had to concentrate on staying calm, her irritation at her lover’s attempts to isolate himself nibbling at her resolve. Taking a deep breath, she sidled up to him and gently wound her arms around his waist. They stood together in silence, each trying to find their equilibrium.

Eventually Jean-Luc sighed heavily and turned within Beverly’s arms. Their lips met in a tender kiss and when they parted Beverly took his hands and led him to the sofa. Once seated she said quietly,

“Tell me about her.”

There was silence before Jean-Luc grunted.

“I take it you mean Eve?”

“Uh huh.”

The Captain shrugged but his tone was defensive.

“What do you want to know?”

Keeping her rising temper under control, Beverly managed a smile.

“Oh I don’t know. How about...what sort of woman was she?”

A frown developed on the Captain’s brow and he sighed, letting his head fall back on the cushions.

“What sort of woman was Eve? She was warm, intelligent, independent…French.”

Beverly snuggled in under his arm and nodded.

“She was French? Was that important?”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Indeed, in fact it was attracted me to her in the first place.”

He stretched out his legs and Beverly felt his body relax.

“As you know, she was my Adjutant. She was aware of my record before we worked together so she knew I was French. From our first day together, whenever we were alone, she conversed solely in French. It had been so long since I’d spoken my native language…it was nice…and it became a familiarity between us.”

Beverly snorted and placed her feet on the low table, smiling when Jean-Luc did the same.

“So you started an affair based on a mutual language?”

It was Jean-Luc’s turn to snort.

“Of course not! It was a catalyst…something we shared exclusively between us.”

He sighed and turned his head to his lover, his eyes glittering with sincerity.

“I didn’t love her Beverly. I cared…quite a bit, but I didn’t love her. We gave each other something we both needed. I think at the heart of it all…we were both lonely.”

There was silence as Beverly digested the information. Her next question made Jean-Luc frown.

“How old was she?”

“At the time she was thirty-eight.”

More silence descended until Jean-Luc sighed heavily.

“My son hates me Beverly.”

Beverly wrapped her free arm around her lover and shook her head against his shoulder.

“No he doesn’t Jean-Luc. Right now he’s very troubled and very frightened. He’ll come around; we just have to be patient.”

The Captain sat up, dislodging his lover. He propped his elbows on his knees and lowered his head into his hands.

“No you’re wrong. Just before you came in, I had tried to apologise to the boy and he finally made eye contact with me. All I saw was pain, anger and…”

He sighed again, his voice dropping to a whisper.

“And hatred.”

Before Beverly could say anything, the Captain rose to his feet and went back to the viewport. He rubbed his face with his hands, his voicer deep and ragged.

“What the hell do I do now? I have absolutely no idea how to handle this!”

The Doctor stood slowly and went to her lover, resting her hands on his hips.

“We take it one day at a time my love…one day at a time.”

Jean-Luc’s shoulders slumped and he shook his head.

“Beverly there’s no need for you to be involved in this. I understand how you must be feeling…I don’t want to hurt you as well.”

Tightening her grip, the Doctor leaned forward until her mouth was near his ear.

“Jean-Luc Picard I love you…period! We will weather this and come out of it stronger…I swear.”

The Captain turned and ignored the tears that tracked down his cheeks.

“I love you mon coeur…with all that I am.”

Beverly tilted her head and nudged under his nose to kiss him with tender passion. When they parted they were slightly panting.

“We’ll get through this my love, trust me.”

All Jean-Luc could do was nod.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 For the third time, Deanna gently asked the boy the same question.

“Would you like something to drink Tobias?”

They were seated in the forward lounge, the view of the Star base close before them through the large clear aluminium windows. Tobias kept his eyes trained on the tabletop, ignoring his escort. Deanna momentarily closed her eyes, centring herself and concentrating on the boy’s emotions. Anger, fear and pain washed over her in waves. In a sympathetic reflex, Deanna reached for the lad’s hands. He quickly withdrew his hands, sliding them under the table and resting them on his thighs. Deanna was about to attempt further conversation when someone else came to their table. The Counsellor frowned and looked up, her displeasure quickly melting away as she smiled. To Tobias she said,

“This is Guinan Tobias.”

Predictably, the boy ignored the Counsellor, keeping both his eyes and head lowered.

The dark enigmatic El Aurian smiled down at the petite woman and gestured to an empty seat.

“May I?”

Deanna nodded.

“Yes of course.”

Once seated, her flowing gown settled around her, Guinan tilted her head, her large elliptical hat teetering alarmingly.

“You don’t say much.”

Tobias ignored her. The bar tender looked at Deanna, her non-existent brow raised.

Understanding the question, Deanna sighed.

“This is Tobias DesLandes. He is Captain Picard’s son.”

If the dark woman was surprised, she didn’t show it. Instead she addressed the boy.

“Your father is a good man.”

When there was no response, Guinan stood and said one final thing.

“I will bring you an Actarian fizz. You’ll like it.”

When she had gone, Deanna summoned a smile.

“Perhaps later we can go to the Star base, there’re lots of things to do there. This ship hasn’t got the things the previous Enterprise had. No arboretum, no animal nursery. We do have a school however. Why don’t we go there later? I can introduce you to some of the other kids we have on board at the moment.”

She didn’t expect a reply and she got none. Guinan returned and placed two drinks in front of her customers. Before Deanna could offer her thanks, the mysterious woman glided away with her usual grace.

As Deanna sipped her drink, Tobias tried his. He tested it slowly before drinking the entire amount. His burp was loud, making Deanna giggle. From the boy there was nothing. No eye contact, no other response. With a sigh Deanna rose to her feet.

“Come on I’ll show you the school.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Jean-Luc and Beverly’s quiet time was interrupted by the door chime. With a heavy sigh, Jean-Luc called,

“Come.”

Geordi, in company with three of his staff entered, their arms full of PADDs and tricorders. Offering an apologetic grin, the Chief Engineer gestured to the wall.

“Might as well get started Captain.”

Sighing resignedly, Jean-Luc rose and offered Beverly his hand. He helped her to her feet and rubbed his brow.

“Now what?”

One look into her warm, sparkling blue eyes eased the tension he felt. The Doctor’s amused voice made him smile.

“Well if we’re getting kicked out of here, why don’t we find Deanna and Tobias and go down to the Star Base?”

The Captain shrugged, his smile rueful.

“Oh hell…why not? Computer location of Counsellor Troi?”

“Counsellor Troi is on deck twelve, section nineteen B.”

The couple looked at each other and Jean-Luc shrugged again.

“I haven’t a clue.”

Beverly grinned and took his arm.

“That’s the temporary school.”

The Captain’s eyebrows rose in comprehension.

“Ah! Yes I remember now. As long as we have those scientists on board, we have to educate their children. Do you think Deanna is enrolling Tobias?”

Beverly shook her head.

“Probably not…I think he needs some time to settle in before he’s expected to go to school.”

She lowered her head and frowned, causing her lover to grip her hand.

“What?”

Beverly sighed and looked into his dark hazel eyes.

“Jean-Luc this could be very difficult for your son.”

“How so?”

“Well he’s not used to formal schooling; he’s had mostly tutors and…”

When she hesitated Jean-Luc sighed.

“Beverly whatever it is…just say it!”

“Okay. It could be really hard for him to be known as the Captain’s son. You are the most senior officer on this ship my love and that carries a hell of a lot of weight. Imagine how it would be…trying to find your feet in a new and unsettling situation and carrying the burden and expectation of being your son.”

The Captain lowered his head and briefly closed his eyes.

“Damn. Do you think perhaps we should keep his identity a secret?”

Beverly shook her head.

“No. If he’s going to come to terms with you being his father, then he has to learn the pit falls that come with it. Hopefully the benefits will outweigh the problems.”

When Jean-Luc remained silent, Beverly bent her head to see under his lowering brow.

“Talk to me.”

Taking a large breath and holding it before slowly expelling it, Jean-Luc shook his head.

“God what a mess. I have absolutely no idea what to do for him Beverly. How do I ease his pain? How do I replace the only person he’s ever felt connected to? The only person he’s ever loved?”

Beverly squeezed his hand.

“The simple answer is you don’t. What you have to do is forge a brand new relationship with him. Don’t try to replace his mother…you can’t, but you can become the father he’s never known, the male role model in his life to guide and shape him on his journey.”

In silence they left Jean-Luc’s quarters and proceeded down the corridor to the turbolift. While they waited for a car, Jean-Luc sighed, his voice a deep whisper.

“If he’ll let me.”

Beverly trailed a finger down his face and smiled.

“He will…with time.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   As it was late in the afternoon, the few students enrolled in the school were just leaving for the day. Deanna placed a gentle hand on Tobias’ shoulder and guided him into the anteroom. As one student went by, the Counsellor softly called his name.

“Graeme?”

The eleven year old stopped and offered a wide smile.

“Hello Counsellor. Why are you here?”

Deanna smiled with open affection and gestured to the sullen boy at her side.

“This is Tobias, Graeme. He’ll be starting school soon.”

“Cool!”

The youngster grinned at the silent boy and offered his hand. When Tobias ignored it, Graeme shrugged and shifted his feet restlessly.

“I have to go Counsellor; my Dad want’s me to tidy my room. Tell him…”
He pointed to Tobias,

“That I’ve got the latest version of death star downloaded on my computer. He can come by and play it with me of he wants.”

Before Deanna could say anything, the lad was out the door and gone. She sighed and turned to her charge.

“Wasn’t that nice? Do you play computer games?”

The lack of any response was beginning to wear at the Counsellor’s empathic senses. She was about to suggest they go elsewhere when she heard the distinctive baritone of her Captain.

“Counsellor Troi.”

She turned and nodded.

“Hello Captain. I’ve just been introducing Tobias to Graeme Hanafford, professor Hanafford’s son. When Tobias joins the school, he will be in Graeme’s class.”

Dressed in civilian clothing, Jean-Luc resisted the urge to put his hands in his pockets. Concentrating on staying relaxed, he addressed his son.

“What do you think of the school Tobias?”

The boy shuffled his feet and took a step away from Deanna. The Counsellor gave the Captain a look then surreptitiously gestured to the door. Beverly caught the by-play and smiled.

“Why don’t I introduce Tobias to the teacher?”

Jean-Luc and Deanna both smiled their gratefulness. Once Beverly had guided Tobias into the classroom, Deanna led Jean-Luc out into the corridor. The Captain folded his arms and adopted his command visage.

“Yes Counsellor?”

She smiled up at the tense man and sighed.

“Captain for the foreseeable future, whenever you talk to Tobias it might be very helpful if you did so in French.”

Jean-Luc’s eyebrows rose and he raised a hand to rub his lower lip pensively.

“Because that’s what he did with his mother?”

“Partly Sir. The thing is, it’s his language of choice. He is fluent and literate in Standard but he prefers French. It might make him feel more…comfortable.”

The Captain grimaced and ran a hand over his bald pate.

“I’m not sure Beverly will be very happy with that. Her French is…spotty at best.”

Deanna shrugged.

“Well in your quarters the translator can tell her what’s been said. As for other situations…perhaps you could teach her?”

With a rueful grin, Jean-Luc allowed a rare glimpse into his private life.

“That was always my intention.”

The Counsellor sighed as warmth flowed over her, surprising her with its intensity. She centred herself with an effort and asked what was on her mind.

“What are your immediate plans Sir?”

Jean-Luc sobered and his mental barriers went back up.

“Oh…the Doctor and I thought we might take Tobias down to the Star Base.”

Deanna smiled and nodded.

“Excellent idea Captain. If I may Sir…later tonight I want to talk with you and Beverly further about the boy, perhaps once he’s asleep?”

Jean-Luc nodded his acquiescence.

“I call you when we’re ready.”

Deanna could see Beverly and Tobias coming out of the classroom so she took her leave.

“Thank you Captain.”

Once Beverly and the boy joined the Captain, he took Beverly’s arm and said,

“Shall we?”

His voice was deep and strong, but inside he cringed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Will Riker huffed when his lover finally entered their quarters. He made a show of asking the computer the time then folded his arms across his broad chest, his eyebrows raised as he awaited an explanation.

Deanna, with great forbearance, stood before the First officer, adopting the same confrontational stance.

“What Will?”

The tall bearded man rolled his eyes.

“I waited for you down on the base and when our reservation went unused I came back up to the ship. Every time I asked the computer where you were, it gave me a different location. And who the hell is Tobias DesLandes?”

With a soft chuckle, Deanna left the affronted man and wandered to the replicator. Will stood his ground as his lover retrieved two hot drinks, walked to the sofa and sat, placing the mugs on the low table. Fixing the Commander with a patient gaze, The Counsellor waited, suppressing a triumphant smile when Will capitulated and joined her.

Before he picked up his mug, Deanna took his hands.

“I’m sorry I took so long and I’m sorry I didn’t contact you, but I found myself in a very delicate situation requiring my expertise.”

Immediately concerned, Will asked earnestly,

“Is Captain Picard all right?”

Summoning a warm smile, Deanna nodded.

“Yes, but something has happened that’s very upsetting for him.”

The big man frowned, his expression troubled.

“It’s not Beverly is it?”

Deanna sighed and let go of one of his hands so she could rub her forehead.

“Beverly is involved…it’s a little complicated Will.”

“Can you tell me?”

Deanna took a deep breath then nodded.

“Yes I think so.”

Will sat up and leaned forward expectantly. Deanna gathered her thoughts and began.

“The Captain was called to the ship on a personal matter. A private craft from Earth had arrived carrying two people; a legal representative…and a nine year old boy.”

Will frowned, knowing the Captain had no living blood relatives.

“What did they want?”

“The solicitor was here to introduce the Captain to the boy. He is the Captain’s son.”

Will's mouth gaped before it snapped closed and he shook his head.

“His son? He has a nine year old son? How? Who?”

Deanna spent the next few minutes explaining the circumstances of the boy’s birth and subsequent life. She ended by telling Will of the lad’s difficulties.

“So you see Will this is a very delicate situation. We have the Captain’s shock and understandable anxiety, Tobias’ deep trauma and Beverly’s reluctance to allow the boy into their fledgling relationship.”

Will’s chuckle made Deanna scowl.

“It’s not funny Will!”

He held up his hands to placate the irritated woman.

“I’m not laughing at the situation Dee. I just find it ironic that the two most private people I’ve ever met have to bear this in front of the entire crew.”

He then frowned and lowered his head.

“They are going to be up front about this aren’t they? They’re not going to try and hide the boy’s parentage?”

Deanna shook her head.

“No I don’t think so…it would be a mistake if they did. Tobias has to overcome his trauma and learn to accept his father…and Beverly. Captain Picard has to discover the ability to be a father and Beverly has to come to terms with the fact she no longer has the Captain to herself. All three of them are in for a rocky time.”

Will lifted his head and scratched his whiskery cheek.

“But you can help.”

Deanna shrugged.

“I’ll do what I can, but with Beverly and the Captain being as they are and the boy being totally uncommunicative…I can only do so much. At the moment all I can do is give advice. Therapy will come later…if I’m lucky.”

Will grunted and shook his head.

“Jesus what a bloody mess.”

He chewed his lower lip then asked,

“Can I help?”

Deanna smiled her appreciation and took his hand.

“Not yet my love. When the Captain tells you about this, then you can offer your help, but until then, mum’s the word.”

The First Officer sighed and nodded reluctantly.

“Okay.”

They finished their drinks and returned to the Star Base.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         Jean-Luc, Beverly and Tobias returned to the Enterprise in the early evening. The adults were tired, irritated and stressed. The boy was sullen and withdrawn, something the officers had come to accept. They had spent the afternoon sightseeing, taking the lad to all the likely places they thought he might like to see.

After several hours of silent unresponsiveness, Beverly, nearing desperation, suggested they have dinner.

With Beverly’s help, Jean-Luc chose a restaurant that catered for children but the Captain was forced to bow to Beverly’s expertise with youngsters to order his son’s meal. By this time conversation was almost non-existent and the meal was taken in an uncomfortable silence. Following Deanna’s suggestion, Jean-Luc had used his native tongue every time he spoke to his son, but apart from one initial glare, there had been no other reaction.

It was with relief that they returned to the ship.

On entering their quarters, Jean-Luc immediately noticed Geordi and his staff had managed a significant change. They had created the rooms necessary, but as yet they were bare, the bathroom and fixtures non existent. However a bare bed and mattress was installed and Beverly spent ten minutes replicating the linens, pillow and blankets while Jean-Luc took Tobias to the cargo hold to retrieve his clothes.

By the time they got back it was obvious the boy was very tired. Jean-Luc offered to help him get changed but Tobias ignored him and went to his room, closing the door and shutting his father out. When he didn’t reappear after a quarter of an hour, Jean-Luc went to check on him, only to find him sound asleep. The Captain gathered the blankets and drew them around his son, but the boy shied away from his touch. Even in sleep Tobias rejected his father.

Beverly knew as soon as Jean-Luc returned to her that something had happened to further hurt him but refrained from commenting. Jean-Luc opened a bottle of wine then tapped his com badge.

“Picard to Troi.”

“Troi here Captain.”

“Now would be appropriate Counsellor.”

“On my way Captain, Troi out.”

The exhausted man sat in his favourite chair and took a long sip of his wine. Beverly did the same before asking,

“Deanna wants to talk with us?”

The Captain nodded, then paused, seemingly to remember something. He looked over at his lover and sighed.

“I’m sorry Beverly…is it all right? Do you mind?”

With graciousness, Beverly shook her head.

“No of course not…it’s inevitable and I guess it’ll be a matter of getting used to it. We’re going to be seeing a lot of Deanna Troi I’d wager.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and growled his agreement. The door chimed and Jean-Luc called softly,

“Come.”

As Deanna entered and made her way to the sofa, Beverly retrieved a glass and poured her some wine. The three officers took a moment of quiet contemplation as they sipped before Deanna brought their attention to the matter at hand.

“How did the last few hours go?”

This was directed at the Captain and he scowled.

“It was hell! The boy remained sullen and completely closed. Nothing we said or did made any difference.”

Deanna’s eyes glittered with intensity.

“Nothing? Nothing at all?”

The Captain shook his head brusquely but Beverly quietly admonished him.

“That’s not entirely true Jean-Luc.”

Jean-Luc cast an annoyed look at his lover and waved a dismissive hand, his voice sarcastic.

“Oh yes. My son glared at me the first time I spoke to him in French. There’s a breakthrough for you.”

Deanna sat up, her senses heightened.

“He made eye contact with you?”

Jean-Luc sneered.

“Yes, it’s the second time, but both times has been with anger, pain and hatred.”

The smile on the Counsellor’s face only served to further irritate the Captain. His quiet voice carried the unmistakable threat of rising anger.

“I fail to see any humour in this Counsellor.”

The Counsellor raised a hand and shook her head.

“Captain don’t you see? Tobias showed emotion! On two occasions you have been able to break through the wall he’s constructed. I think that’s significant.”

Beverly placed her glass on the arm of the sofa and sat forward.

“Even though the emotions have been negative?”

“Yes! Even anger is better than nothing.”

Jean-Luc’s quiet voice made both women look at him.

“And hatred Counsellor…do you also feel encouraged by the fact my son has made it patently clear he hates me?”

Jean-Luc almost winced at the sympathy displayed within the depths of Deanna’s fathomless black eyes.

“He doesn’t hate you Captain. Right now Tobias is in pain. He’s hurt, confused and feeling totally lost. You’re the focus of all those feelings Sir. He knows you’re his father but he doesn’t know how to feel about that. At the moment he probably feels threatened too…he’s trying to cling to his memories of his mother…as she was before the illness…the last thing he wants right now is someone to take her place.”

Jean-Luc rubbed his face and sighed, his voice laden with uncharacteristic defeat.

“So it’s hopeless then.”

The women shared a glance before Deanna frowned and shook her head.

“No Sir it’s not hopeless. What you all need is time…and a little help.”

The Captain drained his glass. He then stood, took the bottle and refilled his glass before offering more wine to the women. He sat again and rested his elbow on the arm of the chair and settled his head in his hand. Deanna gently probed his mind, coming up against his shields but still sensing his deep disquiet. Choosing her words carefully, the petite woman asked,

“Captain your worry and anguish are understandable but there’s more. Please tell me Sir, if not for your sake, then for you son’s.”

There followed a protracted silence. Beverly knew her lover well enough to know he was wrestling with himself, Deanna correctly guessed he would answer when he was ready. Neither woman was surprised when the Captain sighed and shook his head.

“Counsellor I find I am ashamed of myself.”

“Why Sir?”

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Jean-Luc squeezed his eyes shut.

“When I was first told I was Tobias’ father I struggled to accept it. My first reaction was to suggest the boy go to another relative, I made some weak excuse about being the Captain of the ship and how it was inappropriate for him to stay here. When it was pointed out that wasn’t an option, my second reaction was to question the validity of the presumption I was indeed his father. I gave little thought to my son’s situation…my thoughts were for myself and I find my behaviour reprehensible, especially under the circumstances. I fear I won’t make a very good father.”

Beverly glanced at the Counsellor and received a surreptitious nod. When she spoke her voice was gentle and kind.

“Jean-Luc your response was entirely understandable. You were in shock! Look at it this way. Once you had all the facts you reacted responsibly didn’t you?”

The Captain shrugged.

“I suppose so.”

“Then stop castigating yourself! Look nobody knows how to be a parent…it’s something you have to learn. There’s no certificate…no degree you can gain, it just happens. You’re a good man, Jean-Luc. You’re kind, thoughtful, gentle and honourable. I think Tobias is lucky, at least in so much as he has you for a father.”

The Captain absorbed her words and sighed.

“I hear you Beverly but I’m not fully convinced.”

Deanna said softly,

“Do you trust my judgement Captain?”

The CO nodded pensively.

“Yes, as a matter of fact I do.”

“Then my professional opinion is…you’ll do fine. Trust your instincts Captain, they won’t let you down.”

Jean-Luc grunted and took a sip of his wine. They spent the next hour going over what the women had learned from the records before Deanna stood, bringing the meeting to a close.

“Well I will leave you now. Keep talking to him and spending time with him. Even the walls of Jericho fell eventually.”

Beverly grinned and escorted her friend to the doors.

“Thanks Dee, see you tomorrow.”

After seeing the Counsellor out, Beverly turned to see her lover disposing of the glasses in the reclimator. She went to him and took him into her embrace.

“It’ll work out my love, you’ll see.”

Jean-Luc sighed and turned to kiss her tenderly.

“My God…what would I do without you?”

Beverly deepened the kiss then tapered it.

“Let’s go to bed.”

Jean-Luc nodded and called softly,

“Computer lights off.”

They were in bed within ten minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  With an soft irritated grunt, Jean-Luc turned over again, his restlessness causing Beverly to sigh and turn to face him Keeping her voice quiet and gentle she asked,

“What is it?”

The Captain hitched the covers higher and shook his head.

“Nothing, go back to sleep.”

In the darkness of their bedroom, Beverly frowned and took a calming breath.

“Jean-Luc you’ve been flopping about like a dying fish. Tell me…what’s wrong?”

Now growing angry, Jean-Luc grabbed his pillow and pushed it savagely into shape.

“It’s nothing! Go to sleep.”

With her own anger coming to the fore, Beverly pulled at the covers, getting her share of their warmth.

“I can’t. You’re keeping me awake with your tossing.”

The Doctor wasn’t surprised when, with an exasperated snort, Jean-Luc abruptly sat up and growled.

“Dammit!”

As he drew his legs up and lowered his head to his knees, Beverly sat up and sidled closer, gently putting an arm around her lover.

“Tell me.”

Jean-Luc took a steadying breath and lifted his head.

“It’s the whole damnable situation! For Christ’s sake Beverly we’ve only just begun our relationship and here we are confronted by a nine-year-old boy who just happens to be my son. Jesus…I have no idea how I’m going to help the boy…I don’t even know if I can.”

The Doctor swallowed and kept her voice even.

“It’ll be okay Jean-Luc…Deanna says…”

“Damn Deanna! She can’t be here all the time…and neither can I! I have a ship to run dammit.”

Beverly gently stroked his arm and coaxed his face to turn to her.

“We take this one day at a time Jean-Luc. We have two weeks leave left, hopefully, by that time, Tobias will have settled in and be ready to go to school. We can tailor our shifts to coincide with his school hours so that we can be together morning and night. Once we establish a routine we’ll all be happier…you’ll see.”

In the darkness, Jean-Luc’s eyes glittered.

“Beverly my love this shouldn’t have to involve you. This is my problem.”

The Doctor squeezed his arm to emphasise her point.

“Tobias isn’t a problem Jean-Luc…he’s your son…a boy with some very weighty issues to deal with. I think it would be best if we offered him a united front. We’re together…a couple in a committed relationship. He needs to see that and understand that we will both be there for him. I won’t try to replace his mother, but I can be a mother figure to him, if he wants it.”

Jean-Luc sighed and traced her face with his fingers, his deep baritone sending shivers down Beverly’s spine.

“You say that as if it’s simple, but you’ve been a mother…I’ve never been a father.”

“What about Kataan?”

Jean-Luc grunted and shook his head.

“That never happened, you know that.”

Beverly snuggled closer and slipped her hand over his chest.

“Nonsense! You remember everything that happened don’t you?”

He nodded silently.

“And you remember being a father to Meribor and Batai?”

Again the silent nod.

“Well just because they never existed doesn’t negate your experience my love. The memories are real, all you have to do is access them.”

Jean-Luc sighed again and lowered his head.

“I suppose.”

Beverly’s hand crept over to his nipple and teased until it pebbled. Jean-Luc shifted and gripped her hand, removing it from his chest and lifting to his mouth where he kissed her fingers before kissing the inside of her wrist.

Beverly turned her body to him and, with her free hand, caressed his stomach.  His dark eyes glittered and she heard the question in his low deep voice.

“Beverly?”

In reply Beverly nuzzled his neck and whispered in his ear,

“I want you.”

He let go of her hand and took her face, holding it tenderly.

“I’m not very good company at the moment.”

Beverly chuckled and gently bit his earlobe while her gently caressing hand crept lower.

“That can change.”

Her hand slipped under the waistband of his shorts and he sighed.

“But Tobias…”

“Is sound asleep in his own room.”

He was slowly hardening and Beverly increased her sensuous caresses.

“Come on Jean-Luc…you know you want it. It’ll help you sleep.”

He growled and twisted his body, gently tugging Beverly until they were both lying on the mattress. He lifted her nightie off her body before descending to nuzzle her nipples. His husky voice only served to heighten Beverly’s desire.

“You wanton wench…shamelessly seducing me…I’ve a mind to make you pay for that.”

Between gasps of delight, the Doctor panted,

“Oh…yeah?...How?”

Supporting himself on one elbow, Jean-Luc watched intently as he slipped two fingers inside his lover and slid his thumb over her engorged clitoris.

“Like this.”

Beverly arched off the bed and gripped his arm her jaw flexing as she clenched her teeth.

“Oh God…”

The Captain softly growled his appreciation as he took a nipple into his mouth. He teased it until it throbbed then moved to the other nipple, repeating his actions. Beverly’s hands held his head, imploring him for more. He left her breasts and slothfully kissed his way down the flat plain of her stomach while his fingers and thumb continued to bring her to the edge. As the moisture coated his hand, he murmured,

“You like that my love? Do you want more?”

Swallowing to wet her dry mouth Beverly panted,

“Yes! More…God yes…more!”

Jean-Luc moved down the bed and rested his head on Beverly’s groin. His tongue quested around her labia as he asked,

“Do you want my mouth, or do you want me inside you?”

Beverly gripped the sheets and almost sobbed.

“Inside! I want you inside me!”

When Jean-Luc sat up Beverly whimpered at the loss of contact. He quickly shed his shorts and took her by the ankles, gently opening her legs. He knelt between her thighs and trailed his fingers over her sex.

“You’re so beautiful mon coeur.”

Beverly lifted her arms and beckoned to her lover.

“Come to me Jean-Luc.”

Covering her body with his, Jean-Luc guided his penis to her entrance and teased her with it. Beverly groaned in frustration and arched up to him, seeking his length.

Jean-Luc gathered her into his arms and, as he kissed her with unbridled passion, he entered her in one long slow stroke.

Beverly cried out and wrapped her arms around him, holding on as he began to thrust.

“Oh God…yes…yes!”

After several minutes of intense lovemaking, Jean-Luc took Beverly’s hands and pinned them to the pillow as he rose on his arms and increased his efforts. Beverly arched her head back, her eyes staring sightlessly. Out of the corner of her eye she detected movement. It took some seconds to register, but she turned her head and focussed her sight. Her body suddenly went rigid and she wrenched her hands free, gripping Jean-Luc’s arms and hissing,

“Stop! Jean-Luc stop!”

The Captain, confused and concerned, stopped his vigorous movements and panted,

“What? Why…did I hurt you?”

The Doctor shook her head and let go of his arm, pointing to the door.

“No! Look!”

Jean-Luc’s head snapped around and he gasped at seeing his son standing in the open doorway. He quickly rolled off his lover and pulled up the covers. He was about to speak when Beverly squeezed his arm.

“He’s asleep.”

Jean-Luc peered at his son in the dim light and saw the boy’s eyes were closed. In a whisper he asked,

“Sleepwalking?”

“Uh huh.” Beverly whispered.

“What do I do?”

“Just guide him back to bed and tuck him in.”

Taking the time to put on his shorts, Jean-Luc walked slowly to his son and gently took his hand.

“Retourne au lit Tobias.”

Beverly sighed.

“Back to bed…God, how many times did Nanna say that to me?”

The lad silently followed his father back to his room and got back into bed without complaint. Jean-Luc tucked the boy in then returned to his own bed. Once he settled there was an uncomfortable silence. It was broken by Beverly’s chuckle.

“God…I felt like a teenager caught by my parents.”

Jean-Luc grunted.

“It’s not funny Beverly…it’s bloody embarrassing!”

With the Captain lying rigidly on his back, Beverly turned over and draped herself over him.

“Oh come on he didn’t see anything. He won’t even remember it in the morning.”

Jean-Luc growled,

“I’ll remember it!”

More silence descended and Jean-Luc thought Beverly had dozed off. That was until she asked,

“Did you ever catch your parents?”

If he was tense before, he became even more so. Beverly sensed his discomfort and sought to ease him.

“Hey…don’t worry about it…it happens all the time.”

When Jean-Luc eventually spoke his voice was deep and rough.

“It was very traumatic. I woke one night and heard them but I didn’t understand, I thought they were having a nightmare. I went into their room and my father saw me. He shouted at me and I got a fright and ran back to my room in tears. In the morning he wouldn’t look at me and my mother was silent. It was a long, long time before I realised what I’d witnessed.”

Beverly sighed and hugged her lover.

“How old were you?”

Jean-Luc shrugged.

“About six I think.”

“Well it isn’t always like that. Wesley caught Jack and me. He was younger than you were but we made a joke out of it. In the end we all ended up in bed laughing.”

When Jean-Luc chuckled quietly, Beverly grinned; pleased he could find his sense of humour. When she ran her fingers down his body to his groin, he scowled.

“Oh no you don’t!”

The Doctor nuzzled his neck and gently bit him.

“Why not? It’ll help you relax.”

Jean-Luc grabbed both her hands and shook his head.

“You are absolutely insane! What if he comes back in?”

Beverly shrugged.

“Then you’ll put him back to bed. Come on Jean-Luc…I’m horny.”

The Captain huffed.

“Then my dear you’ll just have to stay horny. I’m going to try and get some sleep.”

With that he took a deep breath, closed his eyes and let the breath out slowly, relaxing his body. Beverly screwed her face up and slid off her lover to lie on her back beside him. Still naked, she closed her eyes and started to drift her hands over her breasts, her sighs as her nipples rose making Jean-Luc frown. He knew by the soft gasps and sighs that she was arousing herself, however he steadfastly refused to be disturbed. He concentrated on keeping his eyes closed and his mind occupied with thoughts of calming things.

Beverly, by now growing steadily aroused, allowed her hands to drift down her body to dally in her copper curls. As she parted her legs, her thigh pressed against Jean-Luc’s leg and he shifted with a grunt of annoyance. Ignoring the irritated man, Beverly slid her fingers through her folds and moaned softly as her clitoris reacted to the stimulation. As one hand slowly pleasured herself, the other rose to tease her breasts.

As his lover’s moans grew ever more strident, Jean-Luc gritted his teeth and tried to ignore his erection. He thought he was winning the battle…until Beverly’s soft voice reached his ears.

“Oh…Jean-Luc….yes…”

He’d had enough. In one smooth motion he pushed down his shorts and rolled over, his body covering Beverly’s. He grappled with her as she writhed beneath him, grasping her wrists and pinning her hands to the pillow. He entered her in one hard thrust and Beverly flexed, a shout torn from her throat.

Short on patience and high on passion, Jean-Luc abandoned his usual control and plunged in and out of his lover with singular intent. Beverly arched under him, her first orgasm causing her body to stiffen and shudder. Jean-Luc didn’t slow or otherwise recognise his partner’s climax. He screwed his eyes shut and gave himself to the sensation of being trapped in Beverly’s tight slippery heat. His release took him unawares. With his face contorted in a rictus of ecstasy he held himself inside his lover and ejaculated deeply within her, mindless and uncaring. Beverly’s second orgasm came on the coattails of the first and she was spasming through it as Jean-Luc came.

He collapsed on her as they tried to catch their breath. Beverly opened her eyes and twisted her head, gratified to see the door still closed. Jean-Luc sensed her movement and guessed her intent. Once he caught his breath he asked,

“Are we still alone?”

Beverly gulped a breath and nodded.

“Uh huh.”

The Captain relaxed his body and grunted.

“Thank Christ for that!”

Beverly giggled and Jean-Luc rolled to his side, glowering at his lover.

“What’s so bloody funny?”

“You! Five minutes ago you couldn’t have cared less.”

Jean-Luc snorted.

“Five minutes ago I was fucking my brains out.”

Beverly mewed and snuggled under his arm.

“Hmm, intense wasn’t it.”

“Yes it was but really Beverly…you’re such a bloody tease!”

The Doctor chuckled tiredly.

“Are you complaining?”

Jean-Luc made a show of actually considering the question…that was until Beverly dug her fingers into his ribs. He snorted and twitched sideways.

“No! I’m not complaining.”

“Good. Now…do you think you can sleep?”

He sighed.

“Yes, I think so.”

“Okay goodnight my love.”

In the darkness Jean-Luc smiled.

“Goodnight mon coeur.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Breakfast next morning was uncomfortable. Despite Jean-Luc and Beverly’s attempts at bringing Tobias into their conversation, he remained silent and sullen. The only good thing was that he appeared to have no recollection of the previous night’s interruption and the adults breathed a collective sigh of relief.

With time on his hands, Jean-Luc decided to take his son back to the Star base while Beverly opted to spend the morning updating her current research. They agreed to meet later for lunch. The engineers arrived to start work on Tobias’ rooms, assuring Beverly they wouldn’t bother her.

Deeply involved in the information on her computer, Beverly frowned when the door chimed. Not wishing to be disturbed, she lifted her head and asked,

“Computer who is at the door?”

“Counsellor Deanna Troi.”

With a warm smile, Beverly called softly,

“Come in.”

Deanna entered and grinned at her nest friend.

“Working?”

The Doctor shrugged.

“Sort of, I wanted to get some updates…I’m meeting the Captain and Tobias later for lunch.”

The Counsellor pointed to the replicator.

“Can you spare me ten minutes?”

Beverly smiled, nodding her agreement.

“Of course.”

Casting a look at Tobias’ room, Beverly was pleased to see the engineers were working behind closed doors.

While Deanna secured two hot drinks, Beverly went to the sofa and sat, stretching her long legs and placing her feet on the coffee table. When Deanna joined her, the younger woman snickered.

“I bet you don’t do that when the Captain’s here.”

The Doctor snorted.

“I do so!” Her face showing her outrage at the suggestion she should behave a certain way for her lover. Then she relented and allowed a rueful grin.

“Well actually he does like me to take my shoes off first…but he never says anything either way.”

There was a comfortable silence while the women sipped their drinks. Deanna set her mug down and flicked her hair off her shoulders.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Beverly frowned and feigned ignorance.

“About what?”

With a wave of her hand dismissing her friend’s attempts at innocence, Deanna scowled.

“You know damn well what. You and the Captain. Look I’ve known for some time that your relationship with him had changed…I sensed it in both of you…despite the efforts to shut me out. But Beverly you didn’t even tell me when you moved in with him. I had to find out by asking the computer for an update on crew accommodations. I thought we were closer than that.”

Beverly closed her eyes and sighed, rubbing her face with her hands. She gathered her thoughts and lifted her head to face her friend.

“It was a mutual decision Dee. We were so…scared, no maybe not scared exactly, but unsure certainly. Not about what we’d done, but about ourselves. We’re both very set in our ways and quite stubborn…we just needed time, time to see how it fitted. This step we’ve taken is huge Dee and also deliciously…exciting. When he asked me to move in with him I was shocked and I wondered if he truly realised what he was asking, but, as usual, he surprised me. He’s proved he’s adaptable Dee, although I know at times he’s fighting himself over the disruption to his life, but he’s constantly proving to me he loves me enough to overcome his habits and his hermit-like existence to let me in, not only into his life, but into his heart.”

Deanna nodded pensively and placed her hands between her knees, straightening her arms.

“So not only did you desire privacy, you wanted time to settle in.”

Beverly nodded.

“Uh huh. We always intended to tell you and Will, in fact all of the Command staff, but…just for a little while…we wanted time to ourselves.”

Deanna grinned and tilted her head.

“Fair enough. So tell me…how is it? What’s he like to live with?”

Beverly sat back and rested her head on the cushions.

“Well…there were some rough edges to smooth out…but all in all it’s very comfortable. The thing is we’re so happy in each other’s company…we don’t need to chat or feel the need to amuse each other, in fact we sometimes sit in complete silence for hours simply at ease with each other. We listen to music or read, then there are other times when we’ll have a lively debate about something, but you know my very favourite part?”

Deanna’s eyes sparkled as she shook her head, her curls dancing on her shoulders.

Beverly sighed wistfully, her face becoming dreamy.

“Waking up with him. I’ve wanted to do that for so long…”

Deanna gasped and poked her friend in the arm.

“You old tart! You never told me that! You said you’d wondered what he might be like in bed but you never said anything about waking up with him.”

Beverly snorted and flapped her hand.

“Oh really Dee…can you honestly say that I was considering a one night stand? Come on…you know him as well as me. He isn’t into casual affairs…if he gives himself it’s everything. It was never going to be anything but the whole kit and caboodle.”

Deanna sighed.

“That’s so romantic.”

The Doctor grinned.

“Tell me about it! I get flowers…little gifts, he’s very attentive.”

Deanna’s expression turned lascivious.

“And the sex?”

Beverly feigned shock.

“Dee!”

The Counsellor scowled.

“Oh come off it Beverly…give!”

The Doctor grinned widely.

“Let me just say that our Captain has consummate abilities in many things…including matters erotic and passionate.”

“Oh my! Lucky you, although I’m not surprised. A man with so much passion was always going to be good in bed, but does it take much to stir him?”

Beverly giggled.

“I think you’d be surprised at how little it takes.”

Deanna’s eyebrows rose.

“Really? I would’ve thought he’d be more…controlled…more reserved.”

Beverly shrugged.

“I thought so too, but once we took that step…my God it was like letting loose a cyclone. All that repressed sexual tension…wow!”

Deanna giggled and patted her friend’s knee.

“Well I’m very happy for you both.”

The two women shared a companionable grin before Deanna sighed and sobered.

“Tell me…what was your first night with Tobias like?”

Beverly immediately reddened and Deanna sensed her embarrassment.

“Beverly? What is it?”

The red head sighed and shook her head.

“Oh God Dee…Tobias walked in on us having sex.”

Deanna’s gasp made Beverly wince.

“Oh my God…what did the Captain do?”

Beverly shrugged.

“He reacted predictably I suppose. He was mortified of course…and angry, but it wasn’t as bad as it might have been. Tobias was sleepwalking. He didn’t see or hear anything.”

“So what happened?”

“Jean-Luc put him back to bed.”

Deanna stifled a giggle, earning a glare from her friend.

“How was breakfast this morning?”

Beverly sighed expansively.

“Brittle, but once we realised Tobias didn’t remember anything about last night the tension eased a bit. The thing is with his continued silent routine it’s so hard…Jean-Luc’s trying…we both are, but it’s like we’re beating our heads against a brick wall.”

Deanna nodded her understanding.

“I know…give it time…and be patient. Eventually you’ll break through.”

Deanna stood and stretched.

“Well I’m off to meet Will. I’ll come by after dinner tonight to see how you’re all getting on.”

Beverly stood and smiled warmly at her friend.

“Okay, thanks Dee.”

After the Counsellor left, Beverly sighed and looked over to her computer.

“Better get back to it.”

Ten minutes later she was once again immersed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        Jean-Luc closed his eyes briefly and ran his hand over his head. Silently counting to ten in six languages, he calmed himself and tried again. Keeping his voice soft and his tone reasonable, he said in French,

“Tobias if you don’t tell me what you’d prefer I will have no option but to choose the programme myself and I don’t want to do that. I would like to try something you’d like. Surely you’re bored with my selections by now?”

The boy remained mute, staring fixedly at the floor. Jean-Luc raised his head and glared at the ceiling, racking his brains for a solution to the problem. Suddenly he had an epiphany.

“Ah! If I’m not mistaken you’ve got a birthday coming up. Why don’t we go back to the commerce centre and find you a suitable present?”

When the boy didn’t move, Jean-Luc gently gripped his shoulder. Tobias wrenched free from the Captain’s grasp and glared at his father. Jean-Luc kept his voice even but he couldn’t hide the hurt and pain in his eyes.

“Please Tobias…”

Without a sound the boy abruptly turned and left the holosuite. Jean-Luc had no option but to follow. With hasty steps, Tobias led his father back to the transporter room. He took his place on the pad and glared defiantly at the perplexed man. Jean-Luc frowned and stepped closer to his son.

“You want to go back to the ship? But we’re meeting Beverly for lunch.”

The sneer that appeared on the lad’s face angered the Captain, but he hid it well, deciding to see if he could reason with the boy. In gentle French he said,

“Tobias Beverly will be disappointed if we go back to the ship. She’s been working all morning and will be looking forward to a rest. Why don’t we go and choose a restaurant, then we can go to the commerce centre so you can select a present for your birthday?”

Tobias’ defiant glare turned into a look of utter disgust and distain. He let out a short snort and stepped of the transporter pad, coming to stand before his father, his eyes lowered and his hands fisted at his sides.

With a mixture of anger and pain, Jean-Luc turned and left the room, his reluctant son trailing behind him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Two and a half hours later, and in the eighth shop, Jean-Luc’s patience was running out. Having dismissed the attendant, as he had in the previous seven shops, Jean-Luc strove to keep his tone level.

“Do you see anything you like here Tobias? Perhaps this…”
He picked up a model Starship only to be studiously ignored by the disinterested boy. The Captain replaced the model and pushed his hands into his pockets. He took a deep breath and managed to refrain from raising his voice.

“If you would just tell me what you’d like…what your interests are. I would really prefer to get you something you’d like.”

With deliberate insolence Tobias slowly raised his eyes and glared at the hapless man. His soft voice dripping with scorn he said in succinct French,

“Je ne veux rein de toi.”

Hiding his shock at being spoken to with such hatred, Jean-Luc straightened and folded his arms across his chest.

“You don’t want anything from me? Very well.”

He checked his personal chronometer and turned to the door.

“It’s time to meet Beverly.”

Dismay and pain warred within Jean-Luc. He strode to the restaurant, only the sound of his son’s footfalls letting him know that he was following behind.

When Beverly found them ten minutes later she could feel the cold tension thick in the air around them. She took her seat, earning a tight smile from her lover and complete disdain from the boy. Lunch was terrible, conversation non existent. On paying the bill, they returned to the Enterprise, Tobias going immediately to his room, watching as the engineers worked on his new bathroom.

Jean-Luc went to his desk and accessed his safe. After some moments he went to the door, pausing as he turned to his lover.

“I’ll be in my Ready Room.”

He didn’t wait for a reply. The doors whispered closed and Beverly swore under her breath.

“Shit! Thank you very much Captain.”

Silence descended in the quarters, Beverly glaring out the viewport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Studiously ignoring the staff on the Bridge, Jean-Luc stalked into his office, his face stony. Sitting at his desk, he opened his fist and stared at the isolinear chip he’d held so tightly. Savagely pushing it into his computer he muttered,

“All right Eve; let’s see what you’ve got to say.”

The image that appeared on the screen made him gasp softly and briefly close his eyes. The woman that faced him was a parody of the vivacious officer he knew, her sandy shoulder-length hair was almost non-existent and her soft peach-like skin was ash grey and riven with sores. Red rimmed, hollow, dull green eyes stared at him and the breath she took to begin rattled noisily in her frail chest. Her voice was paper-thin and raspy.

“My dear Jean-Luc…by now you will have met our son.”

She paused, taking another obviously painful breath, exposing her missing teeth.

“I know it must have been a shock to you…and I’m sorry I never told you about him…”

She rested a moment before continuing,

“But he’s with you now…where he belongs.”

Tears welled in the stricken woman’s eyes and she ignored them as they ran down her pinched face.

“I knew how you felt about children…and how important your career was to you…”

She began to softly pant.

“He’s a good boy Jean-Luc…gentle, clever…very brave…a lot like you really.”

A hand appeared on the screen, wiping the poor woman’s brow with a damp cloth. Eve wearily raised a hand, brushing the cloth away.

“Jean-Luc…these last days have been hard…hard on both of us but mostly on Tobias. He’s hurting and I can’t help him.”

A cup with a straw appeared and she took a few sips.

“He needs help Jean-Luc…in a very short time I will be gone…leaving just you…you must help him Jean-Luc…find it in yourself to be his father.”

She was tiring fast but she took a deep painful breath and rallied.

“It’ll be hard Jean-Luc…he won’t want you…he’ll try to shut everyone out…don’t let him. Find a way inside…find a way to reach him. I’ve told him a little about you but he doesn’t want to know. He won’t admit to himself that I’m dying.”

She lowered her head, panting softly.

“I’ve made a chip for him too. When you think he’s ready, give it to him.”

She lifted her head and tried to smile, but her pain was too great.

“I’m so sorry Jean-Luc…I wish I could’ve seen him grow up.”

The screen went blank and the Captain took a steadying breath, his heart aching for his lost lover. He rose and went to the replicator, returning to his desk with a hot cup of Earl Grey. He took his seat and sipped the fragrant brew before reactivating his computer. As the image appeared, he settled down to watch it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

              A little over three hours passed before the Captain returned to his quarters. He found Beverly seated on the sofa reading. He glanced at the closed doors to his son’s rooms and sighed.

“Has he come out since I left?”

Beverly shook her head.

“Nope.”

Jean-Luc went to his lover and sat, gently taking her hand.

“How are you?”

The Doctor’s silence made him shift slightly. Keeping his deep voice soft, he asked,

“Beverly?”

With an annoyed snort, Beverly rose to her feet and stood in front of the viewport, her arms hugging herself. Jean-Luc frowned up at the red head and shook his head.

“What? What’s wrong?”

Beverly spun on her heel and speared the Captain with a withering glare.

“You want to know what’s wrong?”

He nodded.

“Yes.”

“Well mon Capitaine while you were resting alone in your inner sanctum, I was left holding the bloody fort! What the hell would I have done if your son had decided to grace me with his unpleasant company? Hmm?”

Jean-Luc came to his feet and shook his head.

“Beverly…”

She raised a hand, halting him.

“Oh no you don’t! You left without so much as a by-your-leave. What the hell were you doing up there for three bloody hours anyway?”

The Captain took a deep breath and reached into his pocket.

“I was watching this.”

He showed Beverly the chip and she snorted.

“What is it?”

“It’s a message for me from Eve.”

Suddenly deflated, all Beverly could say was,

“Oh.”

Jean-Luc took her hand and coaxed her to the sofa where they both sat.

“Would you like to see it?”

Beverly’s blue eyes searched Jean-Luc’s hazel eyes and she smiled.

“You don’t mind?”

He shook his head.

“Not at all.”

She took the chip, turning it over with her fingers.

“How long is it?”

“Only a few minutes.”

The Doctor frowned.

“But you were gone hours.”

Jean-Luc smiled ruefully.

“Afterwards I went over the next mission and crew rotations.”

Lightly punching his shoulder, Beverly gently admonished her lover.

“You’re supposed to be on leave.”

He shrugged.

“I know but after watching the chip I needed to immerse myself in ship’s business for a while. Do you understand?”

Beverly grinned and kissed him tenderly.

“Yep.”

Jean-Luc turned his head and glanced over his shoulder at the closed door of his son’s rooms.

“While you watch the chip, I’ll get Tobias ready for dinner.”

Beverly sighed.

“Good luck.”

As Beverly went to the desk, Jean-Luc rose and went to his son’s door, lightly knocking. When there was no reply, the Captain pressed the release and entered to find his son sitting with Geordi on the bed. The Engineer was showing him some schematics on a PADD.

“So you see if we don’t give the wall enough support, it’ll collapse.”

Jean-Luc softly cleared his throat and the dark Engineer looked up, his ocular implants glinting in the overhead light.

“Hello Sir, I was just showing Tobias how we go about making new accommodations.”

The Captain smiled and bowed his head.

“Thank you Mr.LaForge but I’ve come in to ask Tobias to wash up for dinner.”

He turned his attention to his son.

“Is your bathroom ready?”

The boy remained silent, staring at the floor. Geordi spoke for him.
”Not yet Captain but almost. By tomorrow lunchtime we should be finished.”

Jean-Luc nodded his appreciation.

“Excellent Geordi, please pass on my sincere thanks to your staff.”

Geordi rose and looked down at the sullen boy.

“Well I’ll be going. See you tomorrow.”

Jean-Luc held up a hand.

“If you don’t mind Geordi, I would like to speak with you a moment. Tobias you may wash your hands in my bathroom.”

The silent lad left the room and Jean-Luc sighed.

“Geordi tell me, did Tobias speak to you?”

The dark Engineer shook his head.

“No Captain. I was going over the specs for the alterations and he came over, showing some interest, so I sat with him and explained what the schematics were about.”

Jean-Luc nodded pensively.

“I see. Well thank you Geordi, I appreciate you taking an interest in the boy.”

The Engineer grinned.

“No problem Captain.”

When Jean-Luc entered the living area Beverly was just shutting off the computer. She glanced at their bedroom before going to her lover and taking his hand, speaking softly.

“No wonder he’s traumatised Jean-Luc. She was…oh God…she looked awful.”

The Captain sighed.

“I know and that was recorded when she was still able to speak. Apparently it got a lot worse after that.”

Beverly nodded.

“Yes I’ve seen the reports. Did you know that Tobias insisted on staying with his mother until the end? Despite her condition?”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“No I didn’t. Dear Lord that must have been horrible.”

Tobias came out of the bedroom ending the conversation. While Beverly went to the replicator, Jean-Luc went to his son.

“Would you help me set the table?”

Without acknowledging his father, Tobias went to stand behind Beverly and waited until she was finished. Mutely biding his time, the boy waited until his father joined him and requested the crockery and cutlery. Following his father’s lead, Tobias ferried the items to the table, not once looking at or acknowledging the adults in any way. When they were ready each person took their place. Shaking out her serviette, Beverly smiled at the lad and asked,

“How is your room coming along Tobias?”

Predictably, the lad ignored her. Undaunted, Beverly pressed on.

“When I moved in with your father I had to get the closet enlarged and make him give me more space in the bathroom.”

Jean-Luc chuckled and shook his head.

“I’m still learning that women, by an unwritten cosmic law, require more closet and bathroom space than men.”

The Doctor looked up at her lover and grinned.

“And I’m very grateful my love.”

Before anything further could be said, Tobias abruptly stood and left the table, stalking to his room in his customary silence. With a grimace Jean-Luc balled his serviette and threw it on the table.

“Damn!”

Beverly sighed and rubbed her forehead.

“Forget it Jean-Luc, he just…”

The Captain rose to his feet and glared at his son’s closed door.

“No dammit I won’t forget it Beverly. That was damn well rude.”

Before Beverly could add anything, Jean-Luc strode to Tobias’ room and entered without knocking. The boy, sitting at his new desk, glared up at his father defiantly. Keeping his voice firm but even, Jean-Luc said in French,

“You will return to the table and eat your dinner. I will not tolerate rudeness.”

In a show of insolent defiance, Tobias folded his arms across his chest and lifted his chin in an unmistakable challenge.

To anybody who knew him, the Captain’s suddenly soft voice and intense gaze was indicative of clear anger. Fortunately Tobias was smart enough to see he was treading on unfirm ground.

“Don’t make me force you Tobias.”

With one final glare the boy rose and brushed past his father, returning to the table with stubborn silence.

The meal was eaten in an adversarial atmosphere. Jean-Luc was angry with his son, Beverly was anxious about the situation and Tobias hated his world and everything in it.

Luckily the boy had enough sense to stay and help with disposing the dishes. Once the table was cleared he waited to be dismissed. Jean-Luc looked down at his son with sorrow and regret. In a gentle voice he said,

“You may go to your room now or, if you like, you can stay out here with Beverly and me.”

Without any recognition the boy turned on his heel and left, his door sighing closed behind him. Jean-Luc stood stiffly, his eyes closed. Beverly went to him and took his hands, whispering,

“Go and sit down, I’ll bring you some tea.”

His eyes snapped open and he summoned a smile.

“Thank you mon coeur. I’ll just be at my desk for a minute first.”

When Beverly sat and put the hot drinks on the low table, she watched as her lover spoke softly to the computer. As promised, he joined her after a few minutes. He was carrying a PADD. The Doctor pointed to the device, her eyebrows raised.

“What have you got there?”

“When I went into Tobias’ room before, Geordi was showing him some specs concerning the alterations. Geordi said he was interested. I’ve downloaded some of the Enterprise’s schematics onto this PADD…perhaps he might like to see them.”

Beverly smiled tenderly at the man and squeezed his hand.

“That’s a wonderful idea Jean-Luc.”

The Captain stood and looked at the forbidding closed door.

“Wish me luck.”

He could still hear Beverly’s soft chuckle as he knocked at Tobias’ door.

As before he received no reply so he entered anyway and found his son at his computer. Jean-Luc went to the boy and showed him the PADD.

“I noticed you were interested in Geordi’s specs so I’ve downloaded some of the ship’s schematics for you. Once you’ve looked them over, if you like I can give you access, through your computer, to see more complete plans.”

Without acknowledging his father, Tobias stared at his computer, his head bowed. Jean-Luc sighed and gently placed the PADD on the desk.

“Well I’ll just leave it with you.”

He turned to leave but hesitated at the door.

“Tobias you’re not alone. I’m here for you…whenever you’re ready.”

When there was no reaction the sad man left. Tobias sat unmoving at his desk for some minutes before he reluctantly picked up the PADD and activated it.

Half an hour later there was a visitor. Beverly moved to stop her lover’s frown.

“That’s probably Deanna. She said she’d come by this evening.”

Resigned to his fate, Jean-Luc sighed and gestured to the door.

“Let her in.”

“Come in Dee.”

The Counsellor smiled as she crossed the room, basking in the gentle affection coming from both her fellow officers. After gaining permission, she sat opposite her hosts and composed herself. Focussing first on her CO she asked,

“How has the day been Captain? Has there been any improvement in Tobias’ behaviour?”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“No Counsellor, he continues to be uncommunicative, although he did speak to me.”

Deanna’s eyebrows rose.

“He did? If I may Sir…what did he say?”

Jean-Luc grunted and sat back, briefly closing his eyes.

“I had taken him to several shops trying to find a gift for his upcoming birthday. When he persisted in ignoring me I asked him for help, explaining that I preferred to get him something he’d like. He told me in no uncertain terms that he wanted nothing from me.”

Deanna tilted her head, concentrating on the man’s words and emotions.

“Nothing else?”

“No.”

“And how did he say it?”

Jean-Luc grimaced, his pain washing over Deanna in waves.

“With insolence, anger and hatred.”

Beverly sighed and sat back, making sure her shoulder touched her lover’s

“Then there was dinner.”

The Counsellor looked at her friend and raised her eyebrows.

“What happened?”

Beverly shrugged and flipped her hand.

“Oh nothing really. The Captain and I were talking…you know, small talk to keep a semblance of normality, when Tobias suddenly up and left the table.”

Deanna frowned.

“Had he finished his dinner?”

Jean-Luc snorted.

“He hadn’t even started!”

Deanna directed herself to her Captain.

“What did you do?”

Taking a deep breath and expelling it slowly, Jean-Luc explained.

“I went to his room and told him I wouldn’t tolerate deliberate rudeness and insisted he rejoin us for our meal.”

“What did he do?”

“After a token show of defiance he capitulated. After the meal I gave him the option of either returning to his room or staying out here with Beverly and me.”

The Counsellor frowned.

“Let me guess. He went to his room.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Uh huh. I went in a while ago to give him something I downloaded from the main computer. He ignored me…as usual.”

Deanna considered all she’d been told and took a deep breath.

“Although it is still very difficult for all of you I still think he will come around. The fact that he chose to speak to you Captain, even though it was with unpleasantness, I think is a good sign. As I’ve said before even anger is better that nothing, at least he’s expressing something of what he’s feeling.”

Beverly sat forward and clasped her hands on her knees.

“Tell me Deanna, what do I do when I’m alone with him? The way things are at the moment I don’t know where I stand. Do I offer friendship? Solace? Comfort? I know he’d deeply resent it of I tried to mother him, but all my instincts tell me that’s exactly what I should do. He needs love and care but I know right now that’s the last thing he’ll accept from either of us.”

Deanna smiled with deep affection for her friend. She reached out and took Beverly’s hand.

“Beverly I think for now you should concentrate on friendship. Keep offering an olive branch and don’t be put off by his hostility. Eventually he’ll see you for who and what you are and he will decide just what he wants from you. The hard part will be giving him that and no more. It will get better with time and one day in the future I’m sure he’ll accept you as he’ll accept his father.”

Jean-Luc took Beverly’s other hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.

“A united front Beverly…that’s what we have to present. We have to show Tobias we love each other and are willing to love him too. I don’t think he’ll believe us for a while but we must persevere. Having said that however, I must admit I’ll be relying on you,”

He then looked at the Counsellor,

“And you Deanna to help me. Both of you have more experience at being a parent than me.”

Beverly frowned and shook her head.

“No Jean-Luc that’s not right.”

She returned her gaze to Deanna.

“I told the Captain to focus on his memories of Kataan. He was a father…and grandfather…I’m sure those memories will help.”

Deanna agreed.

“Yes Captain Beverly’s right. Draw on your memories; they’ll hold you in good stead.”

A very dubious man nodded with uncertainty. He offered Deanna a drink but she declined.

“If you don’t mind Sir, I’d like to talk to Tobias.”

Jean-Luc waved his hand in the direction of his son’s room and grunted.

“Be my guest.”

With a smile, Deanna rose and went to Tobias’s door. When he didn’t answer the chime, she entered cautiously and found him sitting on his bed, dressed in his pyjamas, a PADD in his hands.

“I hope I’m not interrupting?”

The boy ignored her as she sat beside him.

“May I see what you’re looking at?”

Tobias dropped the PADD on the bed and rose, going to his desk and sitting stiffly in the chair. Deanna ignored his sullen behaviour and picked up the device, perusing it quickly. She smiled up at the boy.

“These are schematics of the Enterprise. Are you interested in Starships in general or the Enterprise in particular?”

She was greeted with sullen silence. Taking the time to gently place the PADD on the bed, Deanna sat up and crossed her legs. Keeping her voice soft and gentle, the Counsellor said,

“Tobias I want you to think about something. I know these last weeks have been very hard for you but it’s been hard for your father too. He’s just found out he’s lost a dear friend and has been told he has a son he never knew existed. How do you think he feels?”

Tobias kept his head lowered, his eyes on his knees. Unconcerned, Deanna continued.

“Do you think he’s sad? Angry? Shocked? Tobias your father is a very good man, a very honourable man and he will do everything in his power to make you happy. He will love you, care for you and protect you, but you have to let him in. By keeping yourself separate from everybody all you’re doing is making it harder for you to find peace.”

Deanna’s black eyes squinted as she saw Tobias’s face react to her words. Judging the time as right, she pressed on.

“Tobias your mother is dead.”

The boy flinched and Deanna rose from the bed to stand at his shoulder. She gently put her arm around his thin frame.

“She’s gone Tobias but you’re not alone. Your father is waiting for you, so is Beverly. All you have to do is let them in. It won’t hurt I promise.”

She felt the boy begin to tremble but before she could offer any comfort he twisted out of her arm and went into the bathroom. When he didn’t emerge after ten minutes Deanna left.

Jean-Luc stood when Deanna joined them, the look of sadness on her face disturbing him.

“How did it go?”

The Counsellor sighed.

“To be honest I’m not sure.”

The Captain bowed his head and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Beverly stood and squeezed his shoulder.

“What can we do?”

Deanna shook her head.

“Nothing right now, but Captain I think it would help if you went to him before you went to bed. Even if he’s asleep I think he’ll know you’re there. Tuck him in and wish him goodnight.”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“Very well Counsellor.”

Beverly escorted her friend to the door.

“Thanks Dee, goodnight.”

After the Counsellor left Beverly went to her lover and took his hands.

“One day at a time my love, one day at a time.”

He smiled and nodded, his eyes twinkling.

“Indeed.”

As Deanna had suggested Jean-Luc went to his son and tucked him in. The boy was asleep and didn’t react to his father’s presence. The Captain bent low, kissed the lad’s brow and whispered,

“Bonne niut mon garcon.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               The next morning, as Jean-Luc and Beverly were getting breakfast, Tobias emerged from his room and went to the table, carrying the PADD. He placed the device next to his plate and waited patiently until the meal was ready and the adults seated.

Although he remained silent, both officers noted he seemed less tense. With the aid of the universal translator, Beverly had no problem deciphering what Jean-Luc said to his son and her lover had discussed teaching her his mother tongue, so when Tobias quietly spoke to his father, she sat still and listened.

“Pourrais-tu me montrer d’autres plans s’il te plait?”

With his coffee cup half way to his mouth, Jean-Luc froze in surprise. He recovered quickly and gently set his cup down.

“You want more of the ship’s schematics? Yes of course Tobias, it would be my pleasure. Is there anything specific you wish to see?”

The boy shook his head.

“Non.”

The Captain nodded once.

“Very well, but I must tell you there are some systems and areas I cannot allow you to see. Weapons, shields, some of engineering and battle tactics are classified; however I can download the general schematics of the entire ship and direct it to your computer. Would that suffice?”

The boy looked at his father and nodded.

“Oui, merci beau coup.”

Jean-Luc smiled and finished his coffee before rising and saying,

“Tobias while I go to my computer to start the download, would you help Beverly clear the table please?”

Tobias lifted his head and gazed steadily at Beverly for some seconds, his face unreadable. He then stood and began to take the dishes to the recycler. Beverly grinned up at her lover and winked. Jean-Luc returned her smile and made his way to his desk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Throughout the rest of the day Tobias remained silent but his demeanour was better. He made eye contact with his father regularly and Jean-Luc noticed the anger seemed to be gone. The pain however, remained. With Beverly he stayed closed, avoiding meeting her eyes. Bearing in mind Deanna’s advice, Beverly chose not to be disheartened and persevered with her efforts to befriend the boy.

Once again on the Star base, it was late in the afternoon and the adults were discussing what they should do for dinner. Beverly wanted to eat on the base, but Jean-Luc favoured returning to the ship. Finding they had reached an impasse, Jean-Luc sighed and turned to his son. In his gentle baritone he asked in French,

“What would you like to do Tobias?”

The boy had been staring at his feet when his father spoke to him. He raised his head and looked directly into the Captain’s eyes and shrugged in a very Gallic manner. Beverly’s chuckle earned her an icy glare so reminiscent of his father that Beverly actually softly gasped. Tobias looked on in confusion as Beverly addressed his father.

“Did you see that?”

Jean-Luc frowned and shook his head.

“See what?”

Beverly gave her lover a look of incredulity.

“That look. It was you!”

With a snort of irritated disgust, Tobias abruptly turned and stalked off, causing the adults to follow him. He ignored their queries and didn’t stop his brisk pace until he entered the transporter room. Jean-Luc smiled ruefully and said with amusement,

“It would appear we’re going back to the ship.”

Beverly shot him an exasperated glare and took her place on the pad with reluctant resignation. Within seconds they were back on the Enterprise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Things progressed slowly over the next four days. Tobias would, if he felt the need, speak to his father, but only barely enough to get the job done. He remained calm and was willing to help around their quarters but with Beverly he remained closed. With her lover’s persistence and the aid of an interactive computer programme, Beverly was soon picking up French, pleasing Jean-Luc immensely.

Just after dinner on their last night at the Star base, the little family were visited by Will Riker. At a restaurant on the base, they were enjoying a coffee when the big bearded man arrived. At Jean-Luc’s invitation, he took a seat and accepted the offer of a coffee.

Jean-Luc smiled at his First Officer and opened the conversation.

“What can I do for you Number One?”

The tall man put a PADD on the table and grinned at his Captain.

“Well Sir we have a little mystery.”

Jean-Luc’s eyebrows rose as his dark eyes glittered.

“Indeed? What sort of a mystery?”

Will pushed the PADD towards his CO.

“You know that survey we were scheduled to do next?”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Well that’s been put on the back burner. We received this an hour ago.”

The Captain picked up the PADD and activated it. While he read, Will smiled at Tobias, winking at the boy when he caught his eye. Tobias lowered his eyes and shifted in his seat. Will asked softly,

“Do you like fishing Tobias? My Curtis Creek programme provides some awesome trout fishing.”

When there was no response Will looked at Beverly in confusion. The Doctor reached over and squeezed his hand, smiling.

“It’s okay Will; I’ll talk to you later.”

Jean-Luc looked up, his face animated.

“This is incredible.”

Will returned his attention to his Captain.

“That it is Sir. If the preliminary scans are accurate, those ruins predate our earliest estimates of habitation in that sector by two million years.”

Jean-Luc nodded enthusiastically, then paused, frowning.

“But how could this happen? Starfleet made extensive explorations in the Gyanna system ten years ago. Why weren’t these ruins found then?”

Will shrugged.

“I don’t know Captain. All I know is Data called me and showed me our new orders and I thought you’d like to see them too.”

Jean-Luc smiled warmly at his younger friend.

“Thank you Will that was thoughtful of you.”

He then shifted his attention to his lover.

“How would you feel about returning to duty now and taking the remainder of our leave when we reach Gyanna II?”

Beverly tried to frown but her lover’s enthusiasm was infectious.

“Oh all right, but you’ll owe me one.”

Will frowned and tilted his head.

“Why do you want to cut your leave short Sir?”

Beverly answered before Jean-Luc had the chance.

“Because he wants to go down to Gyanna II to play in the dirt.”

She looked sweetly at the Captain and batted her lashes.

“Don’t you my love.”

Drawing himself upright in his chair, Jean-Luc attempted to summon a reproving glare but failed miserably. Succumbing to the inevitable, he instead let out an exasperated sigh.

“What I would like, dear Doctor, is to take part in the archaeological survey we will instigate.”

Will chuckled.

“And if you’re on duty you’ll have to stay on the ship and twiddle your thumbs while the team does its work. That’s sneaky Captain…completely underhanded…and I must admit…absolutely brilliant. Sir.”

Jean-Luc’s face attained his Captain’s visage but his eyes were warm and full of mischief.

“Whatever it takes Number One, whatever it takes.”

They soon returned to the ship knowing that in the morning they would depart for a new adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Beverly was in Will and Deanna’s cabin, telling the First Officer about the difficulties with Tobias. For fifteen minutes she had explained, using all her tact and diplomacy to impart the information impartially. Will sat back, eased his feet onto the low table and thoughtfully scratched his beard.

“That’s a hell of a can of worm to have dumped on your lap.”

Beverly shrugged, leaning back, propping her elbow on the chair and cradling her head in her hand.

“Yes I suppose it is, but it’s been harder on the Captain than me.”

Will snorted, pulling the corners of his mouth down with reproach.

“I doubt that Beverly. This must be hard on you too.”

Summoning a rueful smile, Beverly sighed.

“While I admit it has shaken me, I think Jean-Luc has borne the brunt of it all. Anyway, how come Deanna hasn’t filled you in?”

Will sat up and rested his forearms on his thighs.

“She only told me that Tobias had come aboard, who he was and that he had some troubles. She didn’t elaborate and I didn’t ask…I didn’t think it was any of my business.”

Beverly lifted her head and crossed her legs.

“Well I for one thank you and I’m sure the Captain would be grateful for your lack of curiosity too.”

With a grunt, Will rubbed his eyes.

“It wasn’t a lack of curiosity Beverly, I was curious, but after Deanna told me about you and the Captain some time ago I thought it best I let sleeping dogs lie. I figured if you or the Captain wanted me to know anything, you’d tell me yourselves.”

Beverly smiled warmly at her friend and sighed.

“It’s such a mess Will…the whole thing. Jean-Luc and I had always intended to tell you and Dee about our relationship, and our new living arrangements, but before we had a chance Tobias came into our lives. With what that poor boy has been through…hell, I don’t know how we’re ever going to break through his walls.”

The big man stood and wandered to the replicator. With a raised eyebrow he asked his silent question. Beverly smiled and nodded.

“Yes please, lemon tea.”

He soon returned to his seat with two steaming mugs, giving one to his guest. They sipped quietly before Will asked,

“Has he made any contact at all?”

Beverly nodded, balancing the mug on her knee.

“Yes he has spoken to Jean-Luc a few times, but it’s so cold Will. He says only that which is absolutely necessary, nothing else. In some ways it’s like dealing with an android, emotionless and devoid of warmth.”

Will stared into his coffee, idly running his fingers around the rim.

“I suppose you’ve tried everything?”

“Well Jean-Luc is still trying but I’ve backed off a bit. Deanna advised me to try and befriend him but he’s totally unresponsive. If he doesn’t completely ignore me, his treats me with utter distain.”

Will placed his mug on the low table and ran his hand through his hair.

“So my Curtis Creek programme wouldn’t be much use.”

Beverly shrugged.

“Nope.”

The big man sighed.

“Is there anything we can do?”

Knowing he meant both he and Deanna, Beverly smiled apologetically.

“No Will, but thanks.”

She stood and turned for the door, but hesitated. Turning back to her friend, he could see she had an idea.

“Will it’s Tobias’s birthday in a few days. What about you and Dee coming to a small party in our quarters?”

Will frowned.

“You think it’ll be okay?”

Beverly shrugged.

“Who knows? Tell you what, I’ll talk to the Captain about it and get back to you. Okay?”

Will stood, nodding, a smile on his face.

“Sounds good to me. See you later.”

Beverly left and Will sat back down, deep in thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 With the ship en route to the Gyannan system, Jean-Luc and Beverly had returned to duty. Tobias was enrolled in school and, although he was reluctant and silent, he attended nonetheless. The Captain was working in his Ready Room when he had a visitor.

“Come.”

His stern visage relaxed as he saw his lover. He stood and gestured to the sofa.

“Would you like a drink?”

The red head took her seat and shook her head.

“No thanks, I’m not staying long.”

Jean-Luc took his place beside his beloved Doctor and smiled.

“In that case what can I do for you?”

Beverly gently picked up one of his hands and looked deeply into his eyes.

“I want to throw a birthday party for Tobias.”

Jean-Luc frowned, withdrawing his hand and staring down at his knees. Beverly waited until he’d gathered his thoughts.

“Are you sure it’s the right thing to do? Tobias might not be very happy about it.”

Beverly shrugged.

“I’m not thinking of anything big…just you, me, Will and Deanna.”

The Captain sighed and stood, going to his desk and turning.

“But Beverly I really don’t think…”

The Doctor stood and went to him.

“Jean-Luc he has to re-enter the real world sometime. Besides, just how did you intend to give him his present?”

Jean-Luc rubbed the bridge of his nose and shrugged.

“I thought I’d leave it on his bed so he would find it in the morning.”

Beverly gripped his arm and smiled at him.

“Well this way he can get the present from you on the day. And he’ll get a present from Deanna and Will. Surely he’d be happy with that…all kids love presents.”

Jean-Luc looked unimpressed.

“But still Beverly…a party?”

Growing somewhat exasperated, Beverly stepped away from her lover and began to pace.

“Look I’m not advocating a huge celebration! Just us two and Will and Deanna, some party food and a cake. Just a simple little party.”

There was a moment’s silence while Jean-Luc digested the information. Eventually he sighed with a nod of his head.

“Very well. Do we tell him in advance?”

Beverly shook her head.

“No, let’s make it a surprise.”

With a warm smile, but still exhibiting a little reluctance, Jean-Luc escorted his lover to the door.

“I’ll see you later.”

Catching him off guard, Beverly snuck in for a quick kiss. The delighted man attempted to prolong the contact but the Doctor escaped his embrace and triggered the door release. Immediately retreating behind his Captain’s visage, Jean-Luc cleared his throat and said,

“Goodbye Doctor.”

Suppressing the giggle that lurked just under the surface, Beverly kept a straight face.

“Of course Captain, goodbye.”

Later that day, towards the end of his shift, which he had arranged to end at the finish of the school day, Jean-Luc was paged by the head teacher.

“Rodriguez to Picard.”

“Picard here.”

“Captain if you have time, could we speak when you pick Tobias up please?”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“Of course.”

“Thank you…and Captain I would prefer it if we were alone.”

“Understood Ms.Rodriguez. I will be there shortly.”

Jean-Luc was soon on his way to the school room. Unlike his previous command, the Enterprise E did not have families aboard, however the many scientists who were on board for short periods often brought their children with them. To accommodate them, a small school was developed and a teacher enlisted.

Tobias and three other children were in the anteroom awaiting a parent to pick them up. Standing orders disallowed unaccompanied children to walk through the ship unescorted.

In a direct violation of that order Jean-Luc said to his son.

“Tobias I will be detained for a short while. Please make your way back to our quarters, I’ll see you there.”

The boy left without acknowledging his father. The three other children looked at Jean-Luc with large eyes and shifted restlessly. The Captain ignored them and entered the school room. The teacher rose immediately.

“Captain Picard, thank you for seeing me Sir.”

Jean-Luc raised a tight smile.

“Not at all. How may I assist you?”

Marta Rodriguez was a pretty Spanish woman in her late twenties. Jean-Luc had only met her twice before but considered her intelligent, competent and very attractive. The black haired beauty smiled at gestured to the seat before her desk.

“Captain I need to talk to you about your son. I’m very worried about him.”

The smile on Jean-Luc’s face wavered but he calmed himself.

“I am sorry Ms.Rodriguez, I though Counsellor Troi had explained Tobias’s difficulties with you.”

Bowing her head and picking up a PADD, the teacher nodded.

“She did Captain and I fully understand why he acts as he does, but his continuing unresponsiveness is causing trouble. Not only does he ignore me, he refuses to answer questions and will not take part in class discussions. Now I can cope with that…as I said, I do understand, but this afternoon he became aggressive with another student. I cannot…in fact I will not allow violence Captain, no matter what the cause.”

A deep frown developed on the Captain’s face and his voice became a soft rumble.

“Can you give me the details?”

Marta nodded.

“Most of it Sir, yes. One of the other boys, Graeme Hanafford, offered Tobias the use of his computer game. When Tobias ignored him, Graeme took umbrage and raised his voice. Tobias seemed to flinch at first then he shoved Graeme off his feet, stood over him and raised his fist. Had I not intervened I believe Tobias would’ve struck Graeme.”

Jean-Luc folded his fingers on the desk and pursed his lips.

“Tobias hasn’t exhibited behaviour like this before…to my knowledge.”

Marta nodded.

“I agree Sir. I’ve been over his scholastic records and he has an exemplary file. He’s highly intelligent…gifted in fact, and has always displayed an even temperament. To my knowledge he’s never shown any aggressive tendencies, in point of fact he’s always been rather reserved, even withdrawn.”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“I think that may be in part because of his lifestyle. He and his mother never stayed long in any one place. Their constant travelling caused Tobias to eschew friendships and relationships. His mother was the most important person in his universe.”

Steepling her elegant fingers under her chin, Marta nodded.

“Yes I can see how that would be a problem for a boy his age. Did he ever have any male role models?”

The Captain shrugged.

“Not that I’m aware of.”

The teacher sighed.

“Well I’m not advocating he become a macho hombre, but he does need to bond with some males, preferably you of course, and possibly some of the other boys on the ship.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“I agree and to that end, I’m doing my best, but really it’s up to him. After all he can’t be forced.”

Marta’s sunny smile took the pain out of her words.

“Of course Captain but I have to tell you, if the violence continues I will have to ask you to withdraw him from the school. I have to protect the other students.”

Jean-Luc stood, his Captain’s demeanour falling over him like a mantle.

“Thank you Ms.Rodriguez. I will speak with my son immediately.”

The teacher stood also.

“Thank you Captain.”

Jean-Luc left, his thoughts dark.

 

                          When Jean-Luc entered his quarters, his eyes fell on his son’s bedroom door, predictably closed. He saw light spilling from his bedroom and wandered over to find his lover just finishing getting changed into civilian clothing. The Doctor caught sight of the Captain as he stood in the doorway and she smiled at him.
“Hi.”

He returned the smile but it was a tired one.

“Hello.”

Beverly went to the man and kissed him tenderly.

“Tough day?”

He settled his hands on her waist and guided her back into the bedroom, allowing the door to close. He sighed and shook his head.

“It’s Tobias.”

Beverly snorted, left his embrace and sat on the bed.

“Tell me about it! You don’t know this but Data brought him to our quarters. Apparently our Second Officer found him unaccompanied and asked him why he was alone. When he received no reply he attempted to find out who Tobias was. Of course that was met with failure also. In desperation Data asked Tobias to take him to his quarters. You can imagine how confused Data was when Tobias led him here.”

Jean-Luc sat heavily on the bed next to the red head and ran an exasperated hand over his head.

“I asked Tobias to go home alone because his teacher wanted to talk to me about him...without Tobias there.”

There was a temporary silence then Beverly grunted.

“We’re going to have to tell the senior staff about all this.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“I agree. Tomorrow morning at the briefing.”

More silence settled before Beverly again broke it.

“What did the teacher want?”

Jean-Luc grimaced.

“Apparently my son resorted to violence in class today. I have been warned that if it continues I will have to withdraw him from the school.”

Beverly rubbed his arm and leaned against his shoulder.

“Damn. What was it about?”

With a sigh, Jean-Luc raised his hands in resignation.

“Nothing really. Graeme Hanafford asked Tobias if he would like use his computer game. When Tobias didn’t respond, Graeme got angry and raised his voice. Tobias shoved him off his feet and was going to hit him when the teacher intervened.”

Beverly stood and chewed her lower lip.

“What the hell has brought this on? I know he’s been angry, but why should he resort to overt violence?”

Shrugging tiredly, Jean-Luc scratched his cheek.

“I’ve no idea, but do you still think the party is a good idea?”

Beverly sat down on the bed and sighed.

“Well it can’t hurt. Look we’ve got an hour before Will and Deanna arrive. I’ll go and programme the replicator and blow up some balloons while you talk to your son.”

The Captain smiled ruefully and shook his head.

“You sure we can’t swap?”

Beverly grinned, standing and pulling her lover to his feet.

“Positive.”

With great reluctance Jean-Luc left his bedroom and approached his son’s door.

Tobias ignored the knock at his door. When his father appeared in his room, he focussed his attention on his computer. Jean-Luc kept his voice soft and deep. In his native French he said,

“Tobias I need to talk to you.”

Tobias ignored him. Jean-Luc stepped up to his son and turned the monitor off. Instead of reacting, the lad folded his hands in his lap and stared at his knees. The Captain took a steadying breath and turned his son’s chair until the boy was facing him.

“Tobias look at me please.”

Several seconds passed before the boy’s eyes slowly rose. Jean-Luc refused to react to the pain and anger he saw. Instead he gripped his son’s shoulders.

“Tobias what happened at school today between you and Graeme was unacceptable.  Behaviour like that only leads to more trouble and I can tell you violence…any sort of violence will not be tolerated, not by me, your teacher or anyone else aboard this ship.”

Tobias’s eyes slid down and his head bowed. Jean-Luc briefly closed his eyes and gathered his patience.

“Would you like to tell me why you were so angry? Graeme had offered you friendship. Why did you react so angrily? He meant no harm. Perhaps if you let him become your friend you might find you like it.”

With his head lowered Jean-Luc couldn’t see the anger in the boy’s eyes. The Captain waited a few minutes but when Tobias made no effort to respond, Jean-Luc let him go and straightened.

“Very well. If your behaviour of today is repeated you will find yourself confined to these quarters.”

Jean-Luc left his son feeling defeated and depressed. He joined Beverly and helped her prepare for the party but his heart wasn’t in it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            At the appointed time, Will and Deanna were granted admittance, Will’s arms filled with a long gaily wrapped object. Beverly ushered the guests in and pointed to the gift.

“What on Earth is that?”

Will grinned.

“A fly rod and reel.”

Jean-Luc came over to his Exec, shaking his head.

“You expect to get him fishing?”

The big man shrugged.

“Why not? It was the only thing I ever did with my father. If we could fish together without killing each other, anybody can.”

Beverly chuckled and handed each guest a glass of wine. Deanna went to the dining table and nodded appreciatively.

“This looks yummy.”

Beverly joined her best friend and laughed.

“Yep…party food for a ten year old. Not a nutritious morsel in sight.”

The Counsellor leaned over for a closer inspection of the cake.

“And this is..?”

“Chocolate of course. What do you think I am…crazy?”

Jean-Luc went into the bedroom and soon emerged with a wrapped gift in his hands. He placed the present on the table and went to his son’s door, gently knocking before slowly entering.

Tobias was propped on his bed, reading.  He didn’t look up at his father.

“Tobias could you come into the living area for a moment please?”

With slow deliberation, the boy placed his bookmark between the pages and closed the book. He then laid the book on his side table and exited the bed. When Jean-Luc gestured to the door, the boy brushed past him in silence.

As soon as the lad appeared in the living area, Beverly called,

“Surprise!”

Tobias stood completely still, his eyes going over the people, the table then his father who approached and stood before him, offering a present. His smile was a gentle one.

“Heureux anniversaire Tobias.”

 When he didn’t move, Beverly came over and said gently.

“Take it Toby. It’s a…”

She got no further. With rage contorting his young face, the boy shouted,

“Je m’appelle TOBIAS!”

The shocked adults looked on as the incensed boy turned to leave. Jean-Luc reached out and grabbed his shoulder.

“Tobias! You will apologise…”

The lad balled his right fist and swung it with all his might. It struck the Captain a glancing blow under his chin. With lightning reflexes Jean-Luc caught the fist and held it tightly, his command voice ringing out.

“Enough! You will stop this now!”

Tobias struggled vainly but couldn’t free his hand. In a furious rage he spat at his father and yelled,

“Je te deteste!”

Lowering his voice, Jean-Luc’s eyes glittered dangerously.

“Go to your room…now!”

In the stunned silence of the room, the four adults tried to assimilate what had happened. Beverly moved first, picking up a paper napkin, taking it to her lover and wiping the spittle from his face. Deanna squeezed Will’s hand and said quietly,

“I’ll go and talk to him.”

Jean-Luc watched angrily as the Counsellor entered his son’s room. Beverly tried to placate him.

“Jean-Luc it’s all right. These things sometimes…”

Unwilling to listen, the Captain brushed her hand away and stalked into his bedroom, his demeanour cold. Beverly watched him go, tears welling in her eyes. The strong hands of Will Riker settled on her shoulders, guiding her to the sofa. Once seated, a glass of wine was pressed into her hand as the big man sat beside her. She looked at him and he shrugged, taking a large draught of wine.

“We wait.”

Beverly gave a resigned sigh and nodded.

“Indeed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Deanna entered Tobias’s room cautiously, but the boy was nowhere in sight. The door to his bathroom was closed so she tapped lightly, her voice soft.

“Tobias come out, we need to talk about what just happened.”

She was greeted with utter silence. She tried again.

“Please Tobias, you need to talk to me…I can help you.”

The shout was muffled but Deanna heard it clearly.

“Fiche moi la paix!”

Deanna sighed, waiting as the translator did its job.

“I can’t leave you alone Tobias we need to talk. Please open the door.”

When nothing further was said, Deanna tried one more time.

“Tobias your anger is getting worse and the violence will only escalate if you don’t do something about it. Please talk to me, I am a Counsellor and I can help you.”

She waited ten minutes by the door but Tobias didn’t respond. With a deep sigh of sadness and regret Deanna left the bedroom and joined Will and Beverly on the sofa. The Doctor and the First Officer looked at Deanna expectantly, but all she could do was shake her head.

“Nothing. All I could get out of him was a demand to leave him alone. He wouldn’t even face me; he was locked in the bathroom.”

While Will grumbled, Beverly sat forward and cradled her head in her hands. When she spoke her voice was trembling.

“This is all my fault.”

Deanna wrapped an arm around her friend’s shoulders and gently squeezed.

“No it wasn’t Beverly. Tobias is responsible for his own behaviour not you.”

Sitting up, Beverly grimaced.

“Yes but I insisted on the bloody party! It was too much, he couldn’t cope…and then I called him Toby. Jesus I was only trying to be friendly.”

Will’s voice carried his frustration.

“He really over reacted to that didn’t he? Who was to know how sensitive he is about his bloody name?”

Deanna sighed and closed her eyes.

“Right now everything is a big deal to Tobias and his identity…his perception of self, above all else is most important. It’s all he has, all that connects him to the memories of his mother and his previous life. He will see any disruption of that perception as a personal attack and respond accordingly.”

Both Will and Beverly nodded their comprehension and frowned at Deanna’s next words.

“I am very concerned about Captain Picard. The emotions I sense from him are dark and full of pain. Beverly I should talk to him.”

The Doctor lifted her chin and rubbed her hands on her thighs.

“Not now Dee. Let him sleep on it and maybe I will be able to talk him into it tomorrow. Right now all he needs to do is calm down and when he does he’ll open up to me.”

The Counsellor nodded, her sigh one of resignation.

“I suppose I’ll have to agree with you, but do you think he’ll be willing to talk to me or will he do it under protest? I don’t need to tell you I can accomplish far more with a patient who’s compliant.”

Beverly stood, bringing her friends to their feet also.

“With our dear Captain that’s anyone’s guess but I’ll do my best to help in any way I can. For now leave him with me and I’ll see what I can do.”

The red head escorted her friends to the door and bid them goodnight. With a scowl she turned and spent the next half an hour disposing of the party food and decorations. When she’d finished all that remained were the two gifts on the table. She left them there and quietly entered the bedroom. Jean-Luc had showered and was sitting in his grey satin shorts on the side of the bed, his elbows on his thighs, his hands holding his bowed head.

Deciding to leave him to his silence, Beverly undressed and showered. After she donned her nightie she crawled onto the bed and took up a position directly behind her lover. She placed her hands low on his bare back and gently traced patterns up his skin until she reached his shoulders. With gentle coaxing, she got him to lift his head and straighten his back. She then began to massage his tense muscles.

It was twenty minutes before he finally began to relax. Beverly felt this and gently eased him around until he was lying on his back, his head on his pillow. She took her place beside him, stretching out and laying one hand on his chest. With gentle, rhythmic, soothing strokes, she caressed his torso from his collarbone to the waistband of his shorts.

He closed his eyes and sighed, his face relaxing. Eventually, under the tender hand of his lover he began to speak in a deep gravelly voice.

“My relationship with my father was difficult and when I was growing up he made me very angry…and at times very hurt…but not once did I ever say…or even think…that I hated him.”

Beverly kept her voice soft as her hand travelled through his chest hair.

“Tobias doesn’t hate you Jean-Luc.”

The weary man frowned.

“His words say otherwise.”

The Doctor shook her head.

“They’re just words my love. Your son is very angry and he’s carrying a lot of pain…too much for one so young…and he needs an outlet.”

The Captain sighed, turning his head to look deeply into the eyes of his beloved Beverly.

“And I’m it?”

With a slow nod, Beverly confirmed Jean-Luc’s question.

“I suppose it’s what you represent to him Jean-Luc and he’s resisting with everything he has.”

Jean-Luc rolled onto his side and trailed his fingers down Beverly’s face.

“I thought, with the rare few words we’d shared, that perhaps we were making headway. It would seem I was in error.”

Beverly nudged under his nose and kissed him.

“This was just one battle in a protracted war my love and if I know anything about you, it’s that you won’t give up.”

Jean-Luc returned the kiss and sighed deeply when Beverly nuzzled his neck.

“That may be so, but I’ve never experienced a battle, or a war for that matter, that hurt quite so much.”

Beverly gently bit his earlobe as her hand slipped under the elastic of his shorts.

“That’s because this deals with your heart my love. Wars of attrition are always painful.”

Her slender hand closed on his hardening penis and he closed his eyes, sighing deeply.

“Do you think this is a good idea? I’m still rather unsettled.”

The Doctor mewed and slid one leg over his thigh, sensuously rubbing herself against his firm muscles.

“What better way to relax? Besides Jean-Luc this is for both of us, I’m giving up on my ideas.”

He growled softly as she eased his shorts down, freeing his erection. In response he gathered her nightie in his hands and lifted it from her body, kissing the skin as it was exposed. When he reached the creamy column of her neck, he gently bit her and murmured,

“What do you want my sensuous lover? Long and slow or hard and fast?”

Beverly gasped as his fingers rolled her nipples, gently pinching them.

Biting her lower lip she considered his query as one of his hands left her breast to slide down her stomach and feather over her folds. She opened her legs, inviting his intimate caress. He spread her labia and slowly slid first one, then two fingers inside her. She moaned softly and gasped.

“Slow…do it slow Jean-Luc as only you can.”

As his lips kissed their way down the path of his hand, his deep reply made Beverly shiver.

“Gladly my love.”

While his fingers slothfully slid in and out of her, his tongue found her clitoris. Beverly gripped his head, pulling him closer as he knowingly teased her, sending bolts of fire through her veins. She dug her heels into the mattress and splayed her legs, her hips arching to meet his probing fingers and questing tongue. Her lubricant coated his hand and he felt her begin to contract but instead of allowing the climax, he slowed his ministrations and kept her on the brink, lapping at her and tantalising her clitoris with light touches of his tongue. Beverly writhed under him, her pleas heightening his own desire.

“Oh please Jean-Luc…please…don’t make me wait…do it to me…please…”

He closed his eyes and twisted his hand, planting his thumb in her anus. At the same time he curled his fingers inside her and sucked her clit into his mouth, gently nipping it.

Beverly’s body bowed upward in a rictus of ecstasy, her voice one long strangled cry. While she was still contracting, Jean-Luc removed his fingers and came up her body, covering it with his. Her legs came around him reflexively and he entered her in one long stroke. He slid his hands under her shoulders so he could cradle her head as he slowly thrust, Beverly whimpering in an overload of sensation. True to his word, he was slow and deliberate; his long steady strokes making Beverly twist in his grasp as she felt herself transported again to the edge of the abyss. He removed one of his hands from her head and lifted his chest, taking her breast in his hand and tweaking the nipple. His deep voice added to her mindless pleasure.

“You are so beautiful Beverly…so perfect…so hot and tight and slippery…when I’m inside you I lose myself…I never want to be anywhere else.”

Two tears slid from her eyes. She looked up into the depths of his hazel eyes and gasped,

“Give yourself to me Jean-Luc…I want it all.”

He bent forward and nuzzled her neck.

“Oui mon coeur. Je t’aime.”

He quickened his strokes and Beverly answered his movements with jerks of her hips. As his thrusts became harder and faster Beverly tripped over the edge and came in a rush of emotional and physical bliss. Jean-Luc registered her climax just as his own release swept him away into a sea of unforgettable ecstasy. With a guttural cry his body flexed and spasmed, his ears roaring and his sight starring

 

 

 

 

 

 

              Several minutes later, as they lay in sated bonelessness, Beverly kissed her lover’s neck and sighed.

“How do you feel now?”

Jean-Luc smiled against the skin of her cheek and slowly rolled to one side before gathering her into his arms.

“I feel like liquid plasma…totally without shape or form.”

Beverly gave a tired chuckle and snuggled into his embrace.

“I told you so.”

Jean-Luc growled softly and sighed. Beverly allowed a small silence then gently tongued his ear.

“You’re going to have to talk to Deanna tomorrow.”

His reply was guarded.

“I’m aware of that.”

“And?”

“And what?”

The Doctor sighed in frustration.

“Are you going to be agreeable or are you going to make it hard for her?”

There was a protracted silence and Beverly thought he was ignoring her, but before she could restate her query, Jean-Luc grunted softly.

“I suppose I’ll have to be compliant.”

Beverly smiled and kissed his chin.

“Thank you. Now what about Tobias? Does he go to school tomorrow?”

Jean-Luc’s shrug made Beverly move.

“I don’t see why not. Has Ms.Rodriguez spoken to Deanna?”

Beverly nodded.

“Uh huh.”

“Then we just have to wait and see…and keep our fingers crossed.”

Beverly frowned.

“That he behaves?”

Jean-Luc grunted again.

“And that he doesn’t resort to violence again.”

Beverly tucked the blankets around them and settled into the pillow.

“Well here’s hoping. Goodnight my love…and thank you. It was wonderful.”

Jean-Luc tightened his embrace and kissed her hair.

“You’re entirely welcome…Bon nuit mon amour.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 When Jean-Luc emerged from his bedroom next morning, Tobias was waiting at the table. Nothing was said as the Captain ordered breakfast. Before he laid the plates he removed the presents and took them into the bedroom. Tobias watched silently and when Beverly joined him at the table he lowered his eyes and ignored her. Undaunted, Beverly said softly,

“I’m sorry I offended you last night. I won’t call you anything but Tobias from now on.”

Jean-Luc, who had joined the other two looked down at his son and said gently,

“Tobias Beverly has apologised. Perhaps you could find it in yourself to apologise to her for your actions. She went to a lot of trouble to arrange the party for you.”

The lad slowly lifted his eyes and stared coldly at his father, then slid his eyes to Beverly, scrutinising her for several seconds before returning his sight to his hands. Beverly sighed and glanced at her lover, saddened by the pain and defeat she saw on his face. In an effort to lighten the oppressive atmosphere, she said happily,

“Well I’m famished. What are we having Jean-Luc.”

The Captain shook his head in resignation and returned to the replicator, his deep voice hiding his pain.

“I thought we’d have something different so I’ve ordered waffles with syrup and coffee. Tobias I’ve got you a fresh orange juice.”

The plates were put on the table and the meal began but despite Beverly’s attempts to keep the mood buoyant, silence eventually settled. When the breakfast finally ended Jean-Luc wiped his mouth and placed his serviette beside his plate with great deliberation. He faced his son and cleared his throat.

“We have decided you may go to school today Tobias but I must reiterate…any repeat of your recent unacceptable behaviour and you will find yourself confined to these quarters. Is that understood?”

Tobias refused to respond to his father so Jean-Luc stood and waited patiently.

“Very well, if you’re ready I will escort you now.”

In silence the boy stood and went into his room, soon re-emerging with a PADD in his hand. He went to the door and waited. Jean-Luc turned to his lover and raised a wan smile.

“I will meet you in the Observation lounge for the briefing.”

The Doctor smiled warmly and made sure Jean-Luc saw the love and support in her eyes.

“Okay, see you then.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 The walk to the school was uncomfortable. Tension and hostility emanated from Tobias and Jean-Luc was at a loss as to how to relieve it. Once at the classroom, the Captain watched as his son took his place then he caught the teacher’s eye. With a surreptitious gesture, Jean-Luc beckoned her outside.

The attractive woman looked respectfully up at the CO and he sighed.

“Ms.Rodriguez you will be receiving a visit from Counsellor Troi later. Unfortunately there was an incident last night involving further violence from Tobias. I have spoken to him about it but I’m not sure he’ll behave appropriately. May I suggest to you that you quietly advise the other students to avoid Tobias…in effect leave him alone. I don’t think he’ll misbehave without provocation and if he’s left alone all should be well.”

Marta nodded, a deep frown marring her beauty.

“Captain Picard I take it he is receiving counselling?”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes he is but with his current attitude, it makes counselling very difficult.”

“I see. Well I will take your suggestion under advisement, but it goes against my training to isolate students, particularly youngsters with psychological problems. However I can see the merits of what you advocate.”

Jean-Luc gave a tight smile.

“Thank you. Of course I expect you to call me immediately if any difficulties arise.”

Marta smiled, her quiet confidence making the worried man breathe a little easier.

“Certainly Captain.”

“Very well, I will see you this afternoon.”

As Jean-Luc walked away he had the distinct feeling his son’s eyes were on his back. He stiffened his already straight spine and lifted his chin, determined to push his anxiety aside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     The senior staff were assembled around the long table in the Observation lounge when Jean-Luc entered. All eyes settled on him as he took his seat at the head of the table and opened the briefing.

As the ship was still en route to her destination the meeting was brief. The major departments offered their status reports and within twenty minutes the meeting drew to its conclusion. The staff made ready to be dismissed and were mildly surprised when their Captain sat forward and clasped his hands on the tabletop.

“Before you’re dismissed there are some things of a personal nature I wish to discuss with you.”

There were shared glances around the table as attention was once again focussed on the CO. Looking to Beverly for support, Jean-Luc took a deep breath and began.

“As most of you know, Doctor Crusher and I have been close friends for nearly three decades. Over the years our friendship has deepened and just over two months ago we decided to take the step of committing to a long term relationship. To that end, Doctor Crusher is now residing with me in my quarters.

The second thing I wish to share with you is the recent arrival on board of a ten year old boy. His name is Tobias DesLandes and he is my son. I do not wish to go into details but I must inform you the boy is deeply troubled. At present he is uncommunicative and it would be best, if you have any reason to have dealings with him, to contact me. You may access his file under my name and his profile has been entered into the ship’s computer.”

Data sat forward and tilted his head.

“Captain I came across your son yesterday walking unescorted through the ship. May I ask how that came about?”

Jean-Luc sighed and gave the android a rueful look.

“That was entirely my fault Mr.Data. I was requested to speak privately with Ms.Rodriguez so I asked Tobias to take himself back to our quarters.”

The head of security, Lieutenant M’Rak expressed no emotion as her Vulcan eyes pierced her Captain’s face.

“That is a breach of security and standing orders Captain.”

Jean-Luc inclined his head.

“Agreed Lieutenant and I apologise but as it was I who gave the order in the first place, perhaps I can be forgiven? I had little option at the time.”

The Vulcan bowed her head.

“Of course Sir, but in future perhaps you could inform security of your intentions? That way I could send an officer to escort your son.”

Somewhat chagrined, Jean-Luc nodded once.

“Agreed. Now, if there’s no other business?”

All the attendees shook their heads.

“Very well, thank you, you’re dismissed.”

As Deanna rose Jean-Luc said quietly,

“Counsellor I will meet with you in my Ready Room at your convenience.”

The petite woman looked down at the Captain and smiled.

“Thank you Sir…half an hour?”

Jean-Luc nodded and sighed as the room emptied, except for Beverly. The red head leaned down and gently kissed her lover.

“That was very well done my love…I’m proud of you.”

Jean-Luc took her hand and placed it over his heart.

“I wouldn’t have got through it without both your presence and your unstinting support. Thank you.”

They communed silently for a few moments before Beverly withdrew her hand.

“Shall we share lunch?”

He shook his head.

“Not today. I’ll see you at our quarters this afternoon.”

She bent and kissed the top of his head.

“Okay, see you then.”

After his lover left Jean-Luc sat in the silent room, his gaze fixed on the passing stars, his mind slowly turning the problem his son presented over and over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Jean Luc thought he was well prepared for the Counsellor’s visit. His Command visage was in place, his mental barriers up and well fortified…all in all he was calm and in total control. The Counsellor took her seat facing her CO, crossed her legs, clasped her hands, frowned and sighed with resigned irritation.

“Captain your efforts to appear unconcerned and in control are commendable, but unfortunately serve no useful purpose. Surely our relationship has progressed to the point where you can be honest with me?”

The Captain’s eyes glittered and his hands fisted.

“Counsellor while I do appreciate your invaluable assistance to me both personally and the ship in general, I can assure you that I am not accustomed to being accused of being dishonest.”

Setting her face with a look of grim determination, Deanna sat back and folded her arms across her chest.

“Oh really? Then please tell me Sir, why are you hiding from me behind your Captain’s mask?”

The older man stared coldly at his officer before standing abruptly and stalking to the replicator. Deanna stifled her frustration and waited while he retrieved a cup of tea and re-seated himself. As he sipped his brew, he kept his eyes on his cup, studiously ignoring his Counsellor. Deanna was accustomed to his strategies and bided her time, knowing he would make the next move. Almost on cue, Jean-Luc placed the cup on the desktop and brought his piercing gaze back to the waiting woman. Enunciating clearly in his precise, clipped accent he said succinctly,

“I am not hiding.”

Deanna smiled, bowing her head and shaking it slowly.

“Oh please. You’ve been behind your facade since you woke up this morning. Did you talk to Tobias about what happened last night?”

Jean-Luc kept his cold stare unwavering.

“I spoke to him briefly, yes.”

“And?”

The Captain allowed a small shrug.

“And what? It achieved nothing. My son ignored me…he wouldn’t even look at me. Ultimately all I could do was warn him of the consequences of unacceptable behaviour.”

Deanna snorted.

“Warn him or threaten him?”

Jean-Luc briefly closed his eyes and concentrated on keeping calm.

“What do you expect of me Counsellor? I have to walk a very fine line with Tobias. Do I speak to him as the Captain of this ship, or as his father? Or are the two one and the same? I have already broken my own standing orders because of that boy…and been upbraided for it by a lowly Lieutenant! And to top off what is already a deplorable situation, I cannot make contact with him. Just what am I supposed to do?”

Deanna’s obsidian eyes glittered as she tilted her head.

“Interesting.”

With an annoyed glare, the Captain barked,

“What?”

The Counsellor allowed a small depreciating smile.

“I find it interesting that you ask for my advice as to how to handle the situation, yet you shy away from expressing what is actually more important to you.”

The Captain’s face settled into a stone-like mask, but his eyes were wary.

“And just what, pray tell, is so important to me?”

“The pain your son caused you last night.”

Jean-Luc maintained his stare for some long seconds before dropping his eyes to his now cool tea. He sat in silence for a while then sighed, closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. When he spoke his voice was deep and ragged.

“My son struck me, spat in my face and told me he hated me Counsellor. The pain that caused resides deep within me.”

Deanna’s voice was very soft and unobtrusive.

“Why?”

The sad man pushed his cup to one side and picked up the crystal shard that habitually lived on his desk and spent some time looking into its prismatic depths. Keeping his gazed fixed on the shard he sighed deeply.

“You don’t know much about my life before I took command of the Enterprise D do you?”

Deanna shrugged.

“Not your private life no. I am familiar with your service record of course, but as to your childhood…no I know almost nothing.”

Jean-Luc sat back and tossed the crystal onto the desk. He pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath, holding it for some seconds before expelling it slowly.

“When I was little I became aware that my father treated me differently to my older brother and as I got older I came to the conclusion that he disliked me. Nothing I ever did was good enough for him…not my scholastic achievements or my athletic successes or even my efforts around the vineyard. Robert could do no wrong. I, on the other hand, was constantly criticised by my father…and later my brother, for even the smallest of infractions. When I announced my intentions to join Starfleet it came to a head. In my father’s eyes not only was I inept and useless, I was also throwing away my heritage and by default, dishonouring both him and my family. But in all the years I endured his distain…his autocratic stubbornness, I never…not once…thought or said I hated him. In fact it was my unwavering love for him that helped me overcome the pain and hurt.

And now I find my son, in the small space of ten days, has learned to hate me.”

Deanna sighed and bowed her head as the torrent of painful emotions flowed from her Captain. His barriers were down and she marvelled at his ability to remain in control through what must have been great pain.

Taking a steadying breath, Deanna gathered her thoughts.

“Captain I am truly sorry you suffered so much as a boy and it is something we should talk about later, but right now you need to know that Tobias doesn’t hate you, not really…he doesn’t hate anybody…what he hates is what’s happened to him. Everything is out of his control. His mother died a horrible death and he could do nothing. He’s taken away from the only existence he’s ever know, dragged across space with a complete stranger then presented to another stranger, told he’s his father and left to find his feet.

Is it any wonder his fear, his anger and frustration boiled over? His whole universe has collapsed Captain and he struck out at what remains.

“Unfortunately you’ve become his target…I think on some level he may want you to hurt as much as him, but that would be on a subconscious level. It is telling that he struck you. Though it was physical violence, it was a contact of sorts.”

Jean-Luc snorted and sneered.

“So I can expect more of this behaviour? Am I to assume he won’t stop until I’m as miserable as he is?”

Deanna offered a small smile and shook her head.

“No Captain. I think if we persevere we may finally break through. I spoke to Ms.Rodriguez and I agree with your suggestion to leave Tobias alone, but you and Beverly cannot afford to do that. You two have to persist in your attempts at communication. Sooner or later his walls will fall. Then it will be a matter of picking up the pieces and restoring him.”

Raising both hands, Jean-Luc rubbed his face and nodded.

“Very well Counsellor.”

Deanna rose and smiled.

“Well I’ll leave you now Sir. I would like to see you again tomorrow if that’s all right?”

Jean-Luc nodded tiredly and Deanna turned for the door. She paused and turned back.

“Captain, if I may ask, was there any comfort for you as you were growing up?”

Jean-Luc lifted his head, a tender smile emerging.

“Yes Counsellor. My mother.”

Deanna’s smile grew and she sighed.

“I’m glad Captain.”

After she had gone, Jean-Luc stood and went to the viewports, allowing the starry vista to ease his troubled soul.

 

 

 

 

                     Marta Rodriguez hadn’t joined Starfleet to be a teacher, but she found nonetheless, that she had a talent for it. She enjoyed nurturing her students and watching them grow and bloom as their horizons expanded with the influx of knowledge.

She sat behind her desk and cast her eyes over her pupils. There were only six, four boys and two girls ranging in age from seven to thirteen. Of the six of them Tobias was the brightest by far. Although he wouldn’t communicate physically or vocally, he was willing to do his work either by computer or PADD and the young woman was astonished by his innate intelligence. With a glance at the chronometer, Marta stood and gently called to her students.

“All right that’s about enough for today. Remember I want those essays in by next week and Hannah I want you to ask your mother to oversee your homework. Pack up your things then you can leave.”

As the students went about their tasks, Marta cast a wistful glance at the picture sitting on her desk. She had a date with her boyfriend and she was looking forward to it. The students began to file past to wait in the anteroom when Tobias dropped his PADD. Marta rose and went to help him.

“Here Tobias, I’ll get that for you.”

She stooped and picked up the device, handing it to the sullen boy. She noticed it was activated, the screen showing some schematics. Curious, Marta held out her hand.

“May I see what you’re working on?”

Keeping his gaze lowered, Tobias reluctantly gave up the PADD. Marta frowned at the complexity of what she saw.

“These are engineering schematics. Where did you get them?”

When there was no reply. Marta sighed and bowed her head to see under the boy’s brow.

“I’ll have to tell your father about this…I don’t think you should have access to schematics like these. Go and sit down Tobias.”

In sullen silence the lad turned and wandered to a seat, flopping down with disinterested boredom. Marta took one more look at the PADD then went to the anteroom to await the arrival of the Captain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  As Jean-Luc got closer to the school the feeling of dread increased, despite his efforts to dismiss it. Giving himself a mental shake, he squared his shoulders and rounded the corner, his step brisk. When he entered the anteroom and saw his son absent, his stomach soured. Marta smiled, trying to ease the tension she could see in the older man.

“Good afternoon Captain.”

Summoning a tight smile that didn’t reach his eyes, Jean-Luc returned the greeting.

“Good afternoon Ms.Rodriguez. Where is my son?”

With a gesture to the door, Marta replied,

“I asked him to wait inside. Captain Picard your son has these schematics on his PADD”

She handed the device to the CO and he quickly scanned the contents. His face hardened, his eyes glittering.

“I see. Thank you Ms.Rodriguez, I will speak to him about it.”

With a nod, Marta opened the door and called softly,

“Tobias your father is here…you may go.”

The silent boy left his chair and exited the room, going straight by his father and teacher and coming to a halt in the corridor, his head bowed and his hands fisted.

Jean-Luc clenched his teeth and nodded to the teacher.

“Good afternoon Ms.Rodriguez.”

The pretty woman smiled back and gave a nod.

“Goodbye Captain.”

The journey back to his quarters was tense and silent. As they walked through the doors, Tobias altered course to enter his room. Jean-Luc’s quiet voice stopped him in his tracks.

“We need to talk Tobias.”

The boy remained as he was, with his back to his father. Jean-Luc stepped to him, gently gripped his shoulder and turned him around. With a brusque shrug, Tobias dislodged the hand and glared up at the Captain.

Jean-Luc held up the PADD and kept his voice gentle.

“Where did you get these schematics?”

He was greeted with sullen silence. The Captain lowered his head and sighed.

“Tobias I gave you access to the ship’s schematics but I told you there were areas and things you couldn’t see. These specs are from Engineering, one of the areas you weren’t supposed to see. How did you get them?”

When the boy refused to answer, or even look at his father, Jean-Luc frowned and tapped his com badge.

“Picard to Data.”

“Data here.”

“Mr.Data report to my quarters immediately.”

“On my way Captain.”

The man looked down at his son, his demeanour stern.

“Go and sit on the sofa. I’m sure Mr.Data will get to the bottom of this.”

Tobias raised his eyes and glared at his father with insolent hate. He silently did as the Captain bade and the two of them waited in tense silence for the arrival of the android.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                With his emotion chip activated Data easily felt the tension in the room. His first inkling was the tight barked command to enter when he’d activated the door chime. His golden eyes scanned the room, settling on the Captain, standing before the viewports, his hands clenched behind his back, and the boy, rigidly sitting on the sofa, his head bowed.

“How may I help you Sir?”

Jean-Luc turned, bent and picked up a PADD.

“Mr.Data several days ago I gave Tobias access to the general schematics of the ship. He had my permission to study them, but not the restricted files. Today he was found with these schematics.”

The Captain handed the device to Data and he spent a few seconds perusing it. His eyebrows rose and he tilted his head.

“These files are restricted Captain.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes they are Data and I want to know how Tobias came by them.”

In confusion Data looked at the boy then at his CO. Jean-Luc sighed and lifted a hand, offering,

“I have asked him Data…he wasn’t…forthcoming.”

Keeping his face neutral Data nodded.

“I see Captain. I will need to access the computer in my quarters.”

With his hands once again clasped behind his back, Jean-Luc nodded.

“Very well. Inform me immediately you have some information.”

“Aye Captain.”

Once Data left, Jean-Luc looked down at his son.

“I would like you to accompany me to Sick bay. Beverly has some tests she wants to do on you.”

Knowing he would receive no reply, Jean-Luc walked to the door, gratified to hear his son’s footfalls behind him.

As usual, the journey to Sick bay was taken in silence. Beverly was waiting for them and guided Tobias to a bio bed. Following her instructions, the boy sat on the bed, his head lowered, his eyes downcast.

“Now Tobias I’m going to do a full work up as you’ve not had one for six months. It won’t hurt, I promise.”

With bored indifference the boy suffered the examination and sneered when Beverly asked him to wait in her office. While the lad was out of earshot, Beverly took Jean-Luc aside. The Captain folded his arms.

“How is he?”

The Doctor smiled.

“Fit as a fiddle, although he’s a little fatigued and he’s not eating quite enough, but that’s the norm with boys his age. His body’s growing fast and it’s hard for his metabolism to keep up.”

Jean-Luc looked over his shoulder then looked back at his lover, his expression intense.

“And?”

Beverly knew exactly what he was asking.

“And he’s your son.”

The Captain sighed.

“You’re sure? There’s been no genetic manipulation?”

Beverly shook her head emphatically.

“Unequivocally no. Right down to the cellular level, he’s your flesh and blood.”

That raised a smile on the older man. He again looked over his shoulder and when he looked back his expression was wistful. He sighed, his eyes warm.

“I’m glad.”

Beverly grinned warmly and squeezed his hand. Jean-Luc’s expression changed again and he frowned.

“And the disease that killed his mother?”

Beverly activated a screen and gestured to it.

“He carries antibodies.”

Jean-Luc’s face fell.

“So he’s been exposed to it?”

Beverly nodded.

“Uh huh, but without the Azzinin ‘flu cells present in his body as his mother had, he was able to fight it off. In all probability he most likely didn’t even know he’d contracted it.”

The Captain rubbed his fingers over his chin.

“And it won’t cause any trouble?”

Beverly smiled.

“None whatsoever.”

With a decisive expulsion of breath, Jean-Luc tugged his tunic into place.

“Good. Are you finished here?”

Deactivating the screen, Beverly nodded.

“Uh huh. We can go home together.”

Jean-Luc gestured to the office.

“Shall we?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        As the couple walked through the office doors, Tobias straightened quickly. He was behind Beverly’s desk, operating her computer. The Doctor rounded her desk, asking,

“What are you doing Tobias?”

He reached to press a tab but Beverly was too quick for him. She grabbed his hand and turned the monitor. On the screen were Tobias’s test results. Beverly’s mouth opened in astonishment.

“How the hell...?”

She got no further. Tobias wrenched his hand free and raised it in aggression. His father’s sharp voice stilled him.

“Tobias!”

The boy lowered his hand and bowed his head, his hands fisted. Jean-Luc’s voice was cold and soft.

“Sit down.”

Tobias obeyed and sat sullenly. Jean-Luc gave Beverly his attention.

“What did he do?”

The incredulous Doctor gestured to the screen.

“He accessed his test results.”

The Captain kept his voice steady.
“How? Aren’t they coded?”

Exasperated, Beverly keyed in some commands and scowled.

“Yes…and he’s somehow locked me out of my own system!”

Jean-Luc scowled.

“But…”
Beverly raised a hand, silencing him.

“Computer give me access to all medical records, authorisation Crusher delta two five.”

The response made Beverly snarl.

“That authorisation is invalid. Please enter current authorisation code.”

Pursing her lips, Beverly folded her arms and directed her attention to the boy.

“Tobias undo whatever it is you’ve done.”

When the boy remained immobile, Jean-Luc barked,

“Tobias!”

The lad reluctantly stood and bustled Beverly aside. His dark hazel eyes glittered as his fingers worked the keyboard. The screen went blank then reactivated. Tobias stood back and glared up at the Doctor triumphantly. The Doctor sneered at him and lifted her head.

“Computer who has access to all current medical records?”

“CMO Doctor Beverly Crusher.”

“Computer access all current medical records, authorisation Crusher Delta two five.”

“Access granted.”

Beverly sighed and scrolled through the displayed information. Jean-Luc’s soft enquiry made her snort.

“Is everything all right now?”

“Yes I think so.”

The Captain turned his attention to his son.
“Tobias how did you manage to do that?”

The boy continued to stare at the floor. Jean-Luc scowled and fisted his hands.

“You must stop interfering with the ship’s computer. It’s dangerous to both you and the ship.”

The boy ignored him. When the family left the facility, the adults were understandably angry and upset.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Several hours later they were seated at the table having dinner when the door chimed. Jean-Luc put down his cutlery and turned.

“Come.”

Data entered carrying a PADD. Jean-Luc gestured to the android, offering him a seat at the table.

“Forgive me for interrupting your evening meal Captain.”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“Not at all Data. What can I do for you?”

“I have the information you requested Sir.”

Jean-Luc’s eyebrows rose and he sat back, wiping his mouth with his serviette.

“So soon? Very well, report.”

Showing hesitation, Data demurred.

“Sir perhaps we could talk in private?”

The Captain frowned.

“I don’t think so Data.”

With a deep breath, Data swallowed.

“As you wish Captain.”

He put the PADD on the table.

“The schematics displayed on this device are only one of seven restricted files I found. Tobias has infiltrated our security system and accessed the restricted files.”

Jean-Luc glanced at his son then returned his gaze to his Second Officer.

“You say infiltrated. How?”

With great reluctance Data answered he CO.

“He used your access code Sir.”

There was an ominous silence before Jean-Luc’s deep voice muttered incredulously,

My access code?”

“Aye Sir.”

“How the hell did he do that?”

Thankful for his lack of nervousness, Data’s eyes flicked to the silent boy.

“The only way possible was for Tobias to have utilised a voice synthesiser Captain. At some time he has recorded you using your code and then implemented the synthesiser to fool the computer into believing it was you.”

Jean-Luc’s eyes settled on his son.

“Tobias? Is this true?”

The lad remained mute and still. Jean-Luc placed his fisted hands on the tabletop and said quietly,

“Go and get it.”

Tobias refused long enough for Jean-Luc to say softly,

“If you won’t give me the synthesiser I will have Data search your room until he finds it and I can assure you…he is very thorough.”

The rebellious boy glared at his father but quickly left his seat and disappeared into his room. The adults waited in tense silence while he was gone. His reappearance made Jean-Luc sigh with relief. Tobias came back to the table and placed a small metallic device in front of his father. The Captain picked it up, gave it a cursory study then handed it to Data. Within seconds the android activated it. The voice that emerged was Jean-Luc’s.

“Computer supply access to restricted files, authorisation Picard epsilon omega eight.”

When the computer answered, Jean-Luc snarled,

“Cancel request.”

Beverly frowned and shook her head.

“You wouldn’t make such a non-specific request; you’d specify which files you wanted.”

With one eyebrow raised, Jean-Luc stared hard at his son.

“Indeed. Data can you shed some light on this?”

Obviously uncomfortable, Data supplied the necessary information.

“Tobias has surreptitiously recorded random words Captain and cobbled them together to make a coherent sentence. The computer wouldn’t know the difference.”

Jean-Luc’s silence was ominous. He eventually shook his head and briefly closed his eyes.

“Data earlier today Tobias bypassed the security in the Sickbay computer system then managed to lock Doctor Crusher out. Find out how this was done, then report back to me.”

Hearing the subtle dismissal, Data stood.

“Yes Captain.”

Once the android was gone, Jean-Luc sat for a while in thought before addressing his son.

“Tobias it is clear you have a way with computers, however I cannot allow you to continue to disrupt the running of this ship. You will desist in your efforts to gain access to that which you are forbidden to see. If you do not I will see to it you have no computer access at all, not even for entertainment. Is that clear?”

He received no response but he noted the boy’s face redden and his jaw clench. The Captain said quietly,

“Help me clear the table then you may go to your room.”

Without preamble the boy got to his feet and began removing dishes and placing them in the recycler. By the time Jean-Luc joined him, the job was almost finished. Beverly watched as the males completed the task then caught Jean-Luc’s eye.

“Coffee?”

As Jean-Luc answered, Tobias disappeared into his room.

“No…how about a bottle of red?”

Beverly grinned and nodded.

“Marvellous.”

They settled into the sofa and Jean-Luc opened the bottle, letting the wine breathe for a few minutes before pouring. They lifted their glasses and Beverly smiled.

“To parenthood.”

Jean-Luc snorted but clinked glasses anyway.

“Indeed.”

They drank in silence for a while before Jean-Luc sighed expansively.

“It’s like hitting my head against a brick wall.”

Beverly sighed.

“I know. At times I think he’s at least listening to me, but other times it’s as if I’m not even in the same room.”

Jean-Luc growled, rubbing his brow with his free hand.

“And now this.”

The soft chuckle from his lover made the Captain frown.

“What?”

The Doctor rested her head on his shoulder.

“And we thought we had problems with Wesley! I always thought he was precocious, but Tobias is making my son look like an angel.”

Jean-Luc sighed deeply.

“Well one thing they have in common is a penchant for manipulating computers. My God… Tobias has it in abundance.”

Beverly hummed her agreement and slid her hand under Jean-Luc’s tunic. Her softly amused voice made Jean-Luc smile.

“As long as your son doesn’t let sentient nanites loose I think we’ll be okay.”

As Beverly’s knowing hand caressed his stomach, Jean-Luc slowly relaxed. He placed his glass on the low table then took Beverly’s glass, putting it with his. He then sat back and cradled her face in his hands, his soft voice velvety.

“I love you.”

With a tender kiss, Beverly smiled.

“I know.”

She settled into his arms and he sighed in happiness. The Doctor ran her fingers up the inside of his thigh and was rewarded when he parted his legs. She cupped the bulge of his genitals and grinned saucily as she felt his penis harden. As she undid his fly, she mewed softly as his hand found her breast. Her hand insinuated under the elastic of his briefs and he moaned quietly when she took his length in her hand and squeezed him gently.

Needing to see him, Beverly lifted her head and gasped softly as she looked deeply into his eyes. They shared a languidly passionate kiss as Jean-Luc undid her tunic and slid his hand under her shirt so he could caress her breasts. The Doctor was gently stroking his penis and nuzzling his neck when she suddenly froze. Jean-Luc lifted his head and glanced over the back of the sofa. Tobias was at the replicator, quietly ordering a drink. The Captain’s eyes glanced down at Beverly’s hand, hidden inside his briefs and closed his eyes, willing the boy to return to his room. After ordering his drink, Tobias then instructed to replicator to supply a bowl of ice cream with topping and nuts. While the machine complied with his instructions, he took his drink into his room, then re-emerged to take the bowl. Throughout all of this, the couple on the sofa stayed absolutely still and silent. The boy cast a baleful glare in their direction before disappearing into his room. Jean-Luc let out a long breath and muttered,

“Merde.”

Beverly giggled quietly and bit his earlobe.

“Let’s move this to the bedroom.”

Jean-Luc was about to stand but hesitated, looking pointedly at his open pants. Beverly chuckled and removed her hand, but not before squeezing him and caressing the head. Jean-Luc growled softly and bit her neck.

“You are a wench!”

Batting her eyelashes coquettishly, Beverly gasped,

“Who…me?”

The Captain stood, hitched up his trousers and bent to take her hand, drawing her to her feet.

“Come with me, I have a cure for wenches.”

Beverly patted her chest and said breathily,

“Oh my…I can’t wait.”

With a disbelieving shake of his head, Jean-Luc led his lover to the bedroom.

Once inside, Beverly freed her hand and went to the bed, bending forward and supporting herself on her hand as she toed off her boots. Jean-Luc moved to stand behind her and eased his hands around her waist, finding the zip and undoing her pants. Beverly attempted to straighten and turn but her lover prevented her. With strong hands he took her hands and placed them on the bed, encouraging her to keep bending forward. As soon as he was confident she would stay in that position, he pushed her pants down and lifted her tops off, allowing her to raise only enough to get the tops over her hands. Once she was again in position Jean-Luc ran his fingertips up the insides of her thighs, teasing her legs apart. He pressed his confined erection against her buttocks and she growled softly, pressing back into him and waggling her behind. He bent forward and took her breasts in his large hands, gently tweaking the nipples. Beverly arched her spine and groaned again pressing herself back into him. She vaguely heard his deep voice.

“Computer lock bedroom door.”

The answering chimes of the machine were lost as Beverly moaned again, Jean-Luc kneading her breasts and pinching the nipples. His hands suddenly disappeared and Beverly mewed her protest. Jean-Luc quickly pushed his trousers and underwear down and gently gripped her hips, pulling her back to him. As his erection slipped between her legs, Beverly gasped and reached between her thighs to caress him and entice him to enter her. He needed no further encouragement. He gripped his penis and guided it to her entrance, watching intently as he slowly penetrated her in one long stroke. The knuckles of her hands showed white as Beverly clutched the bedclothes. She braced her legs and answered the powerful thrusts of her lover by pushing back to meet him. Jean-Luc’s hands gripped her hips with strength, accentuating his strokes by pulling her to him. Beverly’s soft cries mingled with his soft grunts as they built the tension quickly. Jean-Luc suddenly stopped and Beverly gasped, not understanding what he was doing until his tunic and shirts hit the floor beside her. His hands left her hips, one going to her breast, the other to her sex where his knowing fingers found then teased her clitoris as he re-established his rhythm. It was too much for the Doctor. With abruptness that astonished her she climaxed, her arms giving way, her forehead resting on the bed. Jean-Luc let go of her breast and increased his thrusts, pounding into her with singular intent. With his fingers continuing to stimulate her Beverly felt the onrush of another orgasm. She lifted her head and took a deep breath and, as she let out a strangled cry, Jean-Luc pushed himself deeply within her and came hard, his body rigid and trembling, his shout of liberation guttural. In the aftermath of their passion, they slowly slid to their knees, Beverly resting her head on the bed, Jean-Luc laying his brow on her shoulder.

When he’d caught his breath, Jean-Luc lifted a hand to pull Beverly’s beautiful red hair aside so he could kiss her neck. The Doctor responded with a drawn out sigh of contentment.

“Oh God…”

Jean-Luc smiled against her skin and replied wearily,

“Hmm yes it was rather, wasn’t it?”

Beverly had enough energy to chuckle.

“Am I cured of my wenchyness now?”

The Captain nuzzled her neck and she could hear the smile in his deep husky voice.

“I hope not.”

Beverly grinned.

“You mean I have to have more treatments?”

He reply was a deep rumble.

“Hmm.”

“Oh good.”

Beverly felt Jean-Luc’s body growing heavier against her and she frowned.

“Don’t you go to sleep on me.”

His mumbled reply made her sigh.

“Uh uh.”

Placing her hands on the bed, Beverly pushed herself up, making Jean-Luc slip from within her. He growled and wrapped his arms around her, his gentle bite to her shoulder showing his displeasure. Beverly reached behind her and tickled his ribs.

He reacted immediately, stifling a guffaw and gripping her hands.

“Stop that!”

Beverly complied, but gave an order of her own.

“Then get up so I can go to the toilet and we can go to bed.”

His long-suffering sigh made the Doctor snort. With reluctance Jean-Luc got to his feet and, with good grace, helped his lover to stand. She smiled at him and kissed the tip of his nose before disappearing into the bathroom. With a wry grin on his face, Jean-Luc stripped off the remainder of his clothing, picked up the garments and was waiting in the bed when Beverly re-emerged. She settled beside her Captain and snuggled into his embrace. He ordered the lights off and was relaxing when Beverly said,

“Unlock the door.”

His eyes snapped open and he frowned.

“Why?”

“Because Tobias might need you in the night.”

Jean-Luc gave that a moment’s thought before sighing.

“Computer unlock bedroom door.”

They were asleep within minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    In the early hours of the morning Jean-Luc awoke thirsty. He gently extricated himself from his lover, got out of bed and slipped on his shorts before padding out into the living area and approaching the replicator. He quietly ordered a glass of cold water and was drinking it when he suddenly stilled, his hearing picking up something at the periphery of his range. He lowered the glass and concentrated. The soft sounds were coming from Tobias’s room. He disposed of the glass and went to the door, pressing the release. As the door opened the sounds became louder. Tobias was crying. He entered the room and went to his son, calling softly,

“Lights five percent.”

In the dim glow he saw that the boy was asleep, crying freely. The Captain sat on the bed and lifted his hand to stroke the lad’s head, but hesitated, not wanting to wake him. The crying intensified, making his decision easier. He gently laid his hand on the boy’s head and said softly in his native tongue,

“It’s all right Tobias, it’s just a dream.”

In the past, whenever Jean-Luc had touched his son, the boy would shy away from him, but this time he sought comfort in the contact. He turned over and lifted his arm. Without hesitation Jean-Luc accepted the invitation and embraced his son, gently lifting him and holding him against his chest. Tobias’s arms tightened around his father and he sobbed in his sleep. Jean-Luc rocked gently and crooned softly, his deep voice lulling the distressed boy. After several minutes the crying eased then stopped. Tobias’s arms relaxed and lost their grip, the rest of his body following suit. Taking his cue, Jean-Luc eased his son down and settled him on his pillow. He drew the blankets up around him, then bent low and kissed his head. In his soft French he said,

“Sweet dreams my young son.”

He left the room and went back to bed, but it was a long time before sleep claimed him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   The next morning Tobias gave no indication he remembered what had occurred during the night. After breakfast Jean-Luc went to his desk and retrieved a PADD. As he prepared to walk his son to school, he caught the boy’s attention.

“Tobias I have deleted all but your relevant school work from this PADD. I will be asking your teacher to check it three times a day and I will check it when I pick you up. Until you show me you can be trusted, this will be the only PADD you will have access to and I will instruct Mr.Data to limit the capabilities of the computer in your room.”

The boy glared up at his father and Jean-Luc weathered the wave of anger that emanated from the lad.

“You may think my actions harsh but they are of your own making. Prove to me that you are no longer tampering with the ship’s systems and I will relax my restrictions. It’s up to you. Do you understand?”

With a sneer, Tobias glared insolently.

“Oui Monsieur Picard.”

The words were spat with such obvious distaste Jean-Luc clenched his jaw and gestured to the door.

“Wait for me outside.”

As the doors closed on his son, the Captain felt the soothing presence of his lover. Beverly slipped her hand into his and gently kissed his cheek.

“Patience my love…patience.”

Jean-Luc sighed and shook his head, his deep voice showing his exasperation.

“God give me strength.”

Beverly’s gentle pat to his behind made him smile.

“Be off with you Captain…go fly the ship.”

He took a step towards the door, then spun around and caught Beverly’s hand, pulling her to him. He kissed her with surprising passion then abruptly left, leaving the Doctor somewhat aroused and amused. She stared wistfully at the closed doors, a dreamy smile gracing her face.

“That’s my man.”

 

 

                Marta Rodriguez was at her desk when Jean-Luc and Tobias arrived. With a meaningful look, Jean-Luc beckoned the woman outside. Giving her CO her undivided attention, the attractive woman noted the tension in the older man. He took a deep breath and explained what Tobias had been up to. He ended his discourse with his request.

“I would appreciate it Ms.Rodriguez, if you would check Tobias’s PADD each morning, lunchtime and at the end of the day. If you find anything on the device that doesn’t pertain to his schoolwork you are to inform me immediately.”

Marta glanced into the classroom to see Tobias sitting on his own. She frowned and gathered her thoughts.

“Captain Picard I am somewhat concerned about your son. It is difficult…this policy of isolation, but to oversee him so intently…with respect Sir, don’t you think it’s a little…draconian?”

Appreciating the dedication and concern the teacher showed, Jean-Luc offered his explanation.

“Ms.Rodriguez I know my son is experiencing difficulties but the measures I have implemented have been because of his own actions. Yes, I am his father, but I am also the Captain of this ship and I have to protect the ship and her crew. I also have to protect Tobias. It is a difficult line I tread; I can only hope I’m doing the right thing, by both the ship and my son. However I do appreciate your position and to that end I suggest you feel free to take your concerns to Counsellor Troi. I’m sure between the three of us we can come to a consensus.”

The bright smile that emerged pleased the Captain. Marta nodded and again found herself admiring her CO.

“Thank you Captain, that is just what I needed to hear. I will see you this afternoon Sir.”

With a decisive nod, Jean-Luc cast one long look at his son and left, his mind settling once again on his job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Beverly breezed into Sickbay, her blue lab coat flapping. Attendant staff smiled their greetings and Beverly sighed with contentment knowing her facility was running with its usual smooth proficiency. She had just taken a seat at her desk when her second in command entered. Beverly looked up and smiled her acknowledgement.

“Good morning Selar, what can I do for you.”

The Vulcan physician clasped her hands in front of her and tilted her head.

“I was going over the senior officer’s medical files and yours was flagged.”

Beverly frowned.

“Mine was flagged? What for?”

With a gesture to the unoccupied seat, Beverly granted permission for her colleague to sit. Selar, with her usual stoicism, wasted no time in answering the questions.

“Your contraceptive implant is due for replacement; however you have reached the limit of exposure for this course. Per Starfleet Medical protocols, you are required to give your reproductive system eight week’s rest from the implants, allowing your body the opportunity to cleanse itself of the chemicals imposed through the implant.”

The red head scowled and swore softly.

“Shit!”

Selar tilted her head, asking quietly,

“Is there a problem Doctor Crusher?”

Beverly sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.

“I suppose you’ve heard about the Captain’s announcement at the briefing yesterday?”

The Vulcan inclined her head.

“That you and the Captain have entered into a long term relationship and that you now reside in his quarters? Yes I have heard.”

Levelling a steady gaze on her colleague, Beverly suppressed the urge to fidget.

“You are also aware that Captain Picard is unable to use a contraceptive implant?”

“Because of rejection concerns about his artificial heart? Yes I am aware of that.”

The CMO waved a hand.

“Then you must see that me being taken off the implants is…awkward.”

Her face devoid of expression, Selar offered,

“There are other methods of preventing conception Doctor.”

Beverly grimaced.

“Yes but they also prevent spontaneity.”

The Vulcan raised one perfect eyebrow.

“There are non-chemical devices that can be utilised.”

With a snort, Beverly briefly closed her eyes.

“Yes I know but I really don’t want to resort to having anything inserted.”
She held up her hand, forestalling any response.

“Yes I know that’s illogical but I’ve never used them and I don’t want to start now. Look you can remove the implant but I need to talk to the Captain about this. When I’ve come to a decision I’ll let you know.”

Selar stood and gave a short bow.

“As you wish Doctor.”

After the Vulcan left, Beverly called up her file and sneered at it.

“Shit!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Jean-Luc’s arrival on the Bridge made Will smile.

“Good morning Captain.”

Jean-Luc returned the greeting with a smile of his own.

“Good morning Number One. Report.”

“We’re on course at warp three, ETA at the Gyannan system, two days.  Ship’s status…optimal Sir.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Thank you Commander, you have the Bridge, I’ll be in the Ready Room.”

No sooner had Jean-Luc taken his seat at his desk when the door chimed.

“Come.”

Data entered and came to stand in front of his CO. Jean-Luc looked up and waved the android to a seat.

“Yes Mr.Data?”

His golden eyes settling on the Human, Data delivered his report.

“As per your orders Captain, I have investigated how your son was able to interfere with the medical computer.”

Jean-Luc sat back, his face becoming stone-like.

“And?”

Data allowed a small smile.
“Your son has a remarkable grasp of computer function and technology Captain. With little more than a voice synthesiser and some very clever…if not devious manipulation of the medical sub-systems, he was able to bypass the security screen and gain access to his file. Using a new encryption code he then altered the command algorithm and effectively blocked access to the entire database. In all an astonishing feat for one so young.”

Jean-Luc grunted and ran a hand over his scalp.

“Can we prevent him doing it again?”

Data pondered for exactly two point three seconds.

“It will be difficult, but yes Sir, I believe so.”

“Then make it so and Data I want you to modify his personal computer to limit its capabilities. Until he shows us he can be trusted, I don’t want to temp fate.”

Data stood and nodded.

“I will see to it at once Captain.”

“Thank you Data, dismissed.”

Once again alone, Jean-Luc pursed his lips pensively.

“Now we shall see Tobias…will you behave?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   At the end of his shift, Jean-Luc left the Bridge for his relatively short journey to the school. Upon his arrival, he was greeted by Deanna Troi. As they were both a few minutes early, they took up position a little way down the hall, allowing the other parents to mingle socially. Jean-Luc looked down at the Counsellor, his expression unreadable.

“Do you wish to see me Counsellor?”

With a smile to ease his concerns, Deanna nodded.

“Yes Captain…actually I want to speak to both you and Tobias, but I would appreciate a quiet word with you first.”

Jean-Luc cast a glance at the school room then devoted his attention to his Counsellor.

“Very well.”

Deanna looked up into his intense hazel eyes and gathered her thoughts.

“I have been informed of Tobias’s efforts with the computer. How have you handled it?”

The Captain folded his arms and stared at his feet.

“I have limited his access to one PADD only and that to be used exclusively for school work, nothing else…and to that end, the PADD is checked three times a day by his teacher and I will check it when I pick him up. Also his personal computer has been modified to limit its capabilities. I have explained to him why this has been necessary and that if he proves to me I can trust him to desist in his efforts, he will be given greater access to computers.”

Deanna nodded thoughtfully.

“I see. How did he take it?”

Jean-Luc grunted softly.

“He was…not impressed.”

“Did he say anything?”

The Captain shook his head.

“Only to say, Yes Mr.Picard.”

Deanna sighed and rubbed her forehead.

“Nothing else?”

Jean-Luc shook his head, but hesitated.

“Late last night I was getting a drink when I heard something from his room. When I investigated I found Tobias asleep, but crying. I went to him and he lifted his arm…seeking comfort. I held him and eventually he stopped crying and settled. I tucked him back in and left his room.”

Deanna’s eyebrows rose.

“He allowed you to hold him?”

Jean-Luc nodded but frowned deeply.

“Yes but he was asleep Counsellor. He didn’t know it was me…in all probability he was dreaming I was his mother.”

Deanna’s expression was speculative.

“Not necessarily Captain. Did you speak to him?”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes.”

Deanna smiled.

“Captain children, in fact adults too, are aware of very many things as they sleep. Sounds, smells, touch…all these things are perceived by the sub conscience even though the brain is asleep. I believe…at least on some level, Tobias knew it was you and in doing so made his first step in accepting you.”

The Captain frowned and ran his fingers over his lower lip.

“But this morning he gave no indication of remembering what happened.”

With a shrug, Deanna sighed.

“Maybe so Sir but I still think this is important. Would you mind if I came back to your quarters and spoke to you both?”

Jean-Luc studied the petite woman intently before nodding.

“Yes, that will be fine.”

Deanna smiled warmly.

“Thank you Captain.”

Seeing that the students had been released for the day, the Captain and the Counsellor went back to the class room and waited until Tobias emerged. Once they were back in their quarters,  Jean-Luc held his hand out wordlessly and the lad reluctantly handed him his PADD. After spending several moments inspecting the device, Jean-Luc nodded once and gave it back to his son. Jean-Luc turned to the boy.

“Tobias Counsellor Troi would like to speak with both you and me. Will you sit on the sofa please?”

While Tobias took his seat, Jean-Luc went to the replicator and returned with a tray. Deanna had found her seat and the Captain smiled as he placed the drinks on the low table.

“Counsellor I got you a hot chocolate. Tobias you’ve got a cola.”

Deanna thanked her CO but Tobias ignored his father. Deanna took a sip of her drink and crossed her legs.

“Tobias your father has told me about the restrictions he’s placed on you. Would you like to talk about it?”

There was a tense silence before Tobias abruptly stood and made to leave the room. Jean-Luc’s quietly commanding voice stopped him.

“Sit down Tobias.”

The boy glared at his father but obeyed nonetheless. He flopped down on the sofa, folded his arms across his chest and stared fixedly at the floor. Deanna glanced at Jean-Luc before continuing.

“You know Tobias you’re attitude towards your father is odd in a way. He’s the only person aboard this ship…the only person you can count on for protection, comfort and love, yet you do your level best to shut him out.”

Tobias slowly lifted his head and sneered and said in French.

“He doesn’t love me…he doesn’t even want me.”

The translator quickly interpreted the words. Giving her Captain a look that requested silence, Deanna tackled the angry boy.

“That’s not true Tobias. Do you remember what happened last night?”

His look became wary.

“Nothing happened last night…except he…”

Tobias gestured curtly at his father,

“Was having sex with the woman on the sofa.”

When the translator finished its work, Deanna sensed Jean-Luc’s anger and embarrassment. Quelling her amusement Deanna kept her attention on the boy.

“Besides that.”

Tobias shook his head.

“Nothing happened.”

Shifting to get closer to the boy, she said softly,

“Last night your father found you crying in your sleep. He gave you comfort and you accepted it.”

The boy’s shout was laced in anger and outrage.

“No!”

“Yes Tobias. In your sleep you asked for his help and he gave it.”

Suddenly on his feet, tears welled in the boy’s eyes.

“You’re lying!”

Jean-Luc could stay silent no longer. He held out his hand and said softly,

“Tobias…”

The youngster snatched his hand away and shouted,

“Leave me alone!”

This time when he fled Jean-Luc let him go. He lowered his head and sighed deeply. Deanna’s gentle hands on his arm made him lift his head.

“We’ll get through Captain; the cracks are appearing in his walls.”

Just then Beverly entered the quarters and immediately felt the tension in the room. Quick steps brought her to her lover and her clear blue eyes showed her sympathy.

“Rough time?”

Jean-Luc remained silent as Deanna answered.

“Yes, but I think we’re making progress. Slow progress, but that’s better than nothing.”

While Beverly sought Jean-Luc’s hand, Deanna rose and sighed.

“I’ll drop by the school tomorrow Captain. He may benefit from a quiet talk by then.”

Remembering his manners. Jean-Luc stood and summoned a wan smile.

“Very well Counsellor, thank you.”

After Deanna had left, the couple sat in silence for several minutes. Beverly stirred and sat back, stretching her legs out and putting her feet on the low table. She could see that under his sadness and pain, Jean-Luc was also somewhat disgruntled. The Doctor reached out and trailed her fingers down his cheek.

“Tell me.”

With a grunt, Jean-Luc rested his head on the backrest.

“My son told Deanna he caught us having sex on the sofa last night.”

Beverly’s mouth opened and shut.

“But that’s not true! We were fooling around, but we weren’t having sex!”

Jean-Luc snorted and pressed his fingers into his tired eyes.

“What I want to know is how does a ten year old know about sex enough to know what we were doing?”

With a derisive huff, Beverly flapped her hand.

“Oh God Jean-Luc, you’ve got no idea. Kids pick things up very quickly and considering his apparent talents with computers…who knows what he’s accessed? Besides he’s grown up around adults, I bet he’s seen his fair share of adult sexual behaviour.”

The Captain considered this then asked,

“And what about school? What do they teach about sexuality?”

Beverly shrugged.

“At Tobias’s age it’s mostly biology…how things work. Actual studies on sexuality happen a little later, closer to puberty.”

With a wry shake of his head, Jean-Luc sighed.

“Well he should pass that no problem.”

They were silent for a while before Beverly snuggled into her lover’s body. He wrapped an arm around her and sighed. In a tentative voice Beverly broke the lull.

“Talking about sexuality, we have something to discuss.”

Jean-Luc raised an eyebrow and looked down into her eyes.

“Indeed?”

“Uh huh.”

“And that is?”

Beverly sighed and told him about her discussion with Selar. She ended by saying,

“So the upshot is I really don’t want to use anything until I can go back to an implant.”

Jean-Luc frowned as he mulled over the information.

“So that leaves what? Abstinence?”

She could tell by the sound of his voice that he wasn’t happy. Trying to jolly him along, she chuckled and muttered,

“We could replicate some condoms.”

He looked askance and shook his head.

“Tell me you’re not serious?”

Growing somewhat exasperated, Beverly sat up and ran her fingers through her hair.

“Look Jean-Luc this need not be such a problem. Let’s sleep on it and we’ll talk about it tomorrow. Okay?”

He grumbled and rubbed a hand over his pate.

“As you wish, but you’d better keep your hands to yourself tonight.”

Beverly’s mouth gaped.
“Me!? You’re the one with the wandering hands!”

Adopting a wounded look, Jean-Luc said softly,

“And what about your wenchyness?”

A delightful flush coloured Beverly’s alabaster skin. She chuckled and winked at her lover.

“Okay, you’ve got me there. How about we call it even?”

The Captain stood and smiled.

“Done.”

He then looked over at his son’s door.

“And I suppose we’d better get dinner organised. Round two will be ready by then.”

Beverly got to her feet and embraced her lover.

“Don’t take his anger to heart Jean-Luc…he doesn’t mean it, not really.”

With tenderness belying his passion for his lover, Jean-Luc kissed Beverly soundly. When he tapered the contact he whispered,

“I love you mon coeur.”

She smiled into his eyes and sighed.

“Ditto.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                It was Deanna who walked Tobias to school the next day. The boy was his usual sullen self, but When then Counsellor asked him how he felt about his father after what had happened the previous night, Tobias surprised the woman by leading her to an observation room so she could use the translator.

“My father feels he has to look after me. He has no choice.”

Deanna considered that then shook her head.

“That’s not so Tobias. Yes your arrival was a shock to him, but he accepted you and his role as your father wholeheartedly. Do you remember what Guinan said about him?”

The boy shrugged nonchalantly.

“She said he was a good man and he is Tobias. I’m sure by now you would have accessed your father’s service record. Starfleet officers don’t get a record like his without a lot of hard work and dedication. If you let him, he’ll love and protect you with the same determination.”

Tobias looked out the viewport and sighed. Deanna sensed his turbulent emotions and waited breathlessly to see if he would articulate his emotions. When he began to speak, the Counsellor almost cheered.

“He didn’t love my mother.”

Although Deanna had to rely on the translator for an interpretation, she still heard the pain in the youngster’s voice. She placed a gentle hand on the boy’s shoulder and guided him to a seat.

“Tobias people form relationships based on many things. I’m not sure what the situation was with your parents, but I can tell you your father would never enter into a relationship unless he cared about his partner. I’m sure he cared about your mother.”

Looking at the Counsellor for the first time, tears formed in the boy’s eyes.

“I was a mistake and my father didn’t want me.”

Deanna frowned, seeking the best way to explain what happened.

“Tobias while it is true your mother was using a contraceptive implant, when she found out she was pregnant she made a choice and the decision was to have you. Then she chose to not tell your father about you and I can only guess that it was because she cared enough about him to let him go. Tobias I didn’t know your mother but I know your father very well. Being a Captain and exploring space has been his dream since he was a little boy. Your mother knew this and also knew if she told him about you he would have given up his life’s work to be with both of you. She couldn’t do that so she never told him about you. It was not that he didn’t want you Tobias…he never knew about you…he was never given the chance to decide one way or another.”

Tobias looked down at the PADD he had in his hands and shook his head.

“He loves the woman more than he loves me.”

Deanna smiled tenderly.

“Tobias your father has loved Beverly for many, many years but they have only just begun their relationship. Give him a chance! This is all new to him too…remember he hasn’t had the opportunity to see you born or to watch you grow…he never saw your first steps or heard your first word. He is still getting used to living with someone and here you are, appearing out of nowhere and knocking him off his feet.”

Tobias snorted, obviously amused at the thought of his father so rattled. He sighed and frowned.

“He’s grumpy…and strict.”

Deanna chuckled.

“Well he’s working on that but you have to give him a little slack. He’s the Captain of this ship Tobias and that carries a tremendous weight. He simply can’t afford to be lax or overly friendly, but I can promise you…if you talk to him…get to know him, you’ll find he’s a warm, gentle and caring man.”

The lad stood and wandered to the viewport. He lifted his hand and trailed his fingers down the clear aluminium.

“What about the woman?”

Deanna sighed and tried to keep the irritation out of her voice.

“Her name is Beverly Tobias.”

The boy shrugged diffidently.

“Yeah her.”

“What about her?”

Tobias turned and Deanna could see anger in his eyes.

“Do I have to like her too?”

She stood and joined the boy at the window.

“Why wouldn’t you? Beverly is a wonderful person Tobias. She’s willing to let you into her life…and to share the Captain with you. They waited a very long time to be together Tobias, sharing your father so early in their relationship is a very hard thing for her to do.”

Tobias stared at his feet and thought hard. When he looked up Deanna could see his indecision.

“She can’t be my mother.”

Deanna knew this was dangerous ground and acted accordingly.

“She doesn’t want to be Tobias, she knows no one can replace your mother, but she can be your friend can’t she?”

The boy thought about that and asked,

“Do I have to do what she says?”

Deanna folded her arms and adopted an uncompromising look.

“Two things Tobias…Beverly is an adult and she is a senior officer on this ship. In both instances you are obliged to obey her.”

His face took on a defiant cast and he shook his head.

“No! That’s not fair.”

“Why?”

“Because she can tell me to do stuff I don’t want to.”

Somewhat exasperated Deanna looked at the ceiling for inspiration.

“But Tobias why is that different from your father? He’s an adult and the senior officer aboard. Are you telling me you’re willing to obey him and not Beverly?”

Tobias clenched his fists and gritted his teeth.

“She will tell my father what to say to me! He will listen to her and not me!”

Deanna smiled to ease the incensed boy and shook her head.

“No Tobias, Beverly would never interfere or try to influence your father in his relationship with you. I don’t know if you’re aware, but Beverly has a son. He’s grown up now but she knows what it’s like to be a parent and how important it is for you to build a solid relationship with your father, a relationship based on love, honesty and trust.”

Tobias looked at the Counsellor with frank disbelief. Deanna sighed and took his hands.

“Look all you have to do is give them both a chance. Let them show you how really committed they are to making you welcome and happy. Is that too much to ask?”

There followed a protracted silence. Eventually Tobias snorted and shrugged.

“I suppose.”

Deanna smiled warmly.

“Good. Now we’d better get you to school, as it is I’ll have to explain why you’re late.”

Tobias’s voice was wry.

“Well you’re an adult.”

Deanna’s rejoinder was sardonic.

“Don’t push your luck!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Over dinner that night Tobias surprised the adults by politely asking if he could leave the table before the meal was finished. Jean-Luc gave a nod, his curiosity piqued. Tobias wasn’t gone long. When he returned he placed his PADD on the table then returned to his meal, saying nothing more until dinner was over. Jean-Luc and Beverly had been chatting amicably and Beverly became aware the boy was watching the both of them quite intently. She frowned slightly and glanced at her lover, gaining his attention. She then directed her eyes to the boy and Jean-Luc caught her lead.

“What is it Tobias?”

In his native tongue, Tobias asked his father,

“What do you know about your family?”

Eyebrows risen, Jean-Luc sat back and crossed his legs under the table, folding his hands on his lap.

“Quite a bit actually…why?”

Tobias picked up the PADD, activated it then scrolled down to the relevant page. He offered the device to his father who took it and began to read as his son outlined his query.

“I have to write an essay about my family’s history. Maman never told me much about her family so the only family I can write about is yours.”

Jean-Luc’s smile was gentle.

“My family is your family too. I’d be happy to tell you our family history Tobias. Why don’t we clear the table then move to the lounge?”

The small smile that appeared on the boy’s face as he agreed with his father made Jean-Luc’s heart swell with joy. He caught Beverly’s eye and she winked at him, her own smile tender.

In all, Jean-Luc and Tobias spent two and a half hours sitting together talking about the Picard family history. Jean-Luc got out his photo album and even used his desktop computer to access things like the family crest. Through it all Beverly sat quietly, using both her growing command of French and the translator, soaking up the information, having only heard snippets of it in the past. Eventually Jean-Luc sat back and smiled at his son with pride.

“Well Tobias I know it’s a lot to take in but it’s a rich history covering many centuries.”

The lad nodded and frowned.’

“Why do you know so much about it?”

Jean-Luc shrugged and gave a rueful grin.

“Because my father made sure my brother and I knew! Every night when we were growing up, my father would tell us stories about our ancestors. I’m not sure all of them were true, but it was interesting enough to make me want to know more. When I was older I was able to access the local, then the national and then the international databases. It makes fascinating reading.”

Tobias studied his PADD for a while then sighed deeply. Jean-Luc sensed his son’s sadness and sought to comfort him. His voice a gentle baritone he asked,

“What is it Tobias?”

The boy didn’t answer immediately; he seemed to be struggling with something. Eventually he lifted his head, the pain in his eyes causing Jean-Luc’s heart to clench.

“I wish I knew about maman’s family.”

The Captain hesitated only a fraction of a second. He slowly raised his arm and laid it across his son’s thin shoulders.

“All I know about your mother was that she was an only child and that she had been adopted at birth. Her adoptive parents died in an accident when she was in her late teens and she was cared for by the state for a year until she gained entry into Starfleet Academy. I don’t think she deliberately withheld information from you Tobias…she just didn’t know herself.”

Tobias nodded and sighed again. Jean-Luc cast a glance at Beverly and she nodded surreptitiously. Returning his attention to his son, Jean-Luc said gently,

“Tobias your mother left a chip for you to view when I thought you were ready to see it. Would you like to see it now?”

Tobias shrugged out from under his father’s arm and glared angrily.

“You have a chip from Maman and you didn’t give it to me?”

Holding up a hand, Jean-Luc sought to diffuse the situation.

“There’s no need to get angry Tobias. As I said I was to give it to you when I thought you were ready to see it. Your mother gave me two chips, one for me and one for you.”

Tobias’s anger, instead of easing, only grew worse.

“Why is it up to you? It is my chip from my mother! You had no right to keep it from me!”

Not wishing to make a rapidly deteriorating situation worse, Jean-Luc rose and went to his desk where he opened his safe and retrieved the chip. He returned to his son and gave it to him.

“If you want to talk afterwards, I’ll be here.”

With a final glare, Tobias marched to his room. Jean-Luc collapsed in his favourite chair and lowered his head into his hands. The gentle caress of his lover’s hands over his back made him sigh and lift his head.

“I thought we were going so well.”

Beverly perched on the arm of his chair and shrugged.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day Jean-Luc. Give him time, he’s taken some huge steps…there’s bound to be a few hiccups along the way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Forty-five minutes later, when Tobias hadn’t reappeared, Jean-Luc gave up on the book he was reading and snapped it closed. With an irritated huff, he tossed the volume on the low table and rubbed his face. Beverly lowered her book and sighed.

“Go to him.”

Jean-Luc frowned and shook his head in exasperation.

“I hate this! I feel paralysed…I don’t know what to do!”

Adopting a gently encouraging tone, Beverly urged,

“Go to your son Jean-Luc.”

His head snapped around and he glowered, his voice tight.

“What if he rejects me again?”

“Then he rejects you and you try again later. Jean-Luc you can’t insure against hurt by isolating yourself from your son when you think he’s going to be angry with you. To earn that boy’s love you have to weather the storm…be ready and able to bear rejection and any other hurts he throws at you.”

The Captain lowered his head and sighed.

“I’m not sure I can do it Beverly.”

The Doctor rose from her seat and knelt between his legs, taking his hands and looking deeply into his intense eyes. She kept her voce soft.

“You did it with me.”

The smile that eventually appeared on her lover’s face was rueful.

“And it bloody near killed me.”

Beverly’s chuckle made his smile widen.

“But you survived…and look what we have now.”

Letting his eyes shift to his son’s door, Jean-Luc’s smile faded.

“This is very hard mon coeur.”

Beverly followed his gaze and sighed.

“If you think this is hard on you, imagine what it’s like for Tobias. He’s ten years old Jean-Luc, he’s lost the only person he ever loved and he’s just seen that loved one…ravaged by disease, in agony and delivering her last message to a grieving son. How do you think he feels?”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and rubbed them. He said softly,

“Merde.”

In a quietly insistent voice, Beverly urged,

“Go to him Jean-Luc. He may yell or throw things at you, but go to him and let him know he’s not alone.”

After a moment’s thought, Jean-Luc nodded and slowly rose, bringing Beverly to her feet. He kissed her with heartfelt tenderness then strode resolutely to his son’s door. The Doctor watched as he entered, crossing her fingers and briefly closing her eyes.

“Good luck my love.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                          Tobias was lying face down on his bed crying softly. Jean-Luc glanced at the computer and winced inwardly at the frozen image of the stricken woman he once knew displayed so grotesquely on the screen. He sat on the bed and laid a gentle hand on his son’s back. Before the Captain could speak Tobias struggled to dislodge his hand, turning his head and yelling in French,

“Get out! Leave me alone.”

Jean-Luc took a deep breath and gently gripped the boy’s shoulders.

“No Tobias I won’t leave you…not now.”

With a savage twist of his body, Tobias sat up and glared at his father.

“I don’t want you! I want…I want…”

His eyes flicked to the computer screen and his face crumpled as his voice cracked.

“I want my mother.”

Jean-Luc moved closer to the boy and slowly raised his arms, keeping his voice low and very soft.

“I know Tobias…I know.”

There was a moment’s hesitation as the bereaved lad warred with himself, but eventually the desperate need for comfort overcame his anger. He flung himself into his father’s embrace, gripping his shirt fiercely and sobbing over and over…
“It’s not fair…it’s not fair.”

Jean-Luc held his son as the tempest raged. He didn’t say anything…at that stage words were useless. Slowly the lad calmed, his hiccuping sobs hitching his chest. He prised his fingers open and released Jean-Luc’s shirt before slowly winding his arms around his father and turning his head to rest against the man’s chest. Jean-Luc lowered his head and laid his cheek atop his son’s head while stroking his back. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“It will take time Tobias but I promise you…it won’t always hurt so much.”

The two people…father and son stayed silent for a long time. Jean-Luc began to think Tobias had drifted off to sleep, but eventually the boy stirred and released his father, sitting up and wiping his eyes with his hands. He cast a quick look at the computer and briefly closed his eyes. Jean-Luc squeezed his shoulder and said gently,

“I’ll turn it off.”

His son’s soft voice stopped him.

“No…”

The Captain looked at the image then turned back to the boy.

“You shouldn’t remember her like that Tobias. Let me turn it off.”

In silence the boy shook his head. He stared at the image and Jean-Luc saw his gaze harden. The boy’s question caught the older man off guard.

“Would you like to see it?”

In a soft voice Jean-Luc replied,

“You wouldn’t mind?”

Tobias shook his head.

“No.”

Jean-Luc stood and offered his hand.

“Shall we watch it together?”

The look Tobias gave his father made Jean-Luc frown. It was a measuring look, a look of appraisal, as if the boy was seeing his father for the first time. With a decisive nod, Tobias took Jean-Luc’s hand and together they went to the computer. Pressing ‘replay’ they watched the recording.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Beverly was waiting for her lover when he finally emerged from his son’s room. He said nothing as he went to the sideboard and took out a bottle of authentic brandy. He turned and raised an eyebrow in silent enquiry and the Doctor nodded, watching as he poured two snifters and made his way to his chair. He sat and closed his eyes while gently swirling the deep amber liquid. Beverly stood momentarily then sat, waiting for him to speak. When he did his voice was deep and ragged.

“He asked me to watch it with him.”

Beverly nodded her understanding and asked softly,

“How is he?”

With a shrug, Jean-Luc sighed.

“About as you’d expect. Angry, aggrieved, hurt and in considerable pain but by God…he’s standing up to it.”

Beverly looked over at the closed door and raised her eyebrow.

“Is he..?”

Jean-Luc gave a curt nod.

“Asleep.”

Taking a sip of her brandy, Beverly frowned as she appraised her lover. He was tense and angry…and very sad. Deciding to delve a little deeper she asked,

“How was he when you first went in?”

Jean-Luc took a deep draught of his drink and closed his eyes as the alcohol slid down his throat. He swallowed, took a deep breath and let it out slowly, his tone curt.

“He was very upset.”

Ignoring her lover’s attitude, Beverly persisted.

“Did he reject you?”

All that got was a brusque nod. With her patience tested, Beverly went on.

“What did you do?”

There was a protracted silence until Jean-Luc snorted.

“I did the only thing I could do. I ignored his rejection and held him while he sobbed out his pain.”

“And then?”

Unwilling to continue the interrogation, Jean-Luc glared at his lover.

“What the hell is this…twenty questions?”

Ignoring his outburst, knowing he needed to talk about what happened; Beverly bit back the acerbic reply and kept her tone reasonable.

“What happened then?”

The Captain continued the glare then abruptly closed his eyes, tilted his head back and drank the remaining brandy in three long swallows. He then held his breath and wrapped his hands around the snifter, his brows deeply furrowed as he bowed his head. Letting the breath out slowly, Beverly saw his effort to relax his tense body. His shoulders lowered and his back lost its rigidity. She waited patiently while he regained his equilibrium.

“We watched the chip together. God Beverly…that poor woman…she was saying goodbye to her son…it was horrible, but even though in agony and struggling for the strength to continue, she still tried to tell her son to give me a chance. She was dying an unspeakable death yet she still strove to help her son…and me. It was so painful to watch…and very, very humbling.”

Beverly took another long sip of her brandy, considering her lover’s words. She sighed and shook her head.

“I can’t help but think what I would’ve done in her position. I suppose any mother’s instinct is to protect her offspring but in the situation Eve found herself in…she had to come to terms with not only her imminent death, but the repercussions of a decision she made a long time ago. Obviously she had the strength of character to try and redress what she’d done, but to also attempt to ease you too…dear God I don’t think I’d have the guts.”

Jean-Luc slowly nodded, rubbing his face with his hands.

“I know. As I sat there watching her struggle to breathe…struggle to simply remain sitting upright I could see her determination in her eyes. There wasn’t going to be anything to stop her Beverly and the effort probably cost her dearly, but her son heard her message…she was able to say what she wanted and he knows she loved him.”

Beverly nodded silently as they both contemplated the situation. After a few minutes Jean-Luc’s gravelly voice rumbled in the quiet room.

“You know what the worst part was?”

The red head shook her head silently. Jean-Luc bowed his head and closed his eyes, his voice dropping to a husky whisper.

“She kept apologising. Apologising for leaving Tobias…apologising for causing him pain…saying sorry for dying.”

His voice broke and he stopped talking as tears slid from below his closed lids. Beverly left her seat and went to him, kneeling in front of him and taking him into her embrace. His body trembled as he strove to regain control. After a few minutes he sighed and straightened, taking Beverly’s face in his hands and kissing her. He looked deeply into her eyes and whispered,

“I don’t often give thanks for my own existence but I have been forcibly reminded of how precious life is. I will never intentionally leave you my love and I will love you with all my being for all eternity.”

Beverly’s eyes filled with tears as her lover kissed her with remarkable tenderness. Overcome with emotion, she was also abruptly aroused, Jean-Luc’s admission stirring her desire. She wrapped her arms around him and deepened the kiss making it one of unbridled passion. Jean-Luc was surprised, both by the abrupt change and by the strength of his partner’s ardour. After a momentary pause, he fell headlong into his own quickly rising arousal and, as Beverly’s hands quickly began to divest him of his clothing, he broke the kiss and panted,

“Not here…bedroom.”

With a sharp nod Beverly slipped her hand into the waistband of his trousers and led him to the bedroom. The second the door closed she said,

“Computer lock bedroom door.”

As they fell into another searing kiss, the computer asked,

“Does Captain Picard concur?”

Jean-Luc growled and broke the kiss long enough to bark,

“Yes, I concur. Lock the damn door!”

Beverly reached for his head to kiss him again but he stopped her. He grabbed her tunic and quickly lifted it off, dropping it to the floor. The rest of her uniform followed suit and she was soon standing naked before him. As he caressed her breasts, Beverly undid his trousers and pushed them and his briefs down his thighs, taking his erection in her hand and stroking him quickly. The Captain growled deeply in his throat and bit her neck. Beverly’s panted words only served to heighten his need.

“Now Jean-Luc…quickly…”

He pushed her backwards until her legs met the bed. She fell onto the mattress and Jean-Luc went with her, easing her up the bed until they were both lying across it. Her legs opened and wrapped around his waist as she lifted her hips, seeking his stiff penis. Now beyond control, Jean-Luc entered her with a powerful shove. It was harder and quicker than he intended and Beverly cried out causing him to pause and look down at his lover, a frown on his sweating face. She understood his concern and shook her head wordlessly letting him know she was all right. Still he hesitated until Beverly gripped his buttocks and groaned,

“Fuck me….quickly…do it now…fuck me!”

Needing no further encouragement, Jean-Luc grabbed her hands and pinned them beside her head. Rising up on his arms he thrust fast and furious, mindless with carnal desire. Within a few minutes Beverly was writhing through her first orgasm. Jean-Luc kept up his punishing pace as his lover twisted beneath him. He released one of her hands and reached down, hooking behind her knee and lifting her leg, whist bending his own knee to deepen his thrusts. Beverly’s body abruptly flexed and shuddered as another climax surged through her. Jean-Luc’s orgasm suddenly approached and he lifted his head, his jaw locked in a grimace of ecstasy as his body exploded in a powerful release.

Unable to support himself any longer, Jean-Luc collapsed onto his lover, her breathless moans of satiation echoing in his ears.

 

                 Some time later, as the couple lay in each others arms enjoying the afterglow of their lovemaking, Jean-Luc suddenly closed his eyes and softly swore. Beverly lifted her head from his chest and frowned.

“What?”

The Captain scowled and shook his head.

“Oh God…how bloody stupid!”

Now worried, Beverly sat up, her voice rising.

“What is it?”

Lifting his hand to rub his head, Jean-Luc explained.

“We weren’t…you aren’t…I didn’t…bloody hell Beverly…that was unprotected sex!”

Beverly suddenly stopped breathing and closed her eyes.

“Oh shit.”

Jean-Luc sighed and watched his lover.

“What now?”

She waved her hand dismissively but her frown remained.

“Oh there’re lots of things we can do. In fact, if you wish, I can take a drug right now that will prevent conception.”

His voice was hesitant.

“Is that what you want to do?”

The Doctor shrugged.

“No not really.”

The Captain sat up and took his partner’s hands.

“Do you want a child Beverly?”

She shrugged again.

“I’m not really sure…but I’m not too keen on aborting if I do conceive.”

Jean-Luc considered this and nodded.

“Agreed. If we do somehow conceive I don’t want you to terminate either.”

He pursed his lips and tilted his head to see under Beverly’s brow.

“What are our chances at the moment?”

The smile that emerged was filled with relief.

“Actually there’s not much chance right now…there’s still an amount of the chemicals in my system, we should be pretty safe.”

Jean-Luc nodded thoughtfully then frowned.

“But still…it was very irresponsible. I think until we’ve discussed this at length we should be more careful.”

Beverly chuckled and playfully pinched his nipple.

“God… we were like a couple of randy teenagers.”

Her look suddenly became speculative.

“You made me mindless Jean-Luc…nobody has ever had that effect on me before.”

Flushing slightly, Jean-Luc let out an embarrassed breath.

“You and me both Beverly…and I’m considerably older than you…I should’ve known better…but the only thing that was in my mind was to have you. At the time I would’ve done anything as long as I could have you.”

Beverly eased her lover down onto the mattress and draped herself over him. They shared a languid kiss before Beverly’s wry chuckle broke it. Jean-Luc looked up into her eyes, her amusement making him grin.

“What?”

She bumped her forehead against his and sighed.

“All those years you waited and now you can’t control yourself. That’s very flattering.”

The scowl that emerged made her laugh. With wounded pride Jean-Luc remonstrated.

“I have not lost my control…as you well know. What I can’t contain is my desire for you. No woman has ever inflamed me as you do.”

Beverly smiled saucily and kissed the dimple in his chin.

“And why is that?”

He took her face in his hands and looked deeply into her eyes.

“Because I have never loved any woman as I love you.”

Her smile faded as the emotion behind his words impacted on her heart and mind. They kissed at length before Jean-Luc shifted them in the bed so that they were lying with their heads on the pillows. He drew up the blankets and they snuggled together. As Beverly drifted off to sleep, Jean-Luc opened his eyes and looked to the heavens. He sighed deeply.

“Thank you…thank you for her.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Breakfast the next morning was an almost happy affair. With the ship almost at her destination, the couple were preparing to take more leave and Tobias was amicable, even speaking politely to Beverly. When Jean-Luc strode onto the Bridge he was happy and contented.

Will stood from the Command chair and grinned at his CO, easily seeing the warmth in the older man’s eyes. With his usual gregarious attitude, the big man greeted the Captain.

“Good morning Captain.”

Jean-Luc’s face remained unchanged, but his eyes twinkled.

“Good morning Number One. Ship’s status?”

As the Captain took the centre seat, Will sat at his right.

“All departments operational Sir, ETA at the Gyannan system, three hours.”

Jean-Luc nodded, quickly processing the report.

“Any further information from Command about our little mystery?”

Will shook his head.

“No Sir, but we have been given as much time as we need to solve it.”

This surprised the CO.

“Indeed? Are you telling me there’s nothing more pressing for us?”

Will’s wry grin wasn’t lost on the Captain.

“No Sir. Apparently Starfleet is putting this mission on a high priority.”

Suspicions raised, Jean-Luc frowned.

“Why?”

“Because Sir…and this is only my gut feeling…there’s more going on here than we’ve been led to believe.”

Gently rubbing his lower lip with his fingers, Jean-Luc studied the younger man.

“And on what do you base this…gut feeling?”

Will shrugged and spread his hands wide.

“The whole thing Captain. How the hell could substantial ruins suddenly appear? The entire planet was thoroughly scanned years ago. And now we find the estimation of habitation is out by over a million years! That’s a hell of a slip-up.”

“Agreed Number One, but are your suspicions of a sinister nature…or something more benign?”

Will shrugged again.

“I’m not sure Captain, but something screwy is going on.”

Jean-Luc grunted softly and bowed his head.

“Indeed…and it’s our job to see just what it is.”
He stood and cast a glance at the viewscreen.

“You have the Bridge Will; I’ll be in the Ready Room.”

With a nod and a smile, Will acknowledged his CO.

Jean-Luc had only just settled into his work when he was hailed.

“Crusher to Picard.”

He answered with a smile.

“Picard here.”

He could hear the affection in his lover’s voice.

“Are you alone Captain?”

“Yes.”
“Oh good. Jean-Luc do you intend to go straight down to the planet as soon as we achieve orbit?”

Despite the fact she couldn’t see him; Jean-Luc shook his head as he replied,

“No Beverly. I will allow an archaeological team, in company with security, to thoroughly investigate the new ruins before I go down…and no one will set foot dirtside before the ship has made a microscopic scan of the entire planet.”

“Right. So exactly when will we execute our leave?”

“Oh I think in a day or two. It depends on what we find. If it turns out to be dangerous I’m afraid our leave might be put on indefinite hold. There’s no way Will would allow either of us to go down there unless it’s absolutely safe.”

He smiled at her sigh.

“Okay. What have you told Tobias about it?”

“Only that it was likely we were going to take some leave in the near future.”

“Right…are you going to let him go down to the surface?”

Jean-Luc sat back and considered the question. He sighed as he came to his decision.

“I don’t see why not, as long as it’s safe.”

“Good. In that case I have a suggestion.”

With a slowly growing smile, Jean-Luc looked up at the ceiling.

“And that is?”

“Well, now that things are getting better between you two, why don’t you spend some time alone with him on the planet?”

“Some time alone? How long did you envisage?”

“Oh I don’t know…a week perhaps…maybe more, it depends how it goes.”

Jean-Luc folded his arms across his chest and frowned.

“Are you suggesting camping or do we return to the ship each night?”

“Well ultimately it’s up to you, but if you want my opinion I think camping would be best. Going without some luxuries helps people to bond.”

The Captain sat forward and clasped his hands on the desktop.

“How long have you been thinking about this?”

The soft chuckle made the man smile tenderly.

“Oh a while but it’s only since you’ve made progress with Tobias that I thought it would be a good idea.”

Without due consideration for the consequences, Jean-Luc snorted derisively and muttered,

“I thought you’d given up on your ideas?”

With sudden sick realisation he may well have provoked an outburst of temper from his lover; he was mildly surprised to hear embarrassment in her voice when she replied.

“Yeah well…it should be a case of once bitten twice shy, but I really think this can help. In any case…it can’t hurt, if worse comes to worse you can simply beam back to the ship. No harm done.”

There was a momentary silence while they both regrouped. It was Jean-Luc who spoke first.

“Well on the face of it I agree with you, but I’d like to give it more thought…and I should get Tobias’s input too. Who knows…he may detest camping…and the thought of being alone with me for any period of time.”
“Okay fair enough. Shall we meet for lunch?”

“No not today.”

“Right well as it’s my turn to replicate…what do you fancy?”

Jean-Luc’s tone was blatantly seductive.

“You know what I fancy my love.”

He grinned wolfishly, his eyes darkening as he heard her flustered reply.

“Stop that! I was talking about dinner.”

“You mean I can’t have you?”

Now he heard her desire.
“You can have me any time you want my lascivious lover, but since you won’t give me a straight answer, I’ll make your decision for you. Don’t complain if you don’t like it.”

“I would never complain over anything you give me mon amour.”

Beverly’s sigh made Jean-Luc close his eyes.

“You are impossible. See you later.”

With a contented sigh Jean-Luc closed the communication.

“Picard out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      It was over dinner that Jean-Luc brought up the subject of camping with his son. He cast Beverly a look and, gaining her encouragement, he began.

“Tobias are you aware we’re in orbit around a planet?”

The youngster nodded, keeping his own counsel.

“Do you know why we’re here?”

The lad shrugged diffidently.

“Ms.Rodriguez told us something about some ruins.”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“That’s right. Well, if we can determine that it’s safe to go down, would you like to beam down and spend some time camping with me?”

The dubious look on the boy’s face worried the Captain. He was about to explain more when Tobias said,

“Camping?”

With a nod and a smile, Jean-Luc attempted to encourage his son.

“Yes camping. Do you like camping?”

Another shrug.

“I don’t know…I’ve never been.”

Jean-Luc shared a quick look with his lover and successfully hid his surprise.

“Well then it would be a new experience for you.”

Tobias’s voice took on a note of uncertainty.

“Would we sleep in a tent?”

The Captain nodded enthusiastically.

“Yes. It will be a self-inflating one with environmental controls. We’ll be quite comfortable.”

“What if there’re animals…at night.”

Keeping his confident smile in place, Jean-Luc replied,

“We won’t be going down if there’s any danger Tobias and that includes any dangerous animals. Besides I’ll have a phaser with me.”

The boy’s eyes lit up.

“A phaser? Can I have one too?”

As Jean-Luc shook his head, Tobias frowned.

“No. In fact the only reason I’ll have one is because Commander Riker wouldn’t let me go unarmed. It’s his job to ensure my safety even when I’m on leave.”

Tobias sat back and folded his arms, his humour just under the surface.

“You mean when we were on the Star base you were armed?”

Jean-Luc snorted and shook his head.

“No…and that’s for two reasons. One, I was at a Starfleet base and considered safe. Two, I was in civilian clothing. Had I been in uniform I would’ve had my personal phaser with me.”

Tobias sat up, his face delighted.

“Awesome! Can I see it? Do you have one on you now?”

Beverly, keeping up with the conversation with the translator offered,

“I have one too.”

Tobias turned to the Doctor and grinned.

“Cool!”

Jean-Luc slid the small weapon from its pocket in the hem of his tunic, made sure it was deactivated, and passed it to his son. The boy took it enthusiastically, turning it over in his hands and studying the controls. Seeing his obvious interest, Jean-Luc asked,

“If you like, I could arrange a little target practice with a mark II phaser on the firing range.”

The boy looked up at his father, obviously delighted.

“With you?”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes.”

Oh wow…this is ace! Wait ‘til I tell Graeme…it’ll make his stupid computer game look boring.”

Beverly immediately picked up on what he’d said.

“You’re talking with Graeme Hanafford?”

Tobias shrugged, his attention still on the phaser in his hands.

“Oh yeah…a bit….sometimes.”

Beverly’s French was good enough to translate that. She beamed at the boy and caught Jean-Luc’s eye, surprised to see him frowning. His deep voice was gentle.

“Tobias it might be better if you didn’t say anything to Graeme about the target practice.”

The lad looked up in confusion.

“Why?”

Jean-Luc sighed and placed his hands on the tabletop.

“Tobias the other parents on the ship can’t offer their children things like that. It’s only because I’m the Captain that I can…bend the rules…as it were. I think Graeme might feel a little jealous if he were to find out.”

Tobias lowered his head and thought for a short while before raising his eyes to his father and nodding slowly.

“Okay, I understand.”

Holding his hand out for the phaser, Jean-Luc smiled.

“Good.”

The boy returned the weapon and watched as his father replaced it in its hiding place. They then cleared the table and settled in to amuse themselves for a while before Tobias went to bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 The Captain’s arrival on the Bridge next morning made Will scowl. On seeing this uncharacteristic response from his First Officer, Jean-Luc dispensed with the amenities and said succinctly,

“Report.”

With a frustrated huff, Will beckoned his CO to join him at the aft Science Station.

“It’s the damned planet Captain. Since we arrived yesterday we’ve been scanning per your orders but so far we’ve only been able to scan the northern continent. The equatorial belt and the islands in the southern archipelago are defeating us.”

Jean-Luc studied the schematics on the screen and asked,

“Do we know why?”

The big Commander shook his head.

“No not yet. Data and Geordi are on it but so far…nothing.”

Jean-Luc turned and said quietly,

“Activate forward viewscreen.”

An image of the planet below came into view and Jean-Luc spent some minutes contemplating what he saw. He then returned his attention to his First Officer.

“The ruins are within the archipelago?”

“Yes Sir, on the largest island. Tactical bring the island up on the screen and enlarge.”

The image was remarkably clear and the men looked at it with awe.

“How big is it?”

“Over two million hectares. It lies in a temperate zone and, as you can see, it’s heavily wooded. There are rivers, mountains and some small areas of plains. But we can’t do much more that a topographical scan. Anything deeper is being…blocked.”

The Captain frowned.

“Helm put us in a geosynchronous orbit over that island.”

He then turned to his Exec.

“You say blocked…are you inferring an intelligent interference?”

Will shrugged.

“Well I don’t see how Captain, but on the face of it I’d say something is doing it. Whether or not it’s an intelligence at work…that’s anybody’s guess.”

As the two men contemplated the enigma, a call came from Engineering.

“LaForge to Riker.”

“Riker here Geordi…Captain Picard is with me.”

“Understood Commander. Captain we have some information on why we can’t scan the southern land masses.”

“Come up to the Bridge Commander, I’ll see you in the Ready Room.”

“Aye Sir.”

The Captain turned to his Exec,

“I want you, LaForge and Data to discuss this with me, Bring them it when they arrive. You have the Bridge.”

Will summoned a smile.

“Yes Captain.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Jean-Luc smiled at the three officers and gestured them to seats in front of the desk. With a wave of his hand, he intoned,

“Report.”

Data looked at Geordi, receiving a slight nod. The android addressed his Captain.

“We have a mystery Sir.”

Jean-Luc suppressed his exasperation and showed his equanimity.

“I think we’ve already established that Data. What can you tell me about it?”

Data gave a slight shrug and pulled down the corners of his mouth.

“Unfortunately very little Captain. Our inability to scan the equatorial belt and the southern archipelago seems to be because they are enclosed in some kind of shifting phased cloak.”

Jean-Luc frowned deeply.

“But we can see the land masses Data.”

Geordi placed a PADD on the desktop and joined the conversation.

“Yes Captain but although we can see the land, we can’t scan it. Our sensors are being…repulsed, quite literally. There is a feedback loop in constant evidence and we have no idea how or why it’s happening.”

Jean-Luc leaned forward and clasped his hands on the desktop.

“But you think it’s a phased, shifting cloak.”

Data answered.

“Yes Captain. There is evidence in discarded veritron particles…too many to have a natural cause. Research by Starfleet sciences in phased cloaks reported the veritron residue, a by-product of the process.”

The Captain bowed his head and sighed.

“Yes I read about that…but you said shifting. Why do you think that?”

It was Geordi who replied.

“Because if it was a phased cloak we would be able to pin it down, but every time our sensors try to lock onto the frequency, it moves.”

Jean-Luc sat back and ran a hand over his pate.

“I see. Can we transport through it?”

Data shook his head.

“No Sir. The concentration of veritron particles is reacting to the natural heavy ionisation already in the atmosphere. It would be better if our teams went down in shuttles.”

The Captain nodded pensively.

“And the scans of the northern continent?”

Will stroked his beard.

“No problem there Captain. There are no ruins and no evidence of habitation. There are lower life forms but nothing we can discern as sentient. It’s clean Sir.”

Jean-Luc had picked up his crystal shard and turned it slowly in his fingers, his eyes following the prismatic light it refracted. Coming to his decision he tossed the crystal on his desk and sat up.

“Very well. Send a security team down and if they find nothing of concern, the archaeological team can shuttle down.”

The three officers stood and filed out. Jean-Luc spent some time considering the problem before he returned to his work.

 

 

 

 

 

                      It was early in the afternoon when the security team reported in. Lieutenant M’Rak stood in front of Jean-Luc’s desk at parade rest. The Captain gestured with his hand.

“Report Lieutenant.”

The Vulcan bowed her head slightly and began.

“Captain Picard I took a team of ten officers down to the planet and did a thorough reconnoitre of the ruins and the surrounding area encompassing a distance of two kilometres. We found nothing Sir. No evidence of intelligent life, no technology to explain our difficulties in scanning the area and no evidence of sentient life. We found the remains of nesting material in the ruins, but apart from that I would estimate no life forms have disturbed the site for many years.”

Jean-Luc sat back and nodded.

“I see. Tell me, did our scanners work on the ground?”

The Vulcan remained emotionless.

“No Captain. In fact not even tricorders worked. None of the technology we took down functioned. We did our search visually.”

The Captain pursed his lips, his eyes narrowing.

“What is your assessment Lieutenant?”

Meeting his eyes, M’Rak straightened her spine.

“It is safe Captain, I perceive no danger there.”

Jean-Luc gave a curt nod.

“Very well I will be sending down an archaeological team, but I want you and a security detail to accompany them for the foreseeable future.”

With a nod, M’Rak took her leave.

“Yes Captain.”

The Captain then contacted Geordi and Data to get an update on their efforts to break through the cloak. He then left his office for the day. On the Bridge he nodded to Will and informed him of the developments so far. The big man smiled and nodded.

“So the teams go down tomorrow morning?”

Jean-Luc inclined his head.

“Yes I think so Number One. Lieutenant M’Rak is confident it’s safe. You have the Bridge, I’m going off watch.”

Will’s reply was to the older man’s back as he entered a lift.

“Aye Captain.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Beverly had, by prior arrangement, picked up Tobias and was waiting for her lover, excited by the report from Marta Rodriguez. When Jean-Luc strode through the door, she went to him and hugged him, earning her a surprised kiss.

“Well that’s very nice Beverly…but why?”

The Doctor gave him a mock scowl and poked his shoulder.

“Can’t a woman greet her partner with a hug?”

Jean-Luc released her and shrugged.

“Of course she can, but I ask again, what was it for?”

With a snort and a playful slap to his behind, Beverly left him to wander to the sofa, her come-hither look bringing him along to sit beside her. Once they were settled, Beverly explained.

“Ms.Rodriguez said to tell you that Tobias’s demeanour has improved markedly. He’s talking to the other students and taking a more active part in his lessons. Marta is very pleased.”

Jean-Luc sighed and smiled warmly.

“That is good news. Did she check his PADD?”

“Uh huh and so did I…and Tobias didn’t seemed to be bothered by it.”

Jean-Luc looked over his shoulder at his son’s closed door. He stood and tugged down on his tunic.

“I’d better go and tell him how happy I am.”

Beverly looked up and admired his virile form. Pushing aside libidinous thoughts, she mentally shook herself and muttered,

“And proud.”

Jean-Luc looked down and frowned at the flush that covered his lover’s alabaster skin. He debated asking her what caused it before deciding to pursue the matter later. He nodded and went to Tobias’s door, knocking gently.

The door opened and the Captain smiled.

“May I come in?”

The lad nodded and stepped back into his room. Jean-Luc followed and took a seat at the desk while Tobias sat on his bed.

“Your teacher is very pleased with you…and so am I. It is very gratifying to hear that you’re making progress at school Tobias. I…we are very proud of you.”

The smile that emerged on the boy’s face was slow in coming but it was genuine. Tobias felt warmth for the first time in months and he glowed with happiness. He took a large breath and let it out slowly.

“Can we go to target practice soon?”

Jean-Luc nodded enthusiastically.

“Yes! How about tomorrow at lunchtime? We can eat our lunch at the range, that way you won’t miss any school.”

Tobias almost wriggled with happy anticipation.

“Oui!”

Jean-Luc stood and ruffled the boy’s hair.

“When you’ve finished your homework, come out and I’ll show you the schematics of a mark II phaser.”

With a happy nod, Tobias stood and, once his father had left, occupied his desk and started work.

 

 

 

 

 

                   Having apprised Will of his intentions and suffering the indulgent grin from his First Officer, Jean-Luc arrived at the school surprisingly happy. After offering Marta a quick explanation, the Captain collected his son and soon they were ensconced in the firing range.

“Now Tobias I’m sure you’re aware of just how dangerous a phaser is, although these,”

He hefted two weapons,

“Have been modified for target use. The concept is quite simple. We stand together within this circle. My side is yellow and yours blue. The targets will appear as swiftly moving discs in an arc above us and the idea is to shoot only those targets that correspond to your colour. There will be other coloured discs to test your concentration, you should ignore those. We will tally the score at the end of each round and, as we progress, the level of difficulty will increase. Any questions?”

Tobias dragged his eyes up from the phaser in his father’s hand and shook his head.

“No Sir.”

Jean-Luc gave Tobias his weapon and gently positioned him at his shoulder.

“Ready?”

Receiving an enthusiastic nod from his son, Jean-Luc said,

“Computer begin target practice, level one.”

Twenty minutes and three levels later a grinning boy turned to his father.

“This is ace! How many levels are there?”

Jean-Luc returned the grin and replied,

“It goes up to level twenty-five.”

“Wow! What level can you get up to?”

Jean-Luc lowered his head and smiled self depreciatingly.

“I have been to the top level, but more often I draw the line at level twenty-two.”

Tobias’s gaping mouth made Jean-Luc feel inordinately proud. His son’s next words made him shake his head.

“You’ve been to the top level? How old were you when you did that?”

“Oh it was a few years ago now. You must remember as the levels increase, so does the degree of difficulty. There are more discs travelling faster and you have less time to shoot them all. In the end it becomes quite chaotic.”

The respect and admiration shining in his son’s eyes humbled the Captain. He shook aside his pride and gathered his thoughts.

“Well why don’t we tackle level four and then stop for lunch?”

With an answering nod, the two took position.

“Computer begin level four.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Somewhat mildly amused at sitting on the floor, Jean-Luc offered his son another sandwich. The boy took it and bit into it, his smile never leaving his face. Beside him sat the phaser and Jean-Luc was sure the lad was going to be mightily disappointed when he would have to hand it back.

They chatted amicably as they ate, each comfortable with the other. After a little while Tobias grew pensive and Jean-Luc wondered what was on his mind. Thankfully the boy expressed his worries.

“What am I supposed to call you?”

Caught sipping his tea, Jean-Luc paused, swallowed and turned his gaze upon his son.

“I’m not sure. What would you like to call me?”

Tobias thought about that for a few moments then shrugged.

“I don’t know. Jean-Luc doesn’t seem right and I don’t think Monsieur Picard is right either.”

The Captain stifled his snort and merely nodded.

“I don’t want to call you Captain or Sir.”

Jean-Luc sighed and said softly,

“Well that leaves Papa or Dad.”

Tobias looked up into his father’s eyes and nodded thoughtfully.

“Yeah I suppose it does. I’ll think about it.”

With lunch over they returned to their target practice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Jean-Luc had only been back on the Bridge ten minutes when Geordi pressed the chime. Upon entering the Ready Room Jean-Luc could see the dark man was brimming with news. The Captain waved his Chief Engineer to a seat and asked,

“What is it Mr.LaForge.”

“We may have solved at least one of our problems.”

“Go on.”

“Well Captain as you know we’ve not been able to communicate with our teams on the surface. Most of our technology is inactive while down there. However Data and I have established a null interference pocket using modified pattern enhancers. Once activated, anything within the enhancers should be able to have access to the ship, by either communicators or even transporters, although I wouldn’t recommend biological transports just yet. Equipment should be all right though.”

The Captain smiled, letting Geordi see his admiration.

“Excellent Geordi, well done! When will it be ready?”

“Well, we have to do a few more tests but I’d say within a couple of hours Captain.”

“Thank you Mr.LaForge. Will you ask Commander Riker to come in on your way out?”

With a grin, Geordi stood.

“Of course Captain.”

The big First officer came in and stood in front of the desk. Jean-Luc outlined the recent news and instructed Will to make the necessary arrangements to facilitate setting up the communications and transport of equipment. Will nodded his acquiescence and before he left he turned back to his CO and asked,

“What level did you take him to?”

Knowing exactly what Will was referring to, Jean-Luc smiled indulgently and sat back in his seat.

“Level nine.”

Will’s eyebrows rose and he nodded respectfully.

“Level nine? On his first try? That’s not bad…not bad at all.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes, he has a sharp eye and a steady hand. Next time I’m going to encourage him to use his non-preferred hand, his reflexes are phenomenal.”

Will’s soft smile and kind words made Jean-Luc flush slightly.

“Well he’s your son, I’d expect nothing less.”

Adopting a gruff voice, Jean-Luc dismissed his Exec and leaned back in his chair.

“Yes…he’s my son.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                            When Jean-Luc went in to say goodnight to his son, Tobias was at his computer writing something. The Captain wandered over and glanced at the screen.

“What are you writing?”

Tobias sat back and gestured to the monitor.

“It’s my journal. Each night I write about my day.”

Folding his arms across his chest, Jean-Luc smiled.

“I do something similar with my logs. I do one for the ship and one for me.”

Tobias nodded.

“Yes Maman did the same thing. Do all Starfleet officers do it?”

“Yes it’s standard procedure. In the event of anything happening, the investigators would have access to the logs to see how they pertain to the incident. It can be very helpful, especially with command staff.”

Tobias turned his chair and looked up at his father.

“I’ve read your service record.”

Jean-Luc didn’t react.

“It says you like to ride horses and fence.”

With a smile, the Captain nodded.

“Amongst other things.”

The boy looked down at his hands, seeming to gather his courage. He took a large breath and raised his head, his eyes showing his uncertainty.

“Would you teach me those things?”

Jean-Luc frowned in surprise.

“What…riding and fencing?”

“Uh huh.”

The Captain perched himself on the corner of the desk and scratched his jaw.

“Well of course, I’d be delighted. I take it you’ve never fenced.”

Tobias shook his head.

“Right. Have you ever ridden a horse?”

Again the silent boy shook his head, his shoulders slumping with defeated embarrassment. Jean-Luc saw this and gently gripped his shoulder.

“Hey…it’s all right. We can go to the Holodeck and do both things. No problem.”

Tobias dragged his eyes up to meet his father’s and saw the sincerity in their deep hazel depths. A smile emerged and the lad straightened.

“Really?”

The man nodded.

“Most certainly.”

“When?”

With a bowed head and pursed lips, Jean-Luc gave that some thought.  Eventually he lifted a hand.

“How about after we go camping? I’ll see if I can extend my leave for a few days to get us started, then we can practice every other day.”

With a decisive nod, Tobias beamed up at his father.

“Done!”

Jean-Luc stood and smiled down at the boy.

“Very well. Goodnight Tobias.”

“Goodnight…father.”

It was a very thoughtful man who joined his lover in the living area. Beverly smiled tenderly at him and patted the seat beside her. Jean-Luc sat and extended his arm, draping it over her shoulders. She leaned into him and kissed his dimpled chin.

“You’re very pensive.”

“Hmm?”

Her fingers dancing over his ribs made him snort.

“Hmph! Stop that.”

“Then tell me.”

He sighed and briefly closed his eyes.

“Tobias just called me father.”

Beverly insinuated her arm around his chest and snuggled into him.

“Did he? Well that’s wonderful.”

Jean-Luc looked down at his lover with mild amusement.

“You think so?”

Beverly sat up and pulled her hair back, her look incredulous.

“Of course! By God…it’s better than Monsieur Picard.”

With a widening grin, Jean-Luc couldn’t help but chuckle. Beverly scowled at him and flicked her hand.

“I think you’ve lost your marbles.”

He shook his head and snorted.

“Not me!”

Placing her hands on her hips, Beverly said,

“Well aren’t you happy?”

Jean-Luc sobered and nodded.

“Yes I am.”

“Then stop acting like a dweeb.”

That brought a frown.

“A dweeb?”

A sly smile emerged on the red head’s face.

“Uh huh.”

“And just what is a dweeb?”

The Doctor crept closer and worked her hand under the waistband of his trousers.

“A dweeb is what you were a few minutes ago.”

Jean-Luc’s eyes darkened and his voice dropped deeper.

“Oh. And what am I now?”

The kiss precluded any conversation. When they parted they were both panting.

“Now you’re my sensuous lover.”

As her hand closed over his erection, he clenched his jaw, whispering desperately,

“Beverly…we can’t…”

Suddenly straddling his lap, Beverly kissed him into silence before biting his lower lip.

“Of course we can…we just have to be careful.”

She slipped backwards off his lap and undid his pants, freeing his erection and stroking it. He reached for her but she shook her head.

“Uh uh.”

When her mouth descended on him he growled softly and, in a strained voice, said softly,

“Not here Beverly…”

She ignored him. While her mouth was busy she eased off her boots then took her pants and underwear off. She tugged his trousers and briefs down to mid thigh then suddenly slipped him from her mouth and rose to again straddle his lap. Before he could protest, she rose on her knees, lifted his penis and took him inside herself.

She bent and kissed him as his hands went to her hips, pulling her down on him. She broke the kiss and moistened his ear with her whisper.

“We have to be quick and quiet. You game?”

His reply was a soft bite to her neck. Smiling with saucy triumph, Beverly rose and plunged down quickly, biting her lip to stifle her moans as Jean-Luc thrust upwards to meet her movements. They reached the edge very rapidly. Beverly took Jean-Luc’s hand and guided it to her clitoris. He understood and used her lubrication to slide his fingers over her bud. Her orgasm was immediate. With her back arching, she let out a silent scream, but when she felt her lover about to come she abruptly rose and allowed him to slip free. She grabbed his penis and stroked him as he came, his semen anointing his tunic.

As he began to soften she released him and settled into his embrace. He let out a long breath and nuzzled her neck. When he spoke his voice was ragged.

“That wasn’t exactly safe sex.”

Her snicker was tired.

“No but I think we’ll be okay. Want to help me to the bedroom? My legs are a little shaky.”

He snorted and bit her earlobe.

Your legs? You think mine are any better?”

Beverly sat up and grinned.

“Oh come on…you’re the alpha male! My protector. Surely a little hanky panky hasn’t stolen your formidable strength?”

He smiled up at his lover and shook his head.

“If I had any hair your name would be Delilah.”

Beverly giggled and slowly got to her feet. As she picked up her clothing, Jean-Luc looked down at his messy tunic with a grimace of distaste.

“God…this hasn’t happened to me for a very long time.”

The Doctor tugged on his hand and he rose, hitching up his pants.

“Come on, you can wash my back.”

He admired her retreating behind as they entered the bedroom and he shook his head. He muttered wryly,

“Well Tobias, if you had’ve caught us this time you would have been right.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Having still not activated their leave, Jean-Luc entered the Bridge knowing he was about to do battle with his First Officer. He listened patiently as Will gave the report and spoke at length with Data and Geordi before he said softly,

“Will you join me in the Ready Room Number One?”

When both men were comfortable, Jean-Luc sat back and dropped his bombshell.

“I’m going down to the ruins.”

Predictably, Will scowled and shook his head.

“Captain I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”

With his face showing his Captain’s mask, Jean-Luc rode out this initial resistance and kept his voice even as he replied,

“That may be so, however I am going.”

To his credit, Will remained calm while he protested.

“Captain please…we still don’t know what’s behind the cloak and our technology still doesn’t function down there. It’s too dangerous.”

Stifling his irritation, the Captain said mildly,

“Lieutenant M’Rak has declared the area safe and with the use of the modified pattern enhancers I should have open communications with the ship. I don’t see any trouble.”

Will straightened and tucked in his chin, unwilling to give ground.

“Captain…”

Jean-Luc held up his hand and softened his stern visage.

“Will I’m going down. Call it Captain’s prerogative.”

Knowing he had lost but still unwilling to cede, the First Officer shook his head.

“I don’t like it Sir.”

Jean-Luc’s voice was uncharacteristically harsh when he barked,

“Live with it!”

Somewhat surprised by his tone, Will looked up and snorted with relief when he saw the humour in his CO’s eyes. The big man sat back in his seat and chuckled.

“Beverly taught you that didn’t she.”

The Captain inclined his head and smiled.

“Yes…effective isn’t it.”

Will snorted.

“Well it’ll keep me on my toes!”

It was Jean-Luc’s turn to chuckle.

“Whatever it takes Number One.”

Will stood and looked down at his Captain with open affection.

“When Captain?”

Holding the younger man’s gaze, Jean-Luc slipped back into Captain’s mode.

“After lunch.”

Will nodded pensively then asked,

“Will you take security with you?”

With a shake of his head, Jean-Luc dismissed the idea.

“No. I think there’re enough security personnel already on the surface. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

Stymied, Will gave a curt nod.

“As you wish Captain.”

He left the Ready Room and sought out the head of security. Taking the Vulcan aside he said sternly,

“Lieutenant Captain Picard is going down to the surface this afternoon. I’m making his safety your personal responsibility. See that he returns to the ship in one piece.”

By now used to the emotional outbursts of Humans, M’Rak took the edict in her stride. With an inclination of her elegant head, she accepted her orders.

“Of course Commander.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                With a little mutual juggling of schedules, Jean-Luc, Beverly and Tobias were able to meet for lunch. The Captain took his small family to Holodeck three and utilised his LaBarre program to show his son what his home looked like. After a quick tour of the chateau they moved on to the village, choosing a small bistro near the town square.

Tobias seemed fascinated by his surroundings and enjoyed conversing with the villagers in his native tongue. He was warming towards Beverly and, as her French improved, she was able to hold short conversations with him and, to his credit; he spoke slowly and remained patient as she sometimes struggled. Jean-Luc observed all this with immense pride; pride in his lover in that she was making such an effort and pride in his son that he should strive to overcome such tragedy in his young life.

After lunch the adults dropped Tobias back at school, then Jean-Luc escorted his lover to Sick bay. As they approached the doors, he took her elbow and drew her to one side. She knew by the look in his eyes she wasn’t going to like what he was about to say.

“I’m going down to the surface.”

Her heart accelerated but she kept a calm demeanour.

“When.”

“Within the hour.”

“Why?”

He sighed and raised a smile.

“Because it’s time I had a look at what’s going on down there. M’Rak has declared it safe and I trust her judgement.”

Knowing he had a very valid point, Beverly swallowed her worry and summoned a smile.

“Okay. You will take care?”

Jean-Luc bowed his head solemnly.

“You can rest assured Riker won’t let me off the ship unless I’m armed to the teeth. Fear not mon amour.”

Casting a quick look up and down the empty corridor, Beverly took her lover into her embrace and kissed him. At first rigid, Jean-Luc sighed and relaxed into the kiss, surprising the Doctor by prolonging it. They were interrupted by Alyssa Ogawa, Beverly’s head nurse. The small Asian woman came to an abrupt halt as she stepped out of the facility and reddened as the chagrined pair parted. The Captain kept a straight face as he intoned,

“As you were Lieutenant.”

Alyssa bowed her head and muttered a quick,

“Thank you Captain” as she scuttled away. Beverly looked up at the ceiling and sighed.

“I’m going to pay for that aren’t I.”

Jean-Luc stepped back and tugged his tunic down, an unnecessary gesture with the new uniforms, but it was a habit he found hard to break.

His stony stare made Beverly grit her teeth, that was until her lover smiled.

“I’m sure I can spend a few happy moments devising a suitable punishment.”

With a flick of her hand, Beverly turned away with a saucy,

“I bet…you’re all talk.”

The slap to her behind made her gasp, but it was the sensuously deep voice close to her ear that made her sigh.

“We shall see mon coeur…we shall see.”

She was still smiling dreamily as she entered her office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      The shuttle Flourey glided over the landing site and hovered briefly, Jean-Luc looking out the front screen to gauge the best place to put down. Spotting a suitable site, he manoeuvred the little craft to a perfect landing and was met by Lieutenant M’Rak as the hatch opened. They exchanged greetings before the Captain said,

“What have you to report?”

The Vulcan inclined her head.

“Little more than this morning’s briefing Captain. We have discovered the ruins extend underground and are in the process of mapping the entrance tunnels. We have also been attempting to ascertain how the stone used in the buildings was cut and transported because as far as we can establish, the masonry did not come from a local source.”

Jean-Luc cast his eyes in the direction of the site and nodded.

“Show me.”

The walk was a relatively short one and the Captain halted several metres from the outlying ruins, taking the time to visually assess the area. He noted faint indentations in the ground wide enough to be roads leading out from the site and also saw, with appreciation, the strategic setting of the site, being atop a small rise. He turned to M’Rak and queried,

“Is there any evidence of a defensive wall or ditch?”

“No Sir, although we have found what appears to be the remains of a wooden palisade within the circle of buildings, however its purpose is unknown.”

With a pensive nod, they proceeded into the ruins and Jean-Luc was astonished as he ran his hands over the first plinth they came across. To better concentrate, he closed his eyes and lightened his touch but was left confused by his examination. M’Rak had left her Captain’s side and quickly returned with Lieutenant Commander Farrel Stevin, the leader of the archaeological team. He was a tall, gaunt middle-aged man whose ponderous gaze gave him a sleepy look that belied his quick intelligence. Jean-Luc gave him a nod then gestured to the plinth.

“I can’t detect any imperfections.”

With a shake of his head, the Commander sighed.

“Neither can we Captain. Although we’ve been unable to use our scanners, we were able to get a laser across the surface and record the measurements. We used the shuttle’s computer to analyse the data and were astounded by what we found.”

Returning his gaze to the man, Jean-Luc asked,

“What did you find?”

Shrugging and lifting his hands in exasperation, Stevin replied,

“There are no perceptible imperfections Captain. Whatever cut that stone left no marks.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“Has the stone been polished?”

“Unknown Sir, but even with polishing there are microscopic traces left of the cutting process. Of course without the use of our most sensitive equipment I can’t give you a definitive analysis but based on what we can use…I can’t explain it.”

The Captain ran his eyes over the tall column and sighed.

“Do we know how old it is?”

Standing next to his CO, Stevin was drawn to run his hand over the cold surface. He sighed and spoke reverently.

“As for the above-ground structures, that is difficult, but when we take in the subterranean ruins we’ve discovered and the age of the planet, I would postulate perhaps three million years Captain.”

Jean-Luc’s head snapped around and his mouth gaped.

Three million years? But how…the technology to cut stone with this sort of precision couldn’t have existed then…surely?”

With another shrug, Stevin squinted.

“I agree with you Sir, but it would seem we’ve been presented with evidence to the contrary. And another thing Captain…how were these massive stones transported? We’ve established they weren’t quarried here, or within the eight kilometre radius we’ve explored.”

Jean-Luc turned and gazed down one of the faint ‘roads’ he’d seen earlier. Gesturing in that direction he asked,

“Those roads…perhaps?”

Stevin nodded.

“Yes Captain, but how? These ruins are set in a large circle, these plinths making up the outer rim. As you progress deeper within, the stones become markedly larger, obviously used as supports for massive buildings. The stones at the centre are in excess of ten metres in height and we estimate their weight at several thousands of kilograms. They have been cut with the same precision Sir. Whether or not this was done at the source or on site is unknown.”

Jean-Luc retreated to silence as his mind wrestled with the enigma. With a frustrated snort, he shook his head.

“All right keep at it. By the way, can you tell me why the shuttles seem to be unaffected by the cloak and why is it that we can see and interact with these artefacts while a cloak is in operation?”

M’Rak spoke up.

“We have been investigating those points Captain; so far we have no explanations, although I can tell you that the shuttle’s scanners do not register the ruins either. All we can use are the onboard computers for analysing data and that, at best, is severely limited.”

“Very well. I want to see everything you’ve found so far Commander.”

The cadaverous man smiled at his Captain and swept his arm wide.

“Yes Sir, if you will follow me?”

As Jean-Luc went deeper into the ruins, his mind whirled in frustrated thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Three hours later Jean-Luc was brushing dust off his uniform pants. He was back at the shuttle in the company of Lieutenant M’Rak and he was talking to her.

“So you see if I proceed with this camping idea, I’ll need a safe spot. What I want you to do is find me a suitable site. I will require fresh water, the site itself should be relatively clear and of course safe. My son hasn’t camped before and I want the experience to be a pleasant one.”

The Vulcan inclined her head.

“I see Captain. May I ask Sir…just how…primitive…do you want the experience to be?”

Jean-Luc studied his subordinate.

“Are you asking how many amenities we’ll have?”

“Yes Sir. Will you, for instance, live off the land or will you take your comestibles with you?”

Folding his arms, Jean-Luc considered the query.

“Well I suppose we could supplement our diet with locally sourced food, provided we can find any. I am hoping that if we move far enough away from the ruins, something like a tricorders could be used. That way we can safely scan anything we find to determine its compatibility. Other than that I had intended only a well appointed tent and sufficient bedding and some simple implements.”

With a studios nod, M’Rak absorbed the information.

“And how did you envisage bringing the equipment to the site? Would you shuttle it in or use the pattern enhancers?”

“We’ll shuttle in, obviously, but once we set up the enhancers I see no reason why we can’t be left alone to enjoy ourselves.”

“Very well captain, I will see to finding a suitable site tomorrow. With your permission Sir, I will close this site for the night and direct our personnel back to the Enterprise.”

Jean-Luc lifted his head and studied the sky.

“Yes, twilight is approaching. Permission granted…and thank you Lieutenant, you work on this mission has so far been exemplary.”

With a slight bow, M’Rak thanked her Captain. Jean-Luc entered the shuttle, powered it up and was back aboard his ship within twenty minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Slightly out of synch with ship’s time, he arrived in the early evening. Beverly had picked Tobias up from school and they were eating dinner when the Captain came home. Waving Beverly back to her seat, he smiled his greeting at the pair and went into his bedroom to shower and change. Fifteen minutes later he joined his family at the table.

“How was it?”

As his eyes met hers he hesitated, once again stricken almost dumb by both her beauty and his overwhelming love for her. Remembering to close his slightly gaping mouth, he gave himself a mental shake and concentrated on answering the question. Beverly, aware of his lapse, frowned slightly and allowed her concern to show in her eyes. Jean-Luc saw it and reached for her hand, giving it a quick squeeze of reassurance.

“It was absolutely fascinating…and highly frustrating!”

Tobias sat forward and asked breathlessly,

“Did you find any skeletons?”

Jean-Luc’s amused tone made Beverly chuckle.

“No, no skeletons, in fact we found very little evidence of the inhabitants. It’s early days yet, but so far there’s been no artefacts…barely anything to identify or even postulate who built the ruins.”

Beverly, who had risen to get her lover his dinner, placed the plate in front of him and regained her seat.

“But surely Jean-Luc…there must be something. I read the reports, the remains are quite substantial….they must have left more than those stones behind. Is there no writing…pictograms?”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“No, nothing. We haven’t even recovered pottery shards, animal bones…nothing, and our team can’t explain it.”

Conversation ceased as Jean-Luc ate. Tobias helped Beverly clear the table, then they replicated a pot of coffee and attained Jean-Luc’s permission for his son to have a cup.

Sitting around the table sipping, Beverly asked,

“Do we know how old the ruins are?”

She knew by her lover’s expression he was astounded by the answer.

“Lieutenant Commander Farrel Stevin, the current head of archaeology thinks they’re at least three million years old.”

Beverly’s mouth gaped.

“My God! Is that possible?”

With a shrug, Jean-Luc drained his cup.

“Apparently. And we’ve discovered the stones were cut with such precision, there’re no discernable imperfections that we can find.”

“Incredible.”

Jean-Luc finished his coffee and turned his attention to his son.

“If all goes well, we could go down together in a few days.”

Tobias looked up and grinned.

“Cool.”

He then frowned.

“Will I have to take any schoolwork?”

Jean-Luc shrugged.

“I don’t know, we’ll discuss it with Ms.Rodriguez tomorrow. That will give her time to formulate some work if that’s what she wants.”

Swallowing his disgust, the boy sighed and summoned a small smile.

“Okay.”

With his usual grace, Jean-Luc left the table and went into the bedroom. He soon emerged with two brightly wrapped parcels. After gaining an encouraging nod from his lover, the Captain came to the table and laid down his burdens.

“Do you know what these are Tobias?”

The lad reddened slightly and nodded.

“Yes, they are my birthday presents.”

“They are indeed and as you’ve been making efforts to improve your behaviour, we think you should be rewarded. You may open them.”

The look of delight on his son’s face made Jean-Luc’s heart swell. There was a quick tearing of paper and Will’s rod and reel were exposed. Tobias gaped and looked to his father.

“Although Commander Riker had intended taking you fly fishing on the Holodeck, I have requested that our campsite be by a river. Perhaps you would allow me to teach you?”

With an enthusiastic nod, Tobias’s eyes went to the gift that was from his father and Beverly. He took it reverently and removed the paper with great care. His fingers prised open the box to reveal a tooled leather pouch which, when opened, showed a beautifully made multi-function pocket knife. As he turned the knife in his hands he saw his name had been engraved on the side.

“Oh father…this is…this is…wow!”

Jean-Luc smiled tenderly at his son and leaned forward to ruffle the lad’s hair.

“I received a very similar knife on my tenth birthday. Hopefully you’ll get an opportunity to use it when we camp.”

While Tobias began to extract all the tools and blades, Jean-Luc reached into the box and removed a small device. Catching his son’s attention he explained.

“If you activate this it will demonstrate all the functions of the knife.”

The lad grinned widely.

“Cool!”

Jean-Luc and Beverly left the youngster immersed in his study and went to their chairs by the viewport. After half an hour Jean-Luc lifted his head and asked softly,

“Tobias have you completed your homework?”

The boy dragged his eyes up from the holo display to nod.

“Yes father.”

“Well you can stay up a little longer then you must go to bed. I’ll come in to say goodnight later.”

Tobias threw the Captain a cheeky smile and slid off the chair, carrying his presents to his room. As the door closed they heard music drifting out, the discordant noise making Jean-Luc scowl.

“What the hell is that?”

Beverly chuckled and shrugged.

“Modern music. Get used to it.”

With a huff of disgust, Jean-Luc reburied himself in his book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Over the next three days the teams on the surface continued their work, but found little else to unravel the mystery. As promised, M’Rak had been busy and with the aid of a shuttle had found an ideal spot for camping approximately twenty six kilometres from the ruins. As requested there was a river with clean drinkable water, and although it was in a heavily wooded area, the site was mostly clear. The Lieutenant returned to the ship to report to her CO. She found him in the Ready Room.

“Come.”

The Vulcan came to attention before his desk and Jean-Luc looked up, summoning a smile.

“Good afternoon Lieutenant, how can I help you?”

Adopting a parade rest stance, M’Rak gave her report.

“Captain Picard as per your instructions I have found what I believe to be a suitable site for your camping requirements.”

The Captain sat up and smiled.

“Indeed? Where?”

The Security Chief gestured to Jean-Luc’s computer.

“If I may Sir?”

With a nod of compliance, Jean-Luc watched as the Vulcan entered some commands then turned the monitor so they could both see it. On the screen was a map of the ruins and the surrounding area. M’Rak highlighted a particular area.

“Here Captain. As you can see, there is a river with clean drinkable water and two suitable sites for camping. The first was the one in the valley beside the river, but investigation showed signs of recent flooding. It is my belief that if sufficient rain fell upstream, that area would quickly be inundated and is therefore unsafe. The optimum site is upstream on a mid-level plateau. There is a drop of approximately eight metres to the river but it is a better site. There is access to the river by a track, presumably made by animals, that is easily navigable. The river drops through three sets of falls from the top of the escarpment down to the valley. The only thing you may find disturbing is the sound of the falls.”

Jean-Luc studied the map and nodded.

“Sounds perfect. How far is it from the ruins?”

“Approximately twenty-six kilometres Captain.”

Using his finger to trace its course, Jean-Luc followed the river to the sea.

“How does the river enter the sea?”

“There is a large water fall Captain with a drop of thirty seven metres. The catching pool is quite large and deep and the river flows out of it for a further sixty odd metres before entering the sea.”

Jean-Luc pursed his lips.

“Do we know the tidal range?”

“Ten metres Captain with an eight hour cycle and a particularly strong current. Slack water lasts only eleven minutes.”

“Interesting. Anything else?”

“Yes Captain. Our tricorders worked in the area, if sporadically. You may find it beneficial to take one.”

“I see. I take it I will have to use the pattern enhancers?”

M’Rak’s nod was emphatic.

“Yes Captain. You will have to shuttle in, but once the enhancers are activated you can beam your equipment down and have clear communications with the Enterprise.”

Jean-Luc’s smile was genuine.

“Excellent Lieutenant. Thank you, dismissed.”

Once the Vulcan had left, Jean-Luc tapped his communicator.

“Picard to Crusher.”
“Crusher here. Go ahead Captain.”

“Beverly Tobias and I will start our camping holiday tomorrow morning. Will you take your leave too?”

“No I don’t think so Jean-Luc…I’ll wait until you’re both back aboard. Maybe we can all do something together then.”

“Understood, Picard out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Jean-Luc woke early, his inbuilt alarm active despite the fact he was officially on leave. He lay quietly in the darkness of his bedroom on his back, one hand behind his head, the other laying on his chest. When Beverly turned over and flung an arm and a leg over him he smiled, but when her thigh crept up his legs to brush his groin his smile faded and his eyes darkened with growing desire.

With gentle movements he extricated himself from his lover’s embrace and sat up, calling softly,

“Lights ten percent.”

In the dimness he admired Beverly’s form, the supple curves of her body showing through the nightie she wore. Very gently he eased the nightie up her body and slipped it over her head. Her eyes opened and found his, their smoky blueness indicating her interest in what he was doing.

Tracing his fingers around her areola, he bent forward and kissed her, his tongue requesting admittance. She opened to him slowly, sighing into his mouth. The kiss was tender and languid at first, but soon became deeply passionate. Jean-Luc tapered the connection and left her mouth, kissing his way to her breasts. He lavished each nipple until they stood turgid and dark and Beverly was moaning softly. As he nipped and sucked he drifted his hand down her body and slid his fingers through her folds. Beverly gasped and lifted her hips, seeking more. When he suddenly ceased all his caresses, she mewed with dissatisfaction. Jean-Luc sat up and stripped off his shorts. He then turned in the bed until he was facing her feet. Lying on his side, he growled sensuously as Beverly grasped his erection and guided it to her mouth. Immensely gratified that she had agreed to his unspoken suggestion, he parted her legs and kissed her intimately, sliding two fingers inside her and feathering his tongue over her engorged clitoris.

As he worked diligently at her sex, Beverly sucked and lapped his penis while her hands tugged and gently squeezed his testicles. The delicious ache that developed in his groin pervaded the rest of his body until his only perception was the sensation of her mouth and hands. Even when Beverly writhed through an intense orgasm, Jean-Luc kept up his ministrations, but his need was growing too strong. He suddenly disengaged and turned, taking Beverly’s hands and pinning them to the pillow. He covered her with his body and pushed himself deeply into her in one powerful stroke making her gasp and lift her hips. She managed to pant,

“Jean-Luc…we mustn’t…”

When his mouth descended in a searing kiss. With six fast hard thrusts, he was there, spasming through his climax as he came in a roaring rush of overwhelming sensation. Beverly, almost there herself, whimpered and twisted under him. He dimly realised what had happened and pushed a hand between them, his fingers finding her clitoris. With a few deft strokes Beverly came, her long soft cry echoing in the room.

Several minutes later Beverly gently bit his earlobe, making him raise his head. His voice was deep and husky.

“I know…I couldn’t help it.”

Beverly sighed and caressed his damp back.

“We’re not very good at controlling ourselves are we.”

He mumbled and Beverly frowned.

“What?”

He cleared his throat and tried again.

“I said it’s your fault.”

He was trying to rest his head on her shoulder but she gripped his arms and made him hold it up.

My fault? How do you work that out?”

He sighed and smiled lopsidedly.

“If you weren’t so damned desirable I would have more control.”

Beverly scowled.

“Now you look here! We were going along quite well until you decided to up the ante. It’s not my fault that you weren’t satisfied with your own bloody idea.”

With a huff, Jean-Luc rolled to one side, separating them. He rubbed his face with his hands and sighed.

“I know…it’s just…I had this overwhelming need to be inside you. I can’t explain it.”

At the contrite tone of his voice, Beverly relented.

“Well okay but we really should be more careful. We haven’t had that discussion yet.”

He opened his eyes and turned to look at her.

“When I get back…I promise.”

They dozed for another hour before the alarm went off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Breakfast was a happy event. Tobias was very excited and Jean-Luc amused himself by watching the boy as he sat through the meal, barely able to sit still. Once breakfast was over, Jean-Luc contacted Marta Rodriguez and arranged to pick up the work Tobias was expected to do. Beverly followed them to the school and waited as Tobias received his instructions from his teacher. Jean-Luc took her to one side and said softly,

“Will you come to the Shuttle Bay to see us off?”

The Doctor’s smile was warm.

“Do you want me to?”

“Uh huh.”

“Then I will. Have you got all your equipment organised?”

The Captain grinned.

“Oh yes. It’s all in Cargo Bay two ready to be beamed down.”

Running her hands up to his shoulders, Beverly sighed.

“Have you thought of everything?”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“I think so.”

Beverly’s expression became serious.

“You will take a weapon?”

With a long-suffering sigh, Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes. Do you really think Riker would allow me to go unarmed?”

The smile that emerged on Beverly’s face was amused.

“Well…I suppose. You just remember to take care of yourselves. Eat properly and get enough sleep.”

With his dark eyes twinkling, the Captain grinned.

“Aye Sir.”

Tobias came out of the school with Marta and Jean-Luc straightened his spine, becoming once again the senior officer he was. Beverly clasped her hands behind her back and waited as Marta spoke to the Captain.

“Captain Picard this sounds like a very exciting trip.”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“Yes. It should afford us the opportunity to experience the planet from a unique perspective.”

Marta nodded.

“Indeed. Tobias tells me you’ll be cooking your own food and sleeping in a tent. I must say I was surprised.”

Jean-Luc’s eyebrows rose.

“How so?”

“Well Captain not many people go camping without all the comforts these days, especially people like you.”

His eyes hardening, Jean-Luc’s face became a stoic mask.
“People like me? Explain.”

Realising she may have offended her CO, Marta sought to mollify him.

“I meant no offence Captain. All I meant was, a man in your position, one of seniority, would most likely avail himself of all the privileges of rank. That you are willing to forgo those privileges is remarkable.”

Resisting the urge to glare, Jean-Luc stifled the snarl that lingered and instead nodded once, curtly.

“I feel my son and I will benefit from having to…rough it a little. Rest assured however, we will be safe and comfortable.”

Reddening slightly, Marta nodded.

“Of course Captain. I hope you both have a wonderful time.”

The walk to the Shuttle Bay was a little quiet, Jean-Luc still somewhat disgruntled.  Seeing his son’s reaction to the shuttle lifted the Captain’s spirits however and by the time the flight check had been completed, Jean-Luc was once again happy.

Having given Tobias permission to sit in the cockpit and instructing the boy to buckle up, Jean-Luc turned to Beverly just as the massive bay doors opened. Will Riker strode in, his genial face split in a happy grin. He approached the couple and observed his Captain letting go of Beverly’s hands. He frowned inwardly but put it aside, opting instead to address his CO.

“Ready to leave Captain?”

Jean-Luc returned the big man’s smile.

“Indeed Number One.”

“Got everything you need?”

Jean-Luc sighed and only just resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

“I think so.”

Will folded his arms across his brawny chest and rocked back on his heels.

“What weapons are you taking Sir?”

Keeping an even tone with difficulty, Jean-Luc replied,

‘There is a phaser rifle in the shuttle and I’ve packed a type two hand phaser with our equipment.”

Will frowned and stroked his beard.

“What about your personal phaser?”

His tone curt, Jean-Luc shook his head.

“I’m not in uniform Commander.”

Absorbing his CO’s anger, Will pressed on.

“Granted Captain, but there’s nothing stopping you keeping one in your pocket. It’s not as if it takes up a lot of space.”

There was an uncomfortable silence while the two men stared at each other. Eventually Jean-Luc sighed, giving in to the inevitable.

“Very well Number One.”

His grin returning, the big man’s eyes twinkled.

“Thank you Captain. Now, I take it you’ll be in regular contact with the ship?”

With a nod, Jean-Luc agreed.

“Yes, it is my intention to call every second night.”

Will’s frown returned.

“Every second night Captain? I would prefer if you called each morning and night.”

Stifling an exasperated snort, Jean-Luc briefly closed his eyes.

“I’m sure you would Commander, however I will contact the ship every second night. I want this trip to be as private as possible and that means having as little contact with the ship as we can. We want to be left alone.”

Will nodded, however he was unconvinced.

“I understand Captain but…”
Jean-Luc held up a hand, silencing the big man.

“No Number One. It will be as I say.”

Knowing he wouldn’t budge, Will grunted his acquiescence.

“Very well Captain.”

Seeing that he had silenced his First Officer, if only for a moment, Jean-Luc turned to his lover. Ignoring the fact that Will was watching, the Captain took Beverly’s hands and said softly,

“I will contact you when we’re set up. Don’t worry about us.”

Summoning a tender smile, Beverly leaned forward and gently kissed his lips. She then drew back and sighed.

“Take care my love.”

He returned her smile.

“I will mon coeur.”

Beverly and Will watched as Jean-Luc boarded the shuttle. Within minutes it powered up and rose from the deck, gliding effortlessly through the force field that protected the bay from the vast, airless, cold blackness of space. With them gone Beverly turned to leave but was stopped by Will’s question.

“You don’t mind him going down there?”

She faced the big man and shrugged.

“What difference does it make if I do? He needs this time with his son. Who am I to stand in his way?”

Will scowled.

“Still…”

Beverly grunted and jerked her head towards the doors.

“Walk me to Sick Bay?”

The Commander found a grin and nodded.

“It would be my pleasure.”

As they walked Will lapsed into silence but Beverly knew it wouldn’t last. Sure enough, as they entered a turbolift, the big man sighed.

“What’s it like Beverly?”

Feigning ignorance, the Doctor adopted an innocent look.

“What is what like?”

With a sardonic grin, Will shrugged.

“Being in a relationship with him. What’s he like…in private?”

Beverly’s answering grin was saucy.

“Now Will…that would be telling.”

His chuckle was warm.

“Don’t give me that Beverly! Come on…out with it.”

Her smile faded and she sighed.

“Bottom line? It’s wonderful. He’s very quiet…very intense but there’re depths to him I’m still discovering. It’s silly really…I always knew those depths were there…it’s just that I’ve never been allowed to see them before.”

Will nodded sagely and smirked.

“And the sex?”

The slap to his shoulder made him wince.

“Ow! That was uncalled for!”

Wagging her finger under his nose, Beverly scolded.

“Well it serves you right!”

The knowing grin came back.

“Oh come on Beverly…give!”

Beverly allowed a moment’s silence before sighing theatrically and fanning herself with her hands. She rolled her eyes and lolled her head backwards.

“What can I say Will? Oh boy…I am one very lucky woman!”

Will’s surprised look irritated the Doctor.

“That good? Really? Gee you wouldn’t reckon.”

Arms akimbo, Beverly hissed,

“Why the hell not?”

The big man shrugged.

“Because he’s so…reserved…repressed, you know, always in control. I kinda thought he’d be a cold fish.”

Beverly’s mouth gaped.

“Cold fish? Jean-Luc? My God Will, don’t you know him at all? It’s because he’s so controlled that he has so much passion! And let me tell you…that control is very, very handy. There are times when I’ve thought I’ve died and gone to heaven.”

Will shrugged again and pulled down the corners of his mouth.

“If you say so, but I would’ve thought a fiery woman like you would need a tempestuous man.”

Beverly’s grin was mischievous.

“Who says he’s not tempestuous?”

That made Will’s eyebrows rise to his hairline.

“The Captain…tempestuous? Wow…he hides it well.”

Her chuckle was stifled by the opening lift door. As they strode down the corridor towards Sickbay, Beverly said sotto voce,

“I think you’d be surprised by what you don’t know about our Captain.”

They parted at the Sickbay doors and it was a very thoughtful Commander that made his way back to the Bridge.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Having landed the shuttle, Jean-Luc and Tobias spent the first hour reconnoitring their environment. The clearing was small, barely enough room for their little craft, and surrounded by thick bush. A faint track led to the edge of the plateau then turned and meandered downwards to the valley floor, emerging in another clearing with easy access to the river. Following M’Rak’s advice, Jean-Luc deployed a tricorder and scanned the river, noting the multitude of life within the cold water.

With his mind settled, the pair made their way back to the shuttle where Jean-Luc retrieved the pattern enhancers and phaser rifle. He pocketed a personal phaser, sighing with resignation as he slipped it into his trousers then went into the cockpit to set the autopilot. Exiting the vessel, father and son stood back as the little craft powered up and lifted off, her journey back to the Enterprise done under the command of the computer.

Once the pattern enhancers were set up and activated their gear was beamed down in three transports. Once they had all their equipment, Jean-Luc sent a message to Beverly, letting her know they were all right and about to set up camp.

In all it took just over two hours to set up. The tent was a four man size, affording plenty of room. It was a self-inflating, rigid construction with interior environmental controls. There were two cots with thermal sleeping bags and attached pillows with an insulated mattress for additional comfort.

Although Jean-Luc intended to do the cooking over an open fire, there was a small stove supplied and he had taken the opportunity to add a field sanitary unit, feeling Tobias may have been reluctant to be forced to dig a hole in the bush.

Satisfied with his preparations, Jean-Luc sent his son to find some stones with which to ring the fire pit he was digging. It was almost lunch time before they were finished. Agreeing to sandwiches for their first meal, the fire was lit to heat some water for coffee.

Sometime later the two were fed and ready to do some exploring. Jean-Luc asked his son where he would like to go first. The boy thought for a few moments before deciding.

“Could we go to the top of the escarpment?”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes I think so.”

Having cleared away their dishes, they set out through the bush, the climb becoming quite steep very quickly.

With the undergrowth quite thick, Jean-Luc considered requesting a machete, but ultimately decided against the idea, opting instead to leave as little evidence of their presence as possible. They stopped at the base of a large tree while the Captain activated his tricorder and scanned the area. Satisfied with the results, he took the time to study the tree, pointing out to his son the odd leaves and sticky matter that oozed from the trunk.

Overhead were the sounds of bird-like creatures, their striking calls shattering the otherwise silent bush. The animals were very shy, but the two Humans caught the occasional flash of colour as they flittered through the upper canopy.

The distance to the top wasn’t great, but it took considerable time to reach it. The undergrowth thinned out, leaving tall trees spaced widely apart as they made the plateau summit. Tobias made for the precipice but his father cautioned him.

“Steady Tobias…not too close to the edge.”

The boy flung his father a nod of acceptance before approaching the cliff more carefully. Stopping a metre from the lip, he leaned forward, craning his neck to look over the drop. Jean-Luc joined him and scanned the soil and rock beneath their feet.

“It seems to be solid, there’s no evidence of undercutting.”

Tobias grinned widely.

“Then can I get closer?”

With a sigh of resignation, Jean-Luc gripped the back of his son’s jumper firmly and gave a nod.

“Very well.”

Utilising boyish enthusiasm, Tobias took advantage of his father’s strong grip to place his toes at the very edge and lean outward. His whoop of exhilaration made Jean-Luc smile.

“Wow! How high is it father?”

With a quick glance at the tricorder, Jean-Luc replied,

“Over one hundred and sixty metres.”

“Jeepers. The river just disappears! Look at the spray. How far does it fall?”

Again consulting his tricorder, Jean-Luc answered.

“Actually not all that far. The drop at river level down to our camp is only about ten metres. This rift has been cut by the river over millennia. We should see if we can come back upstream at river level to look for evidence of fossils or glacial activity.”

Righting himself and taking a step back from the brink, Tobias frowned at his father.

“There wouldn’t be anything up here?”

The Captain shook his head.

“No, not really. The river has cut through many rock strata; this level up here has been relatively undisturbed for centuries.”

Tobias’s next question surprised Jean-Luc.

“What kind of ground is it up here?”

Resisting the urge to ask his son why he wanted to know, Jean-Luc instead scanned the ground and studied the result.

“Well, according to this, it’s a mix of a basalt-like rock, organic soil and sand. In fact the sand deposits are a little odd…they’re in pockets, appearing randomly in a roughly circular area approximately fifteen metres in diameter.”

Tobias frowned.

“May I see please?”

Jean-Luc gave his son the device and waited patiently while the youngster studied the screen. He was intrigued when the boy walked a few metres, sank to his knees and used his free hand to scrape away the surface detritus. Jean-Luc joined his son and asked gently in his native tongue,

“What is it?”

Tobias shook his head.

“I’m not sure. This sand shouldn’t be here father. Even if sand was supposed to be up here, which is unlikely given the age of the rock, this is the wrong sort of sand.”

Frowning deeply, and impressed with his son’s knowledge, Jean-Luc shook his head.

“Why is the wrong sort of sand?”

Sitting back on his haunches, Tobias explained.

“The type of sand that results from erosion contains the trace elements of the rocks that created it. If that were the case here, this sand should have the native rock present. It doesn’t. This sand has more silica and microscopic sea life.”

Jean-Luc shrugged.

“Well the sea is not far away, perhaps at one time this land was under water.”

Tobias shook his head.

“No I don’t think so. As far as the tricorder is concerned, this land is very old. It has never been under water, at least not the sea. And another thing…why does the sand appear in this circle and nowhere else? It doesn’t make sense.”

Jean-Luc stood and stretched his back.

“Well why don’t we go back to the campsite and scan there? Perhaps we might find some answers.”

With a lingering look at the tricorder, Tobias stood and offered his father a smile, but the man could see the boy was deeply puzzled. Resisting the urge to interrogate him further, Jean-Luc led the way back down the escarpment.

 

 

 

Having made their way to the camp, Jean-Luc took the time to prepare some cold drinks while Tobias took the tricorder and went off to scan the surrounding area. He was gone fifteen minutes and when he returned he drank the offered liquid quickly, obviously slaking a raging thirst. Jean-Luc watched with an indulgent smile.

“More?”

An enthusiastic nod was his only reply. Refilling the glass, Tobias downed the cold drink quickly, earning a gentle admonishment.

“Slow down son…you’ll give yourself a pain in the stomach.”

With a forceful expulsion of breath, Tobias wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and looked up at his father, the excitement in his eyes plain to see.

“What is it Tobias?”

Catching his breath, the boy tuned and pointed into the bush.

“It’s the same here father! There is a circle with sand deposits over there. The sand is the same as at the top of the escarpment…and it shouldn’t be here.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“Is the circle the same size?”

“Yes!”

Jean-Luc rubbed his chin.

“And the sand deposits…are they the same size too?”

The boy nodded vigorously.

“Yes, about one metre in diameter.”

“How many?”

“I counted fifteen in each circle.”

Taking a deep breath and expelling it slowly, Jean-Luc scratched his cheek.

“How intriguing. Well we’d better think about dinner. What would you like to have?”

Momentarily sidetracked, Tobias frowned.

“Ah…what is there?”

“Lamb curry with rice, beef stew with vegetables or pork stir fry.”

Tobias didn’t hesitate. With a gleam in his eye his reply was emphatic.

“Lamb curry.”

Jean-Luc smiled broadly.

“Good choice. I’ll get the packets…do you think you can resurrect the fire?”

Tobias’s enthusiastic nodding made the man chuckle.

“Very well. We’ll need to get some more wood tomorrow but we should have enough for tonight of we’re careful Keep it in mind.”

“Yes father.”

Twenty minutes later they were seated around the fire enjoying their meal. The sun was very low in the sky and Jean-Luc had placed four lights around their camp which would activate once the light dropped to a predetermined level. There was also a lamp by the fire. Over coffee, Jean-Luc asked what had been on his mind for some time.

“Tell me Tobias, how is it you know so much about geology?”

The look of sadness that passed over the boy’s face was unexpected and Jean-Luc regretted causing it. He was about to apologise when his son began to speak in a subdued voice.

“It was something Maman and I were interested in. We went to this really weird planet once when I was little…all the rocks and soil were brightly coloured and she showed me how to scan with the tricorder. We discovered the colours were because of micro organisms that had been trapped when the rock cooled. Maman said we should make a habit of looking at the rocks on all the planets we visited.”

Jean-Luc sighed deeply.

“I didn’t know she was so interested.”

Picking up a stick, Tobias drew idly in the soil around the fire.

“She told me that before she was posted to the Academy she had considered becoming a geologist. She had a beautiful collection of rock specimens from all over the quadrant.”

Jean-Luc kept his voice soft and gentle.

“Where are they now?”

Tobias shrugged.

“I’m not sure. Once she was posted to the Academy I think she put them in storage somewhere.”

Silence descended for a while before Jean-Luc offered,

“Would you like me to find them?”

Tobias considered the question and eventually nodded.

“Yes I would.”
He then lifted his head and regarded his father with a curious gaze.

“You didn’t know she liked geology?”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“Regrettably no. There was a lot we didn’t know about each other Tobias. We worked closely together and we had a relationship but we didn’t know each other…not really.”

When he spoke Jean-Luc could hear the pain in his voice.

“But you made me.”

Resisting the urge to reach for his son’s hand, Jean-Luc sighed.

“Yes we did, but I didn’t know.”

There was a silence before Tobias asked,

“If you had known, would you have married Maman?”

With a deep sigh, Jean-Luc sought a way to prevent hurting his son.

“I would have asked her Tobias but whether or not she would’ve accepted…I don’t know.”

The young lad struggled to understand.

“But if she said yes…you would have left your ship?”

Deciding to be scrupulously honest, Jean-Luc closed his eyes so he couldn’t see his son’s recriminations.

“I would have asked  her to join me on the ship, but I would’ve done whatever she wished and if that meant taking a post somewhere else I would’ve done it.”

The boy’s voice showed his pain.

“But you wouldn’t have liked it.”

With a deep sigh, Jean-Luc stared into the fire.

“Tobias my feelings on the matter are irrelevant. If your mother wanted me with her, married or not, I would have been there. The most important thing would’ve been you.”

There was anger in his voice when the boy again spoke.

“Yes, but you would have been mad at me in the end.”

Jean-Luc’s expression was perplexed.

“Mad at you? Why?”

Taking the time to put more wood on the fire, Tobias collected his thoughts.

“Because all the time you would have blamed me for taking you off your ship. My mother didn’t tell you about me because she knew you didn’t want to give up the Enterprise. In the end you would have hated me.”

Reaching for his son, Jean-Luc was saddened as the lad flinched away from him.

“Tobias that’s not true.”

There were tears in the boy’s eyes when he blurted,

“You never wanted children...you never wanted me!”

Ignoring the rigidity of his body, Jean-Luc stood and took his son into his arms.

“That’s not true either Tobias. It’s true that I didn’t consider having children, but it’s not because I didn’t want them. I have been devoted to my career for most of my life Tobias and one of the sacrifices I made to get where I have, was to give up the notion of marrying or having children. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t want them. I thought about it…in fact as I got older I thought about it quite a bit, especially after my brother and nephew died. I admit finding out about you was a shock, but once I became accustomed to the idea, I found myself happy…deeply so. Tobias I can’t tell you what might have happened if your mother had’ve told me about you, but I can tell you…no matter what…I would have loved you unreservedly then, as now. And I never would have resented you.”

The boy’s slight frame trembled as he cried. His arms encircled his father and he gripped the back of Jean-Luc’s jumper fiercely. The Captain held his son stoically, allowing the boy his release while his own heart broke.

Some time later the fire was a bed of glowing coals. Lazy smoke spiralled up, the occasional spark riding the heat on its journey to the blackened sky. Jean-Luc was seated on the ground facing the fire, his son curled up against the chill of night between his legs. With his muscular arms wrapped protectively around the boy, hugging him to his chest, they sat in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Eventually Jean-Luc stirred and bent his head, eyeing his son to see if he was asleep. He was somewhat surprised to find the lad awake, staring into the embers. He said softly,

“Penny?”

Tobias blinked a few times and frowned.

“Pardon?”

With a self depreciating chuckle, Jean-Luc explained.

“Oh…sorry. That’s something Beverly and I ask each other when we find ourselves deep in thought. It’s ‘penny for your thoughts.’”

Looking askance, Tobias asked,

“What’s a penny and why would you give me one for my thoughts?”

Gritting his teeth in the realisation he was becoming mired in something he hadn’t anticipated, Jean-Luc took a deep breath and embarked on his explanation.

“A penny was an ancient coin of very little value. The saying simply means one is willing to pay a small price to learn what the other is thinking.”

Tobias digested that then shook his head.

“But isn’t that…rude? I mean what someone thinks is nobody else’s business, no matter how much they offer to pay. They shouldn’t even ask.”

Keeping his voice gentle and his patience intact, Jean-Luc summoned a smile.

“It’s just a saying Tobias, one used between close friends.”

Shifting in his father’s embrace to a more comfortable position, Tobias took a large breath and asked,

“You and Beverly…you’ve known one another a long time?”

The Captain loosened his arms, allowing his son to lean forward to push the remains of a branch into the fire.

“Yes a very long time.”

Having stirred the embers into desultory flames, the youngster continued.

“Deanna told me you and Beverly have only recently begun your relationship.”

Jean-Luc replied warily, wondering where this line of thought was going.

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Why did it take so long?”

With a deep sigh, Jean-Luc briefly closed his eyes.

“It’s complicated Tobias. Let’s just say the time wasn’t right until now.”

The lad yawned expansively and rubbed his eyes.

“Do you love her?”

“Yes.”

“And she loves you?”

“Uh huh.”

Turning in his father’s arms, Tobias looked the man in the eye.

“Are you going to get married?”

Holding his son’s gaze, Jean-Luc shrugged.

“I don’t know…perhaps.”

Nodding sagely, the twinkle in Tobias’s eyes made Jean-Luc growl.

“And kids? Will you have any children?”

Jean-Luc snorted with exasperation.

“Hell Tobias I don’t know! We’ve only been in our current relationship two and a half months. Give us a chance to catch our breath.”

They settled into silence for a while before Jean-Luc asked quietly,

“If we had children how would you feel? Would you like a little brother or sister?”

As he picked up a pebble and threw it into the fire, Tobias shrugged.

“I don’t know.”

More silence descended until Jean-Luc checked his chronometer.

“It’s getting late Tobias; we should be getting to bed.”

The boy rose stiffly to his feet and waited until his father was also standing. Jean-Luc checked the fire to make sure it couldn’t escape the pit then gestured to the tent.

“After you.”

They stripped down to their briefs and settled into their sleeping bags. As Jean-Luc lay awake he heard his son’s breathing even out in sleep. Finally relaxing, he turned onto his side and allowed sleep to claim him.

 

 

 

 

               In the small hours of the morning, just before dawn, the sand circles began to glow. Mist swirled about the trees, the glowing sand reflected in an eerie sepulchral glimmer. Ten forms coalesced over the sand circles, quickly solidifying into alien beings. They were squat, barley over a metre tall. Dark in colour, their outer covering was chitinous, the smooth shell-like carapaces catching the dull light in a rainbow of colour. Their heads were elongated, sloping backwards in a hairless dome. The eyes were covered in nictitating membranes which, when uncovered, showed milky, opaque multi-faceted orbs. No clothing adorned their bodies except for a woven belt around the waist. From it hung weapons, in this case a knife and a hatchet-like tool.

One of the creatures took the lead, stepping out of the heavily wooded area and into the clearing. As they approached the campsite the lamps that Jean-Luc had left on to scare off animals went out and, as they got closer, the pattern enhancers went off line. Unknown to the sleeping occupants in the tent, the phaser rife and the hand phaser both deactivated, their ready lights going off.

On the Enterprise the night shift were just making ready to hand over to the alpha shift. The Ensign at Tactical frowned at her console and gently called the Officer of the Watch.

“Sir? I’ve just lost contact with Captain Picard’s campsite.”

The Lieutenant in the Command chair swivelled around and cocked her head.

“What do you mean?”

The Ensign shrugged.

“Well as you know we can’t scan the area, but we’ve been keeping a constant lock and open communications with the area within the pattern enhancers. We just lost our lock and the channel is closed.”

The Lieutenant stood, frowning.

“Why?”

The Ensign lifted her hands.

“I don’t know Sir. Should we call Commander Riker?”

Scratching her head, the Lieutenant sighed.

“No, he’ll be up here soon enough. Try to find out why we lost the lock and tell me immediately if we regain it.”

“Aye Sir.”

The Lieutenant regained her seat and grimaced.

“Oh God I hope I’m doing the right thing.”

 

 

 

 

 

                        The aliens moved confidently around the campsite, stopping by the fire to sift through the cooling ashes. As they moved closer to the tent the leader held up a clawed hand. In silence the group stopped while the leader took something from a cloth bag at its waist. The instrument it removed was glowing and humming very quietly. The creature held the device in an extended arm and swept it from side to side. Having completed its scan, the alien read the results then grunted softly. As one, the creatures withdrew, melting back into the bush until they stood over the sand circles. The circles glowed and the beings dematerialised, the sand’s glow diminishing until it was once again normal.

In the pinking light of dawn, birdsong began.

 

                        Just as Will strode onto the Bridge to begin the day shift, the young Ensign at Tactical called to the Lieutenant on duty.

“Sir? We’ve re-established contact with the surface.”

Before the Lieutenant could respond, Will took his position in front of the Command Chair and, keeping his voice even and his anxiety in check, he asked,

“What’s been going on Lieutenant?”

The woman stood abruptly, almost quivering at attention. She swallowed to wet her dry mouth and took a deep breath.

“Sir! Half an hour ago we lost contact with the pattern enhancers and communications went down with Captain Picard’s campsite. Contact has now been restored.”

Will’s gimlet-like blue eyes bored into the hapless Lieutenant then glanced up at Tactical.

“Do we know why?”

“No Sir.”

The big First Officer folded his arms and lowered his chin.

“Why wasn’t I informed?”

At that the Lieutenant blanched.

“I…I thought we’d try to re-establish contact first Sir.”

Will allowed a very uncomfortable silence while he stared at his subordinate. He kept his voice quiet but it was laced with anger.

“And while we were out of contact, did you give any thought to the safety of Captain Picard and his son?”

Swallowing convulsively, the Lieutenant shook her head.

“No Sir…ah…yes Sir. Sir I thought it was just a glitch.”

Will maintained the glare for a few moments more before raising his head and calling.

“Bridge to Shuttle bay two.

“Shuttle Bay two. Ensign Delonghi.”

“Ensign this is Commander Riker. Ready a shuttle for immediate launch.”

“Aye Sir.”

Will turned his attention to the new officer at tactical.

“Ensign I want you to hail the Captain and keep at it until he answers.”

“Yes Commander.”

To the Lieutenant he said,

“I will wait twenty minutes. If we haven’t heard from the Captain in that time, you will accompany me down to the surface to make sure he’s all right. In the meantime you will stay here on the Bridge.”

The trembling Lieutenant nodded nervously and left the Command well to stand to one side, out of the way. Her prayers for her Captain’s well being left her at a furious rate.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        Tobias woke with a full bladder. He groaned softly and rolled over, squinting at his sleeping father. With a snort of resignation, the lad opened his sleeping bag and, shivering, pulled on his trousers. Then, barefooted and bare chested, he left the tent and went to the nearest tree; ignoring the sanitary unit his father had set up nearby.

Once he was again comfortable he turned to go back to his bed when he saw a blinking light within the pattern enhancers. He wandered over to see the communication device activated. With a frown he went to the tent, entered and gently shook his father’s shoulder.

“Father wake up.”

Instantly awake, Jean-Luc rolled over and spoke, his voice gruff with sleep.

“What is it? Is everything all right?”

“Yes, but I’ve just been outside and the communication unit is blinking.”

Momentarily closing his eyes, the Captain unzipped his sleeping bag and got up, turning his back so his son wouldn’t see his tumescence. He slipped on his trousers and shirt and left the tent in a sour mood. He entered the area of enhancement and activated the unit.

“Picard here.”

Will’s voice clearly showed his relief.

“Captain it’s good to hear from you. Are you and Tobias all right Sir?”

Jean-Luc’s voice contained his ire.

“Why wouldn’t we be?”

Will took a deep breath and explained.

“Captain we lost contact with you for about half an hour. I was about to come down in a shuttle to see that you were all right.”

Taking a deep breath to quell his annoyance, Jean-Luc modulated his voice.

“I can assure you there’s no need Number One. Tobias and I are fine.”

“Glad to hear it Sir. Can you tell me why we lost contact?”

Giving the campsite a perfunctory look, Jean-Luc shrugged.

“I don’t know, I can’t see anything amiss Commander. I will take a closer look once I’m properly dressed and I have eaten my breakfast.”

Hearing the note of irritation in his CO’s voice, Will decided to take the matter no further.

“Very well Captain, we’ll be waiting to hear from you, Enterprise out.”

Despite what Jean-Luc had told his Exec, he nonetheless took a quick tour of the campsite, careful where he placed his bare feet. He found nothing unusual and returned to the tent, his thoughts of going back to bed ruined by the sight of his son…dressed and obviously hungry.

“What’s for breakfast?”

With a sigh of capitulation, Jean-Luc sat on his bed and pulled on his socks and boots. He then buttoned and tucked in his shirt before donning a thick jumper. All the while he refused to answer the question, amused to watch his son’s exasperation. Eventually he stood and folded his arms across his broad chest.

“Well let’s see. We can have pancakes with syrup, bacon and eggs with toast, cereal or fruit.”

Tobias didn’t hesitate.

“Okay, I want the pancakes with syrup, toast, cereal and fruit.”

Jean-Luc remained motionless, one eyebrow raised. Tobias frowned up at him then his face cleared.

“Oh! Please.”

Giving a curt nod, Jean-Luc jerked his thumb at the tent door.

“All right, you get the fire going and I’ll scare up the food.”

The boy was out the door in a flash. Jean-Luc chuckled to himself as he made his preparations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Beverly waltzed into Sick Bay feeling inordinately happy. She was humming to herself and earning grins from the staff she passed…that was until she was met by Selar. The Vulcan blocked her path to her office and raised a PADD. Beverly came to a stop and smiled at her Second in Command.

“Yes?”

“We haven’t finished your exam Doctor. There was the question of birth control and I have not yet completed my work up.”

Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose and tried to hang on to her good mood.

“Selar…”

The stoic woman shook her head.

“No Doctor Crusher. As senior officers it is incumbent upon us to set an example to the other ranks. Please go to a bio bed so I can complete my exam.”

Deciding it was easier to give in than fight a losing battle, Beverly gritted her teeth and acquiesced. Resisting the urge to fidget, she waited impatiently for the scan to be completed. All went according to plan until Selar paused and repeated a scan. Beverly was about to ask what was wrong when the Vulcan gave her a look of utter disbelief.

“Doctor Crusher have you been taking precautions?”

Beverly frowned.

“Precautions? You mean birth control? Well…not exactly, but we have been careful.”

Handing Beverly the tricorder, Selar muttered,

“Not careful enough it would seem.”

Upon reading the information Beverly blanched, her voice reduced to an incredulous whisper.

“No…it can’t be!”

Selar tilted her head.

“Do you wish me to repeat the scan?”

Looking up wide eyed, Beverly gaped.

“What?”

Selar repeated the question and Beverly shook her head.

“Not unless you can change the outcome.”

Selar’s next query made Beverly grimace.

“Do you want me to terminate the pregnancy?”

“No…I need to speak with the Captain.”

The Vulcan nodded.

“Very well, you have ample time; you are only hours into the conception…a day at the most.”

Nodding mutely Beverly’s mind raced.

“Oh Goddam it! How the hell do I tell him about this? Shit!”

She slowly slid off the bio bed and wandered to her office, closing the door and opaquing the windows. Her staff wondered what was going on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Beverly was still in a brown study when a call came through from the Bridge.

“Riker to Crusher.”

Snapping out of her fugue, Beverly responded.

“Crusher here.”

“Beverly we have a call for you from the Captain.”

Her heart fluttered and she swallowed to wet her suddenly dry mouth.

“Okay Will, send it down here please.”

As she heard his mellifluous voice, butterflies took flight in her stomach.

“Good morning mon coeur.”

Keeping her voice steady with difficulty, she answered,

“Good morning Jean-Luc. How are my intrepid campers?”

He hesitated ever so slightly before he replied.

“Oh we’re fine. We’ve just had breakfast and Tobias is washing the dishes.”

Beverly chuckled.

“Child labour eh? I’m pretty sure there’s a law against that.”

Jean-Luc returned her chuckle with one of his own.

“You may be right but if I’m going to cook, the least he can do is wash the dishes. I’m going to dry them after all.”

Beverly’s laughter was a little forced and Jean-Luc heard it. His voice showed his concern.

“Beverly…is everything all right?”

Grimacing silently and mentally cursing her lapse, Beverly forced a sunny smile.

“Of course everything’s okay Jean-Luc…why do you ask?”

He sounded wary and unconvinced when he answered.

“Because you don’t sound right. What is it?”

Scrambling for a reply he’d believe, Beverly closed her eyes and crossed her fingers.

“Well…I am missing you…terribly.”

It wasn’t a lie and she hoped he wouldn’t question her further. She wanted to talk to him about the pregnancy, but not over the comm. system. She heard him sigh and smiled with relief.

“I miss you too. My bed is a very lonely place without you.”

The Doctor’s chuckle made Jean-Luc grin.

“Oh really? As I recall, you’re sleeping in a field cot. Not much room there my love…in fact they’re built for one occupant only.”

His voice deepened, the sensuality inherent in it made Beverly blush.

“We could make do.”

Fanning herself with her hands, Beverly gently admonished her lover.

“Stop that! It’s bad enough we’re separated without you making it worse. Behave yourself.”

The amusement in Jean-Luc’s voice lightened Beverly’s heart.

“Very well mon amour. I intend to call you tomorrow morning but if I don’t, don’t be concerned. I would rather not be tied to any schedules as Tobias and I may go off exploring and stay out over night.”

Worry flashed across Beverly’s mind, but she hid it well.

“Okay Jean-Luc. Take care my love…I miss you.”

“And I you. Je t’aime.”

As the channel closed Beverly’s smile faded and she placed her elbows on her desk, settling her head in her hands and closing her eyes.

“Bloody hell…what a mess!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Having finished cleaning up after breakfast, Jean-Luc got his tricorder and called up the topographical map of the area. Together, father and son consulted the device while they worked out where they wanted to go. Jean-Luc allowed Tobias to make all the suggestions, opting instead to play devil’s advocate.

“What about the sea father? The waterfall would be ace!”

Nodding thoughtfully, Jean-Luc squinted at the map.

“Well we can get above the falls no problem, but if you want to go upstream to the upper level, we probably wouldn’t have enough time. As it is we'll be gone all day.”

The lad frowned.

“Yes but if we can get down to the beach I can collect some more specimens.”

The Captain raised his eyebrows.

“You think there will be different rocks down there?”

Tobias nodded enthusiastically.

“Oh yes! Often the inland rock strata dives down at the shore allowing the sub-marine strata to rise up in outcroppings. Of course it depends on how this land developed but I’m hoping that’s the case.”

Casting a glance at his chronometer, Jean-Luc nodded.

“How about this? We go to the top of the falls then work our way back upstream to the upper level. Then tomorrow we make the beach our goal.”

Tobias considered this and nodded.

“All right.”

“Good. Help me make some sandwiches and coffee and we’ll be on our way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Three hours later they were perched at the edge of the falls. Thirty-seven metres below them mist rose as the cascading water poured in a rushing torrent into the catching pool. Beyond the haze of mist the river could be seen wending its way into the sea, the surf a confused melange as the current forced its way into the waves. The two Humans had to yell to be heard over the roar.

“Wow…this is so cool!”

Jean-Luc grinned and nodded.

“Indeed it is!”

Tobias reached for the tricorder and gaped.

“Almost forty metres!”

Jean-Luc nodded again as Tobias yelled,

“Let’s throw something in and watch it go over!”

The Captain looked behind him and spotted an old fallen branch. Gesturing to his son, the boy nodded enthusiastically and joined his father in dragging the rotted wood to the river’s edge. With a heave they threw it into the water and Jean-Luc had to grab the lad’s jumper lest he get too close to the edge. The current picked up the branch and it turned lazily as it accelerated towards the lip. With abrupt suddenness the top half went over, causing the back half to rear up before it too disappeared over the edge.

Tobias whooped with delight, his eyes shining with happiness. Using hand gestures, Jean-Luc coaxed his son away from the edge to where they could talk normally.

“That was ace!”

“Yes it was. We can come back tomorrow but if we want to make the upper level we should get going.”

The boy nodded seriously.

“Okay. When’s lunch?”

Suppressing a sigh, Jean-Luc replied,

“I thought we could stop back upstream a bit, where the river is quieter.”

“Okay, let’s go.”

Utilising the faint path that followed the river, they set off and had only gone about ten metres when Jean-Luc suddenly stopped in his tracks. Tobias went on a while before he realised his father wasn’t with him. Trotting back to the man he asked,

“What’s up?”

With a deep frown, Jean-Luc was shaking the tricorder.

“This tricorder has gone off line.”

The lad held out his hand.

“Show me.”

Jean-Luc reluctantly handed his son the device and waited as the boy fiddled with it. Upon giving it back to his father, Tobias announced,

“Dead as a door nail.”

Speaking almost to himself, Jean-Luc muttered,

“Now why the devil did that happen?”

Not realising the question wasn’t directed at him, Tobias answered.

“I don’t know. Do we have any other technology with us?”

Jean-Luc looked up and frowned.

“Only the two small phasers. I left the rifle at camp.”

Tobias shrugged.

“Well are they active?”

With a dip of his shoulder, Jean-Luc unslung the backpack he had. He opened the flap and removed the mark two hand phaser. The standby light was extinguished. He tried to activate the weapon but it remained unresponsive. Grunting in annoyance, he shoved his hand in his pocket and withdrew his personal phaser. It too was inactive. Now completely nonplussed, Jean-Luc scratched his head.

“I can’t explain this. As far as we knew the only area where technology wouldn’t function was at the ruins. This shouldn’t be happening here.”

Tobias shrugged again.

“Well maybe if we keep walking it might come back.”

With little option but to agree, Jean-Luc pocketed his personal phaser but kept the hand weapon out as he shouldered the backpack. With one eye on the dead tricorder and the other on the standby light on the phaser, Jean-Luc followed his son, his mind churning with unsettled thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

              An hour later they found a very pretty bend in the river where there were shallows to explore. With the sun high in the sky it was quite hot and both father and son were stripped to the waist and barefooted. They were sat at the river’s edge eating some sandwiches when the tricorder suddenly came to life. Jean-Luc snatched it up and swept it in an arc, impatiently waiting while it scanned the immediate area. Tobias watched his father silently, knowing the man had been significantly worried. With a sigh Jean-Luc looked up and smiled. Tobias grinned.

“Everything okay?”

With a nod, Jean-Luc pointed at the water.

We should’ve brought your rod. There’s aquatic life in there quite like fish.

He saw his son’s face cloud and he frowned.

“Tobias...what is it?”

The lad picked up a leaf and set it gently on the water, staring as the sluggish current bore it away. His voice was soft.

“I don’t like killing things.”

Jean-Luc absorbed that and allowed his son the time to collect himself. When he thought it prudent, Jean-Luc said,

“That’s quite all right you know. I don’t like killing things either.”

Tobias looked up in surprise.

“You don’t?”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“No. My elder brother Robert used to tease me about it. He liked to shoot foxes and fish; sometimes he helped our father eradicate pest species of birds that attacked the grapes. I never, not once helped them. I just couldn’t bring myself to kill another living thing.”

Tobias shook his head.

“But father…you’re a Captain of a Starship…you must have…”

Lifting his head, Jean-Luc sniffed and scowled.

“Oh yes, I’ve done my fair share of killing.”

Seeing the disgust and sadness on his father’s face, Tobias decided to change to subject.

“Do you like swimming?”

Somewhat surprised by the non sequitur, Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes as a matter of fact I do.”

“Then let’s go in for a swim.”

As he spoke, the lad stood and stripped off his remaining clothes. He was in the water up to his knees before his father reacted. Jean-Luc shook his head and stood, doffing his clothing somewhat reluctantly.

“I bet it’s cold.”

Tobias couldn’t stop his teeth from chattering.

“Yes but it’s still fun.”

Before he lost his nerve, Jean-Luc strode into the water and dived in. As he came up for air his son grabbed his shoulders and pushed. The Captain allowed the boy to dunk him before rising and gripping the lad around the waist. He rose quickly and tossed Tobias in the air, laughing as the lad squealed in delight. They only stayed in the water ten minutes…it was freezing cold. Soon on the bank dressed again, sunning themselves and sipping a hot coffee, Tobias looked sideways at his father.

“You’ve got whiskers.”

Jean-Luc absently ran a hand over his stubbled jaw, grunting softly.

“I didn’t shave this morning.”

“Are you going to grow a beard?”

The Captain shrugged.

“I don’t know.”

They sat in silence for a while before Tobias said,

“When I grow whiskers I’m going to have a moustache.”

With a raised eyebrow, Jean-Luc asked,

“Why?”

“’Cause I think they’re cool.”

Pulling his mouth down at the corners and lifting his eyebrows, Jean-Luc nodded pensively.

“Fair enough.”

Twenty minutes later they were on their way again.

                They bypassed their camp and made good progress in renegotiating the climb to the top of the escarpment. They went further upstream before Jean-Luc cautioned his son about the dwindling daylight hours. Somewhat reluctantly the two made their way back to camp and reached it just on dusk.

Dropping the backpack at the tent door, Jean-Luc ducked inside and soon emerged with some silver packages. While Tobias performed his, by now, established task of lighting the fire, his father prepared a quick meal of dehydrated meat and vegetables.

It was soon reconstituted and heated and the tired two ate within the glow of the camp lights.

After they had finished and cleaned up, Jean-Luc smiled to himself in anticipation. In a soft voice he asked his son,

“Tobias…have you ever seen a phaser rifle fired at night?”

The lad’s head snapped up, his mouth agape.

“No father.”

“Would you like to?”

Jean-Luc could barely see the vigorous nodding in the dim light. Chuckling, he rose to his feet, entered the tent and soon re-emerged with the rifle in his hands. He beckoned to the boy to stand beside him.

“Now we need some more wood and I’ve been eyeing off the old dead tree over there. If we choose the correct setting, we can safely blast that tree into pieces, thereby affording us our firewood. What do you think?”

Tobias’s voice dropped to a hushed whisper.

“Can I fire it?”

Seeming to keep his attention on the weapon, Jean-Luc smiled in the darkness.

“Tell you what. I’ll make the first two hits and you can blast whatever’s left. How’s that?”

His son’s reply was a single word.

“Cool!”

Having set the required intensity, Jean-Luc activated the light over the barrel, aimed the rifle and depressed the trigger. A bolt of blue energy streaked from the weapon and struck the tree in an explosive detonation. In the glare of the light, the entire top half of the old tree shattered and fell, the timber raining down around the remains. The second shot sheared off the trunk, again shattering the wood. The Captain lowered the weapon and squinted in the darkness at the two metre stump that was left. Turning to his son, he offered the rifle.

“Think you’re up to it?”

In silence the boy nodded solemnly, having been suitably impressed by the weapon’s power. With a little help from his father, he nestled the butt into his shoulder and took aim down the barrel. Jean-Luc’s steady low voice calmed his racing heart.

“Now…take a deep breath and as you let it out, gently depress the trigger.”

As the light of the weapon began to waver on the target, Tobias fired. He hit the stump a glancing blow but it was enough to destroy what was left of the tree. When the dust had settled there was little remaining. Retrieving a palm beacon, Jean-Luc led his son over to the debris and grunted in satisfaction.

“This should keep us in wood for days.”

Very soon they had a very healthy stack of wood near the fire and a cheery blaze going to ward off the coldness of the night. They stayed until the fire died down then retired for the night, tired and happy. They were asleep quickly and didn’t se the lights go off and the sands circles begin to glow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  For the eighth time in ten minutes, Beverly turned over and sighed. Her stomach was upset and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t find a comfortable position to sleep in.

Eventually giving in to the inevitable, the Doctor got up and padded barefoot into the living area, reaching the replicator without the use of any lights. She ordered her favourite sleep toddy but as soon as the steam rose to her nostrils, her stomach heaved.

She shoved the drink back into the replicator, spilling the contents and burning her hand, but that was the least of her worries. She dashed for the bathroom, unwilling to open her mouth to call for lights in case she vomited. In the darkness she tripped over her shoes and fell headlong on the floor, banging her head on the opening bathroom door. Rising unsteadily to her feet, she lurched into the bathroom only to suffer the upheaval of her stomach before she made it to the toilet.

Ten minutes later she was on her knees, weakly gripping the toilet bowl.

“Oh Christ!...lights.”

She squinted in the bright light and slowly turned her head. Upon seeing the mess on the floor and down the front of her nightie, she groaned softly and rose, twisting her body so she could sit on the toilet seat.

“Not again…God I went through bloody months of this with Wesley.”

It took forty-five minutes for the bedraggled woman to clean the bathroom and take a cleansing shower.

Feeling wretched and wrung out, she went into the bedroom naked and slipped on some clean briefs and one of Jean-Luc’s tee shirts. She crawled into the bed and grimaced at the taste of peppermint mouthwash and the aftertaste of bile. Gathering the shirt in her hands, she lifted the material to her nose and tentatively sniffed. It was with great relief that nothing happened except a feeling of comfort that settled on her as she smelled the lingering scent of her mate. She closed her eyes and sighed.

“Are you asleep now my love?”

With thoughts of her lover in mind, she drifted off to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

                      On the Bridge the night watch went about their duties with a minimum of fuss. With the ship in orbit there was little to do and the Lieutenant on duty was restless in the Command chair, her deepest fantasy of assuming command in a crisis playing through her mind. The soft voice of the Ensign at Tactical interrupted her musings.

“Sir? I’ve lost contact with Captain Picard’s campsite again.”

This time the woman didn’t hesitate. She lifted her head and intoned,

“Bridge to Riker.”

The sleepy voice that answered would’ve made the Lieutenant smile, but she resisted the urge.

“Riker here.”

“Commander we have lost contact with Captain Picard’s campsite again.”

“Do we know why?”

“No Sir.”

“What time is it at the site?”

“Oh two eighteen Sir.”

“Okay. Monitor the situation and if you can’t re-establish contact in one hour call me again.”

“Aye Sir. Bridge out.”

The Lieutenant took a large breath and spoke quietly to Tactical.

“You heard the man. Keep an eye on the site and try to figure out why we lost contact.”

The Ensign smiled in the subdued lighting.

“Yes Sir.”

Regaining her seat; the Lieutenant stared at the viewscreen. Sotto voce she said,

“Sweet dreams Captain.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  The dark red carapace on the leader glowed softly in the dwindling light of the fire. It stood staring at the charred and jagged remains of the tree, its instrument scanning the wood residue. Upon studying the results of the scan, the leader turned and looked at the tent. With a soft sibilant hiss, it stepped closer, causing the fifteen members of its group to move in, surrounding the structure. In the gentle night breeze an undercurrent of hissing could be heard, the volume slowly increasing. As the sound grew, the hard coverings of the aliens began to shimmer, strobing softly. As the tension grew the leader stepped back and made a gesture with a sinewy arm. Immediately there was silence as all heads turned. With a curt hand signal the group withdrew into the bush and took position over the sand circles. In seconds they were gone.

Jean-Luc turned over, his eyes snapping open. Not knowing what had awakened him, he lay silently listening to the sounds around the campsite. Although the sound of the waterfall was dominant, he perceived the breeze moving through the canopy and the occasional rustle of a nocturnal animal as it moved nearby. He sighed and tried to settle but the nagging feeling of disquiet persisted.

With a soft snort he unzipped his sleeping bag and, clad only in his briefs, exited the tent with a palm beacon, sweeping the light in a wide arc around the campsite.

Finding nothing amiss, he carefully negotiated his way to the edge of the bush, shining the light into the thickening growth. The inky night seemed to swallow and extinguish the light only metres into the trees. Frustrated by his inability to penetrate the blackness, the Captain sighed in resignation and turned towards the tent. It was then he saw the communication device blinking. He frowned in confusion…why would the ship wish to contact him at this ungodly hour? He was still shaking his head as he wandered over to the pattern enhancers and activated the unit.

“Picard here.”

The voice that answered him was startled, obviously not anticipating his contact.

“Oh Captain…ah…this is Lieutenant Symonds….on the Enterprise.”

Growing mildly irritated, Jean-Luc gritted his teeth.

“I am aware you are on the ship Lieutenant. Why have you called? It’s…”

Realising he had no way to accurately determine the time in his present state of undress, Jean-Luc growled the remaining words.

“Very early in the morning.”

The Lieutenant was reduced to stammering.

“Ah…yyes CCaptain. We…we lost contact with your ccampsite Sir. The hail was automatic Captain…we’ve been trying to find out why we lost contact.”

Pinching the Bridge of his nose and shivering slightly in the cold night air, Jean-Luc sighed.

“Look Lieutenant we know there are anomalous readings coming from different areas of this entire site…perhaps you could take a more…lenient view and simply wait until you re-establish contact without panicking so much.”

“Yes Captain…but Commander Riker said…”

Jean-Luc took a deep calming breath.

“Commander Riker is very diligent Lieutenant and he will always do his job with exemplary fervour, as I know you would, but under these circumstances I think we can be a little more relaxed. If you lose contact again just wait. There’s no need to disturb the Commander, I’m sure these glitches are transitory in nature.”

Feeling comforted by her Captain’s confident words, the Lieutenant nodded.

“Very well Captain. Sleep well Sir.”

Jean-Luc couldn’t help but smile.

“Thank you Lieutenant. Picard out.”

With one final look around the camp, Jean-Luc went back to bed, but it was a long time before sleep claimed him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Several hours later, as dawn glimmered over the horizon, twenty four aliens shimmered into existence over the sand circles. In their clawed hands they held weapons of various kinds, the dominant one being a compact crossbow-like device. As they approached the camp the lights went out and the pattern enhancers deactivated. The aliens took up position around the tent in an arc and the leader stepped forwards and lifted its head, emitting a loud buzzing.

Jean-Luc started awake and lifted his head, blinking owlishly.

“What the devil is that?”

Quickly exiting his bed, he pulled on his trousers and, bare chested and barefooted he picked up the phaser rifle, opened the tent and stepped outside.

What he saw made him come to a complete halt. He stood motionless in the dim light as his eyes fed him the image of many alien beings surrounding his camp. Keeping his weapon lowered, he held up his free hand and said quietly,

“We mean no harm.”

Behind him he heard the tent open as his son, disturbed by the buzzing, came out to see what his father was doing. Jean-Luc kept his attention on the nearest alien and said softly,

“Stand very still Tobias and say nothing.”

The young boy came closer to his father to stand beside him and gently grabbed the waistband of his trousers. Jean-Luc hazarded a glance down at the boy and saw that he had put his pants and shirt on, but he was barefoot. The buzzing stopped and the aliens silently started to move. They formed an arc around the camp, leaving only one avenue of retreat. Back towards the cliff. Jean-Luc again attempted to communicate.

“I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard. I come in peace.”

The closest alien made a subtle gesture and ten beings moved closer, each raising their weapons. In response Jean-Luc lifted the phaser rifle only to see it was deactivated. He surreptitiously pressed the power switch but nothing happened. With a quick glance he looked over at the pattern enhancers to see them inoperable. In a quiet low voice he said,

“Stand behind me Tobias.”

The boy moved quickly, his slight trembling felt by his father through the small hand that gripped his trousers.

Again the Captain attempted to diffuse the growing tension.

“If you wish we will leave.”

At a sharp high-pitched squeal, four bolts were fired. They all struck Jean-Luc, one in his right shoulder, one under the ribs on the right side, one just to the left of his navel and the final one low in his belly. He staggered backwards, flinging his rifle to one side as he turned and scooped up his son. Ignoring the pain of his injuries he began to run towards the river. A bolt imbedded in his left shoulder joint and another struck him midway down his back on the right side but the one that pierced him under his left buttock severed the sciatic nerve, rendering the entire leg useless. He fell, sprawling on the ground and driving the bolts in the front of his body deeper into his flesh. Tobias yelped as he hit the dirt but had little time to gather his wits as his father staggered to his feet, picked him up and hobbled doggedly towards the cliff. Jean-Luc cast one final look over his shoulder just as another bolt buried itself into his back. With a cry of pain and desperation he tightened his grip on his son and jumped. They fell the eight metres into the fast-flowing river and came up spluttering and gasping, trying to catch their breath in the freezing water. The strong current took them and before long they were whisked over the rapids at the base of the falls. Jean-Luc held his son to his body calling to him,

“Hold on to me, I’ll try to get us to the bank.”

It was with dread that Jean-Luc realised he had little command of his arms. There was a bolt wedged into the left shoulder joint and his right shoulder wasn’t working properly either and with only one functioning leg, he found he lacked the power to overcome the strength of the current. With little option but to ride the water downstream, he kept his eyes glues to the banks, looking for areas of slack water he might be able to reach.

Travelling at a brisk ten kilometres an hour, they soon passed the place where the previous day they had swum. The cold was pervading Jean-Luc’s body as he felt his son’s grip begin to fail. He looked down at the boy and gasped at his bluish hue, he tried to wrap his arms around the lad with little success. Instead he shouted,

“Tobias hold on to me! Get your body as close to mine as you can! Wrap your arms and legs around me!”

Tobias did as best he could but Jean-Luc could tell the boy’s strength was rapidly waning. Tobias looked up at his father and even though he was saturated, Jean-Luc could see tears steaming down his son’s face. With his teeth chattering he said,

“Father…”

In desperation Jean-Luc looked frantically around him spotting, at the very last moment, a downed tree jutting out into the river. It had fallen from high up on the bank and, being completely uprooted, had slid down into the water where the current had swept it on an angle to the bank. Struggling enormously, Jean-Luc managed to guide them slowly towards the tantalisingly close tips of the upper branches. He aligned their trajectory and kicked his good leg for all it was worth. It was just enough. They passed within reach and the Captain grabbed a handful of twigs and leaves, pulling with all his diminished strength.  As they were pulled closer within the foliage, the added weight was too much for the tree, in a ponderously slow move, the tenuous connection to the bank was broken and the base of the tree slipped into the water. As the canopy acted as a drogue, the current caught the mass and turned it slowly as it gradually accelerated. Jean-Luc snarled in frustration but kept making for the trunk, pushing through the foliage, all the while keeping an eye on his son. Tobias has stopped shivering and his mouth was slack although he maintained a weak grip on his father. Jean-Luc made it through to the trunk and struggled to lift his son onto the wood.

“Tobias! Help me!”

The boy started and lifted his head, the confusion in his eyes plain to see. Jean-Luc shouted,

“Help me get you onto this trunk!”

In slow motion Tobias turned to look at the tree and seemed to struggle to understand his father’s plea. As he let go of the man what little warmth he was getting disappeared and he gasped.

“Father…”

Putting his considerable pain out of his mind, Jean-Luc grabbed the back of Tobias’s collar and heaved for all he was worth. Something in his shoulder parted and he cried out in agony but he persisted until Tobias was laying face down over the trunk. Jean-Luc hitched himself up and joined his son, rolling onto his side to avoid pushing the bolts any further into his ravaged body. He lifted his son’s head and called to him.

“Tobias try to stay awake!”

As the Captain tried desperately to think of a way to warm his son, his attention was drawn back to the river. In the distance he saw the rising mist of the main waterfall.

“Mon Dieu! Non!”

Frantically looking left and right to see if he could turn the tree, he realised the water was accelerating. He slipped back into the water and kicked furiously with his good leg but it was a futile effort. With silent, deadly efficiency, the tree was inexorably drawn to the lip. Jean-Luc, with a cry of anguish, grabbed his son and pulled him back into the water. He placed his good foot against the trunk and pushed off as hard as he could. He was struggling vainly to put some distance between the tree and their bodies when they went over the edge.

The drop was interminable. In a hellish world of cacophonous sound and tumultuous water they dropped like stones. The impact at the bottom was hard, Jean-Luc’s head struck something and he knew no more. His son’s body floated to the surface, free of his father’s protective embrace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 The Ensign at Tactical was just handing her station to the day shift officer when she grimaced. She looked up to see Commander Riker relieving the Lieutenant of her watch and coughed gently to get their attention.

“Commander? The pattern enhancers at Captain Picard’s campsite just went down again Sir.”

Will scowled and was about to issue orders when Lieutenant Symonds held up a hand.

“Sir…if I may…Captain Picard contacted us early this morning. He told us that as this seems to be an ongoing problem and that it would be best to ignore it.”

Will frowned.

“He said that?”

“Yes Sir.”

The big man scratched his whiskery cheek.

“In the last two instances of this happening, how long does it usually last?”

Symonds glanced at the Ensign. The young woman nodded and consulted her console.

“No more than fifteen minutes Sir.”

Will grunted.

“Okay we wait a quarter of an hour. If we can’t re-establish communications by then we take further steps. I have the Bridge Lieutenant.”

It was with some relief that the woman replied,

“Aye Commander.”

Fifteen minutes later Data turned in his seat at the Con and said quietly,

“Fifteen minutes have elapsed Commander.”

Will stood and stared at the new Ensign at Tactical.

“Well?”

“Nothing Sir, we’re still out of contact.”

Will grunted but before he issued any further orders, Deanna stood and said quietly,

“May I see you in private Sir?”

Will frowned but gestured to the Ready Room.

“Of course.”

Once inside Jean-Luc’s office, Will went to the desk but didn’t sit. Instead he turned and asked,

“What is it? Can you sense them?”

Deanna shook her head.

“No, I’ve been unable to feel them since they went down. No…what I wanted to say is…take it easy Will.”

The big man’s eyes hardened and he was about to remonstrate with his lover but she stepped forward and took his hands.

“Will Captain Picard has taken this opportunity to spend some quiet, private time with his son…a boy who is deeply troubled. Leave them alone Will. Unless we have real proof that they’re in any danger my advice is to tread lightly. Give them this chance to get to know each other…without interference from us.”

Will sighed and extricated his hands so he could rub his face. In a tired voice he responded.

“I hear you Deanna but this is our Captain we’re talking about. My first duty is to protect him...at all costs and I can’t do that by sitting on my hands up here while we continually lose contact with his campsite. To do nothing would be negligent of me.”

Deanna gently took one of his big hands and led him to the sofa where she encouraged him to sit.

“Will put yourself in his shoes. Would you like a very protective First Officer breathing down your neck while you were trying to establish some sort of relationship with your son? All I’m saying is…be a little less…overbearing. He’s a grown man with years of experience. Let him set the pace. If he needs you, he’ll call.”

Will grunted.

“If he has communication capabilities.”

Deanna sighed and was about to say more when they were hailed.

“Commander Riker to the Bridge please.”

Will stood and tugged down on his tunic, mirroring a habit the Captain had been unable to break, even though it was unnecessary with the new uniforms.

“Coming?”

Deanna summoned a smile and nodded. Together they strode out onto the Bridge.

“Report.”

“We have re-established contact with Captain Picard’s site Sir. Shall I hail him?”

Will glanced at Deanna and sighed.

“No I don’t think that will be necessary.  Monitor the site and let me know if anything changes.”

“Aye Sir.”

Will sat, Deanna at his left and smiled, sending subliminally,

“We’ll play it your way.”

 

                 Beverly stood in front of the replicator, swallowing and steadying her breathing. She closed her eyes and quietly ordered,

“Water, cold.”

As the glass materialised, the Doctor opened her eyes and stared down at the liquid.

“If I keep this down it’ll be a miracle.”

She took the glass and lifted it to her mouth, closing her eyes again as she slowly drank. Having accomplished that, she stood still, waiting to see if it would stay in her stomach. After several minutes she gained enough confidence to tap her com badge.

“Crusher to Selar.”

The reply was instantaneous.

“Selar here.”

“Doctor would you please report to Captain Picard’s quarters…and bring a med kit?”

“On my way. Selar out.”

Taking a deep breath, Beverly moved gingerly to the sofa and slowly sat, keeping her breathing steady and regulated. The chime soon rang and Beverly called,

“Come in.”

Selar entered and went straight to her colleague.

“Are you ill Doctor?”

Beverly smiled wanly.

“In a manner of speaking.”

As she spoke, the Vulcan deployed a tricorder and scanned her. Beverly sat still and awaited the verdict.

“Well?”

Selar lifted one perfect eyebrow and tilted her head.

“You are slightly dehydrated and you have not eaten since yesterday…noon. Why are you forgoing food and drink?”

Beverly grimaced, the very thought of food making her already sour stomach lurch.

“I am suffering hyper emesis. Any food and almost any drink causes vomiting. It is a symptom of my pregnancy.”

Selar’s dark eyes widened.

“But Doctor Crusher, you are barely pregnant. Why are these symptoms displaying themselves so early?”

Beverly shrugged.

“Damned if I know but it was the same when I was pregnant with my son. Almost from the first day I was as sick as a dog.”

Selar actually frowned.

“I was unaware dogs became sick during pregnancy.”

With a chuckle, Beverly flapped one hand.

“They don’t…it’s an old Earth saying.”

Selar’s face clearly showed her disdain for Human adages.

“Your first pregnancy was many years ago. If you will accompany me to Sick Bay for tests I am confident I can devise a suitable treatment to alleviate your symptoms.”

Beverly sighed and nodded slowly.

“Agreed but you’ll have to give me an anti-emetic because without it I can’t make it.”

The hiss of the hypospray was loud in the otherwise quiet room.

“Thank you.”

                Tobias became aware of his surroundings slowly. His back and head hurt, he was shivering violently and he was draped face down over a large rock, the overhead sun’s warming rays only barely penetrating the clouds of spray at the base of the waterfall. He sat up slowly, tears streaming down his face. His small voice was only just audible over the roar of the water.

“Father?”

Unable to locate the man, the boy stood on shaky legs and peered across the pool. The tree was turning lazy circles and foam floated in messy bergs. It was his white upper body that gave him away. Caught in the upper foliage of the tree, Jean-Luc drifted on his back, his arms spread wide. Tobias yelled,

“Father!”

But he didn’t move. The tree moved sluggishly towards him and Tobias hurried to another rocky outcrop to get closer. When it appeared the tree was about to turn and float away, the youngster plunged into the water and swam to his father, grabbing his outstretched hand and pulling him to the shore.

He made it to a low flat rock but was unable to drag his father fully onto it…he was just too heavy. The boy did, however, manage to get the man’s head and shoulders out of the water. Blood flowed freely from a terrible wound on the right side of Jean-Luc’s head as well as from the bolts protruding from his body. Tobias struggled and got his father onto his side. He patted the man’s bluish cheek, pleading in French,

“Wake up...please…Papa…wake up.”

Over the next ten minutes Tobias did everything he could think of to rouse his father, but the man remained unconscious. The boy’s eyes left his father’s face and travelled to his chest, the cruel bolts making him cry.

“No…no…”

He grabbed the bolt in Jean-Luc’s shoulder and tried to pull it out. It wouldn’t budge, the barbed head was driven deep into his flesh, but the pain caused the Captain to groan. Tobias, now sobbing with what he had to do, gripped the bolt again and pulled harder. Blood ran from the wound as the flesh rose around the bolt’s shaft. Jean-Luc’s groan became a yell and his left hand rose to his chest. In a ragged shout he pleaded,

“Stop!”

Tobias released the bolt and grabbed his father’s face in his hands.

“Papa! Debout!”

Jean-Luc groaned softly and said roughly,

“I am awake.”

Tobias collapsed next to his father, his sobs shaking his entire body. Jean-Luc opened his eyes and squinted in the diffused light. Panting slightly, Jean-Luc sought to reassure his son.

“Hey…it’s all right, calm down.”

Hiccuping with sobs, the boy stammered,

“I…I thought…I thought you were dead!”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and grunted.

“Well I’m not, now see if you can help me out of the water…it’s bloody cold.”

When Tobias put his hands under Jean-Luc’s shoulders, the man groaned in agony.

“NO!”

The boy immediately withdrew his hands and yelped,

“I’m sorry!”

Jean-Luc managed to lift a hand to pat his son’s leg.

“No…no it’s all right…just don’t touch me there, See if you can grab me around my chest.”

Tobias had to wriggle one hand under his father but he managed and with a lot of effort, together they managed to get the Captain out of the water. Now Tobias had a clear view of all the bolts in Jean-Luc’s body. His subdued voice was trembling when he asked,

“Do they hurt?”

Jean-Luc grunted.

“Like the devil. I’m going to try and stand up…can you help me?”

Nodding silently, Tobias wrapped his arms around his father and lifted as the man struggled to his feet. As soon as he was upright, albeit on one leg, Jean-Luc groaned and grabbed his head. He swayed alarmingly and Tobias gripped his arm, saying with panic in his voice,

“What is it?”

Jean-Luc took a deep breath and tried to regain his control. He gripped his son’s hand and attempted to calm him.

“It’s nothing…just a bit dizzy that’s all.”

With blood flowing down his face, Jean-Luc tried to clear his blurry vision. He blinked rapidly and ignored the pounding headache that threatened to overwhelm him. When he felt the cold wet cloth at the wound on his head, he opened his eyes and smiled.

“Thank you.”

Tobias had taken off his shirt and was pressing it gently against his father’s head. Jean-Luc struggled to think clearly.

“We need to find shelter. Can you see a way off these rocks…to the beach perhaps?”

Several seconds passed before Tobias answered.

“Yes I think so.”

Summoning a smile, Jean-Luc nodded slowly.

“Good. Now can you help me walk?”

He felt the youngster come to his side and wrap and arm around his chest. Jean-Luc eased an arm over the boy’s shoulder and tried to spare him his weight, but as he took the first hop, he couldn’t help but use his son’s body to help balance. Tobias manfully bore his father’s weight and staggered a little as they made their way across the rocks towards the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  They had travelled over eighty metres, resting often, before Jean-Luc had to stop all together. He collapsed onto the sand at the base of a small dune and rolled onto his side, trying to keep the bolts from touching the ground. He was feeling weak and nauseated and was in incredible pain. Tobias had insisted on tying his shirt around his father’s head but the blood had seeped through and trickled down the side of his face in several rivulets. His left foot was scraped and bleeding having been dragged along as his leg was completely useless. Tobias sat beside his father and took his hand.

“Are you all right Papa?”

The suffering man summoned a smile and gently squeezed the lad’s hand.

“I’m doing all right…don’t worry.”

Unable to support his weight on his arms, Jean-Luc eased himself down onto the sand and grimaced at something hard in his pocket. He hitched his hips enough to shift onto his buttock and said,

“Tobias there’s something in my pocket I think we may need. Can you get it out?”

Pleased at having something to do for his father, Tobias gently pushed his hand into the wet trouser pocket and withdrew Jean-Luc’s personal phaser. He watched as the man rolled back onto his side, then offered him the weapon. Jean-Luc shook his head and smiled.

“No son…you take it, I can’t operate it. Press the switch…see if it activates.”

Tobias studied the small weapon and found the activation button. He pressed it and three small green lights came on. He smiled at his father and nodded.

“It works.”

Jean-Luc sighed shallowly.

“Good. Try and not use it unless you have to…its batteries aren’t as strong as a normal phaser.”

Feeling very important, Tobias stuffed the weapon into his pocket, the hard lump bolstering his confidence. His attention was soon drawn back to his father.

“Would you take your shirt and wash it in the sea? It’s full of blood.”

Tobias gently untied his shirt and winced at the terrible wound that leaked blood. With a parting smile, he trotted down to the shore break and washed the shirt, making sure he brought the garment back sodden. With remarkable foresight, he held the shirt above the wound and wrung the material, squeezing an amount of sea water over the injury. Jean-Luc’s breath hissed between his teeth as the salty water entered the wound, but he was pleased with his son’s efforts. With the wound cleaner, Tobias had a good look at it and used the shirt to wipe away most of the gore. One more trip to the water had the shirt clean and Jean-Luc’s face wiped free of blood. Once the shirt was again tied around his head, Jean-Luc smiled his thanks and asked,

“What does it look like?”

Tobias grimaced and shook his head.

“It’s horrible Papa. I could see bone and there is a bruise that’s spreading all over the side of your head.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and swallowed, trying his best to quell his rising nausea. The insidious pounding in his head was wearing him down and his blurred vision made it that much harder to interact with his son. With an effort he kept his voice strong and even.

“Can you see anywhere we can shelter?”

The boy climbed to his feet and looked up and down the length of the beach. To his left he could see no further than the river, the mist from the waterfall and the spume from the surf mixed to occlude the view. To his right he could see perhaps three kilometres to a headland that jutted out into the sea. He could just see the back break smashing the base of the cliffs. In front of him small dunes grew larger before the land suddenly rose in oddly rounded hills, bare except for coastal grasses. He pointed to his right.

“That way Papa. We might find shelter among the rocks.”

Jean-Luc lifted his head, craning his neck and squinting.

“How far?”

The lad shrugged.

“I don’t know…a few kilometres maybe.”

Laying his head back on the sand, Jean-Luc sighed.

“I don’t know if I can make it that far Tobias. If I could use both legs…perhaps, but as it is…”

Sitting beside his father, Tobias gently touched the useless limb.

“What’s wrong with it?”

Jean-Luc’s eyes followed his son’s hand as his fingers rubbed the numb flesh through his trousers.

“I’m not sure. The crossbow bolt under my buttock must have severed something. The whole leg is dead.”

Tobias gave that some thought then said,

“Shall I find you a stick to lean on?”

With a gentle smile, Jean-Luc shook his head.

“No I’m afraid that won’t help, both of my arms are incapacitated Tobias. I can barely put my arm across your shoulders.”

Leaning over his father, Tobias inspected all of the bolts embedded in the man’s body. After some minutes he said,

“They don’t bleed too much.”

Jean-Luc smiled ruefully.

“Thankfully no they don’t. I think as long as they stay where they are…undisturbed…I might be lucky and not bleed too much.”

The boy frowned.

“What about inside?”

Jean-Luc frowned too.

“You mean inside my body?”

“Yes.”

Unable to shrug, Jean-Luc instead pulled down the corners of his mouth.

“Unknown but I would imagine there’s bleeding taking place. I can’t see how there wouldn’t be, especially with those bolts in my torso.”

Tobias’s eyes filled with tears.

“We need help Papa.”

Lifting his hand a little, Jean-Luc sought to comfort his son.

“I know Tobias and I’m sure someone will find us soon, but in the meantime I want you to find shelter. Without your shirt the sun will soon burn you.”

Tobias sniffed and frowned at his father.

“You too Papa. We should both find shelter.”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“No son…you go, I’ll be fine.”

Tobias shook his head vehemently.

“NO! I will not leave you!”

“Tobias…”

“NO! Either you come with me or I will stay here with you.”

Jean-Luc tried to make his son see reason.

“Tobias I can’t walk. It took us a very long time to get here from the waterfall and that wasn’t all that far. How long do you think it will take to go a few kilometres? And besides…you can’t bear my weight that long. We have to be sensible about this Tobias. You go and find shelter…I’ll be all right.”

Tears welled in the boy’s eyes as he slowly shook his head.

“I’m not leaving you…not now…not ever.”

Both seeing and hearing the determination in the boy, Jean-Luc sighed with resignation.

“Very well son, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Tobias wiped his face and smiled.

“We’ll make it Papa…I’ll help you.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and began to summon the strength and courage he was going to need. Taking a deep breath, he lifted his hand.

“Help me up.”

With a struggle, Tobias helped his father to stand. The boy encircled his father’s chest with his arm and braced himself as Jean-Luc eased an arm over his shoulders. When the man spoke his voice was husky and very deep.

“Ready?”

With a nod, Jean-Luc swallowed and gritted his teeth; readying himself for the escalation of pain he knew was coming.

“Well then…let’s proceed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       With a huge sigh of relief and a heartfelt smile, Beverly bowed her head. Selar consulted her tricorder and gave a curt nod.

“Your enzymes have returned to normal. I take it you feel better?”

Beverly nodded.

“Indeed I do Doctor…thank you.”

Selar handed her colleague a hypospray.

“The medication is very mild and your body will tolerate it quite well. My prognosis is very optimistic provided you use the medication with efficacy.”

Beverly hefted the hypospray, her mind mulling over the news.

“Okay, but how often can I use it?”

Selar inclined her head and clasped her hands behind her back.
“As often as you need it, however it would not be advisable to exceed eight doses a day.”

With a thoughtful nod, Beverly garnered a small smile.

“So basically every time the nausea returns.”

Selar nodded.

“Yes. It is my hope that it would be several hours between doses.”

Pursing her lips, Beverly asked,

“Withholding period?”

“No more than eight hours.”

Beverly sighed.

“So I should make it through the night?”

Selar nodded.

“Yes. Provided you inject just before you retire you should sleep undisturbed for at least eight hours.”

Slipping off the bio bed, Beverly took a deep breath.

“Well that all sounds terrific. Thank you again Doctor, I am in your debt.”

With a look of forbearance, Selar gave a slight bow.

“You are most welcome Doctor Crusher, but there is no debt, I am merely doing my job.”

Beverly chuckled and stepped past the Vulcan, preparing to go to her office.

“Believe me Selar there are many ways to do a job and most times the worst way is easiest.”

Selar watched her boss as she walked across the room, her face a study in disbelief.

“How illogical.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         Will sat back and ran a hand over his short dark hair. Letting out a long breath, he shifted in his seat and frowned. Deanna, seated beside him, leaned over and said sotto voce,

“What is it? You’re very tense.”

He growled low in his throat and shifted again.

“I don’t like not contacting the Captain.”

Deanna sighed theatrically.

“Will…”

He held up a hand.

“I know…it’s just that…after the last loss of contact I would just like to know he’s okay.”

Deanna studied her lover for a few seconds before turning in her seat and asking quietly,

“Tactical, what is that status of our situation regarding Captain Picard’s campsite?”

The Ensign consulted her console and replied,

“The pattern enhancers are activated Counsellor. We can hail the Captain if we wish.”

Deanna turned back to Will and raised her eyebrows.

“See? Everything’s all right.”

The Commander scowled.

“We don’t know that! Until we actually hear from the Captain we don’t know for sure that he’s all right.”

Sighing again, Deanna strove to keep her irritation in check.

“And just how do you intend to go about finding out? Hmm? Continually harass the Captain by hailing him at all hours just to set your mind at ease? Look Will he needs this time alone with his son. Leave him be.”

Will slumped back in the Command Chair, his pout almost making Deanna giggle. The big man snorted and muttered,

“I still don’t like it.”

She gently patted his thigh.

“Nevertheless you need to be patient. Captain Picard will contact us when he feels ready. Have faith my love.”

Glaring darkly at the revolving planet below, Will sighed with resignation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           Every ten metres the struggling pair stopped to catch their breath. Jean-Luc opted to stay upright, having found the effort involved in lying down only to struggle to his feet again pointless. As they stood gasping for air, Jean-Luc felt his stomach lurch. He let go of his son and fell to his knees, his wretched heaving bringing up a quantity of bloody water. Tobias knelt beside his father and rubbed his back. When Jean-Luc regained control he lifted his head and groaned in agony. Frightened, Tobias gripped his arm and whispered,

“Papa why is there blood in your vomit?”

Shaking his head Jean-Luc struggled to get his breath. As his panic grew, Tobias began to cry.

“Papa please…will you be all right?”

Eventually Jean-Luc managed to overcome the pain enough to answer his son.

“It’s all right Tobias…I’m fine.”

The boy looked incredulously at his father then stared pointedly at the bloody sand. With a deep sigh, Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes something inside me is bleeding but I assure you I’m all right now. Whatever it was, it has passed.”

Tobias looked into his father’s eyes and the fear in the boy’s eyes made Jean-Luc’s heart swell.

“But what if it happens again? What if it keeps on happening?”

Summoning strength he didn’t know he possessed, Jean-Luc offered an encouraging smile.

“Then we’ll deal with it. In the meantime, you’d better help me up. We can’t stay on the beach…I think the tide is coming in.”

Sidetracked, Tobias looked at the shore break and frowned. His eyes tracked the passage of the waves up to the high tide mark then turned back to his father.

“I think we will have room to walk Papa. The tide doesn’t come up too high.”

Jean-Luc grinned.

“Good. Now help me up please.”

Once on his feet, Jean-Luc experienced a period of dizziness that almost buckled his knee. To cover it he gripped his son’s shoulder as hard a she could and murmured,

“How much further do you think?”

Tobias looked down the beach and studied the distance.

“About another two kilometres…maybe less.”

With his head pounding sickeningly, Jean-Luc’s smile was almost a grimace.

“Well we’d best get going then.”

They staggered off, the man leaning heavily on the boy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Three and a half hours later their slow progress was stopped by a swathe of closely packed broken shells. It went from the sea back up into the dunes and was about fifty metres wide. Tobias helped his father to lie and then picked up some of the shards and gave them to the man. Jean-Luc scowled as his thumb tested the sharpness of the broken edges.

“By God…they’re razor sharp! How the hell are we going to cross that?”

Tobias stared across the blindingly white mass and shrugged.

“Maybe I can make a path.”

“Jean-Luc shook his head.

“It would be impossible Tobias…there’re millions of pieces, it would take too long.”

“Then what are we going to do? We have to get across to reach the headland.”

The Captain squinted in the glare and came to his decision.

“Tobias take your shirt off my head.”

“Why?”

Resisting the urge to snap and make his request an order, Jean-Luc kept his tone gentle.

“Just do it Tobias, I have an idea.”

Deciding to obey his father, Tobias gently untied his shirt and inspected the wound before offering the shirt to the man. Jean-Luc smiled his thanks and asked,

“How is it?”

Tobias grimaced.

“It still looks really bad, but it’s stopped bleeding.”

Jean-Luc smiled but had to close his eyes as the glare from the shells was making his hideous headache worse.

“That’s good. Now what I want you to do is tear the shirt in half.”

Tobias’s voice took on a suspicious note.

“Why?”

With his patience wearing very thin, Jean-Luc only just curbed the urge to shout.

“Because I want you to tie the halves around your feet.”

Tobias thought about that and shook his head.

“But what about your feet?”

Jean-Luc took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“Tobias I have only one functioning foot, I can’t even feel the other one. My foot will be fine. Please…cover your feet.”

The boy shook his head again.

“But Papa…”

At the end of his tether, Jean-Luc shouted,

“For God’s sake just do it will you!”

Startled by the outburst Tobias complied and tore the shirt in half then hastily tied the remnants to his feet.

Having regained control of himself, Jean-Luc said gently,

“Thank you Tobias, now if you’ll help me up we can get through that obstacle.”

It took over an hour and through it all Tobias remained silent, but his eyes kept drifting to his father’s feet, one dragging behind, sliced and gouged by the shells, the other deeply cut again and again as the man placed his weight upon it. As they rested every ten metres Jean-Luc stoically bore the pain, refusing to even look at his feet. When they finally reached the far side, Jean-Luc sank to the ground, trembling in pain. Tobias unwrapped his feet, seeing the fabric was sliced into tatters. He went to the water and soaked the material, returning to bathe his father’s feet. With horror he saw shards of shell embedded deeply in both feet.

Jean-Luc tried to speak but his voice failed him. With tears in his eyes he pointed at his feet and Tobias said in a shaking voice,

“Do you want me to pull them out?”

All he could do was nod. Swallowing his queasiness, Tobias spent the next half an hour removing what he could of the embedded shards from Jean-Luc’s feet. When his son left him to wash his bloody hands and wet the remains of his shirt, Jean-Luc fisted his hands and tried to stop the sobs that rose in his throat. After Tobias had cleaned his feet, he gently wiped away his father’s tears then tied the tattered remnants of the shirt around his waist.

They stayed where they were for twenty minutes while Jean-Luc tried to muster his waning strength. When he struggled to stand he knew he was fading fast, yet he doggedly pressed on. More for his son than for himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    The quiet of the Bridge was shattered by the Lieutenant at the aft science station.

“Commander there is a new weather system moving towards the Captain’s campsite.”

Will stood and faced aft.

“What’s the prediction?”

“It’s a cold front Sir, coming in off the sea. The temperature will drop dramatically; there will be storms, heavy rain and high winds.”

“How long will it last?”

“Approximately two full days Sir then it will improve markedly as a new high pressure system moves in.”

Deanna stood and asked,

“I take it Captain Picard took a fully integrated tent?”

Will nodded.

“Oh yes, it’s rated for storms and has full environmental controls. They’ll be quite comfortable…bored stiff, but safe, dry and warm.”

“And he has alternative means to prepare food and drink?”

Will nodded again.

“Yep, the whole kit and caboodle.”

Deanna gave a curt nod.

“Then there’s no need to worry. Besides if they don’t like it they can call for a shuttle. Put it out of your mind Will.”

The big man regained his seat and stared balefully at the planet.

“I still don’t like it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        The afternoon was drawing to a close and with it the sun was being hidden by gathering dark clouds. The two Humans continued their struggle along the beach, their progress growing progressively slower as pain and weakness took its toll on both of them. With a strangled groan of agony, Jean-Luc fell and rolled onto his side his entire body shuddering under the onslaught of pain. Tobias knelt beside his father, his hands fisting in frustration.

“Papa!”

It took Jean-Luc several minutes to find the strength to speak. His voice now a ragged parody of its usual mellifluous self.

“Tobias it will be dark soon, the weather is changing and I can’t go on. You must find shelter.”

The boy squinted down the beach, the rising wind whipping up the sand.

“It’s not that far now Papa…less than a kilometre. We can do it.”

Panting in distress, Jean-Luc closed his eyes.

“No son…we don’t even know if there’s shelter there. You must find somewhere…go…quickly before darkness and the weather close in.”

Tobias shook his head, his eyes welling with tears.

“But what about you?”

The Captain tried to find a smile but failed.

“You must forget about me Tobias and concentrate on yourself. Go…find somewhere to shelter until someone comes.”

His voice cracked when Tobias spoke.

“No! I won’t leave you Papa…I can’t!”

“You must! There is no point in both of us staying here in the open Tobias. You…”

The boy grabbed his father’s arm, the movement making Jean-Luc stifle a groan.

“No! Maman left me and I couldn’t do anything about it. I’m not going to lose you too…not now that I’ve only just found you.”

Jean-Luc’s eyes filled with tears, his own ragged voice breaking.

“Tobias…my son…I have lived a very full life. It may be that now is my time…don’t make it worse by putting yourself in danger because of me. Live Tobias…grow up and become the man you were meant to be.”

Tobias broke down and sobbed.

“No Papa I want to stay with you.”

Jean-Luc took his son’s hand and managed a smile.

“Go Tobias…you’ll be fine. Please…go.”

The boy stood and looked down the beach with uncertainty. Jean-Luc looked up at the boy and urged him on.

“That’s it son…go and find somewhere to shelter.”

Taking a few hesitant steps, Tobias glanced back at his father to see the man watching him with obvious love and pride.

“Remember me Tobias.”

Nodding mutely Tobias started to walk away, his faltering steps growing faster and faster until he broke into a run, sprinting down the beach, tears streaming down his cheeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      As the day drew to a close on the Enterprise, Beverly wandered through the corridors on her way to Jean-Luc’s quarters. Now feeling normal, she wistfully wondered what her lover was doing at that moment.

“Thinking about dinner I bet.”

With a smile, she realised she could now think about food without disastrous consequences. She indulged in a gentle soliloquy.

“Hmm, what will I have? Umm…beef stir fry? No…lamb casserole? No…oh I know…Steak, chips and salad. Yes!”

The doors whispered open and she went into the bedroom, tapping her com badge as she walked.

“Crusher to Bridge.”
“Bridge here.”

“Has there been any contact with Captain Picard?”

“No Doctor, although communications are open…we have contact with the site.”

Beverly thoughtfully ran her hands through her hair.

“Okay Thank you, Crusher out.”

She sat on the bed and toed off her boots.

“No contact eh? What are you doing Jean-Luc…and why haven’t you contacted me?”

After her shower she replicated her dinner and ate slowly, somewhat disgruntled that her lover was being so reticent. Over a cup of coffee she sighed and shrugged.

“Oh well, I suppose he’s busy enjoying himself with his son…but boy, do I have some news for you my love.”

She rubbed her forehead and sighed deeply.

“And just how are you going to take it?”

She disposed of her dishes and ambled over to the sofa where she sat and stared out of the viewport, wondering how her lover would take the news of her pregnancy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Lieutenant Commander Farrel Stevin was bone tired. His days were spent at the ruins and most of his evenings were spent in the lab, going over the findings. What little sleep he was getting was often interrupted by bad dreams, something he was unused to. As for the ruins, instead of solving the mystery, they seemed to only get deeper mired in the enigma. The previous day they had reached the deepest part of the subterraneous section and what they discovered completely threw the scientist for a loop. Expecting to find ever-increasingly ancient artefacts, they instead found alien technology that had, so far, defeated the Federation’s finest computers. It made little sense. Why would they find technology at the deepest, and therefore oldest, sections of their explorations? And why didn’t their technology function at the site? Stevin was aware of M’Rak’s report that limited technology was functioning at Captain Picard’s campsite and he wondered if the twenty-eight mile distance was the reason, but when he pondered the periodic breakdown in communications with the Captain’s site, he was stymied in his thinking. None of what he knew so far, which admittedly was very little, made any logical sense.

He was due to report to Commander Riker and,  as he packed his PADDs into his briefcase he wondered what, exactly, he was going to say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Will and Deanna were seated around the dining table, sipping coffee, having finished their dinner. When the door chimed, Will leaned back in his chair and sighed.

“That’ll be Stevin. I asked him to come by at this hour to fit in with his schedule. Do you mind?”

Deanna smiled and shook her head.

“Not at all. You two can use the living area…I’ll go have a shower, then I’ll sit in bed and read.”

Will offered a rakish grin and winked.

“Thanks…I’ll make it up to you.”

He lifted his head and called,

“Come in.”

As Deanna sent him a saucy smile. Stevin entered and the two men settled on the sofa.

Twenty minutes later Will’s good humour was wearing thin. For the fourth time he ran his hand through his hair and shook his head.

“But that tells us nothing! We need to know who built those ruins, where did they go and why?”

Farrel briefly closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

“Commander I know you want answers but right now I can’t give you any. This site is like nothing I’ve ever seen before and the more we study it, the more we find that we simply don’t understand.”

Will looked deeply into the older man’s eyes and grunted.

“And our computers? Our databanks?”

Farrel’s smile was sardonic.

“They have no idea what they’re processing. There’s nothing comparable in the databanks Commander. We’re seeing technology that’s completely alien to us, but the really weird thing is, so far the evidence we’ve found, points to a race of beings that appear to be quite unsophisticated…primitive even. What the hell they were they doing with the technology we’ve come across…hell, it’s anybody’s guess. On the face of it I doubt they knew what it was.”

Will sat back and crossed his legs, propping his chin in his hand. After mulling over the mystery for a few minutes he shrugged.

“Okay…are we dealing with two civilisations? Maybe one developed the technology, left or died out and the more primitive people inherited what was left at a much later time.”

Stevin nodded enthusiastically.

“That’s the way we’ve been leaning…it’s the only scenario that makes sense. But there is so little evidence of whoever was here, be it new or old. I just wish we could crack the technology…or at least the writings we’ve found. They’re pictograms, but like nothing we’ve ever seen before. And of course we don’t know who wrote it.”

Will stood, bringing the report to an end.

“Well keep at it Commander. At the moment Starfleet is content for us to stay here so time’s not a problem.”

As the big man walked his guest to the door, he gently gripped the man’s shoulder.

“Commander LaForge tells me we might be able to scan through whatever it is that’s blocking us soon. Keep your fingers crossed.”

Stevin smiled and bowed his head.

“I’ll do that Sir. Good night.”

Will returned to his lover and sat heavily on the bed, rubbing his tired eyes. Deanna lowered her book and frowned.

“You’re exhausted.”

With an amused snort, Will dropped his hands and grinned sardonically.

“You need to be an empath to tell that?”

The pillow hit his head and he fell back on the mattress, his hand over his heart.

“My God…smote by a midget.”

The book hit his chest. He rolled over and propped his chin on his hands.

“Okay...truce?”

With a haughty lift of her chin, Deanna attempted to ignore Will as he slowly made his way up the bed. She turned her head and stared at the ceiling as he slowly undid the ribbon on her nightie. When his hot mouth closed over her nipple she moaned softly and cradled his head in her hands, gently pulling him closer. She had intended to tell him he needed his rest, but that thought fled in the wake of her quickly escalating desire. She didn’t hear Will say,

“Lights down to ten percent.”

An hour later she was sound asleep, sated and boneless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           Tobias ran headlong down the beach until he could run no further. With a cry of deep anguish he sprawled in the sand, his chest heaving as sobs wracked his body. In the gathering gloom the now cold wind brought driving rain that soaked him in seconds, making him shiver. Driven by desperation, he staggered to his feet and stumbled forward, holding his hand in front of his face to protect his eyes from the stinging rain. The bluish flash of sudden light heralded the ominous rumble of thunder, but in that instant of light the boy saw something that made him come to an abrupt halt. In front of him, no more that thirty metres or so, lay a finger of rock snaking across the beach to reach out into the wild surf. His eyes following the rocky outcrop inland, Tobias waited until the next lightning flash to see that the rocks grew in size and rose in an ever-increasing mound until they merged into the side of a cliff. Trembling with fear and hope, the lad waited for the next flash, unaware he was holding his breath. When it came he cried out in shock as the bolt struck nearby, the accompanying crash of thunder driving him to his knees. But as frightened as he was, his eyes had faithfully recorded the sight of a slit in the rocky façade. He got to his feet and made for it, climbing over and around the rocks by the light of the flashes. Twice he fell, painfully scraping his hands and knees but he kept going, the grain of hope in his chest slowly growing.

At the base of the cleft was a confused tangle of driftwood, driven up by previous stormy seas. Carefully climbing over the precariously perched jumble, Tobias reached the top and peered inside, waiting for the next flash. It came and his heart soared. Heedless of his dangerous position, he turned to retrace his steps when his footing slipped. The tangle of wood collapsed and the boy fell several metres, landing heavily on his side, the blinding pain of breaking ribs causing him to black out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    As the pelting rain beat down on his unprotected body, Jean-Luc allowed the cold to permeate his being, hoping it would numb him enough so his demise might not be too painful. His thoughts troubled him and he worried how his son was doing, the fretting preventing him from finding peace. Along with thoughts of his son, Jean-Luc thought of his lover…his beloved Beverly. With a sigh he closed his eyes against the raging night and concentrated on her image, smiling slightly as the wanted, and needed feeling of contentment settled over him. Determined to hold on to her in his mind, Jean-Luc relaxed his body and gave in to the dreadful pain and weariness, letting it carry him into oblivion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Tobias blinked in confusion as the rain battered his face. A bolt of lightning seared the black sky and the following clap of thunder rolled and muttered above him for several seconds. He rolled sluggishly onto his side and cried out in pain as his chest registered its injury. He got to his knees and looked up to find he had slipped between two boulders. Knowing he was unable to climb up, he instead sought a way around the rocks, eventually finding he could squeeze through the gap left where the roundish lumps met. That left him with a relatively easy climb over a jumble of smaller rocks until he was once again on top and moving back towards the beach. With each step he took, a deep shaft of hot pain shot down his right leg. He placed his hand over his hip and groaned piteously, but he didn’t stop, determined to make it back to his father.

Once on the sand he attempted to run, but all he could manage was a stumbling trot, the pain every time his right foot struck and each time he breathed was almost overwhelming, but in the blinding rain he doggedly pressed on.

When he thought he’d run far enough, Tobias stopped and waited for a lightning flash. The storm was moving on, travelling inland so the flashes were becoming more infrequent. As the wind and rain intensified, Tobias was finally rewarded with a weak flickering. He scanned the beach in desperation, but saw nothing. Sobbing in fear and anguish he stumbled forwards, blindly hurrying as fast as he could across the sodden sand. With his arms outstretched in front of him, and his eyes mere slits against the wind and rain, Tobias was unprepared in the inky blackness to have his feet strike something solid. He was sent sprawling, his spiking pain nullified by the cry of alarm from close by. Wrenching his head around and searching blindly with his hands, Tobias came across the body of his father. His questing fingers encountered the bolts in his chest as he sought somewhere to grip.

“Papa!”

The man groaned and coughed wetly.

“Tobias?”

He croaked.

“Yes Papa it’s me!”

Jean-Luc lifted a hand and in the darkness found Tobias’. He summoned his ragged voice to speak.

“Why are you here?”

The boy squeezed the hand, ignoring how cold it was.

“I found somewhere Papa…come on, it’s not far.”

Jean-Luc sighed and shook his head.

“I can’t Tobias.”

The boy’s voice grew frantic.

“Yes you can! Please Papa you must try…I’ll help you.”

Tears mingled with the rain and Jean-Luc struggled to speak.

“Please Tobias…leave me…it’s over.”

Jerking his hand up and causing the man to yell, Tobias held the hand against his face and squeezed it with all his might.

“No it’s not! Please Papa…please…I beg you…try…please Papa, don’t leave me!”

Hearing the desperate anguish in his son’s voice Jean-Luc knew he had to do as he wanted. Summoning the last spark within him, he lifted his head and pulled the boy to his chest.

“All right my sweet son…for you.”

It took several minutes to get Jean-Luc upright and the pain it caused both of them was phenomenal, but eventually Tobias was able to steer his father down the beach. Whether or not they would make it was in the lap of the Gods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   It took over four hours for the pair to reach the rock cleft. Their journey was tortuous, filled with pain and uncertainty as they stumbled and fell again and again during their slow, arduous trek. Jean-Luc’s feet were painfully swollen and his other injuries made it almost impossible for him to go on, but he kept struggling forwards, determined to do all he could for his son. Tobias was past feeling the pain in his chest and leg. Twice he stopped and coughed up rusty tasting fluid but in the darkness he couldn’t see what it was. With his father’s weight driving his small body down, he rose repeatedly to support the man and steer him towards the shelter. At the Base of the cleft, Tobias steadied his father and wiped at the water streaming down his face.

“We’re here Papa. Just a little climb…that’s all. Can you do it?”

Jean-Luc looked up, squinting his eyes against the rain but saw nothing in the darkness. He shook his head and tried to catch his breath.

“I can’t see anything.”

Tobias took his hand and squeezed it.

“I’ll go first, you follow me.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“Have you been inside?”

“No Papa.”

Jean-Luc gently pulled his son closer.

“There might be animals inside. Have the phaser ready.”

Tobias stared up at the fissure and swallowed, fear shining in his eyes.

“Yes Papa.”

Obeying his father, he dug the phaser out of his pocket and activated it. Somewhat emboldened by the little green lights, he began to slowly climb, feeling his father close behind him. It was a slow fifteen minutes before the boy stepped into the cleft. Remembering what he’s seen in the lightning flash, he bent low and moved forwards, saying over his shoulder,

“Duck your head Papa.”

Jean-Luc grunted, his ability to speak long gone after the rigours of the climb.

Tobias crept three metres inside, knowing then the fissure curved to the left then opened up. What lay beyond that he didn’t know.

With his attention divided between his struggling father and the blackness in front of him, Tobias was completely unprepared for the sudden panicked exit of a flock of large birds. The frantic flapping and raucous cawing made the boy yell with fright and drop to the floor. Jean-Luc fell forward and managed to get one arm over his head as the riotous cacophony raged overhead. With the same suddenness that it started, there was an abrupt silence when the last bird had fled. Dust, dung and feathers wafted down, making both Humans cough, Tobias groaning piteously as pain wracked his body. Jean-Luc felt for him in the dark and gripped his leg. Finding the remnants of his voice, he managed,

“What’s wrong?”

Spitting out more salty fluid from his mouth, Tobias was about to speak when a low, menacing growl was heard coming from the darkness in front of them. Something large moved and Tobias clearly heard an inhalation of breath. His bladder threatened to empty as he whispered in terror,

“Papa?”

Jean-Luc was about to tell the boy to give him the phaser when the beast roared and charged. If not for the tremendous noise it made, Tobias would never have been able to fire the weapon. He instinctively aimed at the noise and pressed the trigger. In the blinding orange light of the phaser discharge the boy screamed and wet himself as a huge bear-like animal stood on its hind legs, its forearms raised and clawed paws poised to rip him to shreds. Held rigid in the deadly beam, the smell of burning fur and roasting flesh filled the cave as the beast let out a blood-curdling scream of surprise and pain.

Mouth agape in a silent scream of his own, Tobias’s fingers were paralysed, locked in one position around the phaser. A large hole appeared in the beast’s chest as the energy beam went through the carcass and struck the far wall of the cave allowing the dead animal to pitch forward, its falling head knocking Tobias off his knees. The phaser, still firing in Tobias’s paralysed hand, swept upwards, cutting a swathe across the roof of the cave. Jean-Luc dragged himself over his son and grabbed his hand, prising his fingers open and releasing the trigger. In the sudden blackness Tobias screamed again and frantically gripped his father’s arm.

“Is it dead? Is it dead?”

Jean-Luc felt for his son’s face and pulled him close.

“Yes! It’s dead…it can’t hurt you…it’s over…it’s over.”

The boy buried his head in his father’s neck and sobbed, his hands clasping weakly at Jean-Luc’s shoulders.

Many minutes later Tobias took a deep breath and lifted his head. Jean-Luc ignored the pain to lift his hand to stroke the boy’s head.

“All right now?”

Tobias’s voice was still unsteady but he nodded.

“Yes. Papa I wet my pants.”

The Captain closed his eyes, struggling to stay conscious.

“It doesn’t matter. Tobias we need light and warmth in here. Do you think you can bring in some of the wood from outside? We can light it with the phaser and create a fire.”

Unwilling to leave his father and terrified by what else he may find in the dark, Tobias struggled to find the courage to do as his father asked. Knowing his father was right, coupled with the worry for the man; Tobias eventually swallowed and separated himself from Jean-Luc. Shaking with shock and fear, the boy went outside and spent twenty minutes gathering wood in the rain and wind. Piece by piece he dragged the wood into the cave and stacked it by the far wall. When he thought they had enough, he judged where the middle of the floor was, then making sure his father was a safe distance away; he then made a pile of wood and aimed the phaser. The bright flash of energy showed Tobias two things. One was the dead beast; the other was his father, lying very still. Once the fire was going, Tobias went to his father only to find the man unconscious. The boy rolled him onto his side and curled up in front of him, facing the fire. Exhaustion, pain and lack of food and water took its toll and the lad succumbed to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                With the dawn a misty rain swirled around the abandoned campsite. Eight aliens methodically removed all traces of the Human’s habitation, even the fire ash was removed and the ground restored to its pristine state. The wood was taken and placed reverently around the base of the ruined tree and, as the leader oversaw the work, it scanned silently with its instrument. The last thing they did before they melted back into the bush carrying the equipment was to take the pattern enhancers.

On the Enterprise the Ensign at Tactical sighed and shook her head. Keeping her voice low in the subdued lighting of the night watch, she said,

“Lieutenant we’ve just lost contact with Captain Picard’s site again.”

Lieutenant Symonds grunted, but didn’t turn around.

“Noted. Keep monitoring the situation.”

“Aye Sir.”

Symonds pulled her pony tail tighter and scowled.

“Bloody planet.”

She then put in a call to Will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Later that morning Beverly injected herself having had a shower and dressed. Feeling much better, she approached the replicator with confidence and ordered her usual…coffee and croissants. She smiled at the habit, something she and he lover indulged in often. Her buoyant mood sobered however as she realised she would probably have to alter her breakfast regime for something a little more healthy.

Breakfast over, she tidied the room, but before she left to commence her shift, she tapped her com badge.

“Crusher to Bridge.”
“Bridge here Doctor.”

“Has there been any word from Captain Picard?”

“No Doctor, but at the moment we’re not expecting any.”

Beverly frowned.

“Why?”

“Because communications to his site are down at the moment.”

The frown deepened.

“Down? Explain.”

“We’ve been experiencing periodic failure of contact with the site, but don’t worry it comes back pretty quickly.”

“And then you talk to Captain Picard?”

“Ah…not exactly.”

Anger began to build in the Doctor.

“To whom am I speaking?”

Hearing the ire, the Lieutenant winced silently, berating herself for being so casual.

“Officer of the watch, Lieutenant Symonds Sir.”

“Well Lieutenant I want a full explanation. What the hell’s been going on?”

“Ever since Captain Picard went down to the surface we’ve been having short periods of failed communications. It rarely lasts more that twenty minutes. The first few times it happened we hailed the Captain, but he became a little…annoyed…by our…what he referred to as ‘over bearing attitude.’ I spoke to him Sir and he told me to ignore the breaks and to desist in contacting him. He said he would call us when he was ready. I informed Commander Riker of the Captain’s wishes and he concurred Sir.”

Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose and took a deep breath.

“That man!”

“How long has the contact been broken?”

With a quick raised eyebrow to the Ensign at Tactical, the lieutenant received her silently mouthed answer.

“Eighteen minutes Doctor.”

“Very well, keep me informed, I want to know the instant you regain contact.”

“Aye Sir. Bridge out.”

Once the channel was closed, Beverly tapped her badge again.

“Crusher to Riker.”

Will’s reply was cheerful.

“Riker here, good morning Beverly.”

Ignoring his greeting, Beverly launched into her tirade.

“Why the hell didn’t you let me know about the communications blackouts we’ve been having with the Captain’s site?”

The Doctor heard Will’s resigned sigh and it made her angrier.

“Because they’re of short duration and the Captain himself told us not to worry over them.”

“Bloody hell Will…how long has it been since anybody spoke to him?”

“A little over forty-eight hours.”

Beverly’s voice rose.
“And you’re not concerned? I don’t believe you Will! How the hell can you idly sit up there twiddling your damned thumbs when you don’t know if your commanding officer is all right or not!?”

There was some disgruntled muttering before Beverly heard Deanna’s patient voice.

“Beverly I told Will to stop worrying and leave the Captain alone. In my opinion the last thing Captain Picard needed was over officious people intruding on his very private time with his son, and I still hold to that notion.”

Beverly didn’t even try to keep the exasperation out of her voice.

“But it’s been over forty-eight hours Deanna! And he hasn’t contacted me either!”

There was a momentary silence before Will’s cautious voice was heard.

“He hasn’t spoken to you?”

“No!”

There was a muttered…“Bloody hell!” before Beverly again heard Will’s voice.

“Okay Beverly, as soon as we regain contact I’ll hail him…and I’ll let you know.”

“How long will you wait?”

“Well I’m due on duty in ten minutes, so once I’ve got an up-to-date report I’ll assess the situation.”

Somewhat calmer but not completely mollified, Beverly sighed with resignation.

“Okay Will, Crusher out.”

She stood motionless for a moment, pensively chewing her lower lip. Suddenly in motion, she scooped up her lab coat and whooshed out the door, her step determined.

Her first port-of-call was Sick Bay. Having ascertained all was running with the usual efficiency, she went to her office and summoned Selar. Once the Vulcan physician was in attendance, Beverly spoke.

“I will be on the Bridge for the foreseeable future. If I’m needed, don’t hesitate to call me.”

With a slight bow of the head, Selar acknowledged her superior.

“Aye Sir.”

Beverly’s staff lifted their heads to observe her exit from Sick Bay. Her brisk step and set face told them something was amiss.

The turbo lift opened onto the Bridge to allow Beverly to hear the last bit of Will’s conversation.

“…then we’ll give it another hour.”

Taking her customary seat to the left of Deanna’s usual spot, Beverly endured the scrutiny of the empath, studiously ignoring her probing mind. The Doctor waited patiently as Will went about his normal duties and it wasn’t until he gained his seat that she spoke.

“Well?”

Will tucked in his chin and cast Deanna a quick glance.

“We’ve decided to wait until midday.”

Keeping her voice even with difficulty, Beverly clenched her jaw.

“But that’s three and a half hours away.”

“I know.”

Unable to contain herself, Beverly stood and said the gritted teeth,

“May I see you in the Ready Room please Commander?”

Closing his eyes briefly and resisting the urge to sigh, Will stood and nodded.

“Of course”

As he passed Deanna he gave her a surreptitious gesture and she rose, following the pair into Jean-Luc’s office. As soon as they were all inside and the doors closed, Beverly rounded on the big man.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Will’s face hardened but he held up his hands in a placating manner.

“Now just hold on a minute Beverly.”

The red head was incensed.

“Hold on? Hold on to what Will? Hold on to the thought that Jean-Luc and Tobias could be ill or hurt?”

Will’s voice became hard.

“We don’t know that!”

Beverly’s voice rose.

I know…and that’s the bloody trouble…we don’t know anything!”

Deanna attempted to diffuse the volatile situation that was quickly escalating into a shouting match.

“Beverly…calm down! In all probability Captain Picard and Tobias are fine. You know how he is…his privacy is tantamount to him.”

Beverly took a deep breath and pressed a hand against her forehead.

“Yes of course I know…but Deanna he hasn’t contacted me! He’s never failed to keep in contact with me whenever he’s left the ship. Not in nine years! Now do you honestly think I’m panicking for no reason?”

Before Deanna could answer, Will grabbed Beverly’s arm.

“Not once? Not once in nine years?”

“No…well except when he’s been on covert missions where contact was forbidden, but that’s not the case here is it?”

Her incredulous look made Will grimace.

“Okay you have a point but I’m still going to go with Dee. I’ll wait ‘til midday then, if we still can’t contact him, I’ll send someone down.”

Bevery’s glare was tempered by Deanna’s gentle voice.

“Give them a chance Beverly, the Captain…and Will knows what they’re doing.”

The Doctor closed her eyes and lowered her head.

“I suppose but these next few hours are going to be hell.”

Deanna took Beverly’s hand and squeezed gently.

“We’ll be with you.”

The red head nodded, her smile wry.

“You’d better be.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Tobias woke up crying. His body hurt in many places but breathing was causing him agony. Smelling strongly of urine, he felt wretched as he struggled into a sitting position. By the dim shaft of light penetrating the gloom of the cave, he shuffled on his backside to the remains of the fire and poked a stick through the ash, seeing if there were any embers with no enthusiasm. The coughing fit took him unawares and he doubled over, a strangled cry torn from his throat. The blood that dribbled from his mouth went unseen but he knew something was desperately wrong. He caught some of the liquid in his hand and made his way to the light, the sight of the blood making him cry harder. It was several minutes before he controlled himself. He went back into the cave and piled up some more wood before setting it alight with the phaser. He cast a look at his father, but the man was still unconscious. With great reluctance the boy left the cave and ventured out into the rainy day, making his slow way over the rocks to the first pool he came across. There he stripped off his clothing and washed both himself and the garments. He washed the remnants of his shirt and made sure to wet the tatters thoroughly. Then naked, he slowly worked his way back to the cave, making the climb by holding his trousers, briefs and shirt in his mouth.

After setting his clothes to dry by the fire, he went to his father and wiped the wet pieces of shirt over his face. The heat coming from the man’s skin troubled the boy and, by the light of the fire, he could see the flesh around the bolts was an angry red. He moved to Jean-Luc’s feet, stifling a sob at the hideous sight. Both feet were grossly swollen, the cuts exuding serum and pus. He knew there were pieces of shell embedded deep in the flesh that he had been unable to remove and he wondered how his father had borne the pain when he walked.

As he worked his way up his father’s body, he inadvertently bumped one of the bolts. Jean-Luc groaned and retched, bringing up a small quantity of bile and blood. Tobias gently stroked his father’s face, calling softly,

“Papa…Papa can you hear me?”

One of Jean-Luc’s eyes fluttered then cracked open. Disoriented and confused, the Captain tried to take a deep breath but contorted as he was wracked by coughing. Tobias held his hand, waiting for the spasm to pass. Eventually Jean-Luc looked up at his son, a deep frown on his face. His voice was deep and ragged.

“Where are we?”

Choking back his tears, Tobias replied,

“In a cave.”

He looked sideways at the dead beast lying only two metres away and shuddered.

“Remember Papa? We came in last night…it was raining and there were birds…then that…”

He turned his head and Jean-Luc’s eyes followed. The Captain grunted and tried to sit up, failing miserably. Tobias wrapped his arms around the man’s chest and together they managed to get Jean-Luc into a sitting position. Coughing wetly, Jean-Luc groaned and tried to lift his hands to his mouth but it was useless. He took a moment to get his breath then summoned what was left of his voice.

“Is there any fresh water in the cave?”

Tobias shrugged.

“I don’t know.”

Jean-Luc swallowed and gathered his strength.

“Is it still raining?”

“Yes.”

Panting gently, Jean-Luc raised a wan smile.

“Well some of the rainwater may have found its way down the walls. Can you check?”

Unwilling to leave his father, Tobias nonetheless rose and limped past the carcass of the dead beast, but was stymied by darkness. He returned to the fire and picked up a flaming stick and, holding it aloft, went to the deep recesses of the cave. There he found what his father had hoped for. Trickling down the far wall was a small stream of water. It gathered in an indentation then overflowed and seeped across the floor to disappear in a crack on the other side.

“Papa! I found some water.”

The boy tasted the liquid and called,

“And it’s fresh.”

Unable to raise his voice, Jean-Luc spoke softly.

“Good. Can you bring me some?”

Tobias didn’t hear all that his father said but he understood enough to know what he wanted. Moving as quickly as he could, he went back outside and went down to the rock pool, his eye searching for what he sought. It was the gleam of whiteness that gave the partially buried shell away. With nimble fingers the boy soon had the shell in his hands. His climb back up to the cave was tricky but he made it and went straight to the water, washing the large shell before filling it. When he got back to his father, Jean-Luc was sitting, slumped against the rock wall, his eyes closed. Tobias dipped his fingers into the water and rubbed them on the man’s lips.

“Papa?”

Jean-Luc’s tongue appeared and he opened his mouth. Tobias held up the shell and the Captain drank greedily. When all the water was gone, Jean-Luc cleared his throat and asked the boy,

“Have you had some?”

Tobias shrugged.

“I’m not thirsty.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“Well you should be. Drink Tobias...please."

Shrugging, but willing to obey his father, Tobias went back to the little pool and waited while it refilled. He then leaned down and drank noisily until the pool was again empty. He then rejoined his father.

“Can you put some more wood on the fire? I want to see more.”

In silence the boy complied and soon the darkness shrank before the firelight. Jean-Luc pointed to the carcass.

“We need to eat. Do you think you can phaser off a forelimb? If not, give me the phaser and I’ll have a go.”

Tobias stared at the dead body, unable to suppress the shudder that passed through him. He silently went to his trousers and fished out the weapon, activating it and again staring at the carcass. With a grimace he slowly approached it and tentatively reached out, gripping the wicked claws and tugging. The limb was stiff and unmoving. Seeing that he would have to get closer, the boy started to tremble. When he was nearer the body, he identified the shoulder region and pointed the phaser. The energy discharge made him yelp but he kept his hand relatively steady and the limb was quickly severed. The smell of burning fur and charred flesh made his stomach lurch, but swallowing his bile, the boy dragged the limb back to his father.

“Well done Tobias. Now when the fire dies down a little, I want you to throw the limb on the coals. We need to burn off the fur and cook the meat as much as possible. In the meantime I want you to drink some more, then bring me more water please.”

Drinking more was the last thing Tobias wanted to do. He felt nauseous and frightened and all he wanted to do was sit quietly with his father. It was Jean-Luc’s gentle urging that finally drove him to obey. Once both of them had drunk they settled down to wait for the fire to burn down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Beverly stayed on the Bridge and as the hour of noon approached she became increasingly restless. Will ignored her fidgeting, but Deanna cast her a look and raised her eyebrows. The Doctor grimaced and shrugged.

“I can’t help it.”

Deanna was about to say more when Will stood and faced aft, saying to the Tactical Officer,

“What is our status with Captain Picard’s campsite?”

The Ensign raised her head and frowned.

“Still down Sir.”

Will scratched his cheek just as a call came from Geordi.

“Engineering to Bridge.”

Beverly suppressed the urge to make Will send someone immediately. She knew the ship was more important than one man, even if that man was Jean-Luc Picard.

“Bridge here, go ahead.”

“Commander we’ve been tinkering with the sensors…I’ve re-routed some warp power and tweaked the couplings. I think we may have a little more success now. With your permission I’ll come up to oversee the scan.”

Will nodded grimly.

“Permission granted. Bridge out.”

He then turned to Beverly.

“I think it would be best to see how this pans out before we send anyone down to the surface. A few more minutes won’t make much difference either way.”

Stifling the heated words that teetered on the tip of her tongue, Beverly instead nodded once and settled into her seat, staring stoically at the viewscreen. Geordi’s appearance minutes later only served to raise the already tense atmosphere another notch.

He went to the aft science station and called.

“We’re ready Commander.”

Will focussed his attention on the screen and said in a low voice,

“Begin scans.”

Several minutes passed before the Chief Engineer growled softly.

“We still can’t punch all the way through…but I’m getting some screwy readings here. What do you have Data?”

The android at Ops studied his console and twitched his head to one side.

“Inconclusive Geordi. Can you augment the forward array eight more percent?”

“Wait…how’s that?”

Data frowned down at his readouts then made some adjustments to his instruments. His voice remained steady, but those present could hear the wonder in it when he spoke.

“Commander we are detecting a power source…very large and seemingly connected to a network of conduits that extend throughout the target area…and beyond. There appears to be…areas of concentration…situated at various places, exemplified by round ground level portals.”

Will strode to Data’s position and placed his foot on the base of the pillar, resting his elbow on his bent knee.

“What kind of power source?”

Data’s fingers danced over the console, his face a study in concentration.

“Unknown, however it is responsible for the cloak. The output is in the terawatt range…extremely powerful. It appears to be cyclic…the emanations are undulating, suggesting a pulse generator.”

Will rubbed his finger through his beard thoughtfully.

“How precisely can we pinpoint it? Would it be possible to take it out with a phaser strike?”

Data looked up at the big man, his frown one of worry.

“I would advise against that Commander. We do not yet know the purpose of the generator or its relation to the planet as a whole.”

Will scowled.

“But although we can detect the power source, we still can’t scan the rest of the surface. I would like to remedy that if we can.”

Geordi walked down into the Command well and folded his arms.

“I’m with Data Commander. Until we know exactly what that generator is doing, I advise caution. We simply don’t know enough yet.”

Will straightened and pursed his lips in thought.

“All right, I agree we should wait until we know more, but I want that power source targeted and phasers ready to take it out if need be.”

The Ensign at Tactical inputted the required commands and offered,

“Phasers ready and target locked Sir.”

With his eyes drifting to Beverly, the First Officer raised a small smile.

“Good. Now…Mr.Data I want you, Lieutenant M’Rak and a security detail to take a shuttle and go to the Captain’s campsite. Once there I want you to verify the Captain and his son are in good health then I want you to ask Captain Picard to contact Doctor Crusher…post haste.”

Data stood and nodded.

“Aye Sir…and Commander, one of the portal areas appears to be close to the Captain’s site. May I have permission to investigate it Sir?”

Will gripped the android’s shoulder.

“By all means Mr.Data.”

Beverly smiled wanly as Data left the Bridge, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Tobias looked dubiously at the blackened limb. The cave was filled with the smell of burning meat and, as he hooked the limb out of the coals his nose wrinkled with distaste. Jean-Luc had been dozing fitfully, the pain of his injuries precluding real sleep and his eyes opened when the embers crackled. He watched silently as the boy rolled the meat over the cave floor, closer to his father. Tobias looked up to see the man awake.

“What do you think Papa?”

Summoning an encouraging smile, Jean-Luc nodded his head.

“It looks about right. When it cools a little we can taste it.”

Silence descended while the two contemplated their meal. Jean-Luc shifted slightly and winced, Tobias immediately at his side. The Captain gently patted his son’s leg and gave a lopsided smile.

“I’m all right.”

Unconvinced, Tobias stared at the oozing wounds in his father’s torso and shook his head.

“I wish I could take them out Papa.”

Jean-Luc squinted down at his body and snorted.

“So do I son, but while they’re in me, they’re stopping the bleeding.”

Tobias grunted.

“Well…outside maybe, but what about inside Papa?”

Wishing to deflect this line of thought, Jean-Luc smiled and looked into his son’s eyes.

“You decided to call me Papa?”

The lad frowned.

“Do you mind?”

With a shake of his head, Jean-Luc ignored the pain to lift his hand to reach for the boy.

“No not at all, in fact I quite like it. I used to call my father Papa.”

Tobias looked down at their joined hands and sniffed quietly. In a small voice he said,

“Sometimes…not often, but sometimes Maman would say “Your Papa” did this or “Your Papa” did that…I never took much notice…I didn’t want to know about my father…it was just Maman and me and that was fine. But when I thought you were dead I realised I wanted to call you Papa. It somehow felt…right.”

Hearing these soft words in his native tongue made Jean-Luc see how important this was to his son. The connection to France was tenuous but undeniable and Jean-Luc decided then and there, that if he survived he would do everything in his power to introduce his son to his heritage. He smiled at the boy, tears making his eyes twinkle.

“Well I’m delighted…and very proud.”

Tobias grinned at the man then looked down at the meat.

“I think it’s cooled a bit.”

Jean-Luc hid a grimace and tried to sound optimistic.

“Fine. Who goes first?”

Tobias grabbed one of the claws and pulled the lump closer. Using his fingers he gingerly picked at the meat until a small strip peeled off. He gave his father a look of deep suspicion and tipped his head up, opening his mouth and guiding the meat inside. He closed his eyes and chewed experimentally, his screwed up face telling Jean-Luc it wasn’t exactly tasty. With his father’s encouragement, Tobias peeled off some more and held it up to the man. The Captain took it into his mouth and chewed with determination, ignoring the crunching of grit between his teeth. It was tough and gamy but when he swallowed he did so with finality. If this was what was needed to survive, then they would eat every bit of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Data guided the shuttle to a flawless landing and waited patiently as the hatch opened. The group, comprising five in all, exited the little craft and immediately deployed their tricorders. Data looked up from his instrument and frowned.

“Captain Picard is not here.”

M’Rak joined the android and looked about in confusion.

“Neither is his camp.”

Data walked in a circle, his tricorder faithfully scanning. Bending down to get a closer look at the ground, Data shook his head.

“I do not understand. There are no signs of a campsite ever being here.”
He turned to the Vulcan Security Chief.

“Are you sure these are the right coordinates?”

M’Rak checked her tricorder and nodded.

“Yes Sir. I personally reconnoitred this area for the Captain…I recognise it Sir.”

Data’s wanderings had led him to the sheared tree. He frowned down at the stacked broken pieces of wood and tilted his head.

“This makes no sense. This tree has been harvested for wood, but the yield has not been utilised…nor can I find evidence of a fire. In fact I cannot find any trace that Captain Picard or his son were ever here.”

M’Rak joined her superior and scanned the wood, her eyebrows raised.

“Sir there are minute traces of multiple phaser discharges here…the wood retains the signature. Why would Captain Picard go to the trouble of getting the wood then leave before he used any of it?”

Data turned to the Lieutenant and asked,

“Do you think the Captain has moved his camp?”

The Vulcan shrugged.

“Well I do not see any other explanation Sir. It is obvious he never set up camp here…or we would be seeing evidence of it.”

Data frowned at the readings of his tricorder and said softly.

“I am not so sure Lieutenant. Come with me please.”

Leading the party into the bush, Data’s instrument guided them unerringly to the sand circles. Data dropped effortlessly to his knees and scanned thoroughly. M’Rak watched silently, bent at the waist, her face a study of expectation. When Data stood and snapped his tricorder closed, the Vulcan straightened.

“What is it Sir?”

“I do not know. These readings are anomalous…the sand should not be here and there is a faint energy residue emanating from an underground source.”

M’Rak frowned deeply.

“But the Enterprise detected power readings Sir, emanating from a source connected to conduits that radiate out from the origin. This area was identified as being one of the portals…you yourself briefed me on it. Why are you surprised by the readings?”

Data began to walk back to the shuttle.

“Because my readings indicate the portal was used…recently.”

M’Rak stopped and reached for the android’s arm.
“Are you suggesting the Captain and his son…somehow went down those sand circles?”

Data’s golden eyes never wavered.

“I am not suggesting anything of the sort Lieutenant, however Captain Picard should be here and he is not. Until we locate him and his son, I will entertain all hypotheses.”

M’Rak nodded and they began to walk again.

“What do you intend to do?”

Not slowing his determined step, Data answered over his shoulder.

“For now I will activate our pattern enhancers and contact the Enterprise. I believe I should discuss these developments with Commander Riker.”

Moving with swift efficiency, M’Rak and two others deployed the enhancers and activated them. Once the communication device was on line, the Vulcan nodded to the Second Officer.

“Ready Sir.”

Data stepped within the enhancers, nodding his acknowledgement.

“Thank you Lieutenant. Data to Enterprise.”

“Enterprise here. Go ahead.”

“Commander I am ready to make my report.”

Will’s voice was cheerfully optimistic.

“Great Data…how’s the Captain?”

With his emotion chip functioning, Data felt the apprehension inherent when he replied.

“Captain Picard is not here Sir.”

Will maintained his cheerfulness.

“Oh…what…has he gone exploring or something?”

“No Sir. Neither Captain Picard or his son are anywhere within our scanning area, nor is there any evidence they were ever here.”

There was a momentary silence before a slightly exasperated Commander spoke again.
“Are you saying he decided to camp elsewhere?”

Data found he needed to shrug and did so.

“Unknown Sir, but what I have found here suggests the Captain was here at some stage.”

Will’s voice took on an angry edge.

“Wait a minute Data. You just told me there was no evidence to say he was ever there…what’s going on?”

“Sir we have detected evidence of multiple phaser blasts in the remains of a dead tree. The energy signature is that of a Star Fleet phaser rifle. From that evidence I deduced that the Captain wished to gain firewood and my analysis tells me some of the wood is missing, but there is absolutely no evidence of a fire or even a pit. If Captain Picard did this to the tree I do not know what he did with the wood.”

Data could hear frustration building in Will’s voice.

“Well if he decided to make camp elsewhere he wouldn’t take the wood with him…that makes no sense, there’s plenty of wood around. Is there any sign that the tent was pitched?”

Data shook his head.

“None Sir. Apart from the decimated tree, this area is pristine; however the nearby sand portals show recent activity. I cannot explain this phenomenon.”

Will’s voice rose a notch.

“Is there any evidence that Captain Picard and his son used the portals?”

“No Sir.”

“Right! I’m sending down more personnel…I want the entire area gone over with a fine toothed comb…over a radius of five kilometres. I want you to coordinate the search and I want regular updates.”

“Understood Commander. Data out.”

On the Enterprise, Beverly stood and faced Will.

“I’m going down too.”

Will raised a hand and shook his head.

“Beverly…”

The red head shook her head vehemently.

“No Will…something’s wrong. You know as well as I the Captain would never have changed sites without informing the ship! And his very silence speaks volumes! Please…let me go down…or I’ll resign my commission and go anyway.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Will caught a surreptitious nod from Deanna. He lifted his chin and stared at his friend, seeing her absolute determination. He let out a long breath and nodded.

“Very well…but you keep in contact with us…understand?”

Beverly’s smile was fleeting, but warm.

“You got it!”

She left the Bridge in a whirl of blue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Sometime in the afternoon Jean-Luc opened his eyes to find Tobias’s head resting on his thigh. The boy was sleeping, but his twitching and occasional moans told the Captain it was not a restful sleep. The man’s eyes travelled over his son’s body, now clad in his trousers, and noted the livid bruising on one side of his chest as well as the angry red cuts and scrapes on his hands and elbows. When the lad suddenly convulsed in agonising coughing, Jean-Luc was dismayed to see blood dribble from the boy’s mouth. Such was his exhaustion, as soon as the coughing fit passed, Tobias slipped back to sleep. Jean-Luc rested his pounding head on the rock wall behind him and closed his blurry eyes wishing, not for the first time, that he had a communication device. He sighed shallowly and tried valiantly to ignore the persistent agony of his injuries.

“Come on Beverly…where are you? I haven’t contacted you in days…you know something’s wrong! Do something! Find us before it’s too late!”

He tried to take a deep breath but it caused him to cough, a deep, wet hacking that made him heave. He turned his head as he vomited, the bloody bile and meat remnants anointing his arm. Weak and in terrible pain he groaned softly and allowed tears to overflow his eyes. His whisper was soft in the dimness.

“Mon Dieu…aidez-nous, par pitie…aidez-nous.”

 

 

                  Beverly stepped from the shuttle, surrounded by a coterie of personnel. She could hear the sounds of many scanning tricorders and, after a quick reconnoitre, sought out M’Rak, the security leader. Her’s had been the third shuttle to land and she knew there might already be valuable information. To that end she approached the Vulcan.

“Report.”

The slender woman inclined her elegant head.

“There has been not a great deal more to find as yet Doctor, however we have detected DNA at the base of a tree.”

Beverly frowned.

“DNA? Who’s”

“We are still checking Sir, but by the sample I would hazard a guess that it does not belong to Captain Picard.”

That sharpened Beverly’s curiosity.

“Why?”

M’Rak offered her tricorder.

“Because it is a urine sample Doctor. The donor urinated against the tree and I am assuming Captain Picard would be reluctant to do that, considering he brought down a sanitary unit. It is my understanding the Captain would wish to preserve the integrity of the site as much as possible.”

Beverly allowed a faint smile.

“That is true M’Rak. So it is from his son. Anything else?”

“Not as yet Doctor.”

“Very well, keep at it.”

As Beverly surveyed her surroundings she knew she had to be patient. There were twenty well trained people searching for traces of her lover…something would turn up…she hoped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         Lieutenant Commander Farrel Stevin knelt at the base of a plinth and squinted through an old-fashioned magnifying glass. With most of his technological equipment inoperable, he had resorted to the tried and true methods of investigation, utilising any means at his disposal. The pictograms tickled something deep in his brain but, try as he might, he couldn’t make the required information surface. Sighing, he climbed stiffly to his feet and dusted off his pants. A soft voice behind him made him turn, the light from his cap making his companion shield his eyes.

“Sorry.”

“That’s okay Commander. Could you come topside Sir? There’s something I want to show you.”

With a brusque nod, Stevin followed his colleague to the surface and blinked his tearing eyes rapidly in the bright sunlight. He was led to an upright stone slab, the entire surface of which was covered with minute pictograms. Lieutenant McAveny pointed to the slab and snorted.

“You’re probably going to think I’m off my rocker Sir, but there are a series of pictograms that I think resemble early Acamarian picture language.”

It was as if a light had been turned on in Stevin’s head.

“Yes!”

He ran over to the shuttle and powered up. To his astonished companion he shouted,

“I’ll be back in a minute!”

Once the little ship had left the atmosphere, Stevin opened a channel to the Enterprise.

“Riker here Commander.”

“Sir may I have permission to bring some artefacts aboard? I need the Enterprise’s computers to do an in depth analysis.”

There was a brief hesitation before Will replied.

“Well it’s not what we intended Commander. Captain Picard was adamant about not disturbing the ruins.”

“I understand Sir, but we’ve discovered something that really needs clearing up and I can’t do it down here.”

Stevin heard Will’s sigh.

“Okay then but make it’s as small as possible and make sure whatever you take is returned unharmed and exactly as it was.”

Stevin’s grin transformed his cadaverous face.

“Understood Commander, thank you Sir.”

He piloted the shuttle back to the ruins and exited, calling to his staff.

“Come on you slackers…we’ve got work to do!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   It was early evening and darkness was creeping over the land. Inside the cave the fire had burned to a bed of smoking embers, the temperature dropping accordingly. Hunger gnawed at Jean-Luc, that and thirst, but Tobias still slept, his head pillowed on the Captain’s thigh. Sitting sideways to avoid the bolts in his back coming in contact with the wall, Jean-Luc had long ago lost the feeling in his buttock. Aside from the pain of his many injuries, he now had shooting pains the length of his back, courtesy of his awkward position. He shifted slightly and couldn’t contain the gasp and groan as his body reacted to the movement with shards of agony. Tobias stirred and coughed, curling up in a ball, his arms wrapped around his chest. Blood dribbled from his mouth as he fought to regain his breath. Jean-Luc placed one hand on the boy’s back, waiting for the spasm to pass.

Slowly Tobias calmed and sat up, obviously in pain. In the gloom Jean-Luc squinted at his son and saw his pallor. Wishing he didn’t have to ask anything of him, the Captain sighed shallowly and summoned his voice.

“We need to get the fire going and we both need to drink. Can you manage?”

With a resigned nod Tobias moved slowly to the wood pile and selected the timber he needed. Once it was stacked in place he set it alight with the phaser. The darkness retreated as the temperature rose. Over the next few minutes the lad brought his father water then drank himself. They remained silent until Tobias broke the impasse.

“They’re not coming are they.”

Jean-Luc tried to find a more comfortable way to sit and failed. He sighed and bore the accompanying waves of pain.

“Of course they’ll come Tobias; we just have to be patient.”

The boy moved closer to his father and picked up a twig, idly breaking it into small pieces and throwing them into the fire.

“What’s taking them so long then?”

Knowing this question was likely didn’t make it any easier to answer.

“Well…first they have to realise we’re missing.”

Tobias lifted his eyes from their contemplation of the flames to stare at the man.

“Why wouldn’t they know?”

Jean-Luc bowed his head and closed his eyes.

“Because I told them to leave us alone. You know when we lost power in the tricorder and phasers?”

“Uh huh.”

“Well every time power was restored I would be contacted by the Enterprise. It annoyed me and, as I thought the blackouts were of little consequence, I told the ship to ignore them and that I would contact them if I needed to.”

Tobias thought about that then threw the remains of his twig into the fire.

“So they’re waiting to hear from you.”

“Yes. But I’m sure Beverly will be worried by now. Every time I’ve been away from the ship, where possible, I have always contacted her regularly. This protracted silence will tell her something’s wrong. I’m sure she will convince Will to check up on us and when they find our camp abandoned, they’ll start looking for us.”

Tobias shifted slightly, moving a little closer to the fire and picking up another slender piece of wood.

“Can’t they use the ship to find us?”

Jean-Luc’s voice showed his worry.

“No I don’t think so. When we left the Enterprise we were unable to scan the surface at all, at least this area. Unless that has changed, we will have to rely on personnel coming down and physically looking for us. As you know our tricorder was of limited use and I know that none of our technology works at the ruins.”

Tobias pushed the end of his stick into the coals and waited until it lit before withdrawing it and holding it up to watch the flames gutter.

“So we’re pretty much screwed.”

Jean-Luc disapproved of his son’s choice of words, but couldn’t find it in himself to admonish him. Instead he decided to keep upbeat.

“Oh I wouldn’t say that. Is it still raining?”

Tobias sighed with irritation and slowly got to his feet, limping to the entrance and soon returning.

“There’s a light drizzle coming in from the sea. It’s still pretty windy.”

Jean-Luc summoned a smile, making sure it showed in his eyes.

“Well then tomorrow, with luck, we’ll be able to build a fire outside. Hopefully they will spot the smoke and come to investigate.”

Regaining his seat by the fire, Tobias sneered at his father.

“You honestly think they’re looking for us? I doubt it. I think we’re screwed.”

Jean-Luc’s voice took on the unmistaken timbre of Command.

“Stop saying that! Yes I think they’re looking for us and it’s up to us to help them.”

There followed an angry silence. Jean-Luc was exasperated by his son’s defeatist attitude and Tobias was disbelieving of his father’s optimism. Eventually Tobias grimaced at the nearby carcase and snorted.

“That thing is beginning to stink.”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“It should be moved outside.”

Tobias regarded Jean-Luc with a look of defiance.

“Is that an order…Captain?”

Seeing and hearing the belligerence in his son, Jean-Luc changed tactics, knowing the boy would only react badly to severity. He softened and lowered his voice.

“Not at all. Unfortunately the wound in the animal’s chest will only hasten decomposition and the raised temperature in the cave will exacerbate matters. Perhaps tomorrow we can move it outside together.”

Tobias sneered at the carcase and shrugged.

“If you say so, but it looks awfully heavy.”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“We can carve it up into manageable bits with the phaser.”

Tobias frowned.

“Aren’t we trying to conserve power?”

Keeping his smile in place with difficulty, Jean-Luc explained patiently,

“Yes, but I’m sure we’ll be found soon. In any event it is a matter of our well being that we remove the remains. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want is to be sharing this cave with a rotting carcase.”

That made the boy snort with a stifled laugh. Jean-Luc joined him, curious as to what had brought it on. Tobias saw his father’s expression and shrugged.

“Maman said my farts were breathtaking. Maybe we should leave it here to compete.”

Rolling his eyes, Jean-Luc shook his head.

“There are times my son, when I question the validity of our connection. Are you really related to me?”

This time Tobias’s laugh was out loud.

“Don’t tell me you don’t fart!”

The Captain chuckled and shook his head again.

“Of course I do, but not loudly…and not in public.”

The light from the fire danced in the boy’s eyes.

“So what…you’re at some Captain’s thing and you want to fart…what do you do? Hold it in and fill up with gas?”

Lifting his chin and sounding imperious, Jean-Luc replied,

“I would excuse myself and leave the room…as any gentleman would.”

Tobias’s mischief was plain to see.

“It’s more fun to let ‘em rip.”

Jean-Luc sighed theatrically.

“I can’t believe we’re talking about this.”

But Tobias wasn’t ready to let the matter go.

“So what about when you were a kid?”

The Captain closed his eyes briefly.

“Are we still talking about breaking wind?”

“Uh huh.”

There was a silence before a wistful smile spread over the man’s face.

“Actually I used to have competitions with my brother. One time we got kicked out of gym class for doing it.”

Tobias laughed.

“See?”

The Captain grunted, suddenly becoming serious.

“Yes well…just as long as you know I will never admit to telling you that…it’s between you and me.”

The boy shrugged, his grin still tugging at his mouth.

“Okay, but you’d better hope I don’t get gassy.”

Jean-Luc scowled and pointed to the cooked meat.

“It’s time we had more to eat.”

Tobias nodded, but the grin stayed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Lieutenant Commander Farrel Stevin and his staff worked all day on the slab. It was difficult work; not having the benefit of technology meant no anti-gravs or tractor beam lifters. They had to resort to utilising metal tripods and chain block and tackles. By late afternoon they had the slab of stone from of the soil and suspended by the chains. Stevin straightened his back and slapped at his dusty uniform.

“Okay that’s enough for today. We’ll leave it as is and return to the ship. I’ll ask Engineering to make us a sled and tomorrow we’ll drag it to a shuttle.”

McAveny joined his boss and wiped at the sweat on his brow.

“It’s a pity we can’t get it aboard tonight.”

Stevin grunted.

“I know how you feel but we need a sled to move it and we don’t have one. Be patient my friend.”

The Lieutenant sighed and stretched his aching back.

“Okay Sir.”

Within ten minutes the site was deserted as the shuttles took their crews back to the Enterprise. As darkness settled the sand circles on the perimeter of the ruins began to glow. Soon thirty aliens moved into the ruins methodically removing all traces of the Starfleet personnel. The last thing they did was return the slab to its resting place then remove the lifting equipment. In under two hours they were finished, withdrawing back to the sand circles carrying all the Starfleet gear. As they disappeared beneath the earth, silence settled amid the ruins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       As the night gathered at the campsite, Beverly squinted at her tricorder and huffed in disgust. M’Rak stood at her side, her quiet voice insistent.

“We must return to the ship Doctor.”

Brandishing her instrument, Beverly scowled.

“Not bloody likely M’Rak! Captain Picard and his son are somewhere on this damned planet and we’re going to find them.”

M’Rak’s calm, logical Vulcan mind was having difficulty dealing with what she saw as irrational Human emotions.

“But Doctor we cannot function properly in the dark…it makes no logical sense to continue. We should return to the ship.”

Beverly was about to further her argument when an Ensign called,

“Doctor Crusher! I’ve found something!”

Aiming their palm beacons, Beverly and M’Rak spotted the young man over near the track that led to the cliff. They hurried over and the Ensign gave Beverly his tricorder.

“There is microcellular debris here Doctor…two types and here…”

He pointed to a spot on the ground,

“I found three very small spots of blood.”

Beverly peered at the screen while M’Rak asked,

“Analysis?”

Beverly grunted and began to trot to the shuttle. Over her shoulder she called,

“Unknown. I’m taking this back to the ship. In the mean time keep looking.”

As the little ship powered up and lifted off, the Ensign looked at M’Rak and shrugged.

“Look for what Lieutenant?”

The Vulcan’s eyes stayed on the rapidly retreating shuttle.

“Anything Ensign…anything.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Beverly was in the lab when Will found her. He approached silently and she let out a yelp as he gently tapped her shoulder. She spun around and immediately covered her mouth with her hand. Brushing by Will, she ran to her office and closed the door, opaquing the windows. The bemused man wandered over to the door and gave the release an experimental push. It was locked. He was about to call the Doctor when she suddenly emerged, the greenish pallor of only moments before gone. Adopting a sunny smile, Beverly looked up at the big man, her eyes twinkling.

“What can I do for you Will?”

The First Officer frowned down at his friend and pointed to her office.

“What was that all about?”

Beverly flapped her hand dismissively.

“Oh nothing. Aren’t you going to ask me what I’ve found?”

Will folded his arms across his broad chest and adopted a disbelieving look.

“Very well. What have you found?”

Beverly walked briskly back to the lab, Will in tow.
“The microcellular debris comes from both the Captain and Tobias but the droplets of blood are the Captain’s. I’m just about to go back down for another look.”

Will’s face took on a look of concern.

“I don’t think that’s wise Beverly.”

The red head bridled.

“What? Didn’t you hear me Will? The blood belongs to Jean-Luc! He’s hurt!”

Will’s face hardened.

“We don’t know that Beverly, he might have cut a finger or something. I want all our personnel back aboard over night.”

Beverly shook her head vehemently.

“No! Look let me go back to help M’Rak and her teams. I think…”

Will held up a hand, silencing the volatile woman.

“M’Rak and the others are already aboard.”

Beverly’s mouth gaped.

“What?”

Placing his large hands on her shoulders, Will sought to placate the incensed Doctor.

“I don’t want anybody on the surface over night Beverly. Until we find the Captain and figure out what the hell’s going on, I want to protect our crew.”

Beverly reached up and gripped the front of Will’s uniform.

“But Will…do you realise what you’re saying? You’re leaving Jean-Luc and Tobias to their fate! We can find them Will! If you won’t let the crew go down then let me go alone. I’ll keep in contact and I’ll…”

Will’s deep voice was quietly insistent.

“No Beverly. You will stay aboard…that’s an order.”

They maintained eye contact for a few seconds then Will gently stepped away. He turned and strode out of Sick Bay, but not before he heard Beverly yell,

“Damn you Will Riker, damn you!”

 

 

 

                         As the faint light of dawn encroached into the entrance of the cave, Jean-Luc shifted slightly and winced as pain shot through his head. With time, he had become used to the pain of the bolts, but the agony in his head was wearing him down. His sight was blurry and the sickening pounding went on relentlessly, eating away at his stamina. Tobias emerged from outside into the cave and gingerly lowered himself to the floor. His coughing fit made him topple sideways and it was several minutes until he regained his breath. Jean-Luc looked on in sympathy.

“Are you all right now?”

The boy nodded and grimaced at the blood on the floor.

“Why am I coughing up blood?”

“You have damaged your lung. That bruise on your chest…how did you come by it?”

While he answered his father, Tobias built up the fire.

“Remember the night I came back for you?”

“Yes.”

“Well I found this cave. Then it had drift wood piled up in front and I climbed the pile to get a look inside, but as I turned to leave the pile collapsed and I fell. I landed on my side and something happened because the next thing I knew I was waking up down between the boulders.”

Jean-Luc frowned and closed his eyes as a wave of dizziness overcame him.

“You probably lost consciousness and you most certainly broke some ribs and that’s what’s damaged your lung.”

Tobias raised his eyebrows and pursed his lips.

“Oh. What will happen to me?”

Jean-Luc opened his eyes and smiled despite the fact he could barely see his son.

“You’ll be all right Tobias, help will come soon.”

They were silent for a while before Tobias wrinkled his nose and shrugged.

“Are we going to get rid of that?”

He pointed at the carcase.

“It stinks.”

The Captain nodded.

“Yes. Give me the phaser.”

Tobias handed the weapon over and watched as Jean-Luc moved slowly and with obvious pain and difficulty towards the body of the beast. He pulled the now flaccid limbs out from the body and phasered them free. Tobias could see what was required of him so he grabbed the severed limbs and dragged them out of the cave, heaving them over the edge for the four metre drop to the boulders below.

Now left with the head and torso, Jean-Luc cut the head free and waited until Tobias had disposed of it. Then, crawling on hands and knees, he helped his son drag the torso out and over the edge.

Remaining on his knees, Jean-Luc panted painfully while he waited for the pain to abate enough for him to attempt to empty his bladder. Not willing to test his balance at the edge of the drop, He shuffled to the wall and urinated, the pain making him gasp. Tobias heard his difficulties and came up behind his father, gently holding the waistband of his trousers. When Jean-Luc had finished, Tobias was helping him back into the cave when he chanced a look at the puddle his father had made. What he saw made him pause.

“Papa?”

The sweating man grunted and stopped.

“I think there’s blood in your pee.”

Jean-Luc turned slowly and looked at the puddle then returned his attention to the task of getting back into the cave.

“Don’t worry about it son.”

With his feet grotesquely swollen and his left leg uselessly dragging behind him, even crawling was difficult. It took a long time to get back inside, Jean-Luc’s strength waning fast. Once he regained his place against the wall, it took several minutes for him to regain enough strength to talk to his son.

Between pants he gasped,

“You must make…a fire outside…put seaweed on it…make lots of smoke…”

Tobias nodded and squeezed his father’s hand.

“I understand Papa. Before I go I’ll get you a drink.”

Tobias brought Jean-Luc two shells full of water before he returned and sighed.

“There’s no more water Papa. Since it stopped raining the pool has dried up.”

Jean-Luc opened his eyes and smiled wanly.

“Never mind, there’s bound to be some puddles outside. Promise me you’ll find some and drink.”

Tobias tried to smile but failed, the sight of his suffering father too much for him.

“I promise Papa. I’ll go and make the fire now, and don’t worry; I’ll make it a smoky one.”

Jean-Luc smile grew a little.

“Good lad. Be careful.”

“I will.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and listened as his son left. He then heard the faint sounds of Tobias climbing down the drop, then collecting wood. In his mind’s eye he saw his son building the fire and smiled, until he realised he still had the phaser. With a growl of disgust and irritation, he began to arduous task of crawling back outside.

By the time Jean-Luc emerged, Tobias had built quite a pyre and the man smiled at his efforts. He slumped sideways and called weakly,

“Tobias.”

The boy didn’t hear his father and continued to add wood to the pile. Jean-Luc scowled and moved closer to the edge.

“Tobias!”

The lad paused and slowly turned, shielding his eyes against the morning sun.

“Papa?”

Now precariously close to the edge of the drop, Jean-Luc nodded to his hand.

“I have the phaser.”

Tobias frowned and squinted.

“What did you say?”

Taking as big a breath as he dared, Jean-Luc tried to raise his voice.

“I have the phaser!”

Tobias shook his head in confusion, then snapped his fingers.

“Ah! You have the phaser.”

The Captain nodded.

“Yes, come and get it.”

The lad shook his head.

“No, throw it to me.”

Jean-Luc scowled.

“I can’t. Come up here and get it, we can’t risk losing it.”

Tobias shrugged.

“Okay.”

Minutes later Tobias was approaching the lip. He was reaching up for a hand hold when his foot suddenly slipped. He let out a yelp as he abruptly started to fall. Jean-Luc, heedless of the pain it would cause, shot out his hand and grabbed the boy, but the weight overbalanced him and he pitched forward over the edge.

Both Tobias and his father fell, landing in a tangle on the boulders below. Jean-Luc landed first on his back, Tobias sprawled across his body. The impact had driven the two bolts in Jean-Luc’s back so deeply into his body that the sharp ends burst through the skin of his front and two of the bolts in his lower front had similarly been driven through to pierce his back by Tobias’s body. He let out a strangled yell and tried to twist sideways but Tobias’s dead weight made it impossible. The bolt under Jean-Luc’s buttock was driven further into his leg but of that he felt nothing. Of more concern to the man was his unresponsive son. Struggling with his incapacitated arms, he managed to lift Tobias’s head only to see blood covering the boy’s face and a nasty gash at his hair line. The Captain managed to roll the inert body off his own then slowly sit up to better assess his son. As Jean-Luc gently probed the gash with his fingers, Tobias moaned and his eyes fluttered. The boy’s body spasmed and he abruptly vomited, then was overcome with a coughing fit. Jean-Luc held the boy until he settled and was immensely grateful to hear his son’s weak voice.

“Papa?”

Jean-Luc cradled the lad’s head as best he could and blinked rapidly to clear his blurred vision.

“It’s all right Tobias. We fell and you hit your head.”

Tobias lay quietly for a while before opening his eyes and raising a hand to his head.

“My head hurts and I feel sick in my stomach.”

“I know, I think you have a bad concussion. Can you see all right?”

The boy blinked slowly and nodded.

“I…everything’s doubled, but when I blink it clears a bit.”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“You should get back to the cave. Do you think you can climb?”

Tobias frowned.

“Maybe…in a minute. What about you?”

Jean-Luc looked down at the slowly bleeding new holes in his torso and grunted.

“I don’t think so son. I can’t even stand up let alone climb.”

Tobias thought about that then shrugged.

“Well then we’ll both stay here.”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“No Tobias you must shelter in the cave.”

“Why? The sun is out…it’s not cold…”

Short on patience and in incredible pain, Jean-Luc snapped.

“Because I bloody well said so! Just do it will you!”

Tobias struggled to his feet and swayed dangerously in front of his father.

“No! I’m staying with you!”

Defeated by pain and weariness, Jean-Luc slumped onto his side.

“Tobias…please…”

Tears welled in the boy’s cracking voice.

“No! You can’t make me go!”

As the first sobs escaped from the boy, Jean-Luc gave in. He shook his head and gestured weakly for the boy to sit.

“All right…all right you win. Sit down before you fall down.”

The boy fell to his knees then buried his face in his father’s neck. Jean-Luc ignored his pain and lifted an arm to embrace him as he sobbed.

Some minutes later Tobias sat back and wiped his face with his hands. Jean-Luc smiled and wiped at the blood that was still trickling down the boy’s face.

“Even with my defective sight you look ghastly.”

Tobias grinned and looked over his father’s shoulder.

“We might as well light the fire.”

Tobias clearly saw his father’s face fall. He frowned and said slowly,

“Papa?”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and grimaced.

“I lost the phaser when I fell.”

Tobias let out the one word Jean-Luc never thought he’d hear his son say.

“Fuck.”

Jean-Luc’s reaction was predictable.

“Tobias!”

The boy shrugged and looked over at the wood pyre.

“Well it’s going to be very hard to light that then.”

The Captain contained his outrage at his son’s choice of expletive to say,

“Perhaps you can look for it? It can’t be too far away.”

Tobias cast a disbelieving look at the picturesque jumble of boulders and glanced at his father.

“If you say so.”

As the boy rose unsteadily to his feet, Jean-Luc closed his eyes and offered a silent prayer.

“Where ever you are Beverly…hurry…we need you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        Beverly was pacing back and forth behind the shuttle, the bay filled with crews waiting for permission to leave the ship. Her anger was still simmering just under the surface and this wait, in her opinion unnecessary, was only making a bad situation worse. She was about to page the Bridge when the large bay doors trundled open and Will strode in, accompanied by Deanna and Data. His broad smile faltered at being seared by Beverly’s glare. The small party approached and Will adopted his command demeanour.

“All set?”

Beverly’s lips were compressed in a thin line, her eyes a vivid icy blue as she strove to control herself. With her teeth clenched, she replied,

“We have been ready to go for over an hour Commander.”

Will lifted his chin and returned the hard look.

“I’m sure you were but, as you know, the sun only rose ten minutes ago on the planet. There would’ve been no point in you or anyone else, going down before it was light.”

Beverly folded her arms and resisted the urge to tap her foot.

“Very well Commander. May we leave now?”

Ignoring the deliberate insubordinate inflection, Will nodded.

“Yes and I want you to take Data with you.”

Beverly gave a curt nod and turned, gesturing to Data to follow.

“Understood Sir.”

Beverly, Data and her team boarded their shuttle and were the first of three little craft to exit the ship. Twenty-five minutes later they landed at the campsite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Stevin and his crew arrived at their site and disembarked to find the ruins completely restored to their pristine condition. The Commander, mouth agape, walked as if in a daze over to the stone slab, now resting back in the soil. The tripod, chains and tackle were gone. Every piece of equipment they’d left was gone. Stevin gestured to his colleague and said without turning,

“Do you see what I see?”

McAveny slowly shook his head.

“I don’t get it Sir…where is everything…and how the hell did the slab get back there? We had it suspended a metre above the ground! To look at it now you’d never guess it had been moved at all.”

Stevin halted abruptly and caught the arm of his fellow officer.

“Look at the ground.”

The Lieutenant cast his eyes down and frowned.

“Sir?”

“There’re no footprints Andy. Look around…every trace of our ever being here has been erased.”

Andy McAveny turned a full circle and whistled.

“Why? How?...and by whom?”

As the two officers were joined by the rest of their crew a buzzing became evident. Soft at first, it quickly grew until it stated to become uncomfortable. Stevin turned to McAveny and grimaced.

“What the hell is that?”

Before anyone could answer a large group of insectoid looking aliens emerged from the surrounding foliage. They raised the weapons they carried and Stevin held up his hands.

“No!”

The first bolt struck him in the chest. He staggered back as two more buried themselves in his torso. McAveny was jolted into action. He grabbed his CO and yelled at the stunned crew,

“Back to the shuttle…NOW!”

The other four officers ran flat out, Andy hampered by Stevin’s faltering steps. The younger man hoisted his friend over his shoulder and broke into a run just as two bolts struck him in the back. He ignored the shock and pain and kept going, noting that the shuttle was powering up in preparation for an emergency launch. When he was close enough to the open hatch, he dived headlong, sprawling on the deck with Stevin’s body covering his own. He heard an Ensign shout,

“Close the hatch and get us out of here!”

Within moments he felt the craft rise and his burden ease as hands helped Stevin off him.

He rolled onto his side and said to the nearest crewmember,

“Help me up.”

With help he slowly got up and made his way to the cockpit. To the pilot he muttered,

“As soon as we’re clear of the interference, put me through to the Enterprise.”

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Data watched quietly as Beverly conferred with M’Rak. They poured over readings on their tricorders then Beverly started to issue orders.

“Michaels, you and Farrugia follow the river upstream. I want you to pay close attention to your instruments please; any trace evidence may be very small.”

She turned to the next pair.

“Brax, I want you and Mainwaring to go downstream. It’s only about eight kilometres to the waterfall at the coast. Same deal, watch your instruments carefully.”

She then turned to the four remaining officers.

“You people stay here. I want this camp swept clean with every scanner we have. We have blood spots here and a urine sample. I want to know if there’s anything else, including a comprehensive scan of those sand circles. Myself, Mr.Data and Lieutenant M’Rak will investigate the blood evidence here.”

There was a murmur of “Aye Sir.” As the people went about their tasks. Beverly, Data and M’Rak moved to the site where the blood and microcellular debris was found.

“Right. We start here…my guess is they were moving towards the river.”

With their instruments deployed and scanning, the officers moved off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                At the edge of the eight metre drop down to the river, Beverly knelt and scowled at her tricorder’s screen. Data, kneeling beside her, divided his attention between both his and her device, comparing information. With the phenomenal speed of his positronic matrix, he arrived at his conclusions well before the beleaguered Doctor.

“They went over the edge Doctor, the evidence is incontrovertible.”

Beverly sighed but didn’t take her eyes off the screen.

“I know that Data…what I’m trying to find out is how badly the Captain was injured.”

The android looked down at the fine blood spray and shrugged.

“Can you ascertain what kind of blood it is? Is it arterial for instance…or venous?”

Beverly sat back on her folded legs and rubbed her thigh.

“So far all I can tell is that the blood belongs to Captain Picard and that it’s oxygen depleted, indicating it was venous in nature. But this droplet here…”

She shifted slightly to her right,

“Is oxygen rich and that tells me he has more than one injury. Dammit Data we have to find them! If they went over this cliff together the river would’ve carried them quite a way, provided they didn’t get out relatively quickly. We need…”

She was interrupted by a panting Ensign who jogged up to them.

“Doctor Commander Riker wants to speak with you.”

Pulling her mouth down, Beverly rose stiffly and patted Data’s shoulder.

“Make your way down to the river and scan the banks Data. I’ll join you shortly.”

Data nodded and moved off as Beverly and the Ensign jogged back to the campsite. Within some pattern enhancers a communication module blinked obediently. Beverly stepped into the activated area and opened a channel.

“Crusher here.”

Will’s voice was tight and he wasted no time in pleasantries.

“Beverly I want you and your crews back aboard the Enterprise immediately!”

The red head shook her head.

“But Will, we’ve found out…”

The Commander’s raised voice cut her off.

“Our crew at the ruins have been attacked by aliens. It was sudden and unprovoked. I want you and your crew back up here now! And I don’t have time to discuss it. That’s an order Doctor!”

Knowing the wellbeing of her crew came before her concerns for her lover, Beverly snapped into command mode. She gave a curt nod and closed the channel.

“Hobbs! Gather everybody together and prepare for a quick departure. We’re leaving right now!”

Her long dancer’s legs carried her easily as she sprinted down the track. She veered at the cliff and negotiated the faint path at break-neck speed, the downward incline making her journey easier. She burst into more open ground and spotted Data and an Ensign diligently scanning the river bank.

“Data! Return to the shuttles immediately, we have to leave right now!”

The android knew his CO well enough to realise anything that would pull her off this particular search must be of vital importance. He snapped his tricorder closed and began to run back up the path. Beverly waited for the Ensign to join her before she followed.

By the time they had gathered at the shuttles the only crew missing were the four who had been sent up and down stream. Deciding to find them from the air, Beverly sent one shuttle down the river and one up stream while she piloted her craft into a central holding position two hundred metres above the ground.

The upstream crewmembers were found relatively quickly but the downstream men took over twenty minutes to locate. Finally, with everybody accounted for, the three shuttles made their way back to the Enterprise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        The sun was burning Jean-Luc’s skin by the time Tobias returned to his side. The Captain squinted his eyes and tried to see his son’s face, but the glare was too bright. The lad sat beside his father and sighed, the action bringing on a coughing fit. Some minutes later he spat out the accumulated blood from his mouth and groaned. Jean-Luc lifted a hand and gently gripped his shoulder.

“How are you?”

Tobias nodded silently and gently removed his father’s hand, knowing the pain it caused to keep it there.

“I couldn’t find the phaser Papa, I’m sorry.”

Jean-Luc found a smile.

“That’s all right son, I’m sure you tried your best.”

Tobias looked forlornly at the wood pile.

“What do we do now?”

The Captain patted the lad’s leg.

“For now you rest, then later maybe you can climb back to the cave and see if there’re any wood pieces still alight from the fire. If there are, perhaps we can use them to light this one.”

Tobias gaped at his father then grinned.

“Holy shit Papa…that’s brilliant!”

Jean-Luc scowled at his son and shook his head.

“Tobias we are going to have to have a little chat about your use of inappropriate language. A boy your age shouldn’t know, let alone use, so many questionable words.”

Tobias lowered his head so his father couldn’t see his grin. When he felt in control he faced the man and shrugged.

“Maman used to say that your use of bad language should be in direct proportion to the severity of the situation. Considering our trouble, I thought it was appropriate.”

Jean-Luc smiled wistfully.

“While I can’t condone your use of profanity, I do remember your mother’s very…colourful…outbursts when something went wrong. In fact she could swear in more languages than I…very impressive to witness, but totally inappropriate in someone of your tender years. How about we reach an agreement? You strive to resist the urge to swear and I’ll try to forgive the lapses when they occur. Deal?”

Tobias rolled his eyes theatrically and held up his hands in capitulation.

“Okay, but if you think being stuck on this planet with hardly any food or water…and hurt…doesn’t warrant a few swear words…I think you’re off your rocker! But all right…deal.”

Jean-Luc grinned then became serious.

“Have you found a source of water yet? Have you had a drink?”

Tobias shook his head.

“No, not yet.”

The Captain frowned and gripped the boy’s knee.

“Right!  As soon as you feel strong enough, I want you to search for a water source. I suggest you look at the base of the bluff. The walls might have channelled the rain into pools at the bottom.”

The youngster nodded and looked over to the sheer rock walls.

“Okay I’ll go in a minute.”

Jean-Luc smiled his acceptance but worry dogged his thoughts.

“Where are you Beverly?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        When Beverly strode onto the Bridge, Will was in deep conversation with Geordi at the aft science station. Knowing not to disturb the man at that point, she instead directed herself to Deanna. The Betazoid left her seat and joined Beverly near the Ready Room doors. Beverly kept her voice low, but the urgency was still evident.

“What’s going on?”

Deanna cast an eye at her lover then replied,

“We have two officers in Sick Bay, both wounded with crossbow bolts.”

Beverly gasped.

“Seriously?”

“Lieutenant Farrel Stevin was pretty bad but Lieutenant Andrew McAveny less so. Selar reports they’re still both in surgery, but the prognosis is good.”

Beverly folded her arms.

“Will said the attack was unprovoked. Was there any warning?”

Deanna shook her head.

“None. And Beverly there’s something you should know. The site had been returned to the state it was when we first found it. Even all the artefacts have been returned to their original resting places.”

Beverly gasped and gripped Deanna’s arm.

“Just like the Captain’s campsite!”

“Uh huh. Look obviously something’s going on here, something we’d not anticipated. Until we can successfully scan the surface, I don’t think Will is going to let anyone go back down.”

Beverly’s grip tightened, making the Counsellor wince.

“But Jean-Luc is hurt! Probably by the same aliens who attacked the archaeological team. We have to go back Deanna…his life may depend on it!”

Deanna’s obsidian eyes welled in sympathy but she held firm.

“It’s not possible at the moment Beverly…you’ll just have to be patient.”

The Doctor shook her head in frustration and hissed,

“But dammit Dee…we don’t have the luxury of time! Jean-Luc…”

The Counsellor’s voice became hard.

“Will can’t endanger the crew or the ship for one man Beverly, you know that!”

Beverly’s shoulders slumped and tears well in her eyes.

“But Deanna…”

The compassion in the Betazoid’s eyes was heartbreaking.

“You know Will Beverly, he loves the Captain too. As soon as it’s safe he’ll send help.”

The Doctor’s voice was small.

“But not before.”

Deanna shook her head emphatically.

“No, not before.”

Beverly turned listlessly and said over her shoulder,

“I’ll be in Sick Bay.”

Deanna said to her retreating back,

“I’ll keep you posted.”

She received no reply.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        As the day wore on Jean-Luc and Tobias suffered under the sun’s harsh glare. Their exposed skin reddened and blisters began to show on their backs and shoulders. Tobias had been successful in finding water, but the fire still defeated them. The embers he’d found in the cave hadn’t been enough to light the pyre, although he’d tried diligently and blew until he was dizzy. Jean-Luc had requested his son tie the remnants of his shirt about his head and also insisted the boy wet it occasionally to keep his head cool but as the afternoon wore on, they both began to suffer heat exhaustion. It was Tobias who eventually suggested the obvious.

“Papa we should get down between the boulders.”

Jean-Luc opened his eyes and stifled a groan as the light speared in, making his insidious headache spike.

“I don’t think I can make it Tobias…besides, our rescuers won’t be able to see us down there.”

The lad made a brave attempt to keep the exasperation out of his voice, but his father heard it anyway.

“They won’t have anything to rescue if we don’t get out of the sun.”

There was a moment’s silence before Jean-Luc grunted.

“Agreed. You get down there.”

Now the lad’s voice showed anger.

“No! I will NOT leave you alone. Shit Papa!”

About to remonstrate with the boy, the man was cut off.

“What is it with you anyway? Have you got some sort of death wish? Do you want to die?”

Although desperately tired and in constant agony, Jean-Luc wasn’t going to be spoken to like that, especially by his ten year old son.”

“You mind your tongue my lad! I simply have your well being in mind!”

“My well being? How does it help my well being of you’re dead? Come on Papa it makes no sense for you to stay up here.”

Jean-Luc stared at his son and couldn’t help but be impressed. He sighed and nodded slowly.

“Very well, but I’m going to need your help.”

The boy stood, his pride obvious. Jean-Luc groaned as he sat up and closed his eyes briefly as the pain flared.

“I can’t stand up so I’m going to get to the edge and slide down.”

Tobias sat beside his father and gently gripped his arm.

“But you’ll land on your feet.”

The Captain raised a brave smile.

“I know but it can’t be helped.”

The boy looked over at the edge and grimaced.

“Do you want me up here or down there?”

“Up here I think. There seems to be fewer impediments on my back now so I’ll lie down and slide over. Perhaps if you could hold my trousers as long as possible?”

Tobias smiled, but his eyes showed his worry.

“Okay.”

Jean-Luc took a deep breath and shuffled on his backside to where the boulder’s rounded shape curved downwards. He dangled his legs over the edge and waited until Tobias settled by his side and took a firm grip of the waistband of his pants. He looked up at his son and smiled.

“Ready?”

All the lad could do was nod. Jean-Luc pushed forwards and gravity took over. As his back scraped against the rock, he yelled, the ends of the bolts dragging through his flesh. Tobias held on as long as he could, but his father’s weight was too much. The material slipped from his grasp and Jean-Luc dropped the two metres to the sandy bottom. His anguished cry of agony spurred the boy to action. He clambered down the rock, making the last few metres a clean drop. Landing beside his father, he was dismayed to find the man unconscious. Blood smeared his back and his feet were bleeding, several putrid wounds burst open. Tobias knew enough first aid to turn his father onto his side in the recovery position. He checked his breathing and pulse, wincing at the heat coming from the man. He cast about, looking for something to bring water and finding nothing. Deciding it was more important to get water than stay with him; Tobias left and weaved his way through the rocks down to the shore. There he found another large shell and soon worked his way back, past his father and on to the base of the cliffs where he collected a shell full of the precious fluid. By the time he returned, Jean-Luc was laying quietly, his eyes open.

“How are you Papa?”

Jean-Luc blinked slowly and two tears slid across his face. Unable to speak, he tried to smile but failed. Tobias swallowed his anguish and offered the shell.

“I’ve brought you some water.”

Now in the shade of the rocks, Jean-Luc’s sight improved. He saw the shell in his son’s hands and attempted to lift his head. Unable to do so, Tobias saw his difficulty and put the shell down, then gently lifted his father’s head before carefully picking up the shell and offering it to the man. Jean-Luc drank greedily, soon emptying the shell. Tobias gently placed his father’s head back down and hurriedly stood.

“I’ll get more.”

He was gone before Jean-Luc could stop him. The Captain sighed and closed his eyes, his ongoing struggle to cope with his pain slowly defeating him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Beverly went about her work in Sick Bay with only half her mind on her job. She kept waiting to hear from the Bridge, but as the day wore on and no call came, she retreated to her office and tried to distract herself with the multitude of paper work that was a never-ending result of her job. As the pile of PADDs lessened, she sighed and sat back in her chair, drawing one leg up and resting her chin on her knee. She was in deep thought when someone gently cleared their throat. Looking up and flushing slightly, she gave her visitor a rueful smile.

“Hi Dee. Come on in.”

The Counsellor entered and took a seat at the desk, her empathic senses probing her friend’s mind.

“You’re not handling it too well.”

Beverly bridled and glared.

“Well what do you bloody well expect? Jean-Luc and his son are stuck down there and I know for a fact that Jean-Luc’s injured! How the hell am I supposed to handle it?”

Deanna stood and went to the replicator, ordering a hot chocolate for herself and a chamomile tea for her friend. Once again seated, she took a steadying breath and said gently,

“I’m not criticising Beverly, all I’m doing is stating the obvious. What’s of more interest to me is what you’re going to do about it.”

The Doctor maintained her glare then suddenly capitulated and dropped her head into her hands. Her voice was soft and low.

“I don’t know.”

Deanna took a sip of her drink then leaned forward and tried to see under Beverly’s brow.

“Tell me you won’t do anything stupid.”

Lifting her head sharply, Beverly snarled,

“Well I have to do something! I can’t just sit here while he…”

“Yes you can! Look Beverly Will won’t sit idly by while you go all gung ho. He’s not stupid…he’ll be watching you.”

The red head sneered and picked up a stylus, fidgeting with it distractedly.

“Look Dee I’ve been sitting here in my office trying to think of a way to help…get the sensors working…implement some kind of force field…any bloody thing but I keep coming back to the same scenario. I have to go down there…I have to find him…them!”

Deanna sighed and briefly closed her eyes while she plexed. Centring herself, she opened her eyes and looked deeply at her best friend.

“All right, I can see what your saying, but you have to see this from Will’s perspective. Will you promise to wait at least until tomorrow? Give Geordi a chance with the sensors?”

Beverly placed her hands on her thighs and stiffened her mental barriers against her friend’s gentle probing. As she slowly nodded, she crossed her fingers.

“Okay Dee.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Night was fast approaching and with the lowering of the sun, the temperature dropped alarmingly. If not for the stored heat in the rocks, the injured pair would’ve been in deep trouble. At his father’s insistence, Tobias had taken off the tattered shirt from his head and dried it, now it was draped across his burnt shoulders in a vain attempt to keep warm. The lad had also dragged the cooked meat back to their spot and although it had turned bad, they had no option but to pick at it. They could smell the other lumps of the rotting carcass but fortunately there was enough light breeze moving through the boulders to give them relief from the frightful odour. Tobias had promised his father that the next day he would go down to the shore to see if he could find something edible.

As darkness fell Tobias curled up and drifted off to sleep. Jean-Luc moved painfully to his son’s side and was dismayed to find the boy lightly shivering. Over the next ten minutes the Captain struggled to remove his trousers. It was a very painful action, especially getting the pants over his grossly swollen feet, but he managed and when he was finally free, spread the garment over his sleeping son. He then moved as close to the boy as possible, affording him the radiating heat from his fevered body. The night progressed but Jean-Luc stayed awake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     It was oh five thirty and Beverly was finishing her preparations. She had retrieved from Sick Bay a comprehensive med kit, a medical tricorder, a phaser and proximity alerter. Dressed in all black covert ops gear, she was placing her combadge on the desk in her old quarters when the door chimed. Frozen in place, she asked quietly,

“Computer who is at my door?”

“Lieutenant Commander Data.”

Taking a deep breath and frowning, Beverly knew the android would not leave without seeing her, so she called softly,

“Come in.”

Data entered and came to stand in front of his superior and friend.

“It’s very early Data…what can I do for you?”

Data’s golden eyes took in Beverly’s appearance and he tilted his head.

“Perhaps it is not so much a matter of what you can do for me, but what I can do for you. I see by your apparel that you intend leaving the ship covertly. Am I correct?”

Deciding to play her cards close to her chest, Beverly remained non-committal.

“If I were…what would you do about it?”

Data’s smile was a small one, but warm nonetheless.

“I would offer my assistance.”

The reserved attitude dropped in the face of her friend’s loyalty. Beverly smiled and gripped his shoulder.

“I thank you Data but I’m going to be breaking several direct orders here. If anybody’s going to be court martialled over this, I prefer it be only me.”

Data stood perfectly still as his brain computed the odds. His eyes cleared and he shook his head.

“You will not succeed without my help Doctor.”

Beverly frowned.

“Why?”

“Because Commander Riker is monitoring your position…and he is also monitoring all Shuttle Bays. I can circumvent the monitoring. You will also require my assistance to override the lockouts.”

Stymied, Beverly sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. Utilising his knowledge of Humans, Data went for the coup-de-grace.

“Besides Doctor, if and when you find them you may need assistance.”

There were several seconds of silence while Beverly processed the information. With a curt nod she pointed to the replicator.

“Get yourself appropriate clothing, I have all the equipment we’ll need. You can change in my bedroom.”

Data nodded and Beverly wandered to the viewport.

“Hang on my love…I’m coming.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 During the long night it started to rain. The rocks afforded some protection but the colder weather quickly leached out what little warmth that remained. Jean-Luc started to shiver, despite his temperature, the added movement making him nauseous with pain. Eventually it became too much and he vomited, bloody water expelled over his own legs in the darkness. Tobias woke and sat up, groggily rubbing his forehead.

“My head hurts Papa.”

His sudden coughing made him cry out and Jean-Luc fumbled for him in the dark.

“Take my hand.”

Tobias found his father’s hand and Jean-Luc gasped at how cold it was in contrast to his own heat. The boy lay down and placed his head on Jean-Luc’s thigh, his soft sobs only just heard over the falling rain. The Captain placed his hand on his son’s back, his own tears mingling with the rain.

“Dors mon cher enfant, dors.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Beverly turned as Data came out of her bedroom, his black apparel making his pale skin more startling. He went to her computer and entered some commands before explaining.

“I have rigged a site-to-site transport, we will rematerialise in Shuttle Bay two. In anticipation of your actions, I took the liberty of reassigning the duty staff. If all goes according to my plans, the bay should be deserted.”

The Doctor grinned and hefted her backpack.

“Well done Data.”

They stood in the middle of the room as Data said softly,

“Computer, initiate programme Data one.”

As promised they soon appeared in the Shuttle Bay, alone as Data predicted. While Beverly went to one of the small craft and began a flight check, Data spent time at the computer console, circumventing the security lockouts and preparing a simulation to fool the ship’s computer into ignoring their departure. Such were his phenomenal skills; he was finished in minutes and joined Beverly in the shuttle.

“All is in readiness Doctor. Once you activate the blast doors, the departure should go unnoticed.”

Beverly smiled, but her worry still showed.

“The Bridge won’t be alerted?”

Data shook his head.

“No Doctor.”

Beverly looked down at the controls and took a deep breath.

“Okay then, let’s go.”

She inputted the required instructions and the little craft lifted off the deck as the blast doors opened. When no alarms sounded and the comm. stayed silent, Beverly grinned at her companion then turned her attention to the cold black void of space.

Twenty minutes later they were hovering over the campsite.

“The sun will rise in one and a half hours Data and we have to save as much time as we can. To that end, I see no further use in descending to the campsite; I think we have all we need from there. My intention is to follow the river down stream, stopping every now and then to check both banks. What do you think?”

Data considered her words then nodded.

“I agree with you Doctor. By the time we reach the beach, the sun will have risen.”

“Right. Okay, first stop is a kilometre down stream from the cliff.”

They set off and Beverly dropped Data off on one side of the river, before she piloted the shuttle to the opposite bank and landed. With their tricorders deployed, they scanned a two hundred metre stretch either side of the river with no result. Within minutes they were both back aboard, heading further downstream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Sometime during the long night the rain stopped. Jean-Luc was dozing fitfully as hideous images ran through his tortured mind. He suddenly cried out and spasmed, his body twisting as a convulsion seized him. Tobias, ripped from his own sleep, sat up, his voice panicked.

“Papa! What is it?”

Blood dribbled from the Captain’s gurgling mouth as his teeth bit deeply into his tongue. As quickly as it had occurred, the fit passed and Jean-Luc’s body lost its rigidity. He voided his bladder and slipped into unconsciousness. Tobias, hampered by the darkness, fumbled for his father’s hands, before calling to him urgently in his native French,

“Papa? Papa are you all right? Wake up Papa…please wake up!”

As the first pink light of dawn showed above his head, Tobias cried forlornly, frightened and very much alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  The sun was just peeking over the horizon as Data and Beverly exited the shuttle near the catching pool. Splitting their search, Data took one side and Beverly the other. It was the android who made the first breakthrough.

“Doctor! Over here!”

Beverly scrambled around the pool, hopping over the rocks at the river’s exit. She joined Data and peered at his tricorder.

“Blood! Have you done a comparison?”

Data nodded.

“Yes Doctor, it is Captain Picard’s blood.”

Beverly turned and looked up through the mist to the top of the falls.

“My God Data, he…they, went over that.”

Data’s eyes followed the Doctor’s and he nodded.

“Indeed, but considering we have found blood on this flat rock, it seems to suggest they survived. The Captain could not have floated onto this rock, he was either assisted onto it or he made it here himself.”

“Agreed. Now what we have to figure out…is where did they go?”

Data turned in a slow circle, scanning continuously.

“There are more blood traces over here Doctor. It would seem they went that way.”

He pointed to the left side of the river mouth so they clambered over the rocks until they were on the sand of the beach. As the light strengthened, Beverly lifted her hand to her brow and squinted down the length of the shoreline. Through the spume of the surf, she could see the bluff.

“What do you make of that Data?”

Utilising his excellent vision, Data stared off into the distance then reported.

“It is a small headland, jutting out into the sea approximately eighty seven metres. In front of it is a low isthmus of rock, also extending into the sea.”

Beverly turned and looked down the opposite side of the beach and saw nothing but sand stretching off into the distance.

“Well…if I was injured and I needed to find shelter…I’d head for that headland.”

Data nodded once.

“I agree with you Doctor and, according to the DNA traces, Captain Picard and his son did just that.”

Beverly whirled around and grabbed Data’s arm.

“They’re together?”

“Yes Doctor.”

“Right! Come on, we’re taking the shuttle.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         Deanna Troi had finished breakfast and was preparing to start her duty shift. Will had already left their quarters and Deanna sat a moment, silently meditating and focussing her empathic powers on the crew. Receiving the impressions of well-ordered efficiency, before Deanna stood, she spent a few moments honing in on her best friend, Beverly. When she received no input she frowned in annoyance.

“Beverly Crusher your mental barriers are getting way too strong!”

She rose and left her cabin, heading straight for Sick Bay.

Lieutenant Alyssa Ogawa, Beverly’s head nurse, greeted the Counsellor with a smile. The small Asian woman was well liked and Deanna had always enjoyed her dealings with her. Having had a quick look around the facility, Deanna smiled at the nurse.

“Good morning Alyssa…the boss in her office?”

An uncharacteristic frown clouded the pretty woman’s face.

“No Counsellor, in fact Doctor Crusher hasn’t come in yet.”

Deanna was puzzled. Beverly was always punctual, especially when it came to Sick Bay.

The Counsellor dismissed Alyssa with a smile then lifted her head and said,

“Computer, location of Doctor Crusher?”

“Doctor Crusher is in her previous quarters.”

Deanna frowned deeply.

“In her old quarters? What would she be doing there at this hour?”

Deanna left Sick Bay and made her way to Beverly’s old quarters. When no one answered the chime, Deanna used her override to enter. The cabin was in darkness so Deanna called for lights.

“Beverly?”

With no reply, Deanna went into the bedroom and bathroom, but came out with Data’s uniform in her hands, even more puzzled. She was passing the desk when she spotted the combadge. She picked it up, her face falling.

“Oh no Beverly…what have you done!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               

                             Will Riker spun around with incredulity.

“What do you mean he’s not on the ship?”

The computer answered immediately.

“That is not a valid query. Please restate the question.”

Angered, Will ran an exasperated hand through his hair.

“Computer elaborate. When did Commander Data leave the ship?”

“That information is not available.”

The big man snarled and turned to Tactical.

“Are we missing any shuttles?”

The Ensign checked.

“Not as far as I’m concerned Commander.”

With a snort, Will shook his head.

“Well I don’t buy it. Ensign get down to the Shuttle Bays and make a visual check…count the bloody things!”

Just then a call came through from Deanna.

“Troi to Riker.”

“Riker here.”
“Commander I have to report that Doctor Crusher is no longer aboard.”

Will snarled.

“Dammit! Do you know when she left?”

“No Sir, I have only just discovered her absence.”

“Okay, thank you Counsellor. Riker out.”

His next call was to Engineering.

“Riker to LaForge.”

“LaForge here.”

“Geordi I think Data has been tampering with the computers. He and Beverly are missing and I’ve got a feeling we’re going to find they’ve taken a shuttle. I want to know how it was done without alerting anybody.”

“Understood Commander, I’ll get right on it. LaForge out.”

Fifteen minutes later came a call from deck four.

“Harper to Bridge.”

“Riker here, go ahead.”

“We’ve counted all the shuttles Commander and one’s missing…the Flourey.”

“Shit! Okay Ensign, report back to the Bridge. Riker out.”

Will slumped in the Command chair and ran a hand through his hair.

“We don’t need this…dammit!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Tobias knew with certainty that if help didn’t arrive soon, his father would surely die. With that in mind, the youngster took his father’s trousers and scrambled back up to the top of the boulders. In the dim light of predawn, he secured a long piece of wood from the pyre and fastened the pants to it. He then wedged the wood between some rocks and prayed enough breeze would rise to make his banner flap. Returning to his father, the boy lifted the man’s head and rested it on his lap.

“You said they would come Papa…I hope you were right.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

               As they approached the rocky outcrop, Beverly gasped and pointed.

“Data…look!”

There, in front of them stood Tobias’s flag. Data landed the shuttle and both officers ran to the rocks, climbing them with haste. When Beverly reached the flag she called out,

“Jean-Luc! Tobias...where are you?”

Tobias was dozing when he heard the voice. His eyes snapped open and he yelled,

“Down here…we’re down here! Hurry!”

Data went to the edge and dropped effortlessly, landing only a metre away from the injured pair. He called up to Beverly,

“Be careful Doctor, there is a two metre drop.”

Heedless of his warning, Beverly crouched down and shuffled to the edge before dropping down. She landed awkwardly and twisted her ankle.

“Ow!”

Data was at her side immediately but she brushed him aside, going to Tobias and reaching for her medical tricorder. The lad watched in silence as she scanned first Jean-Luc, then himself. His voice, when he did speak, was small.

“He’s going to die isn’t he.”

Beverly struggled to contain her anguish. Jean-Luc was dangerously ill, bleeding internally and suffering a bad infection, but she summoned a smile and gently brushed Tobias’s hair.

“Not if I can help it.”

She turned to Data and said,

“We need to get them back to the Enterprise as soon as possible. Would you be able to carry the Captain out of here, or shall we get lifting gear from the shuttle?”

The android looked back up at the boulder and shrugged.

“I can do it Doctor, but how safe is it to move him?”

Beverly sighed sadly.

“I’m afraid that’s moot Data. We are running out of time.”

Data stood and went to his Captain, kneeling by his side.

“Very well Doctor. If you will excuse me?”

Beverly and Tobias moved to one side as Data gently picked Jean-Luc up. He then equally gently hefted the man over his shoulder and Beverly watched amazed as he effortlessly clambered up the rock. She turned her attention to Tobias.

“We will wait for him to come back to help us.”

Tobias nodded, but a coughing fit caught him and he cried out, doubling over and gasping. Beverly noted the blood and held him until he recovered.

“It won’t be long now Tobias and we’ll be back on the Enterprise and you and your father will be as good as new. I promise.”

The boy nodded, tears in his eyes. To lighten the mood, Beverly asked,

“Did you make the flag?”

Tobias found a smile.

“Uh huh. I used Papa’s pants.”

“Well you did a very good job! I saw it straight away and it saved us a lot of time searching for you.”

Just then Data’s voice could be heard above them.

“I have secured Captain Picard in the shuttle Doctor. If you can lift Tobias I will be able to reach him.”

Both Tobias and Beverly stood, Beverly winking at the boy.

“Okay Data…here we go.”

Grabbing Tobias around his waist, Beverly heaved and lifted the boy, gratified when she saw Data’s hands reach down to grip Tobias’s outstretched arms. He was hoisted up, relieving Beverly of her burden. Lifting her injured foot, Beverly waited patiently while Data took the lad to the shuttle. He returned quickly and together they got Beverly up onto the boulder. Then Data helped Beverly hop to the shuttle.

Five minutes later they lifted off. During the journey to the ship, Beverly repaired her ankle and stabilised the Captain. They hailed the Enterprise as soon as they’d cleared the atmosphere.

“Crusher to Riker.”

“Riker here. Where the hell are you Beverly?”

“We’re on our way back to the ship. We have them Will.”

Will’s voice showed his obvious relief.

“Are they all right?”

Beverly sighed deeply.

“No they’re not. Captain Picard is dangerously ill and Tobias is suffering some very bad injuries as well. I want you to beam us straight to Sick Bay as soon as we’re within range. Data can bring the shuttle in.”

“Understood. Riker out.”

Beverly knew Will had made the appropriate arrangements with the transporter room when they suddenly dematerialised as they approached the ship. Sick bay was waiting for them and the staff fell into their routines with well-oiled efficiency.

Selar took Tobias and immediately began to treat his injuries while Beverly worked on her lover. He was taken to surgery almost straight away and was still being operated on when Will strode into the facility. Seeing that Beverly was in theatre, he went to Selar.

The Vulcan looked up and gestured for a nurse to stay with her patient. Will took her to one side and muttered,

“Report.”

Tilting her head to one side and raising one perfect eyebrow, Selar replied,

“My patient has three broken ribs with an accompanying lacerated lung. He has a hair-line fracture of the skull and a deep gash on his forehead. There are numerous soft tissue injuries and deep muscle trauma. He is also suffering severe sunburn. Most of his injuries have been healed but he will require regeneration treatments. His prognosis is excellent.”

Will nodded, casting a glance at the somnolent boy.

“Has he said anything?”

Selar shook her head.

“At the moment he has been sedated, but when he first came aboard he was silent.”

Will stroked his beard.

“I see. Do you know of Captain Picard’s status?”

“Only that he has been severely injured.”

Will felt Deanna’s approach and gave a small smile as her hand brushed his.

“Very well Doctor, please keep me informed.”

After spending a few minutes bringing Deanna up to speed, the Counsellor looked over her shoulder before returning her attention to her lover.

“Will Data’s outside. He wants to see you.”

The big man’s eyes hardened.

“Is that right? Well it just so happens I want to see him too. He has a lot of explaining to do.”

Deanna smiled sympathetically.

“Don’t be too harsh my love…at least hear what he has to say.”

Will took a calming breath and gestured to Beverly’s office.

“Okay, tell him to come into the office.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Will was seated behind Beverly’s desk when Data came in. The android adopted an attention stance and waited to be acknowledged. Will looked up but remained silent. Data ignored his cold eyes and stared straight ahead. After several minutes, Will sighed and briefly closed his eyes. His voice was tired.

“What the hell did you think you were doing Data? Since when do you assist another officer to disobey direct orders?”

Data’s golden eyes settled on his CO and Will could plainly see the worry in them.

“Commander Riker I may find it difficult to explain my actions since my motives are of a very personal nature. Perhaps it would be simpler to just accept my apology and put me on report.”

Will snorted and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Simpler maybe, but I want an explanation Data.”

The Second Officer took an amazing minute to gather his thoughts.

“Commander what does friendship mean to you?”

Will folded his hands on his lap and considered the question.

“Well Data I would have to say that friendships are very important to me.”

Data nodded.

“And would you also say that the ability to make, hold and nurture friendships is something sentient species have?”

Will gave one speculative nod.

“Yes.”

Data frowned.

“Do you remember my trial Sir? The one on Stardate 42523.7, where you and Captain Picard were involved in both the defence and prosecution?”

Will nodded silently.

“My sentience was determined that day Commander and I will be eternally grateful for the roles you and the Captain played in that determination, especially considering you were forced to act as prosecutor against your wishes. Since that day I have grown Commander Riker…in more ways than I can illuminate, but one of the most important things I have discovered are the friendships I have established aboard this ship. Geordi in particular is very dear to me, but the gentle, nurturing friendship of Captain Picard has touched me deeply. He is patient with me and he is constantly trying to find ways for me to explore Humanity. He has never wavered Commander, not once. I could not leave him on that planet, especially once I knew he was injured. I owe him Sir.”

Will pursed his lips.

“I understand Data but why did you involve Doctor Crusher?”

Data shrugged.

“From what I know of their relationship, I thought it unlikely the Doctor would obey your order to stay aboard. Having calculated the odds, I considered it better if I accompanied her in her attempts to find Captain Picard and his son.”

Letting out a long breath, Will rubbed his face with his hands.

“Well you’re probably right but you still aided and abetted an officer in disobeying orders. If not for the successful completion of your little jaunt, things could well be much more serious.”

Data nodded.

“I understand Sir.”

Will stood and stared at the android before shaking his head.

“I need to think about this Data. In the meantime I want you to go to Engineering and show Geordi what it was you did to the computer, and then rectify it.”

Data nodded again.

“Aye Sir…and then?”

Will shrugged.

“Report for duty.”

“Understood Sir.”

After Data left, Will sat back down and shook his head.

“Christ…am I supposed to punish a person for being…Human?”

Will stared out into Sick Bay and snorted.

“And just how do I punish a woman for saving the man she loves? Shit!”

He stood abruptly and stalked out into the main room. Catching Deanna’s eye he muttered,

“I’m going back to the Bridge. Let me know when I can speak with Beverly.”

Deanna nodded her acquiescence but frowned as she watched her lover leave, feeling his turbulent emotions. Sighing, she took a seat and began her vigil.

 

 

 

 

 

                 Several hours later, as Jean-Luc was being taken to his private room, Beverly stood by the operating table, her hands splayed on its metal surface, her head bowed and eyes closed as she struggled to control her rebellious stomach. In a soft voice she caught Alyssa’s attention.

“Would you ask Doctor Selar to join me please?”

The concerned woman had been watching her boss, noting how, as the surgery on the Captain progressed, Beverly seemed to become more and more sick. The nurse wondered how the Doctor had completed the job.

“Doctor Crusher…what’s wrong? You look like death warmed up.”

Keeping her eyes firmly shut, Beverly tried to steady her breathing enough to answer her nurse.

“I’m fine Alyssa, really. Just get Selar for me will you?”

Mollified by the fact that her boss was requesting another Doctor, Alyssa nodded and left the room. Within half a minute Selar entered and immediately scanned the red head. Beverly winced and slowly shook her head.

“I’m all right, I just need a hypo.”

Selar left the room then quickly returned, injecting Beverly and waiting with her until she regained control. Beverly smiled ruefully and sighed.

“That was close! I couldn’t move or I would’ve thrown up.”

Selar tilted her head and raised an eyebrow.

“Why did you let it get to this stage?”

Beverly waved a hand.

“I didn’t have time. I took the hypo with me to the planet and I had no trouble injecting myself privately, but I left it on the shuttle when we beamed over. Captain Picard was taken almost immediately into surgery and I was so focussed on him, I forgot about my treatment.”

Selar nodded slowly.

“I understand Doctor, but I must ask you to take better care of yourself. My scans show you are somewhat dehydrated and you have not eaten sufficiently. Also you are slightly hypertensive.”

Beverly smiled, giving a small shrug.

“I’ll get something to eat and drink once the Captain’s settled. How’s his son?”

Selar clasped her hands in front of her.

“Doing well. His injuries have been treated successfully and he is at the moment receiving regeneration therapy.”

Beverly nodded.

“Where is he?”

Selar’s eyes sharpened.

“In the main room. May I enquire why you ask?”

Beverly’s smile grew.

“No that’s fine; it’s just that I think it may be better for them to be together. Would you put Tobias in the Captain’s private room please?”

Bowing her head, the Vulcan agreed.

“Of course Doctor. Is there anything else?”

Beverly shook her head.

“No. Thank you Selar.”

The women left the surgery suite together and Beverly went to Jean-Luc’s room. The Captain was lying in his bed, dressed in pyjama pants and nothing else. He had a blanket over him, but his chest and feet were exposed, the blue light of regeneration beams casting their soft glow in the room. In his left arm a tube was connected in the crook of his elbow and three bags of fluids dripped their contents into his veins. He had a dermoplast patch on the side of his head and his feet were encased in steriweb bandages.

As Beverly perused his monitors, Deanna entered and came to stand beside her.

“How is he?”

Beverly gave her a quick smile then resumed her perusal.

“At the moment he’s unconscious and in the process of healing, but he’s here Dee, safe if not yet sound.”

There were a few moments of silence before Deanna gripped Beverly’s arm.

“Will’s on his way down. He’s not very happy Beverly.”

The Doctor stopped what she was doing and bowed her head.

“I had no choice Dee.”

Deanna sighed.

“I understand how you feel Beverly, but you have to see this from Will’s point of view. Not only did he give you a direct order to stay aboard, but you allowed a subordinate officer to assist you in breaking that order.”

Beverly lifted her hands.

“I couldn’t have done it without Data Dee! Will was monitoring me and there was a lockout on the shuttles. What was I supposed to do?”

Deanna smiled grimly.

“Obey your orders.”

Beverly’s glare had no real malice in it. She huffed and rubbed her forehead.

“Will you be there when he chews me out?”

Deanna shrugged.

“Do you want me to?”

It was Beverly’s turn to shrug.

“In all honesty I don’t really care Dee. He can cashier me if he wants…it doesn’t change anything…I’d do it again if I had to.”

Deanna sighed wistfully.

“You really love the Captain, don’t you.”

Beverly smiled and looked down at the sleeping man.

“With all my heart. He is my reason for being.”

The two women stood in contemplative silence for a few moments before Alyssa came in.

“Doctor Crusher, Commander Riker is waiting for you in your office.”

Beverly smiled bravely and nodded.

“Okay, thanks Alyssa.”
She turned to her best friend and lifted her chin defiantly.

“Into the valley of death?”

Deanna shook her head and snorted.

“You’re incorrigible. Come on.”

 

 

 

                 Will allowed Beverly to take her place behind her desk and was mildly surprised to note she stood at attention. Knowing her mercurial nature…and legendary temper…he took this as a good sign and decided to be non-committal…at least at first. He waved her to her seat and sat himself, Deanna stood beside him.

“How is Captain Picard?”

Beverly adopted a professional approach.

“Most of Captain Picard’s injuries have been successfully treated. He is recovering well.”

Will crossed his legs and ran a hand through his beard.

“And what were his injuries?”

Before Beverly replied, she reached for a packet and put it on her desk. Will watched as she opened it and displayed the contents.

“These crossbow bolts, eight in all, were removed from the Captain’s body during his surgery. They have damaged several organs and two joints but the injury one in particular caused is giving me some concern. The sciatic nerve of his left leg has been severed and I am in the process of cloning a new nerve. However the transplant may be problematic…I’ll know more when I come to do it. He suffered a serious skull fracture, and lost a lot of blood due to internal bleeding. Somehow his feet, his right foot especially, were badly lacerated and, due to several factors, he has a severe infection throughout his body. We have identified the pathogen and are treating it accordingly.

My prognosis for Captain Picard is optimistic but he will be required to spend at least ten days here in Sick Bay.”

Will nodded slowly, pursing his lips.

“I see. When will he regain consciousness?”

Beverly frowned.

“I can wake him at any time, but I would prefer he had as much rest as possible. I would estimate he will wake naturally sometime this evening.”

“And will I be able to speak with him then?”

Beverly shrugged, the pretence of professional detachment wearing very thin.

“I don’t see why not.”

Will nodded again.

“Good. Now Doctor Crusher I would like to discuss your recent behaviour, specifically your disobedience. What have you to say for yourself?”

Beverly took a moment to rein in her rising anger and strove to remain calm.

“First I would like to apologise to you, both personally and professionally, but at the time I felt I had little choice but to act as I did. The life of not only the man I love, but also my dearest friend was in danger and I had to do something to help him.”

Will reached up and pinched his lower lip, all the while maintaining a steady gaze.

“So you were willing to put the welfare of one man above that of the ship and her crew?”

Beverly clenched her jaw.

“In this instance…yes.”

Will’s eyes hardened and he sat straighter.

“In this instance? Why is this instance any different to any of the other dangerous situations the Captain has been in?”

Beverly lifted her chin and swallowed to wet her dry mouth.

“Because now the Captain and I are in a relationship…”

Her voice dropped to a whisper.

“And he’s the father of my unborn child.”

Deanna gasped and came around the desk to grip Beverly’s shoulder.

“You’re pregnant?”

Beverly looked up with teary eyes.

“Uh huh.”

Will closed his eyes and swore softly under his breath. He looked up and raised his hands in defeat.

“Blood hell I can’t do this. Consider yourself reprimanded Beverly…there will be a mention of this in your permanent record, but I’m not going to take this any further.”

He stood, came around the desk and took Beverly’s hand, drawing her to her feet. He enfolded her in his embrace and kissed her cheek.

“Congratulations.”

Beverly sniffed and wiped at her tears, momentarily overcome.

“Thank you.”

Will nodded and caught Deanna’s eye.

“I’m going back to the Bridge. Call me when I can speak to the Captain.”

Beverly nodded but reached out and caught his hand.

“Will…what about Data?”

He grinned and shook his head.

“Oh I think he’ll get away with it…once I’ve made him sweat a little.”

Beverly smiled her relief.

“Thank you dear friend.”

Will left and Deanna gripped Beverly’s hands.

“Okay woman…details…I want details!”

Beverly’s laughter was heard by her staff, making them smile.

  

 

 

 

 

 

                     Tobias had been awake for ten minutes and he had spent the time watching his father. When Beverly came in, she saw his eyes open and smiled, lifting a tube of cream.

“I have something for your skin…something to replace the elastins your sunburn removed. Turn over and I’ll do your back first.”

Dressed like Jean-Luc in only pyjama bottoms, the boy did as Beverly requested and lay silently as the Doctor gently rubbed the cream into his back and arms. Beverly noticed his reticence and bided her time.

“Okay, turn over.”

As she rubbed the healing balm into his skin, she watched him and noted how his eyes strayed to his father, but still he remained silent. Finishing her treatment, Beverly encouraged the lad to sit up while she went to the replicator, soon returning with a tray. She placed the meal on Tobias’s lap and sat on the bed.

“Right. We have here vegetable soup, a bread roll and a glass of milk. Finish all that and I’ll give you some ice cream.”

Offering no resistance, Tobias ate the meal, then polished off the promised treat. His silence was worrying Beverly but she was reluctant to press the traumatised boy. Instead she smiled and gestured to the sleeping Captain.
“I told you I’d fix him up.”

Tobias stared at his father and sighed, his voice small.

“Will he really be all right?”

Surprising Beverly by using Standard, the Doctor nodded.

“Yes. It will take a while, but yes he’ll be all right.”

“Why won’t he wake up? He’s been asleep for ages.”

Beverly’s smile was warm.

“I gave him a drug that makes him sleep. He’ll wake up later tonight.”

The boy’s eyes travelled over his father and lingered at his feet.

“Were you able to fix his feet? I tried to get all the pieces of shell out, but I couldn’t get the really deep ones.”

Reaching up, Beverly gently ruffled the lad’s hair.

“You did just fine Tobias. I got all the fragments out and cleaned the wounds, but your father has a bad infection and until we eradicate it, I can’t close the cuts. Those special bandages on his feet will keep them clean and help in the healing process.”

Tobias nodded thoughtfully and pointed to Jean-Luc’s legs.

“One of his legs didn’t work. Did you fix that?”

That brought a frown.

“The damage to that leg is quite serious and I’ve been forced to clone some new tissue to repair it. It will be a very difficult job to transplant the new bits, but I’m confident it’ll okay.”

Tobias frowned deeply.

“Does that mean he still won’t be able to walk?”

Beverly nodded.

“Uh huh.”

The lad shook his head.

“I don’t think Papa will like that.”

With a snort, Beverly suppressed a giggle.

“Oh I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, when he discovers he’s going to have to stay here in Sick Bay for a while he’s going to be really grumpy.”

Beverly’s humour disappeared when she saw a look of worry on the boy. She gently took his hand and asked softly,

“What is it Tobias?”

He looked up into Beverly’s eyes, his lip quivering.

“Will he be mad at me?”

Beverly’s heart missed a beat.

“Why would he be mad at you Tobias?”

Tears filled the boy’s eyes.

“Because he only went camping to get to know me. If I hadn’t been such a pain, maybe he wouldn’t have gone down to that rotten planet.”

Beverly lifted her arms and gently enfolded the distressed boy into her arms.

“Tobias listen to me. Your father was going down to the planet in any event. He wanted to explore the ruins…get all dirty and dusty while fossicking around with the archaeological teams. Yes he wanted to spend some time alone with you, but you’re not to blame for what happened.”

She leaned back and gently lifted his chin.

“Do you understand? You weren’t to blame.”

Tobias wiped his eyes and nodded. Reverting to his native French he said,

“Merci beaucoup Beverly.”

Giving the boy a soft kiss on his forehead, Beverly stood and tucked the blankets around him.

“Would you like me to get you a game console…or would you rather read…or sleep?”

Tobias thought for a little while before asking,

“How long until Papa wakes up?”

“Oh…three or four hours.”

Tobias smiled.

“Okay, I’ll play games for a while then I might read. Can I have something more to eat?”

Happy that his appetite was returning, Beverly nodded.

“Yep. What would you like?”

The boy sighed happily.

“Umm, can I have a cheese sandwich and some chocolate chip biscuits? And maybe a chocolate milkshake?”

Beverly had to rely on the translator for some of the order, but she grinned with pleasure.

“Done! I’ll be back in a minute.”

While he waited, Tobias looked over at his father. This time he was happy.

“You’re going to be okay Papa.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Beverly’s prediction was correct and Jean-Luc awoke at twenty one seventeen. He lay quietly, his eyes closed as he assessed his condition. He had a mild headache, his feet were gently throbbing and he had deep discomfort in his back. Knowing any movement would trigger an alarm; he opened his eyes and slowly lifted his right hand, careful not to move his shoulder.

The alarm softly trilled but before anybody answered it, a young voice greeted his ears.

“Papa?”

Jean-Luc turned his head to see his son sitting up and watching him intently. The Captain summoned a smile but when he went to speak, his voice failed him. With a frown he cleared his throat and tried again.

“How are you Tobias?”

Hearing his father’s deep rough voice made the boy grin.

“I’m good Papa. Beverly let me have ice cream, chocolate chip biscuits and a chocolate milkshake.”

That made Jean-Luc chuckle.

“That’s unusual for Beverly. She always makes me eat nutritious things when I’m in Sick Bay.”

Tobias lowered his head and sighed.

“I had to eat vegetable soup first.”

“Ah! That sounds more like it.”

The voice from the door made father and son direct their attention to its owner. Beverly was leaning on the door jamb, her arms folded and a smile gracing her lovely face. To Jean-Luc, she’d rarely looked more beautiful.

“The rules here are quite simple. Do as I say, then you can reap the rewards.”

Jean-Luc glanced at Tobias and said with a grin,

“Do you know what the word tyrant means?”

While the boy nodded, Beverly went to Jean-Luc and scanned him, frowning over the results. She left him briefly and returned with a hypospray and a urinal bottle.

“This…”

She injected him in the neck,

“Is for your pain. And this…”

She offered the bottle,

“Is for your rather full bladder.”

Jean-Luc sighed and closed his eyes.

“Thank you for the analgesic, but I can assure you I’m fully capable of making my way to the toilet.”

He opened his eyes only to be greeted with a shaking head.

“Uh uh.”

The Captain frowned deeply.

“Beverly…”

He attempted to rise but Beverly’s hands gently pushed him back down.

“Oh no you don’t. You stay right there.”

Now becoming irritated, Jean-Luc adopted his command tone.

“Doctor!”

Beverly responded in kind.

“Captain!”

They glared at each other before Beverly relented and softened her approach.

“Jean-Luc you can’t get out of bed. You’re still undergoing regen treatments, your feet won’t support you and your left leg is useless.”

Defeated but not yet willing to concede, Jean-Luc continued to argue.

“Then get me a wheel chair.”

Exasperated, Beverly’s voice rose.

“No! Look just accept the fact that your bed-bound for a while and get over it.”

His rising anger now palpable, Jean-Luc’s softened voice was a sure sign of just how angry he was.

“I will not lie in this bed and use that damned bottle!”

Her eyes flashing, Beverly retaliated,

“Then wet yourself!”

This battle of wills was always going to be won by Beverly. With his bladder almost too full the seething man suddenly thrust out his hand to snatch it, only to give a cry of pain as his shoulder moved. Immediately concerned, their argument forgotten, Beverly grabbed his wrist and gently laid his arm back down. She then moved the blanket, opened his pyjama pants and attached the bottle. The blanket was then pulled up and she gently ran her fingers down his face.

“There. Just relax and let it happen.”

Still recovering from the spike of pain he’d experienced, Jean-Luc still blushed as he closed his eyes and willed himself to relax. It took several seconds, but the relief he felt when his urine started to flow was heartfelt. The sudden spasm of pain in his back made him tense though and Beverly’s gentle hand on his chest made him open his eyes.

“It’s all right Jean-Luc. Your right kidney was badly injured. It’ll be sore for a while and every time you urinate it will hurt.”

He gritted his teeth and waited in silence until he had finished. With a curt nod, Beverly retrieved the bottle and disposed of the contents. When she returned Jean-Luc was calmer. She administered another hypo and suppressed a grin when he asked,

“Would you scratch my right cheek please? This damned beard is itchy.”

Beverly obliged but both adults turned when they heard Tobias giggle.

“Tu ressembles a un gros nounours.”

Jean-Luc’s mouth gaped and his eyebrows rose. Beverly was intrigued by his reaction and asked,

“What was that? I didn’t quite get it.”

Jean-Luc huffed.

“My son says I look like a hairy bear.”

Beverly looked down at his bare hirsute chest and whiskery face and giggled.

“Well he’s not that far wrong.”

In outraged silence, Jean-Luc turned his attention to his lover. His face was stone-like, but his eyes twinkled with mirth.

“Just whose side are you on?”

Beverly placed her hand flat on his chest and leaned down to softly kiss him. In his ear she whispered,

“Yours my love…always.”

He grinned and sighed.

“Thank you. Now if I promise not to move my shoulders, would you bring me a mirror and an iso razor please?”

Beverly’s look was frankly disbelieving.

“You think you can shave yourself without moving your shoulders?”

Jean-Luc gave that a moment’s thought and nodded.

“With your help…yes.”

Tobias watched with great interest as, over the next fifteen minutes, the adults went about their task. When they were finished, Beverly looked down as Jean-Luc admired the results.

“Are you sure you want to keep it?”

The Captain ran his forefinger and thumb over his moustache and nodded. Turning his head, he faced his son.

“Tobias, what do you think?”

Instead of answering his father, Tobias said to Beverly,

“Can I get out of bed?”

Beverly nodded, a curious smile on her face.

“Uh huh.”

The boy slipped from his bed and padded the two metres to his father. He studied the moustache with a serious expression before his face split into a wide grin.

“It’s cool Papa.”

Jean-Luc returned the grin and winked at Beverly, obviously pleased.

“It’s cool.”

Tobias reached over and felt the bristly hair, his enthusiasm obvious.

“It would be even better if it was dark instead of grey.”

Jean-Luc’s eyes closed and he sighed. With his grin fading, he said softly,

“I’m not going to dye my hair Tobias. I’m getting old…my hair, such as it is, is grey. Live with it.”

Not having meant to upset his father and somewhat confused by his reaction, Tobias sought to rectify the situation.

“That’s okay Papa…I still think it’s cool.”

Beverly watched the exchange with amusement and interest. She had rarely heard her lover refer to his advancing age, the years between them never being an issue. She saw the disquiet in her lover’s eyes dissipate and he found a smile. Patting the mattress, Jean-Luc invited his son to sit on the bed with him. Once the boy has settled, Jean-Luc turned his attention back to Beverly.

“How is Tobias?”

Beverly’s smile was genuine.

“He’s very well. All his injuries have been successfully treated and he will have his last regen therapy in the morning, after which he can be discharged.”

Jean-Luc took his son’s hand.

“I can detail someone to stay with you during the day. What would you like to do?”

Tobias frowned and shrugged.

“Would it be all right if I went back to school?”

Jean-Luc looked at Beverly with his eyebrows raised. Beverly pursed her lips and nodded.

“Yes, but not full-time for a while yet. I think a few hours a day for a while, until you’ve recovered your strength.”

The lad looked at his father with a grin.

“Okay that would be good. So when I’m in your quarters there will be someone with me. Does it have to be all the time?”

Hearing the distaste in his voice, Jean-Luc smiled his understanding.

“No not all the time. I take it you want some time alone?”

The boy’s face became serious.

“I’m not a baby Papa; I don’t need someone with me all the time.”

The Captain considered this and nodded.

“All right, that’s reasonable. How about I have someone look in on you every now and then? Would that be all right?”

Knowing this compromise was as good as he was going to get, Tobias nodded.

“Oui Papa, merci.”

Jean-Luc smiled and patted the boy’s leg.

“Good. Now Beverly what about me? Just how long will I be stuck here?”

Before she replied, Beverly took a deep breath and prepared for the inevitable argument.

“At least ten days for your initial treatment.”

Jean-Luc’s eyes darkened.

“Initial treatment? I take it there will be more?”

Beverly nodded.

“Yes. The damage to your sciatic nerve was irreparable, forcing me to clone an entire new nerve. That will take about three weeks requiring you to return for the transplant, and of course there will be physiotherapy to follow.”

“I see. So I will be required to use what…crutches or a wheel chair?”

Beverly frowned.

“That depends on your shoulders. At the moment crutches would be out of the question, but I’m hopeful we can get them strong enough to bear the use of crutches in about two weeks. In the interim a wheel chair would suffice.”

Jean-Luc nodded thoughtfully.

“And my feet?”

Beverly’s eyes travelled to his bandaged feet and she sighed.

“You have a particularly virulent infection but we’re treating it and I expect you to be free of it in a few days. Once that occurs I can seal the lacerations and we can begin regen treatments. I’d say you’ll be up in about six days…maybe less.”

Jean-Luc sighed expansively.

“So I will be confined to bed for..?”

“Four or five days at least. Until you’re completely pain free and your blood chemistry has returned to normal the best treatment is bed rest.”

Pursing his lips, the Captain considered the news. Beverly was still waiting for his protests and wondered just what was going through his brilliant mind.

He gestured to the intravenous drip with raised eyebrows.

“You lost a lot of blood and were severely dehydrated. I want you to eat a decent meal and drink some fluids before I remove that, but if all goes well, it should be gone by morning.”

Jean-Luc nodded and folded his hands on his chest.

“Very well. Thank you.”

Beverly frowned and put her hands on her hips.

“What’s going on?”

Jean-Luc looked up and frowned.

“I beg your pardon?”

Beverly scowled.

“Out with it Captain…what’s going on?”

Looking perplexed and a little annoyed, Jean-Luc’s eyes darkened.

“I’m sure I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”

Beverly’s ire rose.

“Don’t give me that! You’re up to something.”

Before Jean-Luc could reply, Tobias placed his hand on his father’s and said,

“She’s talking about why you’re not grumpy about having to stay.”

The rising irritation in Jean-Luc’s eyes disappeared and he smiled.

“What option do I have but to acquiesce? It’s not as if I can do anything about it…apart from healing as fast as I can.”

The Doctor looked down incredulously, her mouth agape.
“I don’t believe it! You must be sicker than I thought.”

Jean-Luc smiled indulgently, his eyes dark and warm.

“I have always had complete faith in you Beverly. My dislike of Sick Bay was never directed at you. I will stay without complaint as long as you are my Doctor.”

Beverly’s smile was a little slow in appearing, she was still somewhat unconvinced, but she loved this man unreservedly and in the end decided to trust his word. She bent to him and kissed him tenderly.

“I love you Jean-Luc Picard.”

He smiled up at her and sighed happily.

“And I you mon coeur.”

Tobias’s wry comment made both adults laugh.

“Oh please…enough already with the mushy stuff.”

Beverly’s giggle made Jean-Luc close his eyes and smile with happiness. When he looked again at his lover, she folded her arms and grinned.

“Will wants to speak with you.”

The Captain nodded.

“I suspected as much. Before you tell him I’m awake, would it be possible for you to find something for Tobias to do out in Sick Bay? I would appreciate some time alone with Will.”

Nodding her understanding, Beverly turned to the youngster.

“How would you like to learn how to calibrate the tricorders?”

The lad shrugged.

“I already know how to do that, Maman showed me ages ago.”

Undaunted, the Doctor tried again.

“Okay, but how about medical tricorders? Have you ever calibrated one of those?”

That made the boy shake his head thoughtfully.

“No…I don’t think I have.”

With Beverly’s assistance, the boy left Jean-Luc’s bed and allowed the Doctor to usher him from the room. As they left Jean-Luc heard his lover say,

“We’ll use my head nurse Alyssa as a base model.”

A few minutes later Beverly returned.

“Will’s on his way. After he goes I want to treat your skin…the sunburn you suffered was quite severe and I want to replace the elastins that were destroyed.”

Jean-Luc nodded silently then gestured for Beverly to move closer. Once she was at his side, he gently took her hand and looked deeply into her eyes.

“It was you wasn’t it.”

Feigning confusion but knowing exactly what he meant, Beverly raised her eyebrows and shook her head.

“What was me?”

Jean-Luc sighed and frowned.

“You know precisely what I’m talking about Beverly. It was you who rescued us.”

With a flap of her hand, Beverly snorted.

“Oh that…yeah it was me. When I hadn’t heard from you for a while I got worried and eventually decided to come and see what was going on.”

Jean-Luc smiled tenderly.

“Thank God you did…we were in dire straits.”

Beverly shrugged and gave a flippant grin.

“All part of the service my love.”

The Captain shook his head.

“Oh no mon coeur it was much, much more than that. You not only saved my life…again…but that of my son and for that I will be eternally grateful. Thank you mon amour. J’taime.”

Beverly leaned down and kissed her lover. The kiss was gentle and tender but as Jean-Luc’s feathering tongue slipped into her mouth it started to become passionate. Feeling arousal escalating Beverly tapered the kiss and straightened, panting slightly as her smoky eyes devoured her lover. Jean-Luc’s eyes held the same intensity and the atmosphere was charged with sexual tension. Knowing if she didn’t break the spell she would fall into his heated gaze, Beverly closed her eyes and ran her fingers through her hair. Taking a deep breath she steadied herself and concentrated on calming her racing heart.

“Tobias is calling you Papa?”

Jean-Luc also took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He then swallowed and regained control of himself. He summoned a smile.

“Yes.”

Beverly returned the smile and inclined her head.

“You must be pleased.”

“Indeed. It’s a hell of a lot better than monsieur Picard.”

Nodding her agreement, the Doctor asked,

“Whose idea was it?”

Jean-Luc’s face fell, making Beverly concerned.

“Tobias’s.”

“Why does that make you sad?”

The Captain sighed, turning his head and staring at his son’s empty bed.

“Because when he first said it he thought I was dead.”

Beverly gasped and took his hand, gently squeezing it.

“Oh my love…I’m so sorry. You two have been through the mill haven’t you.”

As Jean-Luc was about to answer there was a voice from the doorway.

“Anybody home?”

Both Beverly and Jean-Luc schooled their features and suppressed their swirling emotions. When the Doctor turned to the visitor her face betrayed none of her turbulent feelings.

“Will…come on in.”

The big man entered and Beverly stood back from the bed, allowing the First Officer to stand beside his CO.

“Welcome back Captain, it’s good to see you Sir.”

Jean-Luc smiled up at his Exec, thinking, not for the first time, just how tall the man was.

“Thank you Number One, it’s good to be back.”

Beverly gently gripped Will’s arm and said,

“I’ll leave you two alone. Come and see me before you leave Sick Bay Will.”

The Commander nodded with a grin.

“No worries Beverly.”

Once alone with the Captain, Will dragged a chair over and, having gained permission,  turned the chair around and sat, folding his arms along the chair’s back. Jean-Luc knitted his hands on his chest and slipped into his Captain’s persona.

“Report.”

Over the next five minutes Will related the events that had occurred since the Captain had left the ship, although he deftly left out the part about Beverly and Data’s antics. When he had finished Jean-Luc told Will of his own experiences and they then compared notes. Jean-Luc sighed with frustration.

“It is obvious we’re dealing with a bigger mystery than we first thought Will. Those aliens have made it patently clear they want no contact with us and by their actions they have also demonstrated their displeasure with our presence. How close is LaForge to breaking through the interference?”

Will pursed his lips and ran his fingers through his beard.

“Closest estimate is another six hours or so. We have partial sensor readings as you know but the type and bandwidth of the cloak defeats us.”

Jean-Luc nodded pensively.

“Have you tried hailing them?”

Will shook his head, somewhat surprised at the suggestion.

“No Sir.”

“Well give it a try. I suspect you’ll have no success, but we must explore every avenue. I would dearly like to assure those aliens we mean no harm and I would also like to apologise for disturbing that which is obviously very important to them.”

Will scowled.

“So much so that they attacked without warning or provocation.”

Jean-Luc’s expression changed to one of gentle admonishment.

“Without warning yes, but perhaps not without provocation Will. We were in essence invading their planet Number One. Think about it…we arrive unannounced and uninvited and start interfering with things that are none of our business. We set up equipment; disturbed ancient ruins…who knows what sacrilegious things we may have done just by setting foot in the place.”

He took a deep breath.

“No Will, the provocation was there, perhaps they simply lacked the means to let us know what we were doing was wrong.”

The big man shrugged.

“Well I don’t think I could be so charitable if I was the one with eight crossbow bolts in my body, Sir.”

Jean-Luc smiled then moved on.

“Tell me, when did Beverly get permission to come looking for us? She told me she felt something was wrong, did she pester you for very long?”

Will immediately flushed and tried to change the subject. With a flap of his hand, he gave a rueful grin.

“Oh you know Beverly Captain. How did you and Tobias survive? It must have been very difficult with your injuries.”

Having served several years with his First Officer and well trained in human dynamics and behaviour, Jean-Luc knew without a shadow of a doubt that Will was hiding something and judging by the fact that his reaction had occurred following a seemingly innocuous question about Beverly, the Captain guessed there was more going on than he knew.

He fixed the younger man with an uncompromising look and said in a deceptively soft voice,

“What did she do?”

Will’s stomach clenched as he realised his Captain had seen straight through him. Trying to maintain an innocent look, Will struggled to keep his voice even.

“What did who do Sir?”

With darkening eyes, Jean-Luc’s soft voice became iron hard.

“You know exactly who Commander. Out with it…what did she do?”

Swallowing to wet his suddenly dry mouth, Will briefly closed his eyes and said a silent plea for forgiveness.

“Ah…well…you have to remember Sir…she was very worried about you…really she was beside herself, frantic even and sometimes when people…people who are in love…well they sometimes do things that are not exactly…that is they, well you know…Captain.”

Jean-Luc clenched his jaw and barked,

“What the hell are you trying to say? What did she do?!”

Knowing he had reached the limit of his Captain’s patience, Will took a large breath and told, as quickly as he could, what had transpired. He left nothing out and when he finished he lowered his eyes and sighed silently.

Jean-Luc was also silent…not a good sign. When he spoke his voice was still soft and filled with suppressed anger.

“What did you do about it?”

Meeting his Captain’s eyes, the Commander steeled himself against the anger and disappointment in the older man’s expression.

“I reprimanded both of them and placed a note of their actions in their permanent records.”

Jean-Luc’s look of incredulity did nothing to ease Will’s feeling of impending doom.

“That’s all? For direct disobedience, leaving the ship without permission, stealing a shuttle and involving another officer…one of lesser rank…and allowing that officer to tamper with the ship’s computer to assist in her activities, you reprimanded her?”

Will could only nod mutely, he was unsure if his Captain was aware of his lover’s pregnancy and until he knew otherwise he wasn’t about to offer it in Beverly’s defence.

There was a moment’s silence before Jean-Luc continued.

“And Data. He knowingly aided and abetted a senior officer in all her crimes, in fact I’d wager she wouldn’t have succeeded without his assistance and his punishment was a reprimand? What the hell were you thinking Commander? Their actions were of a very serious nature. At the very least they both should have been demoted and faced a board of inquiry! Did you inform Command?”

Will shook his head, feeling he may lose his dinner very soon.

“No Captain.”

“Why the hell not?”

When Will looked beseechingly at Jean-Luc the Captain could see the yearning for understanding in the man’s eyes.

“Captain Beverly only did what I’d been wishing I could do. You were missing and as more and more evidence came in that showed you had been injured everyone aboard was itching to get down to the planet to find you. But then the archaeological team was attacked and I had to stop all away teams from going down. Can you imagine what that must have been like for Beverly Sir? I knew what she was going through Captain…that’s why I gave her the order to stay aboard, but Sir…if she hadn’t done what she did, you and your son may well have died. Ultimately I couldn’t find it in me to punish her for doing something I should have done myself.”

Jean-Luc maintained his hard stare before he grunted.

“And Data?”

Will shrugged.

“He knew she’d try something and figured she would fail without his help. I asked him to explain to me how he could have shown such blatant disregard for her orders and he told me about how he valued his friends aboard the ship, especially you Sir. How could I punish him for doing something so…Human?”

When Jean-Luc spoke his voice showed his dismay.

“But Will, what about discipline? What about the chain of command?”

The big man shrugged, his sigh one of quiet defiance.

“Captain I know you’re disappointed in me, in all of us, but they saved your life Sir…and that of your son. If you want to punish someone, punish me Sir because I’d do it again in a heartbeat Captain, in fact if I had it my way I’d give them both a medal.”

Jean-Luc’s eyes hardened again and he said quietly,

“I see. Well this is far from over Commander I assure you. For now I will do nothing, you are dismissed, but we will be discussing this again in the near future.”

The First Officer stood and bowed his head.

“I understand Captain, thank you Sir.”

He left and went to find Beverly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  The Doctor was with Tobias in the main body of the facility when Will found them. One look at his face told Beverly something was wrong. Having made sure the boy was occupied, Beverly gestured for Will to follow her to her office and once inside folded her arms and took the direct approach.

“What’s up?”

Will took a deep breath, his worry clearly displayed.

“He knows.”

Beverly, knowing instantly to what Will was referring to, closed her eyes and bowed her head, one hand rising to pinch the bridge of her nose.

“Oh shit. How did he take it?”

Will shrugged, his anger and hurt swirling in his eyes.

“How do you think he took it? He’s furious…disappointed…dismayed, you name it…and he can’t understand why I didn’t punish you and Data like I should have.”

Beverly sat slowly in her chair and lowered her head into her hands.

“What is he going to do?”

Will grabbed the chair in front of him and leaned down, gripping the back.

“For now nothing, but he told me we’ll be discussing it further pretty soon.”

Beverly looked out her office window at the Captain’s room and sighed.

“Look Will I’ll tell him it was all my fault, that I encouraged Data and you only tried to keep things going while we unravelled the mystery down on the planet. I…”

Will held up his hand, his eyes flinty.

“Oh no you don’t! I was in command Beverly and I know full well what I was supposed to do when I found out what you two had done. I am responsible for this, not you.”

The Doctor shook her head.

“No Will it was me! If I hadn’t…”

Straightening, Will displayed a hardness rarely seen on his usually amiable face.

“Uh uh I won’t let you martyr yourself Beverly. As the senior officer on board it was my duty to see that you and Data were properly punished for what you did. Failure to do so is dereliction of duty and I’m fully prepared to accept whatever consequences there are for my actions.”

Beverly looked up at her friend, her face registering her dismay.

“But Will…this is all my fault.”

The smile that emerged surprised the Doctor. Considering the gravity of the situation the last thing Beverly expected to see was a smile.

“I’ll take my lumps Beverly. You however will have a hell of a time explaining yourself to the Captain. I really wouldn’t want to be in your shoes.”

The light in Beverly’s eyes dimmed and she sighed.

“Christ. I’m for the high jump aren’t I.”

There was a moment’s silence while both people contemplated their fate. Will sighed and rubbed his forehead.

“There’s something else Beverly. He asked me if I’d contacted Command.”

Beverly lifted her head, her eyes widening.

“What? You can’t be serious…he wouldn’t…would he?”

Will shrugged.

“He may have to Beverly. What happened was a serious breech of discipline by two senior officers. I don’t see how he can avoid it…let’s face it…I should have done it as soon as I knew what had happened.”

Beverly closed her eyes and softly groaned.

“Oh shit…I’ve really done it this time. He’ll never forgive me for this.”

Will sighed and said softly,

“Beverly…does he know about..?”
He pointed to her stomach and the Doctor grimaced, shaking her head.

“Nup…I haven’t had the opportunity to tell him yet.”

Will nodded his understanding.

“Okay but maybe you should tell him now…after all it is a mitigating factor, one that involves him, albeit remotely.”

Beverly scowled and shook her head.

“No I’m not going to use my pregnancy to blackmail him into ignoring his duty. I will wear the consequences of what I’ve done…I only hope I can repair his disappointment in me.”

Will grunted.

“You and me both. Well I’m going to my quarters. See you tomorrow.”

Beverly looked up and smiled wanly.

“Okay see you Will…and thanks.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Beverly left her office and, having made sure Tobias was still engrossed, entered the Captain’s room, her stomach shrivelled and her heart racing. Jean-Luc was lying very still, staring up at the ceiling, his expression closed. Beverly moved to his side and summoned her voice.

“I’m sorry Jean-Luc…sorry I’ve disappointed you and sorry I involved Data, but I have to tell you I’m not sorry for rescuing you. Given the same circumstances…I’d do it again.”

Refusing to look at his lover, Jean-Luc’s voice was hard and edged with anger.

“Then you are saying you are willing to throw away your career.”

Keeping her own voice steady, Beverly replied,

“Where it comes to you my career will always take second place.”

Still with his gaze fixed on the ceiling, Jean-Luc’s eyes glittered dangerously.

“Then you should have resigned your commission before acting in such a foolhardy manner.”

Beverly sighed.

“Perhaps but at the time all I wanted to do was find you and Tobias. I didn’t really stop to consider the ramifications of my actions.”

Jean-Luc’s reply was sardonic.

“Obviously or you would’ve realised by doing what you did, you dragged Will into it as well as Data.”

For the first time he turned his head and stared coldly at the red head.

“What were you thinking Beverly?”

Bowing her head, Beverly sighed and shrugged.

“I just wanted to find you.”

There was a moment’s silence before Jean-Luc spoke.

“That will be all Doctor.”

Gently biting her lip, Beverly left without protest and sought out her head nurse.

“Alyssa will you take Tobias to the Captain’s room and get him settled for the night? Then will you give the Captain five cc’s of Amiltran, rub in some flexiderm to the burned areas of skin, check his drip and get him to drink at least five hundred mils of water? I’m going off duty.”

Somewhat surprised by her instructions, Alyssa nodded.

“All right Doctor…but is everything okay?”

Beverly gave a reassuring smile and nodded.

“Yes, I’m just a little tired.”

She turned and took a few steps before halting and turning back.

“And don’t put up with any of his nonsense. He’s a patient here and will do as he’s told.”

Alyssa frowned a little uncertainly. Beverly saw this and smiled.

“If he causes you any trouble, call me.”

The head nurse grinned in relief and nodded.

“Thank you Doctor, good night.”

As soon as she turned to leave, Beverly’s smile faded away.

“Hell, I’m in deep shit now.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  It was late in the ship’s night and Tobias had had a bad dream. He gasped awake, his heart pounding and his eyes wide in the darkness. Jean-Luc’s gentle voice was a refuge from the terror.

“Tobias? Are you all right? Do you want me to call someone?”

The lad swallowed and shook his head.

“No Papa…I just had an awful dream.”

The Captain commiserated.

“Oh that’s bad luck. Would you like to talk about it?”

There were several seconds of silence before Tobias’s trembling voice penetrated the darkness.

“Can we have some light?”

“Of course. Lights twenty percent.”

Jean-Luc looked across at his son to see him wiping his eyes. Wishing he could physically comfort the boy, Jean-Luc instead decided to confess something.

“I get nightmares too. Really bad ones.”

Tobias turned his head and gaped at his father.

“You do? What about?”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“Oh things…you know, bad things that have happened to me. Sometimes it gets so bad I have to talk to Counsellor Troi about it.”

Tobias sat up and slipped from his bed, padding across the room and climbing up beside his father. Once he was settled he asked,

“Does it help?”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“Talking to the Counsellor? Yes it does but that’s not something I do very easily. I tend to want to try and see myself through my difficulties alone. It has taken me a long time to learn to accept the help of others.”

Tobias nodded thoughtfully.

“Maman was like that. She used to say that you have to help yourself all the time.”

Jean-Luc smiled wistfully.

“Yes, she was very independent. It was one of the many things I admired about her.”

Tobias grinned at the man then grew thoughtful.

“Papa you have two first names.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes, my given name is what’s called a hyphenated name…two names joined to make one.”

Tobias nodded.

“Can you have two last names?”

“Yes you can.”

The boy scratched his ear.

“How would that happen?”

Jean-Luc pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows.

“It’s a fairly simple procedure. A request is made to the central registry office and once they acknowledge the change it becomes official.”

Tobias fiddled with the edge of Jean-Luc’s blanket.

“That’s what grown ups do. What about kids?”

“Well I suppose the application would be made on behalf of the child by a parent or legal guardian. Why do you ask?”

Tobias looked at his father and shrugged.

“I’ve been wondering if you’d mind if I had your last name as well as Maman’s.”

Jean-Luc smiled, his eyes warm with pleasure and pride.

“Of course I wouldn’t mind Tobias; in fact I would be highly delighted.”

The lad’s face became serious.

“Yeah well I’m still thinking about it. When I’m sure I’ll let you know.”

Jean-Luc gently squeezed his son’s thigh.

“That’s quite all right, you take all the time you need. Now my boy…it’s very late and you should be asleep.”

Tobias looked over at his bed and shuddered. His eyes found his father’s and he asked in a small voice,

“Papa…can I sleep with you?”

The Captain tenderly smiled his understanding.

“Yes of course. Here, I’ll move over a bit…these Sick Bay beds aren’t all that big.”

Tobias snuggled alongside his father and rested an arm over his broad chest. There was a protracted silence before Tobias said sleepily,

“Bon nuit Papa.”

Ignoring the pain it caused, Jean-Luc lifted an arm and wrapped it around the boy.

“Good night Tobias, sweet dreams.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Having listened to the report from the night watch duty officer, Will nodded his acknowledgement and assumed command. Noting that the alpha shift were at their stations, he lifted his chin and said quietly,

“Tactical, hail the planet.”

The Ensign at the Tactical station frowned.

“Sir?”

Will turned and repeated his order.

“Hail the planet Ensign.”

“Yes Sir.”

There were several seconds of silence before the Ensign reported,

“No reply Commander.”

Will was about to sit, his face one of resignation, when the Ensign’s incredulous voice interrupted his thoughts.

“Wait Sir…someone…or something’s responding.”

Will tensed and shook his head.

“How did you know Captain?”

The Ensign grimaced, shaking her head in consternation.

“We can’t decipher the message Commander; it’s in an unknown language.”

Will lifted his head and slightly raised his voice.

“Bridge to Engineering.”

Geordi answered.

“Engineering here.”

“Is Data there Geordi?”

“Yes Commander, he’s helping me with the sensors.”

“How are you doing?”

“Good Sir. I’d say we’ll have full scanning capabilities within the hour.”

Will grinned.

“Well done Geordi. I’m going to send down a message we’ve just received from the planet. I want Data to have a look at it and report as soon as possible.”

“Understood Commander, LaForge out.”

The big First Officer took his seat and pensively scratched his beard.

“Well things are certainly getting interesting.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Beverly stood in the doorway of the Captain’s room, a tender, wistful smile gracing her lovely face. Jean-Luc and Tobias were still asleep; the boy snuggled into his father’s embrace. Moving very quietly, Beverly went to her lover’s left side and gently eased his arm to one side. As she was sliding the cannula from his vein his eyes opened and he stared up at the Doctor, his expression unreadable. Beverly smiled down at him and pressed a small gauze pad over the small wound to stem any bleeding. In a hushed whisper, careful not to wake Tobias, she asked,

“How do you feel this morning?”

His curt reply dismayed her.

“I’m fine Doctor.”

The rumbling of his deep voice woke Tobias and he stretched, blinking owlishly. Beverly grinned at the boy and ruffled his untidy hair.

“Good morning Tobias. Hungry?”

The lad nodded as he sat up, knuckling his eyes.

“Okay, what would you like for breakfast?”

The yawn that consumed the boy made Jean-Luc yawn as well. Beverly snickered and shook her head.

“Must be genetic.”

Tobias grinned but Jean-Luc scowled. Beverly ignored his sour mood and while she waited to hear from Tobias, fetched a tissue sealer and healed the little wound left from the drip. Tobias rubbed his fingers over his lower lip just like his father and Beverly marvelled at their similarity, but kept her interest to herself.

“Can I have wheaties with honey and milk, croissants with jam and orange juice?”

Beverly nodded enthusiastically.

“Yep. You like wheaties? So does my son.”

She then directed her attention to the Captain.

“And what about you Jean-Luc? What would you like?”

His cold stare made her stomach clench.

“Nothing, I’m not hungry.”

Taking a calming breath, Beverly strove to keep her rising anger in check.

“Now you know that won’t do. You must eat something Jean-Luc or I’ll have to put the drip back in.”

He sneered and shook his head.

“I said I’m not hungry!”

Tobias watched the exchange with growing apprehension. Something was definitely wrong, but what it was eluded him. As the tension grew in the room he took his father’s hand.

“Come on Papa, I want you to get better. We can share a croissant.”

Jean-Luc looked into his son’s eyes and saw his worry. The anger left his face and he sighed.

“Very well.”

He kept his attention on his son, refusing to look at Beverly.

“Coffee and croissants Doctor.”

Beverly gave a curt nod but smiled her gratitude at Tobias.

“Good. Now before you both eat, I want you bathed and Tobias you can get dressed.

The lad hopped off the bed and stretched.

“That’s okay; I have to go to the bathroom anyway.”

Tobias wandered into the bathroom and Beverly sighed.

“Do you want me to wash and shave you or would you prefer one of my staff?”

Jean-Luc stared at the ceiling.

“I can do it myself.”

Beverly scowled.

“Like hell you can. Stop being so bloody obstinate Jean-Luc and accept help. I know you have to use a bottle, do you want it now?”

His curt nod angered the Doctor but she maintained her control and assisted her lover with his bodily functions. Tobias emerged from the bathroom looking somewhat damp and dressed. Beverly smiled at him and pointed to the door.

“How about you take your computer game and wait in my office while I wash your Dad.”

The boy grinned.

“Okay.”

In the half an hour it took to wash, shave and dress Jean-Luc he remained steadfastly silent. Beverly went about her tasks with a grim attitude, anger and dismay warring for dominance. When he was once again sitting up in his bed in clean pyjama pants, Beverly called Tobias back in. It only took a few minutes to replicate breakfast and she left the two males to enjoy the meal together.

She returned thirty minutes later to see Tobias showing his father his latest computer game.

“Well Tobias, would you like to go to school today?”

The boy looked up and nodded, a broad smile gracing his young face.

“Yes please.”

“Okay, come on I’ll take you there.”

With Beverly’s French improving all the time, the pair chatted amicably as they negotiated the way to the school. Marta Rodriguez was delighted to see her pupil, placing her hands on his shoulders and ushering him into the room.

“Class, look who’s back.”

While the students gathered around the boy, Beverly beckoned the younger woman into the anteroom. Marta inclined her head and asked,

“How is he Doctor?”

Beverly watched with amusement as Tobias, switching to Standard, answered questions from his fellow pupils.

“He’s recovering well Marta, but he has been through a significant trauma and, added to his original difficulties I would be hesitant to ask too much of him.”

Marta nodded her understanding.

“Yes I can see how it may affect him, although he appears to be calmer…more communicative.”

Beverly nodded.

“Uh huh. While the camping trip was a disaster he still managed to form a strong bond with Captain Picard. He still has a long way to go in his psychological recovery, but he has taken some important steps in that direction. I’m hopeful he will continue.”

Marta glanced at the boy then returned her attention to her superior.

“It’s good that he’s getting on well with his father, but I must admit to being curious. How is your relationship with the boy?”

Beverly folded her arms and tilted her head.

“Right now, not too bad. I think he’s pleased with me for first rescuing then saving his father…what the future holds is anybody’s guess.”

Marta moved a little closer to the door and listened intently. Turning back to the Doctor, she raised her eyebrows.

“He’s using Standard.”

Beverly nodded.

“Yes. He’s done it a couple of times with me too.”

The pretty woman smiled with delight.

“That will help tremendously. His insistence in using French only served to further isolate him, not only from us but more importantly, his peers.”

Beverly nodded.

“Yes but it’s not hard to understand his need to maintain his connection to his mother. In many ways it was helpful that his father is French. It would’ve been so much harder to reach him if the Captain was unable to freely communicate with him. I think Tobias took great comfort in hearing his native language from his father.”

Marta nodded, her expressive dark eyes showing her understanding.

“I take it he will only be here on reduced hours?”

The Doctor nodded.

“Yes. Mornings for now and I’ll reassess it in a week. A lighter work load would be appreciated too.”

“Of course Doctor. Do you think it would be beneficial if I asked him to write an essay about the trip? Or is it too soon?”

Beverly thought about that and sighed.

“Let me discuss it with Counsellor Troi and I’ll let you know.”

Marta bowed her head and smiled.

“As you wish Doctor. Well I should be getting back to the students. Will you be here at noon?”

Beverly frowned.

“If not me then someone else.”

“Very well Doctor Crusher. Thank you for bringing him down.”

Beverly stayed a few moments longer then left.

“If only your father was as easy to deal with.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Will stood outside the Captain’s room, feeling apprehensive. He gave his tunic a tug, swallowed and took a large breath before gently knocking and entering. Jean-Luc was reading and looked up, his eyes gimlet-like.

“Good morning Captain, how are you Sir?”

His voice soft, Jean-Luc replied,

“I am well Commander. Have you anything to report?”

Will stood by his CO’s bed and nodded.

“Yes Sir. We followed your suggestion and hailed the planet. We got an answer Captain. We can’t decipher it yet…I’ve got Data working on it, but as soon as we have a translation we’ll take it from there. What do you suggest we say Sir?”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“I think we should apologise for our actions first, then ask permission to return to study the ruins. If that fails, ask if we can have our equipment back and assure them we will leave them alone.”

Will nodded.

“Aye Sir. There is a good chance we’ll have full sensor capabilities within the hour. I would like to know just what, or who we’re talking to when the time comes.”

Jean-Luc pursed his lips.

“Agreed Commander. Is there anything else?”

Stifling his dismay at the Captain’s continuing cold manner, the First Officer shook his head.

“No Captain.”

“Very well, keep me informed. Dismissed.”

As Will left the room he spotted Beverly who had just returned from the school. The Commander caught her eye and pointed to her office. She gave a nod and followed him inside. Will folded his arms and sighed.

“Bloody hell, he’s still as mad as hell.”

Beverly snorted.

“Tell me about it! The only person he’s been civil to is his son. This whole situation is driving me nuts Will. What the hell can we do?”

Will shook his head and shrugged.

“I’ve no idea. Until he decides to talk to me about it, I’m not going to bring it up. We should just let him stew until he wants to talk about it.”

Beverly raised her hands in exasperation.

“Oh yeah that’s good…he’ll be in that bloody room for days yet Will, and I’m the only one he’s going to allow to tend to him. How the hell am I going to keep things…civil…with his bloody attitude?”

The big man stepped up to Beverly and gripped her shoulders.

“I don’t know, but it’s important you do. Look Beverly, we’re the ones at fault here. You did what you did and I compounded it by letting you off the hook. He’s only doing what he sees as his duty. You can’t fault him for that. And we must also remember how we’ve disappointed him. This is hard Bev, hard for all of us, and until he decides what to do, we just have to wear it.”

Beverly took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds before letting it out in a rush. She briefly closed her eyes and shook her head.

“You’re right of course, but sometimes I just want to shake him Will.”

Will grinned and ran a hand over his face.

“You know, sometimes he makes me feel like I’m a kid who’s been called to the principal’s office and the worst part is you can guarantee I’m the one at fault.”

The big man sighed.

“He’s more like a father to me than my own Dad.”

Beverly snorted.

“Yeah well…my relationship with him isn’t exactly one of parent and child.”

Will chuckled.

“Ah…no, I suppose not.”

The Doctor sighed.

“And I have to find a way to repair that relationship. After all he’s going to be a father…again.”

The two officers stood staring into each other’s eyes until Will suddenly held out his arms. Beverly stepped into his embrace gratefully and they spent a moment giving each other comfort and support. When they pulled back, they were smiling.

“I’ll be on the Bridge. Call me if you need me.”

Beverly grinned and nodded.

“Will do…and thanks Will.”

“No problem.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Jean-Luc couldn’t concentrate on his book. He sighed and let it drop to his lap as he closed his eyes and tried to calm his rising anger. Every time he thought about what had happened he became angry, angry at Beverly and Data and angry at Will, but he was also angry with himself. Having learned of what had transpired, he should’ve convened an inquiry and contacted Command immediately, that he had done neither rankled him more than he cared to admit and just why he was being so reticent escaped him. He sighed expansively and lifted his head.

“Picard to Data.”

“Data here Sir.”

“Would you report to me in Sick Bay Mr.Data?”

“If I may Captain, I am at present involved in two investigations of some importance. May I finish them first Captain?”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“Yes Mr.Data, at your convenience.”

“Thank you Captain. Data out.”

Jean-Luc folded his hands on his lap, closed his eyes and attempted to meditate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   At her own request it was Deanna who picked up Tobias from school. They walked back to Jean-Luc’s quarters in companionable silence, Deanna pleased with the happier emotions emanating from the boy. Once inside Tobias surprised Deanna by speaking in Standard.

“Would you like something Counsellor? A drink maybe?”

The Counsellor tilted her head.

“Only if you have one too.”

“Okay.”

The lad went to the replicator and made Deanna smile with his order.

“One hot chocolate with marshmallows and one Earl Grey tea with milk and double sweetener.”

She waited until they were seated on the sofa before she asked,

“You like Earl Grey?”

Tobias shrugged.

“I don’t know. Papa drinks it all the time…I thought I’d give it a go. I like ordinary tea.”

Deanna watched in amused silence while Tobias took a sip of his tea. He grimaced and put it down.

“I don’t know how he can drink that.”

The Counsellor chuckled.

“Well he has it black and without sugar. Maybe that’s it?”

Tobias shrugged and took another sip. This time he raised his eyebrows and smiled.

“Maybe it will grow on me.”

Deanna laughed and patted his knee.

“I think you’re more like your father than you know.”

She then adopted a more serious visage.

“Do you want to talk about what happed on the planet?”

The boy sighed and frowned, his silence worrying the Counsellor. Eventually he looked at her, his dark hazel eyes intense.

“Papa talks to you about things, doesn’t he.”

Not knowing quite where this was going, Deanna nodded speculatively.

“Yes.”

“He told me that he finds it hard to ask for help, but that sometimes he gets really bad nightmares and he talks to you about them.”

Saying a silent thank you to her Captain, Deanna nodded again.

“Yes, that’s true.”

Tobias was silent again for a few moments before he said in a small voice,

“I had a nightmare last night. A real bad one.”

“What was it about?”

The boy closed his eyes and sighed.

“We were back on the planet…in a cave. When we first went in there, there were birds that flew out in the dark, but after the birds we heard something growling, something really big. There was this huge animal…it had teeth and claws and it attacked us. I couldn’t see it but I fired the phaser at the noise it made. I killed it and I was so scared I wet my pants. In the nightmare the phaser doesn’t work and the animal gets me. I try to fight it because Papa can’t help me, but I can’t do anything. I woke up just as the beast was going to kill me.”

Deanna gently took the boy’s hand.

“That was a very frightening dream Tobias. It’s understandable you should have a dream like that considering what you went through.”

The lad looked up, his eyes deeply troubled.

“Will it happen again?”

Deanna smiled sympathetically.

“I can’t say it won’t happen again Tobias, but if we talk about it and whatever else happened on the planet, I’m hopeful it will get better.”

Tobias nodded thoughtfully and sighed.

“What do you want to know? Where do I start?”

With a warm smile, Deanna kept hold of his hand.
“At the beginning Tobias, at the beginning.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Forty-five minutes later Tobias was sobbing in Deanna’s arms. The Counsellor gently rubbed his back as he slowly regained control of himself, his sobs subsiding into hiccupping gulps. He took a shaking breath and slowly pulled back, wiping his eyes. Deanna rose, collected a tissue then rejoined the boy on the sofa. He smiled his thanks and blew his nose. When he spoke, his voice was very subdued.

“You must think I’m a real baby.”

Deanna smiled reassuringly.

“Not at all Tobias. After what you’ve been through, I think you’re entitled to a few tears.”

The boy took a deep breath and shook his head.

“So much happened Deanna, but the worst was when I thought Papa was dead. It was then I realised what an idiot I’d been. I was such a pain…to so many people…it’s a wonder I didn’t get my nose broken at school, I treated Graeme really badly.”

Deanna sighed and squeezed the lad’s hand.

“Tobias people are generally very forgiving. We all knew you’d been through a terrible time with your mother, nobody was going to upset you further by complaining about your behaviour.”

Tobias shrugged.

“Well they should have! The way I treated Papa…and Beverly…I’m really sorry about that.”

Deanna smiled.

“Have you told either of them?”

The boy shrugged again.

“I think Papa knows but Beverly? No I haven’t told her.”

“Well maybe you should.”

Tobias nodded thoughtfully then frowned.

“Deanna, why is Papa mad at Beverly?”

Not wishing to explain the situation, Deanna hedged.

“Oh I don’t think he’s really mad with her…maybe a bit irritated perhaps but I’m sure they’ll work it out.”

Somewhat unconvinced, Tobias sat up and stretched.

“Can I go and see Papa now?”

The Counsellor frowned.

“Tobias you need to have some lunch then I want you to rest. Tell you what, how about I come by at fifteen hundred and we can go to Sick Bay together? You can see your father and I’ll see Beverly.”

The boy frowned but eventually shrugged.

“All right. After lunch I’ll do my homework then I’ll read or something.”

Deanna grinned.

“Excellent. Now, what do you want for lunch?”

Tobias thought for a few moments before grinning.

“Two poached eggs on toast and a cup of ordinary tea.”

Deanna frowned.

“A glass of milk would be better.”

The lad grinned cheekily.

“Maybe, but a cup of tea tastes nicer.”

Deanna sighed in capitulation.

“Very well, but you’re not to tell your father.”

“Cool!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Data listened again to the recording and frowned. Accessing the databanks, he cross referenced several entries before he found what he was looking for, although it still didn’t unlock the mystery. Tapping his combadge he called,

“Data to Stevin.”

“Stevin here Commander, go ahead.”

“Commander Stevin what is your status?”

“I am on medical leave Commander.”

Data frowned, tilting his head.

“I see. I am investigating something and I require your expertise. Would you be willing to come to Engineering to help me?”

“Of course Sir, I’ll be there shortly.”

“Thank you Commander, Data out.”

Geordi looked up from his console and smiled.

“Calling in the troops Data?”

The android shrugged.

“I am endeavouring to utilise the resources available Geordi.”

The dark engineer straightened and went to his friend’s side.

“Is it that difficult?”

“Yes it is.”

Geordi gripped Data’s shoulder, his hand warm.

“Well at least I can tell Commander Riker he has full scanning capabilities.”

Data nodded.

“Indeed, he should be very happy.”

The engineer shrugged.

“From what I hear it’s going to take more than that to make that man happy my friend.”

Confused, Data frowned.

“I do not understand Geordi.”

LaForge sighed.

“Data don’t you ever listen to scuttlebutt?”

The android shook his head.

“No one ever tells me any Geordi.”

“Oh. Well in that case I’ll fill you in on the latest; actually, considering it involves you I might be doing you a favour. Fore warned is fore armed.”

Data focussed his attention and curbed his anticipation.

“Please, proceed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Will stood and gaped.

“How many Ensign?”

“Two hundred and eighty seven thousand Commander.”

Will stared at the viewscreen as if the image of the planet could enlighten him.

“And they’re all underground?”

“Aye Sir. We’re reading that many life forms, structures, interconnecting power conduits, what appears to be gardens, processing plants, water supplies…everything you’d expect from a functioning community Sir, albeit a very large one.”

Will dragged a hand through his hair.

“And the power source?”

“A centrally located pulse generator Sir. By these readouts, its output is massive Sir, in the terawatt range.”

Will sat and shook his head.

“My God, that’s incredible! Were they transporting through those silica patches?”

“Yes Commander. The sand acts as a conductor.”

The First Officer was incredulous.

“And what kind of life forms are they?”

“Insectoid Sir.”

“Right.”

He lifted his head.

“Riker to Data.”

“Data here.”

“How are you going with the translation Data?”

“I am having significant difficulties Commander, however I have enlisted help. I hope to have something for you soon.”

Will sighed.

“Very well, keep on it, Bridge out.”

The big man looked again at the innocuous planet.

“Two hundred and eighty seven thousand. Good God.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Beverly took a deep breath and strove to keep her escalating anger at bay.

“Look Jean-Luc, I don’t want to do this any more than you want me too, but I have to exercise your leg, otherwise your muscles will atrophy.”

The disgruntled man snorted and looked down at his useless leg.

“I still don’t see the point. You’re going to transplant the new nerve in a few days, what difference will exercise make?”

The Doctor sat on the bed and rubbed the bridge of her nose.

“Once the transplant takes place you’ll be having extensive therapy on that leg. If we keep the muscles toned and loose now, it will make our job that much easier later.”

Folding his arms, the Captain scowled.

“Then can’t we do it later? I’ve just had lunch.”

Beverly sighed in exasperation.

“I’d hardly call a ham and cheese sandwich and a cup of tea lunch Jean-Luc, it was barely enough to suffice.”

He was about to argue further when Beverly held up her hand.

“Look I know you’re upset with me but you shouldn’t let that interfere with your treatment. Now if you want another Doctor, okay I’ll ask Selar to take over, if not, for God’s sake just do as you’re told will you? Your attitude is driving me nuts.”

Jean-Luc summoned a glare and gritted his teeth.

“Very well Doctor, proceed with your damned exercises!”

Fifteen minutes later Beverly was rapidly tiring of Jean-Luc’s cold silence. She switched off the electro bands on his leg and sighed, looking into his eyes beseechingly.

“Can’t we talk about it Jean-Luc?”

His frigid stare made her wince.

“What would you have me say Beverly? Do you want me to condone what you did? Would you have me ignore my duty? You put the welfare of this ship and her crew at risk to pursue a personal matter and you allowed a junior officer to assist you. That was reprehensible Beverly…and extremely selfish. How am I supposed to deal with that? Hmm? Do you think that because we’re in a relationship it somehow mitigates what you did?  I shouldn’t have to remind you of my duty as Captain of this ship but by your actions you have attempted to compromise that position and I am left with the unsavoury task of seeing that you, Data and Will are punished for what you did. Now if that makes you uncomfortable, or if you find that hard to take, so be it. This was of your own doing Beverly.”

The Doctor was silent for a moment before she sighed.

“I understand fully what you’re saying and I wouldn’t even bother trying to defend the indefensible, but what about us Jean-Luc? Does this mean you don’t love me anymore? Does it mean our relationship is over?”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and rubbed his face. When he spoke his voice was very deep and rough.

“I doubt there is anything in the universe that would make me stop loving you Beverly, but this is serious. Your actions have hurt me, both as the Captain of this ship and as your lover. Until this is resolved one way or another I suspect it will be difficult for us to continue as we were.”

Beverly’s eyes glittered suspiciously.

“Do you want me to move back to my old quarters?”

Jean-Luc swallowed and struggled to keep his voice even.

“It might be best.”

The Doctor stood, her voice trembling.

“Very well, I’ll move out this evening.”

Unable to bear being in his company any longer, Beverly turned abruptly and left the room, seeking refuge in her office. She sat behind her desk, placed her elbows on the desktop and cradled her head in her hands.

“Oh God…no…not this.”

Her tears were bitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Will finished his report and waited for a reaction. Jean-Luc’s amazed face told Will he was as gob smacked as he was.

“Nearly two hundred thousand people? Dear God…how did they escape discovery for so long?”

Will shrugged.

“It would have to be their subterranean existence Captain, that and their very efficient cloaking device.”

“Indeed Commander. How is the translation going?”

The big man sighed.

“Nothing so far Captain, but Data thinks he may have something soon.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Very well, keep me appraised.”

Will turned to leave just as Tobias and Deanna entered. The Commander and the Counsellor locked eyes and smiled as the boy went to his father.

“Hello Papa.”

“Hello Tobias, how was school?”

The boy grinned.

“It was good. Everyone wanted to know what happened.”

Jean-Luc raised his eyebrows.

“And did you tell them?”

Tobias shrugged.

“Not all of it, but some…you know.”

Deanna’s soft voice drew Jean-Luc’s attention.

“I’ll be back soon Captain; I’m going to see Beverly if that’s all right with you Sir.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“That’s fine Counsellor.”

Will nodded to his CO.

“I’ll be going too Sir.”

“Very well Commander.”

Tobias climbed up onto Jean-Luc’s bed and asked,

“What did you have for lunch?”

As Jean-Luc answered, Deanna left and sought out her best friend. She found Beverly in her office and the distress coming from the Doctor made Deanna wince.

“Beverly? What’s wrong?”

The red head sat up and wiped her eyes.

“Oh nothing Dee…I must be a bit hormonal today.”

Deanna scowled and sat on the desk.

“Rubbish. What is it? Is it something to do with you and the Captain?”

At the mention of her lover, Beverly’s intense emotions spiked. Deanna slipped off the desk and took Beverly’s hands.

“Tell me.”

Barely keeping her tears at bay, Beverly replied,

“He wants me to move out Deanna. Until this whole mess is resolved he says things between us are effectively on hold.”

Deanna sighed and frowned deeply.

“Damn. Has he said what he intends to do yet?”

Beverly shook her head.

“No, not yet.”

“Does he still love you?”

Beverly sniffed wetly.

“Yes.”

Deanna squeezed her hands.

“Then I have every hope this will all blow over. He needs time Beverly, time to get over the hurt and shock. Once he sees it more dispassionately he may relent.”

The Doctor looked up at her friend and smiled wanly.

“That’s my hope too Dee.”

“In the meantime you have to be patient. Give him some space and let him come to terms with his feelings.”

Beverly nodded and sighed.

“How did Tobias go at school?”

Frowning at the change of subject, Deanna nonetheless allowed the tactic.

“He went quite well. After I picked him up we went back to his quarters and he allowed me to counsel him. It was very emotional…God they went through hell, but he got it out with not too much trauma. It was very good I think.”

Beverly nodded.

“I’m glad Dee. Marta asked if she should ask him to write an essay about his time on the planet. I said I’d ask your advice.”

Deanna considered the idea and sighed.

“I think it would be a good strategy, but not yet. He’s still having nightmares about it. Let him get over the shock and we’ll see.”

Beverly stood and took a deep breath.

“Well I’d better get back to work.”

Deanna also stood and tilted her head.

“Don’t bottle things up Beverly. You come to me…okay?”

Beverly summoned a smile and nodded.

“Okay.”

Deanna watched Beverly walk out into Sick Bay, a frown on her face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        Later that day, at eighteen thirty, Beverly walked into Jean-Luc’s quarters to find Tobias dozing on the sofa, a book resting on his chest. Casting the boy a warm smile, the Doctor went into the bedroom and started to pack. Within a few minutes a sleep tousled boy entered the room.

“What are you doing Beverly?”

Grateful that he was using Standard, Beverly gave a quick smile and shrugged.

“Oh just throwing a few things into my pack.”

“Why?”

Suppressing the urge to grimace, Beverly replied,

“I thought I’d go back to my old quarters for a while.”

Panic showed on the boy’s face.

“NO! You can’t!”

Beverly stopped what she was doing and went to the upset lad.

“Hey…it’s okay Tobias I’ll be just down the hall.”

He grabbed her hand and pleaded,

“Don’t go Beverly…please don’t go!”

Beverly sat on the bed and drew the boy to sit beside her. She gently tipped his chin up until he was looking at her.

“Why Tobias? Why don’t you want me to go?”

Tears welled in the boy’s eyes and Beverly was dismayed to see shame colour his face. He swallowed and cast his eyes down, his voice breaking,

“Because I don’t want to sleep by myself.”

“Well why don’t you come and stay with me?”

The boy shook his head vehemently.

“No, I want to stay here in Papa’s quarters with you.”

Caught between her desire to help the boy and Jean-Luc’s wish that she leave, Beverly closed her eyes and softly swore. Tobias gripped her hand and lifted his head.

“Why do you want to go Beverly? Don’t you want to stay with me anymore? Is it because I was so mean to you? I’m sorry Beverly…I’m really sorry…I didn’t mean it. I…”

Beverly wrapped her arms around the boy and hugged him tight.

“No Tobias it’s okay, it’s nothing to do with you.”

The lad pulled out of her embrace and frowned.

“Why then?”

The Doctor sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.

“Tobias you know that your father is the Captain of this ship.”

The boy nodded.

“It is a very important and serious thing to be a Captain Tobias and sometimes Captains have to do things that they don’t want to for the good of the ship.”

Tobias nodded, his eyes alight.

“I know about that. Maman told me all about duty and stuff like that.”

“Beverly smiled and ruffled his hair.

“Right. Well when Data and I rescued you and your father we broke a few rules. You see I had been ordered not to leave the ship. Will knew I wanted to go and look for you and your father, but because of the danger on the planet, Will had forbidden anybody from going down. Well I decided to ignore that order. Data figured out what I was going to do and he offered to help me. In allowing him to assist me I got him in trouble too. He tampered with the computer and we stole a shuttle. Now all that is bad enough but after we got back, Will was faced with the prospect of punishing us for what we’d done. He found he couldn’t do it Tobias and in not punishing us, Will broke some rules too. When your father found out he was very hurt and angry. Now he has to decide what to do with us and it’s making him very upset. We thought it might be better if I moved out until everything is sorted out. Do you understand?”

Tobias frowned and shook his head.

“But you and Data saved us! How could you be in trouble for that? If you hadn’t come Papa would have died.”

Beverly sighed and rubbed her forehead.

“It’s complicated Tobias; you’ll just have to take my word for it.”

The boy tightened his grip on her hand.

“Don’t go Beverly…please don’t go.”

Beverly looked down at the boy and capitulated.

“All right Tobias I’ll stay.”

The youngster rested his head against Beverly’s breast and sighed, his voice small.

“Merci Beverly, merci beaucoup.”

 

 

 

 

                       In the small hours of the morning Beverly was woken by an upset Tobias. She propped herself up on her elbow and said softly,

“Lights fifteen percent.”

In the subdued light she saw the lad wiping his eyes as he trembled. Beverly sat up and held you arms out. Tobias climbed onto the bed without hesitation and clung to the Doctor, his racing heart beating against her breast. Beverly held him tight and murmured,

“Bad dream?”

All the boy could do was nod. Beverly squeezed her eyes shut in commiseration then eased back, encouraging the lad to get under the covers. This he did and Beverly tucked the blankets around him. Not releasing his grip on the woman, Tobias said shakily,

“Can we leave the light on?”

Beverly nodded, a sad smile on her face.

“Of course, you just relax Tobias, I’ve got you.”

The boy sighed and lay quietly, his eyes half hooded. Beverly put her head on the pillow and sighed.

“You poor little bugger…what demons live in your mind?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   At oh three seventeen Farrel Stevin sat back and scratched his stubbled cheek. Data, working on a nearby computer noticed the movement and looked up.

“Do you have something Commander?”

Stevin frowned and rubbed his tired eyes.

“I’m not sure. Would you come and look at this please Mr.Data?”

Data joined the man and studied what was on the screen. He saw the connection immediately.

“You have indeed found something Commander. This root syntax may well be the base of the unknown language. I will input the semantics into the computer and request a comparison. We should have an extrapolation within minutes.”

The two officers waited, one impatiently, the other with limitless pertinacity. As predicted the computer soon offered its information. As the text scrolled across the screen, Stevin blew out a long breath.

“I’ll be damned.”

Data raised his eyebrows and lifted his head.

“Data to Riker.”

The sleepy voice that answered made Stevin softly snort.

“Riker here Data. What can I do for you?”

“We have a translation Commander.”

His voice sounding remarkably clearer, Will asked,

“How accurate is it?”

Data looked at Stevin and the Human shrugged.

“We cannot be certain Commander, but our best estimate would be perhaps eighty percent accurate.”

“That’s good enough for me. What did the message say?”

Data gave a small down turn of the corners of his mouth.
“It seems to be quite succinct Commander. It reads… What do you want?”

There was a momentary silence before Will responded.

“Well that’s clear enough. Will our computer be able to translate any further communications quickly?”

“Yes Commander.”

“Very good, well done Data. I’ll see you on the Bridge in ten minutes.”

“Aye Commander, Data out.”

Stevin stood and stretched, his hands going to the small of his back. Data watched the man and caught his eye.

“Your help has been invaluable Commander. I will inform both Commander Riker and Captain Picard of your devotion to duty. Please return to your quarters to resume your rest.”

The tall man grinned and scratched his ear.

“Thank you Mr.Data, it was my pleasure.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         By the time Data made it to the Bridge, Will had just arrived. His hair was slightly tousled and he looked tired. The big man settled in his chair and said quietly,

“Tactical, open a channel to the surface.”

“Aye Sir…channel open.”

“This is Commander William Riker of the Starship Enterprise. We wish to extend our apologies for disturbing your land. May we have your permission to continue our studies of the ruins on the surface?”

There began a tense wait. The crew in attendance, the night shift, felt the tension as Will slowly stroked his beard. Data watched the console before him, his keen reflexes ready to assist the computer if needed.

The young Ensign at Tactical gasped as the reply came in.

“They’re responding Sir.”

Will turned his attention to Data.

“Well?”

The android checked his screen then turned to face his CO.

“The answer is no Commander.”

Will scowled.

“What exactly did they say?”

Data shrugged.

“Just that Sir…no.”

The First Officer sat back and swore softly under his breath.

“Okay send this. Very well, we accept your decision; however we would like to request our equipment be returned to us. Does this meet with your approval?”

Again they waited and again the tension was broken by the Ensign’s soft voice.

“Incoming message Sir.”

Data read the missive and nodded.

“They agree Commander.”

Will nodded.

“Thank you. If you would be so kind as to place our equipment near the ruins, we will come down to retrieve it.”

After several minutes Data read,

“Agreed. Once you have your equipment leave our planet and do not return.”

Will sighed and said softly,

“Well that’s pretty clear. Louder he said,
“Very well we will leave and not return. Also we will place warning buoys in orbit to warn other ships against approaching your planet.”

When, after fifteen minutes there was no further contact, Will grunted and stood.

“Close the channel Ensign; it seems our conversation is at an end.”

Data turned and set his golden eyes on his CO.

“How would you describe this encounter Commander?”

Will smiled ruefully and ran a hand over his head.

“Well, injuries to our crew aside it was not a complete disaster, after all we managed to avoid all out conflict, we discovered a new people and language and established a form of contact with them. That’s not bad considering.”

Tilting his head, Data frowned.

“But we did not solve the mystery Sir. Who are these people? Are they descendants of the original inhabitants or are they a newer species that managed to utilise the technology they found? Are they responsible for the ruins? How long have they existed? There is much we do not know Sir.”

Will wandered over to the android and laid a large hand on his shoulder.

“And we probably never will know Data. Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you. We just have to be satisfied with what we did learn.”

Data nodded thoughtfully while Will went back to the Command Chair. He inputted some instructions then stood.

“I’m going back to my quarters. You have the Bridge Data.”

The android nodded and stood.

“Yes Sir, good night Commander.”

He settled in the Command chair and stared at the planet below.

“I do not like unsolved mysteries.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  As Data entered Sick bay he encountered Will who was just leaving. The big man nodded to the Second Officer, causing the android to stop.

“Good morning Commander.”

“Morning Data. What brings you down here? You’re due on the Bridge aren’t you?”

Data nodded.

“Yes Sir, but some time ago Captain Picard requested to see me and I have been unable to comply until now.”

Will inclined his head.

“I see. Well I’ve just briefed the Captain about the planet. He’s asked me to contact Command for new orders.”

“Very well Sir, I will come up to the Bridge as soon as he dismisses me.”

Will gave a nod and left. Data approached the Captain’s room and knocked on the door. He wasn’t surprised to hear Beverly answer.

“Come in.”

Jean-Luc was sitting in a chair beside his bed. Beverly was taking away his breakfast tray.

“Good morning Data, what brings you here?”

“Captain Picard wishes to see me.”

Beverly’s smile disappeared and she frowned.

“Oh. Well I’m finished here for now. I’ll come back later.”

The two males waited until the Doctor had left the room before the Captain straightened in his chair, his face unreadable.

“Do you know why I wanted to see you Data?”

The android nodded.

“I believe so Sir. It would be in relation to my recent actions pertaining to your rescue.”

Jean-Luc nodded slowly.

“That is correct. Data you have an exemplary record, littered with commendations and citations…why would you want to sully such a record? What drove you to commit such a flagrant breach of discipline?”

Data sighed and lowered his eyes.

“Captain Picard have you ever felt like you did not belong? That you did not…ever…fit in?”

The Captain shook his head.

“Not really Data, no.”

The Commander gestured to the spare seat and Jean-Luc gave his silent permission. Once seated facing his CO, Data sighed.

“From the moment I was rescued by the Tripoli’s away team on Omicron Theta I was made to feel an outsider, never quite fitting in. Of course without emotions this didn’t affect me, but even though I couldn’t feel these things I was nonetheless aware of them. This continued for a very long time Captain, through my years at the Academy and through several postings to both ships and other Starfleet entities, but my eventual posting to the Enterprise bought about a change I had not anticipated. For the first time in my life I was treated as both an equal and an individual. After the initial curiosity of my being wore off the crew ignored my uniqueness and treated me as any other officer. I was shown warmth and respect and I cannot tell you how much that meant to me. Of all the friendships I have made on this ship, especially amongst the Command staff, there are two that stand out. One is with Geordi. He Sir, his very dear to me. Without his help and unfailing patience I would not have progressed as far as I have. The other friendship I value is yours Captain. As my CO you have been non-judgemental, patient and kind. You have never let the fact that I am an android colour your opinion of me or let it interfere with your professional relationship with me. You have been consistently fair and open handed. However it is as a friend that I am most grateful. Your unending assistance in my quest to become more human is much appreciated, as is your gentle guidance and always balanced view, but it was your defence of me at my trial that cemented you in my mind as my mentor. Captain I know I have disappointed you by my actions…and I do apologise Sir, but I have to tell you…I would do it again Captain, even if it meant my career. You are worth more to me than this uniform and what it represents.”

Jean-Luc tried to maintain his stoic expression but he failed. He lowered his head, frowning and sighing.

“Data I do understand what you have said and I am humbled by your eloquent words, but you took an oath to uphold Starfleet regulations. What of that?”

Data tilted his head and pulled down the corners of his mouth.

“Captain I have to admit I place a higher value on the lives of my friends than my oath.  Has it not been said that no greater love has man that he should lay down his life for that of a friend?”

Rubbing his forehead, Jean-Luc shook his head.

“But Data by your actions you placed the lives of me and my son above that of the well being of the ship and her crew. Surely you can see the folly of your actions?”

“Captain I carefully calculated the odds of what I did and what I hoped to achieve and I found that it was highly unlikely the ship would be in any danger. Had it been otherwise I would not have proceeded.”

Jean-Luc folded his arms and lowered his head until his chin rested on his chest. For several minutes he sat in silence until he sighed expansively. Lifting his head he frowned.

“I suppose you knew what Doctor Crusher had in mind?”

Data shrugged.

“Not specifically Sir, bit I was reasonably certain she would do something. Commander Riker had placed her under careful surveillance and he had taken the precaution of locking out the Shuttle Bay controls. I knew she would need my help to get off the ship. I had already decided to go with her, both to assist her and to protect her.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“I see. Did you think of going down by yourself and leaving Doctor Crusher aboard?”

“Yes Captain, but once we knew you were injured I came to the conclusion a Doctor would be needed.”

The Captain sighed.

“Very well Data I have one final question for you. What do you think of the fact that Commander Riker didn’t punish either you or Doctor Crusher?”

The android shrugged and tilted his head.

“While I would not presume to question the Commander’s decisions, I do know he had been very upset while you were missing Captain. He was chafing Sir, seething with pent up anger at being unable to search for you himself. The fact that he didn’t is testament to his devotion to duty. I can only surmise that he found it difficult to punish us for something he felt he should have done himself.”

Jean-Luc dropped his head and compressed his lips. In a soft deep voice he said.

“Thank you Data, you are dismissed.”

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     After Data had left, Jean-Luc sat for a long time, mulling over what he had said. When Beverly came in she immediately noticed how withdrawn he was.

“Fancy a cup of Earl Grey?”

He looked up and stared at his lover, a frown on his face. Instead of answering her he said,

“Beverly…if the positions had have been reversed and it was you and Wesley injured and lost, what would you have expected me to do?”

Leaning against the bed, Beverly folded her arms and looked down speculatively.

“Your duty Jean-Luc, nothing more, nothing less. Why?”

He looked up at her and shook his head.

“And that doesn’t trouble you? You’re not…hurt?”

Beverly shrugged.

“No, why should it trouble me? Look I love you Jean-Luc, I love you because you’re the man you are. I wouldn’t expect you to change for me or anyone else.”

The Captain maintained eye contact and said softly,

“Perhaps I should.”

Somewhat confused by his attitude, Beverly shrugged and chose to ignore it.

“How about that cup of tea?”

His face cleared and he smiled, the first such expression she had seen in days.

“Yes please.”

Heartened by his improved demeanour, Beverly retrieved two teas and sat next to him.

“I have something I want to run by you, but I don’t want you to go at it like a bull at a gate.”

His eyebrow rose in silent enquiry.

“You have made really good progress with your healing, the infection is gone and your feet are coming on well, in fact you’re a few days ahead of schedule and to that end….how would you like to go back to your quarters?”

Jean-Luc sat up and tilted his head.

“I would like that very much.”

Beverly nodded.

“Yes I thought you might. You will have to come in three times a day for regen treatments but I can’t see why you should have to stay here.”

The Captain summoned a warm smile.

“Thank you Beverly. When can I go?”

“Well I want you to have lunch and another regen treatment but after that…okay.”

Jean-Luc nodded slowly.

“And I would have to come back this evening for a regen treatment.”

Beverly nodded.

“Yep.”

“I take it I’ll be using a wheel chair?”

The Doctor frowned.

“Yes. Your shoulders are doing really well but they’re not strong enough for crutches just yet and for that matter neither are your feet.”

Jean-Luc pursed his lips.

“Very well, I look forward to being discharged.”

Beverly smiled.

“Okay, but for now I’m going to exercise your leg.”

Jean-Luc lost his good mood, scowling,

“How delightful.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Deanna was waiting for Tobias outside the school room. Marta saw her and came out as the lad was gathering his things and putting them away.

“Hello Counsellor, you’re doing pick up duty again?”

Deanna smiled.

“Yes, Doctor Crusher is very busy at the moment.”

Nodding her understanding, Marta frowned.

“Tobias has been very quiet today Counsellor…not angry, just withdrawn.”

Deanna’s face showed her dismay.

“Oh that’s a pity. I’ve been counselling him and I thought we’d made some progress.”

Marta smiled.

“Oh I think you have! He’s been taking part in class and interacting with the other students, but he’s been quiet today. I asked him about it but he wouldn’t say what was bothering him.”

As Tobias joined them the women fell silent. Deanna smiled and said,

“Very well, thank you Ms.Rodriguez.”

With a knowing look, Marta bid them farewell.

The walk to Jean-Luc’s quarters was taken in silence, but Deanna sensed Tobias was calm. Once inside she replicated some drinks and gestured for the boy to sit with her on the sofa.

“You are troubled.”

The boy sighed.

“I had another bad dream last night. I was so frightened I nearly wet the bed.”

Deanna clasped her hands in her lap and nodded.

“I see. Was it the same as the other night or different?”

Tobias shook his head.

“No it was the same. The beast got me and I couldn’t help Papa.”

Deanna took the lad’s hands and encouraged him to look into her eyes.

“What do you think the beast represents Tobias?”

Confusion coloured the boy’s face.

“What? I don’t understand.”

Deanna smiled tenderly and explained.

“Dreams sometimes have a significance Tobias. Not always mind, but after a traumatic event, aspects of a bad dream can have meaning. I want you to give it some thought. What could the beast mean? What could it represent to you in the context of what happened to you and your father?”

The boy frowned.

“I don’t think I can do that Deanna…I’m just a kid.”

The Counsellor laughed.

“Oh I think you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s not hard Tobias, just think about what happened and how you felt about it. You never know, you might come up with something quite insightful.”

Tobias shrugged.

“If you say so.”

Deanna smiled warmly.

“Now I have some good news for you. Your father is coming back to his quarters.”

Tobias’s face fell and Deanna frowned.

“Tobias? What’s wrong?”

“He’s going to be mad at me.”

The Counsellor tilted her head to see under his lowered brow.

“Why?”

The boy sighed.

“Because he told Beverly to move back to her old quarters and I begged her to stay.”

Deanna shook her head, frowning.

“Why Tobias? Why did you beg her to stay?”

With tears in his eyes, the lad looked up, his lip quivering.

“I don’t want to sleep by myself! When the nightmares come I have to be with someone…I want Papa but he’s not here so I have to go to Beverly. She offered for me to go with her to her old quarters but I want to stay here…in Papa’s quarters. All his things are here…I can smell him…I can…feel…him here.”

Deanna smiled her understanding.

“And you feel comforted by that.”

The boy nodded sadly.

“I know why Papa is mad at Beverly but I don’t understand how he can be so angry when she saved us. It doesn’t make any sense. Anyway he’s going to be mad at me when he finds out I made Beverly stay.”

Deanna gently squeezed the boy’s hands.

“Would you like me to talk to him for you?”

Hope shone in Tobias’s eyes.

“Would you? That would be really great.”

Deanna smiled and nodded.

“I’ll do it before he’s discharged. May I ask you something else Tobias?”

The boy nodded silently.

“Why have you chosen to speak in Standard now? From what I understood you rarely used it before, choosing to speak in French. What changed?”

The lad shrugged.

“Down on the planet I had a lot of time to think about things and I realised I had been acting like a real pain. I spoke in French because Maman did…it was something special between us, but now she’s gone I suppose it’s time I used Standard like everybody else.”

Deanna smiled.

“Except with your father?”

Tobias shrugged again.

“If he doesn’t mind…I kinda like speaking French with him…it reminds me of Maman, although his French is a little different.”

Deanna smiled softly.

“Well I think that’s wonderful and I’m sure your father doesn’t mind at all. Now…will you be all right while I go to Sick Bay to see him?”

The boy grimaced.

“I’m not a baby Deanna, I can look after myself.”

The Counsellor smiled inwardly and nodded.

“Of course. I’ll be back soon…okay?”

The lad grinned.

“Okay.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Deanna found Beverly in her office. The smaller woman smiled as the Doctor beckoned her in.

“Hello Dee, what can I do for you?”

“Actually I’ve come to see the Captain. Tobias is worried he will be angry with him because he got you to stay in the Captain’s quarters.”

Beverly grimaced.

“Oh God…I haven’t told him about that yet.”

She sighed.

“I suppose that’s your job.”

Deanna nodded.

“Yes I promised Tobias.”

The Doctor shrugged,

“Well as luck would have it, our Captain is in a pretty good mood.”

“Thank goodness! Is he ready to be discharged?”

“As a matter of fact yes. I’m just downloading some instructions onto a PADD.”

“Okay…hopefully this won’t take long.”

Beverly grinned.

“Good luck.”

Deanna’s entry into the Captain’s private room brought a smile to the seated man. Deanna noted he was dressed in civilian clothing and was pleased to see he had good colour and had appeared to have gained some of his lost weight.

“Good afternoon Captain, I believe congratulations are in order.”

“Indeed Counsellor. As of this afternoon, I am a liberated man.”

The Counsellor smiled with warmth.

“I’m glad Sir.”

His smile fading, the astute man tilted his head, one eyebrow raised.

“And what can I do for you Counsellor?”

Deanna took a seat and adopted a serious demeanour.

“Captain I come to you on behalf of your son.”

“Oh? How so?”

“Sir he is worried you might be angry with him.”

Jean-Luc scowled.

“Angry with him? About what? I’ve already told him I don’t hold him responsible for what happened.”

Deanna smiled.

“No Captain, not that. Sir…because of recurring nightmares he is so worried about sleeping on his own he managed to convince Beverly to remain in your quarters. She, to her credit, asked him to accompany her to her old quarters but he steadfastly refused, wishing to stay where he feels most comfortable. He told me he feels you in your quarters Captain and he gains great comfort from that.”

Jean-Luc’s face became unreadable.

“I see. What does Doctor Crusher have to say about it?”

Deanna shrugged.

“Her main concern is the boy’s welfare Captain. She will do whatever is best for him.”

The Captain frowned,

“And so, by association, must I.”

“Yes Sir.”

“Very well Counsellor I will discuss this with the Doctor at a later date. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”

Hearing the subtle dismissal Deanna stood and smiled.

“I will see you later Sir.”

Jean-Luc nodded, his thoughts going to his son.

“I’m sorry Tobias…this is all new to me too.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               The boy in question was just finishing his homework when his father arrived. Accompanied by a nurse, he was wheeled into his quarters and positioned by the viewports. Tobias waited until the nurse left before he approached his father. He