Echoes From The Past.

Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the Starship Enterprise had never been very good at trying to dissuade Beverly Crusher, his Chief Medical Officer, from doing what she'd set her mind on.
They were in his quarters, breakfast having turned into a lesson in adversarial posturing, something he had hoped to avoid. He looked into his now cold coffee and sighed, once again attempting to get her to see reason.
"Beverly, you're not thinking clearly. This mission isn't one you should be considering. Even Command told you it was at your discretion, it wasn't an order…you don't have to do it!"
Placing her napkin on the table with slow precision, Beverly took the time to take a calming breath. These arguments with her lover were nothing new; in fact, she sometimes felt it was the dichotomy between them that somehow managed to draw them to each other. Having gathered her thoughts into a coherent package, one she hoped would sway him; she looked into his dark hazel eyes and offered a conciliatory smile.
"Jean-Luc, those prisoners can't rescue themselves. The team that has been put together requires a Doctor, one who has passed Starfleet's advanced tactical training…and that's me. That's why I was asked to do this. Now I intend to go, whether or not you condone it. I suggest you get used to the idea and, instead of giving me grief, offer me your support."
Anger warred with fear and panic within the Captain. It was times like these that he sometimes wished they had never entered into their current relationship. Had he not loved her, and she him, it would have been so very much easier to simply say…"Fine, go."
But he did love her, with every fibre of his being, had done so for more years than he cared to admit and his current dilemma was based on that love. If anything were to befall her, he was not sure he would cope with the consequences.
Yes, there was the fact that this situation was not of his making, it would not be one of his orders that sent her into harm's way, but the very fact that she was choosing to put herself in what he thought of as unnecessary danger made him angry and frightened.
He tried once more, but deep down he knew it was pointless. She had made up her mind and, like many other things they shared, stubbornness was endemic.
"Beverly, you are not the only Doctor in Starfleet with advanced tactical training. We're light years away from the sector in question; it would take you at least a week to reach the team at warp five! You don't have to do this."
Now losing her patience, Beverly placed her hands palm down on the table, her face grim.
"My rank has a bearing on this too, and you know it. I am a full Commander and as such I would be the team leader. Jean-Luc, I can't understand why you're being so bloody obstinate! If it were you, there would be no question, of course you would go."
Defeated and giving in to his fear, Jean-Luc quietly admitted,
"I don't want you to go because I'm scared something will happen to you."
That took the wind out of Beverly's sails. Of all the things she was learning about her lover was just how vulnerable their relationship had made him.
She stood and went to him, taking his hands and drawing him to his feet. They embraced; Jean-Luc closed his eyes against the pain he was experiencing. Into his ear Beverly whispered,
"You have confidence in my abilities, haven't you?"
He silently nodded.
"Then trust me now, my love. I'll be fine and I'll be back home before you know it."
They kissed tenderly and, for the millionth time since he'd lost his heart four decades ago, Jean-Luc wondered how he could feel such heartache without his original organic organ.
Beverly left the ship that afternoon. They didn't even have time to make love or say a proper goodbye. Since breakfast she'd been in constant contact with her team, then packing the essential medical supplies she thought she would need. Jean-Luc had spent the time in his Ready Room, finding out as much as he could about her mission. The more he learned, the greater his dread grew.
A group of extremists had taken a party of Federation scientists prisoner on a disputed planet in a distant sector and were using them as a bargaining chip in the hopes of securing weapons in return for the captive's freedom. Of course neither the Federation, nor Starfleet would negotiate with terrorists, so it had been decided to send in a covert team to rescue the prisoners. As Starfleet had evidence that at least some of the captives had been tortured, it was determined a Doctor was required.

 

 

 

With the time of Beverly's departure at hand, Jean-Luc actually ran through the corridors to get to the shuttle bay before she left. He caught her just as she was entering the runabout.
"Beverly!"
She turned and smiled.
"I didn't think you were going to make it."
With a lopsided smile to hide his fear, Jean-Luc shrugged.
"I nearly didn't."
He took her hands, his gaze intense as he looked into her blue eyes.
"You were right, of course, I wouldn't have hesitated to accept this mission, but Beverly…please come back to me."
She smiled and placed one hand against his cheek as she kissed the other.
"I will, I promise."
She stepped back and took a deep breath.
"Any last orders…Sir?"
He smiled, then grew serious.
"Promise me you will stay in contact with us as long as you can."
She gave a nod.
"Consider it done."
He sighed.
"Then I won't say goodbye, my love, merely adieu."
There was a suspicious moisture in Beverly's eyes as she whispered,
"Adieu."
Jean-Luc watched forlornly as she entered the runabout and was still standing there, staring out into the cold, black vastness of space ten minutes after she'd left.

 

 

 

Her journey was due to take six days and, for the first four days she kept her promise, contacting the Enterprise three times a day and once at night, but that communiqué was private, taken in his quarters by her lover.
On the evening of the fourth day, Jean-Luc's dread inexplicably increased and he had a premonition of doom. When Beverly's call came for him he placed his fingers on the screen, inordinately pleased when she did the same. With a growing lump in his throat he asked,
"How are you?"
She smiled, wicked mischief twinkling in her eyes.
"Bored stiff!"
He managed a chuckle, well aware of how interminable long journeys that often preceded dangerous missions could be. He kept a small smile on his face as he said softly,
"Have you any more information?"
She shook her head and, for the first time he saw her tension.
"No, nothing new."
He lost his smile to replace it with a concerned frown.
"So your intelligence will be how old?"
"Ten days."
He swore softly under his breath.
"Merde, Beverly. You'll be going in blind."
She sighed.
"I know, but there's nothing we can do about it. We'll just have to do our job and hope for the best."
They sat silently, staring at each other until Beverly said quietly,
"I'd best close now."
Jean-Luc nodded slowly and tried to smile, but he failed. With the lump once again threatening to rob him of speech he said softly,
"I love you, Beverly."
She smiled, but he could see her worry.
"And I love you, Jean-Luc. Crusher out."
As the screen went blank, Jean-Luc couldn't help but feel something terrible was going to happen.

 

 

 

The first inkling that something was wrong was when no contact was made with Beverly throughout the next day. But, knowing that she was nearing her rendezvous point, Jean-uc concluded that she was maintaining a communication blackout. He was confident, however, that she would call him that night.
It was a very long day for the Captain. His First Officer, Commander William Riker, was well aware of why his CO was tense and even more taciturn than usual. Even the Bridge staff were tense, their Captain's mood pervading the atmosphere of the Command centre. It was with some relief when Jean-Luc retreated into his Ready Room to brood.
That night he was unable to eat any dinner, his stomach was sour with fear and, as the hours passed with still no contact from Beverly, his dread only grew.
Very late that night he undressed, put on his shorts and lay on the bed, hugging Beverly's pillow to his chest, taking some small comfort in the lingering scent of her shampoo. But no sleep came.
 

 

 

The Captain sat stiffly at his desk in the early morning ship time, and continued to stare blankly at the darkened monitor, as he had for some time.

An hour ago he had been overwhelmed with emotion, but now his body registered only an all-pervading numbness.

"Computer, raise temperature to twenty five degrees centigrade".

His voice felt harshly foreign to himself and he wondered momentarily whether the ship's system would recognise it.

It did, and the ambient temperature of his quarters rose commensurate with his order.

Yet, he continued to shiver, teeth chattering, arms crossed tightly across his uniformed chest, the knuckles of his fingers as white as they had been since he had first received the report from Command.

He vaguely registered that he was suffering shock and he tried to steady and calm his breathing, forcing himself to remember – as he had so many times - the hard lessons of the therapists who had cared for him in the months following the replacement of his heart by an artificial device, the parthenogenetic implant he still carried within himself.

"You can't rely on your heartbeat anymore, because you don't have one, or a pulse. You must learn to compensate."

That had been four decades ago.

Breaching the silence came the expected, though dreaded, message from the bridge

"Riker to Picard"

"Picard here," he managed after a time, a twitching in his throat.

"Captain, we've received official notification from Starfleet Command…." Riker's voice broke…and suddenly Picard didn't want to hear the rest.

It had stopped him from running – that great uninhibited joy of his young life – and it had stopped him from so much else.

He could never be truly intimate with another person because he could never truly share himself. That had been the hardest lesson of all to learn from the loss of his heart.

Yet, it had not stopped the longing, and he had experienced so many conquests, and even some real relationships along the way, mostly to assure himself that he was still capable, still human.

And of course with practice and time he HAD learned everything his lovers felt. He knew how to respond to the pulse lines of their lovely necks dipping down to their breasts and beyond. He had learned to listen and to actively act upon those speeding signs of desire.

And yet, in all these years, and deep within himself was only the soft monotonous slushing of the artificial device buried in his chest.

In time, he had become accustomed to live with this.

His deficit had made him an expert and it was why so many of his past lovers continued to seek him out.

So why was it that he now knew with certainty that he could not only sense, but actually feel, that his heart was breaking?
She was missing. Her runabout had not made it to the rendezvous point and was now eight hours overdue. Then came the news he somehow knew was coming. Command had just received a communiqué from the terrorists that they had her.
He sat, motionless and grim, trying to make his mind still, striving to find a place of calm, to hide from the turmoil of his thoughts.
But he couldn't hide from the man he was. He stood abruptly, shoving himself away from his desk. He was out the door and on his way to the Bridge, one thought sounding loudly, over and over…
"I must find her!"

 

 

 

An hour later a very agitated First Officer stood by helplessly as his Captain readied a runabout for departure. They had argued, Will had eventually stooped to beseeching, but his CO was impervious to all his words. But still, ever mindful of his duty to protect the man he both respected and admired, Will tried one more time.
"Please, Captain…you mustn't do this."
Jean-Luc didn't even pause in his pre flight check, nor did he look at the younger man.
"You are mistaken, Number One, I certainly must do this."
Will sighed, rubbing his forehead.
"But, Sir…"
Finally finished with his procedures, Jean-Luc swivelled the cockpit chair to face Will. The Captain's expression was kind, but his eyes were gimlet-like.
"Will, I have lodged a notification that I am taking a leave of absence. I am going to find Beverly, and I am going to bring her home. Now, if you can't accept that, then I'm sorry, but I am going and there's nothing you, or command, can do about it."
Before his CO could dismiss him, Will, clutching at straws, risked his superior's anger by saying forcefully,
"You haven't heard back from Command about your leave yet. What if they deny it?"
The way Jean-Luc shrugged diffidently made Will finally give up. It was obvious his Captain didn't give a damn about what his superiors might think about his actions, he was determined to proceed on his plans and nothing was going to stop him, certainly not the feeble protestations of his Second in Command.
Will straightened and looked his Captain in the eye.
"Very well, Sir, good luck."
Jean-Luc smiled but it was grim.
"Thank you, Number One."
As Jean-Luc had done before him only days earlier, Will remained staring out into space long after his Captain had departed.

 

 

 

 

As part of her advanced tactical training, Beverly had been subjected to different forms of torture so that she would be, at least in theory, prepared should she ever be captured and have to endure the reality of the real thing. So far she was bearing up reasonably well, but, as she languished, naked, bruised and bleeding, with her hands manacled behind her back, her ankles fettered and with a black hood over her head in her tiny darkened cell, she knew with fatalistic certainty, it was only a matter of time before she finally broke. Her wry chuckle, though soft, was loud in the otherwise silent cell. To counter the sensory deprivation she was experiencing, she decided to speak aloud.
"I don't even know the answers to their stupid fucking questions!"
She chuckled again, then tilted her head, saying with curiosity,
"I wonder what Jean-Luc would do in this situation?"
She thought about how he had withstood the torture at the hands of the Cardassian Gul, Madred, and admired him yet again at his ability to recover, even though he had admitted that, in the end, he had been broken. Then she thought about his assimilation by the dreaded Borg and how the horror of what he had experienced had almost driven him insane and how hard she and Deanna Troi, the ship's Counsellor, had worked to assist in his long, slow recovery.
Her face settled into a determined mask and, when she spoke, it was with resolve.
"He would resist with every last ounce of his mental and physical strength!"
Her eyes blazed brightly under the hood.
"Well so will I!"
The rush of adrenalin that produced bolstered her flagging spirits. She settled into a more comfortable position on the cold stone floor and set her mind free to wander through the past eight months, eight months filled with unbridled love, joy and not a little frustration. And it was all about Jean-Luc.
Their current relationship had come as a surprise to both of them. After almost thirty years of comradeship, which had in turn blossomed into a deep friendship, neither would have denied that they loved each other, but for many reasons they never acted upon that love. There was a potent sexual tension between them, in fact that had been evident even when she had been married to his best friend, but rather than complicate matters, it seemed to somehow set a boundary between them that persisted long after her husband had tragically died.
As the years passed and Beverly lost contact with Jean-Luc, she never lost him from her thoughts and, when she eventually achieved the position as CMO on his new ship, she knew that the old feelings were still there. That he had attempted to stop her appointment to the Enterprise only solidified that knowledge in her mind, but, though she expected him to be harsh, or at least remote with her, he once again surprised her, offering friendship where she thought he may have shunned her.
And so, slowly over the years they grew closer and closer, but never acknowledging the love that grew apace. Then, one afternoon when they were sharing a coincidentally mutual day off on the Holodeck, something changed. There was a fundamental shift in their relationship.
It had been one of Beverly's programs, a late spring day in the hills of Caldos, where she had grown up. They had shared a picnic in a field of wildflowers and afterwards were lazily sunning themselves, Jean-Luc sitting with his back to a tree, Beverly lying at right angles to him, her head resting on his upper thigh. She was lightly dozing when she became aware of being gently caressed. His fingertips, so ethereal, were grazing the skin of her face in a feather-like touch.
She suddenly opened her eyes and gazed up at him, catching him off guard. In his eyes she saw not only love, something she was accustomed to, but desire, patent, raw, desire and, for the first time, it ignited something inside her she had successfully been suppressing for years.
Startled by her intense scrutiny, Jean-Luc quickly removed his hand and turned his head, trying to hide what she'd seen, but she reached up and gently encouraged him to look at her, whispering,
"It's all right, Jean-Luc…I feel it too."
His stricken expression melted away as a look of sheer wonder took its place. His voice was soft and husky, testament to his powerful emotions as he said,
"Do you? Do you really, Beverly?"
In reply, Beverly turned her body and tugged at his light blue shirt, bidding him to lie with her. He did so and Beverly slowly undid the buttons of his shirt to explore his hirsute torso.
He lay quietly beside her, allowing her to set the pace. After a few minutes, two smoky blue eyes looked into his dark hazel ones as Beverly said throatily,
"Do you want this as much as I do?"
He sighed, briefly closing his eyes as he said with heartfelt intensity,
"I have wanted this with you for most of my adult life. I have wanted you that long."
Gasping softly as he cupped one of her breasts, Beverly said sensuously,
"Then take me."
She was surprised when he shook his head.
"No, I don't want to take you, Beverly; I want to share this with you. This won't be sex, this will be making love."
With tears in her eyes, Beverly reached up and pulled Jean-Luc down for a lingering passionate kiss. When they parted, her tears were running freely down her face. Shakily she said,
"I've just discovered something."
His own eyes suspiciously moist, Jean-Luc swallowed the lump in his throat to ask,
"And what is that?"
Smiling tenderly through her tears, Beverly said softly,
"I love you."
He surprised her by chuckling.
"I know that."
She shook her head.
"No, you don't understand. I'm in love with you, Jean-Luc, I'm in love with you and I want you so badly it hurts."
There was silence then as they slowly undressed each other, broken only by soft gasps and sensuous moans of delight as they began to explore one another.
Gently pushing Jean-Luc onto his back, Beverly kissed him heatedly, then slothfully kissed his chest, playfully nipping at his nipples, making them pebble. His penis, lying erect over his right hip, twitched in anticipation as she left his nipples and licked her way down his torso. When she gently took him in hand, he moaned softly, his hips thrusting involuntarily. He felt her vibrant red hair brush his lower stomach and thighs as she bent low to take him into her mouth. Closing his eyes, he willed himself to control his reactions to what she was doing to him.
She began by teasing the head with her tongue, running it around the rim and dipping in and out of the slit while her hand slowly stroked the shaft, pulling his foreskin back to its limit before bringing it up again to cover the head as she withdrew her mouth, only to tease him again on the downstroke.
He tolerated this, but only just, however his desire was escalating and, when Beverly suddenly engulfed him, he cried out, his fingers burying themselves in her hair as he thrust up into her mouth.
"Oh God, Beverly…stop!"
She slowed her movements then stopped, lifting her head to sear him with a look of pure lust.
He sat up, pulling her to him as he laid her on her back and kissed her. Wasting no time, he directed his fingers to her folds, finding her saturated. While his slid his fingers inside her, he concentrated on lavishing her nipples with his lips and teeth.
Beverly squirmed, writhing with unfulfilled need. She cried out sharply as his thumb glided over her clit, but they both froze as the overhead speakers came to life.
"Attention. Your allotted time in this Holodeck is about to expire. Please end your program and prepare to leave."
With his attention solely on his partner, Jean-Luc raised his voice and said firmly,
"Computer, override time limit. Authorisation, Picard, alpha two zero."
"Time limit overridden."
The computer's reply was ignored as Beverly panted,
"Now, Jean-Luc, please…now…"
Knowing there was someone waiting to use the Holodeck; Jean-Luc quashed his desire to draw out this first time. He had wanted to bring Beverly to a state of sexual insanity, but that was not to be. He rose over her, her scent, her legs parting to receive him, the ruddy flush of passion that stained her milky white skin, all this was indelibly etched into his brain as he sunk into her, filling her, stretching her and making them both gasp at the wonder of it.
Beverly's hands gripping his buttocks and her hips bucking under him drew him into a quick hard rhythm, but he alternated between long slow strokes and hard short ones. He couldn't contain the soft grunts that escaped his throat, but Beverly's moans and cries were his undoing. He rose up above her and their eyes met. Giving up his formidable control, he pistoned in and out of her, knowing his orgasm was about to happen, but he held on, gritting his teeth, willing Beverly to be with him when he came and it was her calling of his name that broke his fragile hold over himself. Suddenly he found himself consumed with physical and emotional ecstasy and, as he came hard enough to make him see stars, he felt Beverly's rhythmic inner contractions as her climax swept her away, her voice one long, soft scream.
They rested, panting in each other's embrace until Jean-Luc lifted his head and muttered,
"Computer, two warm, wet towels."
The towels appeared and the couple reluctantly parted and cleaned themselves. They then dressed and packed away their hamper before checking each other for any evidence of what they'd shared. Satisfied all was well, they ended the program and left, ignoring the sly look on the young Lieutenant waiting outside.

 

 

 

By mutual, silent agreement they went to his quarters. Once inside and alone together they became inexplicably coy. Beverly went to the sofa, her hands restlessly entwining on her lap. With little idea as to know what to do, Jean-Luc ordered teas for them both and then carefully joined Beverly on the sofa, sitting close, but not touching.
 They sat in silence, each sipping a brew neither tasted. Eventually, and predictably, it was Beverly who broke the impasse. She sighed, looked at her now lover and said softly,
"What now?"
Jean-Luc took a deep breath, swallowed and said quietly,
"Beverly, I'm not sure how this is going to work, but I know I want it to continue. I love you…and having made love to you…I can't go back to being just friends."
She sighed and smiled with a modicum of uncertainty.
"I agree, we've crossed a line and we can't go back. I love you too, Jean-Luc and I too want this to continue, but I'm not sure I want anyone to know about us, at least not until we've worked out how this is going to work."
Placing his cup on the low table with great precision, Jean-Luc took Beverly's hand and looked into her eyes.
"Then it's a simple matter of being very discreet. We carry on as we always have, but when we're alone we can share our love."
Beverly nodded, but frowned.
"Until when?"
His smile was filled with confidence.
"Until we're ready to go public."
He sighed.
"Beverly, my love, this is no one's business but ours. It's up to us to keep this private…that is as long as you agree?"
She smiled then and her love for him shone like a beacon.
"I agree, Jean-Luc, in fact I want you all to myself for as long as we can manage it."
Her smile faltered then.
"But what about Deanna? She's bound to pick up on us."
Jean-Luc's expression was sly.
"Not if we're very careful. Since my mind meld with Sarek, I have become very proficient in blocking Deanna. I can teach you how to do it. If we're diligent, she will never know."
Beverly put her cup on the table and took Jean-Luc's free hand. Looking into each other's eyes she said softly,
"We can do this."
He nodded.
"Yes, we can."

 

 

That had been eight months ago and he'd been right. As far as they were aware, no one knew, not even Deanna. They slowly discovered things about each other that surprised them, despite their long history. Beverly smiled to herself as she recalled how, while she liked to chat, albeit in a desultory manner, after sex, Jean-Luc struggled to stay awake. She also discovered he had remarkable recuperative powers, being able to make love two, sometimes three times in a single night. And she was aware he had suppressed irritation at how untidy she could be. Although they rarely stayed the night in each other's quarters, there were the odd times when it occurred and Jean-Luc, without fail, always grimaced at the mess she made in both his bedroom and bathroom. Yet he never, not once, said anything about it.
She smiled widely under her hood, wincing as her split lip stung and emitted a trickle of blood. Oh yes, she had learned so much about her lover. To everyone else on the ship he was the consummate senior Starfleet officer. The stern, but fair Captain who had safely seen them through more scrapes than she cared to admit. He was a legend, a towering figure within the organisation they served, but she knew him, the real Jean-Luc…the man. The man who could weep with joy as they made love, the man who was ticklish, and the man who enjoyed forestalling his own pleasure to ensure she was satisfied. She had asked him about that, not truly believing a man could be so altruistic, especially when it came to sex, but his explanation only served to deepen her love for him.
He had told her about how he had trained himself to respond to his lovers, to be so very careful to watch and listen so he could correctly gauge their level of desire, all because he felt he couldn't share the experience because of his lack of a real heart. But there was more and this told her more about the kind of man he was. He had learned, long before he'd lost his heart that with patience came reward. With a connection with his partner, encompassing a modicum of trust, he knew that it didn't matter how long he waited for his own release, because it would eventually come and he discovered it was often more potent having been delayed.
Beverly smiled again, saying softly,
"Oh yes, my love, you are a very patient man. How long did you wait for me? Wait for me to finally find what you already knew I felt but couldn't…or is that wouldn't admit?"
Her musings were broken as the overhead light suddenly blazed, making her squint even under the hood. She heard the cell door open and boots crunch on the filthy stone floor. A guttural voice, one containing a faint trace of amusement, said softly,
"Are you ready for more, Doctor?"
With her flagging confidence bolstered, a defiant Beverly lifted her head and trained it in the direction of the voice.
"You realise, of course, that this is pointless. Not only do I not know the answers to your questions, Starfleet will not negotiate with you for my release."
The voice became decidedly deadly.
"Then you are in a very precarious position, Doctor, because we are going to continue to interrogate you and if what you say about Starfleet is true, then your life becomes worthless."
Rough hands gripped her upper arms, hoisting her to her feet. She felt the presence of another as she was dragged from her cell.

 

 

For the first time in more years than he could remember, Jean-Luc was embarking on a mission with absolutely no idea on how to proceed. His overwhelming need to find the love of his life was his motivation for such recklessness but, other than the idea to go to her last known coordinates, he was without a clue what to do next.
By surreptitiously monitoring secure Starfleet channels, he knew Beverly's mission was underway. The team had proceeded without their Commander and had inserted themselves on the planet where the scientists were being held, but until there was a result, one way or another, communications with the team were forbidden.
So he had four days in which to form some kind of plan. He went over every skerrick of information about the mission that he could glean from Command, utilising some very devious and judicial usage of his command codes. He knew, should he be caught doing what he was doing, he would be severely censured, even perhaps losing his captaincy, but he ignored the danger to the point where even when he did give it some, albeit brief thought, he threw caution to the winds, his overriding and desperate need to find his lover making all else irrelevant.
He should have been shocked, perhaps even dismayed, that a man such as he, a man who had dedicated most of his life to one, and only one goal…to serve in Starfleet and become a Captain should have found it so easy to willingly throw it all away, but his love for Beverly…and hers for him…made him suddenly realise, for the fist time in his life, he had found something greater, something that meant more than his career, something that made him more than he had ever been before and he was willing to risk anything to hold on to the new man he had become.
Taking a few minutes to retrieve a cup of Earl Grey, Jean-Luc sat in his chair and devoted some time to consider this new revelation about himself.
When he and Beverly had become lovers eight months ago, he had first thought nothing much would change. If they could successfully hide this new aspect of their relationship from Deanna and everyone else, then he could literally have his cake and eat it too. Little did he know just how profoundly he would be affected by this new situation and, until only moments ago, he had no idea just how much he was willing, not only to risk, but to give up in order to preserve it.
A melange of emotions coursed through him. Determination, resolve, fear and confusion all warred within him, but the one overriding thought that eventually permeated his mind and soul was that, no matter what, he would find Beverly and bring her home.

 

 

 

Beverly couldn't see the room she was in, but, judging how her screams didn't echo at all, she surmised it was small. She knew the floor was stone, her bare feet had told her that and the apparatus she was shackled to was made of cold, unyielding metal. She had been subjected to electric shocks, beatings with both fists and batons and something she could only guess was a Klingon painstik, but though she screamed in agony, inside her the kernel of defiance remained. She refused to beg for mercy and she took an enormous amount of satisfaction in hearing the exasperation in her torturer's voice as his shouted questions became more and more irrational. They were getting nowhere and they knew it.
As suddenly as the torture had begun, it stopped. Beverly's head dropped forward and she panted, rallying her strength for what she thought would be more abuse. But her torturers had grown tired…or had lost interest. Either way she started when a rough low voice sounded close to her right ear.
"It would seem you were correct, Doctor, this is pointless. You know what that means, don't you."
With a weary nod, Beverly whispered,
"You are going to kill me."
The maliciousness in his voice made Beverly wish she had some way to look into his eyes so he could see how unafraid she was. He chuckled, but Beverly could tell he was angry.
"Quite so, but before we do that, I wish to explore some…other…avenues."
Immediately on her guard, Beverly lifted her head to say with remarkable force,
"Like what?"
The vicious slap to her face was muffled slightly by the hood, but it generated a new split in Beverly's lower lip, however still she could hear the uncertainty in his voice.
"That is none of your business, my dear Doctor. If I were you I would be contemplating just how we intend to kill you."
He grabbed Beverly's chin and jerked her head up high.
"Will it be a slow, painful death, or one that's mercifully quick?"
She gasped as a thick finger was rudely shoved into her vagina.
"Of course we all might like to have some…fun…with you first."
The word was out of her mouth before she could stop it.
"Bastard!"
This time it was a heavy punch to her stomach that silenced her. Retching and gasping for breath, Beverly suddenly fell to the floor as she was released from the metal frame.
Still manacled hand and foot, she was dragged back to her cell and lifted to her feet, only to be shoved forward so hard she slammed into the wall, breaking her nose. Trying to cope with the pain, she crumpled to the floor as the door was slammed shut and the light extinguished.
It took almost twenty minutes before she could sit up and take stock. As she'd done before, she spoke out loud.
"Well, Beverly, now what?"
Despite her pain and the situation she was in she smiled to herself, saying softly,
"I'm still here, Jean-Luc…still defying them. Are you proud of me?"
Exhausted but still defiant, she settled onto her side and rested her head on the cold stone floor. She closed her eyes and sighed.
"I hope I dream of you, my love."
It was quite surprising how quickly she slipped into sleep.

 

Jean-Luc's quiet digging had finally paid off. On the evening of the fourth day of his odyssey he hit pay dirt. Utilising a rather devious use of his command codes, he intercepted a covert communiqué from the team leader to Command. They had been successful, the scientists rescued. All but two of the seven men and woman were well, but there were two casualties, victims of protracted abuse.
As he listened carefully, his heart, that mechanical substitute for his own organ, seemed to squeeze in anguish as no mention of his beloved was made. That could only mean two things. Either she was dead and they couldn't retrieve her body, or they couldn't find her.
He stayed up for hours, monitoring the channel until he heard more.
The scientists, at least those well enough, had undergone their initial interviews. None of them had seen, or heard of Beverly.
Buoyed by this, Jean-Luc was interrupted from his vigil by the computer.
"Attention. You are approaching the coordinates you inputted."
Closing the channel and taking care to ensure his eavesdropping would be untraceable, Jean-Luc lifted his head and said with some conviction,
"Computer, bring the ship to a full stop and hold this position."
As the chirrup of compliance was heard, he rose from his seat and went into the cockpit. He settled into the right hand pilot's seat and said quietly,
"Computer, scan for ion trails, taking into account the attenuation of four days, and any evidence of phaser fire, or any other tracers of a fire fight."
"Acknowledged, Scanning."
A plan was forming in the Captain's mind; all he needed was a trail to follow.
The computer took only seconds before it reported its findings.
"There is evidence of phaser fire and three ion trails. They are dissipating rapidly."
Sitting forward, Jean-Luc barked,
"Can you follow them to their destination?"
"Affirmative."
"Then do so. Engage at warp four."
"That is inadvisable."
Frustrated and wishing to get moving as fast as he could, Jean-Luc snapped angrily,
"Why?"
"There is a debris field in our flight path."
His stomach soured.
"Can you identify the vessel?"
"Yes. It is the remains of a runabout, Starfleet issue."
Taking a deep breath, Jean-Luc closed his eyes and said softly,
"Computer, scan for bodies."
It took mere seconds before the computer responded.
"There are no bodies present in the debris."
Letting out his held breath, Jean-Luc swallowed to wet his dry throat and said quietly,
"Computer, once we are clear of the debris field, follow the ion trails at warp four. If we approach a star system, alert me and drop to one half impulse."
"Acknowledged."
He sat back, staring balefully out the front screen. After a while he sighed and said,
"Computer, can you extrapolate a destination?"
"That is not yet possible; however as the ion trails grow stronger, it may become easier to determine the destination."
Jean-Luc sighed and ran a hand over his stubbled chin; suddenly realising he'd not shaved in days. Offering a grim smile, he muttered,
"You wouldn't like that, would you, Beverly. Your skin is too delicate for my whiskers."
He was about to rise to go to the bathroom when he turned back to the console and said, almost off-handedly,
"Computer, show me a star chart of this sector of space."
The forward screen blacked out and a chart appeared on it. Jean-Luc sat forward and studied the chart intently, his intention to shave forgotten.
"Computer, overlay our predicted flight path."
A blue line appeared and Jean-Luc grumbled darkly,
"I think I know where you went, you bastards."
Tapping in a few instructions, Jean-Luc said tensely,
"Computer, what is the likelihood of the ion trails terminating at planet, designation, F893?"
"There is a seventy-six-point-eight percent probability that the planet, designated F893 is the destination, however, until we get closer, no unequivocal determination can be made."
Jean-Luc's voice had dropped to a rough growl.
"Well, you might not like to bet on it, but I would! What do we know about F983?"
"The planet was surveyed eighty-nine years ago by the Ark Royal, under the Captaincy of Gary Ablett. A flourishing eco-system was in evidence, but no sentient life was detected."
Jean-Luc sat back, glaring at the screen.
"What a perfect hiding place! Computer, ETA at F983?"
"At our present speed, nine-point-six hours."
Rising to his feet, Jean-Luc tabbed off the screen.
"I'm coming, Beverly…hold on."

 

 

 

Beverly, despite her circumstances, was sound asleep. Whether from sheer exhaustion or some other factor was irrelevant, she was completely unprepared when a bucket full of icy cold water sloshed over her unprotected, naked body. Startled awake, and finding it difficult to breathe through the now saturated hood, a spluttering Doctor struggled to a sitting position. Before she could get enough breath to protest, another bucket full of water was thrown over her. A cruelly amused voice said loudly,
"You're filthy, Doctor. You need a wash."
She struggled as rough hands grabbed her and hauled her to her feet, but when hard, abrasive objects assaulted her skin she yelled,
"You bastard! Undo my hands, I can wash myself!"
Her word must have had some kind of impact because the rough washing stopped and, in a few seconds, the manacles that had confined her hands behind her back were undone. She wasn't given the time to massage her sore and swollen wrists. With the hood still in place, a brush was shoved into her hand, the other hand guided to a bucket filled with cold water.
Beverly took a steadying breath and started to wash, ignoring the tasteless and lewd remarks from her captors. When she thought she'd finished, she lifted her head, saying with as much dignity as she could muster,
"I want to wash my face and hair."
A cruel hand gripped her chin, forcing her head up and back.
"Do you now?"
Struggling to keep calm, Beverly said softly,
"Well what's the point of washing everywhere else and not my face and hair?"
A hard hand grabbed her left breast, squeezing hard, but Beverly resisted the urge to protest or struggle. Near her ear a rough voice muttered,
"You may have a point."
She heard some guttural orders given in a language she didn't understand and footsteps could be heard as some people left her cell. Then, without warning, the wet hood was dragged off her head.
Blinking back tears and squinting in the bright light, Beverly didn't get the chance to say anything. A sharp, vicious blow to her stomach had her collapse to her knees, bending double as she retched. A hand gripped a fistful of her hair and shoved her head into a bucket of water, holding it there for some seconds while Beverly weakly struggled.
Just as abruptly her head was lifted and the red head gasped and coughed, trying to catch her breath. The voice chuckled, saying with derision,
"Well come on, Doctor….wash!"
When Beverly didn't immediately comply, the calloused hand suddenly rubbed her face hard, opening up the many cuts and sores. Lifting her hands, Beverly yelped,
"Stop! I can do it."
The voice grumbled,
"Then hurry up!"
Gingerly, Beverly washed her face, the salty taste of blood infiltrating her mouth. She managed to wash her hair as best she could, all the while trying to ignore the fact that she was being watched. She did, however, try to engage her captor in conversation. She started with a question she'd been wanting answered ever since she'd been captured.
"So…can you tell me where we are?"
The voice sounded bored.
"No."
As she rubbed at her sodden hair with her chapped and damaged hands, Beverly decided to continue.
"Okay, but seeing as how I'm still alive, you must have plans for me. Can you tell me what they are?"
The hand suddenly pushed her head back into the bucket, this time holding her down for some long time. Instead of panicking, Beverly relaxed, knowing he would let her up eventually. He did and Beverly took a few minutes to get her breath, trying to do so with as little fuss as possible. The voice muttered threateningly,
"You talk too much."
Before Beverly could react to that, she was surprised when the shackles around her ankles were released. Looking up for the first time, she was just making out the male who stood over her, when some dry material hit her in the face.
"That is your clothing. Put it on."
She knew instantly by the feel and smell of the fabric that it was her uniform. She heard her boots hit the floor. Rising unsteadily to her feet, she slowly dressed, trying to not let her captor see how much she appreciated being dressed, especially in something so familiar. However her joy was short lived as her hands were gripped and wrenched behind her back. She was manacled again, as were her ankles. The hood was dragged back over her head as her captor called for assistance. Within seconds two sets of hard hands were gripping her shoulders as she was unceremoniously dragged from the cell.

 

 

 

Will Riker had always been a good sleeper. It seemed as soon as his head hit the pillow he was out like a light, often snoring softly. This night was no different, but his bed mate was restless. Not for her the oblivion of sleep. No, her job often left her tossing and turning, her mind not letting go of the concerns of her days and what had happened recently to their Captain had kept her from peaceful sleep for some nights.
Eventually growing irritated with her partner's blissful slumber, she turned to face him and deliberately poked him in the ribs…hard. Will's snoring stopped abruptly as he sluggishly opened his eyes and mumbled,
"What?"
Deanna knew he would quickly slip back to sleep unless she woke him completely. She insinuated her fingers into his short beard and tugged his head towards her.
"Wake up, Will, I need to talk to you."
Annoyed, the big man tried to turn over, mumbling,
"Can't it wait 'til morning?"
For a petite woman, Deanna was surprisingly strong. With her free hand she grabbed his shoulder and hauled him onto his back, saying sharply,
"No, it won't!"
Will knew that tone of voice and it told him he had little choice but to acquiesce. He sighed, knuckled his eyes and tried to wake up.
"Okay, what is it?"
Rising up on her elbow, Deanna stared down at her lover in that darkened room and attempted to put into words what had been bothering her.
"It's Captain Picard."
Will sat up suddenly, his sleepiness forgotten.
"Is he all right? Are you sensing something…some sort of danger?"
Exasperated, Deanna pushed at Will's chest, encouraging him to lie down.
"No, I can't sense him at all, he's too far away."
Somewhat mollified, Will let some of his tension go and tried to relax.
"Okay, then what is it?"
There were a few moments of silence before Deanna asked softly,
"Have you ever known the Captain to just up and leave the ship like he did?"
Will shrugged.
"Well no, but Beverly has been reported missing."
Deanna nodded thoughtfully.
"Exactly, but why did he just leave like that? He hadn't even got permission for his request of a leave of absence. It's so unlike him, Will. He didn't seem to have a plan of action, as far as I know he had no more idea where she was that we did, yet he dropped everything…and risked his command to go rushing off to who-knows-where…to do what? What could he possibly do that we here, with all the resources of the Enterprise, couldn't do?"
Again the big man shrugged.
"I don't know. I tried to talk him out of it, you know, but he'd made up his mind. But Dee, wouldn't he do that for any of us? Think about it. We've been together as his senior staff for over ten years…we're more than friends, we're family and of all of us, Beverly is the closest to him. Is it any wonder that he would go off like a knight in shining armour to rescue her? Remember that little Sherwood Forest jaunt, courtesy of Q? The Captain had no problems risking his life to save Vash."
Deanna flopped back down, a frown marring her classical beauty.
"That's true, but he didn't risk his command for her. Something's different, Will, there's been some sort of fundamental change that I'm unaware of and it's driving me nuts not knowing what it is."
They both lay in silence for a while before Will sighed and said softy,
"If I were you I'd try and concentrate on his well being. Who knows what he's going to encounter? And for that matter, devote some thought to Beverly. Let's just hope she's okay and that he finds her and brings her home."
Deanna nodded silently and turned onto her side to snuggle into her lover's side. As usual, Will was quickly asleep, but Deanna was awake a long time before sleep claimed her.

 

 

 

 

It was as his runabout entered the solar system of planet F983 that the computer alerted the dozing Captain. As he started awake, he suddenly realised he'd not slept properly for over four days, only snatching quick catnaps here and there. One thing he had managed to do was shave. Somehow it seemed important to him and he smiled wistfully as he remember how that had come about.
It had been the second time Beverly had stayed the night with him in his quarters, only a week or so into their new relationship. He had woken, well before the alarm, probably because he was still becoming accustomed to sharing his bed. By the light of the stars outside he had let his eyes wander over Beverly, first her face, relaxed and peaceful in sleep, her lustrous red hair spread on the pillow, then his gaze meandered over her curvaceous shape, the covers hiding what he knew to be a flawlessly beautiful body. His mind brought up images of their love making of the night before and he hardened slowly, recalling how passionate she'd been, how responsive to his touch and how he was so very quickly learning the signs of her desire. He knew from long experience how to react to those signs, how to let them guide him to bring pleasure, if not for himself, then for his partner, but with Beverly it was as if they were in sync. Even without a real heart beating in his chest, without his own racing pulse to guide his reactions, he seemed to know instinctively what she wanted and that knowledge fed his own desire.
It wasn't sex with Beverly, it was, perhaps for the first time in his life, making love and, in making love with Beverly he had discovered something about himself he'd never thought possible. He could share the experience.
For the first time it wasn't a case of…I'll bring you to orgasm, then I'll allow myself that release. With Beverly they seemed to be immersed in each other, striving together for the same goal, one of mutual pleasure and reward. And to his undying gratitude, Beverly seemed to know this and encouraged him to give up his ingrained habit of putting himself outside the act and to concentrate as much on his own pleasure as he did with hers.
And so, that morning, as he lay watching her in the dimness of their bedroom, Beverly woke and smiled at him, lifting an arm and inviting him into her embrace. They made love again, long, languid love that left them sated and sleepy, and so they drifted off again at peace with the universe.
The alarm woke them scant hours later and Beverly was first out of the bed, saying cheekily,
"I have first dibs on the shower."
Jean-Luc sent her a mock scowl and sat up, saying gruffily,
"Well I'll go and program the replicator for breakfast."
He had only put one arm into his robe when he heard a particularly vulgar Klingon curse issue from his lover in the bathroom. Surprised and a tad concerned, Jean-Luc went to the bathroom and opened the door to see Beverly standing naked in front of the basin mirror. Nothing seemed amiss, but he asked anyway.
"What is it?"
Beverly had the lights on dim but as she turned towards her lover she barked,
"Lights on full!"
What Jean-Luc saw made him grin and the instant he did, he knew he had made a terrible tactical blunder. The milky white skin of Beverly's face, neck, breasts and stomach, not to mention also around her genitals was bright red. Beverly's glare rooted Jean-Luc to the spot as he tentatively raised a hand to rub at his stubbled cheeks. His grin vanished to be replaced by a look of contrition.
"Ah…sorry."
Beverly's glare never altered.
"What the hell do you have on your face? Metal shavings?"
The tips of his ears grew red as he mumbled.
"I...ah...have a rather strong beard."
Beverly's gaze shifted back to the mirror as she inspected the damage, saying with incredulity,
"A strong beard? My God, Jean-Luc, that's the understatement of the year! Look what you've done to me! I can't be seen in public like this. Jesus…everyone will know what I've been up to…and probably with whom."
That brought an instant reaction from Jean-Luc. Without due thought he blurted,
"Don't worry, I can fix it."
Intrigued and surprised by his reaction, Beverly watched with growing amazement as Jean-Luc went back into the bedroom and to his nightstand. He opened the top drawer and took out a dermal regenerator. He strode back to the bathroom and presented it triumphantly to the astonished…and quickly angered Doctor.
"There, that will fix it."
He seemed so pleased with himself and was grinning again, that was until he saw the anger in Beverly's eyes. Again his grin vanished. He took an involuntary step back, saying with uncertainty,
"What?"
Beverly held up the regenerator and said quietly and menacingly,
"What are you doing with one of these and where did you get it?"
Finally realising his error, Jean-Luc made the mistake of trying to be flippant.
"Oh who knows…the thing is it will fix your skin."
Not swayed in the slightest, Beverly shook her head.
"Uh huh, I want answers…Captain."
The use of his rank brought Jean-Luc up short. He knew he was going to have to confess. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"I've had it for years, I…ah…appropriated it from Sick Bay and I use it to repair minor injuries."
Beverly's eyes narrowed.
"So you admit to stealing it. What, exactly, do you mean by…minor…injuries?"
Now decidedly uncomfortable, Jean-Luc resisted the urge to squirm.
"I didn't steal it…I…borrowed it, I just haven't returned it yet."
With a flip of her hand, Beverly shook her head.
"Semantics. Tell me about the injuries you've been healing."
He held up his hands in a placating manner.
"Really, Beverly, you're making too much out of this."
She stepped closer and poked him in the chest.
"Am I not the CMO of this ship?"
He sighed, resisting the urge to roll his eyes.
"Yes."
"And, as Captain, the most senior officer, isn't it your responsibility to be an example to the rest of the crew?"
He nodded silently.
"Then what would you do, as Captain, if you found one of your crew had…appropriated…a dermal regenerator and was treating themselves, in effect, hiding their injuries from the medical staff?"
He sighed and shook his head.
"Beverly…it's not like that. I…"
She poked his chest again.
"This stops now, Jean-Luc. I want you to give me your word that you will never hide an injury from me again!"
Chagrined, Jean-Luc bowed, both his head and to the inevitable.
"You have my word."
Beverly grunted and turned her attention to the mirror. Jean-Luc took that moment to attempt his escape, but he got no further than the door.
"And for your information this regenerator will stay here. If we're to make love in the morning while your face is covered in iron fillings, I'll need it to repair the damage. BUT…it's no longer for your use! Understood?"
He nodded solemnly and made his exit.
On the runabout his smile faded as he entered orbit around F983.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc knew the planet was uninhabited so it was the work of mere seconds to scan the land forms for humanoid life. There were seven, six non-human and one human female. Five of the non-humans were in a group about three kilometres from the other two life forms. They seemed to be in some sort of structure, but the other two were moving slowly through what appeared to be a forested area, heading for some sort of craft, situated in a cleared area some five kilometres distant.
His scans showed Beverly's communicator was with the group of five, but he was certain the female life form was his lover, so he set the computer to continuously scan her bio readouts while he went aft to get what he needed.
Within five minutes he was ready. Not bothering to change out of his uniform, he had a back pack over his shoulders, filled with rations and a tricorder and a phaser in a holster at his hip. The only other thing he took was a med kit. The bio readouts had recorded Beverly's injuries.
Jean-Luc was angry and apprehensive, but he took a deep breath to calm himself before saying quietly,
"Computer, one to beam down to a position one hundred metres from the last known place of the human life form."

 

 

 

 

When Will woke next morning he knew immediately that Deanna was still consumed with worry about her Captain and best friend. Alone in their bed, Will sighed and slowly rose, slipping on his robe as he entered the day area.
Deanna was seated at Will's desk, her eyes glued to the computer monitor. The big man strolled over to his lover and planted a kiss atop her head, while his eyes travelled over what was on the screen.
He sighed with exasperation.
"You're using our sensors to follow that Captain's flight path?"
Not wishing to be distracted, Deanna nodded absently.
"Uh huh."
Hooking a nearby chair with his foot, Will dragged it closer and sat down. Placing an elbow on the desk, he rested his chin in his hand.
"And what have you found?"
Looking at her lover for the first time, Deanna frowned and pointed to the screen.
"He's entered orbit around an uninhabited planet. It's at the extreme edge of our sensor range, but he's definitely there."
Will peered at the screen and grunted.
"F983? What do we know about it?"
Deanna shrugged.
"Very little. It was surveyed eighty-nine years ago by the Ark Royal. They reported no sentient life."
Rubbing and hand over his whiskery chin, Will leaned forward and snorted.
"A good place for terrorists to hide."
Deanna sat back and folded her arms.
"My thoughts exactly."
Will sat up, looked at the screen, then turned his attention to his lover.
"You want us to go there, don't you."
Deanna looked into his blue eyes and nodded.
"Yes, I do."
Will ran a hand over his face and briefly closed his eyes.
"You realise I'll have to clear it with Command."
Deanna nodded solemnly.
"Yes, but if you tell them that Captain Picard needs help, I'm sure they'll agree."
Will grinned sardonically.
"Even though we don't know if that's true."
Deanna shrugged and lifted her hands.
"Will, he's gone off like a bull at a gate. Who knows what he'll find? One thing's certain though…I bet he could use some help."
Still thoughtful, Will rose and pointed to the bedroom.
"I'm going to shower and dress. You get breakfast while I give this some thought."
The petite Betazoid pushed back from the desk and rose to her feet.
"All right, but you know I'm on the right track here…don't you?"
He nodded.
"Yeah, I just have to figure out how to hoodwink Command into letting us do this."
Deanna patted Will broad chest.
"You'll find a way, my love; you always did have a way with words."
Three hours later an uncomfortable Will Riker was sitting at Jean-Luc's desk in the Ready Room, hoping the smile on his face appeared warm and unconcerned, rather than the grimace he felt on the inside. Facing him on the desk monitor was the stern visage of Admiral Alynna Nechayev.
Never one for small talk, or niceties, the diminutive blonde woman glared at the hapless Commander and tried to keep her growing anger under control.
"It's bad enough that your Captain took it upon himself to take a leave of absence…without either following the proper chain of command, or waiting to see if his rather abrupt request had been approved, but now you're requesting to take the Enterprise…the Flagship…on some sort of what…quest?"
Keeping his smile in place with a concerted effort, Will spread his hands wide.
"No, no, Admiral…it's not a quest, nothing of the sort. No, Sir, we just want to go and…assist the Captain."
"To do what, exactly?"
That really pinned him.
"Well…ah…it has come to my attention that the Captain may have gone off to see if he could help in recovering Doctor Crusher and we though he might need some assistance."
The woman on the screen bowed her head and groaned softly.
"Oh God…don't tell me he's gone all gung ho on us? Really, Commander, isn't he a little too…staid…for such behaviour?"
Will shrugged, keeping his damned smile in place.
"Well, Sir, you know Captain Picard. Once he gets something in his head, it's a little hard to dislodge it."
The Admiral looked up; her eyes giving Will the impression of slyness.
"And of course we can't discount the…close association…Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher enjoy."
Will's smile faltered.
"They are close friends, Sir, but as to anything else…I wouldn't know."
She smiled coldly.
"Of course not."
They sat in adversarial silence for a few minutes, Will hoping the sweat he felt trickling down his back didn't make an appearance on his forehead. Eventually Nechayev threw her hands in the air.
"Oh hell, why not? If your Captain can be so damned cavalier, why not send the Enterprise on a fool's errand too? You have my permission to go, Commander…BUT…and this is a direct order…if there is an extraction team in place to rescue your wayward Doctor, you are to acquiesce to them. Is that understood?"
Will sat up straight, his smile replaced with a serious frown.
"Yes, Sir!"
Nechayev nodded and waved her hand.
"Fine, Nechayev out."
Will slumped back in his seat and let out a plosive breath, running a hand over his face and feeling the unpleasant moisture of sweat in his beard. Muttering as he slowly rose from the desk,
"That woman is a cold witch!"
Striding out onto the Bridge, he took his seat in the Command chair and said quietly,
"Helm, set a new course. I want to be at planet designated F983 in as little time as possible."
The android Second Officer at the helm turned and said softly,
"At warp five, it will take us five point three days."
Will grunted, then shook his head.
"Unacceptable. Engage at warp eight."
As the officer at the con inputted the new speed, Data said with equanimity,
"At our new velocity we will reach the planet in two point two days."
Will grinned, but his eyes were hard.
"Much better."
But as he settled down to go over the ship's status, Data asked politely, if not a little naively,
"Shall I send our request for permission to exceed the warp five limit?"
Will shook his head, his face angrily grim.
"No! If Command wishes to take this up with us, they can do it later. We've got bigger fish to fry."
The young Ensign at the con threw Data a concerned look before hearing her CO say forcefully,
"Engage!"
Her finger stabbed at the console and the great ship jumped to warp on her new heading.
Data turned back to his duties, thinking to himself,
"Oh, shit…there is going to be trouble over this."

 

 

 

 

The forest that Jean-Luc rematerialised in wasn't too dense and for that he was grateful. Deploying his tricorder, he quickly found his targets, only one hundred and five metres away and heading slowly in an easterly direction.
They were at least three kilometres away from the vessel they seemed to be heading for and Jean-Luc was confident he could outmanoeuvre them at a rocky outcropping that was only another two hundred metres off in the distance.
Vectoring slightly off their direction, he broke into a slow jog, making use of the trees and sparse undergrowth as cover as he made his way to the rocks undetected.
He reached his target with no trouble and set about taking up a vantage point that would cover as much of the ground before him as possible. Having satisfied himself that he had a good position, he settled down to wait.

 

Having been trained in delaying tactics for just this kind of situation, Beverly had been trying to dawdle; making the excuse that her injuries were slowing her down, but her captor would have none of it. First he threatened, then he grew violent, shoving and hitting Beverly to make her hurry up.
One particularly hard shove made her lose her footing and she toppled forward, landing painfully on her left shoulder. Before she could recover, her captor kicked her in the stomach.
"Get up!"
Unable to comply, Beverly curled up on her side, trying to get some air into her lungs. A second kick landed on her kidney. She cried out as his hand grabbed her hair through the hood and hauled her upright.
"I said; get to your fucking feet!"
She got to her feet, but bent almost double with pain. The voice was close to her ear.
"I know what you're trying to do and it won't work. I will beat you until you're unconscious, then I'll drag you by your hair. Either way, we'll get to where we're going. How we do it is up to you. Now get moving!"
He shoved her again and she would have fallen, but he grabbed her shoulder. Beverly summoned a ragged voice to ask,
"Can you take off the hood? It would make it easier for me if I could see where I'm putting my feet."
The voice was rough.
"No, now shut up and get going."
They went on for another fifteen minutes when a device her captor had beeped quietly. He increased his grip on Beverly's shoulder and pushed her to the ground. She heard him drop down beside her.
"We've got company."
Hope surged in Beverly, but she remained calm. She heard her captor contact his compatriots.
"Krol, to team one."
"Team one, here."
"I'm registering one life form ahead of me. Is there a ship in orbit?"
There was some static before Beverly heard,
"Wait…yes, a small ship…maybe a runabout."
The man she now knew as Krol, grunted.
"Can you block its transporter?"
"Yes."
"Do it!"
More static, then a gruff voice said smugly,
"Done."
He dragged Beverly to her feet and she felt a weapon pressed against her temple. The voice near her ear was almost a whisper.
"You'd better hope your would be rescuer doesn't do anything stupid, because if he does, you will be the first to die."
With his body pressed close to hers and the weapon touching her temple, Beverly could only hope her rescue went to plan.

Jean-Luc wiped at the sweat that trickled down his face. He hadn't had to wait all that long, but the tension was killing him. When his quarry finally came into sight he swore softly under his breath at seeing how closely Beverly was guarded. As they got closer, Jean-Luc could hear a soft beeping that was getting faster the closer they got. Suddenly they stopped and Jean-Luc tensed, but all that happened was the male shouted,
"I know you're there, Starfleet. Show yourself, or the woman will lose her head."
High up in the rocks, Jean-Luc gritted his teeth. He knew from the reports of the scientist's treatment that this man wasn't bluffing. Still gripping his phaser, he shrugged off the backpack and med kit and slowly stood. His voice echoed slightly as he shouted,
"There's no need for that."
Beverly instantly recognised her lover's voice. Desperate to do something to help, she suddenly lunged forward, twisted and kicked blindly as she fell sideways. Her foot connected and she heard a guttural grunt, then she heard two sets of phaser fire, then nothing. She quickly dragged the hood off her head, squinting in the dappled sunlight. Her captor was lying unconscious nearby, but of Jean-Luc she could see nothing.
She ran to the outcropping, calling urgently,
"Jean-Luc! Jean-Luc where are you?"
She began to climb and was half way up when she came across him, lying awkwardly between two boulders and obviously unconscious. There was a nasty burn on his right shoulder and his left arm was at an unnatural angle. Knowing he would have brought some equipment with him, Beverly reluctantly left him and climbed higher.
Sure enough, on a ledge with good cover and a broad view of the approach to the outcropping lay the backpack and med kit. With her manacled hands she scooped up both items and scrambled back down, finding the phaser on her way down.
She reached Jean-Luc and immediately began to treat his injuries. While he remained unconscious, she straightened and set his broken arm and treated the nasty injury to the back of his head. She used the medical tricorder to scan him and found he had severely bruised his right kidney, but it wasn't anything she couldn't heal there and then. Although she would have been happier for him to regain consciousness naturally, she needed him awake, so she injected him with a stimulant. He woke sluggishly and let out a low moan, saying groggily,
"What happened?"
Beverly lifted his head and offered him a drink from the bottle. While saying urgently,
"I need you, Jean-Luc. Come on, wake up!"
He heard the urgency in her voice and struggled to remove the cobwebs in his mind. He struggled into a sitting position, ignoring the pain in his head.
"Tell me what happened."
Beverly quickly brought him up to speed, but he shook his head.
"I don't remember!"
Exasperated, Beverly asked,
"What is the last thing you do remember?"
He frowned then looked into her concerned gaze.
"I was on the Enterprise…in my quarters."
Thinking quickly, Beverly adopted a professional tone as she explained,
"You've taken a nasty blow to the head; amnesia isn't uncommon under such circumstances. How is your eyesight?"
He blinked a few times and nodded.
"Seems to be all right."
She smiled tightly.
"Good. Now I have your phaser here. I'm going to set it on high, on a narrow beam. Can you cut off my manacles?"
He gave a confused look at her hands.
"You're manacled?"
Keeping patient by the skin of her teeth, Beverly replied tersely,
"Yes. Now can you cut me free?"
He nodded and took the phaser, but he seemed to be operating in slow motion. It seemed to take an age, but the manacles soon dropped to the ground.
Beverly grinned and rubbed her wrists.
"Right. Now we have to get back down. Can you walk?"
Jean-Luc nodded, but not with a great deal of confidence. Beverly took his arm, saying softly,
"I'll help you."
With the backpack and med kit slung over her shoulders, they made their slow way down.

 

 

 

Krol had regained consciousness and contacted his party.
"This is Krol. Can you initiate a dampening field? I don't want the ship in orbit…or any others that might come, to be able to scan for us."
"Affirmative. What is your ETA at the vessel?"
Wiping at a trickle of blood from his nose, Krol grunted,
"I have something to finish here. Give me an hour."
"Understood."
"Krol out."
Beverly took her time picking their way down the outcropping. Jean-Luc was unsteady on his feet and seemed to be having trouble coordinating his limbs.
They had just reached the floor of the forest when a guttural voice stopped them in their tracks.
"You'll pay, you bitch!"
Acting instinctively, despite his sluggish responses, Jean-Luc shoved Beverly sideways, but staggered into the line of fire. He was struck in the head, the force of the blast sending him reeling backwards. Beverly, phaser in hand, rolled to her left whilst adjusting the setting on her weapon. Krol made the mistake of rising to his knees for a better shot at her when Beverly hit him squarely in the chest on level sixteen. He was instantly vaporised.
She didn't give him a second thought as she rushed to her lover's side. He was lying sprawled flat on his back, spreadeagled, his forehead charred and bleeding. Deploying her tricorder, Beverly scanned him and winced.
"Dammit, Jean-Luc…"
The surface wound was quickly healed but she was reluctant to give him another stimulant. It was over an hour before he slowly rose to consciousness. Hovering over him, Beverly said softly,
"Jean-Luc? Can you hear me?"
He swallowed, blinked a few times then nodded, saying huskily,
"Yes."
Beverly was about to say more when he said,
"Did you get him?"
She smiled and frowned at the same time.
"Yes…do you remember?"
He brushed away her hands as he struggled to sit up.
"Yes…I think so."
He then summoned a wan smile.
"I'm here to rescue you."
Beverly beamed.
"You do remember!"
He frowned.
"Wasn't I supposed to?"
Helping him to his feet, he sighed with relief as she administered an analgesic. Giving him a peck on the cheek, Beverly explained,
"You were shot earlier and fell, hitting your head and suffering from amnesia as a consequence."
He slowly lifted a hand and gingerly fingered the newly repaired skin on his forehead.
"It seems I was shot again."
With a nod, Beverly grimaced.
"Thank God Krol was using a heavy stun setting. In any case it seems the second blow to your head has erased the amnesia."
He smiled.
"So it would seem."
He then took Beverly's hands.
"But it looks like you could do with some help."
He tapped his comm. badge, saying firmly,
"Computer, two to beam up."
There was no reply so Jean-Luc reissued his order. Again it was met with silence. He scowled, muttering,
"We seem to be stuck here."
Beverly grinned.
"Not necessarily. We, that is Krol and I, were heading for his ship. I'm not exactly sure where it is, but our tricorders could probably find it. I don't think it's that far away."
Jean-Luc gave that some thought, then said firmly,
"Right. First we treat your injuries, then we make for his ship."
Beverly's smile widened.
"Agreed."
As Jean-Luc took her arm and the med kit and backpack he muttered wryly,
"So glad you're willing to follow my orders for a change."
The slap to his behind made him grin.

 

 

 

It took just on forty minutes to treat Beverly's injuries, and Jean-Luc wasn't all that confident she was completely healed. He knew her well enough to see the residue of pain in her eyes, but she insisted she was all right and refused an analgesic, however she was also well aware of her lover's reactions and she could see he was in pain. He was about to get to his feet when she took his arm and shook her head.
"Uh uh, Jean-Luc. Tell me what's wrong."
He briefly contemplated feigning ignorance, but capitulated, knowing it would only anger her. He sighed and sat with his back against a boulder.
"I have a headache and my sight is getting a little blurry."
Immediately deploying her tricorder, Beverly scanned Jean-Luc, muttering as she studied the readouts intently,
"How bad?"
Rubbing at his temple, Jean-Luc grimaced.
"Quite bad."
Beverly snapped the tricorder closed and looked her lover in the eye,
"It's not good, but not life threatening. You have a severe concussion, my love. I'll give you another shot, but the headache will probably not go away completely."
He nodded and closed his eyes as Beverly injected him. Her next words made him scowl.
"We really should stay here, you need to rest."
He opened his eyes and sighed.
"We both do, I think, but we need to get to that ship. He wasn't alone, was he."
She shook her head.
"No, I think there were at least five others."
With a grunt, Jean-Luc held out his hand and, taking Beverly's, they rose to their feet.
"Well, they'll probably be heading for the same ship. We've tarried here long enough, we have to go."
Knowing he was right didn't make Beverly feel any better about going. She grudgingly agreed, but insisted on sharing the load. She carried the backpack, he the med kit.

 

 

 

It was late in the night cycle and Will and Deanna had just made love. As they lay together, basking in the afterglow when Will mumbled,
"It's good to feel you so relaxed. You've been very tense lately."
She sighed and snuggled deeper into his embrace.
"I know…it's this situation with the Captain and Beverly."
Hugging her to him, Will spoke with resolve.
"We'll find them, Dee, don't worry."
She smiled in the darkness of their bedroom.
"Oh of that I'm sure, it's the ramifications of the whole thing that's got me worried."
Will sighed. He wanted to drift off to sleep, but he knew Deanna wanted to talk.
"What are you talking about?"
Now wide awake, Deanna lifted her head.
"Think about it, Will. Beverly goes on a mission…a mission she told me she didn't actually have to do…a very dangerous mission, and goes and gets captured. So then our Captain, who is known for his calm reasoning, up and requests a leave of absence…then…leaves before he gets permission to go to find, then rescue Beverly. Now you know Captain Picard as well as I do and we both know he and Beverly have been close friends for years…but…don't you think his actions are irrational?"
Will was about to refute that, but then gave it some thought, eventually conceding his lover may be right. He sighed.
"Okay, maybe he did go off without due thought, but, Dee, he'd do that for any of us. We're family."
Deanna nodded.
"Yes he would, but he would have taken the ship, Will, not go charging off into the unknown on his own. He had no clue as to where he was going or what he needed to do. Now does that sound like our Captain?"
The big man sighed.
"No, it doesn't."
Deanna lowered her head to Will's shoulder and sighed deeply.
"My thoughts exactly."
They were silent for a while and Deanna smiled as Will's breathing evened out in sleep. She closed her eyes and concentrated on relaxing, but her thoughts still rolled slowly around in her mind. It took some time for her to find the oblivion of sleep herself.

 

 

 

At first they made good progress through the lightly wooded forest, following the directions on Jean-Luc's tricorder. As far as the device was concerned they had only a little over two kilometres to go before they reached the ship. But as they travelled, their progress gradually slowed as Jean-Luc became increasingly debilitated.
Against both medical advice and her own misgivings, Beverly injected Jean-Luc twice. Once with another dose of analgesic and the other a stimulant. Initially she had refused both, but Jean-Luc could be very persuasive when he wanted to be and Beverly knew she was going to need his help when they finally got to the ship.
It helped and their progress increased. When they were about seventy metres from the ship, Beverly insisted they take a rest.
Sitting behind a large tree, they drank some water and Beverly scanned Jean-Luc again, irritating him. Just as she was concerned with him, he was worried about her. He could tell but the rigidity of her shoulders and her pinched expression she was in pain, but as much as he insisted, she refused to use an analgesic.
With only one phaser between them, they needed to formulate a plan of action. Jean-Luc rubbed absently at his left temple and sighed.
"If we could just get them in a tight group, we could stun them all on a wide setting."
Beverly nodded her agreement.
"I agree but I don't think it's going to happen. These are terrorists, Jean-Luc; they won't be doing anything stupid."
He grunted.
"I suppose it was wishful thinking. Well what do we do, try to pick them off one at a time and hope like hell they don't get us?"
He then scratched at his cheek, feeling the beginnings of stubble.
"You know…we could disable the craft."
Sending her lover an incredulous look, Beverly snorted.
"I thought we wanted to use the ship to escape."
He smiled.
"We do, but if we did just enough damage to hold them up, it would give us more time to pick them off, then, once we'd secured the ship, we could repair it and leave."
Growing interested in the idea, Beverly asked with caution,
"Exactly what would we have to do? Where would we be aiming?"
Rubbing his fingers over his lower lip, Jean-Luc said distractedly,
"Nothing crucial, nothing we would be unable to fix…something like the nacelle couplings…or the plasma conduits."
Beverly looked down at the phaser in her hand and offered it to her lover.
"Then you'd better be the one doing the shooting. You'd be far more likely to identify those targets on an alien vessel than me."
Jean-Luc smiled, but shook his head.
"I'm afraid my sight's not up to the challenge, my love. You do the shooting; hopefully I'll be able to tell you where to aim."
Confused, Beverly shook her head.
"But if you can't see well enough to shoot, how are you going to identify the targets?"
With a cheeky grin, Jean-Luc held up the tricorder. Beverly snorted and lightly punched his shoulder.
"Smart arse."
Jean-Luc slowly got to his feet, but frowned as he heard a soft wince from Beverly as she straightened. She cast aside her pain and sent her lover a bright smile.
"Shall we?"
In keeping with her confident demeanour, Jean-Luc smiled and nodded.
"Let's go."
They had only travelled ten metres when the tricorder quietly sounded a proximity alarm. Jean-Luc looked down at the screen and scowled.
"They're nearby."
Beverly's body stiffened.
"Then we'd best be very careful."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Indeed."

 

 

 

They crept through the trees until they could see their quarry. Five males of a species neither Jean-Luc nor Beverly could identify were at the craft, loading it with boxes and equipment. Hiding behind a large tree only about fifteen metres from the occupied men, Jean-Luc pointed at the nearest nacelle, saying sotto voce,
"A three second burst on setting twelve should do it. Can you see the coupling?"
Peering around the tree, Beverly nodded, whispering,
"Yes, I think so."
Just then one of the males straightened and deployed a device, sweeping in an arc. It gave off a loud alarm, making the men drop their loads and reach for their weapons. Jean-Luc muttered angrily,
"They know about us, fire Beverly, now!"
Lying flat on her stomach, Beverly did as she'd been ordered. The beam hit the target, but the return fire had both officers scrambling for safety. With their current position becoming untenable, Jean-Luc and Beverly ran at a crouching run in a straight line, using the tree as cover.
The attackers spread out, like the couple, using the trees as cover as they advanced on their targets. Reaching another large tree, Beverly panted,
"We need another weapon!"
Jean-Luc nodded, his own breath ragged.
"We need to split up."
Beverly looked askance and shook her head.
"No we don't!"
Another blast impacted against the tree, making them both duck. Covered in bark and charred wood chips, Jean-Luc grabbed Beverly's arm.
"Yes we do! If we stay together they're more likely to get us both, but if we split up, they will have more trouble."
A guttural shout nearby made Beverly realise he had a point. With great reluctance she looked into her lover's eyes and nodded.
"Okay, I go left, you, right."
He offered a smile and said softly,
"On the count of three?"
She nodded, so Jean-Luc whispered…
"One, two…three!"
They broke cover at a dead run, hoping their sudden flight might confuse their hunters. Bright green energy speared through the trees, aimed at both fleers. Beverly reached the cover of a large boulder and took a second or two to regain her breath before peering around the rock and seeing a pursuer. Steadying her hand, she took aim and fired. The man was lifted off his feet and tumbled backwards, his weapon flying from his hand. Taking her chances, Beverly dashed from cover and sprinted to the weapon, picking it up before running pell-mell back to the boulder. Stone chips flew through the air as two beams splattered against the rock. Beverly waited, counting silently to five, before once again peering around the rock. She came face-to-face with an attacker. She yelped, pitched forward and fired reflexively. She hit the man, rendering him instantly unconscious, but from behind her she heard a growl.
"You bitch!"
She rolled onto her back to see a large male raising his fist. Obviously he was intent on physically incapacitating the red head, rather than use his weapon. Beverly lifted her phaser and, just as she fired, she saw his eyes widen in shock. The beam hit him in the head and he fell senseless on top of the Doctor, knocking the breath out of her and exacerbating her injuries.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was having trouble seeing where he was running. He could hear his pursuers not far behind him and he knew it was only a matter of time before one of their shots took him down. He suddenly encountered a huge log blocking his path. He tried to hurdle it, but caught his shin and tripped, sprawling headlong on the other side. Frantically, he rolled to his side and saw a gaping hole in the obviously hollow log.
With his chasers closing, he wriggled into the hole, hoping nothing else was in there that would harm him.
Listening with every fibre of his being, he heard his hunters stop. Two distinct voices could be heard, but their language was foreign to him. He heard a device beeping, then one of the voices spoke, plainly calling their leader. When there was no reply, there was muttering, sounding to Jean-Luc like discontented complaining before they suddenly began to retrace their steps.
Not quite believing his luck, Jean-Luc waited five minutes before he cautiously emerged from his hiding place. He was alone. Still sheltering behind the log, he deployed his tricorder, but had trouble seeing the screen. He needed Beverly. Doing the best he could with his limited sight, he inputted a search for human bio signs and immediately the device identified Beverly's position.

Having finally rolled the senseless body off her, a winded Doctor sat up, a grimace of pain on her face. As she regained control of her breathing, she realised there was silence all around. Cautiously she got to her knees and peeked around the boulder. She saw nothing but the forest. Confused, she took shelter once again, considering her options. Within scant minutes she heard someone approaching. Taking a defensive stance, she readied herself for more combat, but it was Jean-Luc's voice she heard.
"Beverly?"
Lowering her phaser, Beverly responded,
"Jean-Luc?"
She slowly stood and waited while he found her. He smiled and they embraced. Beverly held him by the shoulders, and kissed his cheek.
"Boy, am I glad to see you! What happened? Where are they?"
He sighed and gestured towards the ship.
"It seems they've made a tactical retreat. I think I heard one of them trying to contact their leader."
Beverly snorted.
"Well I know what happened to him, I vaporised him."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Well it seems they're not willing to wait around. If we want their ship, we'd better get back over there."
In agreement, they both began to cautiously approach the ship, only to halt as they heard it take off. Jean-Luc bowed his head and sighed in frustration. Beverly swore.
"Shit!"
They looked at each other and Jean-Luc tried to smile.
"Well, it seems we're stuck here."
Beverly frowned.
"You told no one of your plans?"
Reddening slightly, Jean-Luc muttered,
"Actually, when I left I had none."
With a gaping mouth, Beverly shook her head.
"That's not like you, Jean-Luc."
He sighed.
"I know…I just had this overwhelming need to find you."
Looking under his lowered brow, Beverly said softy,
"So you just up and left?"
He nodded silently.
She chuckled.
"Who are you and where is the Jean-Luc Picard I know?"
He smiled at that, then frowned.
"You were held where?"
She shrugged.
"I haven't a clue; I had a hood over my head most of the time."
Gently rubbing his lower lip, Jean-Luc considered her words.
"But you were kept in a building?"
She nodded.
"Yes."
His Captain's persona was back.
"Then we need to find it!"
He took his tricorder, but grunted in frustration as his defective sight made it almost impossible to see the screen. Understanding his difficulties, Beverly gently took the device from his hands and inputted the required instructions. She turned in a slow circle, eventually snorting with disgust.
"We're either too far away, or it's shielded in some way. I can't get a thing."
With gritted teeth, Jean-Luc grumbled,
"Merde!"
Trying to adopt a lighter tone, Beverly asked wryly,
"So now what?"
With a sigh, Jean-Luc pointed in the vague direction of the ship's last known position.
"Let's go and see if they left anything behind."
Beverly nodded, but before they moved off, she gently grabbed his arm, saying with as much tenderness as she could,
"I want to scan you first, my love."
Irritated, but bowing to the inevitable, Jean-Luc sighed and lowered his head, muttering,
"Very well."
The scan took only a few minutes and he was surprised to feel the cold tip of a hypospray against his neck. As soon as the drug was injected, he felt better, even his sight improved. He sent his lover a look of gratitude, but it was tempered by her stern face.
"That's the last stimulant you get for a while, Jean-Luc. Generally speaking, concussions and stimulants don't make good bedfellows."
He smiled and gave a nod.
"I understand, but thank you, I feel much better."
Beverly gave a soft snort and closed her med kit. She then took his hand.
"Come on, let's go."

 

 

 

 

Both Will and Deanna were on the Bridge when the Ensign at Tactical said quietly,
"Commander Riker? We have the Captain's runabout on sensors."
The big, bearded man sat forward in the command chair, saying tightly,
"Can you put it on screen?"
"Not yet, Sir, we're still too far away, but I can tell you it's in orbit around an uninhabited planet, designated F983, our destination, Sir."
Will grunted softly, then asked,
"Is there anyone on the runabout?"
The Ensign shook her head.
"No, Sir, we're detecting no life signs aboard."
Deanna frowned.
"So he's still on the planet, looking for Beverly."
Will nodded.
"Presumably."
He then turned his attention back to the Ensign.
"Can we scan the planet?"
The young woman frowned.
"No, Sir, and I cannot understand why not. Even at this range we should be getting something, but it's as though our sensors are being…blocked somehow."
Will turned his head, facing forward and said to Data,
"Is there anything we know about F983 that could cause us to be unable to scan it at this distance, Data?"
The android shook his head.
"No, Commander. As far as our information on the planet goes, it is simply an uninhabited M class planet."
The big Exec shook his head and grunted.
"Well I don't believe in coincidences like these. We now have two missing officers on a planet that suddenly seems to be very mysterious. Helm, as soon as we enter the system, go to half impulse. Tactical I want full shields and all weapons on line."
There was a soft chorus of, "Aye. Sir." As the officers accepted their orders. Deanna closed her eyes and Will waited as she sent out her empathic senses. After a minute or two she opened her eyes and sighed. To Will's silent enquiry, she shook her head.
"Nothing, but at this distance I'm not surprised. I'll try again when we're closer."
Will nodded and said tersely,
"Helm, ETA at F983?"
"Two, point eight hours, Sir."
He ran his fingers through his beard and grumbled,
"Not soon enough for me. I hate mysteries."
Deanna smiled and patted his hand.
"Then what on earth are you doing in Starfleet?"
He summoned his trademark grin and raised his eyebrows.
"I liked the uniform."
The petite Betazoid chuckled and shook her head. Nothing else was said as they settled in to wait.

 

 

Thinking that the terrorists might return, Jean-Luc and Beverly decided to stay within the vicinity of the landing site.
As night was rapidly approaching, they made an area suitable for sleeping by sweeping the ground and building a fire. It was the matter of only seconds to light the wood with a phaser and, by the cheery glow of the flames, the couple sat around the fire, each quiet within their own thoughts. It was Jean-Luc who broke the silence.
"They tortured you."
Beverly shrugged.
"To be expected, I suppose. They were terrorists, after all."
Her attempt at wry humour failed as Jean-Luc said softly,
"How did you cope?"
By the light of the fire, Jean-Luc could see both a smile of tenderness and the spark of defiance in her eyes.
"I thought of you and what you'd do under similar circumstances."
Humbled, Jean-Luc lowered his head and gave it a shake.
"I'm no example to follow, Beverly. Madred broke me, remember."
There was a momentary silence while Beverly allowed Jean-Luc to recover from such a painful memory. She sighed and offered a sympathetic smile.
"Perhaps, but Madred never knew, did he."
Offering a lopsided smile of his own, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"No, but I do."
Moving closer to her lover, she took his hand and looked into his troubled hazel eyes.
"Jean-Luc, no one can be expected to endure what you did and not succumb. You're not super human."
He sighed and Beverly could see the haunted look in his eyes.
"And then there was the Borg. I couldn't resist them, either."
Beverly sat up straight and deliberately made her voice harsh.
"Why this self castigation, Jean-Luc? You might like to think you're impervious, but, my dear Captain, you're as fallible as the rest of us. We've both undergone advanced tactical training and were as prepared as Starfleet could make us for what we went through…but in the end, we're only human. We have limits to our endurance and we reached them. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
He sighed and tightened his grip of her hand.
"I know, Beverly, I know…it's just that, as Captain, I have to set a higher standard. I know I had no defence against the Borg, no matter how hard I tried, but Madred…that was another thing entirely. Yes, he used a coercive torture device, one I eventually succumbed to, but at its essence, his brand of torture was psychological. I should've been able to withstand it, but, in the end, I failed."
He looked into Beverly's eyes and asked with pained softness,
"Did you fail?"
She took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, then let it out slowly, whilst shaking her head.
"No, but that's not to say I wouldn't have. In fact, I think it was simply timing. Had I not been removed I think I would have broken. The really stupid thing is that they were asking me questions I didn't know the answers to."
Jean-Luc chuckled mirthlessly.
"Madred did the exact same thing."
He then said quietly,
"What did they do to you?"
With a concerted effort, Beverly kept her voice even, but she couldn't stop the tears from welling in her eyes.
"I was beaten, with both fists and objects. There were electric shocks delivered to various body parts…and I was digitally raped with the threat of worse later by the entire group if I didn't cooperate and I was partially drowned in a bucket of water."
Letting go of her hand, Jean-Luc took her into his arms and held her while she wept. At first he said nothing, but, as Beverly slowly regained control, he said softly,
"I'm so sorry, my love, if only I had stopped you from going in the first place."
Resting her head on his sturdy shoulder, Beverly said with a little of her usual defiance,
"And just how do you think you would've achieved that?"
He smiled in the darkness.
"I could have ordered you not to go."
She briefly considered lifting her head and glaring, but truth be told, she was too damned tired. Instead she just sighed.
"Oh yeah, I can see how that would have worked. You would have ended up sleeping on the sofa for months!"
He smiled through his sorrow.
"Perhaps, but at least you've have been safe and sound."
They were silent for a while before Beverly said softly,
"You know, Jean-Luc…me going through this has made me love you even more, something I didn't think possible."
Somewhat surprised, Jean-Luc lifted his head and frowned.
"How so?"
Lifting her head from his shoulder, she said quietly,
"Torture is a very intimate thing to share. We both know that Deanna is going to want to delve into my deepest thoughts and go over my experiences in excruciating detail…just like you had to, but nothing I can tell her will adequately describe what I went through, even with her empathic senses. But you know, don't you."
Again, deep sorrow marred his handsome features. He gently wrapped his hand around the back of Beverly's head and guided it back to his shoulder. He placed his stubbled cheek on her hair and sighed, tears welling in his eyes.
"Yes, my love, I know."
Through her own sorrow, Beverly found a small smile.
"Then our bond is even deeper now."
He said nothing; at that stage words were superfluous.
Twenty minutes later they were lying beside the fire, drowsy with fatigue and the warmth of the flames. As they spooned together, Jean-Luc kissed Beverly's neck, murmuring,
"I love you, mon coeur."
She sighed and snuggled closer to him.
"And I love you, Jean-Luc."
As embers rose lazily in the smoke like red fire flies, they fell asleep under the canopy of the stars.

 

 

They had been studying the planet as they approached, sensors and scanners at maximum output, but the planet remained stoically shielded. Within minutes of entering orbit, Jean-Luc's runabout had been returned to the Shuttle Bay and, with little else to do, an irritated and frustrated First Officer paced the Bridge with agitation. Deanna waited until he was close to say softly,
"You know there's no point in sending down away teams while it's still night on the planet."
The big man grunted.
"We could start on the northern hemisphere. It's light there."
The Counsellor sighed with barely contained patience.
"You know that Captain Picard would have put this runabout in orbit over something he found. It couldn't have been an arbitrary decision."
Will all but growled.
"We don't know that! For all we do know, he was as blind as we are!"
Deanna kept calm.
"That may be so, but he still chose to orbit the southern land mass. In fact, the land mass he was orbiting isn't very big. If he hadn't found Beverly he would have beamed up and moved the ship."
The Lieutenant at Tactical interrupted.
"Actually, Sir, I don't think he could have beamed up. In making preparations for the morning's away teams, we've just found we can't use the transporters."
Will spun around, his blue eyes wide.
"Why not?"
The Lieutenant shrugged.
"I don't know, Sir. It's like our sensors and scanners. We're being blocked somehow."
Now clearly angry, Will barked,
"Well find out how! This ship is the best in the fleet, surely with all our technology we can find out why a little tin-pot planet is blocking most of our key systems!"
A now nervous Lieutenant stammered,
"Yes, Commander."
Not satisfied completely, Will lifted his head and called.
"Riker to LaForge."
A sleepy voice answered.
"LaForge here, Commander, go ahead."
Will's face softened a little.
"Sorry to wake you Geordi, but I need you in Engineering. Not only can we not scan the planet, I've just been told our transporters won't work either."
His voice now all business, Geordi replied,
"I'm on it, Sir, LaForge out."
Will used both hands to scratch his bearded cheeks before turning to Deanna.
"It's going to be a long night, Dee. You might as well go to bed."
She nodded as she stood, but hesitated and closed her eyes. When she opened them again, she looked a little confused. Will immediately asked,
"What?"
Shaking her head, Deanna tried to put her perceptions into words.

"They're there, Will, I'm sure of it…I just can't…pin them down."
The big man ran a frustrated hand through his short, dark hair.
"You can't sense them…tell if they're all right?"
She shook her head.
"No, I just get a vague sense of their presence, nothing else."
Will summoned a wan smile.
"Well maybe we'll know more in the morning. You get a good night's sleep."
Offering a small smile of her own, Deanna said softly,
"Try to get some rest yourself, Will."
His smile widened.
"I will. Goodnight."
Giving her lover a look of frank disbelief, Deanna left the Bridge. Will plonked himself down the command chair and stared balefully at the planet, turning lazily below them.
He whispered softly,
"Where the hell are you both?"
He was right; it was going to be a long night.

 

 

 

As soon as the sun began to rise on the planet, the officers assembled on the Bridge. Overnight, Geordi had managed to get the sensors and scanners to partially work but their scans revealed little. Worf glowered at his screen, wishing through sheer force of will to make the ship's sensors see more than they could.
 They had been missing for forty-three hours.
 "Forty-three point two three hours" Data specified, before the first officer could stop him.
 Commander Will Riker was beside himself.
 The hand of Counsellor Troi seeking out his arm, immediately to the left of the Command Chair he occupied, sharply reminded Riker that he should be seated one chair removed to the right from her: the fact that he wasn't where he should be only served to notch up his anxiety to a new level.
 She leaned into him, whispering, "Enough, Will.  We need you now.  THEY need you.  Calm yourself."
 He took several breaths and found that he could indeed calm himself enough to think straight.  He fleetingly wondered whether it was because of Deanna's touch.
 

 

 

 

The assembly of the away team had taken longer than normal, but eventually Riker had been convinced that he must remain on the bridge and Data was charged with leadership of the group, with Worf growling his security section of four into action– he'd wanted twelve before he had been overridden by the First Officer.  
 "There's nothing in our scans that speaks of grave danger, Worf," Riker had said, trying to reassure himself as he spoke.  "The mere fact that we can't contact them can easily be explained by the emissions of the planet."
 Worf had looked at him then with a frown he usually reserved for young Alexander when the child assured him that he had indeed completed his homework.
 "We need these people onside" Riker continued gamely.  "There's no logical reason to overreact.  We have to act calmly and proportionally," he emphasised, trying to imitate his Captain as much as possible, under the circumstances.
 It worked.  Worf's exhaled sigh gave the advantage to Riker, but before he could take any joy from it, Data called the team together, including the Counsellor.
 Will looked askance for a moment as he contemplated countermanding the order.
 "It is logical, Will," she murmured.  "I can sense them.  It's best that I be there."
 Riker played with his beard for a moment and she felt his emotions shift as he turned to her: "Find them, Deanna."
 After 15 minutes Deanna finally separated herself from the rest of the search party, on Data's command.  She could sense them, but what she felt was faint, incorporeal.  Sleeping, she thought, releasing the breath she had not realised she'd been holding.  She followed through the dense woodland, more assured now that the emotions of the away team were fading and she could concentrate more on her Captain and CMO, her colleagues, her friends, her family.
 …. They were close.  Everything was calm, contented even, and these feelings gave Deanna confidence and allowed her to relax a little.  Everything was going to be ok.
 She finally emerged from the edge of the copse, drawn first by the smell of the dying embers of a campfire.
 And there they were, spooned together, the blue of her uniform marking a striking contrast against his red; the black of their pants and boots melding together.  It was normal Starfleet procedure for those caught unawares and outdoors – maintain body heat together.  Keep warm.   
 She should have contacted Data immediately.  She didn't.  Later, she would find her hesitancy difficult to explain.
 

 

 

As she drew closer in the early light, Deanna's gaze fell more closely on the couple. On her left side, head resting on the upper arm of the Captain, lay Beverly; some of her auburn hair falling across her face, her left hand curled palm up in the warmth of the Captain's much larger hand; his forehead at the curve of her neck, his right arm relaxed across her hip.  
 They were sound asleep.
 Deanna moved quietly closer. 
 She first noticed the absence of communicators on their chests.  That answered the question as to why Enterprise had been unable to reach them earlier.  The absence raised other questions, however.  
 Deanna was barely two metres from them, when she saw what she had already imperceptibly recognised had stopped her from contacting anyone and drawn her forward in the first place – the heel of the Captain's right hand at the juncture of Beverly's trunk, his fingers buried in her thighs. 
 
Deanna smothered an almost uncontrollable outburst, silently berating herself instead: *Why didn't I know this?*
 She crouched down, studying them closely.
 It was too natural to be new, their bodies were too relaxed, too comfortable with each other for it to be other than normal – and much to her disgust that her empathic sense had failed her so badly – she had an epiphany; that it was not only normal, but long term.
 
*WHY DIDN'T I KNOW THIS?!*
 
As Deanna struggled internally with this overload of startling information, Beverly shifted her hips, and the Captain unconsciously moved his right leg to rest high between hers, his hand moving to cup her left breast, with an ease that only confirmed Deanna's new found knowledge – his long familiarity with her body.        
 She hyperventilated and furiously plexed the nerve bundle under her ear to compensate. 
 At that moment, her comm. badge reverberated:
 "Data to Troi."
 Breathe, relax, in, out.
  Again came the call: "Data to Troi." 
 Breathe, and more breathing, lots more breathing.  Slow the heart rate, breathe.
 "Deanna, are you there?"
 It was the Captain who eventually responded. Filled with sleep, groggily, his dark gaze on his Counsellor, he raised his head and answered huskily:  
 "Mr Data, Commander Troi has found us.  It's good to hear from you."
 There was an almost imperceptible delay as Data adjusted to the Captain answering his hail instead of its intended recipient, before responding levelly with "And you too, Captain," while in the background came the joyful amen of the rest of the away team.
 "We will be with you shortly, Sir."
 The Captain tore his gaze from Troi, but not before silently acknowledging that there would be repercussions from this.   
 Sighing, he leant forward, drawing his right hand to the Doctor's forehead, brushing her hair behind as he whispered in her ear:  "Beverly, they've found us."
 Deanna noticed that he didn't even try to put physical distance between them as he did so.  
 There was obviously much to discuss.
 Always slow to awaken, Beverly stretched catlike, her legs sinuously moving within and against his, her hand automatically drawn to him; but it was the lack of his usual physical response that truly woke her.
 "Jean Luc?" she questioned, turning to him, her hand on his upper thigh.
 He looked beyond her.  She refocused, and found herself staring into the fathomless black eyes of a shell-shocked Betazoid Counsellor, and her best friend.
 "Oh, shit!"   
Jean-Luc sighed and tried to find a conciliatory smile.
"It's good to see you, Counsellor."
Beverly, scrambling to order her scattered thoughts smiled also, but it was wan.
"Yes, Dee, it's really good to know we've been rescued."
To her credit, Deanna kept control of her roiling thoughts and smiled warmly.
"I bet it is. Now how about we get you back up to the ship?"
All business now, Beverly slowly got to her feet, obviously in pain. Dusting off her uniform, she said forcefully.
"Beam us up to Sick Bay immediately. The Captain needs medical treatment."
Jean-Luc was also on his feet, blinking rapidly to clear his blurry vision. However, he took command.
"Actually, Counsellor, we both need medical treatment."
Holding up one hand, Deanna tapped her comm. badge.
"Troi to team leader."
Worf's basso voice boomed out of the speaker.
"Worf here, Counsellor, go ahead."
"Can you bring a shuttle to my position, please? We have two casualties."
All three could easily hear the concern in Worf's voice as he asked,
"Are they serious?"
Deanna cast Beverly a look and she reluctantly glanced at Jean-Luc, then shook her head.
Deanna comprehended the silent signal and said gently,
"No, Worf, but I think they've been here long enough."
"Understood, we are on our way, ETA, five minutes."
"Acknowledged, Troi out."
There followed an uncomfortable silence, broken when Deanna said softly,
"We have a lot to talk about."
Taking control of the situation, Jean-Luc drew himself up and tugged down his tunic.
"Yes we do, Counsellor, but not until we're ready."
Deanna nodded thoughtfully, then asked,
"May I at least know how long?"
Jean-Luc's face became a stoic mask, only his dark hazel eyes showed his displeasure with the question. Beverly, however merely smiled and said quietly,
"Some months now."
Shock registered on Deanna's face. She took a deep breath to calm herself, then asked,
"How did you manage to keep it from me?"
Growing quickly tired of what he felt was inappropriate questioning, Jean-Luc stepped forward and said with some acerbity,
"We have already said we will talk to you, Counsellor, but it will be at a time of our choosing. Now why don't we concentrate on what's been going on here, on the planet. There were was group of terrorists who left yesterday and we believe they had a base somewhere not too far away from here. Perhaps we can find it and glean some information that may assist us in apprehending them."
Knowing he wouldn't be any further drawn on what she'd discovered, Deanna switched to officer mode.
"Of course, Captain. I will inform Worf as soon as the shuttle arrives."
Luckily it was only a couple of minutes before the shuttle landed nearby. Finding his step unsteady, Jean-Luc allowed Beverly to grip his elbow to guide him to the little craft. They were airborne in seconds and back aboard the Enterprise in under ten minutes.

For Beverly, entering Sick Bay gave her a feeling of satisfaction. Here she was in her element, even though she was, at the moment, a patient. But for Jean-Luc it meant irritation. He hated being fussed over, especially by over-officious medical personnel who seemed to walk on eggshells whenever he was unfortunate enough to find himself a patient there. And so, as they sat side-by-side on the main bio bed, it was Jean-Luc who fidgeted and Beverly who sat serenely, waiting for the diagnosis from Selar, her Vulcan second in command.
Snapping her tricorder closed, Selar stepped back and raised one perfect eyebrow. Beverly grinned despite her pain, watching as the Vulcan picked up a hypospray and injected her. Within seconds the pain disappeared and the red head sighed.
Thank you, Selar, that feels so much better."
The Vulcan bowed her head.
"You were fortunate, Doctor Crusher, your injuries were not severe. Once you have undergone some regen treatments, you will be well again."
Jean-Luc has had enough, saying testily,
"I am required on the Bridge. Are you finished, Doctor?"
Selar shook her head.
"No, Captain, I am not. You have sustained a hairline fracture of the skull. I will repair it now, but you also require regen treatments."
His patience near its limit, Jean-Luc's lowered, softer voice was testament to his growing anger.
"And what if I forego the regen treatments?"
Showing no surprise at his illogical question, Selar merely tilted her head.
"Then you will continue to suffer severe headaches and blurred vision."
Before he could say anything further, Beverly said quietly,
"Jean-Luc, this is one of those times when it's best to listen to your Doctor."
He knew, if he defied Selar's instructions, he would have to deal with Beverly later and, to be brutally honest, he didn't look forward to that. Despite being deeply in love, it didn't mean they didn't argue, the two most contentious subjects being the Prime Directive and his cavalier attitude towards his own well being. So, with an irritated snort, he acquiesced. The triumphant grin of his lover he would talk to her about later, in the privacy of their quarters.
Selar, ignorant of the byplay, expertly repaired the fracture with an osteo fuser. She then injected Jean-Luc with an analgesic and with the cessation of his pain, his demeanour improved.
"If you will both come with me, I will set up the regeneration beds."
The couple slid off the bio bed and followed Selar across the room to the regen area. She had them both lay down on the beds while she aimed the beams. Beverly immediately relaxed and closed her eyes, a smile on her face. Jean-Luc clasped his hands on his chest and stared stoically up at ceiling, trying to make the best of what he saw as a bad situation. Selar, having rechecked the readings on the computer, said quietly,
"I will return in forty minutes."
Once alone there was a tense silence. Beverly opened one eye to peek at her lover and sighed.
"It's not that bad, Jean-Luc."
His face didn't alter, but there was suppressed anger in his voice as he muttered,
"I need to be on the Bridge."
Opening both of her eyes, Beverly's voice showed her exasperation.
"And you will be, just as soon as the regen treatment is complete."
"Humph!"
They were silent again for a few minutes before Beverly said softly,
"What are we going to do about Deanna?"
Jean-Luc's first reaction was more anger, but he quickly realised how futile that was. He sighed and closed his eyes,
"I don't know."
Beverly adopted Jean-Luc's pose, hands clasped on her chest, eyes trained on the ceiling.
"She's going to be like a dog with a bone over this, you know."
He sighed again, clenching his teeth.
"I know."
Beverly turned her head to look at her lover's profile.
"We have to get this right, Jean-Luc…present a united front."
He turned his head and offered a small smile.
"I agree with you, my love, but I think I should point out…we've done nothing wrong, broken no regulations."
Mirroring his smile, Beverly nodded.
"True, but don't tell me you don't think two of the most senior staff entering into a long term, committed relationship in a clandestine manner won't stir the pot? Especially considering we managed to keep it from an empath…effectively hiding it from her as well as everyone else."
Jean-Luc kept his voice even and quiet but Beverly heard the anger in it.
"It was no one's business but ours!"
Beverly sighed.
"I agree with you, one hundred percent, but in retrospect, perhaps we should have told the Command staff."
"Humph!"
Aiming her gaze back at the ceiling, Beverly sighed.
"Well, it's going to be common knowledge soon enough. Are you ready for that?"
It was Jean-Luc's turn to sigh again.
"I'll have to be, won't I."
Beverly snorted.
"We will, my love, both of us."
They both turned to look at each other and said in unison,
"I love you."
Then they chuckled. There was a silence then, broken when Jean-Luc said softly,
"I don't care what happens, Beverly, I wouldn't give up what we have for anything."
She smiled.
"Me either. We'll weather the storm, we just have to rise above it."
He smiled then.
"Agreed."
It was a much more relaxed couple that left Sick Bay half an hour later.

 

 

 

Will turned as the turbolift door opened and grinned as his Captain stepped onto his Bridge. He stood from the Command chair saying with sincerity,
"Hello, Captain, it's good to see you, Sir."
Knowing that technically he was on Doctor's orders to rest in his quarters and also knowing Beverly had been less than happy about him going to the Bridge, he decided to take a conservative approach and retire to his Ready Room, but not before he had an up-to-date report. Taking a deep, satisfied breath, he said, softly,
"Report, Number One."
The big man scowled.
"We've located the structure, Captain, Worf and Data are there now with a security team, but so far, it's clean."
Disappointed, Jean-Luc asked forlornly,
"Nothing at all?"
Will shook his head.
"No, Sir, only DNA traces which, apart from Beverly's, we can't match."
Running his hands over his bald head, Jean-Luc struggled to keep his frustration from showing.
"Well they went somewhere, and without their leader, Doctor Crusher killed him. Bring the away teams up, Number One. Let's look for an ion trail instead. Perhaps we can follow them to their lair."
Giving a curt nod and an "Aye, Captain." Will issued the orders.
Jean-Luc stayed only long enough to see the hunt begin before saying quietly,
"You have the Bridge, Will, I'll be in my Ready Room."
Risking his CO's ire, Will said sotto voce,
"Do you think that's wise, Sir? You look really tired. Why don't you go to your quarters to rest?"
The stony stare was enough to make Will apologise.
"Sorry, Captain."
Jean-Luc was still fuming as he took his seat in his office, but to his everlasting irritation, he found he couldn't concentrate. He tried to read the ship's logs, he tried to follow the investigation, he even tried to make his own log entries, but all he really wanted to do was lie down. He cast a longing look at the sofa, but quickly realised what would happen if Beverly found out he'd napped in his office when he was supposed to be resting in his quarters. He briefly considered replicating a cup of strong black coffee, but in the end he sighed in resignation. Exiting his Ready Room and pointedly not looking at his Exec, he intoned as he went to the turbolift,
"You have the Bridge, Commander; I'll be in my quarters."
Will covered his triumphant smile with his hand as he said quietly,
"Aye, Captain."
Before the lift doors closed, however, Jean-Luc called,
"I want to be kept apprised of the investigation. Don't hesitate to call me if need be."
The doors closed before Will could respond. The big man sighed as he took his seat, thinking to himself,
"I wouldn't like to be in your shoes, Captain, when Beverly gets hold of you."

Jean-Luc was somewhat surprised when he entered his quarters to find the lights on and Beverly seated on the sofa. She ignored his greeting, seeming to concentrate on the book she had in her hands. But as Jean-Luc went to the replicator, she watched him through her lashes and when he asked if she wanted anything, she gave a noncommittal shrug. Taking that as an affirmative, he ordered himself an Earl Grey tea and Beverly a hot lemon tea.
He took the beverages to the low table, placed Beverly's near her stockinged feet and eased himself into his favourite chair, taking a sip and closing his eyes in appreciation.
Just as some of his tension was leaving his body, Beverly spoke. Her voice was soft, but her tone was brittle.
"Why did you go to the Bridge, when Selar had ordered you to rest here in your quarters?"
Not taking his eyes off his brew, Jean-Luc replied with as much authority as he could muster.
"I was needed on the Bridge."
"Bullshit."
He looked up, his disapproval obvious.
"Beverly."
Putting the book down beside her, Beverly picked up her tea and took a sip, taking time to calm herself. She looked over at her lover and sighed.
"There was absolutely no reason for you to go to the Bridge, Jean-Luc. You could have had Will report to you here. All you had to do was tap your communicator for God's sake."
Knowing she was right didn't make it any easier to take her admonishment. Adopting his Captain's persona, Jean-Luc attempted to intimidate Beverly into giving up.
"There are times, Doctor, when the Commanding Officer is required to be on his Bridge. This was one of those times."
Beverly smiled, but her cerulean eyes flashed with anger.
"Don't take that tone with me, Jean-Luc. We're not on duty now. And anyway, it's only been half an hour. What happened…did Will suggest you knock off?"
It was too close to the truth. A reluctant smile appeared on Jean-Luc's face as he shook his head.
"You are incorrigible."
Beverly grinned.
"I know that, but did he?"
Shaking his head again, Jean-Luc sighed, then nodded.
"He did suggest it, but I made it clear I didn't agree with his suggestion."
Beverly frowned, her face serious but her eyes laughing.
"Okay, so you glared at him. So why are you here now, not thirty minutes since you set foot on your precious Bridge?"
Rolling his eyes, Jean-Luc lifted one hand in exasperation.
"Why is it so important for you to know?"
Her grin was wicked.
"Professional curiosity."
He huffed, put his cup down and pinched the bridge of his nose, bowing to the inevitable.
"Very well. I went to my Ready Room, but found I couldn't concentrate. All I wanted to do was lie down."
That surprised the red head.
"What about the sofa?"
He smiled ruefully.
"I considered it, then I thought about the…ramifications."
Beverly's eyebrows shot up.
"Ah! Smart man…who says men aren't trainable?"
He grunted, his face a scowl.
Beverly left her seat on the sofa and settled on the arm of his chair.
"So…are you going to lie down?"
He nodded silently.
"Want some company?"
He looked up and smiled.
"Actually, yes, that would be nice."
She grabbed hold of his hand and eased him to his feet.
"Come on then, let's get changed."
Five minutes later they were in bed, spooned as usual. Beverly was drifting, on the very edge of sleep, but as tired as he was, Jean-Luc had something on his mind.
"Beverly?"
She frowned and said sleepily,
"Hmm?"
"I want you to move in with me."
Her breathing stopped momentarily and she turned over to face her lover.
"What's brought this on?"
He sighed and briefly closed his eyes.
"We don't have to hide anymore."
There was silence as Beverly digested that. She rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling.
"You're right, I suppose, but, Jean-Luc, I'm not sure I want to give up my autonomy."
He gently ran his forefinger down her cheek.
"You don't have to, my love. I'm not asking you to marry me, although I do admit that has crossed my mind. What I'm suggesting is a simple rearrangement of our accommodation. If you'd rather, I could move in with you."
She shook her head.
"No, if we do this it would be me moving in with you, it makes more sense, you've got the bigger quarters."
He shrugged.
"We could always get new quarters, as big as you want."
He grinned wickedly.
"You forget, I'm the Captain, I can do whatever I want."
She lifted a hand and slapped his shoulder.
"You wouldn't dare, Jean-Luc. No, if we do this it'll be here, in your quarters…but I want to think about it, okay?"
He hid his disappointment well.
"All right, my love."
She knew he'd been hurt, so she kissed him, saying softly,
"I don't love you any less, Jean-Luc, I just need some time to think about it."
He summoned a smile.
"I understand."
They kissed again and Beverly turned over so she could snuggle into Jean-Luc's embrace. As the scent of her body infused his senses, Jean-Luc willed his body to relax as he thought,
"Please say yes, my love."

 

 

 

Will Riker scowled at the display in front of him and shook his head.
"Why is it dissipating so rapidly? They left within the last twenty-four hours. It should be much more prevalent than that."
Data cast a look at his CO, then re-directed his attention to the screen in front of him and shrugged.
"I do not know, Commander, but considering they were able to shield their whereabouts and disrupt transporter operation suggests they have access to technology we are unfamiliar with."
The Exec grunted.
"Well can we follow what's left of the ion trail?"
Data inputted some instructions into the computer, then gave a curt nod.
"I believe so, Sir. By augmenting our sensor grid, I think it is possible to follow them, but I will have to go to Engineering to assist Geordi in this endeavour."
Will gripped Data's shoulder and gave a decisive nod.
"Do it, Data, and make it quick. The rate that the ion trail is dissipating doesn't give us a lot of time."
Data stood, his face serious.
"Aye, Sir."
Once Data was on his way to the turbolift, Will strode back to the Command chair and lifted his head, calling,
"Riker to Picard."
Although he woke immediately, his voice was rough with sleep.
"Picard here, go ahead, Number One."
"Captain, we think we've located the terrorist's ion trail, but it's attenuated, dissipating rapidly. Data and Geordi are working to augment our sensors; I'm waiting to hear when we can begin our pursuit."
Now more awake, Jean-Luc sat up, making Beverly turn over to listen.
"Do we have any idea how long it will take for the work on the sensors to be completed?"
Jean-Luc heard Will sigh.
"No, Captain, but I got the impression from Data that it shouldn't be too long."
Jean-Luc sighed. It briefly crossed his mind to get up, get into uniform and go to the Bridge, but with Beverly lying beside him, he thought better of it.
"Very well, keep me informed. Picard out."
The channel closed and Beverly lazily ran her fingers up Jean-Luc's bare spine. He sighed and smiled, turning his head to look down at her. It a husky whisper he said,
"You know I like it when you do that."
Feigning innocence, Beverly's eyes opened wide.
"You do?"
He lay down beside her and cupped one of her breasts, brushing his thumb over the nipple until it hardened. He could tell by the darkening of her eyes that she was becoming aroused. He rumbled softly,
"Just as you like me doing that."
She licked her lips and said breathily,
"Oh yes, I do, don't I."
Her fingers dallied in his chest hair, playfully pinching his nipples before descending slothfully down his torso to the waistband of his shorts. When she slipped her hand inside to take his penis in hand, he was semi hard. Her eyebrows lowered, she expected him to be rigid.
"Are you feeling all right?"
In response he kissed her with tenderness, the said softly,
"Riker could call again any minute."
Beverly grinned wickedly.
"So? We…pause…you answer the call, then we continue."
He gently eased her onto her back and slid one hand under her nightie, bringing it up her body. He gently bit her earlobe, murmuring,
"You really are a vixen, you know."
Beverly lifted her head, exposing the column of her neck and inviting his attention. She sighed with desire as he nuzzled her, saying sultrily,
"I know…and you're my lascivious lover, so do your stuff."
Much later, as they lay in each other's arms basking in the afterglow of their lovemaking, Beverly gently bit Jean-Luc's neck and asked softly,
"How old were you when you lost your virginity?"
He had been on the very edge of sleep and he frowned at the question.
"Why do you want to know?"
"Because it's one of those things you've never told me."
Grudgingly giving up on sleep, Jean-Luc opened his eyes and gave Beverly a measuring look.
"If I tell you, will you reciprocate?"
She seemed to consider the question and he could see the hesitancy in her eyes, but she swallowed and nodded.
"Okay."
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. In a soft, wistful voice he murmured,
"Fifteen years, two days."
Beverly's eyes widened.
"Fifteen? Wow, you were young. And the two days? Why do you remember it so exactly?"
He smiled.
"It was meant to be my birthday present, but things went…awry. We didn't get the opportunity for two days."
Beverly smiled at the obvious pleasure the memory brought him.
"What was her name?"
"Bijou."
Beverly planted a kiss on his cheek.
"And how old was she?"
His smile turned into a grin.
"Eighteen."
Shock registered on Beverly's face.
"Wasn't that illegal?"
He chuckled.
"Yes."
Now intrigued, Beverly rose up on one elbow, brushing her unruly hair out of the way.
"What was an eighteen year old woman doing seducing a fifteen year old boy?"
The chuckle turned into a laugh.
"Actually it was the other way around. I seduced her."
Poking him in the chest, Beverly tried to look scandalised, but failed miserably. His amusement was infectious.
"Explain."
He sobered a little, but his eyes were twinkling.
"She'd come to the chateau to see Robert, they were sort of seeing each other. Unfortunately, he was out, in fact I was home on my own and in the shower in my room. She came upstairs and, not finding Robert in his room, heard noises in mine and thought he was with me. She walked in just as I came out of the ensuite, quite naked.
She saw my...ah…attributes and I could see she was…um…interested. She was a beautiful woman and I was certainly attracted, so I…made it obvious I wanted her. Things became quite …heated and we would have had sex there and then, but Robert returned. She knew my birthday was in a few days, so, before she left my room, she whispered that she would give me a very special birthday present. It didn't take much to figure out what it was, but when we finally did get together, she was…not reluctant exactly…more like shy, so I took the lead and seduced her."
Beverly grinned.
"And just how did my fifteen years and two days old lover know what to do?"
"I had done a lot of reading and Robert had been quite forthcoming…and explicit…in bragging about his conquests. I knew enough."
Beverly's smile faded.
"What was it like?"
He sighed.
"Wonderful. I wasn't prepared for the intensity of it, the intimacy of sharing the act, but I found, much later, that it was even better when it was with someone you love. It was only then that I discovered the difference between having sex and making love."
They were silent a few moments before Jean-Luc said softly,
"How about you?"
Beverly snorted derisively and rubbed her hands over her face.
"It was a disaster. I was nineteen and my partner was eighteen. His name was Adam and he was completely incompetent. There was a lot of groping and fumbling, pain and mess. It was over in mere minutes leaving me frustrated and angry. It wasn't until I was twenty three that I finally found a lover who knew what he was doing…and I had some idea of what I wanted…or needed. That was when I had my first orgasm during sex with someone other than myself."
Jean-Luc thought for a moment, then said quietly,
"It was Jack, wasn't it."
She smiled sadly.
"Yep."
Beverly looked down into Jean-Luc's eyes and asked with some trepidation,
"Did he ever…brag…about us?"
Jean-Luc encouraged Beverly into his arms and shook his head.
"No, my love. He did with others, but I think he was smitten too early with you. He loved you too much to cheapen what you two had by boasting to any one about it."
"Not even you, his best friend?"
Jean-Luc tightened his embrace.
"No, not even to me."
Beverly snuggled in his arms, but she could tell he was holding something back. She lifted her head to see an embarrassed grin on his face. Caught out, Jean-Luc blushed. Beverly immediately asked,
"What?"
Jean-Luc sighed, knowing she wouldn't give up until he'd divulged what had amused him so.
"Oh, nothing really, he just mentioned this one time, just in passing, something about coconut ice cream."
Beverly went a deep red and groaned, covering her face with her hands. Jean-Luc gently pulled her hands away from her face and grinned.
"Can we try it sometime?"
Embarrassed and humiliated, Beverly scowled at her lover.
"Shut up, Jean-Luc."
With a conciliatory kiss, he encouraged her back into his embrace. They were silent for a while and Beverly began to relax. That was until Jean-Luc asked softly,
"Well…can we?"
She sighed and screwed her eyes shut.
"If I say yes, will you shut up?"
He nodded and kissed the top of her head. As they drifted into a doze, Jean-Luc was still smiling.

 

 

 

Will breathed a sigh of relief as Geordi's voice delivered the good news.
"We're up and running Commander. I've stolen power from a few systems, but nothing critical, nothing we can't spare. Our sensors are now thirty-four percent stronger…but we won't be able to maintain it indefinitely."
At that, Will scowled.
"How long?"
He heard Geordi sigh.
"It's hard to say, it's not exactly quantifiable, but I'd hazard a guess at five, maybe six hours."
Will sighed, running a hand through his short dark hair.
"Then what?"
"We start blowing ODN lines."
The big man glowered.
"Oh, that's just great. Okay, Geordi, thanks, we'll get underway ASAP."
"No problem, Commander."
Will was about to close the channel when he suddenly called,
"Send Data back up here will you, Geordi? I think we're going to need him."
"Acknowledged, Sir. LaForge out."
As Will took his seat in the Command chair, he had to strive to keep his voice calm and even as he said,
"Helm, set course to follow the ion trail and engage at warp five as soon as we've cleared this system."
"Aye, Sir."
He then lifted his head.
"Riker to Picard."
Again, Jean-Luc's voice was rough from sleep.
"Picard, here."
Will heard the sleepiness and frowned.
"I'm sorry to wake you, Sir; I just thought you'd like to know we're under way. The sensors are thirty-four percent stronger and we're following the ion trail."
"Well done, Number One. Inform me immediately if and when we acquire a target."
"Aye, Captain. Riker out."
Beverly, having been woken by the call, cursed silently as the tension she had worked so hard to dissipate in her lover returned. He sat up and was going to exit the bed until she grabbed his arm, pulling him back. He frowned, but found a smile.
"I need to get out of bed."
She sighed, resisting the urge to roll her eyes.
"No you don't. Now come on, lie down and relax."
Jean-Luc strove to keep irritation out of his voice when he said quietly,
"Beverly, I need to be on top of this."
Her grip of his arm increased.
"And you can…from bed, Look, Jean-Luc, if you get up, all you'll do is sit at your desk waiting to hear from Will. Or, you'll continually pester him for information, neither of which is going to help you recover. Stay in bed."
He looked at her suspiciously.
"You make that sound like an order."
She shrugged.
"Well I can make it one if you prefer."
His face showed his outrage.
"You wouldn't dare."
The beginnings of anger flashed in Beverly's blue eyes.
"Don't push your luck, Jean-Luc."
As the tension between them continued to grow, Beverly realised there was only one way she was going to win this particular argument. She took a deep breath, held it for a moment, then said quietly,
"Okay, you can get up under one condition."
Still suspicious, Jean-Luc asked warily,
"And that is?"
She offered a small smile.
"That you help me move my stuff."
It took a few seconds before what she'd said registered. His face transformed to one of joy.
"Are you serious?"
In contrast, Beverly's expression was sober.
"The way I see it…it's the only way I'm ever going to be sure you follow your Doctor's orders."
He offered a look of hurt outrage.
"You make me sound like a child who can't look after himself."
A wry, lopsided smile emerged.
"If the cap fits, Jean-Luc…"
With startling abruptness, Jean-Luc was on top of Beverly, pinning her to the bed. Before she could protest he kissed her with passion that made her light headed. He tapered the kiss, then broke it, saying huskily,
"Does a child kiss like that?"
Looking dreamily up into his eyes, Beverly shook her head.
"Uh uh."
Smug that he'd taken the sass out of her, Jean-Luc kissed her again, this time with breathtaking tenderness. Beverly sighed, then chuckled. Somewhat taken aback, Jean-Luc lifted his head to say with wounded pride,
"What?"
With a cheeky grin, Beverly asked impertinently,
"Could you do that when you were fifteen…and two days?"
He growled and gently bit her neck before saying softly into her ear,
"Shut up, Beverly."
She giggled and pushed at his chest until he rolled off her. She sat up, looking down at the obviously happy man.
"Come on, we've got work to do."
He sat up and kissed her cheek, saying happily,
"Indeed we do."

 

There was no way the couple could keep their move secret, traipsing through the corridors between Beverly's quarters and Jean-Luc's with boxes and crates, so it was no surprise when Deanna met them during one of their trips. Giving the Betazoid a look that begged forbearance, Beverly side tracked the Counsellor by asking her to help. That raised Jean-Luc's eyebrows, but, as he knew the women were best friends, he left it to his lover to handle the curious woman.
It took several hours to make the move and, when they were finally standing in Jean-Luc's now cluttered quarters, he gave a quiet chuckle.
"I had no idea you had so many possessions…and clothes…and toiletries."
Beverly offered a wry smile and folded her arms.
"Yeah, well, I think we're going to need a bigger closet and bathroom."
Jean-Luc sighed and ran a hand over his head.
"I'll get Engineering on to it as soon as I can."
Deanna put her box down on the floor and said quietly,
"So you've decided to move in together."
Jean-Luc moved away, wishing to distance himself from the observation, but Beverly couldn't. She flapped a hand and said light heartedly,
"Oh you know how it goes Dee…someone has to look after him…he doesn't do it himself."
Not swayed, Deanna sighed and rolled her eyes.
"I think it's a little more complex than that."
Growing a tad defensive, Beverly's tone changed.
"It needn't be. Don't make more of this than you need to, Deanna."
The Counsellor turned her attention to her Captain, who was studiously ignoring the conversation by idly opening boxes. Deanna stepped closer to him, asking,
"And you, Sir, what are your thoughts on the matter?"
Unlike Beverly, Jean-Luc had no stomach for bantering with Deanna. He took a deep breath, while staring out at the stars before turning to face the petite woman.
"Beverly and I are in love and we wish to live together. I, for one, see no problem with that. We have broken no regulations, nor have we disrupted the senior staff of this ship. I don't see why you are making an issue of it."
Folding her arms, Deanna kept her voice even and respectful.
"Captain, if my information is correct, you and Beverly have been lovers for over eight months now and you chose to keep it a secret. You're only making this move to live together now because the cat's out of the bag. What does that tell you about your relationship?"
Anger tinged Jean-Luc's low, soft voice as he replied,
"It tells me we wished privacy. Forgive me, Counsellor, but this is no one's business but ours."
Deanna didn't back down.
"Perhaps, Captain, but the fact that you were both able to hide it from me begs some very important questions. For instance…what else have you kept from me?"
Beverly could see that her lover was becoming angrier, so she stepped in to defuse the situation.
"Deanna, surely it's not necessary for us to disclose each and every facet of our lives to you. Can't you accept there are some things that people wish to keep to themselves?"
Deanna sighed.
"Of course I do, but the Captain is the most senior officer aboard and, as CMO, you are also highly ranked. You must be aware that my job means that I have to be cognizant of all the facets of the senior staff's lives…to do less would be negligent of me."
Beverly sighed and rubbed her brow.
"Look, what happened between us was unexpected, but welcomed. We just wanted to keep it to ourselves as long as possible. Surely you can understand that?"
"Yes I do, but telling me would have changed nothing. You know I wouldn't have told anyone."
Jean-Luc's deep voice interrupted.
"That changes nothing, Counsellor. As consenting adults we made a conscious decision to keep our relationship private. Whether or not you would have been discreet had we told you is irrelevant."
Conceding that point, Deanna pressed on.
"All right, Captain, you have a point, but how were you able to keep it from me?"
Jean-Luc chose not to answer, instead turning his attention once again to the stars, shooting by like streaks of prismatic rain. Deanna, stymied, turned to Beverly. The Doctor shrugged and lifted her hands.
"Captain Picard has had a mind meld with a Vulcan. He was able to teach me a few tricks."
Surprise registered on Deanna's face.
"That requires quite a high level of mental discipline. I know the Captain is capable; after all it was Sarek he melded with, but you, Beverly? I would have thought you too…mercurial."
Offering a lopsided grin, Beverly shrugged.
"I never said it was easy."
Becoming exasperated, Deanna's face showed her emotions clearly.
"So you admit you deliberately hid your relationship from me. It wasn't about privacy, it was more about secrecy."
Beverly was finally becoming irritated.
"Look, we've told you how and why, how about you cut us some slack? We're still learning about each other, the last thing we need is you probing things that are, quite frankly, none of your business."
Her own emotions teetering on the edge of anger, Deanna strove for calm.
"I disagree. As ship's Counsellor you should have told me and, as you two are very senior officers, I am appalled that you kept your relationship from me…deliberately."
She turned to leave.
"This is far from over."
Jean-Luc turned from the viewport and said softly and with great anger,
"It is over when I say it is, Counsellor, and I do so now."
Intimidated, but showing great courage, Deanna shook her head.
"I'm sorry, Captain, it is not. I expect you both to report for counselling in the very near future."
With that, the feisty little woman left. Beverly flopped down into a chair, muttering…
"Well, that could have gone better."
Lowering his head and striving for calm, Jean-Luc sighed.
"It was inevitable, I suppose."
Beverly ran her fingers through her hair, tilting her head back to stare at the ceiling.
"She has a point, you know."
Jean-Luc growled softly.
"It's none of her business."
Offering a wry smile, Beverly said softly,
"I'm afraid it is, my love. As ship's Counsellor her first priority is you, followed by the senior staff. That we actually did deliberately hide our relationship from her does give her some ammunition against us. We should've told her at the outset."
Finding his favourite chair covered in a large box, Jean-Luc moved some of Beverly's clothing to make room for him to sit on the sofa.
"I still think there's no point in our attending counselling sessions. What's there to be gained? We're happy, aren't we?"
Beverly smiled tenderly.
"Yes we are, but I think Deanna feels we have some issues because we hid our relationship…maybe she thinks we were…I don't know…ashamed of it?"
That provoked a raised voice from Jean-Luc.
"That's absurd! We love each other…we wanted nothing more than privacy!"
Trying to placate her angry lover, Beverly stood and went to him, sitting by his side and taking his hand.
"Calm down, my love. There's more we have to consider."
Looking into her lovely blue eyes, Jean-Luc said warily,
"Like what?"
Beverly sighed.
"Like the fact that you up and took off in search of me without official permission, and without Command sanction. You've always been a by-the-book Captain, Jean-Luc. If this is what our relationship has done to your command style, who's to say what might happen next? Deanna has every right to ask questions like that."
Finally conceding, Jean-Luc sat back, resting his head on the backrest and staring at the ceiling. He sighed deeply.
"I was so tortured, Beverly. I can't describe how desperate I felt. I had to find you…it overrode everything else...the ship, my command, nothing else mattered, I just had to find you."
Beverly squeezed his hand and kissed his cheek.
"So you see how Deanna would have some concerns."
He sighed again, admitting,
"Yes, I suppose so."
"Then we submit to counselling."
Jean-Luc scowled but gave a curt nod.
"Very well."
Beverly surprised Jean-Luc by kissing him with barely restrained passion. When they parted she said softly,
"I'll tell her, but we need keep in mind only two things.
One: we love each other, and two: we've done nothing wrong."
He smiled and gently curled his hand around her head, drawing her to him for another protracted kiss.
"Agreed."
Beverly stood, pulling Jean-Luc to his feet.
"Then let's go clear the mess off the bed, I want you…now"
They kissed again then Jean-Luc allowed Beverly to lead him to his bedroom…their bedroom.
"You always have such good ideas, Beverly."
As she undid his shirt, she said sultrily,
"I know."
What started out as languid passion quickly escalated into heated need. With barely enough time to divest each other of their clothing, they fell on the bed, Beverly biting Jean-Luc's shoulder as she panted,
"Oh God yes…now, Jean-Luc, now!"
Raw passion made him enter her with one hard, sharp shove, making Beverly cry out. He paused, worried that he'd hurt her, but she gripped his buttocks, pulling her to him as she lifted her hips.
"Do it, Jean-Luc…do it to me."
Needing no more encouragement, Jean-Luc began to thrust hard and fast. He insinuated his hands under her buttocks, lifting her to him as he pistoned in and out of her.
Jean-Luc was in trouble. Normally he had phenomenal control, but only if he was gentle. This raw sex eroded his ability to withhold his orgasm and he found himself saying silently,
"Oh God…hurry, Beverly…please hurry…I'm going to come…"
He needn't have worried. Beverly's body suddenly began to shudder and he felt her internal contractions as his name was wrenched from her throat. As always, he marvelled at her glorious sensuality as her skin, stained red with her passion almost glowed as she climaxed. His own orgasm consumed him then, blotting out everything but the sensation of pure physical and emotional bliss.
Minutes later, as they slowly recovered, Jean-Luc was nuzzling Beverly's neck when he became aware of stinging on his back. He lifted his head and frowned. Beverly looked up dreamily and said,
"What?"
His frown disappeared to be replaced with a wry smile.
"I think I'll need that dermal regenerator."
Contrition covered Beverly's face.
"Oh God, I'm sorry, Jean-Luc."
He kissed her tenderly.
"Don't be, it was well earned."
Beverly sighed.
"Still…"
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"If you are so overcome with passion to mark me, then I have done my job."
Now frowning, Beverly shook her head.
"I'd like to think we were both overcome, my love. It's a two way street, not simply your job to satisfy me."
He kissed her again, quelling her worries.
"Believe me, mon coeur, I was overcome and I don't consider our lovemaking one sided. We share our passion, we always have, but I do have enough male pride to want to know that I have satisfied you."
Winding her arms around his head, Beverly kissed him tenderly before whispering,
"Egotist."
He chuckled.
"Guilty."
She sighed happily.
"Well, as much as I would love to just lie here with you and bask, we have a lot of unpacking to do."
He nodded, frowning,
"That we do."
After a quick shower, they began to tackle the task.

 

 

 

 

With one foot placed on the pedestal of the Ops console, Will frowned as Data said quietly,
"The ion trial his leading us to the Zufrayer system, Commander."
Leaning one elbow on is bent leg, Will leaned forward and shook his head.
"Never heard of it. What do we know about it?"
Data's fingers danced over the console before he reported,
"It is a system of six planets, two of them M class. It was named after a Russian astrophysicist named Yuri Zufrayer and surveyed briefly by the Zapata, under Captain Gesamen H'Rul nine years ago. Nothing of note was found."
Will straightened and sighed.
"So they're running to another uninhabited planet."
Data's eyebrows rose.
"So it would seem, Sir."
Will lifted his head and called,
"Riker to Engineering."
Geordi answered.
"LaForge, here, Commander."
Will smiled, knowing his chances of a successful end to this chase were enhanced by having his trusted Chief Engineer on the job.
"Geordi how are our sensors holding up?"
"Not too bad, Commander."
"Can you give me a more precise estimate as to how long we can use them?"
He heard Geordi sigh.
"That depends, Sir. What do you have in mind?"
"We'll be entering a star system in about an hour; we think our quarry is heading for one of two M class planets within the system. We're going to need to scan them."
Geordi's voice took on an amused lilt.
"Well in that case, we can ease off a bit and reserve power since we know basically where they're headed. I'll re-route some of our subsidiary systems and hold them back so we'll have enough power to use the augmented scanners and sensors once we reach the planets."
Will's smile turned into his trade mark shit eating grin.
"Well done, Geordi, Riker out."
He then tapped his comm. badge.
"Riker to Picard."
This time, when Jean-Luc answered, it was obvious he was wide awake.
"Picard here, go ahead, Number One."
"Captain, we think we know where the terrorists are going; at least we know the system they're headed for."
"And that is?"
"The Zufrayer system, Sir."
Jean-Luc grunted softly.
"I'm aware of that system, Commander, there's not much there."
Will nodded.
"Affirmative, Captain, just six planets, two of them M class."
"So obviously those two planets will be our targets."
Will nodded again.
"Yes, Captain and Geordi informs me we can reserve power to make sure we have the augmented scanners and sensors on line when we begin our search."
"Well done, Number One. ETA?"
"About an hour, Sir."
"Acknowledged. I'll come up to the Bridge then."
"Aye, Captain, Riker out."
In Jean-Luc's quarters, Beverly sent him an exasperated look.
"I thought I said you needed to rest?"
Sweeping his hand in an arc, Jean-Luc gave an incredulous grimace.
"What have we been doing for the last six hours? Not only have you had me hauling boxes and crates from your quarters to mine, you also shamelessly seduced me! If I stay here, you'll inveigle me into helping you unpack everything as well. Going to the Bridge will be a rest!"
Shocked, Beverly gaped at his audacity before snapping her mouth closed and shaking her finger at her lover.
"Jean-Luc Picard, how dare you! This was your idea! And as for seducing you, I don't recall you resisting. If you go to the Bridge, who knows how long you'll stay up there. If you stay here, at least I can keep an eye on you."
Seeing he had both angered and hurt the love of his life, Jean-Luc went to Beverly and took her hands.
"I'm sorry, my love, you're right, it was my idea, but I do have to go to the Bridge, you know that."
He looked under her lowered brow.
"Don't you?"
She sighed, giving in to the inevitable. In a quiet voice she said softly,
"Yes."
"Then let's say no more about it. I will stay and help you until I'm needed on the Bridge, agreed?"
Beverly lifted her head to look beseechingly into his eyes.
"Promise me you won't stay up there too long."
Closing his eyes briefly, Jean-Luc sighed, shaking his head.
"Beverly…"
She tore her hands free and gripped his shoulders, shaking him.
"Promise me!"
He quickly thought of a compromise.
"How about I promise to get some rest in the Ready Room if I have to stay for a protracted length of time?"
Not entirely mollified, but knowing that was all he was willing to concede, Beverly sighed and nodded.
"Okay, but don't be surprised if I show up to make sure you're all right."
His face grew serious.
"As long as your visit is as CMO and not my lover."
Exasperated, Beverly lifted her hands.
"I'm one and the same!"
He gently placed his hands on her shoulders.
"No you're not. We agreed. When we're on duty, I'm the Captain and you're the CMO. It can't work any other way, my love."
Anger marred Beverly's classical beauty.
"So that's why you were willing to throw your captaincy away to come and find me?"
He reacted as if she'd slapped him.
"That's not fair!"
She bridled.
"Isn't it? This is what has Deanna so hot under the collar, Jean-Luc. If you can't keep your roles separate, how do you expect me to?"
They stood staring at each other, one perplexed, the other angry. Eventually, Jean-Luc sighed and lowered his head.
"All right, I admit you have a point, but we do have a certain decorum to set for the rest of the crew. If you do come up to the Bridge, please keep your visit professional, at least in public. Once we're in the privacy of my Ready Room, things can be different."
Grudgingly, Beverly agreed.
"Okay, but you just remember our lives are shared now, Jean-Luc. I love both of you…Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the man."
He summoned a wan smile.
"I understand my love and I love you, Doctor and Beverly."
A brittle peace descended as they continued to unpack. The call from the Bridge came about forty minutes later.

 

Jean-Luc scowled as he looked at the readouts on the screen before him. So far they had completed three quarters of their scan of the planet, with no luck. With one arm across his chest, the fingers of his free hand rubbed his lower lip.
"What about the ion trail? Can't we use that to determine which planet they went to?"
Will grunted, his own fingers running through his beard.
"No such luck, Captain. The ion trail all but disappeared once we entered the system. Data tells me there are fierce solar winds in this sector."
Jean-Luc turned and glared at the planet on the viewscreen.
"Well it's becoming increasingly obvious they're not here, but I suppose we'd better complete the scans."
Will nodded.
"Aye, Sir."
Just then, the red alert siren sounded and the shields came up. The computer calmly announced,
"Attention, we have been boarded."
As the Bridge staff reached for their weapons, five beings materialised on the Bridge. Worf managed to cut one down before he took a blast to the chest, flinging him backwards to impact on the aft consoles. Jean-Luc and Will were caught midway to the arms locker and the rest of the personnel had barely left their stations, but Jean-Luc was able to call out,
"Computer, lock out all command codes, authorisation Picard, tango, omega, epsilon, three-two-eight!"
One of the beings yelled loudly,
"You will yield! Failure to do so will result in casualties!"
Jean-Luc knew a hopeless situation when he saw it. Standing up straight, he said calmly,
"Everyone stand down. Offer no resistance."
One of the beings, humanoid and vaguely Asian in appearance, stepped up close to Jean-Luc and shoved the business end of a disruptor under his chin.
"You are the Captain?"
Keeping calm and with great dignity, Jean-Luc said evenly,
"I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise. Who are you and why have you boarded my vessel?"
The blow to Jean-Luc's face was loud in the otherwise silent Bridge.
"I ask the questions!"
To reinforce this edict, the man withdrew a long, wicked looking knife and plunged it into Jean-Luc's shoulder up to the hilt. Some centimetres of the blade burst through the fabric of his uniform behind him. Will snarled and took as step forward, but, with a Herculean effort, Jean-Luc stayed upright and in control, somehow dealing with the pain.
"No, Number One. Stay where you are."
The sadistic alien gripped the hilt and slowly withdrew the blade from Jean-Luc's flesh. He brandished the bloodied metal under the Captain's nose while saying with sinister intent,
"Every time you displease me, I will make a new hole in your body. Are you going to be compliant, or am I to soil the deck with your blood?"
Keeping eye contact with his assailant, Jean-Luc lifted his free hand to cover the bleeding wound in his shoulder.
"We have offered no resistance; there is no need for further violence."
Placing the tip of the knife in the middle of Jean-Luc's torso, the alien said almost conversationally,
"Unlock the command codes."
His artificial heart was thundering in his chest with the knowledge of what was to come, but outwardly, Jean-Luc remained calm and replied in the same quiet tone,
"I'm afraid I can't do that."
With a silent signal to two of his companions, they quickly came forward and grabbed Jean-Luc by the upper arms. As they held him upright and in place, the knife was slowly pushed into Jean-Luc's stomach. His head lifted back on his neck, his mouth open in a silent scream of agony.
"You are a stubborn man, Captain. I can do this for hours. How long can you take it?"
As he pushed the blade into Jean-Luc he twisted it from side to side. Immediately a spreading stain of blood began to colour the front of his uniform. When the blade broke through the skin of his back and penetrated his uniform, Will paled, his eyes unwillingly drawn to the hideous vision of the gory, bright metal blade moving as it was twisted.
Mercifully, the alien stopped the twisting and slowly withdrew the knife. Jean-Luc's knees sagged, but the men holding him up prevented him from collapsing.
A cold hand gripped Jean-Luc's chin, shaking his head to get his attention. Once Jean-Luc's eyes refocused the alien said softly,
"The command codes?"
Jean-Luc shook his head. He summoned some strength into his voice as he said defiantly,
"No."
The alien shook his head, tutting sarcastically.
"And I thought Captains were intelligent."
Then, as Jean-Luc watched in sick fascination, the alien laid the entire length of the knife across his chest while humming softly, seeming to be considering something. He abruptly looked up, a broad smile on his face exposing rotten teeth.
"I believe I can puncture both of your lungs with one stab, Captain. One more chance. The command codes…give them to me."
Pale, sweating and weak from loss of blood, the stalwart man shook his head, uttering softly,
"No."
The alien shrugged, but Jean-Luc saw the first spark of desperation in his oddly coloured eyes. He stepped to Jean-Luc's right side and felt with his fingers, searching for a gap between the Captain's ribs, mid way on his chest. Having found what he wanted, he plunged the knife in, shoving it in hard. The tip did burst through the skin on the other side of his chest, but not his uniform. Incredibly, despite the agony he was experiencing, Jean-Luc felt a trickle of blood slide down his chest.
Instead of withdrawing the knife, the alien came around to face Jean-Luc.
"From what I know of humans, if I leave the knife where it is, you have a chance of survival. If I pull it out, you will drown in your own blood. I am not an unmerciful man, Captain, I will give you some time to think about your mortality and how easy it would be for me to get you to your own medical facility for treatment…once I have the command codes."
With a flick of his hand, the men holding Jean-Luc let him go. He fell to his knees, his hands futilely clutching his stomach wound. The alien looked down dispassionately, then said to Will,
"If I were you, I would try to convince your Captain to give up."
He then grinned.
"Unless, of course, you want his job."
He stepped closer to Will, his foetid breath making Will's stomach churn, his evil grin making will's testicles lift towards his body.
"Then it would be you I would get to…interview. Think about it my large human and make your Captain see sense."
The aliens withdrew to the front of the Bridge, covering everybody with their disruptors. Will went to his Captain, gently putting an arm around his friend and mentor, trying to offer support and strength. He knew Jean-Luc would never release the command codes, but the torture was too horrible to witness. Struggling to find something inspirational to say, Will lowered his head and whispered,
"We'll find a way out of this, Captain, you just hang on."
Blood was dripping from Jean-Luc's mouth as he rasped.
"Will there's something I want you to do for me."
The big man gripped his Captain tighter.
"Anything, Captain…you know that."
Not lifting his head and finding it increasingly difficult to breathe, Jean-Luc whispered,
"Tell Beverly I loved her more than life itself and my last thoughts were of her."
He wanted to refuse, to tell his Captain that everything would be all right, but with dreadful certainty, Will knew the alien was going to kill Jean-Luc. Then it would be Will's turn. He could only hope to die as nobly as Jean-Luc Picard. With tears in his eyes he whispered.
"I'll tell her, Captain, you have my word."

 

 

 

 

The aliens had been ruthlessly efficient. Their ship, which had been hiding behind the photosphere of the sun, was now standing off the Enterprise's port side, using its transporters to beam the crew, first from the Enterprise, then down to the planet.
Their attack had been insidiously successful. The Enterprise E had a complement of some seven hundred, but such was the well planned and effected efficiency of the alien's attack, there was little time to react. There were some fire fights, some small pockets of resistance as crew members managed to get hold of weapons, but, without a coordinated plan of resistance, their heroic gestures were soon snuffed out.
Beverly and Deanna soon found themselves held with the other female members of the crew and guarded by at least thirty aliens, all armed to the teeth. Where the male crewmembers were was anybody's guess, certainly they were out of sight of the females.
As the senior ranking officer in her group, Beverly ordered everyone to sit and wait for further instructions. Her thoughts, however, were on her lover. Deanna, sensing Beverly's turbulent emotions, gently took her hand, saying,
"He might be with Will, down here on the planet."
Beverly shook her head.
"I doubt it. The aliens weren't able to use the Enterprise's transporters, that can mean only one thing…that someone, either Will or Jean-Luc, locked out the command codes."
Deanna suddenly realised what Beverly was intimating.
"You think they're still on the Bridge?"
Beverly nodded solemnly.
"Yes, and if they are, the aliens are going to want those codes, that is if they want the ship."
A coldness settled in Deanna's stomach. Her eyes lost their focus as she sent out the tendrils of her empathic powers. What she felt made her gasp. Beverly gripped her arm, saying sharply,
"What? What do you sense?"
With her eyes brimming with unshed tears, Deanna said softly,
"The Captain…he's…fading."
Distress and anguish was abruptly turned into action. Beverly clambered quickly to her feet, calling out loudly,
"I want to speak with your leader!"
A tall bronzed alien spat on the ground and sniffed loudly before saying gruffily,
"Shut up and sit down."
Brazenly, Beverly made her way through the crowded people to the periphery to face the alien.
"I am a full Commander and senior officer. I could be of use."
Interest sparked in the alien's eyes. He turned his back and spoke in a language Beverly's communicator couldn't decipher. Having received his instructions, he reached forward and roughly grabbed Beverly's arm.
"You're coming with me."
Hoping that she was going to be taken to the Enterprise, Beverly went without resistance.

 

 

 

 

Worf had regained consciousness and was lying awake, but motionless and with his eyes closed. Lying as he was, behind the consoles, he was unseen by the aliens guarding the Bridge crew. Very slowly he moved his hand until he slipped his personal phaser from its hiding place in the waistband of his tunic, then even more slowly, began to move his body into a position where he could see the aliens. It took all his patience, his warrior's instinct told him to stand and fight, but his Starfleet training…and his years spent under the Command of Captain Picard had taught him that there were times when stealth and patience had their place.
In fifteen slow minutes he got into position and cracked his eyes open to mere slits. Immediately indentifying the leader, Worf inched his hand across his chest and took aim. Being a small phaser, it had no higher setting than heavy stun, but, although he would have taken great satisfaction in vaporising the alien, he would have to be content with stunning him.
He depressed the trigger and a beam of bright orange speared out across the Bridge to hit the alien in the chest. He was flung against the viewscreen. The other aliens went into a defensive crouch, trying to identify a target. Taking his opportunity, Will let go of his Captain and retrieved his own little phaser. He dived sideways, cutting down two more of the invaders. That left just two more, but just then two forms shimmered into coalescence. Will swore loudly as Beverly and another alien rematerialised. In desperation, Will shouted,
"Dive, Beverly!"
Her training held her in good stead. Beverly shoved at the man holding her and dived to her side, rolling to cover behind the helm console. Only senior officers had personal phasers and Beverly had hers in her hand as she looked around the pedestal. She saw Will take a hit and collapse, his body sliding to rest in front of the Command chair. Her eyes slid over Jean-Luc prone body, but she savagely shoved her terror aside to take aim at her target. The alien was hit in the side, rendering him unconscious. Beverly called out to the remaining alien,
"You are outnumbered. Give up!"
Incredibly, the alien stood, dropping his weapon and raising his hands. Worf shot him in the chest.
Deciding to admonish the big Klingon later, Beverly shot from her hiding place and rushed to her lover, paling when she saw his injuries. He was lying on his back, foaming blood welling up from his mouth.
Worf was ordering the shaken Bridge staff to man their stations whilst checking on Will. He then went to each alien and took their weapons. Beverly became aware of the hulking Klingon, kneeling beside her.
"We need the Captain to release the command code lockout."
Anger welled in Beverly. How could Worf think of that when Jean-Luc was bleeding to death in front of her?"
But then her training kicked in. Without taking her eyes off Jean-Luc's ashen face, she said quietly,
"Get me a med kit."
Worf was gone only seconds. Beverly opened the med kit and said silently,
"Forgive me, my love."
She injected Jean-Luc with a stimulant. He gasped as his eyes fluttered open, more frothy blood spewing from his mouth and nose. Beverly cradled his face in her hands and said firmly,
"Jean-Luc, we need you to release the command code lockouts."
Incredibly, he shook his head, whispering,
"No."
Exasperated, Worf said forcefully,
"It is all right, Captain, we have retaken the Bridge."
Through sheer force of will, Jean-Luc managed to keep whispering,
"The rest of the ship?"
Grudgingly, Worf admitted,
"No, Sir."
"Then only transporters."
Worf didn't immediately understand, but Beverly did.
"Worf, he's only going to bring the transporters on line. That way we can beam the intruders off the ship and bring our people back."
Worf nodded, then scowled.
"Where are the crew?"
"On the planet, segregated by gender and under guard."
Worf growled softly, then lifted his head.
"Computer, maximum sensitivity for audio pickup."
Gently, Beverly lifted Jean-Luc head and nodded.
"Go ahead, my love."
Summoning what little strength he had left, Jean-Luc somehow managed to speak, albeit softly.
"Computer, lower shields and release transporter lockout, authorisation, Picard, tango, omega, epsilon, three, two, eight."
"Acknowledged. Shields down. Transporters now back on line."
Will's groggy voice was heard as he crawled over to his Captain.
"Computer, lock on to all alien intruders, render their weapons inoperative and beam them to the planet."
"Acknowledged."
There was a await of a few minutes before the Computer said blithely,
"All alien intruder's weapons inactive. Intruders now on the planet's surface."
Will grunted then said,
"Computer, lock onto all Starfleet personnel on the planet and beam them aboard."
"Acknowledged."
Just as that was being accomplished, the Enterprise shuddered under the blow of phaser fire from the enemy ship. Three more hits were taken before the computer reported,
"All crew aboard."
Worf barked,
"Shields up!"
He quickly rose and ran to his station at Tactical, shouting,
"Captain, I need weapons!"
Barely holding on to consciousness, Jean-Luc struggled to find his voice.
"Computer, release all command codes, authorisation, Picard, tango, omega, epsilon, three, two, eight."
His eyes then rolled back as consciousness fled. Beverly slapped at her communicator.
"Computer, two to beam directly to Sick Bay."
"That request cannot be carried out. The transporters are off line."
Beverly all but screamed,
"Worf!"
The big Klingon shook his head, his fingers racing over his console.
"The last hit took them out!"
Will called to two of the younger staff.
"I want you two to carry the Captain to Sick Bay."
Beverly grabbed Will's hand, vehemently shaking her head.
"NO! He can't be moved like that, Will. The blade in his chest will just slice more of his lung tissue with the movement."
The big First Officer grunted and turned to his Security Chief.
"Worf, we need something flat to carry the Captain. A door would do."
The ship lurched under another blow and this time Worf returned fire. He glanced up and nodded.
"One moment, Sir."
Will took the opportunity to say to the Helm officer,
"Initiate evasive manoeuvre, Picard, delta two."
As the young Ensign carried out her orders, Worf laid down a withering blast of phaser fire and managed to launch a barrage of quantum torpedoes. The alien ship took a battering and withdrew, venting plasma. Finally with some spare time, Worf went to the Observation Room doors and grabbed one, wrenching it backwards and forwards until it broke free from its moorings. The two young officers were ready to take it and rushed down to where Jean-Luc lay in a pool of his own blood.
Very gently they picked up the stricken man and laid him on his back on the door. With Beverly by his side, they left the Bridge on their way to Sick Bay.

 

 

 

Will got to his feet and scowled at the image on the viewscreen.
"Mr. Worf, I want that ship dead in the water!"
With grim satisfaction, Worf all but growled,
"With pleasure, Sir!"
Sweeping around in a graceful arc, the Enterprise lined up the disabled ship and let loose another blast of phaser fire, utilising pin-point accuracy. Within seconds the alien ship had no weapons, no shields and no propulsion. Will grunted at the image of the battered ship on the screen and took his seat in the Command Chair.
Showing nothing but suppressed anger, he said softly,
"Mr. Worf, open a channel."
"Aye, Sir."
A grainy image appeared and Worf said tightly,
"The problem is at their end, Commander, but I will try to clean it up."
Just as Will was about to acknowledge the information, the turbo lift opened and Data came onto the Bridge. He took his place at Ops, turning to say contritely,
"I apologise for my absence, Sir. I was…waylaid."
That made Will grin.
"No problem, Data, but boy…we could have used your talents."
His only response was to raise his eyebrows and say quietly,
"Indeed."
The alien on the screen snarled at the image of Will, brandishing a weapon.
"We will destroy our ship before we surrender to the likes of you!"
Will shrugged.
"That's your choice, but you are helpless at the moment. However, before you annihilate yourselves, just who are you and what do you want?"
There seemed to be some kind of commotion on the other ship's Bridge before another alien appeared. He was bleeding from a head wound, but seemed to have assumed command.
"We are the Delak, Commander. We are involved in a civil war on our home world, Jerras with the Yirron. We kidnapped your science team, then your Doctor, and then we tried to commandeer your ship. Technology such as yours would have tipped the balance in the war…and we would have won."
Will smiled grimly.
"Well it seems you lost on all three accounts."
The alien nodded.
"That is true. What do you intend to do with us?"
Will shrugged.
"My duty is clear. On three separate occasions you have assaulted Federation citizens. I intend to tow your ship to the nearest Starbase where you and your crew will stand trial for what you've done. In the meantime, I will be sending personnel over to take command of your ship."
The alien nodded, then said something that annoyed Will, testing his humanitarianism to the limit.
"We have many injured, Commander. Would it be possible for you to render assistance?"
Quashing the urge to tell the man to go to hell and desperately ignoring the visceral desire to obliterate the ship, Will instead nodded grudgingly.
"Place them in a central area of the ship where our medical personnel can assess them. It will take some time for us to repair our transporters, in the meantime, you are to eject your weapons power source and prepare for our arrival."
The alien nodded.
"It will be as you wish, Commander."
Worf severed the connection and Will lifted his head, calling,
"Bridge to Engineering."
Will smiled as he heard Geordi reply,
"LaForge here, Commander."
"How we doing, Geordi?"
Geordi's voice showed his relief.
"Not too bad, considering. We should have the transporters within the hour."
"Understood, Geordi, thanks. Riker out."
Will turned back to Worf.
"I want you to assemble a large Security team and arm them well. When the transporters are back up, get over to that ship and secure it. Once you are sure you have control, then, and only then, can the medics beam over."
Worf gave a curt nod, his lowering brow almost making his eyes disappear.
"Aye, Sir."
As Worf left the Bridge, Will directed his attention to Data.
"Mr. Data, put a tractor beam on that ship and commence towing, destination…the nearest Starbase."
Data nodded.
"Aye, Commander, that would be Starbase one seven three."
Will glared at the image on the screen and almost barked,
"Helm, set course and engage at half impulse. ETA, Mr. Data?"
"Ten days, Sir."
A tense silence settled before Data glanced at the blood on the carpeted floor and asked quietly,
"I have learned Captain Picard has been seriously injured. Do you know of his prognosis?"
Will shook his head brusquely.
"No, but I swear…if he dies I will personally blast that ship and all its crew into oblivion!"
Nothing else was said as the journey began.

 

 

 

Having arrived at Sick Bay, Beverly was met by Selar and her head nurse, Alyssa Ogawa. Being the consummate professionals they were, there was little reaction as they saw their Captain, but once he was gently placed on a bio bed, it was Alyssa who said quietly,
"He has almost no blood pressure."
Beverly almost wailed,
"I know!"
But caught herself in time to say tightly,
"Get a line into his carotid and pump in as much hydro plasma as he can take."
Contrapuntal to Beverly's anguish, the emotionless voice of her Vulcan colleague made the red head scowl.
"Until we can stop the bleeding, infusing him with hydro plasma will make little difference. He is losing blood faster than we can replace it."
Clenching her teeth, Beverly called for a gravi bed.
"Then let's get him into surgery, STAT!"
The well-oiled proficiency of Sick Bay was never more evident than when they were faced with a crisis. Jean-Luc was whisked away, medical staff in tow.
There followed four and a half hours of very delicate surgery. The first order of business was to remove the knife and repair his lacerated lungs. It was a difficult procedure and, if not for the artificial heart he so often cursed, he most probably would have died, but it kept on functioning faithfully, moving around his body the meagre supply of blood he carried. With the knife removed and the lung tissue repaired, the team moved on to the stomach wound. In many ways he had been lucky, the blade had missed his aorta by the merest of margins. Had the major artery been punctured, death would have occurred very quickly. However, his stomach had been perforated and some major nerves in his back had been severed. It took some very fine work to repair the damage. Last was the wound to his shoulder. That was much less complicated, but conversely, Beverly knew it was what was going to give him the most post-operative trouble. He would have to undergo extensive regen treatments and therapy, but the Doctor knew that shoulder would ache for some time to come. It was simply the nature of the wound.
When patient and team emerged from the surgery suite, Beverly was surprised to find most of her staff absent. A quick call to the Bridge solved the mystery.
"Crusher to Riker."
"Riker here, go ahead, Beverly."
"Looking around her almost deserted facility, Beverly said,
"Will, where are my staff?"
"On the alien ship. They sustained a lot of casualties. We should have most of your staff back in a few hours."
Only her Hippocratic Oath and many years of service prevented Beverly from saying out loud what she thought.
"We should have blown them to smithereens!"
Instead she merely nodded.
"Okay, Will, thanks."
Before she could close the channel, Will asked with some trepidation,
"How's the Captain?"
Beverly looked down at her lover and smiled, seeing the pink tinge to his once pallid skin.
"He's going to be fine, Will."
She clearly heard the relief in the big man's voice.
"Thank God for that!"
Then he chuckled.
"Actually I suppose we should thank you and your team. You've done it again, Beverly. Bless you."
Her smile grew.
"All part of the service. Crusher out."
As Jean-Luc was being taken into his private room, Deanna appeared at Beverly's side.
"I bet you could use a hot drink."
The Doctor smiled ruefully.
"You'd be right."
Placing a gentle hand on her best friend's arm, Deanna said softly,
"I'll be waiting in your office with two hot mugs."
Smiling her gratitude, Beverly held up her hand.
"Five minutes?"
Deanna nodded.
"Five minutes."

 

 

 

Beverly knew by the "Counsellor's" pose Deanna had adopted that this wasn't a social call. Sighing quietly to herself, the tired Doctor took her seat behind her desk, picked up the hot lemon tea and sipped with some appreciation, quietly ignoring her friend as she sat there, legs crossed and hands artfully clasped on her lap.
Deanna was aware Beverly was ignoring her and, because she knew Beverly was tired and stressed from such an emotionally traumatic surgery, she allowed the ploy and instead waited patiently. For her part, Beverly knew Deanna would wait her out and she couldn't help but feel a surge of irritation. Shouldn't her best friend understand that right now, what she needed was her friend, not a damned Counsellor?
Eventually Beverly snorted and put her cup down, trying not to glare at her friend and failing. She sighed.
"What do you want, Deanna?"
There was no satisfaction in the petite woman at having won her little battle of wills. In fact she drew some comfort from Beverly's predictability. Knowing she needed to get Beverly to relax, Deanna opened with a benign gambit.
"How is the Captain?"
Guardedly, Beverly said softly,
"He's going to be fine. It was touch and go there for a while, but, as usual, the Gods were looking down on him…again."
Deanna smiled ruefully.
"He does push his luck, doesn't he."
To that, Beverly merely grunted. Deanna watched her friend and noted the tight lines around her eyes and the tense set of her shoulders. She sighed sympathetically.
"How do you do it, Beverly?"
Slightly confused, Beverly shook her head.
"I'm not sure I know what you mean. It's my job, Dee."
With a knowing smile, Deanna's look gave Beverly no doubt that she was being disingenuous.
"You know exactly what I mean, Beverly. How can you put aside your love for the man to be able to function as his Doctor? It would paralyse most people."
There was a moment of tense silence before Beverly sighed and rubbed her eyes. As she did so, some of the tension left her body and Deanna rejoiced.
"When Jean-Luc and I became lovers we discussed what we would do about our respective jobs…how we should proceed. I was all for going public, but he advised caution…and to be honest, I saw his point of view."
She emptied her cup and grimaced at the coolness of the dregs.
"Anyway, we decided to be, in effect, two people. One private, the other professional. Do you remember Nella Darren?"
Deanna nodded. Several years ago, Jean-Luc had allowed himself to become involved with a member of his crew, but a dangerous mission she went on, which had almost killed her, made Jean-Luc realise he could never again send her into harm's way. She had subsequently requested a transfer off the Enterprise. They had tried to keep their relationship going long distance, but it eventually petered out due to many factors, none the least being lack of physical contact. Beverly ran her fingers through her hair and sighed again.
"He had more to overcome than me, Dee. Once we became lovers we crossed a line. As my commanding officer, his duty was to, at times, order me into hazardous situations and, as best friends, that was often hard, but as lovers? It suddenly became so much worse. Somehow he…we…had to find some kind of middle ground, some way of separating the private from the professional and we did. When we're on duty, he is the Captain and I'm the CMO, no questions asked."
Deanna nodded thoughtfully, then said softly,
"But?"
Beverly glanced up at the ceiling and snorted.
"Recent events have shown we weren't as successful as we thought. We're not two people at all; we're one and the same."
Offering a gentle smile, Deanna nodded.
"First the Captain all but deserts the ship to find you, then you have to save his life whilst trying to ignore the fact that your patient is your lover."
Deanna unclasped her hands and sat forward.
"Tell me, Beverly, how do you feel?"
The question was so trite, Beverly snapped.
"You're the bloody empath, you tell me!"
Deanna allowed the outburst and waited patiently for Beverly to calm herself. Gathering her shattered composure, Beverly sighed.
"I apologise, Deanna, that was uncalled for."
Smiling her acceptance of the apology, the tenacious woman persisted.
"The question remains, though, doesn't it."
Sitting back in her seat, Beverly covered her face with her hands for a few seconds and when she lowered them, her eyes were suspiciously moist. She spoke very softly.
"I was terrified."
Deanna nodded with understanding.
"Just like the Captain was terrified when you went missing."
Beverly nodded slowly.
"I suppose."
"So it's true, you can't separate the private from the professional."
Looking over Deanna's shoulder into the distance, Beverly whispered,
"We were fools to think we could."
Edging a little closer to her friend, Deanna said softly,
"So all those months…it wasn't about privacy, it was more about you two trying to build a personal wall between the private and the professional."
Beverly gave a soft, bitter laugh.
"We thought we'd done it too. My God, how naïve we were. One mission gone wrong and it all fell apart. Now we're laid bare…for all to see."
"That needn't necessarily be a bad thing."
Refocusing her eyes on Deanna, Beverly's voice was sharp.
"What? Knowing that his Captaincy and my objectivity have been compromised?"
Deanna leaned across the desk to take Beverly's hands in hers. With as much conviction as she could muster, she said forcefully.
"Being in love need not be an impediment, Beverly. Most people find it makes them stronger."
Anger gave way to despair. Beverly's eyes brimmed with tears as she whispered,
"I love him so much, Dee…it hurts. Is it supposed to hurt?"
Deanna smiled gently, saying softly,
"You are only now admitting something you have known for years. He loves you with the same intensity, doesn't he?"
All Beverly could do was nod.
"Then allow your love of each other to make you strong. It can be done, Beverly, Starfleet is filled with successfully married crewmembers."
Beverly withdrew her hands to wipe her eyes. She then smiled ruefully.
"Captains and CMOs?
Deanna shrugged.
"Anything's possible, if you want it badly enough."
They were silent for a while before Beverly said thoughtfully,
"Do you honestly think you're going to be able to convince Jean-Luc of that?"
Offering a wry chuckle, Deanna shrugged.
"I don't know, we have a lot to discuss."
Beverly smiled with mischief.
"I wish you luck."
Deanna's face changed, the Counsellor was back.
"I'm not finished with you yet."
Beverly grimaced, muttering,
"Oh, great."

 

 

 

 

Will's smile was grim as Worf made his report.
"We have secured the ship, Commander. The medical teams area all but finished and the acting Captain of the ship wishes to talk to you."
Will frowned.
"Acting Captain?"
The big Klingon nodded.
"Aye, Sir. Apparently he …relieved…the former Captain when it became obvious they were helpless. It seems the former Captain was willing to destroy the ship and all aboard rather than surrender."
Will could see a glimmer of admiration flash in Worf's eyes in that concept, but the Security Chief didn't allow his personal views to colour his report. Will folded his arms and gave a curt nod.
"I see. Is he likely to be a problem?"
Worf shook his head.
"No, Sir, he has been incarcerated, as have his compatriots. Only those amenable to surrender are free on the ship."
With a grunt of satisfaction, Will sat in the Command chair.
"It seems you have everything under control, Mr.Worf. Do you want to stay there, or would you rather return to the Enterprise?"
The burly Klingon straightened.
"I will return, Commander. I have faith my teams will keep control here."
Will nodded, just hiding a smile.
"Very well, Mr.Worf, report to the Bridge once you've beamed aboard."
"Aye, Sir."
Will turned his attention to Data.
"Mr.Data, send a subspace message to Starbase one seven three and inform them of what has occurred. Tell them that a JAG panel will need to be present to hear the trials."
Data nodded, saying softly,
"Aye, Commander."
Will then rose to his feet.
"You have the Bridge Data; I'll be in Sick Bay."
As Will strode to the turbolift, Data left his seat at Ops to take his position in the Command chair. His quiet reply to Will's statement was ignored by the big man; he had too many other things on his mind.

 

 

 

 

Beverly had always hated counselling sessions. Like Jean-Luc, she was instinctively a very private person and she'd always found the process of counselling to be an invasion of her privacy. That the counselling was conducted by her best friend…and that she was empathic to boot, didn't make things any easier for the Doctor.
And so, as always, Beverly's initial reaction to Deanna's gentle probing was to raise her mental shields and go on the defensive. Of course, Deanna was fully aware of this and made a concerted effort to put Beverly at ease. After all, wasn't it an old Earth saying that one could catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?
The first sign of rebellion in Beverly was in her eyes and Deanna was ready for it. She smiled gently and placed hands on the desktop, palm down.
"Tell me about how your new relationship started."
It wasn't what Beverly was expecting and she sat back, somewhat warily looking at her friend. The question seemed innocuous enough, so Beverly decided to answer it.
"It was on the Holodeck. We were sharing one of my programs…Caldos…and I was dozing with my head in his lap. I became aware he was very gently caressing my face with his fingertips and I opened my eyes to see into his and what I saw shocked me."
Deanna said quietly,
"What did you see?"
Beverly lowered her eyes, reddening slightly.
"Love of course, but I'd often seen that…but…desire, passion…my God Dee it was potent."
"And?"
Beverly sighed wistfully, her barriers coming down.
"I responded."
Deanna's obsidian eyes glittered as her gaze intensified.
"Why?"
"Because I…felt it too."
Deanna sat back and clasped her hands on her lap.
"So you finally acted on your feelings."
Beverly's voice was small.
"Yes."
"What happened then?"
With a snort, Beverly waved a hand, trying to cover her embarrassment.
"Oh…you know."
Deanna shook her head.
"No I don't, I wasn't there."
Exasperated, Beverly decided to be deliberately crude.
"We fucked."
Patiently, Deanna sighed.
"I doubt that, Beverly. More likely you made love."
With another wave of her hand, Beverly deflected the observation.
"Whatever."
Deanna tilted her head, trying to see under Beverly's lowered brow. Frowning in confusion, the Betazoid asked softly,
"Why are you trying to trivialise something so special? I know you've entertained fantasies about the Captain; you've shared enough of them with me. Surely after waiting so long, you must have been overwhelmed."
Beverly looked deeply into Deanna's eyes and knew she couldn't lie. She smiled lopsidedly, her eyes glistening with tears.
"I was."
Satisfied with the response, Deanna edged closer and said softly,
"And the Captain?"
Immediately Beverly's guard was back up. Her eyes dropped to the desktop and she said flippantly,
"Oh you know…he was…happy."
Deanna's tone was one of admonishment.
"Beverly!"
Folding her arms defiantly, Beverly looked up and stared stonily at her best friend.
"I don't want to discuss this, Dee. It happened and we were happy about it. That's all you need to know."
Exasperated, Deanna lifted her hands.
"Listen to yourself! You were happy about it? I know the Captain has been in love with you for nearly thirty years and you've loved him for almost as long. You finally consummate your love and all you can say is you're happy about it? That has to be the understatement of the century! The sexual tension between you two has been simmering for years. I can't believe you won't express what you really felt, not to mention the ramifications of your actions. Did you discuss it?"
Snorting and raking her fingers through her hair, Beverly acceded.
"Of course we did! Look Deanna, we're not teenagers, this wasn't the first time for either of us. We're adults and, having shared many years as best friends, we're now lovers and, yes, we're happy about it."
Deanna's expression was one of frank disbelief.
"That's it…you're simply happy about it."
Beverly was well aware of what Deanna wanted from her, but she wasn't sure she could provide it. It was too personal, but she also knew the petite woman could be like a terrier when ferreting out information. The red head sighed and pinched the Bridge of her nose.
"All right Dee, we're ecstatic about it. Will that suffice?"
Sitting back and only slightly mollified, Deanna said, not unkindly,
"What did you do straight afterwards."
Beverly sighed with irritation.
"We went back to his quarters."
Deanna threw her hands up in the air.
"My God, Beverly, it's like trying to extract teeth! What happened? What did you talk about?"
Slumping back in her chair, Beverly finally gave up.
"Oh hell Deanna, you're like a Delebian leech. Once you latch on there's no getting you off!"
She sighed and shook her head.
"Once we were in his quarters we were a little…I don't know…shy. I went and sat on the sofa and he went to the replicator, got some hot drinks, then joined me. Then we talked."
Deanna opened her mouth but Beverly silenced her with a wave of her hand.
"We discussed what happened, expressed our love for each other, then, at Jean-Luc's suggestion, we decided to keep it to ourselves."
"And how long was this…subterfuge…going to go on for?"
Bridling, Beverly's eyes glittered dangerously.
"It wasn't subterfuge! We simply decided to keep what is essentially our business to ourselves!"
Deanna contemplated that for a few seconds, then asked softly,
"So matters of compromising and issues of the Captain's and your objectivity never came up?"
Beverly shrugged, but she was slightly embarrassed.
"No, not then. We were still somewhat…euphoric about what had happened. We just wanted to keep it between us."
Deanna sighed, giving her best friend a look of admonishment.
"It's not like you to throw away the opportunity to set boundaries, Beverly."
That brought an unexpected wry chuckle from the Doctor.
"Actually it never entered my head until he asked me to move in with him."
Deanna's eyebrows rose.
"And when was that?"
Beverly shrugged.
"Just a couple of days ago."
Scratching her cheek in confusion, Deanna remarked incredulously,
"So you had an intimate relationship with the Captain for over eight months and you let him set the pace? I find that hard to believe."
Beverly chuckled, delighted at her friend's discomfit.
"Believe it! And do you want to know why?"
Deanna nodded in silence.
"Because it felt so damned good! Look, I'm not saying I had no input into the relationship, I did, but Jean-Luc was so…masterful…so sure of himself. It just felt nice not having to be the instigator all the time like I've had to be so many times before in past relationships. I know that he's been acting on fantasies he's held for God knows how long…and so have I, to an extent, but it feels so good to be so cherished, so idolised. And do you want to know something, Dee? It doesn't matter how we do it, whether it's a quickie up against the wall or an hour's intense pleasure, it's always making love! You were right, of course, we don't fuck, he's not capable of it, at least not with me."
Deanna tilted her head to one side and said quietly,
"Putting you on such a high pedestal is not without its pitfalls."
Beverly sighed, her eyes dropping to her hands.
"Oh, I know, believe me, I know. I've thought about it a lot. What if I don't live up to his expectations…what if he grows tired of me?"
Deanna's gaze was piercing.
"And what if you grow tired of him?"
Beverly could only shrug helplessly.
"Those fears could be said of any new couple. All I know is that we love each other and we want to spend the rest of our lives together. What the future holds…who knows?"
There was a momentary silence then as Deanna idly drew her fingers around the rim of her cup. Keeping her eyes lowered she said quietly,
"And now you're living together."
Beverly snorted.
"Actually we've not exactly started. He was called to the Bridge as we were unpacking my things. You know the rest."
Deanna nodded thoughtfully.
"So once he's discharged from Sick Bay, you'll begin living together."
Beverly nodded in silence.
"I would imagine he may be difficult to live with. He has been alone a very long time…quite set in his ways."
With a shrug, Beverly used her hands to give form to her words.
"I've spent the night with him often enough and I know he's been irritated by the mess I make, but he's never said anything about it. I suppose we'll just have to compromise. I'll try to be more tidy and he'll try to be more relaxed about it."
Deanna looked up, spearing Beverly with an uncompromising gaze.
"He can be very uncommunicative."
Beverly frowned.
"I think uncommunicative is the wrong word, Dee. He's quiet, but not taciturn. We talk, about all sorts of things…and there are times when we sit in silence, but it's a companionable silence, we're happy and content, neither of us feels the need to amuse the other."
Deanna's gaze softened and she smiled.
"You really think this can work, don't you."
Beverly nodded, her face serious.
"Yes I do, at least I want it to, we both do."
The Counsellor rose to her feet, bringing an end to the session. Beverly sighed with relief.
Gripping the back of her chair, Deanna said softly,
"When will the Captain waken?"
Beverly's Doctor's persona settled on her like a mantle.
"I can wake him at anytime, but I'd rather he woke naturally. Give him about four hours."
Deanna gave a thoughtful nod, then smiled.
"Then I'll see you in about four hours."
Beverly's answering smile was a little forced.
"I look forward to it."
Once Deanna had left, Beverly spent a few moments updating Jean-Luc's file before going back to his room.

 

 

 

 

Why Will always felt intimidated by the petite blonde woman on the screen was a mystery to him, as much as his Captain's efforts to make the waspish woman welcome on his ship during her infrequent visits were. Nevertheless, as Will faced the Admiral on the screen in Jean-Luc's Ready Room, he kept his misgivings to himself. In any event, his report should please his superior officer.
"So you see, Admiral, we've not only rescued both Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher, we've broken the cadre who've been giving Starfleet so much grief lately."
Her pinched mouth reminded Will of a puckered up dog's backside, but Will kept his features neutral as Nechayev considered his report.
"And it was all about a civil war? Damn them, trying to drag us into it! Do you think there are any other factions involved? Can we expect any more of these…attacks?"
Will tried not to sigh.
"There are other factions, Sir, at least one that we know of for sure, but as far as our captives are concerned, they lack the recourses to mount any action against us."
Nechayev grimaced.
"That may be so, Commander, but your captives managed to get a ship. Who's to say the other faction won't do the same?"
Will shrugged.
"We can't be sure, Sir. All I can advise is to quarantine this area of space. If we're not in the vicinity, we can't be dragged in."
The Admiral's eyes narrowed.
"I agree. Post warning beacons immediately and I'll make sure all ships receive an update as soon as possible."
Giving a nod of acquiescence, Will said sharply,
"Yes, Sir."
He thought she was going to sever the channel, but she surprised him by asking,
"How is Captain Picard? Your report of his injuries made unpleasant reading."
Will offered a small smile.
"He's been treated and is doing well, Admiral. Doctor Crusher tells me he has an excellent prognosis."
"And the Doctor? She is fully recovered?"
Will nodded.
"Yes, Sir, she's fine."
Nechayev's face softened, again surprising Will.
"Well it seems your Captain and CMO have cheated death…again. Kindly give them my best regards. Nechayev out."
The screen blinked out and Will sat back, running his hand through his short, dark hair. He let out a long breath, muttering,
"And the cold witch is married! Pity her husband."
He then grinned, another thought occurring to him.
"Maybe at home he's the hard arse and she's the meek one?"
He chuckled at his joke and shook his head.
"Willy boy, I think you're going mad."
Just then a hail came in.
"Crusher to Riker."
Will's heart accelerated, even though he knew his Captain was safe and well.
"Riker here, go ahead Beverly."
"The Captain's coming around."
The big First Officer was immediately on his feet.
"I'll be right there. Riker out."

 

 

Beverly's estimation about Jean-Luc's return to consciousness was out by a good half an hour. Three and a half hours after Deanna left Sick Bay, Jean-Luc's eyes fluttered open and his hands went to his chest. Immediately by his side, Beverly took his hands in hers, saying softly,
"It's all right, Jean-Luc. You're in Sick Bay and you're going to be fine."
His eyes found hers and he smiled, but when he tried to speak, all that came out was a guttural croak. He cleared his throat and tried again, but still his voice was very deep and husky. Beverly went to the replicator and retrieved a cold glass of water with a straw.
Gently lifting his head, she encouraged Jean-Luc to drink. He closed his eyes in appreciation as the deliciously cold water slid down his parched throat. He knew well enough to take it slowly and so, as he swallowed, he listened as Beverly explained.
"You were intubated, my love, your throat is going to be a little sore for a while, but I can give you something for it if you want."
As she took the straw out of his mouth, he shook his head, testing his voice once more and meeting with some success, although it was still somewhat rough.
"No, that's not necessary, thank you."
Beverly smiled tenderly and couldn't stop her fingers from gently caressing his cheek. Jean-Luc returned the smile before asking,
"How bad was it?"
With a grimace, Beverly rolled her eyes.
"Do I really have to tell you? You had a very nasty shoulder wound, which, by the way, is going to give you hell. You had an abdominal wound that only missed your aorta by a smidgin and you were skewered through the chest, lacerating both lungs. How bad do you think it was?"
His smile faded.
"It was very painful. I remember finding it increasingly hard to breathe."
Very softly and with some dread, Beverly almost whispered,
"You very nearly bled to death, Jean-Luc."
She squeezed his hands to stop her tears from forming. Jean-Luc said softly,
"You saved me."
She nodded silently, then summoned a smile, deliberately feigning light heartedness.
"So tell me…how do you feel?"
She wagged her finger at him, frowning.
"And don't say "I'm fine!"
It was exactly what he was going to say, but the concern in her eyes robbed him of his usual bravado. He sighed, the expansion of his chest causing discomfort.
"I have mild pain, but it's nothing I can't handle."
Beverly nodded.
"Your shoulder?"
"Aching somewhat."
With a smile, Beverly reached into her coat pocket and produced a hypospray.
"I have just the thing for that."
With the hiss of the injection, Jean-Luc's pain receded. He sighed again, this time pain free. With a smile and a wink, he made Beverly chuckle, but he was confused when she abruptly became serious.
"Jean-Luc, Deanna is coming down here soon…she's going to insist on a session with you."
His eyes darkened with anger.
"I thought I told her…"
Beverly put her fingers on his lips, silencing him.
"No, listen to me, my love. This might not be such a bad thing. She cornered me in my office earlier and I admit, the last thing I wanted was a counselling session, but it helped. I think if you allow it…and you're absolutely honest with her, you might find it quite…cathartic."
Jean-Luc looked deeply into his lover's eyes, trying to discern her mood. She seemed calm and somewhat, buoyant. He sighed again, not completely convinced.
"Don't you think it would be better if we waited until I was at least out of Sick Bay?"
Shaking her head vehemently, Beverly said firmly,
"No! She thinks you're more vulnerable here and that you'll be more…compliant."
Jean-Luc grumbled,
"I would be at a distinct disadvantage. I am temporarily relieved of Command, am I not?"
Beverly nodded, a wry smile on her face. That intrigued the Captain.
"You want this, don't you."
With another nod, Beverly cupped his chin and kissed him before whispering in his ear,
"Do it for me."
They shared a lingering look before Jean-Luc capitulated. He sighed and rubbed his brow, saying grudgingly,
"Very well…for you."
Just as Beverly kissed him again, there was a knock at the door. Beverly straightened and said brightly,
"That'll be Will."
She tidied the covers as Jean-Luc called,
"Come."

 

 

The door opened and the big man peeked around the corner. Jean-Luc smiled and waved his Exec inside. As was his habit, and after gaining permission, Will grabbed a chair, reversed it and sat, his hands folded along the chair's back.
"How are you, Sir?"
Jean-Luc cast Beverly a wry smile and sighed.
"I'm fine, Number One. How is my ship?"
Will quickly brought his Captain up to speed on what had transpired since Jean-Luc had lost consciousness. The first thing Jean-Luc felt was anger, but that rapidly transposed into resignation.
"So yet another species wars amongst themselves."
He ran a tired hand over his face.
"Will it never end?"
Will snorted, his usually genial face clouded with anger and disgust.
"Well they bit off more than they could chew when they took on the Enterprise, Captain."
Still feeling somewhat melancholy, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Indeed."
He then brightened a bit.
"And you did a wonderful job, by the way."
Will smiled at the praise, but then sobered.
"It's Worf who saved us, Captain. Even though under the influence of a phaser blast, when he regained consciousness, he bided his time and showed remarkable patience to wait until he had a clear shot at the leader. If not for his actions…"
Jean-Luc finished the sentence.
"I would be dead."
Will nodded solemnly.
"Yes, Sir."
"Then I will make sure Mr.Worf receives a commendation for his actions."
That brought a grin to Will's face, making his eyes dance.
"I'm sure he'll be honoured, Sir, but I can tell you…it went against his warrior's instincts to be so patient. I honestly don't know how he resisted the urge to just get to his feet and fight."
Jean-Luc nodded, a smile on his face.
"It would seem his tenure aboard this ship has had some effect on our Klingon warrior."
Will's grin widened.
"Yes, Sir."
Back to business, Jean-Luc's face took on his Captain's persona.
"So how are the repairs going?"
Will mirrored his Captain's demeanour.
"Geordi tells me everything will be completed within the hour. We have shields, weapons and transporters. It's just a few ODN lines and the port nacelle coupling that's holding things up."
Although his face remained impassive, Jean-Luc's eyes darkened as he asked softly,
"Casualties?"
Will sighed.
"Not too many, Sir. There were a few in the fire fights aboard and one or two on the planet's surface, but no deaths. In fact, Captain, you were the only one close to losing your life."
The worry cleared from Jean-Luc's eyes.
"Well that's something to be grateful for, eh, Number One?"
The First Officer grinned.
"Yes, Sir."
He stood then, looking down at his Captain with obvious affection.
"I'd better be getting back to the Bridge, Sir."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Indeed you should. Dismissed, Commander. Keep me in the loop will you?"
With a nod and a smile, Will turned to leave.
"Yes, Captain."
As he opened the door, he stepped back in surprise.
"Hello Deanna, come to see the Captain have you?"
The Counsellor looked past Will to Jean-Luc and smiled.
"As a matter of fact, I have."
Jean-Luc summoned a smile, but despite his promise to Beverly and also despite his efforts to do otherwise, his mental shields went up. Deanna's smile faded.
Beverly, seeing Deanna's expression, went to her lover and gently squeezed his upper arm, sending him a silent plea for forbearance. He gave her a quick glance, offered a small smile, then made a concerted effort to lower his mental barriers. Beverly smiled, then moved to the door, saying to the room's occupants,
"Well I'll leave you to it."
Once the door closed, Deanna came further into the room and silently asked permission to sit. Jean-Luc gave it and there was an uncomfortable silence as Counsellor and patient waited to see who would begin. Deanna was well aware that her Captain wasn't happy about being counselled, especially while temporarily relieved of command, so she made every effort to be as unobtrusive as possible. To that end, she spoke first, enquiring after the Captain's health.
"How are you, Sir?"
Summoning a wan smile, Jean-Luc offered his usual answer to such questions.
"Oh, I'm fine, thank you, Counsellor."
Knowing he was pain free didn't detract from her assessment of his injuries.
"You were very badly hurt, Captain. You almost died."
Jean-Luc sighed, not willing to talk about his near death experience.
"Yes."
Deanna gently placed one hand over his and said softly,
"Yet again."
Growing somewhat irritated, Jean-Luc took a deep breath, held it for a few a seconds, then slowly exhaled.
"Ours is a dangerous occupation, Counsellor. We live and work in space. It is inevitable that injuries occur."
He was digging his heels in and Deanna knew she wouldn't get any further along with this line of discussion. She sat back and noted that he withdrew his hand so she couldn't reach it again. She decided on a more direct approach.
"You are aware that I have recently counselled Doctor Crusher."
Jean-Luc gave a curt nod,
"Yes."
"Has she spoken to you about it?"
Again the monosyllabic reply.
"Yes."
Sighing with frustration, Deanna asked with more brusqueness than she intended,
"So how do you feel?"
Her Captain's sharp look made her lower her head and apologise.
"I'm sorry, Captain, but you're not being very forthcoming."
With a sigh, Jean-Luc laid his head back on the pillows and stared up at the ceiling.
"No, Counsellor, it is I who should apologise. I am being obtuse and obstructive. I apologise. It is unfair to you and unprofessional of me."
Deanna looked up and smiled.
"Then shall we start again?"
Offering a small smile, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes, Counsellor, let's begin again."
Sitting forward in her chair, Deanna asked softly,
"How do you feel, Captain?"
He knew it was a rhetorical question. Deanna was aware of how he felt the second he lowered his metal shields, but he did appreciate her asking anyway and so decided to answer.
"I feel somewhat annoyed at being injured again, but immensely grateful to Doctor Crusher for saving my life."
Deanna smiled knowingly.
"I wonder if you would've been so grateful if it hadn't been Beverly who saved you."
That comment garnered a glare, but he soon tempered it and summoned a small smile.
"Touché, Counsellor."
He once again directed his gaze to the ceiling.
"You are aware of my feelings for Beverly."
Deanna nodded.
"Yes, Captain, I have been aware of those feelings for a very long time."
He smiled ruefully.
"I have had those feeling for a lot longer than that."
Tilting her head, Deanna finally asked the question she had wanted to ask for years.
"And yet you never acted upon them."
He sighed deeply.
"No."
"May I ask why?"
His eyes clouded with memories of years gone by.
"Beverly and I have a…history, Counsellor, one that I had come to believe was insurmountable and, to be perfectly honest, I didn't think she could ever love me, certainly not as I loved her."
Deanna kept her voice soft and low.
"Because of her late husband."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes."
He sighed again, this time with his hands going to his chest.
"Jack Crusher was my best friend and he died under my command, but what made it even worse, was that I was in love with his wife, I had been since the moment I first saw her."
"That must have made you carry a huge burden of guilt."
With a snort, Jean-Luc pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes against the remembered pain.
"Crushing guilt, Counsellor."
"Do you still carry that guilt?"
He was silent for a moment or two, then shrugged.
"It's not as bad as it once was, but I think it will always be with me."
Deanna frowned.
"Even though you and Beverly are now lovers."
Hearing her say those words made him want to glare and tell her to mind her own business, but he quelled those urges and sighed instead.
"Somehow, sometimes, it makes it worse, as if I'm besmirching Jack's memory by loving Beverly now, even after all these years."
Deanna sighed and rubbed her brow.
"But, Captain, Beverly loves you! Doesn't that wipe the slate clean? You never acted on your feelings towards Beverly while Jack was alive, did you?"
He shook his head silently.
"Then stop castigating yourself! You have found in Beverly the love of your life. Live in the moment, Captain…revel in what you have, because it is shared! Beverly loves you…she's in love with you and if you value my opinion at all, take it from me, I think Jack would've approved. Don't tell me he would have wanted the two of you to live to old age lonely and unfulfilled?"
Gently rubbing his fingers over his lower lip, Jean-Luc muttered thoughtfully,
"No, I don't suppose he would."
Deanna allowed a little silence before she asked softly,
"Why did you want to keep you new relationship with Beverly a secret? Were you ashamed? Ashamed of what you thought you were doing to Jack's memory?"
Being confronted by one of his deepest secrets made Jean-Luc screw his eyes shut against the tears that were forming. He shook his head and tried to deny it, whispering,
"No…"
Deanna was relentless.
"I think you were. I think you still believe you're betraying your best friend."
Jean-Luc said nothing, concentrating solely on trying to keep control of himself.
Deanna stood, moving closer to her patient and reached for his hand.
"Tell me one thing, Captain. Do you believe that Beverly loves you as much as you love her?"
Tears seeped out of his eyes, trickling across his temples to pool in his ears. Brokenly, he whispered hoarsely,
"She can't."
Squeezing his hand, Deanna asked forcefully,
"Why?"
He began to sob.
"Because I'm not worthy of it! I…I don't deserve it!"
Undone by his confession, Deanna grabbed both of his hands and pulled him up, taking him into her arms. As he sobbed she said softly,
"Oh, you poor tortured soul."
She rocked him as one would rock a distressed child, but the Captain soon stiffened in her embrace. She eased her arms from around him and he lifted his head from her shoulder. Gently placing her fingers under his chin, she made him look into her eyes.
"I have known Beverly as long as I've known you…she is my best friend and I can tell you, without reservation, she loves you just as much, if not more, than you love her. All you have to do…Jean-Luc…is to let her love you. Don't hide…either your love or your relationship. Be as honest and true to her as you have been to Jack all these long, lonely years."
Wiping at his eyes and sniffing softly, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"You make it sound so simple, Deanna."
That brought a chuckle from the petite woman.
"Love can be simple, Captain…and it can be convoluted, but I think in your case it's fear you have to overcome. Once you do that, the bumps in your road should smooth out."
He sighed and tried to smile, but more tears formed.
"I have wanted this with Beverly for so long…I keep waiting for her to see sense and tell me to go to hell…and it would be hell without her, Deanna."
The Counsellor smiled.
"You also wanted to tell me to go to hell."
He smiled, this time with genuine warmth.
"I did. I kept telling myself it was no body's business but ours, I never…not once…considered my reticence about our relationship might have been because of my inherent guilt about Jack and my feelings about him, Beverly and me."
Deanna allowed Jean-Luc to settle on the pillows while she retook her seat. She watched as he rebuilt his composure before saying quietly,
"You realise, of course, that it will be necessary to counsel both of you together over this."
Giving up any pretence of resistance, Jean-Luc nodded.
"I thought as much."
"The sooner the better."
He sighed.
"Will you wait until I'm discharged?"
Deanna smiled kindly.
"Yes, Captain, I will, but in the meantime I want you to talk to Beverly…honestly and frankly. It may be frightening, it may hurt, but she has a right to know."
He nodded pensively.
"You're right, of course."
He surprised her by taking her hand.
"Thank you, Deanna…for many things."
Humbled by his tender emotions, Deanna flushed and lowered her head.
"I'm just doing my job, Captain."
He grinned, amused by her embarrassment.
"And you do it very well."
She lifted her head and smiled.
"Thank you, Sir."
Standing, she moved to the door.
"I will come by and see you tomorrow…if you like."
Once again in his Captain's mode, Jean-Luc's face became unreadable, but there was a hint of a twinkle in his warm, hazel eyes.
"That would be fine, Counsellor."
Once Deanna had left, Jean-Luc took a deep breath and stared up at the ceiling. He swallowed and closed his eyes, thinking,
"How the hell am I going to broach this with Beverly?"
He needn't have worried. At that very moment, Deanna was in Beverly's office.

An intrigued, but annoyed red head was seated behind her desk, her question hanging in the air. To her credit, Deanna remained calm.
"No, Beverly, I can't divulge what we discussed; all I can say is that the Captain will be wanting to talk with you…soon."
Through clenched teeth, Beverly ground out,
"But you won't tell me what about."
Deanna shook her head, making her curly dark hair dance on her shoulders.
"No."
A sudden, unbidden and frightening thought occurred to Beverly and her face paled. In a hushed whisper she asked tremulously,
"He doesn't want to end our relationship, does he?"
Reaching across the desk, Deanna took Beverly's hands in hers. Looking deeply into the Doctor's eyes, the Counsellor said with conviction,
"No! Definitely not."
Relieved, but still shaken, Beverly took a deep breath to calm herself.
"Okay, I intend to stay the night with him anyway, if he wants to talk, I'll be there."
Deanna stood, smiling.
"Good."
She turned for the door, but was stopped by Beverly's voice.
"Deanna, just tell me one thing…was it a productive session?"
Deanna smiled serenely and nodded saying nothing more than,
"Yes."
She left and Beverly softly swore in three languages.

 

 

 

 

As the afternoon wore on towards the change of shifts, Beverly popped in and out of Jean-Luc's room, checking on him and administering drugs as needed, but her lingering fear of what he wanted to talk to her about made her visits brief. Jean-Luc noted her disquiet, hell, he was feeling much the same himself, but having given Deanna's words more thought, he knew he had to bite the bullet and talk to his lover…he owed her that much. So, when the change of shift occurred and Beverly was officially relieved for the night, she went to Jean-Luc's door, took a deep breath and entered. The lights had been lowered and the bed was laid flat, but Jean-Luc was still awake. He offered a tender smile.
"Going off duty?"
Beverly returned his smile and nodded.
"Yes, but I thought I'd spend the night with you."
He frowned and waved a hand.
"Oh, my love, that's not necessary. You go to our quarters…get some rest."
She shook her head.
"No, I'd rather stay with you."
He tried to make her change her mind.
"But, Beverly, you won't get a good night's sleep if you stay here. This bed isn't made for two."
With a cheeky smile, Beverly came to the bed and hitched her backside onto the edge.
"We'll make do."
Secretly Jean-Luc was delighted she chose to stay, but the Captain in him still rebelled.
"Really, Beverly, I won't hear of it. Please…go to our quarters."
Growing tired of the discussion, Beverly snapped,
"Don't you want me here?"
Immediately chagrined, Jean-Luc nodded his head.
"Of course I do, I just…"
Beverly cut him off abruptly.
"Then shut up and just accept it!"
One thing about having known Beverly for so long was his ability to know when to back away from an argument with her. This was one of those times. He frowned, showing his displeasure at her attitude, but grudgingly acquiesced.
It was still too early to go to bed, so Jean-Luc asked, after a brittle silence,
"Can you raise the bed please?"
Still somewhat disgruntled, Beverly did as he requested and then ignored him while she checked the readouts on the screen above the bed head. Used to her tactics, Jean-Luc merely bided his time. Eventually, Beverly refocused her attention on her lover, saying lightly,
"Would you like a cup of Earl Grey?"
He smiled, seeing the question as the peace offering it was.
"Yes please."
She replicated his tea and a lemon tea for herself, then drew up a chair to sit beside him. They sipped in companionable silence before Jean-Luc cleared his throat and said quietly,
"I had an interesting session with Deanna this afternoon."
Still sipping, Beverly's eyes narrowed and she nodded, saying softly,
"Yes, she mentioned it."
Nodding thoughtfully, Jean-Luc muttered,
"Did she tell you what we talked about?"
With a shake of her head, Beverly said succinctly,
"No."
Jean-Luc sighed deeply.
"Oh."
The silence that descended was oppressive. Beverly was almost squirming with impatience while Jean-Luc struggled to find the words to begin. Eventually they both spoke at once. Beverly blurted out,
"Just tell me dammit!"
Whilst Jean-Luc stammered,
"It's about us."
Jean-Luc held up his hand and swallowed to wet his suddenly dry mouth. Finally he found the words.
"Beverly, you know I love you…with all that I am."
She nodded, choosing to stay silent, lest he lose his train of thought.
He sighed.
"Well it turns out I was frightened."
She shook her head, confused.
"Frightened? Frightened of what…us?"
He sighed again and rubbed his eyes.
"In a way. Let me try to explain."
Beverly put her cup and his on the nightstand and sat closer. He took her hands and looked into her eyes.
"Are you aware of just how long I've been in love with you?"
She shrugged, unsure of the answer.
"No, not really. I mean I know, through the Prytt implants, that it's been a long time."
Jean-Luc smiled wistfully, his tone gently wry.
"Beverly, my love, I have been in love with you since the very first time I laid eyes on you."
Beverly gaped.
"At that bistro near the Academy, when Jack first introduced us?"
He shook his head, his eyes suspiciously moist.
"No, before then."
Confused again, Beverly frowned.
"But that was the first time we met."
He nodded.
"Yes it was, but Jack had shown me holo images of you well before that. I was smitten the first time I saw your image…heard your voice. Meeting you only reinforced those feelings."
Dumbfounded, Beverly shook her head.
"But you never said anything…never let me know."
He sighed.
"It was obvious to me that you loved Jack as much as he loved you…and he was my best friend. I couldn't say anything. I couldn't do anything…I just had to stand back and watch as he married you."
Beverly squeezed the hand she held.
"God…that must have hurt. How did you cope?"
He chuckled without mirth.
"Unrequited love is a curious phenomenon. One can learn to live with it, but the pain never really goes away…nor does the guilt."
Beverly sighed.
"I felt echoes of that guilt on Kess-Prytt. I didn't understand it then and I don't now. You have nothing to feel guilty about, Jean-Luc. You never behaved inappropriately towards me, ever."
His face fell and his gaze became intense.
"Perhaps not, but I thought it, Beverly, I thought about it every day of my adult life."
Rendered speechless, Beverly sighed. They sat in silence again, before Beverly said quietly,
"But that doesn't explain your fear. You said you were frightened."
Jean-Luc's face fell and tears welled in his eyes. In a roughened voice that broke, he uttered,
"For as long as I've held the hope that you might one day love me, I was always scared it would never be as I love you, and that if, one day you did find you loved me, that you would find me…inadequate…and that you would leave me. And that, my love, would have killed me."
Tears overflowed Beverly's eyes as she tried to find her voice.
"Oh, Jean-Luc, my dear love…how could you even think such a thing? I do love you as much as you love me, maybe even more because I fought it for so bloody long! And I could never find you inadequate! Or anything but a loving, gentle, wonderful man who I want to spend the rest of my life with."
He tried to stop his lower lip from quivering but failed. Steeling himself for the ultimate exposure of his soul, he whispered,
"But Jack…"
Beverly rose from her seat and took Jean-Luc into her embrace.
"My God, Jean-Luc…what do you think I'm doing? Comparing you two? Yes, I loved Jack, but he's been gone a very long time now."
She pulled back and looked into his teary eyes.
"What do I have to do to prove to you that I love you beyond measure?"
He reached up to cradle her face in his large hands.
"Do you blame me for his death?"
She blinked away her tears and sighed.
"At first, yes, I admit I did, but I was grieving, Jean-Luc…angry, no…furious at the universe that took him. You were his Commanding Officer, you came back and he didn't, you brought his body home, you broke the news to me…and you were the focus of my fury, Jean-Luc, but only initially. Once the shock had passed and I was able to look at it in a different light, I could see that it wasn't your fault. You couldn't have known what was going to happen and I found out…much later, that you risked your own life to retrieve Jack's body. I was eternally grateful for that, so your answer is…no, I don't blame you, Jean-Luc."
He slowly lowered his head to Beverly's shoulder and wept. She held him, her own tears wetting the side of his head.
After a few minutes, Jean-Luc lifted his head and sighed. He felt drained and the pain in his chest, shoulder and back was returning. Beverly kissed his temple, then glanced at the monitors and, seeing his elevated pain levels, immediately injected him with an analgesic. She then rose and went to the counter, exchanging the vial in the hypo and returning to inject him again. Before he could enquire, Beverly said softly,
"That was a sedative. You need a good night's sleep."
As the lethargy began to creep over him, Jean-Luc looked up into Beverly's blue eyes and asked one more question, the one he was most frightened to know the answer to. In a husky whisper he managed,
"Do you still love him?"
His eyes were mere slits and his hold on consciousness was fading fast, but as he slipped into sleep, he heard her whisper the one word he'd hoped he'd never hear.
Brokenly and with tears in her voice, she whispered,
"Yes."
Two tears slipped free from Jean-Luc's closed eyes as his brain registered the word before consciousness fled.
Beverly looked down at the sleeping man and wiped ineffectually at the tears that flowed from her eyes. Still whispering, she said with hitching breaths,
"How can I explain, my love?"
She had intended to change into a nightie, but she felt so desolate, so wounded, that she simply insinuated herself onto the bed, gently pushing Jean-Luc over to one side to give her room to sleep beside him. She draped one arm over his chest and tried to relax, but sleep was a long time coming.

 

 

 

At just after oh five hundred, Beverly became aware of her lover's embrace. One of his large hands cradled her breast; the other was nestled between her thighs. Their legs were entwined and, although Jean-Luc was still asleep, he had an erection; in fact he was rock hard and pressed tightly against her backside.
Stretching sensuously, it took Beverly a moment or two to realise where they were. Her eyes snapped open and she stiffened, her uncharacteristic reaction rousing the sleeping man. The hand between her thighs rose to press against her sex, while the hand on her breast unerringly found her nipple and gently pinched it. Before Beverly could utter a word, Jean-Luc ground his erection against her and muttered huskily into her ear,
"I want you."
She was aroused; no doubt about it, but common sense prevailed. She took a deep breath and said softly, but with some force,
"Jean-Luc, we're in Sick Bay."
He froze as the memories of the previous night flooded through the fog of desire in his brain. He pulled his hands free and hitched his hips away from his lover as his erection waned. Beverly turned to face him, a smile on her face, but his expression stole her bonhomie. She could see that he was closed off, hiding behind his Captain's persona.
Knowing it was pointless, didn't stop her trying.
"Jean-Luc?"
He turned onto his back, saying flatly,
"You'd best get up, we don't want any of the staff to find you in bed with me."
Beverly decided now wasn't the time to tell him that her staff would have been coming in regularly during the night to check on him. Instead she did as he suggested and silently left the bed to go to the bathroom. When she emerged, looking a lot fresher than she felt, Jean-Luc was standing beside the bed. She was about to tell him to get back into the bed when he pointed at the bathroom.
"I take it I can use the head and have a shower?"
Deciding it was easier sometimes to simply acquiesce, she nodded silently and watched as he passed her, his face set in stone.
As it was she tried to wheedle him to see sense.
"Why don't you go back to bed, Jean-Luc?"
She knew he was in pain, but he was still uncommunicative. He gave a brusque shake of his head, his expression grim.
"No. I'd rather go back to my quarters."
His use of the term 'my' instead of 'our' hurt and alarmed the Doctor, but she was aware, that in his current mood, nothing was going to change quickly. Neither was his determination to be discharged. Beverly sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"Okay, but I'll give you a hypo for your pain before you leave and you'll have to come back later for a regen treatment."
He gave one curt nod.
"Very well."
He stood stoically as Beverly injected him, then went to the replicator to order a uniform. However, Beverly stopped him.
"You're still relieved of duty, Jean-Luc. Civvies will have to do."
His head turned slowly and there was anger in his eyes as he asked softly,
"And just how long am I relieved?"
Beverly tried a small smile to take the sting out of her words.
"Two…maybe three days."
He snorted, but knew protesting would only make matters worse, so he returned his attention to the replicator and ordered civilian clothing.
While Beverly looked on in exasperation, Jean-Luc changed out of his Sick Bay pyjamas and into his clothes. Without a word, he made for the door, but stopped as Beverly said softly,
"I'll drop by later."
He didn't acknowledge her words and left, his back straight and his shoulders square. Beverly still had the hypo in her hand and, in a fit of anger, threw it against the door, yelling,
"Damn you, Jean-Luc Picard!"
If he heard her, he gave no indication as he strode purposely from Sick Bay.

 

 

 

Eventually Beverly calmed herself and replicated a cup of hot, black coffee. She left Jean-Luc's room and went to her office, closing the doors and opaquing the windows. Taking her seat at her desk, she sipped her brew as she mulled over the morning's events. With a sigh she realised exactly why her lover was so angry. Muttering to herself, she said with disbelief,
"You want me all to yourself. You think me still loving Jack is like being unfaithful to you."
She then angrily snorted.
"Christ almighty, you're jealous!"
Without due thought to the time, Beverly slapped her comm. badge, saying forcefully,
"Crusher to Troi!"
A sleepy voice replied,
"Troi here, Beverly. What's wrong?"
Taken aback, Beverly's tone was defensive.
"What makes you think there's something wrong?"
Deanna sighed.
"Beverly, it's oh five forty-three. Why else would you be calling me at this hour?"
Closing her eyes and sighing, Beverly lowered her head into her hands.
"Oh God, Dee, I'm sorry."
"Don't worry about it. What can I do for you?"
With gritted teeth, Beverly explained.
"I've just had a rather unpleasant time with Jean-Luc. Can you meet me at our quarters in about fifteen minutes?"
Deanna's tone was worried.
"Certainly, but, Beverly, didn't you talk with him last night, as I suggested?"
Beverly sighed again, this time with irritation.
"Yes we did…and it went well, at least I thought so…until…"
"Until?"
"Just at the end, when I thought it was all over, I gave him a sedative. I wanted him to get a restful night's sleep. Just as he was going off he asked me one last question…and my answer ruined everything."
Beverly heard both curiosity and dread in Deanna's voice as she asked.
"What was the question?"
Taking a deep breath, Beverly muttered,
"Did I still love Jack."
All Deanna could do was utter,
"Oh."
Then she said quietly,
"What did you say?"
Equally quietly, Beverly said,
"Yes."
All business now, Deanna slipped into Counsellor mode.
"I see. Well it's obvious you both need some assistance. I'll meet you in fifteen minutes, but in the meantime, if you're there before me, don't say anything about it."
Relieved, Beverly opened her eyes and sighed.
"Understood, thanks, Dee."
"No problem, Troi out."
Beverly drained what was left of her cooled coffee and sat at her desk, her head still in her hands. She let ten minutes pass before she stood and left her office.
Having arrived at his quarters, Jean-Luc was at a loss as to know what to do. Usually an introspective man and brutally honest about himself, normally he would have sat in his favourite chair and considered what was troubling him until he came to some kind of resolution. But he was devastated. With Beverly's confession the previous night, all his fears about their relationship had come home to roost. She was right, he was jealous, furiously so…but it never occurred to him that he could never possess Beverly, that she wasn't a prize he'd won, that he'd somehow finally beaten Jack for her. The trouble was he did want to possess her, body and soul. His love for her was so profound he couldn't even contemplate the possibility that she could love another while she professed to loving him. Too many lonely years of wanting her desperately, of endless mind fuck had left him with a hunger for her that was insatiable. For him, it was all or nothing.
So he paced, the fury simmering just under the surface and, when the doors to his quarters opened to reveal the source of his anger, all he could do was shout,
"Get out!"
Beverly had been expecting a cool reception, but not that. Showing the courage she was known for, but quivering inside, she blithely ignored his outburst and crossed the living area to take a seat on the sofa, where she made herself comfortable, crossing her legs and folding her hands in her lap, but not once did she make eye contact with her lover.
Never, in all the years she had known Jean-Luc, had she ever been scared of him; he'd never given her reason to be, but as he stalked slowly towards her, it occurred to her that she may have made a very dangerous mistake in underestimating just how angry he was.
He loomed over her, the subdued lighting his eyes appeared coal black as he said succinctly and with ominous quiet,
"Get out."
With Deanna's warning in her mind, Beverly decided the best thing to do was ignore him. That was until a large hand closed tightly enough to hurt around her upper arm, dragging her to her feet. He leaned close enough to moisten Beverly's ear as he said with deceptive calmness,
"You must be deaf. I said…get out."
As he began to propel the stunned red head to the door, the annunciator suddenly chimed. Jean-Luc stopped in his tracks and said brusquely.
"Computer, who is at my door?"
"Counsellor Deanna Troi."
He turned his head, his gimlet-like eyes boring into Beverly's frightened ones.
"This is your idea, I take it?"
Finding her voice and struggling free of his grasp, Beverly strove to stay calm.
"We need to see her, Jean-Luc."
He shook his head and went to grab her again, saying sarcastically,
"What I need, my dear Beverly, is to be left alone!"
She backed away from him, finding her nerve to say,
"Like you've been alone all these years?"
He seethed,
"How dare you!"
She yelled back,
"I dare because I love you!"
Before he could say anything further, Beverly said quickly,
"Come in, Deanna."
Jean-Luc snapped his mouth closed and stalked to the viewports, shoving his hands in his trousers pockets and staring out at the stars, raising his mental shields and studiously ignoring the two women.
Upon entering the quarters, Deanna had to erect her own barriers against the tumult of emotions she was buffeted by. Rubbing her upper arm, Beverly retook her seat on the sofa and stared off into nothingness.
Sighing in resignation, Deanna said softly,
"I see we have a lot to discuss."
Neither Jean-Luc nor Beverly acknowledged her.
Coming further into the room, Deanna noticed Beverly rubbing her arm. Concerned, the Counsellor went to her, saying softly,
"Are you all right?"
Nodding, but sending a glare at Jean-Luc's ramrod straight back, Beverly said brusquely,
"Yes, Dee, I'm fine, I've been man handled before."
That took Deanna aback.
"You've been man handled?"
All Beverly did was nod. Deanna turned her attention to her CO.
"Captain? You man handled Beverly?"
His voice was deceptively soft, a sure sign of anger in him.
"What I have or have not done is none of your concern, Counsellor."
Bolstering her courage, Deanna shook her head.
"I disagree, Captain. Manhandling could also be called assault."
That seemed to get through the mist of fury in the man. He slowly turned, his face unreadable, but his eyes darkened with remorse. In a husky voice he said quietly,
"I'm sorry, Beverly, it won't happen again."
Somewhat mollified, Beverly accepted his apology, then shook her head.
"Jean-Luc…about last night…what I said is true, I do still love Jack, I think I always will, but you have to understand it has no bearing on my feelings for you. I love you…nothing will change that."
With his hands fisted at his side, Jean-Luc strove for calm.
"How can you say that, Beverly? How can you love me, yet still love Jack?"
Exasperated, Beverly threw her hands up.
"I love Wesley; does that make you jealous too?"
He was about to shout…"I am NOT jealous", but he knew the truth when he heard it. Snapping his mouth shut, he turned his back on the women and stared out into space.
Furious with him for being so stubborn, Beverly stood, her own hands fisted.
"Don't you turn you back on me, Jean-Luc Picard!"
Seeing that things were escalating out of control, Deanna stood and caught Beverly's sleeve, tugging it and bringing the Doctor back from the brink of another inflammatory outburst. She ushered Beverly to sit down, then cautiously approached her Commanding Officer. Keeping her voice low and soft, she said,
"Captain…do you admit to being jealous?"
He kept his back turned, but he nodded once, curtly. Deanna took that as an encouraging sign.
"Can you tell me why, Sir?"
He was silent for a while, then he sighed and turned to face the petite Betazoid. He lowered his head and rubbed his brow.
"It feels like a…betrayal."
Beverly opened her mouth, but Deanna saw her and silenced her with a quick gesture.
"Why, Captain? Why does it feel like a betrayal?"
Still with his head lowered, his voice dropped to a deep baritone.
"I love Beverly with every fibre of my being; I have done so for most of my adult life. When she told me she loved me, I was overjoyed, but deep inside, hidden away within me, I somehow doubted what she said was true."
He sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"Oh, I didn't doubt she loved me, I could see that she did, but not with the intensity with which I loved her. I just didn't believe it was possible."
He lifted his head and gave Beverly a look of such sadness, it made her softly gasp.
"You see, my love, I wanted to possess you, body and soul. I wanted to make you forget Jack and any other man you'd ever loved. I wanted my love to overwhelm you…to sweep you away, but I failed, didn't I. No matter what the strength of my love for you, you still love Jack."
Ignoring Deanna, Beverly got to her feet and went to Jean-Luc, laying her hands on his chest. Almost whispering, she said,
"Look at me."
He shook his head, but Beverly would have none of it. Placing her hand under his chin, she lifted his head and repeated,
"Look at me, Jean-Luc."
Reluctantly, he raised his eyes to meet hers and the love he saw made him almost sob. Tears were trickling down Beverly's face as she said softly,
"I do love you with the same intensity, my love, but you have to remember that Jack is the man I fell in love with as a young woman and married and he is the father of my son. I can't expunge those memories, nor do I want to, but that doesn't preclude me from loving you unconditionally."
Jean-Luc tried to lower his head again, but Beverly wouldn't let him.
"No, Jean-Luc, hear me out. I'm not sure I want you to possess me, but I do understand how you feel. All those years of unrequited love have made you extremely possessive and I do understand how you would feel threatened by my enduring love for Jack. But it has absolutely no bearing on my love for you. I'm not a flighty twenty-three year old any more, Jean-Luc, I am a mature woman with many years of life's experiences behind me and so my love for you is also mature. My relationship with you is the best thing that's happened to me in years and I intend it to last for the rest of our lives. But I cannot change, my love. Not for you or any one else, nor would I expect you to change either. We have to learn to accept one another as we are. Can you do that, my love? Can you accept me as I am?"
Tears formed in Jean-Luc's eyes as he murmured,
"The alternative is to lose you, isn't it."
Beverly nodded, ignoring her own tears.
"Yes."
He took a deep breath and said softly, with his voice breaking,
"I accept you as you are my love, I cannot do otherwise."
Lifting her hands, Beverly cradled his face.
"And I accept you as you are. And remember, Jean-Luc…I love you…I'm in love with you."
He could stand it no longer. He stepped close to her and wrapped her in a hard embrace, burying his head in her neck. Beverly enfolded him in her arms and they stood, weeping silently. Deanna turned and left the room, knowing the worst was over.
Twenty minutes later they were in bed, making love and, as they strove towards fulfilment, they wept again, this time with joy.
Afterwards, they slept for some hours and Beverly was vaguely aware when Jean-Luc left the bed. He was back soon enough, but he didn't lie beside her. Unsettled without him by her side, Beverly cracked her eyes open to see her lover sitting naked and cross legged with an insulated container nestled in his lap. Curious, but a little wary, Beverly asked,
"What's that?"
With a butter-wouldn't-melt-in-his-mouth look, Jean-Luc shrugged, replying,
"Oh, just an insulated container."
Now really worried, Beverly asked softly,
"And what's in it?"
His Cheshire grin made her groan. His reply made her blush.
"Coconut ice cream."
She covered her face with her hands and when she said nothing for a few moments, Jean-Luc said softly,
"You did say we could try it."
Still Beverly remained hidden behind her hands. Offering a soft chuckle, Jean-Luc took her hands and gently pulled them free.
"You don't have to, my love; I just thought it'd be fun."
The blush deepened and Beverly found a half smile.
"It is fun, Jean-Luc…and also VERY messy!"
He shrugged again.
"So we have a shower and change the bed afterwards."
The thought of what they were going to do was arousing the Doctor. In a sultry voice she murmured,
"Just exactly what did Jack tell you?"
Putting the container between them, Jean-Luc stretched out on the bed.
"Something about fellatio, cunnilingus and the insertion of the ice cream in certain…body cavities."
Beverly groaned, shaking her head.
"So he told you everything."
Moving closer to her, Jean-Luc took her hand and placed it on his erection.
"Pretty much."
Feeling his stiff penis in her hand dispelled some of her embarrassment. She began to stroke him and he moaned sensuously as he took one of her nipples into his mouth, while his hand went slothfully down the plain of her stomach to slide through her folds.
He let go of her nipple and rose to nuzzle her neck and bite her earlobe, saying huskily,
"So…can we?"
Her arousal quickly escalating, all Beverly could do was moan one word…
"Yes…"
As he took the lid off the container, Beverly closed her eyes, but as the icy-cold confection was slathered on her nipples, she cried out. Jean-Luc's hot mouth quickly descended, sucking and licking away the ice cream. When he rose and spread her legs, Beverly gripped the sheets, knowing what was to come. Jean-Luc dipped two fingers into the ice cream and lifted a large dollop. This he spread over Beverly's clit. She arched off the bed, once again crying out, but his now cooler mouth soon made her writhe in ecstasy as he ate both the ice cream and her.
While his mouth was busy, Jean-Luc gathered more ice cream on his fingers and gently pushed them inside his lover. Before she could react, he left her swollen clit and covered her vagina with his mouth, sucking and probing with his tongue. Her orgasm was approaching; Jean-Luc could feel her internal contractions beginning. One more scoop of his fingers had Beverly's clit once again covered in ice cream and, as he pushed three fingers inside her, his tongue lavished her sweetened clit.
Beverly's climax flashed through her body. She arched up from the bed, grabbing Jean-Luc's head and pulling his face hard against her sex. Such was her strength, it occurred to him that he may well be smothered, but he grinned, thinking…
"What a way to go!"
Beverly's sweaty hands began to slip on Jean-Luc's bare scalp and he grinned again. He never regretted losing his hair, not having his hair pulled by over zealous women was a godsend. He brought Beverly to two more orgasms before he allowed her to relax. He put the container on the outside of the bed and snuggled up against her, his rigid erection caught between them
Once Beverly regained her breath, she grinned wickedly at her lover. Sitting up, she grabbed the container, saying sensuously,
"Your turn."
With a ever widening grin on his handsome face, Jean-Luc rolled onto his back, saying sultrily,
"Be my guest."
She surprised him. Dipping her whole hand into the ice cream, she suddenly gripped his penis and slathered the cold ice cream all over his penis and testicles. So cold was the ice cream, that Jean-Luc's erection waned a little, but Beverly was ready for that. She scooped up some more ice cream and put it in her mouth, then gripped his penis, lifted it and slid it into her mouth.
Jean-Luc was well endowed and Beverly had to concentrate on relaxing her throat to take him all in. As the ice cream melted and the heat of Beverly's mouth warmed him, his erection regained its strength. As Beverly's mouth slid up and down his shaft, her tongue teased the head, while her hand gently massaged his testicles.
His hands tangled in her hair, but what she did next made him cry out, both in shock and pleasure. Covering two fingers in ice cream, Beverly very gently insinuated them inside his anus. Suddenly he knew he was going to come, but he didn't want to, not like that. He gripped Beverly's head and lifted, panting…
"No!"
She knew what he wanted and obliged, lifting her head and allowing his penis to slip free from her mouth, but she kept her fingers in his anus, gently probing.
Now it was his hands that gripped the sheets, his knuckles showing white. Still panting, Jean-Luc looked into Beverly's eyes, uttering,
"Mon Dieu!"
Grinning wickedly, Beverly purred,
"You like?"
He nodded quickly.
"Oh, yes!"
She pushed her fingers a little deeper inside him.
"I can make you come like this, you know."
He knew she was telling the truth, he could feel it, but he shook his head and gasped softly,
"Another time perhaps…I want to come inside you."
Giving a thoughtful nod, Beverly gently eased her fingers out of him. Immediately, Jean-Luc pushed her to the mattress, kissing her with unbridled passion. He scooped up a handful of ice cream and smothered it over both of them and, such was his desire, he lost none of his rigidity.
He rose above her and said roughly,
"I love you."
As he penetrated her in one quick, hard shove.
Beverly cried out, the sensation of the cold ice cream, his hot penis and being stretched and filled so suddenly, overwhelming her.
Already so close to his release, Jean-Luc rode her hard and fast, pounding in and out of her with mindless intensity, saying over and over,
"Please, Beverly…please…I'm going to come! I'm going to come!"
His plea sent her over the edge. As she arched under him, she screamed, feeling not only her own orgasm, but the warm flooding of his ejaculation. Jean-Luc stiffened, and then shuddered as her name was torn from his throat.

 

 

 

Some minutes later, as the aftershocks waned, Jean-Luc lifted his head from Beverly's neck and said softly and with wonder,
"That was the best I've ever had."
Mewing and stretching sensuously, Beverly was still glowing.
"Me too."
He nuzzled her neck, muttering,
"My God, Beverly, you're still contracting."
She smiled sleepily at the ceiling and sighed happily.
"And you're still semi erect."
He kissed her tenderly, then confessed,
"I can't get enough of you…you know that, don't you."
She chuckled.
"What makes you think you're the only one? I happen to feel the same about you."
They kissed again and Jean-Luc began to harden once more. Beverly hummed with delight.
"Hmm, you are inspired, aren't you."
He pushed himself deeper inside her and kissed her again.
"I can't exist without you, mon coeur."
"Nor I you."
As he slowly began to stroke in and out of her, his said brokenly,
"Marry me, Beverly, I beseech you."
Arching her head back and exposing the milky white column of her neck, Beverly sighed her reply.
"Yes. Yes, Jean-Luc, I'll marry you."
They made love slowly and sweetly, their tears ones of joy and contentment.
They both knew they still had some issues to iron out but, with Deanna help, they knew they could conquer their fears.
Eternity stretched before them as they began their journey into the unknown.

End.