Heart of The Mind.
Lieutenant Commander Estelle Maguire watched her opponent with careful intensity. She knew he was making allowances for her inferior ability, but today she was determined to show him she could learn…learn and improve.
He was lithe, devastatingly quick and well acquainted with both his experience and his exceptional ability, yet she still felt he had a weakness. All she had to do was find it, while avoiding the point of his deadly foil. Through the grille of her helmet she watched him as he waited patiently, perfectly balanced on the balls of his feet, his step light and sure. Her palm sweated, her forearm feeling the strain of the prolonged bout. His head lifted a fraction and, before she could consider what it meant, he thrust forward, his foil flashing as he sought to defeat her weakening defence. Once, twice, and again he struck, his blade whipping about with the lethal accuracy of a striking snake.
She back-pedalled, strenuously trying to deflect his attack, her feet dancing across the strip. Knowing she was approaching the end of the run, she suddenly lunged at him, thinking with bloody-minded determination that she might as well go down fighting. The point of his weapon hit her firmly in the middle of her chest, the blade bowing under the pressure.
Coming to attention, the combatants saluted each other and removed their masks. Panting, Estelle shook her head ruefully.
"You have me at a disadvantage Captain…I am obviously outclassed…again"
Gesturing to the bench, the Captain slowly removed his gloves. Picking up his towel, he wiped his sweating face and carefully laid his foil against the seat.
"I don't agree Commander. You scored two hits today and both your defence and attack show a marked improvement."
The woman sat and stretched out her legs in front of her, placing her hands behind her and leaning back.
"I think perhaps that you may be humouring me."
Sitting beside her, the Captain lifted and hefted his sword before running the blade through a lightly oiled rag.
"Not at all. How long have we been doing this…two months? You have made great leaps in your technique…you no longer drop your wrist…you're more attuned to my strategies…in fact I would go as far as to say you have risen several levels in a remarkably short time."
Estelle chuckled, dabbing at her face and neck with her towel.
"Thank you Sir, your kind words are much appreciated, even if a little…gilded."
She watched as he also chuckled, once again finding herself admiring him. She was very attracted to him, had been for some time. She had first noticed him when she came aboard at Starbase eight. He'd welcomed all the new arrivals and she was immediately drawn to him…to his classical features, his dark intelligent eyes and his unmistakeable air of authority. Once assigned to her new quarters, she took no time in looking up his service record. She knew of him of course…who didn't?…his exploits were legendary. Gaining a posting to the Enterprise, Starfleet's Flagship was the culmination of all her dreams. Finding the celebrated Captain Jean-Luc Picard both handsome and potently attractive was a very welcome bonus.
She already knew most of the highlights of his illustrious career. What she searched for were the little things, the minutiae that made a person unique. When she spotted his penchant for fencing she was delighted, being a keen, but largely inexperienced adherent.
She had bided her time, her post as head of microbiology putting her under the direct command of the ship's Chief Medical Officer, Doctor Beverly Crusher.
She soon noticed that the Captain paid his CMO regular visits and she quickly surmised they had some sort of relationship going. Their friendly banter, the demonstrative touching, albeit covert…all pointed to a hint of something more.
It took her eight weeks to gather the courage, but one afternoon, as the Captain was leaving Sickbay, she screwed up her nerve and approached him.
"Captain Picard?"
He stopped and turned his head, his eyebrows slightly raised.
"Yes Commander...?"
"Maguire Captain, Estelle Maguire."
He smiled and her heart missed a beat.
"Of course. How can I help you?"
Clearing her suddenly constricted throat, Estelle took a large breath.
"I um…I heard you like to fence Sir. So do I."
He turned his body to face her and his smile broadened.
"Indeed? Well that's welcome news! I have been lacking a suitable partner for some time now. What level have you achieved?"
Feeling the blush rising, the Commander tried to steady herself.
"Come on! You're thirty-seven years old, not some puerile adolescent."
"Oh I'm not nearly as good as you Captain, but I do enjoy it and I've been looking for someone to help me improve."
His dark hazel eyes appraised her as she stood, trying not to show her nervousness. He seemed to come to a decision.
"Very well Commander Maguire, I'll let you know when I'm free and we'll see if our schedules coincide."
Breathing a surreptitious sigh of relief, Estelle grinned at her Captain.
"Thank you Captain, I look forward to it."
He nodded his dismissal, the smile remaining.
As she turned and walked away from him, Captain Picard watched her go, a thoughtful expression on his face, his mind already seeking to find the required spare time.
From inside her office Beverly Crusher watched the exchange with interest, a slight frown marring her beautiful face.

 

 

 

 

 

"So Commander, where did you begin your exploration of fencing?"
Estelle sighed and pursed her lips.
"Actually Captain I sort of fell into it."
His eyebrows rose, a ghost of a smile on his lips.
"Oh?"
"Yes. My elder brother fenced and he was always pestering me to join him. I resisted of course…that was until I found that Gary Ravenscroft was his partner."
The Captain's smile grew, a look of amused understanding creeping across his face.
"Ah."
Estelle sighed, her face growing wistful.
"I was hopelessly in love with him…he of course was completely unaware of me. The day I turned up at the studio…in full fencing regalia…he laughed outright. I was devastated but my brother came to my rescue and convinced me to not only stay, but to have a go. No one was more surprised than me to find that I actually enjoyed it."
"How old were you?"
"Oh about thirteen."
The Captain stood slowly and began his cooling down exercises. Lunging forward, he stretched his legs one at a time then stood and twisted his body left and right. Estelle lowered her head and watched avidly through her fringe of long honey brown hair. The white fencing costume fitted him snugly, the fabric clearly displaying his well-muscled body. As he bent to touch his toes, the Commander swallowed and took a deep breath.
"How about you Captain? Where did you start?"
He placed his hands in the small of his back and arched, grimacing and closing his eyes.
"Well Commander it was a long time ago in primary school. My village school offered it within the curriculum and, as my elder brother failed miserably at it I, naturally, was eager to try it. Like you I found I enjoyed it and have continued for most of my life."
Estelle laughed and shook her head.
"I don't believe it. We both owe our elder brothers quite a bit don't we?"
His eyes crinkled as he grinned, enchanting the watching woman. Struck with a surge of courage, Estelle lifted her head and looked him in the eye.
"Captain may I ask a favour of you?"
His eyes sharpened, but a faint smile remained.
"You may ask."
"Sir…when we're off duty…would you call me Estelle?"
His gaze never left her face and he was silent so long Estelle feared she had overstepped her bounds. She was about to apologise when he spoke softly.
"Very well…Estelle…but only if you will do something for me."
Surprise registered in her face, both at his request and the gentle tone of his mellifluous voice.
"Of course Captain…anything."
"Have dinner with me."
Her look of shock must have concerned him.
"Commander…Estelle…I hope you don't think it inappropriate, it's just that…"
Estelle stood quickly and found a warm smile.
"No Captain…not at all. I would be delighted. When?"
Sighing, Jean-Luc gazed into her eyes and squared his shoulders.
"Would tonight, at twenty hundred hours…in my quarters be acceptable?"
Her head spinning and her heart pounding, Estelle heard her voice and marvelled at how calm she sounded.
"That sounds fine Captain. Uniform or civvies?"
He cocked his head, his eyes twinkling.
"I think we can dispense with formality Estelle. Civilian clothing will be sufficient."
With a happy grin on her face, Estelle nodded, trying desperately to contain her excitement.
"All right Captain…I'll see you at twenty hundred…and thank you Sir."
She bent and picked up her towel and foil. Walking to the doors she was aware of his gaze on her back and swished her hips in response. As the doors closed on her retreating form, Jean-Luc grinned and shook his head, well aware of what she'd done…and admiring her all the more.
His attraction to her had been slowly growing, their time together on the Holodeck fencing a welcome and desired event for him. He had found his thoughts returning to her on a regular basis and smiled as he recalled her feistiness and determination as she worked to overcome her nervousness in his company.
The Captain was well aware of the effect he had on his crew. Those that didn't know him well held him in awe, the younger members of his crew often reduced to trembling if he addressed them. He sighed and shook his head. He had very few close friends and of those select few only Beverly Crusher could say that she was closest. They had known each other for thirty years and had helped one another through some very traumatic events in their lives. They were best friends, and although Jean-Luc wished fervently that they could've taken their relationship to an intimate level, he was content to abide by Beverly's wishes to keep their bond platonic. He loved her…had done for more years than he cared to admit, but he would never endanger their precious friendship by pursuing something Beverly didn't want.
Deep in thought, he gently placed his foil in its case, closed and latched the lid and took it by its handle. Lifting his head he said quietly,
"Computer end programme and save."
The studio disappeared to be replaced by the black and gold grid in the cavernous room. Jean-Luc strode to the doors, his mind occupied with thoughts of the upcoming dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

The door annunciator chirruped and Jean-Luc looked up from his task of finishing the table setting. He strode to the centre of the living area and said quietly,
"Come."
The doors parted and Estelle tried to keep from staring. He was dressed in dark blue trousers, a white silk shirt and black shoes. Handsome didn't adequately describe him, he was devastatingly attractive and it was all she could do to remember to breathe. He stepped closer to the door and ran his appreciative eyes over her. Softly he said,
"Estelle you look lovely. Do come in."
Her ivory dress was demure and yet managed to accentuate her long legs and curvaceous figure. It scooped slightly in the front and ended just above the knee. Her matching shoes had low heels with an open toe. They stood closely and her eyes drifted closed momentarily as she smelled his subtle aftershave. His voice startled her back to the present.
"Would you like a glass of wine before we eat? I happen to have some authentic red…as a matter of fact, I'm well acquainted with the family that produces it."
Smiling brightly, Estelle allowed him to lead her to the sofa.
"That would be lovely Captain."
He turned suddenly bringing her to an abrupt halt too close to him for her to think clearly.
"Estelle I think it only fair that I reciprocate."
She frowned slightly and took a small backward step.
"Sir?"
He smiled and shook his head.
"It's Jean-Luc actually."
A slight blush followed her small gasp.
"I…I'm…ok."
Nodding decisively Jean-Luc gestured to the sofa and they both sat. Entranced, Estelle watched as he poured the drinks and smiled when he raised his glass in a toast.
"To friendship."
She nodded and quietly repeated his declaration. Clinking glasses they sipped the wine, her look of surprised delight pleasing him inordinately.
"Cap…Jean-Luc this is wonderful! What is it?"
"It's a merlot blend…"
She chuckled, shaking her head.
"I know that…who makes it?"
Grinning he lifted the bottle and, with a flourish, presented it to her. As she read the label she laughed outright.
"I don't believe it! This is your family's vineyard?"
He nodded, his pride evident on his face.
"Indeed. My family has produced quality wines for many centuries."
Letting her eyes drift from the bottle to his face, she said softly,
"But not you."
With a firm shake of his head he sighed.
"No. I knew from a very early age that I was destined not to follow that path. Even as a small boy I understood I belonged amongst the stars. I'm afraid a life on Earth tied to the land was never going to satisfy me."
"How did your family take that?"
He sighed again, his eyes growing distant.
"Not very well. My father and brother were particularly disdainful of my choices, although my mother gave me her unqualified support."
It was Estelle's turn to sigh. Nodding she gently placed the bottle on the low table.
"Yes, thank the Gods for mothers. My family couldn't understand my desire to join Starfleet. For generations my family has worked in economics. Both my parents, my older and younger brother…it was bad enough when I became a microbiologist, but to leave Arrus Prime? They thought I'd lost my mind. Had it not been for my mother's unconditional love…"
His hand on her arm stilled her tongue and the look of compassion in his eyes nearly broke her defences.
"Enough about our families. How did you know you were drinking a merlot blend?"
Her smile crept back and she absently brushed her hair behind her ear. The action stirred something in his mind, but it skittered away as she spoke.
"Oh I like my wine. You may be interested to know I have one or two bottles of my own, though nothing as fine as this."
His eyes twinkled as a grin spread across his face.
"I see. Well then perhaps next time you can supply the drinks."
His playfulness heightened her interest in him and she found herself relaxing. They chatted amicably as they drank, Estelle delighted that he was so comfortable in her company. After two glasses he rose gracefully and extended his hand, helping her to her feet. He escorted her to the table and, with gentlemanly good manners, seated her before retrieving their meal from the replicator.
Dining sumptuously on venison and roast vegetables, dessert was a light lemon sorbet. The conversation roamed over many subjects, Jean-Luc suitably impressed by his obviously brilliant and forthright companion. Together they cleared the table, sending the remains and dirty dishes into the recycler.
With another bottle of wine opened, they settled once again on the sofa, nursing their glasses.
"Tell me Estelle, what do you have in mind for your career?"
She sighed and rested her head on the sofa.
"At the moment I'm content to stay put. This posting was a dream come true…you've no idea how hard I worked…"
He smiled gently and interrupted.
"Oh but I do. I make it a habit of only taking the best for this ship. I read your service history when you were recommended."
Blushing slightly, she chuckled.
"I read yours too."
His eyebrows arched, his eyes gazing into hers.
"Indeed?"
"Uh huh. That's how I knew you fenced."
He was silent a while, digesting that admission. Her question roused him.
"Do you like music Jean-Luc?"
He smiled widely and nodded.
"Oh yes! I enjoy a wide variety of music."
"Do you have a favourite composer?"
He frowned somewhat as he thought.
"There are so many…and it depends on one's mood…however Mozart would have to be very high on the list."
"Mmm yes. He's one of my favourites too. How about Strauss? Do you like the waltzes?"
"Of course. How could I not like them, they're beautiful."
With a look of request, she asked silently. He nodded.
"Computer play "The Blue Danube"."
The gentle strains swelled throughout the room and both people sighed. With more boldness than she thought she possessed, she reached for his hand. He took it without comment and they closed their eyes, letting the music transport them. After some time, Estelle whispered,
"Do you dance Jean-Luc?"
Silently he stood and pulled her to her feet. He led her to the centre of the room and took her into his arms. The music infiltrated their senses and they moved as one, deftly waltzing around the room. Too soon the refrain ended, but before Estelle could pull away, Jean-Luc requested a slow number, a female singer crooning in heartfelt verses. He moved with such grace and restrained power that Estelle was unable to resist his pull. Resting her face against his cheek, she moved closer and wound her hands around his neck. His hands splayed across her back and his eyes drifted closed as they swayed together, the tension slowly building. Towards the end of the song, Jean-Luc lifted his head and used his hand to raise her face. Staring intently into her eyes, he slowly closed the gap between them until his lips brushed hers. The sensation made her gasp and she gently pulled his head down to her, seeking his mouth. The kiss was tentative at first, but when she opened her lips and allowed him entry it soon became deeply passionate. He pulled her body against his, eliminating any space between them. The feel of her breasts against his chest spurred him on, increasing his ardour and deepening the kiss.
When they parted they were both slightly dizzy. Estelle ran her fingers lightly over his face and caressed his lips.
Trembling she whispered,
"My God Jean-Luc…"
He smiled, also whispering.
"My sentiments exactly."
She took a shaky breath and rested her brow on his chin.
"Is this going a bit fast?"
He tightened his embrace and rumbled,
"I won't do anything you're not entirely comfortable with."
Closing her eyes and trying unsuccessfully to quell her raging desire, Estelle whispered,
"Then I'd better call it a night."
He held her a moment longer before reluctantly releasing her.
"I'll walk you to your quarters."
Shaking her head, she frowned.
"That's not necessary…I can…"
He put his fingers under her chin and raised her face to his.
"It would be my pleasure."
He kissed her softly then stood back, offering his arm.
"Shall we?"

 

 

 

 

They arrived at her quarters two decks below his. Pausing at the door, he released her arm and quietly requested to accompany her inside. She was curious and nodded thoughtfully, her desire simmering unabated just under the surface.
The doors closed behind them and he took her in his arms.
"I wanted to kiss you goodnight and tell you what a wonderful evening I've had. Unfortunately that's not something the Captain can do in the corridor."
Estelle smiled and sighed.
"I understand, I've had a wonderful time too Jean-Luc. Thank you."
He leaned in and kissed her softly. His hands sliding up and down her back and she stepped closer, her senses reeling. The considerable desire, only barely held in check bubbled to the surface and she moaned into his mouth as she moulded her body to his. He tightened his embrace and kissed her savagely, ravaging the inside of her mouth.
With light headed giddiness she pulled away and stared at him, her passion heightened at the evidence of his inflamed desire sparkling in his dark eyes.
"Oh God…I want you…now…quickly…"
Pulling at the closure of his shirt and plucking at his pants, she panted and moaned.
He gently pushed her the short distance to the wall and pressed her against it. His mouth descended to her neck, biting and nuzzling as his hands ran up her thighs, taking her dress with them.
"Yes! Quickly Jean-Luc…please…"
Finding her panties, he pulled them down and she assisted him in casting them aside. He used one hand to undo his trousers and pushed them and his briefs out of the way. He bit her shoulder and she gasped as his fingers entered her, testing her readiness. Finding her saturated he withdrew his hand and slid his fingers over her thighs. She understood and gripped his shoulders as he suddenly lifted her, encouraging her to wrap her legs around his hips. He entered her with one hard thrust and she cried out, whimpering as he gently bit her earlobe.
She clung to him desperately, mindless with sexual need.
"Please…please…now…do it now…quickly!"
Gripping her buttocks, Jean-Luc began to thrust hard and fast. Bracing his legs, he accentuated his power by lifting and lowering her in time with his piston-like plunges. Estelle lifted her head, straining against the wall, involuntary cries escaping from her throat. Jean-Luc's soft grunting added to her sensual feast and she quickly neared her release.
"Yes…more…more!"
The Captain leaned forward and bit her neck as three particularly hard thrusts pushed her over the edge. She cried out in inarticulate ecstasy completely unaware of her partner's own climax. Jean-Luc pushed himself deeply inside her as she clenched around him and spasmed as he pulsed, tightly held within her heat.

 

 

 

As her breathing began to calm she became aware of his slight trembling. His head rested on her shoulder as he panted, still holding her off the floor. She turned her head and kissed his neck causing him to raise his head and smile ruefully. He blinked slowly and sighed, whispering,
"I haven't done that in quite a while."
Estelle grinned wickedly, her eyes sparkling.
"What…had sex?"
Shaking his head and chuckling quietly, he responded,
"No wench…I usually confine such activities to a comfortable bed, however my partner seemed to be in somewhat of a hurry."
She sighed and shifted in his arms causing him to slip from her. She gasped softly, her body still hyper sensitive. He kissed her tenderly and slowly set her on her feet, holding her within his arms. Her whisper tickled his ear.
"Jean-Luc…can you stay?"
He released her and made himself comfortable with his clothes, considering her question. She waited breathlessly, fearing that he would leave. His gentle smile allayed her worry.
"Yes, but I will have to leave very early. I have a breakfast appointment I don't want to break."
Her tawny eyes glittered with happiness and she wound her arms around his chest, nuzzling into his neck.
"Why don't we have a shower and go to bed?"
Jean-Luc lazily kissed her temple and sighed.
"Now that's a splendid idea."

 

 

 

 

Later, comfortably lying naked in each other's arms in bed, Estelle couldn't contain a quiet giggle. Rousing himself from a lethargic stupor, the Captain growled.
"What?"
Running her fingers through his chest hair she asked playfully,
"So tell me…how long has it been?"
There was a moment's silence before he rumbled, feigning irritation,
"Since what?"
"Since you've had any."
He grunted and sniffed, debating whether or not to tell her the truth.
"Come on…fess up."
"A long time. Too long actually."
She stilled and swallowed, screwing up her courage.
"Oh. I kinda thought you and Doctor Crusher…"
He closed his eyes, willing the spike of anger to subside.
"No, we're very good friends…nothing more."
Silence greeted that offering and he was relieved when she seemed to drop the subject.
She sighed and burrowed closer to him.
"It's been ages for me too. If it's not the job, it's a scarcity of suitable partners."
He grunted again, not bothering to elaborate on the difficulties of a man in his position pursuing a relationship with a fellow crewmember.
Her hand slowly trailed down his torso and dallied in the thickening growth of pubic hair at the base of his penis. He sighed and started to tell her that it would be some time before he could make love again when he suddenly realised he was rapidly beginning to harden. Estelle rose up on her elbow as her hand gently squeezed and caressed him.
"Why don't we take a more leisurely approach time this time? We've got all night."
His response was a lingering passionate kiss.

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly entered his quarters, her nose detecting the delicious aroma of fresh croissants and hot coffee. The breakfast table had been set and she appreciated the effort he went to, always providing an assortment of preserves and creamy butter. His attention to the small details always charmed her, knowing as she did that he did it for her only. She watched as he retrieved the coffee pot but frowned when he looked up and she noticed how haggard he looked.
"Jean-Luc did you get any sleep last night?"
He flushed slightly and cleared his throat.
"Sit Beverly, the croissants will get cold."
Somewhat annoyed that he'd deflected her enquiry, she nonetheless took a pastry and pulled it apart, buttering it and taking her time in choosing a preserve. He wasn't fooled for a minute. He knew all to well she wouldn't let the matter drop. Sure enough…
"It's not nightmares again is it? You know Deanna…"
He held up his hand and shook his head.
"No Beverly it's not nightmares. I was busy that's all."
The Doctor frowned, pausing the coffee cup en route to her mouth.
"Busy? What kept you so busy that you didn't get any sleep?"
He sighed exasperatedly and shook his head.
"I didn't say I didn't get any sleep. I managed a few hours this morning."
Placing the cup firmly in its saucer, Beverly frowned at her best friend.
"A few hours aren't enough Jean-Luc! You look terrible."
His eyes hardened and he had to make a concerted effort not to snap.
"Be that as it may, I assure you I'm fine. Now, can we just eat breakfast without all this adversarial chit chat?"
Beverly's mouth snapped shut and she recognised his effort to rein in his anger. Never comfortable with her overly conscientious interest in his health, she knew if she pursued this he would withdraw completely and she would be shut out. To that end, she mustered a smile and changed the subject. Half an hour later they reported for duty.

 

 

 

Three days later the senior staff were assembled at the conference table in the forward observation lounge. Estelle was there too in her capacity as head microbiologist. Their next mission involved a mysterious sickness ravaging a distant system. The planetary medical facilities had been unable to halt the illness and it was decimating the populace. If not stopped soon, millions could die.
Under strict containment protocols, samples of the suspect virus had been sent via high-speed shuttle, the Enterprise's departure delayed as she delivered much needed supplies to an isolated mining colony near the Neutral Zone. Now free, she was surging through space at warp eight point five, permission to exceed warp five given by Starfleet Command.
Jean-Luc savagely suppressed his personal interest in Estelle and addressed his CMO.
"Have you had any success with the virus Doctor Crusher?"
Beverly grimaced and cast a look at Estelle. Shaking her head she answered,
"Not yet Captain…it's a bloody nightmare. Every time we think we've nailed it, it slips by and continues to grow. Nothing we've done so far seems to slow it down."
Estelle leaned forward, her hands clenched upon the tabletop.
"Captain Picard this virus is insidiously potent. Once it enters the body it attaches itself to any number of cells, it's quite indiscriminate, and proceeds to ravage the host. Depending on what it attacks first, lungs, heart, liver…any one of the internal organs can be affected, the patient dies from a variety of failures. We can't isolate it or destroy it…yet."
Commander Will Riker, second in command, sat up, his blue eyes piercing.
"What about the crew? How safe is the ship?"
Beverly sighed and shrugged.
"As long as we observe level five containment protocols there will be no problem…but, God forbid, if so much as one microbe got out, this ship would become a floating graveyard in a very short time."
The Captain frowned, his intelligent eyes clouding with worry.
"How will you handle going down to the planet?"
Estelle spoke up.
"Full containment suits Sir, followed by complete decontamination on our return."
There was silence for a while before Jean-Luc spoke again.
"How long do you envisage staying dirtside?"
Beverly's voice was rock steady.
"As long as it takes."
"And how many will go?"
The women shared a look and both sighed. Beverly responded.
"I would say seven all told, plus a hefty load of equipment." She looked at Jean-Luc earnestly and took a large breath. " We have a request Captain."
He raised his eyebrows but remained silent.
"We want Data to come with us."
Lieutenant Commander Data was the only android in Starfleet. His remarkable abilities made him an ideal away team specialist, that coupled with his immunity to organic viruses, afforded his superiors a wonderful opportunity to use him as a diagnostic tool. Nothing could compute as fast, or possess his wealth of knowledge. He was, in short, unique.
Jean-Luc mulled over the request. The only problem with Data was that there was only one of him. Taking him from the ship could endanger the mission. The Captain had to weigh how best to utilise this excellent resource. Coming to his decision, he nodded.
"Very well Doctor. Mr.Data download everything available on Harakk II, including the initial outbreak and report to my Ready Room when you're finished. Doctor Crusher, Commander Maguire, prepare a report on what you need, containing a list of wanted crew, and have it to me as soon as you can. Number One, how long until we reach Harakk II?"
Will turned to his Captain, his voice slightly apologetic.
"A little over four days Captain."
"Damn. Very well, if there's nothing else?"
No one responded so he pushed himself back from the table.
"Dismissed."
As everyone rose from their seats, Jean-Luc said quietly,
"Commander Maguire…a moment please?"
Estelle nodded and stood by the sloping windows, her attention focussed on her lover. As the officers filed out, Counsellor Deanna Troi cast a glance at her Captain, a slight frown on her face. The empathic Betazoid frowned deeper as she felt the distinct suppression of the Captain's emotions. Knowing he was aware of her scrutiny, she sighed and paused as she left the room, her obsidian eyes searching Jean-Luc's face. When he studiously ignored her she had no option but to take her leave.
Once the Counsellor had left, Jean-Luc let out a breath and relaxed. Coming around the end of the table, he faced Estelle. His quiet deep voice sent a thrill down her spine.
"I'm sorry we've not seen each other lately…I've been quite busy with this mission."
She smiled tenderly and clasped her hands behind her back, the only thing she could think of to resist the urge to run her hands over his chest.
"That's ok I've been flat out too. What about tonight? Maybe we could get together for dinner?"
He sighed and looked deeply into her eyes.
"It would have to be quite late. I'm expecting an update from Command and it's not due until oh one thirty hours."
Her smile caught him by surprise as it reminded him of the way Beverly smiled when she was indulging him in something. It was just an upward curl of one side of her mouth that, coupled with the amused glint in her eyes, made his heart miss a beat. She saw his expression and asked,
"What?"
Gathering himself quickly, Jean-Luc cleared his throat.
"Oh nothing…my mind just wandered momentarily."
Frowning now, Estelle decided to let it pass. Nodding she pursed her lips.
"I know what you mean…I've been doing that a lot lately. Now concerning dinner, actually it sounds about right. I won't be finished until midnight or later so how about you come to my quarters when you're ready and I'll supply the food?"
He smiled tiredly and cocked his head.
"I may not be very good company."
Estelle grinned and leaned forward.
"I'll take whatever I can get."
His smile widened and he nodded.
"Very well I'll see you tonight…or tomorrow morning as it were."
She straightened and nodded, seeking his dismissal. He nodded his acquiescence and she left.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc strode onto the Bridge and felt the eyes of his Counsellor on him as he took his seat in the Command chair. He stayed only long enough to ascertain the readiness of his ship before rising to his feet and addressing his First Officer.
"You have the Bridge Number One, I'll be in the Ready Room."
Will rose and nodded to his Commanding Officer.
"Aye Sir."
Once ensconced in his inner sanctum, he slowly began to count, his face impassive as he strove to contain his irritation. Within minutes the door chimed. Taking a large breath and expelling if forcibly, the Captain withdrew into a calm, almost glacial mindset.
"Come."
Deanna walked in, already aware of his attempts to shut her out. Standing before his desk she frowned.
"Captain?"
He looked up, his eyes blank, his face unreadable.
"Yes Counsellor?"
Deanna sighed exasperatedly and sat herself in the chair facing the desk.
"It won't work Captain. You may be able to block me from sensing your emotions, but the very fact that you're doing it tells me something is troubling you."
Placing his hands palm down on the desktop, Jean-Luc kept his voice quiet, although Deanna could plainly hear the subdued irritation in it.
"Counsellor there are times when I simply require privacy. This is one of those times."
Deanna smiled and shook her head.
"Captain you are the most private person I know! Surely you realise my concern is for your wellbeing? For you to react to me this way…well it piques my curiosity."
He cocked one eyebrow, but kept his command visage in place, his voice now deadly quiet.
"Indeed Counsellor? Do you refer to professional curiosity, or is it more a case of nosiness?"
Taken aback by his cold anger, Deanna steeled her defences.
"I think you know me better than that Captain."
Relenting slightly, Jean-Luc allowed himself to relax a little.
"My apologies Deanna, that was uncalled for. However I maintain I seek only privacy."
Deanna stood and nodded.
"Very well Captain I will take this no further, but if I feel anything untoward I expect you to be more cooperative with me."
Jean-Luc nodded once, immensely relieved that she was willing to let the matter rest. He was not willing to discuss his burgeoning relationship with Estelle with Deanna or anyone else. Not until he was more sure of it himself.
"Agreed…and thank you."
Hearing his dismissal, Deanna mustered an encouraging smile and left, deep in thought.
Jean-Luc turned his chair and stood, finding his feet carrying him to the viewport. As he contemplated the stars he yet again asked himself what he thought he was doing getting involved with a member of his crew.
"It cannot work!"
He admonished.
"What if it compromises my ability to command?"
His thoughts drifted to Beverly, as they often did and he sneered as he recalled her rejection of his suggestion of intimacy.
"Beverly wasn't willing to try…what makes me think Estelle will be able to continue with me when I have to place her in danger?"
He closed his eyes and rested his weary head against the cold glass.
"Oh God what was I thinking?"

 

 

True to his word it was very early in the ship's morning when he arrived at Estelle's quarters. Pressing the annunciator, he half expected her to be asleep. He was cautiously surprised when she called,
"Come in."
He stepped into the room, uncomfortably reminded of what they had done the last time he was there. She noticed his hesitation but mistook it for tiredness.
"You poor thing you must be exhausted. Here, come and sit, dinner's ready."
Giving himself a mental shake, Jean-Luc took the offered seat and concentrated on his companion.
"This looks interesting. What is it?"
Estelle smiled shyly and shrugged.
"It's a native dish from home, I hope you don't mind. I've programmed a couple of things into the replicator."
Smelling the dish appreciatively, Jean-Luc suddenly realised he was hungry.
"Not at all, in fact I enjoy trying new food."
Encouraged, Estelle dished out the food and sat, surreptitiously watching as her lover ate his meal, fascinated by his gracefulness and economy of movement. Feeling the protracted silence was becoming oppressive, the Commander tried to engage her guest in conversation.
"So did you receive your communiqué?"
Jean-Luc chewed thoughtfully, nodding.
"Yes and it was as lengthy as I feared. Sometimes I think admirals have nothing better to do than vex Captains with verbose reports."
Estelle chuckled and wiped her mouth with her serviette.
"I know what you mean. I've been the victim of a long winded admiral before…God help me!"
That brought a soft chuckle from the man and she sighed in happiness. She cleared away the dishes and placed a light dessert in front of him. To his silent enquiry she answered,
"It's sort of like a fruit mousse. I think you'll find it quite refreshing."
Picking up his spoon, he tasted the dish and smiled with satisfaction.
"You like?"
He nodded and swallowed another spoonful.
"Yes although it's quite unlike any fruit I've ever tasted before."
They finished their meal and retired to the sofa. Her quarters being much smaller than the Captain's, Estelle had less furniture. They sat together in companionable silence for a while, until Jean-Luc sighed.
"What?"
"Nothing just tired. Where is the wine you told me about?"
Grinning wickedly, Estelle leaned over and kissed him softly.
"In the bedroom."
As she sat back she brushed her hair back and laid her free arm along the sofa whilst crossing her long legs. Jean-Luc's breath caught as he remembered Beverly doing exactly the same thing. In fact she'd done it so many times it was etched indelibly into his memory. Caught in the memory, he struggled to regain his equilibrium.
Estelle, her desire rising, missed his panicked expression and continued in attempting to seduce him.
"Why don't we retire to my bed and I'll show my best vintage?"
Jean-Luc's head bowed and she finally saw his reluctance.
"Jean-Luc? What is it?"
Shaking his head, he couldn't look at her eyes.
"It's nothing really…I'm just tired."
She reached for him, gripping his hands and trying to see under his brow.
"Then let me help you relax…I can…"
Suddenly standing, he withdrew his hands.
"No…look I think it would be better if I went to my own quarters. I'm sorry Estelle…I did warn you I wouldn't be very good company tonight."
She watched as he shut himself off from her and marvelled at how easily he did it. Rising, she attempted to place her hand on his shoulder and was dismayed when he stepped out of her reach.
"All right Jean-Luc…maybe tomorrow then?"
He nodded and muttered,
"Goodnight."
She was still standing staring at the closed doors ten minutes after he'd left.

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc didn't sleep well. He tossed and turned and what sleep he did get was inhabited by disturbing dreams. He was awake when the alarm sounded and his grumbled order for it to cease was evidence of his tiredness. He showered, shaved and dressed, his mind wrestling with the problem of what to do about Estelle. He wanted her, of that there was no doubt, but did he love her? Could he afford to find out? He was still mulling in dark thought when the door annunciator sounded. Glowering he slammed down the PADD he was trying to study and said curtly,
"Who the hell is it?"
Beverly's tentative voice caused him to grimace with contrition.
"Jean-Luc? What's wrong…can I come in?"
He stood and strode to the door, pressing the release. Upon seeing her concerned face, he dredged up a wan smile.
"I'm sorry Beverly I was somewhat engrossed. Please…come in."
Casting a suspicious look at her friend, Beverly entered to see that breakfast was nowhere to be seen. Jean-Luc brushed past her and began setting the table, slightly nervous when she joined him to help. Together they built their familiar repast and were soon eating, although Beverly's scrutiny was beginning to irritate him. He remained silent however knowing full well that she would broach the subject of her concern in her own time. It happened over coffee.
"So…you're still not sleeping?"
The Captain sighed and closed his eyes momentarily.
"Beverly…"
She held up her hand, her voice taking on a hard edge.
"Stow it Captain! You've been burning the candle at both ends for a while now and it's time you stopped. For God's sake Jean-Luc…when was the last time you forgot our breakfast?"
He began to mount a defence, a protest forming, but she beat him to it.
"Uh uh Captain I don't want to hear it. As your CMO I'm going to issue an order, one that I will enforce. You are to stop work today at seventeen thirty hours, return to your quarters and eat a decent meal. You may relax for a while, but I want you in bed by twenty thirty. No later, and if you don't get a good night's sleep, I expect you to tell me tomorrow morning. Is that clear?"
He summoned his best glare, a move completely wasted on Beverly. They regarded each other in silence, the battle of wills almost palpable. With as much dignity as he could muster, Jean-Luc wiped his mouth and placed his serviette on the table. Standing he afforded Beverly an aloof glance before softly clearing his throat.
"Very well Doctor. I will see you tomorrow."
Understanding both his reluctant acceptance and her dismissal, Beverly rose and turned to leave. She hesitated and turned back to catch a very uncharacteristic look of sadness on Jean-Luc's face. With compassion she quietly called his name.
"Jean-Luc."
His face immediately conformed into his Captain's mask, making Beverly sigh.
She smiled tenderly at him and held eye contact until he capitulated and smiled in return. Feeling better, she left.
Jean-Luc sat heavily in his seat and angrily brushed at the crumbs.
"Fuck!"

 

 

 

 

 

That morning, when Estelle reported for duty, she was hard pressed to keep her mind on her work. What had changed between them? Had she come on too strong? Why did he seek to shut her out so completely? And why the hell wouldn't he talk to her about what was obviously troubling him?
She knew instinctively that he was not the kind of man to treat relationships in a cavalier manner. For him to make love to her showed that he had feelings for her, but how deep did those feelings go? Estelle sighed expansively. In truth she wasn't looking for a love affair. She simply couldn't afford the time and effort needed to sustain such a relationship. What she wanted was an interesting partner, good times and good sex. She needed to talk to him and soon. To that end she resolved to see him in his quarters that evening.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc's day was tedious. Endless reports on the ship's preparation for the upcoming mission landed on his desk with monotonous regularity. He would never admit it to Beverly, but when seventeen thirty showed on his computer he was only too glad to stab it off and stand to stretch his stiffened muscles.
Striding out onto the Bridge, he informed Will,
"I'm going off duty Number One. Don't hesitate to call me if you need to."
"Aye Sir."
As the Captain left, Will stroked his beard and leaned close to Deanna.
"When was the last time he knocked off early with a mission on the boards?"
The Counsellor shook her head, worry creasing her brow.
"I can't recall Will."
The big man sighed and caught her eyes.
"Is he all right?"
Deanna's hesitation heightened his concern.
"He's troubled about something, but he's doing his utmost to block me…and he's damn good at it."
Will's quiet chuckle irritated the Betazoid. He had long been amused at the subtle confrontations between the Counsellor and the Captain. He was reminded of the story about the great rock being slowly eroded by gently dripping water. The analogy pleased him and his smile widened.
"You know Deanna…"
Her death glare silenced him and he straightened in his chair. Under his breath he said,
"OK, but I expect you to tell me if he needs help."
The Counsellor made one last attempt to sense the Captain before giving up in disgust.

 

 

 

Although Beverly had ordered him to eat a substantial meal, Jean-Luc wasn't particularly hungry, replicating instead a light chicken salad. Having eaten, he'd settled into his favourite chair, a book and a cup of Earl Grey tea in his hands. When the door chime sounded, he frowned.
"Come."
Estelle stepped into his quarters and clasped her hands in front of her.
"Good evening Jean-Luc."
Slowly placing his cup and book on the low table, the Captain got to his feet and nodded, his face an inscrutable mask.
"Good evening."
Walking slowly, she covered the distance between them and asked,
"May I sit?"
He nodded and they both sat, an uncomfortable tension in the room. Estelle swallowed and sighed.
"Jean-Luc I think we need to talk."
Still saying nothing, Jean-Luc nodded again and frowned. Slightly annoyed at his reticence, Estelle rubbed her palms on her thighs.
"What's happened Jean-Luc? Why are you shutting me out?"
His eyes travelled down her face to focus on his clasped hands. Quietly, almost too softly to hear, he said,
"I don't think I can do this."
She moved closer and gripped his forearm.
"Explain. What is it you can't do?"
He sighed and lifted his head.
"You and me Estelle…I don't know if I can do it."
"Why? Look Jean-Luc I have to be honest with you…I'm not looking for love…I don't want violins and angels…but I do want to pursue what we have, I happen to think it's damn good."
Finding her eyes, he looked deeply into them and Estelle realised she was seeing relief. She smiled softly.
"You don't love me."
He shook his head, sighing.
"No, although I do care…quite a bit, but it's more than that. Do you realise how hard it is for me, as Captain of this ship, to have a relationship with a crewmember?"
Estelle pursed her lips and moved closer.
"I've thought about it of course…I even checked the regs regarding such…liaisons, but Jean-Luc nothing need change! I don't expect you to treat me any differently now to how you did before. Look we enjoy each other…we give each other something we both need…I don't see why that can't continue. You must know I would never put you in a position of conflict of interest…I would never compromise your command! God I've been in Starfleet long enough to avoid that."
His smile was slow in appearing but that didn't take the joy from it. He opened his arms and she came willingly, nuzzling into his neck and sighing deeply with pleasure.
The removal of their clothing was done at a leisurely pace, the ensuing foreplay languid. When they stood, naked and highly aroused, Jean-Luc took her hand and shoulder-to-shoulder they walked to his bedroom. She turned and cast him a mischievous look, her eyes sparkling and again it hit him how much like Beverly she was. Vivid images of Beverly giving him exactly that look caused a surge of unease. His step faltered and Estelle stopped and caressed him. He cursed his body for its rapid response, but the images fled in the wake of his rampant desire. She bit him hard on the junction of shoulder and neck making him growl. He pushed her gently into the bedroom and eased her onto his bed, covering her with his lean well-muscled body. She bit him again and he took her hands, spreading her arms wide and holding her down.
"Now you vixen…behave."
He kissed her with deep passion pushing his erection against her. She arched up under him and moaned
The door chime went unnoticed the first time, in fact it was on the third ring that Jean-Luc suddenly stilled and swore. He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth.
"Stay here, it's probably Commander Riker. I'll be right back."
Mewing in protest, Estelle watched appreciatively as he rose and quickly donned a robe. He then ducked into the bathroom and came out holding a towel in front of himself, hiding his obvious arousal. He walked to his door and pressed the release.
"Hello Jean-Luc…just thought I'd drop by and check on you. See if you're following my orders."
He almost lost his composure.
"Beverly. Ah…as you can see I'm fine."
She deftly stepped past him and was about to bombard him with questions about his meal when she suddenly noticed the clothing on the floor. Her eyes darted to his bedroom and saw the subdued lighting. Dragging her eyes back to her friend, they widened when she spotted the bite marks on his neck. Blushing, Beverly lowered her head and muttered,
"Well I can see that you're ok…I'll be getting along."
Her exit was swift and Jean-Luc scowled.
"Merde!"

 

 

 

Beverly marched through the corridors, head down, her face a mask of concentration. Startled crew stepped aside as she strode past, unaware of their existence.
She entered her quarters and began her preparations for bed. She changed into her nightie, sat at the mirror and brushed her hair and climbed into bed, all done without conscious thought. Lying flat on her back, her mind raced.
"He's got a lover! My God…when did he find the time for that? And who the hell is she?"
The agitated Doctor turned abruptly onto her side and scrunched the pillow.
"No wonder he's been so tired…probably having sex every night! Damn him!"
With irritated fussing, she turned over.
"I wonder how long it's been going on?…maybe I should ask Deanna, she'd know for sure…no, perhaps not…after all it's really none of my business. Bloody hell! How could he do this to me!"
Flopping onto her back again, she hugged a pillow tightly. Sighing she closed her eyes, determined to put him from her mind. She was successful for two minutes.
"I wonder what he's like in bed? Oh great, now I'm getting horny. For God's sake Beverly…go to sleep!"
Again on her side, she drew her knees up and steadied her breathing.
"That's it…calm down. God his face when I walked in…and what was that on his neck…bite marks? He did look flushed…I wonder how far they were into…oh for heaven's sake stop it!"
She sat up suddenly and threw the pillow across the room. Aloud she muttered,
"Shit!"
Throwing back the covers, she slid out of bed and stalked to the replicator.
"Hot milk with cinnamon."
As she sipped the toddy she realised it was Jean-Luc's aunt Adele's remedy for insomnia. Closing her eyes, she counted slowly to ten.
"God he's infiltrated my entire life! Well buddy boy I'm not going to let your love life get to me. I'll turn up tomorrow morning for breakfast and we'll see who handles it better…you or me?"
Nodding decisively, she finished the milk and made her way back to her bed. It took a while, but she eventually found sleep.

 

 

 

His expletive drew Estelle from the bedroom.
"Who was it?"
With his back to her he barked,
"It doesn't matter!"
Her gently amused voice carried clearly from the bedroom doorway.
"That word…was it French? What does it mean?"
Spinning on his heel, his angry tone faded into a whisper as he beheld a very beautiful, very naked woman.
"It means…shit."
She chuckled, crooking her finger at him.
"How uncouth. Come here Jean-Luc."
His feet carried him the required distance and her hands took the towel, carelessly tossing it onto the floor. His robe soon joined it and she frowned at seeing his flaccid state. Sighing she ran her finger over his penis.
"All my good work…"
She dropped gracefully to her knees and gently nuzzled his testicles, her hands gripping his buttocks. As the waves of pleasure surged through him his erection rapidly returned and he growled deeply when she took him into her mouth. As she sucked and slid over him, he tangled his hands in her hair and allowed his head to loll back on his neck, his mouth gaping.
When she left him he moaned and drew her to her feet. He ushered her to the bed and bade her to lie down, positioning himself beside her. He kissed her thoroughly then moved to lavish her breasts with his hot mouth. Estelle held his head, pushing him into her breasts as his hand slid down her stomach and over her thighs, encouraging her to part her legs. She obliged and he caressed her with his fingers, separating her folds and slowly entering her. Pushing her heels into the mattress, she lifted her hips and he slid another finger inside her making her moan. As was usual for her, she wanted him immediately. Gripping his shoulders she pulled until he covered her with his body and she wound her legs around his waist. Not needing any further coaxing, Jean-Luc entered her and she gasped, clinging to him and panting his name.
His thrusts were slothful. He knew she wanted more…a faster path to fulfilment, but he wasn't to be hurried. Frustrated, she bit and scratched, begging him to speed his movements. In response he took her hands and held her down, watching her intently as he slowly stroked in and out of her. By now almost mindless with need, Estelle began to sob, her strained voice beseeching him for more, to bring her to her release. Unmoved Jean-Luc ignored her and prolonged his thrusts, pushing himself against her and grinding his hips. She shuddered and writhed, her voice now a continuous plea. Finally he gave in. Abruptly he began to thrust vigorously, raising up on his hands and pounding into her with singular intent. With a sudden rush Estelle climaxed, her body flexing and bowing under him. Undaunted he pressed on evoking three more orgasms before his control failed and he succumbed to his own ecstasy. Without conscious thought and momentarily unaware of his partner he spasmed and shook…and Beverly's name was torn from his throat.

 

 

 

Estelle froze and watched his face as it contorted with euphoria. His eyes were tightly closed and he gripped her hands fiercely as his body continued to tremble and pulse. Trying to get her brain on line, she attempted to contemplate the ramifications of what had happened. Having a lover call out another woman's name when he came was not the most flattering thing that could occur, but she felt she knew him well enough to know it was done completely without his knowledge. But what did it tell her about him…and his feelings for Beverly Crusher? He had stated that they were merely good friends. That however had just been blown out of the water…rather succinctly. Nevertheless he had lied, whether to her or to himself and she needed time to digest this.
He rolled off her panting his eyes still closed. She knew from previous experience sleep would quickly claim him so she pulled up the covers and slipped from the bed. After using the toilet she washed her face and took a long look at herself in the mirror.
"What the hell have you got yourself into?"
When she returned to the bed, his gentle snoring made her smile ruefully. Carefully sliding into the bed she snuggled up to him and his arms automatically embraced her. She took one last look at his relaxed face before ordering the lights off and allowing sleep to come.

 

 

 

 

She was gone when he woke. He looked around his bedroom blearily, noticing his folded uniform by the bed. Checking the time, he was gratified to note he'd beaten the alarm and requested it cancelled. The computer complied and he indulged in a rare languid few minutes in bed, something almost alien to him. His sense of duty eventually imposed itself and he rose and entered the bathroom, grinning in a very Gallic fashion as he registered his sore muscles. Such was his satisfaction with his nocturnal activities that he was in the shower before he remembered Beverly's untimely intrusion. He bowed his head letting the hot water needle the back of his neck as he tried to forget his embarrassment and dismay. That thought led him to recall how Estelle continued to elicit images of his best friend, an unsettling experience when he was in the process of making love.
"Dammit! What the hell is going on?"
Shoving the disturbing thoughts aside, he shaved and dressed and was setting the table when it occurred to him that Beverly might not come. After the previous night…
"Computer, location of Doctor Crusher?"
"Doctor Crusher is on deck eight, crossing junction seven B."
Realising she was indeed approaching his quarters, he straightened and faced the door, making sure his voice was steady when he heard the chime.
"Come."
Beverly peered in, her eyes making a circuit of the room.
"All clear?"
Pursing his lips and trying to look in command of the situation, Jean-Luc ignored her sly remark and gestured to the table.
Grinning perkily, Beverly sidled in and took her customary seat. After buttering a croissant and allowing the Captain to pour her coffee, she sat back and drew one knee to her chest.
"Well I must say you look…rested. It would seem my orders were serendipitous."
Casting her a look of annoyed forbearance, Jean-Luc sighed.
"Beverly…"
Holding up a hand, the Doctor chuckled.
"Oh don't be so serious Jean-Luc…I'm only yanking your chain. I'm well aware it's none of my business. I am curious however. Who is she?"
His silence was ominous and Beverly risked one more push.
"She must be something to put up with you."
He shook his head and groaned.
"Are you ever going to treat me with the respect my rank deserves?"
Her chuckle banished his pique.
"Not any time soon. Come on Jean-Luc…who is she?"
He looked into her stunning blue eyes and, not for the first time, felt his heart miss a beat. Giving himself a mental shake, he replied,
"Lieutenant Commander Estelle Maguire."
Beverly's mouth parted then snapped shut.
"Estelle…my Estelle?"
His nod made her smile.
"Well I must say all those fencing bouts paid dividends. Wow…Estelle Maguire…I never would've thought…"
His head snapped up, his humour evaporating.
"Why not?"
Fluttering her hands about haphazardly, Beverly said,
"Well you know she's not the sort…that is I don't think she's…"
Now thoroughly incensed, Jean-Luc snapped,
"What?!"
Gathering her errant thoughts, Beverly tried to make sense of her intuition.
"I just don't think she's interested in anything long term Jean-Luc…that's all. I didn't mean to offend."
He grunted and gulped down some coffee, scalding his mouth in the process.
"Shit!"
Beverly rose and took her ever-present tricorder from her coat pocket.
"Sit still will you!"
She scanned him and huffed at the reading.
"You've just managed to burn your mouth. What the hell were you trying to prove?"
Glaring, he rose quickly from his seat and threw down his napkin.
"That is enough Doctor!"
Realising she'd pushed him too far, she attempted to mollify him.
"My apologies Captain. Please accompany me to Sickbay so I can treat the injury before infection sets in."
His jaw flexing, he strode from his quarters, Beverly in tow.
Their journey to Sickbay was taken in angry silence. Upon entering Beverly's domain, he allowed her to usher him to a biobed where she quickly dismissed concerned staff that came to assist.
"If you could just open your mouth Sir?"
Her continued use of formality helped him to recover his balance. Sighing, he relaxed and softened his gaze. While she was busy calibrating an instrument he looked over his shoulder, ascertaining their privacy. When she lifted her gaze to him, he gently took her hands in his, saying softly,
"I'm sorry Beverly. This is all rather new…I just need a little time to adjust."
Her tender smile melted his heart. Leaning forward, she rested her forehead on his and revelled in his closeness, gently squeezing his hands. Her whisper threatened to break his control.
"I'm happy for you Jean-Luc…really I am. Never forget that."
They parted and she treated his mouth. Too soon he had no reason to stay any longer.
"Well I suppose I should be getting to the Bridge."
She squeezed his shoulder and nodded.
"See you at breakfast?"
He smiled his reply and she chuckled, gently slapping his arm. He slid off the bed and strode from the medical facility, his back straight, his shoulders square.
Estelle bit her lip as she returned to her work in the lab. She'd witnessed everything.

 

 

 

 

He had no contact with Estelle over the next eighteen hours. Breakfast with Beverly was a little quiet…she seemed subdued, her responses to his attempts at conversation seemingly forced. He put it down to preoccupation over the mission. Late in the ship's afternoon the great vessel entered orbit of Harakk II and the senior staff met in the observation lounge one final time.
Jean-Luc remained seated as an Ensign brought in a late report. He placed the PADD on the tabletop and cast his eyes over the assembled officers. They gave him their undivided attention.
"Mr.Data has delivered a comprehensive report on what you're likely to face on the planet. Their medical technology lags behind the Federation in several areas…
unfortunately virology is one of those areas. They appear to struggle to provide adequate computer assistance so, to that end and in conjunction with Data; a permanent uplink will be supplied to the Enterprise computers. The advance party will construct safe containment units, the biofilters of which will be augmented to handle the screening of microscopic biological matter. If all goes according to plan, the away team should have a safe, although somewhat spartan environment in which to live. When not in the units, class eight medical containment suits will be worn at all times.
"The head of the Berrik General Hospital, Doctor H'Rasson, your liaison with the central Government, will meet you at your new headquarters. The latest updates put almost fifty-five percent of the population affected and the mortality rate is rapidly rising. Doctor Crusher have you had any success with the virus?"
Shaking her head, the Doctor scowled.
"Not as much as we'd like. We have managed to isolate and trial several promising drugs…it is a very robust pathogen."
Estelle leaned forward and took over.
"Captain we're on a promising track, we have had moderate success with a crystalline family of drugs that, although not killing the virus, did halt its replication. That in itself is a victory, albeit a small one, but it does hint that we may be on the right path."
Jean-Luc nodded and clasped his hands on the table.
"And you feel that you can continue your research on the planet?"
"Yes Sir."
"Very good. Number One, how long until the construction crew finishes the units?"
Will stroked his beard and consulted a PADD.
"Six…seven hours tops Captain."
"And the equipment will be fully installed?"
"Aye Sir, everything will be up and running."
"Splendid. Doctor Crusher I take it your staff has received extra training in the use of containment suits?"
Smiling, Beverly nodded.
"Yes Captain they're ready."
Jean-Luc took a deep breath.
"Well we seem to have covered all exigencies. Beam down of the away team will take place in…eight hours. Dismissed."

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly and Estelle walked back to Sickbay together, the silence between them uncomfortable. Estelle was wrestling with confusion over her relationship with Jean-Luc and Beverly was still unsettled about the discovery of their status. She was experiencing pangs of unease, bordering on anger and she was nonplussed as to why that should be so. What she'd told Jean-Luc was true…she was happy for him, why wouldn't she be? He deserved happiness…they all did. That however did not explain her anguished worrying. As they walked Beverly cast a sideways glance at her companion and felt a spike of distaste. Surprised at the intensity of the emotion, the Doctor struggled to quash the feeling. She was to spend an unknown length of time with the woman in close proximity with each other and she could ill afford to upset their good working relationship…far too much was at stake.
As they triggered the door sensor at Sickbay, Estelle stood back, allowing Beverly to precede her. She watched her boss walk into her facility and frowned at the distinct aura of hostility surrounding her. Sighing, the microbiologist went straight to her lab, intent on rechecking her equipment. Concentrating on the task at hand, she was startled some time later when she was interrupted.
"I would've thought those checks were already completed."
Estelle turned to see a frowning Beverly framed in the doorway.
Standing, Estelle tried to smile.
"They are, I'm only being extra cautious."
Folding her arms, Beverly said coldly,
"Well make certain everything's ready when the techs come. I don't want any last minute snafus. You do understand the importance of this mission?"
Without waiting for a reply the red head left abruptly, leaving the Commander even more confused.
"Great…just great .Now she's on my case."

 

 

 

 

The Captain faced the viewscreen, the image of the harried President highlighting the being's agitation.
"Captain Picard we were assured the aid would begin the instant you arrived! You have been in orbit several hours already and we've seen no one but some underlings building unnecessary structures. Please…we require urgent assistance! People are dying…"
Jean-Luc held up his hand and silenced the exasperated being.
"President M'burro we are moving as fast as possible. The structures are vital to our team and, as soon as they are completed, our away team will transport down and begin to render aid. We…"
"What about my family? I insist they be taken aboard your ship. They…"
"I'm sorry Sir but that is impossible. I cannot risk compromising the safety of the Enterprise. No one, not even the away team can return until your planet is deemed clear of the disease."
The President spluttered, spittle hitting his chin slits.
"But that is preposterous! It could take months!"
Jean-Luc kept his face impassive. Clasping his hands behind his back, he took a conciliatory tone.
"That may be so Sir, but you must realise I have to protect my ship."
There was a brief silence before the being glared.
"In that case, since you are being so obstructive, I insist my family receives immediate treatment from your physicians."
Keeping his anger in check, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"I'm afraid the Doctors will concentrate on the most urgent cases first. Are any of your family exhibiting symptoms of the virus?"
The president huffed, his cheek flaps swelling.
"Well no, but it's only a matter of time. Captain Picard I must protest at your stubborn refusals to help me. Don't you understand you could be signing our death warrants?"
His eyes glittering dangerously, Jean-Luc stepped closer to the screen.
"And don't you realise Sir, that by monopolising my team unnecessarily, you may be consigning many innocent people to an untimely demise? Could you live with that?"
With an angry growl, the spiky hair of his crest rising, the President severed the connection.
Jean-Luc stood motionless, staring at the image of the planet below, allowing his angst to dissipate. The quiet voice of his First Officer eased him back to the present.
"What a charming fellow…so full of selfless dedication to his people."
The Captain sighed and took his seat.
"It's often times of the greatest adversity that separate the wheat from the chaff Will."
The big man scowled and shook his head.
"Still…asking for special treatment at the expense of his fellow citizens…not my idea of the model planetary leader."
Jean-Luc brushed a speck from his trousers and cocked his head.
"He's scared Will…they all are. At least he's thinking of his family and not just himself."
Will's grunt gained a small smile from the Captain as he settled further into his seat and re-checked the chronometer. Two hours to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly strode briskly into her office and made sure the door closed before swearing loudly.
Her behaviour towards Estelle was exactly what she'd determined to avoid.
"Shit, shit, shit!"
Glancing through the window, she watched as the Commander oversaw the loading of her equipment onto the anti gravs. The irrational anger surged again and she spun around, clenching her fists and closing her eyes.
"Godammit! What's the matter with me?"
Feeling the need to get out of Sickbay, the Doctor hurried from the facility and marched swiftly through the corridors, heading for her quarters.
Once safely inside her cabin, Beverly sat on her sofa and concentrated on settling her rapid breathing. Feeling calmer, she sat back and frowned.
"Ok…I can deal with this…it's just nerves. We've got a difficult mission ahead of us and I'm a little tense. It's nothing to do with her, nothing at all."

 

 

 

 

With a little under an hour to go, Jean-Luc made his way down to Sickbay. Surprised at finding Beverly absent, he found Estelle in the main room going over last minute instructions with her staff. He waited patiently until she was finished then nodded towards Beverly's office. They entered and he locked the door. About to offer his hopes for a quick return to the ship, he was taken aback by her look of irritation. When he attempted to touch her she stepped out of his reach.
"Estelle? What is it?"
Waving her hand, she refused to look at him.
"Nothing…it's nothing. Look Jean-Luc I have a lot to do, maybe you should…"
He frowned and stepped closer, gently gripping her arm.
"No. I came down to wish you good luck and to ask you to take care. I'll miss you Estelle."
She looked up into his concerned eyes and relented.
"I'll miss you too Jean-Luc."
Pressing a button on the desk, he opaqued the windows and took her into his arms.
"Come back to me soon Commander, my bed is a lonely place without you."
She giggled saucily and he silenced her with a lingering kiss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standing on the transporter pad in their containment suits and surrounded by equipment, the four Humans watched as their Captain entered. He stood by the operating console and peered through the faceplates of his friends. Beverly smiled at him her heart swelling as she easily read the concern and affection in his eyes. Her hand was about to lift in a wave of goodbye when she saw his eyes shift to Estelle. His gentle smile and soft gaze stilled her hand and coldness filled her chest.
"Energise."
They shimmered into nothingness and Jean-Luc sighed, although his face remained impassive. He waited as the next group came in, Data in the lead. Being the only member of the team without a suit, the android seemed small by comparison. Jean-Luc stood before him and noted the collection of instruments festooned around his waist.
"Well Data it seems you're ready for anything."
Momentarily confused, Data suddenly understood his Captain and raised his eyebrows.
"Yes Sir. It is my intention to…cover all bases."
Smiling gently, Jean-Luc stood back as the three officers stepped up onto the platform.
"Good luck."
Without turning his head, the Captain said softly,
"Energise."

 

 

 

Doctor H'Rasson was waiting as the team assembled outside the hospital. Dispensing with formalities, he quickly led them through the building, the Enterprise crew appalled at the hundreds of patients lying listlessly on makeshift beds throughout the facility. With their infrastructure stretched to its limits, only the most seriously affected victims were allowed in the hospital and, of those, the worst were confined to the wards on the top two floors. The cargo lift travelled swiftly upwards as Beverly and Estelle quickly read the latest reports of the medical fraternity. Like the Enterprise medicos, the planet's scientists had found that they could halt the cell division of the virus, but were unable to kill it or prevent its spread. Beverly was encouraged and gently gripped H'Rasson's arm.
"This is good. We've reached the same findings…I'm sure a cure is within our grasp."
The tired being looked forlornly at the Doctor, his usual vibrant blue skin faded and mottled.
"I hope so Doctor Crusher…so many have died…so many will die if we can't…"
She squeezed his arm and looked up as the lift halted and the doors opened. The speaker in her helmet didn't mitigate the emotion of her words.
"My God."
The entire floor, every bit of space, was taken up by narrow wheeled beds. Upon them were people in varying degrees of consciousness. Mucous, pus and blood was evident on most of them and their laboured breathing was loud, along with the anguished groans.
Steadying her hands, Beverly took her tricorder from its pouch and stepped to the nearest patient. She scanned him and his gummy eyes opened, staring at her vacantly. He suddenly coughed, thick phlegm rattling wetly in his chest. The effort caused his face to contort, the cheek flaps wheezing ineffectively. He lifted his hand and plucked weakly at her suit, his mouth working silently. Beverly took his hand and bent forward, intending to offer words of comfort. She froze when he gurgled, his entire body stiffening before abruptly falling limply on the bed. The alarm on the tricorder sounded and H'Rasson appeared at her shoulder.
"He's gone."
He made a sign with his fingers and closed the being's eyes. Shaking his bulbous head the Doctor turned the deceased's head and removed a metal insignia from the neck. He placed it in his coat pocket and faced Beverly.
"Take your samples Doctor. The laboratory is on the seventh floor. I'll meet you there."

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc ate a solitary meal in his quarters and tried to read. The book rested comfortably in his hands, the silence was perfect and he was pleasantly tired but after reading the same paragraph three times, he snapped the book closed and snorted angrily.
Checking the time and finding it quite late, he sighed resignedly and entered his bedroom, his nighttime ritual comforting to his agitated mind. Once in bed he stretched out on his back and put his hands behind his head.
"What are you doing now?"
Allowing his mind to wander, he recalled their last erotic encounter, remembering how she'd writhed and begged, beseeching him with mind and body to bring her to blessed release. He hardened, his erection disagreeably confined in his sleep shorts. Taking one hand from behind his head, he gently made himself comfortable and debated whether or not to tend to his growing need. The call from the Bridge settled the matter.
"Bridge to Captain Picard."
"Picard here."
"Sorry to disturb you Sir, but there's an incoming transmission from the planet. Doctor Crusher asked if you were available."
Sitting up, his mind instantly alert, Jean-Luc ordered,
"Understood. Pipe it down to my quarters. Picard out."
There was a momentary hiatus before Beverly's voice reached his ears.
"Jean-Luc?"
"Yes Beverly."
"Well we're on the job Jean-Luc…and it's bloody terrible down here."
"How bad is it?"
"Shocking. People are dying like flies and there's not a damn thing we can do about it…yet. It seems the scientists here have reached the same results as we have with the drugs, we've taken fresh samples and are heading for our labs to begin testing."
"I see. How's the morale?"
Her voice took on a hint of obvious pride.
"Well it's early days of course, but everyone's holding up just fine…especially considering what we've seen…"
His deep voice took on a note of concern.
"I understand. Tell me…how's Commander Maguire?"
The silence surprised him.
"Beverly?"
"She's ok. Look I've got a lot to do…I'll make another report tomorrow. Crusher out."
The abrupt disconnection startled the Captain. Frowning, he whispered,
"Very well Beverly, goodnight."
Thoughtfully, he reached behind him and grabbed the second pillow. Lying on his side, he held it to his face and inhaled deeply, Estelle's subtle scent infiltrating his senses. Concentrating on relaxing his body, he put aside the worries of the mission and willed himself to unwind. In time his eyes slowly drifted closed as consciousness left him.

 

 

 

 

Lieutenant Alyssa Ogawa, Beverly's trusted head nurse and friend approached her boss with a PADD in hand. It contained the latest read outs and she was keen to discuss it with her superior.
"Doctor Crusher?"
Not looking up from her electron microscope, Beverly barked,
"What?"
Alyssa paused, not accustomed to hearing that tone from her usually calm and cheerful CMO.
"I…ah…I have the latest reports."
With an irritated wave of her hand, Beverly snarled,
"Can't you see I'm busy?! Use some bloody initiative and take them to Commander Maguire. And while you're at it, tell her I'm waiting for the Karanton series results. If I have to collect them myself there'll be trouble!"
"Aye Doctor."
Alyssa left Beverly, worry and alarm skittering across her face. She waited for a green light to permit entry into the steri cell and found Estelle frowning over a computer terminal.
"Commander?"
"Hmm?"
Proffering the PADD, Alyssa sidled up to the computer.
"Doctor Crusher said to give you this…and she wants the Karanton series results…um…now."
Estelle looked up and scowled.
"Does she now? Well I'm a tad busy at present; she'll just have to wait. If she wants me to work faster, she'll have to take more of the load."
The Lieutenant's obviously distressed look didn't go unnoticed.
"What is it Alyssa?"
"The Doctor said if she had to come and get it there'd be trouble."
"Bugger! All right Alyssa, don't worry I'll take care of it. You go back to compiling the serum data and I'll see to Doctor Crusher."
The look of relief was rewarding. Alyssa exited the cell and Estelle quickly downloaded the required information onto an isolinear chip. On leaving the cell, she instigated a cleansing cycle and waited until the process had finished. She found Beverly glaring at a petri dish.
"You wanted this Doctor?"
Ignoring her colleague, Beverly held out her hand, impatiently shaking it.
Estelle placed the chip in her palm and turned to leave.
"Where are you going?"
"Back to work Doctor."
"I haven't dismissed you."
Coming to attention, Estelle's face hardened.
"Sorry Sir."
Beverly slowly turned from her study of the dish and frowned at the waiting officer.
"You took your own sweet time getting this to me."
Gritting her teeth, Estelle kept her voice steady.
"I have a lot of work to do Doctor. My apologies."
Beverly stood, accentuating her greater height.
"If you can't organise yourself properly Commander, you will soon become an ineffective member of this team. See to it that you prioritise your work accordingly."
"Aye Sir."
"Dismissed."
As she left, the breath hissed through Estelle's teeth.
"Bitch!"

 

 

 

 

Over the next two days little was heard from the away team. Jean-Luc swallowed his irritation knowing Beverly was almost overwhelmed with work. Data made a report but it was incomplete, the bulk of the information being shared between Beverly and Estelle. Until one of them reported in, he would just have to be patient.
The President made two further attempts to inveigle his family aboard the ship, Jean-Luc's deflection of his endeavours earning him a very hostile reaction. Upon being threatened with an armed response, the Captain put all the weapons on standby and invited the leader to scan the ship, paying particular attention to the defensive capabilities. It took only minutes until a chastened President appeared on the screen.
"Ah…I see your point Captain, we would be at a disadvantage in a confrontation. My apologies."
Allowing a studied silence, Jean-Luc moved closer to the screen.
"President M'burro I do understand your concern, but please…do not ask me again. I cannot help you."
The blue being flushed darker and bared his sharp rows of teeth in a semblance of a smile. Nodding curtly he severed the connection.
Late in the afternoon Jean-Luc fidgeted restlessly. In an uncommon display, he grunted softly and stood, slowly pacing around the Bridge. Will watched silently knowing his Captain would eventually give voice his to his concerns.
Bringing his distracted wanderings to a halt, The Captain tugged down on his tunic. Eyeing his First Officer, he grimaced and sighed.
"I have to contact her."
Will grinned, acknowledging his reluctance.
"She won't be happy."
His face hardening, Jean-Luc sat and raised his head.
"Picard to Crusher."
Silence ensued.
"Captain Picard to Doctor Crusher…respond please."
Her eventual reply was harsh.
"Crusher here. What is it?"
Casting a look if resigned patience at Will, Jean-Luc took a large breath.
"We just want to know how things are progressing Doctor. Are you any further..?"
"Look Captain I'll make a report when…and if…I have anything to say! Crusher…"
Standing abruptly, Jean-Luc marched into his Ready Room.
His voice taking on an unmistakable ring of authority, the Captain upbraided his friend.
"Doctor Crusher you will adopt a more civil tone with me or you will find yourself on report!"
He could hear her breathing as she strove to calm herself.
"I'm sorry Captain. We're completely snowed under here…even eating and sleeping are luxuries we can't afford. I promise, when I have a clearer picture, I'll make a full report."
Relaxing somewhat Jean-Luc softened his tone.
"Beverly I understand how difficult things are for you and your team, I was simply worried and found I needed to hear from you."
Her chuckle was music to his ears.
"It's nice to hear your voice too."
"Are you really going without food and sleep?"
She sighed audibly.
"We're getting by on the barest minimum of each I'm afraid. Jean-Luc it's awful…there's so much suffering…"
"How are the team holding up?"
Amusement tinted her words.
"Actually Data's been a Godsend. Without meaning to he's continually lifting our spirits…there's so much he does…God Jean-Luc we'd be lost without him."
Jean-Luc smiled wistfully, nodding to himself.
"Yes he's got something about him, hasn't he? Tell me Beverly, how's…?"
"She's fine Jean-Luc…worn out and frazzled, but fine. She's a damn good scientist you know."
His smile widened and he sighed.
"I know…so are you. Well I'll let you return to your work…and Beverly? Don't leave it so long to talk to me."
"I won't Jean-Luc. Crusher out."
As he strode back onto the Bridge, Will knew the trouble had passed. When the Captain had left the Bridge so angrily, Will worried that the two of them would butt heads until they bled. He knew that the Captain could win any confrontation by simply pulling rank, but he also knew Beverly would never let it rest, especially if she thought she was in the right. Seeing him so pleased and relaxed eased Will's concern.
The afternoon wore on, the crew of the great ship battling boredom.

 

 

 

 

 

On the eighth day into their research, Estelle had a breakthrough. She sat back and stared at the monitor, barely believing in what she saw. After administering a new derivation of the drug they'd been using the abhorrent virus began to retreat, the cells dying at a remarkable rate. Quickly hitting the record button, Estelle reached for another sample and repeated the test, gaining the same result. She sat back and rubbed her weary face. Hitting her combadge she called,
"Maguire to Data."
"Data here."
"Commander could you join me in the steri cell please?"
"On my way."
The Commander stared at the screen again willing the carnage amongst the cells to continue. She was still lost in thought when the android arrived.
"You wished to see me Commander?"
Gesturing at the monitor, Estelle sat back, making room.
"Take a look at this and tell me what you see."
Data leaned forward, not something he needed to do with his exceptional vision, but it was a very Human gesture he wished to emulate. Silently staring, his eyebrows rose. He turned to his companion and smiled.
"It would seem you have had success."
Nodding with satisfaction, Estelle stood and loaded a chip into the computer.
"That's what I thought. OK…who's going to take this to Doctor hard arse?"
Data frowned and cocked his head.
"I do not believe you should be referring to Doctor Crusher in that way. It is detrimental to the chain of command and most disrespectful."
Estelle smirked and shrugged her shoulders.
"Well the way she's been treating everybody…'hard arse' is the most innocuous thing I can call her. In fact you're the only one she's been civil to. Why is that?"
Data's mouth turned down at the corners as he considered the question.
"I do not know, nevertheless you should not…"
Raising her hand, she grinned at her friend.
"I know, don't worry I'll be Miss Starfleet in her presence."
Data shook his head, frowning.
"Commander that is not good enough. Your continued disrespect of a senior officer could have very deleterious effects on the rest of the team. I must ask you to refrain from such behaviour."
Estelle's eyes hardened and she scowled.
"My aren't you a goody-two-shoes? Since when did you get so uptight?"
Data looked down at himself, frowning in consternation.
"Uptight? My body holds the tension of the skeletal frame at precisely…"
"Stop! Never mind."
Sighing Estelle held up her hands.
"Look I know you're right…it's just that she's been such a…well let's simply say she's been very hard to work with. Nothing I do seems good enough. For God's sake she had Alyssa in tears yesterday!"
Data frowned.
"I have noticed a heightened tension emanating from the Doctor, however I attributed it to the strains of the current mission. Is there another reason for this behaviour?"
Closing her eyes, Estelle shook her head.
"Never mind Data. Come on…we'll tackle her together. OK?"
His eyes narrowed but he nodded, stepping back to allow Estelle to precede him.

 

 

 

Having created a small office of sorts at the rear of one of the huts Beverly sat at a computer correlating data. It was menial work, something she should've given to one of her staff, but such was her demeanour that she chose to isolate herself and work alone. She knew her staff would avoid her anyway…her behaviour causing tension and friction amongst the workers. She caught sight of her hand and slowly raised it, noting the chapped skin and chipped nails.
"Dammit…when did that happen?"
Lifting the other hand, she rotated them slowly wincing at the reddened appearance and sighing at how quickly it had happened.
"Bloody hell!"
She stabbed off the computer and leaned back in her chair, easing her aching spine. She thought of calling Alyssa to get the latest update but remembered the unfortunate altercation of the previous day. Never before had she spoken so harshly to her loyal and gentle friend. What provoked the outburst was a mystery…in fact her whole attitude these past days was a mystery. That she'd been impossible to work with was an understatement…she'd been an absolute bitch…especially to Estelle…and she had absolutely no idea why.
Sighing, she picked up a PADD and activated it. Her mind was just absorbing the information when she heard someone approach.
"Doctor Crusher?"
She looked up and made a concerted effort to keep her face neutral.
"Yes Data?"
The android looked at his companion and sought her consent. Nodding surreptitiously, Estelle straightened her shoulders.
"Doctor Crusher I think we have something you may wish to see."
Feeling unreasonable irritation, Beverly barked,
"Bloody hell Data…what is it?"
Wordlessly he handed her the chip. She pushed it savagely into the computer and turned the monitor abruptly, focussing her attention on the evolving image. She watched intently her tension growing. When the stream of images ceased she pressed replay and leaned closer to the screen. Estelle and Data stood silently, awaiting her reaction.
"Oh my God!"
Estelle stepped forward and said quietly,
"It was the Deteron. Eighty milligrams in suspension."
Without looking at her, Beverly muttered,
"When? When did you do this?"
"About twenty minutes ago."
Beverly stood, her face a mask of concentration.
"Right! Suit up Commander…we've got to try this in the field. Data you're with us."

 

 

 

Forty-five minutes later the three officers rode the lift up to the top floors of the hospital. They met Doctor H'Rasson and waited while he selected a patient to trial the drug. Waving them over, they manoeuvred through the tightly packed beds until they came to an unfortunate individual gasping in distress. An old machine stood beside the bed, exchanging fluids and supplementing oxygen. With gentle gloved hands, Beverly took a hypospray and injected the woman, the whirr of Estelle's tricorder almost lost amongst the pitiful sounds of the ward.
For two and a half hours they stayed by her side, recording and scanning. Beverly detected a slight improvement in her breathing and attempted to gain closer access to the patient. She found her way encumbered by the machine and sighed in exasperation.
"Commander Maguire help me move this will you?"
The two women took hold of the machine and began to inch it to one side. Still wanting it attached to the patient, they were careful with their actions, however it was too much for the ageing piece of equipment. With a loud report the lid exploded, the internal pressure causing a rupture in the metal. Several shards of steel flew outwards, Data's call of alarm unheard.
Both women staggered back, Estelle falling on her behind. Data was at their side immediately, his hands roaming over the containment suits.
"Doctor Crusher…your suit has been punctured! We must leave immediately!"
Estelle climbed to her feet and watched in horror as tears showed in Beverly's suit. It wasn't until she looked at Data that she realised he was staring at her. Casting her eyes down, her heart missed a beat when she saw the rents in her own suit. Data hit his combadge.
"Enterprise, emergency transport, three to beam from these coordinates to the command centre."
They materialised outside the shelters, Data activating the scan that would rid them of microscopic pathogens. Stepping through the apparatus, the three entered the building and the women began to shed the suits.
The call from the Enterprise sounded tense.
"Picard to Data."
"Data here Sir."
"What has happened?"
Data looked at the women, noting that Beverly was creating a containment field, effectively isolating the room.
"There has been an incident Captain."
Jean-Luc's voice was crisp.
"Elaborate!"
"Some equipment exploded and the containment suits of Doctor Crusher and Commander Maguire were compromised. We have returned to the command centre and are in the process of isolating the room."
"Were they injured?"
Data looked to both women and received shakes of their heads.
"No Captain."
"Very well. Keep me advised."
"Aye Sir."
Estelle caught Beverly eyes and noted the look of grim worry. She swallowed and softened her voice.
"It might not be that bad…we may get away with it."
Her reply was a stony silence. Beverly worked diligently until she had exhausted all the protocols involved. Looking up, she pulled her ponytail tighter.
"OK Data that about does it here. We'll live in this room until we know if we're infected or not. No one…no one is to come in here without a C-suit. Understand?"
"Yes Doctor."
"In the meantime I want you to go back to the hospital and check on that patient. It's imperative we know how the drug affected her and if the virus has retreated. Take Alyssa and James with you…and take some extra doses. If the results are good, get H'Rasson to select more subjects."
"Aye Doctor."
Passing through the steri field, Data set about obeying his superior.

 

 

 

 

 

Seated on a bed, Estelle picked up her boot and threw it across the room.
"Bloody hell! Of all the stupid, half arsed things to happen…"
Beverly gave her a steady look and came to stand over her.
"Cheer up Commander…just think, we get to stay in close proximity to each other for the foreseeable future. Won't that be a hoot?"
Under her breath, but just loud enough to be heard, Estelle muttered,
"Oh that's bloody marvellous…just peachy!"
Beverly glared at her and placed her fists on her hips.
"My sentiments exactly!"
She stalked to her bed and sat heavily kicking at the remains of her suit with petulance.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc remained seated in his chair, his face a stoic mask. Will cast worried looks at Deanna and she frowned in return, shaking her head imperceptibly. For over three hours he sat in complete silence neither moving nor showing any outward sign of distress. When he abruptly stood and strode to the Ready Room, a gentle collective sigh went around the Bridge.
Will took the centre seat and leaned towards his lover.
"Deanna?"
"He's blocking me…ruthlessly suppressing his emotions. I don't know how he…"
Her face crumpled and her hands writhed in her lap. Immediately concerned, Will stood over her.
"What is it? Is it the Captain?"
Nodding, she brushed at her falling tears.
"Yes! Oh God…the anguish…the fear…"
Suddenly she sat upright, her face clearing.
Will knelt and took her hands.
"No Will it's all right, he's regained control."
Will looked at the Ready Room door and shook his head.
"Damn it all to hell!"

 

 

Data, Alyssa and James returned seven hours later. The two nurses left to upload their results and Data, after enduring the biofilters, entered the sterile room.
Beverly was dozing but woke with little effort.
"Data? How did it go?"
"I have good news Doctor. The first patient has exhibited improved respiration and her temperature has decreased three degrees. She took some fluids orally and Doctor H'Rasson is considering removing the assisting machine."
Beverly stood and held out her hand for the PADD he held. As she read he continued.
"As ordered, I administered the drug to four subsequent patients and, as we left, their condition had begun to improve."
"Excellent! Now we have to develop a vaccine. It's one thing to beat this bloody thing, but quite another to protect the population from further assaults."
Estelle turned over and yawned.
"Data let me have the serology reports will you? I think I can get started on that."
Beverly frowned at the interruption.
"As I was saying…"
Data shook his head.
"I am sorry Doctor…Commander, you are both off duty until you are cleared of the virus."
Beverly was instantly incensed.
"What!? Data that makes no sense whatsoever! If we're going to be locked up in here, at least give us something to do for God's sake!"
Data stood his ground.
"No Doctor I am afraid that is impossible. If you are indeed infected, the symptoms could be swift in appearing and quite debilitating. I cannot allow you to work, to do so would be counter productive."
Estelle swung her legs off the bed and slowly stood.
"But surely Data you can't discount our knowledge and familiarity with the work? It would be counter productive to deny us."
Shaking his head, Data sighed.
"I am sorry but my decision stands, the protocol in these instances is quite clear. Please consider yourselves off duty until further notice."
As he turned to leave, Beverly tried once more.
"Data who will do the work?"
He turned back to her and said quietly,
"I will Doctor."

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc sat rigidly in his chair, the silence of the Ready Room making his hearing acute. Since his brief loss of control, he'd ruthlessly suppressed his emotions and forced himself to concentrate on the problem at hand. In essence, he had two valuable crewmembers in a precarious situation. Best-case scenario was that they would be unaffected by the virus and, after a brief isolation, would return to their work. On the other hand, one or both of them could be struck down thereby hindering what was already a difficult assignment.
The question was…what to do? He couldn't send down any more staff, it was pointless; the experts were already there. He shook his head and raised his eyes to the ceiling.
"Picard to Data."
The reply was instantaneous.
"Data here Captain."
"What is your status?"
"We have isolated Doctor Crusher and Commander Maguire and I have taken over as team leader."
Jean-Luc sat back and ran his hand over his bald pate.
"I see. Can you carry on the work?"
"Yes Captain, in fact we have had a breakthrough. This afternoon Commander Maguire successfully trailed Deteron, from a family of drugs that had shown some promise. Under Doctor Crusher's supervision it was administered to several patients with encouraging results."
The Captain ran his fingers over his lower lip.
"If either of them are infected can this drug help them?"
"There are significant differences in the physiology between the population and Humans. I would be reluctant to try."
"I see. What is the incubation period?"
"With the native populace it is approximately eighteen hours."
"But we don't know how it will affect Humans?"
"No Captain."
"Well Data you must know I can't send down any more personnel. Did Doctor Crusher issue any orders?"
"Yes Sir. Before I relieved her of duty, she ordered the pursuit of a vaccine. She wishes to protect the population from further outbreaks."
Smiling grimly, the Captain nodded.
"Typical."
"And are you and your staff equipped to do that and care for Doctor Crusher and Commander Maguire should they succumb to the virus?"
"I believe so Captain. I think I can spare one nurse to full time care if the need arises."
"Very good Commander. I want regular reports and five hourly updates on their condition. Picard out."
He allowed his head to lower, his chin resting on his chest. Reaching forward, he fisted his hands on the desktop and breathed deeply. His mind crowded with thoughts, both women at the forefront, but, without his awareness, Beverly loomed largest. Her face floated in his mind, the light in her cerulean eyes, the soft uptilt of her lips as she smiled, the tumultuous fall of her lustrous red hair…the images intoxicated him and his consciousness cried out,
"Come home to me Beverly!"

 

 

 

 

 

Eight and a quarter hours later Data's voice came over the speaker.
"Data to Captain Picard."
Stirring to instant wakefulness, Jean-Luc turned over and balked as his first attempt to speak failed. Clearing his throat, he tried again.
"Picard here."
"Captain I must report that it would appear both Doctor Crusher and Commander Maguire have contracted the virus. In the last three hours their temperatures have risen alarmingly and significant congestion has developed in their lungs."
Jean-Luc sat up, swinging his legs out of bed.
"Can you treat it?"
"We are administering drugs appropriate to their symptoms however, to date, we have had no success."
"Data…how are they?"
There was a moment's silence as Data processed the query. He knew his Captain was not asking about their physical state and he wrestled to find the proper response.
"I would say Captain…they are…angry. Doctor Crusher in particular is very agitated. She wishes to work, even though she is severely debilitated. There is significant pain in her joints curtailing almost all movement yet still she strives to keep active. They want continual updates on their condition and the progress of the mission and I have been forced to comply with their wishes to maintain peace."
Jean-Luc smiled in the darkness of his bedroom, dressing by feel.
"That sounds like Beverly. Is Commander Maguire any more compliant?"
"Barely Sir. She seems to be more afflicted, her body has succumbed faster than Doctor Crusher's."
Striding into the living area, Jean-Luc called for lights. He seated himself at his desk and instructed Data,
"Send all you have on their condition to Sickbay. Have Doctor Selar run every test she can…we need to get on top of this if we can, remember we still have samples of the virus aboard. In particular I want Selar to ascertain what effect Deteron has on Human physiology. If we are forced to use it I want to know exactly what it will do."
"Aye Sir."
"And Data? Tell both of them they are in my thoughts. Picard out."

 

Estelle groaned low in her throat as another wave of pain surged through her fevered body. She barely felt the cool cloth wiping her forehead. Her body suddenly tensed, the pain increasing to unbearable levels as her limbs contorted. With abrupt speed, the spasm passed and she slumped onto the mattress panting heavily.
Gentle gloved hands raised her head and blessedly cool water slipped into her mouth. Her eyes fluttered open and stared through the faceplate of her benefactor. It took some time for her to recognise Alyssa Ogawa. Risking the inevitable burst of pain, she raised her hand and weakly gripped the arm closest to her. Through the speaker, the voice was calm.
"Steady Commander, just try to relax."
She blinked and was surprised as tears oozed down her face. Another voice was heard and she had to concentrate fiercely to place it.
"Raise the foot of her bed Alyssa, it will help her to breathe."
Her angel disappeared and Estelle felt a pang of grief. The gentle jostling of the bed made her recall the voice. Suddenly her mind provided the answer. Licking her dry lips, Estelle summoned her voice.
"Doctor Crusher?"
Although only just audible, Beverly heard her.
"Yes Estelle it's me."
With great effort, Estelle turned towards the voice and tried to focus her streaming eyes. She blinked several times, eventually giving up. Instead she tried her voice again.
"How are you?"
The dry chuckle was followed by a wince and a moan.
"I've seen better days. These damn spasms are the pits! Bloody hell they hurt."
The Commander managed a nod then grimaced as she was wracked by a bout of coughing. Left breathless and sweating, the cool cloth returned and Estelle fought the urge to cry. Instead she asked,
"How's the work progressing?"
The cot squeaked as Beverly moved, her reply was strained.
"The Deteron has been successful. They're replicating and administering it as fast as they can. So far there are no adverse side effects, although some patients require several doses."
Straining to maintain the train of thought, Estelle endured another excruciating spasm, her jaw clenching. When it passed she asked,
"And the vaccine? Any progress there?"
Wet coughing took Alyssa from her side and she only just made out the shapes of the two women as Alyssa helped Beverly through the bout. It passed and Beverly panted weakly.
"Data says…there is some …hope…He thinks antibodies…will be produced. We can harvest them…produce a…serum…"
The Commander gasped as she tried to move. Knife-like agony sliced through her body and she stilled immediately.
"Makes good sense. Thank God for Deteron eh?"
Beverly grunted and moaned as her body contorted painfully. Alyssa helped her through it and sponged her beaded brow. The Doctor gathered her failing strength.
"We have a problem."
"What's that?"
"If we continue to deteriorate, Data may have to use Deteron on us."
Estelle closed her eyes and concentrated on what Beverly had said. Her foggy mind wrestled with the words.
"But we don't know…"
"Exactly. It may be a silver bullet, or it may kill us."
The chuckle caused tearing pain but Estelle didn't care.
"The operation was a success but the patient died."
There was silence and more tears slipped from Estelle's eyes.
"How long until he tries?"
"Last resort I suppose. Nothing else has worked…I guess he'll wait until he's got no choice."
"Bugger."
Beverly sighed, the action evoking another protracted bout of coughing. When she recovered she asked,
"Did you get Jean-Luc's message?"
Estelle opened her eyes and frowned.
"He sent a message? I don't remember."
"Uh huh. He says you're in his thoughts."
Estelle smiled.
"How…civil."
The Commander could hear the smile in the other woman's voice.
"Oh yes. Trust Jean-Luc to maintain protocol. I think he was born that way…already programmed for diplomacy."
Estelle attempted a laugh. It was some minutes until the coughing eased. This time Alyssa admonished her.
"Stop that, it doesn't help! Just lie quietly and try to conserve your strength."
Turning to her boss, her voice hardened when she saw the smirk.
"That applies to you too Doctor!"
Chastened, both women settled, the unpleasant symptoms supplanting their banter.

 

 

 

 

 

"So what you're saying is…we have no other option? What does Selar say?"
Data's voice continued its usual calm intonation.
"Her studies are largely inconclusive. Without the ability to physically test the drug on a living Human, the computer can only give approximations as to its predicted effects."
Jean-Luc scowled and shook his head.
"That's not good enough Data! God…we can't administer a drug with unknown repercussions."
"I agree with you Captain but we are fast approaching an impasse. Both patients have deteriorated to the point where their lives hang in the balance. Commander Maguire in particular is dangerously close to death."
Jean-Luc closed his eyes, his heart rate accelerating.
"Why?"
"We have discovered she has a minor heart defect. Under normal circumstances it would be of no consequence, it is so trivial it was never repaired, but the virus has attacked the organ and it is failing."
"And Doctor Crusher?"
Her main areas of concern are her lungs and liver. Captain we have run out of options…we must act."
The Captain threw his crystal shard down on his desk.
"Dammit Data!"
In the silence of the Ready Room he swore quietly and vehemently.
"All right you have my permission to use the drug…BUT you have Sickbay send down every conceivable monitoring device…every available scrap of information…for God's sake we mustn't forget this drug was sourced in the delta quadrant. Who knows what it could do."
"There have been several studies Captain…perhaps you might like to read them?"
Jean-Luc couldn't suppress a small smile.
"Any involving Humans?"
"No Sir."
The Captain let the matter drop.
"Data I am going to instigate an uplink giving continual feed. I want this channel kept open for the foreseeable future."
"Aye Captain."
"Picard out."
He sat quietly in his sanctuary absently listening to the sounds of the open link. He heard Data order the equipment from Sickbay and was heartened when he realised Selar had an extensive file on the drug. He had done all he could do to protect the women…all he could do now was wait.

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly slowly became aware that there were voices close by. Her filmy eyes opened sluggishly and she battled to focus. With determined concentration, she tried to decipher the words.
"What?"
Cool hands brushed her face.
"It is I Doctor Crusher…Data. Please lie quietly."
She felt soft sticky pads being placed over her body and she roused again.
"What are you doing?"
"We are going to administer Deteron. These probes will closely monitor your responses to the drug."
"When?"
"We will treat Commander Maguire first."
Beverly tried to lift her arm and failed. Panting she shook her head imperceptibly.
"No Data. If you must test it…test it on me."
Data took her hand and rubbed his thumb over it.
"That is not possible Doctor. The Commander is near death…we must use the drug on her first."
"But…"
"Hush Doctor and try to rest. You will need what strength you have left."
He left her and settled next to Estelle. Nodding to Alyssa, he watched as a hypospray was gently pressed against her neck. The hiss was chilling in the quiet room, the soft rapid beating of her heart audible via the monitor. Intubated, her chest rose and fell as the respirator sustained her. The cardiac arrest came without warning. Alyssa applied stimulators and delivered a low voltage charge to the weakly spasming heart. With no success, she raised the voltage and tried again. This time the heart began beating again, the deficient organ struggling to maintain a pulse.
Data handed Alyssa a tricorder and asked,
"Is there anything you can do to ease the burden on the heart?"
Shaking her head, the nurse concentrated on her task.
"No Sir, not unless we bypass it altogether, although we may be forced to do just that."
The alarm on the tricorder sounded and both officers watched as the heart monitor showed increased distress. Estelle's body suddenly stiffened in an appalling rictus and blood oozed from her nose. She trembled uncontrollably her congested lungs inflating haphazardly, offsetting the rhythm of the respirator.
"Can you give her a relaxant?"
Alyssa shook her head.
"No Sir I don't know how it would react with the Deteron."
Data gripped Estelle's shoulders and held her down as the convulsion slowly eased.
Removing his hands, Data picked up an instrument and held it up, calculating the requirements. Placing the nozzle against the fevered skin of her neck, he withdrew a sample. The android checked to see the vial was filled with blood.
Alyssa watched as he stood and pulled a computer closer. Inserting the sample he waited with remarkable patience as the machine made its evaluation. It chimed musically when it was ready and Data quickly assimilated the information.
"The drug is having an effect. There is evidence of retreat in the cardio vascular system. Lieutenant scan the heart again."
Alyssa took a specialised instrument and placed it over the failing organ. She adjusted the input parameters and waited until a green light showed brightly. Pressing a button, the instrument disgorged its data.
"Yes! The virus is in retreat…however there's a lot of damage. We need to get a regeneration beam in place. The added strength gained from the recovered muscle fibres may be enough to tip the balance."
"Make it so."
Smiling to herself, the nurse pulled over the regen apparatus and sited it over Estelle's chest. Selecting an appropriate intensity, she activated it, the intense blue light reflecting eerily on her faceplate. Data returned to the computer and analysed the concentration of the virus in her blood, frowning at the result. He returned to his patient and was about to inject more Deteron when Alyssa voiced her concern.
"Sir! Shouldn't we wait a little longer to see how the first dose manages?"
"No Lieutenant we should not. There is not enough of the drug in her system to adequately do the job."
"But Commander…"
Data hesitated only long enough to reply.
"Monitor the patient Lieutenant."
He administered the drug and Estelle slipped into deeper unconsciousness. For two hours they sat by her side, constantly monitoring her responses.
It was the respirator alarm that stirred them. Alyssa immediately scrutinised the machine, turning to Data with a broad smile on her face.
"She just challenged the respirator. She's trying to breathe on her own."
Data scanned Estelle, nodding with satisfaction as the instrument identified the decreased congestion in the lungs. He also noted her coma had abated and that her temperature had eased."
"Keep monitoring her. I will treat Doctor Crusher."
Without waiting for a reply, Data left Estelle and seated himself beside the semiconscious Doctor. He scanned her and gently turned her head to better access her neck. In her dazed condition, Beverly was dimly aware of the movement but was unable to do anything about it. She heard the hiss of the hypospray as is from a great distance and a grim thought flitted through her mind.
"Well I'll either recover or die. So be it."
Data was ready when her heart stopped. The external stimulation was successful and the convulsions, when they occurred, were handled accordingly. What the android wasn't prepared for was the dreadful throat tearing coughing that overtook the Doctor. Rolling her onto her side, she coughed until she vomited. Unable to breathe, Data quickly cleared her airway and applied a mask, oxygen pouring into her tortured lungs. More wrenching coughing ensued, a sudden expulsion of blood from her mouth causing Data to scan her again.
"Lieutenant Doctor Crusher has torn some bronchi. She requires surgery. Can you assist?"
"Yes Sir…but can you do it?"
"I will download the appropriate information. Please make preparations."
While Data accessed medical database, Alyssa readied both patient and bed for the emergency operation. The Captain's voice filtering through was tinged with fear.
"Lieutenant Ogawa report."
"We have to operate on Doctor Crusher Captain. She has damaged her upper lungs and requires assistance."
"Can you manage?"
Alyssa cast her eyes over Data who was staring intently at a computer monitor as text and diagrams scrolled at a phenomenal rate.
"Yes I think so Captain. Mr.Data is downloading what he needs to know."
"How is Commander Maguire?"
"Slowly improving Sir. She may yet need another dose of the drug…and she's not out of the woods, but I'm hopeful."
"Very well. Report when the surgery in completed. Picard out."

 

By now in his quarters the Captain sat at his desk tensely listening to the open link. He'd not eaten and had only managed three hours sleep since the accident occurred. Absently scratching his jaw, he registered the stubble and grimaced in distaste. Rising slowly, he flexed his shoulders and wandered into the bathroom, his mind's eye picturing what was taking place on the planet below. As he shaved his thoughts centred on Beverly, sending her subliminal messages of love and support. He would not entertain the thought that she might die; to do so would be to admit defeat, something not in his nature. Besides such an occurrence would most certainly destroy him, body and soul. Without Beverly in his life he would have no direction, no reason to carry on and no joy. The only thing he would consider was that he decried the lack of opportunity to tell once more how much he loved her.
Placing the isorazor back in its holder, he made his way to the sofa and sat, a deep frown creasing his brow. He rested his head on the cushions and closed his eyes as the sounds of the surgery continued.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It took only forty-five minutes but Alyssa was mightily relieved when it was over. Running the tissue regenerator over the incision, Data's gloved hands held the instrument as if he'd been born to it. Another dose had been administered and the scans showed…finally…that the congestion was easing. The liver had begun to function again, albeit at a much-reduced capacity and her latest blood chemistry was encouraging.
A gentle beeping from across the room had Data nodding at his assistant.
"See to that Lieutenant."
Alyssa went to Estelle and checked the readings on the monitor. Smiling she turned to her companion.
"Commander I think we can remove the breathing tube. She's overridden the respirator."
Data looked up and nodded once.
"Very well Lieutenant. How is her heart?"
Taking the time to read the information on the regen apparatus, Alyssa replied,
"The muscle fibres are strengthening and the contractions are stronger. Blood pressure is climbing and temperature is decreasing."
As he placed a regen unit over Beverly's chest, Data was silent as he set the intensity of the beam. With the congestion decreasing, Beverly was breathing easier and her oxygen levels were rising. Alyssa watched him, her thoughts troubled.
"Sir? Do you think the worst is over?"
"I do not know Lieutenant. All we can do is be vigilant."
Raising his head slightly, he called his Captain.
"Captain Picard?"
"Here Data. How did it go?"
"We were successful Captain. Doctor Crusher is now breathing with increased efficiency and her liver is recovering. Commander Maguire has been taken off the respirator and her heart is responding favourably to treatment."
Jean-Luc sighed expansively and rubbed his large hands over his face.
"Well done Mr.Data. You and Lieutenant Ogawa have done a superlative job. A recommendation for a commendation will be submitted and my personal acknowledgement of your actions will be entered into your permanent records."
"Thank you Captain."
"Are they still unconscious?"
Looking over his two patients, Data's eyes automatically recorded their status.
"Yes Captain I would expect them to remain so for quite some time yet."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly rose sluggishly towards wakefulness. Her mouth was uncomfortably dry, her tongue stuck to her palate. As she became more aware, she concentrated on her body, assessing her condition. Deciding that she felt unbearably heavy, she attempted to move and was confused when nothing happened.
"All right…open your eyes."
It took some effort, but one eye at least cracked open. She blinked slowly trying to clear the dark curtain from her vision. An alarm sounded quietly and someone came to her side.
"Doctor Crusher…can you hear me?"
She tried to nod but her body wouldn't respond. Forcing her tongue over her chapped lips, she mustered her voice.
"Who?"
"It's Simon Adams Doctor. Mr.Data and Lieutenant Ogawa are running a spectral analysis of the refined vaccine. I've called them, they will be here soon."
Wishing fervently that she could rub her eyes, Beverly sighed.
"Can't move."
His voice through the speaker sounded synthetic.
"Your body has been through a lot Doctor, it will take some time for you to recover. Ah, Commander Data is back."
Beverly heard the Ensign stand and another take his place. A hand touched her face.
"Doctor Crusher I am happy to see you awake."
"Data?"
"Yes Doctor."
Feeling a wave of weakness wash over her, Beverly closed her eye.
"Data I can't move."
There was silence as he processed the disclosure.
"Do you mean you cannot move at all, or specific areas of your body?"
"So far I can't move my arms, legs or head…and Data I don't think I can see."
She heard him stand and move away. Moments later he returned and she heard the sound of a processing tricorder. When the warm, wet swab gently wiped her eyes, she gasped.
"It is all right Doctor. There is a lot of detritus in your eyes, perhaps that has occluded your vision."
His careful attention helped her to relax, the sensation lulling. He finished and she heard the bowl being placed on the floor.
"Doctor see if you can open your eyes now."
Beverly was relieved when her eyes opened effortlessly. Her elation quickly died when she realised she couldn't see.
"Data hold up your hand near my eyes."
She waited impatiently.
"Are you doing it?"
"Yes Doctor."
"Dammit Data I can't see it! Get a light."
When he returned she was startled when he gently placed a hand behind her head and lifted. She was about to speak when she felt the rim of a glass against her lips.
"Drink Doctor."
The water was deliciously cool and slid wonderfully down her dry throat. Her thirst awakened and she tried to gulp the liquid down but the android prevented her.
"No more Doctor. I will give you additional water later."
He laid her head back on the pillow and turned on the small medical light.
"I will shine the light in your eyes now Doctor."
With a technique he'd learned from the computer, he flashed the light up and down in each eye, noting the total lack of pupil reaction.
With quiet efficiency he doused the light and reported.
"Your eyes do not react to the light Doctor. Were you able to perceive any light?"
Growing frustrated at her inability to move, Beverly clenched her jaw.
"No nothing…not even shades of light or dark. There's just this darkness…what the hell's going on?"
Beverly felt the blanket being straightened.
"I can only surmise the Deteron has damaged your body, that or the virus has had unforeseeable effects on you. We knew it was a risk using the drug however we felt there was no other option. As soon as you are completely free of the virus, we should be able to transport you to the Enterprise for further treatment. Doctor Selar has contacted Starfleet Medical and has amassed much information about the drug. I am hopeful she will be able to help you."
"What about Estelle?"
"She is still unconscious, but I do expect her to waken soon."
Beverly sighed.
"Make sure you're with her Data. If this has happened to her too she might panic."
"Yes Doctor."
"So tell me…what happed to the virus…did we beat it?"
Beverly could hear the smile in his soft voice.
"Indeed we did Doctor. Over the past four days there has been mass treatments undertaken with excellent results. The mortality rate had dropped to almost zero and the hospitals are slowly emptying. This morning Lieutenant James and Commander McAuliffe successfully tested the vaccine and it is being replicated as we speak."
Beverly's eyes darted back and forth.
"Four days? You mean I was unconscious for four days?"
"Yes Doctor you both were."
Sighing Beverly closed her eyes.
"Damn what a mess. I was sent here to help, not become a bloody victim!"
"Nevertheless Doctor…"
Data was silenced by the quiet chiming of Estelle's medical alarm.
He squeezed Beverly's hand and left her, taking a seat beside the Commander.
Estelle's sharp intake of breath was followed by some half-hearted coughing. Data held her hand and spoke softly.
"Please be still Commander. Everything is all right, I will wash you eyes."
The Commander reacted to his voice and relaxed. She was aware of the warm swabs and attempted to pat Data's arm but she frowned when her arm refused to move. About to speak, she was halted by Data.
"I am going to lift you head to give you a drink. Please do not gulp the liquid."
She meant to nod her acquiescence, however Data was lifting her head and she was very thirsty so she abandoned the attempt.
After her drink Data took her hand.
"Commander you may experience some difficulties in moving your body. Has that occurred?"
Passing her tongue over her lips, she uttered.
"Yes…I can't move my arms or my head."
"And your lower limbs…can you move your legs?"
A quick try caused her heart to accelerate. Data observed this and gently gripped her shoulder.
"Stay calm Lieutenant. Open your eyes."
Suddenly Estelle's breathing was very rapid.
"Data!...I'm blind!"
The android took her hands and spoke calmly.
"Please Commander do not panic. We believe…"
"Don't panic? For God's sake I'm paralysed and blind! What the hell do you think I..?"
"Commander!"
His ringing tone stilled her tongue. Clamping her mouth shut, she willed the surging fear to subside. Data watched as she struggled for control and waited patiently until she won the battle. Taking a large breath, Estelle swallowed.
"So tell me…what is it, the Deteron?"
"Yes, that would be my assumption, although we cannot discount the virus. The native population has shown no after effects from the illness, however we do not know how it can affect Humans. It could be that it is a part of the recovery process. We will know more once we get you back to the Enterprise."
Alyssa Ogawa appeared at Data's side and handed him a PADD. The Commander quickly read it and stood.
"Lieutenant I will be in the steri cell. Consult the tricorder readings and treat them accordingly. Please see to it that both patients receive some sustenance and a thorough cleansing."
"Aye Sir."
Beverly's chuckle reached the officers.
"Are you angling for my job Data?"
He stepped over to her bed, bending down to her.
"Not at all Doctor. Nothing would give me greater satisfaction than to see you resume your duties as CMO."
Her voice was soft.
"Thank you dear friend."
He gently squeezed her hand and left.

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc had been waiting for Data's report. Seated at his desk in the Ready Room, his chin upon his chest, he'd been asleep only ten minutes when he startled awake as the android's voice infiltrated his mind.
"Data to Captain Picard."
"Picard here. How are they?"
"Both patients have awakened, however their condition is causing some concern."
Dread filled the Captain's gut.
"How so? What is wrong?"
"For reasons that are unclear, both Doctor Crusher and Commander Maguire are suffering paralysis and blindness."
There was silence as Jean-Luc squeezed his eyes shut and fisted his hands. Willing his voice to relay a calmness he didn't feel, he replied,
"Is it permanent? Can you treat it?"
"Unknown Captain. We cannot be certain what has caused the conditions. It may be the virus or the drug or a combination of both. We will know more once they are aboard the Enterprise."
"And when will that be?"
"If our calculations are correct it should be sometime tomorrow morning. The virus has been eliminated and we are now concentrating on repairing the damaged organs. The most recent blood tests show a promising recovery of the cardio-vascular system. In that regard I anticipate no complications."
"I see. How are the rest of the team?"
"Everyone is functioning well Captain. The staff is looking forward to disposing of the C-suits, although I must add they are very concerned about the patients, especially Doctor Crusher. Despite her recent behaviour they still care about her."
Jean-Luc frowned and leaned forward.
"Her recent behaviour? Explain."
"Doctor Crusher has been…somewhat…tense. Her demeanour has been rather curt, almost adversarial. She has had little patience and was not averse to upbraiding the staff for any perceived lack of dedication."
The Captain's frown deepened and his eyes glittered.
"That doesn't sound like Doctor Crusher. How long has this been going on?"
"She has been like that since we transported down."
"And now?"
"Although I sense she is worried and frightened by her predicament, she has been rational, calm and compliant."
"Data I'm coming down."
As he rose from his desk, Data's voice took on an uncharacteristic hardness.
"No Captain. With all due respect Sir I cannot allow it. Until we can declare this planet free of all traces of the disease it would be most unwise for you to imperil yourself in such a manner. I am sorry Captain."
Slamming both fists down on the desk, Jean-Luc snarled,
"Dammit Data! I would wear a containment suit, observe all the appropriate protocols…I am familiar with the procedures."
"I am aware of that Captain however the risk is still too great. Please Captain…they will be aboard tomorrow."
Sighing heavily Jean-Luc slumped into his chair.
"Are you telling me to be patient and not interfere?"
The silence spoke volumes. Instead of expecting a reply, Jean-Luc asked,
"Will you give them a message?"
"Of course Captain."
"Tell them I look forward to seeing them…and to keep their spirits up. I'm sure we'll find an answer to this."
"Yes Captain. Sir may I ask you something?"
Sitting up straighter the Captain cocked his head, a single eyebrow rising.
"What is it?"
"Captain have you been looking after yourself?"
His face darkened, his eyes narrowing.
"I beg your pardon?"
"It had been my experience that you tend to neglect your health when members of your staff are placed in danger. Specifically you refrain from eating and go without sufficient sleep. Has that been the case?"
Gritting his teeth and trying to quell the rising anger, Jean-Luc's deep voice was laced with venom.
"Exactly what business is it of yours?"
"Captain Doctor Crusher is also aware of your habits and will be concerned. I am attempting to circumvent her worry by being able to tell her that you are well. If you will give me an indication that you will eat a proper meal and get some quality sleep before they return, I will be able to report with honesty and not have to…gild the lily."
Jean-Luc had to smile; the situation was just too preposterous. His Second Officer had just told him to have a decent meal and go to bed. Shaking his head at the absurdity of it all, the Captain sighed.
"Very well Mr.Data I will do as you suggest. However Commander don't make a habit of it…understood?"
His voice was edged with steel and Data decided he'd used up all of his luck.
"Yes Captain I understand completely."
"Good. Picard out."

 

 

 

 

 

Tired from the effort of being fed and washed, Estelle lay in her bed staring sightlessly at the ceiling. With morbid sarcasm she pondered her situation.
"So! What can a paralysed, blind microbiologist do? What stirring inspirational speech will they deliver to cheer us up? Fuck! This is such a major cock up!"
Suddenly remembering her roommate and her almost reasonable attitude during the early stages of the disease, Estelle called out softly,
"Doctor Crusher?"
Beverly had been lying with her eyes closed attempting to move her limbs by will power. Small beads of sweat pearled on her forehead and a deep frown marred her face. The voice broke her precarious concentration.
"What!?"
Wincing at her tone, Estelle pressed on.
"How are you?"
"How the hell do you think I am? Jesus if you're going to ask me something at least make it a sensible question!"
Anger rising rapidly the Commander's voice bordered on insubordination.
"All right…if we're paralysed why can we use our mouths? We can talk, eat…why? And our faces, I don't know about you, but I have facial expressions. Why?"
Beverly frowned and screwed her eyes tightly shut. Through clenched teeth the red head replied,
"The required movement must be somehow connected with the autonomic system, the one that governs the function of our organs."
"OK but is that normal? I thought they were two different systems. One automatic, one voluntary?"
Opening her eyes the Doctor sighed in frustration.
"That is so but I think there has been a major disruption to the normal functions. Think of it as a default position."
"But why..?"
"Shit Commander! I don't know! Will you just shut up and give me some bloody peace and quiet?"
Estelle scowled and wished fervently she could make an obscene gesture. Stymied she muttered under her breath,
"Sanctimonious bitch!"

 

 

 

 

 

The night was a long one for the two women. Fortunately they had control of their bodily functions, but of course they required assistance. It caused embarrassment and humiliation, Beverly's acerbic tongue alienating the staff. By morning everyone was exhausted.
Data, who had been meeting with the planet's medical fraternity, returned to the centre, his thoughts directed at the imminent departure of the entire staff. Already crew from the Enterprise had arrived to begin dismantling the structures. He nodded with satisfaction as he saw the crew were without containment suits. Entering the centre, he went straight to the patient's room. He had only just entered the room when Beverly accosted him.
"Data is that you?"
"Yes Doctor."
"When can we get out of here?"
Her tone was irritated and he noted her sullen expression.
"Very soon Doctor. I just have to…"
"Data!"
Seeking to calm the Doctor, Data sat beside her and said softly,
"Captain Picard has sent you a message."
She swallowed and closed her eyes.
"He did? What is it?"
"He said he is looking forward to seeing you and to keep your spirits up. He wanted to come down but I wouldn't allow it. Do you think I have damaged my relationship with him?"
Beverly's smile was a small one but it cheered him nonetheless.
"No Data, he knows you did the right thing. Tell me…how is he? I suppose he's been going without food and sleep?"
Smiling to himself Data delivered his rehearsed speech.
"I can report that he has eaten and slept Doctor. I had a chat with him about it."
Beverly's smile grew.
"Really? And how did he react to this…chat?"
Data cocked his head a slight frown on his face.
"He was…reluctant…at first to accept my…suggestions, but, being a sensible and dedicated officer, he saw that I was making a valid request and he…acquiesced."
"Did he yell at you?"
"Only a little."
"You were fortunate indeed. He can be the most stubborn, obtuse, pig headed, insufferable twit when it comes to his health. He thinks he's indestructible…able to survive on air and concentration. God there have been times when…"
"Excuse me Doctor but I do not think it is appropriate that we continue this conversation."
Beverly chortled and grinned wickedly.
"I suppose not. OK Data, complete your duties and get us out of here."
"Very well Doctor."
The android moved to Estelle's side and ran a scan. As he worked he told her in a subdued voice the Captain's message. She smiled and sighed, winking at the Commander. He stared down at her, a look of confusion on his face.

 

Jean-Luc was in the Command chair on the Bridge when the call came through.
"Selar to Captain Picard."
"Picard here."
"Captain the patients have arrived in Sickbay. Their condition is stable."
"Very well I will be down shortly Picard out."
Turning to Will, Jean-Luc asked,
"Are we finished on the planet?"
"Aye Sir. The President has requested a meeting with you…I told him I would get back to him."
The Captain sighed. The last thing he wanted to do was listen to a bureaucrat trying to regain his credibility. The man had behaved reprehensibly and they both knew it. Now that the crisis was over, the politician would try to smooth over his behaviour and Jean-Luc, ever the accomplished diplomat, would have to grin and bear it.
"Very well Number one I'll check my schedule and let you know. It will most probably be around fourteen hundred."
"Yes Captain. Tell Beverly we miss her at the poker nights. Geordi has actually been winning in her absence."
His smile was warm and he left the Bridge with a feeling of anticipation.

 

 

 

 

 

Her voice was the first thing he heard as the Sickbay doors sighed open.
"And another thing Selar…since when do you insist I can't be privy to my notes? I'm still the CMO and I'll be damned if I'm to be treated like a piece of meat! Get my notes and be quick about it!"
Jean-Luc winced, his eyebrows rising. Diverting his feet, he veered away from Beverly's room and sought Estelle. He found her easily enough; there was a group of her staff around her. His appearance caused an immediate cessation of all conversation, the officers stiffening to attention. Each nodding their respect, they greeted their Captain with a subdued "Sir." And moved away. She knew instantly who stood beside her.
Estelle grinned.
"Let me guess…you scared them away."
He smiled and softened his voice.
"I can't help it if they're scared. I can assure you I did nothing to warrant such a reaction."
Estelle sighed and frowned.
"I suppose you're going to tell me you have no idea?"
"About what?"
"Oh come on Captain…you know full well how you affect your crew. Half of them are scared witless, the other half suffer from hero worship."
He shook his head and, after a studied inspection of his surroundings, took her hand.
"You Commander have no respect whatsoever. How dare you accuse me of such things?"
Her laugh warmed his heart.
"And you Captain are really a teddy bear…underneath a very stoic exterior."
"Oh God…not teddy bear…please! How about…intrepid explorer…"
His voice dropped even deeper.
"…Sophisticated lover."
Her expression turned sultry.
"Oh you're that all right…no doubt about it but I still hold to the notion of the teddy bear. You're very cuddly you know."
He sighed with mock irritation and shook his head.
"Enough! Tell me how do you feel?"
Estelle grimaced and snorted.
"Bored…angry…frightened…take your pick."
He squeezed her hand and moved closer.
"I'm sure it won't be for long Estelle. Doctor Selar has done nothing but study the drug and the virus. I've assigned Data to assist her…have faith in them."
The gentle use of her name gave her more comfort than she dared admit. She took a large breath and whispered,
"I don't suppose I could have a kiss?"
His eyebrows rose but he quickly looked around and, satisfied they were unobserved; he leaned down and kissed her tenderly. Her happy sigh pleased him.
"Thank you."
"My pleasure. Estelle I want to ask you something, but it means you have to comment on a superior officer."
The Commander pursed her lips
"You want to know about Doctor Crusher."
"Yes. I've received reports that her behaviour of late has been…somewhat atypical."
Estelle smiled grimly.
"You could say that. To use the vernacular…and please forgive me for doing so…but she's been an absolute bitch. Unreasonable, arrogant…downright angry…all the time. To be frank I think some of the staff are going to request a transfer if things don't improve."
Jean-Luc rubbed his fingertips across his lower lip.
"Do you know why? Why she is behaving like this?"
"No Captain I don't."
Expelling a forceful breath, Jean-Luc gently placed Estelle's hand back on the bed.
"I see. Well thank you Commander, I will look into it. Before I go is there anything I can do for you?"
"No Captain, thank you."
He leaned down and brushed his lips over her brow.
"Rest now Estelle. I'll see you later."
She smiled and listened as he walked away.

 

 

 

 

 

As he entered Beverly's private room he was nearly bowled over by a retreating Ensign. The hapless lad looked up, his face registering horror as he realised who he had collided with.
"Captain Picard! I'm…I…I'm sorry Sir!"
Pulling down on his tunic Jean-Luc's face was a mask of irritated forbearance.
"Ensign. Would you mind telling me what was so important that you had to use such irresponsible haste?"
"Sir! Doctor Crusher has ordered me to get the latest test results. She was very…insistent Sir."
His eyes glittering darkly, the Captain's scrutiny made the poor Ensign tremble.
"Well you had better do it however I advise you to slow down Ensign. You help no one if you injure yourself…or anybody else."
"Yes Sir!"
Jean-Luc stood in the doorway watching with hidden amusement as the lad walked briskly away. Shaking his head he entered the room.
"Selar is that you? It's about time! I…"
He stood next to the bed and brushed his fingers over her hand.
"No Beverly it's me."
She gasped then smiled.
"Jean-Luc! How long have you been here?"
Pulling a chair close to the bed, he sat and made himself comfortable.
"Not long…long enough though to hear you voice your…displeasure with your staff. Beverly is it really necessary to be so…formidable?"
The Doctor clenched her jaw and closed her unseeing eyes. Quietly she said,
"Captain you're not trying to tell me how to run my department are you?"
"Beverly…"
Her voice became hard.
"Captain you run your ship your way, kindly allow me to run Sickbay as I see fit."
He stood and glared down at his friend.
"I see that I have come at a bad time. Perhaps we can talk later."
"Yes I think that's a good idea."
He stalked to the door but paused half turning. Softly he said,
"I'll be back soon Beverly…I'm sure you'll be well again in the very near future."
She said nothing and blinked in frustration as tears slid down her face.

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc found Selar in the lab. He waited while she finished the current analysis, the Vulcan showing no sign of emotion as he asked for her report.
"We have made some progress Captain. The virus affected the muscle fibres in a very specific way. One of the symptoms of the disease was debilitating convulsions. We think the Deteron exacerbated the damage. It had prevented the fibres from returning to their original configuration, thus causing the paralysis. In effect the muscles have forgotten how to function."
"I see. And the eyes?"
Selar pressed some buttons bringing up a schematic on the screen. Directing his attention to the image, Selar illustrated her report.
"It is the same problem Sir. The small muscles of the eyes cannot function in their present state. There have also been some changes to the vitreous humour. I believe we can remedy the situation, but it may take some days."
Nodding, the Captain's face grew thoughtful.
"Doctor obviously this is taking quite a toll on the patients, especially Doctor Crusher. I would ask you to show patience with her. She doesn't like being confined in any circumstance."
"I understand Captain. I have been well trained in these matters, you need not concern yourself."
He nodded and took another look at the screen.
"Thank you Doctor."
He contacted the Bridge and decided to retreat to his Ready Room while he awaited the arrival of the President. It was going to be a long day.

 

 

 

 

For the most part Estelle coped with her confinement well. She enjoyed the visits from her staff and friends, her frustration only surfacing towards the end of the day when she was tired. He natural sense of humour was tested however by her therapy. Now connected to an intravenous drip, the solution chosen to dissipate and nullify the Deteron was forcing the muscle fibres back into their original configuration. It was painful and disturbed her sleep. The only thing that kept her spirits from flagging was the progress made with her sight. Over two days, a combination of intensive regen treatments and the introduction of an organic gel gained her the ability to discern shapes. She looked forward to seeing again.
Beverly was not so compliant. Still exhibiting the antisocial behaviour, she alienated the staff at a sickening rate. Late in the afternoon of the second day she was berating a hapless Ensign.
"Do you have to mumble? Speak up damn you!"
Nervously clearing her throat, Ensign Mavis Danders reddened and tried to quell her shaking.
"She can't see me! Just relax and get it over with."
The medical report was lengthy but she was already half way through it. She continued and was just beginning to think the worst was over when the icy voice of the Doctor lanced through the silence of the room.
"What was that? Repeat the last paragraph."
Dutifully, Mavis recited the words and paused, waiting to see if she should continue. With an irritated flick of her eyes, Beverly forced her on.
As she neared the end of the report Selar quietly entered. Signalling to the Ensign to continue, the Vulcan waited patiently.
At the completion Beverly snorted and barked,
"Tell Doctor Selar I want to see her."
Before the Ensign could speak, Selar stepped forward.
"I am here Doctor."
Beverly frowned and looked in the direction of the Ensign.
"How old is that report?"
"Approximately three hours."
"And this…' She indicated the drip in her arm with her eyes,
"Is the best you can do?"
The Vulcan raised one eyebrow and moved closer to the bed, silently dismissing the Ensign.
"It is working Doctor. I expect you to begin to regain control of your muscles by tomorrow morning."
"Do you now? And what about my sight?"
"That too is improving Doctor, although I cannot be so sure as to when it will return. I am confident however it will be in the foreseeable future."
Beverly snorted and closed her eyes.
"In the foreseeable future. Dammit Selar you must be able to do better than that! Increase the regen therapy…make the gel more potent…do something!"
"Doctor Crusher your treatment is progressing at a reasonable rate. I will not alter anything at this time."
Now incensed, Beverly began to shout.
"Damn you Selar! I order you…"
With stoic calm, Selar stared down at her patient.
"Doctor Crusher! I will remind you that you are a patient in this facility and I expect you to act accordingly. Your attitude to date has been detrimental, both to your recovery and to the staff. Please think about how you wish to interact with the staff and alter your behaviour appropriately."
Beverly snapped her mouth shut and seethed. Striving for calm, she said through gritted teeth,
"Very well, I will be a model patient. Thank you for your…insight."
Selar nodded once and left the room.
The red head stared up at the ceiling, anger colouring her thoughts.
"Damn them…damn them all!"
Such was her anger she was unaware of another person entering her room. The soft voice made her flinch.
"Beverly?"
Deanna Troi moved to the bed and ran her fingers down Beverly's arm.
"You're very upset…would you like to talk to me about whatever's troubling you?"
Taking a steadying breath, the Doctor blinked her eyes. With studied indifference she muttered,
"No Deanna, I'm fine thank you."
The Counsellor sighed and hitched her hip onto the bed.
"You most certainly are not fine! Come on Beverly…I know you've been deeply disturbed about something for a while now…I've been sensing you from decks away. Please…let me help you."
Beverly's voice was harsh.
"For God's sake! All I want is to be left alone! Why can't people understand that…it's quite simple?!"
Deanna took her hand and squeezed it.
"Beverly…please…"
The Doctor's words silenced her.
"I would appreciate it if you'd leave…now!"
With no other option, Deanna stood and looked pityingly at her friend.
"All right I'll go, but this is unfinished. I'll come back later…when you're feeling better."
Her footfalls fell away and Beverly silently seethed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning Estelle was dozing after being fed and washed. The gentle kiss to her brow stirred her and she smiled smelling the telltale aroma of Jean-Luc's aftershave.
"Hello."
The Captain smiled down at his sleepy lover and brushed a strand of hair from her face.
"Hello yourself. What are you doing sleeping at this hour?"
Estelle smiled and mewed as she prepared to surprise him.
"Watch."
With her face screwed up in concentration she slowly stretched her body. It caused discomfort but she didn't care, the sensation of being able to move filling her with joy.
She saw his shape move closer and felt him take her hand.
"That's wonderful Estelle! When did you discover you could do that?"
"When I woke up this morning. I didn't think I just stretched. No one was more surprised than me to find my body obeyed me."
His deep chuckle thrilled her.
"Does everyone know?"
"Oh yes. I had quite a crowd around me this morning. In fact I was able to help the nurse bathe me."
He bent closer and muttered,
"I would like to do that."
She reddened and sighed.
"And I would like you to, believe me. I can't wait to get out of here."
She felt the mattress dip as he sat.
"Well hopefully it will be soon. Selar is satisfied with your progress, I spoke with her before I came to you."
"I know. Hey…how's Doctor Crusher? Has she reconsidered her attitude?"
"Yes, apparently Selar had a talk with her and she's calmed down somewhat."
"Good. So what have you been up to?"
He sighed and rubbed his thumb over her hand.
"Oh you know…the usual stuff. We left Harakk II yesterday and are en route to the Rourke pulsar. Starfleet wants an in depth study done and frankly I'm glad. We could do with a bit of quiet scientific research."
Estelle smiled and gently gripped his hand.
"Hmm. Not much call for a microbiologist then?"
He chuckled and shook his head.
"No. I would think you'll be having some extended time off when you're released."
"I suppose so, although I don't usually take kindly to enforced time off…that is unless someone helps me to cope with the boredom?"
"Oh I think I can think of someone to…help you."
She laughed and pointed her toes.
"You almost make me look forward to it!"
"I should think so. Not everyone has the undivided attention of the Captain you know."
Estelle's mind suddenly recalled his unbidden cry of Beverly's name and her mood soured.
"Well Jean-Luc I'd better get my rest. See you later?"
He frowned at her abrupt change but shrugged inwardly, putting it down to tiredness.
"Yes, I'll come by this afternoon."
He bent down and kissed her and she returned the kiss, but only perfunctorily.
Casting her a final concerned glance, he left to see Beverly.

 

 

"Good morning Beverly how are you?"
Sitting up for the first time, Beverly smiled at her visitor.
"Hello Jean-Luc…look at what I can do."
He drew up a chair and seated himself.
"Well aren't you clever. I take it you're regaining muscle control."
"Un huh. I can see a bit too, some colours even."
He reached forward and took her hand.
"That's splendid Beverly. I've just seen Estelle and she's progressing well too."
Her breath caught in her throat.
"He went to her first."
"That's good Jean-Luc. I've been getting reports about her, I'm glad this will all be over soon for both of us."
He sighed and shook his head.
"Yes it's been terrible hasn't it? Who would've thought you of all people would be stricken by the damn disease?"
Anger spiralled up her insides.
"Jesus Jean-Luc it's not as if I did it deliberately!"
He was taken aback by her vehemence.
"Of course not, I…"
"If you think for one minute that I…"
"No! Beverly for God's sake! No one would accuse you of such an outrageous thing."
She snorted and slowly turned her head to one side. Seeing that she'd become uncommunicative, the Captain took his leave, his thoughts confused.

 

 

 

 

 

Alyssa paused outside Beverly's room, a PADD in her hand. For most of the day the Doctor had been quiet, ignoring the staff that tended to her. The silence she projected was tense, but it was better than the verbal attacks she'd employed earlier. The nurse looked down at her hand and hefted the PADD, weighing the possibility that her boss might be coming out of whatever had beset her. She'd known and worked with Beverly for many years and considered her a friend. Her recent behaviour had left a lot of people nonplussed. Clenching her jaw, she entered.
"Doctor Crusher it's Alyssa. I have your ocular series. Would you like me to read it to you?"
Beverly was in the process of lifting a tumbler of water to her lips. Her hand trembled as the muscles protested but she doggedly persisted, spilling water over the covers.
"Oh here Doctor…let me help you."
Alyssa moved quickly to Beverly's side and wrapped her hand over the Doctor's. Her concentration broken, her arm spasmed and the tumbler tilted sharply, the water sloshing over the brim.
"For Christ's sake leave me alone will you! I don't need your help or anyone else's!"
The embarrassed nurse tried to mop up the mess.
"I'm sorry Doctor…I…"
"Get out!"
Alyssa wasted no time in placing the PADD on the bedside table before racing from the room. Once outside she breathed a sigh of relief and moved to the other side of Sickbay. Tapping her combadge she said quietly,
"Lieutenant Ogawa to Commander Riker."
"Riker here."
"Commander I need to talk to you. Could I come by your quarters after this shift is over?"
"Of course Alyssa. Are you sure you don't want to come up to the Bridge?"
"No Commander, it can wait."
"OK. Riker out."

 

 

 

 

 

Later that night Deanna Troi sat at her desk in her quarters deep in thought about Beverly Crusher. The glow of her computer terminal reflected off her face, but she ignored the machine, her eyes looking inward as she struggled with the problem. Some minutes passed before she raised her voice.
"Computer, location of Captain Picard?"
"Captain Picard is in his quarters."
"Is he alone?"
"Affirmative."
Coming to a decision the Counsellor stood and left her room.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was going over the latest requisitions. The door annunciator was welcomed, saving him from a very tedious task.
"Come."
Deanna smiled as she saw her Captain at his desk, the PADDS strewn in an uncharacteristically messy state.
"I hope I'm not disturbing you Captain?"
He smiled and rose.
"Not at all, as a matter of fact you've saved me from a fate worse than death."
She chuckled and nodded to his silent offer of a drink.
"Really Captain…what could possibly be that bad?"
He sighed as he stood at the replicator, not answering until they were both seated with their drinks.
"Requisitions. It's my own fault…I've been putting them off, I really should've done them this morning."
She smiled warmly and cocked her head, making her dark curly hair form a curtain.
"But you were otherwise engaged."
"Uh huh. I went to Sickbay…visiting."
They sat in silence for a while sipping their hot drinks.
"It's about Beverly that I've come to see you Captain."
He frowned and lowered his head.
"She's become…difficult again?"
"Yes Sir. Captain you know Beverly better than anybody on this ship. Can you tell me why she's so upset?"
He shook his head and frowned.
"No, I've no idea."
"Well I've done some checking and it seems that it started a day before she went down to Harakk. Can you think of anything…anything at all that might explain this?"
He was about to repeat his denial when he abruptly reddened. Deanna sensed his rising embarrassment and said gently,
"Captain this is very important. If her behaviour continues we will lose staff, let alone her friends will abandon her."
He swallowed and closed his eyes, willing his discomfort to abate.
"At about the time you mention…Beverly dropped by my quarters late one night to check up on me. I was, at the time…entertaining a female acquaintance."
Deanna frowned not quite understanding.
"I see. How is that significant?"
Taking a calming breath, the Captain pressed on.
"Actually we were interrupted. At the time we were…that is I…we…"
Suddenly Deanna's penny dropped. Flushing, she gasped softly.
"Oh! Oh I see. How did Beverly react?"
Sighing, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"She was very embarrassed…we both were. Once she realised…she left immediately. But Deanna we've talked about this! She said she was happy for me. Why would it upset her now?"
Deanna sat in silence pondering his words. The realisation dawned on her and she frowned.
"Captain are you aware of Beverly's feelings towards you?"
"Well…we're friends…best friends…I don't know what else to say."
"I think Captain, that her feelings may run much deeper that you realise."
Jean-Luc's bewildered look roused Deanna's curiosity.
"Captain?"
"But…but I offered her more and she turned me down. If she feels like that why..?"
Deanna sighed and gently gripped his arm.
"Probably fear Captain. She is a very complex person…you both are. Maybe she just wasn't ready."
He shook his head and stood abruptly, pacing about the room.
"But if she has reacted with such vehemence…what are we looking at…jealousy?"
The Counsellor considered this and agreed.
"I think it's a distinct possibility. Captain if she were unaware of how deeply she feels about you she may also be unaware of why she's been behaving as she has."
He stopped his pacing, a look of incredulity on his face.
"Counsellor…surely she must realise her attitude is unacceptable? She must, at some level, recognise that something is very wrong."
"Oh I think she does Captain but she's too deeply immersed in the emotion to see clearly. That coupled with the illness…well let's just say she's snowed under."
Jean-Luc sat again and picked up his cooled tea. Sipping it he grimaced with distaste and put it down.
"All right I can accept that. The thing is what can we do about it?"
"You Captain can do nothing. Right now I don't think she's very kindly disposed towards you or your…friend. It would probably be best if you left this to me."
Jean-Luc frowned deeply and shook his head.
"Deanna she's my dearest friend. Surely I can…"
"No Captain. Please…leave this to me."
They sat staring into each other's eyes. Ultimately Jean-Luc saw the sense of her words.
"Very well Deanna I will trust in your judgement. When will you approach her?"
The Counsellor sighed and clasped her hands in her lap.
"I think it best I wait until she's been discharged from Sickbay. Perhaps a day or two on her own may be beneficial."
Jean-Luc's face grew thoughtful.
"Perhaps."

 

Will was playing his trombone to the accompaniment of the computer. On hearing the door chime he lay the instrument down, paused the computer and answered the chime.
"Yes?"
Alyssa, hands clasped behind her back leaned in and smiled.
"Good evening Commander. May I come in?"
"Of course Alyssa…please."
Picking up a shirt from the back of a chair he gestured his guest to have a seat.
"I won't keep you Commander. I just need to talk to you about a problem in Sickbay."
"Have you spoken to Doctor Selar about it?"
"No Sir…it's a little more…personal."
Will frowned and sat forward.
"OK what is it?"
"Are you aware of Doctor Crusher's behaviour of late?"
The big man stroked his beard and studied the smaller woman.
"Well I visited her…she seemed a little…cold."
Alyssa sighed.
"Commander she's been an absolute harridan! No one has been spared her tongue lashings or her spite."
"Spite? Beverly?"
"Uh huh and there's more. If something's not done soon she's going to lose key staff. There's a groundswell of discontent and it's growing fast."
Will nodded thoughtfully and stood.
"Right I'll look into it. Thank you for coming Alyssa, I know you can keep this between us?"
"Yes Sir."
The nurse left and Will waited only minutes before leaving his quarters.
He strode directly to Deanna's cabin, meeting her outside her door.
"Just the person I wanted to see. Can I come in?"
Smiling, Deanna nodded and soon they were seated on the sofa.
"Dee something's very wrong with Beverly."
"I know."
He lifted his head, and snorted.
"Of course you know. But do you know how bad it's gotten?"
"Uh huh. I've just come from the Captain."
"He knows too?"
"Yes Will."
Will stood and towered over the petite Counsellor.
"Well what is it? What's bugging her so badly that she's ostracised half her staff?"
Deanna frowned and patted the seat beside her, remaining silent until he was once again seated.
"I can't go into details, but I can tell you she's overcome with jealousy."
"Jealousy? That's it?"
"Well it's a bit more complicated than that, but yes, essentially that's it."
"Can you help?"
"I hope so…if she'll let me."
Will took her hands and smiled winningly at her, his blue eyes twinkling.
"Well if anybody can do it…you can!"
The Counsellor grinned and touched her forehead to his.
"Time will tell."

 

 

 

 

Three days later the women were discharged. Sight fully restored and their muscles once again functioning normally, the prescription was for seven days off duty with regular check ups.
Estelle had just showered when she heard the door chime. Wrapping a robe around her lissom form she called,
"Come in."
Jean-Luc entered, his hands behind his back, a gentle grin upon his face. He stepped up to his lover and kissed her softly.
"So…you're home."
"Uh huh. Jean-Luc..?"
"Mmm?"
"What have you got behind your back?"
"What? Oh…you mean this?"
With a flourish he produced a sheaf of long stemmed yellow roses.
"Oh Jean-Luc…they're beautiful! Thank you."
Holding the roses in one hand, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her tenderly. She surprised him by deepening the kiss and moulding her body against him.
He tapered the kiss and pulled back, looking deeply into her eyes.
"Now now…you've only just been discharged."
"So what? I've been deemed fit and well and I want you…right now."
As she spoke she undid her robe and pulled it open displaying her naked body. Jean-Luc's eyes darkened and he breathed deeply, infusing his senses with her scent. He softly trailed one finger around her nipple, his voice dropping to a husky whisper as he tossed the roses onto the table.
"Are you sure?"
In reply she took his hand and led him to her bedroom. Lowering the lights she quickly divested him of his clothing and together they lay on the bed. She began to attack his body with her mouth and hands, groaning with frustration when he grabbed her hands and stilled her.
"No Estelle…I want to be gentle."
Knowing he wouldn't be swayed she settled back on the bed and sighed deeply.
"All right Jean-Luc…pleasure me."
He leaned in and kissed her languidly while his hands roamed over her body. His fingers kneaded her breasts, gently tweaking the nipples and drawing them out. Once they were hard, he left her mouth and slowly kissed his way to the puckered nubs, taking first one, then the other into his mouth. Estelle squirmed, arching her back and groaning his name. She rolled half way and slipped her leg over his hip. He responded by gliding his hand down and sliding his fingers inside her. He matched the rhythm of his sucking mouth, his fingers stroking in and out of her.
Estelle's body reacted immediately. Her hands went around him, gripping his chest and buttocks and she pumped against him. He waited until he felt her begin to clench internally then suddenly bit her nipple as his thumb broadly stroked her clitoris.
With a cry she arched against him and shuddered, her orgasm consuming her. While the contractions continued, he gently rolled her onto her back, covered her with his body and gently penetrated her. She gasped and flexed beneath him, her nails digging into his shoulders. Clenching his buttocks he pushed deeply into her then slowly withdrew, repeating the motion again and again. Pulling almost all the way out, he slowly slid back, his face a mask of fierce concentration. Beneath him Estelle flexed and arched, mindless with sensation. Her whole body had become erogenous, every nerve ending sending electric pulses to he swollen clitoris. Pulsating with wave after wave of stimulation she felt the onrush of another climax and cried out her need for him to hurry.
"Oh God! Please…God please…Jean-Luc…please…"
He closed his eyes and reached down to slide his hands under her buttocks lifting her to his thrusts. Suddenly pistoning his hips he pushed in and out of her rapidly, losing himself to his ecstasy as she reached hers. His body stiffened and he buried his face in her shoulder, his exhalation carrying a whispered word.
"Beverly…"

 

 

 

 

 

The tears were a surprise. Estelle had long ago determined never to give any man so much of herself that he could elicit such emotion. She held him as he regained his breath and, when he rolled off her, she lay staring at the ceiling while his hand sought hers. An unbidden sniff caught his attention. Rising up on his elbow he traced her tears with his fingers.
"Estelle? What is it…did I hurt you?"
Brushing his hand away with an irritated gesture, she turned over, her back to him. His hand on her shoulder made her shrug, attempting to dislodge it. Not to be put off, Jean-Luc gripped her shoulder and pulled her over.
"What is it?"
With her tawny eyes flashing, she snapped,
"Jean-Luc when we're having sex…who's in the bed with you? Just who are you having sex with?"
He scowled and glared at her.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean? What sort of a question is that?"
Estelle sat up and rested her head on her bent knees.
"Look I know our relationship is only physical, but I thought we cared enough to at least be honest with each other."
"What are you talking about Estelle? I don't understand."
"Don't you Jean-Luc?"
He also sat up and gripped her arm, his eyes glittering dangerously.
"No damn it I don't."
Estelle sighed and turned to look at him.
"The last two times we've had sex…you called out another woman's name when you came."
His body stiffened, his face registering shock and disbelief.
"What!? No! That's not possible…I could never…I would never do that to my partner…I…"
Sadness crept over her face, the tears returning. Slowly nodding she sighed.
"Well you did. Do you want to know who's name you said?"
He brusquely left the bed and began to dress. Rising to her knees Estelle's voice was soft.
"You can't run from this Jean-Luc. You know damn well who it is."
He stopped and straightened, his pants unfastened. He knew he owed her nothing less than the truth. Nodding he sat slowly on the bed.
"Tell me."
His whisper was only just audible.
"Beverly."
Estelle sighed and ran her hands over his tense shoulders. Resting her head on his back, she sighed again and they sat in sad silence. Suddenly Estelle's breath caught.
"My God…all those times when you looked at me oddly…you were seeing her…in me, weren't you!?"
He half turned and reached for her hand.
"Estelle I…"
"Admit it damn you!"
He nodded and lowered his head.
"You can't go on like this Jean-Luc…it's consuming you."
His voice still a whisper, tears threatened.
"There's nothing I can do. She doesn't want that sort of a relationship with me."
"How do you know?"
"I offered it and she turned me down."
Returning her head on his shoulder, she wound her arms around his chest.
"How long ago?"
"Months…six months at least."
"She's a fool."
He sighed and took her hands in his, raising them to his mouth and kissing them.
"That may be so, but there's nothing I can do about it. I won't risk our friendship by pursuing something she doesn't want."
They were silent for a while before Estelle said,
"It was her that night in your quarters wasn't it…the night we were interrupted?"
He nodded, letting the silence speak for him. Her groan raising his eyebrows.
"What?"
"Shit Jean-Luc…all this…bullshit she's been coming out with…it's all about us!"
The protracted silence roused her curiosity.
"Jean-Luc?"
" I know. Counsellor Troi came to see me…she came to the same conclusion."
"Oh bugger!"
"Precisely."
Estelle withdrew her hands and turned him to face her.
"But if she's displaying so much…"
Jean-Luc took her hands and looked earnestly into her eyes.
"Estelle I don't really want to talk about it. I'm profoundly sorry for my…lapses and I apologise wholeheartedly for the hurt I must have caused. Perhaps for now we should…"
A lopsided smile appeared on Estelle's face.
"Hey…I care about you Jean-Luc…probably too much, but I don't want to be the third wheel in any relationship. Sort this out Jean-Luc and soon…before it devours you."
He nodded and, with tears in his eyes, kissed her softly.

 

 

 

 

 

Twenty-four hours had passed and Deanna was standing outside Beverly's quarters trying to calm her racing heart. This was a very delicate undertaking, one fraught with danger. If Beverly decided to reject her, she would only have two options. Withdraw or take her on. Shaking her head, she pressed the chime.
"Hello Deanna."
The small Counsellor looked up at her friend, trying to see past the carefully constructed façade of indifference.
"Hello Beverly. How are you?"
Putting one hand on the doorjamb and effectively barring her, the Doctor scowled.
"Bored witless."
"Oh come on…I bet there a heap of reports just calling out to be completed. How about I…"
Beverly shrugged and looked at her feet.
"I'm not really in the mood for visitors Deanna…so if you'll just…"
"No I don't think so. You need someone to talk to."
Her eyes sharp Beverly glared at the Counsellor.
"I'll be the judge of what I need! Now if there's nothing else?"
With swiftness that caught the Doctor unawares, Deanna ducked under her arm and entered her quarters. Beverly swung around, her voice rising in anger.
"Dammit Troi!"
Deanna turned to face the livid woman and adopted a calm outward appearance. Inwardly she scrambled her mental defences against the barrage of negative emotions emanating from her friend.
"I'm not leaving until you talk to me."
"Well you'd better make yourself comfortable because I've got nothing to say!"
"Haven't you? I've been to see the Captain…he had some interesting things to say."
Her hands fisted on her hips, eyes blazing, Beverly tossed her head.
"Did he now? Well I don't give a flying fuck what he has to say! I want you to get out!"
"Think about it Beverly. You know your behaviour has alienated your staff and caused trouble in Sickbay…it's even been reported to Will. When do you think it started?"
The red head turned and paced around her cabin, her hands cutting the air in curt gestures.
"Look…I've been under a lot of stress lately! It was a bastard of a mission…it's no wonder I've been a little tense. Besides you might have helped if you'd only come and seen me! I was paralysed and blind for God's sake! Where you…friend?"
In a quiet voice Deanna said,
"I came."
"Oh yes…once!"
Deanna seated herself and crossed her feet at the ankles. Taking the time to centre herself, she said quietly,
"I came Beverly…twice…but your anger was so potent I couldn't bear to be close to you. And I was up to my ears counselling the away team after their experiences on the planet. After what they'd witnessed…well you can imagine their distress."
Beverly flicked her hand and stalked to the viewport, dismissing the explanation.
Deanna watched her and muttered,
"You know what's at the bottom of all this."
Beverly spun around and yelled,
"Get out!"
The Counsellor allowed some moments to pass before standing and making her way to the replicator. She felt Beverly's eyes on her as she ordered two camomile teas and ignored the incensed woman as she returned to her seat.
"Captain Picard told me about your…interruption…to his activities. How did you feel about that?"
The cruel smile was out of place on her friend's face.
"Oh grow up Deanna! So he was fucking some slut…good on him! We all should be so lucky!"
"Some slut? Beverly listen to yourself! Since when do you refer to anyone as a slut?"
Her silence grieved the Counsellor. Clasping her hands in her lap Deanna risked an observation.
"You realise of course, that your atypical behaviour started the next day? That it has been directed in its most hurtful form at Estelle Maguire…the Captain's lover?"
Her actions stiff with indignation Beverly swept a cup into her hand and threw it forcefully across the room. It shattered against the wall, splattering tea and china everywhere.
Deanna waited a few breaths before saying quietly,
"Feel Better?"
Beverly fisted her hands and slammed them down on the low table.
"Will you shut up!"
The Counsellor sighed and stood slowly.
"No Beverly I won't. You need to hear this from someone and it might as well be me. Beverly you're jealous. For whatever reason, whether it be because you feel more deeply for the Captain that you realise or simply because he's found something you haven't…you need to come to terms with it…and you have to talk to him."
While Beverly glared at her, Deanna turned and walked slowly to the door. Just shy of the sensor she turned.
"And hear me Beverly. Until you do something about this…until you return to your normal self…you will remain off duty."
Beverly's voice rose to a screech.
"What! You can't do this to me!"
With calmness she didn't feel, Deanna said softly,
"Yes I can…and I will. Use your time off wisely Beverly…you have a lot of thinking to do."
The doors opened and Deanna stepped through. As they closed behind her she heard the other cup smash against them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Captain was studying the latest reports from Astrophysics when the Ready Room chime sounded.
"Come."
Deanna walked in and he immediately noticed how drawn she looked.
"Counsellor?"
She took a seat in front of his desk and nodded to his silent offer of a beverage. Silence reigned as he took the drinks from the replicator and set them on the desk. Deanna smiled when she smelled the hot chocolate, the gesture giving the Captain some encouragement.
"Well Deanna, what can I do for you?"
She picked up her drink and blew on its surface before sipping tentatively.
"I've just been to see Beverly."
Jean-Luc frowned and put his cup down.
"Oh. How did it go? Was she…amenable?"
"Not really, but I didn't expect her to be."
The Captain regarded his Counsellor, trying to see beyond what her words were saying.
"Did you give her your opinion as to why she's been behaving the way she has?"
"Yes."
"And?"
Deanna sighed and grinned ruefully.
"Some crockery got broken."
Jean-Luc's eyebrows shot up.
"That bad? She threw things?"
"Uh huh."
"That's not a good sign Counsellor. I've known Beverly a very long time and I can count only a few instances where she's been angry enough to throw things."
Deanna nodded and frowned.
"I know Captain, but there's more. I also told her that until she gets over this she would be off duty."
Jean-Luc shook his head, his face concerned.
"Oh I don't think that's a good idea Deanna. She won't take that at all well."
Deanna sighed shaking her head.
"Nevertheless Captain my order stands. She has to come to terms with this, no matter how long it takes."
Jean-Luc picked up his tea and sipped thoughtfully.
"Should I visit her?"
The Counsellor shook her head emphatically.
"No Captain. I did tell her that she should talk to you, but she will have to decide when. Until she reaches that point I think it best that you leave her alone."
Deanna could plainly see the pain this caused and strove to comfort him.
"Captain despite her recent behaviour…and her rather confused feelings towards you at the moment, I believe your friendship will survive this…it may even evolve into something more, time will tell. All we can do now is wait and trust that she will see through the confusion and come to terms with her feelings."
Jean-Luc's voice was deep and gentle.
"Counsellor she is intelligent, compassionate and brilliant. I have every confidence in her."
Hearing the dismissal, Deanna rose and returned her cup to the recycler.
"Well Captain, as I said…time will tell."
He nodded and she left. Jean-Luc sat deep in thought for over an hour before he dragged his mind back to his work.

 

 

 

 

For some hour and a half after Deanna left Beverly raged around her quarters, She upended the sofa, overturned the low table and swept the books from the shelf. More items were thrown about and when the storm finally passed she sat heavily on the floor and burst into tears. Hot liquid scalded her cheeks as it flowed unheeded down her face. Her hands tangled in her hair as she sobbed, her heart feeling as if it was about to break. Eventually that too stopped and she lay on her side on the floor hiccupping and staring unseeing through the door of her bedroom. She sighed softly and rolled onto her back.
"Fuck them…I don't need them…any of them. They can all go to hell!"
She dragged herself to her feet and stumbled into the bedroom, falling headlong onto the bed. She grabbed a pillow and hugged it to her breast, sniffing back more tears.
"Jealous? I'm not bloody jealous! What the hell do I have to be jealous about? So he has a lover…so what? It means absolutely nothing to me. Anyway I don't care…he can go fuck himself stupid…good luck to him! In any case even if I cared I wouldn't be jealous…I'd be…furious!"
She rolled over and stared at the ceiling. Snorting, she squeezed the pillow.
"No that's not right! Why would I be furious? Bloody hell I don't care! Still…Estelle Maguire? He could've done better than that…much better. She's definitely not his type…he'll regret his decision to get into a relationship with her. She'll dump him and I'll have to pick up the pieces…as usual! Fuck! Men…they're all the same. Led by their dicks!"
She turned over again and huffed.
"And as for bloody Deanna…how dare she? Relieve me of duty? We'll see about that! Since when did she become so wrapped up in her own self-importance? And going to Jean-Luc! Who the hell does she think she is? I bet they had quite a cosy chat…probably had a good laugh at my expense! Well fuck them! I won't play their games! We'll see who's bloody jealous."
She lay in the silence of her room and stewed for hours, ultimately falling asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning, after tidying up the devastation from the previous day, Beverly sat under the viewport, her feet on the ledge, sipping a hot cup of coffee. Since waking up she'd felt calmer, as if the storm had washed away the anger and pain. It was a much more contemplative person who pondered her psyche.
She cast her eyes about her quarters and grimaced.
"Bloody hell! I haven't carried on like that in quite a while. Still…it seems to have done some good. So! Jealous am I? OK, let's look at that shall we? To be jealous of Jean-Luc's relationship with another woman…I would have to have some pretty deep feelings for him. Do I? I love him…have done for years, but do I want him? Is the thought of another woman getting what I perhaps want driving me to behave like a monster?"
She though about that for a while and scowled at her answer.
"Well something set me off! But jealousy? I was happy for him wasn't I? Wasn't I secretly relieved that I was off the hook…that he wouldn't wait for me anymore? Could that be it? Do I subconsciously want him to wait…to want…to yearn for me while I treat him like a faithful dog? Always there…loyal, steadfast…celibate?"
She frowned and lifted her feet off the ledge and put her empty cup down. Standing, she looked out at the stars, the pulsar strobing out in the void. She hugged herself and felt tears threaten.
"Oh God Jean-Luc I've treated you like my own slave. Expecting you to always be there for me, to wait patiently while I played my little games. Deanna was right…I am bloody jealous! I'm jealous of your faithfulness, your selflessness and your fidelity…and the minute you try to find something with someone else I condemn you! God what an absolute bitch I've been!"
She reached out with tentative fingers and touched the cold glass. Tears rolled down her cheeks and she sighed.
"I love you Jean-Luc…I love you and I want you! I'm not afraid anymore."

 

 

 

 

 

Around lunchtime the next day Estelle left her quarters and strode purposefully to Beverly's. Already primed, she didn't hesitate at the door, but pushed the annunciator firmly. The Doctor was very surprised at the identity of her caller.
"Estelle! I…I didn't expect you."
"I wouldn't think so. May I come in? We need to talk."
Seeing the determination on the smaller woman's face, Beverly stepped back and allowed her to enter.
"Would you like something to eat? I was just about to have lunch."
With a wry smile, Estelle looked sideways at the Doctor, trying to gauge her demeanour.
"All right. Two ham and cheese sandwiches and a cup of Earl Grey…hot."
Beverly's eyebrows rose.
"Earl Grey? Don't tell me he's got you hooked?"
Feeling nothing but calmness coming from the Doctor, Estelle gave her a grin.
"Probably. It does sort of grow on you."
Chuckling, Beverly gestured to the sofa and put the tray down. The women ate quietly for a while before Beverly cleared her throat.
"Estelle…I owe you an apology. A rather big one."
Facing the red head, Estelle kept her face carefully blank.
"Yes I think you do."
Beverly wiped her mouth with the serviette and sighed.
"It has been recently pointed out to me that my…unpleasant behaviour was the result of jealousy…jealousy over your relationship with Jean-Luc. I didn't realise it of course, but upon reflection…and a lot of soul searching…I have reached the inescapable conclusion that the diagnosis was correct. In my anger I treated a lot of people very badly…friends and colleagues…and especially you. I treated you appallingly and I'm very sorry."
Estelle frowned and shook her head.
"Two apologies in two days. Must be some sort of record."
"Pardon?"
Estelle smiled.
"Jean-Luc apologised to me too."
Confused and a little curious, Beverly asked,
"What for?"
Looking straight into her eyes, Estelle kept her voice matter of fact.
"For calling out your name when he came."
Beverly gasped and blushed.
"He didn't!"
"Yes he did…twice."
"Oh God…what did you do?"
Picking up her tea, she drained it and took her time setting the cup back down.
"The first time…nothing, although I was pretty pissed off. The second time I took him to task. He wasn't very happy about it."
Beverly sat back and frowned.
"I bet he wasn't! He prides himself on being altruistic. It would be unconscionable to him. To do that to a woman he loves…"
Estelle held up her hand and shook her head.
"He doesn't love me."
"What? I don't believe it! He would never enter into a relationship with someone he didn't care for."
The smaller woman cocked her head.
"I didn't say he doesn't care. God we both know him better than that! We came to an understanding. We enjoy each other's company, we have good times…and great sex and that's it. No romantic entanglement for either of us."
Beverly was shocked.
"But…"
"Look Doctor Crusher I came here today to tell you he loves you. He's so in love with you he sees you everywhere! He even saw you in me while we were making love. What does that tell you?"
The Doctor shook her head, speechless.
"I don't know exactly how you feel about him, but I've got a pretty good idea based on how you reacted to us. If you don't love him…and I doubt that's true, then find some way to set him free, because this situation is consuming him. If you love him as I think you do, then for God's sake do something about it! Go to him…talk to him…take away his pain. I don't know you very well, but I think I know Jean-Luc…he deserves to be happy, doesn't he?"
Estelle stood and looked down at the shaken woman.
"We've ended our relationship Doctor…I won't be used in that way and he refuses to hurt me any further. He's all yours…with my blessing."
It was the doors whispering shut that broke into Beverly's mind. She turned her head and looked blankly at them, lost in thought.

 

 

 

 

 

Deanna sighed and reapplied herself to concentrate on her patient.
"Data just because the Ensign laughed behind your back doesn't mean it was directed at you."
The android cocked his head and frowned.
"But does not the saying imply derision? To laugh, or make comments behind one's back…it is invariably derogatory is it not?"
Deanna's eyes closed and she lowered her head.
"If the intention is malicious then yes it's derogatory, but simply being physically behind you doesn't constitute intent. The Ensign may have been reacting to any one of many situations. Perhaps someone just told him a joke? Or maybe he saw something that amused him? You cannot apply an adage like that so literally."
Data sat in thought for precisely two minutes.
"So what you are saying is, I cannot be held responsible for the actions of those around me if their behaviour has nothing to do with me."
Deanna sighed again and looked compassionately at her friend.
"Data don't you think it's unfair to expect to be responsible all the time? And anyhow…isn't it a little paranoid to think that all of the behaviour of those around you is somehow linked to you?"
Data's eyes lit up and his face became animated.
"Paranoid Counsellor? Is that possible? How would it manifest…"
"Crusher to Troi."
Holding up her hand to stifle the voluble android, Deanna answered the hail.
"Troi here."
"Deanna would you have dinner with me in my quarters tonight…please?"
Quelling a satisfied smile, Deanna replied,
"Yes Beverly that would be fine. What time?"
"Oh say…twenty thirty hours?"
"I'll see you then. Troi out."
As she was about to re-enter her discussion with Data, he said,
"How is Doctor Crusher? Is she…recovered?"
Deanna marvelled at his ability to ask such a deliberately loaded question, whilst outwardly appearing so innocent. Keeping her professional mask in place, Deanna replied,
"She's fine Data. Now, as to you assumptions about paranoia…I don't think…"
"Picard to Troi."
Sighing, Deanna responded.
"Troi here Captain."
"Could you come up to the Bridge Counsellor?"
"Yes Captain I'll be there shortly."
"Very good. Picard out."
Turning to Data, she frowned.
"I would like to follow up on this Data, but next time book an appointment instead of just dropping in. That way we won't be interrupted."
He nodded and they both stood. As they were leaving he said,
"Please extend my best wishes to Doctor Crusher."
Deanna nodded and they parted company.

 

 

 

 

 

Deanna stepped out of the turbolift and onto the Bridge. She paused as she entered, struck yet again at how different this Enterprise was from her predecessor. With darker lighting and a more functional appearance, this ship was built for war. That she could still be used for exploration soothed the qualms she always felt. That and the fact that she was commanded by a man dedicated to peace, a man who by his own extensive experiences had guided them through many perilous situations gave her hope that their existence in space would always strive to be benign.
Will watched her as she walked towards the Command chair, obviously ignorant of the absence of the Captain. Her eyes wandered up from their contemplation of the floor to meet his. He grinned widely at catching her at a weak moment and pointed to the Ready Room door.
"He's in there."
Reddening slightly, Deanna straightened her spine and gathered her wayward thoughts. With Will's eyes on her back, she stood at the doors and pressed the annunciator.
"Come."
She was mildly surprised to find the Captain seated on the sofa, one leg bent beneath him, the other resting along the cushions, a book in his hands, a cup of tea at his elbow.
"Come in Counsellor. Would you like something to drink?"
She smiled as he made room on the seat and sat beside him.
"No thank you Captain."
He nodded and closed the book, resting it on his lap. Facing her, his eyes softened.
"How is Beverly?"
Deanna easily felt his concern and his love for the Doctor and was somewhat shocked that he wasn't trying to suppress it.
"Well Captain…I haven't seen her since our…confrontation. I can tell you however, she called me only a little while ago and requested I have dinner with her tonight in her quarters."
"I see. How did she sound?"
"Calm…almost friendly."
Jean-Luc bowed his head and took a deep breath, obviously ordering his thoughts.
"Have you been monitoring her emotions these last few days?"
"Yes Captain."
"And?"
Deanna straightened her legs, crossed her ankles and slid her hands between her thighs.
"She has been through a difficult time Captain. At first there was unbridled anger and vehement denial. Later there was introspection and self-analysis and lastly there was acceptance. For the last twenty-four hours she's been calm and stable. I can only view her invitation with optimism."
He nodded slowly and rubbed his face, making the Counsellor worry about him.
"Captain…how have you been?"
His head snapped up, his eyes hardening. About to remonstrate with her, he caught his anger and reconsidered. Of all the people on his ship Deanna was one of only two who could see right through his defences. The other was Beverly. Sighing, he shook his head.
"To be honest…I've been better. I miss her Deanna."
"What does Estelle think of the situation?"
Smiling ruefully he sat back and rested his head on the cushions.
"It's over. It became evident that I couldn't get Beverly out of my mind…even at some more…intimate times. She didn't want to be the third person in a relationship and I refused to hurt her any further."
"I'm sorry Captain."
He shrugged and sighed.
"At least there's no broken hearts involved. I will miss her though."
Deanna's hand gently sought his and they sat together, silently commiserating. It was Jean-Luc who broke the spell.
"Well Counsellor…I suppose I should do some work."
Smiling indulgently and not hiding her admiration or affection for him, Deanna stood and straightened her uniform.
"Have patience Captain. I have a feeling all will be well."
He stood and locked eyes with his trusted friend.
"I hope so Deanna…with all my heart."

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly had programmed the replicator and was sitting watching the stars when the chime sounded. Instead of calling the visitor to enter, she rose and sauntered to the doors, nervously pulling on her jumper. When the doors whispered open she was relieved to find her friend smiling, her hands behind her back.
"Hello Deanna, come on in."
The petite Counsellor entered and followed Beverly to the sofa. Once seated she surprised the Doctor by presenting her with a gift.
"What's this?"
"Oh just a little something I thought you might like. Consider it a peace offering."
Quirking a guilty grin at her friend, Beverly carefully tore the tissue paper and exposed an exquisite glass orchid. Stunningly coloured, it was both delicate and beautiful.
"Deanna…it's gorgeous! I grow this one…where did you get it?"
With a satisfied grin, Deanna enlightened the red head.
"I know you do. I saw it at the last Star Base we visited…there was a curio shop and it was in the window. I recognised it and thought it would be nice for your birthday."
"My birthday…but…"
"Like I said…it's now a peace offering."
Beverly sighed and placed it gently on the low table. With a visible effort she settled herself and looked frankly at her friend.
"I wish there was no need for one."
Deanna shrugged and crossed her legs.
"Water under the bridge Beverly. As far as I'm concerned it's over. How about you? You're obviously feeling better."
Beverly reddened slightly and lowered her head.
"Actually I feel like a class A fool. How could I have been so stupid…not to mention thick?"
The Counsellor chuckled.
"Believe me it's pretty easy. If I had a strip of latinum for every person I've counselled that's suffered from this sort of thing I'd be rich. I take it you came to the same conclusion as me?"
Her head tilted, the Doctor kept her eyes fastened on the orchid.
"Uh huh."
"You love him?"
Nodding slowly, Beverly sighed.
"Yes…far more than I'd ever realised."
Leaning forward slightly, Deanna softly touched Beverly's thigh.
"What are you going to do about it?"
Melancholy seeped into her voice.
"I don't know!"
There was silence until Deanna spoke again.
"He deserves to know."
Slowly raising her hands Beverly tucked her hair behind her ears.
"Does he?"
"Beverly…he's loved you for such a long time. His enduring love for you has ended his current relationship you know."
The Doctor nodded.
"I know…Estelle came to see me."
Her eyebrows rose as Deanna's empathic senses detected the spike of guilt.
"Really? And how did that go?"
Beverly sniffed and looked out at the stars.
"I apologised and she told me some things about Jean-Luc I found…unsettling."
"Like what?"
Beverly turned to face her friend, a speculative look in her eyes.
"Like…they weren't in love, that it was a physical relationship only."
"And that shocked you?"
"Yes! Look I know he treated relationships carelessly as a much younger man, but in all the time I've known him he's only ever had relationships with women he was in love with."
Deanna laughed, her eyes twinkling.
"What?"
"You've forgotten about Vash."
Beverly scowled and flipped her hand.
"An anomaly. He had an adventure that just happened to include a sensuous, willing and unprincipled woman who managed to turn his head."
Deanna grinned at her.
"And no…I'm not jealous!"
"OK. What else did Estelle say?"
Her amusement faded rapidly. Her voice falling to a whisper, tears slid down her cheeks.
"He called my name when he came."
Deanna felt the surge of remorse and sadness welling up in Beverly and moved closer to take her hands. They sat in silence for a while, the Counsellor giving Beverly the time she needed to find her composure.
"Beverly…"
The Doctor shook her head and lifted her chin.
"No Deanna. I have come to the inescapable and most unpleasant conclusion that I have treated him as little more than an amusing ornament. How many times have I ignored his pain…callously disregarded his feeling as I shunned his ever so gentle overtures of love? Our friendship was based on nothing more than my selfish need to have someone to be there for me…someone I knew would always bow to my wish to remain close, but always at arms length. The night he offered himself, gently suggested we take our relationship to an intimate level, I turned him down. But that's not the worst of it. I told him I was afraid. That was perhaps the most hurtful lie I've ever told. It must have broken his heart yet he remained loyal to me and swallowed his pain in order to preserve our friendship. I've treated him so badly…for so many damn years…how the hell do I tell him now that I love him? That I want him…so much it actually hurts!"
Deanna moved to sit next to Beverly and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
"I think there's only one thing you need to keep in mind. He loves you. You know him Beverly…he's a very astute man. He would've known what you were doing yet he chose to ignore it and keep on loving you. With remarkable patience he's waited for you…if you find the courage to talk to him I think you'll find he'll accept you with open arms and a joyous heart."
Beverly shook her head, her mouth a grimace of pain.
"I can't Deanna. I've been such a bitch…"
Deanna stood and gently pulled Beverly to her feet.
"Give it time Beverly, you both need to recover from your recent situations. I'm sure when you've thought about it some more you'll realise that what I've said is true."
With a rueful smile, Beverly hugged her friend. With a sigh she looked over at the table.
"Come on let's eat."

 

 

 

 

 

Her medically imposed leave over and with Deanna's permission to return to duty, Beverly stood outside Sickbay feeling butterflies rise in her stomach. Gritting her teeth, she strode inside.
Several heads snapped up and worried glances slid between the staff. Beverly stopped in the middle of the main area and softly cleared her throat.
"May I have your attention please? Would you all gather here? I've something I'd like to say to you all."
She waited as the curious staff members gathered around her.
"First of all I've been passed fit for duty and I am resuming my post. Secondly I would like to apologise for my recent unacceptable behaviour, I treated you all very badly and I know I've damaged some friendships and our working relationship. Please rest assured it will not happen again and if you can forgive my actions I would like to try and put it behind us."
There was an uncomfortable silence as people shuffled their feet and glanced at each other. It was Alyssa Ogawa who broke the tension. With a warm grin on her face she said,
"Welcome back Doctor Crusher."
Beverly's relieved smile caused a soft chorus of good will and smiles. As her staff drifted away, Beverly sought out Selar. Beckoning to her the two women moved to the office.
"Selar I particularly wanted to apologise to you personally. I treated you appallingly, both as a patient and as a colleague."
The Vulcan cocked her head.
"Your behaviour puzzled me Doctor, I did not understand why you would act in such a manner. I still don't."
Beverly sighed and rubbed her forehead.
"I was having difficulties with a personal matter and I overreacted."
"I see. Has this matter been resolved?"
Beverly squared her shoulders and lifted her chin.
"Not completely, however I won't let it interfere with my job any more."
The Vulcan nodded once.
"Then I see no reason to dwell on it any further. I am pleased you are back on duty Doctor Crusher."
Surprised at the admission, Beverly smiled at the stoic Doctor.
"It's good to be back, believe me."
Later Beverly was hard at work trying to catch up on the backlog of reports when a call came through.
"Picard to Crusher."
Her heart missed a beat and she closed her eyes.
"Crusher here."
"Deanna tells me you're back on duty. How is everything?"
Fisting her hands, Beverly frowned.
"Oh fine…I've got a lot of work to catch up on though."
"I'm sure you have."
There was an awkward silence before Jean-Luc said gently,
"Beverly…will I see you at breakfast tomorrow?"
She covered her face in her hands and took a deep breath. Lifting her head she willed her tears away.
"No Jean-Luc…I don't think so."
The pain was evident in his lowered voice.
"I see. Very well…perhaps I might see you in the lounge one night?"
His hopefulness was heart rending.
"I don't know. Look I've got all this work to do…"
"Of course. Picard out."
Despite her best efforts two tears escaped.

 

 

 

 

Knowing that she would have to attend the morning briefing at eight hundred hours, Beverly rose extra early and ate a quick breakfast. Her entry into Sickbay caught the gamma shift unawares and she had to reassure the staff that all was well. She went into the lab and took a sample of her own blood, preparing some slides, which she placed into an analyser. Setting the instrument to do a lengthy study, she checked the chronometer and left Sickbay, arriving at the observation lounge ten minutes early for the briefing.
At precisely eight o'clock Jean-Luc strode in, his step faltering when he saw Beverly seated calmly in her chair. He nodded to her and took his seat, concentrating on a PADD, deliberately keeping his eyes lowered. The rest of the senior staff filed in and soon all eyes were on the Captain.
With little to report, the briefing quickly wound to a completion. The study was proceeding and all departments were functioning normally. As the staff were dismissed, Jean-Luc quietly requested Beverly to remain. Once alone he looked her squarely in the eye and in a soft voice asked,
"How are you?"
She smiled wanly and shrugged.
"Oh I'm fine."
He studied her, trying to see behind her façade.
"And your work…the reports, have you caught up?"
She nodded, her attempts to keep up the smile beginning to crack.
He tentatively reached for her hand, his eyes softly glowing.
"Beverly…what's wrong?"
She pulled her hand back and stood.
"I'm sorry Captain but I really must be getting back to Sickbay. I have an important analysis running and I do need to be there when it's complete."
His eyes hardened and his face became a stoic mask.
"Very well Doctor. Dismissed."
She stepped back from the table and walked swiftly to the door, but hesitated as it opened. She turned to see her best friend, head bowed and sadness marring his face. Swallowing her words of contrition, Beverly left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the next thirty-six hours Jean-Luc devoted all his energy to the current study of the pulsar. The departments involved became used to him haunting their sections and he spent protracted amounts of time sequestered in the Ready Room, mulling over the mysteries of space. Late in the day Deanna was frowning deeply when Will turned to speak to her. His speech stifled, he watched as her eyes clouded.
"What is it?"
She didn't answer immediately, preferring instead to finish her contemplation of her subject. When her eyes cleared Will knew she was back. She sighed and looked at him.
"It's the Captain…I'm worried about him."
Will looked over at the closed doors and sighed.
"He's been very quiet lately…more so than usual and totally engrossed in our present study. I didn't know pulsars could be so fascinating."
Deanna shook her head.
"That's just it, they're not. He's using this study to close himself off from what's bothering him. Has he gone to his quarters at all?"
Will frowned and consulted his monitor.
"No. According to the night watch he stayed in the Ready Room and made several appearances on the Bridge during the night. It says here he was updating the logs."
Deanna scowled.
"Updating the logs? I don't think so. When was the last time he ever got behind with the logs?"
Will scratched his beard and shook his head.
"Never...at least not while he's been on duty."
"Precisely."
Standing, Deanna squared her shoulders.
"You're going to tackle him about it?"
"Uh huh."
"Good luck."
She turned and smiled warmly at her lover.
"If I don't come out soon…send help."
He was still chuckling when she pressed the chime.

 

 

 

 

 

"Come."
Deanna entered the Ready Room to find her Captain standing at the viewport, staring out into the void, his arms folded across his chest. He half turned and frowned slightly when he saw who had requested entry. The two officers regarded each other for a few moments before Jean-Luc sighed and gestured Deanna to a seat.
"What can I do for you Counsellor?"
She noted he remained at the window, his back to her.
"Captain I sense you are avoiding something you find very upsetting. Would you like to talk about it?"
His voice was dull.
"No."
The Counsellor took a large breath and crossed her legs.
"The problem won't go away by ignoring it Captain. You need to confront it."
"Do I?"
With exasperation Deanna's voice hardened.
"Yes Captain you do!"
He turned slowly and summoned a glare.
"Well I disagree with you Counsellor! Now I have things to do, so if you don't mind…"
Meeting his eyes Deanna stiffened her mental defences against his anger.
"Yes Captain I do mind. When was the last time you had a decent meal…or slept in your own bed? You've been hiding in here…submerging yourself in the study…avoiding what's really bothering you. It can't go on Captain! You need…"
In two quick steps he was towering over her.
"For God's sake woman…I'll be the judge of what I need! Who the hell do you think you are?"
Quietly, she replied,
"Your Counsellor…and your friend."
His glare faded and he silently slid into his chair. Sighing, his voice softened.
"I'm sorry Deanna that was uncalled for."
"What is it Captain…Estelle or Beverly?"
His eyes flicked up and she clearly felt his spike of irritation and sadness.
"Beverly."
"Why?"
He picked up his crystal shard and stared at it for some time. Eventually he muttered,
"She's avoiding me. I'm afraid our friendship has been irrevocably damaged."
Deanna's silence made him look at her. What he saw made him frown with ire.
"It's not funny Counsellor!"
"I know Sir, I just find it ironic. I've had a similar conversation with Beverly…she fears the same thing."
His yes sharpened and his head snapped up.
"She does?"
"Yes Captain. Sir I believe everything will be all right…just give it time."
He threw down the shard and snorted.
"Time? That's all I have been giving her! Thirty bloody year's worth of damn time! I'm so tired of all this…"
Deanna quietly plexed as she waited for his anger to subside. True to form he shook his head and ruthlessly quashed his feelings.
Deanna sighed and shook her head.
"I will resolve itself Captain. In the mean time I would like you to go to your quarters to eat and rest."
The glare was back in full force, making Deanna wince mentally.
"What now? But I have…"
"Yes Captain now. Would you like me to walk you home?"
Gritting his teeth and staring at his fisted hands upon the desk he ground out,
"That will not be necessary."
Standing Deanna smiled softly down at the vexed man.
"Very well Sir. I will inform Commander Riker of my…recommendations."
She left, the doors whispering shut behind her. Jean-Luc slammed his fists down on the desk, swearing colourfully in both French and Standard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having found himself effectively off duty for the day and with several hours to kill before he could retire for the night, Jean-Luc wandered around his cabin, wistfully examining his artefacts. Normally such an activity would comfort him but he felt disjointed…somehow cast adrift. He sighed and requested some soothing music, but found that the melody annoyed him. With irritation he ordered it to cease and sat brusquely in his favourite chair, his eyes resting on the stars. For once they couldn't calm him. He tried reading and, when that failed, he went and showered hoping the hot water would relax him.
Feeling a little better, he emerged in his robe and picked up his flute. From the computer he obtained his most recent composition and quietly applied himself to the music, concentrating on the lulling notes.
Three hours passed and he found when he finally lowered his instrument he was feeling much calmer. Memories of Kataan, his wife and children who never really existed drifted through his mind and he smiled gently. He sat in silence communing with his lost family, his hands holding the Ressikan flute, the only tangible thing he had to connect him with them. He sighed and tenderly replaced the flute in its box. Checking the time, he went to the replicator and gained his evening meal. He ate slowly, his mind still drifting and took his tea to his chair. With his feet propped under the viewport he finally allowed himself to think about Beverly.
"Why is she being so distant? Was it my relationship with Estelle? But that can't be it…we've both had relationships with other people. What about Odan…and Ronin? I accepted them…well maybe not Ronin…but still we remained friends. I don't understand this!"
He drained his tea and, ordering the lights off, wandered into his bedroom. Once in bed, he stretched out on his back and put his hands behind his head.
"Deanna said she was jealous. Jealous? Beverly…jealous of my relationship with Estelle? Surely not…that's absurd. Could it be the disease? Perhaps there's a post illness depression? That's not uncommon. Oh wait a minute…what about the unfortunate interruption? Could she be upset over that?"
He snorted and turned over.
"No…she 's got a broad mind. If anything she'd find that amusing…something to tease me with. And she did tease me! What then? What the hell is it?"
For the next two and a half hours he wrestled with the problem, thoughts of sleep banished. Tossing and turning, all he managed to do was get himself mentally exhausted.
Throwing off the covers he stalked into his living area and called for the lights.
"Computer is Doctor Crusher in her quarters?"
"Affirmative."
"Is she asleep?"
"Negative."
"Right! Well settle this once and for all!"
With his robe going over his shoulders, he strode from his cabin.
Deanna sat up in bed, careful not to disturb her sleeping companion. Focussing on the Captain, she smiled and nodded once.
"Yes! It's about time."

 

 

 

Beverly was suffering from insomnia…again. With her mind whirling with disturbing thoughts of Jean-Luc, she gave up on sleep, choosing instead to sit on her sofa, watching the stars. The door chimed twice before she responded.
"Computer who is at my door?"
"Captain Jean-Luc Picard."
She scowled and irritation bubbled to the surface. With quick movements she strode to the door and stabbed the release.
"What?"
Taken aback by her abrupt question, his first instinct was to adopt a command attitude.
"I beg your pardon Doctor?"
Seeing his intractable eyes boring into hers, Beverly relented.
"My apologies Captain. How can I help you?"
He reigned in his anger and schooled his features into something more friendly.
"Beverly…I've come to talk to you. We…"
With an effort the Doctor kept her tone civil.
"I'm sorry Captain it's very late and I have to get up early tomorrow, so if you don't mind…"
She turned her back and walked back into her quarters. Her attitude angered the Captain and he followed her. Unaware of his presence Beverly was about to sit again when she noticed him. Standing rigidly she hissed,
"How dare you!"
Stiffening his resolve, Jean-Luc stood close. His voice was low and intense.
"I'm not leaving Beverly…not until I find out why you've been avoiding me."
She took a step backwards, rattled when he followed her.
"It's none of your business!"
"Isn't it? Out with it Beverly, tell me…I have a right to know!"
Now incensed the Doctor moved closer and raised her voice.
"You arrogant bastard! What makes you think you have any rights..?"
His own voice rising, his eyes glittering dangerously, he replied,
"Because our friendship is worth too much to me to allow anything to destroy it!"
This time she shouted.
"It's not about our damn friendship!"
Confused, he straightened and his face fell into an inscrutable mask.
"What do you mean?"
His predictable reaction infuriated the red head. Always, when confronted with the dynamics of their relationship he didn't understand he withdrew into his command façade.
"Stop it! Why the hell do you do that?"
Anger flittered across his eyes.
"What are you talking about? Do what?"
"Become the bloody Captain! I want to talk to you…Jean-Luc!"
He stepped close again, invading her space.
"So you'll talk to me now?"
She leant forward and shouted,
"You're insufferable!"
He replied loudly.
"Maybe so, but at least I'm honest!"
That stunned her. With a pounding heart she yelled,
"You pompous, conceited…"
"Tell me!"
He roared.
"I love you dammit…I…I want you, you egotistic…"
He grabbed her head and suddenly kissed her, roughly pushing his tongue into her mouth.
Furious, she pulled back and slapped him across the face. For several heartbeats they stared hotly at each other then she abruptly grabbed his sleep top and wrenched, tearing the fabric and baring his chest. She then gripped his shoulders and kissed him, mimicking his earlier actions. Pulling back and panting, she was about to turn away when he grabbed her and pushed her backwards, his mouth descending for another passionate kiss. Caught off guard, she stumbled and they fell to the floor, still kissing. His hand found her breast and squeezed roughly as the kiss deepened to savage intensity. They both tasted blood and Beverly pulled the robe from his shoulders. He started to plunge his tongue in and out of her mouth, imitating the urgent thrusting of his hips against her. She felt his stiff erection and clawed at his shorts pulling them down. He grabbed her nightie and pushed it up her body, exposing her breasts. As his penis pushed against her, he lowered his hand and gripped her panties, tearing them off. With primal urgency, her legs wrapped around him as he plunged into her. She arched under him and screamed into his mouth. His eyes screwed shut he pounded in and out of her, his entire body dedicated to satisfying this overwhelming need.
Her hands pulled up his shirt, her nails raking his back as he strained and grunted. Breaking the kiss, he rose up on his arms and opened his eyes, watching with intensity as she writhed beneath him.
With a suddenness that surprised him, he felt the rushing wave of his climax approach. Lowering his body quickly, he bit her shoulder and hastened his thrusts. It was all she needed. With a cry of triumph she convulsed and flexed as he was overcome with a powerful orgasm. His mouth left her shoulder and he called her name, and then slowly rested his brow against her neck as they attempted to regain their breath.

 

 

 

 

 

Some minutes later he realised she had taken her hands from his body. Sensing her tension. He lifted his head and tried to look at her. She avoided his eyes and he felt the beginnings of dismay and embarrassment. He pulled himself from her and climbed to his feet, swiftly pulling up his shorts and shrugging his robe back over his shoulders. Keeping his eyes on the floor, he helped Beverly as she regained her feet and restored her nightie. When he did chance a glance, she was smoothing her hair. Quietly he muttered,
"I...I should be going."
He took several steps to the door when her soft voice stopped him.
"Wait."
He turned and frowned at seeing blood on her mouth. She came to him and he raised his hand tentatively to touch the split lip with a fingertip.
She smiled crookedly and whispered,
"At least let me repair your back."
Her words made him roll his shoulders, the answering pain making him wince. She left him briefly and returned with a tissue regenerator. To her silent request, he slid his robe and torn shirt off and allowed her to heal the deep vivid scratches. When she was finished she went to the bathroom to administer the same treatment to her injured lip. When she came again into the living area, he was gone.

 

 

 

 

The Counsellor frowned and shook her head. Aroused by what she'd sensed, she also felt the dismay and embarrassment. As she gently woke her lover her mind roiled.
"What now?"
Will's eyes opened sluggishly and he was about to enquire what was wrong when Deanna's hand closed over his penis. Coming fully awake quickly he grinned in the darkness and took her into his arms.
She let her mind free itself of concern as she gave herself to her lover, deciding to tackle the problem later.

 

 

 

 

Beverly stood staring at the floor, where minutes ago they had given rein to their lust…their mutual passion. His reaction, though predictable, saddened her. That he should be embarrassed, or worse, sorry about what had occurred made her anger rise.
"Why the hell can't he see that it took both of us, that I was as keen as he? God the climax was…stunning and he seemed to enjoy it. Maybe enjoy is the wrong word? Maybe he didn't enjoy it…maybe he's ashamed? Oh God why did I pick such a complex, convoluted man? Why couldn't it be an orthodox relationship?"
She sighed and moved to the bathroom, slipping off her nightie and entering the shower. Some time later she was lying in bed, concentrating on relaxing, letting the after effects of her desire furnish the release of tension she sought. It took some time, but she eventually found sleep.

 

Jean-Luc lay in bed, his body thrumming with sensation. Usually after sex he found sleep quickly, but on this occasion he lay wide-awake and very tense.
"My God…what have I done? To lose control like that…she'll never forgive me. God…taking her…rutting on the floor like some kind of animal…shit!"
Despite his condemnations he was becoming aroused. Frowning, he turned onto his side and tried to ignore the growing erection.
"Why did I do that? Of all the reprehensible things I could've done…oh God anything would've been better than that. What the hell was I thinking? God…I wasn't, that's the problem."
As he remonstrated with himself, his mind kept relaying images of what they'd done. Lying there in his bed, his thoughts became more vivid and erotic. Now painfully erect, he rolled onto his back and pushed his shorts down, spreading the bead of pearl with his palm. He moaned and shook his head, trying to dispel the images, trying to stop what he knew would happen. Fruitlessly he screwed his eyes shut as his large hand gripped his throbbing penis and began to stroke. When his hips started to thrust he gasped and quickened his pace.
Despite already experiencing an orgasm, he knew he wouldn't last long. He tightened his grip and pumped faster, the climax quickly overwhelming him. As he came he sobbed, tears falling down his face.
"Oh God Beverly…what have you done to me?"

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the next day Jean-Luc kept to himself, safely ensconced in the Ready Room. Deanna had tried to speak with him, but he refused to talk to her. She knew he was deeply troubled by something and she also knew it had to do with his visit to Beverly, but she eventually had to abide by his wishes and leave him alone.
He worked until well after his shift ended and only retired to his quarters when Will reminded him that Deanna would be angry if he again started to neglect his health.
It was quite late and he was still at his desk when the door chimed. He frowned, but called,
"Come."
The door opened and he gasped when he saw Beverly. She was dressed in off duty clothes, but he could plainly see she was both tired and nervous.
"You still working?"
He cleared his throat and tried to calm his racing heart.
"Yes…I'm not very tired."
"I see."
She stepped into his cabin and the doors whispered shut.
"Can I come in?"
He smiled wanly and shrugged.
"You're already in."
Mirroring his smile she cocked her head.
"So I am."
He sighed and slowly stood. Gathering his courage, he whispered,
"Beverly…I'm so sorry."
He was startled by the blank look she gave him.
"Sorry? What for?"
Coming around the desk, he led her to the sofa and they both sat. Taking her hands, he looked deeply into her eyes.
"For what I did. You are, of course, within your rights to lodge a formal complaint against me…I won't contest it."
She pulled her hands back abruptly.
"Jesus Jean-Luc don't be so bloody noble!"
Confusion caused him to frown deeply.
"What?"
Beverly stood and placed her fists on her hips.
"I was there too you know…I wanted it Jean-Luc…I enjoyed it!"
He stood too and shook his head.
"You enjoyed it? But…but…"
She took his hands and tried to look under his brow.
"Look, it's not something I'd want to do on a regular basis…but every now and then? Why not?"
"But Beverly…to take you like that…on the bloody floor…to lose control…"
She chuckled causing him to frown.
"Don't you see? It was you loss of control that made it so exciting. Jean-Luc to know I can provoke that kind of response in you…to know that I can push you over the edge…it empowered me! God…when was the last time you did that?"
He finally found a smile and drew her once again to the sofa. Chuckling, he answered,
"A very long bloody time. In fact I think I was still and Ensign."
"There you go."
He sighed and lowered his head, still troubled.
"It wasn't what I always dreamed our first time would be like."
Tenderly she lifted his chin and let him see her love.
"Tell me."
Smiling ruefully he sighed.
"Oh you know…candles, music…a soft bed…all very romantic…and contrived."
She sighed and gently kissed him.
"Sounds wonderful."
They enjoyed a moment's silence until Jean-Luc asked,
"Beverly…why were you so angry with me?"
Steeling herself, she gathered her courage.
"Jean-Luc my recent reprehensible behaviour came about because I was jealous of you and Estelle. When I finally came to terms with that I also came to a few upsetting…and shameful conclusions…about you and me."
His eyebrows rose but he said nothing.
"I came to the sorrowful truth that I had been using you…using our friendship for my own selfish means for years. I treated you awfully Jean-Luc…like you were little more than a whipping boy. I hurt you and disregarded you and your feelings while I went about doing whatever I pleased."
Two tears slipped over her eyelids and slowly fell down her face. His thumb on her face, so tenderly wiping the tears made her gasp.
"Oh Jean-Luc…my dearest friend…can you forgive me?"
In reply he took her head in his hands. His deep voice made her tremble.
"Beverly…In your quarters last night you said you loved me. Is that true?"
She nodded, more tears slipping free.
"Then that's all I need to know."
He gently eased her head down to his shoulder and wrapped his arms around her. She cried quietly for a time before sitting up and wiping her face.
"There's more Jean-Luc."
He tilted his head and whispered.
"Tell me."
"I was never afraid. I used that as a convenient excuse to put you off. Another of my recent discoveries is just how much I love you…and desire you. I want you Jean-Luc…oh God you've no idea how deeply I want you."
He sighed and ran his fingers down her face, dallying at her lips.
"Would you like to stay the night? Perhaps I could demonstrate my fantasies."
Beverly smiled, charmed by his gentle manner.
"You still haven't said if you forgive me. I've been such a bitch…"
His fingers pressed her lips, stilling her words. Shaking his head he answered,
"Beverly I would be lying if I said I was ignorant of your attitude towards me. I chose to close my eyes to it…I simply loved you too much."
He chuckled ruefully.
"You could've done just about anything you wanted and I would have turned my cheek and let you do it again."
She sighed and kissed him.
"I don't deserve you."
He pulled back and she was surprised by the anger in his eyes.
"Don't ever say that! You…"
She shushed him and rested her head on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry."
He sighed and rubbed her back.
"All is forgiven my love. Will you stay?"
Beverly sat up and smiled sadly.
"Not tonight. I want it to be special Jean-Luc and right now I'm feeling very vulnerable. Can you understand?"
He nodded and she was delighted to see the grin creep across his face.
"But I can have a kiss?"
She nodded, her own grin appearing.
"Oh yes!"
The kiss was so tender, yet filled with such restrained passion the Beverly began to cry again. She drew back and kissed Jean-Luc's face, his eyes, brow, cheeks, chin and then his mouth, trying to impart the same level of love and need that he had. He sighed into her mouth and embraced her revelling in the warm suppleness of her body. Before the kiss could escalate, Beverly withdrew and slowly stood.
"I'd better be going."
Jean-Luc stood and sighed expansively. Taking her hands, he looked deeply into her soft blue eyes.
"I love you Beverly…with all that I am, and it feels bloody wonderful to tell you."
Beverly grinned and kissed him once more.
"I know I love you too."
He let go of her hands as she walked slowly to the doors. She half turned, blew a kiss and said,
"Goodnight my love."
His deep voice carried clearly.
"And you my heart. Goodnight."
With a lightness of spirit he hadn't felt for a very long time, Jean-Luc went to bed and slept soundly for the first time in weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deanna resettled in her seat and crossed her legs. Sliding her eyes over the Captain, she knew something important had happened and she was squirming with curiosity. He was almost ebullient. Twice he'd engaged Will in amusing anecdotes of his time as a up and coming officer, causing Will's delighted laughter and interest. When the Captain was occupied, he cast his eyes over to Deanna, his eyebrows raised in query. All she could do was shrug. Subliminally she sent,
"I don't know. Something happened last night."
He nodded surreptitiously, but reddened when Jean-Luc said, with his head lowered and his eyes on the chair monitor,
"Would you like to share Commander?"
The First Officer cleared his throat and summoned a friendly tone.
"Ah…we were just wondering Captain…you seem to be in a very good mood…Sir."
He looked up and watched the pulsar for a moment. His voice, when he replied, was wistful.
"I suppose I am. I'll endeavour to be more…circumspect."
Will glanced at Deanna and frowned.
"No Captain! I…that is we were enjoying hearing about your past. It's not often you tell us anything about your youth."
"Hmm. Perhaps it's not something I remember very fondly."
Deanna recrossed her legs and clasped her hands in her lap. Jean-Luc cast her a sidelong look and frowned.
"Are you uncomfortable Counsellor? You seem to be unable to settle."
Deanna sighed and bit the bullet.
"May I see you in the Ready Room please Captain?"
Turning to his First Officer, Jean-Luc rolled his eyes and sighed.
"Very well."
He stood and looked down at a grinning Commander.
"You have the Bridge Number One."
"Aye Sir."

 

 

 

Once both officers were seated, Jean-Luc stalled by offering Deanna a drink. Stifling her irritation, she declined. Jean-Luc clasped his hands on the desktop and took a large breath.
"Well Counsellor, how may I help you?"
Deanna took a moment to order her thoughts then began.
"Captain as you know, I monitor the emotions of the Command staff as a matter of course, especially yours. Over the last twenty-four hours I have detected a vast array of intense emotions from you, ranging from anger, embarrassment, sadness and despair, to elation and joyous happiness. Your very attitude today is testament to you mood. Captain may I ask…what has happened?"
His eyes hardened, but his face remained open. He cocked his head and considered her question.
"You are aware that I confronted Beverly the night before last?"
"Yes Sir."
He sighed and flushed slightly.
"Well we…I…let's just say it ended tumultuously. I was embarrassed and dismayed and I returned to my quarters in a very emotional state."
Deanna crossed her legs and calmed herself in the face of his discomfort.
"I see. And later?"
He gave a small smile and shrugged his shoulders.
"Beverly came to my quarters last night and we resolved our differences."
Feeling the satisfaction this elicited in him, Deanna grinned.
"I'm glad Captain. Sir…forgive me for asking…but are you and Beverly...?"
He stared at her and she felt she might have pushed too far. An intensely private man, he did not entertain questions about his private life.
The tightness in his shoulders relaxed and he sighed.
"I will tell you only because you have been a great help to me during this whole unpleasant episode. Yes we are now a couple."
Deanna's smile was beatific.
"Well Captain it's about time! If any two people belong together it's you two."
He grinned self-consciously.
"Thank you Deanna. As for the Command staff, you may tell Will, but for now we would appreciate some privacy. I will inform the others at a later date…when things have settled."
Deanna stood and nodded.
"Of course Captain."
She walked to the doors and paused. Turning, she said softly,
"I so happy for you Captain…for you both."
He nodded his thanks and remained seated for some minutes, allowing his mind to wander through happy thoughts, thoughts of his beloved Beverly.

 

 

 

 

 

The Doctor was sitting in her office. It had been a busy morning, the school having had a field trip to Sickbay. Each child wanted to be scanned with a medical tricorder and none was satisfied until they left with some tokens from the facility. Fortunately, Beverly had a supply of adhesive patches and harmless colourful topical solutions to apply, so all the kids left happy. After that she treated three Ensigns who had injured themselves in a game of Parrises Squares. Having admonished them for their carelessness and finishing with their treatment, she devoted some time to filing some reports until she found her mind wandering. With a wistful smile she permitted a daydream and was startled when Alyssa broke into her reverie.
"What?"
Grinning, the nurse held up a PADD.
" Sorry to surprise you Doctor. I just brought in the analgesic inventory."
Reddening, Beverly held out her hand.
"Thank you."
Her knowing eyes glowing, Alyssa offered,
"You were off with the gypsies."
Beverly grinned and shrugged.
"Just daydreaming. Perk of Command."
"Well enjoy yourself Doctor. Oh, by the way…thank you again for dinner the other night. It really wasn't necessary."
Her eyes sparkling Beverly replied,
"Oh yes it was! I treated you very badly. It was the least I could do."
"Well it's good to have the old you back. I take it whatever was troubling you has been resolved?"
A wicked grin surfacing, Beverly nodded.
"Uh huh."
Alyssa looked over her shoulder before whispering,
"The Captain?"
"Uh huh…but keep it to yourself. It's not common knowledge yet."
Sighing, the nurse grinned. With a wink and a jaunty thumbs up she left.
Beverly sat back in her chair and decided to take affirmative action. Tapping her communicator she called,
"Crusher to Picard."
His deep voice responded immediately.
"Picard here Beverly."
She sighed and smiled softly.
"Are you alone?"
"Yes I'm in the Ready Room."
"Good. What are you doing?"
His sigh was distinct.
"Actually I was sitting here thinking about you. I enjoyed breakfast this morning."
She closed her eyes her head tilting.
"Hmm me too."
"Would you have dinner with me tonight?"
"Yes that would be lovely. What time?"
She could almost see his tender smile, the one he reserved exclusively for her.
"How about twenty thirty?"
"Done. And Jean-Luc?"
He reply was breathless.
"Yes?"
"I love you. Crusher out."
She sat back and picked up a stylus, rubbing it against her lips, lost in thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That night Jean-Luc dispensed with over indulgence. Instead of elaborate floral centrepieces and fine china, he opted for simple utilitarian crockery and cutlery. In truth he wasn't all that interested in the meal. What he looked forward to was afterwards, when they would sit on the sofa with a bottle of his family's finest and just talk. It was a combination of things that pleased him so. Her soft lilting voice, her brilliant mind and most of all, the deep feeling of contentment he had just by being in her company. The fact that she was also stunningly beautiful was icing on his cake. Closing his eyes he saw her lustrous red hair cascading down around her shoulders as her incredible blue eyes watched him with that almost patented half smile that was his alone.
He was brought out of his introspection by the door announcer.
"Come."
When he saw her he forgot to breathe.
"My God Beverly…"
She wafted into her quarters and sidled up to him. The deep green gown shimmered as she walked, the side splits revealing her long dancers legs. His eyes hotly roved over the expanse of alabaster skin exposed on her chest and back, her décolletage rising and falling with her breath. Dragging his eyes back to her face, he noticed the tip of her tongue moistening her lips. Her eyes half lidded, she took in his emerald silk shirt and tan slacks, cut more snugly than was his usual style. The soft leather brogues finished his outfit. Smiling wickedly, she lifted her gown hem and pushed out a foot. Jean-Luc glanced down and smiled at seeing the foot bare.
Tilting his head, he enquired silently, his eyebrows raised.
"I just felt like it."
He chuckled and led her to the table, seating her and gently placing a kiss on her shoulder.
"In case I forget…you look absolutely gorgeous."
She smiled and sighed.
"You're not bad yourself."
She looked around the table and frowned, knowing the he usually went to considerable trouble with details. Looking up at her friend, he shrugged.
"I thought we'd enjoy something simple for a change."
She grinned up at him and sighed.
"Fine by me."
The meal was taken in companionable silence, both merely satisfying the requirement of eating. Not bothering with dessert, Jean-Luc motioned to Beverly to go to the sofa while he disposed of the remains and dirty dishes. He soon joined her, a bottle of wine and two glasses in his hands.
"Would you like some red?"
She smiled up at him and nodded, maintaining the quiet. He uncorked the bottle, let it breathe, then poured the rich liquid into the glasses. They picked up the crystal ware and he proposed a toast.
"To my dearest friend and soon, I hope, lover. I love you…may you always be by my side. To love."
She repeated the toast and they sipped. Jean-Luc closed his eyes and drew a large breath savouring the wine. Beverly watched in amused silence, biding her time. With a decisive nod he swallowed.
"Well?"
His eyes opened and he smiled with satisfaction.
"Superlative. I must send Marie a message…she'd doing very well with the vineyard."
"How do you feel about her taking it on?"
He sighed and settled back into the cushions.
"I was worried at first…there's so much work involved. But she told me that Robert had trained several staff in the event they lost Renee to the Academy. Those staff have agreed to stay on so the label will continue.
"You must be pleased."
He was silent a while and Beverly waited patiently.
"Yes I am. Although I was frustrated my inability to do anything about it, I would've been greatly saddened if my heritage had been lost."
Beverly stretched out her legs and rested her feet on the low table. The dress opened and his eyes wandered over the skin of her legs.
"You're a terrible tease you know."
She chuckled and slapped his shoulder gently.
"Don't get your balls is an uproar Jean-Luc. You've seen my legs before."
"Don't get my balls…Beverly where on earth do you get these sayings? That was positively…base."
She chuckled again and rested her head back on the cushions.
"It may be base but it's appropriate."
He snorted.
"That may be so, but still…my balls and their condition are my business."
It was Beverly's turn to snort.
"That's not been my experience!"
He sat up and poked a finger into her shoulder.
"Hey! That's not fair. You know damn well I lost control. Would you hold that against me?"
She opened her eyes and grinned saucily at him.
"You'd be surprised what I'd hold against you."
He swallowed and shook his head.
"You're incorrigible."
"Uh huh."
Taking her glass he refilled both and settled back in the sofa. They drank quietly for a while, Beverly mildly surprised when he took her glass and set it on the table. Moving closer to her he said softly,
"I want to kiss you."
She smiled softly and gently wrapped her hand around his head, pulling him to her. They kissed tenderly, the taste of the wine adding to their pleasure. He moved closer still and deepened the kiss. She responded quickly, opening to him and revelling in his strength. He twisted his body and used a hand to sweep her legs up to lay them both along the sofa. She sighed into his mouth and thrilled as she felt his arousal against her hip. He trailed his fingers up her side and tentatively caressed her breast. She broke the kiss and gasped.
"Jean-Luc…"
He nuzzled her neck and whispered into her ear,
"Will you stay with me tonight?"
She gripped his shoulders and made him raise his head. Looking deeply into his eyes she shook her head.
"No my love."
He closed his eyes and rested his head on her shoulder. In a pained voice he asked,
"Why?"
"Jean-Luc?"
He lifted his head and looked at her.
"I want it to be on neutral ground…not here and not in my quarters."
He sighed.
"I don't understand."
"There're too many memories Jean-Luc. You want our relationship to be equal don't you?"
He nodded.
"Well I want us to start on a fair footing. Once we've established ourselves it won't matter where we are. I just want it to be…unencumbered."
He nodded again and sighed.
"Very well…it will be as you wish. Where do you want to be?"
She snuggled into his embrace and nuzzled him.
"Well it won't be for about a week, I'm up to my armpits in work, but why don't you call up something on the holodeck?"
He pulled back curiosity on his handsome face.
"What would you like?"
"Surprise me."
He grinned and kissed her again. She moaned into his mouth and gently stroked him through his trousers. He abruptly broke the kiss and groaned.
"Beverly…"
"Hush. You're not going to get any sleep with it like that."
She stroked him again and he thrust involuntarily. Her fingers slid the fastener open and the zip opened under the pressure. Kissing him hungrily, her hand pushed down his pants and briefs, taking his erection in her delicate hand. As she caressed him, he moaned into her mouth and eased his hand over her breast. She arched up to him and he broke the kiss to gently bite her nipple through the fabric. She hastened her stroking and he began to thrust into her hand. Quickly lifting her dress, he slipped his hand into her panties and pushed his fingers into her hot depths, his thumb swiping her engorged clitoris. She cried out and flexed beside him, her grip tightening in him. He gasped and kissed her again as he felt his orgasm rushing over him. Trying to keep up his intimate caress, he spasmed and came over her hand, a small cry leaving his throat. Beverly followed an instant later, her lubricant flowing over his fingers.
They lay panting, Jean-Luc's head resting on her breasts.
"Oh God Beverly…"
"I know, me too."
He looked up and smiled at her sated grin.
"Why?"
"Because we both needed it."
"But not…"
"No, not making love in the traditional manner. For that we'll have to wait a little longer."
He sighed and kissed her languidly.
"All right I'll wait, but my original observation stands…you're a tease."
She chuckled and kissed his nose.
"Probably, but I will make it worth it…I promise. Now how about we get cleaned up?"
Twenty minutes later they were standing in each other's arms near the door.
"Now Jean-Luc…you get a good night's sleep, ok?"
"As long as you do too. Will I see you at breakfast?"
She kissed him softly and caressed the back of his head.
"You bet, but no dinners for a week. I have to work late each night and I'll be too tired to be good company."
He frowned and rubbed her back.
"You're not over working are you?"
"No my love. It's just the current research. Once it's over I'll be free."
He nodded and nuzzled her neck.
"Very well. I'll spend my off time creating something appropriate for the holodeck."
"I'll look forward to it. Goodnight my love."
He kissed her again and sighed.
"Goodnight Beverly…and thank you."
She winked and turned the doors parting and letting in the bright light of the corridor.
He stood watching the closed doors already applying his mind to the programme.

 

The next week passed relatively quickly. The couple started each day with a companionable breakfast and parted with a lingering kiss. The study of the pulsar ended and the great ship was sent to escort a group of terra formers to a distant planet.
Although very busy with both her research and the usual demands of Sickbay, Beverly was happy when Deanna dropped by to see her.
"Hi Dee."
"Hi yourself. Have you got a few minutes?"
"Uh huh."
Together the two women walked into the office and Beverly retrieved some hot drinks.
"What can I do for you?"
A wicked smile appeared and Beverly sniggered.
"What? Have you got some juicy gossip?"
Deanna's continued silence made Beverly growl.
"Out with it already!"
With calculated indifference, the Counsellor crossed her legs and studied her perfect nails.
"Well…it seems there's a new couple amongst the Command staff."
Beverly's heart skipped a beat and a flush crept up her neck.
"Really? How do you know?"
With haughtiness, Deanna flicked her hair back from her face.
"Let's just say I have a very reliable source."
With calmness she didn't feel, Beverly remained nonchalant.
"OK…who is it?"
The delighted laughter caught the Doctor off guard.
"Beverly…the Captain told me."
Her flush deepened and she scowled at her friend.
"Witch! You deliberately led me on. Some friend you are."
The laughter continued.
"Oh come on…can't you see the funny side? Besides I happen to think it's the best news I've heard in a long time."
Sitting back in her chair, Beverly chuckled with the Counsellor.
"Well I suppose you're pleased. It only took us what…thirty years?"
Sobering, Deanna captured her friend's eyes.
"It'll be worth the wait Beverly…I just know it."
The Doctor sighed and grew wistful.
"He's so damn noble. Can you imagine any other man willing to wait so long? And so patiently? He had more confidence in me than I did."
Deanna smiled softly.
"I think it's the most romantic thing I've ever come across. He's so happy…he tries to conceal it, but these past few days he's been…euphoric. Actually…so have you, although I have sensed some…trepidation."
Beverly sighed and pulled her knee to her chest.
"I'm not concerned about the near future, it's the long term that worries me. What if I don't live up to his expectations? He's waited so long…and then there are our respective careers. How the hell will we balance that? Yes Dee, I've had my…qualms."
"Have you talked to him about it?"
Beverly sighed and grinned.
"Nup. We haven't even made love yet."
A frown marred Deanna's face.
"But Beverly…I sensed a very…intense episode between you two recently."
Looking frankly at her friend, Beverly elaborated.
"Actually it was a case of satisfying mutual lust. He took me very quickly on the floor in my quarters. It wasn't what I would call making love, neither was it anything like what we both thought our first time would be."
"Oh. That explains his…he was very upset that night."
Beverly leaned forward and picked up a stylus. Turning it slowly in her hands, she admitted,
"We both were, but I was more concerned at how he would react. When I went to see him the next night he told me if I wished to lodge a formal complaint, he wouldn't contest it."
She threw down the stylus and lifted her hair, only to drop it quickly.
"I was so mad! He'd completely disregarded my part in the whole thing. Once I reminded him and explained my viewpoint we were able to talk about it and see it for what it was."
Deanna ran her fingers around the rim of her cup and sighed.
"So when will you make love?"
Grinning wickedly Beverly chuckled.
"Two more days. I asked him to conjure up something appropriate on the Holodeck. He's been working on it for days."
Sharing her friend's chuckle, Deanna offered,
"If I know our Captain it'll be something memorable."
"That's what I'm hoping."
Deanna stood and smiled down at the radiant Doctor.
"Well I'd better get back to work. I'll see you in…three days And Beverly…I want details."
A snort was her only reply.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc sat quietly in the Command chair of the Bridge. He'd been suffering his First Officer's knowing grin for six days and it was finally beginning to irritate him He turned suddenly to the Commander and just caught the afterglow of the grin in full bloom. Keeping his voice calm and quiet…always a danger sign, he addressed Will.
"Is there something you wish to say Commander?"
Somewhat alarmed at the undercurrent of icy anger emanating from his CO, Will sobered immediately.
"Ah…no Captain."
"Then kindly devote yourself to your duties and stop grinning at me like some oafish fool."
"Aye Captain."
Straightening in his seat, he tucked his chin in and schooled his features into a visage of innocent ignorance. Jean-Luc turned his attention back to the screen and watched as the huge ship led a small flotilla of tiny craft towards their destination.
An hour passed before Jean-Luc spoke to Will again.
"Number one, as tomorrow is my day off I will be unavailable except for the usual priorities. Please see to it that I am undisturbed."
"Of course Captain."
Feeling the tension coming from his exec, Jean-Luc relented. Leaning closer he said sotto voce,
"I understand your happiness for me Will and I appreciate it. Just keep it down to a dull roar."
The grin made a brief appearance and his blue eyes twinkled.
"Aye Sir."
Nodding with satisfaction at the return of his friend's good humour, Jean-Luc wondered again how he was going to make it through to the next day. It was hours away and he was very impatient.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day dragged on, his shift finally ending. He was reluctant to go straight to his quarters. He knew he was too energised to settle into his usual routine so he went to the lounge instead. Finding his customary table unoccupied he sat and gazed out at the stars, fascinated as always. The waiter took his order and he sipped the wine when it came, his mind going over the details of his programme yet again.
"Oh God I hope she likes it."
He was interrupted by a call from the Bridge.
"Data to Captain Picard."
"Picard here Data."
"I know you are off duty Captain, but we have received a hail from one of the flotilla. They are experiencing difficulties."
Jean-Luc frowned and sighed.
"What kind of difficulties?"
"Apparently their engines are over heating. The cause is unknown."
"Understood. I'm on my way."
"Shall I call Commander Riker Sir?"
Jean-Luc paused and considered the request.
"No Data, but you might inform Commander LaForge. We may need his expertise."
"Aye Captain. Data out."

 

 

 

 

In all it took nine and a half hours to assist in the repair of the small ship. Jean-Luc entered his cabin tired and irritable. They were now behind schedule and couldn't increase speed to make up the deficit.
He stalked into his bedroom and undressed quickly. Pulling on some satin shorts he slid into bed and called out brusquely,
"Lights out!"
Taking a calming breath he concentrated on the next day...and what he hoped it might bring. Despite his disturbing thoughts he eventually found sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

The incessant chime slowly penetrated his dream. With eyes snapping open, he glanced at his chronometer and groaned when he realised he'd overslept. He flung the covers back and rose, shrugging on his robe as he went to the door.
"Come."
Beverly's face was a study.
"Jean-Luc? Are you all right?"
As she spoke she stepped up to him and placed her hand on his forehead. He sighed, reached up and gently removed her hand.
"I can assure you I'm fine. I simply overslept."
The Doctor stepped back and hitched her hands on her hips.
"You overslept? Today?"
Closing his eyes, he sighed again.
"I know…not a very auspicious start I'll grant you. I was up late last night with problems concerning a ship in the flotilla and I was very late getting to bed. As a result I forgot to set the alarm."
Smiling with relief, Beverly took his hand and led him to the table.
"Well you just sit and I'll get breakfast."
As she worked she chatted.
"Are you sure you still want to go to the Holodeck? Maybe we should just stay here and let you rest."
He caught her hand as she walked by.
"Oh no Beverly. This means way to much to me…I would have to be comatose to give up on that."
She smiled and bent to kiss him tenderly.
"Good. I'm looking forward to it too."
They ate breakfast and as he stood to go to his bathroom, Beverly slowly turned in front of him.
"Is my attire appropriate?"
The white sundress was covered with small red roses and she looked stunning as always. He sighed and came to her, taking her in his arms. His answer was a languid kiss and she giggled when they parted, her fingers brushing over his stubble. He grinned and rubbed his hand over his jaw.
"Ah…I'll just go and shower. I won't be long."
Beverly was reading from a book of sonnets when he reappeared, shaven and dressed in midnight blue slacks and a light blue shirt. He approached the replicator and she watched as he spent some time ordering his choices. When he turned to her he had a picnic basket and a blanket in his hands.
She stood and he offered his arm.
"Shall we?"
Nodding and feeling giddy with happiness, they left his quarters.

 

 

 

 

The Holodeck doors rumbled open and Beverly gasped. Stepping in, the doors morphed into the scenery and Beverly turned slowly, trying to take in all she saw. Jean-Luc put the basket and blanket on the floor then stood by her side, watching her intently.
"Oh Jean-Luc…where are we?"
"Aingou, France. This is the summer castle of Henry the second, King of England."
Her eyes settled on her friend, a slight frown evident.
"The King of England had a castle in France?"
Taking her by the hand, he led her up a great flight of stone stairs. As they climbed he explained.
"He had many holdings in France. He was French and a very wealthy, powerful man. As a king he was quite good, instigating many reforms during his reign. He spent little time in England though, preferring to spend his time in France."
Beverly looked around as the entered a bedroom that had a balcony.
"So what happened to him…did he die in office?"
Jean-Luc chuckled.
"No. Actually he was defeated in battle by his son Richard The Lion Hearted. He died two days after signing a humiliating treaty having lost the crown."
"Charming family."
Holding her hand tightly, he encouraged Beverly to take in the view. Knowing she was afraid of heights, he didn't take her too close to the low battlements.
"It's beautiful Jean-Luc…but why here?"
He sighed and looked out over the countryside.
"It's a memory from my youth. Aingou isn't far from LaBarre and we came to the ruins of this castle on school excursions."
He turned and gestured to the nearby river.
"I had my first kiss by that river."
Beverly smiled and wrapped her arm around him.
"How old were you?"
"Thirteen."
"What was her name?"
He frowned in thought for some minutes.
"Do you know…I can't recall. I do, however, remember how I felt."
"And how was that?"
"At first I was stunned…it was completely unexpected…then I was abruptly aroused, and I was totally unprepared for the intensity of the feeling."
Charmed at his candour, Beverly asked,
"What did you do?"
He smirked and blushed.
"I kissed her back, rather forcibly. She got a fright and ran off. She didn't speak to me for weeks afterwards."
The red head chuckled slyly.
"So your impetuous streak developed early?"
He grinned back and took her in his arms.
"So it would seem."
They kissed, the connection deepening and becoming passionate. When they parted they were both panting. Beverly ran her hands over his heaving chest.
"So what have you got planned?"
Gathering his control, he informed her,
"I thought we could explore the castle then have lunch beside the river."
"And then?"
"I sort of thought we'd play that by ear."
Grinning saucily, she took his hand and leaned to him.
"OK, lead on."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three hours later they found themselves by the river, Jean-Luc shaking out the blanket. He waited until Beverly had made herself comfortable before sitting next to her and opening the basket. He removed some crusty rolls, an assortment of cheeses and several varieties of fruit. He showed her the bottle of white wine and she nodded her approval. While he uncorked the wine, she retrieved the glasses and held them while he poured. They spent the next half an hour eating, occasionally feeding each other and indulging in playful teasing. The gentle game slowly became erotic. He had been tickling her when his hand brushed her breast. She gasped and he quickly kissed her, his hand covering her breast and gently pinching the nipple. She arched and gripped his shoulders, urging his face up.
"No Jean-Luc."
Confused and dismayed he hissed,
"What?"
Seeing his look of consternation, she moved quickly to ease his mind.
"It's all right! I just mean not here. I want a comfortable bed."
He sighed in relief and quirked his eyebrow.
"We could go back to the castle. The main bedroom has a big bed."
She considered that and shook her head.
No…too draughty."
Becoming exasperated he grumbled,
"Where then?"
Dislodging him Beverly sat up and took his hand.
"Computer run programme Crusher two beta."
The castle, river and countryside disappeared to be replaced by a bedroom decorated in the Victorian style. A huge four-poster bed sat in the middle of the room, covered in voluptuous covers of silk and satin. Frilled pillows adorned the mattress and sunlight slanted in through the bay window that graced one wall. Jean-Luc climbed slowly to his feet and lent a hand to assist Beverly. He studied the bed, a slow seductive smile creeping across his face.
"Here?"
She wound her arms around his head and kissed him softly.
"Uh huh. You like?"
He kissed her, his chest vibrating with his reply.
"Hmm."
They took their time divesting each other of their clothing. Sweet caresses and kisses greeted each newly exposed bit of skin as the tension slowly rose. Once fully naked, Jean-Luc took her hand and led her to the bed, standing by and watching as she settled herself amongst the pillows. He positioned himself beside her and kissed her with all the passion and love he could muster. She moaned into his mouth and gently stroked his throbbing penis making him shudder. He left her mouth and kissed his way to her breasts, one hand kneading while his mouth took the other nipple inside. He swirled his tongue over the tight bud then gently bit it. Beverly arched her body and pressed his head closer to her demanding more. Swapping breasts he treated the neglected nipple to the same treatment then suddenly left her breasts and tongued his way down her torso. She stretched and opened her legs; he took the opportunity to kneel between them. Reaching forward, he lightly trailed his fingers down her body, avoiding her sex and continuing down her thighs. She moaned and lifted her hips, presenting herself to him. He dallied his fingers in her coppery curls before parting her labia and gliding his fingers through her folds. Deliberately shunning her engorged clitoris, he suddenly slid two fingers inside her and her breath hissed through her teeth. Watching intently he pushed his fingers in and out of her, her mews of desire making his penis twitch. She closed her eyes and arched her neck as he bent forward and added his tongue to the intimate caress. As the rough muscle swiped over the pearl of her passion, she cried out and shuddered. His free hand reached up and tweaked her nipple as he increased his caresses. The flow of lubricant suddenly grew as she began to clench internally. With scandalous efficiency he curled his fingers inside her and sucked her clitoris into his mouth. Beverly exploded. She all but levitated off the bed and cried out incoherently, her body flexing and writhing. His timing exquisite, he reapplied his caress and pushed her over the edge twice more before he allowed her to rest. He sat up and slowly stilled his hand watching as she regained her breath. Through hooded lids she regarded him, her eyes sliding over his body to rest on his pulsing erection. His fingers still inside her, he gently curled them again and closed his eyes as she answered with a deep moan.
She sat up and lifted his head, her lips meeting his in a slothful kiss. He withdrew his fingers and she lay back, holding her arms up to him. He stretched out and covered her with his body, his erection sliding through her folds. She lifted her legs and wrapped them around his waist, gently biting his earlobe. With an adjustment of his hips, he positioned himself at her entrance and slowly sank into her, feeling her clench around him. He kissed her passionately and she gripped his buttocks, urging him to move. With slow thrusts he slid in and out of her, her moans of wanton abandon spurring him on.
He had intended it to last, to make up for the brevity of their last joining, but the enormity of the occasion caught him up in a haze of exquisite sensation. He broke the kiss and rose up on his arms. Quickening his pace he watched as the only woman he'd ever truly loved writhed beneath him. It was the culmination of all his dreams, all his fantasies, and every lonely episode of masturbation as he thought of her exactly like this. It was almost too much. Tears slipped from his eyes anointing his lover and gaining her attention. She opened her eyes and was overwhelmed by the expression of raw need and inexhaustible love she saw on his face. Reaching up with both hands, she took his face and gasped,
"Love me Jean-Luc."
A sob escaped him and he hastened his thrusts. Lost in her own ecstasy, Beverly felt the oncoming rush of her orgasm and called to him.
"Be with me!"
He closed his eyes and gave up any semblance of control. His back whip sawed as he plunged into her, his climax taking him abruptly. Their bodies clenched and flexed, her cries drowned out by his guttural shout of liberation. He collapsed on her and she held him tightly feeling his body shudder with sobs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later they lay side by side, Beverly tenderly brushing away his tears.
"Why do you weep my love?"
He sighed and closed his eyes.
"I was overwhelmed Beverly. I've wanted you for so long…it was almost too much to bear."
She smiled lopsidedly and kissed him.
"Was it what you thought it would be?"
"Oh Beverly…it was more...so much more! The reality of you…it blasted my fantasies out of my head. Nothing could compare."
"Do you know what it meant for me?"
"What?"
"The realisation that I can finally give myself to you, body and soul. I am yours Jean-Luc, forever."
He kissed her and poured himself into the kiss, imparting his love and steadfast devotion. She reciprocated and when it ended they both had tears in their eyes.
He settled onto his back and Beverly rested her head on his chest, idly drawing runes through his body hair. They were silent for a long time; in fact Beverly thought he'd fallen asleep. She lifted her head to look at him and was surprised to find his eyes open.
"Jean-Luc? What are you thinking about?"
He sighed, making her rise and fall.
"The future. This changes everything doesn't it?"
She leaned over and draped herself over him, crossing her arms over his chest and resting her head on her folded hands.
"How?"
"Well my career is no longer the most important thing in my life, you are. How do you see the future?"
She brushed her fingers through his hair and sighed.
"I don't see why we can't continue to serve aboard this ship, at least for the foreseeable future. You've got plenty of time to consider your options…maybe, in time, you could finally take up an admiralty and both of us could get a posting back on earth. The thing is…anything is possible, as long as we do it together. My main concern is that I don't disappoint you."
His chin tucked in sharply as he strove to look into her eyes.
"That's absurd! I told you before not to talk like that…it's…it's…."
"OK, settle down. Granted it's unlikely, but like you said, you've waited such a long time…I just want to be worth the wait."
Tugging at her arms, he pulled her up to him and kissed her thoroughly.
"Beverly all you need to know is that I love you…unreservedly. That will never change."
She sighed and kissed him moaning when she felt his growing erection.
"And in the meantime?"
He grinned boyishly.
"Did I tell you I have thirty years of fantasies to explore?"
"Really?"
"Uh huh."
"Well you'd better show me."
He kissed her again and whispered in her ear,
"Gladly."