Heart Song.
The Starship Enterprise entered geostationary orbit of Burras II at 0800 hours and the senior staff met in the observation room for a briefing.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard looked over his fellow officers with satisfaction. They were, he knew, the best in the fleet. With but a look he garnered their attention.
"As you know, Starfleet has had a secret outpost on Burras II for two years now. We have been observing the cultural ramifications of the inhabitants developing projectile weapons. At present, there are three scientists down on the planet, secreted in a holographic blind. We received word…via Star Base 182 that they need to be evacuated. Apparently the replicators are off line and they are suffering some form of illness."
Turning to Lieutenant Commander Geordie LaForge, the Captain outlaid his plans.
"Commander I want you to repair the replicators and provide any Engineering help they might need. Will, due to the ionising radiation we can't use the transporter. You will have to pilot a shuttle and put down in a secluded spot."
Commander Will Riker, First Officer of the ship nodded to his Captain.
"Yes Sir. We've got a place in mind."
"Good. Data I want you to establish a reliable communication method with them. Until recently they have been unable to transmit. Their last message was to a passing ship by short wave radio. Not very efficient and dangerous. The inhabitants have a communication system of their own. It would be disastrous if they picked up a stray transmission."
The android second officer accepted his Captain's bidding.
"Sir it may take some time to devise a system strong enough to punch through the interference without alerting the population. I would envisage it may take some days."
"Well get on it Mr.Data. We need to be able to communicate with them. Beverly apparently one of the team members has been unwell. When we bring them aboard she will need medical attention."
Beverly Crusher, Chief Medical Officer consulted her PADD.
"Yes. With the replicators down they have been eating the local food. Gastroenteritis seems to be the culprit."
"Of course and crew who go down to the planet will have to be surgically altered to match the native population. We can't risk falling into the hands of any factions"
Beverly frowned and asked,
"So does it look like conflict is brewing?"
"Unfortunately yes. Both sides have perfected projectile weapons and there is a push for the northern clans to take the fertile lands from the southern clans. Apparently arbitration has failed and war seems to be the impending outcome."
Beverly sighed, the physician in her hating the thought of the horrors of war.
"And we can't intervene…?"
No. The Prime Directive is quite clear. We can't…"
"So we just sit back and watch while they annihilate each other."
"Doctor…"
"I know…I know, just don't expect me to like it!"
Jean-Luc drew himself up and surveyed his staff.
"Well you have your assignments. Report to me when you're ready. Dismissed."
The assembled officers stood and filed from the room. Jean-Luc stayed behind, watching the green planet turning lazily through the viewport.

 

 

 

 

Some time later Will, Geordie and Data stood in the Shuttle Bay feeling somewhat ridiculous. Their skin had been given a light bluish tinge, their hair turned purple and long and heavy brow ridges complimented a deeply clefted chin. Their eyes were encased in bright orange contact lenses that covered the entire eye, the pupil elongated.
The Captain looked them over and nodded his appreciation.
"You've done a good job Doctor…even their own mothers wouldn't know them. Will when you land, deploy the mirror netting and make sure the shuttle remains invisible. It should take you about an hour to reach the blind and, bearing in mind the sick scientist, another hour and a half to get back. I'll expect you back on board at approximately 1230 hours. Now remember there is to be no contact whatsoever with the indigenous population. Is that clear?"
"Aye Sir."
"Very well…Good luck."
The three officers entered the shuttle and powered up. Jean-Luc and Beverly stepped back as the warp nacelles came on line and the little ship rose from the deck. The blast doors opened and the craft slowly penetrated the force field, entering the vast cold blackness of space.
Having witnessed the departure, Captain Picard left for the Bridge, Beverly to her Sick Bay.

 

 

 

Will had already inputted the coordinates for the landing. It was in a forest clearing deep enough into the bush to discourage the most intrepid explorer. They touched down undetected and deployed the mirror netting. Will set the coordinates into his tricorder so as to be able to find it again, then re-inputted the directions for the blind. They struck off quietly, conversation non-existent. True to the Captain's predictions, they came across the blind; the only clue as to its presence was the elevated energy readings coming from the tricorder. Finding the entrance, Will entered the pre-arranged code and stepped into the building. With the subdued lighting it took a minute for his eyes to adjust. When he could, he looked for the inhabitants, finding the first lying on a cot in the corner of the first room.
Data knelt and scanned the woman while Will and Geordie continued to look for the remaining two scientists, eventually finding one of them in the forward observation room.
"Professor Duron?"
A tall thin grey-headed man turned and regarded Will.
"I'm Duron. Who are you?"
"Commander Will Riker from the Enterprise. We've come to evacuate you and repair your facility."
"Evacuate me? I don't think so Commander! You may take Ellis and Frankum, but I'm staying."
"Sir, with all due respect, the situation on this planet is becoming untenable. My Captain has ordered me to evacuate you all to the Enterprise to re-evaluate your mission."
"Is that right? Well I don't recognise your Captain's authority here. It's my decision to make and I've decided to stay. Take the others…they need medical help."
"Are both of them sick? Our reports said only Ellis was ill."
"That report is weeks old. We had to send radio signals to a passing ship and they had to get to a Star Base, and then relay the message. Time goes by Commander."
The professor rose to his feet and suddenly bent over, clutching his stomach.
"Sir! You're ill."
Duron waved Will away and sat back down.
"Nonsense…it's just a cramp."
"Still Sir it wouldn't do any harm to come aboard and be checked out by our CMO."
"NO! My work here is too important. You don't realise…we've been here four years Commander and I'm not about to let your Captain or anyone else ruin my work. Take the others and go…leave me in peace."
Will ran his hands though his purple hair.
"Well at least let my Chief Engineer repair the replicators and establish a reliable means of communication with the ship."
"That's an unnecessary encumbrance Commander. I can get on just fine. Please…leave."
Will looked at Geordie and at Data who had just entered the room.
"How are they?"
"They both require medical assistance. Sir. I found Doctor Frankum collapsed in the toilet. It will be difficult indeed to get them back to the shuttle."
Will cast one final look at the recalcitrant professor and came to a decision.
"Well we'd better get going then. Data you carry Frankum and Geordie and I will carry Ellis. Let's go."
They left the blind with their burdens and twice had to hide from native patrols before arriving back at the shuttle. They entered the craft, checked that there were no inhabitants close by and took off bound for the Enterprise.
Upon their arrival, they handed over their passengers to the medical staff then made their way to the Bridge.
Jean-Luc directed them into the Ready Room.
"How did it go?"
Will puffed out a breath and frowned.
"Only partially successful I'm afraid Sir. We evacuated Ellis and Frankum, but Duron refused to leave. He refutes your authority and insists his work is too important to abandon. And captain, I think he's sick too."
"How so?"
"At one stage he doubled over in pain, clutching his stomach."
"What about the repairs, the communication systems?"
"No luck I'm afraid Sir. He all but ordered us of the planet."
"Damn! All right Number One, thank you. Report to Sick Bay and have yourselves restored to normal. I'll contact Starfleet."
"Aye Sir."
The three men left and Jean-Luc put in a request via sub-space to Starfleet. He had a three-hour wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly frowned as she read the monitors.
"This doesn't look like any gastroenteritis I've ever seen. Look at the white cell count! Something's going on here. Alyssa, draw some blood and run a spectral analysis. I've got a hunch."
Twenty minutes later, Alyssa called Beverly.
"You were right…it's a parasite…a very virulent one. It attacks the mucous linings of the organs and compromises their functions."
Beverly walked over to her patients.
"So a parasite eh? Now the question is…how do we kill it? Alyssa can we isolate the organisms?"
"I think so Doctor. We successfully separated them in the blood sample."
"Let me see the sample."
The two women went to the monitor and stared at their nemesis.
"Introduce Epicast…ten cc's."
Alyssa did her superior's bidding. They watched, as the parasite remained unaffected by the drug.
"Ok…try Omniprom, again ten cc's."
They watched again as the parasite wavered then fought back.
"Right we seem to be on the right track. Go with the Omniprom again and add ten cc's of Tetrahydra."
This time the organism was overcome. The cell walls broke down and dissipated leaving healthy blood behind. Beverly entered some calculations into the computer and waited as the machine calibrated a dose of the drugs for her patients. In due course, she injected them and watched the terminal as the parasite was eradicated.
""We'd better put them under a full regen field for a while. Their organs will need time to recuperate…a few days at least."
"Aye Doctor."
Beverly went to her office, replicated a cup of chamomile tea and seated herself at her desk. She tapped her combadge.
"Crusher to Picard."
"Picard here."
"I just thought you'd like to know that our guests have been treated and are on the mend."
"Excellent Doctor, well done. As a matter of fact I was going to call you…could you come to the Ready Room?"
"Yes Captain, on my way."

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was seated at his desk when Beverly arrived. To the chiming door he said,
"Come."
Beverly breezed in and took a seat before her Captain and best friend. She took a moment to cast her eyes over him, noting the lines of tiredness that dogged his handsome features.
"What can I do for you Jean-Luc?"
"We've got a problem. Apparently professor Duron won't leave, he insists his work is too important and he's refuting my authority to make him comply. Added to that, Will is under the impression he's ill."
Beverly brushed her hair back.
"That would be in concurrence with what we found in the others. It's a parasite Jean-Luc picked up from eating the local food. I don't see how he could've avoided it."
"Life threatening?"
"Most assuredly. It attacks the lining of the internal organs and compromises their ability to function."
"Can it be treated planet side?"
"Not really. Apart from the drug regimen, they require full regen treatments for a few days."
"Very well that leaves us with only one option. I suggest you and I go down there and…request…forcibly…that he come back with us."
"What if he won't?"
Jean-Luc sighed and drew his hand across his pate.
"We'll cross that particular bridge when we come to it. For now…I will have a reluctant First Officer to deal with."

 

 

 

 

 

"No Sir I'm not questioning your judgement I just don't think…"
"Will my mind is made up. Duron won't listen to you…only I have the authority to compel him. Beverly will accompany me to add her weight as CMO."
"But Sir…at least have a sub-dermal translator inserted."
The Captain shook his head decisively.
"No Will it's just not necessary and time is of the essence."
Jean-Luc sighed and grabbed Will's shoulder.
"Number One…please…just acquiesce."
Will straightened and tucked in his chin.
"As you wish Sir but I still don't like it."
The Captain nodded and called Beverly.
"Picard to Crusher."
"Crusher here."
"Are you ready for me?"
"Yes Captain come down."
He turned to Will and tugged down on his uniform, a gesture not necessary with the new garments, but one Will found somehow reassuring.
'You have the ship Number One."
"Aye Sir…good luck."
Jean-Luc smiled and nodded before leaving the Bridge.

 

 

 

 

In all it took Beverly two hours to transform Jean-Luc into a Burran. Her prosthetics already in place, Jean-Luc found it hard not to stare at her as she worked. Eventually she stepped back and nodded in satisfaction. Handing him the container with the contact lenses, she waited as he inserted them. He blinked a few times then smiled at his friend. She left him briefly and returned with a hand mirror.
He held it up and grimaced, running his fingers through the long purple hair that cascaded down his back.
"I never did care for long hair on Human men."
"Jealous?"
"Probably."
The two friends shared a companionable laugh before Jean-Luc brought them back to their mission.
Has Stores replicated the clothing?"
Beverly nodded, gesturing with her thumb.
"Yep, they're in my office. We decided farmer's garb would be best…non aligned and peaceful."
"Good. Well we'd best get changed, we have a shuttle to catch."
They went to separate cubicles and changed into their native clothing. They re-emerged smiling ruefully.
Beverly's sense of humour came to the fore.
"Well it could've been worse…"
Jean-Luc stared down at himself. His tunic of soft brown cloth was all right, but the ballooning pants did nothing for his trim form.
"I look a little…lost in these."
"At least the boots are sturdy.
Beverly stamped her feet and nodded as her feet spread the pliable leather.
Jean-Luc sighed and gestured to the purple haired Doctor.
"Come on, let's go."

 

 

 

They garnered some stares as they walked through the ship, arriving at the Shuttle Bay to find Will and Deanna Troi, the ship's Counsellor, waiting for them.
"Sir! You look…"
"Don't Will. Let's just put it down to experience. Doctor?"
"Ready Jean-Luc."
They entered the shuttlecraft and soon they were headed for the planet. Consulting the computer, they found that a group of heavily armed local inhabitants was in the forest logging and it was decided to put the craft down on a small secluded lake. They would be able to sink the airtight ship, thus keeping it safe from prying eyes. Jean-Luc made sure he had the remote control before they left. They stepped from the ship onto the bank of the lake. Jean-Luc then remotely piloted the craft out into deeper water, then sank it. Noting the exact location on his tricorder, they struck out for the blind wary of the gunshots they could hear in the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

In all it took them three hours to reach the blind. They had to wait almost half and hour, crouched in a hollowed out tree as armed fighters patrolled the bush. They nearly walked head long into a party of fighters, cooking over an open fire. Going around them had taken precious time.
They reached the blind and inputted the code, but it didn't work. Jean-Luc grunted with annoyance and dug in his pocket for an instrument.
"I thought he might do this. He's changed the code."
The Captain attached the device and waited as it permutated a series of numbers. There was a decisive click as the new code was breached.
They entered cautiously, their eyes slowly adjusting to the dim lighting.
"Stay where you are!"
The quiet voice was determined. Jean-Luc turned to its source.
"Professor Duron?"
He stepped out of the shadows and came fully into view. He was brandishing a Starfleet phaser. Jean-Luc held up his hands in a gesture of peace.
"I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard from the Enterprise. Professor there's no need for weapons. We have come…"
"I don't care who you are or why you've come! I want you to leave…NOW!"
Beverly noted his grey pallor and the sweat running freely down his face.
"Professor you're sick I'm Doctor Crusher and we've identified a parasite that…"
"Shut up! I'm not interested in your meaningless drivel! Go away!"
His voice screeched and Jean-Luc took a step towards him.
"Professor…"
The glow of the phaser momentarily blinded Beverly. She whirled around to see Jean-Luc hurled backwards and pinned against the wall by the power of the beam. It ceased and he fell to the floor and lay in a crumpled heap.
"NO!"
She raced to him and felt for his carotid pulse. It was erratic. She turned on their assailant.
"Why the hell did you do that for? He wasn't going to hurt you."
"Shut up! Gather all your equipment and put it on the floor."
He pointed the phaser at Beverly, his eyes wild and staring. She retrieved the tricorder, the remote and their comm. Badges and put them on the floor. She kept the code breaker hidden, hoping he wouldn't search them. He altered the setting on the phaser and fired at the instruments, vaporising them.
Jean-Luc groaned and tried to lift his hand to his chest.
"Lie still Jean-Luc, the effect will pass."
He groaned again and spat out some blood. Beverly noted this and gently cupped his chin.
"Let me see…you must've bitten your tongue."
He sluggishly opened his mouth, showing a badly gouged muscle.
"Yep."
With nothing to treat it with, she rubbed his shoulder as he slowly recovered from the blast. Some minutes passed before he could sit up. He took a large breath and opened his eyes for the first time since he was hit.
Duron was leaning against the wall, still pointing the phaser at them. His trembling hand wavered as he spoke.
"I want you to leave…now."
Beverly shook her head in disgust.
"The Captain can't travel. It will take hours for the effect of…"
"I told you to shut up! I don't care about your Captain…just get out!"
Jean-Luc sought Beverly's hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
"I'm all right Beverly. Help me up."
With the Doctor's help, Jean-Luc got to his feet, his legs quaking with the effort.
"That's it…now get out."
Beverly ran concerned eyes over her best friend and placed her shoulder under his arm. Together they made their way to the door. Turning her head, she tried one last time to reason with the agitated man.
"Duron you don't have to do this…"
He screamed, spittle wetting his chin.
"GET OUT!"
The two officers staggered out of the blind, the door hissing shut behind them. Beverly hefted Jean-Luc and dipped her head to look at his grey sweating face.
"Can you walk?"
He nodded taking a painful breath. Ordering his legs on line he took one step at a time, gradually gaining his equilibrium.
They walked slowly for half a kilometre when Beverly stopped them by a large tree.
"Come on we can rest here."
Jean-Luc sat heavily and took a look around him.
"Is that a road over there?"
"Yes. We can't go back the way we came…you wouldn't make it and I can't carry you. I thought we could travel by road for most of the time."
Jean-Luc thought about that and asked what was on his mind.
"What about the checkpoints? We don't have any documents…"
"I know. We'll have to think of something."
The Captain shifted his weight and shook his head.
"It won't work Beverly. As soon as someone sees you helping me…they're bound to ask questions and without our comm. badges, we've got no universal translator."
"Well what do you think we should do?"
He frowned, still looking at the road.
"Perhaps we should follow the road from this distance and seize on whatever chances present themselves. We keep out of sight and see what happens."
Beverly thought for a while, eventually agreeing with her commanding officer.
"Ok, I can go with that. We've got about eleven kilometres to cover before we cut off towards the lake. How are you feeling now?"
He took a large breath and winced.
"Better…I think my strength is returning."
"All right then on your feet."
He slowly stood and spent several moments bent over, his hands on his thighs. When he felt able he nodded to his companion and they set off once again.

 

 

 

 

Together, with Beverly's help, they travelled a couple of kilometres before seeing a building of sorts through the trees. Around the out buildings were wagons, drawn by large docile beasts, similar to an Earth ox. They quietly approached the carts, pleased when the animals paid them no heed. One dray was filled with hay like material and Beverly saw the gleam in Jean-Luc's eye.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"We could secrete ourselves in that and get through the checkpoints. Let's just hope it's going our way."
Smiling, they neared the wagon and could smell the sweet aroma of freshly cut fodder.
Beverly offered her hand as she said,
"You first."
Jean-Luc hoisted himself up onto the pile of hay and turned to help Beverly. Once they were both secured, they buried themselves deeply in the warm silage and settled down to wait. Fortunately, within the hour, the driver came out and climbed up onto the front seat. Calling to his animals in his native tongue, the wagon slowly turned and rumbled down the road, heading in the right direction.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was dozing. In the warmth of their hiding place, his recent injury robbed him of his usual stamina and with the lulling movement of the wagon, combined with the warm hay, he slipped into sleep without acknowledgement. Beverly checked on him frequently and, on discovering his somnolent condition, decided to let him sleep. A phaser strike such as he'd suffered had lingering side effects, most of which were debilitating, but worried her most was his artificial heart. It had taken the brunt of the blast and she feared its malfunction. Every so often she would gently take his wrist to check his pulse. Although slightly erratic, it continued on and she was mollified.
She watched him sleep. Even through the prosthetics on his face she noted how the lines of worry and care evened out as he relaxed. Gone were the stern lines around his mouth and the creases between his eyebrows. She reflected on their association and on the relationship she still denied them.
"Why am I scared? He would never hurt me."
She was still pondering this when her own eyes began to droop and she slipped into sleep.

 

 

 

It was the groaning of the dray that woke her. They had come to a stop and the wagon was settling. Gruff voices could be heard as she made out at least five people.
Her hand crept across Jean-Luc's mouth bringing him instantly awake, his eyes wide and questioning. Mouthing 'checkpoint' to him, he lay still, listening.
Suddenly a spike of sharpened metal sliced through the hay. The pike was roughly inserted randomly and all the two friends could do was keep still and silent.
The weapon abruptly burst through, grazing Beverly's cheek. She quickly raised her hand to stem the bleeding when the pike was rammed down again this time straight through Jean-Luc's stomach. Beverly clearly heard the point hit the boards beneath him as he jack-knifed in agony. The spike was roughly withdrawn and plunged again, spearing him through the foot and hyper-extending his ankle. He twisted in silent torment, his hand to his mouth, blood appearing around his lips.
Then it was over. The voices grew friendly and the wagon began to move. Beverly was desperate. Jean-Luc was bleeding heavily from his stomach wound and was in agony.
While he lay on his side, she pulled up his clothes to see the exit wound. It was bleeding freely but thankfully had missed his spine. She rolled him from his side and made him uncurl. Pulling up his tunic and shirt, she beheld a neat puncture wound approximately two point five centimetres across just to the right and above his navel.
His foot she could do nothing about. Still encased in the boot, she decided to treat his stomach wound first.
Whispering close to his ear, she said,
"Jean-Luc we have to get out of this wagon. I'm going to move down and undo the tailgate. When the time comes we'll have to drop onto the road. Do you think you can do it?"
He released his bloodied hand and nodded, his eyes screwed shut.
Beverly scuttled down the dray and soon had the tailgate undone. She made her way back to Jean-Luc and helped him to shimmy the length of the cart. With their legs dangling out of the hay, Beverly gripped his hand and jumped, pulling him with her.
They struck the road and rolled. Beverly got to her feet and dragged Jean-Luc up into a crouching stance.
"We have to get off the road! Just hang on a little longer…there's some trees nearby."
Half carrying him, Beverly crabbed her way off the road and into the shelter of the shrubs. The wagon proceeded down the road, the driver unaware.

 

 

Once concealed by the foliage, Beverly lowered Jean-Luc to the ground and watched dismayed as he curled onto his side, groaning. She took her tunic off and managed to tear some strips from the bottom hem. Making two wads, she placed them over the wounds and wrapped another strip around his middle, stemming the flow of blood. She moved to his foot, only to be halted by his roughened voice.
"Leave it. There's nothing you can do for it and the boot will support it."
"Jean-Luc I have to get help."
He shook his head.
"The only place you can go is back to the blind. Duron has radio equipment…you could contact the Enterprise…get help."
"But what about you? I can't just leave you here."
"Find somewhere to hide me and come back when you've contacted the ship."
"What about Duron?"
"You'll have to deal with him…somehow. Do we still have the code breaker?"
Beverly gently patted his pocket, locating the device.
"Yes."
"Good. Leave me now and find somewhere for me to hide."
"But…"
"Go Beverly for God's sake…go!"
She stood and looked doubtfully down at her friend. She looked around her seeing only open land, dotted here and there with trees and shrubs, nothing substantial enough to hide Jean-Luc. She noted the trees thickened somewhat in a twisting line some three hundred metres away and guessed a watercourse wound it's way along the tree line.
"Ok Jean-Luc I think I've found something. We have to cover about three hundred metres. Do you think you can do it?"
He opened his eyes and squinted up at his companion.
"Only one way to find out."
Beverly squatted and helped him to his feet. Keeping his injured foot in the air, he bent double in pain as they struck out.
It took a long time. All Jean-Luc could do was hop and pause as the pain surged then abated. They rested often and had to duck behind the sparse shrubs as traffic moved slowly along the road.
Eventually they made it to the tree line. Moving amongst the towering timbers, Beverly heard the rushing of water.
"Hang on Jean-Luc we're nearly there. I'm sure we can find somewhere to hide you here."
By now, sweating profusely and gasping for breath, all he could do was nod. His grip on Beverly was weakening and he began to slide to the ground.
She tightened her grip and scrabbled towards the bank almost sobbing with relief as she saw what she needed.
During a previous flood, the river had swept around the bend, carving and gouging from the bank and exposing tree roots and boulders. There, where a large rock had come away, was a small cave the roof of which was the root system of a huge old tree.
"Ok Jean-Luc I've found somewhere but we have to climb down…not far…just a few metres."
He didn't respond, but started to move forward. Together they negotiated the rocks and detritus and soon Beverly was easing Jean-Luc down onto the ground.
He was ashen and gasping for breath. Beverly was shocked at the amount of blood he'd lost. Re-applying the bandage, she left him long enough to wet a strip of cloth in the river then wipe his sweating face.
When he'd recovered somewhat he took Beverly's hand and squeezed it weakly.
"Jean-Luc I really don't think I should leave you…"
"You must my love. Go now…hurry…"
She took the code breaker and stepped out into the sunshine.
She had gone several hundred metres when his words registered.
"My love! He called me my love."
She stopped and looked back at the trees.
"I'll be back soon…my love."

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc found that if he kept very still, the pain became tolerable. The throbbing of his midriff was in synch with the throbbing of his foot but as long as he remained motionless, he could cope. Lying on his side, he opened his eyes and looked about his cave. Across the floor were twigs, sticks and leaves. He noticed one stick, larger and longer than the rest leaning against the wall and realised it had a fine wire attached to it. With horror he realised it was a fishing rod. Beverly had hidden him in someone's fishing spot. He raised his head and gasped as a wave of agony shot through his stomach. Abruptly he vomited, the contents of his stomach mixed with a large quantity of bright blood. He choked and spat clearing his mouth and throat as best he could. The effort of vomiting made the pain intensify and he sobbed as he lay helplessly on the ground. His slip into unconsciousness came unnoticed.

 

 

 

 

Beverly followed the road back the way they had come. When she noticed more people than usual, she realised she was nearing the checkpoint. Cutting back into the trees, she crept along stealthily going from tree to tree, keeping the road within sight. She was waiting by the trunk of a big tree when a hand gripped her around the mouth.
The man holding her spoke gutturally in her ear but she didn't understand his words. His hands however made his intentions known. He mauled her breasts and made to rip her shirt off. Beverly turned around and lifted her hand and put it to his lips. Summoning her most seductive look, she ran her fingers down his chin and further, down his chest and stomach. He grinned evilly and licked his peeling lips, his hands falling to his sides.
She dallied at the closure of his trousers, noting the straining bulge. She undid his pants and he lowered his head to watch. She reached up and wound her hands around his head and leaned in, feigning to kiss him. He closed his eyes and Beverly snapped his neck. He was dead before his body met the ground. She arranged the cadaver to look as if he was asleep against the tree and found his rifle nearby. She found an ammunition pack on the body and also took a knife from his belt. So armed she continued on her way.
Having successfully negotiated the checkpoint, she followed the road for many kilometres eventually reaching the same point that she and Jean-Luc had found earlier that day. Striking off into the bush, she remembered her way and finally found the area of the blind. Picking up small stones, she threw them about her watching for the telltale shimmer of a hologram. When she found it, she rushed forward and located the entry computer. Using the code breaker, she gained access and crouched low, ready for Duron.
Nothing happened. She spoke in a low voice.
"Computer raise illumination to full."
The lights came on fully and, still crouched, she looked around the room she was in. Ensuring she was alone, she cautiously entered the next room and saw a body lying against the viewport. She moved slowly to it and turned it over. It was Duron and he was dead. She stood and allowed a moment's sadness. Although clearly unhinged, the Federation had lost a brilliant mind. Raising her voice, she addressed the computer once again.
"Computer, create uplink with ship in orbit."
"Unable to comply."
"Why?"
"Local interference has made communication unstable."
"Can you boost the signal?"
"Negative."
Beverly thought a moment then spoke again.
"Computer did Professor Duron make a radio?"
"Affirmative."
"Considering the equipment he had to use, what would such a device look like?"
"It would consist of a tricorder, attached to a metal aerial. There would be two wires connecting it to a small power cell."
Beverly began her search eventually finding the gadget in Duron's private quarters. She carried it gingerly back into the main room and set it on the table.
"Computer how do I activate the radio?"
"Turn on the tricorder and, whilst turning the aerial, broadcast your message."
She looked down at the device and sighed.
"Well here goes. Enterprise this is Crusher. Do you read?"
Nothing just static. She tried again.
"Enterprise respond please. This is Crusher calling the Enterprise. Do you read me Enterprise?"
Suddenly the device burst into life. A loud voice shouted an unintelligible message then abruptly stopped. Throwing caution to the wind, Beverly turned up the volume and again turned the aerial.
"Enterprise! Can you hear me?"
At last they responded. Weakly, and clouded with static, she received her reply.
"This is the Enterprise. We read you faintly. Can you increase the gain?"
"No…no Enterprise I can't. We need help! The Captain's been severely injured."
"Understood. Wait."
Beverly sat and lowered her head into her hands. Fortunately she didn't have to wait long.
"Beverly? It's Will."
"Will! Send help now!"
"We can't. For a radius of one hundred and fifty-three kilometres from your position, there are native inhabitants on the ground. There seems to have been an escalation in the war. We can't land a shuttle anywhere near you."
"Dammit Will, the Captain needs help."
"I hear you, but the Prime Directive…"
"Bugger the Prime Directive Will. I had to leave the Captain in a cave kilometres away to get here. God knows how he's coping! We need help!"
"I'm sorry Beverly but until we can land unobserved, we won't be coming."
"Fuck! God damn you Will Riker!"
"Beverly…"
His words were cut off by a rough voice. It sounded demanding and shouted several sentences. Beverly rubbed her face and discovered the sliced muscle of her cheek. While the voice kept up its tirade, Beverly found a med kit and a mirror. She carefully auto sutured the wound and used a medicated cloth to clean away the blood and serum. Flexing the muscle she was pleased with the result. The voice on the radio had fallen silent again so she called the Enterprise.
"Will can you hear me?"
"Yes Beverly."
"I'm going to take a med kit and go back to Jean-Luc. I'll dismantle the radio and take it with me."
"Understood. If there's any change we'll be right there. Good luck."
Before dismantling the radio and placing it in a knapsack, she picked up a phaser and stuck it with the knife in the waistband of her pants. She wasn't going to be caught out again. Prime Directive be damned.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc never heard the approaching footsteps. Still unconscious, he lay on his side, his breath rapid and weak, as was his pulse. A young boy, approximately ten years old climbed under the tree roots and stopped dead, his hand reaching for his fishing rod. His first instinct was to run and he did. He got two hundred metres away before reason hit him. His feet slowed and he trotted to a standstill. Turning slowly he retraced his steps and peeked through the roots, spying on the sleeping man in his cave. When the man didn't move, the boy became braver. With the energy of youth, he nimbly swung his lithe blue body under the roots and crouched down next to Jean-Luc. Hs nose wrinkled when he smelled the vomit and the red blood was a source of curiosity, his own being dark blue. Gathering his courage he reached forward and gently poked Jean-Luc's shoulder. He groaned and coughed, making him groan louder. The boy spoke. In his own language he said softly…
"What's the matter with you?"
Jean-Luc's eyes cracked open and he stared uncomprehendingly at the boy.
"What?"
The lad shook his head and pointed at Jean-Luc's stomach.
"You're injured. What happened to you?"
Gritting his teeth, Jean-Luc raised himself up on his elbow and gasped at the wave of agony that shot through him. He waited it out then looked at the boy. Shaking his head, he touched his mouth.
The boy stood and frowned then crouched down and patted Jean-Luc's shoulder.
"I will get my father. He will know what to do."
All Jean-Luc could do was shrug, shaking his head. The lad left and the exhausted Captain lowered his battered body down to the cave floor, wondering where Beverly was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Beverly left the blind dusk was falling. The thirty-eight hour day was drawing to a close and she debated staying the night at the blind. Her mind however soon furnished images of Jean-Luc and her feet took her forward even before she'd made a conscious decision. She knew the bush would thin out as she approached the road and she picked her way carefully in the gathering darkness. The first of the planet's three moons had already risen, shedding its pale pink light around her, giving her just enough light to see by.
As she approached the road, she heard voices and smelled the smoke of campfires. She could vaguely make out ten people all armed. She doffed the knapsack and placed the phaser in it. She then hid the bundle in a tree. By now ravenously hungry and fully aware of how dangerous the native food was to humans, she nonetheless yearned for something to eat. Not knowing how long it would be until she was rescued, she made a decision to get something to eat. She hefted the rifle and made sure it was loaded. Moving closer to the camp, she took up a vigil near enough to watch their movements. For over two hours she watched, biding her time. Eventually one of the patrol moved away from his companions, carrying something that resembled meat. He moved close to Beverly in the darkness and fumbled with his pants as he ate, intending to relieve himself. She could hear the stream of urine hitting the ground as she stealthily approached him. She pressed the rifle into his back and hissed at him to be quiet. The stream stopped and he froze. He didn't understand her words but her intention was clear enough. She took the meat from him and made him lie face down on the ground. She then clouted the back of his head with the butt of the gun and took off at a crouching run. Half way to her tree, she stopped and tore into the meat. It was gamy and slimy but she stuffed mouthfuls down resisting the urge to gag. She heard shouting and was dismayed to hear new voices coming from the direction of her tree. She cast aside the meat residue and wiped her mouth on her sleeve. Breaking cover, she ran at a crouch, making for some shrubs off to her left. A shot rang out and the ground puffed at her feet. She swerved and jinked dodging two more haphazard shots. Fearing being surrounded, she straightened up and lengthened her stride. The bolo, when it struck her legs, brought her down in a breathless heap, spilling her rifle off into the night. She rolled onto her side desperately trying to untangle her feet. The barrel of a gun stilled her movements and a hand roughly dragged her to her feet. Seven people encircled her, each angrily shouting at her and gesturing into the darkness in the direction of their unconscious member. One man, bigger than the rest, came forward and pushed her causing her to fall to the ground. He bent over and shouted into her face.
Beverly held up her hands and stood up. With great deliberation she touched her ears and mouth, trying to make them think she could neither speak nor hear.
They quietened somewhat and grumbled amongst themselves for a while. The big man then grabbed Beverly by the arm and the entire group headed back to the fire.
Once in the light of the fire, Beverly could see there were men and women in the group. All were armed. They pushed Beverly to the ground and a woman gave her a plate with some bread and meat on it. As they watched, she ate the meal, then gulped down a mug of brackish water. The assemblage, now numbering seventeen people split into three groups. Two groups headed out into the night in different directions, leaving five beings by the fire. The remaining few made preparations to bed down. Beverly was thrown a rough blanket and two women made room for her near the fire. It had been a very long day and Beverly was exhausted. She covered herself with the blanket and curled up, wondering how the hell she was going to escape. Sleep eventually claimed her.

 

 

 

 

The man grumbled as he followed his scampering son down to the river.
"A strange man…injured with red blood…preposterous!"
He grunted as he negotiated the rocks leading down to the cave. He hadn't wanted to come. The crops needed harvesting and the local militia had already taken his eldest son.
He was muttering to himself…
"I've got far better things to do with my time than…"
He stopped mid-sentence at the sight of Jean-Luc on the cave floor. Going down on one knee, he felt the Captain's brow and frowned. Turning to his young son he said,
"He's hot."
The soft voice registered in Jean-Luc's mind and he opened his eyes. The man raised his bushy purple eyebrows and gruffly muttered,
"So you're awake?"
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and moaned piteously. The lad crouched down next to his father and offered his opinion.
"Maybe he's from the south. They say they speak differently there. Perhaps he's been shot by one of our militia."
The man gently lifted Jean-Luc's clothes and bandage and grunted when he saw the wound.
"That's no gunshot wound. Look at the bruising."
"Father why is his blood red?"
The man shook his head.
"I don't know but he's badly injured and we should help him. Come on give me a hand, I'm going to take him back to the house."
The boy straightened, his eyes wide.
"What will Mother say?"
The man sighed.
"Quite a bit, most probably."
Together the man and the boy carried Jean-Luc out of the cave and struck out on the well-worn path to their home. When they were about two hundred metres from their destination, the lad ran ahead calling for his mother. A small woman appeared, wiping her hands on a cloth. With her long hair braided down her back, she ran out into the yard and put her hand up to shield her eyes from the lowering suns.
The man, by this time puffing under his burden, slowly made his way into the yard and staggered past his wife and entered his home. She bustled in behind him, her words pouring out.
"Who is that? What is he doing here? Where did you find him? What is wrong with him?"
The man gently lowered Jean-Luc onto his eldest son's bed and straightened up, his hands on his lower back.
"Hush woman! Get some clean bandages, some hot water and that salve we use on the oxen."
The woman's mouth snapped shut and she harrumphed at her husband. She did, however, move to do his bidding. With great care, the man undressed Jean-Luc, hissing with worry when he discovered his injured foot. His wife joined him and they set about cleaning the, by now, infected wounds.
Jean-Luc lay quiescently watching but making no acknowledgement of their actions. Too sick to care, he let them treat him, all the while panting and sweating.
The man, having finished dressing Jean-Luc's wounds, turned to his wife.
"Ellit get me a mug of water. I want to see if he can drink."
The woman left and soon returned bearing an earthen mug. She gave it to her husband as she watched the distressed man.
"Gods Quentod he's sick. Did you feel the heat from his skin?"
"I felt it."
"And what about his blood. It's red!"
"I saw it."
"We should tell the Colonel."
"No! Not yet at least. I don't trust him…he wants to take the lad to join his brother and him only ten years old! No we wait."
Quentod gently lifted Jean-Luc's head and offered the mug. Jean-Luc drank greedily, his thirst a raging one.
"Ellit tie his hair back, it may help to cool him."
While his wife performed that task, Quentod called for his son.
"Haius!"
The boy wasn't far away having hung around to watch his parents.
"Yes Father."
"Tell me more lad. What did he say?"
"I didn't understand his words Father. He touched his mouth with his hand and shook his head."
"And there was nobody else…just the man?"
"Yes Father."
"Did he…"
Ellit's panicked voice rang out.
"Quentod! Come quickly!"
The man rushed into Jean-Luc's room to find his wife supporting the Captain as he vomited. The recently drunk water and a quantity of blood was splattering onto the floor.
"Haius go get a bucket and some rags.
"Here Ellit, let me take him."
Quentod replaced his wife and held Jean-Luc until the spasms stopped. Out of breath and moaning, the Captain was gently lowered to his pillow, Quentod cleaning his mouth with a damp cloth. His wife and son came in and together cleaned up the mess. Quentod stood and looked down at the suffering man.
"He obviously has damaged his internal organs. If he can't drink he will get sicker. We must cover him with wet cloths, maybe he can ingest fluid that way."
Ellit soon returned with a bucket full of water and some clean cloths. They saturated the fabric and laid them along the length of Jean-Luc's body. He started to shiver, despite his elevated temperature and a blanket was draped over him. When they were finished, Quentod turned to his wife.
"Well I have to get back to the harvesting. Can you and Haius care for him?"
Ellit looked lovingly at her young son, ruffling his luxuriant hair.
"I'm sure it's a duty Haius would undertake with careful attention."
"Very well. Call me if you need me."
Quentod left and Ellit sat her son at Jean-Luc's side.
"I'll be in the kitchen. If you need help, just call me."
The boy nodded sternly, thoroughly immersed in his role as care giver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc drifted in and out of sleep. As the shadows crept up the wall and night fell, he tried to gain a perspective on his surroundings. Turning his head slightly, he saw the boy from the cave, watching him intently.
Summoning his voice he said brokenly…
"Where am I?"
The boy jumped and called out.
"Mother!"
A woman appeared and hurried over to him.
"What is it?"
"He spoke to me."
"What did he say?"
Haius shrugged his thin shoulders.
"I don't know."
Jean-Luc looked up at the woman and repeated his question.
"Where am I?"
Ellit looked at Jean-Luc, then at her son, then back at Jean-Luc. She touched her breast and said "Ellit." Then gently touched Jean-Luc's chest, her eyebrows raised.
The Captain understood. In his deep roughened voice he said,
"Jean-Luc."
The woman smiled and repeated his words.
"Jean-Luc?"
He nodded and frowned as he struggled to breathe. Raising one arm, he held his hand to his chest, feeling a deep ache inside. His fingers found his carotid artery and he felt the erratic pulse, indicating a defective heart. Concentrating, he realised his lungs were congested and tried an experimental cough. Immediately the stab of agony washed over him. He groaned and turned onto his side, gasping.
Ellit grasped his shoulder and wiped his brow with a damp cloth. When the pain settled, he opened his eyes and smiled at his benefactor.
She looked at her son and touched his head.
"Haius."
Jean-Luc looked at the boy and smiled.
"Hello Haius."
On hearing his name, the lad's face split into a grin and he touched the Captain's shoulder.
"Jean-Luc."
He nodded and Haius sighed with happiness. Contact had been made.
Ellit left them to return to the kitchen. Haius watched over Jean-Luc for a further hour as the Captain dozed. Upon wakening, he raised his hands and rubbed his eyes, dislodging one of the contact lenses. It lifted, exposing the white sclera and the hazel iris.
Haius gasped and stepped back from his chair, knocking it over. His mother's voice drifted in from the other room.
"Are you all right in there?"
Not taking his eyes from the Captain, Haius gulped and made a quick decision. He replied,
"Yes Mother."
Jean-Luc realised what had happened and hurriedly replaced the lens. He looked concernedly at Haius and reached for his hand. The boy was hesitant but allowed the contact.
"You must not be frightened."
Haius shook his head and pointed at Jean-Luc's eyes. In a small voice he said,
"What are you?"
Jean-Luc knew instinctively what was being asked. He sighed and momentarily closed his eyes. Summoning his most gentle voice, Jean-Luc implored,
"You must not fear me…I will not harm you."
The lad heard the sincerity in Jean-Luc's voice and began to relax. Nodding he said,
"I won't tell anybody…it will be our secret."
Jean-Luc felt a bond of sorts was being formed. He smiled at Haius and gently squeezed his small hand. Gesturing to the other room, Jean-Luc put his finger to his lips.
Haius giggled and nodded, winking at the Captain. Relieved that he wasn't going to be exposed, Jean-Luc let his body sag and wondered how the hell he was going to get out of his situation.

 

 

 

 

Beverly dozed. The nights were cold on Burras II and the thin blanket did little to ward off the chill. As the long night crept on, Beverly woke and lay quietly, watching the camp as groups came and went. That the others deemed her to be a low threat was a boon to her. She stood and wrapped the blanket about her willowy form, moving closer to the fire. She watched surreptitiously, noting that nobody seemed to be paying her any attention. Turning from the fire, she faced the darkness, the light of the moons feeble. With a boldness she didn't feel, she walked towards the darkness, only to be stopped. The rough hand turned her around and an unmistakable question was asked.
"Where are you going?"
Beverly didn't need to speak Burran to know what he meant. She put one hand between her legs and grimaced. Her captor grunted and let her go, pointing into the night. Beverly started off in that direction, but as the darkness swallowed her, she veered to her right. When no one challenged her, she quickened her pace. She knew she had little time. At a trot, she made her way towards her tree. She met no one else so she increased her step, eventually running flat out. She reached the tree and, panting, felt in the bole for the knapsack. Almost shouting with relief, her hand closed on the stout fabric. She wrenched it free and took off again, angling away from the camp, but keeping the road within her periphery. She ran until she couldn't run any more. In a group of trees she collapsed to the ground and waited until she'd regained her breath. She opened the rucksack and took out the radio. By the light of the activated tricorder, she assembled the device and spoke softly to it.
"Enterprise this is Crusher. Respond please."
The reply came faintly.
"Enterprise here."
"I am…"
Her broadcast was shattered by a snarling voice.
The Enterprise cut in.
"Doctor Crusher the inhabitants have detected your transmission. They want you to stop."
"Damn them! I'm on my way to collect Captain Picard…there's ground forces everywhere…I have to be careful. I'll contact you again in three hours."
"Doctor this is Data. It is likely the inhabitants will be able to pinpoint your broadcasts. Keep moving and do not stay near where you send from."
"Understood Data, thank you. Crusher out."
She deactivated the unit, dismantled it and stored it in the bag. She stood with her burden and wrapped the blanket around her shoulders. She could just see the pinpricks of light that designated the buildings where she and Jean-Luc had hitched the ride in the wagon. Angling towards the lights she moved through the trees, her ears hyperaware. As she neared the outbuildings she could make out several people standing in the soft light cast through the windows. They were drinking.
"It's a tavern."
She warily circumvented the sheds, avoiding the main structure and keeping in the darkness. Having successfully negotiated the pub, she picked up the road again and trotted on.
"I'm coming Jean-Luc, hold on."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haius sat beside the Captain, a frown upon his blue face. He gestured with the utensil.
"You must eat. Mother says that you will get even more sick if you don't eat something."
Jean-Luc looked at the morsel and grimaced. He felt nauseous; the last thing he wanted was food. What he craved was water, but was reluctant to go through the vomiting again.
Again Haius proffered the fork.
"Just chew it, at least you'll be getting the goodness."
As he said this, he pantomimed chewing, then spitting. Jean-Luc understood and took the fork from his hand, popping the bit of meat and a few vegetables into his mouth. He chewed until the food was nothing but a paste in his mouth then spat the remains into a bucket. Haius grinned and offered another forkful, but Jean-Luc's thirst was made worse by his chewing. He motioned drinking and the lad quickly brought him a mug of water. Jean-Luc raised the mug and slowly sipped, cautious of the consequences. When nothing happened, he sipped some more them lay down panting. When he'd regained his breath, he reached for the boy's hand and, with a huge effort, raised himself to a sitting position.
He gasped and held his stomach as the waves of pain washed over him. Haius wiped his sweating brow and held tightly to his hand.
Having found his balance, Jean-Luc opened his eyes and let go of Haius' hand. Using his own hands, the Captain tried to make himself understood.
"I need a crutch, something to support me."
Haius watched intently, trying to guess what the man wanted. As Jean-Luc's gestures continued, Haius suddenly understood. He stood from his chair shaking his head.
"No…you are too sick. You must stay in bed."
Jean-Luc reached for the boy's hand, imploring him.
"Please Haius I need your help."
Haius frowned, caught between wanting to help his new friend and abiding by his parent's concerns. Jean-Luc guessed the problem and sought to nullify it. Again using his hands, he said,
"I need to walk…just around here, not outside…"
The lad understood but was still reluctant to acquiesce. He walked slowly around the room, lost in deep thought. Jean-Luc watched him, his germ of a plan dependent on the boy.
"Haius…"
The lad turned and went to the Captain.
"Please."
Haius was swayed by the earnest look on the man's face. It was a face he could trust. Nodding he pointed to the kitchen and put his finger to his lips. He then went to the window and quietly raised the pane. When he was sure his mother hadn't heard him, he slipped outside and disappeared. Jean-Luc rested his head on the wall and sighed. All he could do now was wait.

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly was nearing the point where she would have to veer off into the open paddocks to find the river. She crept along, the immediate vicinity hosting several groups of armed militia. She came to a rocky outcrop and saw that a path wended through the rocks. She wanted to take it; the idea of traversing the rocks in the dark was not something she wanted to contemplate. She worked her way closer and saw that the path was guarded by two men. They stood close together in deep conversation. She eased the backpack from her shoulder and reached inside, her fingers closing on the phaser. She removed it and set it to wide stun. Aiming it, she muttered,
"Forgive me Jean-Luc."
And fired.
The bodies fell silently to the ground and Beverly waited to see if the discharge had caused any interest. Nothing happened after a few minutes, so she ventured forward and stepped past the unconscious men. Hurrying now, she flew along the path and was relieved when it opened out onto the plain she knew to be the one she wanted. Leaving the outcrop, she descended carefully and struck out for what she sought…the river.
Voices made her stop and she pressed herself against a tree. Four people passed within a couple of metres and she held her breath, sure that they must be able to hear her pounding heart.
Tree by tree, she worked her way towards the river, eventually hearing its rush and sighing with relief. Her comfort vanished however when she spotted a group of soldiers making their way down the banks. She sidled over to a large boulder and hazarded a look around its edges. Down on the river, on a large sand bank at least fifteen men and women gathered around a fire. They had a radio and, as Beverly watched, one of the women picked up the transceiver and spoke into it. The people around her hushed as the crackly reply came in. Moving off it twos, they broke up and spread out. Beverly quickly moved back into the trees and made her way downstream.
She'd travelled about eight hundred metres when she recognised some rock formations. Seeing in the dim light, she picked out the huge tree and made for it, resisting the urge to call out to Jean-Luc. She reached the roots and swung herself into the grotto only to freeze. It was empty.
She dropped to her knees and felt around the floor with her hands. Frustrated, she dropped the backpack and removed the tricorder. Using its light, she scanned the area and reaffirmed she was alone.
"Where the hell are you?"
She quickly assembled the radio and called the ship.
"Enterprise, this is Crusher."
"Enterprise here."
"I have reached the place where I left the Captain and he's gone."
"Beverly it's Will. What do you mean gone?"
"Dammit Will he's not here!"
"Did he leave anything…any clue…?"
"No! He's just…"
The radio suddenly blared a rough voice. Quickly Beverly lowered the volume and waited until it stopped.
"Enterprise?"
"Yes Beverly. That transmission was from a point two kilometres east of your location. The operator demanded to know who you were and to stop broadcasting."
"Understood. I'll stay here 'til morning and look for Captain Picard then. Crusher out."
She packed away the power cell and aerial but left the tricorder out. Setting the motion detector and leaving it at the entrance, she shuffled into the back of the cave and snuggled into her blanket. She had many hours to wait for the dawn.
Her exertions caused her to fall into a restless sleep. She remained undisturbed until dawn, the creeping light wakening her. Thirsty, she crept down to the flowing water and drank her fill, then washed her face. Hunger made itself known, her stomach rumbling. Ignoring it, she climbed back up to the cave and took up the tricorder. Re-inputting the parameters, she scanned the immediate area, the instrument locating small quantities of Jean-Luc's blood. Beverly picked up the knapsack and followed the trail, eventually finding herself on a faint track leading away from the river.

 

 

 

 

She had gone only a few hundred metres when gunfire suddenly rang out. She was passing between stands of towering trees that grew on rising ground creating a small valley. From both sides, shots whizzed by, one clipping her upper arm. Gasping in pain, she ran full tilt, heading for a rocky outcrop at the end of the valley. The ground puffed with rising dust as shots missed. It seemed both sides were aiming at her, until she fell to the ground. Shucking off the backpack, Beverly rolled onto her back and lay panting as the shots continued to whiz by above her. Having ascertained they were not targeting her, she turned onto her belly and wriggled to the safety of the rocks, then got to her feet and took off in a crouching run, only stopping when she was far away from the firing.
Groaning Beverly stopped and sat inspecting her arm. The bullet had passed clean through the muscle the blood flowing unimpeded. She fumbled with the torn hem of her tunic and tore off a strip, bandaging her arm as best she could. The firing continued sporadically in the distance as she got to her feet and started again down the faint path. The tricorder still registered traces of the Captain's blood and she followed it intently. Her eyes were down, concentrating on the instrument, when her feet took her into a field of a wheat-like plant. She stopped and looked up, seeing a farmhouse in the distance.
"Well…are you there?"
Stooping, she eased the backpack down and put away the tricorder. With her good arm, she brushed the dust and twigs from her clothes and ran her fingers through her long purple hair. She hoisted the backpack onto her good shoulder and took a big breath.
"Ok, here goes."
She stepped into the thigh-high grasses and watched in fascination as the plants waved with the wind as she walked. She had covered half the distance to the house when she saw a figure emerge to throw some water from a bucket. The figure put the bucket down and stretched. Turning to re-enter the house, the figure stopped and half turned towards Beverly. She watched as the figure raised a hand against the suns and felt self conscious as she was observed. As Beverly got closer she could see that the other person was a woman, the colour of her clothing denoting her as such. Beverly lifted her good hand and waved. No gesture was returned. When Beverly was about five metres away the being spoke.
Beverly stopped and shook her head. Lifting her good hand, she touched her mouth and ear again shaking her head. The woman slowly walked to the door, reached inside and hefted an axe. She spoke again.
Haius, hearing his mother's warning tone, came to the door.
"What is it Mother?"
"A stranger. Stay inside."
He moved away from the door and peeked out of the window. The first thing he noticed was the red blood on the bandaged arm.
"Mother! She is like the man…like Jean-Luc."
"What?"
"Look at her arm. She is injured and her blood is red."
Ellit's orange eyes flicked to Beverly's arm and back to her eyes.
"I asked you…what do you want?"
Beverly shook her head and rubbed her stomach. She then mimed eating and drinking.
"Mother…"
"Hush Haius!"
Ellit turned to admonish her son and gasped in fright when she saw Jean-Luc leaning against the doorframe of his room, a sheet tied around his waist, supporting himself with the crutch Haius had procured. He'd dragged himself out of bed when he heard the commotion. He wiped at the sweat running down his face and gestured to Haius.
"What is it Lad?"
Haius pointed out the window and Jean-Luc lowered his head to see.
"Beverly!"
He staggered over to Ellit and took her arm.
"It's Beverly…my friend."
He pointed at the Doctor.
"Beverly."
Ellit looked at Jean-Luc then at Beverly. She lowered the axe and stepped back. The Captain gathered his breath and called out as loudly as he could.
"Beverly it's me. Come in."
The Doctor stepped forward tentatively, gaining confidence when no one challenged her. She made it to the door and looked in to see her best friend being supported by a woman and a young boy. She watched as they made him sit on a chair, the boy encouraging him to take small sips of water.
When he'd regained his breath, he smiled up at the woman.
He pointed to her and looked at Beverly.
"Ellit."
Beverly smiled and repeated him.
"Ellit. Hello Ellit."
The woman gave a quick smile then frowned as Jean-Luc coughed painfully. Beverly was by his side in an instant.
"He must lie down."
She gestured with her hand and Ellit nodded.
"Haius help me get him back into bed."
With their help, Jean-Luc got to his feet and hobbled back to his room. He sat on the bed and groaned as he swivelled and brought his feet up. Not wanting to lie flat, he sat up panting.
Ellit cast a look at Beverly and spoke to her son.
"I will get some food and drink for the woman. You watch them."
"Yes Mother."
Beverly became aware of a shadow. She glanced to her side to see the boy watching her every move. When she turned her attention back to the Captain, she found him eyeing her. He raised a shaking hand and patted the lad's shoulder.
"Beverly, this is Haius."
She turned to the boy and smiled.
"Hello Haius, I'm Beverly."
A shy smile emerged. The youngster gently touched her arm and whispered,
"Beverly."
Jean-Luc's voice was roughening.
"What happened to your arm?"
"I got shot…caught in a crossfire."
"Did they follow you?"
"Nup, they weren't after me. My injury was more bad luck than anything else. Jean-Luc I have a radio and I can contact the Enterprise."
"Are they coming?"
"They can't. Too many people in the vicinity. Part of the radio is a tricorder. I want to scan you."
"Not now. Wait until tonight, I don't want to pollute these people Beverly…they've been exceedingly kind to me."
"Haius."
The boy jumped to his feet when his mother called. He'd been fascinated watching the officers talk. Never before had he heard such a language. Ellit came into the room with a tray. She placed it on the bed, then took her son by the shoulder and spoke to him.
"I want you to go and get your father. He's down at the bottom paddock. Hurry now."
"Yes Mother."
She watched her son leave on his mission, then turned to her guests.
"I have food and drink. You eat and I will get something to clean your wound."
Her gestures were understood and after she left, Jean-Luc smiled as Beverly started to demolish the food.
"Hungry Beverly?"
She nodded, not pausing in her feast.
"Mmm Hmm."
Jean-Luc picked up a piece of fruit and chewed on it thoughtfully.
"You must radio the ship tonight. We could…"
Beverly shook her head, gesturing for him to wait while she finished her mouthful.
"We can't. The transmissions are being picked up by the militia. Data says they can track us…I don't want to put these people in any danger."
"Understood. How far are we from the lake?"
"Well the river feeds it…I'd say about ten kilometres."
"If we can make it there…you'll have to dive for the shuttle."
"I know. How deep is it?"
"Approximately ten metres I think. With the tannin in the water, the darkness negated a deeper submersion."
"Good. When we get there we…"
Beverly noticed Jean-Luc's eyes leave her and glance over her shoulder. Ellit had returned.
The woman put a dish of warm water on the side table and reached for Beverly's bandaged arm. At first tentative, Beverly allowed her to undo the ligature and tear the cloth sleeve from the garment.
The area surrounding the wound had darkened with bruising and powder burns. Ignoring Beverly's wincing, Ellit checked the bone, nodding with satisfaction as she assured herself it wasn't broken. She took some clean rags and cleaned the wounds then applied some smelly salve. Placing clean wads on the wounds, she re-bound them and smiled when she was finished. She then gestured to Jean-Luc. He looked down at his bloodied bandages and nodded.
Ellit left the room and soon returned with more water and clean bandages. Beverly helped as the wounds were exposed, her nose wrinkling at the smell of putrification.
"It's infected Jean-Luc."
"I know…so is my foot. God knows what they'd been doing with that pike."
He endured the pain as they wiped away the pus and dried serum. As the rolled him gently onto his side, he grunted when they had trouble getting the caked wad from the wound. Eventually, they managed to peel it off and bathed the injury. When they had finished with his midriff, they moved to his foot. The bandages came off slowly and Beverly was alarmed to see angry dark blue filaments tracing their way away from the wounds and up his leg. His foot was grossly swollen and weeping pus.
"Oh God Jean-Luc."
The tormented, panting man could only grunt. The two women cleaned his foot, applied the salve and re-bandaged it. Ellit left to dispose of the dirty water and rags. Beverly sat on the bed and placed her fingers over Jean-Luc's carotid artery.
"Jean-Luc…"
"I know it's my heart. There's fluid in my lungs and I can't keep anything down."
"How the hell are we going to make it ten kilometres..?"
His hand found hers and squeezed it gently.
"We'll make it Beverly…we have to."
They sat together quietly, each lost in their own thoughts. Their peace was shattered by the returning Haius and his father.
The big man came into the house and the officers could hear him talking in hushed tones with his wife. Haius could be heard adding his opinion and the friends smiled at hearing his parents both hush him. There was a moment's silence before the man entered Jean-Luc's room. He stood in the doorway, his bright orange eyes taking in Beverly's form. She smiled at him and touched her chest.
"Beverly."
He nodded and touched his own broad chest.
"Quentod."
He looked at Beverly's injured arm, the blood already seeping through. Pointing at her wound, he muttered,
"Your blood is red also. Are you the same as Jean-Luc?"
Beverly frowned, trying to understand him. She thought she did. With boldness, she picked up Jean-Luc's hand and held it to her heart. Closing her eyes she smiled. The Captain caught on and placed his other hand on their joined ones. He smiled too.
Quentod grinned and nodded. Ellit, who was now standing with her husband slipped her hand into his. She stood on tip-toe and whispered into his ear,
"They're mated."
Haius heard this pronouncement and giggled behind his hands. His father turned and frowned.
"That's enough out of you young lad! Go and fetch an extra pillow and blanket."
He then turned to his wife.
"Did you burn the dirty bandages?"
"Yes."
"Good. I saw some militia this morning, it wouldn't surprise me if they came and took more food this afternoon. We'll have to hide them…"
"What about the cellar?"
"No…I know. We should put them in the bagging room. It's warm and clean and the soldiers would have no reason to go in there. We can move the bed this afternoon. Haius!"
The boy ran in, his arms full with the pillow and blanket.
"Yes Father?"
"This afternoon, after lunch, I want you to help me move this bed into the bagging room."
The youngster grinned up with adoration at his father.
"Yes Father."
Quentod saw the empty plates and mugs. He raised his eyebrows and picked up a mug.
"Jean-Luc?"
Still with the ever-present thirst, the Captain nodded.
"Good. Haius get Jean-Luc a drink of water."
The lad scooted out of the bedroom and soon returned with the drink. With trembling hands, Jean-Luc took the mug and sipped some of the cool water. Beverly's gentle hand on his arm reminded him to slow down. He sighed and put the mug on the side table.
"Thank you."
Knowing instinctively what was said, Haius grinned and made himself comfortable on the bed. As his parents made their way to the kitchen, he said,
"I'll stay and watch over them Father."
"Very well. Don't be a pest."
"Yes Father."
There was a moment's awkward silence before Jean-Luc smiled.
"It would seem we have a chaperone."
Beverly giggled and ruffled the boy's hair.
"Well it's been a while."
Haius watched as the friends talked. He wished he could communicate with them. After a while, he tugged gently on Beverly remaining sleeve.
"What?"
He reached up and pulled down his eyelid. Beverly frowned and looked at Jean-Luc. He sighed.
"He's seen my real eye. I was rubbing my eyes and I dislodged one of my lenses. It's a secret between us. I suppose he wants to know if you're the same."
"What do I do?"
"It's up to you. Do you want to show him?"
"Well…"
Haius reached up and touched Beverly under her eye. His pleading expression melted her heart.
"Well ok…"
She and Haius both looked to the door and smiled when their eyes met. She then gingerly lifted her injured arm and, using her fingers, prised her eyelids apart. With her other hand, she pinched out the lens. Blinking once, she looked at the lad, to find him, mouth agape, staring at her.
"Haius come and get your lunch."
The boy's mouth snapped shut and he jumped up from the bed. Beverly quickly replaced the lens and when he next looked at her she was restored. She winked at him and he grinned. Coming to a quick decision, he leaned forward and touched his nose to hers. His complexion darkened in what Beverly recognised as a blush and he quickly left the room.
"It seems you have an admirer."
Beverly chuckled softly and commented,
"He's a remarkable boy. He seems to be unfazed by what he sees."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes. It was he who found me in the cave. It was his fishing spot Beverly, I saw his rod. He went and got his father and together they brought me back here."
Beverly groaned.
"Do you mean to tell me that in all the riverbank to hide you, I picked someone's fishing spot?"
"Uh huh."
"Oh God…"
"Don't worry about it…it turned out all right. What happened at the blind?"
"When I got there Duron was dead. With the computer's help I found the radio, grabbed a phaser and left. My main concern was getting back to you."
"You have a phaser? Beverly…"
"I know! I only used it once and no…I wasn't observed. The two soldiers I stunned will wake up none the wiser. I had to Jean-Luc…you've got no idea how hard it was…there's militia all over the place. I was captured once."
"Captured?"
"Uh huh. The first night. I stashed the backpack and made out I was mute. They took me to a campsite and I was able to escape later in the night."
"You have had an adventure! When were you shot?"
"This morning, about three hours before I arrived here."
"I've been hearing gunshots throughout the morning. Do you know what's been happening?"
"I've no idea. I just…"
Their conversation was cut short be Quentod who hurried into the room.
"We must hurry. Soldiers are coming! Come with me."
His gestures were understood and he helped Jean-Luc to his feet. He noticed the crutch and cast a glance at his son who had the good grace to look embarrassed. With care, Quentod ushered his guests through the house, out the back door and across the dusty yard. There stood an outbuilding solidly made out of local stone. He put his shoulder to the door and it creaked open. Inside the air was filled with particles, which glinted in the sunlight. Around the walls were piles of bags and in the centre of the room, stood an apparatus unfamiliar to the two officers. Under his father's direction, Haius pulled down some bags and made a bed on the floor. Quentod gently lowered the groaning Captain to the bed and helped Beverly make him comfortable.
"Now stay quiet! We will keep the soldiers away from this building, the rest is up to you."
Beverly and Jean-Luc understood and the panting Captain stifled his pain. Quentod and Haius left, closing the door behind them, leaving them in darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

Colonel Erodd didn't like farmers. He considered them of low intelligence and a waist of space. He swaggered up to Quentod as Ellit and Haius waited in the kitchen.
Quentod, unafraid of the soldiers, straightened his back and tucked in his chin, in the traditional greeting of his people.
"Colonel…how can I help you?"
Erodd walked past Quentod, ignoring the greeting.
"We need some supplies. You will furnish them."
"We don't have much."
"You will be left enough. Where is your younger son?"
Quentod felt a spike of apprehension.
"Inside with his mother."
"It's time to cut the apron strings! He should be with his brother."
"I need him to help me with the harvest."
"Hmm. Well, perhaps later then. We need bread, meat and cheese. See that my men fill their sacks."
"Yes Colonel."
Quentod called to his family and they came out of the house. They took the soldiers to the storehouse and filled their sacks and when they emerged, they found Erodd was in their home. In his hands were a blanket and a pillow.
"Why were these on a single bed? There was already a pillow and blanket on the bed."
Ellit stepped forward and spoke.
"I was going to change the bed. I thought Foradd might like fresh things if he gets a chance to come home."
"I see. We are looking for a tall woman…a woman who might have a radio. Have you seen such a woman?"
The family looked at each other and Quentod shrugged his shoulders.
"No Colonel, we have seen nobody."
Erodd stepped up close to Quentod and stared at him for some moments.
"Well if you do you know who to tell don't you?"
"Yes Colonel."
He stepped back and noted that his men were ready to leave.
"Be warned farmer. You know the penalty for withholding information."
Quentod nodded and sighed with relief when Erodd ordered his men to leave.
They returned inside and watched through the windows, not stirring until the soldiers had disappeared from sight.
"Haius we must leave the bed in Foradd's room. They will know something's amiss if we move it."
The lad nodded and questioned his father.
"May I take them some water father?"
"Yes Son and here, take them a lantern."
Taking a taper from the fire, he lit a lantern and gave it to his son. The boy took a jug and two mugs with the lantern and made his way to the bagging room. When he went inside he found Beverly holding Jean-Luc as he vomited silently. He placed the lantern on the floor with his other burdens and quickly left to get his mother. They soon returned with a bucket of water and a mop. They cleaned up the mess as Beverly made the Captain comfortable.

 

For the next two days, Beverly and Jean-Luc stayed at the farm. The Doctor was hoping Jean-Luc could regain some strength for the coming escape, but if anything he got sicker. Beverly scanned him with the tricorder and it confirmed what she already knew. His stomach had been perforated and infection was running rampant through his weakening body. His heart continued to malfunction and the fluid built in his lungs. Her own health started to deteriorate. The parasite she'd ingested made its presence known in the form of debilitating cramps, which wracked her body. With no other recourse, she continued to eat the contaminated food, knowing that the Captain was also infected.
Her injured arm stiffened and she suspected infection was taking hold. On one of her rare forays in the yard, she noticed a wooden barrow and formed an idea. That night, after dinner, she talked quietly with Jean-Luc.
"We have to make our move tonight."
He nodded, too sick to garner any enthusiasm.
"I know you can't walk too well, but I have an idea. There's a barrow near the door. If you can get in it…I can wheel you most of the way."
"What about your arm?"
Beverly made a fist and flexed the muscles, wincing at the pain that produced.
"I'll manage."
"Beverly…"
"We've got no choice! It has to be tonight. You're getting worse and the longer we stay here, the more danger we put these people in."
He nodded giving in to her logic.
"When Haius comes in to check us tonight I'll try and get some clothes for you."
His reply was cut short by a bout of agonising coughing. Tears welled in his eyes as he rolled on his side, clutching his stomach. All Beverly could do was rub his back.
"Hang in there Jean-Luc…we'll get out of this."

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of hours later Haius came in to see them prior to going to bed. Beverly took him aside and, using gestures, made him understand that Jean-Luc needed clothing.
He nodded and left, returning later with a pair of trousers and a tunic in the male colours of tan and brown. Beverly touched her nose to his knowing it was the only farewell she would be able to give. Haius frowned and left, feeling something was amiss.
They waited until the lights went out in the house, then waited another hour. When they were certain everyone was asleep, they left the bagging room and emerged into the cool night. Jean-Luc leaned heavily on Beverly as she cast about, looking for the barrow. Seeing it, she helped his hobble to it and eased him down until he was seated in it. His back to its front, his legs dangling over each handle.
Beverly stood between the handles and took a deep breath. Gripping the shafts, she lifted and gasped as pain shot down the length of her arm, but she held her ground. With the crutch balanced across his thighs and the backpack resting on his groin they started their journey.
One of the dogs woofed as they passed the kennels, but it soon settled down. The wooden gate to the yard swung open silently on its hinges and Beverly was careful to make sure it was shut securely when the left. Using the tricorder to get her bearings, she found the direction to the river and set off, pushing her load before her.

 

 

 

Haius was wakened by the dog. Sitting up in his bed, he heard his father grumble in his sleep and waited until he settled. He thought about going back to sleep when he remembered Beverly's request of clothing for Jean-Luc. It was odd. The man was badly injured and sick. What use was clothing to him?
Slipping from his bed he dressed in the darkness and crept into the kitchen, looking out the back windows. He saw nothing but the pale moonlight illuminating the back yard. Not mollified, he quietly opened the back door and stepped out into the night. He waited until his eyes were accustomed to the darkness then made his way to the bagging shed. Tapping lightly on the door, he whispered,
"Beverly?"
When no reply was forthcoming, he eased the door open and stepped inside. The lantern was out but he could tell the room was empty. He stood quietly, listening with all his senses.
He heard, off in the distance, the faint cry of a barrat. Fox-like, the animals mostly hunted in pairs and he knew his dogs would be alerted to their presence. Their fowl were penned for the night, safe and secure. Sometimes barrat came close to the house looking for scraps, but usually a bark from the dogs scared them away.
"Where have you gone?" He wondered. He scouted around the yard and picked up, in the faint light, the track made by the barrow. He followed it to the gate and lifted his head, staring out into the night.
Without prior thought, his hands undid the latch and he stepped through, careful to close and refasten the gate. The wheel of the barrow made a clear furrow in the soft soil and he had little trouble following it.

 

 

 

 

The barrow jolted over the tree root and Jean-Luc couldn't contain his groan. Beverly lowered the barrow to the ground and went to the stricken man.
"How are you doing?"
Panting through gritted teeth, the Captain squeezed his eyes shut. Beverly could see the sheen of sweat on his skin and briefly placed her hand on his forehead.
"Dammit Jean-Luc you're hotter than the last time I felt you. Look I'm going to push you to that stand of trees over there and we'll rest. Ok?"
The tormented man nodded, wincing as Beverly picked up the barrow handles.
"Hang on Jean-Luc."
Grimacing in her own pain, the Doctor had to stop momentarily as cramps gripped her intestines. She breathed deeply, ignoring the pain and hefted the barrow. Keeping the trees in sight, she pushed on doggedly, not pausing until she was within their trunks. Gently lowering the barrow, she reached for the backpack and withdrew a small bottle. Taking out the stopper, she drank some of the water, then encouraged Jean-Luc to take a few sips.
They were startled by gunshots nearby. A firefight ensued, lasting about fifteen minutes. With the cessation came an eerie silence. Beverly listened, keeping absolutely silent. Apart from their own breathing, she could hear nothing else.
"Jean-Luc?" she whispered.
"Yes?"
"I'm going to call the ship. They can tell us where the others are."
"Do you think that's wise? They might detect you."
"I'm willing to take that chance. I'll keep the volume down really low and only stay on for a few moments."
She heard his sigh.
"Very well."
It took only minutes for Beverly to assemble the radio. She shielded the tricorder's light with the backpack.
"Enterprise? This is Crusher."
The hiss of static was alarmingly loud and Beverly was quick to turn it down.
"Enterprise do you read?"
"We read you Beverly. Have you found the Captain?"
"Yes. We're on our way to the river. We'll follow it to the lake. There I will dive for the shuttle."
"Understood."
"Enterprise how many militia are on the ground near us?"
"There are two large groups to the east and another to the west. Scattered about in groups of two and three, there are many people in the surrounding area. The river remains clear as is the lake."
"Can you pinpoint my signal?"
"Yes."
"How far to the river?"
"Seven kilometres."
"And to the lake from the river?"
"Another three point two kilometres."
"Right. I'll contact you again from the lake. Crusher out."
She disassembled the radio and stood. Casting a look at Jean-Luc, she was alarmed to see him slumped and seemingly unconscious.
"Jean-Luc!"
Beverly took his pulse and used some water to wet his fevered brow. He stirred, coughed and, groaning, tried to turn onto his side.
"No Jean-Luc you must stay as you are. You're in a barrow remember?"
His eyes mere slits, he stilled and groaned again.
"God Beverly…it hurts."
"I know, I know, but we have to keep moving. I was on the radio longer than I wanted to be. I don't want the militia to track us. Are you ready to start again?"
He sighed and grunted.
"If we must."
"Good."
Gently placing the knapsack on his groin, Beverly stood between the shafts and gripped the handles. Ignoring the pain that lanced through her arm, she took the weight and started off into the night, unerringly headed for the river.
They had travelled silently for several hours, creeping past groups of soldiers and avoiding detection when Beverly heard the sibilant hiss of running water. Choosing the thickening undergrowth to cover them, She stopped and knelt by Jean-Luc's shoulder.
"Jean-Luc? Are you awake?"
"Hmm." Was all he could manage.
"We've reached the river. I'm going to leave you for a bit while I look for a way to follow the watercourse. Keep quiet."
"Ok."
Beverly stood and peered into the gloom. Keeping the river to her left, she started off stealthily creeping from tree to tree, looking for a clear way to wheel the barrow. She had gone some three hundred metres when she saw a faint trail. It wound its way through the undergrowth, following the path of the river.
"Perfect!"
She retraced her steps, but as she neared the Captain's hiding place, she heard rough voices. She crept closer and saw three soldiers. One was checking his rifle as the other two compared the blades of their knives. On the back of one man was a bulky package. He finished with his rifle and shrugged his burden onto the ground. The other two squatted beside him as he took the cover off the package. He extended an aerial, adjusted some dials and picked up a microphone. His report was received and a reply given. Further conversation ensued, the three men listening carefully. Obviously getting instructions, the contact was severed and the soldier spent some time packing away the radio. He stood and re-shouldered the bundle pointing upstream. They moved off quietly missing Jean-Luc by mere metres. After they had gone, Beverly moved quickly to his side. He had vomited and his head lolled as he panted with distress.
Whispering she wet some cloth and cleaned his mouth.
"Steady Jean-Luc. Here have some water."
He sipped half-heartedly spilling most of it. His head dropped back, his eyes tightly closed. Beverly could do nothing to clean his chest and stomach of the mess. She felt the best thing was to keep moving. Without a further word, she picked up the barrow and moved off to the track, praying they met no resistance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The further Haius got from the farm, the more worried he became. Should he continue? What could they be doing?
His feet kept faithfully carrying him as he followed the trail into the darkness. He knew to keep clear of the patrols and twice in quick succession he hid as the marauding soldiers continued their scouting. He had rarely gone from the farm as far as he went that night. He knew the river lay off in the distance, he was familiar with the upstream section, but his father had warned him of dangerous currents downstream. He forged on into the night and was surprised when he neared them by the river. He stayed back, watching intently as Beverly picked up the barrow and continued her trek. Keeping some distance behind them, he followed, curious to find where they were going.

 

 

 

 

 

Once on the track, Beverly picked up her pace glad that the smoother ground afforded Jean-Luc a more comfortable ride. Thankfully alone they kept going in the darkness the kilometres covered slowly. At one stage, they came across an aggregation of rock. The river fell through falls in three stages, the countryside littered with boulders. Unable to wheel the barrow, Beverly eased the Captain onto the ground and went ahead to reconnoitre. She discovered the trail climbed over the rocks then descended back to the riverbank. Going back to Jean-Luc she explained what was ahead.
"Jean-Luc the trail climbs then falls back to the river and I can't wheel the barrow through this section. I think I can carry and push the empty barrow down to the flat, but do you think, with my help, you can make it?"
"I can try."
"Ok, I'll be back soon."
Making him comfortable, she took the now much lighter barrow and struggled with it over the rough terrain. It took over an hour but she made it. She hid the barrow and made the climb back to her friend.
She found him consulting the tricorder.
"What is it?"
"I was scanning to find the lake when the motion detector sounded. There's someone behind us…about two hundred metres."
"Are they moving in our direction?"
"No. They've stopped."
"Probably a patrol. Come on let's get moving."
With a great deal of effort, Beverly helped Jean-Luc to his feet and supported him under his shoulder. He placed the crutch under the other arm and they started their tortuous way forward.
They had to stop frequently to allow the Captain to get his breath. Beverly noticed blood seeping through their bandages and knew Jean-Luc was reaching the end of his phenomenal stamina. His lungs were dangerously congested as his heart feebly pumped his blood. The journey took three hours. When they reached the hidden barrow Jean-Luc was unable to stand any longer. He collapsed onto the ground, curling onto his side and groaning in distress.
Beverly knelt beside him her own pain running rampant through her organs. When she was able, she took the tricorder and scanned the area. Seeing no danger, she inputted new instructions and smiled grimly as the lake came into view. After eight hours of dreadful slogging, they were nearing their goal.
She helped Jean-Luc into a sitting position and got his attention.
"Jean-Luc we're close to the lake now. We only have to go another two and a half kilometres and we'll be at the shuttle. Hang on…just a little longer."
Exhausted and in terrible pain, all he could do was nod.
Beverly took him under his arms and helped him to his feet. She positioned the barrow and lowered him into it, placing the knapsack and crutch alongside his body. With grim determination, she lifted the barrow and continued.

 

 

 

 

 

Haius was scared. He trembled behind a tree as four soldiers stopped nearby and sniffed the air.
"I'm telling you that broadcast was made near here. The colonel said there would be extra rations for anyone who catches the renegades."
"That's easy for him to say…he's not out here in the dark chasing shadows."
"Did you hear the transmission?"
"No, but I'm told its in a foreign language…southerners for sure."
"Well we won't find them standing around talking. Let's go."
They moved off in a northerly direction and Haius breathed a sigh of relief. Now some distance behind his friends, he hurried from his hiding spot and tried to make up lost ground.
From the top of the tumbled rocks he saw where Beverly had manoeuvred the barrow through the detritus. He followed the path, climbing then descending down onto the flat. When he reached the spot where the two officers had rested, he was frightened to find blood on the ground. Looking up he listened to the sounds of the night, wondering what his friends were up to.

 

 

 

Beverly had reached a point where she blanked out all thought and concentrated solely on putting one foot in front of the other. She had stopped briefly to activate the tricorder. It would sound a quiet alarm when they neared the shuttle and Beverly waited, as she trudged along, for that blessed sound. The ground just beyond the bank rose sharply to an escarpment some twenty metres high. The path dwindled into a faint trace, more like an animal track. She gritted her teeth and pushed on, determined to save her best friend. The cramps were coming frequently, both people writhing in pain. Beverly stopped and fell to her knees, a sob wrenched from her mouth.
"Beverly…leave me…go on and save yourself."
She regained her composure and shook her head savagely.
"Not bloody likely!"
She got to her feet on shaking legs and picked up the barrow.
"We go together…or not at all."
They had travelled another twenty metres when the alarm sounded. Beverly looked up and squinted into the gloom. She recognised the escarpment and the small bay that swung around in a half moon. Looking out across the black water of the lake, she shuddered at its sinister appearance. She found a secluded spot for Jean-Luc and helped him from the barrow. With his back against a large rock, he had an uninterrupted view of the lake. Proffering the tricorder, she scanned for the shuttle and found it, thirty metres offshore and twelve metres under the water.
The Captain grasped her hand.
"When will you go?"
"No time like the present."
He sighed and frowned.
"Perhaps you should rest…you must be exhausted."
She smiled at him tenderly.
"I'll rest when we're back on board the Enterprise. Now will you be ok while I'm gone?"
He nodded slowly.
"Yes. Remember to use the strongest beam on the tricorder. The tannin will restrict your vision."
"Will do."
Without further preamble, she stood and stepped with a confidence she didn't feel. Not pausing at the water's edge, she waded in, gasping at the cold as it ran up her legs. When she was out of her depth she swam straight out, glancing occasionally at the tricorder. In due course it signalled her position and she took a moment to regulate her breathing. Activating the torch, she took several deep breaths and ducked under the water. In a perpendicular fashion, she dropped, her ears registering the increased pressure. With one arm thrust forward, the beam from the tricorder was swallowed up in the inky water. She consulted the instrument to check her depth and nearly gasped when she suddenly came across the shuttle. It loomed up out of the darkness and she had to take a moment to orient herself. On the wrong side, she swam around the craft, keeping her fingers in touch with its surface. She found the computer access port without difficulty and started to input the proper commands. As she worked, she felt a stinging sensation in her arm wound and paused briefly to use the torch to investigate. To her disgust, a small prawn-like creature was delicately feeding on her wound. It had burrowed under the bandage and was feasting. With no option but to ignore it, she finished the commands and held onto a handle as the shuttle activated.
The lights came on and the craft rose majestically to the surface with little fuss. Once again on the surface, Beverly breathed deeply and wiped her long hair from her face, picking the creature out of her wound and tossing it back into the water. She climbed onto the port nacelle and inputted more commands. With a hiss of exchanged atmosphere, the aft hatch slowly opened and Beverly slid down the length of the nacelle and waited until it was fully open. She gained entry to the cockpit and immediately piloted the shuttle to the shore, turning at the last minute to land stern first. She ran down the ramp and made for Jean-Luc.

 

 

 

 

 

It was windy on top of the escarpment. It gusted fitfully and was cold but Haius was rooted to the spot. When he'd first arrived at his vantage point he saw nobody. He was about to climb down and resume his tracking when he saw the most amazing thing he'd ever seen. In the black waters of the lake, light was showing and slowly getting brighter. As he watched in awe a craft of some sort broke the surface and floated placidly. Then it opened up and slowly made its way to shore, turning and nudging the sand stern first. He saw Beverly emerge and enter the tree line between the beach and the bottom of the escarpment. He wanted to see more so he craned his small body over the edge of the ledge he lay upon.
Unbeknownst to him, years of wind and rain had eroded his perch. He didn't hear the small stones fall as the rock started to give way; all his attention was focussed on what was happening below. The ledge gave up its tenuous hold and collapsed. He let out a cry of fear and anguish as he fell, the sound truncated as his head struck the rocks, his limp body battered as he fell, coming to a dreadful stillness among some boulders.

 

 

 

 

 

"What was that?"
Jean-Luc took the tricorder and scanned in the direction of the sound.
"I've got a life form reading…Burran…thirty five metres over there."
Beverly frowned.
"It sounded like a scream. Maybe someone's in trouble?"
"Forget it Beverly…we can't interfere."
She grimaced, the physician in her wanting to help. Knowing what his friend was feeling, Jean-Luc took her hands.
"Come on Beverly help me into the shuttle."
She cast one more look into the night and shrugged her shoulders. Nodding, she crouched down and helped the Captain to his feet, then together they shuffled into the shuttle. Beverly lowered one of the bench seats turning it into a bed. She eased Jean-Luc down onto it and retrieved a med kit, taking out and analgesic and injecting them both. Jean-Luc sighed with relief and closed his eyes. As Beverly watched he drifted off to sleep. Beverly was struggling with her instincts. She knew the Captain was right…they shouldn't interfere, but her curiosity was aroused. Coming to a decision, she made sure Jean-Luc was comfortable and left the shuttle, taking a tricorder with her.
Once again using the torch on the instrument, she forged her way through the scrub, watching the tricorder's screen. She had to search among the boulders, but she eventually came across the little body. Kneeling beside the lad, she scanned him, noting the multiple fractures and bad head wound. With great gentleness, she turned him over, feeling both shock and dismay when she recognised the face of her young friend.
"Haius…"
Her choice was a complex one. If she left him he would surely die, but to take him back to the ship was a direct violation of the Prime Directive. Nevertheless she could only make one choice. Risking further injury to the boy, she gingerly picked him up and took him back to the shuttle.
Her arrival stirred the Captain who shifted in his bed and opened his eyes.
"Beverly? What…?"
"It's Haius Jean-Luc. He's fallen down the escarpment and is badly injured. If we don't help him he'll die."
Jean-Luc's silence was ominous. He knew much more than the boy's life was at stake.
"Don't give me that look! I can't…no I won't leave him to perish out here on his own…not after he and his family did so much for us."
Jean-Luc rubbed his fingers over his lower lip.
"All right, let's say we take him back to the ship and heal his injuries. What then?"
Beverly administered some drugs to stabilise Haius as she thought.
"Well I suppose I'll have to wipe his memory, at least his most recent memories."
"And if you can't?"
Beverly stood in frustration and glared down at her Captain.
"I'll cross that bridge if and when I come to it. Now I'm going to the cockpit to scan for life forms. Let me know if he wakes."
His reply was lost as the fuming Doctor eased herself into the front seat. Activating the scanners, she yelped in fright as the monitor detected the presence of soldiers close by. She closed the hatch and moved the shuttle back out onto the lake, once again submerging it. She then rejoined the others in the main body of the craft. Jean-Luc noticed her expression and asked,
"What is it?"
She sat on the side of his bunk and sighed.
"There's militia all over the place. We'll have to stay out of sight until they're gone."
"When are the suns due to rise?"
She consulted the chronometer, frowning as she did.
"Another two hours."
"Well we can't take off in daylight. If we have to, we can stay submerged for forty-eight hours. Can you contact the Enterprise?"
"I don't know."
"Well give it a try. At least let them know our status, I'm sure we can't be tracked down here."
Nodding, Beverly retrieved the knapsack and quickly assembled the radio.
"Enterprise do you read me?"
The reply was weak.
"Can you boost your signal?"
Beverly grabbed another tricorder and connected the unit to the radio, thus increasing its power.
"How's that?"
"Much better. Where are you?"
Jean-Luc gestured for the instrument and spoke to Will for the first time in days.
"We're twelve metres under water Number One. We had to hide as there are too many people around who might see us. What is your status?"
"We're fine Captain. We've been monitoring your area…there seems to be a build up of troops…maybe a campaign is in the offing?"
"Perhaps. We may have to stay submerged throughout the next day, I can't see us as being able to take off in broad daylight."
"Agreed Sir. How are you? Beverly said you'd been injured."
"I've seen better days Commander. When we return we will be bringing aboard one of the natives…a boy who has been of invaluable help to us. He's been badly injured."
"I see Sir, but what about the …"
The radio crackled and hissed as another broadcast cut in. The voice barked a few sentences then ceased.
"Enterprise?"
"Still here Sir. That was a Colonel Erodd. He just threatened you with violence if you don't give yourselves up. He's ordering his soldiers to hunt for you."
"Charming fellow. We will keep in touch Number One; see if you can isolate a frequency that the militia won't hear. The radio will stay on if you need to contact us. Picard out."
He allowed Beverly to take the tricorder from him as he lay back, grimacing.
Beverly saw him and frowned.
"Are you in pain?"
"Yes, in fact you'd better get a basin I'm feeling…"
He suddenly turned to his side and began retching. Having not eaten or drunk anything, all he brought up was bile and blood. Beverly had managed to secure a receptacle and she rubbed his back as the spasms took him.
When the episode passed, Jean-Luc lay shivering and sweating. Beverly took his temperature and scowled at the instrument.
"You're fever is at 41 degrees. That's far too high Jean-Luc. We have to get back to the ship…now."
Panting he managed to weakly clasp her hand.
"No. I will not allow further pollution of these people. We stay here until tomorrow night."
Beverly stood and glared down at her Captain in exasperation.
"And what about you and Haius? What good will your deaths bring?"
"Beverly… You know as well as I that we can't allow these people to see us taking off. Think of what it would do. The Prime Directive…"
"Damn the Prime Directive! My main concern is you…dammit Jean-Luc…You're…that is I…bloody hell! Look I love you far too much to just sit here and watch you die!"
There was silence for a while as the two friends caught their breath. It was Jean-Luc who spoke first. Gently he said,
"I love you too Beverly."
She spun around to face him her blue eyes brimming with unshed tears. Nodding she went to him and knelt by his side. She took his hand and held it to her face and they stared at each other as the distance between them closed, Beverly's eyes drifting shut. She rested her cheek against his and whispered in his ear.
"I love you Jean-Luc…I have loved you for a very long time. Perhaps…when all this is over…I won't be afraid any more."
Jean-Luc's hands cradled her head as tears fell silently down his face.
Beverly felt her heart swell with tenderness. She had spoken the truth…she loved him with all her soul, the thought of losing him, especially now was too painful to contemplate. She pulled back and ran her fingers down his face. Smiling sadly, she was about to speak when Haius groaned and started to cough. She was at his side in an instant.
"Steady Haius…easy now…"
The youngster groaned and tried to sit up. Beverly gently pushed him down and attempted to calm him with her voice.
"Lie still Haius, everything's all right."
The lad's usually bright orange eyes opened to reveal a dirty red colour. In panic he looked about him, fear obviously uppermost in his mind.
"Where am I?"
Beverly looked helplessly at Jean-Luc who gestured to the radio.
"Let him speak into that. The ship's universal translator will help."
Beverly picked up the tricorder and called the ship.
"Enterprise?"
"It's Will Beverly."
" Are we on a secure frequency?"
"Yes."
"The next person you hear will be a boy called Haius. Translation required and Will when you're finished, download a translation matrix for this tricorder."
"Will do."
She gestured to Haius to speak into the instrument. Hesitant at first, he quickly spoke a few sentences. Will's voice came through.
"He wants to know where he is and what's wrong with him."
"Ok. Tell him he's on a craft belonging to us and that I'm a Doctor who will treat his injuries."
Haius frowned and spoke again.
"He asks about his parents."
Beverly turned to her Captain.
"What do we tell him?"
Jean-Luc ran his tongue over his lower lip as he thought.
"Tell him we will take him away, treat him and then return him to his farm. His parents will worry, but they will be happy when he returns home."
Will's smile was evident in his voice.
"He says who's going to help his father with the harvest?"
"He's going to have to cope on his own for a while."
"And what about the soldiers?"
"Let him know we can't do anything about them. His father will have to get on as best he can."
"He wants to know where will you take him?"
Jean-Luc looked at Beverly and sighed.
"What the hell are we suppose to tell him?"
She shrugged and gave her opinion.
"The truth?"
Jean-Luc thought about that for a while then came to a decision.
"We'll tell him where he is when we get there. Until then, just tell him we're going to look after him.
This information was relayed and Haius calmed. Beverly scanned him and fused a few broken bones with the auto fuser. She stabilised his blood pressure and sealed many minor cuts and abrasions. His head and internal injuries were beyond her means to repair, but she was confident he would stay stable until they could get him to the Enterprise. Jean-Luc however was another matter entirely. The infection of his wounds was running rampant through his body. The parasite they both had was interfering with their body's functions and Beverly's arm wound was also infected. She doubted that they would be very well when the coming night eventually fell. As if to emphasise her point, Jean-Luc gasped as a wave of pain washed over him. He curled onto his side, clutching his stomach.
Beverly scanned him and administered another dose of analgesic. As he relaxed, she rolled him onto his back, frowning in frustration as she noticed the bright blood spreading across his midriff. Taking the med kit, she removed a super-absorbent pack and, after taking away the old bandages, placed the pack over the bleeding, festering wound. The wound in his back was also treated and she strapped him in a soft bandage. Moving to his foot, she peeled off the redolent strips of cloth and, using medicated wipes, cleaned the crusty wounds. His foot was grossly swollen, the skin splitting in places and dark blue tendrils snaked up his leg. His voice was rough with pain.
"Will you be able to save it?"
"I don't know…it's bad Jean-Luc. The poison is making its way up your leg. If it gets to your torso…"
He nodded as Beverly went to a medical locker and removed an intravenous drip.
"I'm going to hydrate you through your veins. It's the only way you're going to be able to ingest fluids…you've been without them far too long. It should help…a little."
He said nothing as she applied a pressure cuff to raise a vein. The cannula slid into the blood vessel and Beverly released the cuff. Regulating the flow, she placed the bag on a hook above the bed and used a wet cloth to wipe his sweating brow. She was about to check his blood pressure when a cramp seized her. Bending almost double, she gasped as the pain gripped her intestines. It flared up her innards and gripped her heart making her moan. Jean-Luc grasped her shoulders and willed his own pain aside.
"Beverly…"
She waited it out, but had to take the basin to vomit. Jean-Luc closed his eyes and wondered how they would make it through the long hours of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly spent her time between the scanners and her patients. Haius held his own but Jean-Luc was sliding down hill fast. He seemed to have used all his reserves and was succumbing to his injuries at a frightening speed. Beverly was fitfully dozing when her peace was shattered by a shouting captain.
"No! I will not!…"
She moved quickly to his side and gripped his shoulders.
"Jean-Luc! You're dreaming…come on, wake up."
His head tossed from side to side, his arms flailing about. One of his hands hit her face raising a welt under her eye.
"Jean-Luc!"
Still he did not respond…in fact he became more violent.
"You bastards! I will not…no you can't…please God no…no more…"
With no other alternative, Beverly left him and recovered a sedative from the med kit. Ducking under his wildly swinging arms, she emptied the hypospray against his neck and caught his hands as consciousness fled. Noting blood coursing down his arm, she saw that he'd dislodged the intravenous drip. She snatched up some gauze and applied pressure and when the flow stopped, re-applied the cannula to the crook of his arm. Next she took some moistened swabs and wiped his sweating face and neck. She finished and was watching his uneven breathing when Haius spoke.
"He sounded scared."
She looked over at her young friend and mustered a sad smile.
"He was."
"Do you know what he dreamed of?"
"Yes."
"Can you help him?"
"I don't know."
Haius sighed and shifted into a more comfortable position on his bad.
"Beverly…are you his…mate? My parents thought you were both…bonded."
Beverly sighed and cast a glance at the restless Captain.
"We are dear friends Haius…we've been friends, best friends for a very long time."
"My parents are friends. Father told me once that Mother was the best friend he'd ever had and that no one knew him quite like she did. Why aren't you mated with Jean-Luc?"
Beverly smiled ruefully and thought…
"Oh for the innocence of a child."
To the boy she said,
"Maybe some day Haius…maybe soon…we'll see."

 

 

 

 

The long thirty-eight hour day dragged on, Beverly having no other option but to keep Jean-Luc sedated. The beating of his damaged heart deteriorated and his breathing became more laboured. With his temperature hovering at forty-three degrees, she knew to have any chance of saving him, they must return to the Enterprise soon.
She rose to go to the cockpit, intent on making another scan when she was stricken with blinding pain. She collapsed to her knees, gasping and holding her stomach. She fell onto her side and waited with her eyes screwed shut for the spasm to pass. The upheaval of her stomach proved fruitless, already having been emptied. Retching piteously, she felt the convulsion pass through her inner organs and became aware of the urgent need to use the toilet. Getting slowly to her knees, she took a calming breath and got unsteadily to her feet. She made her way to the lavatory just in time. The expulsion was violent and painful and she wasn't surprised to see the resulting stain of blood. When she'd recovered, she made her way back to the main body of the shuttlecraft and took up a tricorder. Scanning herself, she found that her organs were being attacked by the parasite voraciously. Knowing that Jean-Luc would be similarly affected, she scanned him and confirmed her fears. He had soiled his pants and she noted the presence of blood in the matter. Casting distaste aside, she divested him of his trousers and cleaned him. When she'd finished, she removed his tunic and covered him with a sheet. She then picked up the radio and contacted the Enterprise.
"Will, do you read me?"
"Yes Beverly. What can we do for you?"
"Will things are getting pretty bad down here. We need sickbay…now."
"I hear you Beverly but there're too many people around. How many hours of daylight are left?"
Beverly checked the chronometer and sighed.
"About eight. Look Will the Captain is desperately sick and I don't know how much longer I will last. This damn parasite has got hold of me…it would be disastrous if I passed out and he needed me."
"I understand what you're saying Beverly, I just don't know how to help."
Snorting with frustration Beverly watched as Jean-Luc started to heave. She quickly placed the radio on the floor and, gripping his shoulders, rolled his upper body to one side allowing the blood stained bile to flow free of his mouth.
"Beverly?"
She picked the radio up again and offered a suggestion.
"What about a wide range, low yield phaser blast? Knock everyone out for a radius of several kilometres?"
"Beverly…you know we can't do that."
She sighed and placed her head in her hand.
"Yes I know. Let me know if there's any change Will. Crusher out."
Haius, who'd been fitfully dozing, groaned and raised his hands to his head. Beverly left the Captain and went to him, taking his hands in her own.
"Steady Haius…lie still."
Mumbling in his semi-conscious state, he whispered,
"I want my mother…"
Beverly grimaced and brushed his hair off his face, being careful not to touch his injured skull.
"I know Haius…I know."

 

 

 

The hours passed slowly. She spent most of her time perched beside Jean-Luc, wiping his sweating body with moist gauze and checking the slowly bleeding wound in his stomach. At one stage he'd convulsed, both frightening and disturbing her. She 'd administered a relaxant but knew they were on borrowed time. The smell of putrification grew and he soiled himself twice more and, although little matter was passed, the presence of more blood worried the Doctor. She changed his drip and increased the flow, hoping to keep up with his fluid loss, knowing she was fighting a losing battle.
Having made the umpteenth trip forward to make a detailed scan, she sighed with relief when she saw that evening was fast approaching. With forty minutes to go, she moved back to her patients and secured them in their beds. Next she cleaned up all the mess she'd made and put away her instruments. Finally convinced they could come to no harm, she went forward, taking the radio with her. She settled into the pilot's seat and contacted the Enterprise.
"Will?"
"Yes Beverly."
"It's nearly dark. When I take off, I'm going to deploy the mirror camouflage whilst we make our ascent."
"Good idea. Use impulse only and keep the thrusters to a minimum. Remember there will be some steam rising from the water surface as you apply thrust. Lower the camouflage to it's maximum, the skirt may hide most of the disturbance."
"Will do."
"Ok then, we'll see you soon. I'll have a med team waiting for you."
"Thanks…Crusher out."
The last few minutes seemed to take an eternity. When she was convinced it was fully dark, she made one more scan and noted a group of militia were camped five hundred metres away on the lakeshore. They were the closest inhabitants, the others scattered about randomly. She powered up the shuttle, doused the lights, entered the appropriate commands and felt her ears pop as they slowly rose to the surface.
As the little craft broke level of the water, she slowed them even further to allow the camouflage to deploy as they rose. Watching the scanners intently, she felt rather than saw the craft break free of the liquid. She allowed them to rise half a metre above the water as she programmed in the next phase of her takeoff. The little ship executed the manoeuvres perfectly and she felt them rise swiftly and seamlessly, the black lake receding from her view. When they were two thousand metres up, she withdrew the camouflage and increased their speed, heading for the mighty Starship that waited for them in the heavens.

 

 

 

 

As soon as the shuttle touched down, the hatch was cracked and medical staff poured in. The three occupants were scanned and the Captain was put on an antigrav bed. He was whisked off to Sickbay, Bevery and Haius close behind. Haius was put in a private cubicle, Doctor Ernest Johnson tending to him. Beverly and Jean-Luc were immediately treated for the parasite infestation and Beverly's bullet wound was healed. She complained bitterly, but was placed under a strong regen field while Jean-Luc was taken to surgery to begin the repairs to his battered body.
In all, he was in surgery for eight hours. The wound to his stomach was worse than the first feared and took substantial expertise to repair. His foot was drained and cleaned, but kept open to allow it to drain as the infection was tackled. It proved a stubborn ailment. With nothing similar on the data banks, Selar and her team had to resort to trial and error, trying one drug after another in their efforts to defeat it. Eventually it was a combination of four potent drugs that began to show promise, but they took their toll on the already weak Captain. They removed the congestion from his lungs but were unable to repair his damaged heart. His faulty heart was removed and he was put on a by-pass machine while Doctor Selar decided which medical facility to take him to. Placing him under a powerful regen beam, they left him to sleep. He would be very fragile when he regained consciousness. The last thing the Doctors did was restore his normal appearance.
Beverly too had been made to look her human self. She was itching to know how Jean-Luc was, pestering the staff and generally making a nuisance of herself.
Lying flat on her back, she grunted with approval as Doctor Selar came into her view.
"Selar! How is Captain Picard?"
"We have repaired most of his wounds, the parasite is showing signs of remission and we are successfully fighting the infection. However we were unable to repair his cardio implant and he is presently on a by-pass machine."
"What are his stats?"
"He is greatly weakened and his temperature is still morbidly high."
"And the pain indicators?"
"Also high."
"Damn! How is the boy?"
"He has been fully restored and is resting under sedation in a secluded part of Sickbay."
"Right. Now about captain Picard's implant…Doctor Pulaski may have left some notes…"
Selar placed her hands behind her back and cocked her head.
"I have accessed them Doctor. We can procure the appropriate replacement at Star Base 175."
"Good. Have you contacted Commander Riker?"
A deep and very welcome voice reached Beverly's ears.
"I'm right here."
"Will!"
The big man stepped into her view and grinned down at her.
"Hi Beverly…welcome back."
"Hi yourself. How soon can we get to Star base 175?"
Will looked up at Doctor Selar and frowned.
"Well about two days…but Beverly what about the boy?"
Turning to the Vulcan physician, Beverly sighed exasperatedly.
"Selar perform a memory wipe on him. It will…"
"That's not possible Doctor Crusher."
"What? Why?"
"His cerebral cortex contains an enzyme that would render him brain damaged if we attempted a memory wipe."
"Oh damn! Jean-Luc isn't going to be happy about this. Selar when can I get up?"
Selar consulted the monitor and addressed her boss.
"Another hour should see out this first treatment. You have, however, several more scheduled."
"Understood."
Under her breath she muttered,
"God I hate being a patient."
She heard a muffled chuckle from Will. Selar, of course, showed no emotion.

 

 

 

 

The hour passed and Beverly was quick to go to Jean-Luc when she was able. He lay on his back, his foot and torso under the blue light of a regen field. A blanket was pulled up to his waist exposing his bare chest, which had two tubes protruding from the left side. Dark blood flowed through one into the by-pass machine; bright-oxygenated blood flowed out and back into his chest. She stood by his side scrutinising the readouts and watching the monitors. She noted his temperature was still elevated and, although he was unconscious, the pain indicators were still high.
He was frowning, Beverly seeing the muscles in his jaw flexing. She gently ran her fingers down his face willing him to find ease.
"Oh my love…how I hate it when you hurt."
Beverly stiffened and dropped her hand when she became aware she was no longer alone.
"Doctor Crusher?"
Without turning from the Captain she replied,
"Yes Selar."
"Doctor the boy is becoming unstable under sedation."
She turned then, frowning.
"Why?"
"It would seem his body chemistry is fighting the drugs we are using. We cannot continue to sedate him."
"Blast!"
One of Selar's elegant eyebrows rose.
Beverly thought furiously for a moment before coming to a decision.
"Bring him in here and allow him to come around."
"Is that wise Doctor?"
"Do we have a choice?"
Selar considered the question eventually nodding her acceptance.
"I will bring him in."
Beverly was scanning her best friend with a medical tricorder when Haius was brought in on a gurney and placed next to the Captain. She turned and watched as the nurses made him comfortable, Selar stood back with a hypospray in her small hand. Beverly's eyebrows rose and she gestured to the instrument.
"It would be better if he were woken. The deterioration is accelerating."
Beverly nodded.
"I'll do it when you've all left. The less he sees, the better."
"Yes Doctor."
The staff busied themselves finishing their tasks quickly. They soon left and Beverly stood over her young friend.
"Well Haius here goes."
She brushed his hair back and applied the hypo to his neck. The hiss was the only sound in the otherwise quiet room. She rubbed the injection site as Haius took a sharp breath. His eyes, now restored to their usual bright orange, snapped open and he gripped the bed in fright. With the universal translator on line, Beverly gently grasped his shoulder and bade him to lie still.
"Steady Haius, everything is all right…you're safe."
"Where am I?"
"That's a bit tricky. We've taken you to a safe place…that's all you need to know for now."
He looked around the room spotting the Captain lying a short distance away.
"Who's that?"
"That's Jean-Luc."
"What?"
"It's true…that's what he really looks like."
"He's got no hair on his head…"
Beverly chuckled.
"No…no he hasn't."
"And you…who are you? You sound like…"
"It's Beverly."
"Your hair is red. Why?"
"It is the natural colour of my hair. My eyes are blue too."
He nodded, again staring at Jean-Luc.
"Why does he have those tubes in his chest?"
"His heart has been damaged. We are using a machine to help him."
"Will he die?"
"No."
"Good. I like Jean-Luc. Beverly when can I go home?"
"I need to speak to Jean-Luc about that. He'll be awake soon…would you like to talk to him?"
"Yes."
"Ok then. I need to leave for a few minutes but I want you to stay here…in this room...all right?"
He nodded, still watching the Captain. Beverly stood, took one more look at him then left. She returned a few minutes later to find Haius standing beside the Captain gently running his hand across the soft hair on Jean-Luc's chest. He smiled up at Beverly as she placed a tray of food on the counter.
"I've never seen hair on a man's chest before. It's funny…he has no hair on his head, but he has hair on his chest…"
Beverly chuckled and put her hands on Haius' shoulders.
"Believe me Jean-Luc has seen the funny side of that as well. Would you like something to eat?"
He nodded and was pleased to find some fruit and cold meat and a drink of water. The repast soon disappeared, Beverly pleased to see his healthy appetite. As Haius finished his drink, they heard Jean-Luc moan. Beverly went to his side and gripped his shoulder.
"Easy Jean-Luc. You're in Sickbay safe and sound."
His eyes cracked open and he attempted to take a big breath only to grimace in pain, his hands coming up to his chest.
"Take it easy my love. We couldn't repair your heart. You're on a by-pass machine for the interim. I'll give you something for the pain."
She administered an analgesic and he relaxed somewhat, but he still frowned.
"What is it?"
In a rough deep voice that made her shiver he rumbled,
"There's a hard pressure in my chest…it's difficult to breathe…"
"I know…you've got quite a lot of plumbing in there at the moment. Once we get to Starbase 175 we can access a new implant and you'll be as good as new."
He nodded and his hands drifted down to his stomach.
"I feel nauseous."
Beverly gently rubbed her hand over his head.
"You're on some potent antibiotics Jean-Luc…the infection you had was very powerful, but the good news is that we're getting on top of it. The parasite has been eradicated and the regen field is repairing the resultant damage. All in all you're doing well."
"My foot?"
"On the mend. It's still open, we need it to drain, but it's doing ok."
He nodded and closed his eyes. They snapped open however when he heard a familiar voice.
"Jean-Luc?"
"Haius?"
The lad came around Beverly and stood shyly beside the reclining Captain. Jean-Luc looked up at Beverly and frowned. She understood his ire and explained.
"Haius is our guest Jean-Luc. His brain is not compatible with memory wipes and his body rejected the sedation. He has, so far, only seen this room…and you and me."
"Jean-Luc…where are we?"
The Captain's eyes drifted back to his young friend and he mustered a smile.
"You're…on my ship."
"Ship? On the lake?"
"No…up in the sky."
Haius laughed.
"Oh Jean-Luc you make fun of me! A ship…in the sky!…"
Jean-Luc said nothing and Beverly placed her hands on Haius' shoulders. His laughter died away.
"You're not joking are you."
"No Haius I'm not. We come from a place far away…we travel through the stars. You know we are not like you or your parents…it was not our intention for you to find out."
Jean-Luc glanced up at Beverly and continued.
"We came to your world to help some friends and got caught up in the war. We never intended to stay on your world."
Haius was quiet for a time then asked,
"Why are your eyes a different colour from Beverly's?"
Relieved that he was moving on, Jean-Luc smiled.
"We all have different eye and hair colour. It is the way we are."
"And your blood is red."
"Yes."
"Are there others?"
"Yes."
"When can I go home?"
"Soon Haius. We must wait until night time so your people won't see us return you…but you must realise…you can't tell anyone…not even your parents…about what you've seen and heard. We have a rule…it's our most important rule…that we don't interfere in other world's business. Do you understand?"
Haius smiled and winked.
"Like not telling Mother about your eyes?"
"Yes Haius…like that."
He puffed out his small chest and stood as straight as he could.
"I understand Jean-Luc. I will say nothing."
"What will you tell your parents about your absence?"
"I will tell them the truth. I followed you to the lake and got lost."
Jean-Luc nodded, smiling. He extended his right hand and motioned to Haius to take it.
"This seals our pact Haius, its called shaking hands. Once the agreement is made, it can't be broken."
The lad beamed with pride and nodded vigorously.

 

 

 

 

 

Upon receiving permission, Will entered the Captain's room and cast a glance at the small Burran boy who sat at Jean-Luc's right. He conjured up a grin and was charmed to hear a giggle erupt from the youngster.
"What?"
"You have hair on your face! Jean-Luc has hair on his chest!"
Will chuckled and turned his twinkling blue eyes on his Commanding Officer.
"Sir?"
Jean-Luc shrugged his shoulders carefully and grinned.
"He seems to find it funny. Report Number One."
"Well Sir it would seem nobody noticed your departure. The radio traffic has been fairly quiet…the war is proceeding albeit slowly."
"Hmm. How long until nightfall?"
"About three hours Sir."
"Good. I want you to return Haius here. Will, see if you can put him close to his farm…Beverly will show you where it is."
"Sir…will he…?"
"Haius and I have a deal Number One, one I'm confidant he will keep. He will say nothing."
"Aye Sir. We have laid in a course for Starbase 175…we can leave as soon as I return from the planet."
"How long…?"
"Two days Sir."
"Damn!"
"Is there a problem Captain?"
Jean-Luc scowled and glared at the machinery he was connected to.
"Only with this blasted by-pass machine Will. It feels like I have a brick in my chest."
Will glanced at Jean-Luc's foot and grimaced.
"Well Sir it's not as if you're going anywhere…"
"Thank you Commander."
"Ah…right Sir. I'll be getting back to the Bridge then."
"Hmm. Perhaps that's a good idea."
Will turned on his heel and exited the room, a huge grin decorating his genial face.
"Is Will your friend too?"
"Hmm? What?"
"Will. Is he your friend?"
"Yes Haius he is."
"You're lucky. You have a lot of friends."
Jean-Luc smiled gently and gripped the lad's shoulder.
"Yes Haius…yes I am. You know lad you're in a very special set of circumstances."
"What do you mean?"
"Well…how do you think of yourself? Do you think you're just a farmer's son…or do you think you could be something more?"
Haius was quiet a time, his gaze directed at the floor. His reply, when it came, was whispered.
"Sometimes…"
"Sometimes what Haius?"
The boy looked up at the Captain and frowned.
"When Colonel Erodd took my brother into his group…I was jealous. I wanted to fight too…but then, after I talked with my parents, I realised that if everybody wanted to fight…then who will bring peace?"
"Haius what do you think of your experiences with Beverly and me?"
"I'm not sure. At night sometimes…when I looked at the stars…I often wondered if…"
"Now you know."
The youngster raised his eyes to Jean-Luc's and smiled shyly.
"Maybe…one day…I might be the one to bring peace to my people."
Jean-Luc extended his hand and took the lad's small hand in his.
"Haius if you want it badly enough nothing will stop you."

 

 

 

Two hours later Will and Beverly strode into the Captain's room and stood beside Haius.
"Well youngster it's time you went home!"
Haius slid off his bed and grinned widely. Jean-Luc, who had been dozing, roused himself and gestured for the boy to come closer.
"So you're about to leave us?"
Haius nodded, still grinning.
A gently sombre look settled over Jean-Luc's face and his voice softened.
"Remember us Haius and don't let anything get in the way of your dreams."
"I won't Jean-Luc…and thank you…for showing me."
The boy wrapped his arms gently around Jean-Luc and touched his nose to the Captain's. He then turned to Beverly and repeated his motions.
"Good bye Beverly. Thank you for healing me."
"You're welcome Haius. Look after your parents now…and tell them thank you for helping us."
He beamed up at the Doctor as Will slipped his large hand over the lad's.
"The next thing you will see is the inside of the craft you were on before. Just relax and hold my hand…ok?"
Haius nodded, keeping his gaze on Jean-Luc. Will lifted his head and addressed the computer.
"Transporter room…two to beam directly inside Shuttle Craft Florey."
"Aye Sir."
The two forms dissipated into sparkling blue light and disappeared. When they rematerialised inside the shuttle Will took Haius into the cockpit and said,
"Jean-Luc said I should show you something. When those doors open…you will see your world as we see it…from the stars."
The boy's eyes gleamed as he looked eagerly forward. The blast doors opened and he saw what Will had said…his world…turning lazily below him. Gob smacked, tears formed in his eyes.
"It's so beautiful."
Will smiled and guided him to the co-pilot's seat.
"Hang on Haius…you're in for the ride of your short life."

 

 

 

 

As Beverly and Jean-Luc waited for the return of Will Riker, they shared a cup of tea. The Captain, confined as he was to his bed, gently enquired of Beverly her feelings about the boy.
"So Beverly…do you think he has it in him to be the bringer of peace to his people?"
She shrugged diffidently and pulled her mouth down.
"It's a big ask. What is he…ten years old? Tell me Jean-Luc, what were you doing when you were ten?"
The Captain smiled and sighed.
"Although I, even then, knew what I wanted to do I will admit there was still time for climbing trees and making forts with my brother."
"There you go."
Jean-Luc shifted in his bed and cocked his head.
"I can't help feeling though that he will be able to incorporate his experiences with us and somehow make himself a better person."
"What? You think that exposing him to the knowledge that other species exist in worlds not of his own, that it will give him a broader picture…that he may see that there is more than himself and his people?"
"Perhaps. He certainly showed a keen mind and an incredible adaptability."
"You're right there…nothing seemed to faze him much."
Jean-Luc sighed and grimaced in his discomfort.
"Well time will tell."
Beverly stood and swung the regeneration apparatus over Jean-Luc's torso and foot. He watched in silence as she inputted the commands to the terminal and scowled when she held out her hand for his now empty cup.
"I take it I'm in for more medical torture."
"Ha ha. Just so you know…my next regen therapy is due in about ten minutes so we can endure the torture together. Satisfied?"
"Not really. It would be better if you were in here with me."
"Oh Jean-Luc…don't be such a sook."
"Sook? How dare you! I'll have you know…"
Beverly noted the twinkle in his eyes and the quiet humour in his voice.
"Yes sook! Anybody would think you were scared of Sickbay."
"Hmph! Let's just say there are other places I'd rather be and leave it at that…shall we?"
"Aye Captain…whatever you wish."
Her easy smile and sparkling eyes were a balm to his soul. How he loved to banter with her, enjoying her rapier-like wit and quick intelligence. How he loved her…
She turned and placed the cup on the counter and made for the door. Just as she was about to exit he called to her gently.
"You will come back?…as soon as…"
"Yes Jean-Luc I'll come back just as soon as my therapy is complete. Now you lie still and get better…ok?"
He nodded and they shared a tender smile.
Beverly turned and left. Her mind, however, stayed with her best friend.
"Oh Jean-Luc…have you any idea what you do to me?"

 

Will was back in just under two hours. He'd stayed in orbit a while, waiting for some patrols near the farm to move on. He deployed the mirror camouflage, landed without mishap and bade his young friend goodbye. He waited until scanners showed Haius was at his farm's gate then powered up and returned to the Enterprise. His return set the Enterprise free to start her next assignment. Make for Starbase 175 with all haste.
The mighty ship broke orbit and made the jump to warp effortlessly. Her course and speed set, Will left the Bridge and made his way to Sickbay. He knocked at the Captain's door and grinned when he entered, finding Beverly grouching at an annoyed Jean-Luc.
"Look I'm not asking much Jean-Luc…just eat the damn salad."
Through clenched teeth the irritated man replied with a shake of his head,
"Doctor! As I've already indicated…I don't feel well. In fact I feel bloody ill and the last thing I want to do is eat!"
Beverly's hands dropped to her sides, her fingers curling into fists.
"And as I've already told you…it's the damn antibiotics! You haven't eaten anything for days Jean-Luc. How do you expect to recover when you won't re-fuel your body?"
"Doctor…"
"All right!"
Beverly turned abruptly and stalked from the room, muttering to Will as she passed,
"See if you can get him to eat."
Jean-Luc let his head fall back on the pillow and closed his eyes, rumbling,
"That woman…"
A short silence ensued as Will sized up the plate of food beside the Captain's bed.
"Sir?"
Jean-Luc's eyes snapped open and he turned his head to face his First Officer, eyebrows raised in question.
"Ah Sir…maybe you should…you know…have a go at the food?"
"Dammit Will! Not you too!"
"Well I…that is Beverly…well she said…and I think…oh forget it! I wouldn't eat it either Sir. Sickbay food sucks."
That brought a smile from the Captain.
"Will the replicators are the same all over the ship…there's no difference in the food from here or your own quarters."
"I know that in theory Sir, but I still think the food in here is not quite right."
Jean-Luc actually chuckled quietly and frowned at Will.
"Well don't let Beverly hear you saying that."
"Oh no Sir! It'll be our secret."
"Splendid. Now did you deliver Haius as per instructions?"
"Yes Sir. I was able to put him down only a couple of kilometres from the farm and I waited until he reached the gate before I left."
"Good. Now I take it we are en route to Starbase 175?"
"Yes Sir…at warp five."
"Grand! The sooner we get there, the sooner I can be liberated from this…den of iniquity."
Will grinned and said sotto voce,
"Another secret Sir?"
"Most definitely Number One."
Will left his Captain and strolled into Sickbay proper, looking for Beverly. He found her in her office in the midst of making her report.
"So…how's he doing…really?"
Beverly tossed aside the stylus she'd been playing with and snorted.
"He's as stubborn as hell and twice as grumpy!"
Will chuckled and straddled a chair.
"So he's normal then? He's getting nourishment though…isn't he."
Grinning slyly, Beverly leaned across the desk.
"Uh huh. The computer is adding essential vitamins and minerals to his blood through the by-pass machine."
"I knew it!"
"How?"
"You gave up too easily Beverly. Usually you would've badgered him until he at least tried to eat."
Beverly sat back and frowned at the big man.
"You make me sound like a harridan."
"Not at all it's just that when it comes to the Captain's well being you're implacable."
"Yeah well someone has to look after him…he doesn't look after himself."
"Well he's got by all these years. Anyhow he'll be ok after the transplant won't he?"
"Yep. He'll be fighting fit and twice as dangerous…and as soon as we stop the antibiotics…hungry…I hope."
Will tilted his head back and laughed.
"Well I'll look forward to it. I'll be on the Bridge if you need me."
"Ok Will."

 

 

 

 

That night Beverly returned to her quarters for the first time since she'd been back. She took a long hot shower, taking time to thoroughly wash her hair, dressed in a comfortable nightie and settled down with a light dinner and a good book. After two hours of reading she began to feel her eyes drooping so she closed the book, rose from the sofa and made her way to her bed. The last thing she thought before sleep took her was,
"I'll get him to eat if it kills me."

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc had been dozing. His eyes slowly opened and he noted the subdued lighting. Thirst made itself known and he craned his neck to see if the night staff had left his requested glass of water. They had, but it was out of reach on the bed table. Earlier the night nurse had come to make him comfortable for the night and had moved the table in case he knocked it in his sleep. It now became the most important thing in his existence. He knew all he had to do was summon a nurse but his stubbornness came to the fore and he decided he could stretch his arm and reach the elusive table. He pushed himself up on his pillow and rolled as far as the tubes in his chest would allow. Wincing at the discomfort he extended his arm to feel his fingers brush the table's edge. He turned and looked down at the bottom of the by-pass machine to see it was on wheels.
"It might roll…"
Grunting with the effort, he twisted his upper body and again reached for the table. The tubes pulled tight and he groaned in pain, but the machine inched forward. His fingers gripped the table edge and he was just about to pull it to him when he overbalanced. With a cry of pain he fell from the bed, the tubes tearing from his body as the machine crashed to the floor.
Lieutenant Rick Ponting was on duty as head nurse. He heard the cry, followed by the medical alarm. Racing to the Captain's room, he burst in only to see a gout of blood splash across the floor to splatter on his boots. The Captain was curled up on the floor writhing in agony.
"Medical emergency! Duty Doctor to Sickbay immediately!"
Rick grabbed some gauze packs and crouched down beside the Captain, gasping when he saw the two gaping holes in his chest, through which blood poured at an alarming rate.
"Oh God…"
He pressed the packs over the wounds and preyed that help would arrive soon.

 

 

 

 

As CMO of the ship all emergency calls were automatically routed to Beverly's quarters. She sat bolt upright in her bed and addressed the computer.
"What is the nature of the emergency?"
"Unknown."
Knowing Selar was the duty Doctor; her next call was to her.
"Crusher to Selar."
"Selar here."
"What's happened?"
"I have just arrived in Sickbay. Wait."
Beverly climbed out of bed and was donning her uniform when Selar's tight voice came through.
"Selar to Crusher."
"Crusher here."
"Doctor Captain Picard has fallen from his bed and dislodged the tubes from his chest. He is haemorrhaging copiously and has suffered significant internal damage. He requires immediate surgery. Will you assist?"
"I'm on my way. Crusher out."

 

 

When Beverly entered the surgery suite in her sterile attire, she gasped inwardly as her eyes beheld Selar with blood coating her arms up to her elbows. Jean-Luc's chest was open and the Doctor was valiantly trying to stem the catastrophic bleeding. Not breaking her stride, Beverly rushed to assist her, diving her gloved hands into Jean-Luc's chest and manually pinching off the haemorrhaging arteries with her nimble fingers. Selar reached forward with a clamp and sealed yet another leak.
"Doctor Crusher we need to replace his blood volume! He requires rapid infusion of plasma…at least four litres…"
"I know Selar but that will be useless unless we can seal these tears. Is there another by-pass machine available?"
"Yes Doctor. It is being prepared as we speak. It should be here momentarily."
"Good."
Beverly peered through the gore surrounding her fingers and caught Selar's attention.
"That tear…in the superior vena cava…it will need a graft. For now fuse it with a plasti patch and we'll move on to the next bad one. What's his blood pressure?"
"Almost too low to register."
"Damn! Selar diathermy that vessel…yes that's it. Right now fuse the aorta…"
Rick turned from his monitors as the new by-pass machine was wheeled into the theatre. He informed Beverly of its arrival and positioned it at the Captain's left side. She cast it a look and frowned as a weak spurt of blood sullied her gown.
"Where did that come from? Selar did you see?"
"Yes Doctor wait…there! I have closed the vein. We need more suction here!"
Another nurse lowered the suction device into Jean-Luc's chest and cleared the site of blood. Within minutes the talented Doctors sealed the ruptured blood vessels and, as Beverly began the delicate connection to the by-pass machine, Selar started to force plasma into his body, directly into his arteries.
Tense minutes ticked by as the anxious Doctors watched their patches and the newly fused tissues as Jean-Luc's blood pressure slowly started to rise. A sudden flooding of blood into his chest signalled a disaster.
Beverly was ready with two clamps in her hands.
"Where is it coming from? Suction!"
She spotted the trouble and moved quickly to circumvent it.
"It's the pulmonary artery! I'll clamp it, you fuse it…quickly now…"
Within seconds the danger passed and they again watched attentively. With his climbing blood pressure, the by-pass machine started to circulate his blood, taking in the depleted blood and sending it back into his body oxygenated. Slowly the dreadful pallor of his skin began to rejuvenate, taking on a more normal colour. Blood pressure readings were taken every five minutes as more fluid, this time whole blood, was replaced in his body. With his artificial heart already removed, the by-pass machine was connected directly to the appropriate arteries. In their weakened state it would take very little to rupture them again. Three hours after the emergency began; the Doctors were ready to close his chest.
With the immense benefits of their modern instruments, when they finished there was very little to show for his near brush with death. Two nurses were detailed to wash his body of the blood that coated his skin and he was soon sleeping peacefully in the recovery room.

The two Doctors met after they had washed and changed. Beverly was checking Jean-Luc's readouts as Selar found her.
"Selar how did this happen?"
"I do not know Doctor. I will summon Lieutenant Ponting."
He arrived with haste and answered the Doctor's questions.
"Lieutenant do you know how Captain Picard came to injure himself?"
"No Doctor Crusher. I had settled him for the night and he was sleeping. The next thing was, some hours later, he cried out and the medical alarm was triggered. I went straight to him and found him on the floor. He'd pulled over the by-pass machine and torn the tubes from his chest. I reported the emergency and summoned the Duty Doctor. In the mean time I did my best to stem the bleeding."
"You did very well Lieutenant, I will note your actions in the log."
Turning her blue eyes on Selar, she shook her head.
"What the hell happened? It doesn't make sense."
"Well Doctor when the Captain awakes, perhaps you can ask him?"
"I can tell you one thing for sure…I'm not letting him out of my sight."
Reaching up and regulating the flow of his intravenous drip, Beverly sighed.
"He's not going to be strong enough for the transplant now for several days. That, coupled with the fact that he'll have to keep still, is going to make our Captain one very grumpy Commander. I think I'll be staying in Sickbay for the interim. At least I can and try to diffuse his angst."
Selar cocked her head to one side and raised an eyebrow but refrained from commenting.
"Selar will you watch him for a while? I'd better go to my office and make my report to the Bridge."
"Of course Doctor."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly spent the rest of the night in Sickbay. When Will strode in next morning he found her dozing in a bed next to the Captain. He was about to leave when she woke.
"Will?"
"Don't get up Beverly…I didn't mean to wake you."
She sat up and pushed her hair out of the way.
"It's ok I've got to get up anyway. Time to check his vitals."
Will watched as she exited the bed and stretched. She went to the monitors and spent some minutes scrutinising them. Satisfied, she stood next to Jean-Luc and felt his face, all the while smiling wistfully. Re-gathering her thoughts, she placed the regen coils over his chest and foot and activated them. As the blue light appeared she inspected the wounds on his foot and nodded to herself. Her last task was to check his drip. Through the tube that entered his arm at the elbow, he was receiving nourishment, much needed fluid and antibiotics. She noted that the drip would have to be replenished soon.
"How is he?"
Beverly kept her eyes on her Captain as she answered Will.
"Considering how close he came to dying last night I'd say he was doing marvellously."
"What happened? How did he come to do it?"
Beverly sighed and turned her eyes on her friend.
"We don't know yet. I'm hoping he will tell us when he wakes up."
"And when will that be?"
"Well it may be a while Will. He really did some damage to his arteries and some of the repairs are…fragile, to say the least."
Will stepped closer, noting as he always did, how much smaller the Captain looked when he was flat out on a Sickbay bed.
"What about the transplant?"
"It'll have to be put off for several days. He's going to have to lie still and heal."
"He's not going to like that."
Beverly sighed again and smiled ruefully.
"No he isn't but, by God, he's going to take it just the same! Even if I have to sedate him and put him in a restraining field."
Will smiled and rested a large hand on her shoulder.
"I'm sure it won't come to that…you can handle him."
"You think?"
"Well if anybody can…you can."
"You vote of confidence is hereby noted Commander. Thank you."
"You'll let me know when he wakes up?"
Beverly nodded and smiled up at the First Officer.
"No problem."
Will left and Beverly obtained a nurse to watch Jean-Luc while she showered and got some breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was late in the afternoon when Jean-Luc finally stirred. Beverly was reading some journals when she noticed his hands travel up to his chest. She was at his side immediately catching his hands and stilling them. In a rough whisper he muttered,
"What?"
"It's ok Jean-Luc you're ok, just lie still."
His eyes opened and he grimaced.
Beverly checked the monitor and saw that he was in pain. She retrieved a hypospray and delivered a dose of analgesic to his system. He relaxed somewhat and gently shook his head.
"Beverly? What happened?"
"I was hoping you could tell me. You were found on the floor of your room, the tubes torn from your chest and the by-pass machines on its side."
Jean-Luc frowned the gasped slightly as his memory furnished the missing pieces. He reddened somewhat prompting Beverly to become alarmed.
"Jean-Luc what is it? What's wrong?"
He closed his eyes and sought her hands.
"It's all right…it's nothing, nothing really…"
Beverly had known this particular man for thirty years and she knew when he was lying.
"Out with it Jean-Luc!"
There followed a moment's embarrassed silence, the Captain swallowing convulsively. In a very small voice he uttered,
"I was trying to reach the table."
Beverly bent forward and frowned.
"You were what?"
In a cleared voice, Jean-Luc clenched his jaw and said,
"I was trying to reach the blasted table! I wanted a drink."
Beverly stood upright, a dark frown on her face.
"Why didn't you call for help?"
Pursing his lips, Jean-Luc found he couldn't meet her eyes.
"I thought I could manage on my own."
Beverly's voice started to rise in volume.
"Have you any idea what very nearly happened?"
He frowned and shook his head.
"You nearly died! You almost bled to death on the floor of your room Jean-Luc! If it weren't for some fast work by Lieutenant Ponting, Selar and me you'd be dead! You had no discernable blood pressure! Dammit Jean-Luc…you stubborn, pig headed…"
"That is enough Doctor!"
They stood glaring at each other until Jean-Luc reached for her hand.
"Beverly…"
"Stop jean-Luc, stop right there I don't want to hear it."
"But…"
"No! Look I can't be near you right now. I'll send in Selar to give you your instructions."
With that she turned and walked out. His call to her went unanswered.
Beverly crossed Sickbay on the way to her office, calling Selar as she went.
The Vulcan Doctor waited patiently in front of Beverly's desk as the fiery red head composed herself. When she felt ready she spoke.
"It would seem Selar that our Captain injured himself by trying to reach for the bed table which was obviously too far away. I want you to tell him the extent of his injuries and what we expect of him over the coming days."
"I see Doctor. Do you wish me to be his primary physician?"
Beverly frowned and shook her head.
"No, I will remain that, but right now I need a little detachment."
"As you wish Doctor."

 

 

 

An hour later Jean-Luc lay in his bed frowning. Selar had reiterated Beverly's claim that he'd almost died and that, because of his subsequent injuries, he would be confined to his bed without the luxury of overt movement. Added to that the news of the transplant being set back several days combined to put him in a very black mood. What played on his mind the most however was Beverly's anger. That she was furious with him was obvious and, what's more, he could understand her angst. In the cold light of day what he'd attempted seemed to be very foolish indeed, in fact 'idiotic' was the most flattering word he could think of. Stuck as he was in his bed, he racked his brains trying to think of a way to apologise and still save his pride. The trouble was…he was running out of scenarios.
He sighed gently, feeling the corresponding twinge deep inside his chest. What had before felt uncomfortable, now felt almost unbearable. Each breath was a trial and where the tubes entered his chest was a burning sensation that nibbled at his stamina. He cast his eyes over the machine that was sustaining his life and scowled at it. Never one to enjoy being at the mercy of things out of his control, he equated this experience along with all the other unpleasant things that had happened to him.
To the quiet room he snarled,
"Merde!"

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly didn't return to his room until the next morning. The nurse had just finished bathing and shaving the Captain when she came in and stood beside his bed. He looked at her briefly and, seeing no acknowledgement, returned his gaze to the ceiling. The nurse finished her tasks and left. Beverly moved to his foot and turned off the regen field. Taking some medicated gauze, she gently wiped the healing wounds and quickly glanced at him when he gasped.
"Does that hurt?"
"Yes."
"Good."
She continued cleaning his foot, ignoring him. He grew annoyed at her indifference and spoke.
"I thought you didn't like inflicting pain."
Without looking at him she replied,
"If it indicates good nerve regeneration, I make an exception."
"So you're saying you're happy you hurt me?"
Her hands stopped their work and she lowered her head.
"You know damn well I don't like hurting you!"
"Well that's a relief."
Silence settled again as Beverly finished with his foot and moved up the bed to scan the monitors. Jean-Luc tried again to initiate conversation.
"How am I doing?"
"As well as can be expected."
He snorted angrily only to groan in pain.
"Jean-Luc stop that you'll only make your discomfort worse!"
She consulted a tricorder to find the pain indicators elevated.
"Here, I'll give you something for it."
The hiss of the hypospray was sharp in the quiet room. Jean-Luc closed his eyes and raised his hands to his chest, taking a few experimental breaths.
"Better?"
"Hmm. Thank you."
Silence threatened to descend again until Jean-Luc spoke.
"Beverly…I'm so sorry. What I did was very foolish…you were right, I was stubborn and pig headed. I can't stand this rift between us…forgive me…please?"
Beverly's sapphire eyes found his and tears threatened. With a quivering voice she whispered,
"Do you have any idea what is does to me every time you go close to death? Any idea at all?"
He said nothing, but held her gaze steadily.
"Jean-Luc…I love you. Do you truly understand what that means?"
"Yes Beverly…yes I do because I love you. I have done for more years than I care to remember."
Said with such quiet intensity, it stayed her next words. He reached for her hand and drew her closer.
"Beverly…my love…I'm sorry. Please, oh God please forgive me."
In response she leaned down and brushed her lips breathlessly over his, her tears falling onto his face. It was nothing like she'd ever done before. It was not chaste and restrained…it was full of promise and need. His dark hazel eyes glittered and he tightened his grip on her hand, trying to keep her close, but she pulled back replacing her lips with her fingers. He pursed his mouth and kissed her fingers bringing the first smile to her delightful lips.
"You're so beautiful…" he breathed.
Her fingers trailed over his face as she regained her equilibrium. Her eyes reluctantly left his face and consulted the monitors as a slight frown made itself evident.
"What?"
"Your temperature is slightly elevated."
"Well no wonder…"
She smiled down at him and chuckled.
"No silly I mean we should check your antibiotics. The infection may have revived due to your recent surgery."
"Oh."
"I'm going to draw a blood sample, ok?"
He nodded and couldn't keep the grin off his face as she retrieved the instrument.
"Now you keep still."
"Aye Sir."
Ten minutes later she was consulting with Selar.
"It would seem this is a very opportunistic bacteria."
"You're telling me! We suppressed the antibiotics for what…three hours? And look at it, nearly back to full strength."
"Doctor Crusher I see no other avenue than to increase the potency of the antibiotics."
"I agree, but it's going to make him feel terrible…Damn."
"Doctor?"
"Oh it's just that he's going through so much…we're going to have to suppress his urge to vomit too. With those repairs to the arteries…they wouldn't take the strain."
Selar nodded sagely, her eyebrows raised.
"The transplant will also have to be postponed further, at least until the infection is eradicated."
Beverly nodded forlornly, looking over shoulder at the Captain's room.
"Do you want me to tell him Doctor?"
Beverly sighed despondently and shook her head.
"No I'll do it."
Just as she was about to proceed to his room, a call came down from the Bridge.
"Riker to Crusher."
"Crusher here Will."
"Beverly we're on approach to Starbase 175. We should be docking in about ten minutes."
"Thanks Will, I'll contact their Sickbay and talk to their CMO. Crusher out."
Beverly spent the next half an hour in her office going over Jean-Luc's case with Matthew Hayden, the CMO of the base. It was decided that Beverly would be the one to do the transplant, ably assisted by the Starbase medical team. Having collected all relevant information, the means were set in motion to create a new heart for the Captain. Beverly sat back in her chair and set one foot on the seat's edge. Resting her chin on her knee and clasping her hands around her leg, she went over the procedure in her mind looking for any pitfalls. She called up Pulaski's notes and, not for the first time, thanked the Gods for Jean-Luc's phenomenal physical state. A weaker man may well have succumbed. Thinking of his body brought with it an uncomfortable desire she had long suppressed. At first she relapsed into old habits…shutting down her feelings and shying away from her passion but she stopped and re-evaluated herself realising, for the first time, those feelings were in fact very welcome. For as long as she could remember she had found him attractive. An exceptionally handsome man, he had an extraordinary physique, compact and muscular, wiry and strong. Her attraction extended to his mind as well. Always tightly controlled, yet still able to encompass almost any subject, he could embrace any philosophy and understand it. His passions ran deep, as deep as his intellect and his ingrained reticence. He was quite a package…
"And he loves me."
She sighed in contentment, letting her eyes drift shut. A gentle hemming at the door broke her from her reverie.
"Beverly?"
Her eyes slowly opened, the smile however, stayed.
"Hello Deanna. What can I do for you?"
"Actually I came to see Captain Picard. Beverly…you're feeling very…mellow."
"Am I?"
"Uh huh and there's more…."
Deanna's mouth dropped open and she gasped.
"You're in love!"
Beverly stood and stretched with cat-like grace. She winked at the counsellor and gestured with her head.
"I'm just going to see him, want to tag along?"
Deanna rushed to her side and poked her in the ribs making Beverly giggle.
"Who is it?"
Beverly wagged a finger at her friend and shook her head. Deanna snorted in frustration and glared at the Doctor.
"I'll find out you know."
Beverly shrugged her shoulders and entered the Captain's room. She noted Jean-Luc was asleep and moved to the computer to synthesise a new drip with the improved antibiotics. When it materialised she disconnected the old bag and attached the new one. Regulating the flow, she nodded with satisfaction and stood back to watch her best friend sleep. Aware of the presence of her empathic crewmate, Beverly tried to keep her emotions in check, but they seeped out anyway. Feelings of love, desire and tenderness welled, overflowing her usually adequate barriers. Deanna gasped and stepped forward, slipping her hand into Beverly's.
"The Captain?"
Beverly turned to her friend, a lopsided smile gracing her face.
"Uh huh."
"Does he…does he feel the same?"
Smiling Beverly nodded.
"Yes."
"Oh Beverly I'm so happy for you! I've sensed strong feelings from him for you for a long time…but I could never pin it down. I thought eventually it was just your friendship with him…it seemed to sustain him. How long have you…?"
Beverly smiled wistfully and looked again at her sleeping friend.
"If I'm honest…a long time. I kept pushing it away…I was frightened…of so many things."
"But not any more?"
"No not any more."
Jean-Luc stirred then and opened his eyes. Seeing his beloved Beverly he smiled softly and raised his hand. When she made no move to take it, he frowned and cocked his head. Deanna chose that time to make her presence known.
"Hello captain. How do you feel?"
He dropped his hand and softly cleared his throat. Casting an apologetic smile at Beverly, he addressed the Counsellor.
"I'm fine Counsellor."
Deanna smiled at his standard answer and shook her head.
"Captain…"
Jean-Luc sighed and frowned at the discomfort it caused.
"Very well Deanna…I feel dreadful. Satisfied?"
She chuckled lightly bringing a rueful smile to his face.
"Yes Sir."
Beverly brushed his hand with her own and caught his attention.
"Jean-Luc we've discovered the infection has re-established itself. We're going to have to increase the antibiotics. It will make you feel more unwell…and it'll put your transplant back further. I'm sorry."
He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"How long?"
"Three, maybe four days."
His whispered, "Damn." Pulled at her heartstrings.
"Hey it'll be all right. You just hold on and before you know it you'll be back on the Bridge and all this will be behind you."
He opened his eyes and smiled, but it didn't quite reach his eyes.
"I've already started you on the increased antibiotics so you'll be feeling escalating nausea soon. I can give you an anti emetic to stop vomiting but I won't be able to completely eradicate the nausea."
"Just tell me you won't try and make me eat."
Beverly smiled and squeezed his hand.
"No I won't do that…I promise."
He nodded then frowned, his hands going to his stomach.
"Feeling sick?"
He screwed his eyes shut and grimaced. Beverly reached for a hypospray, checked it, then injected him with the drug.
He had grown pale and she noted a slight sweat appearing on his face.
"If you think you're going to vomit you must tell me. We have to prevent that to safeguard your arterial repairs."
He opened his mouth and took a few breaths. It seemed to help and he calmed. Deanna said quietly,
"Captain how about I bring you some of your books? Perhaps reading might take your mind of the nausea."
He smiled wanly and nodded, not trusting his voice. Deanna gently squeezed his shoulder and left.
Beverly grinned and bent low to his ear.
"She knows about us."
His eyebrows rose and he whispered,
"So soon?"
Beverly nodded, not the least upset.
"Uh huh. It's my fault. I let my feelings surface when she was here and she caught on immediately."
"So much for privacy."
"Oh Jean-Luc you needn't worry…she won't tell anybody…except Will."
"That's what I'm afraid of. I can't stand that grin of his…you know the one."
She gently kissed his cheek and ran her hand over his bare scalp.
"Oh well, all for a good cause."
"Enraptured by her tone of voice, he looked deeply into her eyes and lowered his already deep voice and said,
"You know when all this is over I'm going to make passionate love to you."
She grinned saucily and kissed him breathlessly on the mouth. Pulling back she looked down at him hungrily.
"You'd better."

 

 

 

 

The next three days were tortuous for Jean-Luc. Unable to do anything but lie still, his needs both personal and general were met by either Beverly or her dedicated staff. It left him feeling angry and humiliated. Beverly stayed by his side, talking to him, reading to him…anything to take his mind off his situation. She only once suggested he try and eat. She was met with a scowl and a curt shake of his head. Sighing, Beverly acquiesced knowing when to make a strategic withdrawal.
On the afternoon of the third day Beverly was pleased to find his temperature lowered and evidence of the infection waning. Jean-Luc watched in silence as she went about checking the monitors and regulating his drip. When she once again settled in her chair, he reached for her hand.
"Well?"
She smiled and gently squeezed his hand.
"You're doing very well. The infection is retreating and your arteries are getting stronger.
"So?"
"So…maybe tomorrow or the next day you can have the transplant."
He closed his eyes and sighed softly.
"Have they completed the new implant?"
"Yes it's being held in stasis ready for you when you need it."
He lay quietly, happy in her company. After a while he stared down at his injured foot.
"When will you close that?"
Beverly smiled and turned her gaze upon his appendage, resting under the regen light.
"Soon. Once the infection is eradicated there won't be any need to keep it open any longer. We'll seal it and as soon as you're able, we'll get you back on your feet."
"How long?"
Returning her eyes to her friend, she frowned.
"Jean-Luc…it's going to take a while. You'll have to start slowly and build up…you won't be on duty for a few weeks."
Beverly watched as several emotions played out across his face. He settled on disappointed.
"Will I be able to recuperate in my quarters?"
"The first couple of days will be spent here, but if everything goes according to plan, I don't see why you can't be released."
He smiled then, albeit ruefully.
"And you will do the transplant?"
"Uh huh."
"Good. Are you expecting any complications?"
Beverly pursed her lips and cocked her head.
"I've gone over the procedure and checked Pulaski's notes and I don't think there's anything untoward, however your recent surgery could play a hand. I won't know until I get in there and see for myself."
He nodded and Beverly noticed him tensing his stomach.
"Jean-Luc?"
He frowned and pointed to the urinal bottle on the counter. She nodded and retrieved it for him then left him to complete his task in privacy. She returned some minutes later and took the bottle away and emptied it, replacing it on the table with a clean one.
"Anything else?"
He shook his head and clasped his hands over his bare midriff.
'Would you like me to read to you?"
"No thank you Beverly. Actually I was thinking about Haius. I wonder how he is?"
"Hmm. I've been wondering how he got on with his parents. They couldn't have been too happy about his going off like he did. I know if it were me I'd be worried sick, especially with the war and everything."
"I know. He was a brave lad wasn't he, completely unfazed by what he experienced…accepting everything and still having enough intelligence to see through his station in life to aspire to something greater. I would like very much to come back here in fifteen years and take a peek into his life…see if we…or he… had made a difference."
Beverly chuckled, causing Jean-Luc to raise his eyebrows.
"What?"
"Oh I was just remembering…he thought it was funny you had hair on your body but not on your head. Then Will came in and he saw the beard!"
Beverly shook her head, her shoulders trembling with laughter.
'Beverly it's not that funny."
Her hand came up to stifle her giggles and she gained some control, although her eyes still twinkled.
"I told him that you'd seen the irony of the situation."
"Did you now? And what did he say?"
"He didn't…he just laughed."
"Hmm. Well I can't say I'll miss all that purple hair. It was a damn nuisance when I was sick."
"Oh I don't know Jean-Luc…I thought it was kinda sexy."
All that got was a look of disdain causing Beverly to giggle again.
"All right my Captain I confess…I love you just the way you are…how's that?"
"Better, although I hope to improve markedly soon."
"I can't wait."

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 2030 hours the next evening, Beverly breezed into Jean-Luc's room to find him playing chess with Data. The android Second Officer looked up from his contemplation of the boards to greet the Doctor.
"Hello Doctor Crusher."
'Hello Data are you winning?"
His head cocked to one side as he processed the query.
"As a matter of fact the Captain and I have reached an impasse. I am unfamiliar with his latest strategy and, as a consequence, he seems to have stymied my attack."
Beverly bent low to his ear and whispered conspirationally,
"He's very sneaky Data. He bears watching…closely."
He looked up at the physician and nodded once.
"I will endeavour to heed your advice Doctor."
Beverly straightened and placed her arms akimbo.
"Well gentlemen, I'm sorry but I'll have to ask you to postpone your game…Captain Picard has a prior engagement."
Data stood and began to pack away the chess set. Jean-Luc raised his eyebrows and looked at Beverly.
"Prior engagement?"
"Yep…your transplant. It's on."
"What…now?"
"Uh huh. We just got the latest lab results. The infection is eradicated and the grafts are holding up. I've spoken to the Starbase team and they're ready to come aboard."
"So you'll do it here then?"
"No reason not to…and I think you'll be more comfortable recuperating here…don't you think?"
He grinned and nodded.
"Oh yes that would be splendid."
"Right then. Data we'll see you later and Jean-Luc you get a sedative."
He sighed and bade his visitor farewell as Beverly prepared the hypospray. The gentle hiss punctuated the quiet and he felt his body and mind relax. Beverly's breath tickled his ear warmly.
"I'll be back soon with some help. We'll put you on a gurney and take you to theatre…ok?"
He nodded, feeling too lethargic to formulate a reply. Beverly tenderly kissed his scalp and left the room. Jean-Luc tried to concentrate on the sounds of Sickbay but found he kept losing his train of thought. Beverly soon returned with the promised help but he kept his eyes closed as they manoeuvred him carefully from the bed to the gurney.
Patterns of light flicked across his closed eyes as he was wheeled into the surgery suite. He noted the change of smell and felt the attachment of neural inducers to his head. Then he felt Beverly's breath again.
"Sleep now my love, I'll be with you when you wake."
Then his world faded to black.

 

 

 

 

An hour into the procedure Beverly frowned and checked the monitor.
"Matthew…why is his blood pressure fluctuating?"
Doctor Hayden looked up in surprise and shook his head.
"I don't know. Everything seems to be functioning…"
An alarm quietly sounded.
"It's falling! There must be a leak somewhere."
Both doctors began to search frantically for the suspected leak. The new connections were checked, as was the new heart. They had not yet taken him off the by-pass machine, having not yet completed the transplant.
"Beverly I can see blood…it's coming from the aorta."
"Ok but where? I can't see any hole…"
"Here I'll lift it, you get a mirror."
Gently, Matthew lifted the artery and Beverly slid the surgical mirror underneath. It was immediately covered with blood.
"Dammit it's torn all right! Can you fuse it?"
"I think so but when the transplant is finished we'd better place a graft over the area."
"Agreed."
It took only a few moments for Matthew to repair the rent and a short hiatus while the area was cleaned of blood. Resuming their tasks the Doctors completed their delicate connections and were soon ready to transfer the blood supply back to Jean-Luc's body. This was done very carefully and within the hour, they were preparing to start his heart.
"Ok now…keep an eye on the new graft. Here goes."
An electrical pulse was passed through the device, triggering its mechanism and it started to pump instantly. As his blood pressure rose, colour returned to his body and with it warmth.
The two Doctors watched with satisfaction as the new heart settled into its rhythm, beating seamlessly. All the grafts and intricate connections held firm, the medicos knowing they would only get stronger with time.
"He's had other transplants?"
Beverly smiled and ran her fingers down his arm.
"Yes. This is his third."
"Well he's got the top of the line. They don't come any better than this."
"He deserves it, believe me."
Matthew looked down at the sleeping Captain and grunted.
"It's a good thing he's so fit. Even with the ravages of the infection he's still got good muscle tone."
"Uh huh. Well let's close up. I'll seal his foot when we're finished…I sort of promised him."
Doctor Hayden laughed and nodded as he picked up the necessary instruments.

 

 

 

 

 

Three hours later light came back to Jean-Luc's eyes. From under his eyelids he noted a soft light and concentrated on ascertaining where he was. He recognised the sounds of Sickbay and, by the amount of activity around him, he guessed he was in the recovery room. Taking an experimental breath he was pleased to find the dreadful pressure gone. Gone too was the burning sensation in his side. He set his formidable mind to settle on his heartbeat and, although he could detect minor differences, he was satisfied with what he felt. When Beverly's gentle hand infiltrated his, he smiled.
"How long have you been awake?"
He shook his head and whispered,
"Not long. How did it go?"
"It went well my love. We had a spot of bother with a weak artery but, all in all, you're fine."
He nodded still smiling.
"Wiggle your toes for me."
He complied and she squeezed his hand.
"Any pain?"
"No."
"Good. I kept my promise…your foot is now healed and you're off the drip. You know what that means?"
He sighed and frowned.
"You want me to eat."
"Yes, although not right now."
"I'm thankful for small blessings."
"You should be free of the effects of the antibiotics in a few hours. I'll let you sleep some more but when you wake up…"
"Beverly…"
"It'll be all right Jean-Luc trust me."
He smiled, his eyes still closed.
"Implicitly as always."
"Ok. We're taking you to your room now. You just relax."
He nodded and felt the gurney move. When they carefully moved him to his bed he felt tightness in his chest and he frowned.
"Jean-Luc? Are you in pain?"
He shook his head, his hands coming up to splay over his chest.
"Sore?"
"Yes, a little."
"Well that's to be expected, it'll soon pass. Now Captain sleep."
"Will you stay?"
"Just try and stop me."
He smiled and relaxed his body, giving in to the lethargy that gripped him, slipping quickly into slumber.

 

 

 

 

It was 1130 when he woke. He was aware he had company although he instinctively knew it wasn't Beverly. Opening his eyes, he cast them to his side to see his First Officer frowning over a book. He was obviously struggling with something and it amused the Captain to watch him wrestle with the problem. Jean-Luc recognised the book…'The Principals of Vulcan Logic'…and understood Will's dilemma. It wasn't an easy book to read.
"Give up Will. It took me years and I'm still not sure."
Will jumped slightly but still found a smile for his Captain and friend.
"Hello Sir, how do you feel?"
Jean-Luc thought about that and decided he felt remarkably good. Worn out and still somewhat tender, but surprisingly well.
"I'm fine Number One, just fine."
Will looked dubiously at his Commander and shook his head.
"After what you've been through Sir…"
Jean-Luc smiled and sighed.
"Comes with the territory Will."
His First Officer was about to say more when a certain red haired Doctor entered carrying a tray. Will took one look and bid his Captain farewell. As he passed Beverly she whispered…
"Chicken."
Jean-Luc eyes went to the tray, a protest forming on his lips. Beverly however forestalled him.
"Oh no you don't! Look it's been over a week since you've eaten anything. All I have here is some vegetable soup, a bread roll…a crusty one just as you like it…and a hot cup of Earl Grey. Now really Jean-Luc…don't you think you can at least try?"
The aroma of the soup and warm bread wafted over to him and his stomach growled, startling both of them. He reddened slightly and motioned her closer.
"Can I sit up?"
Beverly beamed at him and put the tray on the counter. She raised the head of the bed, secured some more pillows, then positioned the tray across his thighs.
"There you go. Do you want me to help you?"
He gave a wry grin and quipped,
"I think I can manage."
Mollified, Beverly contented herself by watching him eat. It was something that always fascinated her. Everything he did, he accomplished with grace and an economy of movement and eating was no exception. She'd been taking meals with him for more years than she dared admit, yet it never failed to mesmerise her. He was adorable.
He spoke to her and she didn't respond.
"Beverly?"
She blinked and blushed slightly.
"What?"
He grinned, realising he'd caught her wool gathering.
"I said…when can I get out of bed?"
"Oh…this afternoon. I thought you might like a shower after all those bed baths."
He snorted and scowled at the embarrassing memories.
"I thought tomorrow we could start your therapy."
"And what will that consist of?"
"At first just walking on a treadmill. When your stamina improves we'll up the ante. I hope to have you jogging by the end of the week."
His eyebrows rose as he popped the last bit of roll into his mouth. Chewing thoughtfully he asked,
"And my release?"
"Probably tomorrow. There's a graft we want to keep an eye on for a while, but if you handle being out of bed later, then I don't see any problem with you being discharged tomorrow."
He picked up his tea, closed his eyes and sipped, sighing with pleasure. He swallowed and pursed his lips, raising his chin.
"Beverly…I haven't told you…I want to thank you for looking after me…again. I don't know what I'd do if it wasn't for you."
She smiled softly and took one of his hands.
"I can't say it was a pleasure Jean-Luc…in fact I hate it when I have to heal you because I hate it when you're sick or injured. Every time I die a little inside."
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and frowned, bowing his head.
"I'm sorry my love."
"Don't be. It would be worse if I couldn't help you. What would I do then knowing you were hurt and being unable to do anything? I'd go insane. At least this way I can have a hand in your recovery."
His dark hazel eyes opened and glittered making Beverly shiver.
"I wouldn't want anyone but you treating me."
She grinned and tossed her head.
"Oh I know that!"
He sighed happily and finished his tea. Beverly laughed at him as he smacked his lips and ducked when he threw his serviette at her. She took the tray and met Data as she was leaving his room. To his gentle enquiry she answered,
"Yes Data you can go in. The Captain's in fine form."

 

 

 

 

Later that afternoon Beverly returned to his room and watched in amused silence as Jean-Luc parried with Deanna.
"…But Captain if you had nightmares then…"
He shook his head and grimaced.
"No Counsellor. Look I was ill…my temperature was elevated…I'm sure the dreams were of no consequence."
"The fact that you had them at all…and considering it was the Borg you dreamed of…don't you think that requires further investigation?"
"No. Frankly I don't. It was simply an…anomaly. Nothing more."
"I disagree Captain, and I think you should talk to me about it."
Jean-Luc swallowed the irritated response that teetered on his tongue. Instead he took a calming breath and schooled his features into his 'Captain's' mask.
"I appreciate your input Counsellor, however your help is not required."
Deanna knew when to stop. Once he adopted his command visage she knew he was closed to her. She would not, however, give up entirely.
"Very well Captain Picard. I will come and see you again soon."
"As you wish Counsellor."
As Deanna stalked past Beverly she rolled her eyes, making the Doctor frown. She stepped into the room and noted Jean-Luc still wore his stern face.
"Hey…it's me, you can drop the command act."
He glared at her then relented, finding a smile instead.
"Hello my love."
"Hello yourself. You know you shouldn't do that to Deanna. She only wants to help."
"I don't need her help Beverly. Who told her about the nightmares anyway?"
Beverly bit her lip and frowned.
"Actually I did. I thought it was important…seeing the content of the dream."
He scowled, the hard look returning.
"Doctor in future I would appreciate it if you kept the details of my dreams private. It's bad enough experiencing them without having to rehash them with concerned staff."
"Jean-Luc…I only…"
"I'm serious Beverly. I don't want to talk about it…at least not yet."
Chagrined, Beverly bowed her head.
"Very well, but promise me something?"
He looked at her suspiciously.
"What?"
"Promise me you will talk to Deanna…soon."
He sighed exasperatedly and shook his head.
"You're incorrigible."
"Agreed, but will you promise?"
He gave up and nodded slowly.
"All right I'll talk to her. Satisfied?"
Beverly came and sat on the bed and leaned in to kiss him tenderly.
"Uh huh. Want to get up?"
He stole another kiss before nodding enthusiastically.
"Come on then, but remember, take it slowly."
Together they eased him around until his legs dangled over the bed. Shifting him to the edge, he dropped the few centimetres to the floor and stood upright for the first time in some days. He straightened his back and took a deep breath, stopping when he felt the telltale tightness. With Beverly's warm hand on his back he targeted the bathroom and took his first unsteady step. Stopping, he closed his eyes and centred himself. When he'd regained his equilibrium, he stepped off again, this time with more confidence.
"How's the foot?"
"Good…no pain."
"And you chest?"
"A little tender…I'm a little breathless."
"That's to be expected. Just take it easy, you're doing fine."
They reached the bathroom and Jean-Luc requested to use the toilet. While he was busy Beverly went back into his room and retrieved his shower gear and clean pyjama pants. By the time he emerged she had the shower running and his things laid out.
"Can you get your pants off?"
He blushed and nodded.
"I think so."
"Ok I'll wait for you in your room. Just call if you need me."
He nodded his thanks and she left him. He untied the drawstring of his pants and let them drop to his ankles. Stepping out of them, he entered the shower and sighed with pleasure as the hot spray hit his back. He placed his hands above his head and leaned against his arms as the water cascaded down his back. He closed his eyes and turned, lifting his face to the spray. He took his time lathering his body, delighting in the feeling of cleanliness it produced. When he'd finished the shower, he exited and dried off then, with the white towel wrapped around his trim waist, he shaved himself and brushed his teeth. Last of all he put on the clean pants and left the bathroom feeling like a new man.
Beverly grinned at him when she caught his eye.
"So…how does that feel?"
"Bloody marvellous!"
"You look…and smell…delicious. Want something to eat?"
He thought about that and grinned again.
"As a matter of fact I do! Although I take it you're not on the menu…yet?"
Beverly blushed and felt desire awakening.
"Jean-Luc! Stop that…you're not supposed to…"
"What? Desire my best friend?"
"No! Yes! Oh hell I don't know…just stop it for now. Let's get you better first."
"Very well Beverly…but you and I have unfinished business."
His eyes glittered and his voice was velvety deep.
Beverly trembled and stood absolutely still, the heat rising rapidly within her body.
Jean-Luc broke the spell.
"Now how about something to eat?"
Without saying a word, Beverly turned and exited the room, leaving a highly amused Captain in her wake.

 

 

 

 

The session on the treadmill was uneventful, however Jean-Luc was dismayed at how weak he felt afterward. He sat on his bed, wiping sweat from his face with shaking hands.
Beverly stood beside him and gently rubbed his back.
"How are you feeling?"
"Exhausted. Beverly…?"
She sighed and stopped her hand. Bending forward, she caught his gaze.
"I told you this would happen. It's going to take time Jean-Luc…you have to be patient."
He snorted and she noticed his scowl.
"What?"
"Well it's not as if I've haven't been in this situation before. I've had other transplants…"
"Yes, but your body wasn't ravaged by injury and infection was it?"
He shook his head, a speculative look upon his face.
"So when…?"
Beverly straightened and gripped the edge of the bed.
"At least four days…that is until you have more stamina and less discomfort. It will be a few weeks before you're back to your old self.
He turned to her, his eyebrows raised.
"Weeks?"
"Uh huh."
"But what about returning to duty? Surely you don't expect me to just sit around twiddling my thumbs while…"
Beverly grasped his upper arm and leaned into him, letting their bodies touch. He stilled immediately.
"It won't be that bad Jean-Luc. You'll be allowed to work from your quarters…on reduced hours…and I will permit the occasional stint on the Bridge. The time will pass before you know it."
He gave her the 'you must be joking' look, making Beverly laugh.
"Come on let's get you to the shower and then we can think about something for you to eat."
He sighed and slipped off the bed, stopping to glance at his best friend.
"You enjoy this far too much you know. What is it they say about absolute power?"
Beverly gently slapped his arm and chuckled.
"Jean-Luc…you don't think I'm corrupt…do you?"
Smiling, he started for the bathroom, throwing over his shoulder…
"Can I reserve my judgement?"
His answer came by a towel to the back of his retreating head.

 

 

 

 

 

After a late dinner the next day a relaxed Captain sat on a chair in his room, waiting for his emancipator. Dressed in casual clothes he looked elegant and very masculine. Beverly stopped at the door and let her eyes wander over him. He became aware of her scrutiny and smiled slyly when she blushed at being caught. Regathering her wits, Beverly entered the room and leaned against the bed, her arms folded, seemingly unperturbed.
"So are you all ready to go?"
Jean-Luc looked about and smiled.
"Yes. The few things I had here Data has returned to my quarters. I'm ready when you are."
Pushing off from the bed, Beverly held her hand out, not really expecting him to take it, but he surprised and delighted her by doing just that. Together they walked out into Sickbay, turning a few heads in the process. They left the facility and strolled leisurely through the ship, the Captain nodding greetings to well-wishers. Arriving at his quarters, they entered and Beverly went to the replicators.
"Would you like a cup of Earl Grey?"
He turned to the viewports, sighing with pleasure.
"Yes that would be lovely."
He stood at the vista to the stars and slid his hands into his pockets. Beverly put their drinks on the low table and joined him at the window.
"You've missed them haven't you?"
He smiled and half turned to her.
"Missed what?"
"Your stars."
He returned his gaze to the sparkling stars and sighed. Nodding, he whispered,
"Yes, yes I have."
Beverly squeezed his upper arm and drifted to the sofa. She picked up her Camomile tea and sipped the hot brew enjoying the opportunity to watch him as he wrestled with his thoughts.
"Penny?"
She watched as his shoulders raised and lowered in an expansive sigh.
"I was just thinking…how many times have I felt this?"
"Felt what?"
"This…this re-integrating of my life. It seems to me that I've had to do it too many times."
He turned thoughtfully and sat beside the Doctor, still immersed in his ponderings.
"It'll pass Jean-Luc, you know that. Soon you'll be back in harness and all this will fade to just another unpleasant memory."
He cocked his head and pursed his lips, lowering his gaze.
"Unpleasant memories…I seem to have quite a few of those too."
Beverly frowned and moved closer, gently placing her hand on his thigh. He watched her hand but said nothing.
"Jean-Luc…this isn't self-pity I'm hearing is it?"
He slowly gathered up her resting hand and held it tenderly in his own, his thumb caressing it.
"Beverly do you remember what it was like for me…after the Borg?"
"Yes."
"And after Madred?"
"Yes."
And would it surprise you to know that I'm more than a little tired of finding myself, yet again, having to pull my life back together?"
Nonplussed by his morose attitude, Beverly squeezed his large hand and looked into his troubled eyes.
"Jean-Luc?"
He lowered his head and gently shook it, a wry smile on his face.
"Oh you needn't worry Beverly. No doubt I'll be fine…it's just that sometimes I get a little…tired…So very tired."
Beverly stood and gestured him to his feet. To his raised eyebrows, she said nothing, just beckoned him to his bedroom. Once there, he watched in bemused silence as she went to his draws and retrieved his sleep shorts and an over size shirt. She turned to him and held up the shirt.
"I'm going to the bathroom to change into this. You put on the shorts and get into bed."
Unsure as to exactly where her actions were heading, he nonetheless acquiesced and was lying in his bed when Beverly emerged from the bathroom. Jean-Luc's breath caught in his throat as his eyes travelled over her beautiful form. The starlight picked up the highlights in her hair and the shirt did little to cover her stunning dancer's body. He noticed, in particular, her legs. They seemed to go on forever. She sat on the bed, pulled back the covers and slid underneath. She curled up to Jean-Luc and immediately sensed his tenseness.
"Beverly what are we doing?"
She rose up on her elbow and gazed down at his glittering eyes.
"Jean-Luc my love soon…possibly very soon…we're going to make love. But not tonight. Tonight I'm going to hold you and try to banish all those morbid thoughts you've been having. And, if you should have a nightmare, I'll be here for you. Now I know you're a little tense, but I want you to try and relax. In some ways this evening will more intimate than anything you've experienced before."
He frowned and shifted slightly, trying to ease his evident arousal. Beverly was aware of his discomfort and sought to allay his embarrassment.
"It's all right Jean-Luc, I understand. Try to relax. Put your arms around me and let your thoughts take you to a happier place, one free of the Borg and Madred, a place where you've been at peace."
He turned gingerly onto his side, pulling back his hips so as to preclude any contact with that part of him that craved her touch. She understood and gently slid her arms around him, encouraging him to do the same.
"Rest now Jean-Luc my love…trust me as I have so often trusted you."
His voice unavailable, he whispered,
"All right I'll try but may I ask something of you…will you fulfil a fantasy of mine?"
"What is it?"
"May I kiss you?"
Beverly debated the wisdom of his request. She knew he was very aroused and to be honest, so was she, but she was determined this night would be about healing, not satisfying sexual desire. She could not, however, negate the importance of his request. She knew he'd been in love with her for a very long time and she also knew he was asking her to trust him, that he wouldn't try to seduce her.
Looking deeply into his eyes, she slowly nodded, a small smile gracing her face. He leaned in slowly and gently brushed his lips over hers. She responded gradually and he deepened the kiss, his tongue softly seeking admittance. She opened to him like a flower and he sighed deeply, allowing his body to mould to her shape as he kissed her with all the love he felt. She gasped as she felt his erection, but he did nothing untoward. He slowly tapered off the kiss and they parted, their breathing rapid, their hearts pounding. His mellifluous voice rumbled through the dark bedroom.
"Thank you. That was something I've wanted to do for a very long time."
She kissed the tip of his nose and snuggled into his shoulder.
"You're welcome…now try and sleep."
He chuckled and breathed deeply of her scent.
"I'll try but I don't know how successful I'll be. You're very distracting."
Despite his protestations, he did drift off to sleep, safe in Beverly's arms.
Twice during the night he started to moan and toss and both times Beverly was able to ease him away from the terror of his dreams and back to the safety of her embrace. On the second occasion he woke he couldn't stop the tears that flowed down his face. She held him as he wept, knowing he needed the catharsis.
He woke in the morning to the delightful sensation of having the only woman he'd ever truly loved lying safely in his arms. He lay quietly savouring the moment, willing time to stand still. When Beverly eventually woke she stretched and instinctively snuggled backwards into his body and giggled when she felt his erection. He wondered briefly if it had subsided at all during the long night. He placed his forehead on the back of her head and sighed.
"I'm sorry."
She took his hands and held them to her breast, bending to kiss his fingers.
"Don't be…I'm flattered."
He freed one hand and brushed her lustrous hair from her shoulder. Placing small kisses over the exposed skin, he worked his way up her shoulder to her neck, then on to her ear.
"Mmm that's nice. What time is it?"
"I don't know…early."
Emboldened, he dared to cup one breast and gently kneaded it, causing Beverly to softly moan.
"Jean-Luc…we shouldn't…"
"Shh. There's no medical reason is there?"
"Well it's a bit early in your recovery…"
"But?"
"But…oh God don't stop."
He smiled against her skin as he kissed her ear, his fingers finding then tweaking her distended nipple.
"Turn over Beverly."
He released her and she turned over, gasping when she saw the love and desire swirling within his eyes. Never before had she seen him so open to her, not trying to turn away, not trying to disguise it, but showing her everything, showing her his soul.
"Jean-Luc…"
"Shh my lovely…let me love you as I've always dreamed."
The physician in Beverly suddenly came to the fore.
"Wait Jean-Luc you're not ready for anything too strenuous."
"But…"
"It's all right…let me…"
She rose up on her elbow and kissed him slothfully. Her hand drifting down his torso, delighting in dallying in the hair that covered his body. He sighed and she was encouraged to let her hand snake lower still, over his shorts to trace the outline of him through the silken material. His sigh became a low, sensuous moan, thrilling and arousing the Doctor. His hands came up her sides taking the sleep shirt with them. She sat up and straddled his supine form, raising her arms and letting him divest her of the garment. Now completely naked, his heated gaze swept her body, his tongue involuntarily licking his lips.
"So beautiful."
She leaned down and kissed him passionately as his hands caught and caressed her breasts. It was her turn to moan as his nimble fingers gently teased out her nipples. She broke the kiss and gasped as he kissed his way down her neck to her breasts, taking one swollen bud into the heat of his mouth as his fingers teased the other. Her breath hissed through clenched teeth as he swapped his mouth to the neglected nipple. She ground her hips to his, making him thrust upwards. She opened her eyes to watch as, with his own eyes closed, he nursed at her breast, lavishing attention to the sensitive peaks. She sat up again, disengaging him and he looked up at her in awe. She was, without doubt, the most wantonly sexual woman he'd ever met. She exuded sexuality and the thought that she was about to be his was almost overwhelming.
She moved slowly down his body and slid his shorts off as she went. Pushing the bedcovers with her, she stripped him of his shorts and took a moment to take him in. She'd seen him naked before, but never like this…erect and aroused…and all for her. Sliding slowly up his legs, she stopped at his straining penis and ran her tongue up the underside, making him gasp in pleasure. She tarried at the head, licking and nibbling and allowing her hands to join in the intimate caress. His body stiffened and he moaned loudly, thrusting up into her mouth. Knowing he was at his limit, Beverly released him and moved up his body to once again straddle him. His hands went instinctively to her hips and she noticed his mouth was open as he panted. She bent forward and whispered in his ear,
"Are you all right? Is there any pain?"
Unable to speak, he closed his eyes and shook his head, a smile upon his face. Before she could sit up, he lowered one hand and took hold of his penis, lifting it. Beverly understood and moved back slowly, taking him inside her inch by inch.
They both gasped at the sensation and, when he was fully immersed in her, they paused, his hands again going to her breasts. Beverly splayed her hands over his chest, teasing his nipples as she gently started to move up and down his shaft. She rose until he almost left her, then quickly descended. His head arched back on his neck and he groaned loudly. His hands left her breasts, one going to her hip, the other to her engorged clitoris where, in time with her movements, he stroked her boldly.
She quickened her pace as he thrust up from the bed, meeting her with force.
"Oh God yes Jean-Luc…"
He opened his eyes to watch her gyrate above him and the sight of her nearly sent him over the edge. Spreading her dew with his fingers, he stroked her repeatedly and felt her internal muscles start to contract around his plunging penis. Concentrating fiercely on his formidable control, he gritted his teeth and held his ground as the orgasm swept over his lover. She cried out his name and her nails bit into his chest. Undaunted he kept thrusting and continued his intimate caress until Beverly cried out again. This time he found his own release, the climax resounding through his mind and body, leaving him spasming and trembling.
Beverly collapsed on his chest as they both heaved for breath. On trembling arms, she rose and spoke,
"Is everything all right?"
He nodded as his arms encircled her, pulling her back down to him.
"Beverly…that was…that was…"
She grinned tiredly and nuzzled his neck.
"Yes it was wasn't it? Worth the wait?"
"Oh yes…it was more, so much more than I'd imagined. I love you my Beverly."
"And I love you Jean-Luc."
She stretched herself out over his body and, still joined, they drifted off to sleep.

 

 

 

Two and a half hours later the alarm sounded. The Captain's gruff,
"Off!"
Made Beverly grin. She had slid from his body while they slept and now lay at his side, their legs entangled, her head on his chest. She idly drew patterns through his hair and he caressed her back. His voice rumbled through his chest, making her shiver.
"We should get up."
"Hmm a shower would be nice."
Just then Beverly's stomach chose that moment to growl. Jean-Luc looked down at the top of her head with amusement.
"And let's not forget breakfast."
She rose up on her elbow, a clump of hair entangled in her fingers.
"Ow!"
"Be that a lesson to you Jean-Luc Picard. This woman is not to be trifled with."
"Oh really?"
He deftly rolled them over until his hard body covered hers.
"So tell me…what would this woman like me to do to her this morning?"
Beverly chuckled and ducked under his nose for a quick kiss.
"I think we've already established that, but my dear, I have to get up. Nature calls."
"Very well I'll release you…under protest."
He watched as she exited the bed and gave a low whistle of appreciation when he saw her nakedness.
"I was right…you are beautiful!"
Beverly flipped her fingers at him and made her way to the bathroom. When she emerged he was in the shower. She slid the door open and snuck in, delighting him as her arms encircled his muscular form.
They enjoyed themselves under the spray, their play semi-erotic. Beverly kept a tight leash on her desire seeing that, although he was willing, Jean-Luc was tired. When they finished their shower, Beverly took time to dry him thoroughly and he did the same with her. They were learning each other, finding out what pleased and titillated…and aroused. He was semi-erect again and wanted to go back to bed. Beverly took his face in her hands and looked into his eyes.
"Jean-Luc I think we've done enough of that for a while. Why don't we have some breakfast and then we can go over your therapy regimen?"
He sighed and only just stifled a yawn. Grinning lopsidedly, they left the bathroom and dressed, before making their way to the dining area. Soon hot croissants and fresh coffee graced the table and the lovers enjoyed a ritual they'd shared for many years.

 

His deep commanding voice rang throughout Sickbay.
"I don't care what you think Doctor…I've had enough!"
"Captain…Jean-Luc I just want you to do five more minutes, that's all."
"That's all? I've already done half a bloody hour on this…torture machine and I'm tired!"
The day had started out so happily for the couple. After breakfast they had gone over his therapy schedule and he'd agreed that it was in order. She'd left him then with instructions to rest only to return in the afternoon to find him tired and cranky. Apparently, against her orders, he'd been conducting ship's business from his cabin and had taken on far too much. When she'd suggested it was time for his rehab session, he'd glowered and only acquiesced under pressure. Now he was being stubborn and ill tempered.
Beverly stood back and put her hands on her hips.
"Captain Picard that attitude is helping no one! Kindly remember you're under my care and comply with my wishes…without the loud complaints!"
His head snapped up, an angry retort on his lips. Nurse Ogawa chose that time to enter and bring Beverly a wanted PADD. Jean-Luc lowered his head and restrained his temper. Gripping the handles of the treadmill, he stared at the monitor and quickened his pace, intending to take out his angst on the machine.
Having finished with the nurse, Beverly glanced at the monitor and sighed.
"Not so fast Jean-Luc…you're not trying to kill it, just get some gentle exercise."
He grunted and closed his eyes, choosing instead to ignore her. Beverly, however, would have none of it.
"Good. Three more minutes and then we can get you a rub down and a shower."
He said nothing, but found he had to concentrate fiercely to see out the remaining time. It was with a glad heart that he heard her call a halt to the session.
"Ok slow down then come to a stop."
He stood panting with his eyes closed. Sweat ran down his bare chest and legs. He heard the characteristic whirr of a scanning tricorder and endured the scrutiny silently.
"Well everything seems to be in order. You've improved your stamina 15% over yesterday. I'd say that was good news."
He grunted and reached for the towel that was draped over the handle. Starting at his head, he worked his way down his torso and legs, stopping at his bare feet. Beverly grinned wickedly and leaned close to his ear.
"You look very good in those shorts."
He turned to her intending to glare, however one look into those sapphire eyes was enough to evaporate his ire. He shook his head and chuckled.
"You are outrageous! I'm almost positive you're not supposed to say such things to your Commanding Officer."
"Perhaps not…but what about my lover?"
His head came up and his face settled into gentle humour.
"Ah…now that's different. I think, in fact, it's considered appropriate behaviour."
"Good, cause I'm not going to stop."
Jean-Luc cast a quick look around the room and, seeing they were alone, planted a quick kiss on Beverly's lips.
Eyebrows raised in mock shock, Beverly stepped back and frowned.
"What?"
"Jean-Luc you don't think a kiss is going to get you off the hook do you?"
"Hook? What hook?"
"You, my dear Captain, have been an insufferable, stubborn, pig-headed…"
He held up his hand and closed his eyes.
"All right, enough. I admit I've been somewhat…ill tempered and I apologise if I upset you…or anyone else. It's just that…"
"You're tired, I know. But Jean-Luc why did you do so much work in your quarters? Especially when I expressly forbade it?"
He leaned forward and stretched his arms out straight, easing the tired muscles.
"Well Will called down with a particularly difficult problem. It seems Engineering had…"
It was Beverly's turn to hold up her hand.
"I'm not interested Jean-Luc. My main concern is you and if you can't follow my explicit instructions…then maybe you should consider another Doctor."
His breath stopped in his throat. Snapping his eyes open his head quickly turned to follow Beverly as she stepped around the treadmill.
"I would recommend Selar. She's…"
"Beverly please! That will not be necessary. I don't want anyone but you…"
"Then you'd better clean up your act mister!"
He hadn't realised she was so angry. Her last words stung and he felt shame as he mentally reviewed his behaviour. Stepping out of the treadmill he walked to her and took her hand.
"Beverly…please…I'm sorry. I got caught up in the work, you know how it gets. It won't happen again, you have my word."
She turned to him and saw the sincerity in his eyes. Easing the tension from her willowy frame, she nodded and squeezed his hand.
"Come on Captain, let's get you showered and rubbed down."
Letting out a breath he hadn't known he was holding, Jean-Luc nodded and headed for the bathroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five days later Beverly watched as he increased his pace into a steady jog.
"That's good Jean-Luc…keep the pace rhythmic and balanced."
Despite his exertions, the Captain raised a grin.
"I do know how to run Beverly…I've done it once or twice before."
It was Beverly's turn to grin. Taking a moment to admire his muscled form, she cast aside her musings and replied,
"I do remember you winning a few trophies…including the Academy Marathon…as a freshman and I know you have some running programmes on the holodeck…I just want you to take it easy, that's all."
Snorting with satisfaction, he increased his pace and lengthened his stride. A natural athlete, his body was fluid and graceful as he exercised it, making desire rise in Beverly as she watched. She watched mesmerised as he raised a hand and flicked off a droplet of sweat from his nose.
"How much longer?"
Startled, Beverly nearly dropped the tricorder.
"What?"
It's been an hour. How much longer?"
"Oh! Um, about fifteen minutes."
He chanced a glance at the flustered Doctor and grinned at her discomfit.
"What's the matter Beverly? See something you like?"
Her chin rose and she harrumphed.
"Someone has an over inflated opinion of themselves!"
He laughed feeling free and healthy. When Beverly told him he had five more minutes, he quickened his pace, eventually running flat out. As his bare feet pounded the rubber base of the treadmill, his hands cut through the air and his quick deep breathing filled the room.
"Ok Jean-Luc slow down now…that's it, taper off and come to a stop."
He did so and stood for a moment, his chest heaving. He wiped his sweating face on his upper arms and concentrated on containing his breathing and his heart rate. Beverly scanned him and couldn't contain the grin of accomplishment.
"How am I?"
She looked deeply into his sparkling eyes and breathed,
"Absolutely wonderful."
He lifted his head and laughed, delighting the Doctor. She would never tire of hearing that particular sound which was such a rarity for him.
"You're in a good mood."
He picked up the towel and started to dry himself.
"Why shouldn't I be? I'm fit and well and in love with the most beautiful woman in the galaxy."
Now Beverly laughed, enamoured by his capriciousness. She took the towel from him and slowly rubbed it down his chest, while stepping close to him.
"Jean-Luc…do you remember what you wanted to do…that first time we made love?"
His eyes darkened and he grew still.
"Yes I remember. I wanted to make love to you as I'd always dreamed."
"Well tonight I think you'll get your wish."
She trailed her fingers down his stomach and dallied at the waistband of his shorts.
He closed his eyes and sighed.
"Beverly…my love…"

 

 

 

 

At 1530 hours he was bored and decided to put in a call to his lover. He had an idea and wanted approval.
"Picard to Crusher."
"Crusher here."
"Beverly I was thinking of going for a run on the holodeck. Are you ok with that?"
He heard her chuckle.
"Got some excess energy to burn off?"
"Something like that."
"Well it shouldn't be a problem, just take it easy and don't overdo."
"Understood. Picard out."
He walked into his bedroom, intending to change. Exercising in just his shorts in the privacy of Sickbay was one thing. Walking through the ship was another. He stripped down to his briefs and put on a pair of shorts, a singlet, socks and running shoes. Picking up a towel from the bathroom, he slung it over his shoulder and left his quarters, heading for the holodeck.

 

 

 

"Computer run programme Picard three B."
"Programme initiated. Enter when ready."
The large doors sighed open and he stepped in, inhaling a big breath as he went. He was in LaBarre, his home village. The running track he'd devised circumnavigated his family's vineyard, over hills, down through gullies and across creeks. It would take him just on two hours to complete. He did some preliminary stretches and rubbed his thighs. When he felt ready, he began.
An hour into the run he approached a steep hill on top of which grew a large oak. Its gnarled roots twisted their way over the track and he remembered to watch his feet. On the other side, the path descended sharply to cross a fast running creek at the bottom. As he crested the hill, he took the opportunity to look over his family's holdings and at that moment his foot caught in the roots, throwing him hopelessly off balance. He pitched forward and fell to his hands and knees, his forward momentum causing him to tumble all the way down to the creek.
Dazed, he rolled over in the cold water and felt the all-pervasive pain creep over his body.
"Merde!"
He got unsteadily to his feet and looked on with dismay as blood, mixed with the water, flowed freely from several places. His throbbing nose garnered his attention and he raised a shaking hand only to find more blood dripping from it. He sat again on the ground and called,
"Computer end programme."
The countryside disappeared to be replaced by the cavernous room with the yellow grid. Although he was now dry, he was still a bloody mess. To the computer he said,
"Picard to Crusher."
"Crusher here. What can I do for you?"
"Um Beverly…can you come to Holodeck three?"
"Of course…why?"
"Ah…I just need to see you. And Beverly…could you bring a med kit?"
Her voice suddenly became very concerned.
"Captain are you all right?"
Jean-Luc sighed and winced at the pain it caused.
"Yes, yes I'm fine…I just tripped over."
Hearing the relief in her tone, Beverly replied,
"I'm on my way."
All the Captain could do was sit and wait.
When Beverly walked in she stopped and stared at the gory visage that faced her.
"Jean-Luc what the hell? You said you tripped over!"
"Well I sort of tumbled…"
Beverly slipped into Doctor mode.
"Computer supply a biobed with standard monitors."
The requested items appeared and she knelt by her friend.
"Can you stand?"
He nodded slowly and gingerly got to his feet. Beverly helped him onto the biobed and scanned him thoroughly with a tricorder.
"How bad is it?"
"Where do you want me to start?"
He pointed to his still bleeding nose and she smiled gently.
"Well that's broken. You've taken skin off your forehead and chin, same goes for your hands, elbows, knees and shins…oh and you've managed to damage some ligaments in your right shoulder. Not bad for a fall."
"Can you fix it all here? I really don't want to go back to Sickbay."
Beverly sighed and nodded.
"Yes, but we'll have to finish in your quarters. You're going to need a regen treatment on your shoulder."
"What about tonight?"
Beverly pulled her mouth down and cocked her head.
"I'm sorry Jean-Luc, but you're going to be a little sore and sorry…"
"Damn! Merde! Fuck!"
Beverly giggled and set about healing his numerous injuries.
"It's not funny Beverly. So far we've only made love once. I'd sincerely hoped we could improve on that and tonight was going to be something special."
Beverly stopped her ministrations and looked sympathetically at the fuming man.
"Jean-Luc we have a lifetime ahead of us…there's no rush."
"No rush? Beverly I don't know about you, but I've waited a bloody long time for this…for us and I want it all…and I want it now!"
"Well my love you'll just have to be patient a little longer."
He growled and snorted.
"How much longer?"
"Two days."
"Two days! It might as well be two years!"
"Oh Jean-Luc stop being such a drama queen."
By now she had healed his broken nose and most of his abrasions. She was working on his shoulder when he started to chuckle.
"What?"
"A drama queen?"
"Well you were being…"
"Could you imagine Will calling me that?"
Now Beverly joined in the laughter.
"Oh God no! I wonder if he's ever thought it…?"
Jean-Luc suddenly grabbed Beverly around the waist and kissed her, hard.
Breathless, she relaxed into his embrace and returned the kiss her mind reeling.
"Boy you'd better get fit and well soon Jean-Luc…"

 

 

 

 

 

The next day Jean-Luc entered the Bridge and waved Will back into the Command seat.
"As you were Commander. I'll be in the Ready Room."
"Aye Sir."
Having gained, albeit grudgingly, permission to return to duty on restricted hours, Jean-Luc sighed with pleasure at being once again back in uniform. He went to the replicator, retrieved a cup of Earl Grey and seated himself at his desk, activating the computer terminal.
"Computer display ship's logs from the past ten days."
He settled into his seat, reclining back and putting one foot on the corner of his desk. Picking up his tea, he sipped as he read, happily immersed.
Four and a half hours passed before his door annunciator sounded. Slightly irritated at being disturbed, he barked,
"Come!"
He didn't look up from his work and, when the silence stretched on, he frowned and gestured the unknown person to come further into the room.
"What can I do for you?"
"Jean-Luc?"
His head snapped up, a smile appearing on his handsome face.
"Beverly…what are you doing here?"
She sauntered to the chair opposite him and trailed her fingers along its back.
"Do you have any idea what the time is?"
He frowned and cast a look at the terminal. Too fast, Beverly swivelled the unit away from his eyes and raised her eyebrows.
"Hmm?"
"Ah…I suppose it's…well…"
"You were supposed to report to Sickbay an hour ago."
"An hour? Oh."
"Yes, oh. What have you been doing?"
"Well I started with the ship's logs and moved on to crew rotations and store acquisitions. Then I reviewed the upcoming mission to the Casey Quasar. I was studying the system when you arrived."
Beverly sat in the chair and reached for his hands.
"Enough Jean-Luc. When I said restricted hours I meant just that. Come down to Sickbay, have your scans and return to your quarters to rest."
"But Doctor…"
"If…and I do mean if you rest and feel up to it, you can return to the Bridge for two more hours in the afternoon."
"Only two hours? But I…"
In a very quiet voice Beverly muttered,
"Take it or leave it Captain."
He stopped and contemplated his friend. She looked tired and he knew he was the cause. Although she'd slept in his bed with him these past nights, they had been chaste in their affections, only kissing and caressing. They both yearned for more and were waiting for the appropriate time. That time was fast approaching.
"Very well Beverly I will accede to your wishes."
She nodded once, curtly and rose from the chair. When he didn't rise she turned to him.
"Are you coming?"
"Yes, yes of course."
They entered the Bridge and Jean-Luc addressed his First Officer.
"You have the Bridge Will, I'll be back this afternoon…with my Doctor's permission."
"Aye Captain, I look forward to it."
The couple left the Bridge and said nothing during their journey to Sickbay. When they entered, Beverly pointed to his room and he went, without protest. She came in a few minutes later to find him sitting on the bed, a contemplative look upon his intelligent face.
"By my reckoning this should be the last set of scans."
Beverly looked up from her tricorder and nodded.
"Uh huh. Tops off."
She waited while he stripped off his uniform top, shirt and singlet. She put down the tricorder and gently grasped his right arm lifting and rotating it.
"How's that? Any discomfort?"
He shook his head trying to look into her eyes.
"No it's fine."
"Good. Now let's see…"
She took the probe from the instrument and passed it several times over and around his chest. She tapped in some instructions and repeated the scans, her eyes never leaving the device. Jean-Luc sat patiently, knowing she would return her attention to him when she was ready.
With a satisfied nod she replaced the probe and smiled up at her friend.
"Well Jean-Luc I'd say you were completely healed. Your stamina has returned and your heart is functioning perfectly. Congratulations."
He allowed a rare full grin and took her elegant hands in his large ones.
"I have you to thank my love. When can I return to full duty?"
"Hmm…tomorrow. But if you feel at all tired or stressed, at least over the next few days…"
"I will tell you, I promise."
She grinned at him and the distance closed between them. He brushed his lips over hers and kissed her breathlessly as he let go of her hands and allowed them to gently grip her hips, pulling her closer to him until she stood between his legs. Slowly he eased his hands around her waist and lower to gently cup her buttocks. Deepening the kiss his tongue requested admittance as her own hands snaked around his neck. Her mouth opened slowly and he tenderly invaded her heat, slothfully probing and tasting. She moaned quietly into his mouth and he raised his hands to tangle his fingers in her hair. She softly caressed the short hair on the back of his head and he tapered off the kiss. When they parted he leaned in a kissed her repeatedly, over her face and neck. She allowed her head to loll back on her neck and one of his hands embarked on a trail to her breast. The door annunciator startled them apart. Jean-Luc quickly grabbed his shirts and piled them on his lap to cover up his obvious arousal. Beverly picked up a tricorder and cleared her throat.
"Come in."
Seeing her boss' heightened colour, Alyssa Ogawa surmised she had interrupted something. She quickly delivered PADD and left, a grin plastered on her face.
Beverly chanced a look at her Captain to see him trying to contain a chuckle. He looked up at her and shook his head.
"What time do you get off duty?"
"1800 hours."
"I'll have dinner ready."
"I can't wait."
He nodded, his dark eyes travelling over her body.
"Oh…you can get dressed now, it's time you went back to your quarters."
He pulled his singlet over his head and picked up his shirt.
"If you don't mind…I'll stay here a little while yet."
Beverly frowned. His dislike of Sickbay was legendary.
"Why?"
Reddening slightly he glanced down at his groin.
"Oh! Well in that case I'd better leave you or you'd never get out of here."
Pulling his uniform top into place he summoned a glare.
"Wench!"
Beverly grinned saucily and swayed her hips as she walked to the door. Stopping just before it opened she looked over her shoulder.
"And don't you love it."
She left then, leaving him to mutter to himself,
"As a matter of fact, I do."

 

 

 

 

That evening Jean-Luc spent some time getting everything just right. He'd programmed the replicator to dispense Beverly's favourite meal and ordered the computer to play a selection of soft jazz he knew she preferred. The table was set with fine linen and bone china, the silverware gleaming in the subdued lighting. He'd taken a nap when he'd returned to his quarters, his afternoon Bridge duty tiring him a little. Now he'd showered, shaved and was standing in his bedroom in his briefs deciding what to wear. His choices had come down to black trousers with a white silk shirt, or tan pants with an emerald green shirt, one he knew Beverly liked. It was open in the front in a deep vee, exposing his chest and he'd often seen Beverly peeking at him when she thought he wasn't looking. Having made his decision, he applied some aftershave and grinned at the memory it evoked. She had given it to him on his last birthday, requesting he wear it at the dinner they shared that night. His face fell as he remembered how desperately he wanted to make love to her that night, but the evening had ended as all the others had…with a chaste kiss and a 'goodnight' at his door.
"Not any more!"
Slipping his stockinged feet into soft leather shoes, he walked into his living room and cast his eyes once again over his preparations. He was about to turn the wine when a call came through from Sickbay.
"Crusher to Picard."
"Picard Here."
"I'm sorry Jean-Luc, I'll have to cancel tonight. I've got an emergency operation to perform and Lieutenant Rand has just come in, in labour. It's going to be a long night I'm afraid."
Jean-Luc sat heavily on his sofa and closed his eyes.
"Very well Beverly. If you get in early enough, wake me. Other than that, you are off duty tomorrow until you've caught up on your rest. Understood?"
"Yes Captain. Goodnight."
The link closed and Jean-Luc sighed expansively.
"Bloody hell!"

 

 

 

 

 

He was up, showered, shaved and dressed in his uniform when a very tired Beverly came through his door.
"Good morning."
"Umph."
Beverly said nothing more as she crossed the room and entered his bedroom. He continued with his breakfast preparations and looked up in amused silence as she re-entered the room dressed in a nightie and slumped into a chair at the table.
"Boy or girl?"
"What? Oh...a boy. Nathaniel James. Three point two kilos. Mother, son and father doing well."
"And the surgery?"
"Complicated but effective. Ensign Trumm will live to see many more days."
The Captain looked sympathetically at his companion.
"Beverly why don't you go to bed?"
She looked tiredly up at her Captain and mustered a smile.
"I will…after we have breakfast. We've hardly seen each other lately."
He nodded and retrieved from the replicator, a plate of steaming croissants. He placed them on the table then momentarily returned with a pot of fresh coffee. Gesturing to the pot he questioned,
"Are you sure you want this?"
"Just try and stop me!"
They were silent then as they ate happy in each other's company.
When Beverly finished she stretched and mewed with pleasure. While she was distracted, Jean-Luc stood quickly and took the opportunity to kiss her. She started then relaxed as his lips slid gently over hers.
"You make sure you get enough sleep Doctor…I'll see you tonight."
He straightened, tugged down his uniform and left his quarters with a grin on his face. Beverly stood slowly and looked down at the breakfast mess, shrugging her shoulders and ignoring it. She made her way into his bedroom and slid beneath the covers, pulling his pillow to her breast and smelling his scent. Smiling, she drifted off to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

As it turned out, Beverly slept most of the day. She awoke shortly before Jean-Luc was due back from Bridge duty and she hurried through her shower and was just dressed when he walked through the doors. Pleased to find her in his quarters, he quickly covered the distance between them and stood close to her, almost but not quite touching. He closed his eyes and took in her delicious scent. She was wearing his favourite perfume a musky floral concoction that made his heart accelerate. He opened his eyes and asked softly, his deep voice rumbling,
"Have you eaten?"
Not moving, Beverly looked deeply into his eyes and shook her head.
"No, in fact I'm not long out of bed. I've only had time for a shower…"
"I see. Well we should have dinner then…"
"I suppose…"
She closed her eyes as he gently leaned forward and tilted his head, nudging under her nose. His first kiss was soft and tantalising…teasing and promising so much more.
Without conscious effort, her arms came up and encircled his head as her body eliminated the small distance between them. His arms held her tightly to his body as he deepened the kiss, making them both moan with suppressed desire. He walked her back slowly until her thighs met with the edge of his desk. Running his large hands down her legs, he lifted her and placed her on the desktop. He stepped between her legs and tangled his hands in her hair, his tongue invading her mouth.
Beverly felt the passion inherent in his kiss and it made her head spin.
"How had he hidden it all this time?" She thought.
Her hands went to his waistband pulling his top up and his shirts free. Insinuating her hands under the material, she raked her nails over his muscled chest and teased his nipples until they pebbled.
Still he kissed her. His hands left her hair and made their way to the zip of her top. Lowering it he suddenly broke the kiss to pull the garment up and off, discarding it on the floor. The shirt soon followed and he took a moment to look at her peaked nipples through the fabric of her singlet. As his hands sneaked under the garment, her hands dropped to his groin to softly massage him through his trousers.
He leaned forward growling and gently bit her neck. She gasped at the sensation and nibbled his earlobe in return. His hands closed over her breasts and she arched into his touch. She fumbled with the closure of his pants and was relieved to feel the zip come loose. Her singlet was hurriedly removed, as was her bra and when his tongue swirled over one of her aching nipples she cried out. Concentrating, she reached into his trousers and rubbed him through his briefs and was rewarded when he gently thrust into her hand. He was reaching for the closure of her pants when the call came through from the Bridge.
"Riker to Picard."
They both froze. Jean-Luc closed his eyes and tenderly rested his forehead against Beverly's Summoning a normal voice, he replied,
"Picard here."
"Captain there's an incoming transmission from an Argellian freighter. Apparently they're carrying some kind of message from Starbase 88, something about communication difficulties. The Captain of the freighter insists on speaking only with you."
Beverly clearly felt the tension in Jean-Luc's body as he struggled to reign in his temper. When he didn't immediately reply, Will's voice again filled the room.
"Sir? Did you get that?"
It was all he could do not to swear profusely.
"Yes Commander I got it! I'll be there shortly. Picard out!"
Beverly gently stroked his neck, trying to calm him. She smiled sympathetically.
"Hey…it's ok."
He shook his head brusquely, stepping back from her. As he made himself comfortable and tucked himself in, his eyes roved over her alluring form. In a roughened voice he muttered,
"I don't suppose you'd stay like that until I returned?"
She shook head and grinned.
"I don't think so."
"Damn."
"However I will be here…probably in your bed waiting for you."
He lowered his head and groaned.
"How the hell am I supposed to concentrate with that thought running through my mind?"
Beverly stood and stepped up to him, making him watch her with hawk-like intensity.
"You'll manage."
She stepped around him and picked up her clothing before sauntering to the bedroom. He watched her keenly and sighed when the door closed on her visage. Mentally checking himself, he found everything in order and, as a last check; he looked down at himself, frowning in frustration when he found he couldn't exit just yet. He sighed and cast his thoughts to less stimulating scenarios and smiled grimly when things subsided. Once again the Captain in control, he left his quarters.

 

It was a long night. The Captain of the freighter did indeed have important information from Starbase 88 and, as Jean-Luc was to find out, it involved a convoluted explanation from the Starbase Commander. Altering their course, they warped to the Starbase, taking seven hours, and docked. Engineering was dispatched to aid in repairing the communications array, as Jean-Luc was obliged to meet with the station's Commander. He didn't return to the Enterprise until three hours into the day shift. Deciding to forgo his quarters, he entered the Bridge and took his customary place in the Command chair. After seeing to the most recent reports, he assigned the necessary tasks to his staff and retired to the Ready Room, intent on filing a lengthy report to Starfleet.
It was 1430 hours when the call came through from Beverly.
"Crusher to Picard."
He looked up and frowned.
"Picard here."
"Where are you Captain?"
"I'm in the Ready Room…why?"
"Did you get any rest today?"
He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Doctor…"
"Captain! The computer logs your return aboard at 1115 hours. What have you been doing since then?"
"Working."
"Well stop! Go to your quarters, eat a decent meal and get some rest."
"Beverly…"
"I mean it Jean-Luc…don't make me order you…"
With more force than was necessary, he slammed down the crystal he'd been fiddling with and breathed deeply through clenched teeth.
"Very well Doctor! Picard out!"
He exited the Ready Room and gave control of the Bridge to a concerned Will. He fumed and chafed all the way to his cabin and stood in the middle of his living room muttering to himself…
"That blasted woman…who the hell does she think she is?"
In spite of her instructions, he ate a sandwich and had a quick cup of tea. Slipping off his boots, he stretched out on his bed intending to have a short nap. It was the last thing he did for many hours.
When Beverly came in at shift's end, she was surprised to find him not on the sofa with a book. Making her way to the bedroom, she smiled tenderly at seeing him, on his back, one arm bent over his chest, the other flung across her pillow. She replicated a warm blanket and gently covered him then went to the replicator and ordered her evening meal. Throughout her meal and subsequent shower, he remained asleep and only stirred marginally when, much later, she slipped under the blanket to join him. He turned onto his side and draped an arm across her waist, but stayed asleep. She concentrated on relaxing and finally found sleep after intertwining her fingers with his.

 

Beverly was slightly late for the morning briefing. She had left the Captain's quarters before he woke, intent on her current work in Sickbay. It was that work which caused her tardiness. All eyes turned to her, except Jean-Luc's. He simply paused in his speech and waited until she was seated.
"I'm sorry Captain, I was detained in Sickbay."
He nodded and continued.
"As I was saying, our stop here at Starbase 88 could prove beneficial. Starfleet has authorised four day's leave and I see no reason why we shouldn't avail ourselves of it. Commander will you draw up a roster for leave, all ranks, all stations."
Will grinned broadly and said,
"With pleasure Captain. I take it you're included?"
His shaking head caused both Beverly and Deanna to frown.
"No Number One. I have some diplomatic matters to attend to with the station Commander. It would be best if I stayed on duty."
Barely concealing his disappointment, Will nodded.
"Yes Sir."
"If that is all? Very good, you're dismissed. Doctor Crusher, will you stay please?"
Beverly remained seated as she watched her friends leave. When they were alone she stood and perched herself on the table next to Jean-Luc.
He looked up at her and gently took her hand. His voice soft and deep, he said,
"You weren't there this morning."
She smiled down at him and squeezed his hand.
"I had things to do."
"Why didn't you wake me when you came in?"
"You were sleeping so soundly Jean-Luc…I didn't have the heart to wake you."
His dark eyes took on a piercing intensity.
"Yet you slept with me."
"Yes."
"I dreamed of you, you know."
She chuckled and tilted her head.
"Pleasant dreams I hope?"
"Oh yes…exceedingly so. When I awoke I nearly had to…"
Beverly blushed and leaned down to kiss him softly.
"Well hopefully you'll never have to do that again."
"I sincerely hope so. What are you doing now?"
Beverly sat up and pursed her full lips.
"Well I have a very tricky experiment running at the moment…I really should be getting back to it."
He stood with his customary grace and took her hands in his.
"Very well. There's something in Stellar Cartography I'd like to show you. Could you come by at, say, 1400 hours?"
Delighted with his playful manner, Beverly grinned and squeezed his hands.
"I'll be there."

 

 

Throughout the day, Beverly had trouble keeping her mind on the job. She kept thinking about Jean-Luc, his eyes, his incredible voice…she shivered yet again as she recalled how he'd looked at her and she felt the almost ever present desire surface as she pictured him waking up in an aroused state. She'd been watching the chronometer all day and was relieved when she saw that she had only fifteen minutes to wait. She called her head nurse to her office.
"Alyssa, I'm going to Stellar Cartography. I don't know how long I'll be, but call me if you need me."
"Yes Doctor."
With a heightened sense of awareness, Beverly left Sickbay and made her hurried way to her assignation.
The doors to the mapping room slid open to reveal the Captain standing at a console at the end of a short walkway. He turned at the sound of the door opening and a grin split his features. As she walked towards him he called out,
"Computer lock doors to Stellar Cartography. Authorization Picard Theta two eight." Holding out his hand, he beckoned Beverly to come to him. She stood by his side and slipped a warm arm around his waist. He reciprocated and they spent a moment gazing in each other's eyes. Sighing, Jean-Luc broke the contact and turned his eyes to the control pad in front of him. In a deep husky voice he spoke.
"Beverly do you remember, about two months ago, we were studying an anomalous gaseous cloud near the Rourke Expanse?"
"Uh huh. Data said it contained some, as yet, unknown compounds."
"That's correct. Well while we had the cloud in our sights, I asked Astrophysics to scan and record the surrounding expanse. I had a feeling…well anyway this is what they recorded."
He pressed some pads and the lights lowered. Gradually a multi-coloured vista came into view. It took up all of the viewing area and stretched over their heads and all around them. The swirling colours rotated through the spectrum and bursts of intense light fired haphazardly. In and out of the billowing colours, objects small and large skittered across their vista adding to the ethereal quality of the event. Beverly stood rooted to the spot, never before having witnessed anything so beautiful.
In a hushed voice she whispered,
"My God Jean-Luc…what is it?"
In an equally reverent tone he replied,
"We don't know. It took so long for the computer to process what it had recorded…it's taken weeks."
"Is it alive?"
"Possibly."
"We're going back to it…right?"
He sighed and shook his head.
"Sadly no. Once Starfleet got hold of our report they insisted on sending a dedicated science vessel. This will remain our only glimpse."
Never taking her eyes off the magnificent scene before her, she reached for Jean-Luc's hand and sighed.
"I'm sorry Jean-Luc…you must be disappointed."
He nodded and let his eyes wander over her upturned face.
"I am somewhat."
Sensing he was watching her, she turned to him and smiled softly, the shifting light giving her face a fragile appearance. Enraptured, Jean-Luc lifted his hand and trailed his fingers down her face.
"Gods Beverly, but you're beautiful."
As he leaned towards her she closed her eyes and when his lips met hers she shivered with repressed desire. Once again he kissed her with tightly reigned passion. His body responded immediately, as did hers. He pulled her close to him and moulded their shapes together. Boldly Beverly reached down and gripped his buttocks, pulling his hips closer still. He thrust gently into her making her moan into his mouth as she felt his restrained erection. Suddenly he broke the kiss and dropped to his knees in front of her. He took her hips in his hands and pressed his face into her crotch. He let out a hot breath and kissed her, nudging at her with his nose.
Her hands on his head, she allowed her head to loll back and gasped as he repeatedly nuzzled her most intimate parts. She hoarsely called,
"Oh God Jean-Luc…"
He reached up to undo her pants but the door annunciator stilled them.
Screwing his eyes shut he growled,
"Computer who is at the door?"
"Lieutenant Jacob Erm."
Raising his voice slightly, Jean-Luc queried,
"Yes Lieutenant, what do you want!"
Recognising the unmistakable voice of the most senior officer, the Lieutenant jumped and stammered.
"Ah…Ssir…Commander Data wants me to download the maps from the Australis Nebular. He needs them Sir…now."
"Can't you access them through a computer terminal?"
"Nno Sir, they're coded."
"Very well. Wait."
"Aye Sir."
Jean-Luc stood and wrapped his arms around his lover. He sighed and kissed her softly.
"I'm beginning to think we're cursed."
Beverly smiled sadly and rested her head on his broad shoulder. Softly she said,
"Will I see you tonight?"
"I don't know. I have to go to the station to meet with Commander Waugh. It seems there's been some sort of treaty foul up and he wants my input. Apparently the querulous parties are on the station and…"
"You've got to put out the fire."
"Something like that. Are you taking leave on the station?"
"No I talked Will out of it. I'm still knee deep in my research and I wanted to be close to you."
He kissed her again and she chuckled.
"What?"
"If you don't stop that the Lieutenant will see his Captain in a way he's never seen him before."
To emphasise her point, she reached down and drew her finger up the length of his erection.
"Beverly…" he groaned.
She gently laid her fingers on his lips and smiled.
"I'll leave first. How long will you need?"
He sighed.
"Once you've gone, just a few minutes."
"I'll let the Lieutenant know you'll call him when you're ready."
He nodded and, as she turned to leave, he gripped her arm.
"Beverly…I give you my word…it will be soon."
In response she took the hand that held her arm and brought his fingers to her lips, kissing each one.
"I know Jean-Luc…and I can't wait."
She left and he turned to the console, gripping its sides with both hands.
"God, give me strength!"

 

 

 

 

In all it took three days to hammer out a new treaty with the skittish parties. Commander Waugh had taken a back seat as Jean-Luc gradually won over the suspicious negotiating team. When he returned to the Enterprise it was well into the night shift and the great ship was only sparsely staffed. His right hand swathed in a bloody bandage, he asked the computer where Beverly was and smiled when it supplied the information.
"Doctor Crusher is in Captain Picard's quarters."
He hastened his steps and entered his dark cabin within moments. Going straight to the bedroom, he stood and watched Beverly sleeping, noting that she held his pillow to her breast. He sat gently on the bed and eased off one of his boots. The action caused pain in his injured hand and he muttered an expletive under his breath. It was enough to wake the Doctor.
"Jean-Luc?"
"Shh it's all right, go back to sleep."
She propped herself up on one elbow and asked,
"What time is it?"
"Late…about 0300."
"Did you ratify the treaty?"
"Uh huh."
"Good. Now come to bed."
Having got the other boot off, he stood and grunted as he stripped off his uniform top and shirt. As he was divesting himself of the singlet he again hurt his hand.
"Merde!"
"Instantly awake, Beverly sat up and barked,
"What is it?"
"It's nothing…go back to…"
"Don't give me that Jean-Luc. Computer lights up 50%."
As the light increased, Beverly crawled across the bed and took Jean-Luc's shoulders in her hands. Turning him, she gasped when she saw the gory bandage.
"What have you done to yourself?"
Jean-Luc smiled ruefully and sat on the bed, allowing Beverly to gently remove the ligature.
"Actually I didn't do it. The head delegate did."
"What? Why?"
"To seal the treaty. All of us who had a hand in it had to have a knife drawn across their right palm. It signifies…"
"I don't give a damn what it signifies! It's barbaric Jean-Luc and you should've refrained."
"I couldn't…not without ruining everything we'd achieved."
Snorting with exasperation, Beverly left the bed and retrieved a med kit.
"Well why didn't you go to Sickbay and have it healed?"
With his free hand, he stilled Beverly movements.
"I can't"
"And why not?"
"Because it's got to be there tomorrow afternoon when Commander Waugh and I farewell the delegates."
"Jean-Luc that's absurd!"
"Whilst I heartily agree with you, it will, nonetheless, stay."
She glared into his implacable visage and knew he wouldn't be swayed. Nodding once curtly, she took his hand and inspected it, noting the oozing blood and the nasty depth of the laceration.
"All right, I'll accede you need to leave it there, at least until tomorrow afternoon, but is there any rule that says I can't clean and bandage it properly?"
He smiled softly and tilted his head.
"None that I'm aware of."
"Good! Come with me."
Gripping his good hand she led him into the bathroom and ran warm water into the basin. Collecting her med kit, she extracted some liquid and poured some along the length of the cut. Instantly the pain disappeared, bringing a smile to Jean-Luc's lips. Next she thoroughly cleaned the wound before placing a medicated gauze pad over it and bandaging it firmly with a soft stretchy material. When she was finished he held up his hand and admired her handiwork.
"You realise of course I will have to take it all off tomorrow?"
"Yes I do realise that…and do you realise you'll be reporting straight to Sickbay the minute their ship has left?"
He nodded and flexed his hand.
"Stop that Jean-Luc, you'll start it bleeding again."
"Aye Sir!"
She slapped his shoulder and grinned saucily as she watched him walk back into the bedroom. Dressed only in his trousers and socks, he afforded a tantalising view. Beverly quickened her steps and caught up with him. From behind, she trailed her fingers over his behind making him stop in his tracks. She leaned close to his ear and whispered,
"Don't move."
He swallowed as her hands again caressed his buttocks. She ran her hands down the back of his thighs and up again then slowly crept them around his hips to trace his outline through his pants. Already hardening, she delighted in arousing him further by raking her nails gently over him. She tenderly felt his testicles, making him gasp and grinned to herself as she slowly undid his trousers. With her fingers under the waistband, she pushed them down, allowing her fingers to caress his thighs. She pushed them all the way to the floor and encouraged him to lift his feet, ridding him of the pants and socks as well. Now clad only in his briefs, she just had to look at him. Moving around his trembling body, she was concerned to find him standing rigidly, his eyes screwed shut, his hands in fists by his sides.
"Hey…relax. Enjoy yourself Jean-Luc."
His eyes snapped open and he took a deep breath. Shaking his head slightly he said roughly,
"Beverly do you have any idea how long I've wanted you? How I've yearned…ached for you?"
Her heart skipped a beat at his earnest entreaty. Raising a shaking hand, she lightly caressed his chest. Unable to reply, she stepped closer and ran her hands over his shoulders.
"Kiss me Jean-Luc."
He closed his eyes and did just that, pouring into her mouth every ounce of love, desire and passion he'd felt for nearly thirty years. Her knees weakened and he wrapped his arms around her, holding her up. His hands roamed over her body, their exploration going ever lower, to the hem of her nightie. He gathered the material and slowly pulled it up the length of her form, breaking the kiss only long enough to strip off. It floated to the floor forgotten as she tugged at his briefs. He allowed her to pull them down and used his feet to complete the manoeuvre. Now both fully naked, they pressed their bodies together, each needing to feel the entirety of the other. Pushing gently on her shoulders, Jean-Luc encouraged Beverly to sit on the bed. He leaned down and rained kissed on her face and neck and, as he slowly sank to his knees, he shifted his attention to her breasts.
Before him were the two most beautiful nipples he'd ever seen. They were hard and jutting, quivering as she waited for his caress. With reverence, he took the mounds in his slightly calloused hands and moulded them. Beverly placed her hands behind her and arched her back, presenting him with an undeniable feast. He leaned in and took a nipple into the heat of his mouth and swirled his tongue over it. Beverly moaned and allowed her head to loll back on her neck. His fingers tweaked the other nipple and he soon swapped, lavishing her sensitive peaks with his mouth. But it was not enough for him. He wanted to possess her, to play out in reality all the fantasies he'd ever had about this woman. So many times he'd brought himself relief while thinking about her, so many time his dreams were filled with her, wanting her…needing her with a mental and physical surety that still astonished him.
Leaving her breasts, he kissed his way down her stomach as his hands insinuated themselves between her thighs. Easing her legs apart, he gently ran the tips of his fingers along her length. She trembled and gasped his name in anticipation as to what he was about to do. With gentle caresses he opened her legs further and leaned in, taking a large breath and imprinting her unique scent in his brain. With feather-like touches he aroused and teased and when his thick fingers parted her labia, she shuddered.
"So beautiful…" he whispered before pushing forward and running his tongue up her folds, then back to dart inside her heat.
She cried out softly and one of her hands found his head, gently pulling him closer. He smiled and re-applied his tongue, lapping and probing bringing her inexorably closer to release.
Twisting his torso, he slipped his shoulders under her legs and pushed his face further into her centre. He lapped at her teasing her with his fingers. He slipped one, then two thick digits inside her and she writhed on the bed, calling out to him, begging him to touch her where she most needed it. Her sounds a balm to his soul, he curled his fingers inside her as he tapped his tongue over her swollen clitoris. She jerked and cried out and, when he felt her internal muscles begin to contract around his probing fingers, he sucked the pearl of her desire into his mouth and firmly swirled his tongue over it.
She cried out his name and bucked against his face, but he didn't stop. Again and again he rode her climaxes until she collapsed onto the bed, her chest heaving, continually groaning his name.
He carefully helped her to move up the bed until her head rested on the pillows He then lay beside her, cradling her in his arms.
"Computer lower lights."
When her breathing calmed she cast her eyes over him to find him smiling in the dim light. She reached up and tenderly touched his face.
Quietly she whispered,
"Penny?"
He looked at her intensely and sighed.
"I was just thinking how very beautiful you are…how sensual and fiery…"
She grinned and rolled to her side, stretching her long body along his and raising her eyebrows when she felt his hardness pressing against her.
Impishly, she reached down and caressed him, making him close his eyes and sigh.
"Jean-Luc how did you do it…how did you manage to wait so long?"
He shook his head and frowned.
"Oh God I don't know…it wasn't easy…I just knew one day…you would let me love you."
"And now that you know I love you?"
She was relieved when the smile broke out on his face.
"My heart rejoiced."
"Make love to me Jean-Luc… as you've always wanted to…"
He sighed and gently pushed aside a wisp of her vibrant red hair.
"As you wish my love."
He kissed her and she found she was becoming accustomed to him, relishing his tenderness and love. He gently rolled her onto her back and deepened the kiss, his hand going to her breast. She felt her desire re-awaken under his attentions and she reached down and caressed him. He moaned into her mouth then broke the kiss to nibble down her neck before taking a nipple into his mouth. Beverly closed her eyes and gave herself to him, knowing he wouldn't disappoint. As he suckled her breast his hand drifted down her body and she opened her legs to receive him. Finding her hot and wet, he stroked her, eliciting breathless moans and sighs. He left her breast with the intention of moving lower, but she gently grasped his head and made him look at her. With eyes sparkling in the darkness she shook her head.
"No my love…I want you…"
He moved back up her body and carefully covered her with his own. She opened her legs and he settled between them, his erection sliding over her centre.
"Oh God Jean-Luc…you're so hard…"
He lifted his hips and gently bit her neck as she took him in hand and guided him to her entrance. Raising his head, he watched her intently as he slowly penetrated her, her gasp and arching exciting him further. Her hands, which had been gripping his shoulders, quickly fell to his buttocks, pulling him quickly down and completing their joining.
He groaned and closed his eyes momentarily unable to believe he was finally making love to the woman of his dreams. Tears welled in his eyes and escaped his closed lids to fall on her face. She lifted her hands and gently held his face. In a gently whisper, she calmed his soul.
"It's all right my love…be with me."
He slowly opened his eyes and kissed her and, as he did, he started to move within her. Slowly at first, just barely undulating his hips, he set a slothful rhythm and Beverly sighed with pleasure. She allowed her hands to travel over his back feeling the muscles flexing and she gripped his backside occasionally to pull him in hard. He ground himself against her, his body hair exciting and teasing her. She began to move under him and he quickened the pace and lengthened the strokes. She could feel his testicles bumping against her, driving her desire up further.
"More Jean-Luc…more…"
In response he bit her again and reached down with one hand and caught her leg behind the knee. He lifted the limb and began to thrust with greater power.
"Oh yes…God yes…"
His entire body was singing. Every nerve, every fibre of his being was alive with sensation. His mind rejoiced with reverence the act he was undertaking with the only woman he'd ever truly loved. Every syllable she uttered spurred him on, driving them both to the one exulted moment when they would be indeed, one being.
Pushing himself up on his arms he pounded into her at a pace that elated and frightened him. Lost in a whirling sea of sensation he prayed he could hold on for her. He need not have worried. Swept away on her own wave of ecstasy, Beverly suddenly spasmed and cried out his name. As she gripped him internally he released his tenuous control and gave himself to his orgasm. It surged out through his body in wave after wave of incredible triumph resounding to his very core. Uttering a guttural, inarticulate cry, he jetted his semen deep inside her and collapsed gasping and moaning.
When the roaring in his ears subsided he became aware of Beverly's soft crying. Immediately concerned, he raised himself on trembling arms and gently spoke to her.
"Beverly? Are you all right? Did I hurt you?"
She reached up and cradled his face in her hands. Shaking her head, she whispered,
"Oh no my love…it was so wonderful…"
He smiled then and gently kissed her before tenderly kissing away her tears. He carefully rolled to his side, taking her with him and together, still joined, they found boneless, satisfied, cleansing sleep.

On the planet Burras II young Haius was helping his mother with the evening dishes. She noticed his inattention and sighed, knowing its cause. Going to her son and ruffling his luxuriant hair she bent and kissed his forehead.
"All right, you've finished here. Go on you can go outside now."
He grinned up at his mother and rushed to his room for a blanket as the evenings were getting quite cold now as winter approached. Going out the back door, he headed for the old tree that his father used to tie the oxen to. He spread the blanket, sat within it and drew the edges around his spare form. Then he leaned against the ancient tree and cast his eyes skyward watching the stars. He scanned the heavens in silence, as he'd done every night since he'd been returned to his family. Sighing he blinked as tears formed.
"I will remember you Jean-Luc and Beverly. I will do my best."