Will Riker was bored.....and angry.....and worried. He sat and stared sullenly through the view screen at the planet below. Of all the duties required of him, he found waiting the hardest. The crew had long since learned to work around, him and in turn, he had curbed his constant queries as to the ship's status, but it was an uneasy truce at best. There was tension aboard and it was slowly increasing.
The latest medical report from the CMO on the health of the Captain was less than encouraging. Their current mission was delicate, the sort of convoluted mess that seem to be handed to the Enterprise on a regular basis. Knowing such missions were given to the Enterprise only because of the ship's outstanding record was cold comfort to her crew. The stress was considerable, especially on the command crew, and in particular, Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
The Captain was uppermost in the thoughts of the Chief Medical Officer, Beverley Crusher. She had seen him only briefly during the past two weeks and what she'd seen did not please her. He was slowly becoming exhausted. Never one to eat well at the best of times, he had lost weight and looked pale and drawn. Her efforts to rectify this situation had only succeeded in irritating him, making it less likely he would return to the ship, or at the very least, he would avoid her if he did. She knew this mission was vital to the stability of the sector and she also knew the truth, that the Captain was probably the best man for the job, but as his doctor she could see the toll the mission was taking. As his friend she knew how badly he wanted to succeed. One thing was certain....he would not give up.

 

 

 

The man in question was trying to get some much needed sleep. No matter how he tried, he couldn't find a comfortable position. He was hot and he had a headache. In fact, he'd had the headache for the past ten days and with each passing day, it had become worse. He straightened himself in the bed and raised his hands to his throbbing head. If he could just touch the pain.....somehow ease the dreadful pounding, even if just for a little while....He groaned softly and gently rubbed his head. A soft chiming signalled it was time to resume the negotiations. With his eyes closed he slowly sat up and, after a pause, gingerly stood. He waited as the sickening thudding settled and cautiously opened his eyes. As he knew it would, the light lanced in with such a brutal burst of pain he thought he would vomit. Breathing rhythmically, he calmed his pulse and made his way to the bathroom and struggled to complete his ablutions.
These "rest periods" were supposed to allow for meals to be taken and strategies to be planned, but all Jean-Luc wanted to do was sleep....sleep and rid himself of the monstrous thing in his head. He made his way to the conference room and took his place at the table, waiting patiently as the delegates slowly filtered in and took their seats. Placing his hands palm down on the tabletop he drew a gentle breath and said quietly,
"Delegates, shall we resume our discussions?"
There followed four and a half hours of petty arguing, point scoring and useless rhetoric, the last twenty minutes of which Picard withdrew into himself and devoted all his considerable mental powers to staying upright and conscious. After the delegates had left the table, still bickering amongst themselves and totally ignoring the distressed human, an aide approached the Captain and said softly,
"Are you in need of assistance Sir?"
Jean-Luc bowed his pulsing head, frightened the tears he felt welling would escape his closed eyes.
"I'm fine thank you, just a little fatigued."
"As you wish Sir."
The aide moved away leaving the Captain alone. He could stand it no longer. He had to get help. Without opening his eyes, he raised a shaking hand and activated his communicator.
"Picard to Enterprise.....Beam me directly to my quarters. Energise."
As the room dissipated from view he allowed a moment's thought as to how to broach this problem with Beverley. She had been so insistent in her badgering of him at his last visit to the ship.....if he could just get her to give him something for the pain...

 

 

Whilst in sickbay, Beverley had heard the transport request and had also heard the pain in his voice. Wasting no time, she left sickbay and was on her way to his cabin even as he materialised.
Jean-Luc looked around and sighed. Not one to vacillate, he quelled the pounding in his head as best he could and left his quarters immediately. He was composing his speech to Beverley as he entered the turbolift.
Deanna, sensing the Captain's arrival and distress, immediately contacted Beverley to which Beverley replied that she was already on her way to his quarters.
Beverley arrived at his cabin and activated the chime. Receiving no reply, she repeated her actions and, after three frustrating attempts, entered his quarters using her medical override.
Outside sickbay, Jean-Luc tugged uselessly on his new uniform, lifted his head, cleared his throat and strode purposefully into Beverley's domain.

 

 

 

Beverley called softly...
"Jean-Luc?"
and started to look for him.
The Captain waved away a staff member who had come to him and quickly determined that Beverley was not in attendance. Entering her office, he noticed a loaded hypospray on the bench and idly picked it up whilst he thought how to deflect Beverley's concern over his well being. He reached up and absently rubbed the right temple, wishing all the more that he could make the horrible pain disappear. Looking more carefully, he realised what he had in his hand was a full vial of a powerful analgesic. The idea struck with an almost physical jolt. It all seemed so simple. He could use the pain killer, complete the negotiations and be back on board before anyone realised the hypo was missing. Raising his head he said,
"Transporter room, this is Picard. Please beam me to my quarters planetside. Energise."
Beverley, having ascertained that Picard was not in his cabin, exited with a perplexed look on her face.
"Where the hell is he?"
Making haste, she returned to sickbay to be told that the Captain had been there, but had beamed off the ship a few moments before she arrived. It was a very confused doctor who took her seat in her office and called the Captain.
"Yes Beverley, what can I do for you?"
"Captain, you came to sickbay. Is there anything wrong?"
Jean-Luc sighed and closed his eyes. Above all else he hated lying to Beverley. She was a dear friend of many years standing and deserved better.
"No doctor. Everything's fine."
Beverley's suspicions were aroused.
"Ok Jean-Luc, but you call me if you need me.....anytime."
"Will do. Picard out."
Beverley, after a moments thought, contacted Deanna.
"Deanna, I didn't get to see the Captain....he beamed back down before I made it back to sickbay. Can you feel anything?"
"Not really. I could feel he was in pain when he was on board, but there are too many strong emotions coming up from the planet for me to focus on him."
"Keep trying will you.....something's up."

Taking a shaky breath, Jean-Luc sat on the bed and look hard at the hypospray in his hand, his head nodding in sync with his painful pulse. He raised the hypo to his neck, closed his eyes and injected himself.
The relief was immediate. He almost sobbed with thankfulness as he felt the all encompassing pain recede then vanish completely. Sitting for a moment, he gathered his thoughts then made his way to a computer terminal and called up the texts of the latest round of the negotiations. An hour passed before he was summoned to the chambers for the resumption of talks. He felt refreshed and rested and for the first time in many days, he felt confident of bringing the recalcitrant parties to a successful conclusion.
In keeping with his improved attitude, the talks did make some headway and Jean-Luc was well satisfied when he returned to his billet at the end of the day. Feeling hunger for the first time in a while, Jean-Luc replicated a light meal and turned in, looking forward to a real night's rest.

 

The corridor seemed to go on forever. Everything was monochrome, a sterility that could be felt and smelled. He could see but he had no control. Horizontal on a table he felt the restraints....uncompromising, cold, hard. He needed to void his bladder. No speech came from his mouth....he could make no sound, just feel. He felt the catheter, the humiliation. No....NO! They are in my mind!...stealing my thoughts....Noooo! Somebody help me! Please, oh God please somebody....Invasion of privacy, private places. Now their song. Whispers in his head. Scream! Stop!
Who are they? Why are they doing this? Oh God, the pain....Please...No more.....
"You are Locutus of Borg......"
He woke up screaming, clutching his head.
The headache was back.

 

"Doctor Crusher, we've completed the re-callibration of the tricorders. What would you like us to do now?"
Alyssa Ogowa was standing next to Beverley in the main sickbay.
"Do you hate these inventories as much as I do Alyssa?"
Laughing, Alyssa said,
" Hey, you're the boss! I just do as I'm told. Count this, shift that....Yes Ma'am!"
Beverley lifted her head and looked imperiously down her nose and said wryly,
"Just you remember who has to answer to the Captain if anything goes wrong. Now, where were we? Oh yes. I'd like you to run a diagnostic on the hyposprays and catalogue the vials of pharmaceuticals we have left. We may have to synthesise some more anti-inflamatories. The number of sprains coming from that new holodeck kayaking program is staggering."
Alyssa went to begin her new task as Beverley entered her office. Her thoughts had once again turned to Jean-Luc and with him in mind, she called up his medical record.
"Now....let me see....."
Some time passed as she perused the text, comparing notations and observations, until suddenly she sat up and laughed out loud, startling Alyssa who had quietly entered the office.
"Care to share doctor?"
"It's the Captain Alyssa. I've got him now, he's long overdue for a physical and I'm going to order him here as soon as he comes aboard.....for whatever reason! He won't get away from me this time. Now, what can I do for you?"
"Well doctor.....we have a mystery here. We're missing a hypospray and a full vial of Temapazine. We did a full count and checked twice. They're "missing"."
Beverley frowned.
"Temapazine is a potent analgesic.....when was it last used?"
Checking her PADD, Alyssa said,
"This morning doctor. Ensign Anders had a nasty plasma burn from the ruptured conduit on deck eighteen."
Beverley's head shot up.
"Yes! It was chaotic here for a while. Selar and I were treating those kids from the Alpine Simulation. Who programmed the avalanche, by the way? They were scared stiff. I treated Anders and nurse Beck took over, then cleaned up."
Alyssa nodded.
"That's right. Beck said he left the hyposray on the bench over there. He went to help Dr.Selar, meaning to put it away later, but forgot. Then Ms. Essot came in to deliver her litter and things became busy again."
Sighing, Beverley stood up.
"Well we'll just have to find it. It must be here somewhere."

 

 

Jean-Luc lay curled in a foetal position, terrified and trembling, cradling his skull in his hands. His head was throbbing so badly he had vomited in his bed and could do nothing but lie in his own filth and try to regain some semblance of control. He focused his tortured mind and began to calm his ragged breathing. Slowly, as his respiration calmed, his heart rate lowered and the pounding of his head lessened enough for him to open his eyes and find the hypospray on the nightstand. With a shaking hand he injected the analgesic and sighed as he waited for relief. It came, as blessedly as the first time, and for a second he thought it had taken longer, but discarded that thought by realising that the severity of the pain made it harder to overcome this time. Being a fastidious man, Jean-Luc wasted no time revelling in his relief. He abruptly left the bed, stripped the soiled bedding and went and showered. Having thoroughly cleaned himself, he remade the bed with fresh linens and replicated a new uniform. Once satisfied all was in order, he obtained a light meal and after eating, settled down with a cup of Earl Grey to devote some thought to what had occurred. It had been a long time since he had any nightmares concerning the Borg, particularly as bad as this one had been. That it happened, and the recurring headache was cause for concern, but he decided to put it from his mind until after the negotiations.....then perhaps he might mention it to Counsellor Troi.

 

 

 

Beverley Crusher stood in front of her staff and asked for the second time if anyone could shed any light on the mystery of the missing hypospray. Shaking heads and blank looks were her only replies.
"Look people, I'm not accusing anybody of anything, but we have a hypospray loaded with a full vial of Temapazine missing. That's potent stuff.....not something that should be used without medical supervision. If someone is helping a person in need....for whatever reason, you have 30 minutes to return the hypo, then you can see me in my office in private. That is all."
Beverley entered her office and contacted Deanna Troi.
"Deanna, could you come to my office please? There's something I think we should discuss."
"On my way. Troi out."
Within minutes Deanna was seated opposite Beverley, concerned by her friend's dour visage.
"What is it?"
Beverley sighed.
"Earlier this afternoon we discovered a hypospray was missing and with it, a full vial of Temapazine. So far no one has admitted taking it, so a few moments ago I told the entire staff that whoever was responsible had 30 minutes to return it."
"And?"
Shaking her head Beverley said,
"Nothing yet, although there's still time. The thing is....I don't think anyone here took it. I know my staff and I feel confident that if someone felt the need to even think of this, they would come and see me. This is just too serious for anyone from this staff to have done."
Frowning, Deanna leaned forward.
"I agree with you. What will you do next?"
Beverley shrugged and leaned back in her chair, looking at the ceiling as if hoping for inspiration.
"I'll wait the full 30 minutes then I'll have to contact Will. He will probably put the new head of security....what's his name?"
"......Jarrox."
"That's him. He'll be put to solving our mystery and if I know Data, he'll tag along too. He never lost his taste for Sherlock Holmes."
Deanna laughed and then grew serious.
"I just hope someone isn't too frightened to seek medical help. I'd hate to think some poor soul is suffering needlessly."

 

 

 

The afternoon session of talks had proceeded forward, albeit haltingly, until Jean-Luc actually believed progress was being made. That was until delegate Uff brought up the very contentious Eldron Protocol. It was a dispute that was centuries old and it's very mention provoked a shouting match of unparalleled proportions. Disgusted, Picard leaped to his feet and pounded his fists on the table until he had achieved silence from the protagonists.
"Enough! If you delegates cannot control yourselves then this whole process is pointless! Can't you see that by holding on to past hurts you are impeding your passage into the future? My own home world wallowed in petty grievances and warred uselessly for centuries, almost wiping ourselves out....until we learned to let the past be just that....past. Gone. Over. Finished with. Learn from it. Go forward delegates, not backwards!"
Delegate Uff rose suddenly and boldly stuck out his green chin.
"That's all very well for you to say Captain, but your clan didn't lose the grain rights on land that had been traditionally yours for all time! The Eldron Protocol was a death sentence for my clan! Certainly it was veiled in fine words and good intentions, but we suffered and never regained that which was taken from us. Of course the protocol authors, the Amm, miraculously prospered and enslaved my people, but that's just a coincidence hmmm?"
"Your words are very pretty Captain, but until you have suffered as we have, I suggest you keep your peace. You cannot begin to understand what it's been like for us."
Jean-Luc bowed his head and sighed and as he did, he felt the beginning of another headache.
Delegate Uff....Everyone....These talks represent a very real chance for you to unite your people for the benefit of all. Your entire planet....one people at last. No more wars, no more famines. The grain you so jealously hoard could be grown by everybody on land that is shared. Think about it. Stability. Prosperity. Peace. And, with the Federation's help, safety. It's up to you. There are really only two choices. Stay as you are.....divided, no infrastructure, no way to care for your people....chaos....or be prepared to sit at this table and make some hard decisions for your world. Swallow your pride. It takes courage delegates. Do you have that sort of backbone?"
Delegate Uff laughed derisively.
"Oh fine speech Captain Picard! I'm glad you mentioned the Federation. What do they get out of this? Why did they send the illustrious Jean-Luc Picard to our pitiful planet? Do they care so much about us that they couldn't stand by and witness our destruction? I don't believe they're so altruistic! What does the Federation want?"
By now, Jean-Luc was absently rubbing his right temple.
"The Federation wants stability in this sector and is willing to help you in order to achieve it. Of course you're free to choose whomever you wish to form alliances, but if you've done your homework, you will be aware of the dangers of aligning yourselves with the Cardassians, or the Romulans or the Ferengi. The Federation will not subjugate your people or exploit your planet. Our history is open for all to see. You knew this when you made first contact. Don't think the Federation is so stupid as to offer help, only to be bitten by those who asked for that help in the first place."
Lifting his chin and squaring his shoulders, Jean-Luc looked hard at the delegates.
"I think now would be a good time to close this meeting. It's quite late and I'm tired. You delegates have a lot to think about. If you're in agreement we can continue tomorrow."
A murmur of agreement went around the table. Uff, still standing muttered,
"Sleep the sleep of the righteous Captain."
To which Jean-Luc replied,
"Sleep the sleep of the brave delegate Uff."

 

 

"So you're sure it wasn't any of your staff?" Will stood, feet braced, arms folded, one hand stroking his beard.
Looking directly into his eyes Beverley replied,
"Absolutely! Will, someone has taken....I dread to use the term, "stolen", a hypospray loaded with a full vial of Temapazine and I haven't a clue as to how it was done, or who did it."
Will looked up and said,
"Lieutenant Jarrox, report to the ready room."
Within seconds the ready room doors hissed open.
"Mr. Jarrox, Dr. Crusher has a situation I think you should know about. She will brief you, then I want you to start an investigation. I will speak to Mr.Data, I think he should assist you. Keep me informed of your progress."
Will rose and left the ready room as Beverley began to enlighten Lt. Jarrox.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc entered his suite feeling irritable and tense.
*It's no wonder I have a damn headache, having to deal with these intractable fools!*
He dropped onto the couch, slipped off his boots and leaning back, put his feet on the low table. A gentle groan escaped his lips as he massaged his right temple. The pain had settled on the right side of his head, behind the right eye and lancing into his head rhythmically.
"Dammit! I DO NOT need this!"
His appetite gone, Jean-Luc brusquely shed his uniform and lay on his bed. As before, he could find no comfortable position and he started to feel both hot and decidedly unwell. The pain increased rapidly until he found himself lying rigidly, savagely squeezing his head between his shaking hands. Fearing he was about to vomit, he rolled out of bed, falling the short distance to the floor and curling up there, keening in agony. He felt his head was about to explode and in desperation he uncurled himself and blindly pulled the night stand over, sending the few items there on scattering across the floor. Such was his suffering that he began to cry, sobbing in great gulps, desperately trying to locate the hypospray. Unable to open his eyes, he felt over the floor with one hand, the other clawing at his head, fruitlessly trying to relieve the pain. Finally his questing hand found the familiar shape and his hand instinctively closed on the instrument and brought it immediately to his body. Jean-Luc had no idea where he applied the hypo, he didn't hear the hiss, all he could do was lie there on the floor, waiting, hoping for it to work.

 

 

 

"Lt. Jarrox, when I finished with the hypospray, I put it there on the bench, then I went to assist Dr.Selar, and then.....oh yeah, Ms. Essot came in to deliver her litter."
"I see. And you didn't see it again."
Nurse Beck shook his head.
"No Sir. I had forgotten all about it till Dr. Crusher asked me about it."
Lt. Jarrox turned to Data and raised his eyebrows. Data cocked his head slightly and asked,
"Is it customary to place medical equipment in such a haphazard way? Would it not be better practice to put the equipment back in the proper place?"
Nurse Beck smothered a smile.
"Yes Sir, of course. But sickbays sometimes don't work that way. If an emergency comes in, it's a case of "drop everything" and all hands on deck....as it were. When the crisis has passed, well, then everything is cleaned, checked, catalogued and returned to it's rightful place. In this case, Dr. Crusher chose to do an inventory at that time and that's when it was noted as missing."
Doing his best "Holmes" impression, Data stroked his chin and said,
"So, after you put the hypospray on the bench, you did not see it again and you do not know what became of it."
"Correct, Sir."
Lt. Jarrox clasped his hands behind his back and thanked the nurse for his assistance.
"Well Sir, what do you think?"
Data stared blankly then said,
"We have more staff to interview, but I do not think the answer will be forthcoming. Somehow, someone has entered sickbay unobtrusively and made off with the hypospray. Our job is to find out who and that will tell us how and why. I think it would be advantageous to check the logs for that day."

 

 

 

This time he was certain. The Temapazine definitely took longer to work and he was dismayed to find that the headache had not completely disappeared.
*What the hell is going on?*
Looking at the hypospray, he rotated the dosage meter, dialled a lesser dose and injected himself again. Scooting across the floor to his bed, he leaned back and sighed when he felt the grip of the headache let go. This time Jean-Luc wasn't in such a hurry to move. He needed to think. How much longer could he do this? He knew by now something was seriously wrong and he knew he was duty bound to report both his symptoms and the misappropriation of the hypospray, but he was so close to finding a resolution to the impasse with the delegates. If he could just sway Uff....he was the key. The most senior member of his clan, Uff had brought his people through the tyranny of serfdom and hopelessness to a position of power and prestige, ultimately to be the leading clan on the planet. Unfortunately, before any truce was entertained, Uff wanted all the other clans, particularly the Amm, to pay dearly for the generations of suffering his clan endured. Until this seemingly insurmountable hurdle was overcome, Uff would stymie all efforts at conciliation. Climbing somewhat unsteadily to his feet and after putting the hypospray in his toilet bag, Jean-Luc made his way to the computer terminal and called up information on the Ty, Uff's clan, and the Amm. He was soon completely immersed, forgetting entirely about his "duty".

 

 

Data pushed himself away from the terminal and adopted a perplexed look.
"This is most curious Lt. During the time index indicated, the only non medical person, (discounting patients), to enter sickbay was Captain Picard. Apparently he came in to see Dr. Crusher, but left before she returned. And, equally curious, he chose to beam off from sickbay, rather than use a transporter room. Our next enquiry should be directed to Dr. Crusher."
Shortly thereafter Data and Lt. Jarrox entered sickbay and found Beverley in her office. She looked up and smiled.
"How goes it gents?"
"Pardon?....Oh! We are making headway doctor. May we ask you some questions?"
Becoming immediately serious Beverley said,
"Of course Data, go right ahead."
Data took a seat and gestured to Lt. Jarrox to do the same. He declined, amusing Beverley who surmised that all security chiefs liked to remain standing.
"The logs from that day, during the time index listed, show the only person not accounted for medically in sickbay was Captain Picard."
"Yes! Oh God I forgot. He beamed up from the planet and I thought he sounded distressed. He requested transport direct to his quarters so I left immediately to meet him there, but when I arrived he didn't answer the chime. I eventually entered his cabin using the medical override only to find he wasn't there. I came straight back to sickbay and was told he had just transported back to the planet. Just a minute......Crusher to Troi."
"Troi here."
"Deanna, could you please come to sickbay?"
"On my way."
Data leaned forward locking his golden eyes with Beverley's.
"Dr. Crusher, he transported from sickbay. Do you not think that is a little odd?"
Shocked, Beverley sat upright.
"Data.....you're not suggesting the Captain took.......no......You are, aren't you!"
Placing a placating hand on her arm Data cautiously said,
"Dr. Crusher....you said yourself that you thought the Captain sounded distressed. The logs show he was beamed to his quarters, but he left abruptly and came directly here, to sickbay. It was very busy and you were not here. We know by that time the hypospray was on the bench. The Captain left.....by transporting from sickbay....without seeing you.....and the hypospray went missing. Can you offer any other explanation?"
"But Data....he....well he wouldn't......would he?"
Again, Data tilted his head.
"Are you asking me doctor?"
"No Data!"
As the friends sat looking at each other, the doors his open as Deanna arrives.
Beverley smiled warmly at her.
"Take a seat Councellor. Tell me, have you had any success in sensing the Captain?"
"Not really. It's very difficult to single him out. The inhabitants issue powerful emotions.....I am getting vague feelings of pain and frustration sporadically from the Captain, but nothing specific. I can't filter out the rest."
Suddenly Beverley was on her feet.
"I'm going down to the planet. Please tell Commander Riker I will report to him when I return."
Looking a little stunned Data replied,
"Yes Doctor."

 

 

Beverley materialised in a small courtyard and was greeted by one of the many aides attached to the delegation.
"May I be of assistance Madam?"
After looking around with interest Beverley said,
"Yes. I have come to see Captain Picard. Is he available?"
"I regret Madam, he is in conference, but there will be a short break soon...."
Gesturing with his arm he offered,
"Would you like to wait here? Perhaps I could get you a cool drink? The air is very dry today."
With a gracious smile Beverley declined but asked if she could be shown to Jean-Juc's suite.
"Of course Madam! Please, follow me."
Very soon Beverley found herself at the door to the Captain's suite. Bidding goodbye to the aide and making sure he had left, she faced the door. Looking around guiltily she opened it and peeked in. She knew Jean-Luc wasn't there but she was nervous nonetheless. Growing bolder, she entered and found herself in a pleasant arrangement of rooms.....a little spartan, but functional. She looked about, suddenly uncertain as to her next move.
*Well......might as well check the obvious.*
She moved to the night stand and seeing nothing on the surface, opened the drawer. Bending slightly she peered into the drawer and finding nothing incriminating was just closing it when the door swung inward and Jean-Luc stepped into the room, carrying his toilet bag.
"Beverley!? What are you doing here?"
She walked over to him and stood close.
"Nice to see you too Jean-Luc."
Smiling reproachfully he stepped back and amended,
"I'm sorry. It's wonderful to see you. Now.....what are you doing here? Is there something wrong?"
"Jean-Luc.....two days ago you beamed up to the ship, came to sickbay, then beamed back down here without seeing me. I heard your request for beam out and I thought you sounded......well....you sounded stressed or in pain.....or something and I just wanted to come down here and see for myself that you were in one piece."
Jean-Luc clasped her hands in his.
"And now that you've seen me.....?"
Copying Data, Beverley tilted her head to one side.
"Honestly? You look tired.....and you've lost weight....."
The Captain dropped the doctor's hands.
"Beverley! I'm knee deep in negotiations with the most pig-headed, stubborn, bloody-minded.....it's no wonderI've got a headache....."
Seeing Beverley's concern, Jean-Luc reassured her.
"It's nothing.....a little stubborn perhaps, but under the circum...."
Throwing her hands up, Beverley cut him off.
"Ok, Ok, I get the picture! It's just that I thought....you see there's......Why do you have your toilet bag with you?"
"What?.....Oh....I like to freshen up.....I find if I shave late in the afternoon, it helps to give a good impression....you know....get on top of things. Beverley, what is it?"
Stepping close to him, Beverley ran her hands up his chest and over his shoulders.
"Jean-Luc I'm worried about you. You work very hard and you neglect yourself. You would tell me if there was something seriously wrong....wouldn't you?"
Sighing, Jean-Luc leaned gently forward until his head touched Beverley's
"Beverley.....tell me."
Beverley closed her eyes.
"Jean-Luc something's happened in sickbay and we want to know......."
~Captain Picard this is Ett, Delegate Uff's aide. The Delegate would like to know if you are going to rejoin the conference.....or are you too *tired*~
Jean-Luc stiffened and scowled muttering...
"That man! Beverley I have to go. I assure you I'm fine. Look, I'll be finished here in a few days, I hope. We'll have dinner and a nice relaxing evening and you can tell me all about it....all right? See you soon."
And after placing a gentle kiss on her forehead and whispering, "I love you", he left, taking the toilet bag with him and closing the door behind him. Once in the corridor he leaned against the door and closed his eyes.
*Forgive me Beverley....Please?*

 

 

 

The doors to the turbolift opened but Beverley didn't move. Deep in thought she hadn't realised the lift had reached it's destination. Will Riker, on hearing the hiss of the doors, looked expectantly over to the lift area and was perplexed to find no one exiting. Coming to his feet, a smile graced his features as he saw who was lost in thought in the lift.
"Beverley.........Hey! Beverley! Are you getting off here?"
"Huh? Oh! Yes.....Will, can I see you in the ready room?"
Without waiting for a reply, she walked straight to the ready room, barely waiting for the doors to admit her. Will followed her in.
"It's the Captain, isn't it?"
Beverley started pacing, absently fiddling with her vibrant hair.
"Will, did Data tell you of his findings, what he and Jarrox concluded about the hypospray?"
Will stood very still, a counterpoint to Beverley's pacing.
"Yes he did. You've seen the Captain. What did he say?"
Beverley stopped pacing and scratched her head.
"Well, I didn't actually ask him."
"You didn't ask him? A hypospray loaded with a potent pain killer goes missing from sickbay and the only person who could've taken it is the Captain.....and you don't ask him? Ok, I give up! Why the hell didn't you ask him?"
Temper rising and fire in her eyes Beverley hissed,
"Don't take that tone with me Will Riker!"
But then calms herself....
"I'm sorry Will. Look something's wrong. I don't know what....call it a "doctor" thing.....or women's intuition.....anything, just believe me.....something's not right."
Standing to his full height, with arms akimbo, Will squinted and said,
"Ok, I'll buy that. So, what do we do? Pull him kicking and screaming back to the ship and suffer the consequences?"
"No! This might be something that Jean-Luc needs to sort out himself. You know how he is during these sticky missions. I don't think he would do anything detrimental to Starfleet or the Federation.....do you?"
"Definitely not!"
"I agree. So what do we do? I think we should leave him to do his job. After all, he is the Captain of the ship. He should know what he's doing.....shouldn't he?"
Beverley's attempt at humour fell flat. Will's worried expression killed it.
"Still Beverley.....we're talking about a powerful analgesic......why the hell would he take a hypo full of that to the planet?"
Defeated, Beverley sat down.
"I don't know Will. We'll just have to trust him....won't we?"

 

 

Something was very, very wrong. Jean-Luc stood, his hands braced against the hand basin, trembling and sweating. He had just administered two full doses of Temapazine and he could still feel the headache, it was a dull throbbing, eating away at his resistance, hobbling his mind.....and it was only three and a half hours since the last double dose. Shaking, he ran some water in the basin and washed his face. What he had told Beverley about freshening up was the truth. Without these frequent breaks, time to afford a small rest, or the administration of the pain killer, he felt sure he would not have been able to continue. It was bad enough during the day, but at night it was tortuous. He would awaken in agony, usually after a dreadful nightmare....and last night he had wet the bed....heaping humiliation on top of everything else. And there was still more. He was running out of Temapazine.
Jean-Luc dried his face then picked up the hypospray. Unloading the vial he once more checked the contents. No matter how many times he looked, it remained the same. Two, possibly three doses left.....and then what? He was close to a resolution with the delegates. His research had proved fruitful and he needed to speak with delegate Uff in private. Of course this may be nigh on impossible given the demeanour of the man, but Jean-Luc would try his best. Too much was riding on the situation for anything but success to contemplated. But, what to do about the Temapazine? Going back to the ship was out of the question. He knew how he looked.....pale, gaunt, desperately tired. If Beverley got so much of a glimpse she would confine him to sickbay and that would be that. Is that an option? Could Will handle this mission? Maybe, but doubtful. If Will had been there at the beginning, perhaps it would've been possible, but Jean-Luc had gone too far, striven too hard, he knew the delegates now, knew how they thought. He understood the subtle power struggles and who the real power brokers were,.......he had to see it through. So. What to do? And then it came. An idea, a hope.
Opening the door and stepping out, Jean-Luc motioned to one of the ever present aides.
"Yes Sir? How may I be of assistance?"
"Tell me, are any of the clans adept in medical technology? Can they replicate, say....pharmaceuticals?"
"Oh yes Sir! The Cen are an ancient healing clan. In fact there's an old saying...."
Jean-Luc raised his hands and smiled.
"Yes, yes, quite. The Cen? That would be delegate Zu would it not?"
"Yes Sir....But if I may be so bold....the man to talk to is Dyy, one of the senior acromps. Zu may be the delegate, but Dyy is a Cen and he actually runs everything. You know what they say.....It's the acromps that run the clans. Ha, Ha!"
Jean-Luc laughed thinking,
*I've no idea what you're talking about....oh well, seems harmless enough.*
"So....Dyy....could you ask him to see me at the next break?"
"Certainly Sir! It would be my pleasure!"
Jean-Luc thanked the aide then made his way back to the conference. The next two and a half hours were fairly routine, progress was being made, as long as Uff felt his clan weren't being disadvantaged. The headache malevolently increased in strength and by the time the break came it took a considerable effort on Picard's part to not run to the restroom. He quickly injected himself twice, again failing to completely quell the pain, then exited the room to find Dyy waiting for him.
"Ah Dyy. Thank you for meeting me. The aide I spoke to said it would be possible for you to organise the replication of pharmaceuticals. Is that so?"
"Yes Sir. What is it you want?"
*Well, he doesn't beat about the bush.* Jean-Luc thought.
He produced the vial with it's single remaining dose.
"I require a single vial of this. It's called Temapazine."
Dyy took the vial and held it up to the light, slowly rotating it, making Picard feel uncomfortable in the process.
"What is it? If it's a narcotic it will cost you....I would have to "grease a few wheels"."
"No, it's a synthesized analgesic. You can look it up on my terminal if you wish. My computer is linked to my ship, and thereby, the medical database."
Dyy ran his eyes up and down the Captain.
"Oh. What do you want it for? Why don't you get it from your ship?"
Jean-Luc was becoming irritated.
"My reasons are my own as is my privacy. Can you do it or not."
"Hey...settle down. No need to brush your scales the wrong way. It shouldn't be a problem....in fact I could probably get it done here. I'll have it for you tonight. Do you have any latinum?.....about two strips would do. I'll come by your rooms, agreed?"
With a curt nod Jean-Luc gave his acceptance. As Dyy left, Picard wondered how on earth he was going to make it to the night.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc would never, if asked later, be able to explain how he made it through the last session of negotiations and back to his quarters. He had snippets, segments of memories, of vomiting, crawling across the room to the bathroom and eventually, after long agony filled hours, becoming aware of his door chime. Somehow he gained his footing and opened the door, only to fall forward into the arms of a very startled Dyy. Jean-Luc felt himself being half carried into the room and vaguely heard, as if from a distance, Dyy asking him something. Although it caused immense pain, Picard lifted his pounding head, opened his eyes and set his face at Dyy.
"Captain! What can I do? Where is it?"
Jean-Luc struggled to form the words.
"Small black bag....somewhere..."
He tried to lift an arm to indicate the main room, but the movement was beyond him.
Dyy gently lowered Jean-Luc into a chair and began to search for the toilet bag. He came across it quickly....Jean-Luc had dropped it just inside the door. Opening the bag with haste, Dyy located, then removed the hypospray and loaded it with the new vial then went immediately to the Captain and injected him. Nothing happened. Picard continued to moan piteously, tears streaming from his closed eyes. Again Dyy injected him. After a few moments Jean-Luc lifted his head and reached for Dyy.
"More.....Please one more."
Without hesitation Dyy administered one more dose.
With a sigh, Jean-Luc collapsed back in the chair and lowered his head into his hands.
"Mon Dieu....I thought I would die."
Dyy kneeled in front of the Captain and put his hands on Jean-Luc's knees.
"Captain, I know you value your privacy, but what is it? What's happening to you?"
Jean-Luc slowly raised his head.
"I don't know. It started over two weeks ago and it's getting worse, it's taking more of the drug to stop or even lessen the pain."
"Where is the pain?"
Jean-Luc raised a quivering hand and placed it over the right side of his head. He said nothing.
"Captain, shall I get a healer? One of my clan?"
Picard leaned forward and touched Dyy's shoulder.
"No thank you. When I finish here I will report directly to my ship's CMO. I'm sure she will bring me back to my former state of good health, but thank you Dyy. I must admit, I misjudged you. I apologise."
"You are trying to save my people....all our people Captain. You must forgive our natural distrust, it's an ingrained reaction to strangers."
Jean-Luc managed a weak laugh.
"Oh, I think you'd be amazed to find how common that reaction is."
Dyy looked around the room.
"Um Captain....would you like me to help you....clean up?"
The Captain flushed when he realised what a frightful mess his rooms must be in.
"Ah, no, I'll manage, thank you."
Jean-Luc noticed that Dyy seemed reluctant to leave. He looked about, fidgeted with his face tufts and shifted is feet.
"Dyy? Is there something else?"
"Well....Look I know you're sick, and you've got a lot on your mind, but I've got young and the stipend as an acromp isn't...."
Suddenly Picard remembered.
"The latinum! Ye Gods Dyy....I completely forgot. I am sorry. I'll contact the ship right now. Enterprise, this is the Captain. Who is the duty officer on the bridge?"
~Lieutenant Marks Sir.~
"Lt. Marks, please instigate a direct vocal link with the ship's computer."
~Aye Sir. Uplink complete.~
"Thank you. Computer release three strips of gold pressed latinum from ship's resources and beam them to my present location. Authorisation Picard, omega two eight."
~Processing. Request authorised. Enabled.~
Three strips of latinum appeared on the table in Picard's quarters. Jean-Luc picked them up and gave them to Dyy.
"Captain, I believe I said two strips."
Jean-Luc smiled.
"From what I hear, young are expensive to rear."
That brought a chuckle from Dyy.
"They are indeed. Well, I will go Captain. I hope you are feeling better soon."
"Thank you again Dyy, but may I ask that you not mention this to anybody? My CMO has been known to resort to some vicious retaliation when she finds out someone has failed to be less than honest with her."
"Of course Captain. Well, goodnight."
After Dyy had left Jean-Luc started the onerous task of cleaning his room....and the bathroom. When he had finished, he showered and forced down some dry biscuits and Earl Grey and retired for the night, exhausted.

 

 

"Hi Beverley. Mind if I come in?"
Beverley looked up and laughed.
"Will if all my callers were as handsome as you I'd never say no!"
Smiling, Will approached the desk, turned a chair around and straddled it.
"What can I do for you Commander?"
"Our mystery deepens. When I came on duty this morning the delta shift duty officer informed me that at 03.45 this morning our Captain requested the computer to release three strips of latinum from ship's resources. The authorisation code was correct and it was the Captain's voice, I checked."
The doctor sat back, tapping a stylus against her lips.
"What the hell is going on? Why would he need latinum.....at 3.45am? Will this is getting weird. There's nothing to spend latinum on down there that he could possibly need."
"I know. Still want to leave him to it?"
Beverley was silent for a few moments then looking hard at Will said,
"Yes, for now.....but not for too much longer."

 

 

 

By now when Jean-Luc awoke screaming in pain, it had almost become routine. He had gone to sleep with the hypospray in his hand and it took little effort to press it to his leg and release the drug into his system....three times. He lay there in his soiled bed desperately trying to regain control of his ragged breathing. Chancing a look at the clock he realised he'd only slept two and a half hours. He was bone weary, his need for restful sleep so keen it brought tears to his eyes. He felt utterly wretched, nauseous and in constant varying degrees of pain, but.....he had finally been given permission to see Uff privately. Jean-Luc felt positive he could make Uff see sense if he could talk to the man without the need for Uff to keep up the pretence of saviour to his clan. In a few short hours they would meet and the Captain had to be ready. Focusing on those thoughts Jean-Luc methodically cleaned his bed, then himself and sat at the table for several minutes until he could force down the light meal he had prepared. Successfully negotiating the meal, Jean-Luc sat quietly in the easy chair dozing, trying to garner some energy. His internal clock woke him and he realised he had only fifteen minutes until the meeting. The ubiquitous headache had increased in magnitude as he napped and his automatic reaction with the hypospray passed without conscious thought. As he stood he noted a slight dizziness, an uneven beating of his heart and a flushing over his whole body. Running his hands over his pate and taking a large breath, he left his quarters.
The office chosen for the meeting was well lit and comfortable. Uff was waiting for the Captain and appeared to be in good humour.
*Well that's a start*, Picard thought hopefully.
"Delegate Uff, thank you for seeing me."
Taking a seat and gesturing for Jean-Luc to do the same, the men sat and regarded each other.
"Is it customary for your species to change colour?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Captain, you are not the same colour you were when this conference started. Your skin has paled and you have darkness under your eyes. Your body mass has decreased also....is there something wrong?"
The Captain sat back and drew a large breath. His right hand made it's way to his temple automatically and he closed his eyes momentarily.
"Delegate Uff. My physical characteristics are not at issue here. I assure you I am fully able to continue with the conference. I have requested this meeting with you to again implore you to rethink you position on the unification."
Uff adopted a pugnacious look, causing his neck ruff to bristle.
"I have heard nothing that would make me change my position Captain."
Picard lowered his throbbing head.
"But are you doing it for the right reasons?"
Now Uff was clearly irritated.
"You question my wisdom? You have been on this planet, what?....two weeks? and you think you can just breeze in and rectify hundreds of years of tyranny? How could you be so naive! I was led to believe you were a highly credentialled diplomat, not some simpering fool with delusions of grandeur. How dare you!"
Slowly shaking his head, the Captain waved away Uff"s angry words with a tired hand.
"Delegate Uff, just listen to what I have to say, then either the conference will go on or I will return to my ship."
A curt nod was the only reply Jean-Luc received.
"The subjugation of your clan has been going on for a very long time. The Eldron Protocol only served to legitimise what had befallen your clan. But....things have been improving. I admit it has taken a long time, but each generation has managed to produce delegates of high quality.....your own father was one of the best, and all the while the goal has been for unification and equality. Until you succeeded your father as Chief Delegate, suddenly the agenda changed. Gone were the overtures of friendship and forgiveness that had so long been the main thrust of the campaign and in it's place came the idea of supremacy. Under your leadership the Ty have become aggressive activists with no other goal but to put under duress all the clans that had ever perpetrated an unkind act against the Ty. Now why was that? That's what I searched for Uff. What happened to change the manifesto so completely? Then I found it.
During the peace conferences of the eighth term, your father developed a strong friendship with Delegate Prou of Clan Amm. Their relationship deepened and by the conference end, they had become lovers, but they couldn't continue their tryst. Once the conference ended they had to return to their own lands, after all, a union of a high bred Amm and a lesser Ty was scandalous.....wasn't it? But Prou was pregnant....with you.
She carried you in secrecy and when the time of your birth was imminent, she went to a Cen healing centre, delivered you and left the next day...all in complete seclusion. No one else but her most trusted aides knew. She effectively abandoned you. But...she cared enough to get a message to your father. He arrived at the clinic two days later and after a simple paternity test, took you home. The rest is a matter of public history.
Who are you punishing with your hardline tactics Uff? Your mother? Your father? Who do you blame the most?"
Silence settled oppressively. Jean-Luc could feel the anger coming from the delegate in cold waves. As his vision began to double he closed his eyes.
"Oh so clever! My secret is out. Not only am I the product of a tawdry, tasteless affair, but I am also of impure blood! Do you know what that means here Picard? I am unclean. Unclean!"
"It's draconian social beliefs like that, that you can change! Don't you see Uff? You can make those changes....make it so no member of your species ever feels as you do now. Your "mixed" parentage is exactly the demonstration your people need. You CAN live as one people Uff, but it's up to you. You and I both know where the real power lies. Not one delegate will vote against you, no matter what you choose to do. You have it in your power to create a new nation of people, united at last."
Jean-Luc suddenly felt close to fainting. Again his heart implant was malfunctioning and nausea threatened to overwhelm him. He tried to get to his feet but his knees buckled and he fell to the floor.
"Captain Picard!"
Uff was instantly by Jean-Luc's side, supporting the sick man's head.
"I will summon a healer"
"No! No don't. Just help me back to my quarters....I have medicine there."
Getting Jean-Luc to his feet was difficult and so was the thankfully short journey to his suite. Once inside Uff retrieved the toilet bag and helped the Captain to administer four shots. When he was able, Jean-Luc took Uff's hand and looked searchingly into the delegate's face.
"Think about what I said Uff. Turn your shame into something good."
Uff stood to his full impressive height.
"You are ill Captain. Rest here....I will call a sitting of the conference later this afternoon."
And with that, he left.
Jean-Luc could no longer see properly. His irregular heartbeat made him light headed and dizzy. He lay on his bed shivering as beads of sweat coursed down his face.
"De trop, de trop....enough."

 

 

 

"Will, do you think we should contact the Captain? There's been no word....he hasn't beamed aboard....it's been what, three days now? I don't like this silence."
Scratching his beard absently Will studied Beverley.
"Missing the old fella eh?"
Beverley's face reddened.
"Will! Don't you ever let the Captain hear you call him that! He'll keelhaul you or something....something worse....and *I* will help him."
Will laughed delightedly, enjoying this form of repartee.
"You're right. I'll give him a call now. Captain Picard this is the Enterprise..."
Beverley turned and grinned at Will. Sotto voiced she said,
"If he gets mad, it'll be your fault."
"No response Sir."
Frowning, Will sat up straighter.
"Captain Picard, this is the Enterprise. Respond please."
After a tense wait, Jean-Luc's roughened voice answered.
"Enterprise this is the Captain. What do you want?"
The smiles disappeared instantly.
"Captain, are you all right?"
"Beverley, I'm fine....I was asleep. Why did you call?"
"No particular reason Captain. We hadn't heard from you for a while, we just wanted to know how things were going."
"Slowly doctor, slowly. I may know more this afternoon. Until then I intend to sleep, so if you will excuse me....Picard out."
Will and Beverley looked at each other, somewhat taken aback.
"Is he always so grumpy when he wakes up?"
"No Will, he isn't."

 

 

 

The gentle beeping of the alarm was finally heard by the wretched man on the floor. He was beyond the limit of endurance, he was certain death was imminent. No one was meant to withstand pain of this severity. With the last vestige of strength and will Jean-Luc crawled to the bathroom and by some Herculean effort got to his feet. That was the last thing he did. With a final burst of unequalled agony an abrupt blackness engulfed him and he fell like a boneless mass to the hard tiled floor. The last sound in the room was as his head struck the floor with a devastating blow.

 

 

The discontent was palpable.
"Delegate Uff, it's been half an hour. Does he expect us to just wait here for his grand entrance?"
"Yes! Who does he think he is that he should keep us waiting like this."
"This is an outrage! How dare that Earther do this to us!"
Adopting Picard's tactic, Uff pounded his hands on the table.
"Enough! You sound like a bunch of unruly children. I will go to his quarters....."
"He's not answering his land activator."
"As I was saying.....I will go to his quarters and you, Delegate Zu, will accompany me."
The two delegates rose and left the room, leaving the other stunned delegates to their own devices. Uff and Zu quickly arrived at Jean-Luc's rooms and activated the chime. Receiving no answer, and not expecting one, Uff opened the door and stepped inside.
"Picard.....Captain Picard."
Uff looked about the room then made his way to the bathroom.
Zu! Come here quickly!"
Zu entered the room and gasped in dismay. Jean-Luc was sprawled on the floor, streams of blood from his head, nose and right ear had made their way to the central drain in the middle of the floor. Uff bent to turn the Captain over.
"No! Don't move him! I know little about humans, but head injuries in any species should be treated with great care."
"Then call your best healer Zu.....NOW!"
Shaking his head, Zu, for the first time showed defiance.
"No Uff. This is beyond both our technology and our knowledge of human physiology. Call his ship.......Quickly! Reach under him....gently... and get the badge from the front of his top."
Very carefully, Uff slid his hand under Jean-Luc's chest and retrieved the communicator.
"You press it and talk"
"This is Uff calling the Enterprise."
~ Enterprise here.~
"Your Captain has been badly injured. We don't want to move him. Can you send help?"
~Immediately Delegate Uff. Please wait at your present location.~
Within moments Beverley Crusher and two assistants materialised in the bathroom. The doctor went to The Captain's side promptly and began to scan him with her tricorder.
"How long has he been like this? Do you know what happened?"
"I don't know either answer doctor. He was half an hour late for the afternoon sitting and wasn't answering his land activator, so Zu and I came to see him. We found him like this only moments ago. I can tell you however, he has been ill and in pain for some time.....in excess of sixteen days. I mentioned his changed colour and body mass, but he was reluctant to talk about it. He assured me he was all right. He had some medication here in his quarters. Shall I get it for you?"
Not answering , Beverley gently opened one of Jean-Luc's eyes. Speaking to her assistants she said,
"I need Tricordrazine, Perilan, two neural stimulators and a stasis support for the cervical region."
As the med techs swung into action, Beverley looked up at Uff.
"Yes Delegate, I would like to see his medication."
Zu, who had moved to the doorway to afford everyone more room, now peered over Beverley's shoulder and cleared his throat.
"I am a healer. How is he? Is there anything I can do?"
Not taking her eyes off the Captain, Beverley brushed some errant strands of hair from her face.
"No, there's nothing you can do, but thank you for the offer. He is in very bad shape. As soon as he's stabilised, we will take him to our ship. Adams.....his parthenogenic implant is beating irregularly. When we immobilise his head, I will turn him over. I want you to insert a bio-electrical regulator directly into the implant."
"Understood doctor."
"Madam here is the medication and applicator the Captain was using."
Uff stood in the doorway, the loaded hypospray in his hands. Beverley, intently studying the tricorder said,
"Give it to one of the med techs Delegate thank you. I've got his head in stasis, the cervical area is isolated. I'm going to turn him over now. I want this to be gentle and one continuous movement. Fledge, make sure the Captain's hips roll in one motion and keep his legs together. Ready? Go."
As Beverley requested, the action was smooth and gentle. Beverley took a sharp breath when she saw Jean-Luc's face. Deathly pale and with dark smudges under his eyes, his weight loss made his patrician features look skeletal. One half of his face was covered in blood, the other half, the left side, sagged with no muscle tone at all. A vivid bruise could be seen on the right side, the eyebrow split open.
With practised ease, Adams bared Jean-Luc's chest and inserted the regulator into the artificial heart.
"Doctor I'm having trouble here. The regulator is not overcoming the irregular beat."
Adjusting the tricorder, Beverley scanned the heart and frowned deeply.
"There's organic damage around the implant. How the hell has this happened? Fledge draw some blood and get back to the ship. I want to know what's in his blood. Temapazine wouldn't do this. Adams we should be ready to transport the Captain in about ten minutes. I want you to beam up and get a surgical team together. Tell Dr. Selar this is a brain injury and ask Alyssa to come in, I will need her in surgery."
Wasting no time, Fledge dematerialised to do his superior's bidding. Now there was more room, Uff and Zu moved closer to the Captain.
"Delegates is there anything else you can tell me about the Captain's condition? What were his symptoms?"
"I saw him this morning doctor. As I said, he was very pale and his body mass was reduced. Towards the end of our meeting, liquid came through his skin and his skin became an odd red colour. I think he was in great pain from his head and he closed his eyes. As our meeting concluded, his legs failed and he collapsed onto the floor. He insisted I was not to summon a healer and entreated me to help him back here. When we got here I found his medication and, as he was unable, I administered four doses."
Beverley's head shot up.
"Four doses?!"
"Yes doctor. It seemed to help, but I think some pain and illness remained as he didn't recover completely. I told him of this afternoon's sitting and he said he would rest. I left and didn't return until I came here with Zu a little while ago, some five hours later. I do think he has been unwell for some time. Do humans often ignore their illnesses?
Beverley slowly shook her head.
" Only the stubborn ones. Thank you Delegate. I will be transporting to the ship now. I may want to talk with you again. Would that be acceptable?"
"Of course. I hope the Captain recovers."
Still on her knees beside the Captain, Beverley tenderly stroked his face.
"So do I, Delegate. Enterprise, two to beam directly to sickbay."

 

 

 

"Selar! Set up a full neural scan. I'm going to see how Fledge is doing with the blood sample."
After seeing the scan begin, Beverley made her way to the analysis module just as Fledge was activating the computer. She placed a hand on his shoulder and peered at the screen.
"What have you got?"
"I'm not certain doctor. There are three components here the computer is having trouble with. Generally, the solution is similar to Temapazine, very close in fact, but these....here, here and here.....It's as if the manufacturer made as close a match as possible and just missed."
Beverley moved closer and put her finger on the screen.
"Fledge, I want you to take these three mystery bags and open them up. I want to know exactly what they are and what they were doing to the Captain. Priority Fledge."
She had left before he could reply. Approaching the biobed Beverley looked down at Jean-Luc.
"How is he?"
Dr. Selar replied,
"The Captain's condition is grave. The scan shows a fracture running transversely over the right side of the cranium, causing haemorrhage through the nasal passage and the right aural canal. There is also paralysis down the left side, indicating an, as yet undisclosed, brain anomaly. Captain Picard's body temperature is at forty degrees and we are at present cooling and rehydrating him intravenously. He is profoundly unconscious and completely unresponsive to all stimuli."
Beverley stood, absolutely motionless. She could feel the anguish, the terror, the despair beginning to creep over her. Her heart began to pound and tears welled in her eyes.
*Oh God....not Jean-Luc....please, please, not my Jean-Luc.*
"Doctor? Doctor Crusher! Are you all right?"
Beverley flinched as if struck and realised how close she had come to losing herself to her despondency.
"Yes Selar, I'm fine. It seems our next task is to find out what caused all this. The Captain has been experiencing pain for approximately sixteen days. From what I can gather, the pain increased rapidly....so much that Temapazine could no longer control it. He has an irregular heartbeat and had vision disturbances, as well as vomiting, and collapsed at least once. I want a 3D image built of his brain. Concentrate on the Cerebellum/Brainstem region."
"Do you suspect something in particular Doctor Crusher?"
Beverley frowned and softly brushed the back of her hand on Jean-Luc's cheek.
"Just a hunch."
"Beverley...."
Looking to the doorway, Beverley spotted Will and Deanna and crossed the room to be with them.
"How is he?"
Leading them away she said over her shoulder,
"You'd better come into my office."
Once seated Beverley began to brief her fellow officers.
"The Captain is profoundly unconscious and has suffered paralysis. The most likely cause is a brain anomaly of some kind, but we haven't found it yet. He has also been exposed to at least three unknown chemicals which I think have damaged his parthenogenic implant and possibly his vision. Will, I need you to find out how he got these chemicals. We think someone tried to produce Temapazine for him, but we don't know who, or what they did."
"I'll get right on it Beverley, but tell me.....is he going to make it? Can you cure him?"
A look of deep sadness crossed Beverley's face.
"I honestly don't know Will, but by God I'll try my best."
~Doctor Crusher, please report to Captain Picard's room.~
Not bothering to say anything further, Beverley hastened from the office.
"What have you got Selar?"
"A granuloma. One centimetre in diameter, situated in the brainstem, in a canal involved in the fluid suspension. The granuloma has developed around one of two Borg implants deemed too deeply integrated to remove. Is this consistent with your "hunch" doctor?"
"Yes Selar, it is."
*No Jean-Luc, not this, I can't fix this.*
"Bridge, this is Doctor Crusher. I want you to contact Starbase 85. Ask their CMO to track down Dr.Arok Xar. Message reads.....Contact Beverley Crusher immediately. Most urgent. ASAP, bridge. Crusher out."
"Selar, what are the pain indicators showing?"
The graceful Vulcan studied the readouts.
"Morbidly high doctor, although I must point out there is a chance he cannot feel anything."
"Let's hope so."

 

 

 

 

"Good afternoon Delegate Uff, thank you for seeing me."
"Not at all, Commander Riker, not at all. Tell me, how is Captain Picard?"
The two men crossed the courtyard and seated themselves under the shade of a large tree.
"Gravely ill Sir. It's the Captain that brings me here. He had "borrowed" some pain killer medication when he last visited the ship and when that was exhausted, we believe he had some made here. Unfortunately, it wasn't an exact duplicate and there are some, as yet unidentified, chemicals causing the Captain some harm. We need to know what these chemicals are and to get that information, we need to find those people who aided the Captain. Please be assured, we are not seeking to punish anyone. There has been no wrong doing, from our point of view, but it is essential we find those responsible."
Uff nodded his large head and moistened his scaly mouth.
"I understand Commander. Actually, it should be fairly straightforward. There is only one clan suitably proficient in medical technology and I am on good terms with their delegate. We can talk to him now if you wish."
Will stood, nodding his acceptance. The two men went directly to the conference anteroom, where several delegates were milling about, talking. Uff made his way straight to Zu.
"Zu my friend. Could I have a moment of your time....in private?"
In company, the three beings moved to another room nearby.
"This is Commander Riker. He comes to us seeking information. Apparently some medication was ....replicated?, and there is a problem with it. He needs to find who did it. Who is your acromp?"
"That would be Dyy. I will summon him."
Turning to Will, Uff explained,
"The acromps are a delegate's right arm. The delegates may be in charge, but it's the acromps who run the clans....or so they say."
Will smiled.
"There is a very old Earth saying about sergeants that is remarkably similar. It would seem we have more in common than we thought."
"Indeed Commander. Ah, here they are."
Zu introduced the acromp to Will.
"I would like to begin by saying there's no one at fault here. We are not seeking to punish anyone, understood? Good. Do you know anything about the production of a painkiller for Captain Picard?"
Dyy looked to Zu and received a nod of consent.
"Yes Sir. An aide informed me that the Captain needed some medication replicated. I met with him and after ensuring it did not involve narcotics, I agreed to help him. He gave me a vial containing a small amount of liquid. He told me it was a synthesized painkiller and he required another full vial. I told him it would cost two strips of latinum and we agreed to meet later that night at his quarters."
"And this took place as planned?"
"Yes Sir. When I arrived at the Captain's billet he was very sick. His rooms were a shambles and he collapsed as he opened the door. I helped him to a chair and found the instrument that delivers the medication. I had to inject him three times before he got any relief....and even then, I don't think he recovered all that well. After that I left. Oh....and he paid me three strips...he is a kind man."
Will smiled and nodded his head.
"Tell me Dyy, do you keep a log....a record of all the replications that take place?"
Dyy nodded eagerly.
"Yes! Each machine has its own trace imprint. I can access a printout for you now, if you like."
"That would be great Dyy. Thank you."
As Dyy left, Will turned to the waiting delegates.
"Hopefully we will be able to solve this mystery and help Captain Picard."
Uff lowered his head and appeared to be deep in thought. Seeing that he was no longer required, Zu left to rejoin his companions.
"He's a remarkable man, your Captain."
"Yes, he is."
"When I first came in contact with humans I was shocked at how......delicate.....you looked. Your skin is soft, your bones puny...Picard doesn't even have a head ruff! But rarely have I met a species so determined and resourceful, resolute. I think your people would make a formidable enemy Commander."
Will straightened and looked Uff unflinchingly in the eye.
"Hopefully, that will never come to pass, Delegate. How are the talks going?"
"Out of respect for your Captain, the talks are suspended for the time being. Somehow I think more gets done in places like the anteroom than in a formal conference.....nothing to prove I suppose, no audience."
"More similarities, Delegate. Although it was Starfleet that gave the Captain this mission, he thought it very worthwhile. He believed in what he was trying to achieve here."
Uff turned and looked at a picture on the wall. It had been taken when the delegates first met, eighty years ago.
"I've known him only a short while, but I agree with you. Perhaps he should give up being a Captain and become an ambassador."
"Unlikely Sir, highly unlikely."
Both men shared a companionable laugh. A soft knock at the door revealed Dyy, returning with the printout from the replicator.
"Here you are Sir."
"Thank you Dyy. If you gentlemen will excuse me I will return to the ship. Thank you again for your help."
Will beamed up and Dyy turned pensively to Uff.
"How can a species that wields so much power be so polite?"
Uff just laughed.

 

 

 

 

Will had materialised in sickbay. Beverley was waiting for him.
"Well how did you go?"
"I've got a printout of the replication. It should give you the information you need."
Taking the paper, Beverley went to a computer terminal and began tapping out instructions. Seeing he was no longer required, the Commander made his way into the Captain's room. He stood for sometime watching his commanding officer, feeling the anger of helplessness and the despair of seeing such a loved friend so gravely ill.
*You look so small.....they're right, we do look delicate. Fight Captain, keep fighting and come back soon, we miss you.*
It took eight and a half hours for the computer to finally identify the components of the unknown chemicals. Will had made two further trips planetside to query some healers about the effects and application of some of the chemicals, his answers helping Beverley to unravel the knot.
Once she understood how the drugs affected Jean-Luc, she could counteract their effects.
Within half an hour of the counter measures being administered, Jean-Luc's heart began beating regularly and his temperature started to return to a more normal reading. The skull fracture had been treated and with the help of an osteo-regenerator was almost fully repaired. Having eliminated some of his problems made Beverley feel much better, however she knew that Jean-Luc was desperately ill. While she had something to do in solving the mystery of the unknown chemicals Beverley could drive her worry to the back of her mind. Now it came surging forward. The Borg implants had been left in the Captain's brain because they were too deeply integrated into the brain tissue to be removed. They had been carefully monitored over the years and had not caused any trouble.....until now.
*How long has this been troubling you Jean-Luc? Is this why you "forgot" you physicals? God, why didn't I just order you to attend!*
~Beverley, we've received a reply from Starbase 85. Dr. Xar is on Premmal Four working on the Premman encephalitis outbreak. He's not able to contact you personally, but has indicated he is able to leave the planet if we can come for him. We can get there in two days at maximum warp.~
"Do it Will. We need to get the Captain to him. He's the only one I think can help."
After contacting Uff and outlining their plans, the Enterprise jumped to full warp on her mission to save her master. The next two days passed slowly for the medical staff, especially Beverley. The Captain was on full life support allowing his body to rest. In effect, machines had largely taken over, making the medical staff mostly redundant. All Beverley could do was be with him. She sat for long hours holding his hand and talking to him. There was of course, no response, not the slightest inkling that Jean-Luc could hear her, but, undaunted she persisted anyway. She loved this man....had done for a long time. Their relationship had only recently deepened....they had shared one beautiful evening making love, the next day bringing the orders for Jean-Luc to attend the conference. Since that time they had spent little time together. Now Beverley worried that they may have run out of time. And she had to admit....she was angry, very angry with him. He had lied to her, hidden his illness and compromised his well being by taking the Temapazine. Dedication to his job was one thing, deceiving the one you love was an entirely different thing. But...first things first. They had to get to Arok Xar. He was, at the present time, the leading neurologist in the Federation. If he couldn't help Jean-Luc, nobody could. So Beverley, like everyone else, just had to wait, and that was probably the hardest thing of all.

 

 

 

 

~Dr. Crusher, we are in orbit around Premmal IV. Dr. Xar is ready for transport.~
"Thank you bridge."
With haste, Beverley made her way to the transporter room and was on hand to meet Dr. Xar as he came aboard.
"Dr. Xar, welcome to the Enterprise. I am Dr. Beverley Crusher, CMO. I wish this meeting was under better circumstances, I'm afraid I have a difficult case for you."
Bowing graciously, the Bolian neurologist accepted Beverley's greeting and the two left for the sickbay.
"I've studied the information you sent me. It is a difficult case indeed. For how long were the symptoms present?"
"For the sixteen days the Captain was on the planet he had, at the very least, debilitating headaches leading eventually to his collapse. Other than that, well, let's just say Captain Picard is not exactly forthcoming where it concerns his health."
Dr. Xar nodded sagely.
"A common trait amongst Starfleet Captains. They like to think of themselves as indestructible."
The doctors entered sickbay and went straight to Jean-Luc. Beverley called up onto a large viewscreen the 3D image of the Captain's brain.
"As you can see Dr. Xar, the granuloma has formed around one of the two Borg implants in the upper brain stem. The suspension fluid is severely impeded in this area and we've established the presence of left side paralysis. The implants in this region were the largest that were left in the Captain's brain. There are microscopic filaments and several areas of nanite infiltration elsewhere but once Captain Picard's link to the Borg was severed, all the cybernetic technology ceased functioning. Until this incident, the Captain had experienced no ill health that could attributed to them, although during the "First Contact" event, the Captain reported "hearing" the Borg psychologically. We never found out how that occurred."
Dr. Xar folded his arms and pursed his lips pensively.
"Anti- rejection therapy?"
"Difficult at best. As you know, Captain Picard has a parthenogenic cardiac implant. It was considered too precarious."
Turning from the screen Dr. Xar looked down at the oblivious Captain.
"He has been on life support for.....two days?"
"Yes doctor."
"Please, my given name is Arok."
Beverley flushed slightly and smiled.
"And I'm Beverley. When we got the Captain aboard he was bleeding from the nose and right ear. We discovered a skull fracture, obtained when his head hit the tiled floor as he collapsed. Captain Picard had "appropriated" some Temapazine to treat his headaches and when that ran out, he had the planet's healer clan replicate some more. Unfortunately, an exact copy wasn't possible, so the replicator computer produced chemicals as close to the original as it could. The result was chaotic. The Captain's bio-chemistry was compromised, resulting in high temperature, vision disturbance and a malfunctioning of his heart. All this has been rectified and since he was put on full life support, he has been stable, but profoundly unconscious."
Picking up the PADD at the foot of Jean-Luc's biobed, Dr. Xar scrolled through the last hour's observations.
"Well Beverley you seem to have done everything possible. I commend you and your staff. I think we should proceed as soon as possible and to that end I would like to go over the data again, then I think I'd better brief you and your surgery staff as to the procedure. Will you assist me?"
"Thank you Arok, I would be honoured."
Beverley showed the doctor to her office and made available all the data he required. She then announced a meeting with the senior staff to discuss the planned action. It was a very subdued group of officers who sat at the table.
Geordie La Forge frowned, his blue ocular implants managing to convey his concern.
"How good is Dr. Xar?"
Beverley sat back and ran her hands through her hair.
"The best in the Federation Geordie. We're very lucky to get him. Had a treatment for the encephalitis outbreak not been so promptly devised, he wouldn't have been able to leave Premmal IV."
"Beverley....what's the prognosis? What about the paralysis?"
"Will we won't know for some time. This situation is beyond my abilities. Since the Captain's assimilation our knowledge of Borg implants has increased immensely. Each time we encountered the Borg we learned more about them. Dr. Xar devoted himself to the study of Borg implants and, specifically, their removal. What was impossible years ago is now possible. What makes this so tricky is that an organic tumour has grown around the implant. How this affects the treatment is unknown at this time. We will know more once we expose it, until then.....I just don't know, but I can tell you....Captain Picard is in the best hands. If Arok Xar can't help him, no one can."
The meeting broke up and the officers drifted back to their stations lost in thought. Beverley went back to sickbay and took her seat next to Jean-Luc. Taking his hand in hers she felt tears pricking her eyes.
"Come back to me Jean-Luc......I love you."
Fat tears spilled over her lids and coursed slowly down her face.
Sometime later Beverley became aware of someone else in the room. She hurriedly wiped her face and turned to face the visitor.
"Arok.....please excuse me."
"Not at all Beverley."
The doctors stood silently for a few moments, each lost in their own thoughts.
"You and the Captain.....you're....."
"Yes. We've been friends for thirty years or so. It's only recently that we...well, you know. I try, I want to be detached about all this, but it sneaks up on me. If he.....if we can't....."
Arok placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"We'll do our best Beverley. Have a little faith in him. From what I can gather, he's a very strong individual. He won't give up, neither should you."
Soon after, things became very busy. Jean-Luc was prepared for surgery, the doctors and staff familiarising themselves with the procedure.
It was over five hours later that Beverley again found herself by Jean-Luc's bed, holding his hand. He looked dreadful. His complexion sallow, he had dark smudges under his eyes, his weight loss giving his usually handsome face a skeletal appearance. About his head glowed the light blue of the regen field, his right forearm connected to an intravenous feeder and his lower regions attached to a bio-waste unit.
The footfalls, though soft, Beverley recognised as Will's.
"How is he?"
"Remarkably well, considering."
Will carefully placed his hands on Beverley's shoulders and began a gentle massage.
"Tell me."
"Dr. Xar accessed the tumour relatively easily and the granuloma was removed, although it took some of the most delicate work I've ever seen. Once the implant was freed he assessed the risk and it was decided to remove both that implant and the one nearby. Two years ago we wouldn't have even contemplated it. Gods Will, Arok's good. I learned more today than I could believe possible. There has been some damage to the surrounding brain tissue, however...."
"Beverley, you just said "brain" and "damage" in the same sentence. I don't like the sound of that."
Beverley sighed and rolled her head, reaching up to clasp Will's hands.
"Will he's not out of the woods yet. We are optimistic that the damage will right itself. You'd be surprised how resilient the brain is. Now that the tumour and the implants have been removed there is every chance that the Captain will make a full recovery...."
Will leaned down to Beverley's ear and said quietly,
"I hear a "but"."
"But....it won't be easy. The paralysis will abate but he will have to work damn hard. There will be therapy... which he'll hate. There will be post-operative pain....headaches, nausea. There will be loss of sensation in some areas....should I continue?"
Turning Beverley on the chair Will looked at her tired face.
"If there's one thing I've learned on this ship it's that we're family. I know how difficult he can be and I also know how stubborn we can be when it comes to looking after him. He will hate every moment of his recovery, but we'll be with him each step of the way. We will be there for him....and you."
"Beverley, I know it's none of my business, but are you and the Captain.....have you two become...."
"Yes Will. The day before he was ordered to negotiate at the conference."
Will's smile was contagious.
"About time! You know, it was excruciating to watch you two all these years. It was so obvious you were meant for each other."
They both shared a gentle laugh.
"When will he wake?"
Beverley turned and gazed lovingly at Jean-Luc.
"In a few hours."
"Then why don't you come to the forward lounge and have dinner with Deanna and me, get a little rest, then come back to be here when he comes to. I'm sure your staff can handle things for a while."
"I'd really like to argue with you Commander.....however....you're on."
After checking the read outs yet again, Beverley informed her staff of her plans, then left sickbay. On Will's suggestion, They dropped by Dr. Xar's quarters then the three of them met Deanna in the forward lounge and had the promised dinner. Beverley left soon after she had eaten and made her way to her cabin, indulging in a long hot water shower. Sonic showers did a good job of cleaning, but nothing could beat a water shower for relaxation.
After checking on Jean-Luc's condition and taking a cup of lemon tea, she settled into her sofa to collect her thoughts.
Will was right, they did belong together. All those years dancing on the head of a pin, denying their true feelings, ignoring the desire and all they accomplished was to waste precious time. Now they had finally tasted each other.....so sweetly......the words almost screeched. Why did we wait so long!
And now. What she had long feared.....giving herself to this man, admitting she was incomplete without him, dreading the one thing that was so intolerable, that he would be brought into sickbay and she be unable to save him had happened.
And what went before. He had not come to her when he needed to. Did he not trust her? Why would he rather treat himself than disclose his illness? Where was truth? Where was trust? She, more than any other, knew this man. Knew his strengths....and his faults. Knew how single minded, how stubborn, how intractable he could be. But what of all the whispered endearments? The promises. The hopes. Where were all these things when he took the Temapazine? When she saw him on the planet? The hurt went deep inside, in a place she thought she would never allow another to see, and she didn't know what to do about it. Beverley felt the welling of her eyes and shook her head angrily.
*Not now!*
In quick, agitated movements, she disposed of her cup and left her quarters.

 

 

 

 

 

The first thing Jean-Luc became aware of was the pain in his head. It pounded in a throbbing rhythm in sync with his heart. With each stroke of his pulse nausea increased until he knew with certainty that he was going to vomit. Just as the abdominal spasm started he heard the soft hiss of a hypospray and the pain and nausea receded.
He lay quietly, trying to order his thoughts.
*Where am I? I can't remember! What happened to me? Where....*
Jean-Luc felt the panic begin to rise and quelled it savagely.
*Think! Where was I? My room! My room on the planet. I .....I.....was in bed, the headache, bad....vomiting....hot.....my heart! Something was wrong with my heart and I got up and....and.... Dammit! What did I do?*
"Then he heard her voice and calmed immediately.
"Jean-Luc? It's Beverley. I'm holding your right hand. Squeeze my hand to answer. Can you hear me?"
A Squeeze.
"Is the pain gone?"
A squeeze.
"Has the nausea settled?"
A squeeze.
"Good. You're on the Enterprise and you've been very sick, but you're going to be all right. Rest now, we'll talk later."
There was much he needed to ask, to say and as he drifted back to sleep his thoughts focused on Beverley.
*Don't go Beverley.....stay with me.....I need you.*
The next time he became aware, it was to hear Alyssa Ogowa say to Dr. Crusher,
"The swelling had decreased 0.5% in the last hour. He's making good progress."
"Hmmmm. Dr. Xar will be here in a few minutes Alyssa. Could you run another Estirac series and compare them to this morning's? I think Dr. Xar will want a comparison."
"Yes, Doctor."
Jean-Luc tried to speak but something was wrong with his face. It felt odd and he couldn't make any sound. Instead he attempted to move his right hand and felt satisfied when his efforts set of alarms on the bio-panel.
"So.....you're awake. Let's see if you can open those eyes."
Jean-Luc felt a soft, wet pad wipe his eyes, making it easier to open them. His right eye opened but his left refused. It didn't matter though as the first thing he saw was Beverley. Meaning to smile, he failed miserably, only the right side of his face would obey his command turning his smile into a grimace.
He tried to speak again, and again, failed.
Leaving to collect a tumbler of water, Beverley filled it, obtained a straw and returned to the Captain.
"Here, try this."
Helping him to roll to his right side and holding his shoulder, Beverley placed the straw in the right corner of Jean-Luc's mouth. He sucked gently and was rewarded with the cool liquid filling his mouth. He sighed with pleasure. Taking a washer, Beverley carefully wiped away the water that had escaped from the left side of his mouth. The effort quickly tired the Captain, Beverley having to ease him back on the bed.
"Better?"
Jean-Luc nodded. With difficulty he said,
"What's wrong with me?"
Beverley pulled over a chair and sat down. Reaching over to Jean-Luc, she gently stroked his face.
"You've been very sick Jean-Luc. You had a tumour around one of the Borg implants in your brain stem. That's what caused the headaches. We managed to get you to the leading doctor in the neurological field....you were very lucky. He removed the tumour and the Borg implants and you should make a complete recovery, but you have....for the time being.....a left side paralysis."
Seeing the look of alarm on Jean-Luc's face made Beverley stand and hold his shoulders.
"It's all right Jean-Luc! It will pass. You will have some physical therapy to do and you will suffer headaches for a while, but we can treat those as the arise. It's all right....you will recover."
Jean-Luc sighed and Beverley was shocked to see tears sliding down his face. Sitting on the bed, Beverley gathered him in her arms.
"Shhh Jean-Luc. It's over now. You'll get better soon, I promise, I promise."
She held him until he slept.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc lay on the bed quietly fuming. Oh, how he hated this.
"Now remember Captain, inhale as your knee comes up, and exhale as it goes down. Hold the bed rail with your right hand and I will slip the restraint on your left."
"Alrighty then! Are we ready?"
The Captain grunted his reply, gritted his teeth and slowly inhaled as his knee rose to touch his chest. He felt the muscles in his jaw creak with strain as he took the weight when his leg was lowered.
"Very Good Captain! Two more and we'll move on to your arm."
"For pity's sake woman, when can I rest! I've done twenty five damn lifts and I'm tired!"
The woman sniffed daintily.
"We are a little testy today aren't we. I see your speech has improved. Let's see if you can put the same effort into these last two leg lifts."
Picard glared his best withering look and, as usual, it had absolutely no effect. His tormentor, Nurse Eisenberg, just smiled sweetly, raised her eyebrows and waited.
"When you're ready Captain."
Beverley stood in the doorway watching the by-play. She was behind Jean-Luc and she sent a wink to the harried nurse. When the final two lifts were completed, Beverley came into the room.
"Thank you Michele, I'll help the Captain with the arm lifts. I can see he's somewhat sour today."
"Yes doctor. I'll see you this afternoon Sir."
Another grunt was her only reply.
"Jean-Luc really. Do you have to take your bad temper out on my staff? Nurse Eisenberg was only doing her job."
"Hurrumph! I didn't know the works of the Marquis De Sade were required reading for nursing personnel."
Beverley was incensed.
"Now you look here! Michele Eisenberg is a highly trained, dedicated and motivated nurse who shows patience beyond the norm when dealing with irascible grumps like you! Do you honestly think she enjoys putting you through this discomfort? There are other people in this sickbay needing our.......Jean-Luc?"
The Captain looked defeated. His head sank and his hand came up to his temple. In a soft voice he said,
"I'm sorry Beverley. I will apologise to nurse Eisenberg later. It's just that I get so tired."
"Your head is hurting isn't it."
All he could do is slowly nod. In a whisper he said,
"Yes."
Beverley left the room and returned a short while later with a hypospray which she pressed to Jean-Luc's neck. The soft hiss was followed immediately after by relief. Taking a big breath, Jean-Luc faced Beverley.
"Thank you."
Jean-Luc.....why don't you tell me when you're in pain? It's not a contest you know. There's no prize for the bravest patient. If you don't tell me, things get out of hand, like what happened with Michele. If you had only come to me when you first started to get the headaches......"
"I did."
"What? When!"
Jean-Luc took her hands in his.
"I came aboard to see you, but when I got to sick bay you weren't there."
"So you took the hypospray and left. You didn't contact me....ask where I was, you just took matters into your own hands and completely shut me out! Jean-Luc....there is so much wrong with that....I don't know where to start. Am I your doctor or not? And as for our relationship.....what about trust? I though we had started something wonderful, something we could share....apparently not! You would rather go behind my back, steal medical equipment and drugs to treat yourself. You couldn't come to me? What does that tell you? You hurt me Jean-Luc, you hurt me so deeply I don't know if it will heal!"
By this time Beverley was standing rigidly beside the bed, her voice raised.
"And if you think you can just gloss over this with protestations of nobly completing the mission, you can forget it! It won't wash with me!"
With that she stormed out of his room and out of sickbay leaving Jean-Luc stunned, sitting alone on his bed.

 

 

 

 

The next five days passed slowly for Jean-Luc. The therapy progressed, three times a day, and the Captain, after a major attitude adjustment, threw himself into his exercises and improved rapidly. He even formed a friendship with Michele....Beverley was right....she was a delightful person, dedicated and compassionate and Jean-Luc came to realise how lucky he was to have use of her expertise. Dr. Xar had been dropped off at Starbase 85, pleased with his patient's recovery, and the mighty starship was on her way back to the conference. Jean-Luc had been spending a lot of time thinking about Beverley and how to repair the damage he had caused. It worried him that he may not be able to close the breach and he didn't quite know what to do. After consultation with Will, it was decided that the Captain would resume the talks at the conference. It was a sound decision, given the delegates' respect for the Captain, and the officers hoped the delegates would agree to meet on the Enterprise. Of course this did not sit well with Beverley, yet another bone of contention. Picard had much to think about as they streaked towards their destination. It had been ten days since his collapse.

 

 

 

 


"I don't agree Captain. It's too soon....you're not yet fully recovered, there may be complications."
"Doctor......Beverley, I'm sure I'll be all right. We can use the medical conference room and you can check on me as often as you like. I will even allow you to set the time constraints. Please Beverley. This is very important......to them....and to me."
Beverley looked long and hard at Jean-Luc. She was still angry and hurt, but she realised she couldn't use her emotions as a reason for not allowing Jean-Luc to continue with the negotiations.
"All right Captain. I will examine you morning, midday and evening. No session is to run for more that two and a half hours and you will stop all together if I say so."
"But Beverley...."
"Take it or leave it."
Beverley's coldness was worrying Jean-Luc. He had not found the time to talk to her privately, a situation not helped by the doctor's avoidance of him, and he still did not know how he was going to mend the rift. He desperately wanted to assuage the hurt he had caused. He loved Beverley deeply, but found the circumstances almost beyond his power to deal with. It was an irony that one of the Federation's most distinguished Captains, one of its best diplomats , could be so stumped by matters of the heart.
Just then the doors opened to reveal a grinning Will Riker. Seeing his approach, Beverley returned to the main sickbay.
"We're on Captain. The delegates have agreed to meet here on the Enterprise."
"Grand Number One. Will you see to of the arrangements?"
Smiling, Will nodded.
"Of course Sir. Captain there's one thing....Delegate Uff has requested a private meeting with you before the conference starts. I told him it may not be possible but he was very keen."
Picard looked pensive.
"I have no objection Will, but it will have to be cleared by Beverley. I'll ask her now, then you can give Uff his answer."
The two men found Beverley in the analysis lab, running a scan on a sample of fluid.
"Beverley, the delegates have agreed to meet on board, but Delegate Uff has requested a private meeting with me first. I think it could be important, however, I will abide by your ruling."
Without looking up Beverley muttered,
"You're pushing your luck Captain."
Jean-Luc remained silent. Will stared fixedly at his feet. Turning to the waiting men, Beverley sighed.
"Ok Captain. You keep it short and if you develop so much as a blush, the talks stop immediately."
Jean-Luc maintained eye contact with Beverley for some seconds then nodded and left abruptly. Will was pained to see his two dear friends so obviously at loggerheads.
"Beverley don't you think he...."
"Can it Commander! I'm not interested."
Jean-Luc showered, shaved and donned a fresh uniform. He was waiting in the conference room when Uff was shown in.

 

"Delegate Uff, welcome aboard the Enterprise."
"Thank you Captain. I trust you are recovered?"
Gesturing to some seats, Jean-Luc smiled.
"Yes Delegate. I am well thank you. Tell me, what brings you here?"
Uff adopted a curious pose that Jean-Luc had discovered indicated deep thought.
"I have thought long and hard about what you said Captain Picard, but I before I give you my decision I must ask you.....where did you find out about her?"
"I take it you're referring to your mother?"
Uff raised his chin and gave a curt nod.
"Your mother's acromp was very devoted to her. It was Naa who helped conceal the pregnancy and aided your mother at your birth and it was Naa who convinced Prou to contact your father. She had chronicled everything and when your mother died she contacted your father and together they seeded the records with all the facts. It was an entry of your father's that led me to Prou's history. It's another facet of your people Uff. They care enough to record each person's history. An admirable trait."
Uff pushed his arms upon the polished surface of the table, stretching his three clawed fingers.
"Quite an investigator, aren't you? I must admit, I was incensed when you confronted me with all this. Knowing it and having.....if you will excuse the expression......an alien, throw it at my face.....I didn't know quite what to do. It's a difficult thing, to be reminded how fallible one is, just when one thinks one was top of the heap."
Jean-Luc smiled sardonically and sat back in his chair.
"There are a few of my officers....trusted friends.....who take delight in reminding me constantly."
Both men shared a companionable chuckle. Uff tilted his head and snorted, a gesture Jean-Luc knew to be positive.
"Well, our frailties aside, I find that I agree with you. It's time we put the bad times behind us. I will wear my shame as a beacon to my people. I dare say it will be a shock.......resilience is also an admirable trait, is it not Captain?
Jean-Luc looked with open admiration upon Uff. Delegate, you are doing a wonderful thing. In time, history will remember your wisdom."
"I think your obstinacy may be mentioned also Captain. Now! Are you prepared for the squabbling that is sure to commence?"
"I am indeed. With the prize such a rich one....it will be almost a pleasure....almost."

 

 

 

Squabbling was putting it mildly. Once the delegates realised the unification was a certainty, the battle for the allocation of resources and positions were fierce. It took many repetitions of the words...."This is for ALL the people" before in slowly dawned on the delegates that they were negotiating for each and every citizen...as a united people. The corps of delegates became the first Parliament and Jean-Luc breathed a sigh of relief when Delegate Uff became the first Prime Minister.
To her credit, Beverley had been discreet in her management of the Captain's health. However, on the third day she was convinced to order him to rest. To that end, Jean-Luc and Uff met one final time and it was decided the Captain was no longer required. The delegates had to start out on their own and this was as good a time as any. Jean-Luc had every confidence in them, although he felt a pang of discontent at not seeing the process through to the end. He was assured he would be welcome to return at any time and was content with that.

 

 

 

"So Beverley, I take it I'm still off duty?"
Beverley gave him a look of disinterest. Snapping her tricorder closed she moved to the bench.
"I'm surprised you asked. You're still obviously below par."
Jean-Luc sighed exasperatedly.
"It was a joke Beverley. You remember how it goes.....someone tells a joke....you laugh. We used to share a lot of jokes."
"Share? Did you say share? I was unaware you knew the meaning of the word."
"Oh Beverley enough! How long are you going to keep this up? What can I do.....what do you *want* me to do? For God's sake tell me because I'm sure I don't know!"
Beverley was incensed. Throwing her tricorder across the room she shouted...
"That's just it isn't it? You don't like my behaviour and you want to know how long it will go on for? Is that your only concern? How about....I'm sorry I hurt you so much Beverley. I was wrong Beverley. My actions were reprehensible Beverley."
Jean-Luc's hazel eyes glittered dangerously. In a very quiet voice he said,
"I've already apologised and I've explained my actions to you *and* Starfleet. I'm not ashamed of what I did....it was necessary at the time. If you do not accept my apology.....well I don't see that as my problem."
Beverley stood, rooted to the spot, her anger making her almost inarticulate.
"You arrogant son-of -a....."
"Doctor Crusher! That is enough!"
Not believing her ears, Beverley straightened to attention.
"Yes Sir!"
She turned on her heel and made toward the door.
"Beverley....."
The doors parted and she left the room without a backwards glance.

 

 

Jean-Luc paced in his cabin like a caged animal. He prowled, muttering to himself .
"That woman! How dare she call me...."
The sound of his door chime stopped him in his tracks. He stood motionless, glaring at the door. The chime rang again.
"Who the hell is it!?"
"It's Deanna Captain."
The Captain lowered his head and closed his eyes.
"I would rather not see anyone at this time Counsellor."
"Captain, I can feel you distress two decks away. Please let me come in."
Jean-Luc sighed at the inevitability of her gesture.
"Very well Counsellor."
Deanna noted the subdued lighting and the way the Captain was absently rubbing his temple.
"Captain....you have a headache."
"It's nothing Counsellor. I'm a little ah, stressed at the moment. I'm sure it's due to that."
"Would you like to talk about it?'
Jean-Luc sat heavily on his couch and leaned his head back.
"No.....yes.....oh God, I honestly don't know."
Deanna moved to his side and sat with him Taking one of his hands she said gently,
"Captain...."
"I don't know what to do. The though of loosing her....I can't bear.....Tell me Deanna, how do I fix this? How do I heal this gaping hole?"
Deanna let go of the Captain's hand and folded her hands in her lap.
"Captain, why did you avoid Beverley? Why didn't you tell her you were unwell?"
Jean-Luc leaned forward and placed his elbows on his knees, cradling his head in his hands.
"I had been to the ship a few times and Beverley had badgered me about my condition, you know, the usual things.....Are you eating?...Are you getting enough sleep?. Quite frankly, it annoyed me and I decided I wouldn't come back to the ship."
"You had the headaches then?"
"Yes, but they weren't bad....more of an inconvenience than anything."
"But that changed."
Jean-Luc nodded tiredly.
"Yes. It became worse, much worse, so much so that I was forced to come up to the ship. I beamed to my cabin....I don't know why....perhaps I was hiding. Anyway I left immediately for sickbay, but when I got there, Beverley was gone. It was very busy... I was going to wait, really, then I saw the hypospray. It was just sitting there on the bench. I picked it up, fiddling...passing time, you know, then I looked at the vial and saw it was Temapazine. I knew what it was and it occurred to me almost instantly....take it and treat yourself. It's only a headache after all. I didn't think it would be missed....it seems I didn't think too well at all."
A short silence was endured between the two officers.
"What happened then?"
"The drug worked well initially, but I found it required more, then more still, to stop the pain. The talks had reached a critical phase....balanced on a knife edge. I had discovered important information about delegate Uff and I needed desperately to talk privately with him. By this time the vial was nearly empty and I knew if Beverley had seen me she would've instantly had me confined to sickbay, so I couldn't go back to the ship. I had the Temapazine replicated on the planet and continued to use it with lessening effect."
Deanna rested a hand on Jean-Luc's knee.
"Beverley came down to see you."
"Uh huh. By this time it had been worked out that it was me who had taken the hypospray. When she came down the headaches weren't too bad and I looked much the same as the last time she had seen me, the Temapazine was still working then. She tried to ask me.....I deflected her question and then I was contacted by the delegates. I was running a little late and I used that as an excuse to leave."
"You have reported your actions to Starfleet?"
"Yes. My behaviour was less than correct, although I stand by my actions. I felt it was the right thing to do for the mission. As it turned out, the information I had about Uff changed everything. I don't think we could've succeeded if I hadn't persevered. He trusted me."
"Captain, Beverley feels you betrayed her. You have hurt her very deeply."
Jean-Luc looked sharply at the counsellor.
"You've spoken with her?"
"Yes."
"What can I do?"
Deanna placed both her hands on her knees and gently rubbed them up and down her thighs.
"Have you explained all this to Beverley as you just explained it to me?"
"Well no. Since I regained consciousness she has been increasingly remote, and after this afternoon...."
Deanna was deep in thought.
"Captain....I think you need to talk to her as you've just spoken to me. Calm and quiet. We both know how acerbic she can be, but you'll have to ignore it. Invite her to dinner and if she comes.....work very hard at being calm. You know her well. If you can avoid her anger, you may get the opportunity to explain yourself. Then Captain you must apologise....for the hurt, the betrayal...everything. Can you do that? Is she worth it?"
Jean-Luc appeared close to tears.
"Oh yes Counsellor, she is."

 

 

 

Beverley was totally immersed in her work when Jean-Luc entered her office. It took some moments before she became aware of his presence. Staring coldly she said,
"Yes Captain?"
Jean-Luc lowered his head and sighed.
"I have a headache doctor, however I see you're busy. I will see someone else."
"No! I mean....that's not necessary."
Regaining her composure, Beverley led the Captain to a quiet room and motioned for him to sit on the biobed. She retrieved a tricorder and scanned his head.
"How long have you had it?"
"Oh... a few hours. It wasn't too bad at first, then it started to get worse so.....here I am."
"Hmmm. It would've been better if you had've come earlier, however, I'm thankful for small mercies."
The Captain curbed the retort that was on his lips and said nothing.
Finishing the scan Beverley put away the tricorder.
"Stress. This should fix it."
She took a hypospray from a draw and applied it to Jean-Luc's neck. The relief was immediate.
He closed his eyes and said softly...
"Thank you."
Beverley looked at her friend, noting how tired and frail he had become. She knew by now of the success of the mission and she was now realising the toll it had taken on the Captain.
Hey....Jean-Luc.....anytime, ok? If you need me, I'm here, always."
"You haven't called me that for a while....too long."
"What..... Jean-Luc? Yeah well, I've been busy being angry with you."
Jean-Luc looked at Beverley, his expression completely open.
"And now?"
It was Beverley's turn to lower her head.
"The jury's still out."
Very carefully, Jean-Luc took Beverley's hands in his. He revelled in her warmth, her delicate hands looking so snug in his large ones.
"Beverley, would you do me the honour of having dinner with me?......Please?"
Her head still lowered, Beverley felt a blush rise to her cheeks. Finding the courage, she raised her face and what she saw took her breath away. Jean-Luc's face was completely naked. Tears welled in his eyes and the hope that shone through their hazel depths squeezed her heart. Struggling to contain her own emotions she said,
"Yes Jean-Luc, yes I will."
It took a moment for the Captain to gather himself.
"Thank you Beverley.....I seem to be saying that a lot lately don't I?"
They both shared a gentle laugh then Jean-Luc raised his hand and gently trailed his fingers down Beverley's face.
"Shall I pick you up at....say eight thirty?"
"That would be fine."
The rest of the afternoon passed in a dream for Beverley. She felt so young, as if she were going on a first date. Once her shift had ended she hurried to her quarters. She knew she had ample time, the Captain wasn't due for some hours, but the doctor wanted everything to be perfect. After running a luxurious hot bath, she added some exotic scented bath crystals she had picked up from Eptas 3, a planet whose inhabitants were known for their sensuality. She had been told the crystals would impart a delicious scent to her skin, making her irresistible to males of almost any species. Beverley had owned the crystals for five years and had never used them. She hoped they would still work.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was similarly engaged. He started by thoroughly cleaning his quarters. It wasn't necessary, his quarters would've been the cleanest and tidiest on the ship, but he felt he should make the effort. It was important. Next he replicated candles of varied colour and size. Floating, standing, wax and other alien varieties, some scented and some chosen simply for their beauty. He placed them right throughout his cabin, hesitating only when he came to his bedroom. Should he? Would it appear presumptuous? In the end he decided against it. He wanted to court Beverley and if that meant he had to wait to taste her again, well, so be it. He was determined to win her trust and he would let her know that what had occurred would not happen again.......if she would only give him the chance.
The menu was next and after careful consideration, he decided on something elegantly simple. In keeping with the meal, he chose a beautiful centrepiece for the table then stepped back to view the effect. Satisfied, he considered, then rejected several musical pieces, finally settling on some soft jazz, a favourite of Beverley's. He was surprised to find himself somewhat fatigued, it irritated him somehow, but he acquiesced, and after setting the alarm, stretched out on his bed and soon fell asleep.

 

 

 

 

Beverley also dozed. It had been a long day and the emotional storm her difficulties with the Captain had caused had put her under considerable strain. It was the rapidly cooling water that finally woke her. For a moment she was confused, then quickly remembered her date. As she got out of the bath she smelled the fragrance the crystals had imparted and grinning wickedly she thought,
*I hope it works.*
She spent some time on her hair....getting it just so.....then devoting an equal effort on her makeup. Not too much....just enough. She was running her hands down the length of her dress when the door chime sounded. She jumped involuntarily, her heart missing a beat then settling into a fast rhythm. Moving to the door, she took a deep breath and pressed the opening button.
Jean-Luc stood very still and stared. His breath had left him and his heart had taken to beating rapidly. She was beautiful....stunning in fact. Her hair piled up with curling wisps hanging down, framing her exquisite face. Surely she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. The sapphire blue dress, the low neckline showing the creamy skin of her cleavage, hugging her lithe body....her blue eyes.....he was lost and all he could do was stand there and stare.
Beverley was similarly afflicted. The Captain stood before her dressed in a black dinner suit, white shirt, black studs and black bow tie. He was so elegant, so dashing....his extraordinary hazel eyes, so often appearing to be different colours, catching the light and glittering and in his hands a sheaf of gorgeous long stemmed red roses.
Beverley found her voice first.
"Are they for me?"
"What? Oh yes! Forgive me.....you have me somewhat distracted. Beverley, you look beautiful."
Gently blushing and feeling wonderful for it, Beverley laughed, her lovely eyes sparkling.
"Thank you Jean-Luc. You cut quite a figure yourself. Shall I put the roses in a vase?"
"If you like."
Jean-Luc was delighted to watch Beverley performing the simple task of retrieving a vase and arranging the flowers. Her effect on him was so powerful, he felt almost a voyeur, entranced by her beauty and grace.
When she was finished she moved to stand in front of him.
"All finished."
Offering his arm, Jean-Luc said,
"Shall we?"
They left Beverley's cabin and took the short walk to his, Jean-Luc feeling so proud to have her on his arm.
Upon entering, Beverley stopped and gasped with pleasure.
"Jean-Luc! It's so beautiful.....and the fragrance...so subtle."
She turned to face him and ran her hands up his chest to his shoulders.
"Thank you Jean-Luc, it's wonderful."
He leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.
"Hungry?"
"Mmmm."
Jean-Luc escorted Beverley to the table and presented her with a glass of chilled white wine and first course, a lightly sauteed vegetable dish Beverley was sure she'd never had before. This was followed by a raw fish and flower meal that Jean-Luc explained he had first tried some years ago on a distant planet. He was so taken with the dish, he had brought some on board and programmed the computer to replicate it. Dessert was a light lemon sorbet, cold and cleansing. In all, the meal was delightful. Filling, but not heavy. The conversation had been friendly and inconsequential, interspersed with gentle laughter.
"Would you like some coffee, or a chamomile tea perhaps?"
Smiling up at her handsome date Beverley said,
"That would be lovely. Tea please."
While the Captain secured the drinks, Beverley went and sat on the sofa in the living area. The candles cast their subdued light, creating a feeling of quiet peace.
Jean-Luc sat beside her, placing the drinks on the low table.
"The meal was wonderful Jean-Luc, thank you. You obviously put a lot of thought into it."
"Well, you know.....I wanted to.....I wanted you to...."
Jean-Luc stopped speaking and lifted his hand to Beverley's face. In a voice thick with emotion he said softly,
"I'm so sorry Beverley. I'm sorry for the hurt I caused, I'm sorry I didn't trust you, I'm..."
He couldn't continue. Closing his eyes, two tears made their way down his face and he bowed his slowly shaking head in shame.
Beverley gently cupped his chin and raised his head to face her.
"Jean-Luc, if we are to go forward, we have to clear this up. If we don't establish some sort of ground rules....this will only happen again. I know how seriously you take your duty and I also know how you hate to give up, but sometimes you just have to ask for help! It's not a failing to get sick you know."
A small smile took the sting out of her words. Jean-Luc wiped his face and returned her smile.
"I know Beverley, but when I came on board you assailed me about my health."
The doctor began to speak, but Jean-Luc touched her lips with his fingers.
"No....let me finish...please. We need to get this all out in the open. No more avoiding the truth, agreed?"
Beverley nodded, frowning.
"What I did was wrong....no argument. As my doctor, my CMO, you had a right to know I was ill. I betrayed your trust..... your love, my behaviour was unforgivable and, again, I apologise. But there are times when the mission is more important than my health. Beverley the people I was sent to help were on the brink of disaster. I had to do everything in my power to save them, not just for the Federation's sake, but for all our sakes. If we can form an agreement, a pact that you will allow me to continue as long as I'm able...even if it means endangering my life, you *must* let me do what I must do. I know it goes against the grain Beverley, but it must be that way, and in return, I will agree to being absolutely honest with you. No more.. "I'm fine"...If I'm unwell I will come to you, you have my word."
Beverley rose from the sofa and walked slowly around the room.
"You ask a lot Jean-Luc. My greatest fear, the same fear that kept me from admitting my love for you all those lonely years, was that you would one day be brought to me and I wouldn't be able to save you. It happened Jean-Luc. If we had been unable to get to Arok, you would've died. What would I have done then? How could I have gone on without you?"
Beverley turned away, not wanting Jean-Luc to see the tears that ran down her face. He approached quietly from behind, gently turned her and took her into his arms.
"Shhh my lovely. We will talk more later. For now just let me hold you."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time passed. The Enterprise received new orders sending her on a quiet mapping mission in a distant sector, giving the bulk of her crew a little, albeit rare, downtime. The Captain had fared well with Starfleet. He was admonished for his actions involving the hypospray, but this was weighed against the success of the mission and he survived with a verbal reprimand that wouldn't appear on his record.
The man in question was on a new, more personal, mission. He had decided to court the doctor....to woo her, and was thoroughly enjoying himself. They had enjoyed each other's company, at dinners in their quarters, holodeck outings and lovely walks in the arboretum. And Beverley? Ahh well....she was delighted. With each date the hurts, the walls, slowly crumbled and although they had not resumed a physical relationship, they were becoming intimate in other ways, exploring, discovering things about each other and taking their time about it.
Beverley stood in front of the mirror in her quarters and smiled wistfully. Twirling slowly, she admired the pretty linen sun dress she wore. Jean-Luc had told her their next date was to be a summer's day picnic on the holodeck. Taking a light blue scarf she swept her hair back and tied it. Satisfied, she was moving to the main room when the door announcer sounded.
"Come in."
Jean-Luc stepped over the threshold and looked about for Beverley, finally spotting her and letting out a low whistle, bringing a blush to her cheeks.
"You look utterly delectable."
Beverley moved to stand before him, close enough to smell his scent....a fresh maleness mixed very subtly with a hint of musky aftershave. He stood there, dressed in loose fitting white cotton shirt and pants....she thought he'd never looked so handsome. She remained very still, closed her eyes and drew a long inhalation, savouring the heady desire that surged through her.
Jean-Luc quietly placed the picnic basket he was carrying on the floor and gently took Beverley in his arms. Her eyes remained closed as his lips softly grazed hers.
"Mmmmmm, that's nice....."
Her arms came up and around his neck. Still with eyes closed she said,
"More?"
His reply was a low growl followed by a more insistent kiss and a more ardent embrace.
"Perhaps we should have our picnic here....."
Beverley sighed.
"Tempting........"
But opening her eyes she grinned widely, then laughed delightedly.
"Come on you rogue.....I want to go on a picnic!"
Hand in hand they left the cabin, Beverley appreciating the gesture, another obstacle overcome. If they were to have a relationship it would be in the open, for all to see. No more secrets.
On arriving at the holodeck, Jean-Luc keyed in some commands and the doors parted to reveal a beautiful bush setting that Beverley was unfamiliar with.
"Oh Jean-Luc....this is stunning. Where are we?"
Breathing deeply, Jean-Luc looked around.
"It's a National Park in Australia, just north of Melbourne in fact. I went there many years ago and was quite taken with it. The program was sent to me by a friend at the Academy office there. Wait till you see the waterfalls."
"What is that smell?"
Jean-Luc smiled.
"Eucalyptus....refreshing isn't it?"
The couple wandered down a track listening to birdsong and the ever increasing sound of the falls. Jean-Luc left the picnic basket on a table and they made their way to a viewing platform above the drop.
"Oh, Jean-Luc....it's wonderful...look at the ferns growing on the sides... and the spray....look!, a rainbow."
Beverley stretched her arms out and her hands disappeared into the prism of light, delighting both of them.
They stayed a while at the falls, then made their way back to the basket.
"Beverley, would you like to use the table, or shall we find a fern glade and put down the blanket?"
Slipping her hand in his, Beverley leaned in and gently nuzzled his neck, whispering,
" The blanket please."
It took little time to find a suitable glade, one that was beside one of the fall's feeder creeks. The pair spread out the blanket and set out the food, a selection of fruit, cheeses and bread, with some white wine.
"I'll put the bottle in the creek, it'll stay cool there."
Beverley came to sit next to Jean-Luc as he placed the bottle in the cold mountain water.
"Jean-Luc! What are they?"
Following her pointing hand, the Captain peered into the water.
"Oh......they're called "yabbies", a form of fresh water crayfish, sort of like a lobster. Be careful....those claws are very powerful."
"Can you eat them?"
Jean-Luc looked curiously at his companion.
"Err, yes.....surely you don't want me to....."
"No, of course not. I was just wondering, that's all. Come on, let's eat, I'm starving!"
The next half an hour passed with much munching and smacking of lips. As Jean-Luc had promised, the wine quickly chilled and it was a lazy pair who idly teased each other with blades of grass in the hot afternoon.
Beverley rolled to her side and grasped a paper napkin and started to fan herself.
"Hot, my lovely?"
"Deliciously so, my gallant Captain"
"Well, not for too much longer....."
"What...."
Just as Beverley started to speak, a gentle rain started to fall. It crept through the trees with a whispering sound, bathing the bush in precious water, triggering the release of the sweet smells of the multitude of plant life there.
Placing her hands behind her, the doctor arched her back and turned her face to the rain's caress. Jean-Luc was entranced. Never had he seen her so alluring. He moved to her side and slowly....gently...kissed her neck, bringing a sigh and a shudder.
Together the two lowered themselves to the ground and looked lovingly into each other's eyes.
"May I kiss you Beverley?"
"Mmmmm."
"And may I caress you Beverley?"
"Mmmmm."
"And may I..."
"Shhh, Jean-Luc.....listen to the rain...."
Jean-Luc closed the space between them and kissed Beverley with all the tenderness he possessed. Their arms entwined, as did their bodies, the heat growing. With increased intensity he kissed her deeper, harder, moulding himself to her curves. His hand began a journey, the fingers tracing a path from her brow, down her face, over her shoulder, gently, confidently, pausing at her breast.....a caress...then onward, down her flank to the rise of her hip and lower still, to the hem of her dress, then a reversal of direction as his hand glided up over the silken length of her thigh... and still he kissed her. He could feel the racing of their hearts, could see the flush over their skin. His hand met the juncture of her legs and she moved to accommodate him. He was just about to......
~Sickbay to Dr. Crusher.~
They froze. Seen from above they appeared as if in stasis, rigid, unmoving. A moment passed.....then another....
~Dr.Crusher, this is sickbay. Please respond.~
They broke apart, his brusque movements showing his anger.
"Sickbay, this is Dr.Crusher. Go ahead."
Jean-Luc was angry. He wanted so badly to take this last step, to completely close the remnants of the rift. He loved this woman, he desired this woman and he wanted her. The sexual tension was difficult enough to deal with at any time....but now?....right now?
He stood quickly and with tense movements, crossed to the creek and sitting, plunged his bare feet into the cold water. The conversation going on behind him was ignored and after a little while he sensed her presence at his back.
"Trying to cool off?"
A grunt was her only reply.
"Jean-Luc, I have to go to sickbay soon, but I would like to continue this...."
She nuzzled his neck, her hands spreading themselves over his chest and brushing his nipples.
"And this...."
Beverley was biting his earlobe when Jean-Luc began to turn toward her. Their lips were about to meet when Jean-Luc cried out loudly in pain.
"What! What is it?"
Rolling on his side, Jean-Luc dragged his feet from the creek and lunged at his right foot. Beverley couldn't see what was happening. The Captain was still yelling and desperately trying to get to his right foot. He rolled onto his back and Beverley got a look at what was assailing him. A very large yabbie had sunk one of it's claws into the side of the Captain's foot. The laceration was deep and bleeding freely.
"Get it off!" he yelled.
"How?" she shrieked.
"Hit it!"
Casting about Beverley found the empty wine bottle and with one motion, picked it up and smashed it on Jean-Luc's foot.
A fresh bellow of pain and outrage issued forth.
Beverley had missed the yabbie completely. Jean-Luc's foot was now deeply cut in three more places and badly bruised. The yabbie, having counted it's blessings, let go of the foot and plopped back into the water.
"Why the hell did you do that!"
"You told me to hit it!"
Jean-Luc bent forward and cradled his injured foot in his hands.
"The yabbie, not my damned foot!"
Feeling the beginnings of irritation Beverley said tersely,
"Show me your foot. Really Jean-Luc, anybody would think you were being murdered the way you carry on."
"I'll have you know Doctor, that was a very painful bite, not to mention being battered with a glass bottle!"
By now, Beverley had inspected the injured foot and had to agree it did look painful. The bruising was beginning to develop and she suspected there were broken bones. The wounds were deep and there was blood covering most of the foot. A trip to sickbay was needed and in the meantime Beverley untied her scarf and expertly wound it about the foot.
"There, that should do until we get to sickbay. I'll order a gravibed."
"No! I'll walk."
Beverley momentarily closed her eyes and counted to ten.
"Jean-Luc.....you cannot walk on that foot. It would be...."
"Then beam me there."
"Do you want to appear on my sickbay floor sitting on you backside?"
That brought a scowl.
"Definitely not."
"Then take my advise....as your *Doctor* and let me call for a gravibed."
The scowl deepened but the Captain knew that this was just the sort of situation they had discussed. He had to trust Beverley and acquiesce, his pride swallowed.
"Very well."
The summoned gravibed arrived with two orderlies in attendance, (much to the Captain's embarrassment), and the trip to sickbay was mercifully quick, although the few crew members they encountered couldn't quite mask either their surprise or their grins.
Speaking to one of the orderlies, Beverley said,
"Maws help the Captain onto the biobed please."
"I don't require any....."
A sour look stalled the report.
Once seated on the bed, Beverley unwrapped the foot and ran a scanner over it.
"Alyssa.....I need an osteo regenerator, a stage three auto suture and a protoplaster. Maws, clean the Captain's foot please."
Picard looked at his foot then at Beverley.
"An osteo regenerator?"
Blushing slightly, Beverley had the good grace to look embarrassed.
"Ah...yes. It would seem you have a few broken bones."
"A few?"
"Four, actually."
The scowl returned.
It took little time for the treatment, although it was too long for the Captain, his mood was still sour. When she finished, she dismissed her attending staff and spoke softly to Jean-Luc.
"I'm sorry this happened Jean-Luc. Perhaps we could have dinner later....in my quarters?"
Jean-Luc sighed and shook his head.
"Ah....I don't think so Beverley. I'm quite tired, maybe I'll just have a quiet time by myself."
Beverley gently touched his face.
"All right.....have a good rest."
"Thank you Beverley."
The Captain nodded, slid off the bed and made his exit, trying not to favour his foot and failing. Beverley watched him and sighed in resignation, a frown marring her face.
*What am I to do with you, Jean-Luc?*,
and returned to the duty that had called her from the holodeck.

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc reached his quarters, entered and flung himself onto the sofa, putting his foot up on the low table.
"Dammit! Bloody yabbie! Bloody bottle!"
He sat and sulked until he began to brood. Fortunately he recognised what he was doing and decided that a long hot shower was in order. Rising from the sofa, he went to his bedroom, stripped and entered the shower, setting the control for heat.
The water hit his back with a satisfying shock. He raised his hands, placing them on the wall in front of him and bowing his head, he felt the tension begin to abate. When he finally left the shower he was squeaky clean and thoroughly relaxed. He put on his robe and went into the main room. This time when he seated himself on the sofa, he had a small smile on his face and a completely different attitude. He swung his feet up, put a cushion under his head and drifted off to sleep His last thoughts were of Beverley.....
*Tomorrow Beverley, tomorrow.*

 

 

 

The good doctor had just returned to her cabin after completing her tasks and she, by an amazing coincidence, was thinking about none other than Jean-Luc. It had been several hours since she had seen him and she wondered if he had gotten over his pique.
Beverley felt somewhat unsettled, vaguely aroused and she knew it would continue to disrupt her thoughts unless she did something about it. The more she thought about the good Captain, the more aroused she became.
"This is ridiculous! I'm behaving like a lovesick teenager."
With determined actions, Beverley showered and changed into soft leggins and her favourite blue jumper. She didn't feel as relaxed as she hoped, however, the arousal, the heat was still there and she realised the only man to assuage it didn't want any visitors.
She tried to read, she paced, she called sickbay to see if there was anything she could do, and nothing helped. Finally, in desperation, she decided to go to the gym for a very vigorous workout. She left her quarters and marched quickly through the corridors but an odd thing happened. Instead of turning left towards the gym, she found she had turned right and soon found herself at the end of the corridor in which the Captain's quarters were. She stood there thinking, weighing the consequences of knocking on his door. It was late....he would be asleep....he said he wanted to be alone.....
"Oh, Jean-Luc....if only you knew......"
There was no getting around it. Her heart was overruling her head and her feet took her to his door almost without Beverley being aware of it.

 

 

 

 

 

By this late hour, Jean-Luc had abandoned the sofa and was stretched out luxuriously on his back in bed. The small smile was still evident....and so was his obvious arousal. It was a particularly *nice* dream. It was the third sounding of the door chime that finally got through the images of his dream. With a start, Jean-Luc sat up and stared into the darkness. Not needing the light, he donned his robe, being careful to make sure he was adequately covered, and made his way to the door.
"Come."
At first Beverley couldn't see the Captain in the gloom so he stepped forward into the light spilling into his cabin.
"What an odd coincidence.....I was just dreaming about you."
Beverley raised a hand to her chest and smiled.
"I hope it was pleasant.....not a nightmare....."
"Oh it was exceedingly pleasant."
"How's your foot?"
Looking down, Jean-Luc wriggled his toes.
"Fine, just fine....thank you."
"Good, that's good."
The two stood in silence for a few awkward moments, then Beverley broke the spell.
"Well, it's very late.....I should be getting back."
"You came at this hour to ask about my foot?"
Placing her hands behind her back, the doctor looked at the floor.
"Not exactly."
Jean-Luc tilted his head so he could see her face.
"Why then?"
"I was....ummm...restless, I couldn't sleep."
"Oh."
Another short silence ensued, this time Jean-Luc ventured,
"Would you like to come in.....have a cup of tea perhaps?"
Beverley stepped forward and the doors closed.
"Actually, Jean-Luc, I had something else in mind."
"Oh? And what would that be?"
Beverley stepped closer and wound her graceful arms around his neck.
"This....."
She kissed him. Such a sweet kiss, tender, yet so passionate. Jean-Luc's eyes drifted shut and he took her in his strong arms and returned the kiss, pressing himself close to her form. Her eyes opened briefly as she felt his desire and she couldn't hide her smile, her lips curling up even as they kissed. Jean-Luc was delighted and growled appreciatively, running his hands up and down her back. The kiss ended and Jean-Luc nuzzled Beverley's neck, whispering.....
"Let me make love to you."
Beverley was so overwhelmed all she could do was smile and nod, a small tear glistening in her eye.
Taking her hand, Jean-Luc walked backwards to his bedroom leading Beverley slowly across the room. Once beside the bed they began the sensuous ritual of undressing each other, slowly, kissing and caressing the newly exposed skin. Beverley looked longingly at Jean-Luc's naked form, her eyes travelling from his feet to his face and she gasped when she looked into his glittering eyes. Such love....desire....utter passion was evident there....
They sank slowly to the bed and were covered by the passing starlight. Their exploration of each was leisurely and thorough, each taking great care to bring delight and pleasure to the other. Time had no meaning, it could have been minutes, it could've been hours such was their total immersion in each other and when he entered her....when they became one, it was with joy and love never before felt with such intensity. They made love languidly at first, testing, tasting, slowly increasing in strength and ardour until the climax, the explosion sent them over the edge into oblivion.
They slept, and later that night, made love again. As they lay entwined, Beverley's head resting on Jean-Luc's shoulder, drifting deliciously in and out of sleep, Jean-Luc was overcome with his love for this incredible woman. He kissed her and said,
"I love you Beverley."
Rousing herself at the emotion in his voice she propped herself on her elbow and looked down at him in the darkness.
"And I love you, Jean-Luc Picard."
"Are we healed Beverley? Have we closed the gap?"
Beverley was dismayed to see tears sliding down Jean-Luc's handsome face.
"Yes my love. We know who and what we are now. No more secrets We are here for each other."
She lowered her lips to his and kissed him, to reassure him that she was there and that she loved and understood him.
"Beverley......."
"Mmmmm."
"I really liked the way you checked my foot....."
"Go to sleep, Jean-Luc."
The End.