Struggle For Life.

 

Chief Medical Officer, Beverly Picard stood clad in nothing but bra and panties and looked down at the flimsy, short bladed knife in her right hand. The eight-by-eight metre startlingly white padded square she was on made her squint as she looked up at her opponent. The Doge of Ventraxia stood taller than Beverly and her lithe, bronze, naked body was covered with a translucent armour and in her right hand was a wicked long knife, far sturdier than the small weapon Beverly held in her sweaty hand. She chanced a glace to her left at her husband. He was stripped to his briefs, but his eyes were glazed and he was covered in scratches, some gouges, deep bite marks and bruises. Even the top of his bald head was marked. The front of his briefs was covered in what seemed to be fresh blood; in fact, blood was running down his legs. His upper arms had braided and beaded bands around them, his body had been painted in long, blue lines and upon his head he wore a band of gold, the middle of which was a crest of gems.
Two muscular guards held his arms, although it seemed he could barely stand by himself anyway, while behind him, another guard held a weapon to the base of his skull.
To her right, Commander William Riker and Commander Deanna Troi were both on their knees, their hands tied to their ankles. Their comm. badges had been removed.
"My God," thought Beverly. "How has it come to this?"

 

 

 

 

It had begun three days before. Jean-Luc and Beverly lay entwined in each other's arms, enjoying the afterglow of their lovemaking. It was early and each knew they had time to luxuriate, the alarm not due to sound for another hour or so.
As usual, Jean-Luc was sleepy, but Beverly wanted to talk. She kissed his stubbled chin and ran her fingers over his ribs. He grunted, grabbing her wrist with very fast reflexes. He mumbled,
"Don't." but didn't open his eyes. It was with some surprise that Beverly had discovered how ticklish he was. And in how many places. She extracted her hand and reached over to lightly wriggle her fingers over his backside. This time he growled, opened his eyes and again, grabbed her hand.
"I said, don't."
Beverly smiled innocently and gently bit his earlobe.
"Well at least I have your attention."
He sighed, grumbling,
"Wench."
With a mischievous giggle, Beverly splayed her hand on his chest, idly playing with his soft hair.
"I want to know more about the mission."
Jean-Luc groaned softly in complaint.
"Beverly…"
She shook her head.
"Come on…give! After all, part of it does involve Sick Bay."
He sighed heavily.
"You're not going to give up, are you; despite the fact there'll be a comprehensive briefing for all senior officers in a few hours?"
She giggled again.
"Why be married to the Captain if not to get all the inside goss?"
He smiled in the darkness of their bedroom.
"So that's why you married me?"
She reached under the blankets and took hold of his flaccid penis.
"That and the fact you're well hung."
He took her hand and lifted it to his lips, kissing her palm.
"You, my dear Beverly, are incorrigible."
She shrugged.
"I know…now come on, give!"
He sighed in capitulation.
"Oh, very well. The government of Ventraxia contacted the Federation about four weeks ago to invite us to take part in a trade. They say the have a vaccine for the Fennin virus and all they want in return is some assistance with their central computer core. Apparently a solar flare has damaged it and they are at a loss as to know how to repair it. Geordi says we can help, so Command sent us to make First Contact."
Pushing her unruly locks away from her face, Beverly muttered,
"A cure for the fennin virus? Wow, that's really something. It's been decimating the outer colonies for months. We've been worried sick that it would break through our quarantine lines and get lose in the quadrant."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Indeed."
Warming to the conversation, Beverly asked,
"What do we know about Ventraxia?"
Jean-Luc yawned and then rubbed his chin.
"Not that much. We do know they have a centralised, unisex government, but they have a matriarchic head of state, known as the Doge. We have been advised she is to be addressed as Madam Doge and we are not to make eye contact with her unless invited to do so."
Beverly hummed with interest.
"Hmm, interesting. Will you invite them aboard?"
Jean-Luc shrugged.
"I'm not sure, we know they have warp capabilities, so the Prime Directive isn't an issue in that respect, but I am a little concerned about the crew not being able to abide by the no eye contact rule with the Doge. As you know, eye contact amongst humans is an important part of communication. I would hate for some sort of diplomatic faux pas to develop because of something so innocuous."
He sighed.
"I suppose we'll be guided by their protocols once we arrive."
Beverly gave a thoughtful nod.
"I see your problem, but I'm sure we can work something out. In the meantime, I want to show you another reason why I married you."
As Jean-Luc watched with barely contained amusement, Beverly disappeared under the covers and began to lick and suck his penis. His amusement vanished as a sensuous moan slipped free of his mouth. Beverly took his hardening penis in her mouth and slid up and down before letting him slip free so she could say,
"You have remarkable recuperative powers, my love."
His arousal escalating, Jean-Luc threw the covers off, grabbed Beverly's arm and pulled her up to the pillows. He kissed her with unbridled passion and proceeded to ravish her thoroughly. They were still panting in each other's arms when the alarm sounded.
Jean-Luc cursed softy before saying gruffily,
"Off!"
He lowered his head to rest on Beverly's shoulder and she felt his entire body relax. Knowing that if she didn't rouse him he would drift off to a deep sleep, Beverly shoved at his shoulders, saying loudly,
"Oh no you don't! Get off me and get out of bed."
He lifted his head and grumbled,
"It's your damned fault!"
Showing mock sympathy, Beverly kissed the tip of his nose.
"There, there, Jean-Luc. Once the briefing is over you can take a nap in the Ready Room."
He snorted.
"You're all heart."
But he did as she requested, pulling out of her and rolling out of the bed to sit on its side. Beverly knelt behind him and draped her arms over his shoulders, whispering in his ear,
"Want to know another reason why I married you?"
He turned his head to see her and nodded silently, a glint of happiness in his eyes.
"Because I love you."
He sighed and kissed her ear.
"And I love you, now come on, let's shower, I'll wash your back."
Beverly chuckled and left the bed to take Jean-Luc's hands and pull him to his feet.
"God, what did I do without you? I must have wandered around with an unwashed back!"
The slap to Beverly's backside was loud and made her yelp. She dashed into the bathroom, Jean-Luc hot on her heels.

 

 

 

 

The senior officers were all assembled around the curved conference table in the forward observation lounge. As usual, Will Riker sat to his Captain's left, Beverly to his right. Taking up the other seats were Counsellor Deanna Troi, Chief Science Officer, Lieutenant-Commander Data, Chief Engineer, Lieutenant-Commander Geordi LaForge and Chief of Security, Lieutenant-Commander Worf.
Jean-Luc looked around the table as he so often did, ever grateful for the extraordinarily wonderful staff he had at his disposal. He brought the meeting to its beginning with a simple question.
"I take it you have familiarised yourselves with the information package Command sent us about the Ventraxians?"
Nods all round with a soft chorus of, "Yes, Sir."
Jean-Luc gave a decisive nod.
"Then you are aware of the stipulation that, should you be introduced to the Doge, there is to be no eye contact unless invited."
Again, the chorus of assent.
"Then you will understand my reservations about bringing her aboard, but if she requests a tour of the ship, I will expect your department heads to have fully informed the crew about the rules."
Will Riker ran his fingers through his beard.
"I'm confident the crew will do their best to comply, Captain, but eye contact is instinctive in humans. If the Doge were to address one of the crew, I don't know that they would be able to resist looking into her eyes."
With a sigh, Jean-Luc nodded.
"I know what you mean, Number One. The only thing I can suggest is that I explain our penchant for eye contact and apologise in advance should anyone fail to uphold the protocol."
Deanna Troi said quietly,
"In many cultures, direct eye to eye contact is seen as a confrontational gesture, a proclamation of superiority. Is that the case here?"
Shrugging, Jean-Luc sighed.
"To be absolutely honest, we don't know. The restriction does not apply to the Prime Minister or the rest of the government…only the Doge."
Data, the android Second Officer, tilted his head and pulled down the corners of his mouth.
"Is her position one of hereditary, or is she democratically installed?"
Lifting his hands to give his words form, Jean-Luc's face was stoic, but his eyes showed his concern.
"Her position is hereditary. Apparently the female line of her family extends back many hundreds of years. It is the eldest female child who inherits and training begins at age three."
Data absorbed that, and then asked,
"And what power does she wield, Sir? Is she constrained at all by the Prime Minister or the government?"
Now showing the slightest hint of distaste, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"No, her power is absolute. Her government takes care of the everyday running of her planet, but her wishes are sacrosanct. In fact, she literally has the power of life and death, being able to overrule any judgements of their courts."
Beverly scowled.
"You say life and death. Do they have capital punishment on Ventraxia?"
Knowing his reply would bring a heated discussion later; Jean-Luc sighed and bowed his head.
"Unfortunately, yes."
Beverly's tone was dangerous.
"That is outrageous!"
Adopting a no-nonsense tone, Jean-Luc said succinctly,
"Be that as it may, Doctor, that is their way and we are not in a position to criticise. They are not members of the Federation, nor have they asked to join. We cannot apply our social norms to them, you know that."
Not mollified in the least, Beverly wasn't willing to give up.
"But still, Captain, capital punishment? That's draconian…it's barbaric!"
Will covered his grin with his hand as Deanna poked him in the ribs. These head butting sessions between Jean-Luc and Beverly had been going on for years and now that the combatants were married, Will found it inordinately amusing to see his Captain try to use his rank to keep his wife's temper under control. He often wondered what went on in the privacy of their quarters, when rank went out the proverbial window.
"Doctor!"
Beverly snapped her mouth closed, but there was fire in her eyes. They clearly said…"This isn't over by a long shot, Jean-Luc!"
Bringing the meeting back on track, Jean-Luc did his best to ignore the daggers being sent from his wife's eyes.
"The government has allowed the crew to take shore leave on the planet and I see no reason why they can't do so, provided they've been well briefed on Ventraxian law."
He took a deep breath and went on.
"The away team to be presented to the Doge and the Prime Minister will consist of myself, Commander Riker, Doctor Picard and Counsellor Troi."
He turned his attention to Will.
"Number One, as my First Officer, you will act as my Adjutant. Doctor, your attendance is obvious; we need you to verify the efficacy of the vaccine."
He turned to Deanna.
"Counsellor, I want your analysis of the people we meet, especially the Doge. If I am prevented from having any meaningful contact with her, I want to know what her mental state is. Having been sequestered since the age of three, anything is possible. If she is at all unstable, I want to know."
All three officers nodded. Jean-Luc looked down the table at Data.
"Mr.Data, you will have command of the ship during our absence."
The android gave a nod.
"Aye, Sir."
The Captain looked around the table, feeling as he always did, pride in his staff.
"ETA, Mr.Data?"
"One and a half days, Captain."
Placing his hands palm down on the tabletop, Jean-Luc pushed his seat back.
"Then if there's nothing else, you're dismissed."
As the officers filed out of the room, Beverly moved close to her husband and muttered,
"Capital punishment indeed!"
Jean-Luc sighed and briefly closed his eyes. The end of his shift was going to bring yet another argument about the Prime Directive with his wife.

 

 

 

Sitting at his Ready Room desk, Jean-Luc brought up a picture of the Prime Minister. He was an impressive looking individual. Tall with flowing snowy white hair, his mahogany skin was glossy; giving his violet eyes a gem-like appearance. He, like all of his species, had a series of ridges above the eyes and a cleft chin. Jean-Luc knew from the information he had read that the females had four breasts and hair that was more yellow than white. Also, the females occasionally had orange eyes, a genetic trait the Doge carried.
Curious, Jean-Luc accessed more of the info pack to see if there was a picture of the Doge, but his hopes were dashed as he read it was illegal to take any images of the woman. He sat back and sighed. His long years as a Starfleet Captain had taught him that, when encountering a new species, there was no such thing as enough information.
He detested going into a First Contact situation without all the cards in the deck. He felt uneasy, but couldn't put his finger on why. His musings were interrupted by his door chime. With his eyes still on the monitor, he called distractedly,
"Come."
Worf, the hulking Klingon Security Chief came into the room and stood at attention before Jean-Luc's desk. The Captain looked up, his intuition already telling him what Worf wanted. However, Jean-Luc went through the motions.
"Yes, Mr.Worf?"
The big man clasped his hands behind his back and lowered his steely gaze until he had his Captain's eyes.
"Sir, I do not think it wise you go down to the planet without a security detail."
Jean-Luc sighed inwardly.
"I understand your concern, Worf, but this is a diplomatic mission. We don't expect any trouble."
The Klingon's brow descended so low it almost occluded his fierce eyes.
"But, Captain, we know so little about these people…and this…Doge."
Pursing his lips, Kean-Luc nodded thoughtfully.
"That is true, but sometimes you just have to trust that your preparations hold you in good stead. This is one of those times."
The big man all but growled,
"I do not like it!"
Jean-Luc summoned a small smile.
"To be honest, neither do I but really, Worf, I cannot present myself and my party to the senior government officials with a security detail in tow. How would that look? What sort of message would we be sending? Remember…they contacted us, not the other way around…and we need their vaccine."
Showing his teeth in a snarl, Worf was unwilling to concede.
"Why would they offer such a thing in the first place? They could have contacted any number of other species to assist them with their computer core. Why the Federation?"
Jean-Luc spread his hands.
"Perhaps they've heard of us and are…impressed. Maybe they're considering a request to join and want to…test the waters? I don't know, Worf, all I do know is that I have a mission to complete and that's exactly what I intend to do."
Worf snorted.
"But without security."
Jean-Luc smiled and nodded.
"Without security."
Worf shook his head and finally accepted his Captain's wishes, but, as he turned to leave he muttered,
"I still do not like it."
As the door closed, Jean-Luc's smile faded.
"Neither do I. Worf, neither do I."

 

 

 

 

As he'd predicted, the minute he walked into his quarters at shift's end, Beverly confronted him, her adversarial posture of arms folded across her chest at least giving him some warning. As he undid, then slipped out of his uniform top, Beverly advanced on him, unfolding one arm to point with her finger.
"We have no business entering into any sort of trade negotiations with a people who practice capital punishment."
Jean-Luc tried to keep his exasperated sigh inside, but some of it was evident. Once Beverly was close enough, he gently put his hands on her shoulders, saying softly,
"What is the death toll from the fennin virus so far?"
Some of the superiority left Beverly's face as her eyes saddened.
"Over five hundred thousand and growing."
He looked into her eyes, trying to make her see sense.
"And you would have us refuse a vaccine because your moral senses have been offended?"
Turning away from her husband, Beverly stalked across the room, her anger back.
"That's unfair! Just because the Ventraxians have developed a vaccine, which, by the way, we don't know yet if it's viable, doesn't mean we should accept the fact that they indulge in murder by the state! Jean-Luc, capital punishment is wrong! It has been demonstrated over centuries it's not an effective deterrent of crime and is an insult to any civilised species. We simply can't ignore this!"
In the heated silence, Jean-Luc walked to the sideboard and took out an authentic bottle of scotch. He poured a generous amount into two tumblers and went to his wife, silently offering her his peace offering. She took it and was about to toss back the smooth liquor, when Jean-Luc gently touched his glass to hers.
"Here's hoping that contact with the Federation may one day change their ways."
Beverly sighed and stared into the depths of the rich amber liquid.
"Can't we do anything, my love?"
Shaking his head slowly, Jean-Luc whispered,
"You know we can't."
She tried one last time,
"But…"
Growing tired of the discussion, Jean-Luc tipped his head back and downed his scotch.
He looked into Beverly's eyes, his face unreadable.
"There's no point to this, Beverly. My hands are tied by the Prime Directive…and I happen to agree with it, although I also agree with you. Capital punishment is an obscenity, one I am ashamed to admit once existed in my own culture, but I cannot, in fact I will not violate the Prime Directive just because the legal practices of an alien culture I find unpalatable. You know this and, quite frankly, I am growing very tired of having to defend myself every time one of these situations arises. Do you have any idea how it makes me feel?"
Beverly downed her scotch in two swallows and resisted the urge to cough. With her eyes watering slightly she hissed,
"Oh, but you beak it when it suits you."
Jean-Luc briefly closed his eyes and sighed.
"Yes, I have broken the Prime Directive on more than one occasion; in fact I broke it once to save your son's life. Beverly rules are not absolute, nor are we automatons, mindlessly following the edicts of a distant government. I have to assess each and every situation on its merits and yes, there are times when the Prime Directive has to be ignored, but in the vast majority of cases I will uphold it because I firmly believe in it. This is one of those times. If Ventraxia was a Federation world, this wouldn't be an issue. But it's not. These people have developed a system of jurisprudence that includes capital punishment. We have to accept that, just as we would have to accept slavery, or the exploitation of children. The situation here is one the people of this world accept, we have no right to interfere."
Knowing he was right didn't make it any easier to accept. Beverly left him, going to the sofa and sitting heavily, her anger palpable. Jean-Luc knew if he left her alone she would calm down, so he went to his desk and activated his monitor. He stared grimly at the amount of work he had to get through before he could end his day. It was, however, a convenient way to allow his wife the time she needed to come to terms with the reality of the situation.

Two and a half hours later, Jean Luc was nearly finished. All he had to do was record his ship's log and his personal log. Beverly was, by this time, calm. She was reading a medical journal as Jean-Luc started to speak and her eyes stopped reading the text as she listened to him. She has always found his voice compelling. Mostly she found it soothing, but there were times when she found it highly arousing, especially when it dropped even deeper to a husky bedroom baritone. As she listened, he recorded his ship's log, succinct and exact as always, but when he started on his personal log, his dismay at having to deal with people who practiced capital punishment was evident. He voiced his concerns and spoke of his hope that by having contact with members of the Federation, they may find some way to sow the seeds of change. Guilt washed over Beverly.
Over the decades she had known Jean-Luc she had lost count of the number of times they had come to loggerheads over the Prime Directive, but during their earlier argument was the first time he had given any inkling as to how these confrontations affected him.
She sighed, realising she took his position as Captain for granted. He had been a Captain when they first met, over thirty years ago and she never given much thought as to how, at becoming a Captain at the tender age of twenty-eight, that might have affected him.
She had been his friend and confidant for so many long years, it never occurred to her just how indelibly incorporated in each other's lives they were. She mulled over his association with her late husband Jack, Jean-Luc's best friend and Chief Science officer on his first ship the Stargazer. His death, under Jean-Luc's command had shattered the man. She was also cognizant of the crushing guilt he carried for loving his best friend's wife, had done so since he'd first met her. But, over the ensuing years they had come to reconcile all of that. Even Wesley, Beverly son by Jack, had eventually forgiven Jean-Luc for his father's death and for the years the young man had served on the Enterprise, had come to think of the Captain as a surrogate father. For his part, though he would probably never admit it, Jean-Luc came to love Wesley, both as the son of a long lost dear friend and the son of the woman he loved.
The deep and abiding friendship that grew over the years they served together slowly made Beverly realise she had fallen in love with Jean-Luc and so, one night after dinner and quite unexpectedly, they had become lovers.
That was eighteen months ago. They had been married only four months. That too, was unexpected. Jean-Luc, at Beverly's behest, had been badgered into taking some well-earned leave, but, although he finally agreed to go, he insisted she accompany him.
Without due thought and really only to get him to go, she agreed. If she'd known he'd planned to go to a dusty, dry uninhabited planet for an archaeological dig she would have refused, but she'd consented and was unable to extricate herself from the deal. She recalled Jean-Luc's smug grin. It was a fait accompli.
So, three days into the dig, she found herself several metres underground in a filthy cave, covered in grime, dirt and dust, her eyes gritty and her hair and clothing a mess. Jean-Luc was no better, in fact he smelled strongly of sweat, making Beverly keep her distance, so when he suddenly appeared at her side with an excited grin on his face, she tried hard not to let him see she was holding her breath.
In his hands he had a pottery shard.
"Look at this! You can make out the decoration on the rim."
Knowing she had to respond made Beverly grimace. She summoned a smile and said softly,
"That's wonderful, Jean-Luc."
He planted a kiss on her lips and grinned again.
"I'm so happy you're here, Beverly. Sharing all this with you somehow makes it even more worthwhile."
The stench from his armpits was making Beverly feel nauseous. She smiled again and began to move away, but he caught hold of her elbow. By the lights on their caps, she could see his expression had changed, but for the life of her, she couldn't describe it. He bent and reverently placed the shard on the ground, then straightened and cradled Beverly's face in his hands. She could see his eyes were glistening with tears. When he spoke, his voice was rough with emotion.
"Marry me, Beverly…do me the honour of becoming my wife."
With those heartfelt words, Beverly's entire existence narrowed down to that exact moment in time. Their locale made no difference, Jean-Luc's body odour was insignificant, her own dishevelled appearance ceased to matter…all that did matter was his proposal. With her own eyes brimming with tears she slowly nodded and whispered,
"Yes, yes I'll marry you, Jean-Luc."
He let go of her face and enfolded her in his arms. They kissed deeply and when they parted Jean-Luc said brokenly.
"Now I'm complete."

 

 

 

Their marriage had been a simple affair, held in the forward lounge of the Enterprise and presided over by Captain Ricky Ponting, of the Tolstoy. His had been the nearest ship. Will had been the best man and Deanna, the maid of honour. Their schedule had been too busy for a honeymoon, that was something they had planned in another six months.
Jean-Luc was nearly finished his personal log and Beverly suddenly came to a decision. She would, in the future, try to temper her reactions to situations like the one they found themselves in now. She had been unfair to Jean-Luc for far too long; it was time to see things more from his perspective.
To that end, she rose from the sofa and went to him, draping one arm over his shoulders and kissing the top of his bald pate. She then laid her cheek atop his head.
Jean-Luc knew this was a peace offering and he smiled as he completed his log entry. He wrapped an arm around his wife's waist and nestled his head beside her breast. They stayed like that for a few minutes before Beverly said lightly.
"Are you hungry?"
He hummed his reply.
"Hmm."
"Then you go and sit down, I'll replicate tonight."
He stood and kissed her with tenderness.
"No, I've got a better idea. How about we replicate together?"
She chuckled.
"Fine by me."
They ate in companionable silence, but Beverly was still unsettled about her introspection. Over dessert, she placed her spoon by her bowl and sighed. Looking over at her husband she said quietly,
"Jean-Luc, I owe you an apology."
He thought it was about their argument and he was surprised.
"I don't think so, Beverly. We've argued over the Prime Directive many times before and I've no doubt we'll do so again. Forget about it."
She shook her head and he saw the sadness in her face.
"No, you don't understand. I'm not apologising for arguing…God, that's who I am, but I never realised what it was doing to you. I take your Captaincy for granted. Jean-Luc, I think I have for a long time and it's time I changed that. My job as a Doctor is pretty cut and dried. First, do no harm, and for the rest, do your best to heal. Your job is so very much different. As a Captain as experienced as you, you have to assess every situation based on past experience and gut feeling. There's no text book for you, no instruction manual to refer to, just the Prime Directive and the opinions of your senior staff, and even in that, you're not obliged to seek their input…God knows there's plenty of Captains who run their ships as autocrats. In my job, my decisions impact on one person at a time and I have equally qualified colleagues to help me. Your decisions can impact on millions and all the time, like a monkey on your back, is the fact that you are solely responsible for every living soul aboard this ship…seven hundred and forty men and woman who trust you will see them through to safety…every time."
Jean-Luc's eyes darkened and he sighed.
"That is what one accepts with the rank, Beverly."
She nodded.
"Yes, but that doesn't mean it sits well, does it. We have been best friends for a very long time and now we're husband and wife. You have always showed me unstinting support, both privately and professionally. It's time I showed you the same courtesy. So, my love, I'm sorry and in the future I will endeavour to show you more respect for the often difficult job you do, and may I say, you do so superlatively."
Smiling tenderly and with love shining in his eyes, Jean-Luc whispered,
"Thank you, Beverly; you don't know how much that means to me."
Smiling herself, but a little sadly, Beverly replied,
"Actually, I think I do."

 

 

 

The next day was spent redefining their information about the Ventraxians. When Data quietly said to Will,
"Commander, we are entering the Ventraxian system."
The big man stood and said,
"Helm, go to half impulse. Captain Picard to the Bridge."
Busy in his Ready Room Jean-Luc turned off his monitor and exited his office, going to the command chair and taking his seat. To his Exec he said softly,
"Report."
Will sat to his Captain's right and motioned to the screen.
"We've entered the Ventraxian system and are now at half impulse."
Jean-Luc nodded
"ETA?"
Data turned and said mildly,
"Ten minutes, Sir."
Jean-Luc nodded his reply, then said,
"Tactical, hail the planet."
Worf, at the console carried out her Captain's orders. Within seconds he said,
"I have them, Sir."
Standing and tugging down his uniform tunic, Jean-Luc said quietly,
"On screen."
The Prime Minister bowed his elegant head and smiled.
"Greetings Captain Picard."
With a gentle smile of his own, Jean-Luc responded.
"Greeting, Prime Minister. I just thought you'd like to know we will achieve orbit in less than ten minutes."
The tall alien nodded.
"Yes, we have been tracking you. Once you are in orbit, we will send you an itinerary and beam down coordinates."
Offering a small bow, Jean-Luc smiled again.
"Thank you, Prime Minister; we await meeting you in person with pleasure."
The alien bowed.
"As do we. Ventraxia out."
The forward viewscreen reverted to the image of the planet. Will stood and went to stand beside his Captain.
"That went well."
Jean-Luc nodded, but he was pensive.
"Yes it did."
Will knew his CO well enough to know he was unsettled.
"You're not happy about something."
Jean-Luc sighed and shook his head ruefully.
"Call it intuition…or a gut feeling, but I think we should be very cautious with these people, Number One."
Will frowned.
"Anything in particular that strikes you as off, Captain?"
Jean-Luc shook his head, his frustration showing.
"Nothing I can put my finger on, Will, but something Worf said to me yesterday has had me thinking."
The big First Officer scratched his bearded cheek.
"And what was that, if I may ask, Sir?"
With a sigh, Jean-Luc went back to the command chair and sat. Will did the same beside him.
"Why contact the Federation for help with their computer core? Granted, they must have known about our trouble with the fennin virus, but don't you think it's just a little too convenient that they just happened to have a vaccine? Look at it this way, they could have asked any one of hundreds of other species to help them, perhaps without having to give anything in return."
He sighed again.
"It just seems too...pat."
Will nodded thoughtfully, but played the devil's advocate anyway.
"But we do need that vaccine…and Geordi says he shouldn't have any trouble making their repairs. Maybe you're just…overreacting."
That did not go down well. Jean-Luc gave his Exec a stony stare and snorted.
"I just don't like looking gift horses in the mouth."
Tucking his chin, will said softly,
"Of course, Captain."
Worf, who had been listening to the exchange, was about to restate his request that Jean-Luc take a security detail with him, when his console beeped. He sighed.
"We have their transmission, Captain."
Half turning in his seat, Jean-Luc asked,
"When are we expected?"
"One hour."
Jean-Luc stood, saying with authority,
"Dress uniforms, Commander. Please inform the others, I'll be in my quarters."
Will came to his feet as his Captain left the Bridge.
"Aye, Sir."

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc stood in front of the full length mirror in the bedroom fighting to get the collar clasp done up. He was concentrating so fiercely, he jumped as Beverly's hands came over is shoulders to brush his hands away.
"I don't know why you just don't order a larger size."
He huffed in annoyance.
"Because I don't need a bigger size! It's these new damned uniforms."
He snorted as Beverly easily slid the clasp home, muttering,
"Damned monkey suits."
She gently turned him and brushed her fingers over his broad shoulders.
"It does do you justice, though, my love. You look very handsome."
Then she smiled mischievously,
"And very Captainly."
He smiled but rolled his eyes.
"I don't think that's a word, Beverly."
She shrugged.
"I don't care, it fits. Now, how do I look?"
His eyes softened and he stepped closer to kiss her tenderly.
"You look lovely, Beverly, you always do. You could be dressed in sack cloth and…"
She placed her hand on his chest and with the other hands, put her fingers on his lips, silencing him.
"Enough, I get the idea."
Amused that she was flattered, Jean-Luc kissed her again, this time with passion. Jean-Luc's hands went from cradling Beverly's face, to cupping her buttocks and pulling her against him. When they parted, they were panting slightly and Beverly's eyes had darkened. Before he could move away, she dropped her hand to trace her fingers over his semi erect penis.
"I wonder what our hosts would think if you beamed down with a hard on?"
He grabbed her hand before she could do any more damage and growled.
"Stop that, wench."
Batting her eyes, Beverly said coquettishly,
"Who me? I didn't start this, my love, but I sure as hell can finish it."
Before he could say anything, Beverly dropped to her knees and nuzzled her face in his groin. He reacted viscerally, his penis hardening further. In a strangled voice he said,
"We don't have time…"
As she undid his fly, she said sultrily,
"Of course we do."
His penis went into her mouth and he grabbed her head instinctively, moaning sensuously,
"Beverly…"
The Doctor knew she cold prolong this as long as she liked, in fact she had actually made him beg once, but she did recognise they were on a schedule so she applied herself and within scant minutes, Jean-Luc was tangling his fingers in her hair as he thrust into her mouth.
She felt his testicles lift and his penis swell so she took him as far into her mouth as she could. He went up on the balls of his feet and cried out softly as he came down the back of her throat. Beverly gently sucked and licked to prolong his pleasure and waited until he gently eased her head away from his groin. She let him slip from her mouth, kissed the head, then slowly got to her feet to kiss his mouth. He could taste himself in her mouth and he softly growled. He gently bit her earlobe, whispering,
"That's one I owe you."
Beverly giggled softly.
"And I do so love it when you're in my debt."
As he tucked himself away and straightened his uniform, he grinned.
"Wench."
She crooked her fingers at him.
"Come on, we don't want to be late."
He shook his head, taking her hand and kissing it.
"And it would be my fault if we were?"
She smiled with superiority.
"Of course."
He just sighed as they left their quarters.

 

 

 

Will and Deanna were waiting in the transporter room when Jean-Luc and Beverly arrived. The Counsellor gave Beverly a sly look but it was Geordi whose reaction made Will grin.
"Captain, are you all right Sir?"
Jean-Luc raised his eyebrows, aware that he was sweating.
"Yes, Mr.LaForge, I'm fine."
His tone brooked no more comments, so the dark engineer kept his opinions to himself.
Jean-Luc frowned, asking,
"Why are you here, Mr.LaForge?"
Geordi snapped his fingers.
"Oh! I wanted to ask you, Sir, if you get a look at their computer core I would appreciate any thoughts you might have, seeing as how we won't get to see it until all the official duties are concluded."
Jean-Luc gave a curt nod.
"Of course. If we get to see it, I will ask if we can take some tricorder readings."
The engineer smiled, his blue ocular implants dilating.
"Thank you, Sir."
The party stepped up onto the transporter pad and the Captain intoned,
"Energise."
Geordi watched them dematerialise, then shook his head, thinking,
"I wonder what had the Captain's heart rate and temperature up?"
He shrugged and left the room.

 

 

 

Rematerialising in a bright, airy room, a group of five aliens stood in a semicircle, hands clasped in front of them. Tallest among them was the Prime Minister. He stepped forward and bowed.
"We are honoured to greet you, Captain Picard."
Returning the bow, Jean-Luc gestured to his fellow officers, introducing them in turn, starting with Will. The Prime Minister introduced his staff and swept his arm wide, inviting the Enterprise party to follow them.
They were given quite a tour, taking in the main government building, the outdoor gardens and a quick tour of a local shopping precinct, one that made the locals gape in amazement, prompting the Prime Minister to explain,
"We don't often have …how shall I put it…off worlders visit us, Captain Picard. Please excuse their curiosity."
Jean-Luc smiled graciously.
'Think nothing of it, Prime Minister. We are well used to being seen as aliens."
The tall being nodded thoughtfully.
"Yes, I suppose in your travels you must have encountered many new species."
Giving a nod, Jean-Luc's smile widened.
"That is true, Sir, and on most occasions I'm sure we aroused just as much curiosity in our new friends as they did for us."
Lifting his head, the Prime Minister raised his eye ridges.
"Ah yes, friendship. That is something that will be decided by the Doge, Captain, not by me."
Jean-Luc's smile faded.
"I see. And will we be presented to the Doge?"
The being shrugged.
"That is entirely up to her, Captain. If she wishes it, it will be so."
Deciding to move the conversation along, Jean-Luc asked,
"Would it be possible to view your computer core? My Chief Engineer is keen to learn all he can before he attempts to repair it."
The Prime Minister looked down at the tricorder attached to Jean-Luc's hip.
"We have scanned your devices, Captain, they appear to be innocuous enough, I see no reason why you cannot view the core. Follow me, please."
Once outside in the street, a ground vehicle was summoned. It was like a small bus, allowing room for everyone. As they made their journey to the core's housing, the Prime Minister, whom Jean-Luc learned was named Errig, pointed out things of interest. Jean-Luc was pleased. So far there seemed to be no hint of anything being hidden from the Enterprise delegation.
Their ride was relatively short and they arrived at a large building centrally located in the main city. Having called ahead, they were greeted by the Chief Technician. She bowed, but Jean-Luc thought she appeared somewhat apprehensive. Errig introduced the Enterprise party and asked the Chief to take them to the computer core. She did so, but Jean-Luc thought it was with reluctance. In fact, unlike the general population they had encountered, who seemed to be merely curious, the staff at the computer building all seemed wary and nervous.
Having arrived at the core housing, Jean-Luc decided to see if he could put the Chief at ease.
"My Chief Engineer is very used to repairing computer cores, I'm sure he'll have no trouble with yours."
The alien woman glared.
"And I'm sure he would have no trouble taking everything in it."
The Prime Minister barked,
"Karryk!"
The female seemed to blush and the Prime Minister bowed his head.
"I must apologise, Captain. Our scientists are a naturally sceptical lot, they believe all outsiders are only interested in what our computer contains, not its function."
He directed his attention to his Chief Technician.
"These people are here to help, Karryk. I expect your full cooperation."
The woman nodded sullenly and Jean-Luc added,
"I assure you we will not access anything from within your computer core. My staff will repair it, nothing else."
Looking into Jean-Luc's calm gaze for the first time, the scientist seemed to be mollified. But when Jean-Luc deployed his tricorder, she had to be told to stand aside by the Prime Minister.
"The Captain is only taking preliminary readings for his engineers, Karryk. You don't expect them to be able to repair the core unless they know at least a little about it do you?"
Oozing suspicion, Karryk watched Jean-Luc's every move, but when he offered her his tricorder for her to check it, she snatched it from his hand. The Captain and his party stood calmly while the technician poured over the device's readings. It was ten minutes before she was satisfied. She returned the tricorder to Jean-Luc with a soft apology. Jean-Luc smiled, his patience wearing thin. He turned to the Prime Minister and said mildly,
"Would you like a tour of our ship?"
The tall being looked around at his colleagues, but before he could reply, Karryk blurted out,
"I would."
Clearly angered by her outburst, Jean-Luc sought to defuse the Prime Minister's angst.
"Actually that might not be a bad idea. Your Chief Technician could have the opportunity to meet with our Chief Engineer and see our computer core."
That seemed to placate the technician. She gave a nod and turned to her Prime Minister.
"Sir?"
Errig sighed and gave a nod.
"Very well."
Karryk turned to Jean-Luc and gestured to his tricorder.
"May I bring some recording devices?"
He smiled.
"Of course, as long as you permit us to scan them before you use them."
She nodded again.
"I agree."
The Prime Minister gestured to the doors.
"If you will come with us, I will take us back to our molecular disseminator."
Jean-Luc smiled and held up his hand.
"There is no need, Sir. We can beam us up from here."
Surprise showed on the tall being's face. To demonstrate, Jean-Luc tapped his comm. badge.
"Picard to Enterprise."
Data answered.
"Data here, Sir."
"Ten to beam up, Commander."
"Aye, Captain. Would you like to do the transport in one operation, or would two suffice?"
Knowing that the normal transporter pads could only accommodate six at a time and that they would have to use one of the transporters in a cargo bay to do it in one go, Jean-Luc chose to do it in two hits.
"Two operations, Commander. I will beam up with the Prime Minister's party and the Enterprise delegation will be bringing a guest."
"Aye, Sir, prepare for transport."
"Acknowledged."
Gently taking the Prime Minister's arm, Jean-Luc moved him and his party to one side. He then tapped his comm. badge again and said softly,
"Energise."
They had just stepped off the pad when the second transport took place. The Ventraxians were obviously impressed. One of the Prime Minister's staff, an elderly woman, said with some hope,
"Would you share this technology with us, Captain?"
Jean-Luc smiled, but shook his head.
"I'm afraid not, madam. Unless we enter into a formal agreement of trade or diplomacy, or unless you join the Federation, we cannot share our technology."
The woman frowned.
"But you are going to use your technology to repair our computer core…and you're going to allow our Chief Technician to scan your computer."
With a nod, Jean-Luc gestured for the small crowd to leave the confines of the transporter room. As they walked he explained.
"That is so, but in return you are going to give us a vaccine for a virus that has been decimating several Federation worlds. We in the Federation believe in fairness. In this situation, it is only fair that we help, but within reason. Our assistance has its limits."
They came to a turbolift and Jean-Luc lifted his head as he pressed the pad for a car.
"Picard to LaForge."
"LaForge here, Captain."
"Mr.LaForge, I will be bringing a group of delegates to engineering shortly and one of them, the Ventraxian Chief Technician will be staying with you. I have given permission for her to study our central computer core. Also, I have tricorder readings I think you will wish to see."
Jean-Luc heard the delight in Geordi's voice. There was little he enjoyed more than interacting with other technophobes.
"Thank you, Captain; I'll see you when you arrive. LaForge, out."
As with the transporter pads, Jean-Luc refrained from squeezing everyone into one lift car, so he and the Prime Minister's party took one car and Will and the others went in the next. They soon found themselves in Engineering.
Having introduced Geordi to Karryk, Jean-Luc allowed Deanna and Beverly to leave, while he and Will escorted the Ventraxians to the Bridge.

 

The Prime Minister and his party were introduced to Data and Worf, both men exacting an astonished response. Data took it with equanimity, but Worf scowled. Errig walked around Data saying with wonder,
"An android, you say, Captain? A truly artificial being?"
With a warm smile, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes. Mr.Data is my Second Officer."
The elderly woman who had spoken earlier stepped forward and lifted a hand to touch Data's face, but hesitated. Data smiled and gave a nod.
"It is all right, you may touch me of you wish."
She did so and gasped softly.
"He is warm. This is…astonishing. We have computers and primitive robots, but nothing as sophisticated as this. Who constructed you?"
Data cast an eye at his Captain and received a wary glance. Deciding to heed his CO's wishes, Data gave only a perfunctory answer.
"Doctor Noonien Soong."
The elderly woman turned to Jean-Luc, asking eagerly,
"May we meet this…Doctor Soong?"
Sadly, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"I'm afraid not. Doctor Soong died some time ago, but even if her were alive, we could not share his technological expertise with you."
The old woman sighed wistfully.
"Does every one of your ships have an android Second Officer?"
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"No, Mr.Data is unique, the only one of his kind."
Touching Data's cheek again, the old woman sighed.
"You are a truly remarkable being, Mr.Data."
The party soon left the Bridge and visited many other areas of the ship before Jean-Luc brought them back to the transporter room. Karryk was waiting for them with Geordi and a group of Enterprise engineers. Errig smiled and offered a bow.
"It has been delightful, Captain Picard. Thank you."
Jean-Luc returned the bow, then offered his hand. At first confused, Errig realised he was to take it in his own. He tentatively took Jean-Luc's hand and the Captain gripped it firmly and shook it. As he did so, he explained,
"This is one human way of offering friendship. It can be used to greet, or to say goodbye."
Jean-Luc released Errig's hand and smiled. The Prime Minister looked at his hand, then smiled.
"I have learned much today, Captain Picard. Hopefully, once I deliver my report to the Doge, she will grant an audience."
Jean-Luc's smile widened.
"I look forward to it."
Errig then turned to the people waiting to beam down.
"Our molecular disseminators only operate from fixed units within each city. We cannot…beam…from anywhere like you can. I will order your teams to be transported to the disseminator closest to the computer core building. My party will go to the disseminator near the government complex."
Jean-Luc turned to the Transporter Chief and asked quietly,
"Do you have those coordinates?"
The young woman nodded.
"Yes, Sir."
Errig and his party went first. Jean-Luc smiled up and said warmly,
"I hope we meet again, Sir."
The Prime Minister returned the smile with one of his own.
"I too wish to see you again, Captain."
Jean-Luc stepped back and said,
"Energise."
Once the pad was clear, Karryk and Geordi's team took their places. Jean-Luc looked up and caught Geordi's trademark grin.
"Keep in touch, Mr.LaForge."
Sobering immediately, Geordi nodded.
"Aye, Captain."
Again, Jean-Luc said quietly,
"Energise."
Will let out a long breath and ran his fingers around the inside of his collar.
"I'm glad that's over with."
Jean-Luc sighed and nodded.
"Me too, Number One, but they do seem to be friendly. We should be grateful for that, at least."
As the two men exited the transporter room, Will scratched his beard.
"I wonder of we'll get to meet the Doge?"
With a shrug, Jean-Luc raised his eyebrows.
"Well if the Prime Minister's report to her is as good as he intimated it would be, I don't see why not."
They reached the turbolift and entered the first car, which happened to be empty. Will asked for deck eight, Jean-Luc, deck nine. Again, Will ran his fingers around the inside of his collar.
"I hate these dress uniforms."
Jean-Luc smiled ruefully.
"They're better than they were."
Will grunted.
"Agreed, but I can't wait to get out of these clothes."
As the lift stopped at deck eight and Will stepped out, Jean-Luc said sotto voce,
"Neither can I."
The lift doors closed, leaving Will grinning. He knew Beverly was waiting for her husband in their quarters. It was rare for Jean-Luc to make a double entendre but when he did, it never ceased to amuse the big man. He shook his head and made his way to his quarters, his step light. His lover was waiting for him, too.

 

As usual, Beverly had an aperitif waiting for Jean-Luc as he walked in the door. She knew he was feeling a little stressed and wished to help him relax. She stood in the middle of the room, two small crystal glasses in her hand.
"Sherry?"
He strode to her, kissed her soundly on the lips and took the proffered glass, sipping with appreciation. Beverly then took the glass from him and waited with an expectant look on her face. Jean-Luc shook his head and chuckled, whilst making short work of divesting himself of his snowy white dress uniform top. He tossed it over the back of a chair and closed his hand over the glass again. As he sipped he chuckled again, making Beverly arch one eyebrow.
"What's so funny?"
Taking her hand, Jean-Luc led them to the sofa where they sat. He toed off his boots and stretched out his legs, placing his stockinged feet on the low table.
"I just scandalised Will."
Beverly gasped theatrically.
"How?"
"I used a double entendre, making it appear I was going to strip off and ravish you the moment I set foot in our quarters."
Beverly's eyes darkened.
"It's not a bad idea."
Jean-Luc gaped.
"I…ah…you mean you want to…"
In response, Beverly drained her glass then took his from his hand. She then slipped off the sofa and insinuated herself between his outstretched legs. With one hand she slowly undid his trousers, skilfully pulling them and his briefs down his thighs. He was hardening and she dipped one finger into his sherry and dropped a drip on the head of his penis. With their eyes locked, she lowered her head, extended her tongue and lapped up the golden jewel of liquid.
Jean-Luc growled softly as Beverly tipped the glass, dribbling more sherry over his penis. This time she took his length into her mouth, making him thrust involuntarily.
Now fully hard, Jean-Luc reached forward to gently grip her shoulders. She looked up at him and he said softly,
"Stand up."
She did so and Jean-Luc removed his feet from the low table to move closer to her. With dedicated intensity, he carefully and slowly undid her pants and slid them and her panties down her legs. He waited while she toed off her boots, then he leaned down and took her pants off her body. He ran his fingers up the insides of her thighs, encouraging her to part her legs and when his questing fingers began to explore her folds, he looked up into her eyes, saying in a deeply sensuous voice,
"You're wet."
Barely able to speak, Beverly said huskily,
"I want you."
With their eyes locked, Jean-Luc slid three fingers inside her while his thumb played with her clit.
"How badly do you want me, Beverly?"
Her legs were beginning to tremble. Instead of answering verbally, Beverly suddenly straddled her husband and kissed him so passionately he groaned his desire into her mouth.
He removed his hand and Beverly took his penis, guiding it to her entrance. She looked down at him, gasping softly,
"I want you deep inside me."
As Beverly descended on him, Jean-Luc grabbed her hips and thrust up into her. They both cried out in unison as the penetration took place. Beverly grabbed Jean-Luc's shoulders and began to ride him hard and fast. Jean-Luc let go with one hand and unerringly found her clit. While Beverly slid up and down him, he pushed up into her as hard as he could while his knowing fingers teased her.
He watched as Beverly threw her head back, her mane of lustrous red hair cascading down her back as the veins in her neck dilated and her breasts bounced tantalisingly within her top.
It was a sight that was his undoing. In desperation he called out in a groan,
"Oh God, Beverly…quickly…I'm going to come!"
As his orgasm consumed him, he kept teasing her clit. Beverly began to contract around him and she let out a soft scream, as a triple orgasm swept her away.
She collapsed into his arms, both of them panting and sweating, their hearts thundering in their chests.
Minutes passed before Beverly muttered,
"Do you think that's what Will had in mind?"
Jean-Luc chuckled tiredly.
"You're forgetting something, my love."
She lifted her head, frowning and making herself look adorable.
"What?"
"I still have most of my uniform on. I only took my jacket off."
She scowled down at him.
"And you care?"
He smiled wolfishly and shook his head.
"Not in the least."
"Then shut up and hold me."
She settled into his arms and he kissed her before saying softly,
"With pleasure."

 

 

Karryk left the enterprise a very happy scientist. Typically, Geordi had been friendly and forthcoming about the ship's computer and, although he couldn't give her the schematics, he did allow her to scan the enormous core, tasking readings she could use for comparison with her own core.
For Geordi, the readings his Captain had taken had allowed him to begin to formulate a plan of action. He briefed his team and they beamed down with Karryk and the others.
Beverly and Jean-Luc spent a quiet evening. After dinner they sat for a while, reading, but before they began to prepare for bed, Beverly asked,
"Do you think Errig is frightened of the Doge?"
Jean-Luc stopped what he was doing and frowned, considering the question. He sighed.
"I don't think he's frightened per se…deeply reverent, perhaps."
Beverly nodded thoughtfully.
"This concept of absolute, hereditary rule…we come across it so often in non-Federation worlds. I find it hard to understand how the populace can tolerate it. I mean, democracy, at least democracy as we know it has been around for centuries. Even going back five hundred years on Earth, countries that had a hereditary monarchy still had a democratically elected government and that's where the real power lay."
Jean-Luc wasn't sure if this discussion was going to end in yet another argument, but Beverly's promise reminded him that she may simply be speaking her mind, so he nodded, agreeing with her.
"Indeed. In my own county it took a revolution to overthrow the corrupt monarchy, but what followed was, at least initially, hardly better. In fact it was hideously brutal. But slowly a new system of government grew and France became peaceful and prosperous."
Beverly hummed thoughtfully.
"Hmm. I wonder if the exposure to us might bring about more changes than we first thought?"
Jean-Luc shrugged.
"Who knows? Although from what I saw, I felt the people of Ventraxia seemed satisfied with things as they are. Keep in mind, revolution only comes from dissatisfaction. If the Doge and the system that supports her position is accepted by her people, then I doubt much will change at all."
With a sigh, Beverly rubbed her brow.
"It's such a pity. We could bring so many new ways of doing things to these people, ways that are so far advanced, both technologically and in governance."
Offering a gentle smile, Jean-Luc reminded his wife,
"We cannot assume our ways are better, Beverly. Different is just that, different. It needn't be better or worse."
Beverly stood and stretched, stifling a yawn.
"I know, but I can see the opportunity for such potential. I just wish…"
Jean-Luc rose from his seat and went to his wife, wrapping his arms around her and kissing he cheek.
"We all wish for that magic wand, my love. Just try and be content in the knowledge that these people contacted us. The door has been opened, who knows what the future might bring?"
Beverly smiled tenderly and kissed Jean-Luc softly. He sighed into her mouth and they held each other, taking in their love like supping on ambrosia. Eventually, Beverly lifted her head and smiled.
"You are a wise man, Jean-Luc."
He shook his head and grimaced.
"If I am, my wisdom has come only through making mistakes. All I can say is that I try, but God knows, I don't always get it right."
Beverly chuckled and kissed him again.
"You get it right more often than not."
It was Jean-Luc's turn to chuckle.
"Well I've had enough practice."
Beverly took Jean-Luc's hand and led him to the bedroom. As they prepared for bed, Beverly asked,
"So what happens now with the Ventraxians?"
Jean-Luc, caught taking his trousers off, straightened and shrugged.
"We wait. There have been no further invitations to go down to the planet, at least not in an official capacity; the crew can take shore leave if they wish. I suppose once Geordi and his team are finished, we leave."
Beverly had undressed and slipped into a silk, peach nightie. Jean-Luc had got his shorts on and they were turning down the covers. Beverly looked up, a frown on her face.
"So we don't get to meet the Doge?"
With a sigh, Jean-Luc got into the bed.
"It doesn't look like it. From what the Prime Minister told me, it was always going to be at her discretion"
Beverly harrumphed with annoyance.
"Well it seems to me she's being a tad precious. We answer their call, repair their computer core and she doesn't have the decency to thank us face to face? That's just bad manners, plain and simple."
With a sigh, Jean-Luc picked up his book off the nightstand and stared at it.
"You're forgetting the vaccine. You have verified it, haven't you?"
Beverly nodded reluctantly.
"Yes."
Jean-Luc looked up and gently smiled.
"Then it was a fair trade. It isn't necessary we meet their monarch, Beverly. Besides, she may view this as a simple business transaction, something beneath her and not worthy of her interest. After all, we have been dealing with her Prime Minister."
Beverly slid down under the covers, leaving Jean-Luc sitting up.
"I guess so, but I really would have liked to have least seen her. Are you going to read?"
He smiled down at her and nodded.
"Yes, but not for long."
Snuggling into her pillow, Beverly closed her eyes and yawned.
"Okay, 'night."
He bent low and kissed her cheek.
"Goodnight, mon coeur, sleep well."
"You too."

 

 

 

 

In all, it took just on two days for Geordi's team to complete their work. Karryk had grown friendlier as time went on and it was with sadness that she realised she would have to say goodbye to her new friend. The Chief's team beamed back to the Enterprise, leaving Geordi to say goodbye to Karryk. She reported to her government that the job had been successfully done and walked Geordi outside to the lovely gardens that surrounded the building. She looked up into the afternoon sky and sighed.
"Your ship is up there, waiting for you."
Geordi smiled.
"Yes, she is."
Karryk turned to the engineer and he saw the sadness in her eyes.
"I will miss you, Geordi."
He was surprised by the intensity of her emotions. Suddenly uncomfortable, Geordi smiled nervously and tried to sound gentle.
"Maybe some day we'll come back."
She took his hand and smiled.
"I hope so."
While this was taking place, a message came through to the Bridge. Worf tapped his console, saying to his CO,
"Captain, incoming transmission from the planet."
Jean-Luc looked at Will and smiled.
"Our thank you?"
Will shrugged. Jean-Luc said quietly,
"On screen, Mr.Worf."
"Aye, Sir."
The forward viewscreen suddenly displayed an image of Prime Minister Errig. He was beaming.
"Captain Picard, I have wonderful news!"
Jean-Luc smiled, somewhat curious as to what had made the man so excited.
"And what is that, Sir?"
Clasping his hands at his chest, Errig almost glowed.
"The Doge has permitted a meeting! She wants you, your First Officer, your CMO and your Counsellor to join her tonight in the Great Hall. You have all been granted an audience!"
Jean-Luc rose from his chair and smiled widely.
"We are honoured, Prime Minister. At what time are we expected?"
"Two of your hours after sunset. I will send you the coordinates for your arrival."
Offering a slight bow, Jean-Luc said softly,
"We look forward to it. Enterprise out."
As the screen reverted to its view of the planet, Will sidled up to his Captain and said sotto voce,
"Dress uniform again?"
Jean-Luc sighed; he could almost feel his neck begin to itch.
"I'm afraid so, Number one."
He turned to the big man and smiled wryly.
"I'll let you break the news to Deanna, I'll tell Beverly. You have the Bridge."
As Jean-Luc strode to the turbolift, Will grinned.
"Aye, Captain."
Jean-Luc found Beverly in her office. She looked up at sensing his presence and smiled.
"Well hello there, what brings you down here?"
He smiled and moved closer to her desk.
"I've come to tell you your wish has been fulfilled."
Beverly frowned in confusion.
"What wish?"
"You're going to get to see the Doge."
Beverly sat back and grinned.
"I'll be damned! How did you pull that off?"
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"As much as I would like to take the credit, it wasn't me. The Prime Minister just contacted us. Apparently the Doge wants to meet me, you, Will and Deanna, so it's dress uniforms again and we beam down in about four hours."
Beverly's eyes darkened.
"You know I absolutely love seeing you in your dress uniform."
Remembering what she did to him last time he wore it, Jean-Luc held up his hand in warning.
"Behave yourself. I can't present myself to the Doge all hot under my collar and weak at the knees. You'll just have to wait until we get back to the ship."
Giving him an overtly sexual pout, Beverly said saucily,
"Promise?"
He shook his head, muttering,
"Wench."
Before leaving Sick Bay, the tips of his ears pink.

 

 

 

The four officers rematerialised in the forecourt of the main government building. An aide appeared flustered as she said,
"Oh, you are here! I will summon the Prime Minister."
Jean-Luc frowned and cast a worried look at his First Officer.
"What do you think that's all about?"
The big man shrugged.
"I've no idea. Where on time, aren't we?"
Before Jean-Luc could answer, Errig came hurrying into the room. He too appeared flustered and said without preamble,
"You are early!"
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"No, Prime Minister, you said two hours after sunset. That is now."
Flapping his hands, the upset man shook his head.
"Then there must have been some confusion about the length of your hours…still, it's better you are early rather than late."
Jean-Luc offered a small smile, muttering,
"Indeed."
Errig turned, and gestured with his hand, ushering the party into the Great Hall. They had not been in here before and were stunned, both by its size and ornate decorations. The walls and ceiling were covered in intricate carvings and brightly coloured paintings. Jean-Luc wished he could take a closer look, but the party was being directed to stand before a raised dais. Behind them was a large square of startlingly white material and at its edges, dozens of ministers gathered, all with their heads bowed.
Errig arranged the Enterprise party so that Will, Beverly and Deanna stood several paces behind Jean-Luc. He then said sotto voce,
"You will bow your heads and keep them bowed unless the Doge tells you you may look at her."
Jean-Luc nodded his understanding and muttered to his people,
"Remember, do not look at her unless invited to."
There was a quiet chorus of,
"Yes, Sir."
They all stood in silence, heads bowed for almost fifteen minutes before a soft sigh swept through the assembled crowd of ministers. Errig went forward, knelt with his head nearly on the floor and said quietly,
"Madame Doge, may I present Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his party."
Jean-Luc could hear a rustling of clothing as the Doge stepped closer to him. The voice that spoke was dulcet and soft.
"You are Captain Picard?"
The urge to raise his head was strong, but Jean-Luc resisted it. He said in a firm voice,
"Yes, Madame Doge, I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard."
He thought he detected amusement in her tone as she said,
"I have been told you have a great ship in orbit."
"That is so, Madame Doge."
She moved closer and Jean-Luc smelled a fragrance that reminded him of jasmine. He knew she was very close when she said very quietly,
"You may look at me."
He looked up slowly and kept his face neutral as his eyes took in the magnificent woman before him. Dressed in colourful, ornate robes, she was tall and elegant, her yellow hair done up in an elaborate bun. On the top of her head she wore an ornament made of gold and jewels. The bodice of her dress accentuated her four breasts, her nipples erect and pushing against the sheer material. She gestured with her hand, making a shooing motion.
Somewhat confused, Jean-Luc moved backwards, his party following suit. The Doge stepped down from the dais and slowly walked around Jean-Luc, humming softly to herself. Jean-Luc kept his eyes front, standing at attention. When the Doge had completed her scrutiny, she stopped in front of the Captain and smiled.
"I find you acceptable. I want you."
Taken aback, Jean-Luc frowned, saying softly,
"I beg your pardon?"
The smile that appeared on the Doge's face was calculating.
"I said, I find you acceptable and I want you."
With a shake of his head, Jean-Luc said,
"I'm not sure I understand. You want me for what?"
Errig shuffled forward on his knees, bobbing his head so low it hit the floor.
"Forgive him, Madame Doge, he does not understand our ways."
The Doge glared down at her Prime Minister.
"That is obvious!"
She turned her attention back to Jean-Luc, speaking to him as one would address a child.
"I have decided you will be my new consort. You will go with my guards to my bedchamber where we will consummate our union."
Jean-Luc gaped, but quickly snapped his mouth closed. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"Madame Doge, I am honoured by your very…generous proposal, but I already have a mate."
The Doge waved her hand dismissively.
"That is irrelevant. I want you and I will have you."
With a shake of his head, Jean-Luc said firmly,
"I am sorry, Madame Doge, but I am married to my mate, and I am committed to our relationship to the exclusion of all others. I cannot become your consort."
He watched as anger began to grow in the Doge.
"Who is your mate?"
Jean-Luc half turned and gestured to Beverly.
"My Chief Medical Officer, Beverly Picard is my wife and mate."
Imperiously, the Doge said to Beverly,
"Step forward."
Keeping her head down and her mouth shut with a huge effort, Beverly did as requested. Like Jean-Luc, the Doge slowly walked around Beverly until she was facing her. Beverly felt something hard and cold under her chin, lifting her face. She slowly looked up to see the Doge was using a gold rod to touch her. They looked into each other's eyes and the Doge laughed.
"She is nothing! I find her unacceptable. I dissolve your…marriage, Captain. My guards will take you to my bedchamber now."
Before Jean-Luc could say anything, Beverly hissed,
"Now just you wait a minute!"
The Doge struck her across the face with the rod and barked,
"Take them!"
Instantly guards appeared, whisking off their communicators and placing weapons at the bases of their skulls. Jean-Luc was grabbed and hauled off through a side door. The Doge stepped back up on the dais and said calmly,
"You will wait here until we return. You…"
She pointed the rod at Beverly,
"Will learn some manners."
She snapped her fingers then whirled in a regal manner and walked stiffly from the room. Will and Deanna were forced to their knees, but Beverly was beaten by two guards. She rolled into a ball and absorbed most of the blows on her back and arms. At its end, she too was forced to kneel beside the others, her body aching.
Jean-Luc was standing in the Doge's bedroom, still in the grip of three burly guards. She entered and the guards dropped their heads. With a wave of her hand, she said condescendingly,
"Strip him."
As his clothing was torn from his body, the Doge slowly divested herself of her robes. With as much dignity he could muster under the circumstances, Jean-Luc said firmly.
"I will not have sex with you."
Her derisive chuckle made his skin crawl.
"You have no choice, Captain Jean-Luc Picard. From the moment I chose you, you were mine. You will do as I wish."
Jean-Luc lifted his chin and said defiantly,
"I will not, Madame."
His briefs were taken from his body and the now naked Doge gasped.
"Your sex organ…it is…unprotected."
Jean-Luc flushed but remained silent. The Doge sighed.
"I fear you will be damaged by what we are going to do, but if you manage to please me at all, I will have our medical experts augment your organ to better accommodate me…and protect you."
Jean-Luc glared defiantly at the Doge.
"I refuse to take part in this…outrage!"
Again, the cold chuckle, followed by an order to her guards.
"Prepare him."
One of the huge guards went behind Jean-Luc and held him in a bear hug. Jean-Luc struggled but it was useless, he couldn't break the man's hold. One of the other guards took an elastic tube and tied it tight around Jean-Luc's upper arm, making his veins rise. The Doge handed the guard a hypodermic syringe and he wasted no time in sliding the needle into one of Jean-Luc's veins. Jean-Luc watched in dismay as the liquid in the syringe disappeared into his blood stream. The tube was released and he felt the drug flow into his vein. He looked at the Doge to see she was injecting herself.
She undid the tie on her arm and lay back on the bed, her hands teasing her own nipples. At first, Jean-Luc felt nothing, then a burning sensation started in his groin. Against his will, his penis quickly became erect and he began to feel deeply aroused. Sweat broke out over his entire body as his arousal escalated. The Doge's bonze skin darkened and she parted her legs, her fingers going to her sex.
"Do you feel it, Jean-Luc Picard? Soon you will have no option but to please me, to do otherwise would be to risk your very life."
His head was pounding in sync with the pulsating throbbing of his penis. Never before had he been so hard. Precome was leaking out of him as he panted erratically, trying to find the will to deny her.
Her intimate scent reached his nostrils, only insidiously enhancing his arousal. His nostrils flared and his pupils dilated as his mind gave up any pretence of resistance. This time when he struggled in the arms of the guards, it was to get to the Doge, the overwhelming urge for sex blotting out everything else, everything he was.
The Doge splayed her sex and Jean-Luc gasped as he saw her vagina opening and closing, glistening with her dew, but what fascinated him was the ring of barbs at the entrance. She suddenly went on all fours and reached out to stroke his penis, marvelling,
"It is so soft, yet hard. What a curious creature you are."
Mesmerised and overcome with the overwhelming need for release, Jean-Luc again struggled within the arms of the guards. The Doge purred and lay back, saying quickly,
"Let him go!"
Jean-Luc pounced on her, such was his burning need to plunge himself into her. She lifted her legs, gripping him around the waist as he entered her, mindless and driven by a need too great to deny.
Pain lanced through his body as his penis was torn by the barbs. Worse still, deep inside the Doge was another ring of barbs and the deeper he pushed into her, the more damage was done. But he was heedless, uncaring as he plunged in and out of the Ventraxian. She gripped his buttocks urging him to greater heights, wanting more than he could give. He came, but it barely registered in his mind. In a haze of pain and lust his erection remained rock hard as he continued to pound away.
The Doge began to moan, taking Jean-Luc's head and guiding his mouth to her breasts. He bit and sucked, uncaring if he hurt her or not. This was not sex as he knew it, this was something entirely different and somewhere, in a small recess in the back of his mind, he knew that to try and stop would kill him.
In all, Jean-Luc came eight times, the Doge once and when she did climax, she went wild, biting, scratching and gouging Jean-Luc's body. At the height of her climax, her internal muscles clamped down on his penis, driving the barbs deeper into his flesh. He cried out, registering for the first time that something was very wrong.
For over four minutes the Doge held him in her intimate embrace before she relaxed and released him. In agony, Jean-Luc carefully pulled out of her, unwilling to look down at himself, but unable not to. Blood covered his groin and testicles, his semi hard penis lacerated from base to tip.
The Doge pushed him off her, saying with harshness,
"You barely satisfied me, Picard. Next time you will have a sex organ that will do the job properly."
To her ever-present guards she barked,
"Cover his genitals and adorn him for presentation."
He was dragged from the bed and his briefs were put on him. He was then painted, his torso and shoulders decorated in blue lines. Plaited and braided colourful arm bands were tied around his upper arms and upon his head, a gold band was placed, at its centre, a cluster of gems.
The Doge was dressing and she smiled at the dazed man.
"You are very fortunate, Jean-Luc Picard. To join with the Doge is to touch the Gods. When my medical teams have finished with you, you will know true ecstasy. She pointed to one of the guards,
"Show him what his sex organ is supposed to look like."
The huge man undid his trousers and pushed them down his legs. Jean-Luc didn't want to look, but a hard slap to his face focused his attention. The man's penis was plated in a carapace that covered its entire body. Even the testicles were armoured. Jean-Luc's mind brought up the image of his own torn and tattered penis and shuddered. He definitely did not want his penis…augmented. Somehow he had to stop her from ever having sex with him again, but how, he didn't know.

Will, Deanna and Beverly only became aware of the Doge's return when everyone fell to their knees. The weapons held to their heads, however, remained. Beverly chanced a sideways glance and gasped as she saw her battered, bruised and bleeding husband. The Doge stood imperiously on the dais and announced,
"He has pleased me. He is mine."
There was a murmur of appreciation that went right around the Great Hall. Beverly could stand it no longer. She looked up and said succinctly,
"You cannot have him, he is mine."
The blow to the back of her head made her see stars, but the Doge held up her hand.
"You dare to address me without permission?"
Displaying the courage she was known for, Beverly said firmly.
"Yes! Jean-Luc Picard is my husband. You cannot have him!"
The Doge glared down at Beverly.
"I do not believe this! You are willing to defy the wish of the Doge?"
Again, Beverly defiantly spat,
"Yes!"
The Doge laughed with cruelty.
"We have consummated our union, woman. He is mine!"
Beverly shook her head.
"I doubt he consented. In any event, I will not give him up. He is my husband and nothing you can do will change that."
The Doge's face became sly.
"Really, Doctor Picard? I think there is much I can do."
She spread her arms and addressed the assemblage.
"Since this woman refuses to recognise my claim to her…husband…I invoke the right of Veru'nn!"
A collective gasp went up from the ministers. The Prime Minister crept forward, his head touching the floor.
"Madame Doge, forgive me, but the right of Veru'nn has not been invoked for centuries. Surely we can find some other way out of this…situation."
The Doge glared down at her Prime Minister.
"Silence! I have invoked the right and it will take place now!"
She made a gesture with her left hand and two old women crawled forward. The Doge held out her arms as they disrobed her. Beverly was hauled to her feet and stripped down to her underwear. Will and Deanna were forced to one side, their wrists tied behind them to their ankles. A wary Beverly watched as the old women dressed the now naked Doge in a suit of translucent armour and placed in her right hand and wicked looking large knife. Beverly was shoved backwards onto the white square and a much smaller knife was roughly placed in her hand.
The Doge regally stepped down off the dais and made her way to the square. Emboldened, Beverly asked sarcastically,
"And just what is the right of Veru'nn?"
The smile that graced the Doge's face made Beverly's blood run cold.
"Why it is a fight, my dear Doctor, a fight to the death…and the winner gets Jean-Luc Picard."
Beverly's stomach soured, but she was heartened to hear Will call,
"Just remember all your Mok'bara classes Beverly, you'll be all right."
A blow to Will's face silenced him, but Beverly sent him a smile of thanks. She then looked over at her still dazed husband. He seemed to understand what was happening, but was powerless to stop it, whether or not because of his mental or physical state, she didn't know.
The Doge, accompanied by the two old women, went to the far side of the square and raised her arms.
"We begin! May the Gods guide my hand!"
She came at Beverly in a crouch, brandishing the knife. Beverly also crouched, her eyes watching the Doge's at all times. They moved closer and closer until then Doge suddenly lunged. Beverly parried the slash, but the Doge's blade caught her across her forearm, opening a nasty cut. Blood flowed down her arm and over her hand, making her grip on her knife precarious. Not willing to wait for another attack, Beverly bent low, feigned left, and then lunged forward, her blade striking the armour close to the Doge's lower right breast. Not only did the blade not penetrate the armour, it bent alarmingly. In that one manoeuvre, Beverly realised the odds were completely stacked against her. Not only was the Doge trained in this form of combat, Beverly was virtually without a useful weapon. She clenched her teeth, deciding the only way to even the odds was to wrest the knife away from the Doge.
Beverly took time to study the armour. The only unprotected areas were the Doge's hands, feet and head. If she had to kill her, it would have to be a devastating wound, most probably to the neck. For her part, she had to avoid the blade of the Doge's knife until the opportunity presented itself to take it from her.
The Doge grinned confidently as she circled Beverly, waving the blade, keeping it moving all the time.
"If you surrender now and return to your ship, I will spare your life."
Beverly smiled grimly, shaking her head.
"I won't leave without my husband."
The Doge's smile faltered and became a cruel grimace.
"The only way you will leave is via our refuse chute."
Despite her heightened awareness, the Doge had lulled Beverly into inattention. The Ventraxian spun and slashed, catching Beverly across her waist, cutting deeply. Beverly retaliated while the Doge was close and swiped at her throat, but the younger woman leaned back and laughed.
"You will have to do better than that, Doctor."
Beverly sneered, wiping the blood off her hand.
"I intend to."
For the next twenty minutes they battled, the Doge cutting Beverly again and again. She seemed to revel in her superiority, making an example of her prowess by slicing and stabbing the Doctor with seeming ease.
Exhaustion and blood loss began to take their toll. Beverly was panting and beginning to think there was no way she would ever wrest that damned knife from the Doge. It was at that time that the younger woman decided to end the contest. She moved in on Beverly, causing her to retreat. They were at the far corner of the square when the Doge charged. Beverly was unprepared and turned to try to deflect the strike, but the blade was plunged into her back. Years of Worf's Mok'bara training kicked in. With the knife embedded in her back, Beverly whirled around, reached behind her and pulled the knife free from her flesh. She tossed aside her useless little knife and, catching the Doge off balance, swept her legs bringing the Doge down. Before she could regain her footing, Beverly leaped onto her back, driving her face down onto the surface of the square.
Beverly placed the tip of the knife against the nape of the Doge's neck, panting,
"Yield, or I will kill you."
Defiant to the end, the Doge spat,
"If you want Picard, you will have to kill me!"
Closing her eyes briefly, Beverly looked over at her husband and mouthed,
"I love you."
She then shoved hard on the knife, driving it through the base of the Doge's brain. She convulsed once, and then was still.
As Beverly struggled to her feet, one of the old women wailed and crawled forward to cradle her monarch's head in her hands. Beverly looked down with sympathy and said quietly,
"I am sorry, she gave me no choice."
Staggering across the mat, Beverly had only covered four metres when the old woman reached inside her robes and withdrew a small tube. She took a large breath and put it to her mouth, blowing out a dart. It was small, only five centimetres long and it had a coloured ribbon attached to it. It struck Beverly in the back, high, near her shoulder, but close to her spine.
Beverly frowned and turned to look at the old woman and was taken aback by the sheer hatred gleaming in her rheumy eyes. She tried to reach the dart, but failed. Turning again, she started to walk unsteadily towards Jean-Luc, but she quickly realised she was losing control of her limbs. She fell to her knees as her lips and tongue went numb. Jean-Luc, struggling against the guards that held him, yelled,
"Let me go to her!"
The prime Minister rose to his feet, faced Beverly and bowed low.
"Hail the new Doge!"
All the ministers present bowed deeply, repeating the call loudly. Errig waved away the guards and Jean-Luc broke free into a stumbling run. By the time he reached Beverly, she was lying almost paralysed on the mat, a pool of blood staining the white surface.
He lifted her head as her breaths came in little puffs. Unable to speak, she somehow, through sheer force of will, summoned a small smile. Then her eyes slowly closed and her breathing stopped.
Jean-Luc lifted his head and howled one word.
"NOOOOOOO!!!"
He then rounded on Errig.
"Give us our communicators; I have to get her to our Sick Bay!"
The Prime Minister clasped his hands at his chest and shook his head with sympathy.
"I am sorry, Captain Picard, but your wife is the Doge. She cannot leave our planet."
Fury made Jean-Luc yell.
"But she's dying! We can help her!"
Errig bowed his head.
"If she dies it will be the will of the Gods."
He then waved an official forward to check on Beverly.
Jean-Luc watched in horror as the man waved an instrument over Beverly's body and sadly shook his head. Errig sighed.
"It is done. The Doge is dead, long live the Doge!"
A moan went up making the hairs on the human's skin rise. The Prime Minister then beckoned the old woman to come to him. She did so, crawling slowly.
"I understand why you acted as you did, you have served the Doge for all of her life, but you took the life of the new Doge. Are you prepared to face the consequences of your actions?"
The old woman touched her head to the floor. Errig reached inside his robe and produced a weapon. Without hesitation, he shot the elderly crone, killing her instantly. He turned but Jean-Luc lurched to his feet, grabbing him before the guards could stop him.
"You have to let us take her. It's not too late, we can bring her back!"
Waving away the guards, Errig took Jean-Luc's hands and looked into his eyes.
"She must stay here, with us. Once a Doge dies, she has to lie in state on a catafalque for eight days, guarded by her favourite servants, then she is placed in the Imperial Tomb, to lie with all the other Doges that have gone before her. Only then can we accept our next Doge."
With tears in his eyes, Jean-Luc fell to his knees.
"No, please…I beg you, let me take her back to my ship…she is my wife."
The Prime Minister gently placed a hand atop Jean-Luc's head.
"I grieve with you, Prince Consort. Perhaps you would like to stand guard by her catafalque with your colleagues?"
Will and Deanna had been released and they quietly joined their Captain by Beverly's body. Deanna gently took Jean-Luc by the hand and got him to look at her.
"We must return to the Enterprise, Captain."
He shook his head vehemently.
"No! I will not leave without Beverly!"
Deanna's voice was soft and lulling.
"You are injured, Captain, we need to get you to Sick Bay. Once you have been treated we can look at what we can do here."
Jean-Luc again shook his head.
"But Beverly…"
With her own eyes brimming with tears, Deanna said quietly,
"I can't sense her, Captain. She's gone."
Will helped his Captain to his feet, and then held him steady. To Errig he said,
"May we have our communicators, please?"
The Prime Minister nodded and made a gesture with his hand. A guard came forward with the four communicators in his large hand. Will took them and handed one each to Deanna and Jean-Luc. He then activated his.
"Riker to Enterprise."
"Data here, Commander, go ahead."
"Three to beam directly to Sick Bay."
Will could hear the surprise in Data's voice as he asked,
"Only three, Sir?"
Gritting his teeth, Will barked,
"Yes, three! Energise!"
As they dematerialised, Jean-Luc's eyes were on his wife's body.

 

 

Will was still holding Jean-Luc as they rematerialised in Sick Bay. Selar was waiting for them and helped Will guide the shocked Captain to a bio bed. Will quickly explained what had happened as Selar scanned her Captain. Snapping her tricorder closed, the Vulcan Doctor said quietly,
"Captain Picard has sustained significant damage to his genitals and there is a foreign drug in his system. I need to take him to surgery."
She looked down at the dazed man and sighed.
"Do you think it would be allowed for me to send down a medical representative to scan Doctor Picard?"
Will shrugged.
"I don't know. I'll contact the Prime Minister and I'll get back to you."
The Vulcan inclined her head.
"As soon as possible, Commander. If Doctor Picard has any chance for survival, time is of the essence."
Will gave a curt nod.
"Understood."
He turned his attention to Deanna.
"I'm going to the Bridge. Will you stay here?"
She nodded, still in shock.
"Yes, the Captain will need me when he awakes."
Giving Deanna's shoulder a quick squeeze, Will left Sick Bay. Jean-Luc was quickly prepped and taken to surgery.

 

 

 

As Acting Captain, in situation such as the one he now faced, Will tried to draw on every lesson he had learned from his friend and mentor, Captain Picard. On the forward viewscreen, Prime Minister Errig, now dressed in black robes shook his head once again.
"I am sorry, Commander, but it would be sacrilegious for anyone of your crew to scan the Doge's body. Besides, you yourself saw that she was scanned by one of our instruments to determine her state."
Will struggled to keep his voice even.
"Yes, Prime Minister, I do understand, but our medical technology is better than yours. There still might be something we can do to save her."
Errig's face clearly showed his disapproval.
"No one but the imperial carers may touch her body now, Commander. She will be washed, dressed appropriately and laid on the catafalque to lie in state for eight days. Then she will be entombed. That is our way; it has been our way for centuries. We will not…in fact we cannot change that, not for you, your Captain, or anyone else. I am sorry Commander, I know this is hard for you and I grieve with you."
Clutching at straws, Will blurted,
"What about the other Doge, the one Doctor Picard killed?"
Errig sighed and bowed her head.
"Blessed be her memory, but she died after invoking the right of Veru'nn. She was defeated in battle, Commander, the instant she died she was no longer our Doge. That honour went to the victor. It is her we now mourn."
Will rubbed his eyes and wracked his brain for something, some glimmer of inspiration that might change this man's mind. Errig watched Will and sighed.
"Commander, you must accept that in becoming our Doge, even for the few minutes that lasted, your Doctor Picard became a Ventraxian. She is one of us now and she must be dealt with according to our laws. I do understand your frustration, but the matter is closed. Unless you wish to view the body as she lies in state, I recommend you leave. You have the vaccine; there is nothing for you here now."
Defeated, Will's shoulders slumped. He gave a curt nod and said quietly,
"I'm sure Captain Picard will want to see her before we depart."
Errig nodded.
"The Prince Consort would be welcome. Contact me when he is well enough to make the pilgrimage. Errig out."
The screen reverted to its view of the planet and Will softly swore. He took his seat in the Command chair, his despondency threatening to overwhelm him.

 

 

 

 

In her many years as a serving Doctor in Starfleet, Selar had never seen injuries such as confronted her now. The punctures and lacerations of Jean-Luc's penis had damaged so much tissue, flesh, blood supply and nerves. Microsurgery was required for the reconstructive surgery and it took in excess of six hours before she was satisfied with her work. Earlier, blood had been taken from the Captain and a thorough analysis done of the drug he had in his system. As he was taken to his private room, a nurse approached Selar with a PADD. She read its information dispassionately before tapping her comm. badge.

"Selar to Riker."
"Riker here, go ahead, Doctor."
"Captain Picard is out of surgery and I have the analysis of the drug that was used on him."
"I'm on my way, Riker out."
Will found Selar in Beverly's office, poring over a PADD. Will gripped the back of the seat in front of the desk and said softly,
"How is he?"
Uncharacteristically, Selar rubbed her brow.
"It is difficult to quantify, Commander. His injuries were like nothing I've ever encountered before…and I'm not sure I have completely repaired them."
Will frowned and a shudder ran through his body as he recalled the blood on the front of Jean-Luc's briefs…and how it ran down his legs.
"Are you saying his genitals may be permanently impaired?"
Selar shrugged.
"I will not know that until he is conscious and healed."
With a sigh, Will ran his fingers through his beard.
"And what about this drug you found?"
Selar handed over the PADD.
"We are, at the moment, purging it from his system. It is insidious, Commander. In Ventraxians I believe it is nothing but a powerful aphrodisiac, but in humans it has a very deleterious effect. Captain Picard's hypothalamus has been damaged. In humans, the gland is larger in males than females and is responsible for sexual desire. The drug has saturated the gland and damaged much of its delicate structure. I'm not sure what I can do to rectify the damage. Regeneration therapy of course, but whether or not I take a surgical route…I just don't know."
Will snorted and sat down.
"Beverly would know, wouldn't she."
Selar nodded slowly.
"Yes, I believe she would."
Selar sat back and clasped her hands on her lap.
"There is more, Commander. The drug also greatly increased the blood flow to his penis, so much so that it has damaged the major blood vessels in the organ. I would imagine he attained an erection such as he'd never had before and under the influence of the drug, not only engaged in sexual activity for a protracted period of time, but orgasmed multiple times."
Will frowned and shook his head.
"Is that really possible?"
The Vulcan nodded.
"Yes, although after the first orgasm, the next one or two would have much decreased amounts of semen, after that the mechanism of orgasm would take place without ejaculation."
Will briefly closed his eyes and willed himself not to shudder.
"Do you know how the damage to his penis was caused? Did they torture him?"
Selar shook her head.
"I doubt it, that would be counter-productive. No, I believe it is most probably something to do with the differences in physiology, but unless I can access a comprehensive analysis of both male and female Ventraxians, that is pure speculation on my part."
With a deep sigh, Will ran a hand through his hair.
"Well I'll ask, but I somehow doubt they're going to be forthcoming. As far as they're concerned, once Captain Picard has viewed Beverly's body, they want us to leave."
The Vulcan sighed.
"It would be beneficial if it were possible to know if there is a counter agent for the drug they used. If there is, I might be able to help the Captain."
Will gave a curt nod, but muttered,
"Don't hold your breath. They really want us gone."
"That is most unfortunate. I am aware of how much comfort humans gain by having a body to mourn over."
Suddenly angry with the dispassionate woman sitting in front of him, Will's voice was cold as he said succinctly,
"There's more to it than that, Doctor!"
Selar quickly realised she had somehow offended her CO, but knew not what to do about it. She arched one perfect eyebrow and decided the most logical course of action was to change the subject.
"Captain Picard will be kept sedated, primarily for pain relief. I will let you know when he is due to regain consciousness."
Calming himself, Will nodded.
"Thank you."
He stood, meaning to leave, but hesitated at the door.
"When will you know if the damage is permanent or not?"
Selar stood and tilted her head.
"While he is unconscious I will try to get him to orgasm by stimulating his prostate gland. That way I will know he is capable, however whether or not he will be able to orgasm via penile stimulation, I do not know. That is something he will have to discover for himself."
Will grimaced then asked,
"Beverly will lie in state for eight days. Will the Captain be able to go down to see her?"
Selar nodded.
"Yes. I envisage he will be unconscious for three days. After that he should be able to leave Sick Bay."
With a soft grunt, Will gave a short nod.
"I'll try and get the information you need. I'll be on the Bridge. If there's any change, don't hesitate to contact me."
"Or course, Commander."
On his way out of Sick Bay, Will detoured to the Captain's private room. He stood by Jean-Luc's bed, looking down at the unconscious man, noting the regen beams aimed at his head and groin. Shaking his head, Will thought,
"It's a pity you have to eventually wake up, Captain. You're going to be in a world of pain."
He looked up to see Deanna slumped awkwardly in a chair, sound asleep. He went to the other side of the bed and gently shook her awake. She woke with a start, immediately looking to her Captain, but Will soothed her.
"It's all right, Dee, it's just me."
Having half risen from her chair, Deanna sighed and sat back down. Will crouched in front of her and took her hands.
"I've just seen Selar and she told me the Captain is going to be unconscious for three days. Why don't you go and get some rest, it's going to get rough once he wakes up."
Deanna looked again at her Captain and sighed, but nodded.
"You're right, I suppose."
Tears welled in her eyes and she looked into Will's
"God Will…is Beverly really gone?"
He nodded slowly, trying to swallow the lump in his throat. Deanna stood and Will rose with her, taking her into his arms as she softly cried.

 

 

 

The three days that Jean-Luc remained unconscious were hard for the ship's crew. Already in shock and mourning over Beverly's passing, scuttlebutt had provided the gory details of Jean-Luc's injures and his subsequent poor prognosis. As one male Ensign commented to another,
"As if losing your wife isn't bad enough…to never have sex again? Holy shit, life wouldn't be worth living."
His mate nodded sagely.
"You've got that right."

 

 

 

Both Will and Deanna were present as Jean-Luc woke. Selar had initiated a restraining field over his body as a precaution, in case he reacted badly to his memories. His eyes fluttered and opened, a frown upon his face. Before he could say anything, Selar said quietly,
"I want you to lay still, Captain."
He tried to lift his head and encountered the field. Confused, he laid his head back down and tried to speak, but all that came out was a guttural croak. Deanna went to the replicator, saying gently,
"I'll get you some water, Sir."
It was obvious Jean-Luc was confused and disorientated. As Deanna lifted his head and placed a straw in his mouth, he drank, but his dazed eyes were restless, going from face to face. Having finished his drink, he tried his voice again.
"What has happened? Why am I restrained?"
Deanna gave Selar a look and the Doctor bowed her head and stepped back, allowing Deanna to stand beside her Captain.
"What is the last thing you remember, Sir?"
He frowned, obviously thinking hard.
"I…we were being presented to the Doge. She…she…"
He gasped and tried to sit up, making the restraining field sparkle. His voice rose.
"She chose me to be her consort…she had me taken to her bedroom…we…we…oh God…they injected me with a drug…I couldn't stop it…I couldn't help it…I was overwhelmed…it hurt, oh my God it was agony, but I couldn't stop."
The hiss of a hypospray made the watching people sigh with relief as Selar said quietly,
"A mild sedative."
Jean-Luc laid his head back down, tears welling in his eyes.
"Beverly! The fight…I remember the fight…Beverly won, then the old woman, she fired a dart and Beverly…Beverly…died."
Deanna gently stroked Jean-Luc's head.
"Captain…"
He was beyond being comforted. He cried out,
"They wouldn't let us help her! They wouldn't let us take her to the ship…they let her die in my arms! Remove the restraining field immediately! I want to go down to the planet; those bastards deserve to pay for what they've done!"
Will stepped forward, saying painfully,
"Captain, the Prime Directive prevents us from taking any retributive action. The Prime Minister has given permission for you to see Beverly's body briefly, but then we have been requested to leave."
Jean-Luc looked up at his First Officer and said pitifully,
"Without Beverly?"
It almost broke Will's heart to say,
"Yes, Sir, I'm so sorry."
With tears sliding down his face, Jean-Luc said with remarkable clarity,
"I want to see her as soon as possible."
Selar gave Will and Deanna a look and they quietly left the room. The Vulcan stood beside Jean-Luc's bed and clasped her hands in front of her.
"Captain Picard, you sustained some very significant injuries. I have done all I can to repair them, but I fear I was not completely successful."
Disinterested, Jean-Luc muttered,
"It doesn't matter."
Selar sighed.
"It is my duty as your physician to make you fully informed as to the nature of your injuries and your prognosis."
When Jean-Luc remained silent and staring at the ceiling, Selar chose to continue.
"Your penis was very badly damaged. I have repaired as much as I can, but the nerve and blood vessel damage was beyond my expertise. While you were unconscious, I stimulated your prostate gland and collected a semen sample, but you did not achieve an erection. It is my opinion that you may never be able to attain and erection sufficient for penetrative sex. Also, your hypothalamus gland has been damaged and to date, I am unsure as to how that is going to affect you. One the one hand, you may have an increased sex drive, with no way to relieve it, or you may be left with no libido at all, I cannot say which scenario may manifest itself."
Jean-Luc sighed and said quietly,
"I don't care. Release the restraining field so I can go down to the planet to see my wife's body."
Selar frowned.
"Are you sure you feel up to it, Captain?"
Jean-Luc sighed again and Selar noted his tears had stopped.
"Yes."
"Very well, but I insist you be accompanied by Counsellor Troi and Commander Riker."
Jean-Luc's only response was a weary nod.
Having released the field, Selar left her CO to allow him to dress in private. While he was occupied, Selar told Will and Deanna that they were to escort their Captain down to the planet.
Jean-Luc emerged shaven and in uniform. Selar was about to remind him he was still relieved of duty, but the look of utter desolation on his face stole her words. Instead she said softly,
"I am greatly grieved by your loss, Captain, my thoughts are with you."
His haunted eyes caught Selar's and he nodded, saying absently,
"Thank you."
Will laid a hand on his Captain's shoulder and said softly,
"I just have to get permission, Sir."
Jean-Luc merely nodded. As Will contacted the Prime Minister, Deanna gently took hold of her Captain's arm, not only steadying him, but offering subtle psychological support.
Having gained the necessary permission, Will tapped his comm. badge.
"Transporter Room two, three to beam down to the Great Hall."
"Aye, Sir."
"Energise."

 

 

 

They found themselves in the same anteroom as they had before. An aide bowed low and, virtually ignoring Will and Deanna, said with deference,
"Welcome, my Prince. If you will come this way?"
As they entered the Great Hall, Will noticed everyone was dressed in black and they bowed low to Jean-Luc. Errig was standing at the catafalque which was situated in the middle of the dais. He too bowed to Jean-Luc, then said softly,
"You are not wearing your crown, my Prince, nor are you dressed for mourning."
Jean-Luc didn't acknowledge the Prime Minister. Instead he stepped unsteadily towards the catafalque, which had four huge guards stationed at each corner, their heads bowed and their uniforms black. As Jean-Luc approached, one of the guards moved to intercept him, but a gesture from Errig forestalled him. He allowed Jean-Luc to stand beside Beverly's body, tears tracking down his face. Will and Deanna were permitted to stand behind him.
As promised, Beverly had been washed, but none of her many wounds had been closed or treated in any way. Her alabaster skin was now painted a dusky bronze and her lustrous red hair that Jean-Luc had so loved to run his fingers through was now done up in a tight, elaborate bun. Upon her head was the gold crown, the jewelled centre piece catching the lights. She was dressed in a lustrous deep purple sheath, her curvaceous body clearly defined. Jean-Luc slowly reached out his hand to touch her face, but Errig's strong hand grabbed the Captain's wrist.
"I am sorry, my Prince, but no one may touch the Doge but the Imperial carers."
His mouth agape, Jean-Luc turned his ashen face to the Prime Minister.
"I may not even kiss her goodbye? My wife?"
The tall Ventraxian shook his head sadly.
"No, my Prince. I apologise, but the Doge is in the hands of the Gods now. No one may touch her but the carers."
Jean-Luc looked down at his beloved Beverly and whispered,
"Has she been embalmed?"
Errig frowned in confusion as the universal translator tried to make sense of the word.
"Embalmed?"
Seeing his Captain was too overcome to explain, Will said quietly,
"Embalming is the removal of bodily fluids to be replaced with a preservative. It greatly slows decomposition."
Shock registered on the Prime Minister's face.
"No! The Doge will be interred in the Imperial Tomb as she is. Five days after entombment, her body will be reduced to ashes and the remains entered in her own niche, to take her place amongst the other Doges who have ruled our planet for centuries."
Not having heard the exchange, Jean-Luc turned to Errig and said brokenly,
"Please…I beg you…let me kiss her goodbye."
Two of the guards moved closer. Errig took Jean-Luc by the arm and said, not unkindly,
"I understand your grief, my Prince, but you may not touch her. Perhaps it would be for the better if you left now."
Unwilling to comply, but knowing her had no choice, Jean-Luc asked softly,
"May I return for the internment?"
Errig sighed and rubbed his brow.
"Normally I would say no, but you are the Prince Consort, so yes, my Prince, you may return, but please remember to preserve the solemnity of the occasion. You may not touch her."
Jean-Luc mumbled,
"I understand"
As Will and Deanna took his arms and led him away. Deanna gave her lover a worried look. Jean-Luc Picard was a broken man.
Once back aboard the Enterprise, Deanna subtly led Jean-Luc to his quarters. He allowed her to usher him to his favourite chair and provide him with a cup of Earl Grey before he said quietly,
"I'd like to be alone, thank you, Counsellor."
Deanna sat opposite him and tried to break through his mental barriers.
"Captain…"
He shook his head.
"Please…Deanna…I want to be alone right now."
Knowing he wouldn't budge, Deanna sighed and lowered her head.
"Very well, Captain, but I will come back later to see how you're coping."
All Jean-Luc did was nod. He didn't look at her.
Once out of his quarters, as Deanna made her way to the nearest turbolift, she tapped her comm. badge.
"Troi to Selar."
"Selar here, Counsellor."
"Doctor, I am worried about Captain Picard's mental health. At his insistence, I have just left him on his own in his quarters. Would you please request the computer to initiate a continual monitoring of his vital signs and continue until I tell you to stop?"
"Of course, Counsellor, I will begin the scans immediately."
"Thank you, Doctor. Troi out."

 

 

 

Will tried to smile at Errig, but it lacked any real warmth. The Prime Minister was confused…and not a little annoyed.
"Commander these continual interruptions to our mourning ritual are unwelcome."
Will sighed, closing his eyes briefly.
"I know, Sir, and I apologise, but Captain Picard is unwell and we seek to help him to heal."
Errig shrugged.
"But why do you ask such questions of us? Can't you understand that they are intrusive?"
Inspiration struck Will and his posture changed to one of confidence.
"Prime Minister…the Prince Consort is important, isn't he?"
Errig nodded brusquely.
"You know he is."
"Then it's in your best interest to see that he recovers."
Somewhat suspicious, Errig nodded again.
"Yes."
"Well, our Doctor requires not only a sample of the drug that was used on him, but we also need to know if there's an antidote."
Errig frowned.
"Antidote?"
Using his hands to give form to his words, Will smiled and said,
"A countermeasure."
The Prime Minister's eyes narrowed.
"You realise you are asking me to divulge extremely sensitive and personal details of the Doge's unions."
Straightening, Will's face became solemn.
"Yes, Sir."
There was a momentary silence, during which Will held his breath. Errig eventually grunted and bowed his head.
"If it were anyone but the Prince Consort…"
He sighed.
"Very well, Commander, we will send both samples to your ship. You may expect them within the hour."
Letting his breath out slowly, Will offered a bow.
"Thank you, Prime Minister. Enterprise out."

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was in purgatory. As soon as he'd seen his beloved Beverly the seeds of desire had taken root. His overwhelming grief had kept it at bay while he was down on the planet, but once he was back in his quarters, alone, his need began to escalate. What he was experiencing was beyond arousal, beyond lust, it was an overpowering yearning for sex...any sort of sex as long as he reached some sort of release.
As the need increased, so did his heart rate and respiration. A light sheen of sweat covered his body as he sprang up out of his chair and began to pace. In his mind, all he could see was Beverly's form, covered in the deep purple sheath, showing her breasts, the trim waist and the delicious flare of her hips. He swore he could almost see the wiry patch of copper hair at the juncture of her thighs.
He wanted her so badly he could almost taste her. He wanted to take her, to plunge into her and ride her until she screamed in ecstasy. He wanted to come and come and come inside her, mindless and given over only to sensation.
Gritting his teeth, his hand went to his groin, grabbing his penis and squeezing it roughly, but it remained stubbornly flaccid. He was desperate. Grief, despair, desolation, all warred with his ever growing, wretched lust.
Clutching at straws, he suddenly strode to the bathroom, stripping off his clothing as fast as he could. On the pad beside the shower, he called up cold water and stepped in, gasping as the icy spray needled his back. He lifted his head and turned to face the spray, but the sensation of the water on his skin, even as cold as it was, only served to exacerbate his need. Desperately he grabbed his penis again, squeezing and tugging, he tried to will an erection, but nothing happened. He never heard the doors to his quarters open, but when Selar's analytical voice suddenly sounded nearby he jumped involuntarily.
"Captain Picard, you are in distress."
He turned his back and let go of his useless penis, saying roughly,
"Get out."
He heard Selar sigh.
"I cannot, Captain. Your blood pressure is dangerously high, your heart and respiration rates are too rapid and Counsellor Troi informs me you are experiencing extreme sexual arousal. Please, Captain, exit the shower and submit to treatment."
Tears welled in Jean-Luc's eyes as he all but shouted,
"Leave me alone! I want to be by myself!"
Selar's voice grew crisp.
"That is unacceptable, Captain. If you will not exit the shower, I will come in and sedate you."
Anguish and despair overwhelmed the wretched man. He laid his head against the shower stall and tried not to sob. He managed to say brokenly,
"Wait in the living area, I'll come out soon."
Selar was dubious, but she acquiesced. Five minutes later, clad only in a towel wrapped around his slim waist, Jean-Luc stepped warily into his living area, only to be confronted not only by Selar, but Deanna as well. His lust was still insidiously eroding his control and the sight of two attractive women only served to heighten his already extreme need. He took a deep breath and said with as much authority as he could muster,
"I advise you to leave immediately. You are not safe here with me at the moment."
Deanna was immediately aware of what he meant, but Selar was not. She tilted her head, saying with cold Vulcan logic,
"You cannot achieve an erection, can you, Captain?"
He shook his head, just barely keeping control.
"Then you cannot have penetrative sex. I fail to see how that puts us in danger."
Deanna was about to explain that Jean-Luc would attack them anyway, regardless of his inability to penetrate them with his penis when his control suddenly snapped. He lunged at the closer of the two, which happened to be Selar.
Utilising her superior Vulcan strength, she twisted out of his grasp and delivered a nerve pinch. He dropped like a stone.
Deanna knelt and held his head, saying softly,
"How long will ne be out?"
Selar, taking a tricorder and scanning the unconscious man, muttered,
"About fifteen minutes."
Deanna lifted her head to say,
"Transporter Room two, this is Counsellor Troi. Three to beam to the Captain's private room in Sick Bay."
"Aye, Sir."
"Energise."
With the help of a nurse, Jean-Luc was lifted to his bed and a pair of Sick Bay pyjama pants put on him. Selar injected him with a mild sedative. Deanna raised a silent eyebrow in enquiry.
"I am hoping it will help to relieve his symptoms once he regains consciousness."
With a sigh, Deanna gently stroked her Captain's brow.
"What can be done for him? He can't go on like this."
Selar tilted her head.
"I have been analysing the samples sent to us by the Ventraxians. As yet I have not been able to tailor the countermeasure for human physiology. I have concluded the aphrodisiac is wholly responsible for the damage to Captain Picard's hypothalamus, but I am at a loss as to know what to do about it. So far regeneration treatment has had no effect."
Deanna frowned deeply, trying to find a solution.
"I know you can't remove it, but can a new one be cloned and implanted?"
Selar shook her head.
"I doubt it. Although every human male and female has a hypothalamus, it is unique in how it interacts with each individual. The damage to Captain Picard's hypothalamus is such that the tissue has been altered in such a way as to make it impossible to take viable cells for cloning. If I attempted to do so, the result would be either an incomplete gland, or one so different from his original gland as to be detrimental to him. It would fundamentally change the man he is, both physically and psychologically."
Anger surged in Deanna and she had to concentrate to quell it.
"Then what do we do? As it is he is being held hostage by his desire. This is not his fault and I refuse to accept that this poor man is going to have to suffer from extreme sexual frustration for the rest of his life!"
Selar nodded sadly.
"I agree with you, Counsellor and coupled with his overwhelming grief, I fear for his sanity. No man should have to endure that."
The Betazoid plexed the nerve bundle at the base of her ear and sighed.
"I will stay with him, Selar, you go and continue your work with the countermeasure. You never know, we might get lucky."
Selar's face showed disdain.
"I do not believe in luck, Counsellor. I believe in analytical work and the process of elimination."
Deanna dredged up a smile and softly snorted.
"All right, you work your way and I'll work in mine."
The Doctor left and Deanna settled into a chair beside her Captain, concentrating on his mental state. Even under the influence of the nerve pinch and the sedative, he was still tormented. Uppermost was his debilitating grief and anguish, but underneath the insidious desire percolated like a hideous brew in a cauldron, just waiting to be set free.
Deanna was deeply connected to him when he woke. His hands gripped the sides of the bed as his eyes darted to and fro, finally fixating on Deanna. His rough voice startled the Counsellor.
"Leave, Deanna…for your own safety…leave."
With the mental connection broken, Deanna rose and activated the restraining field. She looked down at the tormented man and said softly,
"I won't leave you, Captain…you need me."
With the field in place, Jean-Luc's knotted muscles relaxed slightly. He closed his eyes, but they immediately snapped open again and filled with tears.
"I keep seeing her, Deanna, I keep seeing her and I want her, my God…I want her so badly…but she's…dead. My beloved Beverly is dead and all I can think about is wanting to fuck her until I can't fuck any more!"
Self loathing washed off the wretched man in waves.
"We always made love, Deanna…we explored each other, we exulted in each other's pleasure…we never fucked."
He sobbed brokenly,
"I can't even mourn her properly; all I can think about is how much I want her!"
Deanna tapped her comm. badge and said quietly,
"Doctor Selar, will you come to Captain Picard's room immediately, please."
Within a minute Selar appeared at Deanna's side. She noted the restraining field and raised her eyebrow. Deanna turned to her and said softly,
"I feel Captain Picard requires heavier sedation."
With a nod, the Doctor left, only to return seconds later with a hypospray. She injected Jean-Luc and, as his eyes drifted shut, he heard Deanna say,
"Neural inhibitors will help too. That way he won't dream."
She looked down at Jean-Luc just in time to see the gratitude in his slitted eyes. Seconds later he was asleep. Selar placed the inhibitors on his brow and activated them. He slipped into oblivion.

 

 

He was kept under heavy sedation for the next three days, the neural inhibitors used only when his dreams became too much for him to bear. On the morning of the fourth day, as Selar was about to sedate him again, he shook his head, saying roughly,
"No. I want to go down to the planet to say goodbye to my wife."
Selar understood her Captain's need to say goodbye to Beverly, but she wasn't sure he could control himself. With sympathy for his situation, she said softy,
"I will have to talk to Counsellor Troi and Commander Riker about this, Captain."
Jean-Luc nodded, understanding her position. He took a calming breath and said quietly,
"I'm sure with some sedation I will be able to get through it."
Keeping her dubious opinion to herself, Selar merely nodded.
"I will return soon, Captain."
Jean-Luc gritted his teeth as the arousal began to gather strength.
"You'd better activate the restraining field."
Glancing up at the monitor over the head of his bed, Selar could see his elevated readings. She did as he requested and administered a light sedative. Jean-Luc tried to relax, but the need was growing. Selar left him and went to Beverly's office, where she summoned Will and Deanna.
Once the couple were in attendance, Selar delivered Jean-Luc's request.
Will looked down at Deanna, silently asking her opinion. She sighed and lifted her hands.
"I don't see how we can deny him. This will be his last chance to see her…to say goodbye. We simply cannot tell him he can't."
Will stroked his beard.
"What about controlling him? He won't be able to touch her, remember."
Deanna looked at Selar and the Vulcan sighed.
"I suppose I can keep his level of sedation such that he will understand what is going on, but not be able to act upon his desires."
Will nodded thoughtfully.
"That means the three of us go down with him."
Selar nodded and Deanna said,
"He will gain some comfort by our presence anyway. I think it's a good idea."
With a sigh, Will rubbed his brow.
"This whole situation really irks me. Beverly's dead…the Captain has been left horribly debilitated and we have to go with him to help him say goodbye to the love of his life. Holy shit…what a cock up."
Always dispassionate, Selar said quietly,
"It is unfortunate, but we have the vaccine. Millions will live because of Doctor Picard's sacrifice."
Will grunted.
"What about Captain Picard? How is he going to live the rest of his life as he is?"
The Vulcan tilted her head and sighed.
"I have not yet exhausted all avenues of study of the counter measure. We may yet find a way to help him."
Growing unreasonably angry, Will snapped,
"Well it better be soon!"
Selar was untroubled by Will's outburst, but Deanna surreptitiously touched his hand, sending him a subliminal message.
"Steady, my love."
The big man took a calming breath and bowed his head.
"I'll contact the Prime Minister."
The two women nodded. Selar said quietly,
"I would appreciate you letting me know what he says as soon as possible. Captain Picard is waiting."
Will's eyebrows rose.
"He's conscious?"
"Yes. At his request, I have him lightly sedated and under a restraining field."
Urgency washed over Will.
"I'll get up to the Bridge now."
He left immediately and Deanna sighed.
"I will go and sit with the Captain; perhaps I will be able to offer some mental stability."
Selar nodded thoughtfully.
"That may help, Counsellor, but if your presence exacerbates his condition, you will have to leave. Your mere proximity may be too much for him to bear in his present state."
Deanna nodded sadly.
"I understand."
She left the office and went to Jean-Luc's room. She could sense his torment and raised her mental barriers to protect herself.
As soon as she entered the room, Jean-Luc said succinctly,
"You'd best leave, Counsellor."
Deanna went to her Captain and sat beside him.
"It's all right, Sir, I want to help you."
He barked sarcastic laughter.
"Help me? Can you bring me back my wife? Can you restore my health?"
Deanna sighed.
"No, Captain, I can't…but if you let me, I may be able to offer you a form of mental stability."
He frowned.
"How?"
Deanna sat forward, butterflies in her stomach.
"I can enter your mind, Captain and share with you my ability to control my emotions."
"Like a mind meld?"
She shook her head.
"No, Sir, I lack the ability to completely suppress my emotions, but I do possess the ability to bolster both of our mental barriers. With my help and the use of sedatives, you may find the coming ordeal a little easier to bear."
Gritting his teeth at the insidious arousal that had only increased the moment Deanna stepped into the room, Jean-Luc was clutching at straws when he whispered,
"Do it."
Deanna closed her ryes and said softly,
"Try to relax and open your mind."
The tortured man tried to do as she asked but he was too tense. Without thinking, Deanna reached forward and stroked his head. Jean-Luc shouted,
"Oh God…don't touch me!"
Snatching her hand away, Deanna said quickly,
"I'm sorry, Captain."
He shook his head, his body twitching under the restraining field.
"It's no use, I can't relax…I want…I need…Oh God, help me, I want sex!"
Deanna rose from her seat and backed towards the door, saying hastily,
"I'll try again once you've received more sedative."
As she left Jean-Luc howled. It was the sound of unmitigated torture.

 

 

 

 

Prime Minister Errig was patient but Will could see he really didn't want to talk to him. The tall First Officer kept his voice low and soft, his posture meek.
"It will be his last opportunity to say goodbye to his wife."
Errig nodded.
"I am aware of that, Commander."
Will raised his hands a little.
"And you did say he could come down to see her this one last time."
With an irritated sigh, Errig gestured behind him.
"But this afternoon is the internment. It is a very solemn occasion, one which we should not share with…forgive me, Commander…aliens."
Will kept his cool, he knew how desperately important this was to his Captain.
"Prime Minister, the Prince Consort wishes to say goodbye to his wife. Are you going to deny him?"
Anger flashed in the eyes of the Prime Minister, but then he calmed himself.
"I cannot…and you know it. How many will be in his party?"
"Four, including the Prince Consort."
Trying to hide a scowl and only just succeeding, Errig nodded.
"Very well. Be here in two hours. Errig out."
Letting out a long breath, Will rubbed a hand over his face. He then lifted his head and said.
"Riker to Selar."
"Selar here, Commander."
"Have Captain Picard ready to transport in two hours."
"Understood, Selar out."

 

 

 

 

Selar met Deanna in the main Sick Bay area. The Vulcan passed on Will's message and Deanna sighed.
"Well, he'll have to shower, shave and put on his dress uniform. Just how are we going to accomplish all that?"
The Doctor shrugged.
"As we have the past three days. I will increase his sedation and he will be accompanied by two male aides."
Deanna's eyes darted to the Captain's private room. She frowned.
"He is in a very agitated state. The sedation will have to be carefully regulated."
Selar nodded.
"I believe I can accomplish that."
Deanna's eyes were troubled.
"Then we'd best get started."
Summoning two strong men from the staff, Selar explained what they were to do. Deanna told Selar she would wait in Beverly's office. The Vulcan retrieved a hypospray and all three entered the Captain's room.
As soon as Selar set foot inside, Jean-Luc barked roughly,
"Release me!"
Ever calm, Selar said dispassionately,
"I intend to, Captain, once I have sedated you."
Jean-Luc shook his head, his body twisting under the field.
"No! Don't sedate me, just release me and come here!"
Selar remained silent as she went to the tormented man. As she injected him, he shouted,
"I want to fuck you! Release me!"
The sedative immediately took effect. Jean-Luc ceased his restless twisting and lay calmly on the bed, his eyes drooping. Selar said firmly,
"Captain Picard!"
His eyes opened and he looked at the Vulcan in a confused manner.
"Yes?"
She gestured to the two men with her.
"These two aides are going to help you shower, shave and dress. You will comply."
He nodded and sighed.
"All right."
The retraining field was released at the men helped Jean-Luc into the bathroom.
When Jean-Luc re-emerged half an hour later, he was still slightly dazed, but showered, shaved and clad in his dress uniform. Selar summoned Deanna and the Counsellor sat her Captain in a chair and drew up another to sit beside him. Gently taking his hand, she said softly,
"Captain, do you remember what we talked about a little while ago?"
He frowned then nodded.
"I think so, yes."
Deanna lowered her mental barriers and began to concentrate.
"I want you to relax and open your mind."
He sighed, tears welling in his eyes.
"I don't want to."
With sympathy, Deanna gently squeezed his hand.
"I know, but I think I can help you. You know you're going down to the planet to say goodbye to Beverly?"
He nodded.
"Yes."
"And you want to be in control, don't you?"
He nodded again.
"Yes."
"Then rather that have you too heavily sedated, I would like to try and bolster your control with my mind, but to do that I need your cooperation."
He sighed as tears slipped down his cheeks.
"But when I let my guard down I think of Beverly…and she's…she's…"
Deanna's own eyes filled with tears.
"I know, Captain, but you want to say goodbye, don't you?"
He nodded silently.
"Then relax and open your mind."
He slumped in his chair, all resistance gone. Deanna was instantly inundated by his grief and anguish. It almost overwhelmed her and, because she needed to be open to her patient, she was unable to raise her mental barriers. Fighting her way through the tumult of gut-wrenching grief and the ever-present desire, she fought to send a tendril of her psyche into Jean-Luc's mind. He put up a token resistance, but the sedative had robbed him of his usual power. He felt Deanna's gentle presence in his mind and he sighed, feeling her calm and compassion. Subliminally he heard,
"If you remain open to me throughout the coming hardship, I will help you stay in control."
Out loud he mumbled,
"Yes, I understand."
Still maintaining her contact with her Captain, Deanna said softly to Selar,
"Are we ready?"
The Vulcan nodded.
"Yes, Commander Riker is waiting for us in Transporter room one."
Deanna gave a nod, then muttered,
"And you have more sedative…just in case?"
"Yes, Counsellor."
Deanna slowly stood, encouraging Jean-Luc to his feet.
"I suggest we beam to the Transporter room."
Instead of replying, Selar tapped her comm. badge.
"Selar to Transporter room one. Three to beam to your location."
"Aye, Sir."
"Energise."
As soon as they rematerialised, Will went to his Captain's side and took his arm, so he was supported on both sides, Deanna was holding his other arm. They eased him up onto the transporter pad and waited until Selar took her place. Will glanced up at the Transporter Chief.
"You have the coordinates?"
The young woman nodded.
"Yes, Sir."
"Then energise."

 

 

 

 

It was Errig himself who greeted them. He cast a leery eye over Jean-Luc, but before he could say anything, Will spoke up.
"Captain Picard has been overcome with grief. We are here to assist and support him at this most difficult time."
Will could tell there was much the Prime Minister wanted to say, but to his credit, he remained silent, merely gesturing the party into the main hall.
Even through his drugged haze, Jean-Luc's eyes were immediately drawn to the catafalque. There, lying on a bier was his beloved wife. He stumbled forward, all but dragging Will and Deanna with him. Errig scowled as the internment ceremony had already begun. Imperial ministers gave way as the determined man made his way to the catafalque, his passage eventually stopped by one of the huge guards.
Will turned to Errig, his eyes pleading. With an irritated sigh, the Prime Minister waved away the guard, but said in a low voice,
"Remember, Commander, your Captain may not touch the Doge."
Will nodded his understanding and, together with Deanna and Selar, gently walked their Captain up to Beverly's body. He stopped beside her, staring down slack jawed. He lifted a hand, but Will gently gripped his wrist. Jean-Luc looked at his Number One and it nearly broke Will's heart to shake his head and say,
"No, Sir, you can't touch her."
Nodding slowly in understanding, Jean-Luc moved up to Beverly's head. As he looked down at her, tears rolled down his face. In a broken whisper he said,
"Oh my love, mon amour, how I love you, how I will miss you."
Without thinking, he bent to kiss her, but Will caught him in time, saying gently,
"You can't do that, Captain…I'm so sorry."
A sob broke through Jean-Luc's chest and he almost collapsed. Deanna's assistance was nearing its limits, his grief was crippling her and she could feel the arousal beginning. She cast a knowing look at her lover and he gave a quick nod.
"We should go now, Captain."
Jean-Luc shook his head, saying beseechingly,
"No…please let me stay."
Will leaned down and spoke directly into Jean-Luc's ear.
"The ceremony is already taking place, Captain, we have to go now."
Jean-Luc turned his haunted eyes on Will and sobbed,
"But Beverly…I don't want to leave her."
Will and Deanna began to ease him away from the catafalque and he started to struggle, shouting,
"No! I want to stay with her!"
Will tapped his comm. badge.
"Enterprise, four to beam directly to Sick Bay."
As their bodies disappeared in a shimmer of blue light, Errig sighed with relief.
The minute they reappeared in Sick Bay, Deanna broke her link and staggered to a bio bed. Jean-Luc was heavily sedated and taken to his private room. Had he been able to touch his wife he would have immediately realised she wasn't as cold as she should have been.

 

At the sound of a loud gong, everyone in the Great Hall, except the guards and the Imperial Carers knelt. The carers approached the catafalque, each of the four carrying two head coverings that had a black visor attached. Once they reached the catafalque, each carer handed a guard a hat, then they all put the hats on.
With another loud gong, the guards picked up the bier and carried it towards the back of the hall, where two massive bronze doors stood in burnished glory.
They halted at the doors and the carers each pounded twice with their fists. The sound boomed through the hall and everyone who was kneeling, some two hundred people, stretched their arms out, hands palm down, and laid their foreheads on the floor, closing their eyes tightly.
The Guards and the carers lowered their visors as the doors swung open to emit a brilliantly, blinding bright light. Able to see through the black material of their visors, the guards bore Beverly's body into the tomb where they reverently placed the bier on the floor. They then exited the tomb to kneel outside.
The carers lifted Beverly's body into a shallow stone trough-like bed, then one of the carers went to a wall panel and opened it, displaying a small computer terminal. Instructions were inputted and overhead, a large machine emerged from the ceiling, two small red lights coming on. The four carers gathered at the doors, turned and bowed low to Beverly, then exited the tomb. As the massive doors swung silently closed, the interior lights went out, plunging the tomb into eternal darkness, save for the two small red lights, directly above Beverly's body.
She lay as she had since the poison had taken her, but the effect of the poison was not as it would have been on a Ventraxian. To an indigenous being it would have been fatal, and to all intents and purposes, it appeared to have killed Beverly, but that was not so. Her metabolism had all but shut down, her heart beat only one small spasm every three minutes and her miniscule susurrations of breath were also minutes apart, but she was alive.
The Ventraxian medical scanners were not sensitive enough to pick up these faint life signs. Had they allowed the Starfleet personnel to use their devices, Beverly might well have been healed, just as Jean-Luc had said. Instead she lay comatose in a blackened tomb, her time running out. In five short days the machine above her, which was a laser of sorts, would activate and incinerate her body. Then the carers would re-enter, gather Beverly's ashes and placed them in a golden urn and put them in a niche bearing her name. There her remains would lie among the hundreds of Doges who had preceded her.
But Beverly's body was not entirely inactive. Her immune system was slowly fighting the poison and, by some miracle, winning, but time was against her. Nevertheless, half an hour after she had been interred, her heart began a stronger beat every two and a half minutes and the tiny breaths drew in more air.

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc had been unconscious for five hours after returning to his ship. He woke slowly, but wished her hadn't. Memories of seeing his beloved wife laid before him on the catafalque filled his mind, as did the memory of being unable to touch her. He began to feel the stirrings of desire and was plunged into a black hole of despair. He knew he couldn't go on. Not only could he not bear the grief of losing the only women he had ever truly loved, but the insanity of his unrelieved sexual need was, he knew, going to send him mad. A sudden calm descended upon him as he realised the solution to his torture. There was no retraining field, so he slowly got out of bed. A quiet alarm sounded and Selar arrived within seconds. Jean-Luc lifted a hand, saying as calmly as he could,
"I want to use the toilet, I may shower as well."
The Vulcan gave him a searching look and asked,
"How do you feel, Captain."
Somehow he summoned a small smile.
"Not too bad…a little foggy perhaps."
Selar nodded, the readings above his bed saying much the same thing.
"Do you require assistance?"
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"No, I think I will be all right, but perhaps when I return to my bed you might sedate me again?"
The Doctor bowed her head.
"Of course, Captain."
She waited until he had entered the bathroom then left.
Once he heard his room's door close, Jean-Luc re-emerged and went to the replicator, ordering a laser scalpel. He then went back into the bathroom, stripped off his pyjamas and entered the shower, programming hot water. He lifted his head, closed his eyes and smiled, saying softly,
"I'm coming, Beverly, we'll be together again soon, my love."
He then opened his eyes and activated the scalpel. Without hesitation he drew it across the left wrist, then up his arm to the elbow, opening the brachial artery. Then, with remarkable calm, he swapped hands and repeated the actions on the right wrist and arm. He dropped the scalpel and lowered himself to the shower floor, crossing his legs and offering his wounds to the cascading hot water. He closed his eyes and smiled.

 

 

 

 

It had taken Deanna a couple of hours of deep meditation to recover from her experience with her Captain and, even though she felt much better, the effects lingered, making her feel generally unsettled.
In her capacity as ship's Counsellor, her main job was the mental well being of the Captain and so, over the years she had served with him, she had developed a way to monitor him continually, despite his ability to shut her out. It was by no means a strong connection, more an ethereal awareness of his being, but it was enough to constantly reassure her of his presence in her mind.
Beverly's death had hit the crew hard and Deanna and her staff had found their services in great demand, so, even though she felt under par, Deanna had taken some patients that afternoon, safe in the knowledge that her Captain was heavily sedated.
The Lieutenant she was counselling was in tears, relating a story about how Beverly had saved her little daughter's life. Jean-Luc's rise to consciousness was noted by Deanna, but only in the periphery of her senses. The Lieutenant accepted some tissues, while sobbing,
"I never thanked her enough…and now it's too late."
The intangible thread that represented Jean-Luc Picard strengthened a little in Deanna's mind.
"He's out of bed."
Deanna concentrated, but felt nothing but calm.
"Selar must have given him more sedation." She reasoned. She re-focussed on her patient.
"Doctor Picard's death as had a profound affect on us all. I'm sure she knew how much you appreciated what she did for your daughter and I know she took great satisfaction in her work. In time you will be able to think of Doctor Picard without the pain you're experiencing now and you will come to terms with your grief."
She was about to say more when her connection to Jean-Luc suddenly began to wane. Deanna closed her eyes and concentrated hard, but the thread was slipping away. It was something that had never happened before. Even when he was unconscious, the thread had remained. Deanna suddenly stood and slapped her comm. badge.
"Troi to Selar."
The reply was instant.
"Selar here, Counsellor."
Wasting no time on explanations, Deanna all but yelled.
"Go to the Captain…NOW!"
Selar rarely ran, but she made an exception in this case. She bolted from Beverly's office and burst into Jean-Luc's room and then through the barely opening bathroom door.
She wrenched open the shower stall door to be confronted by her unconscious Captain. Her eyes took in the devastating wounds on his arms and she lifted her head to shout,
"I need a trauma team in Captain Picard's room, STAT!"
She shut off the water and checked for a pulse. There was one, weak, rapid and thready, but he was still alive. How long he remained so was debatable.
The team quickly arrived and had Jean-Luc placed on his bed in mere seconds. Super absorbent pads were placed over the wounds as Selar applied a cuff to each arm, trying to stem the blood loss. He was prepped as he was taken to surgery. Deanna arrived just as he was taken into the operating suite. The thread that represented her Captain had almost extinguished. Deanna tapped her comm. badge.
"Troi to Riker."
Will's reply was guarded, his expectation of bad news making him wary.
"Riker here, go ahead Deanna."
Not wishing to tell him the news over the comm. system, Deanna asked quietly,
"Can you come to Sick Bay, Will? It's urgent."
All business, the big man said curtly,
"I'm on my way, Riker out."
Deanna caught the attention of a nurse and got a report about what had happened. When Will arrived, Deanna directed him into Beverly's office. Without preamble, she said brokenly,
"Captain Picard has tried to take his own life."
Will blanched.
"What? How?"
Deanna sighed, motioning Will to a seat.
"He somehow got hold of a laser scalpel and slashed his wrists and opened the brachial artery in both arms. He was in the shower at the time, with the water set to hot to make the blood flow faster."
Closing his eyes briefly, Will ran a hand over his face.
"How is he?"
Deanna shrugged.
"I don't know, he's in surgery as we speak."
Will sighed, his eyes showing his despair.
"Who found him?"
Deanna's eyes filled with tears.
"I was counselling a patient when the…thread…I have with him began to quickly fade. I immediately contacted Selar and she found him in his shower."
Will stood, wishing to pace, but thought better of it and retook his seat. He was angry and frustrated, but overall he was devastated. He grunted, angrily fisting his hands.
"We should have seen this coming."
Deanna shrugged wearily.
"Perhaps, but I don't think we were ever going to be able to stop it, Will. Not only has he lost the love of his life, he has been left absolutely debilitated by his sexual desire, a desire he has no way of relieving. Can you honestly think any man could withstand all that? It was only a matter of time before he tried something like this…and he'll do it again, unless Selar can find a way to make that countermeasure suitable for humans."
Slamming his fist against his thigh, Will almost shouted,
"Well what do we do?! I will not stand idly by while my Captain commits suicide!"
Deanna wiped at her tears and sighed.
"I don't know, Will. He can't live as he is. Maybe he has the right to choose. Would you have him live in abject misery, tormented by his grief and his body's unfulfilled desires, guarded 24/7 so he can't commit the only act that will bring him peace?"
Furious, Will stood and glowered.
"I will NOT allow Jean-Luc Picard to take his own life! I will guard him myself before I allow that to happen."
Growing angry herself, Deanna's voice rose.
"And just how long are you willing to do that? This isn't something he will eventually get over, Will. He is suffering…suffering in a way we can barely comprehend. Would you prolong that suffering? Would you allow him to live in constant torment and pain?"
Finally seeing her point of view, will slumped back into his seat. He sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"I suppose he can't be kept sedated indefinitely."
Deanna nodded.
"Exactly. He has the right to choose, Will; we can't take that away from him."
Sadly, Will looked at his lover and sighed.
"We're about to break orbit. Let me know how he is, will you?"
She nodded.
"Of course."
Just as the doors opened, Deanna said quietly,
"How long to our destination to deliver the vaccine?"
"Two weeks."
Deanna shook her head and sighed.
"As much as I want to leave Ventraxia far behind us, the thought of leaving Beverly's body behind…I feel so…bereft."
Will gave a curt nod.
"Me too. That damned place is blighted."
Deanna sat in Beverly's office for over two hours before Selar came in. For the first time since she'd known her, Selar looked tired. Deanna vacated the seat, offering it to the Vulcan and saying,
"Would you like something? A drink perhaps?"
Shaking her head, Selar sat down and momentarily cradled her head in her hands. The thread that connected Deanna to Jean-Luc was there, weak, but there, so she knew he was still alive, but Selar's attitude worried her.
"Tell me."
Selar looked up, her usually bright eyes haunted.
"I have saved his life, but he very nearly died."
Deanna sat in front of the desk and nodded slowly.
"I know."
The Vulcan shook her head.
"He will try again."
Deanna sighed.
"I know that too."
With a speculative look, Selar tilted her head.
"You think he should be allowed to die."
Defeated by her own grief, both for her best friend and her Captain, Deanna's shoulders slumped.
"Selar he is suffering in a way we can't hope to comprehend. Is it right to make him continue to suffer such pain and grief? It's his life. If he is so damaged, so devastated, don't you think he has the right to choose?"
The Doctor clasped her hands on the desktop. She took a deep breath and tried to put her thoughts in order.
"Perhaps you are directing your opinions at the wrong person, Counsellor. I am a Doctor; I have taken an oath to preserve life. I cannot condone what you suggest."
Deanna briefly closed her eyes and sighed.
"But is it right to preserve a life that consists of nothing but unbearable suffering? Euthanasia has been available throughout the Federation for over two centuries."
She held up her hand, but Deanna went on.
"And yes, I know it is only available to those who are terminally ill, but Captain Picard is terminally suffering. As you say, he will try again…and again…and again, until he's successful. You have the ability to make his demise painless and dignified. Would you deny him that?"
Selar sighed.
"Counsellor…"
Deanna reached forward to gently touch Selar's hands.
"Just give it some thought, that's all I ask."
Deanna rose, but stopped her passage to the door when Selar said quietly,
"I have not given up on finding a way to make the countermeasure suitable for humans. I may yet succeed."
Deanna turned and speared the Vulcan with an intense gaze.
"That may cure his sexual frustration, but it will do nothing for his overwhelming grief. Beverly was the love of his life; he doesn't want to live without her. Without her his life has no meaning. He no longer has a reason to live."
Deanna left the office to go to the Captain's room. Selar sat at Beverly's desk, deep in thought.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was heavily sedated, whole blood flowed from two bags into a vein in the crook of his left arm and he was under a restraining field. His pallid skin and recent weight loss gave him a gaunt appearance and Deanna's emotions threatened to overflow as her sympathy for the wretched man washed over her. She opened her empathic senses and felt nothing but debilitating grief and desire. Even deeply unconscious he was tormented. She moved to his bed and gently stroked his bald head, subliminally sending,
"You are not alone, Jean-Luc, I am with you. I understand how you feel."
In the depths of his mind, Jean-Luc sobbed.
"Help me, Deanna…please…help me. I don't want to live any more."
Tears welled in Deanna's eyes.
"I know, Jean-Luc, I know. I will try to help you, I promise."
She felt relief flood through him.
"Thank you, Deanna…thank you."
Just as Deanna was severing the link, she became aware of someone standing behind her. She turned to see Selar watching her. The Vulcan bowed her head.
"I have given what you said much thought and, although it goes against my better judgement, I agree you have a point. Give me a week, one more week. If I cannot successfully alter the countermeasure in that time, I will assist Captain Picard in his wish to end his life."
Deanna looked down at Jean-Luc and sighed.
"And in the meantime?"
The Vulcan shrugged.
"I will keep him heavily sedated. He will need at least four days to recover from his latest injuries."
Deanna's eyes found Selar's and she nodded.
"All right, I agree. In the interim, I will stay with the Captain, helping him to endure the unendurable."
Selar nodded and left. Deanna tapped her comm. badge.
"Troi to Riker."
"Riker here."
Deanna took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"Will, I am going to ask to be relieved of duty for the next week so I can assist in the Captain's recovery."
Will's voice carried the germ of hope.
"You can help him?"
She sighed.
"No, not really. All I can do is let him know he's not alone."
The sadness in Will's voice made Deanna's eyes tear.
"Well at least that's something. Are you able to talk to him?"
Deanna nodded.
"In a very limited fashion."
"Tell him we're all thinking of him."
Deanna smiled sadly, knowing it wouldn't be enough.
"I'll tell him, Will. Troi out."
She then placed her hand on Jean-Luc's brow and concentrated.
"Captain?"
He stirred in his mind, trying to push through the terrible need that gnawed at him.
"Yes?"
"If you can wait one week, your wish will be granted."
She felt his unshed tears.
"Thank you...thank you, Deanna. I will wait."
And so Deanna drew up a chair and settled in for what she knew was going to be a very traumatic seven days.

 

 

 

 

As the hours grew into days, Beverly heart continued to beat stronger and more frequently. Her breathing was now almost regular, though shallow and her metabolism had began to function again, assisting her immune system to purge her body of the poison.
Beneath the bronze powder that coloured her body, her skin started to taken on a slight pinkish tinge. Most of the many wounds she'd sustained in her fight with the previous Doge had scabbed over, but the deep stab wound in her back had begun to bleed as her heart had slowly begun to beat with more vigour. Her right kidney had been lacerated and the renal vein cut, so, with each stronger beat of her heart, more blood was shed.
In the evening of the fourth day of her internment, Beverly's eyes fluttered open.
Dazed and confused, she blinked owlishly in the darkness, trying to make some sense of her surroundings. She was cold, dreadfully weak and thirsty beyond belief.
As her eyes adjusted to the blackness, she discerned the two tiny red lights above her. Something told her they boded danger.
Through sheer force of will, Beverly raised her arms to grip the side of the trough. She waited some minutes, gathering her meagre strength before pulling herself into a sitting position. She remembered what had happened and surmised she was in the tomb, but what was to come was a complete mystery to her, however those two seemingly innocuous lights above her, told her she should get out of the trough.
She tried to lift her legs, but lacked the strength. Not knowing how far off the floor she was, Beverly had little option but to take her chances and roll out of her stone casket. She fell only a metre, but landing on the cold stone floor was painful. She could feel the stickiness of blood on her back and knew she was bleeding. Her fall had opened some of the other cuts and stab wounds and Beverly knew it was imperative she got out as soon as possible. Her throat was dry and her tongue swollen, but she tried to call out, tried to bring attention to her plight, but her weak calls went unanswered.
She rested for almost an hour before she began to slowly crawl around the periphery of the floor space.
It took her nearly four hours to cover every nook and cranny and by the time she found the doors she was utterly exhausted. She had just enough time to lie down before she lost consciousness.
At dawn the next day, all two hundred and twenty-five ministers were present in the Great Hall.
In front of the dais stood Errig, facing all his colleagues. Today was the investiture of the new Doge, a fourteen year old sister of the old Doge. On the dais, two elderly women knelt, their colourful robes spread around them. Imperial carers stood in a phalanx, the centre two holding a deep purple cushion on which rested the new golden crown.
As the young woman was escorted, blindfolded onto the dais by another elderly woman, the entire body of ministers knelt, heads bowed. The new Doge-to-be was led to her position and the elderly women stood, their heads bowed. While still kneeling, Errig intoned,
"We, your parliament, greet you, Madame Doge. We pledge our undying allegiance to you, your successors and to our nation. May the Gods guide you in your infinite wisdom."
The elderly women stepped up to the still blindfolded teenager and raised the crown above her head.

Beverly was wakened by a loud humming sound. She lifted her head, trying to locate the source. It seemed to be coming from above her and, as she opened her eyes wide in the darkness, the red lights went out and green ones took their place. Then more lights came on and Beverly began to discern some kind of machine. The tip began to glow and the air around her became statically charged, making the hair on her body stand on end.
Beverly suddenly realised she was witnessing a build up of a laser discharge. Panic lent her strength and she began to pound on the door, weakly yelling,
"Help! Get me out of here!"
With the crown poised above the young girl's head, the sudden, solemn silence of the Great Hall was shattered by the booming sound of the tomb doors being pounded. A collective gasp went up from each and every one in attendance. The elderly women stepped back in confusion, looking to Errig for guidance. He risked a glance up and, seeing the Doge-to-be was still blindfolded, he stood and said to the Imperial carers,
"The Gods are speaking. Open the sacred doors."
Four carers rushed to the doors and opened them, shielding their eyes. Just as the doors swung open, the laser discharged. There was a brilliant flash of blue light, then silence. The carers opened their eyes to see Beverly crawling out of the tomb, her body soaked in blood. One of the carers fainted on the spot; the other three ran in fear. Errig, mouth agape, dropped to his knees, and touched his forehead to the floor.
The teenager, knowing something was wrong, wrenched the blindfold from her eyes and shouted,
"What is it?! Why has the ceremony stopped?"
Now shivering with terror, Errig, still with his forehead on the floor, pointed to Beverly's blood soaked body.
"She has arisen! The Doge is alive!"
Nearing the end of her endurance, Beverly crawled to the edge of the dais and said with as much authority as she could muster,
"I need medical assistance."
She then collapsed full length on the floor, barely conscious.
No one moved for several seconds until one of the elderly women crawled to Beverly and gingerly reached out to touch her. The teenager stepped closer, saying softly,
"Well?"
The old woman nodded.
"She is warm."
Not knowing quite want to do, the youngster decided this was a job for her Prime Minister. Almost shouting in panic, she called,
"Prime Minister Errig…you will deal with this matter!"
Errig was torn. Because the coronation had not taken place, the young women on the dais was not officially his Doge. But he didn't know quite what Beverly was either. Was she the Doge, or was she a risen God? When he made no move, the teenager shouted,
"I have given you your instructions, Errig!"
He decided to obey both women. He rose to his feet, careful to keep his head bowed and called for medical assistance. Once the Doctors arrived, he had to order them to treat Beverly, they were so terrified they didn't want to go anywhere near her.
As she was being taken away on a litter, Beverly said to Errig,
"I want to contact my ship."
The Prime Minister bowed, but chose his words well.
"I will see to it, Madame Doge"

 

 

 

Beverly's arrival at the hospital caused much consternation. The Doctors could easily see she needed urgent medical assistance, but no one was permitted to touch the Doge. Besides, they knew next to nothing about human physiology. And to make matters worse, if that were at all possible, was their belief that she may indeed be a risen God.
Growing tired of the bowed heads, kneeling and the hands off approach, Beverly, barely holding on to consciousness, rose on her elbows and mustered her voice.
"Who is in charge here?"
A tall Ventraxian crawled forward, dragging his forehead on the tiled floor. Beverly could only just hear him when he spoke.
"I am, Madam Doge."
"You are a Doctor?"
"Yes, Madam Doge."
Her vision began to grey but Beverly held on long enough to say,
"Then I am ordering you to treat me. Do whatever you need to heal me."
Exhausted, Beverly slumped back down, her eyes closing as consciousness fled. The Ventraxian Doctor rose unsteadily to his feet and approached the gurney, his hands shaking. To the gathered staff, still on their knees he said softly,
"We have our instructions. Move her to the intensive care suite."
This was done, a saline drip applied and her wounds dressed. But that was as far as the medical personnel were willing to go. It was fear that motivated them. They didn't want to do anything that might make her worse. If she died under their care, they would pay the price with their own lives. They felt, as long as she was unconscious, it was best to leave her alone. Unfortunately, Beverly stayed unconscious for nearly two days.

 

 

 

It was well known that Vulcans needed much less sleep than humans, but as Selar worked diligently on the countermeasure day after day…and night after night…eventually she began to grow weary. So far she had tried three variations of the countermeasure, but none had worked. Jean-Luc, even in his heavily sedated state, continued to be tormented by his overpowering need. Deanna would rest for two hours, then re-establish her contact with her Captain, gently talking to him, trying to offer solace, but it was all but useless. He knew what he wanted to do; he was just waiting as he'd agreed.
On the morning of the seventh day, Selar requested Will convene a senior staff meeting in the Sick Bay lounge. Although nothing had been said about the Captain's wishes to the others, Will, Deanna and Selar knew that Jean-Luc's time had all but run out. Worf, Data and Geordi were worried about having been summoned to the meeting in Sick Bay, but when Will outlined why they were there, there was a deathly silence.
"I'd like to open this meeting by telling you that you are here because you are Captain Picard's most trusted officers and I think he would want you to be here to hear what I have to say."
Will took a deep breath and bowed his head.
"Seven days ago, Captain Picard tried to take his own life. Doctor Selar saved him, but he made it quite clear he no longer wishes to live. You may not be aware, but added to his crippling grief over the loss of Doctor Picard, he has been suffering from an overwhelming disorder of a sexual nature that Doctor Selar has been unable to remedy.
Together, these two factors have made the Captain's life unbearable and in truth, I think we all agree he was always going to find it all but impossible to go on without Beverly."
Will rubbed his eyes and sent Deanna a look of gratitude as she gently touched his hand.
"It was decided a week ago that if Doctor Selar couldn't come up with a cure for his sexual dysfunction, that she would agree to assist Captain Picard in taking his own life. That day has come."
Worf sat up straight, giving a nod of approval.
"It is the warrior's way. If one is disabled, one must have the opportunity to end one's suffering. Captain Picard will be welcomed to Sto-Vo-Kor."
Data was silent, obviously trying to come to terms with what he had just learned, but Geordi sprang to his feet.
"You can't allow this! Captain Picard is…he's our…we need…My God, don't do it! He's Captain Jean-Luc Picard; he's been our Captain for over twelve years! How can you even think of doing this? It's insane!"
Deanna looked up at Geordi and said gently,
"He is suffering beyond measure, Geordi and we can't help him. Would you have that continue? Would you have him live in a state of perpetual torture just to keep him alive?"
Geordi had no answer to that. He slowly sat down and shook his head.
"Captain Picard…gone?"
Data asked softly,
"How will it be achieved?"
Selar sighed.
"An injection of Temapopane. It is quick and painless."
Data nodded thoughtfully.
"I see. And who will administer the drug?"
Deanna answered that.
"We have discussed it, Data, and as I don't want Selar to violate her Hippocratic Oath and as I have been in continuous contact with Captain Picard, we have decided I will do it."
Data nodded, but Geordi asked brokenly,
"When"
Deanna sent him a sad smile, her eyes brimming with tears.
"Within the hour."
Will spoke, but the lump in his own throat made his voice rough.
"I think it would be fitting if we were all there, by his side, but if any of you wishes to absent themselves, we will understand."
There were looks exchanged around the table and it was Geordi who spoke.
"I think we'll all be there, Commander."
Selar stood.
"I will attend to the Captain; he has to be brought out of sedation for the temapopane to work efficiently. I will summon you at the appropriate time."
Will nodded his thanks and watched as the tired Vulcan left the room. He looked around the table and said quietly,
"Remember this day as long as you live, a great man is leaving us."
Work gave a curt nod.
"A great warrior."
Geordi sniffed, mumbling,
"A great Captain."
And Data said softly,
"A great friend."
They sat in silence as they waited.

 

 

 

It was the dawn sun, streaming in through her bedside window that woke Beverly. She felt dreadful and was in considerable pain, but she took a deep breath and called out,
"Is anyone there?"
She heard a shuffling as someone crawled forward.
"I will attend you, Madame Doge."
Beverly briefly closed her eyes and willed her temper into manageable proportions.
"Stand up and look at me."
A middle aged woman stood, but was very reluctant to lift her head. Beverly sighed and let it pass.
"Are you a Doctor?"
"Yes, Madame Doge."
"And what is my condition?"
That seemed to make the Ventraxian most uncomfortable.
"We do not know, Madame Doge."
Gritting her teeth, Beverly tried a different tack.
"Has anyone contacted my ship?"
"I do not know, Madame Doge."
Now clearly angry, Beverly barked,
"I want to see Prime Minister Errig right now!"
The hapless woman fell to her knees, touching her head to the floor.
"At once, Madame Doge!"
Errig had been agonising over Beverly's original request for contact with the Enterprise. On the one hand, he was bound to obey her every whim, but conversely he debated what good it would do to initiate contact with her ship. She couldn't leave Ventraxia and, judging by how badly the Prince Consort took her initial death, he pondered the wisdom of offering him hope where none existed, but when the Doctor had come to him with Beverly's demand, he knew he could not deny her.
His quick appearance by her bed made Beverly realise he must have already been in the building. He sank to his knees, ready to lower his head to the floor, but Beverly would have none of it. In exasperation she ground out,
"You will remain standing and you will look at me when I speak to you."
Errig swallowed to wet his dry mouth and tried to stand straight, but looking at his Doge took almost more courage than he possessed.
"I want to contact the Enterprise and I want to do it now."
The Prime Minister bowed.
"Yes, Madame Doge. I will have a monitor brought to you immediately. If you will excuse me for just a moment, I will initiate contact."
Beverly was growing exhausted again, but she remained resolute.
"As quickly as you can, Errig, if you please."
He bowed again and left the room. Beverly tried to relax, but her pain was growing worse.

 

 

 

Selar addressed the crowded room with solemnity.
"Captain Picard is now in what would be described as, 'twilight' sedation. With any small stimulation he would wake."
Deanna was standing by his head and she slowly reached out her hand. In silence, Selar placed a hypospray in her hand. The Counsellor blinked away her tears to say softly,
"Goodbye, Captain…know that we all loved you and will miss you for as long as we live."
She placed the nozzle against his carotid artery and put her thumb on the release button. Just as she was about to depress the button, a call came from the Bridge.
"Bridge to Commander Riker."
Deanna froze. Will's angry voice replied,
"I thought I gave orders not to be disturbed!"
The young officer on the Bridge was clearly intimidated, but stuck to his guns.
"I am aware of that, Sir, and I apologise, but we are receiving an urgent communiqué from Ventraxia."
Will scowled and growled,
"Tell them I will talk to them later."
The officer almost stammered.
"But, Commander, it's Doctor Picard who's calling."
Will gaped.
"What? Explain."
"It's her, Sir; she's on screen now…I'm looking at her."
Deanna snapped out of her shock, all but shouting,
"Send the call down here at once!"
"Aye, Sir."
Quickly putting the deadly hypo on the table behind her, Deanna watched as Data moved a monitor near the sleeping Captain. Selar produced another hypo and injected the Captain, saying to the assembled officers.
"A stimulant."
Jean-Luc's eyes snapped open and he shook his head.
"NO! This can't be…I don't want to live!"
He glared angrily at Deanna.
"We had an agreement."
He tried to sit up to get out of the bed, but Will grabbed his shoulders saying loudly,
"Captain…look at the monitor!"
Angry and confused and consumed by his dreadful need, Jean-Luc glanced at the device and froze. In a pathetic whisper he managed.
"What are you doing to me? Why would you torment me so?"
Deanna cradled his face in her hands and looked into his haunted eyes.
"It's Beverly, Captain…she's alive."
He looked again at the screen, tears forming in his eyes. He whispered,
"Beverly?"
She was obviously very sick, but she smiled.
"Hello, my love."
Jean-Luc struggled out of Will's grasp and grabbed the monitor.
"Beverly!"
She could see that something was very wrong with her husband, but her desperate need for help overrode her worry.
"I need you to come back to Ventraxia as soon as you can. I need help."
Will tapped his comm. badge.
"Bridge, this is Commander Riker. How close is the nearest ship?"
The officer at Tactical replied,
"That would be the Zukhoff, Commander. She's nineteen light years away."
"Have medical put the vaccines in a class one probe and send it to the Zukhoff with this message. Transport the vaccine to the outer colonies with all haste. Will explain later. Give their Captain my compliments, then set course for Ventraxia at maximum warp and engage."
"Aye, Commander."
Will leaned forward and said with a smile,
"We're on our way Beverly, hold on."
Jean-Luc put his fingertips on the screen and Beverly did the same. He openly cried as he said brokenly,
"I love you, Beverly."
She smiled tiredly and kissed her fingers before placing them over his.
"And I love you, my heart, but I have to go now. I'll put my Doctor on; I think he should talk to Selar."
Jean-Luc nodded, but they had to pry his hands off the monitor. Selar nodded her greeting to the Ventraxian Doctor.
"How is Doctor Picard?"
The tall male grimaced.
"The Doge is very unwell. One of her internal organs has been severely damaged. We do not know what it is, or what it does, but the Doge is passing blood in her liquid bodily waste and she continues to bleed heavily through the wound that penetrated her back. We are infusing her intravenously with a mild saline solution but she is in severe pain and is fading in and out of consciousness."
Selar nodded.
"Can you send me her scans?"
The Doctor shook his head.
"I am afraid we cannot do that, Doctor. We are forbidden to touch the Doge or show anything of her body to anyone but the Imperial Carers."
Selar frowned.
"But are they Doctors?"
The Ventraxian shook his head.
"No, they are not."
Will swore under his breath and barked,
"Riker to the Bridge."
"Bridge here, Commander."
"ETA at Ventraxia?"
"Just on ten hours, Sir."
"Understood, Riker out."
He turned to Selar and said sotto voce,
"Can she last that long?"
The Vulcan tilted her head.
"I do not know. It seems likely the damage is to a kidney, but how bad it is, I do not know. She requires a blood transfusion, but I doubt the Ventraxians would agree to it, even if they could manufacture human blood."
Selar returned her attention to the screen.
"Will you at least give her some pain relief?"
The Doctor shook his head.
"No, we cannot."
Selar arched one eyebrow.
"We will be entering orbit in ten hours. If Doctor Picard dies because of your inaction we will take it as a hostile act and respond accordingly. Are you willing to risk that?"
Errig eased the Doctor aside.
"You cannot force us to abandon laws that have been in effect for thousands of years."
Will took over.
"Doctor Picard is NOT a Ventraxian; she is a Federation citizen and a member of Starfleet. We will do whatever it takes to rescue her."
Errig blanched.
"You know full well you have a tactical advantage over us, Commander. Your ship is superior to ours…you could destroy our planet from orbit of you so desired. I will give your words due consideration. Errig out."
As the screen went blank, Jean-Luc howled.
"No! Get them back, I want to see Beverly!"
The hiss of the hypospray silenced the tormented man. As he slumped backwards, Will caught him and gently lowered him to the bed. A restraining field was activated and all stood in silence before Geordi stammered.
"Do you all realise how close we came to killing him?"
Will grunted, saying,
"The Gods are kind to ships called Enterprise."
He then strode from the room, the others in tow.

 

 

 

Errig met with his senior ministers, their shouted protests making the Prime Minister hammer his fist on the table to bring order.
"Stop this! We have to find some kind of resolution to this situation, not fight amongst ourselves."
A shorter man, middle aged and balding, shook his head and raised a clenched fist.
"Those Federation beings accepted our vaccine readily enough, one of their number killed our Doge, and now they have the temerity to threaten us? How dare they! We should obliterate them the moment they achieve orbit!"
Errig smiled mirthlessly.
"And just how do you propose we do that? Neither our ships nor our planetary defences could withstand an attack from a ship such as theirs. Face it, if they wish to take the Doge, they will and there's little we can do about it."
Another stepped forward, an elderly man, stooped with age.
"And what of the Doge? Is that indeed what she is…or is she a risen God? Can we treat her? Should we treat her?"
They men muttered amongst themselves before Errig sighed.
"As for treating her, it depends on her status. If she is a risen God, surely she could heal herself."
The blustering man laughed sarcastically.
"Well that hasn't happened."
Another of the ministers frowned, saying with worry,
"But what if it's some kind of test of our loyalty? Our adherence to doctrine? If she is a risen God and we treat her, we will have broken the most fundamental of our laws."
Errig nodded thoughtfully, then snapped his fingers.
"What if our Doctors surreptitiously work with the Imperial Carers?"
The elderly man's eyes widened.
"Yes! They are they only ones permitted to touch the Doge. Already they have done a little…dressing her wounds and placing the intravenous drip. They could take instructions from our Doctors without the Doge knowing."
Yet another minister shook his head.
"But of she is a risen God, she will know! And we will be doomed for our blasphemy."
Errig sighed.
"If she dies before the Enterprise returns we are doomed anyway. No, I think we have to do something to help her and take our chances. Summon Doctor Vestun."
The call went out and the assembled ministers sat in morose silence, each pondering his own mortality.

 

 

 

The Doctor arrived quickly and was overawed at being summoned to the Imperial chambers. He entered and bowed low.
"Prime Minister."
The taller man smiled, trying to put the medic at ease.
"Doctor Vestun, please, come and sit with us."
Vestun took his seat, but he was on his guard. Errig asked blandly,
"How is the Doge?"
The Doctor shrugged.
"I feel she is failing, Prime Minister."
Alarm skittered through the assembled ministers. Errig tapped his forefinger on the table, bringing order.
"Is there anything you can do for her?"
The Doctor blanched.
"Prime Minister…you know I cannot touch the Doge!"
Errig lifted a placating hand.
"Of course, Doctor, but would it be possible for you to give…instructions…to the Imperial Carers? Perhaps they could do your work for you."
Shock and dismay registered on the Doctor's face.
"I…I do not know…such a thing has never been suggested before."
Errig sighed.
"Yes, but can you do it?"
Shrugging again, Vestun's face fell.
"It would be pointless, Prime Minister. I know almost nothing of her physiology. I do not know how to treat her injury. The organ that has been damaged is one of two, but as to their function…I have no idea."
Errig pondered that, then said quietly,

Would you be willing to give the Imperial Carers your scanning equipment so they can take some readings we can send to the Enterprise?"
Vestun gaped.
"We cannot do such a thing! The Doge's body is sacrosanct. No off worlder may view the interior of her body!"
Errig sighed, seeing the looks of defeat around the table. He looked at the Doctor with hard eyes.
"Let me make this clear, Doctor. The Enterprise is returning and they intend to take the Doge, whether we allow it or not and to be brutally honest, we can't stop them. And to make matters worse, they have informed us that if she dies before they get here they may well take retributive action. Now they have requested scans, presumably so they can treat her and I intend to allow it. You are our chief physician, but if you refuse, I will relieve you and find a Doctor who will comply. The choice is yours, Vestun, I advise you to think carefully."
The Ventraxian Doctor glowered, but his position was precarious. He was well aware he could easily be replaced by a more compliant Doctor, one of the younger breed who weren't yet so deeply entrenched in the machinations of government. He sighed and bowed his head.
"I will do as you request, Prime Minister."
Errig smiled, but it was with little warmth.
"Good! I will contact the Imperial Carers and have one of them meet with you."
Vestun stood; ready to leave, but Errig stoped him with a quiet waring.
"Time is of the essence, Vestun. The Enterprise will be here in a matter of hours and I want no trouble. Is that clear?"
The Doctor bowed.
"Yes, Prime Minister."
Once the Doctor had left, the elderly minister sighed and rubbed a hand over his bald head.
"May the Gods forgive us."
Errig snorted.
"It's not the Gods we should fear, my dear friend, it's the Doge."
Several of the gathered ministers mumbled,
"Indeed."

 

 

When the Carers came to scan Beverly, she was barely conscious. She tried to rouse herself and managed to ask,
"What are you doing?"
But the cloaked and hooded women refused to answer her. She was very gently rolled onto her side and the dressing over the stab wound changed, but other than a pass over her body with a device Beverly didn't recognise, they did little else. The entire examination took less than five minutes. Twice more Beverly tried to engage the women in conversation, but they remained silent. When they were finished, they bowed low and retreated backwards from the room. Beverly called to them, asking for them to return, but the door closed with finality. Once again she was alone.
She looked up at the ceiling, trying to focus her greying vision. She whispered with tears in her eyes,
"Where are you my love? Come quickly, I need you."
She slipped into unconsciousness.

 

 

 

Will was in the Ready Room when the call came from Errig. The big First Officer composed himself before he activated his monitor, determined to remain calm. He was surprised when Errig bowed low.
"Commander Riker, I have good news."
Will sat up, his eyes shining.
"And that is?"
"We have medical scans of the Doge for your Doctors."
Will gave a sigh of relief.
"That's wonderful news, Prime Minister, thank you."
Errig shrugged, his eyes showing his displeasure.
"You gave us little choice."
Will also shrugged.
"While my Captain remains incapacitated, I am responsible for my crew…and that includes Doctor Picard. Would you have me be derelict in my duty?"
The Prime Minister bristled.
"No, but you expect me to cast aside the laws of generations of my people. How am I to reconcile that? You have made me compromise everything I believe in, just so you can fulfil your duty. It seems to me to be an inequitable arrangement, one facilitated by threats."
Will sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"I'm sorry you see it that way, Prime Minister, and I do wish there had been some other way to resolve this issue, but Doctor Picard must be returned to us, we will accept nothing else."
Errig bowed stiffly and gave Will a look of disdain.
"I am sending the information now. I will expect you in, what…seven hours?"
Will nodded.
"Yes, seven hours."
"Then we await your arrival. Errig out."
Will immediately tapped his comm. badge.
"Riker to Selar."
"Selar here."
"You should be getting medical information about Doctor Picard right now."
"Yes, Commander, I am receiving it as we speak."
"Let me know what you make of it, will you?"
"Aye, Commander, Selar out."
Not willing to sit still any longer, Will got up and strode onto the Bridge, saying to Data,
"You have the Bridge, Mr.Data; I'll be in Sick Bay."
Data's reply was ignored as Will entered the aft turbolift and barked,
"Sick Bay."
Just as he arrived, Selar was almost finished analysing the data from the Ventraxians. The big man appeared at the office door and quietly asked if he could enter. The Vulcan nodded, saying,
"Of course, Commander."
He stood in front of the desk, his hands gripping the back of the chair.
"Well?"
Selar sighed.
"It is not good, Commander. As I suspected, Doctor Picard has sustained a serious injury to her right kidney. Not only has the kidney been severely damaged, the renal vein has been severed. She also has many other injuries, some minor, some more serious. So far, all the Ventraxians have done is dress her wounds and introduce an intravenous feed of a mild saline solution. At present that is all that is keeping her from bleeding to death, but it won't last for much longer. She needs haemoglobin immediately."
Will lifted his head.
"Bridge, this is Riker. Are we within transporter range of Ventraxia yet?"
"No, Sir, we need another two hours before we're close enough to transport anything."
"Understood, Riker out."
He turned his attention back to Selar.
"Will she last another two hours?"
Selar shrugged.
"I cannot say, these scans are inconclusive about her general physical health. I can only hope she can hold on."
With a grunt, will muttered,
"We need to speak with her…tell her we're on our way and that she only has to hold on another two hours."
Selar nodded.
"That would probably help."
Turning the desk monitor to face him, Will activated it and called the Bridge.
"Bridge, this is Riker. Put me through to the Ventraxian Prime Minister."
"Aye, Sir, opening a channel now."
The screen changed from the Starfleet logo to the face of Errig. He seemed to be annoyed.
"What is it, Commander?"
Wasting no time on pleasantries, Will barked,
"We need to speak with Doctor Picard."
Errig shook his head.
"That is not possible. We…"
He got no further. Will's voice dropped menacingly.
"You arrange it, Prime Minister, or I will be very displeased."
Taking umbrage, Errig almost shouted,
"More threats? Is there no end to your brutality?"
Will tried to keep calm.
"Prime Minister, we need to transport some whole blood to Doctor Picard for infusion, but we are two hours away from being in range. She may die if she doesn't get the blood. We need to tell her to do her best to hold on until the blood arrives. Do you want her death on your hands?"
Still angry, Errig spat,
"Knowing what you have threatened to do if she does die makes your plea moot, Commander. We have no choice but to agree!"
He sighed and tried to rein in his temper.
"Very well, I will arrange it, stand by."
Will offered a small bow of his head.
"Thank you."
They had to wait almost a half an hour, but eventually Beverly appeared on the screen. She was obviously struggling to remain conscious. Will quickly spoke.
"Beverly, can you hear me?"
She managed to nod.
"You are bleeding badly from a damaged kidney and a severed renal vein. You need whole blood. We are going to transport some in about one and a half hours. You have to hold on…okay?"
She nodded, then whispered,
"Jean-Luc?"
Will's face fell.
"He can't talk to you right now, Beverly…he's…not well. As soon as we have you aboard and you're better you can see him, I promise. We'll be there in about six and a half hours."
She nodded, her eyes closed. Will said urgently,
"Promise you'll hold on, Beverly?"
She nodded again and whispered,
"I promise."
The screen went blank and Will softly swore. He then lifted his head and said,
"Bridge, this is Riker. Can we get any more speed out of the ship?"
The helm officer said warily,
"We're already at warp nine-point-five, Commander."
Will grunted.
"Take her to nine-point-eight."
"Nine-point-eight, aye, Sir."
Will slowly counted. He got to five before he got the call he expected.
"LaForge to Riker."
"Riker here, go ahead Geordi."
"Sir, it's going to really tax our systems to maintain warp nine-point-eight for over six hours."
Will grimaced and rubbed his forehead.
"Beverly's life is hanging in the balance, Geordi."
The dark engineer's voice grew resolute.
"I'll take power from wherever we can spare it, Commander. We'll get there in time."
"Thanks, Geordi, Riker out."
Will was about to leave to return to the Bridge when Selar's quiet voice stopped him.
"Commander, when was the last time you slept?"
Will waved a hand, dismissing the enquiry, but Selar persisted.
"Commander?"
He sighed and rubbed his gritty eyes.
"Ah…I don't know…the day before yesterday some time."
The Vulcan stood and clasped her hands in front of her.
"I am relieving you of duty for the next six hours. I will arrange for the transport of the blood products, I want you to get some sleep."
Will was about to protest before Selar said calmly,
"That is an order, Commander."
He snapped his mouth closed, glared at the Doctor and stalked out of the office.
After he had left, Selar, not wanting to leave the office, made a call.
"Selar to Troi."
"Troi here."
"Counsellor, I have just relieved Commander Riker for six hours. I have ordered him to get some sleep."
Deanna smiled, knowing how irritated that would have made her lover. She lifted her head, saying,
"I understand, Doctor, I will see he obeys."
"Thank you Counsellor, Selar out."
Deanna cast a long look at her unconscious Captain and left his room, heading for their quarters.

 

 

 

Will was pacing like a caged animal when Deanna found him. His anger, simmering just under the surface, buffeted the Counsellor as she entered their quarters. She raised her mental barriers and calmly said,
"You should be in bed."
He swung around and barked,
"Not you too!"
Deanna sighed and went to him, taking his hands and stopping his restless pacing.
"Will there is nothing to be gained by fighting this. You're exhausted, go to bed."
He shook his head, pulling his hands free.
"Deanna, Beverly is lying in a bed on Ventraxia, bleeding to death and we…"
The Betazoid interrupted.
"We have to do our jobs and you cannot function properly if you don't get enough sleep!"
Will was incensed and turned his anger on his lover.
"What about you? You've been with the Captain for days! When do you sleep?"
Remaining calm in the face of his raw anger, Deanna said quietly,
"I sleep while he sleeps. Don't worry about me, I'm doing fine."
Exasperated, Will ran his hands through his hair.
"I need to be on the Bridge!"
Deanna sighed.
"To do what? Sit in the Command chair and fret? Will, you are the acting Captain and the crew are looking to you for guidance. What kind of example would you set if you made a bad decision through fatigue?"
He was beginning to come around. He sighed and briefly closed his eyes.
"I just hate the idea of sleeping while Beverly is fighting for her life!"
Deanna said softly,
"Right now, right here, can you do anything to help her?"
He opened his mouth and shut it twice before he shook his head and said angrily,
"No!"
"Then go to bed. At least that way when we're almost at Ventraxia you'll be feeling much better."
She was right and he knew it, but giving in was hard. Deanna knew this and went to him, taking him by the hand and leading him to the bedroom. She led him to the bed and gave him a gentle shove, making him sit on the mattress. She then knelt before him and eased off his boots. He bent and took her hands in his.
"Okay, no boots, but I'm keeping my uniform on."
Deanna smiled tenderly and nodded.
"Agreed."
He stretched out on the bed and Deanna put a blanket over him. She kissed his brow and said quietly,
"Lights off."
Despite his tumultuous emotions, Will was asleep before Deanna had left their quarters.

 

 

 

Errig was present when the packs of whole blood arrived. They were in a special box and he peered inside, grimacing at what he saw. If this is what the Doge carried in her veins, technically he shouldn't be looking at it, but so many ancient laws had already been broken, what was one more? He gestured to the group of Imperial Carers that were waiting nearby to come closer. He pointed into the box.
"This is the blood of the Doge. You will get it into her body immediately."
The silent women bowed and took the box, their robes rustling as they exited the transporter room. Errig summoned Vestun.
The tall Doctor bowed to his Prime Minister.
"The aliens have sent the blood and the Imperial Carers are at present setting up the infusion. I want you to monitor the Doge's health."
Vestun blanched.
"But, Prime Minister, I cannot…"
Errig had finally lost his patience.
"You will do as I say! I'm not asking you to touch her, just monitor her condition."
The Doctor stammered, his flustered speech almost incoherent.
"But…I…we…the law…"
Errig placed a hand on the Doctor's shoulder.
"If she dies, we all die! Do you want that?"
Vestun shook his head.
"Then do as I ask, my old friend. Go to the Doge and monitor her condition. That way I can at least let the aliens know she is still alive."
Shaken to his very core, Vestun left Errig and made his way to the Great Hall. He hesitated at the doors, but the knowledge of what might happen if the Doge died bolstered his wavering courage. But he couldn't lose the habits of a lifetime. He approached Beverly with his eyes on his feet, only stopping when he saw the base of her bed. He deployed his scanner, but kept his eyes on the floor. When Beverly spoke to him, he froze.
"You are the Doctor?"
All he could do was nod; the urge to drop to his knees was almost irresistible.
"May I see your scanner?"
He gave it to her silently, his eyes still downcast. Beverly blinked rapidly, trying to focus, but eventually gave up. In the crook of her left elbow, a cannula had pierced her vein and the whole blood was flowing into her system.
Struggling to stay conscious, Beverly asked,
"How am I doing?"
Vestun was terrified. How does one speak to the Doge? Or a risen God, for that matter. But she had asked him a question and he had to answer.
"I am not familiar with your physiology, Madame Doge, but these readings are an improvement on the last that were taken."
Beverly summoned a smile.
"Well that's something at least. When my ship arrives I will be taken aboard. There I will be healed."
Vestun merely nodded. He doubted Errig would really let anyone take the Doge. Beverly closed her eyes and asked softly,
"How long until they arrive?"
The Ventraxian Doctor sighed, wishing he could leave.
"A little over four hours, Madame Doge."
Beverly sighed.
"Four hours? Seems like four months."
She was fighting to stay conscious and losing.
"I want to be told the moment they arrive."
"Yes, Madame Doge."
As Beverly slipped away, Vestun made his escape. His report to Errig was perfunctory.
"The Doge is responding well and wishes to be advised the moment her ship enters orbit."
Errig smiled tiredly.
"Well done, Doctor. Check her again in two hours."
Vestun considered refusing, but his ingrained sense of obedience overrode his protests.
"As you wish, Prime Minister."
Errig closed the channel and rested his head in his hands.
"Gods…help me. What are we to do?"
Silence was his only reply.

 

 

 

With only two hours left of their mercy dash, Worf re-routed a call from the Ventraxian Doctor. Selar was in the lab, still trying to alter the countermeasure when the call came in.
"Worf to Selar."
Tiredly, the Vulcan looked up and rubbed her eyes.
"Selar here."
"We are receiving a transmission from the Ventraxian Chief Doctor."
She turned and went to the nearby monitor.
"Please put it through to this terminal, Mr.Worf."
"Aye, Doctor."
Vestun bowed, but when he looked up at Selar his hostility was obvious.
"I am sending you the latest scans. As you will see, the Doge is improving."
Selar perused the readings and nodded.
"Yes, she is. Tell me, what is the rate of blood loss in her urine?"
The Ventraxian frowned.
"Urine?"
Selar held up a hand.
"I apologise, Doctor. Urine is what we call liquid bodily waste."
Vestun's eye ridges rose.
"Ah, I see. Well at present it is approximately seventy-five percent of volume."
The Vulcan frowned.
"That is dangerously high. I do not suppose you could clamp the severed vein?"
Vestun glowered.
"No, I could not! It is forbidden to touch the Doge!"
Selar sighed.
"I see. Well, the transfusion is helping; I suspect that Doctor Picard will live to see the inside of her Sick Bay again. I must extend our thanks, Doctor, without your cooperation she may well have died."
Selar was mystified as to why the Ventraxian was still hostile.
"Do not thank me, Doctor. Over these past days I have been forced to do things that will haunt me for the rest of my days."
"Treating the ill is a noble thing to do. Hasn't your profession a code of practice? An oath perhaps, to treat any and all who require it?"
Vestun nodded, his face finally losing its anger.
"Yes we have, Doctor, but I cannot convey what it means to break the laws that have governed my people for millennia. You do not understand the position the Doge has in our society. She is sacrosanct. By forcing me to treat her, I have been made to defile her and commit blasphemy. Once she recovers, if it is her wish, I will be put to death for my errors in judgement, even though I was following the orders of my Prime Minister. In fact, he may face death also."
Selar shook her head.
"You are correct, Doctor, I do not fully understand, but if you truly believe that Doctor Picard is your Doge, then I can assure you no one will be put to death. I know of no one more compassionate than Doctor Picard."
Vestun sighed and lowered his head.
"I would like to believe that, Doctor. I am not afraid of death per se, but I would have wanted it to have had some meaning and not such disgrace."
"You have nothing to fear, Doctor. Rest assured, once Doctor Picard is well again, all this will be sorted out…to everyone's satisfaction."
Vestun summoned a wan smile and bowed.
"Vestun out."

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was rising to consciousness when Deanna stirred from her sleep. The overwhelming grief was gone, but the insidious desire was rising again. Never really gone, it was at its worse when he was awake. The restraining field sparkled as his body twisted in an agony of unresolved sexual need.
Deanna went to his side and gently laid her hand on his brow.
"I am here, Captain. I will summon Doctor Selar to sedate you again."
Jean-Luc's eyes snapped open and he shook his head, gasping,
"No! How close are we to Ventraxia? Are we there yet?"
Deanna shook her head.
"No, Sir, not yet, but soon, only another half an hour."
The Captain gritted his teeth.
"Then I want to stay awake."
Deanna frowned and bent closer to his face.
"Captain…that would be most unwise. The longer you stay awake, the worse your…need…will become."
He shook his head vehemently.
"Deanna you must understand…I want to be awake when Beverly comes aboard. I might not be able to see her, but just knowing she's here would make me feel so much better…I lost her Deanna, now I have her back. Do you have any idea what that means to me?"
The Counsellor sighed and nodded.
"I do, Captain, really, I do, but how are you going to cope? You know as well as I how powerful your need will become."
Somehow summoning a smile, Jean-Luc said with confidence,
"The knowledge that my wife is here, not far away will be all I need to cope, Deanna. Please…I beg you…don't sedate me."
Troubled by her desire to appease her Captain against what she knew she should do, Deanna eventually gave in. She smiled down at Jean-Luc and nodded.
"Very well, Captain, no sedation…but if I believe you're putting your physical or mental health in danger, I will rescind that and order you sedated. Agreed?"
Reluctantly, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Agreed."
Deanna left the man and took her seat, her empathic senses finely attuned to her Captain. He was mounting quite an effort to stay in control and the Counsellor marvelled at his strength. After a protracted silence, during which Jean-Luc's need continued to grow, he looked over at Deanna and somehow managed a warm smile.
"She's alive, Deanna…my Beverly's alive."
Deanna smiled back at her Captain, her eyes twinkling with unshed tears.
"Yes she is, Sir, yes she is."

 

 

 

 

Will had to admit, the six hours of sleep he had grudgingly taken had done him good. His mind felt sharp and his body well rested. He was in the Command chair when Data, sitting at Ops, said quietly,
"Entering orbit of Ventraxia, Commander."
Will stood and adjusted his fresh uniform.
"Hail the Prime Minister, Mr.Data."
"Aye, Sir."
Errig looked up from his desktop, his expression unreadable.
"You are here, Commander."
Will nodded, trying to gauge the man's mood. He seemed somehow resigned to something, but what, Will couldn't say, although he hoped it was the capitulation that would allow the return of Beverly Picard.
Utilising his best diplomatic mien, Will offered a conciliatory smile.
"Yes, Prime Minister, we have achieved orbit of your planet."
Errig sighed and sat back, leaving his outstretched arms palm down on the desk.
"I see."
Will frowned, wishing, not for the first time, that he possessed his Captain's patience and insight.
"Is there a problem, Sir?"
Errig laughed mirthlessly.
"Oh yes, Commander, there is a problem…a very large problem."
Alarmed, Will barked,
"Has Doctor Picard's condition deteriorated?"
Errig shook his head and waved feebly.
"No, no, she is stable. No, Commander, your arrival has brought our…situation…to a head. Until you achieved orbit I had time, time to try and find some sort of resolution, but that time is now gone. You are here and I have to tell you we cannot release the Doge."
Anger welled up in Will, but he hid it.
"You realise we will not leave without her."
With a heavy sigh, Errig nodded.
"Yes and I fully understand the consequences of our refusal, but, Commander, she is either the Doge or a risen God. Either way she must stay. We simply cannot release her, not to you or anyone else."
Will was trying his best to see the man's point of view, but his overwhelming desire to get Beverly back on board was eroding his sense of reason. Knowing anger would get him nowhere, will took a deep breath and said quietly,
"May we speak with Doctor Picard?"
Giving a tired nod, Errig smiled wanly.
"Yes, she is aware you are in orbit and has requested the same thing. I will put you through now."
Will nodded his thanks, then waited a few seconds before Beverly's pale face filled the screen. She smiled and Will saw her eyes twinkle. It made him want to weep with relief.
"Hello, Beverly."
She gave a soft chuckle.
"Hi, Will. When are you going to come and get me?"
The big man's face fell.
"We have a problem, Beverly. Are you alone….can you speak freely?"
She nodded.
"The Ventraxian Prime Minister has just told us they are refusing to release you."
Beverly snorted.
"Tell them to go to hell and beam me up!"
Will lifted a hand and sighed.
"We can't, the Prime Directive forbids it…you know that."
Beverly thought for a moment, then asked,
"Do they know that?"
Will shook his head.
"No. As far as they know, we have threatened to take you by using whatever force we deem necessary."
Her eyebrows rose.
"And they still refuse to let me go?"
"Yes."
"Damn."
Will stepped closer to the viewscreen.
"Beverly, they are in a dilemma. To the Ventraxians, you are either their Doge, the ultimate leader of their planet, or a risen God. Now I'm not sure exactly what that means, but surely either way, you have unquestionable power over these people. Is it at all possible for you to find a way out of this? Perhaps find a way to…I don't know…abdicate somehow?"
Chewing her lower lip, Beverly sighed.
"Can you tell me what happened after I was hit with the dart?"
Will grimaced.
"You were incapacitated pretty quickly. The Captain got to you, but you seemed to die in his arms. The Ventraxians forbade us to beam you up or use any of our scanners on you. They scanned you with their own equipment and pronounced you dead. You were taken away and the next time we saw you, you were lying in state on a catafalque."
"How long?"
Will sighed again.
"Eight days."
"Then what?"
Will's face showed his pain as his memories surfaced.
"You were interred in the Imperial tomb. We were told you would stay there for five days until, on the fifth day, your body was incinerated, then your ashes would be placed in a niche."
Beverly hummed thoughtfully.
"When I emerged from the tomb, I think they were in the process of crowning the new Doge. I vaguely remember a young girl and a crown."
Will's face brightened and he snapped his fingers.
"Maybe that's it! Perhaps you could abdicate to her."
With a derisive snort, Beverly flapped a hand.
"For all I know, I might have to fight her!"
Will gaped.
"And go through this whole damned process again? No way! Summon the Prime Minister, Beverly, make him see sense."
She smiled and gave a nod.
"Okay, Will, I'll give it a try."
Her voice dropped and her eyes filled with tears.
"Can I speak to Jean-Luc?"
Will was aware his Captain was awake, but he also knew of his monumental struggle to keep control. But how could he deny her?"
He smiled sadly and nodded.
"Putting you through now."
Jean-Luc was sweating heavily and Deanna was by his side, wiping his head and face with a damp cloth. When he heard Beverly's voice, Jean-Luc's eyes snapped open and he shouted,
"Beverly!"
She smiled with such love, Jean-Luc sobbed.
"Oh, Beverly, my love."
The red head put her fingers on the screen, confused when Jean-Luc didn't reciprocate. Deanna said quietly,
"I'm sorry Beverly, he's under a restraining field."
Beverly said brokenly,
"Why?"
Deanna's eyes filled with tears.
"His hypothalamus has been irrevocably damaged. He cannot control his sexual desire. The field is necessary."
Beverly's hand went to her mouth.
"Oh my God…"
Jean-Luc twisted within the field, straining to get free.
"Come to me, my love, come home."
Beverly sobbed quietly.
"I will, my love, I will, but I have to go now, I'll speak to you again soon. I love you."
Jean-Luc yelled,
"Don't go!"
Beverly shook her head, saying softly,
"I have to."
The screen went blank and Jean-Luc let out a primal howl. Deanna summoned Selar, but Jean-Luc feverishly shook his head.
"No! No sedation!"
The two women exchanged a surreptitious look and Deanna nodded. Selar left the room and Deanna sat beside her Captain trying to use her empathy to calm him.

 

 

 

Beverly was devastated by what she'd learned about her husband, but, being the determined woman she was, it only made her more resolute in securing her own release. She called to one of the carers and requested to see Errig.
The Prime Minister was waiting for the call. Resigned to his fate, he hurried to the Great Hall, certain his life was about to end. He entered Beverly's room and fell to his knees, his forehead on the floor.
"Madame Doge, I place my life in your hands."
Confused, Beverly said softly,
"Prime Minister, please stand and look at me."
He refused.
"I cannot, Madame Doge. If my life is to end now, I wish it to be with as much dignity as you will allow. Please permit me to pay proper respect."
With a sigh that made her back hurt, Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose. Summoning a soft voice, the Doctor cajoled the fatalistic man.
"I am not going to have you killed, Prime Minister, I need you too much."
That shocked Errig. He lifted his head from the floor, but kept his gaze downcast.
"You need me?"
Beverly nodded.
"Yes. Please, get to your feet and look at me."
Very slowly and still not really believing his luck, Errig got to his feet and slowly raised his eyes to look at his Doge. Beverly did her best to smile warmly at him.
"That's much better."
Sweat broke out on Errig's forehead. He was confused and frightened. Beverly tried to put him at ease.
"I am not going to order your death, or anyone else's. What I need is information."
Errig frowned.
"Information? About what? You are the Doge…or a risen God…you know everything."
With a sigh, Beverly tried to remain patient.
"Prime Minister…Errig, isn't it?"
He nodded.
"Errig, I am neither the Doge, nor a risen God. I am a human female, a Federation citizen and a member of Starfleet and I want to return to my ship."
Confused again, Errig shook his head.
"Forgive me, Madame Doge, but when you defeated the previous Doge, you not only took her position, you became a Ventraxian. You cannot leave. Our people cannot be without a Doge…and besides, you came back from the dead. Surely that proves you are a risen God. It is reason for our people to celebrate. To be led by a risen God…"
Beverly could not keep the sharpness out of her voice when she barked,
"I was not dead!"
She saw Errig's knees begin to buckle so she modulated her tone.
"Errig, the poison may have been fatal to a Ventraxian, but I am human, it acted differently on me. Had you allowed my colleagues to scan me at the time, they would have found my life signs."
Errig shook his head in denial.
"But you lay in state for eight days, then for another five in the tomb! You were dead, our scanners verified that!"
Patiently, Bevery explained.
"Our technology is more advanced than yours. Our scanners would have picked up my life signs. I can only assume my heart beat was greatly reduced, as was my respiration, so minute that your scanners failed to register my life signs. It took thirteen days for my body to metabolise the poison. I didn't come back to life, Errig, I was never dead."
The Prime Minister assimilated all that, then stubbornly shook his head.
"All right, I accept you may not be a risen God, but you are still the Doge. Nothing you have said changes that."
Beverly glared imperiously, making the tall man tremble.
"You may have coloured my skin, Errig, but I am NOT Ventraxian. Even you must admit I don't look like a Ventraxian female. Aside from the lack of facial ridges, I have only two breasts. If you insist on making me your Doge, it will be nothing short of kidnapping and I will refuse to cooperate."
That shook the Prime Minister. He rubbed his head, desperately trying to find a solution to the dilemma. Beverly was watching him closely and chose her words carefully.
"When I emerged from the tomb, there was a coronation in progress, wasn't there."
The distracted man nodded.
"Yes."
Beverly asked softly,
"Who were you crowning?"
Errig sighed.
"Her name is Kestrin. She is the younger sister of the previous Doge and next in line to the succession."
Beverly nodded thoughtfully.
"So she would have been the next Doge."
Errig nodded. Beverly said quietly,
"Look at me, Errig."
Reluctantly, the Prime Minister locked eyes with the red head.
"I formally abdicate my position as Doge to Kestrin. My last edict to you as your Doge is that my wishes be carried out. I will not fight her, nor will I engage in any form of trial or ceremony. From this moment, I rescind my position. Is that clear?"
Holding his hands out in supplication, Errig pleaded,
"Please, Madame Doge…there is no precedent for this! At no time, in all of our history has anything like this even been suggested. I cannot make a unilateral decision. I must confer with my ministers."
Beverly made her voice harsh.
"I have made the decision for you! Bring Kestrin to me immediately."
Errig fell to his knees.
"At once, Madame Doge!"
He crawled out of the room and Beverly sighed.
"It's like trying to exceed warp ten. Nobody believes it can be done."
Ten minutes later a young teenager crawled into the room. Beverly sighed and said,
"Get up and look at me."
The Doctor was surprised by the insolence displayed in Kestrin's eyes. Not wasting time on pleasantries, Beverly said succinctly,
"You were to be the next Doge."
The youngster nodded, remaining silent. Beverly smiled.
"What if I told you, you still can be the Doge."
The cold, amber eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"And just how do you propose that to happen…Madame Doge?"
The title was said dripping with malice.
Beverly smiled coldly.
"I am willing to abdicate to you."
That only made Kestrin more suspicious.
"You would give up the position of ultimate ruler of Ventraxia? Why?"
Beverly chuckled quietly.
"For starters, I am not Ventraxian. Kestrin, I fought your sister for one reason and one reason only and that was to secure my husband from your sister's clutches. I never wanted to be the Doge and had I known killing her would have made me such, I would have refrained…found some other way to save my husband. You are the rightful heir. It is only fitting that you take your place as your people's leader."
Kestrin walked around Beverly's bed, obviously giving her words much thought. She looked up, slightly confused.
"We would not fight?"
Beverly shook her head.
"No. No fights, no trials and no ceremonies. I will simply leave. You can be crowned the moment I set foot on my ship."
The teenager was wise beyond her years.
"And what do we tell the people? Our Doge has…abandoned us? That I took your place without earning the honour?"
Beverly closed her eyes in frustration.
"Tell them what they want to hear! Tell them I died or that I was kidnapped, or that, because I wasn't a Ventraxian I got homesick and ran away…I don't care. All you need to know is that I am giving you the position of Doge. Are you going to accept it…on my terms?"
As Beverly watched, Kestrin's face softened. She went to Beverly and took her hands.
"You must love your husband a great deal."
Beverly smiled tenderly.
"More than I can adequately describe."
The teenager sighed and shook her head.
"Poor Errig…he's going to have conniptions over this, in fact the entire parliament is going to be scandalised."
Beverly laughed softly.
"They'll get over it. Now, with your permission, Madame Doge, I will return to my ship."
Kestrin took Beverly's face in her hands and kissed her brow.
"Go with my blessing, Doctor Picard."
Pulling the monitor closer to her, Beverly said quietly,
"Put me in touch with my ship."
Will's face appeared and Beverly smiled tiredly.
"Beam me to Sick Bay, Will."
Not wasting any time on questions, Will ordered the transport with alacrity. Seconds later, Beverly rematerialised in her own Sick Bay.

 

Selar was finally taking some rest in her quarters. It was a young Doctor who took charge as Beverly arrived on the ship. Within short order she had been scanned and taken to the operating suite. It was the work of only half an hour to repair her injuries, although she still required whole blood. Taken into the main body of Sick Bay, she was placed under regeneration beams and allowed to sleep.
Jean-Luc strained at the field that held him, somehow knowing his wife was aboard. Deanna rested a hand on his brow.
"Please, Captain, I know you are suffering. Let us give you at least a light sedative."
He shook his head, his eyes wild.
"No!"
Deanna sighed with sympathy.
Captain, it will be some time before Beverly is awake. Why suffer? A light sedative will take some of the edge off what you're experiencing."
He seemed to give that some thought, then nodded, saying huskily,
"All right, but only light sedation, nothing heavy."
Smiling her relief, Deanna said softly,
"I'll go and get a Doctor."
She left Jean-Luc's room and went to Les Darcy, the young Doctor treating Beverly. He was adjusting the flow of blood into her arm when Deanna arrived at his side. She took a moment to look down at her best friend and smiled.
"How is she?"
Doctor Darcy grinned.
"Doing very well. I'd say two more blood packs, an hour or two more of regen therapy and she'll be as good as new."
Deanna felt deep joy. She basked in the feeling for a few seconds before sobering.
"Les, Captain Picard has agreed to light sedation. Can you give it to him now please?"
He gave a nod.
"No problem, I'm amazed he held on this long."
The two walked back to Jean-Luc's room to find him writhing in desperate need. Doctor Darcy injected him and the Captain immediately quietened. Jean-Luc looked up at Deanna and said,
"She's here, isn't she."
The Counsellor nodded and smiled.
"Yes she is, Captain. She's been operated on and now she's receiving some whole blood and regen treatments. She's asleep right now, but not for too much longer."
Tears welled in his eyes.
"I so desperately want to see her."
Gently stroking his head, Deanna said softly,
"I'm sure she feels the same. As soon as Doctor Darcy allows it, she'll come and see you, I promise."
Looking at Deanna with a pitiful gaze, Jean-Luc said brokenly,
"How long, do you think?"
Deanna looked at Doctor Darcy. He shrugged and said off-handedly,
"About an hour, maybe an hour and a half. I want her to wake naturally."
Jean-Luc tried his best to be stoic, but both his insidious need and his desperate yearning to see his wife eroded his composure. He all but pleaded,
"Please…as soon as she can…"
Deanna gave the Doctor a surreptitious look and he nodded and left. Then the Counsellor sat beside Jean-Luc and stroked his head.
"Try to relax, Captain, Beverly will be here with you soon."
He took a deep, shuddering breath and nodded.
"I know…I have to be patient, but it's so hard, Deanna, so very hard."
He sobbed then and Deanna wept with him.

 

 

 

The hour and a quarter that had passed had been interminable for the Captain. Deanna did what she could to keep him calm, but his need, coupled by his anticipation made him very agitated. She was about to suggest more light sedation when his door opened and Beverly stepped into the room.
Jean-Luc's restless twitching came to an abrupt halt. Deanna sensed a surge of both potent sexual desire and overwhelming love and knew without looking who had arrived in the room.
In silence, she stood and left the room, pausing at Beverly's shoulder to take her hand and briefly squeeze it. The Doctor came into the room and went to her husband's side. He looked up at her, tears sliding down his face to pool in his ears. Barely able to speak, he whispered,
"Beverly…"
She bent and kissed him. She had meant it to be tender, but he ravished her mouth, plunging his tongue deep inside. Taken aback by his raw passion, she broke the kiss and straightened, somewhat alarmed.
"Jean-Luc?"
He was beside himself. Almost hysterical he cried out,
"Release me…please, Beverly, set me free so I can hold you!"
She took in his bloodshot eyes and the sheen of sweat on his body…and the madness that lurked beneath his exterior. Summoning a smile, she instead bent and kissed his brow, saying softly,
"I have missed you so much, my love."
Confused and angry that she had refused to release him, Jean-Luc yelled.
"And I have missed you! Let me go! I want you, Beverly!"
Deanna, standing outside the room, quietly called Doctor Darcy and told him the Captain was in need of heavy sedation.
The two of them entered the room to find Beverly trying to calm her out of control husband. Over his shouted protests and threats, the hiss of the hypospray brought blessed silence.
Beverly was distraught.
"How long has he been like this?"
Deanna sighed and rubbed her brow.
"Since he was taken by the Doge. Apparently he was injected with some kind of aphrodisiac and it has irreparably damaged his hypothalamus. He is in a constant state of overwhelming sexual need, but due to the damage wrought to his penis, he cannot attain an erection, therefore he has no way of relieving his need. The only way we can give him any relief is to sedate him, but even in unconsciousness, he still suffers."
The physician in Beverly took over.
"What has been done so far?"
Deanna told her about the countermeasure and Selar's failed attempts to alter it. She also described Selar's inability to adequately repair his penis. Then Deanna took Beverly's arm and led her away from Jean-Luc's bed and asked Darcy to leave the room.
"Beverly, before the Captain knew you were alive…he tried to take his own life."
Beverly was aghast.
"What?"
Deanna sighed sadly.
"It's true. He was suffering, Beverly…too much for him to bear. The grief over what he believed was your death and this terrible unfulfilled sexual need was simply too much for him and I knew, although we had saved him the first time, he would try again, and keep trying until he succeeded."
She took a deep breath and hoped her best friend would understand.
"Beverly, I advocated euthanasia."
Anger and disbelief flashed in Beverly's eyes, but then she looked at her husband and recalled his behaviour. She sighed and rubbed her eyes.
"I see. Obviously something changed."
Deanna nodded and there were tears in her eyes.
"Yes. We, that is the senior staff, had gathered here in his room to say goodbye. I had volunteered to administer the drug, thereby relieving Selar of compromising her Hippocratic Oath. I was just about to inject him when you contacted the ship. You saved his life by the merest of seconds."
Still angry, but beginning to understand, Beverly sighed again.
"I want to see his records."
Deanna frowned.
"Well officially he's Selar's patient and she's resting at the moment…but under the circumstances, I don't think she'd mind. Go ahead."
Beverly went to the monitor and called up Jean-Luc's file. She was soon so engrossed, she never heard Deanna leave the room.

 

 

 

Selar was deeply asleep when then door chime sounded, but, true to her species, she was alert and fully awake as she sat up, saying clearly,
"Enter."
Beverly walked into Selar's quarters to see her coming out of her bedroom, tying a robe. The red head held up a hand.
"My apologies for waking you."
The Vulcan waved the apology aside, saying with sincerity,
"It is good to see you, Doctor Picard. There was a time when I thought I would never see you again."
With a rueful smile, Beverly gave a small chuckle.
"You have no idea just how close I came to just that."
Knowing Beverly would not have disturbed her rest for nothing, Selar asked quietly,
"How can I help you, Doctor?"
Beverly was aware Selar was emotionless, but nevertheless she felt nervous as she said,
"I must apologise again, Selar, but I have been looking at Captain Picard's notes and I think I can help…at least with the vascular and nerve damage to his penis."
If Selar could have smiled, she would have. Instead she merely bowed her head.
"I knew your expertise was greater than mine in these matters, Doctor. I would appreciate any help you could give. If we can restore his ability to achieve an erection, then at least he would be able to satisfy some of his desire."
Beverly smiled but it was tentative.
"Selar, I want to be his primary physician."
The Vulcan arched one eyebrow.
"I assumed as much. Of course, Doctor, I acquiesce to your superiority."
Beverly's smile widened.
"It's not only my superiority, Selar. Captain Picard is my husband and I have been his Doctor for over twelve years now. I doubt he would accept any other."
Selar bowed her head.
"I concur."
Rubbing her hands together, Beverly said enthusiastically,
"He's heavily sedated now. Why don't we take him to surgery right now?"
The Vulcan Doctor nodded.
"Give me time to shower and dress. Have him prepped, I will meet you in the surgery suite."
Throwing her colleague a wink, Beverly made for the door.
"See you there."

 

 

 

In her many years as a Doctor, Selar had witnessed countless surgical procedures, some very intricate, but nothing she had seen was as delicate as the work Beverly did to repair Jean-Luc's penis. They knew they had succeeded even before the surgery was complete, Jean-Luc achieving an erection and Beverly had to deaden the nerves so they could continue. Four hours after they had begun, Beverly placed a stimulator on Jean-Luc's penis and, within mere moments, he ejaculated. She smiled over at Selar and accepted her congratulations, though they both noticed Jean-Luc's erection remained.
"Well done, Doctor Picard. When I thought you had been killed, I doubted anyone would be able to offer Captain Picard any relief from his affliction."
Wiping her brow, Beverly sighed.
"We're only half way there, Selar. I want to work with you on that countermeasure next. There must be some way of making it suitable for humans."
The Vulcan nodded, but Beverly could see the concern in her intense gaze.
"But what of his hypothalamus? We may be able to relieve his sexual need, but how do we repair the gland?"
Beverly frowned as her eyes watched Jean-Luc's erratic brain patterns.
"I don't know…yet, but I'm not giving up until I have my husband back."
Selar bowed her head.
"I understand."
Jean-Luc was taken back to his room, but Beverly frowned as she again checked his delta wave pattern.
"Deanna was right. Even under anaesthetic he experiences sexual need."
Selar gave a slow nod.
"Indeed. The only way we have been able to control him is to sedate him and place him under a restraining field."
Beverly rubbed her brow in frustration.
"Well that won't work now. He has to be free to masturbate. He can't do that heavily sedated and restrained. And then there's his privacy. Masturbation is not something he would do in a situation where someone could walk in on him."
Selar shook her head.
"What do you suggest?"
Beverly turned and focused on her colleague.
"Return him to our quarters."
The Vulcan was dubious.
"But, Doctor, how do we protect the others on the ship? He attacked me not so long ago, even though he was unable to attain an erection, his need was desperate enough to attempt sexual gratification anyway."
Beverly was shocked, but ultimately not surprised. She sighed and shrugged.
"How about we put him in a holo projection of our quarters? We could place a guard outside in case he tries to leave."
Selar contemplated this and eventually nodded.
"I suppose it is the best we can do for him at this time, but may I make a suggestion?"
Beverly nodded.
"Of course."
Taking a deep breath, Selar said evenly,
"Don't go near him."
Anger spiked in the mercurial red head.
"Why the hell not? He's my husband, dammit!"
Ever in control, Selar's gaze was steady.
"Above all else, he loves you beyond measure. That love, coupled with his out-of-control sexual need and his now functioning penis would place you in a very vulnerable position if you were to be alone with him."
Lifting her chin in defiance, Beverly said hotly,
"Jean-Luc would never hurt me!"
Selar sighed.
"Under normal circumstances, no, but these are not normal circumstances. He cannot control himself, Doctor, this is not the Jean-Luc Picard you know and love."
With a sigh of defeat, Beverly gave a slow nod.
"All right, I will get the computer to make a simulation of me. If he calls for me, my holo image will go to him."
Selar nodded and Beverly moved to more pressing needs.
"I think it best we devote our energies to the countermeasure. I will have the Captain beamed to his holo room and I will see that he is comfortable, then I will return."
Selar bowed her head.
"As you wish, Doctor. I will meet you in the laboratory."
Beverly lifted her head and intoned,
"Transporter Room one, two to beam directly to holo deck three."
"Aye, Sir."
"Energise."

 

 

 

It was early evening when Jean-Luc awoke. He groaned loudly as his aching penis strained against the fabric of his pyjama pants. Without thought or hesitation, he pushed his pants down and grabbed himself, tugging fiercely and coming in seconds, but he didn't stop, his frantic stroking bringing another orgasm on the coattails of the first. His third orgasm was almost devoid of semen, but still he stroked himself, tears sliding down his face.
After the fifth climax he stopped, panting and sweating, his body and the bed a mess. In a moment of rational thought, he got up and showered, trying to ignore his still erect penis. He changed the bed and went into the living area, dressed in nothing but a pair of black briefs. He sat in his favourite chair, placed his legs apart and put his hand over his erection, gently rubbing it. Closing his eyes, he began to weep.
"Oh God…help me…"

 

 

 

It was just after oh three hundred and Beverly was still working on the countermeasure. She had dismissed Selar hours before, knowing the Vulcan still needed rest to make up for what she had forgone in her quest for a cure for Captain Picard.
When the call came through, she jumped.
"Picard to Doctor Picard."
In spite of her tiredness, she smiled.
"Jean-Luc? How do you feel?"
"Tired, but very lonely. Where are you?"
Beverly's sadness was obvious.
"I'm in the lab."
She could hear the desperation in his voice as he asked,
"Beverly…please…can you come home? I so desperately want to see you."
Love and sympathy overcame her caution. She smiled, saying softly,
"I'm on my way."
She thought she heard tears in his voice as he said,
"I can't wait…please hurry."
Since Beverly's recovery, she knew she was temporarily relieved of duty, so she was dressed in black leggings and her favourite blue sweater. The guard on the doors of their quarters smiled as Beverly approached.
"Knocking off, Sir?"
She shook her head.
"No, just taking a bit of a break. Has he tried to leave?"
The young man shook his head.
"No, Sir, I haven't heard a peep out of him."
Beverly's smile widened, her confidence in her husband growing.
"Good. I'm going to activate a holo image of myself inside and I'm going to watch the interaction on this monitor. I'd like some privacy, please."
The young man nodded and Beverly initiated the program. Inside, her holo image entered her home. The lighting was dim and she couldn't see very well, but the arms that slid around her waist she knew immediately. His warm lips nuzzled her neck and she mewed, sighing,
"Hello, my love."
He released her and she turned in his arms, saying softly,
"Lights up."
In the brightness she looked carefully at her husband, noting his weight loss, the glassiness of his eyes and the erection straining in his briefs. However, he seemed to be calm, in fact, he kissed her with remarkable tenderness. But Beverly was not without caution. She accepted the kiss then gently extricated herself from his embrace. She took two steps back and smiled.
"How are you? Have you been able to get any…relief?"
He shrugged, his eyes never leaving hers, his gaze intense.
"Some."
"Are you eating?"
He sighed.
"I'm not hungry."
Beverly frowned.
"Jean-Luc, you know you have to eat. How many times have I told you…"
His deep, husky voice broke through her admonishment.
"Beverly…please…for God's sake, let me hold you."
Caution still dogged her thoughts, but his next words squeezed her heart.
"Beverly my love, mon coeur, I would never hurt you, you know that."
She looked into his tear filled eyes and the warnings evaporated. She went to him, taking him into her arms.
"Oh you poor soul."
He hugged her fiercely, grinding his erection against her. Then he kissed her with raw passion. She tried to pull away, but he wouldn't let her. One of his large hands painfully groped her breast, while the other tugged at her leggings.
She tore her mouth free to say forcefully,
"Jean-Luc, stop it!"
She caught a glimpse of his eyes as they travelled over her body and she saw nothing but madness. She was about to call for help when his hand covered her mouth.
Even in his weakened state he was a powerful man and his sexual insanity had leant him strength. Keeping his hand firmly clamped on her mouth, Jean-Luc forced Beverly to the floor, ripping at her clothing with his free hand. Beverly fought for all she was worth, but it was useless, she was dealing with someone possessed.
Having got her leggings and panties down her legs, Jean-Luc shoved himself inside her, the painful penetration making Beverly utter a muffled cry against his hand.
Out of control, Jean-Luc repeatedly raped his own wife, plunging in and out of her with frantic force. In terrible pain, confused and frightened, Beverly did the only thing she could think of. She opened her mouth wide and sunk her teeth into his hand, biting so hard she eventually struck bone. Somewhere in the deeply subsumed, rational part of Jean-Luc's mind, the pain registered and he lifted his hand. Beverly immediately yelled,
"Security, I need immediate assistance in the Captain's quarters!"
Jean-Luc looked down at Beverly and growled, renewing his efforts to gratify himself.
The real Beverly lifted her head and said,
"Security, cancel the alert."
Deanna arrived, dressed in nothing but her nightie.
"What happened?"
Beverly was trying valiantly to stop tears from forming.
"I have repaired Jean-Luc's penis and Selar and I decided it would be best for everyone if we placed him in a holo projection of our quarters. When he called for me, I sent in a holo image of me. He raped me."
Her hand going to her mouth, Deanna uttered quietly,
"Oh God."
Still trying to stay in control, Beverly said brokenly,
"I have to go in there and sedate him. That work I did on his penis won't stand up to what he's doing. He's going to harm himself!"
Deanna grabbed her arm and shook her head.
"No! Flood the holo deck with anesthezine gas. It's best you don't go near him, Beverly, not while he's…like he is right now."
With a nod, and sniffing back tears, Beverly ordered the computer to flood the holo deck with the gas. They watched the monitor until Jean-Luc's body was still. The holo Beverly was struggling under him as the real Beverly ordered the gas cleared. Then they entered and Beverly said,
"Computer, discontinue image of Doctor Picard."
Deanna gave Beverly's hand a squeeze and between them they carried the unconscious man to his bed. It was when Deanna put an arm around Beverly's shoulders that she finally broke down. She sobbed quietly as the Counsellor held her. Eventually she uncovered her face and wiped at her eyes.
"He told me he loved me and that he would never hurt me…then he attacked me and repeatedly raped me!"
As she talked, she went to the replicator and ordered a med kit. It duly appeared and she began to treat the deep bite on Jean-Luc's left hand.
Deanna watched for a while in silence before saying,
"Your holo image fought."
Beverly nodded absently.
"Yes, I programmed her to be as real as possible. Jean-Luc would have spotted any anomalies immediately."
She finished with his hand and stood, staring vacantly down at her husband. Deanna sensed her anguish and took her hand.
"Beverly, that man lying on the bed, the man who raped your holo image is not the Jean-Luc Picard you know and love. He is physically and mentally impaired and cannot be held responsible for his actions."
Beverly tried to smile, but failed.
"I know, Deanna, but he was so vicious, so brutal. He didn't know it was a holo image, he was raping what he thought was me! All he was interested in was his own sexual gratification! It was the reason he summoned me here in the first place, despite telling me he was lonely. I feel…betrayed…violated…"
Deanna placed her hands on Beverly's shoulders and said firmly,
"Look at me!"
Reluctantly, Beverly met her eyes.
"You and I both know Jean-Luc Picard, the one we know, would never do such a heinous thing as rape, not you, not any one. That man…"
She pointed at the unconscious man on the bed,
"Is NOT the Jean-Luc Picard we know. If you can restore him to full health again, you will be able to relearn what kind of man he is and if he remembers this at all, I can tell you he will be as devastated as you are now."
Tears slid slowly down Beverly's face.
"It's going to take some time before I trust him again."
Deanna sighed.
"Perhaps, but I will help you both. What will you do now?"
With a shrug, Beverly looked over her shoulder at the door.
"Go back to Sick Bay and continue with my work."
"And if he calls for you again?"
Beverly sighed.
"I'll send my avatar. No doubt he'll rape her again, but I don't see any other way around it. He knows I'm aboard and he wants me."
Deanna looked down at Jean-Luc and sighed.
"Maybe you could program the holo image to be compliant. I doubt he'd know the difference. I feel so sorry for him. My God, I can only hope he has no recollection of all this when you heal him."
Beverly sighed.
"If I heal him."
Deanna squeezed Beverly's arm.
"I have every confidence in you."
With a lopsided smile, Beverly walked with Deanna to the outer doors.
"I wish I shared it."
Out in the corridor and once again with the guard, Deanna looked at the closed doors and sighed.
"I wish I could counsel him."
Beverly gripped Deanna's hand.
"Don't go near him, Dee."
The Counsellor smiled up at her best friend.
"I won't, don't worry."
They parted then, but not before Beverly said to the guard,
"If Captain Picard attempts to exit the holo deck, you are to stun him and call me immediately. Is that clear?"
The young man swallowed and nodded.
"Aye, Sir."
Beverly tried to keep her back straight as she walked away, but the weight of her anguish made her shoulders sag.

 

 

 

Beverly took Deanna's advice and reprogrammed the holo image of herself. If Jean-Luc called for her again and attacked her, she would not resist. The real Beverly hoped, if he didn't have to fight her, that it might stop Jean-Luc from injuring himself.
She worked through the rest of the night and long into the next day before Selar met with her in the lab. The Vulcan took one look at Beverly and said in an uncompromising tone,
"You need to rest."
Beverly flapped a hand, not even looking up from the monitor. Selar moved closer and slightly raised her voice, something Beverly had never heard her do before.
"Doctor Picard, you have recently recovered from a significant physical trauma and, as your Doctor, I am ordering you to your quarters to rest. Do I make myself clear?"
About to remonstrate with her colleague, Beverly suddenly stopped and stared off into the distance. Concerned, Selar asked cautiously,
"Doctor Picard?"
Beverly's eyes found Selar and she said softly,
"What about my blood?"
Selar frowned, shaking her head.
"I do not understand what you mean."
Slowly walking a circle around the room, Beverly spoke, but it was mostly to herself.
"I was poisoned and, over a period of several days, my body metabolised the poison. What if my antibodies are what we need to crack the countermeasure?"
Clasping her hands behind her back, Selar inclined her head.
"An interesting hypothesis, Doctor. I will take some of your blood, then you will leave for your quarters."
Beverly held up a hand, her blue eyes flashing.
"I can't be relived now! I have work to do!"
Selar shook her head.
"No, you are to go to your quarters to rest. If you do not comply, I will sedate you."
Defiantly folding her arms across her chest, Beverly seethed.
"That's my husband suffering in his own private hell in the holo deck, Selar, and I intend to do anything and everything I can to help him!"
The Vulcan offered a small shrug.
"Then you leave me no choice."
She stepped up to Beverly and raised her hand, easily fending off Beverly's parry. The nerve pinch rendered her unconscious instantly. Calmly calling for assistance, Selar and two nurses took Beverly to Jean-Luc's room where she was put on his bed. She was sedated, and then Selar took some blood.

 

 

 


Jean-Luc woke with a headache and a dry cough. But it was his straining erection that took his attention. He masturbated until he couldn't do it any more. Then he lay, panting and sweating in his bed, his mind trying to make some sense of vague memories that swirled in his mind. A fleeting image of Beverly, lying beneath him as he furiously had sex with her, travelled across his mind and he struggled to hang on to it, to expand the memory. More emerged. Her arrival, their kiss…and then…and then…he sat up, covering his face with his hands.
"Oh, mon Dieu, NON!"
He remembered what he'd done. Ignoring his insistent erection, he stumbled out of bed and lurched into the living area, calling piteously,
"Beverly!"
Deanna was immediately aware of his overwhelming anguish. She tapped her comm. badge, saying softly,
"Captain, it's Deanna. Do you want to talk to me?"
Now sobbing in absolute horror, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"NO! I want to talk to Beverly."
Deanna kept her voice soft and lulling.
"Beverly is resting right now, Captain."
He was almost incoherent.
"Is she all right? Did I hurt her…oh God, I must have…I raped her!"
Deanna raised her voice to be heard over his sobbing.
"No you didn't."
He shook his head.
"Yes I did! I remember it!"
Deanna sighed and said softly,
"It was a hologram, Captain, not the real Beverly."
Jean-Luc didn't believe her.
"No…she smelled like my Beverly, tasted like her…she fought me…it was her! I raped Beverly!"
Deanna's voice became sharp.
"Captain Picard, listen to me! Beverly created that holo image, of course it fooled you, it was supposed to. You did not rape Beverly. Go to your monitor and ask Sick Bay to show you Beverly. You will see she is asleep in your room."
Still unconvinced, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"She is in Sick Bay because of what I did to her!"
Almost shouting, Deanna said forcefully,
"Do you trust me, Captain?"
He hesitated, then nodded, saying quietly,
"Yes."
"Then trust me now. I'm telling you, you did not rape Beverly, you have my word."
Relief flooded through Deanna as she finally sensed his belief. He collapsed on the floor, sobbing as though his heart was going to break.

 

 

 

 


It was five hours later when Beverly awoke. She stretched lazily before suddenly becoming aware of her surroundings. Immediately leaving the bed, she hurried out of Jean-Luc room, absently combing her fingers through her hair. Arriving at the lab, she burst in, saying urgently,
"Selar, have you had any success?"
The Vulcan looked up from her study of the monitor and gave a short nod.
"Indeed I have. You were correct, Doctor, you did carry antibodies that have proved beneficial. I am at the present moment, initiating a control experiment of the countermeasure. I would welcome your input."
Pulling up a stool, Beverly sat next to Selar as they watched the interaction of the antibodies. The countermeasure altered considerably. With an excited whistle, Beverly asked expectantly,
"So you think it will be enough?"
The ever conservative Vulcan shrugged.
"I do not know, more work needs to be done, specifically, we need a sample of Captain Picard's blood."
Beverly gave a decisive nod.
"I'll do it immediately."
As she rose, Selar said quietly,
"Counsellor Troi has informed me of what occurred recently. I suggest you take an armed guard with you."
Grimly, Beverly nodded.
"Agreed."
She was at the holo deck doors within minutes. There had been a change of guard, another young man. Beverly noted he looked nervous.
"Report, Ensign."
The obviously shaken youngster replied,
"Captain Picard emerged about an hour ago, but when I told him I would stun him if he took one step further, he retreated back inside."
Beverly's anger spiked, but she hid it well.
"What were your orders, Ensign?"
The young man swallowed and bowed his head.
"To stun Captain Picard if he emerged from the holo deck."
"And why didn't you follow orders?"
The youngster looked into Beverly's eyes beseechingly.
"He's the Captain, Sir. I…I thought if I could get him back inside it would be better than stunning him."
With a sigh, Beverly once again mused on how easily Jean-Luc intimidated the crew. She fixed the young man with an uncompromising glare and said succinctly,
"Had you been female, you may well have been severely injured by the Captain! Orders are given for a reason, Ensign and it is not your place to interpret them, at least not yet. In future I expect you to follow your orders to the letter. Is that clear?"
Coming to attention, the young man said crisply,
"Yes, Sir!"
Somewhat mollified, Beverly calmed herself and said with authority,
"I have to go in to take a blood sample from the Captain. You will accompany me with your phaser drawn. If Captain Picard makes any aggressive move, stun him without hesitation. Understood?"
"Yes, Sir."
Beverly opened the outer doors, then the inner doors. Jean-Luc was sitting in his favourite chair, masturbating. He barely acknowledged their presence. Beverly approached him cautiously, the hypo in her hand. She said softly,
"Jean-Luc?"
His glassy eyes turned in her direction and he suddenly stood, still furiously stroking his penis. He croaked,
"Beverly…" and lunged forward. Beverly took a quick backward step and the Ensign fired. Jean-Luc fell to the floor, unconscious. Casting a hard look at the Ensign, Beverly took the blood sample then asked the Ensign to help her get the Captain back into his chair. She then turned to the young man and said quietly,
"I am going to give you another order, one that is a little unusual, but explicit. I know what you have witnessed here is…unsettling, but I hope you realise the sensitive nature of this situation. I am going to order you to never divulge anything of what you have seen to anyone else. Captain Picard is very sick and we are trying to cure him. I know you respect him so I am trusting you to carry out my order, not just for me, but for the Captain too."
The Ensign looked down at the ravaged Captain and nodded.
"I understand, Sir, you needn't worry, I won't say anything."
Summoning a wan smile, Beverly said softly,
"Thank you."
As they walked to the doors, the Ensign asked,
"Can you cure him?"
Through gritted teeth, Beverly replied,
"I certainly hope so."

 

 

 

Will Riker had a dilemma on his hands. Deanna had told him of what had occurred on the holo deck and he didn't quite know what to do. Was the rape of a holo character when the perpetrator didn't know it was a hologram a reportable offence? Should his Captain be in the brig, instead of the holo deck? Will knew from what Deanna had told him that his Captain was a dangerous man at the moment, but there was a guard on the holo deck doors and as far as Will knew, his Captain had not tried to exit the holo deck, in fact, will wasn't even sure Jean-Luc knew he was on the holo deck. But Will's first responsibility was to the ship and her crew in situations like this. Normally his first responsibility was the safety of his Captain, but in this case his Captain was the problem.
His training and Starfleet protocol demanded he report what had happened, but he was loath to do it. Rape was almost unheard of in these days, but the act had never lost its loathing, horror and disgust amongst humans, in fact crimes of any sexual nature were harshly dealt with and the thought of his Captain facing both a Starfleet trial and a civil action, one that would most certainly end up with him incarcerated, twisted Will's gut. His friend and mentor would be disgraced and cashiered, losing everything he had worked all his life for. And then there were the personal repercussions. Jean-Luc Picard would never recover from the knowledge that he had raped, and that the victim was his beloved wife would eventually destroy him.
But there were mitigating factors and it was those Will clung to. His Captain was physically and mentally impaired, essentially not responsible for his actions. Added to that was the fact that Beverly had made no complaint. No, Will would not report it, at least, not yet. He sat in the Ready Room, brooding and hoping that the medical personnel found a cure…and soon…and that his Captain didn't escape the holo deck, for then no female on the ship would be safe.

 

 

 

Selar and Beverly had been working for several hours when they quite suddenly met with success. The stoic Vulcan tolerated Beverly slapping her on the back, but when the red head planted a wet kiss on her cheek, she took a backward step and arched an eyebrow.
"I think that is enough, Doctor Picard."
Beverly was beaming.
"Oh no it's not! Not until we inject this into Jean-Luc."
Beverly picked up a hypospray, loaded it with the new serum and went for the door, before saying over her shoulder,
"Are you coming?"
Selar stifled a sigh and nodded.
"Of course."
Beverly was surprised to find the same guard at the holo deck doors. To her raised eyebrow the young man said softly,
"I requested to stay over my shift, Doctor. I thought the least amount of people to know…"
Patting his shoulder in heartfelt appreciation, Beverly said quietly,
"Thank you, Ensign, I won't forget this."
She looked at the doors and sighed.
"Okay, same scenario. Doctor Selar, you and I will go in. If he displays any aggression…well you know what to do."
The young man nodded seriously.
"Aye, Sir."
They were relieved to find Jean-Luc asleep in his chair. Holding her finger to her lips, Beverly requested silence as they cautiously approached him. She noted his erection and injected him before he was aware they were there. His eyes snapped open and he looked up at Beverly, not seeing the others in the room. With lightning fast reflexes, he reached up and grabbed her, twisting his body to throw her to the floor. The Ensign stunned him and he fell unconscious across his wife. Selar and the Ensign helped roll Jean-Luc off Beverly, then assisted her to her feet. She took her tricorder and scanned him, but she could already see he had lost his erection. Looking to Selar, Beverly said quietly,

"I think he should be in Sick Bay."
The Vulcan nodded.
"I concur. Not only do we need to monitor him, he has sustained multiple phaser blasts. I would like to scan his artificial heart."
"Agreed."
Beverly tapped her comm. badge.
"Transporter Room one, three to bean directly to Sick Bay."
Before she said, "Energise", she smiled at the Ensign, saying, "Dismissed."
They rematerialised in Sick Bay and with the help of some of the staff, had Jean-Luc in his room and under a restraining field within minutes.
Beverly turned to Selar and said,
"Right. You scan his heart; I want to look at his hypothalamus."
The Vulcan nodded.
"As you wish, Doctor."
Beverly was poring over the monitor when she heard Selar say,
"The bio-regulator has been slightly damaged. He requires surgery."
Looking up absently, Beverly said distractedly,
"Selar…look at this."
Concerned for her colleague, Selar went to the monitor and, had she not been a Vulcan, would have gasped.
"The hypothalamus is regenerating."
Beverly nodded, then pointed at the screen.
"Yes, but look at its structure."
Selar looked more carefully and frowned.
"It seems to be getting larger."
"Exactly. We have to find a way to control its growth."
The Vulcan shook her head.
"But how?"
Beverly scowled, jabbing her finger at the screen.
"I don't know, but if we can't control its growth, he'll be back where he started."
Selar shrugged.
"Well in any case, I have to get him to surgery. Perhaps you can utilise that time to take a closer look at the hypothalamus."
Beverly's eyebrows rose.
"Hands on, you mean?"
Selar inclined her head.
"Why not?"
Summoning a smile, Beverly nodded.
"Why not indeed?"

 

 

An hour later Beverly shook her capped head.
"I don't understand this! All my scans show the hypothalamus is beginning to function normally, but it's still increasing in size."
Selar looked up from the open wound in Jean-Luc's chest to ask,
"Has the rate of expansion slowed?"
Beverly nodded.
"Yes, but not stopped I'm going to take some microscopic samples."
The Vulcan looked up at Beverly's monitor and frowned.
"It may be that it is subsuming the old gland whilst creating a new one."
Beverly sighed.
"Perhaps, but I would really like to know what is going on for sure."
She looked over to Selar and smiled.
"How are you doing?"
The Vulcan inclined her head.
"I have finished and am about to close."
Beverly sighed.
"Then I'd better get out of his brain."
She held out her hand and said,
"I'll have the skull fragment now, please."
Alyssa Ogawa passed Beverly the circular piece of bone and within mere seconds it was seamlessly replaced in Jean-Luc's skull. The flap of scalp was sealed back in place and cleaned, then Jean-Luc was taken back to his room. Selar was about to reinitiate the restraining field when Beverly shook her head.
"No, don't. He hasn't had an erection since we injected him. I want to see if he is rational."
Selar frowned, but gave a nod.
"As long as there is an armed guard present, I have no objection."
Beverly nodded.
"Agreed."

 

 

 

Beverly was in her office when Will knocked on her open door. She looked up and smiled warmly.
"Well hello there, Will."
The big man entered, took the chair in front of her desk, turned it around and straddled it.
"Hello yourself."
The red head made a show of moving a myriad of PADDs to one side and switching the monitor to standby.
"To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Will's smile stayed in place, but his eyes were troubled.
"I have a problem and it concerns Captain Picard."
Beverly's face fell.
"You're talking about the rape."
He sighed.
"Yep."
Holding up her hands, Beverly tried to keep her temper under control.
"It was a hologram, Will, nobody got hurt."
Holding up his own hand to placate her, Will nodded.
"I know that, Beverly, but the Captain didn't. He thought it was you."
Sitting back in her chair, Beverly snorted.
"What are you going to do?"
The big man shrugged and rubbed his tired eyes.
"I don't know…and that's the problem. I'm not sure whether or not a crime has been committed. Is intent cause enough? Because he meant to rape you…he thought he was raping you. The fact that it was a holo image of you is irrelevant."
Beverly leaned forward and stared intently into Will's eyes.
"Will, he was physically and mentally impaired. He cannot be held accountable for his actions."
With a deep sigh, Will ran a hand through his beard.
"I know that, Beverly, but as acting Captain it is my duty to inform Command of any infractions by the senior staff."
Beverly was appalled.
"But, Will, that would demand an enquiry. Do you really want to put him through that? If they question his competency he may lose his command…his captaincy."
Without realising it, Will raised his voice.
"Don't you think I know that?!"
He took a deep breath and sat back.
"What is his condition now?"
Beverly was angry, but she saw Will's point of view.
"He's not long out of surgery, but since we injected him with the modified countermeasure, he hasn't had an erection. In fact, judging by what's happening to his hypothalamus, I don't know of he ever will again."
Immediately concerned, Will sat forward.
"What's happening?"
Activating the monitor, Beverly turned it so Will could see.
"This is his hypothalamus. It should be this size."
She indicated with finger and thumb.
"So far it's twice as big as it should be and it's still growing and I don't know why."
"What will that do to him?"
Beverly shrugged.
"I don't know. He may go back to the way he was before the countermeasure or worse, he may be normal or he may go completely mad. The hypothalamus controls many functions in the human brain; this growth is an absolutely unknown factor. I just don't know what is going to happen until he wakes up."
Will frowned deeply.
"Is it wise to let him wake up?"
Throwing her hands in the air, Beverly shook her head.
"How else can I assess him?"
Will glowered.
"But he may be dangerous!"
Beverly sighed in exasperation.
"Yes, he might, but he might also be completely normal. Until he wakes up, I can't tell."
Taking a deep breath, Will let it out through his nose.
"I want armed guards and a restraining field."
Beverly bowed her head.
"Already in hand."
The big man stared intently into Beverly's eyes.
"And I want to be there."
The Doctor almost winced.
"So you can make up your mind about the report?"
Will nodded sadly.
"Yes."
Beverly sat back and placed her hands palm down on the desktop.
"Then let's just hope he's okay, Will, because a hell of a lot is riding on it."
There was a momentary silence before Will asked,
"When is he due to wake?"
Beverly looked at the chronometer on her desk.
"About three hours."
Will stood and gave Beverly a look of sympathy.
"Call me?"
She nodded silently and Will left.

 

 

 

When four hours had passed with no word from Beverly, Will, sitting in the Ready Room, lifted his head and said mildly,
"Riker to Doctor Picard."
He could hear she was worried.
"Picard here, Will."
"It's been a while, Beverly, any news?"
"No, he's still asleep, but his encephalograph readings are a cause for concern."
The big man stood.
"I'm coming down."
Beverly's reply was distracted.
"Okay, see you then, Picard out."
Will hurried through the ship, his mind on several things. He noticed, as he entered Sick Bay, that the atmosphere was one of hushed apprehension. He made straight for Jean-Luc's room. Beverly, Selar and Deanna stood around the bed and an armed guard stood to one side. As Will entered, he heard Beverly saying; even the microscopic samples I took are growing! We have to find a way to stop it…my God…look at his delta wave patterns!"
Gently taking Deanna's hand, he encouraged her away from the bed.
"What's going on?"
Deanna looked over at her Captain and sighed.
"He won't wake up. We've tried stimulants, electro induction, everything. He just won't wake up."
Will frowned.
"Is he in a coma?"
Deanna shook her head.
"No, what he's experiencing is an odd kind of unconsciousness. We know he's dreaming, we've seen the evidence of REM sleep, but why we can't wake him…"
She sighed again.
"It's a mystery."
Will looked over at Jean-Luc and ran a hand through his beard.
"And this hypothalamus thing, what's going on with that?"
Deanna rubbed her brow and lowered her head.
"Will, the hypothalamus is a very complex gland. Among many other things, in males it controls testicular function and in general it is responsible for hunger, mood and behaviour, hydration, sleep cycles, blood pressure regulation…"
She sighed.
"The list goes on and Captain Picard's hypothalamus is enlarging. Not as fast as it had been, but its growth has not stopped. Even the microscopic samples Beverly took are growing. Now we know that the drug he was injected with was a specific sexual enhancer, so potent it almost obliterated the other functions of the gland. The countermeasure seems to have rectified that effect, but the damaged gland, instead of regenerating normally has displayed abnormal properties. If we could wake the Captain up, we would get some idea of exactly what functions have been affected…we know his brain is reacting badly to the changes in the gland, but precisely what is happening to him…we don't know."
Will again looked at the gaunt man lying on the bed and his face showed his deep concern.
"How long can he go on like this?"
Deanna shrugged.
"That depends on what's happening in his brain. We can feed him intravenously, we can take care of his bodily functions, but if one or more of his key autonomic functions is irreparably damaged, he could die."
Will wiped and hand down his face and took a deep breath.
"Bottom line?"
Deanna turned and looked at her Captain, saying softly,
"We have to wake him up…and find a way to stop the growth of the hypothalamus."
Will gave Deanna's hand a squeeze, then quietly approached the bed. He looked down at his Captain and swallowed before turning to Beverly and saying gently,
"Let me know if there's any change."
Beverly glanced up and offered a wan smile in lieu of a reply. Will left, his thoughts troubled.
Beverly compared the information on her PADD with what was on the screen, stifling the urge to swear. Deanna sensed the surge of desperation in her friend and went to her, saying softly,
"Perhaps you should take a break?"
Beverly was about to tell Deanna to go to hell when Selar said quietly,
"Doctor Picard."
Beverly turned to her, her patience wearing thin.
"Don't you start, Selar. I…"
The Vulcan pointed at Jean-Luc and Beverly's eyes travelled down to see that his eyes were open. She gasped softly and immediately picked up his right hand.
"Jean-Luc? Jean-Luc, can you hear me?"
The guard had taken a few steps closer, his weapon drawn, but it soon became obvious that Jean-Luc was completely oblivious to everything around him. His eyes were open and scans showed he was awake, but there was no reaction to stimuli, not pain, not sensory input. Frustrated and frightened beyond her limits, Beverly grabbed Jean-Luc's shoulders and shook him violently, whilst shouting,
"Jean-Luc, it's me, Beverly! Look at me!"
Two strong hands gripped Beverly's upper arms, pulling her away. Selar's voice was calm, but carried authority.
"Doctor Picard, you are overwrought. Leave the room immediately until you have calmed yourself."
Knowing she could not break the grip didn't stop Beverly from trying. All she got for her efforts was bruises. It was Deanna who eventually got through to her.
"Beverly, listen to me. This is not helping. You need a fresh perspective and you're not going to get it by agonising over your husband's non-responsive state. Unless you want to be relieved, if you still want to help, go to the lab and try to figure out how to stop the samples from growing."
Beverly stilled and cast a look at her husband, her fierce determination to save him making her nod grudgingly.
"All right, I'll go, but if there are any changes, no matter how small…"
Deanna gently placed a hand on her shoulder.
"We'll call you immediately."
Selar let her go and Beverly stalked out of the room.

 

 

 

 

For four days, Jean-Luc stayed in limbo. He was fed intravenously and attached to a biowaste unit, but to the outside world he was lost. He lay in complete silence, awake, but unresponsive and still. Beverly worked tirelessly, twice having to be ordered to her quarters to rest, but whatever was attacking her husband, she was unable to find it.
During the night of the fifth day, Deanna woke from a disturbing dream and lay quietly beside Will, sending out tendrils of thought to check on both Beverly and Jean-Luc. Of the Captain she sensed nothing, but of Beverly she sensed fitful sleep. Slipping quietly out of bed, Deanna went into the living area and said softly,
"Computer, location of Doctor Picard."
"Doctor Picard is in laboratory one in Sick Bay."
With a sigh of exasperation, Deanna went silently into her bedroom and donned a robe before setting out for Sick Bay.
She was expecting to find Beverly asleep and she wasn't disappointed. With one arm cradling her head on the bench next to an electron microscope, Beverly twitched and moaned softly as her nightmares bedevilled her. Deanna went to her, saying softly,
"Beverly, wake up."
The red head's head snapped up and she yelped as her neck muscles spasmed. Deanna took her arm and tried to ease her to her feet.
"You have to go to bed, Beverly. You simply can't keep this up."
Beverly stared at her best friend, then nodded.
"Okay, just let me check this last sample."
Knowing she wouldn't leave until she had done what she wanted, Deanna sighed and comforted herself with the knowledge that Beverly was going to go to her bed. What she wasn't prepared for was the whoop of joy from the Doctor.
"Oh my God!"
Alarmed, Deanna said sharply,
"What is it?"
Beverly moved the image to the monitor and pointed to it.
"Not only has the sample stopped growing…it's shrinking!"
Gaping, Deanna asked incredulously,
"What did you do?"
Massaging her stiff neck, Beverly rolled her head on her shoulders.
"I woke up last night thinking about neurotransmitters, you know, the hormones the hypothalamus is responsible for. I started out with the four most obvious and synthesised them. Serotonin, Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Acetylcholine. I introduced them each in turn, but until tonight I met with no success."
The Betazoid stared at the monitor.
"Which one did it?"
"Acetylcholine."
Deanna frowned.
"Enlighten me."
With a smile, Beverly gestured to a stool.
"Acetylcholine is, as you know, a neurotransmitter. It affects the atonal and somatic nervous systems and acts directly on the autonomic ganglia. There is some lessening affects on the peripheral and central nervous systems, but what I think has happened to Jean-Luc is a type of paralysis as it also affects the muscles. Lack of it would have effectively shut him down.
Deanna nodded thoughtfully.
"And what about his encephalographic readings?"
Beverly looked again at the monitor and shrugged.
"I can only surmise it's his brain's reaction to the neurotransmitter imbalance."
The Counsellor rubbed her fingers over her lower lip, making Beverly think of her husband who habitually did the same thing whenever he was deep in thought.
"So reintroducing acetylcholine will fix him?"
Beverly sighed.
"In the short term, most probably, but what we have to do is to get his hypothalamus to make it on its own. I'm going to do some tests…see how much of the other three hormones it's making, just to test the waters so to speak."
Deanna frowned again.
"How can you be sure its making them at all?"
With a knowing smile, Beverly's eyes danced.
"Because of his body's reactions. If he was suffering from a total hormonal imbalance we'd know it, believe me."
Deanna looked at the monitor and smiled.
"So reintroducing acetylcholine will shrink the gland?"
Beverly looked at the monitor and sighed.
"Well, if this is anything to go by, I don't see why not."
Their eyes met and Deanna asked quietly,
"Do you think the hypothalamus will function normally again?"
Chewing her lower lip, Beverly briefly closed her eyes.
"I don't know…I certainly hope so."
Deanna squeezed her hand.
"Me too."
Beverly loaded a hypospray with the synthesised hormone and the two women went to Jean-Luc's room. Holding up her crossed fingers, Beverly injected her husband. At first, nothing happened, then Beverly looked up at the monitor and grinned.
"Look, Dee, his brain wave patterns are stabilising."
She turned her attention back to Jean-Luc to see him blink. With her heart accelerating, Beverly picked up his hand and bent to him, saying,
"Jean-Luc, if you can hear me, squeeze my hand."
The reaction was very weak, but unmistakable. Beverly touched Jean-Luc's brow and ran her fingers over his stubbled cheek. His eyes slowly moved and he blinked again. When he had Beverly's face in his sight he opened his mouth a little, but no sound came out. Beverly touched him again, saying gently,
"Don't try to talk, Jean-Luc, just rest. Try to sleep; you've been awake a very long time."
He seemed to be trying to say something with his eyes and Beverly smiled.
"I'll stay with you, Jean-Luc. I won't leave, I promise."
His grip of her hand increased slightly and he closed his eyes. Beverly watched as he slipped into sleep. Deanna came closer and looked up at the monitor.
"He must be exhausted."
Beverly nodded.
"Uh huh. I'll stay until he's in a deep sleep, but then I have to get back to the lab. One dose of synthesised acetylcholine isn't enough to fix the imbalance. I need to do more research on how the hormone affects his hypothalamus."
Deanna was surprised; she'd never known Beverly to break her word to anyone, especially her husband. The Counsellor reached out and gently gripped her arm.
"Don't run away from him, Beverly. He needs you right now."
Suddenly defensive, Beverly shrugged out of Deanna's grip.
"I'm not running away…I need to work, that's all."
Deanna gave Beverly an uncompromising look.
"Call Selar. Stay with him, Beverly, like you promised you would."
Beverly glanced up at the monitor and saw that Jean-Luc was deeply asleep. She straightened and made for the door.
"You stay if you want to, Deanna, I have work to do."
Beverly was doing her damnedest to block her feelings from the Counsellor, but Deanna still sensed her fear and uneasiness. The Betazoid caught Beverly just as she was leaving.
"He won't hurt you, Beverly."
She hesitated at the threshold and looked sadly at her husband before exiting without another word. Deanna sighed and looked down at the sleeping man.
"It's going to take some time to win her trust again, Captain."
Pulling a chair closer, Deanna sat down and opened her mind to her CO, hoping to offer him comfort in his dreams.

 

 

 

At precisely oh seven hundred, Will strode onto the Bridge, smiling in his usual genial fashion at the beta shift officer who rose from the Command Chair. Will had woken on his own, but he assumed his lover was with Beverly somewhere on the ship, either in Beverly's quarters, or in Sick Bay. The big First Officer stood in front of his junior officer and said quietly,
"Report."
"As for the ship, Commander, nothing of note to report, but Sick Bay has informed us that Captain Picard has become responsive, Sir."
Will's eyes widened and he spun on his heel, saying to Data, who was just relieving the officer at the Conn,
"You have the Bridge, Mr.Data, I'll be in Sick Bay."
Before Data could even form a reply, Will was in the turbolift.
His quiet entry into Jean-Luc's room went unnoticed by Deanna. She held Jean-Luc's hand, her face marred by an expression of pain. Jean-Luc's face also showed distress. As Jean-Luc began to moan piteously and cry, Will gently gripped Deanna's shoulder. She gasped and her head snapped back, her eyes opening suddenly. Slightly disorientated, Deanna's eyes searched for whatever had broken her connection. Will saw her confusion and said softly,
"It's me. You seemed to be in pain."
Deanna looked down at the still suffering Jean-Luc and sighed.
"It isn't my pain, it's his. He's having a dreadful nightmare."
Will looked down at his Captain and grimaced.
"Should we wake him?"
Deanna nodded.
"Yes, but you'd best stand back, I'm not sure how he'll come out of it."
Will reached out and caught Deanna's arm.
"Shall I summon a guard?"
Deanna shook her head.
"No, but I think perhaps you should stand by with the restraining field, just in case."
She waited the few seconds it took for Will to position himself at the control panel. He nodded his readiness and Deanna gently gripped Jean-Luc's upper arm, saying softly,
"Captain? Captain Picard? Wake up, Sir, you're having a bad dream."
Jean-Luc's eyes snapped open and he let out a strangled cry. His hands came up and painfully grabbed Deanna's forearms. Will said urgently,
"Deanna?"
She shook her head and Will lowered his hand. She looked down into Jean-Luc's eyes, saying,
"It's over, Captain, it was just a nightmare. You're safe."
He shook his head, his voice nothing but a husky whisper.
"It's not my safety I'm worried about, it's Beverly's!"
For the first time, Will noticed that Beverly wasn't there. He asked Deanna quietly,
"Where is Beverly?"
Deanna turned her head and said sotto voce,
"In the lab."
But Jean-Luc heard her. His grip increased and his eyes filled with tears.
"She said she would stay with me."
Deanna's heart squeezed in sympathy with the poor man. She smiled gently and ever so softly stroked his brow.
"She's working to make you well again, Captain."
In his eyes she saw his disbelief. His tears tracked over his temples to pool in his ears.
"She promised me."
Unable to take his pain anymore, Deanna turned to Will and said quietly,
"Go and get Beverly."
Giving nothing more that a curt nod, Will left. Deanna managed to ease herself out of Jean-Luc's grip and encourage him to put his head back on the pillow.
"You want to get well again, don't you?"
He turned his head to one side and closed his eyes, whispering,
"After what I've done, I'm not sure. Perhaps this is my punishment."
Deanna knew his nightmare had been about the rape. His anguish was beginning to overwhelm the Counsellor, so she partially raised her mental barriers. Taking her Captain's hands, she said quietly, but forcibly,
"You did not rape Beverly."
He opened his eyes, but his expression was stricken.
"It was a hologram, I know, you've told me, but I didn't know that, Deanna. As far as I was concerned, I was raping my wife, my beloved Beverly, the only woman I have ever truly loved in my entire life."
Deanna sighed, trying to get through his crushing guilt and anguish.
"Captain, Beverly knows that you love her. She knows you were not responsible for your actions."
Jean-Luc turned his head back and the look of desolation in his eyes made Deanna softly gasp.
"Then where is she? She promised to stay with me."
Just then the doors opened and Will and Beverly came in. Will stayed back, trying to appear inconspicuous. Beverly came to the bed and smiled down at her husband.
"Hello, Jean-Luc. Will tells me you're talking."
Raising trembling arms, a weeping Jean-Luc whispered brokenly,
"Let me hold you, Beverly, please, let me hold you."
Her backward steps were involuntary. Almost panicking, Beverly said hurriedly,
"I don't have the time, Jean-Luc. If I'm to heal you, I have to get back to the lab. I'll drop by later."
She was gone so fast, Deanna was left looking at the closing doors, her mouth agape. Jean-Luc's arms fell to the bed and he quietly sobbed. Deanna took his hands and did what she could to comfort him. An angry Will left the room in pursuit of Beverly.
He found her in the lab. She glanced up at him and, although her words were sharp, he could see the guilt in her eyes.
"I don't have time for remonstrations, Will. Leave me alone, I have work to do."
Unaffected by her words, Will come further into the room, barely suppressing his anger.
"I have known you a very long time, Beverly. I watched as you and the Captain danced around each other for years while he patiently waited for you to admit what we all already knew. I know you love him and I also know you were devastated by the rape, but that man…your husband…is suffering horribly and I just saw you treat him with the worst example of cruelty I've ever witnessed. He is crying out for you, Beverly, begging for forgiveness, that, I might add; only you can give, and you turned him down flat. Tell me, Beverly, tell me how you can do that to him?"
Beverly swung around, anger permeating her every pore.
"How dare you! You're willing to wreck Jean-Luc's career just to maintain protocol! Don't you dare accuse me of being cruel! Even if you simply reported the incident and he was cleared, it would still be on his record! You know how he would feel about that, knowing there was an official notation in his record that he thought he'd raped his wife. Just think of how that would sit, Will, a constant reminder of what he'd done! Are you still willing to do that, or are you so sanctimonious that you think you're above the ability to hurt your precious Captain?"
Will smiled sadly and shook his head.
"Of all the words I could use to describe you, vindictive wasn't one of them. Just so you know, I'm not going to inform Command, so you can rest easy on that, but I have to tell you, Beverly, I don't think I know you anymore."
He turned and left the room, never hearing the tricorder that smashed inside.

Tears welled in Beverly's eyes as she tried to stifle her anger and guilt. Fisting her hands, she brought them down hard on the bench top, the pain helping her to focus. She lifted her head, blinking away her tears and sniffing softly. After taking two deep breaths, she went to the analysis computer and inputted the next set of parameters.
What Will had said hurt, more so because it was true. She had been cruel, perhaps not deliberately, but cruel, nonetheless. The trouble was, she was afraid of her husband. Realistically she knew he wouldn't hurt her, in fact he was one of the most gentle men she had ever met, but now matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get the images of the rape out of her mind. Yes, she knew it was a holo image of herself and therefore no damage had been done, but Jean-Luc didn't know that. As far as he knew, he was raping his wife. There was nothing in that man of the husband she knew and loved.
The Doctor in her knew he was physically and mentally impaired and, as such, could not be held responsible for his actions, but over and over in her mind she kept thinking,
"What if it had have been me?"
She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.
"If not for Selar's wise idea, it would have been me in there. He would have raped me. What I saw would have been happening to me. And then what? A report, a trial…Jean-Luc would have lost his Captaincy and me…? I would have lost my husband."
She bowed her head and shook it, saying brusquely,
"This is driving me nuts! He's the same man, isn't he? But is he the same man who thought he raped me, or is he the man I know and love, the man I know who would never hurt me?"
The soft voice at the door made Beverly's back stiffen. Without turning around, she said succinctly,
"I don't have the time, Deanna."
The Counsellor took no notice of the rebuff and came into the room, eventually standing beside Beverly, who studiously ignored her. Sighing with limitless patience, Deanna said softly,
"Beverly."
The red head snapped,
"I'm busy!"
When Deanna gently placed her hand on Beverly's she stiffened. Deanna could sense the maelstrom of emotion emanating from her friend and took a deep breath.
"Of all the men you have ever known, have you loved any of them as you love Jean-Luc? Including Jack?"
Beverly gripped the edge of the bench and lowered her head.
"Didn't you hear me? I said, I'm busy!"
Deanna was unmoved.
"Answer the question."
Beverly's head snapped around and he glared at her best friend.
"All right, fine. No, I have never loved a man as I love Jean-Luc. There, are you satisfied?"
With a non-committal shrug, Deanna said off-handedly,
"I don't know, are you?"
That brought Beverly up short.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
Deanna offered a ghost of a smile.
"Are you satisfied?"
Exasperated, Beverly's hands went into the air.
"With what? My job? My Life? My Marriage? My sex life? God, Deanna if you want to ask me questions, be specific!"
Deanna was a patient woman, but Beverly obstinacy was wearing thin. She took a calming breath and said quietly,
"Are you satisfied with what you just did to your husband?"
Her arms stiffened and she lowered her head in silence. Deanna gently squeezed her hand and said softly,
"He didn't deserve that, Beverly."
Tears welled and Beverly did everything she could to stop them falling, but failed. Deanna put an arm around her shoulders and eased her head onto her shoulder. As the Doctor sobbed, Deanna said quietly,
"I understand how you feel, Beverly, but you have to allow Jean-Luc to demonstrate his love for you. In your heart, you know he would never hurt you, not now."
Beverly lifted her head and wiped her eyes. She took a minute to regain her composure, then said brokenly,
"I keep seeing it, you know…the rape. Part of me denies he did it, that he wouldn't, under any circumstance, be able to do that to me, but he did, Dee, it may not have been me physically, but he thought it was."
Deanna sighed.
"But…"
Beverly held up a hand.
"I know…he was impaired and can't be held responsible, but no matter how hard I try, I keep seeing it and I'm frightened."
The Counsellor took Beverly by the shoulders, turned her and looked into her eyes.
"All right, we take this one step at a time. How about you get used to being with him while there is someone else with you? Say me, or Will, or perhaps Selar?"
Beverly gave that some thought and gave a tentative nod.
"Yes, I think I could do that, at least while he's here, in Sick Bay."
Deanna summoned a warm smile of encouragement.
"Good. Now, can you leave your work for a while?"
Beverly turned to the monitor and shook her head.
"No, but give me an hour and I might."
Deanna looked at the screen and tilted her head.
"Are you on to something?"
Beverly nodded distractedly.
"I think so. You know when I said I didn't think he was suffering a total hormonal imbalance?"
Deanna nodded silently.
With a sigh, Beverly lowered her head.
"Well that assumption may have been a tad premature. My tests have shown he is deficient in all four neurotransmitters, but lowest of all is acetylcholine."
"Have you been able to stabilise the hypothalamus?"
Beverly shook her head, but her expression was one of hope.
"Not yet, but as it still hasn't finished shrinking, I'm not overly concerned about it. I'm hoping, once it reaches its proper size, it will stabilise on its own. My main concern at the moment is to get it producing the neurotransmitters at the normal levels again."
Deanna gave a small sigh and rubbed at her tired eyes.
"And do you think you can do that?"
With a shrug, Beverly scowled at the screen.
"I don't know, but I have had some minor success, so it's a case of fingers crossed."
Deanna gave Beverly's hand a squeeze and smiled.
"Well then, I'll see you in the Captain's room in an hour."
Grimacing, Beverly pointed to a hypospray on the bench top.
"He'll be due for an injection of hormones by then anyway."
Trying to stifle her exasperation, Deanna said firmly,
"Give him the injection by all means, but this visit is about you and him. Understand?"
Taken aback somewhat, Beverly nodded, saying cautiously,
"Okay."
The petite Betazoid turned on her heel and stalked from the room. Beverly raised her eyebrows and blew out a breath.
"Boy…she can be so bloody high and mighty!"
Nevertheless, an hour later a tentative Beverly entered Jean-Luc's room.

 

 

 

He was dozing as Deanna sat by his bedside, holding his hand. On seeing her husband asleep, Beverly turned to go, but Deanna said softly,
"No, stay."
She then said a little louder,
"Captain, wake up, Beverly's here."
His eyes opened slowly and searched for his wife. As soon as he saw her, he said huskily,
"Beverly…"
The Doctor summoned a smile and slowly went to him, showing him the hypospray.
"I have to give you an injection, but…"
She glanced at Deanna,
"I can stay a while."
He remained silent and still while she injected him and smiled his thanks to Deanna as she released his hand and went to sit away from the bed. A nervous Beverly looked down at Jean-Luc and said disingenuously,
"How do you feel, Jean-Luc?"
He tried manfully to keep the tears from forming, but he failed. He looked up into Beverly's eyes and said brokenly,
"I'm so sorry, my love."
Beverly began to panic, but managed to keep control of herself.
"Let's not talk about that, hmm? Why don't you tell me how you feel physically?"
Jean-Luc was devastated. He wanted so much to try and convince Beverly of his contrition, but he would do anything, including playing by her rules just to keep her in the room with him.
He cleared his throat to summon a stronger voice.
"I…ah…feel very tired."
Beverly looked up the main monitor and frowned.
"You're in pain."
He sighed and briefly closed his eyes.
"I have a headache and joint and muscle pain."
With a warmer smile, Beverly said brightly,
"Well I can fix that."
She left him momentarily to fetch a new vial for the hypo. She injected him and he smiled his thanks.
"Better?"
He nodded.
"Yes, thank you."
There was an uncomfortable silence, until Jean-Luc said quietly,
"Deanna tells me you are working hard to heal me."
Beverly nodded, mightily relieved that the conversation had moved to safer grounds.
"Yes. I don't know how much she's told you about your condition though."
With a shrug, Jean-Luc said softly,
"Not much. Can you tell me?"
Nodding, Beverly smiled, but it didn't quite reach her eyes.
"You have a damaged hypothalamus. It is responsible for the manufacture of hormones. You are deficient in all four major hormones, but especially acetylcholine. That injection I gave you when I first came in was a supplement of all four hormones, that's why you felt better once you got it."
He absorbed that information, then asked,
"And the pain?"
"A side affect of the reduced hormone levels. Your hypothalamus was not only damaged, but once we found a way to counteract the aphrodisiac you'd been given, it made the gland begin to enlarge. Now I found that it was an acetylcholine deficiency that caused that to happen and since you've been receiving supplements, it's shrinking, but as yet the gland isn't manufacturing the hormones on its own. I have to figure out how to trigger that response again, so that it occurs naturally."
Jean-Luc looked into Beverly's eyes.
"And if it doesn't?"
Beverly sighed and rubbed her forehead.
"Well, I suppose you could live comfortably enough with synthesised hormones, the trouble is, I don't know what the long term effects would be."
There followed a lengthy silence, broken when Jean-Luc said very quietly,
"Beverly, would you hold my hand…please?"
Looking into his stricken eyes, she couldn't refuse him. She took his hand and tears welled in both their eyes. Beverly said softly,
"I do still love you, Jean-Luc; I'm just going to need time."
He nodded, his breath hitching in his chest.
"I will give you eternity if it means I can have you back, mon coeur."
His words touched Beverly's heart and without thinking, she bent forward and kissed him softly on the lips. He closed his eyes and sighed with unbound pleasure and relief.
"Thank you, Beverly. I love you."
She straightened and smiled sadly.
"Now I really do have to go, I want you well again."
He nodded, as tears slid down his face.
"Will you come back?"
She nodded.
"Yes, I'll come back."
He lifted the hand he still held and kissed it with such tenderness, that Beverly softly gasped. Letting go of her hand, he looked into her eyes and said quietly,
"I'll be waiting."
Summoning a warm smile, Beverly chuckled softly.
"You get some rest, Jean-Luc; I'll be back soon enough."
He nodded and Beverly turned to see Deanna smiling at her. With her confidence growing, Beverly went back to the lab.

 

 

 

 

It was oh three twenty and, despite her promise to Jean-Luc, Beverly hadn't been back to his room, but it wasn't through anything other than being totally absorbed in her work. She never heard the door open, but when Selar appeared at her side, Beverly frowned.
"What are you doing here?"
The Vulcan raised one perfect eyebrow.
"Are you aware of the time?"
With a wince, Beverly straightened and kneaded her fingers into the small of her back.
"I've no idea."
"It is oh three twenty three. You have worked a double shift, Doctor. It is time you reported to your quarters to rest."
With sudden realisation, Beverly remembered what she'd said to her husband. With a muffled curse, Beverly strode for the door.
"I'll be back in a minute."
Selar's words stopped her in her tracks.
"No, Doctor, you are now off duty. If you do not go to your quarters to rest, I will relieve you of duty and forbid you from setting foot in Sick Bay until such time as you are fully rested."
Knowing it was useless to argue with a Vulcan did not stop Beverly from trying.
"I am the CMO here, Selar. I will say what hours I work, not you!"
Clasping her hands in front of her and with infuriating calm, Selar said quietly,
"I beg to differ, Doctor. You are still my patient; I have not discharged you yet. Regardless of your rank or superiority, you will do as I say."
Caught like a rabbit in a snare, Beverly scowled, but accepted the inevitable.
"Very well, I accede, but I am going to visit my husband before I leave."
Selar bowed her head.
"That is acceptable. I will continue your work."
Beverly's reply was brittle.
"Thank you."

 

 

 

Jean-Luc's room wasn't in complete darkness, there was a soft light glowing on the nightstand. Asleep on a chair was Deanna, still holding Jean-Luc's hand. The man himself seemed to be asleep, but as Beverly neared the bed, his dark hazel eyes opened. They stared silently at each other before Jean-Luc whispered,
"You came back."
Going to the opposite side of the bed, Beverly hitched her backside on the bed and bent low to kiss her husband. She then whispered,
"I'm sorry it took so long, I got totally absorbed in what I was doing and I forgot about the time."
Jean-Luc smiled his acceptance.
"That's all right, I didn't mind waiting."
Beverly shook her head.
"You didn't wait all this time, did you?"
He nodded.
"Yes. I dozed, but Deanna tells me my mind was attuned to you, waiting to hear you arrive."
Beverly cast a glance at Deanna and sighed.
"She really needs to get to her own bed."
Still whispering, Jean-Luc said,
"Wake her, Beverly; tell her I don't need her now."
The red head took Jean-Luc's free hand and frowned.
"What if you have a nightmare?"
Smiling ruefully, Jean-Luc chuckled softly,
"Don't you think I'm an expert at dealing with nightmares by now?"
With a scowl, Beverly quietly admonished her husband.
"It's not funny, Jean-Luc. I've been with you during your nightmares…God, there's the Borg, Madred…and now…"
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and his lower lip trembled.
"Yes, now I have the memory of raping my wife. Believe me, my love, the others pale into insignificance."
Beverly immediately stood and let go of his hand.
"Jean-Luc…"
He sighed and brushed away his tears.
"I know…you don't want to talk about it."
He sighed again, deeply.
"I understand."
Angry with herself, but still frightened of the idea of confronting her fear, Beverly said softly,
"Just give it time, Jean-Luc…please, that's all I ask."
He summoned a smile.
"You have it, as much as you need. Now wake Deanna and both of you get some rest."
Love welled in Beverly and she bent to her husband, kissing him. He very gently lifted his hands and cradled her face, whispering,
"You are the core of my being Beverly, I am incomplete without you."
Beverly looked into his eyes and said softly,
"And you are the only man I have ever truly loved, Jean-Luc."
He frowned.
"What about Jack?"
Sniffing back tears, Beverly kissed him again and said gently,
"I will explain, but not now. Okay?"
Jean-Luc nodded in the dim light and watched as Beverly gently woke Deanna. They left and Jean-Luc lay quietly in his bed for some time in deep thought before ordering the light off and slipping into sleep.

 

 

 

Despite her worry about Jean-Luc, Beverly slept until midday. She stretched luxuriously in her bed before exiting and entering the shower. As she removed her nightie, she lifted her head to call,
"Doctor Picard to Selar."
Beverly thought she detected tiredness in the Vulcan's voice as she replied,
"Selar here, Doctor, go ahead."
"How is Captain Picard?"
"He has received both his hormone supplement and an analgesic and is resting comfortably."
Beverly switched her shower control from sonic to water.
"Has he eaten?"
"He has, but not much. Apparently he has little appetite."
With a frown, Beverly started the shower and put her hand under the spray to test the temperature, unnecessary, but a habit she found hard to break.
"We may have to give him an appetite stimulant."
"Yes, I had considered that."
About to step into the shower, Beverly asked, almost as an afterthought,
"Have you had any success with the hypothalamus?"
"As a matter of fact I have. I thought I might show you when you arrive."
Suddenly spurred into action, Beverly switched the controls back to sonic.
"I'll be there directly, Picard out."
Her leisurely shower forgotten, Beverly was out and dressed in under five minutes. Food was forgone as she left her quarters, hurrying through the ship to Sick Bay. As she entered the facility she briefly considered a quick visit to Jean-Luc, but her overriding need to get to the lab drove the thought from her head. She was not surprised to find Selar at the analysis computer.
"What have you got?"
The Vulcan straightened and pointed to the monitor.
"As you can see, the hypothalamus is now at its correct size and appears to be stable. At oh ten forty seven I achieved success in establishing the manufacture of all four neurotransmitters, but as yet they are at insufficient levels."
Dragging a stool closer, Beverly sat and ran her fingers through her hair.
"How did you do it?"
"Electro stimulation. I sedated Captain Picard and introduced fibre optic probes to stimulate the gland. A low level charge was applied and almost immediately the gland began to manufacture the neurotransmitters."
Frowning, Beverly looked at the three dimensional simulation before her.
"So it would be fair to say a higher charge may produce more hormones?"
Selar shook her head.
"Not necessarily."
Turning her gaze on her colleague, Beverly asked cautiously,
"Why?"
Selar sighed.
"I do not want to upset what I have already achieved. If we increase the charge, there is a chance the hypothalamus may begin to enlarge again, with the accompanying deleterious effects."
A vision of Jean-Luc furiously masturbating to relieve a need that was insatiable flashed through Beverly's mind. She took a deep breath and studied the image again.
"How much charge did you use?"
"Point two of a micro joule."
Beverly pointed at the base of the hypothalamus where it joined the pituitary.
"Does that look right to you?"
Selar enlarged the image and frowned.
"No, there seems to be a lack of complete union."
Touching the screen with her forefinger, Beverly mused,
"Probably caused by the initial damage to the hypothalamus. I say we try point seven five micro joules, even one micro joule. I think the hypothalamus needs the stimulation to make full integration and thereby resume normal function."
Selar nodded thoughtfully.
"Well we know the hypothalamus produces the neurotransmitters and that the pituitary secretes them, it does make sense that a seamless union would be necessary for normal function."
She sighed.
"But I am not sure we should attempt to increase the charge as you suggest."
Trying to keep her exasperation under control, Beverly asked testily,
"Do you have any other ideas?"
The Vulcan shrugged.
"No, I do not."
Giving a curt nod, Beverly made her decision.
"Then because I have never backed away from a challenge, I say we try."
Selar turned her head slowly and regarded Beverly with a measured stare.
"And the first tenet of the Hippocratic Oath?"
Beverly stared back defiantly.
"Above all else do no harm? I believe Captain Picard is being harmed by our inactions. Can you tell me the long-term effects of the prolonged use of synthesised hormone supplements in a man of his age?"
Selar shook her head.
"No, I cannot, but I do know that at the present time he is stable and relatively well."
Beverly smiled sadly.
"Stable and relatively well? He would never accept that, Selar. Unless we can heal him completely, so he can once again occupy the Bridge of this ship, we will have failed. We have to do everything in our power to heal him, even if that means putting him in danger, because he would expect nothing else."
The Vulcan sighed, remembering how close her Captain came to being euthanased for similar reasons. She looked into Beverly's eyes and nodded.
"Very well, I agree."
Smiling her thanks, Beverly said briskly,
"Have him prepped; I want to run some simulations."
Selar bowed her head, saying softly as she turned to leave the room,
"Yes, Doctor."

 

 

 

By the time Beverly entered the surgery suite, Jean-Luc was lying on the operating table, unconscious and with two small holes open in his skull. The micro filament probes were already situated and Selar was manning the control module at the head of the table. Beverly went to her husband and, as she looked down at him, Selar asked softly,
"What did your analysis show?"
Her thoughts broken, Beverly looked up, casting aside her worry.
"Point seven five micro joules should do it, but it may take more than one charge. I want you to monitor the hypothalamus very carefully, especially the union with the pituitary. The cohesion should be spontaneous, but as we can't be absolutely sure about the effects of the charges, I want to be able to abort the instant we see anything out of the ordinary."
Selar bowed her head.
"I understand, Doctor."
Beverly took a deep breath and said briskly,
"Right. Are we ready?"
"Yes, all is in place."
It crossed Beverly's mind that she may be on the verge of doing her husband irreparable harm, but her gut feeling was one of guarded confidence. Instead of giving a verbal order, Beverly merely nodded.
The first charge was delivered and Selar's eyes scanned the monitor. Beverly's glanced down at Jean-Luc, then over at her colleague.
"Well?"
"The join is almost complete."
Giving a curt nod, Beverly gritted her teeth and said firmly,
"Again."
This time Selar looked up from the screen and nodded.
"We have full integration."
With butterflies in her stomach, Beverly asked,
"And the hypothalamus?"
The Vulcan held up one hand.
"Wait…"
The butterflies turned sour. Beverly gripped the edge of the table, her eyes glued to the screen. Suddenly Selar straightened.
"We have increased neurotransmitter production."
Beverly asked tightly,
"What are the levels?"
The Vulcan checked the readings and gave Beverly a steady look.
"All four are at seventy-four percent and rising."
Not yet ready to let her tension go, Beverly asked quietly,
"And his assimilation?"
"His body is assimilating the hormones normally."
There followed a tense ten minutes as both Doctors watched the monitor. Selar told Beverly what she could already see.
"The levels have peaked at eighty-two percent of normal."
Knowing she was treading on unsafe ground, Beverly tried to keep her tone confident as she said firmly,
"Give him one more charge."
Selar hesitated, but cast aside her misgivings to follow her order. She pressed the relevant control and the charge surged through Jean-Luc's hypothalamus.
Beverly thought she detected a hint of tension in Selar's voice as she said, "Neurotransmitter production is resuming. Levels are increasing."
Beverly looked down at Jean-Luc willing him to heal.
"Come on, my love, you can do it."
Eight and a half minutes later, Selar said quietly,
"We have normal neurotransmitter production. He is assimilating the hormones normally and the pituitary is secreting at one hundred percent efficiency."
Letting out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding, Beverly's grip of the table eased and she briefly closed her eyes in thanks. Selar's quiet voice broke her reverie.
"Do you wish to close now?"
Beverly nodded, suddenly very tired, but, as an after thought, asked.
"What are his testosterone levels?"
Selar made a few adjustments to the computer and gave her reply.
"Slightly above normal, but within a healthy range."
Beverly's smile was tentative.
"Good. Close now and take him back to his room."
"Yes, Doctor."
As Beverly left the surgery suite she was met by Deanna whose silent enquiry was answered with a warm smile.
"He's going to be fine, we managed to repair the hypothalamus and it, plus the pituitary are both functioning normally."
Deanna's eyes danced with delight.
"Oh, that's wonderful, Beverly, I'm so happy…for both of you."
They walked together to Jean-Luc's room and Beverly busied herself turning down the covers of his bed. Deanna knew a stalling tactic when she saw it and sighed.
"Not talking about it won't make it go away, you know."
Beverly's hands stilled and she bowed her head. Deanna went to her and gently placed a hand on her shoulder.
"What is it?"
With a sigh, Beverly grimaced.
"It's what's to come. We will be keeping Jean-Luc here in Sick Bay for the next few days to keep an eye on things, but once it's clear he's okay, he'll be discharged."
Deanna gave a thoughtful nod of understanding.
"And he will be wanting you to be with him."
Beverly nodded silently. Deanna asked softly,
"Do you think you can do it? Be in the same room as him, just the two of you…the same bed?"
Beverly's hands fisted and she whispered,
"I don't know. We have grown closer over the past day or two and I know our love has survived, but…"
Deanna's soft voice was no less firm.
"You have to talk to him about it, Beverly. Think of it as a festering wound that needs to be lanced and cleaned. You know that will bring healing."
Beverly turned her head and gave Deanna a long, measuring look.
"How do you talk to your husband about how he raped what he thought was his wife?"
She thumped her fisted hands down on the bed.
"Godammit…if only he hadn't remembered!"
Deanna's reply was sympathetic.
"It doesn't matter if he remembers it or not, the fact is, you saw it…you remember it. In a way it would have been worse of he didn't remember it, because then he would have no way of knowing just how and why you were so deeply affected by it. At least this way he knows."
Beverly's tone was one of defeat.
"And maybe that's the worst part of the problem."
Deanna frowned, asking softly,
"Why?"
With a deep sigh, Beverly faced her best friend, her eyes moist.
"Think about it, Dee. I am devastated and I only saw what he did, I didn't actually experience it. He did! I watched as my husband raped a holo image of me and I can barely be in the same room as him. He actually did it…as far as he's concerned, he raped me. How the hell do you think he's ever going to come to terms with that? You know him, Deanna…have you ever met a more gentle, altruistic man than Jean-Luc Picard? How will he ever understand how he was able to do what he did?"
Deanna held up her hands.
"But the drug…"
Beverly cut her off.
"Yes I know that and on some level, so does he…and you have to remember it was me who restored his ability to achieve an erection! But he still did it! Just like he couldn't stop the Borg from mentally raping him and stealing all his knowledge and using it to slaughter thousands, he was made sexually insane by the drug. You know as well as I that he still carries the guilt of what the Borg made him do, what happened this time was worse, because I was the victim. Somehow I think he feels a singular victim of his violence is worse than countless, faceless thousands."
Deanna withdrew her hand and rubbed her brow.
"I understand what you're saying, Beverly, but my advice still stands. You need to talk to him about it…and you both need to talk to me afterwards."
Frustrated and angry, Beverly almost shouted.
"And just what do I say? I watched you mercilessly rape me, but it's okay?"
Becoming irritated, Deanna snapped,
"Well it would be a start! At the moment all you're doing is avoiding it!"
Both women glared at each other but the arrival of Jean-Luc being brought into the room broke the icy impasse.
Deanna stood back and watched as Beverly supervised Jean-Luc being settled into bed. Selar activated the large monitor at the head of his bed and gave a nod of satisfaction.
"He is doing well, Doctor. I would envisage he will wake within the hour."
Beverly gave a distracted nod and watched as the staff left. Deanna approached the bed, saying softly,
"Why don't you stay with him? I know he'd be very happy to see you when he wakes up."
Deanna could see the uncertainty in Beverly's eyes, so she said quietly,
"I'll stay too."
Summoning a wan smile, Beverly nodded, saying gratefully,
"Thank you, Deanna, I really do appreciate it."
Both women dragged stools closer to the bed and sat, waiting for Jean-Luc to waken.

 

When his eyes fluttered open, Jean-Luc knew he was healed. The aches and pains were gone and, apart from the lingering unease, he felt well. The monitor above his bed showed his wakefulness and Beverly stood, moving into his line of sight. He immediately smiled and lifted his hand, saying in a roughened voice,
"Hello, my love."
She summoned a smile and hitched her backside on the bed, but hesitated in taking his hand. Jean-Luc noticed and slowly lowered it. Beverly, feeling uncomfortable, said with forced brightness,
"Hello, Jean-Luc, how do you feel?"
His smile stayed but there was sadness in his eyes.
"I feel fine, thank you."
Deanna grimaced, wanting to shake both of them. It was all so formal, so contrived. Unable to take it any longer, she stood and went to the opposite side of the bed. Beverly stiffened and kept her gaze on he husband, but Jean-Luc looked at Deanna with affection.
"Hello, Counsellor."
Deanna smiled, but her eyes showed her determination.
"Hello, Captain, I'm glad you're feeling well, but why don't you tell Beverly how you really feel?"
Jean-Luc's mental barriers went up immediately and his face became unreadable. Deanna sighed and shook her head.
"No, Sir, don't withdraw, I won't accept it. You're hurting and so is Beverly and the longer you both avoid it, the harder it will be to talk about it."
Jean-Luc looked at Beverly to see panic in her eyes. He was about to say something soothing when she suddenly stood, saying briskly,
"I have work to do. I'll drop by later."
She left before either Deanna or Jean-Luc could say anything. Defeated and morose, Jean-Luc closed his eyes, his hands covering his face. Deanna, angry and frustrated, said quietly,
"You'll be here in Sick Bay for a few days, Captain. I'll talk to Beverly, hopefully she'll come around."
Jean-Luc lowered his hands and sighed, his eyes brimming with tears. He said softly,
"Don't other, Deanna. This is all my fault, I deserve this."
Stifling the urge to yell at her Captain, Deanna kept control and said firmly,
"It's not like you to wallow in self pity, Captain."
She was very surprised when he didn't react angrily. Instead he merely sighed and wiped at his tears.
"It isn't self pity, Deanna. What is happening now is my penance, my punishment for a crime so heinous…"
Deanna cut him off.
"There was no crime! Yes, I know you thought Beverly was real and that the memory must be devastating, but no harm was done, at least no physical harm. Captain, you were under the influence of a particularly potent alien drug that not only made you sexually insatiable, but all but destroyed your hypothalamus gland. There was no way you could have possibly controlled yourself."
Jean-Luc shook his head, muttering,
"But…"
Deanna waved his protest away.
"Do you remember what it was like before you were able to achieve an erection? How you suffered with the terrible need but had no way to relieve it?"
Saddened, his face contorted with grief.
"I thought Beverly was dead too."
Deanna nodded.
"Yes. We had to keep sedating you and placing you under a restraining field, but even in unconsciousness, you still suffered."
Tears slid down Jean-Luc's face as he quietly sobbed, whispering,
"I remember."
Deanna took his hands, saying earnestly,
"Then Beverly came back."
Jean-Luc nodded, a small smile appearing.
"Yes, it was so wonderful to see her."
Then his face fell again and he whispered brokenly,
"I wanted her."
The Counsellor squeezed Jean-Luc's hands trying to keep him anchored.
"After Beverly was treated, do you know what the first thing she did was?"
He shook his head in silence.
"She operated on you and made the repairs to your penis that Selar had been unable to do. It was Beverly who restored your ability to achieve an erection."
That made Jean-Luc frown.
"But why? Didn't she know how dangerous that would make me? I remember how I tried to attack Selar even though I couldn't get an erection."
Deanna smiled sadly.
"She knew, Captain, but she also understood how much you were suffering. She wanted to give you the means to attain some relief."
His face showing shock, Jean-Luc said softly,
"So she…"
Deanna nodded.
"Yes. In one way, Beverly is partially responsible for what happened. Had you not been able to achieve an erection, you wouldn't have been able to rape."
There followed a lengthy silence before Jean-Luc asked quietly,
"Whose idea was the holo deck?"
"Beverly and Selar, but it was Selar's suggestion to create a holo image of Beverly."
Jean-Luc looked at Deanna aghast.
"Are you telling me she was going to enter the holo deck herself?"
Seeing where this line of questioning was going, Deanna sought to nip it in the bud.
"She briefly considered it, but then, when Selar made her suggestion, Beverly saw the sense in it and readily agreed."
Jean-Luc's pupils dilated. He took a shuddering breath and said quietly,
"She watched, didn't she."
Deanna nodded slowly.
"Yes."
Jean-Luc moaned softly, his hands going to his face.
"I remember…I was out of control, all I wanted was to orgasm…and I did, again and again…then….nothing."
Deanna sighed and briefly closed her eyes.
"It was decided it was too dangerous for anyone to enter to sedate you so the holo deck was flooded with anesthezine gas. Once you were rendered unconscious, you were taken back to the bedroom and placed in bed."
Jean-Luc took some time to digest that, then he said softly,
"And all this took place on the holo deck."
With a nod, Deanna said,
"Yes, Captain."
He frowned and looked around his room.
"Then how did I end up here?"
"You were suffering too much, Captain. Even with the ability to attain some degree of relief, the need never diminished, so it was decided to sedate you heavily and put you under a restraining field. That could only be done here, in Sick Bay."
With a shuddering sigh, Jean-Luc muttered,
"And it's been Beverly who has been treating me."
"Yes, Captain. With Selar's help, she has healed you."
Staring up at the ceiling, Jean-Luc uttered,
"And now, because of what she's witnessed, she doesn't want to be near me."
He sighed again.
"I may not have raped her physically, Counsellor, but I raped her nonetheless. In her mind I violated her in the worst possible way. It's little wonder she can't bear the sight of me. It must evoke terrible memories."
Knowing her Captain wouldn't tolerate being mollycoddled, Deanna nodded, saying firmly,
"It's true, Captain, she is struggling, but so are you. From Beverly's perspective, she's frightened of you; she has lost her trust in you. You, on the other hand, have to deal with the knowledge that you raped your wife, regardless of the fact you were under the influence of a drug and the woman you raped was not, in fact, your wife."
She sighed.
"And the only way either of you are going to be able to come to terms with what's happened is to talk about it and in doing so, re-establish your relationship with each other."
Jean-Luc's eyes slid to Deanna's and he sighed.
"I'm willing, Counsellor, but it's a little hard when Beverly doesn't want to come near me."
With a small smile, Deanna nodded.
"I know, Captain and I will talk to her, but you know how stubborn she can be."
Jean-Luc sighed again.
"Oh, yes, Counsellor, I know. But tell me this. If I am to be discharged in a few days…what then? Will Beverly stay with me in our quarters? Will she sleep with me in our bed?"
Deanna lowered her head and sighed.
"Believe it or not, Beverly has asked much the same questions, Captain. I can't predict the future, Sir; I can only work in the here and now. All I can do is talk to Beverly…see if I can get her to talk to you."
With a wan smile, Jean-Luc said softly,
"Thank you, Counsellor."
Hearing the subtle dismissal, Deanna let go of her Captain's hands and stood, saying quietly,
"Don't give up hope Captain, I haven't."
He said nothing more as Deanna left, but his mind was roiling.

 

 

 

Deanna found Beverly in her office. The red head looked up as Deanna entered, then lowered her head, ignoring her visitor. Deanna sighed, but had to admire her friend's stoic façade.
"I spoke to the Captain."
Keeping her eyes on the PADD in her hands, Beverly said distractedly,
"Oh? That's nice."
"He wants to talk to you."
Beverly's eyes raised for an instant then went back to the PADD.
"Really."
Growing tired of this pointless sparring, Deanna said forcefully,
"Yes!"
Her sharp tone was enough to make Beverly put the PADD down and face her best friend.
"All right, he wants to talk. Fine."
Placing her hands on the desktop, Deanna stared intently into Beverly's eyes and said succinctly,
"Well?"
Disingenuously, Beverly asked,
"Well what?"
Raising her voice in anger and frustration, Deanna stood and loomed over the desk.
"Well are you going to let him? Are you going to sit with him in his room and have an honest conversation with him, or are you going to continue to hide?"
Beverly was on her feet in an instant, her blue eyes blazing.
"I am NOT hiding!"
Deanna lowered her voice and softened her expression.
"Aren't you?"
Beverly almost shouted.
"No!"
With a sigh, Deanna asked softly,
"Then what are you doing?"
Beverly's mouth opened and closed twice before any sound came out.
"I…I…I'm waiting until the opportune time."
Briefly closing her eyes, Deanna asked,
"And when will that be? You are aware of how much pain the Captain is in, much like your own pain. I cannot understand how you can allow it to continue. You love each other…that has not changed. Surely people who love each other as you two do would want to do anything in their power to prevent pain in each other?"
Beverly's shoulders slumped and she whispered,
"I'm frightened."
Deanna went around the desk and gently embraced her friend.
"I know, Beverly, but putting it off is only prolonging both your fear and your pain. You know he would never hurt you now, don't you?"
Beverly nodded slowly.
"Then go to him, talk to him. Help each other to heal."
Beverly lifted her head and looked out her door, over to Jean-Luc's room. She sighed and gave Deanna a hug.
"You're right. I'll do it."
"When?"
"Now."
Deanna smiled with encouragement and asked softly,
"Do you want me there?"
Beverly shook her head.
"No, if I'm to show I trust him, then I have to face him alone."
With a nod, Deanna said gently,
"I'll be just outside. Call me if you need me."
Summoning a watery smile, Beverly nodded.
"I will…and thank you, Dee."
The Counsellor's smile widened.
"You're welcome."

 

 

 

Beverly entered Jean-Luc's room tentatively. He was sitting up in bed, trying to read and put his book down immediately he saw his wife. She gave a cautious smile and he returned it in kind. Coming further into the room, Beverly showed her nervousness by wringing her hands and saying off handedly,
"Would you like a cup of tea?"
He shook his head.
"No, thank you."
Trying anything to avoid the talk she knew they had to have, Beverly clutched at straws.
"Oh? That's odd; you normally like a cup of Earl Grey. Why, I can remember…"
Jean-Luc's quiet voice cut through her babbling.
"Beverly…"
Her mouth snapped shut and she lowered her head. Disheartened, Jean-Luc said quietly,
"Come and sit with me."
She did so, but their eyes never met. Very slowly and gently, Jean-Luc reached out and took one of Beverly's hands. At first she resisted, but he tightened his grip, saying softly,
"You're safe, Beverly, I won't hurt you, my love, you have my word."
Beverly relaxed a little and her eyes finally met his. She whispered,
"I know, Jean-Luc."
Making him smile a little. He took a deep breath and plunged into water he found terrifying.
"I'm so very sorry, Beverly…I had no control…I was…"
Beverly leaned forward and gently pressed her fingers to his lips.
"I know, my love, I know. It's just so very hard to reconcile what I saw with the man I know and love. The man I know who is, by nature, so gentle and kind."
Tears welled in Jean-Luc's eyes as he said brokenly,
"I can't describe what it was like, Beverly…the overwhelming need…being so out of control, I was in hell. Before, when I thought you were dead, I didn't want to live any more. Then I saw you and…"
He sobbed quietly,
"I'm ashamed to say I wanted you so desperately…all I could think of was touching you…making love to you over and over until I couldn't function anymore. Then, by some miracle, you repaired me so I could gain some relief and it did help a little, but not with the need…that never diminished. When I saw you in our quarters, at least what I thought was our quarters, all I wanted to do was touch you…hold you…but the need, the overpowering desire overwhelmed me and I lost control. I will have to live for the rest of my life with the memory that I raped the only woman I have ever truly loved, my wife. I will never forgive myself, Beverly."
She sighed and closed her eyes, tears running down her cheeks. In the brittle silence, Jean-Luc beseeched,
"Talk to me, Beverly…don't let it fester."
Her eyes opened and her breath hitched in her chest. She found it difficult to find her voice and when she did it was hushed.
"I watched, Jean-Luc, and part of me refused to believe what I was seeing. You didn't just rape my holo image; you ravaged her, over and over. I have never seen such…bestiality. Even my holo image's struggles against you seemed to spur you on. I kept telling myself it was the drug and that it wasn't me, but you didn't know that…you thought it was me and you raped and raped…"
Jean-Luc could take no more. He cried out,
"NO!"
And quickly exited the bed. Beverly stood and caught his arm as he tried to leave the room.
"No, Jean-Luc, you must hear me."
He stood, head lowered and with his body trembling.
"I understand, Jean-Luc and I know that person you were is now gone, but we both have memories we will have to learn to live with."
He turned his tear streaked face to her and whispered brokenly,
"Can you forgive me, Beverly?"
Her own tears wetting her cheeks, she nodded and said softly,
"Yes, my love, but it will take time for us to find our way through this."
He nodded, then asked quietly,
"When I'm discharged, will you return to our quarters with me?"
She hesitated, but nodded.
"Yes, I'll return."
Very slowly, Jean-Luc raised his arms and, equally slowly, Beverly allowed him to embrace her. After a few seconds she wrapped her arms around him and they wept in each other's arms.

 

 

 

The next morning, after Beverly had been in to see Jean-Luc, she was in her office when she became aware of someone standing at the door. She looked up to see Will, his expression guarded. He straightened and asked softly,
"May I come in?"
Beverly smiled, but it was with caution.
"Yes."
The big man came in and pointed to the chair in front of the desk, silently asking if he could sit. Beverly nodded and watched as he turned the chair and, as was his habit, straddled it. The Doctor sat back, tapping a stylus against her lips, waiting to see what was on his mind. Will took a deep breath and looked Beverly in the eye.
"I owe you an apology."
Beverly gave a slow nod, saying softly,
"Yes, you do."
With a sigh, Will lifted a hand and rubbed his brow.
"I made the mistake of seeing the whole thing from the Captain's point of view. I never gave your situation enough thought. I'm sorry, Beverly."
Beverly maintained her stare, then smiled.
"In a way I understand why you did it, Will. You went through everything he was suffering, to the point where euthanasia was considered, from your perspective; I came aboard, was healed and went to work to heal the Captain. But you didn't witness the rape."
She held up a hand.
"And before you tell me it wasn't me he raped, let me remind you he thought it was me and I saw it, I witnessed it in excruciating detail."
Will bowed his head and sighed.
"I had a long talk with Deanna last night, she set me straight. I should have given it much more thought, Beverly. Really, I am sorry."
Beverly's smile grew and her eyes regained their usual twinkle.
"Let's say no more about it."
Will smiled, but there was sadness in his eyes.
"You forgive me?"
With a flap of her hand, Beverly said warmly,
"Nothing to forgive my friend…water under the bridge."
His face changed as she watched him to his usual friendly visage. His relief was clear to see. He frowned a little, asking softly,
"So how are things with you and the Captain?"
Beverly's smile faded a little, but her eyes remained warm.
"We're getting there. We cleared the air last night…it was difficult, but I think very therapeutic."
Will nodded thoughtfully, then asked,
"Are you back on duty?"
Beverly grinned.
"Yep. Selar gave me a clean bill of health this morning. You have your CMO back."
Will grinned and came to his feet.
"Well, I should be getting back to the Bridge. Is it all right if I drop in on the Captain?"
Waving to the door, Beverly smiled.
"Be my guest."
Then her face became serious.
"Just be aware he's still a little…closed. He's still traumatised, Will, it's going to take a while before the man you knew is back."
Will gave Beverly a measured look and said softly,
"Both of you, I think."
Beverly's smile was a brave one, but Will saw it for what it was. He smiled his encouragement and said quietly,
"If there's anything I can do, you only have to ask."
Warmth crept into Beverly's smile as she said softly,
"Thank you."

 

 

 

Jean-Luc had been up, showered, shaved and had what Beverly described as an 'adequate' breakfast. He was sitting beside his bed, dressed in civilian clothing, trying to read a book. Quiet classical music played in the background. Will didn't bother to knock. He should have, but he wanted his Captain to know he had no reservations about being with him. He did, however, stay at the open door until invited inside. Jean-Luc looked up from the book, closed it on his finger and said evenly,
"Come in, Number One."
The big bearded man entered, a wide smile on his genial face.
"Hello, Captain, it's good to see you up and about, Sir."
Jean-Luc gave his bed a look of distaste and managed to dredge up a smile.
"It is good to be out of that damned bed."
Will hitched his backside on the edge of the bed and asked gently,
"How are you, Sir?"
Jean-Luc smiled up at his Exec, but Will could see his eyes were still haunted.
"Oh, I'm fine."
Sighing at the predictable reply, Will let it pass then asked,
"Do you know when you'll be discharged?"
Jean-Luc grimaced.
"Another two days, I believe and then I'll still be relieved of duty for God knows how long."
Hearing the frustration in his Captain's voice, Will tried to cheer him up.
"Look at it this way, Sir. You'll be able to catch up on all that paperwork that's built up over these past weeks."
The term 'paperwork' was a misnomer, but it served to cover a myriad of tasks the senior offers had to undertake on a daily basis. Jean-Luc tried to smile, but it didn't reach his eyes. Changing the subject, he asked firmly,
"How is my ship?"
Will's demeanour changed to one of all business.
"Nothing out of the ordinary to report, Captain. The vaccine from Ventraxia has been delivered and apparently is working well, although it's going to take some time before all the affected worlds are supplied. Distribution to the rest of the Federation is going to take some time too, even though it's being replicated as fast as is possible."
That brought a frown from Jean-Luc.
"You abandoned your mission?"
Will hesitated.
"Well yes, Sir. Don't you remember, Captain? We stayed so you could say goodbye to Beverly. She was laid in state for eight days before interment."
Light dawned in Jean-Luc's eyes along with remembered grief. He nodded, then said quietly,
"Well you seem to have everything in hand, Commander. That will be all, thank you."
Surprised at the abrupt dismissal, Will stood and summoned a smile.
"Yes, Sir. If there's anything you require, just call."
Jean-Luc nodded, his face unreadable. After Will had left, depression descended.

 

 

 

For the next two days nothing much changed. Jean-Luc stayed mostly in his room, despite having permission to move around Sick Bay as he chose, and Beverly spent all of her spare time with him, trying to strengthen their bond. The morning of his discharge he was quiet, not his usual happy self at being set free from Sick Bay. Walking silently through the ship, Beverly wondered at his mood. She knew he was depressed, she had tried to talk to him about it, but, although he did try to articulate his feelings, nothing much was gained. They duly arrived at their quarters and stood just shy of the sensor. Beverly stepped forward, triggering the door release, but Jean-Luc hung back, obviously reluctant to enter.
Taking his hand, Beverly said softly,
"It's all right, my love."
She had to tug on his hand to get his feet moving, but he did enter, however when he stepped close to where the rape had occurred he stopped, bowed his head and closed his eyes. Through his hand, Beverly felt his body trembling and she moved closer to him, guiding him past the area and to his favourite chair.
She eased him into it and he opened his eyes, tears welling. Beverly sat on the arm of the chair and very gently ran her fingers over his bald scalp, something she knew he enjoyed. He closed his eyes again and sighed, trying to relax. Beverly's voice was soft as she said quietly,
"I'll get us a tea."
He nodded silently and watched as Beverly went to the replicator and ordered their drinks. She was back in no time, an Earl Grey for him and a hot lemon for her. He smiled his thanks, then his eyes drifted to the vista of the stars outside. Beverly watched him closely and found she couldn't describe his expression, but she knew he was finding solace. She smiled, saying quietly,
"You missed them."
He blinked, saying,
"What?"
"Your stars."
He smiled then, making Beverly feel better.
"Yes, I suppose I have. Ever since I was a little boy, I have found peace staring at the stars, but would you like to know a secret?"
Intrigued by his change of mood, Beverly nodded eagerly.
"Yes."
"The last twelve years, when staring at the stars in public, I allowed people to believe I was lost in their charm. But the reality is…I was lost in other thoughts."
Beverly was curious enough to ask,
"What thoughts?"
He turned his head to look into Beverly's eyes.
"Thoughts of you. It was the only way I could think of you in public and get away with it."
Overcome with love, Beverly bent and kissed the top of his head. Then she chuckled.
"And all this time we all thought you were lost in the splendour of the stars."
He smiled, his eyes twinkling.
"I was lost in splendour all right, but it was you, not the stars."
They sat in companionable silence for a while, Jean-Luc's gaze once again on the stars. Eventually Beverly rose, but not before kissing him tenderly.
"I have to get back to work. Call me if you need me."
Her wording sent a shudder through Jean-Luc, but he summoned a brave smile and nodded.
"I will. Have a good day, I'll see you later."
Knowing he was again depressed made leaving him hard, but unless Beverly took time off, she had to perform her duties. She bent and kissed him again, whispering,
"I love you, Jean-Luc."
His smile gained some strength as he replied,
"And I you, mon coeur."
Beverly reluctantly left and Jean-Luc finished his tea, his eyes on the stars.

 

 

 

Will had been quite right. With time on his hands, Jean-Luc eventually left his contemplation of the stars and went to his desk, sighing at the amount of work he had to do. He recorded both his personal and ship's logs, although he couldn't find it in himself to record the rape in his personal log. He just couldn't face it, not yet, but when it came to going over ship's business, he found it hard to concentrate.
He plodded through most of the work and by late afternoon and was tired and listless and by that time he had had enough. Luckily Beverly had decided to finish early for the day and arrived only an hour or so after Jean-Luc had retreated to his chair.
She entered their quarters confidently and frowned at seeing Jean-Luc precisely where she had left him. Saying a cheery hello, she went to the replicator, saying over her shoulder,
"Can I get you anything?"
He looked up and offered a wan smile.
"A tea, please."
When Beverly got over to him, she put the drinks on the low table and took his hands.
"I hope you haven't been sitting here brooding all day."
He shook his head.
"No, I've been catching up with ship's business."
Beverly grinned.
"Ah, the ubiquitous paperwork. Did you get it all done?"
He sighed and rubbed his tired eyes.
"Most of it."
Switching to Doctor mode, Beverly asked briskly,
"Have you had anything to eat?"
Immediately irritated, Jean-Luc glowered, making Beverly sigh.
"You haven't, have you."
He lowered his head, muttering sullenly,
"I'm not hungry."
Knowing arguing with him would only make matters worse, Beverly stood, saying firmly,
"Well I am. How about I replicate an early dinner?"
He looked up and summoned a small smile, seeing her ploy for what it was.
"That would be nice, thank you."
She nodded happily and moved across the room to the replicator.
"Have you any preferences?"
He shook his head.
"No, you choose."
As Beverly contemplated what to order, she said over her shoulder,
"You drink your tea, this won't take long."
She was quite right. Within five minutes she had the table set and two plates of pasta carbonara on the table. As the aroma hit him, Jean-Luc's stomach rumbled, making him embarrassed. Beverly chuckled and beckoned him to the table.
"Come on, it's best when it's hot."
As they ate, Beverly kept up a stream of light chatter, but Jean-Luc was unusually pensive. Beverly knew his depression was weighing heavily on him and she was aware he was fighting it as best he could, but he was struggling. At a loss as to how to help him, Beverly was about to suggest he try a chemical alternative when Jean-Luc suddenly said,
"Would you care for a walk in the Arboretum?"
Looking over the rim of her wine glass, Beverly tried to disguise her surprise.
"Ah…yes, that would be lovely."
They finished their meal, cleared the table, then left their quarters for the short journey to the Arboretum where they spent a peaceful hour wandering through the myriad of plant life. Beverly was particularly delighted when Jean-Luc led her to a flowering camellia.
After they returned they settled down to read in companionable silence until it was quite late. Both knew they were putting off going to bed, but when Beverly couldn't keep her eyes open, she stood and said nervously,
"Well, I'm off to bed."
Jean-Luc looked up and saw the fear in her eyes. He tried to hide his sadness as he said softly,
"It's all right, Beverly, I'll sleep on the sofa."
She couldn't hide her relief, but nor could she ease her husband's hurt. She went to him and knelt in front of him.
"It won't be for long, Jean-Luc…just until I get my confidence back."
He took her hands, his eyes filled with both sadness and understanding.
"It's all right, my love, I understand."
She left him, going to the bedroom and returning with a pillow and some blankets. She kissed him tenderly, whispering,
"I'll see you in the morning."
He nodded, the lump in his throat too big to allow him speech.

 

 

At oh three thirty, Beverly was still awake. She had done nothing but toss and turn all night, heartsick with worry over her husband. With an abrupt burst of energy, she threw the covers back and went into the living area, quietly approaching the sofa. It was empty. Calling for soft lighting, Beverly quickly saw Jean-Luc in his chair, the blanket draped around him. He was wide awake.
Beverly went to him and held out her hand. In silence he stood and allowed her to lead him to the bedroom, but he hesitated on the threshold. In a deep, husky voice he asked softly,
"Are you sure, Beverly?"
She turned and looked into his eyes, nodding.
"Yes."
They settled into the bed, each lying stiffly and not touching, but eventually they found sleep.

 

 

It was Beverly who woke first. With her eyes still closed, she sighed with pleasure at being spooned by her husband. His arm lay over her waist and his erection lay pressed up against her buttocks. Coming fully awake, she suddenly tensed, fighting panic, but, with a concerted effort, she calmed herself, thinking forcefully,
"This is Jean-Luc, my husband. He won't hurt me."
Her thoughts helped and in a moment of bravery, Beverly decided to show Jean-Luc that her trust in him was returning. She may not yet be able to have sex with him, but she felt she could give him physical relief by masturbating him.
She turned over and the movement woke him. His eyes opened and he smiled dreamily at Beverly, but when he realised his physical state, he quickly tried to move away, but Beverly whispered huskily,
"No, I want to touch you."
She began by nuzzling his neck and he sighed with pleasure. Her hands went to his nipples, gently pinching them and making them pebble, but when he reached for her, she shook her head, murmuring,
"No, this is just for you."
She could see he was disappointed, but relaxed under her caressing hands. She trailed her fingers through his body hair and insinuated her hand under the elastic of his briefs, but when she took his erection in hand he immediately wilted.
She was surprised, and when she looked at his face, his eyes were closed and he was showing distress. She nuzzled him again, whispering,
"Don't worry about it, just relax."
She gently squeezed his penis and did all the things she knew he enjoyed, but he stayed stubbornly flaccid.
By now determined to help him achieve an erection again, Beverly sat up, pushed the covers out of the way and began to pull his briefs down, her intention being to do what he enjoyed most, apart from actually making love, and that was to take him into her mouth, something she was particularly good at, but in a blur of movement, he exited the bed, pulling up his underwear. She could see he was angry, frustrated and embarrassed. Without a word, he stalked to the bathroom and within seconds Beverly heard the shower running.
Beverly was setting the table for breakfast when he joined her. He face was completely unreadable as he sat and shook out his serviette. They ate in uncomfortable silence until Beverly couldn't stand it any longer. Making sure her tone was gentle, Beverly said quietly,
"Jean-Luc, these things happen. Don't worry about…"
That was as far as she got. He looked up, his eyes showing his anger and his voice deceptively soft.
"I don't want to talk about it."
Knowing most men would be upset by what had occurred and knowing this particular man so very well, Beverly was not about to be put off by his attitude. With great deliberation, she put her cup down and looked at him as he concentrated on staring into his coffee.
"Not talking about it won't make it go away. Surely you know by now that bottling things up only makes them worse."
He slowly lifted his head and this time there was no mistaking his humiliation. In a tone that brooked no argument, he said succinctly,
"I do not want to discuss it!"
Beverly knew him well enough to know when to withdraw. With a brittle,
"As you wish."
The subject was closed. At least as far as Jean-Luc was concerned. Beverly, however, was far from stymied. She would let him have the time to recover his dignity, then she would tackle him again. It was all about timing.

 

 

 

An emergency kept Beverly in Sick Bay until just after twenty-one hundred. As she hurried through the corridors towards her quarters, she worried how Jean-Luc had spent his day.
When the doors opened she was relieved to see her husband sitting in his favourite chair, his nose buried in a book. The table was set and she could see an order cued into the replicator. She quickly crossed the room and knelt at his knees.
"I'm so sorry I'm late, Jean-Luc. I had an emergency surgery to perform and I couldn't get away."
He looked up from his book and summoned a small smile.
"That's all right, Beverly, I called Sick Bay around nineteen hundred. One of your nurses told me about the procedure."
Beverly looked over her shoulder at the table.
"You haven't eaten yet?"
He shrugged.
"I was waiting for you and besides…I wasn't hungry."
Beverly bit back her concerned reply to say brightly,
"Well what have you got planned?"
Putting his book aside, Jean-Luc took Beverly's hands and they rose together. The Doctor was inordinately pleased when Jean-Luc only released one of her hands, the other he held as he led her to the table. With gentlemanly good manners, he seated his wife, kissed her neck and went to the replicator, his soft baritone rumbling as he activated the machine.
Beverly's mouth was watering as a plate of beef burgundy on white rice was placed in front of her. She waited patiently as Jean-Luc uncorked a bottle of Pinot Noir, let it breathe, then filled their glasses. Beverly smiled her thanks and picked up her fork, but Jean-Luc pre-empted her by raising his glass. Putting down her fork, Beverly gripped her glass by the stem and rested her elbow on the table.
"To better times."
She smiled and then clinked glasses as Beverly said softly, with a twinkle in her eyes,
"To better times."
The dined in companionable silence, although Beverly noted her husband still seemed a little depressed. They enjoyed a dessert of a light lemon sorbet, then cleared the table, taking the half-full bottle to the sofa. They sat and Jean-Luc re-filled their glasses. He sent Beverly a tender smile, then his gaze turned to the stars. They sipped in silence before Jean-Luc said very quietly,
"It has never happened to me before."
Beverly knew exactly to what he was referring and made sure she chose her words carefully.
"Just because it's happened once, doesn't mean it will happen again."
He sighed and focused his attention on his wine. When he spoke he was barely audible.
"I wanted you so much, Beverly, I wanted you to touch me…I wanted you to do what you were doing, it wasn't because I was unwilling."
She smiled tenderly and took his hand,
"I know that, Jean-Luc. Look, as a Doctor, I can tell you that it happens at least once in a man's life. As long as you don't make a big deal out of it, I doubt you'll be bothered by it again."
Showing a little more confidence, Jean-Luc smiled at his wife and lifted her hand to kiss it. Beverly placed her glass on the low table, then took his glass and did the same. She still wasn't ready for penetrative sex, but she desperately wanted to show Jean-Luc that what happed that morning had been an anomaly. Cradling his face in her hands, Beverly kissed him. What started out as a tender expression of love soon became heatedly passionate. Jean-Luc's hands went to Beverly's breasts and she moaned softly into his mouth. He lay back, pulling her gently on top of him. Beverly could feel his erection pressed against her thigh. She opened his shirt, and bent her head to nibble at his nipples, while her free hand undid his trousers. She could feel the heat of him and marvelled at how very hard he was. He was nuzzling her neck while his knowing fingers teased her nipples. She slipped her hand inside his briefs to take him in her hand and he immediately went limp. He froze. Beverly lifted her head, about to say something…anything to ease his humiliation, but the damage was already done. He took her firmly by the upper arms and pushed her upright so he could get out from under her. With little to say, she watched as he fastened his trousers and picked up his wine, quickly swallowing the contents of the glass. He then downed her glass, before picking up the bottle and lifting it his mouth to drain it. With barely controlled anger, he put the bottle down in complete silence. Refusing to look at Beverly, he stalked to the bedroom, the door hissing shut behind him.
Beverly closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, quietly muttering,
"Shit!"
She sat in the silence of their quarters for over half an hour, waiting to see if her husband would re-emerge. He didn't, so, with a heavy sigh, Beverly rose and went to their bedroom. When she entered the room was in darkness, but by the light of the stars she could see Jean-Luc was in bed, lying on his side, facing away from her side of the bed.
Not wishing to disturb him, but doubting he was asleep; Beverly undressed, brushed her hair and eased in to the bed. When she tried to spoon her husband he spoke for the first time. In a quiet baritone he said,
"Don't, Beverly…please…just leave me alone."
Beverly took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, then let it out slowly. Keeping her voice soft, she said softly,
"Jean-Luc, we have to talk about it."
She was greeted with silence. Beverly sighed and gently touched Jean-Luc's shoulder.
"Please, my love, this won't go away by ignoring it."
She could feel him trembling as he said brokenly,
"I am impotent. There is nothing more to say."
Struggling to keep calm, Beverly kept her voice even as she said,
"You most certainly are not. You can achieve an erection, Jean-Luc."
He turned over then and said firmly,
"Lights, fifty percent."
Beverly blinked away the light and frowned at the anger she saw in her husband's eyes.
"As soon as you touch my penis, I lose my erection. As far as I'm concerned, that's impotence."
Unable to keep her voice down, Beverly snapped,
"No, that's a psychological problem! And the sooner you talk to me about what's bothering you, the better."
He raised his own voice.
"I don't want to talk about it!"
Beverly took one breath, then said sweetly,
"Would you rather talk to Deanna about it."
It was a rhetorical question, but Jean-Luc took it badly. He rose up on one elbow and loomed over his wife.
"I forbid you to say anything about this to anyone…especially Deanna!"
Now Beverly's temper came to the fore.
"You forbid me?"
Throwing caution to the winds, Jean-Luc was too angry to see that he was on dangerous ground. He sat up and fisted his hands.
"Would you rather I made it an order, Doctor?"
Beverly sat up slowly, her blue eyes sparkling with suppressed fury.
"For your information…Captain…you have absolutely no jurisdiction over medical matters. If I order you to undergo counselling, you'll bloody well do it!"
Jean-Luc tried to calm himself, but he was outraged.
"You wouldn't dare!"
Beverly folded her arms across her chest and lifted her chin pugnaciously.
"Wouldn't I?"
They stared at each other defiantly until Beverly sighed. Lowering her voice to a more conciliatory tone, she said quietly,
"Now don't you think you would prefer to talk to me?"
Still angry, but grudgingly accepting she had a point, Jean-Luc lay back down and stared up at the ceiling. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and said very softly,
"I'm frightened."
Lying next to him, Beverly gently insinuated her arm over his waist and asked softly,
"Of what?"
She watched intently as tears appeared from under his eyelids. His lower lip trembled as he whispered,
"Of hurting you."
There was a momentary silence until Beverly said quietly,
"I see. So you think having done it once, you're likely to do it again."
Jean-Luc opened his eyes and frowned.
"Yes. No. Oh God, Beverly…all I know is that I have the memory of raping you and it scares the shit out of me."
Beverly rose up and took Jean-Luc's chin, turning his head and forcing him to look at her. Staring intently into his watery eyes, she said forcefully,
"I know you would never hurt me, Jean-Luc! Do you honestly think I would be in this bed with you if I was worried about my safety? What happened that afternoon was an anathema. You were under the influence of a potent alien drug, it wasn't you, and it wasn't me!"
His eyes saddened and he whispered,
"And yet you won't let me make love to you."
Rubbing her forehead, Beverly tried to explain.
"That's my psychological problem! We've both been damaged by what's happened, Jean-Luc. Yes, I'm still frightened, but I'm positive, with time, we can work things out."
Jean-Luc sighed, then said something with great perspicacity.
"Then perhaps your fear feeds mine."
Beverly nodded thoughtfully.
"You're probably right. Tell you what. I'll do my best to overcome my fears and maybe that will help you."
He gave a nod and a wan smile. Beverly laid down beside him and called softly,
"Lights out."
It took some time, but eventually they both found sleep.

 

 


Over the next four days not much happened. Each morning the couple would wake, spooned and with Jean-Luc well erect. Both of them ignored his state and went about their business as usual. With reluctant permission from Beverly, Jean-Luc resumed duty on restricted hours and made a concerted effort to shield his emotions from Deanna. His perceived impotence vexed him greatly, he felt humiliated and inadequate and to make matters worse, his sexual frustration was growing, only fuelling his innate fears.
He had always desired Beverly, he had done for most of his adult life and to have her so near, lying in his arms and with him fully erect, but knowing if she touched him intimately he would lose that erection angered and frustrated him. And to make matters worse, he had no idea how to resolve the problem. As long as he remembered what he'd done, the fear would kill any intimacy between him and his wife.
Beverly had been quietly researching Jean-Luc's problem. She knew she should have told Deanna, but her desire to preserve Jean-Luc's dignity was tantamount. In her favour was centuries of records on all aspects of medicine, both psychological and physical. So she diligently searched, looking for a precedent she could exploit. Her intentions were good, but what she was forgetting was her own problems. It wasn't until the morning of the fifth day that she suddenly stopped reading and sat back, her stomach souring.
She had just read a case that echoed theirs. A husband had been forced, at gun point, to rape his wife. The resultant trauma to them both was rooted in their inability to trust each other again. Abused in such a way, their very love for each other exposed their vulnerability. Beverly suddenly realised she had to prove to Jean-Luc she trusted him implicitly again, not just by being with him, sleeping in the same bed as him, but by making love with him.
It occurred to her that he might fail, indeed, they both might, but surely it was worth a try? Beverly looked deep inside herself and brought up memories of just how long she had loved her husband. Warmth permeated her being as the depth of her love for Jean-Luc bolstered her resolve. She fisted her hands and clenched her jaw.
"I can do this! I can do this for Jean-Luc…and for me!"
She got through her day, her feelings mixed about how Jean-Luc would take her solution. It was with some trepidation that she approached her quarters, once again late, but this time because she had deliberately tarried in Sick Bay, finding busy work to stave off from going home.
As it turned out, Jean-Luc had taken a rather liberal interpretation of Beverly's edict of restricted duty and had stayed far too long on duty. He arrived before she did, immensely relieved to get away with his infraction, but he only beat her by mere minutes.
Beverly immediately noted he was still in uniform and the table was bare. Instantly suspicious, she asked tightly,
"When did you get in?"
Knowing he couldn't lie, Jean-Luc chose to wave his hand, trying to dismiss the question.
"Oh, not long ago. Are you hungry? I believe it's my turn to replicate."
Beverly gave an exasperated snort and stalked across the room, until she was standing toe-to-toe with her husband. Poking him in the chest with her index finger, Beverly asked angrily,
"What did I say about restricted hours?"
Jean-Luc was irritated by her attitude, but knew she had a point. However, he was the Captain and wouldn't give in easily. He glared into Beverly's eyes and said testily,
"I had work to do."
Beverly's smile was without warmth.
"Work you can do from here, in our quarters."
He kept his voice even but his anger was beginning to creep in by becoming deceptively soft.
"No, on the Bridge or in my Ready Room."
With what she had in the back of her mind, Beverly decided there and then that an all out argument would be counter productive. So she summoned a small smile and tapped him gently on the chest.
"When I say restricted duty, I mean it, Jean-Luc. Don't defy me again…please?"
He was instantly suspicious. Beverly the peace maker? Since when? Still…he was tired and an argument was the last thing he wanted. So, with a tight smile of his own, he bowed his head, saying contritely,
"I apologise, Beverly, I'll try not to let it happen again."
It was a compromise and not what Beverly wanted, but she let it go. With a mischievous wink, she pointed to the replicator.
"I'm hungry."
Matching her capricious mood, Jean-Luc bowed grandly and muttered,
"Your wish is my command."
Chuckling, Beverly bent and kissed his bare scalp, saying lightly,
"Lamb curry with saffron rice."
He rose from his deep bow and gestured to the table.
"If Madame will be seated?"
This time she giggled, making Jean-Luc chuckle. Their meal was taken in a light hearted manner, making Beverly's hopes rise.
With each passing hour before bed time, Beverly became increasingly nervous. At one stage, Jean-Luc looked up from his PADD and frowned, saying gently,
"Beverly, are you all right?"
She stilled her fidgeting hands and summoned a bright smile.
"Yes, Jean-Luc, I'm fine, I just have a few things on my mind. Work related stuff…you know how it is."
It was a lie and he knew it, but chose to allow it to pass. He was confident she would tell him eventually.
And so the time for bed arrived. It was Jean-Luc who rose, yawning and stretching. He looked down at his agitated wife and said softly,
"I'm going to bed. Are you coming?"
She nodded vigorously, standing and taking his hand.
"Yes, I'm pooped."
As they were undressing, Jean-Luc opted for silk shorts, but Beverly's tentative voice stopped him.
"No, Jean-Luc, I want you naked."
To prove her point, Beverly slipped into bed naked herself. Wary and somewhat filled with trepidation, Jean-Luc got into the bed and lay stiffly, hoping Beverly wasn't going to initiate anything sexual. That hope was shattered as she snuggled up to him, entwining their legs and gently caressing his chest. In a sultry voice she said softly,
"I want to make love with you."
He took her hands in his and turned his head, his eyes pleading.
"Beverly…please…"
He was hardening and the thought of the imminent humiliation was almost more than he could bear. But Beverly was determined. She nuzzled him, whispering in his ear,
"I won't touch your penis, Jean-Luc, you try…see if it helps and when you're ready, make love to me."
He closed his eyes and swallowed to wet his suddenly dry mouth. His voice was barely a whisper as he asked,
"May I touch you?"
Rising up on her elbow, Beverly kissed Jean-Luc with all the passion she felt for the man. He took that as permission and immediately employed his hands, kneading Beverly's breasts and teasing her all ready erect nipples. He was now fully rigid, as hard as he'd ever been and his need for his wife was overwhelming. He quickly ran one hand down her body, parting her labia with his fingers before pushing two of them inside her. She was saturated and lifted her hips, inviting more from him. Despite her advice, he didn't touch himself; he was too engrossed in pleasuring his wife. With his fingers curling inside her, his thumb brushed firmly against her clit. Having been so long without release, Beverly exploded in a paroxysm of ecstasy. Usually Jean-Luc brought his wife to several orgasms before he penetrated her, but his need was so great he was unable to control himself. He covered Beverly with his body, closing his eyes as Beverly's legs parted to receive him. He pushed into her quickly, but, only half way in, his erection failed. He cried out in anger and frustration, then lowered his head and swore loudly.
"Fuck!"
With little thought, other than his humiliation, he pulled out of Beverly and rolled onto his back, covering his eyes with his forearm. Still highly aroused, Beverly wasn't about to give up. She turned onto her side and put her arm across his chest, ignoring how tense his body became. In a soft voice she said,
"Jean-Luc, my love, this is all about trust. You trust me, don't you?"
He nodded silently and she could tell by his trembling that he was weeping.
"Well I trust you…implicitly. I'm here. Jean-Luc and I want you, as much, I think, as you want me. To make love with each other we have to expose our vulnerabilities, our inner selves. You think you destroyed that when you raped who you thought was me and for me, I lost my faith in you. We were both wrong, my love. It is in the past, this is the now and we have our future to build."
His trembling eased and he sighed. Beverly again entwined their legs and moistened his ear by whispering,
"Do it, Jean-Luc, caress yourself and get your erection back."
He muttered brokenly,
"But what if I fail again?"
Beverly rose up and kissed him with great tenderness.
"Then we try again and we keep trying until we're successful."
Jean-Luc lay perfectly still for a few moments and Beverly gave him the time to consider her words. Then she softly nuzzled him under his ear and gently tweaked his nipples. She felt him relax as one of his large hands slid down his body to grip his penis. Slowly, and with Beverly caressing other parts of his body, he regained his erection. Beverly slipped one of her hands to her sex, playing with herself to help Jean-Luc. When she heard him moan sensuously, she rolled onto her back, pulling Jean-Luc with her. She whispered huskily,
"Now, my love."
And he entered her. This time his erection held, but he'd only thrust three or four times when he suddenly gasped,
"Mon Dieu…non…"
And came.
He was devastated, but there was no anger or humiliation this time, just heartfelt sorrow. He laid his head on Beverly's shoulder and sobbed, saying over and over,
"I'm sorry, Beverly, I'm so sorry."
She was confused, not knowing if he was apologising for his premature ejaculation or for his past actions, but it didn't matter. She held him tight, kissing the side of his head and telling him again and again how much she loved him.
As he slowly calmed, Beverly took his hand and insinuated it between their bodies. Jean-Luc went to pull out of his wife, but she shook her head, saying sensuously,
"No, stay…it feels good."
Knowing what she needed, his fingers found her clit and slowly began to manipulate it. As Beverly's arousal began to increase, Jean-Luc took great satisfaction in knowing he was giving pleasure to his wife, but what he didn't expect was his slowly returning erection. As Beverly sank deeper and deeper into sexual desire, she felt him hardening and began to clench her internal muscles. In synch with his questing fingers, Jean-Luc began to gently thrust, hoping against hope that he would last to pleasure his wife as he wanted to. Soon Beverly's hips were rising to meet his thrusts and moans of passion were coming from both of them. Beverly suddenly stiffened and cried out as an orgasm swept her away, but Jean-Luc didn't stop, he was too far gone. Two more climaxes took Beverly before Jean-Luc suddenly called out,
"Oh my God…Beverly…I'm going to come!"
He pushed himself inside her as far as he could go and crushed her to his body, but he raised his head, his mouth wide open in a silent yell of liberation and relief. Beverly came one final time, her yell a loud one as she convulsed through a powerful orgasm.
As his hearing and sight returned, Jean-Luc became aware that Beverly was quietly crying. He lifted his head, utterly appalled.
"Oh God, Beverly…please, please tell me I didn't hurt you."
She shook her head and tried to smile through her tears.
"No, my love, it's happiness…relief…pride…so much, almost too much."
She hugged him to her and he lowered his head to kiss her with all the tenderness he could muster. When their lips parted, Beverly looked into Jean-Luc's eyes and whispered,
"I love you; I adore you, mon amour."
With tears in his own eyes, Jean-Luc found it hard to speak with the lump in his throat.
"You complete me, Beverly, without you I would cease to exist."
Still joined, they drifted into sleep.

In the early hours of the morning they woke, spooned as usual. Jean-Luc's erection was pressing insistently against Beverly's backside and she smiled sleepily. Since they had finally become intimate so many months ago, she had been surprised to find her lover had the libido of a twenty year old. Marriage had only increased it and she found, interestingly, she too found herself insatiable for her husband. She knew he was awake when one of his hands cupped her breast and gently tweaked her nipple. Mewing softly with pleasure, Beverly turned in his embrace and slid her hand down through his body hair to his erection, but as soon as she touched him, it wilted. He went to pull away from her, but Beverly kissed him saying softly in the dark,
"No, Jean-Luc, put your hand on your penis and I'll put my hand on yours."
They kissed again as Jean-Luc did as she requested and together they brought his erection back. He wanted to touch Beverly, to indulge both of them in pleasure, but Beverly shook her head, letting her husband know she was arousing herself. It wasn't what Jean-Luc wanted, but under the circumstances he was willing to bend to Beverly's wishes.
Once he was very hard, Beverly kissed him again and whispered,
"When you are making love to me, if you feel you're going to come to soon, stop and wait until it passes, then begin again."
That did not sit well with the Captain. He shook his head, unwilling to take Beverly's advice.
"That's hardly going to be very good for you. I want us to both enjoy this, Beverly."
She smiled tenderly, their hands still stroking his rigid penis.
"Don't worry about me, Jean-Luc, I'll be with you when you come and that's all that counts."
Unconvinced, Jean-Luc's face showed his scepticism.
"You always have several orgasms, Beverly…I know what your appetite is like. One isn't going to be enough, and you know it."
Smiling sultrily, Beverly gently bit Jean-Luc's earlobe.
"Who says I only get one? There are many ways to skin a cat, Jean-Luc."
That statement sent a shiver of erotic anticipation through Jean-Luc. He went to ease Beverly onto her back, but she resisted, saying softly,
"No, my love, I think it might be better on our sides."
By now his need was becoming urgent so Jean-Luc didn't protest. Instead he ran his hand down to Beverly thigh and lifted her leg to drape over his hip. He insinuated his leg between hers as she aligned her hips to receive him. As the head of his penis gently nudged at her entrance, she gasped softly,
"Slowly, my love, slowly."
Centimetre by centimetre he slowly slid inside her. He felt some of his rigidity fade, but the contractions of Beverly's internal muscles revived him and, as he slowly started to thrust, he was fully erect again.
As had happened the night before, he suddenly felt the onrush of his approaching orgasm. He immediately froze, making Beverly stop her movements too. Jean-Luc screwed his eyes closed, willing himself to not come. Inside his mind he said sternly,
"Control yourself, Jean-Luc; you're not an adolescent now."
His self admonishment was interrupted by Beverly dulcet voice, saying huskily,
"Play with me, Jean-Luc."
His eyes snapped open and he saw the raw desire in his wife's eyes. He had only one hand free, the other was cradling her upper body, but he was well versed in what he could do with that free hand.
He spent a few moments teasing her stiff nipples and making Beverly mew with impatience. He continued to tease, slothfully running his fingers down the plain of her torso, only to dally in her copper pubic hair. With his erection trapped inside her and his need to be still, Beverly was unable to lift her hips to him. Instead she had to endure his teasing while remaining motionless. She shut her eyes, the anticipation almost too much to bear, but when his deep mellifluous voice rumbled in the darkness, she nearly lost what little remained of her composure.
"Tell me what you want, Beverly."
Striving to keep her desperate need out of her voice, she almost succeeded, until he touched her sex with an ethereal caress.
"Oh!"
She gasped.
"Tell me."
He gently commanded.
"I want you to touch me."
She panted.
"Where?"
The way his voice was almost conversational drove Beverly to the brink of madness.
"My clit! Oh God, Jean-Luc, I want you to touch my clit."
The wait seemed interminable, but he slid his fingers down through her course hair and gently spread her moisture over her clit. The loud moan of need was involuntary and Jean-Luc had to clench his teeth against her powerful contractions. Once he regained control of himself, he said sensuously,
"There?"
Almost incoherent by now, Beverly shouted,
"Yes!"
"Ah," Said Jean-Luc. "I see. And what do you think would happen if I did this?"
He increased the pressure of his fingers and moved then quickly over her engorged clit.
Beverly's fingernails dug into Jean-Luc's shoulder as her body began to shudder. She held on, resisting the almost overwhelming need to climax, but when Jean-Luc said firmly,
"Come for me, Beverly…now!"
All pretence of control was lost. With her head flung back she shrieked, her orgasm sweeping her away into ecstasy, yet even in the throes of bliss she remained still. As her fluttering contractions began to wane, Jean-Luc began to thrust again, this time stronger and faster.
Still caught in the aftermath of her orgasm, Beverly felt the beginnings of another one, but Jean-Luc abruptly stopped, his face contorted as he strove to forestall his release. Unable to maintain control, Beverly begged,
"Again…touch me again…quickly!"
Snared in his own struggle, Jean-Luc knew if she climaxed now he would lose his control, but he couldn't deny her. His fingers went to her clit and almost immediately Beverly was orgasming again. This time, Jean-Luc thrust into her hard and fast, coming mere seconds after Beverly.
They lay, panting, their hearts racing. As they slowly recovered, Jean-Luc took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
"It happened again."
Gently stroking his face, Beverly said softly,
"It's not your fault, Jean-Luc. You're suffering from performance anxiety, I think. The memories of what happened are still affecting you."
He opened his eyes and debated on whether or not to ask what he had in his mind. Part of him knew what Beverly was going say and a greater part of him didn't want to hear it. Quietly, and with wariness, he asked,
"What can be done about it?"
Beverly looked into his eyes and tried to let him see she understood his fear.
"I think you all ready know, my love. You'll have to talk to Deanna."
He scowled, his eyes showing his disgust.
"Can't you do anything?"
Beverly smiled to take the disappointment out of her words.
"I've done about as much as I can, my love. I'm a medical Doctor, Deanna is a psychologist. She is far more qualified to help you in this than me."
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and sighed.
"But it's so personal, Beverly. Even in the best of circumstances I would barely tolerate talking to her about our private lives, especially our sex life."
Softly, Beverly kissed him, then gently said,
"I know, but are you willing to accept the alternative?"
He grunted and rubbed his eyes, muttering,
"Erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation? Hardly."
"Then you have little choice."
Jean-Luc shifted his weight, causing him to slip out of his wife. He rolled onto his back and accepted Beverly's body as she snuggled into his side.
"I hate the fact that I have no choice, Beverly. I feel like I'm about to be interrogated about something I hold very dear. Making love with you is one of the greatest joys of my life and somehow it seems like I'm about to cheapen the experience by exposing what we share."
Rising up on her elbow, Beverly looked down at her husband with an expression Jean-Luc found hard to describe. When she spoke, although her voice was hushed, it carried great emotion.
"Do you remember when I told you I have never loved a man as I love you?"
He nodded, his face serious.
"Yes and I was surprised. I presumed Jack was the love of your life."
Beverly offered a bitter-sweet smile, memories flooding her mind.
"At the time he was, but I was so young, Jean-Luc. I realise now, in my maturity, that what we had was a mixture of infatuation, love, eroticism and heady romance. It was a very potent mix and it took me many years to see it for what it was. Since our relationship became intimate and I finally admitted the love I had held for you for so long, I finally experienced what it was like to truly share my soul with another. You told me you are incomplete without me. It's the same with me, Jean-Luc. You are so much a part of me, body and soul, that I cannot imagine life without you. My love for Jack never went that deep. Put it down to age, or just inexperience, but deep inside me, I have come to believe that my marriage to Jack may, in all probability, not lasted. "That…connection…you and I share was absent from my relationship with Jack and I'm not convinced that even with the passage of years and our eventual maturity would we have developed it. My love for you consumes me, Jean-Luc and, like you, making love with you takes on an almost spiritual significance for me.
"I want that back, Jean-Luc and I know you do too. Isn't talking to Deanna a small price to pay considering what's at stake?"
Looking up at his wife with wonder and unbridled love, Jean-Luc nodded, saying in a whisper,
"Yes."
Beverly lay back down, resting her head on Jean-Luc's shoulder. She sighed and gently caressed his chest, saying softly,
"I'll arrange it later today."
Beverly slowly dozed off, but Jean-Luc lay awake, wondering how he was going to find what was required of him to talk frankly with Deanna about his problems. Beverly's heartfelt words had affected him deeply and it did help to ease his disquiet, but his lingering distaste and ingrained sense of privacy still made the situation difficult to bear. However Beverly's reminder of what was at stake was enough for him to bolster his resolve and so, as he began to doze, the coming counselling session didn't seem quite so…daunting.

 

 

 

 

 

With the Enterprise on her way to a mapping mission, Jean-Luc didn't have a lot to do while on duty. He had finally caught up with all his work, although he still hadn't recorded the rape in his personal log. So, rather than spend all of his time in the Command chair, he left the Bridge to Will and retreated into his Ready Room to brood and that's exactly where he was when Beverly called.
"Doctor Picard to Captain Picard."
He knew what she was calling about and almost refused to take the call, or take it, but tell her he was too busy to talk to her, but he couldn't lie to her and his ingrained sense of needing to face his problems forced him to sigh and lift his head, saying softly,
"Picard here, go ahead, Beverly."
"I've spoken to Deanna; she's willing to come by our quarters later today."
Jean-Luc frowned.
"Our quarters?"
He could hear the hesitancy in Beverly's voice as she said,
"Well…yes, I thought you'd be more comfortable there."
Realising she was probably right, Jean-Luc tried to make his voice sound confident.
"Ah, I see. Yes, you're right…thank you, Beverly, that was very thoughtful of you."
The Doctor's tone was sympathetic when she said,
"It'll be all right, Jean-Luc, just be as honest with Deanna as you've been with me."
Jean-Luc's frown deepened,
"You won't be there?"
Her reply was guarded.
"I wasn't planning on it."
With a sigh, Jean-Luc rubbed his brow.
"Beverly, we both need counselling. We might as well do it together."
She became defensive.
"Oh I don't think so, Jean-Luc. Let's get you sorted out first, hmm?"
Sitting back in his chair, Jean-Luc scowled.
"You're hedging."
"I am not!"
A ghost of a smile appeared on Jean-Luc's face. It wasn't often he had his wife on the back foot.
"Yes you are. You want me to test the waters. Well I won't be your guinea pig, Beverly. We either have counselling together, or I'll refuse it out of hand."
There followed a few tense moments of silence. Jean-Luc simply bided his time, he knew Beverly would capitulate. He smiled at her next words.
"Oh very well! You can be such a pain, Jean-Luc."
His smile broadened.
"But you love me anyway."
She was still annoyed and said testily,
"Yes, dammit!"
He tried not to sound too smug.
"What time?"
He heard the annoyance still lingering in her voice as she replied,
"Fourteen thirty."
His smile faded.
"I'll be there…and Beverly?"
She cautiously answered,
"Yes?"
"It'll be all right. Together, we can face anything."
Her voice was warmer as she replied,
"I know, my love…I'm sorry I forgot."
With a soft sigh, Jean-Luc muttered,
"Picard out."

 

 

 

Deanna meditated for over an hour before she was to meet the Picards. Counselling the two most private people on the ship was never going to be easy, but under the circumstances, she knew it was going to be nigh impossible…unless they cooperated. Admittedly she hade been surprised when Beverly had contacted her that morning to set up counselling for the Captain, but Deanna was well aware that Beverly herself was in need of help, so it was with some satisfaction that Deanna received Beverly's call later in the day to include herself in the session.
As prepared as she could be, she checked the time, then stood and exited her office. Once she arrived at the Picard's quarters, she took a deep, calming breath, then pressed the annunciator. It was the Captain's voice she heard, inviting her in with his usual,
"Come."
The lighting was subdued and both Beverly and the Captain were seated in the living area. On the low table was a tray with a silver tea service. Deanna took it as a good sign. Sure enough, Jean-Luc stood and gestured to the sofa.
"Take a seat please, Counsellor, would you like some tea?"
Deanna summoned a smile, sat and nodded.
"Yes please, Captain, that would be lovely."
As Jean-Luc poured, Deanna cast a surreptitious look at her best friend, only to see Beverly's hands were fidgeting and she kept looking at the viewports. She had to refocus on her CO as he handed her the china cup.
Deanna smiled her thanks, then watched with interest as the Captain sat and sipped, seemingly unconcerned. Deciding to start with her Captain, Deanna took a sip of her tea, then said softly,
"How do you feel, Sir?"
He pursed his lips, seeming to consider the question. Eventually he gave a curt nod and said firmly,
"I'm fine, thank you."
Before Deanna could say anything, Beverly blurted,
"That's bullshit, Jean-Luc! We're here for counselling, not for acting lessons."
Jean-Luc's glare would have withered anyone but Beverly. She simply glared back, saying sarcastically,
"Well? Are you going to tell her, or would you prefer me too?"
Deanna watched this byplay with great interest, especially when she noticed her Captain blush, something she'd rarely ever seen. He stared into his teacup, then lifted his head, saying as if he were reciting something by rote. It was emotionless and flat.
"I am experiencing erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation."
Deanna knew what it had taken for him to utter those particular words, so she kept her voice soft as she said,
"I see. I take it this is a result of…what happened."
Jean-Luc stared stonily at his Counsellor and said succinctly,
"You are referring to the rape?"
Now Deanna was worried.
"Yes, Sir."
His eyes darkened.
"Then yes, you are correct."
Deanna's face became unreadable.
"You are aware, Sir, that an event as traumatic as that is bound to have serious repercussions."
Jean-Luc's stony façade stayed as he gave a curt, silent nod. Beverly huffed angrily and said harshly,
"Talk to her dammit, Jean-Luc, she's an empath, not a mind reader!"
He resisted the urge to send another glare Beverly's way; instead he concentrated on his hands.
"You are correct, Counsellor, I am still…appalled by what I did. I have no illusions that my current difficulties are a direct result of my actions."
Deanna stifled a sigh and said softly,
"Have you spoken to Beverly about it? Really talked about it?"
Jean-Luc sighed and cast a glance over at his wife.
"Yes, we've discussed it."
Exasperated, Deanna barked,
"And?"
Jean-Luc shrugged.
"I don't know what to tell you. We told each other how we felt, I apologised and Beverly told me she had lost faith in me, that her trust in me had been damaged. We are doing all we can to remedy that and I believe Beverly has made some good ground."
Turning her attention to Beverly, Deanna said quietly,
"Would you care to elaborate?"
It was Beverly's turn to shrug.
"What Jean-Luc said is true. I was frightened, I had lost my trust in him and it came to me that the only way we were going to put this behind us was for me to conquer my fear and make love to him."
Deanna nodded thoughtfully.
"I see. Had either of you tried to initiate sexual activity before that?"
Beverly nodded.
"Yes. Upon waking, Jean-Luc had an erection. I wasn't ready for penetrative sex, but I thought I could show Jean-Luc that I was regaining my trust in him by bringing him to orgasm, but without him touching me."
"And did it work?"
Beverly looked over at Jean-Luc to see him staring fixedly at his hands. She sighed.
"No. As soon as I touched his penis, he immediately lost his erection."
Deanna directed her next question to Jean-Luc, rousing him from his morose thoughts.
"How did you react?"
For a moment or two he said nothing and Deanna thought he was going to refuse to answer, but eventually he said flatly,
"I was angry…humiliated…I left the bed and went to shower."
Deanna's next question made Jean-Luc glare.
"Did you try to stimulate yourself in the shower?"
His monosyllabic reply was cold.
"No."
Deanna partially raised her mental barriers against his anger. She turned to Beverly, asking,
"Did you try again?"
The red head nodded.
"Yes, with the same result."
With a small smile, Deanna said quietly,
"If I know you, Beverly, you wouldn't have let it go. The Captain mentioned premature ejaculation. I take it you overcame the initial problem?"
Beverly was acutely aware of how embarrassed Jean-Luc was by all this, but she gritted her teeth and pressed on.
"Yes. We found he could achieve an erection if he stimulated himself, but upon penetration, he lost it again. With patience we discovered that if he stimulated me whilst still inside me, he regained his erection. The first time he orgasmed within seconds."
Deanna nodded, asking softly,
"And what did you do to remedy that?"
Now blushing, Beverly rubbed her face with her hands.
"I suggested that he stop when he felt he was going to climax."
"And did that help?"
Beverly sighed.
"To an extent, but I found I couldn't control my reactions to him. He stimulated me to orgasm and it eroded his tenuous control."
Deanna stated the obvious.
"And he orgasmed too soon."
All Beverly did was nod.
Deanna turned to her Captain.
"Sir, I take it you usually have adequate control?"
He merely nodded silently.
"And you've never encountered these problems before?"
He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Not since I was in my early teens and even then, never erectile dysfunction."
Deanna chewed her lower lip. She knew her next question would anger her patient.
"Captain, have you been scrupulously honest with Beverly?"
The expected glare was hot.
"I can assure you, Counsellor, I have been nothing but completely honest with my wife."
Deanna bowed her head.
"Forgive me, Captain, but I had to ask. I am interested, however, to know if you have been as honest with yourself?"
Although his eyes still showed anger, his tone was wary.
"What do you mean? I told you…I am appalled by what I did."
Deanna nodded.
"Yes, Sir, but I wonder if you have truly expunged your memories, or have you internalised them?"
"Elaborate."
Deanna sighed, trying to find the right words.
"Well, Sir, you know that Beverly saw what you did. You also know that Selar, Will and I know what happened and I know you are devastated by your actions, but have you really admitted it to yourself? Have you, for instance, recorded it in your personal log? Everything, including what occurred on Ventraxia?"
Jean-Luc gaped, then snapped his mouth closed. He glared, then lowered his head, his shoulders slumping. When he spoke Deanna could hear the guilt in his voice.
"No, Counsellor, I have not."
Feeling she was on the verge of a breakthrough, Deanna was about to continue when Beverly interrupted.
"Why the hell not?"
The look on Jean-Luc's face was stricken. He raised his hands, trying to seek redemption.
"I don't know!"
Deanna turned to Beverly, raising a finger to silence the angry woman. She said softly,
"Beverly, please…"
The Doctor subsided and gave a nod. Deanna turned her attention back to Jean-Luc to find him with his head bowed, one hand covering his eyes.
"Captain?"
He looked up, his expression still anguished.
"Can you imagine why you haven't recorded it in your log?"
He sighed deeply and shook his head sadly.
"I…I…it's just that I don't want to relive it, Deanna. It was so horrible, so heinous…I don't want to think about it any more."
With a sigh of both sympathy and exasperation, Deanna said softly,
"Just like you didn't want to remember the Borg, or Madred. Captain, have you learned nothing? Don't you know by now that internalising your emotions…and your memories does nothing except cause problems?"
Scrambling for some semblance of control, Jean-Luc shook his head, trying to dismiss Deanna's words.
"You're wrong, Counsellor, I'm not internalising. I have discussed what happened with Beverly…I held nothing back."
Beverly couldn't help but blurt,
"You have not! You've not told me anything about what happened on Ventraxia!"
Deanna silenced Beverly again, then nodded to her Captain.
"I agree with you, Sir…to a point. Yes, you discussed the rape with her, but you did that with the knowledge that it wasn't Beverly you raped. What you discussed was almost in abstract, Captain. Yes, you felt all the emotions of the event, but you had a safety net, didn't you? And then there's what happened on Ventraxia. When were you going to tell her about that? "
Jean-Luc had no answer to that. He sat, stunned, his eyes locked on Deanna's. She sat forward, lowering her barriers to gauge her Captain's emotional state. He was in turmoil. She concentrated on him, stating quietly, but firmly,
"Until you record your personal log, honestly and frankly…relive the experiences in minute detail, you will have achieved nothing except burying it and your problems will continue."
Jean-Luc lowered his head and covered his face with his hands. His voice was deep and muffled when he said brokenly,
"I don't know if I can."
Deanna felt great pity for her Captain, but she knew she had to be harsh.
"Then you are willing to accept things as they are. No longer able to make love with your wife as you once did."
When he uncovered his face and lifted his head, there were tears streaming down his face. He sobbed quietly, but managed to say,
"That is unacceptable."
Deanna stared into his eyes and said with soft authority,
"Then you know what you have to do."
He nodded despondently.
Deanna turned to Beverly, spearing her with an uncompromising stare.
"And you, Beverly, can you honestly say you're no longer frightened?"
The Doctor's mouth opened.
"Of course I'm not frightened, I made love with him, didn't I?"
Deanna shook her head.
"You didn't make love with the Captain, Beverly…you had sex with him."
Beverly shook her head, flustered and outraged.
"That's utterly ridiculous!"
Deanna speared her with an intense gaze.
"Is it?"
Beverly stood, then sat back down, trying to compose herself.
"Of course it is! I helped Jean-Luc."
Deanna nodded thoughtfully.
"Yes you did, but I wonder at your motives. Was it to help your husband use you as a receptacle, or was it an attempt for you to overcome your terror?"
Beverly blanched, her mouth snapping closed. Deanna concentrated on Beverly, finding her hastily trying to block Deanna out.
Undaunted, Deanna continued mercilessly.
Think about it, Beverly. Are you going to tell me you weren't frightened every time you set foot in these quarters when the Captain was here?"
Beverly cast a stricken look at Jean-Luc, only to find him staring at the floor despondently. She moved her gaze to Deanna, trying to deflect the question.
"I did some research and I discovered what I believed was our problem. It was lack of trust. Jean-Luc didn't trust himself with me, and I had lost trust in him. By making love, we conquered those issues"
With a sigh, Deanna shook her head.
"But did you make love, or did you have sex?"
Jean-Luc's deep, quiet voice broke the growing tension.
"It was sex, Beverly…and you know it. Yes, we both found physical gratification, but can you honestly say it was as it has been in the past? You told me that making love with me was a spiritual experience. Well, was it?"
Beverly gaped at her husband, the frowned.
"But, Jean-Luc, we're both experiencing problems. Of course it's going to take time…"
Deanna cut her off.
"Beverly, until you admit your fear, just as until the Captain confesses his experiences, neither of you are going to be able to move forward. You're both…stuck, mired in the thought that each of you can help the other, when the truth is, you can only help yourself."
Jean-Luc looked at his wife and offered a sad smile.
"For what it's worth, my love, I understand your fear, in fact I share it, but if I can overcome my reticence, perhaps you can conquer yours?"
Deanna's voice was soft as she looked at her Captain, but said to Beverly,
"First she has to admit it."
Still not convinced, Beverly said sarcastically,
"Well if you're so bloody clever, Deanna, tell me how I was able to have any sort of physical interaction with Jean-Luc if I was so scared?"
Deanna turned her attention to Beverly and offered a knowing smile.
"Because you love him. You love him so much you were willing to subjugate your fears to try and prove to him that you weren't frightened and in doing so, tried to help him with his difficulties. But I think that deep down the Captain knew you were still frightened of him and that only served to exacerbate his problems. And, Beverly, it was his love for you that allowed him to accept your help."
Beverly stared at her husband and he met her stare with equanimity. Her lower lip trembled as she said tremulously,
"But the things we said to each other…"
Jean-Luc shrugged,
"Fear, my love, fear."
Deanna looked at her Captain, saying quietly,
"Would you like to start, Sir?"
He sighed, lowered his head and shook it.
"You wouldn't accept it if I said no, would you."
Deanna smiled, despite the seriousness of the situation.
"No, Captain, I wouldn't."
He lifted his head, took a deep breath and tried to compose himself.
"Very well then, I will do my best to tell you both all that happened."
He looked at Beverly, his eyes suspiciously moist.
"I only hope you can find it within yourself to forgive me, my love."
He sat forward, clasping his hands between his knees. He found it hard to look at either woman.
"When the Doge had me removed by her guards, I was taken to her bedchamber. There I was stripped naked and as this occurred, the Doge divested herself of her clothing also. She was surprised at my physical appearance, especially my genitals. She warned me that I was about to be…damaged. Of course I categorically refused to take part in her schemes, but she ordered her guards to inject me with a drug. While this took place, I watched as she injected herself, presumably with the same drug. Its effects were very fast. I felt a burning sensation throughout my body, settling in my genitals. I became hard, harder in fact than I've been in years and I was overwhelmed with the driving need for sex. The naked Doge parted her legs and spread her sex, displaying herself to me and, despite the fact that I could see her pulsating vagina was lined with barbs and spikes and that I was surely going to damage my penis if I tried to penetrate her, I was absolutely uncaring. All I wanted was sex.
"At a signal to her guards, who had been restraining me, I was released and I didn't hesitate to pounce upon her and penetrate her as quickly as I could. It caused me excruciating pain, but somehow I ignored it, mindless and driven as I was.
"I orgasmed many times and, just as I was beginning to become exhausted, the Doge came. She went wild, attacking me, biting, scratching and gouging me wherever she could reach. Somehow, her internal muscles contracted, further injuring me, as she had more spikes and barbs inside her. I was trapped for several minutes before she released me. Withdrawing from her was terribly painful, I was covered in blood, my penis and even parts of my scrotum lacerated and punctured.
"She seemed to be angry with me, complaining that I had barely satisfied her, but she decided then and there that I was suitable to be her consort. She ordered her guards to put my briefs on me, then they painted my body and placed a crown upon my head. I was dazed and exhausted and in a great deal of pain as the Doge dressed and ordered her guards to escort me back to the Great Hall.
"I was almost in a dream-like state as I listened to you deny her claim on me, Beverly, and I watched the fight unable to do anything about it, even though I had a weapon placed at the base of my skull. When you finally overcame the Doge and insisted she yield, when she refused you looked at me and I saw your mouth say, "I love you."
With the death of the Doge, I thought it was all over, that you would take me back to the ship and heal me, but when that old woman fired that dart into your back, I knew I was going to lose you. I did what I could to struggle against my captors and when they finally let me go, I went to you as fast as my legs would carry me, only to get to you to hear your last breaths.
"I cannot describe how I felt, Beverly, it was as if someone had pulled my heart from my body. As well as my overwhelming grief I felt crushing shame. My mind closed down, I didn't hear what anyone was saying until Will and Deanna, explained to me that we couldn't take your body back to the ship. To me, that was the last straw. I gave up and allowed Will and Deanna to take me back to the ship, a place I could never again consider home without you.
"I was heavily sedated, but even in unconsciousness the need pervaded every pore of my being. Selar did what she could to repair my physical damage, but she was unsuccessful. I couldn't achieve an erection which, as you might imagine, only increased my sexual frustration. Eventually I was allowed to recuperate in my quarters, but I attempted to attack Selar and Deanna on one visit, so I was incapacitated and taken back to Sick Bay and kept sedated…for everyone's safety.
"I think you know the rest. You were eventually found to be alive and returned to the ship where, after you had been healed, you began your treatment of me."
Deanna asked softly,
"Can you tell me, Captain…what were your feelings when you found you could once again achieve an erection?"
He sighed and Deanna saw sadness in his eyes before he bowed his head.
"I woke up in what I thought was our quarters as hard as a rock, Counsellor and I immediately masturbated until I couldn't do it any more. What were my feelings? Relief I suppose, but somewhere in the back of my mind I also knew I had become very dangerous."
Deanna nodded thoughtfully.
"I see. And can you tell me what you were thinking when the rape occurred?"
Tears welled in Jean-Luc's eyes as shame and disgust swept over him.
He sighed and did his best to continue his painful admissions.
"In a way it was premeditated."
"How?"
Jean-Luc had to swallow twice before he could summon his voice.
"My need had seemed to increase with the ability to attain an erection, in fact I was hard all the time and knowing Beverly was not only alive, but fit and well and on board only made my need worse. I wanted her; I cannot describe to you how badly I wanted her.
So I called her…and, bless her…she came, or so I thought. I knew, as soon as she walked in the door that she would not leave until I had taken her."
Tears slid down his face as he struggled to go on.
"At first I was…benign…deliberately lulling her into a false sense of security, but as she came closer to me the need spiralled out of any semblance of control I might have deluded myself into having."
He took a deep breath, wiped at his streaming eyes and said softly,
"I attacked her and I raped her. Repeatedly. And I will live with the memories…the shame and guilt of that reprehensible act as long as I draw breath."
He was silent then and Deanna cast a look at Beverly to see her wiping her eyes. The Counsellor allowed time for Jean-Luc to recover a little, before she said quietly to Beverly,
"You knew he was dangerous."
She nodded, saying softly,
"Yes, it's why I agreed with Selar's idea to use the Holodeck."
Deanna kept her steady gaze on the Doctor.
"And you also knew that by treating the damage to the Captain's penis first, you were, in one way, responsible for his increased danger to the crew."
Beverly nodded slowly, her head lowered.
"Yes and I realise now I should have concentrated on the countermeasure…rid him of the need first before anything else."
Deanna nodded slowly,
"So surely what happened couldn't have come as a surprise."
Beverly hesitated, then shrugged.
"Not that act, no, but the fact it was me Jean-Luc thought he was raping…that was devastating."
"But you can see you had a hand in what transpired?"
Angry, Beverly fisted her hands.
"I hope you're not suggesting I deserved it?"
Holding up one hand, Deanna shook her head.
"Of course not, no woman deserves to be raped. What I'm saying is, your medical decisions had a bearing on events."
Somewhat mollified, Beverly grudgingly nodded.
"Yes."
Turning back to the Captain, Deanna said softly,
"Sir, what happened was, in a way, inevitable. The way things were, you had no control over your actions and you would have behaved that way no matter who walked in your door that day. Again, it was your love for Beverly that made her the victim. She was upper most in your thoughts, it was only natural that you called for her…and remember this, Captain; Beverly could have refused to come. Holo image or not, she had the choice and she chose to send you her avatar. What happened was inescapable. The pity of it is, the real Beverly witnessed it."
Jean-Luc sighed, sniffing quietly. Deanna gauged his emotional state, then said softly,
"Captain, your memory of the rape is not quite right."
He looked up, confused.
"In what way?"
Deanna replied as gently as she could.
"As you were raping the holo image, the avatar bit your hand, deeply enough to cause pain strong enough for you to lift your hand from her mouth. She immediately called for security. The real Beverly belayed the order and was prepared to enter the Holodeck to sedate you, but I had arrived by that time and I suggested the use of anesthezine gas instead. Once you were unconscious we entered and deleted the holo Beverly and took you to your bed. You were left to regain consciousness on your own. We, that is Bevery, Selar and I returned some time later, but you lunged at Beverly so Selar nerve pinched you and then you were taken back to Sick Bay."
Jean-Luc gaped, shaking his head.
"No…I…"
Then suddenly his face blanched and he closed his eyes.
"I remember."
Still keeping her voice soft, Deanna asked,
"Can you tell me how you felt when you woke?"
With a distressed sigh, Jean-Luc opened his eyes and slowly nodded.
"As usual I was erect, painfully so. I masturbated furiously until I was exhausted, then I showered, changed the bed and went into the living area. I called Beverly again, didn't I?"
Beverly nodded.
"Yes, that's why I arrived with Deanna and Selar."
Bowing his head, Jean-Luc covered his face with his hands, his muffled voice anguished.
"I would have raped you again."
Deanna knew she had to regain control.
"It didn't happen, Captain! I will not sit here and allow you to castigate yourself for something that didn't happen!"
The tension was palpable and Beverly's softly asked question was a curious way to break it.
"Jean-Luc, tell me about your attempt to commit suicide."
There were a few moments of silence before Jean-Luc wiped his eyes and sighed.
"With what was believed to be your death, my life had lost its purpose. During the brief periods of consciousness I experienced the intensity of grief, coupled with the overwhelming sexual need that had no relief made me realise I simply couldn't live like that anymore. The unresolved need was bad enough, but your loss made my life no longer worth living. I failed the first time, only because Deanna became aware of my diminishing emotional signature and Selar got to me in time, but Deanna knew I would try again and continue to try until I was successful."
He cast the Counsellor an appreciative look.
"It was Deanna who convinced the senior staff…and Selar…that the only option left for me was euthanasia."
Beverly had tears in her eyes as she said softly,
"She has told me how close it was."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes, mere seconds, if that. You saved my life, Beverly."
Deanna allowed a few moments of gentle silence before she asked quietly,
"Captain, have you entertained thoughts of suicide since?"
He bowed his head and nodded, his voice rough.
"Yes. When I remembered what I'd done to Beverly, or who I thought was Beverly, I considered it. I didn't know if I could ever recover from my memories of that event, or if the real Beverly…my Beverly…could ever forgive me."
Deanna turned to the Doctor and asked,
"Do you, Beverly? Do you forgive him?"
Summoning a watery smile, Beverly nodded.
"Yes I do."
Next Deanna asked,
"And are you still frightened of him?"
She shook her head, saying softly,
"No, I don't think I am."
Returning her attention to her CO, Deanna asked gently,
"And you, Sir, having finally admitted everything, how do you feel?"
Jean-Luc sat back and rested his head on the backrest, staring up at the ceiling. He took a deep breath and briefly closed his eyes. When he spoke it was in a hushed voice.
"Drained. I feel as if a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders."
He then lowered his head and looked at Beverly.
"And what of us, my love?"
She smiled, then rose to go and sit on the arm of his chair.
"I think we're going to be okay, Jean-Luc. It'll probably take a little more time, but yes, I think we're over the worst of it."
Deanna stood and stretched her back. Looking down at the couple, she said quietly,
"I'll leave you now, I think you can go on from here, but I'll want to talk to you both again tomorrow."
He was emotionally exhausted, but Jean-Luc stood and, with Beverly, escorted Deanna to the door. He surprised the Counsellor by taking her hand and saying softly,
"Thank you, Deanna."
The Counsellor gazed at the couple, noting Beverly's moist eyes. She smiled and squeezed her Captain's hand. She said no more as she left. Beverly eased her hand into Jean-Luc's and they wandered to the sofa where they sat in silence for some time. It was Beverly who broke the quiet.
"So much pain."
Jean-Luc sighed.
"For both of us."
She took his hand and slowly stood.
"Come to bed."
He looked up, worried.
"Are you sure?"
She nodded, smiling bravely.
"Yes, my love."
He rose slowly and allowed Beverly to lead him to the bedroom. They undressed almost shyly and, by mutual silent agreement, slipped into bed naked. After a few awkward moments of wariness, Beverly took matters into hand and turned over, shuffling backwards until she was spooned against her husband. He hesitated momentarily, then gently draped his arm over her waist and tried to relax. Beverly took a deep breath and concentrated on making her muscles soften. It took a while, but they both found sleep.
It was in the small hours of the morning that Beverly woke. They had turned over in the night and now she was spooning Jean-Luc. She lay for a while, just listening to his deep, rhythmic breathing as she contemplated their deep and abiding love. She thought about how long Jean-Luc had waited for her and how happy they had been throughout their courtship and marriage. Her ruminations led her to thoughts of their lovemaking and how intense it was, how loving it was. She had always known Jean-Luc was a deeply passionate man, it showed in almost everything he did, but it was when they were making love that the true measure of his passion was laid bare. How he had hidden that from her for so long was remarkable. His libido was phenomenal, easily matching hers, which was prodigious, but no matter how they did it, whether it was a quickie in the bed or up against the wall, it was never merely sex, it was always making love and it was that innate love that pervaded everything about their relationship that convinced Beverly that they could overcome their present difficulties.
Her thoughts had awakened a fission of desire in Beverly, the first true desire she had felt since the while sorry saga had begun. She gently drifted her hand through his chest hair, lightly feathering his nipples and she smiled saucily as they pebbled. She worked her way down his body and when she encountered his penis he was semi erect. She took him in hand and gently squeezed, her desire growing as he began to harden in her hand.
Jean-Luc sighed in his sleep and turned onto his back. Beverly took the opportunity to gently nuzzle him under his ear and he woke, his eyes glittering in the starlight.
As Beverly began to stroke him, he reached for her, pulling her closer and half on top of him. She went willingly and, as he began to tease her nipples, she closed her eyes and prayed nothing would happen to spoil the web of sensuous desire that was building around them. Neither of them said anything about the fact that Jean-Luc's erection had been unaffected by Beverly's touch, in fact he was almost rock hard as she continued to stroke him.
He lifted one of her breasts to his mouth, taking the nipple and gently nipping it while his hand teased the other. In response, Beverly eased her leg over his hip and guided his penis to her sex, rubbing the head through her folds. Jean-Luc moaned sensuously and moved one hand down her body to play with her engorged clit. Beverly kissed him with unbridled passion, knowing that their love was obliterating the fear.
Jean-Luc rolled her onto her back and began to kiss his way down her torso, but Beverly took his head in her hands and shook her head, whispering,
"No, I don't want that, I want you inside me."
She thought she saw a flash of doubt in his eyes, but it was gone so quickly she wasn't completely sure it ever existed. Resolute, Jean-Luc moved up her body, supporting himself on his arms. As Beverly parted her legs they kissed languidly and Jean-Luc slowly slid into her.
Once fully inside her, Jean-Luc paused, his eyes tightly closed as he strove for control. Beverly reached up and gently took his face in her hands, saying softly,
"It's all right, my love, just relax."
He opened his eyes and saw the love shining from Beverly's eyes. It seemed to calm him and he smiled tenderly before kissing his wife and whispering huskily,
"I adore you, mon coeur."
Beverly's ability to speak was stolen as Jean-Luc slowly began to thrust. He pushed inside her as deeply as he could, then withdrew until only the head was inside her before sliding into her again. He did this over and over and, while he slowly drove Beverly to the point of sexual insanity, he insinuated his hand between their bodies to tease her clit.
Beverly's first orgasm was almost desperate. She clung to Jean-Luc, her body quaking as he continued his slothful pace, inexorably drawing another climax from his wife, but he knew these orgasms were only minor compared with what he knew she was capable of.
As he kept going his confidence grew and with it his need. Beverly was writhing under him, breathlessly gasping,
"Oh God…please, Jean-Luc…please…I need…I need…do it…do it to me, Jean-Luc, I beg you!"
Momentarily closing his eyes to maintain his control, Jean-Luc took Beverly's hands and pressed them down beside her head, rising up on his arms and began to hasten his pace.
His strokes were still long and deep, but now he was sliding in and out of her rapidly. Throwing her head from side to side, Beverly came again, this time with strength. Her internal contractions forced Jean-Luc's control to waver. He briefly considered trying to re-establish it, but eventually gave up and drove into his wife with singular intent.
Beverly's body suddenly arched under him, her fingernails digging into his shoulders as she shouted,
"Yes! Yes, Jean-Luc…harder…faster…I'm…I'm…"
Her words were lost in a long scream of ecstasy. Jean-Luc forced his eyes open and, as he watched Beverly contort through a powerful orgasm, his own climax surged through him. He buried himself as deeply as he could inside her and shouted Beverly's name. Pulse after pulse throbbed through him, sight, hearing…all gone as he was overcome with bliss.
His arms gave out and he collapsed into Beverly's embrace. They were both quietly weeping.

 

 

 

Morning found them entwined in the tangled bed linens. Jean-Luc woke, delighted to find Beverly in his arms. He gently kissed each of her closed eyes and she sighed, then smiled sleepily. She opened her eyes and sighed again. They lay quietly, staring into each other's eyes before Beverly said softy,
"I think we slayed a dragon last night."
Jean-Luc softly chuckled.
"Was that what we did?"
Mewing with satisfied languor, Beverly feathered her fingers over Jean-Luc's stubbled cheek and leaned in to kiss him with gentle tenderness. He sighed, cupping her face with his hands.
"I am sorry, my love."
Beverly put her fingers to his lips, frowning.
"No. No more apologies. It's in the past…all of it and if we proved anything last night, it's that our love can conquer anything life throws at us."
There were tears in Jean-Luc's eyes when he said softly,
"You are as wise woman, Beverly Picard."
She grinned triumphantly.
"I know!"
They stayed in bed another hour making desultory small talk and spending time gently caressing each other, but it wasn't sexual, it was a re-acquaintance of their trust…and their love.
Eventually they rose and showered together, then, dressed and rested, began to set the table for breakfast. Jean-Luc frowned when the door chime sounded. He looked over to Beverly, saying with slight annoyance,
"Who could that be at this hour?"
Sighing, Beverly lifted her head, asking,
"Computer, who is at our door?"
"Counsellor Deanna Troi."
Beverly gave Jean-Luc a smug look and he amused her by poking his tongue out and saying,
"I could have done that."
The Doctor laughed capriciously.
"But you didn't, I did."
Jean-Luc scowled, but there was no venom in it. Making sure he was suitably attired in his civilian clothing, he called out,
"Come."
Deanna entered cautiously, sensing the underlying disquiet at being disturbed. She decided to put the couple at ease.
"I asked the computer to tell me when you were up. I hope you don't mind."
Jean-Luc summoned a brittle smile, but Beverly received their guest with warmth.
"Not at all, Deanna. Would you like to share breakfast with us?"
The Counsellor smiled, but directed her next words to her CO.
"Do you mind, Captain?"
He cast a sidelong look at Beverly, only to receive a surreptitious nod. His smile warmed and he gestured to a chair at the table.
"Please, Deanna, take a seat."
They ate, chatting amicably before, over coffee, Deanna straightened and summoned the courage to say,
"I am aware of what you did last night."
Their reactions were predictable. Beverly merely smirked and lowered her head. Jean-Luc flushed, his expression stony. Deanna held up a placating hand.
"Forgive me, Captain, but I needed to monitor both your emotional conditions. We shared a very intense counselling session, I didn't want there to be any adverse repercussions."
Beverly sniggered, causing Jean-Luc to glare at her. She shrugged, saying flippantly,
"Oh come on, Jean-Luc, get over it! After everything that's happened, don't you think it's a little too late for embarrassment?"
The Captain closed his eyes and took a deep, calming breath before he opened his eyes and directed his attention to Deanna.
"I apologise if I overreacted, Counsellor, it's just that I consider what Beverly and I shared last night as very personal."
Deanna nodded in agreement.
"I'm sure it was, Captain, and I have no intent to make you feel uncomfortable."
Jean-Luc bowed his head in acquiescence. Deanna sat forward, choosing her words carefully.
"From what I sensed, it was successful."
Jean-Luc remained silent as Beverly nodded enthusiastically.
"I'll say!"
Deanna had to struggle to not smile at Beverly's exuberance.
"So there were no…problems?"
Beverly shook her head.
"None, either physical or psychological."
Now Deanna did smile. She reached out and took Beverly's hand, giving it a squeeze.
"I'm so happy for you both. Tell me, after I left, did you talk at all?"
Again it was Beverly who answered.
"Not much, I think we felt we had already said pretty much all there was to say."
Deanna nodded thoughtfully.
"So what did you do?"
As Beverly began to reply, Jean-Luc sighed. The Doctor looked at him and saw he was still uncomfortable. He rubbed his brow, saying softly,
"Is this really necessary, Counsellor? Beverly and I believe we've overcome our difficulties. Can't we be left to get on with our lives?"
Deanna lowered her head, trying to find the words that would ease her Captain's discomfort. Eventually she looked at him, steeling herself against his cold stare.
"Captain, what you and Beverly went through would test even the strongest relationships, even one as strong as yours. Think about it, Sir. You were both injured, you both faced death and you were both psychologically damaged. Is it any wonder you both developed significant problems?"
Jean-Luc folded his arms, his shields well and truly up.
"We are over all that, Counsellor."
Deanna's patience stood her in good stead.
"So it would seem, Captain, and, may I add, it was with my help that you reached this happy place. But we must be vigilant. At this precarious stage, one misstep could cause catastrophic mayhem."
Jean-Luc's expression was dubious, but he asked,
"And how do we avoid this…mayhem?"
Deanna looked him right in the eye.
"You keep talking, Captain, being brutally honest with each other. One night of successful lovemaking doesn't mean you are in the clear. Trauma such as you two have suffered will not disappear overnight."
As Beverly watched, Jean-Luc's expression softened. He sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"You are right, of course, Counsellor. Unfortunately my desire for this entire situation to be behind us has overridden my common sense. I apologise."
Beverly said softy,
"What do we do, apart from talk to each other honestly?"
Deanna smiled knowingly.
"You talk to me…just as honestly."
Jean-Luc's voice was low and deep as he asked.
"For how long?"
Deanna offered a frown.
"I cannot say conclusively, Captain. All I can tell you is that I will know when I sense it."
Raising his eyebrows, Jean-Luc asked quietly,
"But?"
That made Deanna smile with confidence.
"You are both well on the way to recovery."
The couple shared a tentative smile, the Beverly asked,
"So now what?"
Appreciating her no-nonsense approach, Deanna smiled.
"For now, daily sessions with me for the coming week, then three times during the following week."
She then sat back, studying her patients.
"Then, if I deem it suitable, I suggest you both take some leave…off the ship."
Beverly expected Jean-Luc to protest, but he merely nodded. Deanna stood and pushed in her chair.
"I'll leave you now, I'll come back later for our session."
Jean-Luc stood and escorted the Counsellor to the door. Once she was gone he returned to the table to find Beverly staring at him. He frowned, saying somewhat perplexedly,
"What?"
Beverly sat forward, tapping her fingers on the tabletop.
"What are you up to?"
Confused, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"I don't understand. What are you talking about?"
Pointing her index finger, Beverly said heatedly,
"You're up to something."
Now growing irritated, Jean-Luc rose from his chair and stalked across the room in angry silence. Not intimidated in the least, Beverly stood and followed him.
"Out with it, Jean-Luc!"
He spun around, his eyes blazing.
"What the hell are you talking about?!"
"You're capitulation! All but ordered to take leave and not protest? Since when?"
The anger slowly left the Captain and he sighed as he moved closer to his wife. As he took hold of her upper arms he felt her tension.
"Beverly, my love, if taking leave with you is what's required to speed our healing I will do it gladly. In fact, I will do everything and anything to achieve that goal."
Relaxing in his gentle grip, Beverly bowed her head until it rested on his shoulder. In a hushed voice she almost whispered,
"I'm sorry, my love, I shouldn't have doubted you."
He enfolded her in his embrace and kissed the top of her head.
"It would seem we still have much to learn."
Beverly looked up, tears in her eyes.
"I know the most important thing."
Jean-Luc smiled tenderly and kissed her before saying softly,
"And what's that?"
"I love you."
They kissed again and Jean-Luc sighed with happiness,
"J'taime, mon coeur, J'taime."
No doubt the coming days and weeks would hold some pain for the couple, but their love would see them through it.
Their future was secure.

 

End.