Vengeance From The Past.
The landmine had lain undisturbed for seventy-eight years. Under what was once a road, the gentle pasture belied the pockmarks of craters that once blemished its surface. Originally one of nine, the others had failed over the years, leaving just the one, only twenty-three percent active but still deadly. It waited for an unwary victim.

 

 

Jean-Luc Picard awoke to a delicious sensation. He was being held, the lustrous red hair of his bedmate cascading over his shoulder. He sighed and closed his eyes as her hand opened and began to caress his chest.
His voice, roughened from sleep, rumbled through the silence of his bedroom.
"Beverly…what are you doing?"
"Oh I think you can figure it out."
Her hand drifted lower; dallying at his navel, then lower still, to the base of his hardening penis.
"We have to be on duty in half an hour."
She rose up and whispered breathily in his ear,
"Well, we'll have to cut a few corners, but I think we can manage it."
She shrieked when he suddenly turned them both over, pinning her to the mattress. He kissed her deeply, then retreated and looked at her heatedly. His baritone thrilled her as it lowered with his arousal.
"I'll have you and I'll please myself how long it takes. I am, after all, the Captain."
Beverly's giggles melted away as he kissed her again; the next sound she made was a moan.
They reported for duty an hour late. Nobody said anything.

 

 

 

They were on their way to a mysterious planet. Denoted as H88, the planet had recently been the site of several cosmic storms. They had passed over the planet, causing worldwide upheavals in the weather. To the Federation's knowledge, H88 was uninhabited, with only lower life forms present. Previous scans had shown signs of habitation, but there were no sentient life forms to be found anywhere, just some remains of buildings. Where the inhabitants were and what happened to them was the mystery the Enterprise and her crew had been sent to solve.

 

 

 

 

"What do your scans tell us Mr.Data?"
Lieutenant Commander Data swivelled in his chair and faced his Captain.
"Not much Sir. There are remains of a community's…larger buildings, some infrastructure, but no inhabitants. The indigenous wildlife has overtaken the towns, I detected a colony of primates living in what was once, I believe, to be a swimming complex, but I must say, with all the interference, the sensors are limited. "
The Captain frowned and sat forward in his seat.
"And there's nothing to indicate what happened to the population? No clues?"
"None at present Sir."
Commander Will Riker, second in command, rose from his chair and approached the android officer.
"Well keep looking Data. All of those people must've gone somewhere."
He then turned to Ops. "Mr.Taylor, how are the atmospheric conditions now? Are we any closer to sending down an away team?"
Looking up from his console, Adam Taylor frowned at his superior.
"No Sir. With the ionisation, we can't transport or use shuttles until it settles. Best guess would be…ten hours. That will give us a window of four hours before the next storm begins."
Will looked at his Captain and grinned.
"Well Sir, it looks like we'll be sitting on our hands a little longer."
"Hmm, so it would seem. Keep scanning though; we might pick up something, you never know. Oh and Will…I'll be going down with the next team."
Will straightened and pursed his lips.
"Sir, with all due respect…"
Jean-Luc held up his hand and stopped his First Officer mid sentence.
"I'm aware of your arguments Number One, but on this occasion, the mystery outweighs your concerns. I'll transport down with Doctor Crusher and conduct my own investigation."
"And you won't be swayed?"
"No."
"Very well Sir, but it's against my better judgement."
Jean-Luc nodded and smiled.
"So noted."

 

 

 

Over the next ten hours, continuous scans were run, but no further information was gained. Jean-Luc met with Beverly for a light dinner and a rest before the mission commenced. They were lying together in his quarters, neither interested in sleep.
"So, what do you think happened to them?"
Jean-Luc turned onto his side and sighed.
"I've no idea. Perhaps an epidemic took them, or war maybe? We'll know more when we go down."
Beverly took his hand and turned it over, idly drawing patterns on his palm.
"How did Will take the news that you're going planet side?"
"He wasn't very happy and voiced the usual concerns…you know the drill."
"Indeed I do. You must be the bane of all First Officers…so much tally ho."
"Tally ho? Where on earth did you get that?"
Beverly giggled and snuggled in for a quick kiss.
"In one of your old novels…Biggles, I think."
"Good Lord, Biggles. I haven't read those since I was a child. Do I actually have one?"
Beverly slowly undid the drawstring of his shorts and slipped her hand inside.
"Uh huh, in the bottom of the locker in your wardrobe."
He leaned over her, his face only millimetres from hers.
"You shouldn't be poking around in my things."
"Why not?"
She breathed.
"You might find more than you can handle."
"Show me."
The next hour was spent in delicious distraction, culminating in boneless satisfaction for both of them. They were still sleeping when the call came through.
"Bridge to Captain Picard."
He answered with his eyes still shut.
"Picard here."
"Sir we're about an hour away from being able to send down a team."
"Thank you Bridge, Picard out."
He stretched and grinned when Beverly grumbled in protest. He pushed aside the curtain of hair, found her face and kissed her softly.
"Come on you, time to get up. We have to shower and eat."
She grumbled again as he disentangled himself from her and exited the bed.
"Come on Beverly, I need you to wash my back."
He had to strain to hear her mumbled reply.
"How did you manage before?"
He thought momentarily before chuckling and saying wryly,
"I don't know. I must've walked around with an unwashed back."
The half-hearted attempt at throwing a pillow landed at his feet. He retaliated by whipping off the covers and stopped immediately, the vision of her nude body stilling him.
"Gods you're beautiful."
She turned over slowly and looked his also naked body up and down. In a husky voice she purred,
"You're not bad yourself."
He felt himself begin to harden and shook his head.
"Look what you do to me. Lascivious woman."
Beverly chuckled and brought one hand to her breast provocatively.
"Drop-dead gorgeous man."
He held out his arm and she rose from the bed gracefully. They walked into the bathroom and entered the shower together. It was a longer than usual shower that left them breathless, happy and content. They had time only for a quick meal before meeting with the rest of the away team in transporter room four.

 

 

 

They rematerialised in the centre of a small town. The buildings showed the signs of warfare, the roofs missing and the walls holed or missing. Rubble was strewn on the ground and long dead fires left blackened timbers all around. The six crewmembers looked around in awe.
The town had been laid out on a simple plan. A central large circle of grass was surrounded by what appeared to be the business district, with the remains of shops visible. Behind this area were the homes and beyond that, the infrastructure of government buildings and public utilities. The roads radiated out from the centre and intersected with others servicing the outer circles.
Animals and birds were in residence. Although momentarily silenced by their arrival, they soon began a chorus of sound both melodic and pleasing to the ear. The primates Data had mentioned were in the trees of the central circle, harvesting the fruit. Whooping calls echoed around the desolate buildings as the creatures announced the incursion to their mates nearby.
The team split into pairs and set off with their tricorders scanning. Beverly and Jean-Luc made their way to the outskirts of the town. Beverly frowned over her instrument and slowed Jean-Luc to check with his.
"So what do you think?"
The Captain took another look around and shook his head.
"War I would wager. But whether it was internal or external is what we're here to discover. I'm reading faint traces of propellant. What do you read?"
Beverly inputted some figures and slowly turned in a circle.
"The same…I think it's rocket propellant."
"Rocket? Not very sophisticated then. I'll check with the others…see what they're getting."
Picard moved to one side to make his enquiries. Beverly still mulled over her tricorder readings. She tapped in new instructions to the instrument and frowned further at the results.
"Beverly…it seems we can't contact each other. I can't raise the ship either. Try your combadge."
"Crusher to Data…Data do you read me?"
When no answer was forthcoming, she tried to call the Enterprise.
"Crusher to Enterprise…Enterprise please respond…"
Nothing. She turned to her lover and said,
"We should get back to the others, there's a storm brewing. Jean-Luc looked up to the lowering sky and nodded.
"Before we go, I want to check that building over there, I think it was a power station.
They were standing in a paddock about one and a half kilometres from the centre of town. The building was approximately one hundred and fifty metres away over slightly undulating ground.
Beverly checked her tricorder again and sighed exasperatedly.
"Jean-Luc, are you getting sporadic energy readings?"
"Yes, that's why I want to check the station. We may be able to restore power."
"Maybe…I don't know. These readings are screwy."

 

 

 

 

Forty-five metres away, the sensors on the landmine detected the scanning tricorder. Activating the pressure switch, a slender green stalk made its way through the eight centimetres of dirt that separated it from the surface. Designed to simulate the grasses around it, the stalk broke free and continued up a further two centimetres. There it stopped and deployed two leaf like structures either side of the stalk. Having primed itself, all it had to do was wait.

 

 

 

Walking shoulder to shoulder and watching their tricorders, they made their way over the ground towards the power station. A sudden clap of thunder made them cringe and quicken their pace. Large drops of warm rain stated to fall and the couple started to jog.
In perfect synchronisation their feet beat a gentle rhythm upon the ground. Jean-Luc looked up and was about to pass comment on the weather when his foot landed on the pressure switch.
Neither human heard the 'click' of activation. The explosion was sudden and devastating. The earth surged up pushing the officers off their feet. Through the air flew wicked fragments of metal slicing and embedding in everything around the area. The two bodies tumbled through the air and landed with a sickening thud ten metres from the blast site.
Lightning flashed and thunder boomed as the rain pelted down on the broken remains on the ground.
In a circle of some twenty metres, trees and shrubs were decimated, the damage most pronounced in the northerly quadrant of the circle. Beverly and Jean-Luc lay to the south, unconscious and bleeding.

 

 

 

Two kilometres away, Lieutenant John Parkes lifted his head and frowned. Sheltering in the burnt out remains of a dress shop, he called to his companion.
"Hey James, did you hear that?"
"What, the thunder?"
"No…something else."
James shifted his position and moved closer to his friend.
"All I can hear is the damn rain and thunder."
"Well I don't know…I thought…can we contact anybody yet?"
Lifting his wet hand, James activated his communicator. After a few moments he addressed his companion.
"Nope, nothing. Not on the surface and not from the ship. We're cut off completely."
Parkes looked out into the downpour.
"Yeah, well when this eases, I'm going to find the Captain."
His friend just snorted.
The rain continued to pour down, turning the ground to mud. Beverly woke first. She was on her right side.
"What..?"
She tried to move but found an odd numbness pervading her body. She realised only one eye was open and attempted to turn her head. She achieved a modicum of success until she felt a spasm of agony lance down her back.
She cried out and tensed, the pain overwhelming her. As she passed into unconsciousness, she thought…
"Jean-Luc!"
The Captain was lying three metres to her left. Sprawled on his back, his hand moved slightly, twitching as the nerve ends started to fire. He groaned and coughed wetly, turning his head to the side and dribbling out some bright blood. His eyes opened then and the rain splashed into them. Turning his head to the left, he opened them again and searched for his lover, discovering her form, barely visible through the pelting rain.
He tried to call to her, but couldn't get the necessary breath. Each time he tried resulted in a tearing, agonising cough, which brought up more blood. Using his left hand, he felt his chest and abdomen finding shards of metal embedded here and there. A large piece protruded from his left shoulder and when he felt lower, another fragment projected from his groin. He swallowed and concentrated on his legs. He could feel nothing from his right leg, his left was throbbing and his ears were ringing loudly. He had to get to Beverly.

 

 

 

 

On the Bridge of the Enterprise, Will was just issuing orders to improve communications when Deanna rushed out of the turbolift. Still dressed in her night attire, she gripped Will's arm and said,
"Something's wrong! Beverly and the Captain…I'm sensing pain and…Beverly's unconscious…Will we have to get them!"
Will swung to his Ops officer.
"Danthrop any communications yet?"
"No Sir, we can't punch anything through."
"And you're going to tell me we can't fly a shuttle through that soup either, aren't you?"
"Aye Sir."
He sat heavily in the chair, punching the arm with a large fist.
"Dammit! Bridge to LaForge!"
"LaForge here Sir."
"Geordie is there some way we can get a signal through to Data? An encoded neutrino stream maybe?"
There was a moment's silence while Geordie mulled it over.
"Perhaps…I'll work on it. Engineering out."
Deanna took her seat and looked beseechingly at Will.
"Is there nothing else we can do?"
He shook his head sadly.

Down on the planet Data repeated his warning.
"It was definitely an explosion. You stay here, I will investigate."
Ensign Orrop nodded enthusiastically, not wishing to venture out into the deluge.
"Yes Sir."
Data Left the shelter and struck off towards where he thought the sound had come from. With the thunder crashing overhead, he cast about, trying to get his bearings. The sounds were echoing through the ruined buildings making it very difficult for even his enhanced hearing to decipher. He was moving up a street towards the outer circle when he was hailed.
"Commander Data!"
He stopped and, using a very Human gesture, raised his hand over his brow, shielding it from the rain.
Seeing Lieutenant Parkes in the rubble, he trotted over.
"What is it Lieutenant?"
"Sir, I thought I heard…that is I…"
"You thought you heard an explosion?"
"Yes Sir!"
Data nodded and looked up the street.
"I also heard something Lieutenant, but I am unable to pinpoint it. Do you have any suggestions?"
Parkes shrugged and said disappointedly,
"Not really Sir. What with the thunder and all…"
"I see. I am going to look in that direction. Would you care to accompany me?"
"Aye Sir."
The two officers set of at a trot but soon slowed when Data raised his hand.
"No, not this way. We should back track and try over there."
They had covered some metres when Parkes voiced his question.
"What are you looking for Sir?"
"Not looking Lieutenant, smelling."
"Smelling Sir?"
"Yes. I hope to smell the residue of material used as the blast initiator. However this wind and the rain are hampering my olfactory senses."
They trotted on in silence for a while before Data once again stopped them.
"No, not this way. Perhaps over there."

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc rolled onto his right side and tried to stifle the moan of agony that slipped through his bloodied lips. Uncaring of his injuries, he dragged himself slowly over the muddy ground towards his beloved Beverly. Centimetre by agonising centimetre, he endured the pain, dragging his useless legs behind him. It took an interminable time, but eventually he reached her. He tried to sit up and failed. As he lay gasping on his back, he could hear Beverly softly whimpering.
His voice but a whisper, he said her name.
"Beverly."
Even through the roar of the pelting rain, she heard him. She tried to answer him, but there was something wrong with her mouth. She allowed her body to relax and she fell sideways onto her back. The agony washed over her and she cried out inarticulately. He raised his hand and touched her shoulder.
"Steady Beverly my love", he whispered. "I'm with you."
He could see metal fragments sticking out of her body and her jaw was obviously broken. Blood flowed freely from head wounds, the gore quickly carried away by the rain. One eye was swollen shut and she seemed to be unable to move her head.
Thunder rumbled overhead and lightning flashed. He scoured the land within his scope of vision and saw nothing that could help them. In desperation he again tried to sit up, but the pain defeated him. The effort caused a bout of coughing, a gout of blood escaping his mouth. As he lay whimpering, he wondered if they would survive.

 

 

 

Data and John Parkes had moved through the outskirts of the town and, as Data checked his tricorder, he noted a small anomaly. A Human might've missed it, but not Data. He sniffed the air and moved off with alacrity, Parkes running to keep up.
"Sir?"
"This way Lieutenant. I detect blast residue!"
They ran perhaps half a kilometre when Data suddenly stopped. He turned in a small circle and struck off slightly to his left. He almost ran over the Captain and the Doctor.
He fell immediately to his knees and scanned the pair with the instrument. Turning to the panting Parkes, he said,
"Go back and gather the others. Go to the centre circle and bring all the equipment here. There are buildings nearby where we can shelter. Hurry."
Without another word, Parkes left at a run, leaving Data to tend to his friends.
"Sir, can you hear me?"
Jean-Luc groaned and opened his eyes.
"Data?"
"Yes Sir. You and Doctor Crusher have been hurt in an explosion. I have sent Lieutenant Parkes to bring back all the equipment. I will have a med kit soon. I advise you to lie still until he returns."
Jean-Luc nodded weakly and raised his hand.
"Doctor Crusher…"
Data moved and scanned Beverly. She stared listlessly through her one functioning eye and didn't acknowledge him.
"She is badly injured Sir."
"Data…what..?"
"I will see Sir."
He left them briefly and trotted to the epicentre of the blast. Scanning with the tricorder, he went down on one knee and sifted through the mud, eventually extracting the remains of the mine casing. He then returned to his Commanding Officer.
"Sir?"
Jean-Luc wearily opened his eyes, but said nothing. Data took that as permission to continue.
"It would appear you have activated a fragmentary land mine, a relic of the conflict. You are bleeding Sir. I will use my clothing to stem the flow."
He managed to shake his head.
"No, Beverly first."
Data frowned, but did his Captain's bidding. He moved to Beverly, took off his tunic top and proceeded to tear it into strips. He bandaged her head and applied a tourniquet to her left leg. He then moved to the Captain and, after removing his uniform trousers, tore them into strips and bandaged the Captain's wounds. When he came to the shattered legs he hesitated.
"Sir your legs are…badly damaged. There is a large piece of metal embedded in your groin. I am concerned that the femoral artery may be compromised if I move you. I will tie your legs together in the interim and I will endeavour to come up with a solution."
Jean-Luc nodded then groaned as a wave of pain washed over him. When he was able, he called softly to his Second Officer.
"Data…your first priority is to get Doctor Crusher to Sickbay. Do you understand?"
Data knelt by his Captain and gently held his hand.
"Aye Sir."
It was the last thing Jean-Luc heard for a good while.

 

 

 

 

Will Riker was pacing impatiently when the call came from Engineering.
"Engineering to Bridge."
"Riker here Geordie, what have you got?"
"Well, we can send a short message, but I don't know if he'll be able to reply. He'll only have a tricorder and communicator to work with. It's a big ask, even for Data."
"Understood. When can we send?"
"In about an hour."
Will looked at Deanna, stroking his dark beard.
"What will you say?"
"Something simple…like, what happened?"
"Ok, make it so."
Will turned back to the view screen and scowled at the serene looking planet rotating idly below. Over his shoulder he muttered,
"What can you feel?"
Deanna came and stood by her friend and rubbed his arm.
"They have both been badly injured and are experiencing a lot of pain. Beverly is unconscious and the Captain is just holding on. As a matter of fact…"
She stilled and closed her eyes, her features relaxing.
"…He's just lost consciousness."
Will sighed expansively and lowered his head.
"What the hell could've happened? This was supposed to be a simple away mission. Find out what happened to the population. Where in that does it say that anyone gets hurt? Ops what's the latest on the storm?"
Ensign Steve Danthrop ran his nimble fingers across the console, calling up the latest data.
"It's still raging Sir. No signs yet that it will abate any time soon."
"And the ionisation?"
"Still a soup Sir. Nothing can go down and nothing can come up."
"Dammit!"
He stalked over to the centre seat and sat down, the scowl never leaving his face. Deanna continued to stare at the planet, willing her friends to survive.

 

 

 

In all, it took two hours for the three crewmembers to carry all the equipment through the driving rain to the injured couple. At Data's direction, they took the gear to the power station and set up what they could. Parkes and James returned to Data and very carefully carried Beverly into the building. After careful consideration, Data requested his crew find a plank wide and strong enough to carry the Captain on. He intended to tie the Captain to it to disturb him as little as possible. A tabletop was found that would do the job and the two crewmen took it to their android officer, along with some extra material strips.
Gently rolling the somnambulant patient onto the tabletop, they tied him down and carried him out of the downpour and into the remains of the power station. There they got the med kits and started to give first aid. Stripping the Captain of his uniform, they found numerous metal pieces embedded in his body. Some small, some large, they had torn through muscle and bone making a devastating mess of his lean body. In the right side of his chest, a sinister shard protruded, blood leaking around it. The tricorder confirmed what Data already knew…the lung was lacerated and he was bleeding into it.
But by far worse were his legs. His right leg was completely shattered, the breaks so numerous the tricorder had difficulty in cataloguing them all. Only the stout boots he wore saved his feet. His left leg was little better, the kneecap gone completely, exposing the bones underneath. The metal shard in his groin was bleeding badly and resisted all efforts to quell it. Eventually Data devised a bandage that exerted enough pressure to at least slow the flow. His eyebrow and cheek were flayed and the top of his left ear was missing.
Beverly was similarly injured. Like Jean-Luc, she had metal pieces piercing all over the front of her body. One shard had severed the bone of her lower jaw and displaced several teeth. There was a particularly bad piece embedded in her stomach and, like Jean-Luc, her legs were a mess, but somehow she had fared slightly better than he. At least she'd lost less blood. The injury to her neck, caused when she was hurled backwards, was isolated with a cervical collar. There were several nasty lacerations to her face and head, but both pupils reacted to light so Data was relatively sure there were no permanent brain injuries. Antibiotics and analgesics were administered and all the small cuts and abrasions were healed. While Data and two crewmen worked on the injured pair, the other busied himself by lighting a fire. The warmth was welcome as was the chance to dry their soaking uniforms. In amongst the gear they had transported were cots, food, tents, sleeping bags, scanners, computers, in fact everything they needed for a four-day camping trip. The estimates of the storm's duration had been vague, so they erred on the side of caution, allowing four days worth of comestibles and equipment. They soon had a good site set up within the building and Data sent two of the crew to explore the ruin, bearing in mind what had happened to their compatriots and taking the necessary precautions.
When Data was satisfied his two patients were resting comfortably, he secured a tricorder and removed his combadge. Taking the back off his communicator, he set up a link between the two instruments and waited for what he was sure would be a message from the Enterprise. He knew Deanna would've sensed what had happened and he also knew they would make every effort to contact them. Calling up and discarding one theory after another, he was left with only one conclusion. They would most likely try to use an encoded neutrino beam and he intended to be ready for it. With the sensitivity of the combadge set at maximum and with the added power of the tricorder to back it up, he waited patiently, as ready as he could be.

 

 

 

 

Geordie's voice shattered the tension on the Bridge.
"Engineering to Bridge."
"Yes Geordie."
"We're ready down here."
"Ok, do it."
"Sending now."

 

 

 

Data was calculating how much blood the Captain had lost, while estimating the ambient temperature of the fire, when the combadge trilled. Directing his attention to the tricorder, he watched as the instrument downloaded the incoming stream of information. When the transmission ceased, he reprogrammed the tricorder and deciphered what had been sent. It was a simple message.
*What happened? *
Using the same method, he encrypted a short message.
*Landmine. Capt. And Doc badly injured. Need help.*
He paused, as he was about to press the send key. Should he offer a prayer? To whom should he pray? What would a Human do? In the end he shrugged his shoulders and hit the key, but his fingers were crossed. After all, it couldn't hurt.

 

 

Jean-Luc was dreaming. He was on a beach; the startling white sand seemed to go on forever. The surf boomed as the breakers rolled endlessly onto the shore. He turned a small circle, looking for his partner. He found her lying on a towel. He stood and let his eyes wander over her curvaceous form. Clad in a sea-green one-piece suit, her hair was loose and falling about her shoulders. Her long slender legs were crossed at the ankles and he was utterly positive he'd never seen a more beautiful woman. He stepped closer, his shadow falling across her face. She frowned and raised her hand to shield her eyes.
The smile that slowly spread across her face warmed him immensely.
"Hello Jean-Luc, what are you doing here?"
He shook out his towel and spread it beside her. Sitting down he turned his grinning face to her.
"Looking for you, actually."
"Well, you found me." She giggled.
She lowered her sunglasses and admired his well-muscled form, the black speedos he wore accentuating his body deliciously.
He looked away, towards the water.
"Have you been for a swim?"
"Not yet. Care to join me?"
He lifted his chin and pursed his lips. Nodding, his noble face broke into another grin.
"Yes. Yes I would."
Beverly sat up and brushed the sand from her hands. Rising gracefully, she held out her hand.
"Come on then!"
He rose to his feet with equal grace and they walked hand in hand to the water, pausing briefly to test the temperature, then entering swiftly.
They strode out through the waves, but when one larger wave hit him in the chest, he realised something was very wrong. It hurt!
He tried to call to her.
"Beverly! Help!"
But she was nowhere to be seen. The next wave hit him and he lost his breath. Gasping and coughing, the pain engulfed him and he went under. It was freezing. The water was everywhere, in his mouth, his nose…he couldn't breathe.
"Commander! He's choking!"
Data pushed aside his instruments and rushed to the Captain's side. He was indeed choking…on his own blood. Data took him and rolled him onto his side, his fingers going to Jean-Luc's mouth to clear the blood. Another cough wracked his frame and a clot was expelled forcibly. Abruptly he breathed in and coughed again. More blood was forced out as well as a cry of pain.
"Captain, you must try and control your breathing!"
Jean-Luc weakly grasped Data's sleeve and nodded. A shiver passed through his body then he slowly relaxed, breathing slightly easier. Data assessed the situation and came to a decision.
"Sir, I will put some packs behind your back. I think you should stay on your side. It will aid you in breathing."
Jean-Luc blinked slowly, his only way of answering.
Data and Parkes laid some packs at his back and leaned him gently on them. Having got him in position, Data asked,
"Are you in pain Sir?"
Again Jean-Luc blinked and Data took it as an affirmative answer.
Taking a hypospray, he loaded it with an analgesic and injected his Captain.
"That should ease your discomfort Sir."
Jean-Luc swallowed and took a shallow breath. Whispering, he said,
"Thank you."
Data nodded and went back to his computer.

 

 

 

Ensign Danthrop was relieved when the console beeped to relay the incoming message.
"Sir, we have a message coming up from the surface."
Will stood stiffly, the tension evident in his body.
"It's garbled Sir. I'll have to send it to Commander LaForge to clean it up."
"Do it."
Steve pressed the requisite panels and sent the message to Engineering.
"Geordie, this is Riker."
"Yes Sir."
"We need that message deciphered. Best speed."
"I'm on it. Engineering out."
Tense minutes passed. Suddenly Geordie's voice rang out clearly.
"It's on its way up to you now."
"Ops?"
"Getting it now Sir. It reads… Landmine. Captain and Doctor badly injured. Need help."
Deanna gasped.
"Oh God."
Will looked at the ceiling and called Engineering.
"Geordie, come up to the Bridge."
"On my way."
"Will we've got to get them up here!"
"I know Dee, I know."
The turbolift doors opened and Geordie stepped onto the Bridge.
"Geordie we have to find a way to transport through that ionisation. We need to get medical supplies down there…quickly and then we need to be able to transport two people up here. What do you think?"
"What I think is that we've got a very big problem. Look I'm willing to try and send some pattern enhancers down there and maybe some supplies, but there's no way we'll be able to transport living people through that soup Commander."
"Well if we don't some of the people won't be living much longer! Did you read the message?"
"Yes Sir."
"Well you know what's at stake. Work on it Geordie…at least get the medical supples down there."
"I'll give it my best shot Commander, but it'll be a shot in the dark."
Will nodded as Geordie left the Bridge.
"Ops can you send another message?"
"Yes Sir. Commander LaForge has configured the computer up here."
"Good. Send this…Trying to send med supplies. Standby."
"Aye Sir."
"Bridge to Sickbay."
"Sickbay here. Selar speaking."
"Doctor Selar, come to the Bridge."
"Aye Sir."
Will paced as he waited for the Doctor, Deanna sat in her chair focussing on the planet below.
Presently Doctor Selar arrived, the Vulcan's cool demeanour in stark contrast to the tension felt by everyone else.
"Selar the Captain and Doctor Crusher have been badly injured by a landmine. We can't transport them up through the ionisation. We intend to attempt to send medical supplies. I want you to make up a parcel of what you think they will need. Keep it simple and compact. I'll let you know when we'll need it."
"Aye Sir."
Having dismissed the Doctor, Will gently took Deanna's arm.
"I want you to go and get some rest. Who knows how long this will take."
She was about to argue, but saw the logic in his words.
"You'll call me if…"
"You bet."
Deanna left the Bridge and Will settled into the Command chair to do what he liked least of all…wait.

 

 

 

 

 

Data relayed the message to his crewmates and went to check on his patients. Jean-Luc was sleeping but Beverly was conscious.
"Doctor are you in pain? Squeeze my hand, once for yes, twice for no."
She squeezed twice, then slowly lifted her hand to her face, gently feeling the gaping wound along her jaw. She looked at Data and frowned. He understood.
"You have a broken jaw. A shard of metal has severed the bone and dislodged several teeth."
She looked at him again, her hand travelling down her body. He nodded.
"There are pieces of metal embedded all over your body. Your legs have been shattered and you have an injury to your neck. Generally, we can control all of your injuries, although there is a large piece of metal in your stomach. I suspect that there is significant internal damage."
She cast her eyes sideways, trying to see the Captain.
"Captain Picard has lost a lot of blood. Like you, he has been decimated by the shards, with large pieces in his shoulder and groin. His lung has been lacerated and he is expectorating blood. His legs are more damaged than yours; we have kept his boots on in an effort to preserve his feet. We have contacted the ship and they are endeavouring to send medical supplies. I will continue to administer antibiotics and analgesics. Are you warm enough Doctor?"
She could feel the warmth of the blanket that had been placed on her and squeezed his hand once. She was desperately worried about Jean-Luc and frustrated that she couldn't do anything but lie there, helpless.
She stared at Data, willing him to understand her request.
"What is it Doctor?"
She raised a shaky hand and pointed at the nearby computer. He fetched it and placed the keyboard under her fingers.
Weakly she typed…
MUST HYDRATE CAPTAIN. REPLACE LOST FLUID.
"We have no re-hydration fluids here Doctor. I would expect the Enterprise would send some down with the other medical supplies."
She next wrote,
KEEP WARM. ELEVATE LEGS.
"Understood Doctor."
Softly calling to James, they gently raised the shattered appendages of both officers and added more blankets. When he next looked at Beverly, she was asleep.
The two crewmen who had been exploring reported back with some interesting information.
"Commander Data, we've been all over what's left of the building and, well, we don't quite understand these readings."
Ensign Orrop gave Data his tricorder. Data scanned it intently and cocked his head.
"These power readings are intermittent. Where were they strongest?"
"Over near the top storey, about two floors up. We also found this Sir."
Orrop handed his commanding officer a motion detector.
"It was connected to an explosive device, no longer active. We found several of them, in fact this whole building has been hot wired."
"Hot wired?"
Ensign James came forward.
"Booby trapped Sir. Whoever did it expected the station to be overrun. They intended to inflict maximum casualties."
"Is there any indication as to who the aggressors were?"
"No Sir."
"I think it advisable to stay in this vicinity. Clear this area of any such devices, then collect more wood for the fire."
"Aye Sir."
Data retired to his perch near his patients and again checked the tricorder's readings. There should be no energy at all. The building had been abandoned for many years, the machinery destroyed. Why would there be intermittent energy readings?
Geordie's voice broke through the tense silence of the Bridge.
"Commander Riker?"
"Here Geordie."
"I think we can have a go at sending down some pattern enhancers. We need to send down a jacketed power pulse. We aim the transporter to operate within the beam and, if we're lucky, the enhancers should make it down in one piece. I've aligned the main deflector dish and inputted the parameters. We're as ready as we're going to get."
"Standby Geordie, we'll get their coordinates. Ops send this…send coordinates for beam down."
"Aye Sir."

 

 

 

Data was re-applying the bandage to Jean-Luc's groin when his tricorder beeped. Finishing his task, he left his patient and watched as the message downloaded. He read the missive and immediately sent the required information. He chose a spot outside to make it easier for his friends on the Enterprise.
As the others were dry and he was dressed only in his underwear, he decided to be the one to receive the enhancers. Venturing out into the torrential rain, he stood stiffly, patiently waiting.

 

 

 

 

Ops were ready when the message came through.
"Coordinates coming in Sir."
"Are you getting them Geordie?"
"Yes Sir, inputting them now."
"Initiate when ready."
"They're away."
"When will we know?"
"When Data contacts us."
"Understood. Bridge out."

 

 

 

In the pouring rain, Data detected the energy beam. Perceived as a shift in the atmosphere, he then heard the telltale whine of the transporter. Before his eyes, the enhancers took shape on the ground. Wasting no time, He collected them, set them out in a triangular pattern and activated them. He then re-entered the building and sent the following message.
*Enhancers activated. Awaiting transport of medical supplies. *

Will, on hearing the message, swung into action.
"Selar are you ready?"
"Yes Commander."
"Good. Take the supplies to transporter room three and meet with Commander LaForge."
"Aye Sir."
"Ops, new message. Prepare to receive supplies."

 

 

 

 

Data was ready when the message was received. He again ventured out into the rain and waited. Fortunately, he didn't have to wait long. Within the glow of the enhancer's lights, the parcel materialised. He strode to it immediately and took it inside. Opening it, he found re-hydrating fluids, pressure cuffs for the legs and arms, super absorbent dressings, more antibiotics, analgesics and blood clotting agents. With the help of two crewmen, he took the fluids and their collapsible stands to his patients.
He treated Jean-Luc first. Taking one battered arm, he applied a pressure bandage to raise a vein, then inserted a cannula. He then set up the stand and regulated the flow. Satisfied, he moved to Beverly and repeated the process. She woke and tried to smile, the attempt appearing as a grimace. Data scanned them both with the tricorder and was examining the results when he felt Beverly's hand on his arm. Her eyes darted to her lover and Data set aside his instrument.
"His body temperature has risen two point five degrees. We are now keeping up with his blood loss, but I fear he is in shock."
She gestured for the computer, which he supplied.
WAKE HIM UP.
Data nodded and went to the Captain.
He crouched down and, not knowing where he could safely touch him without causing pain, gently patted his cheek.
"Captain Picard? Wake up Sir."
Jean-Luc's eyes opened sluggishly. His attempt to speak was forestalled by a bout of coughing that had him moaning in agony as he brought up an amount of blood.
Data collected some clean gauze and wiped his Captain's mouth.
"Sir your blood pressure is dangerously low and your temperature is rising. Doctor Crusher thinks it best if you stay awake."
He nodded wearily and looked at his best friend. She couldn't see him, but felt his gaze nonetheless. Motioning to Data, she typed,
PLACE PRESSURE CUFFS ON LEGS.
It took some gentle manoeuvring, but eventually the pneumatic plastic casts went on their legs. When inflated, they would help lessen bleeding and help keep the shattered bones in place. They left Jean-Luc's boots on within the casts, fearing what would happen if they removed them.
Data was clearing away unwanted equipment when he noticed Jean-Luc was sweating.
"Are you in pain Sir?"
Jean-Luc nodded and squeezed his eyes shut as a wave of pain washed over him.
Injecting the Captain with an analgesic, Data moved to the Doctor.
"Doctor Crusher, the painkillers seem to be losing their effectiveness with the Captain. What should I do?
She typed,
LOWER THE DOSE AND GIVE MORE FREQUENTLY. WATCH BLOOD PRESSURE.
He nodded his understanding and scanned the Captain again. He noted further blood pressure reduction and increased the flow of the intravenous fluids. He could hear the wet breathing of the Captain and knew he would cough again soon. Readying himself he was able to support Jean-Luc when the painful episode struck. Cleaning the mess away, he asked Beverly,
"Should I offer the captain anything to drink?"
To which she replied,
NO.
"And what about you Doctor?"
NO. NOT WITH STOMACH WOUND.
"I understand. Is there anything else?"
NOT FOR NOW. WILL REST.
Data nodded then set about putting the arms not connected to the intravenous fluids in a pressure cuff. He then composed a message for the Enterprise.
*Treating patients as best we can. Storm projection? *
The answer came in minutes.
*Unknown. Will advise. *
Data made sure his patients were comfortable and stationed two crewmembers to watch them. He then rose and began his search for the anomalous energy readings. After climbing up to the second storey, he noted the fluctuations in the tricorder's output.
Following the directions of the instrument, he moved to the far corner and frowned as the readings again fluctuated. Increasing the output, he scanned a plie of machinery and froze when he heard a distinct, soft click.
Approaching the almost solid mass of metal, he found and followed some wires that led to a pack of explosives. Connected to a timer, it had activated. Unable to decipher the images appearing on the screen, he left immediately and made his way back to his companions. As he approached them, he started issuing orders.
"We must evacuate the building. Gather everything you can carry…Orrop, Parkes and James, help me carry the Captain and the Doctor…we must hurry!"
He snatched up his computer and shoved it under his arm before bending to pick up one end of the tabletop the Captain was lying on.
In short order, they exited the building and ran out into the rain. A wind had picked up and it whistled around them as they hastened to new cover. Behind them there was an enormous blast. Debris was hurled outwards with great force as the building disintegrated, showering the fleeing crewmembers with rubble. As the last of the falling detritus fell, they stopped, panting some seventy metres away.
"Wow, that was close!"
Data turned to Ensign James and smiled.
"I agree with you. We must find shelter, where is the nearest habitable structure?"
Parkes was first to answer.
"Over there and to the left, about three hundred metres Sir."
"Very well, Ensign Orrop, please gather the pattern enhancers."
On Data's nod of acceptance, the group moved off into the gathering darkness, their way lit by intermittent lightning.

 

 

 

 

Will's smile of gratitude was heartfelt as Deanna brought him his coffee. Sitting in the Ready Room, he stared balefully at the planet below, wishing he could do more than just wait.
"Can you sense anything?"
Deanna paused and closed her eyes, concentrating. After a few moments she frowned.
"I'm not sure. Beverly's awake and worried…she seems confused somehow…Captain Picard is sleeping."
"Hmm. I'll ask if everything's ok. Ops, new message. Concerned. Is everything alright?"
Receiving the acquiescence of the Ops officer, Will again turned his attention to Deanna.
"I've been speaking with Selar. She says the injuries could be very extensive."
"I know Will. I just pray we can get them up here soon."
"Commander, this is Ops. There's been no reply from the surface. I don't think they received it."
"Does anything show on the sensors…any anomalies?"
"No Sir, nothing."
"Damn. Ok Ops, I'll be right out."
Deanna sighed and stood.
"Well so much for our rest."
They both strode out onto the Bridge and couldn't help but look at the planet displayed on the viewscreen. Will shook his head and sighed expansively.
"What the hell's going on?"

 

 

 

 

With lowered heads against the pouring rain, the group forged through the downpour and soon found themselves at the crumbling walls of a one-storey building, half of which had no roof. Unable to find a door in the darkness, they climbed the tumbling brickwork and picked their way through the debris until they came to a relatively clear spot under cover.
He gently placed the Captain on the floor and went to Beverly. She was awake.
"We had to leave the other building. The tricorder activated an explosive device. The resulting explosion destroyed the structure. We are now in another building, some four hundred metres to the west. We will contact the Enterprise and have them send down more equipment."
He set up his tricorder and made contact with the ship.
*Had to move to new site. Will send coordinates. Need more equipment. Standby. *
He then ordered the crewmembers to do an inventory to find out what they'd left behind. It took half an hour and at the end, they found they needed more blankets and food. There were other things, but they could wait. Data relayed the message as was satisfied when the answer came. He ventured out into the rain, set up the enhancers and waited.
Beverly raised her hand to get attention. Parkes came to her side and positioned the computer for her.
HOW IS CAPTAIN?
"He's asleep Sir."
CHECK HIM.
Parkes went to Jean-Luc and scanned him with the tricorder. He took the instrument back to Beverly and held it while she read the information.
HIS BLOOD PRESSURE…LOW. NEEDS MORE FLUIDS. INCREASE FLOW.
Parkes moved to Jean-Luc and studied the intravenous apparatus. Seeing the flow regulator, he opened it slightly and was pleased to note the increased flow. He could hear a gurgling sound coming from the Captain and wondered what it meant.
He moved back to Beverly and told her what he'd done. She nodded and was about to type more when Jean-Luc started to cough. His hand was clawing at his chest as he struggled to breathe. Blood ran from his nose and mouth as he desperately tried to expel the choking gore. Having observed his Commanding Officer do it, Parkes grabbed some gauze and helped the Captain clear his airways. When Jean-Luc was finally able to breathe again, he was grey and sweating.
Beverly typed frantically.
NEEDS OXYGEN!
Parkes looked about but couldn't find the small cylinder. He ran out into the rain and found Data. Quickly explaining himself, Data hurried back inside and contacted the ship.
* Need oxygen. Urgent.*
Taking Parkes, the two officers went back outside just as the first transport took effect. They took the goods inside, then Parkes went back outside to wait for the oxygen.
Data went to the Captain and scanned him. He was about to administer more painkiller, when Jean-Luc weakly squeezed his arm and shook his head.
"Sir, you are in considerable pain. I need to give you this hypospray of analgesic."
Jean-Luc shook his head again and Data had to bend close to his mouth to hear his whisper.
"No. I want to stay awake."
"But Sir…"
"No. That's an order."
Data sat up, frowning. Beverly gestured to him and he went to her.
WHAT'S WRONG?
"The Captain is refusing analgesics. He has requested to stay awake."
Beverly closed her eye, a tear slipping free.
"Doctor what should I do? He made it an order."
OBEY HIM.
Parkes came in, dripping wet with two cylinders of oxygen and masks in his hands. He went straight to Jean-Luc and helped Data to connect, then fit a mask to Jean-Luc's face. As the oxygen flowed into his lungs, his colour improved slightly and he nodded his relief.
Data noted that the groin wound was still bleeding, but the cuff had slowed it somewhat. He told Beverly.
ADMINISTER CLOTTING AGENT.
Data did as he was told and was pleased when the flow slowed even further.
In the interim, the other crewmembers had set up the cots and changed the blankets on the two patients. They soon had a fire going and food could be smelt warming.
Data contacted the Enterprise again.
* Situation stable, but not for long. Captain failing. Storm projection? *
He soon had his answer.
* Unknown at this time. Will advise. *

 

 

Throughout the long night, Data stayed at his Captain's side, helping when the coughing fits came and keeping him company as he refused to sleep. Beverly dozed fitfully, the analgesics keeping her pain free, but the worry over Jean-Luc dogging her dreams.
When the weak light of dawn showed itself, Beverly prayed they would find an end to the storm.

 

 

 

Will was stretched out on the sofa in the Ready Room. The door annunciator broke his fragile hold on sleep.
"Come in."
Geordie stepped over the threshold, a small smile on his dark face.
"I've had an idea."
Will stood and went to the replicator for some much needed coffee.
"Ok, out with it."
"If we rig a shuttle with a theta band generator that has the ability to overcome the ionisation, we may…just may…be able to get down to the surface and back."
"What are our chances?"
"Well, I'll have to do some tinkering…and bend the laws of physics a little…but I think we can do it."
"Make it so Geordie…quickly."
Will strode out onto the Bridge and addressed the Ops officer.
"New message. Attempting to rig a shuttle for rescue. Standby."

 

 

On the planet's surface, Data received the message and went to his Captain.
"Sir I have just had a message from the Enterprise. They are trying to alter a shuttle to be able to come and get us."
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and nodded. He was growing rapidly weaker, his hold on consciousness tenuous. Data had changed the drip and again increased the flow. Despite the antibiotics, his temperature continued to climb, infection setting in. Beverly too was experiencing a rise in temperature. She was becoming slightly disoriented and took longer and longer to regain her perspective. She began to sleep for longer periods and was confused when she woke.
Data didn't know what to do. He was no longer able to ask the doctor for advice and was not programmed with enough medical knowledge to counteract any emergencies in their deteriorating conditions.
He sent a message to the ship.
* Please make haste. Patient's condition failing rapidly. *
Data called James and Parkes over.
"I want you to collect more wood for the fire. Be very careful where you go…and do not use your tricorders. I believe the energy output may trigger other explosive devices."
The two crewmen left and moved into the darker recesses of the building. They picked up numerous bits of wood and were returning when Parkes' boot tripped a wire strung low between two posts. There was a sharp explosion and the two men were blown across the space. Parkes was beheaded, his head landing not three metres from Data's crouching form. James fared little better, his chest torn open, his torso eviscerated. He was dead before he hit the ground.
Data shouted to be heard through ringing ears.
"Everybody out! Now!"
The one remaining crewman, Orrop, helped Data carry Jean-Luc and Beverly out into the pouring rain. He found a tree and left everyone under it while he made several trips back into the deadly building to retrieve equipment.
"We will have to set up the tents here. Quickly…we must get the Captain and Doctor under cover."
"Sir what about landmines?"
Data paused but a moment.
"We can not scan for them. Hopefully, this far from the buildings, there will not be any."
Nothing more was said as the men erected the tents. In the largest, Data put his two patients and risked a short scan with a medical tricorder. Both of the injured were soaking wet and shivering. He procured some thermal blankets and covered them and increased the flow of both intravenous feeds. Jean-Luc weakly grabbed his arm. Data leaned down to hear him whisper,
"What happened?"
There was another explosion Sir. Parkes and James are dead. We are out in the open, in a field between the outer buildings and the inner circles."
He nodded and closed his eyes before suddenly stiffening. He let out a groan and clutched at his chest.
"Captain what is it?!"
His back arched as his jaw creaked with the strain of clenching his teeth. A dark pool of blood spread across his groin within the cuff. Data forced his hand down inside the cuff and pressed on the injury, feeling the warm blood seeping between his fingers.
"Orrop!"
The tent flap slapped wetly open as Ensign Orrop poked his head in.
"Hand me the medical tricorder, quickly!"
With the instrument in his free hand, Data scanned Jean-Luc's lower body.
"The shard has pierced the femoral artery. Help me get the cuff off."
The two men gently deflated the cuff and pulled it down far enough to access the terrible wound. As the bandages were removed, blood fountained up in spurts. Data pressed his hands around the metal trying to stop the flow. Orrop too added his hands, but they couldn't stop it.

 

 

 

 

Geordie's cheerful voice rang through the Bridge.
"We're ready down here. This baby's rigged to fly through anything."
Will stood and strode to the turbolift.
"I'm on my way down. Deanna, you have the Bridge."
He arrived in the Shuttle bay within minutes.
"Right Geordie, what do I have to know?"
"Well she'll get you there and back, but the sensors are still very limited. Put down as close to their last known coordinates as you can, but you'll have to rely mostly on your own eyes for the final approach."
"Right" Looking to the ceiling, he paged the Bridge.
"Ops send new message. On way with shuttle. Standby. Sickbay have a team waiting in the Shuttle bay for our return."
He was in the shuttle preparing to exit the Enterprise when the Bridge contacted him.
"Commander we've had no response from the last message."
"Understood."
Frowning, he guided the shuttle from the bay and out into the inky darkness of space. The theta generator functioned well and, as he powered through the ionisation around him, he spared a thought for his friends on the planet below.
Using all of his exceptional skill, he piloted the small craft through the atmosphere and, guided by the navigational computer, approached the last known coordinates. The storm buffeted the craft, throwing him about in his seat. Lightning flashed and rain pelted the windscreen and he hovered above a field looking for a place to land.
Data's keen hearing again came to the fore. As he and Orrop struggled to stop the haemorrhage, his head suddenly cocked to one side and his eyes grew distant.
"There is a shuttle approaching. Get a torch and guide it to our location. At present, it is approximately two hundred and twenty three metres to out left and eighty metres above the ground. Hurry!"
The sound of the receding footsteps was drowned out by the ever-present rain.

Data thought furiously. "Unless I can stop this bleeding, the Captain will bleed to death. He has already lost a significant amount of blood. I can not replace the lost fluids quickly enough."
He continued to press wads of super absorbent gauze into the wound, but still the blood pumped out of Jean-Luc. His skin took on a grey pallor and sweat covered his body. In a final bid to stay awake, he raised a hand and took a wet breath. His eyes rolled back and his body went limp as consciousness fled.
Data's head again tilted as he heard the shuttle come closer.
They heard the characteristic sound of the shuttle touching down and it wasn't long before Will's bearded face was seen at the tent entrance.
"How are they?"
"In desperate need of help Commander. The Captain is bleeding uncontrollably and Doctor Crusher has been deteriorating rapidly these last few hours."
"Well come on, let's get them into the shuttle. Is everyone else here?"
As they worked at getting the patients into the shuttle, Data told Will about the recent deaths. They would return for the remains later.
They were five minutes away from the Enterprise when Data shouted tersely,
"The Captain is in cardiac arrest!"
Data immediately started to apply CPR while Will coaxed extra speed out of the little craft. The glowing blue light of the Shuttle bay was never so welcome. He landed with haste and the medical team entered even as the door was opening. Selar connected neural inducers and cardio stimulators and began to administer a series of shocks to restart Jean-Luc's heart.
"He's lost too much blood! Transporter room, four to transport from this location to Sickbay."
Jean-Luc, Beverly, Selar and a nurse disappeared leaving Data, Orrop and Will to gaze at the bloodstains on the bunk.

 

 

 

Doctor Ben Hassem was waiting with his assistants when the party rematerialised in Sickbay. Seeing Selar already working on the Captain, he went straight to Beverly and had her placed on a biobed. He assessed her injuries and took her into surgery.
Selar also had Jean-Luc in the surgery suite. With his heart connected to a supplementing machine and more fluids pumped into his body, the wicked metal shard was removed and the artery sealed. When he had stabilised, further surgery commenced to slowly correct the massive multiple injuries he'd sustained. Of greatest concern were his legs and feet. Selar had to resort to using metal plates and rods to connect the shattered bones, in some instances, cloning new pieces such as the replacement kneecap. His first bout of surgery lasted eight and a half hours, Beverly five and a quarter hours. Both would need further operations and many regenerative treatments. The infections were identified and treated and eventually, both patients were placed side by side in the recovery room.
Will met with Selar and Ben in Beverly's office.
"What's the prognosis?"
In her usual unruffled manner, Selar stood with her hands behind her back.
"They will recover. Doctor Crusher sustained serious damage to her stomach and will be on a restrictive diet for the interim. The Captain will require walking aids for some time."
"How long will they be in Sickbay?"
"The Captain will be here for two weeks, the Doctor…possibly one week depending on how the newly implanted teeth settle."
Ben reached behind him and produced a plastic container. He offered it to Will.
"You might be interested in this. It contains all the metal we took out of their bodies. Three point five kilos worth."
Will took the container and grimaced.
"Data said it was a fragmentary landmine. Apparently, the blast was uneven and they got hit by the weaker side, thank God."
Selar raised one eyebrow.
"Do we know yet who planted the mines?"
Will shook his head and frowned.
"Nope. We're no closer to solving this little mystery than we were before. I've been back down to retrieve the bodies of Parkes and James. I want an analysis done on the metal in their bodies. Maybe we can at least learn something from their deaths."
Selar nodded and sensed the meeting was drawing to a close.
"I will notify you when they awaken."
Will nodded and left, but not before he quietly stood by his friend's beds and saw for himself they were all right.

 

 

 

Beverly woke first. She slowly became aware of the familiar sounds of her domain and slowly opened her eyes. There was an annoying buzzing in her head and she ached from head to toe, but she knew she'd survived. She risked movement and turned her head slightly, wincing at the pain it brought. When next she opened her eyes, Alyssa Ogawa was there.
"Hello Doctor. Lie still and I'll get Doctor Selar."
Beverly blinked her thanks and Alyssa disappeared. The next person she saw was Selar.
"Doctor Crusher would you like a report of you injuries?"
Beverly closed her eyes and gently shook her head. Opening her eyes, she looked to the side and frowned. Alyssa caught on quickly.
"Would you like to know about Captain Picard?"
Beverly managed a lopsided smile and a nod. Selar answered her.
"The Captain is still sleeping. His injuries have been treated and his prognosis is good. He is still on intravenous fluids, mainly to replace blood loss and he will require more surgery on his legs, as will you. Both surgeries are scheduled for tomorrow morning."
Beverly moved one hand to her face, only to feel the dermaplast patch on her jaw.
Selar took her hand and gently placed it back on the bed.
"We have successfully fused the bone and re-implanted some new teeth. As you know, it will be tender for some time."
Her hand moved to her stomach.
"You have had extensive surgery to your gastro-intestinal tract. That, and your new teeth, will put you on a restrictive diet for a while."
Beverly sighed and smiled at her friends. Selar administered an analgesic and Beverly relaxed, lulled by the knowledge that Jean-Luc had survived. She soon slept.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc woke in pain. Disoriented and with a terrible pressure in his lower abdomen, he groaned pitifully.
"Captain, it's Alyssa Ogawa. What's wrong?"
With his eyes screwed shut, he grimaced and managed to find his voice.
Roughly, he said,
"I need to…"
Understanding immediately, Alyssa got a bottle, raised the sheet and helped him position himself. She then lowered the sheet and stood to one side. Jean-Luc sighed with relief as he urinated, the sullen pressure slowly ebbing. When he finished, Alyssa again assisted him then called for Selar.
While he waited, Jean-Luc opened his eyes and took in his surroundings. He could easily see the glow of regen beams and, as he turned his head, he could just make out the sleeping form of his lover. He was contemplating more movement when Selar came to him.
"Captain it is good to see you awake. How do you feel? Are you in any pain?"
He frowned and thought about it.
"Yes. My legs are throbbing, as is my groin and shoulder."
He heard the telltale hiss of the hypospray and the pain faded away. He sighed and asked what was on his mind.
"How is Doctor Crusher?"
"She is progressing well. Her injuries have been treated and her prognosis is excellent."
He nodded slowly and swallowed.
"My legs?"
"They were extensively damaged Captain. You have had reconstructive surgery on both legs and feet, with more surgery due in the morning. You have plates, rods and cloned pieces throughout your lower limbs…healing will take some time, even with regenerative therapies."
"But I will walk again?"
"Yes Sir."
He pursed his lips and frowned.
"I want to see Commander Riker."
"Sir it would be better if you…"
"Now Doctor."
Selar's impassive face showed no irritation. She stepped back from the bed and bowed her head slightly.
"As you wish Sir."
The Captain did not have to wait long. Will's large frame soon stood over his Commanding Officer.
"Hello Sir, it's good to see you."
"Thank you Number One. Report."
"Well Sir, we still don't know all that much about what happened to the inhabitants. There was a war, that much is pretty obvious, but whether it was internal or external is anybody's guess. Data found that the tricorders were setting off the ordinance left behind…the landmine you and Beverly stood on was probably activated by your tricorder. The standing buildings are all booby-trapped; the whole place is a powder keg just waiting to go off. We lost Parkes and James to a trip wire…I would recommend no further away teams until we know more."
"I see. And the storm? Is it still raging?"
"Aye Sir."
"Contact Starfleet Command and tell them everything we know so far. They might just decide to quarantine the planet and be done with it."
"Yes Sir."
Just then Selar appeared at his bedside.
"That is enough for now captain. You need to rest."
Jean-Luc tried to muster a scowl and failed miserably. The fact was, he was tired.
He nodded to his First Officer, dismissing him, then sighed as the hiss of a hypospray broke the silence. He recognised the effects of a sedative immediately. As he drifted off, he felt the sadness of losing two good men.
When he next woke, it was morning. He lay quietly, assessing his body and smiled when he heard a tentative voice.
"Jean-Luc…are you awake?"
"Yes Beverly, I'm awake. How are you?"
She snorted and sighed.
"Truth? I've been better. How about you?"
"Let's put it this way…we won't be dancing for a while."
"Huh. I bet you're sorry about that."
He was about to say more when Alyssa came into the room.
"Good morning Captain, Doctor. You're both scheduled for surgery this morning. Captain would you like Adam to shave you?"
Jean-Luc ran his hand over his days old beard and grimaced.
"Yes, that would be good."
"Right Sir. He'll just have time before you go in."
It took just a few minutes for the nurse to use the isorazor to remove the bristles. In no time, they were entering the surgical suites.
Several hours later they were back in the recovery room, their lower bodies bathed in the blue glow of the regen beams.
Jean-Luc awoke first this time and was surprised when his stomach growled. He rubbed his hand over the offending organ, the movement bringing a nurse.
"Are you alright Sir?"
"Oh yes I think so…perhaps a little hungry?"
"I'll get you something Sir, I just have to check with Doctor Selar."
"Very good."
The nurse soon returned with a tray and Jean-Luc was delighted when he raised the top end of the bed, allowing him to sit up somewhat.
He dined on toast, scrambled eggs and Earl Grey tea, a simple meal that to Jean-Luc, tasted absolutely delicious.
When Beverly woke she was not so satisfied. Her meal was vitamised and taken through a straw. Although filling and nutritious, she missed savouring her meal. She too was allowed to sit up and she took great comfort in seeing Jean-Luc looking so well, considering what he'd been through. He, on the other hand, was just happy to have her well and close by. After their breakfast, Selar came to see them.
"Captain, Doctor. You will be moved to private rooms today and therapy will begin. Have you any questions for me?"
The Captain spoke first.
"Yes. When can I be released to my quarters?"
"I would anticipate two weeks Sir."
"Two weeks! Surely I don't need to stay here that long?"
"Captain Picard, you cannot walk. You will be undergoing constant regenerative therapy and you face subsequent surgeries to you legs and feet. You will require ongoing pain management and assistance with personal matters. It is not feasible for you to return to your quarters at this time."
"What about me Selar?"
"You Doctor Crusher will be able to leave as soon as you can chew productively and ingest solid food. Your regen therapies can be undertaken in your quarters, as they are not as intensive as the Captain's."
Beverly had the good grace not to look smug. She did, however have another question.
"Selar, can we share a room?"
One eyebrow rose.
"If that is what you both want. Captain?"
"What? Oh yes, that will be fine."
"Jean-Luc? You don't sound very enthusiastic."
"Hmm? Oh sorry…I just…Doctor Selar I want to see Commander Riker again."
"As you wish Captain."

 

 

 

"You wished to see me Sir."
"Yes Number One. It would seem that I'm to be confined here for the next two weeks. I want you to assume command."
Will straightened and frowned at his commanding officer.
"But Sir surely you can…"
"My decision stands Commander. See to it that things run smoothly and I would appreciate it if you would report to me regularly."
Casting a glance at the concerned Beverly, Will replied,
"Of course Sir."
"Dismissed."
Once Will had left, Beverly allowed a moment's silence before broaching what was obviously a delicate subject.
"Jean-Luc don't you think you're being a little…extreme? You know as well as I that you can command from the Sickbay. There was no need to…"
"Beverly I would rather not discuss it, thank you."
"But…"
He cast her a glacial look that clearly said ' drop it'. Beverly however was not about to be intimidated.
"Jean-Luc be reasonable…you can…"
He glowered and shook his head decisively.
"I can't walk. I cannot…I will not command this ship whilst confined to a bed in Sickbay. To do so would compromise my authority."
Beverly sniffed and brushed her hair back.
"Your authority or your carefully cultivated image of yourself?"
He glared at her defiantly, raising his chin.
"Captain you are making a grave error if you think this crew…your crew, won't accept your captaincy under the present circumstances. They will understand."
He was silent a moment, before shaking his head.
"No. My decision stands. Commander Riker will take command until such time as I'm able to walk onto the Bridge."
She looked at him askance and shook her head.
"Stubborn, foolish…"
"That is enough Doctor! This discussion is over."
Pressing her lips into a thin line, Beverly assumed a submissive posture and bowed her head. Then she called for Selar.
"There's been a change of plans. We'll have separate rooms after all."
"Very well Doctor."
Within minutes, orderlies came to take them to their separate rooms…Jean-Luc didn't even look at her when she left.

 

 

 

 

 

After settling into his new room and eating a light lunch, Selar and two nurses came in to see him. They set about switching off and moving the regen apparatus and uncovering his legs.
"What's this?"
"I would like to begin your therapy sessions Captain. It will involve light massage and gentle exercise. Are you ready to begin?"
He nodded and the two nurses began to work on his left leg, starting simultaneously at the thigh and calf. The pain hit him immediately. His hands gripped the sides of the bed and a groan escaped through his clenched teeth.
"I will give you something for the pain soon Captain. We need to reawaken the nerves and improve the blood flow. Your discomfort tells us we are succeeding. Please be patient."
As they worked on his tortured leg, he tried to distract himself by reciting Shakespeare's sonnets in Klingon to himself and when that failed he strove to count to one hundred in as many languages as he could. He's gone through English, French, Italian, Klingon, and Vulcan and was half way through Romulan when they moved to his right leg. Unable to contain himself, he cried out and sat up, stilling their hands.
"Mon Dieu, enough!"
Selar noted the sweat running down his face and neck and his laboured breathing. She left and returned with a hypospray. He heard the hiss and felt the relief flow through his legs. Nodding to her companions to continue, they completed the massaging then began to put his legs through gentle stretches. As the newly repaired muscles warmed, they increased the exercises until they were able to lift his knees to his chest. Having achieved that, they straightened his legs and went to work on his shattered feet. Again they massaged, then applied low electrical stimulation to activate the many small muscles, tendons and sinews. When they were finally finished, they covered his legs and re-applied the regen field.
"Captain Picard?"
Jean-Luc opened his eyes and found Selar with his gaze.
"We will be doing this therapy three times a day. Unfortunately, it will be uncomfortable for you, but we will endeavour to ease your pain as best we can. You are scheduled for more surgery in two days. As the bones knit and the muscles and nerves recover, it will become less painful for you. You are due for more analgesic in three hours. Please advise us if you require it sooner."
He nodded and they left.
"Three times a day! Mon Dieu, how will I get through it?"

 

 

 

 

Beverly was delighted when Deanna appeared at her door.
"Dee! Come in."
They embraced warmly and Deanna moved the empty tray to one side.
"So Beverly, how are you?"
"Bored."
"What, already?"
Beverly sighed and fingered the covers.
"Let me amend that. Bored and worried. Did Will tell you?"
"About the Captain's decision? Yes he did. What's going on?"
"You tell me! He just and gave up command. No explanations other than he doesn't want to command from Sickbay, he said he would assume command again when he could walk onto the Bridge."
"How long will that be?"
Beverly pursed her lips and shook her head.
"It'll be a while. I don't think he knows yet, but the two weeks in Sickbay is just the start. He'll leave here in a wheelchair, then progress to crutches…most probably with braces…it'll be weeks before he walks unaided.
Deanna was dismayed.
"Hasn't anybody told him?"
"Well I was going to but we…well we sort have had a falling out and now I'm in here and he's…"
Deanna patted Beverly's arm silencing her.
"I'm seeing him next. I'll tell him, it's probably going to be better coming from me anyway."
"Don't let him bully you Deanna. He can be and arrogant son-of-a…"
"Don't worry Beverly, I can handle him. I'll talk to Selar before I see him."

 

 

 

Deanna stood at Jean-Luc's door and watched him carefully. Seemingly asleep, his chest rose and fell rhythmically. His mind however was racing, his emotions a whirling turmoil of fear and dread. Upon hearing her, he immediately dampened his emotions, erecting his well-practised shields.
"Captain?"
"Yes Counsellor."
"May I come in?"
He sighed and closed his eyes.
"Would it make any difference if I said no?"
"No Sir."
"Then you may as well come in."
Deanna approached the bed slowly, her agile mind gently probing his and coming up against his barriers.
"How are you Captain?"
"I'm fine."
"Selar said your first therapy was…uncomfortable for you."
"Hmm."
"She says you have to have the therapy three times a day."
"Yes."
She moved closer and touched his arm, causing him to open his eyes.
"How do you feel about that?"
He held his breath for a few heartbeats, then expelled it slowly, his shoulders falling.
"I am…dismayed."
"Why?"
"It's very painful…I don't think I can…that is I…"
"You're frightened." Hard to say.
"Yes." Harder to admit.
"It will pass Captain. Selar tells me that as the bones and nerves recover, the pain will become less."
He nodded and Deanna noticed the moisture in his eyes.
"Captain it's alright to be frightened. You're not less of a man…or a Captain because of it."
"I know." He whispered.
Deanna retrieved a chair and sat close to him, holding his hand.
"Has Selar to you about what happens after you leave Sickbay?"
He shook his head, not trusting himself to answer.
"You already know you'll be here two weeks, barring any complications."
He nodded.
"When you're released from here, you'll be in a wheelchair. Therapy and regen treatments will continue in your quarters and you'll be fitted with leg braces. You will be taught to walk with the aid of crutches and it will be some weeks, possibly a month or more before you'll be able to walk unaided."
He said nothing, just stared at the ceiling.
"Captain you have many good friends aboard the Enterprise. I'm sure they will want to help in any way they can. If you just let…"
"That will be all Counsellor."
"Sir?"
"Dismissed."
She rose from the chair and turned to leave, but before she went, she said softly,
"I'll come by later."
She received no reply.

 

 

 

 

Deanna went straight to Beverly. One look at the troubled Counsellor's face told her the news.
"It didn't go well."
"Not really."
"What happened?"
Deanna sat by her friend and took a moment to centre herself. Feeling calmer, she faced her companion.
"I told him the prognosis and he didn't take it too well. He's having trouble coming to terms with the therapy…it's very painful…and he closed up completely when I told him about the braces and crutches and how long it will all take. In fact he dismissed me."
"Typical! That's Jean-Luc to a fault. When in need, close out your friends, isolate yourself from those who can give comfort…withdraw. Gods, that man! Selar!"
The passive Vulcan arrived shortly.
"Yes Doctor?"
"I want a wheelchair."
"I'm afraid that is impossible. You are confined to bed until your legs have sufficiently healed. If you were to lower your legs at this time, the pain would be overwhelming."
Beverly clenched her teeth and sighed.
"Then I want you to move my bed."
"To where Doctor?"
"Captain Picard's room."
Selar raised one eyebrow.
"You wish to share his room?"
"No I just want to visit him. It's important. Dammit Selar…just do it!"
"As you wish Doctor Crusher."
Beverly was being wheeled into Jean-Luc's darkened room when he spoke.
"I do not want visitors."
The orderlies stopped and Beverly motioned for them to continue. They refused.
She opted to talk to him from the doorway.
"Jean-Luc we need to talk."
"I don't think so."
"Well I do! I refuse to let you lie there and sulk."
That got his attention.
"I am NOT sulking! I simply want to be alone."
Beverly grabbed the doorframe and pulled her bed a little further inside his room.
"Jean-Luc we always come to each other when we need a shoulder. Why is this any different?"
"Beverly…"
"Come on Jean-Luc…talk to me."
His nod was almost imperceptible, but she saw it and directed the orderlies to wheel her bed all the way in and position her alongside him. They left then, leaving the couple alone.
"Jean-Luc?"
In a rough whisper, he began.
"I can't do it Beverly."
"What can't you do Jean-Luc?"
He sighed, his breath catching in his throat.
"The therapies, the braces, the crutches…it's too much."
She thought for a moment then reached for his hand.
"It would be if you were alone, but you're not. I'll be with you, and Deanna and Will. You'll have to let us help you Jean-Luc, but it will make the whole thing easier if you do."
"It's going to take such a long time…"
She lifted his hand and gently kissed it.
"One day at a time Jean-Luc. Take each day as it comes and don't worry about the next and remember, we'll be with you."
He sighed and two tears escaped and rolled slowly down his face. Beverly felt her own tears rise and cradled his hand against her face. He turned to her and smiled ruefully.
"I wish I could hold you right now."
She returned his smile and chuckled softly.
"Me too. Shall I stay with you?"
He nodded and smiled, pulling her hand across to cover his chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next two days Jean-Luc endured the therapy three times a day and at the end of each session, Beverly was there to help him recover. His surgery was completed and some of the metal rods and plates removed as the bones continued to heal, but more operations awaited him. One afternoon, after yet another therapy session, he turned to Beverly and sighed.
"Jean-Luc?"
"I don't know what I'd do without you Beverly…I…"
"Shh Jean-Luc, we're helping each other. I draw strength from you too. Is the painkiller working?"
"Uh huh."
"Is there any change yet? Is the pain any less during the therapy?"
"No, it still hurts like hell."
"Well maybe the surgery will help."
"Hmm. Beverly what about my feet? How will I begin to walk when my feet have been so badly damaged?"
Beverly frowned as she thought how to answer him.
"We will make special shoes for you and the time you spend on your feet will be very limited."
"It's going to be painful, isn't it?"
"I'm afraid so Jean-Luc. The feet are a tender region in any event. They have to bear weight, counteract balance…they're very delicate pieces if equipment and certainly not meant to be shattered into little bits. It's going to take some time for them to heal, you're going to have to be patient."
"And what about you Beverly?"
She smiled and took his hand.
"My legs and feet suffered less damage than yours. I will have more surgeries yet, but I will heal quicker. Selar says I can be discharged tomorrow."
"Oh."
"I'll be confined to my quarters for a while, but as soon as I'm able, I'll wheel down here to be with you. Ok?"
He nodded, attempting to withdraw again. Beverly saw it and strove to circumvent it.
"Jean-Luc it'll be alright. Selar and the others will look after you…your pain management is up to you…just tell them when you…"
"I know Beverly, it's alright, I'll manage."

 

 

 

As Beverly predicted, she was discharged to her cabin the next day. She waited until after his morning therapy session and made sure he'd settled before she left. In a wheelchair, she was taken to her quarters where a portable regen unit was set up for the three times a day ritual.

 

 

Jean-Luc lay in his room contemplating his predicament. Still confined to bed, he could do little for himself. All personal needs were assisted by an orderly, he was dressed with help, bathed with help, in fact he began to think there wasn't much use in trying to be self sufficient…somebody would come along and take over anyway. The therapies were finally becoming less painful, but he had more surgery scheduled for the following morning. What was happening to him? Would he be the same man when it was over? How would his crew react to seeing him struggling along with braces on his legs and crutches on his arms?
Many years previous, when he was a small boy, he had fallen from a tree and broken his leg. He had been alone at the time and had lain for some hours before his brother Robert had found him. The pain had been severe and the length of time in the cast interminable, but he overcame his difficulties and pressed on regardless. One of the first things he'd done when finally free of the cast was to climb the tree again. Was that what was required here? Press on and hope to regain himself later? Could he overcome the fear, the dread of the pain he knew he had yet to endure?
"Of course you can! Remember the Borg? Gul Madred? You can endure…but I'm tired! Tired of being hurt, of having to pick myself up and try again. How many more times must I do it? How many times can a broken man be repaired before the damage becomes irreparable? Why must I face this all with such stoicism? What would happen if I let them know what I really feel?"
He sighed and rubbed his face with his large hands. His mind drifted along disjointedly, touching here and there and finally settling on Beverly. He stilled and closed his eyes; forcing himself to remember the last time they made love before transporting down to the blighted planet.
She was his saviour, his protector. With her, he didn't have to be anybody but himself. No rank, no aura of authority, no mystique of command…just her best friend and lover.
She knew him like no other. His faults, his frailties…his doubts. Oh how he missed her!
He was counting the days until she came to him again. Since she'd given him her heart he'd found a peace he'd never thought he'd experience. He felt whole for the first time in his life and he knew he would do anything to keep her. She gave her heart, he gave his soul, she'd owned his heart for thirty years. It was then that he knew how he would endure. He had her…she would be the calm place in his storm…she would see him through it and they would emerge together stronger on the other side.
Sleep took him then and, for the first time, without nightmares.

 

 

 

Two days and another surgery later, Beverly wheeled herself into Jean-Luc's room and smiled at the sight of her best friend asleep with a book open on his chest.
She rolled silently over to him and gently took the book, marked the page, and set it on the bedside table. Having already consulted with Selar, she knew that he was doing well and had, that very morning, spent five minutes with his legs lowered in a chair. She was moving to the foot of the bed when he awoke.
"What are you doing?"
"Hello Jean-Luc. I was going to have a peek at your feet…do you mind?"
He shook his head, a wry grin on his handsome face.
Beverly untucked the bedclothes and examined his feet. Gently running her fingers up the sole of his right foot, she looked up with raised eyebrows.
"How does that feel?"
He snorted and sighed.
"It should tickle but it doesn't. I can feel your fingers though…that's good, isn't it?"
"Yes, that's fine, about what we can expect at this point. There was a lot of nerve damage, the microscopic connections are being made as we speak, it'll take time Jean-Luc."
"I know. In fact that's about all anybody says."
Beverly chuckled and brushed her hair back. She looked further up his feet to his ankles and frowned at the dermaplast patches she could see extending up his legs. She replaced the covers and tucked them in before wheeling up to the bed head.
"Is there anything I can get you from your quarters?"
"No thank you. Deanna dropped by and picked up some personal items and some books. Data is coming by this afternoon to play chess with me."
"Oh joy. Do you think he'll take pity and let you win?"
He glared momentarily before breaking into a rare full grin.
"Probably."
The sat together quietly just enjoying each other's presence. Jean-Luc took Beverly's hand and studied it closely.
"Have I ever told you how much I love your hands?"
"My hands? No."
"Well I do. I love the way they fit in mine and the way they're so elegant, yet so strong. Surgeon's hands…a lover's hands."
Beverly smiled softly and leaned closer to whisper,
"I can't wait to touch you again."
He sighed and lifted the hand to bestow a delicate kiss. Also whispering, he breathed,
"I ache for you."
Her heart missed a beat and colour rose to her cheeks. She watched his hazel eyes darken and glitter as he gazed at her, mesmerising her with his desire. She cast a glance at the door, then surprised Jean-Luc by hoisting herself out of her chair and onto the side of the bed. Before he could say anything, she snaked her arms around his broad chest and snuggled in under his chin. Having made herself comfortable, she relished his warmth and solidity. Breathing in his unique scent, she kissed his neck gently, slowly trailing her mouth up to his ear.
His arms encircled her and settled her more tightly against the muscular wall of his chest. He rested his cheek atop her head and closed his eyes as she nuzzled at his neck.
"Beverly…"
He whispered.
She slowly raised her head, her lips barely millimetres from his. His hand slid up her back and entangled in her hair, gently drawing her forward. Their lips met with a feather-like touch, ethereal and fleeting. They met again and tasted. Their eyes drifted close as he applied gentle pressure and brought her to him. His tongue flicked out and caressed her lips and she opened to him like a flower. His arm tightened its embrace and he kissed her with all the pent up passion he felt. She melted against him, returning the kiss with equal fervour. She pulled one of her arms free and wound it around his head as he deepened the kiss impossibly more. She felt his desire rising along her hip and thrilled at the thought that she could arouse him so quickly.
They stilled at the sound of the door hissing open.
Beverly broke the connection and straightened, Jean-Luc withdrew his hands and bunched the covers over his bulging erection.
Selar stepped into the room and checked the bio readouts above his bed. She then scanned him with a tricorder and frowned at the results. Noting the reddened faces of the couple on the bed, she decided not to comment on the elevated respiratory and temperature readings that had brought her to the room. Instead, she addressed Beverly.
"Doctor Crusher you should not be out of your chair. Would you like me to help you back into it?"
Beverly nodded and Selar quickly had her once again seated in the wheelchair.
"Are you experiencing any discomfort? You have had your legs lowered for some time now."
Beverly cleared her throat and shook her head.
"No, I'm fine thank you."
She then turned to Jean-Luc.
"Captain you are aware that you sustained significant damage to your groin?"
Jean-Luc nodded, not sure where this line of conversation was going.
"You have achieved an erection. Was there any difficulty? Any pain?"
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and lowered his red face. Through clenched teeth he murmured,
"No Doctor."
"Very good Captain. Although I would have liked this to occur much later, it is provident that it has occurred now. It is one less thing we have to test."
With that she left.
Jean-Luc muttered darkly under his breath and rubbed his hands over his bald pate. He noticed that Beverly had said nothing and eventually sneaked a look at her. She was trying to contain herself and failing miserably. Giggles erupted from behind the hand clamped firmly over her mouth, her eyes squeezed shut.
"Dammit Beverly!" he hissed. "This is not funny!"
Another fit of giggles overtook her as her arms wrapped around her middle.
"Oh Jean-Luc…your face!"
"I fail to see what you find so amusing. It was bloody embarrassing!"
"I know…I feel like a teenager caught making out. But your face…if only you could've seen…"
"Will you shut up! It's not that funny!"
She tried valiantly to control herself, then gave up and laughed out loud. She stopped abruptly when the pillow hit her.
"What did you do that for?"
"To make you shut up dammit! This is ridiculous AND it's your damn fault."
"Mine? How do you work that out?"
He straightened the covers, now that he had returned to a more resting state, and lifted his chin in defiance.
"If you hadn't climbed on the bed and started to seduce me, I…"
"Seduce you? Come off it Jean-Luc, you gave as good as you got! Don't you try and tell me you didn't want me to…"
"Beverly, that's not the point. We're in Sickbay. We should have been more circumspect. Anybody could've walked in, and did! In my position…"
"Your position? You relinquished command, remember?"
He glared at her and chose not to comment. Beverly sighed and lowered her head.
"Look Jean-Luc we got a little carried away and got caught. There's no harm done…in fact you helped Selar. Now she knows…well, I think you know what I mean."
Jean-Luc snorted and straightened the covers again. Beverly waited a moment and when it became obvious he wasn't going to lighten up, she sighed.
"Ok, I'll go. I have a regen treatment in fifteen minutes anyway. I'll come back later…alright?"
He slowly looked at her and a small smile crept across his face. Nodding, he whispered,
"I love you."
"And I you. One thing though…I wonder how Selar was going to test your…"
"Get out Beverly!"

 

 

 

Three days later he was allowed in a wheel chair. He was taken from his room and wheeled into the main body of Sickbay. While he sat, scans were undertaken and some of the dermaplast patches removed. He lasted twenty minutes before the pain drove him to ask for an analgesic. Using the painkillers less and less, he was disappointed but Selar assured him that he was doing very well. With the pain once again under control, he requested to be taken to the starboard observation lounge. He was still there when Beverly found him. She wheeled slowly up to him and watched as he stargazed.
"You miss them don't you?"
He nodded and sighed.
"It's been too long."
"Well now you're mobile, you can come and see them more often."
He nodded again then turned his gentle eyes on his lover.
"I've missed you."
It was her turn to sigh.
"I know, I'm sorry. They've got me walking and the therapy is very time consuming. I tried to come down earlier…you know how it is."
"Yes. I've got more surgery tomorrow and Selar tells me they'll be bringing my new shoes for a fitting soon. I suppose the braces will follow."
"Uh huh. Ultimately the braces will be connected to your shoes. They will go from mid-thigh to your heels, with hinges at the knees."
"Will my trousers cover them?"
"Yep. No one will see them Jean-Luc, don't worry, they'll be very discreet."
He sighed and looked down at his bare feet.
"Hey watch this."
Mustering great concentration, Jean-Luc raised the great toe on each foot, then gently splayed the remaining toes.
"Well how about you! That's great Jean-Luc, well done."
"It's my latest achievement…took me hours to accomplish. I can also rotate my ankles, but Selar doesn't want me to do it often yet. And that's not all. Look."
He slowly raised each bent leg until his feet were centimetres off the padded footplates of his chair. Gently lowering them, he looked up at Beverly and frowned at her reaction.
"I didn't mean to make you cry."
"It's all right, I'm happy. I just wish you were never injured Jean-Luc."
"That goes for you too my love. I hate seeing you in any discomfort, no matter how small. Do you remember when that bee stung you…when you and Jack and Walker and I were at the cabin?"
"Oh God yes! What a flap that caused."
"I thought Jack was going to call for an emergency beam out. I got the sting out…it was the first time I held your hand."
"You remember that?"
"Oh yes. When Jack and Walker went inside for the med kit you let me hold you…I was in seventh heaven."
"You've loved me for an awfully long time."
"Yes I have."
Beverly sighed and trailed her fingers down his face.
"And now I love you in equal measure."
He nodded and bent his head into her hand. They stayed like that for a further ten minutes, until an orderly came to take him back to his room.

 

 

 

 

The surgery didn't go as well as they had hoped. In the shattered tibia of his left leg, a mild infection had taken hold and ruined some of the joins in the healing bone. The infected piece of bone was removed and the cloning procedure started to create a new piece. In the interim, his leg was closed and put in a light cast. His right leg was responding well to treatment and more of the supporting metal was removed.
Later that afternoon Beverly was with him when Selar and a technician came in to fit his new boots.
First they slipped on soft socks then, opening up the elasticised boots, eased them on one at a time.
"How do they feel Captain?"
Jean-Luc frowned and tried to move his toes.
"A little tight."
"They need to be snug Sir. They're meant to hold your feet firmly and stop them spreading when you finally put your weight on them. We need to keep the bones and muscles contained. In the long term, it will save you a lot of discomfort."
"They're transparent. Can we make them black?"
"Yes Sir. When we have the final shape, they can be made in any colour you like. See these holes at the heel? That's for the bottom stabilizer of the braces. A metal rod will pass through the heel, connecting both sides of the brace and allow it to pivot."
"I see. And my legs will be supported by the braces?"
"Yes Sir."
Selar came forward and spoke.
"We cannot finish the design of the boots until you stand in them but for now, we need to see how well your feet fit in them."
"Well they feel fine…not too heavy, in fact they're surprisingly light."
"Yes Sir. The polysynthetic materials are very adaptable. Only the sole is made of harder material."
They removed the boots with great care and made some further measurements. Satisfied, they left the room and Beverly wheeled closer.
"So…next thing will be your training wheels."
"My what?"
"Your crutches Jean-Luc."
"Oh."
"Hey it'll be fine. You'll be up and about in no time, you'll see."
He nodded and smiled.
"Did Selar tell you about the surgery?"
"Yes, it's a little disappointing, but it's a minor set back. Once the cloned bone is put in and takes hold, you'll be back on track."
"Yes, but it means I have to stay here in Sickbay longer than I hoped."
"Never mind. I'll still come and visit you."
He chuckled. "Well I should hope so! Tell me, when will I see you walking?"
"Two days. I've been walking unaided around my cabin for a few days now and I only have one regen treatment a day so they're turning me loose the day after tomorrow."
"No crutches?"
"Nope."
"Good for you. I am envious though. I suppose you'll come down here to show off."
She reached up and gently grasped his shoulder.
"I'll be here, but I won't be showing off. Far from it. It still hurts too much for that."
He nodded his understanding and was deep in thought when a familiar voice made him look up.
"Hello Captain. How are you?"
"Will! What are you doing down here? Getting bored in the big chair?"
"Not at all Sir, I just came down to get an update from Selar. She told me about the shoes…it sounds promising."
"Yes well…time will tell. So! What's been happening on my ship?"
"Everything is running smoothly Sir. We're transporting a contingent of miners to Prelar V, Spot is pregnant again…Data wants to do DNA testing on all the suspect suitors… Deanna has found a new blend of chocolate mousse and Geordie is seeing a Lieutenant from Astrophysics. Other than that, everything is normal."
"Hmm, it would seem you have everything under control. I learned this morning that my stay in Sickbay has been lengthened. I will keep you appraised of course, but I won't be discharged to my quarters for some time yet."
Will nodded and frowned.
"Nothing serious I hope Sir?"
"No, just a damned infection in the bone. I have to have a new piece cloned. It's a minor set back…more annoying than anything else."
"Is there anything I can do for you Sir? Do you need anything?"
"No, why do you ask?"
Will smirked and glanced at Beverly.
"Well Captain there's these reports…"
"Oh yes, the reports. Piling up are they?"
"Yes Sir."
"And what do you propose?"
Will stood to his full height and placed his hands behind his back.
"Well Sir, I know that boredom can be a real pest when you're stuck in Sickbay…"
"And you thought I could use some sort of…distraction?"
"Yes Sir."
Jean-Luc let him stew a few moments while he feigned thought then seemed to come to a decision.
"Very well, I'll do the reports for you…but you will owe me Commander."
A large grin split his face, making his blue eyes sparkle.
"Aye Sir."
After he left Beverly slapped Jean-Luc's arm.
"You had every intention of doing those reports! Why did you make him squirm?"
"Captain's prerogative."

 

 

 

 

Once Jean-Luc started to do the reports for Will, Deanna caught on and started to bring him more work from the Bridge. Soon he had a computer terminal brought to his room and spent many hours of his days happily completing all the work sent to him.
The surgery to implant the cloned piece of bone came and went without mishap and five days later he was very pleased to hear from Selar that the new bone graft had taken without any signs of infection. The cast was removed and he restarted the therapy on his legs.
Three and a half weeks after he first entered Sickbay, Selar entered his room with Beverly and a pair of crutches. Beverly walked slowly to his bed and smiled down at him.
"To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Beverly looked at Selar and received a nod of acquiescence.
"You're going to stand up today Jean-Luc."
He swallowed and took a deep breath.
"Very well."
He swung his legs over the side of the bed and waited patiently as Beverly and Selar gently put the socks and shoes on him. Next they fitted his arms into the circular holders of the crutches and encouraged him to grip the handles. Selar then lowered the bed until his feet rested on the floor.
"Ok Jean-Luc, take the weight on the crutches and see if you can stand."
He did as Beverly requested and tentatively straightened his legs, taking the bulk of his weight on his arms.
He frowned as he felt his feet spread into the confines of his boots. He was about to comment on it when he felt sharp pain shoot up his right leg. He winced and put more weight on his left leg. As soon as the weight came off his right foot, agony bloomed in the foot. He cried out and sat immediately, causing the same pain to bloom in his left foot. He fell back on the bed, raising his feet off the ground. The hiss of the hypospray was welcome and, as the pain receded, he sat up again.
"What the hell happened?"
Selar removed his boots and swung his legs up onto the bed and began to massage the throbbing feet.
"It is to be expected Captain. When you stand, the blood is forced from your feet. When you take the weight from them, the blood rushes back in and the result is pain. You must remember the muscles and nerves are still recovering. It will take …"
"…Time, I know. Will it hurt like that every time?"
"Yes, at least until your feet and legs grow accustomed to the increased blood flow. I think, with proper analgesia, we will be able to extend the periods of exercise. In fact, if you're ready, I think we should try again now."
She replaced the boots and Jean-Luc again slowly stood.
This time there was no pain and he gradually placed more of his weight upon his feet until he stood fully on them.
"I know you feel no pain Captain, but how do the boots feel?"
He thought about that and decided they were a little tight.
"The toes are a little cramped and they're a tad snug at the heel."
"Noted Captain. We will make the required adjustments. Please sit now."
Jean-Luc sat and the boots were removed again. When his feet were on the bed, Selar and Beverly massaged the legs and feet while Jean-Luc looked on. Once they were finished, Selar left. Beverly sat on the bed.
"You know that they're going to ache when the painkiller wears off?"
"I thought as much. How are your legs?"
"Ok I guess. They hurt by the end of the day, but the regen treatments help."
"I must say it's good to see you walking again."
She stroked his face and smiled lopsidedly at him.
"Thank you."
"You know it would be a damn sight better if I could have the painkiller before the therapy starts."
"Yes, but Selar wouldn't learn anything. How can she tell what's going on if you can't feel anything?"
"I know, I know…it's just…"
Beverly took his hands and looked deeply into his troubled eyes.
"Hang in there Jean-Luc. It will get better, I promise."

 

 

 

 

Over the next four days he did improve. He went from standing for one minute to enduring five minutes before analgesics were administered. The altered shoes fitted better and offered the needed support and he was delighted when Selar told him he could be discharged to his quarters the next day.
On the morning of his liberation, Beverly breezed in, wearing her uniform.
"What's this?"
"I'm back on restricted duty. I still have the odd regen treatment, but to all intents and purposes, I'm healed."
"Bravo! Care to wheel me to my quarters?"
"Gladly."
As they travelled through the ship, Jean-Luc was embarrassed to have several crewmembers enquire after his health. He gave only perfunctory replies and was relieved when they reached his cabin. Beverly understood his discomfort and left him by the viewports for a while as she replicated them some hot drinks. She placed his on the table by his hand, then withdrew to the sofa.
After a while, he sighed and reached for the steaming cup of Earl Grey. Sipping it, he muttered,
"Thank you."
"Better now?"
"Yes. That was…difficult."
"I know, but it's over. You're home now."
He turned and smiled at her, the special smile he reserved for her only.
"Jean-Luc…do you want me to take over your case from Selar?"
"Do you think she would mind?"
"She's a Vulcan Jean-Luc. She wouldn't mind, but is it what you want?"
He thought for a moment then smiled again.
"Yes Beverly. I can think of no one else I'd rather have looking after me. Make it so."
She laughed and came to sit by his side.
"The braces go on tomorrow…are you ready for that?"
He nodded.
"With you at my side, I could do anything."
"Flatterer."
"No really Beverly, I'm ready."
"Good. Well, I'm going back to Sickbay. I'll come back in a few hours to set up the regen unit and begin therapy. Will you be ok 'til then?"
He nodded and patted his wheelchair.
"As long as I have my trusty chariot, I'll be fine."
"Alright then, I'll be going."
She leaned over and kissed him softly. He tried to deepen the kiss, but she pulled away and shook her head.
"Not now my love, duty calls. I'll see you later."
He turned the chair to watch her leave and marvelled at her svelte shape as she walked through the door.

 

 

He was ready when Beverly and a technician arrived the next morning. Just out of the shower, he was in briefs and robe, sitting at his desk when the door annunciator went off.
"Come."
"Good morning Captain. Anders and I have come to fit you with your braces."
Jean-Luc could see the cumbersome devices and grimaced inwardly.
"Very well, come in."
Anders helped him into his wheelchair and moved him to the sofa, then helped him to be seated again. Undoing his robe, Jean-Luc watched as Beverly and Anders attached the braces to his boots and made sure the hinges worked smoothly. Beverly knelt before him and gently slipped on the socks, then, with great care, manipulated his legs one at a time into the braces. She finished by manoeuvring on his boots then sat back and placed her hands on his thighs. His legs were now encased in blue sponge and metal, fixed at the thigh, knee, calf and heel.
"Ok, where are your crutches?"
"In my bedroom."
She left momentarily and returned with the aids. She helped him locate them on his arms, then stood in front of him.
"Right, we do this just the same as in Sickbay. Stand slowly and put the weight on the crutches."
Beverly and Anders stood each side of Jean-Luc as he slowly rose from the sofa. As his feet took the weight, he felt the now familiar spike of pain in his legs and feet, but gritted his teeth and ignored it.
"How are you doing?"
He nodded and closed his eyes, waiting for the pain to plateau. When it did, he looked at Beverly and smiled.
"So far, so good."
Beverly left Anders at his shoulder and stepped away from him.
"Ok Jean-Luc, place the crutches in front of you and see if you can step up to them."
He took a large breath and did as she asked, placing the crutches a short distance ahead of his feet. Then, clenching his jaw, he stepped forward with his left leg. As his foot left, then regained the floor, the pain bloomed with sinister intensity. He hesitated, then brought his right foot forward to meet its mate. It was too much. Agony lanced through his feet and his knees started to buckle. Beverly and her companion were with him immediately. They took his weight and ushered him backwards until he felt the sofa behind his legs. Sinking into it gratefully, Bevery administered a hypospray of analgesic and waited until he regained himself.
"How is it now?"
He nodded and allowed his head to fall back on the sofa. After a moment, he found his voice.
"Not a resounding success."
"I wouldn't say that. You took a full step unaided. I'd say you did damn well."
"What now?"
Beverly sat beside him and looked at his legs sympathetically.
"Are you in any pain now?"
He shook his head.
"We try again."
He looked at her incredulously.
"You've got to be joking!"
"Nope. The only way you're going to learn to walk again is to use those legs."
"But Beverly…"
"Come on Captain…on your feet."
He lowered his eyes and shook his head in disbelief. He did, however, gather himself for another attempt. Once again standing in front of him, Beverly watched as he slowly stood. She nodded and gestured with her hand.
"Ok, good. Now come to me."
With painful slowness, Jean-Luc placed the crutches in front of him and dragged his feet forward. One, two then three halting steps had him standing in front of Beverly.
"Excellent Jean-Luc. See if you can turn around and return to the sofa."
Turning slowly to his left, bit-by-bit Jean-Luc turned and made his way back to the sofa. Once again turning, he was grateful when his two helpers aided him in sitting.
Anders and Beverly quickly and expertly removed the braces and boots then Anders helped Jean-Luc into his wheelchair. At Beverly's request, he was taken to his bedroom and placed on the bed. Beverly replicated some salve and they massaged his legs and feet thoroughly. A deep throbbing was creeping down his legs to his feet and when Beverly scanned him with the tricorder she noted his discomfort. She gave him more painkiller and topped it off with a mild sedative. As he felt the warmth of lethargy sweep over him, Jean-Luc sighed and looked up at the Doctor.
"So, how did I do?"
Beverly smiled and covered him with the blankets.
"Brilliantly. Now you get some sleep and we'll be back later to do a regen treatment."
He nodded, his eyes drifting closed.

 

 

 

Later that evening Beverly was again at Jean-Luc's door, this time out of uniform.
When he bade her entry, she smiled to herself at his reaction to her. He sat in his chair, mouth slightly agape, staring openly.
"You like?"
The soft emerald dress clung like a second skin. Gathered at the shoulders, it plunged front and rear, exposing her milky skin to his heated gaze. Ending above the knee, her long legs ended in elegant shoes of exactly the same hue. Her lustrous red hair was left down, curling softly around her shoulders.
He nodded then recovered enough to grin.
"Oh yes, I like! You look absolutely gorgeous Beverly. Come here."
She sauntered over and stood before him, one hand on her cocked hip.
Crooking a finger, he beckoned her forward. She leaned down and his hand cradled her face as he kissed her softly. She straightened and smiled sultrily down at him.
"What's for dinner?"
"What?"
"Dinner Jean-Luc, you know food…the evening meal?"
"Oh! Yes, yes of course. Come to the table and I'll show you."
She walked beside him as he wheeled over to the dinner table. It was set elegantly with a lovely floral centrepiece.
"Do you remember that restaurant on Hellos? The one where Walker and Jack smashed all those plates?"
Beverly laughed and pinched the bridge of her nose.
"God yes. I thought we were going to be barred for life!"
"Well, if I'm not mistaken, this is what you ordered that night."
He lifted the cover off the tureen and the delicious aroma wafted up to Beverly's nose.
"Oh my God, I remember that soup…it was sensational. Do you have that bread, the crusty one?"
He uncovered another plate to reveal warm crusty rolls.
"And I remembered the dessert too."
She knelt beside his chair and kissed him softly.
"Jean-Luc you're a marvel."
They ate in companionable silence, gazing at each other and touching often. When the meal finished, they moved to the lounge area with a bottle of wine. Beverly helped Jean-Luc to sit on the sofa and soon snuggled up to him, drawing her feet up.
"That was a wonderful meal Jean-Luc. What made you think of Hellos?"
"Well I recalled how much you enjoyed the food, but I also remember how you laughed at Jack and Walker."
She smiled at the memory and pulled back to look at him.
"Why didn't you smash any plates?"
He grinned ruefully and lowered his head.
"I was too busy watching you. I was entranced."
She sighed and ran her finger from his eyebrow to his chin. He reached up and caught her hand, bringing it to his lips for a gentle kiss. She leaned in and kissed him with gentle pressure. He lifted his hand and slid it through her hair pulling her closer. She responded by deepening the kiss and when his tongue flicked over her lips, she opened to him and accepted his passion within her mouth.
His free hand crept up to her breast and brushed over the hardening nipple. She sighed and arched into his hand, her own hand trailing up the inside of his thigh to dally at his growing erection.
He tapered off the kiss and slowly moved his lips over her jaw and down the ivory column of her neck. He nuzzled her and kneaded the breast in his hand, all the while whispering to her in his native tongue.
She suddenly placed her hands on his shoulders and pushed away. Her eyes were smouldering as she looked at him. She slowly stood and helped him into his chair, then pushed him quickly into his bedroom where she again aided him to sit on the bed. She knelt before him and undid his shirt, helping him out of it. She then undid the fastener of his trousers and he lay back as she slid them from his lean body. Shoes and socks disappeared next leaving him clad only in his briefs. She swung his legs over and helped him to lie on the bed, his head resting on the pillows. She stood and gazed down at him, licking her lips as she noted his straining erection confined in his briefs.
With deliberate slowness she lowered the closure of her dress and slid it from her form. As it puddled at her feet, she stepped out of it then slipped off her shoes. Next she reached behind her and undid her lacy bra, shrugging her shoulders to hasten its departure. As it fell to the floor, she hooked her thumbs into the waistband of her panties and lowered them with tantalising sloth.
Jean-Luc raised himself on his elbows and watched fascinated as his lover completed her disrobing. Already considerably aroused, he hardened further as her beautiful nude body came into view. He held out an arm to her.
"Beverly…"
She stretched out beside him and rested on her elbow. Gently kissing him, she allowed her hand to drift down his torso to trace his outline in his underwear. He moaned into her mouth, his own hand finding her breast. The nipple stiffened as he rolled it between finger and thumb, her back arching. His fingers released the hard nub and his hand opened to cup the breast, kneading it firmly. Beverly's questing fingers slipped under the waistband of his briefs and he gasped when she gripped him lightly.
Beverly broke the kiss and bit his earlobe, whispering huskily,
"Do you know what I discovered I can do?"
Breathless with desire, he could only shake his head.
"I can kneel for long periods of time."
He smiled and closed his eyes, thoroughly distracted with what she was doing to his penis. He felt the bed shift and opened his eyes to watch her leave him to position herself between his legs. She slowly slid his briefs off and tossed them over her shoulder.
Then she leaned forward and trailed one nipple up the length of his shaft. His erection twitched involuntarily and he groaned, unable to stop the gentle thrust of his hips. She continued up his body and presented him with her breasts, which he immediately caressed. Taking a nipple into his mouth, he sucked firmly, drawing the nipple further into the depths of his heat. Beverly moaned and brushed her pubic hair over his penis making him thrust again. He released the nipple and transferred his attentions to the other breast, lavishing it with his tongue before sucking it into his mouth. She straddled him and slid herself up and down his length, moaning with delight at the sensation.
His mouth released her breast as his hands took over, moulding their shapes with strong caresses. His head strained back, his eyes closed, he whispered to his lover…
"Beverly I need you…"
She lifted her hips and reached down to position him. As she slowly lowered herself, he growled his desire and gripped her hips, pulling her down onto him. When her hips met his she ground herself in a circular fashion as he pushed up, their connection electrifying.
Her hands went to his chest, splayed out and buried in the softly curling hair. She rose up and lowered herself slowly feeling every vein, every contour of him. As she came down he arched up to meet her and gradually a rhythm developed. Gentle at first, it quickly gained momentum until they were pounding into each other. Jean-Luc moved one hand to stroke her clitoris in time with their thrusts and Beverly soon felt the onrush of her climax. She quickened her pace and gasped,
"Oh God yes Jean-Luc, please…please…"
And then it was on her, washing over her in waves of indescribable ecstasy. She shuddered and called out his name then fell forward as he continued to thrust. He held her tightly as her internal muscles contracted and thrust hard a few more times before he suddenly stiffened and pushed himself up into her. He jerked as he pumped his semen within her and shouted with exultation as the orgasm ripped through him.

It was some time before they regained their senses. Beverly slowly straightened her legs and they rolled onto their sides, still breathless. Jean-Luc kissed her softly and whispered,
"Oh God Beverly, that was…that was…"
She smiled and nuzzled his neck.
"Yes it was, wasn't it?"
He pulled her to him and cuddled her, revelling in her softness.
"It's been a long time my love."
"I know Jean-Luc…too long. I'm glad everything works."
"As am I."
Jean-Luc reached down and gathered the blankets, covering them. As they drifted off to sleep he whispered,
"I love you mon coeur."

 

 

 

 

Over then next four days he continued to have walking practise in his quarters but eventually Beverly had to broach the delicate subject.
"Well Jean-Luc we've taken it as far as we can here."
He looked up from studying his feet and frowned.
"What do you mean?"
"We need to move the lessons on."
"I don't understand."
Beverly sighed and came to sit with him.
"Jean-Luc we need to take this therapy to the physiotherapy room."
He looked at her aghast.
"Beverly I do not want to make this a public spectacle! Why can't we continue here, in private?"
"Because Jean-Luc you need to learn new skills, like walking up stairs, for instance. We can't do that here."
"Beverly…"
"No Jean-Luc, don't take that tone with me. Trust me, it's for your own good."
He scowled at her, but seeing it was having no effect, tried one last time to make her change her mind.
"I could have all the equipment we need brought here. It would…"
"No."
He sighed and admitted defeat.
"You're a hard woman Beverly Crusher."
She laughed and patted his knee.
"I can be the wicked witch of the west when I need to be. Come on let's get you dressed and then we'll go to the therapy room."

 

 

He stood, supported by the crutches and the braces on one side of the room. Ten metres away, on the other side, stood Beverly. In between them was the distance he had to traverse.
"Ok Jean-Luc, do it just like we practised in your quarters. Concentrate."
He sighed and stared down at his now black boots.
"Well, fortune is supposed to favour the brave."
He moved the crutches forward and stepped up, repeating the process as he slowly made progress across the room. Feeling more confident than he was, he chanced a look up at Beverly and almost immediately lost his balance. With the braces restraining his legs, he couldn't compensate for the loss and toppled over, landing in a tangle with his crutches.
"Merde!"
Beverly was at his side instantly.
"Are you all right?"
He didn't respond at first, choosing instead to sit and fume.
"Jean-Luc, I asked…"
"Yes dammit, I'm fine, just dandy. Help me up."
Beverly bit back the acerbic reply to his order and helped him regain his feet.
"How's the pain?"
"I'm coping. Can we get on with this torture?"
Holding her breath and counting to ten, Beverly crossed to her place and waited for him to continue.
"When you're ready Captain."
He grunted gutturally and once again started forward. With no further mishaps, he made it across the room and stood before Beverly slightly out of breath, his mood still dark.
"Good Captain. Now go back across."
He glared and slowly turned and made his careful way back across the room. Having achieved that Beverly let him sit while she and an orderly set up a ramp in the middle of the room. In all it was four metres long, rising to a height of one metre in its middle.
Beverly sauntered over to the watching Jean-Luc and gestured at the ramp.
"What do you think?"
He snorted and shrugged his shoulders.
"What does it matter what I think?"
Beverly closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. Taking a deep breath, she hunkered down in front of him and placed her hands on his knees.
"Don't fight me Jean-Luc. You know we have to do this and you're only making it harder for yourself with this adversarial attitude. I know it's hard and I also understand your embarrassment, but work with me Jean-Luc…please?"
He closed his eyes and lowered his head before nodding once.
"Ok then. For this one Paul and I will stay at your sides. Use the same method as before and take your time."
She took her place at his side, the orderly positioned opposite. Jean-Luc rose on trembling legs and made his slow way to the ramp.
"Now remember, swing your legs from the hip and allow your knee to bend. I want your heel to make firm contact with the floor."
He nodded and began the climb up the ramp. Going up wasn't too bad. Coming down was another matter entirely. He bent too far forward over his crutches and overbalanced. He was about to pitch froward when the two helpers caught him. They held him firmly while he righted himself, letting go when he felt ready. Again he started and again he almost fell. Tiredness was taking hold and pain was dogging his faltering steps. Beverly noticed the light sheen of sweat on his face and gestured to Paul to help her guide him to the waiting wheelchair.
"How bad is it?"
"Bad and getting rapidly worse." He grunted through gritted teeth.
She delivered a dose of painkiller and watched as he relaxed.
"You should have said something, I'm not a mind reader." She said testily. "We'll call it a day for now, I'll have Paul take you back to your quarters. He can help you take a bath."
He looked up at her and could plainly see she was irritated with him.
"Beverly…"
"I'll see you tonight Captain."
The use of his rank stung him and made him realise how his behaviour had soured the usually patient Doctor.
He was silent for the duration of the journey to his cabin and remained so as the orderly helped him to bathe and change. Having dismissed his aide, it was a very pensive Jean-Luc who sat on his sofa that afternoon.

 

 

 

Beverly was late in arriving, an emergency surgery keeping her in Sickbay longer than she expected. She entered his quarters to find him asleep on the sofa, a book on his lap. Her irritation had cooled somewhat and she looked fondly at her best friend and lover, noting that he wore her favourite shirt and pants.
She carefully sat beside him and gently shook his shoulder.
"Hey you, wake up."
His eyes snapped open and he blinked before a warm smile appeared.
"Hello Beverly."
"Hello yourself. You should be in bed."
"I wanted to wait up for you. Have you eaten?"
"Not yet…how about you?"
He shook his head and leaned forward to get into his wheelchair.
"Come on, I've programmed the replicator, it'll be ready in a moment."
Beverly sat at the table while Jean-Luc brought the replicated food to her. She set it out and soon he joined her. He asked her about her day and she made appropriate noises until they had finished their meal. He wheeled himself around the table until he was next to her. He took her hands in his and looked deeply into her blue eyes.
"Beverly I'm sorry for my behaviour today. You were right…I was embarrassed and ill tempered. It won't happen again. If you will forgive me, I would like to show you how much better I can be."
"It's alright Jean-Luc. You were tired and in considerable pain. I understand."
He shook his head.
"No, that's no excuse. I took my bad temper out on you and I regret it. It's not your fault…none of it is. Forgive me…please?"
She withdrew her hands from his and cradled his head, kissing him softly.
"You're forgiven Jean-Luc. How could I stay mad at you…you're adorable when you're contrite."
He smiled at her and leaned in for another kiss.
"Come to bed Beverly."
Together they entered his bedroom and slowly undressed each other. Naked, they climbed into bed and began the foreplay that would culminate in an extraordinarily tender love making, leaving them sated, content and blissfully happy.

 

 

 

 

With his improved attitude, Jean-Luc threw himself into his therapy with renewed vigour and made good progress. He mastered the ramp and soon he was crisscrossing the room with relative ease. A week later Beverly introduces a short flight of steps.
"Now this is a little different Jean-Luc. You'll be placing more stress on your feet and it will increase the pain exponentially. Also, your knees will be asked to work harder, so be ready when they complain."
He placed himself at the foot of the steps and steeled himself for what was to follow.
"Brace yourself on the crutches and place your foot on the step. Push up and shift the crutches onto the step when you've got your balance."
He did as instructed and paused as a wave of intense pain surged through his foot.
"Are you ok?"
He nodded taking a large breath.
"Just give me a minute."
He regrouped and stepped again, slowly making his way up the steps. He rested and the top and Beverly squeezed his arm in encouragement.
"You're doing fine. Now take it easy going down."
Concentrating fiercely, Jean-Luc made his way step by step and expelled a large breath when he was once again standing on the floor.
"Well done Jean-Luc, I'm proud of you."
He smiled and went to a nearby chair and sat, catching his breath. Beverly pulled up another chair and sat with him.
"Are you ready for a hypospray?"
He nodded and closed his eyes as he heard the telltale hiss. He relaxed as the pain diminished and leaned back in the chair.
"We'll have you back on the Bridge soon at this rate."
He opened his eyes and looked at the Doctor.
"I must admit I've missed it."
"You can go back if you want."
"What, back to duty?"
"Uh huh. Restricted of course, but there's no reason you can't return to duty…there never was. You relieved yourself remember."
"Yes…well…I'll give it some thought."
Beverly patted him on the knee and straightened her back.
"Right then. I want to show you a better way of walking on flat surfaces. Are you up for it?"
He sighed and smiled ruefully.
"Whatever you desire Doctor."
Over the next hour, Beverly showed Jean-Luc how he could walk by using the crutches in tandem with his legs for covering short distances quickly. He mastered the technique with ease. They tried the steps again several times until he felt completely confident then stopped for the day. He waited in Sickbay, enduring some scans of his bones and, when Beverly finished her shift they walked back to his cabin, a first for him.
He was tired when they entered and Beverly suggested he bathe. When he re-entered his bedroom he found Beverly waiting for him with a bottle of massage oil. He sprawled face down on the bed and groaned his appreciation as she went to work on his exhausted muscles. She was not surprised when he drifted off to sleep well before she finished.
He awoke some hours later to the aroma of food. His stomach rumbled as he rolled over and he lay for a while feeling relaxed and content. He thought about his command and decided Beverly was right. It was time he strode the Bridge again, albeit with his aids. He donned the robe Beverly had left out for him and pulled the wheelchair within reach. He gained his seat and rolled out into the living area to find Beverly setting the table.
"Hello there sleeping beauty."
He snorted and made his way to the table.
As she put the dishes out he smiled and said softly,
"You were right."
"Oh I know." She grinned saucily then relented. "About what?"
"Returning to duty. I want to take command again."
She nodded and came to squat before him.
"Not before time Jean-Luc. We've all been waiting."
"What sort of hours can I expect?"
She pursed her lips and cocked her head.
"For the first week no more than six hours a day."
He nodded and sighed.
"And I suppose you're going to enforce rest periods."
"Yep."
"Why am I not surprised?"
"And there'll be regular check ups in Sickbay, not to mention all the scans…"
He held his hands up in resignation.
"Alright I get the message. I'll comply. When can I return?"
"How about tomorrow morning?"
"Sounds good. I'll contact Will."
"No need, I already have."
His eyebrows shot up at that.
"A little pre-emptive aren't we Doctor?"
"No, I just know my Captain."
He smiled and reached for her.
"As well you should, but in future…leave the instructions to me…please? At least let me think I'm in control."
"Aye Sir."

 

 

 

 

The next morning, as he pulled his trousers over the braces, he felt a moment of trepidation. How would his crew treat him? How would they react to his incapacity?
He stood, fastened his pants and pulled on his jacket. Looking at himself in the mirror, he straightened his shoulders, smoothed a wrinkle in his uniform and raised his chin.
"Only one way to find out."
He picked up his crutches, placed them on his arms and walked out into the living area.
Beverly was waiting for him and her breath caught in her throat when she saw him. He'd lost some weight and still looked a little pale, but she thought he'd never looked quite so handsome as he did at that moment.
"Ready?"
He nodded and he they left his cabin to begin their day.

 

 

 

 

The turbolift came to a halt on the Bridge and the doors whispered open. Jean-Luc steeled himself and stepped out onto the command centre of his ship. Will rose from the command chair and faced his Captain as he made his slow way down the ramp. Jean-Luc felt the eyes of his staff on him but ignored it, concentrating on gaining his seat. He lowered himself into his chair without help and placed the crutches on the floor beside him.
"Report Number One."
"Alpha shift has just begun. We're travelling at warp six to the Honarra cluster to mediate in a trade dispute between two corporations on Brekka II, the details have been downloaded to your Ready Room terminal. ETA, four days. Engineering reports a slight fluctuation in the integrity field of the aft port quarter and is working to rectify it. Other than that we're running straight and true Sir."
"Very well. Thank you Commander, you may be seated."
Will sat and leaned surreptitiously towards his Captain.
"Welcome back Sir." He said softly. Jean-Luc smiled.
"It's good to be back Will."
He stayed on the Bridge for three hours then retreated to his Ready Room to familiarise himself with the upcoming mission.

 

 

The four days passed quickly, Jean-Luc finding even his restricted duty more than enough for him. He continued therapy, improving all the time and was delighted when Beverly announced she would downgrade his braces to a smaller type that would support his legs from the knee down. She fitted them and smiled with the ease at which he adapted to them.
"How do they feel?"
"Much better…lighter and freer and there's easier movement at the knee."
"Not rubbing at all, no chafing?"
He frowned and swung his leg experimentally.
"Yes, a little, behind my left knee."
"Ok let me see."
She made some adjustments and refastened the padded closure.
"Try that."
He walked around the room and shook his head.
"No, it's still rubbing a little."
"Hmm, I think it may do that no matter what we do. I'll check the area tonight. Are you ready for the delegation this afternoon?"
He sat in a chair and held both crutches in one hand.
"Oh I think so, it's pretty straight forward. The warring parties are a trifle bloody minded…intractable my mother would've said…my job is to get them to see each other's position. If I can achieve that, everything should fall into place."
"Usual thing then?"
"Uh huh."
"Ok then, you're free to go play Captain."
Jean-Luc raised his eyebrows and said dryly,
"Thank you Doctor."

 

 

 

Later that afternoon he was standing tall and proud in the transporter room when the first of the delegates beamed aboard. The second party arrived shortly thereafter and everyone was escorted to the port observation lounge.
Seated opposite each other, pleasantries were exchanged and the delicate dance of diplomacy begun. Will left the room and took the Command chair on the Bridge.
Deanna leaned over to him and said surreptitiously,
"You got out of there quickly."
Equally sotto voiced, Will responded,
"You're not wrong! They were at each other's throats the minute the introductions were complete. I don't know how the Captain does it."
Deanna sat up and gently squeezed Will's arm. He took comfort in the empathic warmth that flooded his mind.

 

 

 

It was several hours before the observation doors opened. A tired Captain emerged with some equally exhausted delegates.
"Number One, would you escort The Kussum delegation to their quarters?"
He turned then to the remaining Degg delegation.
"Counsellor Troi will see you to your quarters."
Will and Deanna left the Bridge by different turbolifts and Jean-Luc entered his Ready Room. He didn't emerge for another three and a half hours, having made a detailed report to Starfleet.
Beverly was waiting for him when he finally made it to his cabin. He slowly crossed the room in silence and sank gratefully into the sofa's cushions, resting his weary head back, closing his eyes and letting the crutches fall to the floor.
Beverly sat beside him for a while, before gently easing his upper body forward so she could get her fingers to work on the knotted muscles of his neck and shoulders.
He sighed and relaxed allowing his hands to fall limply between his knees.
"How was it?"
"Like butting my head against a brick wall."
She found a particularly tense muscle and pushed her thumbs into it, demanding its release.
"So is there any hope at all?"
He sighed, his whole upper body moving with the effort.
"There's always hope…they're still here after all. Perhaps tomorrow…"
She continued the massage until she felt his muscles soften. She left him then and returned with a light meal for them both. They ate in silence and Jean-Luc placed his feet on the low table as he sipped his Earl Grey.
"What time do the talks start tomorrow?"
"First thing after breakfast."
"Well we better get to bed, but I want to check that sore spot on your leg. I'll do it in the bedroom."
After he undressed, she checked the spot and found an area of reddened chafe. The quick application of a tissue regenerator remedied the situation and he went off to shower.
Later she snuggled into his arms and drifted off to sleep, her last thoughts being of the recalcitrant delegates.

 

 

 

 

 

For three seemingly endless days the talks raged without an end in sight. Meals were taken in the observation lounge and it took every bit of Jean-Luc's diplomatic guile to keep the delegates from doing each other physical harm. Each night he returned to his quarters exhausted and angry at his inability to resolve the differences between them.
It was late on the evening of the fourth day that the Captain's door chimed.
Jean-Luc and Beverly had just eaten and were considering bed when the Captain scowled at his door.
"Computer who is at my door?"
"Delegate Rumm."
"Damn! What the hell does he want?"
Beverly shrugged and said,
"Do you want me to leave?"
"No, stay." In a louder voice he called,
"Come."
The door whispered open to reveal the ruddy second delegate of the Degg team. A large being, he was tall, hairy and broad shouldered…fearsome to look at and intractable in nature.
"Delegate Rumm is there something you need?"
"I need to talk with you!"
Jean-Luc pursed his lips and raised his chin.
"Delegate it is quite late and the talks are over for the day. I will be glad to talk to you tomorrow…"
Rumm stepped into the room and the doors closed behind him.
"No! You will talk now!"
The Captain could see he would not be placated, so instead he gestured to a chair.
"Very well, would you like to take a seat?"
"No! I want to know why you favour the Kussum! You're strangling us…you won't…"
Jean-Luc stared forcefully at his opponent and said sternly...
"I favour no one! I have been impartial throughout the talks and you have no right…"
"I have every right!"
"And what do you think gives you that right?"
"This!"
In the blink of an eye, Rumm pulled a large dagger from his boot. Pointing at Beverly he motioned her to join the Captain in the middle of the room. He stepped up to Jean-Luc and placed the blade at his throat.
"The rules have just changed. I now have a bargaining chip."
"I will not help you."
Rumm grabbed Beverly by the hair and sneered at Jean-Luc.
"Then perhaps she will!"
As his eyes slid over Beverly's body, Jean-Luc seized his chance. He hit Rumm forcefully in the stomach and tore Beverly from his grasp.
Rumm whirled around and slashed at Jean-Luc, cutting him across the face. He then lunged at the Captain, stabbing him twice in the shoulder as they fell to the floor. Jean-Luc rolled as he could hear Beverly calling desperately for security. He felt the knife enter his back and the blade break as the metal encountered the bone of his shoulder blade. He rolled again and realised his useless arm was trapped beneath him. Rumm got to his feet and kicked the Captain cruelly in the chest Ribs broke under the onslaught and his breath left him. He managed to get a braced leg between Rumm's and tripped him as he attempted to kick him again. He heard the crash of breaking glass and saw Rumm stagger as Beverly hit him with a vase. She was looking for another weapon when security burst in and felled the assailant with a well-placed phaser blast.
Will came in behind the security detail and joined Beverly at Jean-Luc's side.
"How is he?"
"He's bleeding badly…we need to get him to Sickbay."
Will looked up.
"Transporter room, three to beam from the Captain's quarters to Sickbay!"
As soon as they rematerialised, Beverly and her staff had Jean-Luc lying on his side on a bio bed. His uniform was removed and he was taken into surgery, the cuts too deep for the regenerator to repair. Two hours later he was in recovery, drowsy and sore.
Will met Beverly in her office.
"Will he be ok?"
"Yes Will he'll be fine, in fact he can be discharged tomorrow. We repaired all the damage; thank God nothing important was hit. Do you want this?"
She handed him the broken blade.
"I took that out of his back. It was embedded in his shoulder blade. He had two deep wounds to his upper chest and three broken ribs, as well as the slash to the face."
"All that because the delegate was pissed off with him?"
"Uh huh. He accused the Captain of taking sides…decided to alter the playing field and use Jean-Luc as a bargaining chip."
Will shook his head and snorted with disgust.
"His delegation is protesting their innocence. They're making him out as a rogue with his own agenda; apparently they want the talks to continue. What do you think?"
"I tell you one thing…I don't like what it's been doing to him. He's been exhausted! I know he's not eating…but you know the Captain. He won't give up Will, no matter what I say, short of relieving him of duty and I'm not prepared to do that…yet."
"So we wait until tomorrow?"
Beverly nodded and walked to the door with her tall visitor.
"Yep. We wait and see."

 

 

 

 

The next morning Jean-Luc sat on his bed, stiffly rotating his injured shoulder. Beverly came upon him and frowned.
"It won't get better any quicker you know."
He cast her a look and used his free hand to push at the sore muscles. Beverly came over and gently slapped his hands away.
"Stop it. You know it will be sore and stiff for a while, leave it alone."
"Beverly…"
She put her hands on her hips and gave him a long look.
"What?"
"Can I leave now?"
"I suppose you want to get back to the talks?"
He nodded, careful to keep the conversation going in his favour.
"You know I don't approve?"
He nodded again.
"But…?"
Beverly sighed, her shoulders dropping.
"All right, you can go, but for God's sake eat something will you? And see Will before you leave."
He met with Will in Beverly's office and bade him to walk with him to his cabin. As they slowly walked, Will informed him that Rumm was in custody and the remaining delegates were waiting for him in the observation lounge. Will returned to the Bridge and in fifteen minutes, Jean-Luc was shaved, in a fresh uniform and on his way back to the talks.

 

 

 

The absence of Rumm helped and, for the first time in five days, the talks moved forward. Jean-Luc returned to his quarters pale and exhausted but with a weary smile on his face. Beverly ushered him in and helped him to sit on the sofa.
"Tell me."
"Progress at last. With luck, we might be able to finalise everything tomorrow."
"Well done my love. Would you like some dinner?"
He nodded and closed his eyes, too tired to engage in small talk. While he rested, Beverly replicated a light meal, then went and got her tricorder. She scanned him and frowned at the results.
"You're in pain. What on earth have you been doing to your legs?"
He sighed and offered a rueful smile.
"Pacing. I find I think better when I'm moving."
"All day?"
"Uh huh. It keeps the delegates on their toes too. They can't pin me down if I'm on the move constantly and nobody gets an advantage."
"Well this should help."
He felt the analgesic spread through his body, easing not only the pain in his legs and feet, but also the residual discomforts of his most recent injuries.
"Thank you."
"Hmm. Come on have something to eat, you need to get to bed."
"Aye Sir."

 

 

 

 

The talks concluded the next day and the happy delegates transported down to their planet to implement the new protocols, bringing harmony to their people for the first time in many months. Jean-Luc was ensconced in his Ready Room for several hours making his final report and recommendations to Starfleet and when he emerged and took his seat on the Bridge, his First Officer frowned.
"Sir, you look tired. Why don't you take some time off? You've earned it."
The glacial look that garnered silenced Will and he was not surprised when Beverly's call came through from Sickbay.
"Crusher to Picard."
"Picard here."
"Captain could you come down here?"
"Why?"
"I'd like to run some scans…"
"I'm fine Doctor."
"Yes but…"
"It's not necessary Doctor. Picard out."
Will was studiously studying his boots when, minutes later, Beverly appeared on the Bridge.
"Captain can I see you in the Ready Room please?"
Jean-Luc gave her a hard look, but rose from his chair, picked up his crutches and led her into his sanctuary. He rounded on her immediately.
"What is it Doctor? Why did you feel it necessary to come up to the Bridge and request this private consultation?"
Beverly closed her eyes and clenched her fists. He was never a good patient at the best of times, but when he was tired, in pain and run down, he was difficult, to say the least.
"Jean-Luc you're tired. This last week has been very stressful and you need a break. I would like you to take some time off."
He shook his head.
"Out of the question! We have…"
"It's not a request Jean-Luc."
"What! Are you ordering me from the Bridge?"
"Yes. I want you to go to your quarters, eat a decent meal and get some rest."
"For how long?"
"A week at least…more if you resist."
He glowered at her.
"Very well."
Passing her, he re-entered the Bridge and spoke gruffly to his First Officer.
"Commander, you have the Bridge until further notice."
"Aye Sir."
He then left for his quarters, Beverly in his wake.
When they arrived he ignored her and went to sit at his desk.
"Oh no you don't! I want you to rest Captain and that means no work. None!"
He placed his hands palm down on the desk and took a large breath.
"Doctor…Beverly…surely you don't expect me to just sit around twiddling my thumbs all day? What possible harm could I do catching up on ship's business?"
"No work Jean-Luc…that's what your First Officer is for. Leave it to Will and take some time off. Read, listen to music, play your flute, I don't care…just no work and you can start by getting out of that uniform."
He glared at her then rose, collected his crutches and walked to his bedroom without using them.
"Hey! How long have you been doing that?"
Relieved with the change of subject, Jean-Luc managed a small triumphant smile.
"You know that pacing I told you about?"
He laid the crutches on the bed and walked slowly around the room.
"Voila."
"I'll be damned. When were you going to tell me?"
"Actually I was going to show you tonight."
"What about the pain?"
He sighed and sat on the bed.
"For the most part it's tolerable but it can be uncomfortable at the end of the day."
"I'll bet. Well, you can add walks in the arboretum to your list of things to do."
"Hmm."
She came and sat beside him, stroking his thigh.
"Hey…it's not that bad, come on."
He surprised her by lying back on the bed and pulling her with him. They lay together looking up at the ceiling.
"Will you come and check on me?"
Beverly chuckled and caught his hand.
"Just try and stop me."
"Often?"
"Uh huh."
"All right then…I'll 'rest'."
"And eat…mustn't forget that."
He sighed exasperatedly.
"You never give up, do you?"
"Nope."
"Very well, I promise to eat. There…satisfied?"
Beverly sat up and placed her hand on his chest. Looking down at him, she smiled then gently leaned down and kissed him softly, her hair brushing the sides of his face. His hands came up and cradled her face as he returned the kiss, deepening it. She broke the increasingly passionate kiss and stared at him panting slightly.
"You sexy rogue…I distinctly said rest. Not fool about in the middle of the afternoon."
"And why not? You want to examine me don't you?"
She laughed outright and slapped his chest.
"Tonight…if you behave. Now I have to get back to Sickbay. Will you be ok?"
He nodded and took on a bored look.
"I suppose I can find something to occupy me, God knows what though."
Beverly patted him on the leg.
"I'm sure you'll manage. I'll see you later."
She rose and left his quarters. He stayed lying on the bed contemplating his options.

 

 

 

 

Over the next three days he did indeed find things to keep his mind agile. Beverly kept her promise and dropped in frequently and his walking improved as they travelled throughout the ship. On the fourth day she came by with a suggestion.
"I want to extend your therapy."
"Extend it? How?"
"Swimming."
"Swimming? How will that help my legs?"
"I want you to do some laps using a kickboard only. Get maximum use out of you legs without undue strain."
"I see, and when did you envisage this taking place?"
"Now actually."
"Oh. I take it we can do this…in private?"
"Uh huh. I've set aside two hours in the gym for just the two of us. Now go and get changed."

 

 

 

 

The two of them, dressed in sweat suits made their slow way to the gym. They paused outside the doors and Beverly gently grasped Jean-Luc's arm.
"Now this is not going to be hard…maybe a little tiring, but not painful. Ok?"
He nodded and managed a small smile. They entered together and walked slowly to the pool edge.
"Are you sure we won't be disturbed?"
"Yes Jean-Luc, your dignity will be unassailed."
He snorted as Beverly retrieved a chair and put it poolside. She then helped him to undress until he was standing in his speedos, looking doubtfully at the water.
"Here, sit down and I'll take the braces off."
Laying the crutches on the tiles, she removed the braces from his legs and paused, running her fingers softly over the fading scars. She was startled when he reached down and took her hands in his. Looking up, she was treated to his gentle gaze, his love for her clearly evident. She smiled and stood, quickly doffing her clothes, noting with satisfaction his appraisal of her curvaceous body. Clad in a deep red one piece, she was alluring and sensuous…and she knew it. She had chosen this particular costume with great care, wishing to distract her patient from the awkwardness he would feel at being at the pool.
"Come on, I'll help you to sit on the edge."
Once he was comfortably seated, his legs dangling in the warm water, Beverly hopped in and came to stand in front of him. She grasped his hips and helped him to wriggle to the edge then, in one fluid motion, he slipped into the water.
"That's it, just relax and let you legs go loose, I'll hold you up."
She crouched down and held his arms then slowly walked backwards, pulling him into deeper water. When they were chest deep, she stopped and asked him to stand. He frowned, but planted his feet and gained his balance. A smile slowly crept across his face.
"How does it feel?"
"Good…very good."
"Any pain?"
"A little, in my shins, especially my right leg and both feet."
"Ok, relax your legs and let the water hold you up."
"No I want to keep standing…it's been so long…"
"I know Jean-Luc but…"
He looked at her, his intense gaze pleading.
"Please Beverly…just a little longer?"
She sighed and gave in.
"All right. I'm going over there to get a kick board. You stay here and stand."
She quickly swam to the poolside and retrieved the kick board. When she returned he was disappointed.
"Back so soon? Couldn't you have dawdled?"
His reply was a splash of water over his shoulder.
"That's enough out of you. Here, take this and hold out in front of you with straight arms. I want you to make it to the end of the pool by just kicking your legs."
Jean-Luc held the board out and Beverly helped him to lift his legs to the surface. He slowly began to kick as she swam beside him, offering encouragement.
He reached the pool end and grasped the gutter with one hand.
"Now what?"
"Now you go the whole length back to the shallow end."
He pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows, rested a moment, then pushed off from the tiles. Beverly was immensely pleased with him. He tackled the exercise sensibly, pacing himself and not complaining.
At the end six laps she called a halt and moved him back into the chest deep area.
"That was excellent Jean-Luc. Have a rest and we'll try some different kicks."
He nodded, getting his breath back as he relaxed in the water. He spread his arms wide and moved closer to Beverly, surreptitiously watching her breasts as they floated in front of him.
"That's a very lovely suit Beverly, have you had it long?"
"No. I was looking through the replicator files this afternoon and I spotted it. I'm glad you like It."
He moved closer, letting his arms gradually encircle her.
"I especially like the way it conforms to your shape…it's very…sexy."
He was only inches away now and Beverly was transfixed by his dark hazel eyes.
"Jean-Luc…"
"Shh."
His arms embraced her and he brought his body up against hers. His kiss was hot and insistent, his tongue demanding entrance. She opened to him and wound her arms around his chest. He deepened the kiss and pulled her closer, one hand dropping to her buttocks to press her against his growing erection. She gasped at the contact feeling his heat even in the water.
He broke the kiss and angled his head to attack the soft skin of her neck. Finding the sensitive area below her ear, he tongued and sucked the region, before nipping his way down her neck to her shoulder. She lolled her head back and gave him access to the length of her throat. He growled his pleasure and kissed the expanse of skin hungrily, repeatedly tonguing the suprasternal notch.
Beverly's arousal was instant. The moment he'd touched her, the heat had begun and now she was teetering on the edge, mad with desire and yearning for more. She listened, as if in a dream, as he ordered the computer to lock the gym doors. When his fingers caressed her shoulders and slipped the straps of her costume from her, she closed her eyes and gasped. His every touch was drawing fire on her skin, making her want more.
He slowly slid the suit from her, briefly ducking under the surface to slide it down her legs. As it floated free, he slipped an arm around her waist and cupped her breast with the other hand, lifting it free of the water. Kissing her again, he tweaked the nipple and felt her shudder at the sensation. He rolled the stiff peak between finger and thumb then kneaded the breast. Breaking the kiss, his mouth descended onto the nipple and she moaned with need as his tongue swirled over it.
As his mouth continued to pleasure her, his hand drifted down the plain of her stomach and dallied in the floating curls at the juncture of her legs. She let her legs float apart and he gently ran his fingers over her length, parting her folds and teasing her.
She gripped his broad shoulders and gasped loudly as he slowly pushed a thick finger into her silken heat. He slothfully thrust with the digit and surprised her when he inserted a second finger within her. His thumb circled her clitoris making her thrust onto his hand and he smiled as he watched her, entranced by her blatant sexuality.
Still suckling her breast and pushing his fingers in and out of her, he judged his moment and waited, waited until he began to feel her tightening on his hand, then applied his thumb to her swollen clitoris.
She cried out and jerked within his grasp, her nails digging into the muscles of his shoulders. He pushed his fingers up inside her and brought his thumb down firmly on her bud and as her climax washed over her, he gently bit her nipple.
His name was torn from her lips as she clung to him, her hips undulating on his stilling hand. She panted and groaned her head buried in the crook of his neck.
As she recovered, his hand left her and went to his own costume. He undid the drawstring and eased the lightweight material over his straining erection and down his thighs. He then used both hands to lift Beverly's legs and drape them around his hips, bringing the tip of his throbbing penis into contact with her pulsing heat. Even in the water he could feel her slick juices and he closed his eyes as he slid himself through her folds. Beverly gasped at the feeling and lifted her head to gently bite his earlobe, before whispering huskily…
"Yes…oh yes…now."
Needing no further invitation, he slid into her and pulled her close, crushing her body against his. He kissed her fiercely, his hands going to her buttocks to mould the globes as he began to pump in and out of her.
He was lost in her. Every touch, every gasp increased his passion. His mind reeled as his body took over, all coherent thought lost in the mindless drive to reach that instant when they would be one being, one exalted entity.
He stepped up the pace, bracing his legs and thrusting his hips. He felt his orgasm approaching and called to his lover. In reply, she clenched him internally and kissed him, robbing him of breath. He broke the kiss as the release surged through him; his head flung back, mouth wide open and completely swept away by the force of his climax. He dimly heard Beverly call to him and registered the fact that she'd experienced another orgasm. He brought his head up and held her to him as their souls touched briefly, then receded to leave them to recover.

 

 

 

Some minutes later, Beverly raised her head and kissed Jean-Luc softly.
"We'd better get you off those legs."
He opened his eyes and nodded. He lifted her and they both gasped as he slipped out of her. He smiled ruefully and whispered,
"Thank you Beverly."
She chuckled and lazily swam a few strokes to retrieve her bathers. When she returned to him, she spent a few moments putting the garment on as he made himself comfortable in his costume. She came closer to him and rested her forehead on his.
"It's taken your therapy to a whole new level."
His deep chuckle thrilled her.
"I'd wager you'd have quite a few customers if they knew…"
She laughed softly and kissed the tip of his nose.
"Yes well, I think this will be part of your private therapy, don't you?"
"I concur completely my dear, dear Doctor."
She smiled and cupped his chin.
"Do you feel up to a few more laps or do you want to call it a day?"
"Oh I think I can handle a couple more laps…if you swim beside me."
She kissed him again and cocked her head to one side.
"Ok, but side stroke this time. I might be easier for you and your muscles will appreciate the different movements."
He nodded his agreement and rolled onto his left side, pushing the board out in front. When he completed the lap he rolled to the opposite side to exercise the legs evenly. He ended up doing four laps until Beverly called a halt.
"Ok enough Jean-Luc. We can come back tomorrow."
He waggled his eyebrows and said suggestively,
"Oh good, I really like this water therapy!"
Beverly snickered and slapped at his chest.
"You're insatiable."
"And don't you just love it?"
She sighed as they moved to the pool edge.
"As a matter of fact I do!"

 

 

 

 

Two days later they had returned to his quarters after a busy day for both of them. Jean-Luc now went without the use of the crutches whilst within his cabin and was beginning to nag Beverly to let him try walking sans braces.
"I just don't think it's a good idea Jean-Luc. It's too soon!"
"At least you could let me try! At this rate it'll be weeks before I get rid of those damn braces! Jesus Beverly I hate it when you do this to me!"
"Do what to you? Do you think I do this deliberately? What sort of Doctor do you think I am? I have only your wellbeing in mind and I deeply resent any suggestion from you that's to the contrary. You can be such a pain in the arse sometimes Jean-Luc…"
They stood toe to toe, each glaring at the other.
He relented. Sighing, he closed his eyes and held her shoulders.
"I'm sorry Beverly. It's…it's just that…"
"I know Jean-Luc, I understand…really I do. Tell you what…how about we try tomorrow, in the physiotherapy room? That way we can have help on hand."
"In case I fall flat on my face you mean?"
"Well it could happen…"
He nodded and sighed.
"Very well, I concede. We'll do it your way."

 

 

 

The next day Jean-Luc left the Bridge and entered the turbolift on his way to Sickbay. As he leaned against the wall, he stared down at his feet.
"This should be interesting."
He walked into Sickbay and was greeted by Beverly's trusted assistant, Alyssa Ogawa.
"Hello Captain, Doctor Crusher is waiting for you in the therapy room."
He nodded his thanks and made his way into the vast room where he found Beverly and an orderly waiting for him.
She gestured him to move over to the parallel bars. Taking off his trousers, his braces were removed and he stood in his socks, holding on to the bars.
"Ok Captain, you know what to do, just take it slowly."
He nodded and took a deep breath. Stepping forward, he paused and stifled a grimace as pain shot up his right leg.
"Are you ok?"
He frowned and shot Beverly a warning look. She bit her lip, but said nothing further. Taking more tentative steps, he moved along the length of the bars and turned slowly at their end. Again he refocussed his concentration and stepped out, gaining confidence with each step. Becoming cocky, he let go of the bars and took three steps when suddenly his right ankle rolled. With a cry of pain he pitched forward and rolled onto his side.
"Fuck!"
Unused to hearing him use such an expletive, the startled Doctor rushed to him with a tricorder. She scanned the ankle and instructed her helper to retrieve an analgesic hypospray and a tissue regenerator.
"Hold on Jean-Luc, I'll have it fixed in no time."
He said nothing, just stayed on his side, trembling with pain.
The orderly returned and Beverly administered treatment. True to her word, the pain was banished and the injury repaired.
"There now. Would you like to stand up?"
He spoke for the first time.
"What I would like is to return to the Bridge, thank you Doctor."
Beverly bowed her head and frowned.
"As you wish Captain."
Soon back in his braces and trousers, Jean-Luc picked up his crutches and left the room without another word.

Later that night Jean-Luc walked slowly into his quarters and was surprised to find himself alone. He called out for Beverly but was answered with silence. He raised his head and enquired,
"Computer, location of Doctor Crusher?"
"Doctor Crusher is in her quarters."
He checked the time and, finding it quite late, again accessed the computer.
"Computer, is Doctor Crusher asleep?"
"Bio readouts show Doctor Crusher to be awake."
He thought for just a moment before he left his cabin, heading for Beverly.
The first chime went unanswered. The second barely ended when the door sighed open.
They stood in silence, watching each other. Beverly lowered her head and stood back.
"You want to come in?"
He said nothing, but entered her cabin. He walked to the sofa and turned his head.
"Is it all right if I sit down?"
"Why wouldn't it be?"
In silence he sat, placing the crutches by his side. After an awkward silence he cleared his throat.
"You weren't in my quarters when I came in."
"No."
"Why?"
"After this afternoon I thought you didn't want any company."
He scowled and rubbed his hands on his thighs.
"Yes…I'm sorry about that, I was a little…annoyed."
"A little?"
"Alright, I was pissed off I admit it…however I shouldn't have taken it out on you. For that I apologise…sincerely."
Beverly came to him and eased herself down onto the sofa. Taking his hand, she bobbed her head to peep under his brow.
"What made you so angry?"
"Twisting my damn ankle. On top of everything else…it was just too much. It hurt and I'd had enough. I wanted to demonstrate to you that I could walk unaided and…"
"But you did."
"What?"
"You did Jean-Luc. Yes you rolled your ankle but before that happened, I think you were doing marvellously…far better than I thought you would, in fact I am thinking of extending your therapy to include more unaided walking. What do you think?"
A smile slowly spread across his face eventually becoming a rare full grin.
"What I think is that I have a wonderful Doctor, best friend and"…he kissed her softly… "lover."
She raised a hand and caressed his face.
"Have you eaten"
"No, but I'm not hungry…for food anyway."
She chuckled and rubbed his chest.
"Your incorrigible."
"Uh huh. Come to bed."
She leaned in and kissed him deeply before pulling back and nodding slowly.
They rose from the sofa and made their way to her bedroom, spending the next hour in delicious ecstasy. They eventually ate dinner in bed.

 

 

 

 

Over the next two weeks Jean-Luc's therapy consisted of walking unaided and he started to go without his crutches while on duty. Beverly decided the brace on his left leg could come off and he strengthened the legs with weight bearing exercises both in therapy and in the privacy of his quarters. Swimming was continued, although to keep his mind on the job, Beverly stayed out of the water. She was a little surprised with his next request.
"Fencing?"
"Yes, fencing."
"Jean-Luc I don't think…"
"Beverly hear me out. What I propose is a holodeck opponent. I can call up something easy and just go through the motions…nothing too strenuous."
"But your right leg is…"
"Weaker, I know…but what better way to strengthen it? I still have the brace and I won't put too much strain on it…please Beverly?"
She thought for a few moments and came to a decision.
"Ok, but I want to be there."
He frowned and was going to shake his head when she said quietly,
"It's that or nothing Jean-Luc."
He looked her in the eye and nodded once.
"Very well."

 

 

 

 

They entered the holosuite together and Beverly couldn't help but notice how handsome he was in his fencing outfit, it accentuated certain parts of his anatomy and she enjoyed surreptitiously peeking at it.
He had programmed an appropriate venue and Beverly took a chair to one side and watched with interest as he took position on the track. His opponent was immobile until he raised his epee and called,
"En garde!"
His holodeck opponent raised his sword and the bout began. True to his word, he'd programmed an easy bout, but it still tested him. Every time he lunged forward, his right leg trembled and pain slithered up and down his shin. He ignored it and continued, winning the bout. He cast a look at Beverly and called for another partner, this one a level higher in difficulty.
The contest was harder and took longer, but again he was victorious. Sweat was beginning to run down his face under the mask and he was breathing hard. He made sure his voice was strong when he ordered the next bout, again a level higher.
"Jean-Luc…"
He shook his head and Beverly quietened, shifting uneasily in her chair.
This time his opponent scored three hits before Jean-Luc was able to defeat him. He stood still, panting, his hands on his thighs.
"Jean-Luc I think that's enough for now."
He straightened and shook his head. He was about to order another opponent when Beverly stood and walked over to him. She gently squeezed his arm and gestured for him to remove the mask. She was shocked at his appearance.
"Ok that's it, enough."
"Wait." he panted. "I'm not finished."
"Oh yes you are! Look at you, you're exhausted."
He shook his arm free and hefted the epee.
"I'm fine Beverly, I just want to…"
"I know what you want to do and I'm not going to let you. What are you tyring to prove?"
"Nothing! I just want to…"
"No!"
He flung the mask across the room, followed closely by the epee. He then stalked to the chair and slumped into it.
Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose and took a large breath. She sauntered over to him and squatted at his knees.
"How's the pain?"
He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head.
"Want something for it?"
She could see the muscles of his jaw clench as he fought his internal battle. His eyes snapped open and he gave a curt nod. The hypospray appeared from her coat pocket and she tipped his head to one side to administer it.
He sighed, his balled fists relaxing, his tense shoulders lowering. Beverly gently rubbed his leg, waiting for him to recover himself. When he was ready, he spoke.
"I just want it over. I want things to be as they were…before all this…"
"I know Jean-Luc, I understand…really…and it will be ok, I promise. Just a little longer…be patient just a little bit longer…"
"Patient? I've been patient dammit! How much longer Beverly? When will my fucking leg stop hurting?"
Beverly closed her eyes and let his anger wash over her, knowing he needed the release. Instead of answering him, she gathered his arms and coaxed him to his feet and led him out of the holodeck. They ambled slowly through the corridors to his quarters and, once inside, she directed him to the bathroom where she undressed him, then herself and ran a hot bath. He let her usher him into the tub and when she settled in front of him, he reached for her, but she caught his hands and kissed them before placing them on his thighs. She washed his body gently as he rested his head on the folded towel behind him and drifted off to sleep as she massaged his right leg.
He awoke to find her gone but the smell of food told him where she was. He exited the bath and dried himself, finding his robe waiting for him. As he entered the bedroom he could hear Beverly quietly humming to herself as she set out the evening meal.
"That smells lovely…what is it?"
She raised her head and brushed back and errant strand of lustrous red hair. Smiling at him, she gestured to the table.
"Pasta Alfredo and hot crusty bread."
"Sounds delightful, thank you."
Without the brace on his leg, he walked carefully to the table and seated Beverly, then took his own seat. He watched her serve herself and when she offered the dish, he shook his head and took her hands instead.
"I know I seem to be saying this with monotonous regularity, but I'm sorry Beverly. I'm sorry I lost my temper, I'm sorry I get so impatient and I'm sorry I take it out on you."
She tilted her head and made a show of considering his contrition. Eventually she smiled softly as tears glistened in her lovely blue eyes.
"I forgive you Jean-Luc. I understand what you're going through and I also understand how hard it's been for you. A man like you doesn't easily give up control to others and I know you've been trying…very hard…to stick with the therapy and all I've asked of you.
It won't be long now I promise and you can blow that brace out the airlock and never see it again. Just a little while longer."
He released her hands and covered his face with his own. She could see his shoulders shake and left her chair to kneel beside him.
"It's ok Jean-Luc, let it out."
He buried his head in her shoulder as the sobs overtook him. His arms encircled her and he pulled her close, his whole body trembling with his distress. It was some minutes until he regained his composure. He pulled back from her and bowed his head, embarrassed by his breakdown. Beverly left him briefly and returned with a handkerchief, which he took gratefully and blew his nose. She left him alone and dished up some dinner for him then took her seat and began to eat.
He took his cue and picked up his fork, but before he ate, he said quietly…
"Thank you my love."

 

 

 

Ten days later Beverly took the brace and handed it to him. He raised his eyebrows and questioned…
"Does this mean…?"
"Yep. Want to go to the airlock?"
He laughed and turned the brace over in his hands.
"That's not necessary Doctor, but you could put it in the deepest darkest cupboard you have. I never want to see it again!"
Beverly rested her arms on his shoulders and touched her forehead to his.
"Done my love. How does it feel to be whole again?"
"Wait 'til later tonight and I'll show you."
"That's just what I wanted to hear. I love you Jean-Luc."
"And I you, mon coeur."
She stood back from him and ran a finger down his chest.
"It's been quite a journey hasn't it?"
"It has indeed, one I couldn't have made without you. You've been my touchstone, my calm place in the storm. I don't know what I would have done without you."
"Have you learned anything?"
He thought for a while and frowned, lowering his head.
"Patience, tolerance…the ability to let others help. They were difficult lessons to learn."
"I think you're a better man for learning them."
He looked up and smiled mischievously.
"Well…as long as some good has come out of it all…"
She slapped his arm and laughed.
"You're incorrigible!"
"So you've said…"