The Seed That Grows

The Seed That Grows

Status: Finished

Genre: Fan Fiction

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Fan Fiction

Summary

After a tense situation with both Crusher and the Romulans, Picard faces the daunting task of rescuing the love of his life and some dear friends from the clutches of an unknown alien species.

Summary

After a tense situation with both Crusher and the Romulans, Picard faces the daunting task of rescuing the love of his life and some dear friends from the clutches of an unknown alien species.

Chapter1 (v.1) - The Seed That Grows

Author Chapter Note

After a tense situation with both Crusher and the Romulans, Picard faces the daunting task of rescuing the love of his life and some dear friends from the clutches of an unknown alien species.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 18, 2012

Reads: 544

Comments: 1

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 18, 2012

A A A

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The Seed That Grows.

The gentle light reflected softly from the pearl polish that adorned each toe. Beverly Crusher, CMO of the Starship Enterprise stretched languidly, her attention focussed upon her toes. Tilting her head slightly, she considered a change of colour. Green? Red perhaps? She sighed expansively and splayed her toes allowing her feet to sag sideways.

“What does it matter?…I’m the only one who sees them.”

She lifted her feet from the low table and placed them neatly on the carpeted floor. The jade satin nightie she wore slipped coolly over her skin and she caressed the material, her mind imagining someone else’s hands. Closing her eyes, she thought about her day…and the unsettling incident that occurred at its end.

 

 

 

 

“So what you’re telling me is that we can’t make it to the Exeter in time to transfer the samples.”

Commander Will Riker, second in command nodded and grimaced.

“Uh huh. Captain Picard spoke to Captain Harding and did everything he could to urge him to shave off some time, but Harding is adamant that they can’t leave Kemming III in time to meet us.”

Beverly scowled and shook her head.

“But dammit Will, those samples will deteriorate until they’re utterly useless! Why the hell did we bother to collect them if we can’t get them back to Starbase 75 in time for the study?”

The big bearded man held up his hands and sighed.

“Hey I agree with you, but the Captain couldn’t swing it. Put them in stasis and we’ll hand them over as soon as we can.”

Hands firmly placed on her hips, the Doctor squeezed her eyes shut.

“You realise, of course, that stasis won’t prevent the eventual corruption of the tissue? That by withholding them we will effectively destroy them?”

Will sighed and nodded.

“The Captain sends his regrets, but that’s how we have to play this. We have to do a sweep of the Neutral Zone. Until we meet with another ship that can take the samples…well I’m sorry Beverly we have no choice.”

Her lips compressed into a thin line, the Doctor nodded curtly.

“Ok Will. I can see we’re cornered. I’ll do my best to preserve something of what we’ve collected…maybe we can get some back to the study in time.”

Will grinned at his friend and was about to leave when the red head caught his elbow.

“By the way Will…you and the Captain are the only people yet to have their annual physical. Now Jean-Luc I know will be recalcitrant, but you…you usually show up on time. What’s going on?”

The Commander flushed and shrugged his shoulders.

“Ah…I’ve been a bit busy.”

“Well unbusy yourself and report for you exam…today!”

“Aye Sir!”

Chuckling, Beverly slapped his shoulder and sent him on his way. As it was still early in the day, she left her office and sought out her head nurse.

“Alyssa, when you’re finished recalibrating that monitor I want you to help me do an inventory of the analgesics. I think we’d better increase the supply…and we should make available more hyposprays too.”
Alyssa Ogawa frowned, her expressive dark eyes showing her concern.

“Are we expecting battle?”

Beverly smiled encouragingly and shook her head.

“No, but we will be patrolling the Neutral Zone and I happen to subscribe to the notion that it’s better to be prepared.”

Sighing with relief, the nurse nodded and went to retrieve a PADD. Beverly entered her office, seated herself behind her desk and took a steadying breath.

“Crusher to Picard.”

“Picard here.”

His voice was clipped and curt.

“Captain I know you’re busy, but could you spare me a few minutes?”

There was a momentary silence before he replied.

“Make it quick Doctor.”

Her hands fisted on her desk, Beverly plunged ahead.

“I’ll come right up. Crusher out.”

As the Doctor swiftly left Sickbay she called over her shoulder,

“I’ll be back soon Alyssa. You start and I’ll help when I get back.”

The reply was lost as the determined medico stepped smartly through the corridors of the great ship. The turbolift deposited her on the Bridge and she cast a smile at Will as she pointed to the Ready Room door in query. He nodded his reply and she pressed the annunciator, knowing she would be summoned by his call.

“Come.”

The doors sighed open and she paused at the threshold noting how tired her friend looked.

“Doctor Crusher come in…what can I do for you?”

Beverly stood before his desk, her eyes roving over the PADDS strewn across the surface.

“When was the last time you slept?”

Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the ship didn’t lift his eyes from the computer screen.

“Doctor I’m rather pressed for time. What do you want?”

Biting back an acerbic reply, Beverly placed her hands on the desktop and leaned forward.

“Jean-Luc…”

With an irritated gesture, the Captain paused his work and glared up at his visitor.

“Doctor?”

Adopting a more formal stance, Beverly stood at attention and looked straight ahead.

“Captain I requested your presence a month ago for your annual physical exam. You haven’t come in yet and I wish to remind you that standing orders require that…”

“I know what the orders require Doctor. It is not convenient at this time. Perhaps when things are less…”

Beverly abandoned her posture and leaned over the desk.

“Jean-Luc you haven’t eaten or slept properly for days. This current alert could go on indefinitely! I want…”

His sudden standing took her unawares.

“Doctor…Beverly look I know I’ve been somewhat harried lately, but I really can’t spare the time to come down to Sickbay…at least not in the foreseeable future. However I can assure you that I will…”

Beverly held up her hands and stopped him.

“Ok, I can understand that. Tell you what, you give me your word that you’ll go to your quarters tonight…that you’ll have a decent meal and a proper sleep in your own bed…and I’ll stop nagging you about the physical. Deal?”

She worried briefly as his dark hazel eyes glittered dangerously, his face a mask of stone. When his shoulders relaxed almost imperceptibly, she knew he’d agree.

He nodded once and muttered,

“Agreed.”

She sighed happily and dropped the other shoe.

“Good. I’ll meet you in your quarters at 20.00 hours.”

Before he could protest she turned and left, he was still standing when the doors closed, a bemused expression gracing his handsome features.

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of Beverly’s day passed uneventfully. Will finally appeared for his exam, then routine tasks ate up the time, her end of shift delayed by half an hour when a late patient came in with a dislocated shoulder. She was weary as she entered her cabin. Checking the time, she showered and changed into some comfortable off duty clothes and was outside the Captain’s door at 20.10. When her repeated button pressing failed to make the Captain appear at the door she was about to enquire as to his whereabouts when the man himself rounded the corner near his door, his nose buried in a PADD.

“Jean-Luc?”

He stopped his feet and raised his head sharply, a look of mild annoyance on his face.

“Doctor?”

“We have an appointment…remember?”

He frowned and shook his head, smiling ruefully.

“Ah yes, so we do.”

They entered his quarters together and Beverly shooed him into his bedroom while she replicated their dinner. She was setting the table when he reappeared, making her sigh exasperatedly.

“Still in uniform? Jean-Luc why don’t you…”

He shook his head curtly and scowled.

“You know better than that Beverly. This close to the Zone I have to be…”

The Doctor raised her hands.

“I know, I know…ready for anything. Are you going to sleep in it too?”

His look of displeasure chastened the irritated Doctor.

“I’m sorry Jean-Luc. Come on let’s eat.”

With both officers tired, conversation was non-existent. Beverly watched as Jean-Luc struggled to finish the moderate meal she’d given him. Concerned, she frowned when he yawned and set down his cutlery. Knowing nagging would only provoke anger, she instead took his hand and gained his attention.

“I’ll clean up here. Why don’t you go sit on the sofa and I’ll bring you a cup of Earl Grey?”

Nodding, he stood slowly and took the time to stretch, grimacing at the stiffness of his muscles. When Beverly returned from the replicator she was heartened to see her best friend smiling warmly at her. His deep voice was rough with fatigue, but it still sent a shiver down her spine.

“Thank you Beverly, I’m sorry I’m not better company.”

She sat beside him and placed their drinks on the low table.

“That’s ok Jean-Luc, I understand. How long will we be on patrol?”

She was surprised by the look of worry in his eyes.

“To be honest I don’t know. Headquarters has received information that the Romulans have deployed several ships close to the border. Of course we’re in the dark as to their intent, but the mere presence of a fleet of war birds has Command worried. Our orders are to engage any vessel that encroaches into our space…that and to gather as much information as we can, a task made almost impossible by their improved cloaking devices. They could be sitting right alongside and we wouldn’t know.”

Beverly’s eyes followed his as they gazed out the viewports at the streaking stars, highlighted against the blackness of space.

“How long have Command known?”

He sighed and rubbed his face.

“Ten days.”

“So that’s why we were pulled from escorting those colonists? I wondered about that, their ships weren’t nearly well enough equipped for the journey they were undertaking. And the Exeter…she’s been re-directed too hasn’t she?”

Jean-Luc sat back and stretched his legs out in front of him.

“Uh huh. John said they’d been ordered to Bajor to bolster our presence at the worm hole.”

“So that business about Kemming III was a red herring?”

His nod was his answer. They sat in silence for several moments, each deep in thought. Beverly recovered first and gently rubbed his thigh.

“Ok fair enough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good night’s sleep. Who’s on duty?”

“Data.”

“Right. You go and get into your sleep wear and I’ll tuck you in.”

He sighed and shook his head.

“Beverly…you know I can’t…”

She stood and placed her fists on her hips.

“Don’t make me order you!”

He came abruptly to his feet with remarkable grace and speed, catching the Doctor unprepared.

“Doctor!”

She swallowed and stood her ground. In a quietly insistent voice she said,

“I mean it Captain.”

He held her gaze, his jaw flexing. With a suddenness that startled her, her turned on his heel and stalked into his bedroom, the door whispering shut behind him.

His anger was palpable, evident even though he was no longer in the room. Beverly took a claming breath and waited five minutes before approaching his bedroom. The door opened and she saw Jean-Luc dressed in a pair of dark blue silk shorts, his hands busy aligning his boots near the bed, his uniform neatly folded on the chair. He heard her come closer and turned to face her. Gesturing to himself, he sneered,

“Satisfied?”

Sighing, Beverly pointed to the bed.

“I will be when you get in there.”

He half turned, but stopped and faced her again, his face settled in a deep frown.

“Why do you do this to me Beverly? Why do you persist in…”

Becoming irritated, she gripped his shoulders, gently shaking them.

“Because I care dammit!”

His eyes became intense as he looked deeply into hers.

“You care? For me or the Captain?”

Shocked, Beverly felt anger building.

“That’s a stupid thing to ask! You know perfectly well that I care…”

She got no further. He was suddenly standing very close, his hands burying themselves in her hair. His breath washed over her lips as his face neared hers.

“Show me.”

When their lips touched she shuddered as the electricity flashed through her body. When she didn’t protest he deepened the kiss, his tongue easing open her mouth. With tentative strokes, his tongue caressed hers, becoming bolder as she fell into the sensations coursing through her. Her hands slid up his arms, but when they reached his shoulders she gripped him and pulled away. Closing her eyes and bowing her head she whispered urgently,

“No…”

He gently lifted her head and gazed at her face, his voice broken with sorrow and frustration.

“Why Beverly…for God’s sake tell me why?”

She stepped back from him, her eyes still closed. Shaking her head she found her voice.

“I…I can’t. Goodnight Jean-Luc.”

He reached for her but she escaped his grasp and ignored his plea for her to stay. Her name, spoken with anger and despair was the last thing she heard as the doors to his quarters closed, leaving her out in the corridor.

 

 

 

 

 

“Blue…yes I think dark blue…”

Beverly leaned forward looking at her feet. Thinking of that shade made her remember Jean-Luc’s sleep shorts.

“Dammit!”

She straightened and took a calming breath. She was about to stand when the door annunciator sounded. A deep frown creased the alabaster skin of her brow. Irritated at the late caller, she asked,

“Computer, who is at my door?”

“Captain Jean-Luc Picard.”

Beverly clenched her fists and closed her eyes. Raising her voice slightly, she called out,

“I’m in bed Captain.”

Through the speaker in her ceiling his baritone resounded.

“Beverly…we need to talk. I want to apologise for…”

“I’m very tired Captain and I’ve got a busy day tomorrow. I think it best that we both get some sleep.”

The continued use of his rank irritated Jean-Luc. Hiding behind their respective positions was an old trick of Beverly’s. He tried once more.

“Beverly…please…”

“Goodnight Captain.”

The channel closed and the Captain glowered.

“Fuck!”

Turning on his heel he marched to the nearest turbolift. Already dressed in uniform, he stated his destination.

“Bridge!”

 

 

 

 

The next day Jean-Luc called a senior staff meeting. As his officers filed in, he studiously ignored Beverly as she took her seat, focussing instead on the obsidian top of the conference table. When everyone was seated, he raised his head and cleared his throat.

“We have a situation. Starfleet headquarters contacted me last night to inform me that we will be patrolling the Zone for the interim. As to when we will be relieved…I don’t know. Admiral K’tok has told me that the Romulan Empire has been recently destabilised by internal strife. We don’t know what faction is in charge of the fleet sent to the Zone…that’s something we’ve been asked to find out.”

Will straightened and stroked his beard.

“This could be tricky. If the fleet is under the control of the government…well I think we know what to expect…stand off and chest thumping. But if it’s under the auspices of some unknown group…what the hell are we supposed to do?”

The Captain regarded his First Officer with equanimity.

“We have been ordered to engage any ship which encroaches into our space.”

“That’s it? What if it’s the whole damn fleet? What about back up?”

Jean-Luc shook his head and pursed his lips.

“None in the foreseeable future…we’re on our own.”

Beverly could remain silent no longer.

“But that’s ludicrous Captain! We can’t be expected to keep this whole sector safe by ourselves…we need help.”

Not making eye contact, Jean-Luc sighed.

“I agree with you Doctor but our orders stand. Geordi how far have you got with our detection grid?”

The brilliant Engineer scowled, his visor glinting in the light.

“I’ve done what I can with the limited information we received. Captain I can’t guarantee we will be able to detect them…all I can hope at this point is that the tachyons spike as I hope they will…if they don’t…well we’ll be blind.”

The Captain nodded and turned his attention to Data, the third in Command and the only android officer in Starfleet.

“Data what are your thoughts?”

He tilted his head considering his superior’s question, a gesture not necessary but one he adopted to appear more human.

“I agree with Geordi Captain. We have done the best we can with the available information.”

Jean-Luc looked around the table, still avoiding eye contact with Beverly.

“Very well. Counsellor I want you to be aware of heightened stress amongst the crew. Arrange for as much off duty activity as you can under the circumstances. Doctor you’d better have Sickbay prepared for casualties…I can only hope your preparations aren’t necessary.”
He again cast his eyes over his senior staff and nodded once.

“Dismissed.”

All rose except Beverly and the Captain. He sensed her reluctance to speak with him in front of the others and remained silent as his officers filed out. When they were alone, she reached for his hand, which he withdrew out of her reach.

“Jean-Luc?”

His eyes fixed on the tabletop, he responded,

“Doctor?”

She sighed and briefly shut her eyes.

“You went back on duty last night didn’t you.”

He said nothing, his face a mask, his hands fisted under the table.

“I thought we had a deal? You eat…get some decent rest…”
”Is there a point to this Doctor because I’m rather busy right now?”

Annoyed with his obtuseness, Beverly stood suddenly and glared down at him.

“Fine! Stew in your own juice Captain…I’ll be in Sickbay!”

She left swiftly her ire tainting the atmosphere of the room. Jean-Luc remained seated for only a few minutes before he abruptly stood, tugged down his jacket and exited the lounge. Striding onto the Bridge he barked,

“ETA at the Zone Mr. Larkam?”

The Ensign clearly felt his Captain’s anger and responded with alacrity.

“Two point three hours Sir!”

All the Bridge personnel stiffened with tension as their most senior officer prowled around the stations, emanating angst. Will stood from the Command chair and watched his Captain, a frown upon his face. He felt the touch of a familiar caress in his mind.

“Imzadi?”

He sent back a subliminal message.

“I don’t know…something’s wrong.”

His eyes sought and found the inky black eyes of Counsellor Deanna Troi. Her brow creased in worry, she followed the Captain’s progress around the Bridge.

She caught Will’s attention and sent…

“He’s furious about something…I sense intense anger…and despair. He wasn’t like this during the briefing…in fact he was almost unreadable to me. This is recent…didn’t Beverly stay behind to speak with him?”

Giving a surreptitious nod, Will kept his eyes on Jean-Luc.

“Well something happened between them. Wait a minute.”

Will chanced a glance at his lover to find her eyes clouded as she cast her mind outwards seeking someone else. After a few minutes she centred herself and frowned.

“Will? Beverly’s in a state too. What the hell has happened?”

Will gave a small shrug just as the Captain rounded the lower level of the Command centre. He glared at his First Officer and let his eyes slide over Deanna, glaring at her too, then he stopped with his fists on his hips.

“You wanted to say something Number One?”

Swallowing and feeling the waves of anger coming from his Captain, Will plucked up his courage.

“Sir could I see you in the Ready Room please?”

Jean-Luc stood perfectly still, his dark hazel eyes glittering dangerously. Abruptly he stalked past Will and entered his Ready Room, closely followed by his First Officer. Instead of sitting behind his desk, as was his custom, he turned to face his officer, his arms defensively folded across his chest. In a deadly quiet voice he said,

“Well, what is it?”

“Sir…something’s wrong…very wrong. Since you’ve come out of the lounge…you’re angry Sir…furious in fact. Is there anything I can do?”

After glaring at Will, Jean-Luc lowered his head and sighed. He unfolded his arms and allowed his body to relax, perching on his desk and gripping its edge.

“It’s nothing to concern you Number One…I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have let it show.”

Will nodded and relaxed a little himself.

“I see Captain…but if I can help…”

Jean-Luc shook his head and stood, once again the unflappable Captain Will knew so well.

“No Will that won’t be necessary, but thank you nonetheless. I will endeavour to be more…circumspect in future.”

Will recognised the subtle dismissal and turned to leave. He halted just shy of the door sensor.

“Captain…you can talk to me about anything…you know that?”

Jean-Luc mustered a warm smile and nodded.

“I know…thank you.”

Will nodded once and left. The Captain clenched his jaw briefly and shook his head brusquely.

“You old fool Picard!”

He rounded his desk and was soon ensconced in the mission briefing.

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly strode into Sickbay and had issued several curt orders before she realised her staff were casting sidelong glances at her. Taking a deep breath, she summoned a smile and adopted a more civil approach to her co-workers. She has just organised teams for projected triage when Deanna appeared at her side. The Doctor glanced at her, grimaced and attempted to walk away. Deanna would have none of it. Following the Doctor, she guided her into the office and waited until Beverly had taken her seat.

“What’s wrong?”

Beverly huffed and flicked her hand at her friend.

“Nothing! Nothing’s wrong…I’m just…busy.”

“Bullshit Beverly! You’re so incensed I can feel you decks away! What happened…and don’t tell me it didn’t involve the Captain because he’s as angry as you are.”

Shocked at Deanna’s use of an expletive, Beverly swallowed her smart reply and instead considered giving the Counsellor an honest answer. She cogitated too long.

“Beverly?”

Groaning, the red head pulled one leg up and hugged her knee.

“Oh Christ Deanna…it’s so complicated! Last night I was in his cabin…late…and I’d managed to get him to agree to eat and sleep properly. Next thing I know he was kissing me…and I responded. I was shocked…it was the last thing I expected. He was dead tired and worn out, yet here he was curling my toes.”

Deanna’s eyebrows rose, but she kept her opinions to herself.

“What did you do?”

Beverly closed her eyes and grimaced.

“Like I said I responded and he deepened the kiss. It was getting very heated when I stopped it. I pulled away and said something like…no I can’t…and left.”

“Did you want to leave?”

Beverly was silent for some minutes and Deanna gave her the time to collect her thoughts.

“No. In fact I’ve thought about it for a long time…too damn long.”
She sighed deeply.

“It’s just that…”

When she’d drifted in silence for a while, Deanna gently spoke.

“What happened then?”

“Oh I went back to my quarters, got changed and was sitting contemplating my toes when he turned up and wanted to talk to me.”

Deanna frowned and plexed, waiting for the emotional spike the memory elicited dissipate in her friend.

“What did you do?”

Beverly sighed again and rubbed her face with her elegant hands.

“I shut him out completely. I ignored his pleas and cut him off at the knees. I wouldn’t be surprised if he never speaks to me again.”

Deanna tilted her head and watched the sorrow creep across the planes of her friend’s face.

“I think your friendship with him is stronger than that Beverly. Give it time.”

The Doctor opened her eyes and Deanna saw they glittered with unshed tears.

“Maybe…I hope so Deanna…I can’t think of what my life would be like without him…I…oh God…I love him…I just can’t seem to…oh God what a mess!”

She closed her eyes, loosening two tears that coursed down her cheeks. Lowering her head, she didn’t hear her friend move from the chair to wrap her arm around her.

“Time Beverly…that’s all either of you need. Perhaps after this alert is over…”

Beverly nodded and straightened, already denying her loss of control. She gently shrugged out of the embrace and stood, smoothing her uniform. Deanna, used to Beverly’s coping methods wasn’t offended. She stood back and watched as the Doctor composed herself.

“You’ll be ok?”

A rueful smile emerged and Beverly nodded.

“I know who to see if I’m not.”
Deanna shook her head and laughed.

“Ha! That’ll be the day!”

The two friends went back into Sickbay and Deanna gave Beverly’s hand a quick squeeze. The Doctor winked at her and watched her leave. Smiling grimly she went back to her work.

 

 

 

 

 

The patrol had been quiet so far. For the last two days the Enterprise had been casting her net of tachyons, hoping to register the presence of War Birds. Beverly had had no contact with the Bridge, but late in the afternoon of the third day she felt she should give her Captain a proper report of the health of his crew. She undertook her journey to the Bridge with some trepidation, clutching her PADD as if it were a lifeline.

Will was occupying the Command Chair when she entered and he lifted his chin, pointing to the Ready Room.

In a quiet voice he muttered,

“He’s been in there about four hours.”

Beverly frowned and moved closer.

“Has he been eating? Sleeping?”

The big man shrugged his shoulders.

“To be honest I don’t know for sure. He orders the crew to eat and sleep, but I don’t know if he takes his own advice.”

The Doctor nodded and approached the door. When she’d pressed the annunciator twice and still it went unanswered, she used her override to enter. The Captain was sleeping soundly on the sofa, a plate with a half eaten sandwich and a PADD balanced on his chest. She noticed an obviously cold cup of tea on the floor and shook her head when she saw how slim he’d become. His uniform was actually baggy on his lean frame. She knelt beside him and gently shook his shoulder.

“Hey.”

He inhaled sharply, his eyes cracking open. He would’ve sat up but he realised just in time that he had articles perched on his chest. His large hands gathered the items and he sat up slowly, swinging his legs around until he was seated properly and facing his visitor. His first attempt at speaking was aborted as he cleared his throat. Frowning, he tried again.

“Doctor?”

“How long have you been asleep?”

He stood and moved to his desk, turning the terminal.

“I was going to have something to eat and study that PADD at…11.30.”

Beverly smiled softly and stood beside him.

“And it’s now 15.45. What does that tell you?”

He scowled and rounded his desk, putting some distance between them.

“It tells me I’ve wasted enough time and that I should apply myself to my duties…as should you Doctor. Why are you here?”

Pursing her lips and swallowing her annoyance, Beverly sat in front of him and placed her PADD on the desk.

“I came to give you an in depth report on the crew’s condition.”

He nodded curtly and held his hand out. She passed him the PADD and he made a show of bringing up the required information. Reading it for a while, he said, without looking at her,

“Ah yes, this is quite…complete. I’ll let you know what I think. Is there anything else?”

Beverly’s face gave him a tender look and she reached across the desk for his hand. He settled his hands on his lap and stared at the terminal.

“Jean-Luc…”

His eyes, when they met hers were hard and full of hurt.

“What Doctor? What could you possibly say to me to make me feel better?”

Abruptly Beverly withdrew her hand and sat up straight, her face a professional mask.

“Captain as CMO I am ordering you to your quarters for a decent meal and a good night’s rest. I will inform the First Officer of my orders and I expect you to comply.”

Bringing his hands to the desktop, he couldn’t stop them forming fists. He bowed his head and closed his eyes, willing the anger…the outrage…to subside. When he felt in control he muttered,

“Very well. Am I to be allowed to return to duty tomorrow?”

Still maintaining her icy visage, Beverly intoned,

“After you report to Sickbay for a complete physical. If I’m satisfied with the outcome, then yes, you may return to duty.”

His deep baritone now soft and deadly, he asked,

“And if you aren’t?”

“Then I’ll address that when I come to it.”

He sniffed derisively and stood.

“You realise that I will enter my strenuous objections to this…unnecessary course of action?”

“So noted Captain. I trust you will report directly to your quarters…or do you require an escort?”

Now icy cold, the Captain ground out,

“That will not be necessary.”

“Very well Captain. Goodnight.”

Beverly held her breath until she was out of the room. She stopped long enough to tell Will of her decision, then left the Bridge and hurried to her quarters. She only just made it to her toilet before she lost her lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was seated on the sofa, clad in his sleep shorts and dressing gown, reading a PADD. It was late and he frowned when the annunciator sounded. He stood and called,

“Come.”

The doors whispered open to reveal Beverly Crusher, dressed in off duty clothes, her hands behind her back.

“May I come in?…Or would you rather vaporise me on the spot?”

He nodded slowly, though his eyes were hard.

She entered and made her way to the viewports, choosing to stare at the stars rather than face him. He stood his ground, opting to watch her.

“You must realise I had only your well being in mind when I issued those orders. I meant no offence.”

“Yet you issued them, knowing how I would feel about them.”

She turned to face him, her arms hugging her chest. Lowering her face she muttered,

“You and I both know there’s more to this than your pride.”

His silence made her look at him. What she saw made her shudder. His face was a mask of pain, haunted eyes sought to rest on something calming. His arms hung limply at his sides, his shoulders slumped. She stepped towards him and his head came up abruptly, a look of hurt defiance in his eyes.

His voice was strained, cracking with emotion.

“As I said before…what could you possibly say to me to make me feel any better? You shut me out…you…”

“I know! And I hate myself for doing it! Look Jean-Luc I don’t have the answers you seek, but I can tell you I care…I care deeply…”

He stepped up to her and took her forearms in his hands. Dipping his head to catch her eyes, he implored,

“Tell me! Tell me how much you care.”

Dredging up all her courage, Beverly lifted her chin and faced him. Summoning her voice she said breathily,

“I love you.”

His body froze…in fact he stopped breathing. His piercing eyes bored into hers and his grip of her arms became almost painful.

“You what?”

She swallowed and repeated herself.

“I love you…I have for a long time.”

He surprised her by suddenly releasing her and striding to the centre of the room. He stood for a moment with his back to her and she feared what his reaction would be. Slowly turning, she was relieved to see his face had softened; in fact he tilted his head and half smiled.

“You love me?”

She hugged herself again and nodded.

“Uh huh.”

“Then why..?”

With a huff of exasperation, Beverly circumnavigated the table and sat heavily on the sofa.

“I don’t know! Every time we go there…I panic!”

He approached her slowly, as if sidling up to a scared animal that might bolt at a moment’s notice. Sitting gently he turned to her and spoke in his softest voice.

“Beverly…if you feel as I do…then we should explore those feelings. We should feel free to express ourselves, to experiment with each other…if it’s time you want, I won’t rush you. I’m a patient man Beverly…you know that. I’ve waited thirty years, I can wait some more.”
Beverly sighed, an unwanted spike of anger boiled under her skin and she was at a loss to understand why. Shaking her head quickly, she sought to ease his worries.

“It’s not that. Look if I understood it, I could explain it to you, but I don’t. All I know is, every time we try to initiate something more than what we already have…I feel…afraid.”

He sighed and clasped his hands in his lap.

“Are you afraid of losing our friendship?”

“Maybe. It would be disastrous if we tried for something more and failed. Where would our friendship be then?”

“But Beverly we could spend the rest of our lives conjecturing about ‘what if’s.’ If we don’t try, we’ll never know.”

Shaking her head, Beverly stood.

“That’s just it Jean-Luc…I don’t know if I’m willing to try! Look…right now isn’t the ideal time to be dealing with this. How about, when the current alert is over and we return to more normal missions, we get together and talk about this over a bottle of wine?”

Jean-Luc stood and stepped close to her, so close she could smell his clean warm scent. Rattled, she stepped back and took a deep breath. Seeing her discomfort, Jean-Luc relaxed and stepped back also.

“And in the meantime?”

She risked a glance at his eyes and sighed at the love she saw there, swirling in their depths.

“In the meantime we do our jobs and look out for each other.”

He allowed a sardonic smile.

“So it’s business as usual then?”

His playfulness, albeit forced, warmed her. Her own smile appearing, she winked at him.

“Uh huh…and I’ll see you in Sickbay first thing tomorrow…after you get a good night’s sleep.”

He lowered his head and studied his bare feet.

“As you wish Doctor.”

She moved to leave, but as she passed him, she gripped his arm and kissed him tenderly on the cheek.

“Don’t forget Jean-Luc…I do love you.”

He nodded thoughtfully and half turned to watch her leave.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She turned to him and, as the doors closed, blew him a kiss.

He stood for a full ten minutes deep in thought before finally shaking himself free of his reverie. Half an hour later he was in bed, but sleep took a long while to claim him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning saw the Captain sitting in his briefs on a biobed in his private room in Sickbay. Alone, he was waiting for Beverly to return with the results of the battery of tests she’d conducted over the course of the morning. Already irritated, he glowered at the nurse who came in to collect a PADD and sneered when he enquired if the Captain would like a drink. He was about to call the Doctor when she wandered in, her attention firmly fixed on a tricorder. She detached the module from the instrument and waved it about his torso, frowning and inputting some instructions. He was forming an indignant complaint, when she pushed on his shoulder and said absently,

“Lie down.”

With nothing else to do but comply, Jean-Luc scowled again and swivelled on the bed, bringing his feet up and doing as she requested. There followed a lengthy exploration of his lower abdomen, endured in silence by the angry man. Abruptly, Beverly snapped the tricorder closed and replaced the module. Jean-Luc glared at her and said through gritted teeth,

“Can I sit up now?”

Lost in thought, Beverly stared sightlessly at him, then gathered her thoughts and said lightly,

“Of course you can.”

He sniffed derisively and straightened his back.

“Are you finished? Can I get out of here?”

“What? Oh no…not yet. I want to take some blood.”

He snarled.

“Dammit Doctor, I’ve been here all morning! When are these bloody tests going to be completed?”

Startled, Beverly gaped, then glared.

“You can go when I say so! Now sit still and be patient.”

He was about to remonstrate with her when she placed a hypo syringe against his neck and withdrew 20mls of blood. He winced and rubbed his neck, an action completely ignored by the Doctor. She went to the computer and entered the blood sample, watching the monitor keenly. She seemed satisfied with the results because she turned to the Captain and said,

“Ok you can get dressed now. Come and see me in my office when you’re ready.”

She ignored his glare and his grumbled, “It’s about time.” And left him to dress.

Scant minutes later he was seated in her office, tapping his fingers on her desk.

She came in shortly but he addressed her even before she sat.

“Well what are the results? Can I return to duty?”

Sighing, Beverly laid a PADD on the desk and took the time to brush her hair back behind her ears, all the time further irritating her Captain.

“Doctor!”

“Captain! For God’s sake be patient will you!”

Jean-Luc slumped back in his chair, folding his arms across his chest and bowing to the inevitable.

“So tell me.”

“Ok. Your sleep last night did you a power of good, but it wasn’t enough. Also, your blood sugar is low, muscle fibres are weak and your immune system is slightly depressed. All in all…you’ve been cutting it too fine. A man of you age…”

“What about my age?!”

“As I was saying…a man of your age should take greater care of himself if he wishes to function at the optimum. In short, eat better meals…more frequently…and get better rest, also more frequently.”

Jean-Luc sat up and tugged on his jacket.

“Fine. I’ll eat better and get more sleep. Now, may I return to duty?”

“Jean-Luc…”

“Beverly…”

The Doctor sighed expansively and raised her hands.

“Ok you can return to duty. BUT…if I find you’ve been ignoring my advice…I’ll remove you from command and restrict you to quarters. Understood?”

He nodded curtly and stood.

“There will be a briefing this afternoon. Will you attend?”

She looked up at him, so handsome and oozing authority.

“Yes, I’ll be there.”

She watched him leave and sighed.

“Dammit Jean-Luc, why don’t you look after yourself? Why do I...?”

Her thoughts came to a screeching halt. Sitting up straight she shook her head.

“Is that it? Is it that I can only see him as a Doctor sees a patient? Am I capable of caring for him as a lover? Or is my interest in his well being purely driven by my instinct as a Doctor? No! I love him…don’t I? Surely I would care for him as a friend…regardless of my profession? Oh God…what a mess!”

With exaggerated movements she picked up her stylus and threw it across the room, vaguely disappointed when it didn’t break.

 

 

 

 

 

There followed three days of tense patrolling. Every anomaly was scrutinised, each blip in their sensors investigated. Late in the afternoon Jean-Luc was sitting in the Command Chair reading a report when an alarm triggered from the science station. The Lieutenant at the station reported to his Captain.

“Sir, we have an irregularity in the tachyon grid.”

Jean-Luc was on his feet immediately.

“Commander LaForge to the Bridge! Where Lieutenant?”

“Port quarter Sir, bearing 02.7 mark 03.8, six thousand metres.”

Jean-Luc called over his shoulder,

“Will, target our sensors on that area.”

The turbolift doors sighed open and Geordi stepped onto the Bridge. Going straight to the science station, he checked the readings then stepped up to the engineering station.

“Captain we have dissipation of ions. There’s something there…something big.”

Jean-Luc stood behind Geordi and muttered,

“Big enough to be a cloaked War Bird?”

The Chief Engineer studied his read outs and slowly nodded.

“Yes Captain I think so.”

Straightening, Jean-Luc caught Will’s eye and nodded. The First Officer stood and called out,

“Red alert! Shields up!”

The Captain glanced at his young helm officer and smiled grimly.

“Maintain course and speed Ensign.”

A tremulous “Aye Sir.” Was heard as the Captain directed his attention to the monitors.

“What is it doing Geordi?”

A slight pause then the Engineer responded.

“It’s mirroring us Captain. Same course, same speed.”

“How far on our side of the Zone are we Mr. Data?”

“Two thousand kilometres Sir.”

Jean-Luc gently rubbed his fingers over his lower lip.

“Hmm. Close, but definitely on our side. Ensign Garnsworthy, one half a degree turn to starboard, same speed.”

“Aye Sir.”

The mighty ship made her leisurely turn and Jean-Luc waited for Geordi’s assessment.

“It’s turning too Captain, exactly one half a degree to starboard.”

The Captain thought for a moment then said in a quiet voice,

“Ensign Garnsworthy, rotate the ship through the axis, using thrusters only, until you reach the coordinates I’m putting through to your board, then come to a dead stop.”

“Aye Sir.”

The Bridge crew watched as the stars slowly swept across the screen.

“And now Mr. LaForge, how are we positioned in relation to our bogey?”

“It’s directly off our bow Sir, six thousand metres.”

“Very good. Now Geordi, I want you to emit a low level ion burst through the forward deflector dish.”

“Captain?”

Jean-Luc stood beside his Chief and leaned against the console.

“We were expecting a spike in the tachyons, weren’t we?”

“Yes Sir.”

“And did we get any?”

Geordi grinned, seeing where his brilliant Captain was heading.

“No Captain, all we got was a disturbance and ion dissipation.”
”So?”…

“We send out a low level burst of ions and hope that we will silhouette the ship behind the tachyons.”

Jean-Luc patted the dark Engineer on the shoulder.

“Quite so Commander. At your convenience Mr. LaForge.”

As Geordi worked his magic with the instruments, Jean-Luc strolled down to stand before the viewscreen with Will. The big man stroked his beard and sighed.

“They might not like being discovered.”

“They’re in our space Will. They’re very lucky I’m a patient man or they may have had a volley of quantum torpedoes to deal with.”

Geordi’s voice drifted down from his station.

“We’re ready Captain.”

“Very good Commander. Make it so.”

Through their feet, the deck plates vibrated as the ship emitted the ion burst. Within seconds the sinister shape of a Romulan War Bird appeared as if shielded by sparkling blue dust.

“Well well, what have we here?”

Data frowned at his Captain, taking him far too literally.

“It is a War Bird Captain.”
“Thank you Data. Hail them Mr. Carstairs.”

The pretty Lieutenant at Tactical busied over her console.

“I have them Sir.”
”On screen.”

Jean-Luc braced his feet and faced the viewscreen. The image flickered briefly before a clear picture emerged. An elderly female Romulan Commander peered at the Captain, before nodding slightly.

“I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise. To whom am I speaking?”

“Commander Ralok of the T’ Ronne. Your reputation precedes you Captain…I am honoured.”

Jean-Luc bowed his head at the compliment and paced a few steps, his hands behind his back.

“Tell me Commander…what are you doing in Federation space?”

Ralok smiled and tilted her head.

“Let me ask you a question Captain. How did you detect us?”

The Captain stopped pacing and turned to the screen, his smile vanishing.

“I must inform you Commander, my orders are to engage any vessel that encroaches into our space. I ask you again…what are you doing in Federation space?”

The bravado seemed to leave the Romulan in stages. First she scowled and turned her back. She stalked to her Command Chair and seated herself before barking several orders to her crew. Then she sighed and slumped.

“This is difficult Picard. I take it you are aware of the…internal upheavals…the Empire has suffered recently?”

Jean-Luc straightened his back and folded his arms.

“I am aware of it, although I have no details.”

The Romulan waved her hand.

“It’s over and order has been restored, but unfortunately some young…hot headed…Commanders took it upon themselves to abscond with some War Birds, intent on causing trouble with the Federation…and anyone else they can find. My orders, and those of my fellow Commanders is to find them and bring them home…and I’m not so proud that I wouldn’t ask for your assistance.”

Jean-Luc studied the deck a moment, ordering his thoughts.

“So you were using us as bait? Waiting to see if we were attacked, then come to our aid?”

“More or less Captain. What’s most important is that we round up these…malcontents…before they do any damage. Will you help us?”

“Will you give us assistance in detection? We will need something better than that which we employ now.”

The old Romulan straightened and sniffed.

“It seemed to work well enough!”

Jean-Luc unfolded his arms and placed his fists on his hips.

“I will help you if you will help us.”

The woman stared at the Captain as if trying to peer into his very soul. Abruptly she nodded.

“Very well Captain! I will send information you may find useful.”

“Thank you Commander. Now tell me, where are we likely to find these…rebels?”

“Ah we’ve been working on that. Our last data package puts them nearby, perhaps only a few parsecs distant.”
Jean-Luc frowned and scratched his cheek.

“But if that’s so surely they would have us on their scanners by now?”

“Oh most certainly Captain. But they’re very skittish, very young. They will be over cautious, after all they will identify you as the Flagship of your fleet. They won’t approach you until they’re certain of victory.”

“I see. How many ships are we talking about?”

“Three Captain, all War Birds.”

The hand he rubbed over his bare scalp demonstrated Jean-Luc’s worry.

“And the crews Commander, what are they like?”

“Mostly untrained, idealistic young men and women, more interested in politics that space battles.”

“So we have three hot headed young Commanders, staffed by idealistic, untrained juveniles, flying around in fully armed War Birds with a chip on their shoulders and a grudge to settle? Not a very stable group would you say Commander?”

The Romulan chuckled and grinned at her counterpart.

“Is that what they call understatement? If it is you have a talent for it!”

The Captain summoned a smile of his own.

“So how many ships are out looking for them?”

“Eight in all. What with the unrest, we’re stretched pretty thin. Eight ships along the entire Zone…well I think you understand.”

“Indeed I do.”

Will stepped closer to his Captain and said sotto voce,

“We have their information Sir.”

Jean-Luc tugged on his jacket and smiled at the Commander.

“Well it seems we have some study to do. I take it you will stay cloaked and within easy reach?”

The older woman nodded.

“Yes Captain I think that would be best. I will alert you if I learn anything new.”

“Thank You Commander Ralok. Picard out.”

Jean-Luc turned to his First Officer and sighed.

“Well Number One let’s get busy. Have all relevant staff brought up to speed on the new information…I want to be able to scan for those cloaked ships ASAP. Senior briefing at…10.00 hours.”

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

As Jean-Luc finished relating his encounter with the Romulan Commander, the staff not at the meeting shifted in their seats. Beverly snorted and shook her head.

“So we’re to be bait…for a bunch of surly young Romulans with more interest in destroying us than returning peace to their planet?”

The Captain nodded, his eyes watching the rest of his senior staff.

“We will, of course, have an updated method of detecting them…hopefully well before they decide to risk challenging us.”

Data lifted one finger and cocked his head.

“Captain I fail to understand why these rebel Commanders would want to embark on their present course. Would it not be more beneficial to their cause to return home and accept punishment for what they have done?”

His sardonic smile prompted Data to surreptitiously attempt one himself.

“Oh I think they would rather be punished for destroying the Federation Flagship than just absconding with the ships. To date all they’ve done is steal some ships. Until they actually attack us…or anyone else for that matter, they’re not in all that much trouble. It’s amazing what can be forgiven when the age of the perpetrator is taken into account.”

Will grimaced and placed his hands on the table.

“If they hadn’t promoted those kids so early…why the hell did their Command structure think they were ready anyway?”
Jean-Luc shrugged.

“You must remember Number One, their planet has been strife torn for years now. Who ever controlled the fleet was always going to hold sway in the government; perhaps those…youngsters…were well connected? Who knows? The point is they are now our problem. Geordi how well will our sensors work with the new configurations?”

The Engineer looked at his Captain, a wide grin slowly appearing.

“With what the Romulans gave us…we should be able to see them within our normal sensor range…AND I’ve been given their warp signatures. At least if we get into battle we won’t be firing on our…friends.”

The Captain nodded, pursing his lips.

“Now we have to remember there are three of them and one of us. I’m not too keen on relying on Ralok…her assurances were very sincere but I’d rather depend on old-fashioned preparedness.  Will I want a new series of manoeuvres to augment what we already have. Bear in mind that we may be complicated by another ship wanting to be involved. Try to give us an autonomous approach, with enough room to defend ourselves adequately.”

“Yes Captain.”

“Data I would like you to study the weaknesses of the War Birds…can we take out their weapons and shields without maximum damage? Considering the age of the crews, I don’t want to inflict unnecessary casualties. If we can quickly disable these ships and hand them over to the Romulans it will greatly enhance our standing with their government. Counsellor…how is the crew taking the duration of the alert?”

Deanna straightened and answered her Captain.

“As well as can be expected Captain. I have had a few nervous crew drop by for reassurance, but it’s usually newer members, not the more seasoned officers.”

Jean-Luc nodded then turned his attention to Beverly.

“And you Doctor Crusher. How is Sickbay?”

She flashed him a warm smile and nodded.

“Fine Captain. We’re as ready as we can be.”

Placing his hands flat on the tabletop, Jean-Luc let his eyes wander to each of his staff. Nodding decisively, he said,

“Very well, dismissed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

For five days they trawled up and down their designated section of the Zone, occasionally running close to the border, at other times allowing themselves to drift further away. During the tense hours the crew acquitted themselves admirably. It was with great satisfaction that Jean-Luc read the reports of his department heads. So far, all was well. As for himself, he kept his promise to Beverly, eating properly and getting adequate sleep. On the morning of the sixth day the officer at tactical shattered the calm of the Bridge.

“I have a contact Captain! Sir…make that multiple contacts. One is just inside the Zone, one is eighty thousand kilometres in front of us and the other is seventy-five thousand kilometres behind us. Both the fore and aft contacts are in Federation space.”

Jean-Luc turned to his First Officer and raised his eyebrow.

“What do you think Number One? Upgrade from yellow alert?”

Will craned his head up and asked,

“Are they on the move?”

Checking his console took only seconds.

“Aye Sir. The fore and aft contacts are approaching, the one in the Zone is keeping pace with us.”

Will smirked and leaned towards his Captain.

“Trying for a triangular attack?”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“Most probably. They will have us on their scanners so we may as well react accordingly. Red alert! Shields up.”

Will chuckled.

“They’re probably trying to figure out how we detected them so early.”

Jean-Luc sniffed and asked Data,

“Is our friend still hanging around?”

“Yes Sir, six thousand kilometres to starboard, same course, same speed.”

“Very good. Tactical ETA to contacts?”

“Five minutes Captain.”

“Hail them.”

Jean-Luc studied his boots as he waited; his ankles crossed elegantly, his fingers meshed in his lap.

“No response Sir.”

“Again Ensign.”

“Aye…”

Data sat up suddenly and turned to his Captain.

“Sir the forward vessel has fired.”

Jean-Luc frowned and looked at Will.

“From this distance? They are keen. Evasive manoeuvres helm.”

The huge ship lazily swung out of the way as the torpedoes streaked by, but the projectiles turned tightly and retargeted them.

“Helm hard to port!”

Just as the Enterprise lurched aside, the torpedoes crossed paths and aligned themselves with each other. Again turning quickly, they angled in under the Starship and deliberately annihilated themselves in one vast blast. The great ship was blown off her path and shuddered as the shock waves buffeted her. On the Bridge the occupants held on as the lights dimmed and the inertial dampeners went briefly off line. Jean-Luc spun in his chair and said tightly,

“ETA?”

“Eighty seconds Sir. Incoming!”

“From where?”

“Aft…and ahead! Four torpedoes Sir and they’re firing their phasers.”

“Helm execute Picard gamma now!”

“Aye Sir.&r


© Copyright 2018 Heather Smyth. All rights reserved.

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