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Beverly's Subject

by Catherine Ellis

Rating : 13 +
Disclaimer : Paramount owns Star Trek. I'm just playing with their toys for my own amusement.

Summary : Picard volunteers for one of Beverly's experiments without realising what he's letting himself in for.
This story is set in 2352. Picard is 47 and Captain of the Stargazer. Jack Crusher is an officer on the same ship. He and Beverly (28) have been married for 4 years. At the start of the story the Stargazer is at some starbase where the crew is taking advantage of the recreational facilities. Beverly is back on Earth.

Jean-Luc slumped onto the floor beside his friend, sweaty and exhausted.

"It's getting ... really difficult ... to beat you Jack." He gasped .

"Then why ... don't you ... let me ... win for a change?" Jack was in no better state.

Picard considered this option while he recovered his breath.

"Sorry, I couldn't do that. When I start losing squash matches to you I'll have to admit I'm getting old."

"In that case you're welcome to beat me for a few years yet."

The Captain turned sharply on his companion.

"You don't let me win do you?"

"No, of course not." Jack was surprised at the emotion in Picard's voice, "Would it matter that much if a I did?"

"Yes!" He snapped. "I don't want to be lied to. Our previous security officer used to let me beat him at martial arts contests. The word PATRONISING just doesn't do it justice."

"I wondered why you hastened his transfer off the ship." Jack put his hand on his heart. "I promise you, Jean-Luc, I will always try my best."

Rather embarrassed by his friend's oath, Picard responded with just a quick smile.

"Actually Captain I rather like it that you beat me."

"How so?"

"Well ... though I'm as fit as you, I lose because you out-think me. Every time I work out how to cope with a particular shot you make up a new one. I find that rather reassuring in my captain. ... Beverly approves too."

When Picard looked puzzled, Jack explained how he had got into the habit of telling his wife about their matches.

"Why would she want me to beat you?" The thought of Beverly being interested in his body was exciting but he managed not to show it.

"Part of her current work is checking the physical condition of Starfleet officers who've spent years in space. She's appalled at how unfit some of the captains are and relieved mine is up to the job."

Picard coughed into his hand, hiding his amusement at the double entendre.

"In that case I shall try not to disappoint her." He lay back closed his eyes and imagined being given a full physical examination by Dr Crusher.

"Are you all right Sir?"

Startled out of his guilty thoughts Picard rose quickly to his feet.

"Perhaps I should send her the results of my medical examinations."

"That would be great! It would really help her research."

"I was joking, Jack!"

"Oh! I wasn't. Beverly needs a group of Starfleet captains who are willing to wear bio-monitoring devices for three months. She's trying to collect information on their physiological responses to the stress of command. One of the captains in the panel just dropped out so if you'd agree ... ?"

Picard tried to appear calm. Do I say No and offend my friends or say Yes and risk ... risk what? Surely wearing her monitoring device isn't going to lead me into temptation.

"All right. Tell her she's got another subject."


Three weeks later Picard sat in his quarters examining the package he had just picked up at Starbase 23. All it contained was a message chip and a small padded envelope. He loaded the chip and settled back to watch the recording. Beverly's face appeared on the screen and he sighed with pleasure. He knew this was a standard message for all the volunteer captains but for now he would pretended it was just for him.

"I'd like to thank you for agreeing to participate in this study. As a starship captain you are well aware of the stresses of the role. This study is to try and identify any behaviour patterns that help you cope with the pressures of the job. Now I know you may be a little anxious about this monitoring. You may be wondering if the information will be used to show you're not fit for your post. Well I can assure you that is not the case. I'm not interested in assessing your physical condition, that's your ship's doctor's responsibility.

"Now if you open up the envelope you'll find the monitoring device inside. It's quiet small." Picard was truly amazed, it was hardly bigger that an old coin.

"All you have to do is to arrange for your doctor to insert the device through a small incision in your lower left groin .."

"WHAT! " Picard shouted at the screen.

"Jack you b****** you never told me it was an internal device." He paced the room hardly able to control his anger.


A monitoring device you could remove at will was one thing but one you wore all day every day for three months! It would record everything, eating, sleeping, going to the toilet. Worse still, what if he felt the need for a little 'personal massage'? He knew he couldn't abstain from such activity for three months and the thought of Beverly monitoring was unbearable. There was nothing for it, he would have to back out - but how to do it without offending Beverly and Jack?

Picard restarted Dr Crusher's message hoping a suitable excuse would occur to him.

"... Besides the monitoring information I would find it helpful if you could maintain a daily log giving me a brief description of your activities. You don't need to include every trip to the toilet! I do realise how intrusive all this might seem. I carried a monitor myself for 3 months and kept a diary so I know what I'm asking. I can assure you I'm the only person who'll ever read your log."

He replayed the message two more times just for the pleasure of hearing and watching her. Near the end of the third rerun the perfect excuse occurred to him - his artificial heart. His bio-readings would be totally different from the other captains, surely his data would be worthless. A pity though, the thought of recording a daily log for Beverly was beginning to appeal to him - but not at that price.

He touched the computer panel and prepared to record a "Sorry Doctor" message. The panel beeped and displayed a list of in-coming messages. Amongst these was a personal message from Dr B. Crusher. Jean-Luc nervously selected this entry and her smiling face greeted him. She was obviously excited about something.

"Captain," he winced, call me Jean-Luc, "have you received the monitoring device yet. I can't tell you how pleased I am that you've volunteered. Your artificial heart will give me valuable information I can't get from the other subjects ... "

Oh S***

"... I've had great difficulty getting enough volunteers. As soon as they hear about the internal device and the daily log some of them back out. If you're worried what I might tell Jack, then don't be. I've never told him anything private about any of my patients or research subjects and I'm not about to start now. Also, you and I need never talk about this study if you'd rather not. Just record your log into the computer and forget that another human being will ever see it."

Picard gazed at the engaging smile on the screen.

"I could never forget you were there, Beverly. Never."


The ship's doctor looked suspiciously at him.

"Why the sudden willingness to be monitored all day long when you'll hardly let me take your temperature?"

Noble words about the importance of the research study wouldn't fool this experienced old medic. A more truthful reply was necessary.

"Jack Crusher asked me to help his wife and in a moment of madness I agreed."

"Oh aye? Don't worry Captain, your secret's safe with me. Pretty young thing, isn't she?"

Picard pretended he didn't understand.


The implant operation went well. The device fitted so neatly between skin and muscles that he couldn't feel it at all. Nevertheless he KNEW it was there. Entering the bridge Picard found himself moving as if he had a delicate glass egg inside his underpants. A few crewmembers gave him odd looks but didn't say anything. After standing behind his command chair for an unusually long time, he picked up courage and sat down. Nothing broke and a smile of relief crossed his face.

During his duty shift he tried to keep his mind on his work but the day was uneventful and the monitoring device kept intruding into his thoughts. A new image started to haunt him - he was a kangaroo like animal and his underpants were a pouch. A miniature Beverly was in there peeping over the edge and observing his world. This ridiculous idea refused to go away however hard he tried.


Jean-Luc was reminded of an affectionate dog as Crusher entered his quarters. Jack's constant good humour and obvious devotion were irresistible; it was hard to stay cross with him. The Lieutenant reported competently on his current duties and waited to hear why he'd been summoned. Picard had been intending to remonstrate with him about the internal monitor but had a sudden change of mind. He remembered Beverly's word about not discussing patients with her husband. Perhaps Jack doesn't know it's an internal device? Besides, if Beverly isn't going to discuss this study with Jack then why should I?

"I'm feeling rather sluggish Jack. I could do with some exercise. Do you fancy a bit of competition this evening? You pick the sport."

"Willingly! Pity we don't have a squash court on board, I feel lucky today. How about a martial art? Can I try and hit you with a Kendo stick?"

"You can try Jack. You can try."


Jack Crusher had no more success at kendo than he did at squash. Picard fought like a man possessed, unwilling to let his opponent even come close to hitting him. For Jean-Luc the contest had the desired physical effect of satisfying his need for energetic exercise. As he lay on his bed that night he had no strength left for any solo indulgences. Instead his mind mulled over the issue of the daily log for Dr Crusher. Should he use a text, voice or a visual recording method?

I'm as nervous a teenage boy composing his first love letter. This is ridiculous! Just get on with it. Sitting at the desk he instructed the computer to open a new audio file and started talking.

"Medical log for the attention of Dr Beverly Crusher only. Stardate , today. Er ... Hello Beverly... our ship's doctor inserted the device at 07:30 today. It appears to be working correctly.

"Er ... I was on bridge duty from 08:00 to 16:00 and spent most of that time actually on the bridge. It was a very uneventful day. The main stress was coping with the boredom!

"This evening Jack and I had a Kendo contest so you should see a few peaks in my heart rate around 20:00. ... I won, of course.

"The monitoring device is comfortable but I feel very self-conscious about it. Did you ever learn to forget the one you were carrying?

"Sorry. I forgot this isn't a letter, I shouldn't be asking you questions. Well ... Er ... I'm going to bed now. Good night."

What an appallingly dull entry! Tomorrow, he promised himself, it would be better.


As the days passed Picard found it easier to record the daily messages. Rather than restricting himself to his own activities he strayed into whatever events he felt might interest her. In fact he started viewing his life as though its main purpose was to report events to Beverly. By the fifth evening he was including random thoughts about his hopes, fears and childhood memories. Anyone listening to the recordings would have assumed they were letters to a very close friend or a personal log. However, despite this relaxed attitude he was careful to omit particular topics and extremely careful to avoid a certain activity.

The daily routine wasn't very eventful during the first week. The Stargazer was engaged in mapping an uncharted star system, a routine task the crew could have handled in their sleep. It wasn't until the seventh day that the stress levels went off the scale. That evening Picard could hardly bear to think about the accident as he recorded his entry.

"You'll see a few peaks in my bio-readings today from around 14:00. We almost lost a crewmember. ... " He paused to recover his composure. "To cut a long story short I had to order a young female ensign, Anna Wright, to go on a dangerous space walk with Lieutenant Arto. She was scared at the prospect but tried not to show it. Things went fine to start with and the pair of them repaired the antenna. Then a sudden shock wave hit us dragging them both away into a dense cloud. We had to go after Arto first as his bio-readings showed he was injured. Anna was some distance further on. We could hear her but she couldn't hear us." Jean-Luc fell slient as he remembered the moment.

"She started panicking, she thought we would never find her. ... Her screams were heart wrenching. She kept calling for her mother. ... I had to turn the comm link off ... I couldn't think with that sound in my ears. ... It was ten minutes before we reached her. You know the routine, bring her on board via an air lock. But I kept her in there longer than usual. I'm the Captain and Captains aren't allowed normal human feelings. I had to get her functioning again to 'full capacity'. I talked to her over the intercom as if I'd never heard her screams. I calmly congratulated her on the good repair job, told her to change into the clothes we had put to the air lock - I guessed she might have fouled the others - I chatted away about various matters until her snivelling stopped and her breathing sound normal. Only then did I let her out.

"Dear God, she's hardly more than a child! I wanted to give a hug and let her cry on my shoulder. But that's not allowed is it? I'm supposed to turn her into a hardened Starfleet officer. ... Tomorrow I've got to send her out again ... put her right back on the horse that threw her ... can't afford to carry any 'non-functioning' crewmembers on a small ship like this."

Picard left another long pause before he continued.

"Sorry Beverly. I shouldn't be dumping all this self-pity on you ... but it helps. I can't say these things to Jack or to another of my crew."

For a while Picard sat there considering whether to delete the entry. No, he'd leave it in, after all she needed to understand the stresses and he wanted to tell her about these moments.


Life on board the Stargazer was a mixture of mundane routine interspersed with periods of high interest or danger. To cope with the tedious spells the crew thought up competitions. A group of the younger human males started a beard growing contest. Three female officers would judge the results after 6 weeks. Jack Crusher entered but was obviously going to lose. After four weeks all he had to show was hint of a moustache and some soft down around his chin. This beard growing and associated jokes about manhood lead to more sexual innuendoes on the bridge than usual. The Captain had never objected to this type of conversation and didn't think he could start now; however he wished they would stop. The subject matter was exacerbating a personal problem - after many days of sexual abstinence he felt increasingly tense and short tempered. He needed someway of relieving the tension. An opportunity finally arose when they came across an uninhabited M class planet. Picard set Crusher the task of organising a two hour visit to the surface for everyone, including himself. When his turn can he wandered off on his own leaving instructions that on no account should he be called unless there was an emergency.

Everyone returned to the ship feeling invigorated and in fine spirits. With no women on bridge duty that watch, the young men returned to their favourite topic of conversation. The helm officer, Michael Hardwick was just declaring he had never felt 'so frisky' when Picard joined them.

"Captain, may I leave the bridge to take a cold shower?"

Picard froze; his face turned pink.

"Sir, are you all right?"

"Yes! Of course." He snapped. "If you'll excuse me. Mr Crusher you have the bridge."

His colleagues watched him about turn and leave, puzzled by his sudden outburst.


Back in his cabin Jean-Luc hit his head against the wall.

"How could I be so stupid? How could I forget? "

It was the change of location that had fooled him. He'd come to associate the monitoring device with the ship and had forgotten it would be with him on the planet. The water in that pool had been warm and sensuous, it invited relaxation. Relieving his sexual tension had seemed perfectly natural.

"Oh God. What do I do now?"


He spent the rest of his shift irritating the crew with unnecessary inspections. Anything was preferable to thinking about his problem. The fretting used up energy and his stomach ached. Whether it was hunger or anxiety he didn't know or care. In the ship's galley he loaded a tray and moved through to the mess tables. Some of the bridge crew sat talking at the main table. They paused as he entered, uncertain if they should continue.

"Carry on." he told them, trying to sound like one of the boys.

Jack cleared a space for him and Picard sat down neither in nor out of this group. Hardwick looked cautiously at the Captain before continuing to give Crusher the benefit of his advice.

"I tell you Jack you've got to keep practicing. How are you going to satisfy your wife if you don't keep it up?"

"Well ...", Jack didn't sound too keen on answering.

"I practice every day, sometimes three or four times."

Disbelieving chuckles came from all round the table, but Mike was insistent.

"It's true! Put a monitoring device on me if you like."

Jack Crusher glanced down the table towards Picard who had decided this was a good moment to stare intently at his food.


Recording the daily log entries had been an enjoyable activity. Usually Picard lay on his bunk bed and talked about whatever came into his head, but not tonight. Lying down was out of the question, it had too many ... connotations. He stood to attention and started speaking but his voice sounded strained and over formal. The thought of Beverly watching his bio-reading and guessing the cause of the peaks was excruciatingly embarrassing. He tried to concentrate on describing the day's other activities but the words wouldn't come. His mind kept returning to events in the pool.

"God damn it!" he shouted at the walls, "what does she expect!" Then he stopped and laughed at himself.

"Maybe this is exactly what she DOES expect? Maybe NOT indulging would surprise her? Hardwick obviously doesn't feel any embarrassment, why should I? I don't feel embarrassed while I'm in the toilet, why should this natural behaviour be any different? After all I wouldn't want her to think I was impotent. "

The relief was tangible, he felt so light-headed he had to lie down. Only one problem remained - having told himself it was all right to indulge he now wanted to -immediately. The log would have to wait.


The Stargazer's journey continued uneventfully for another 2 weeks. During such period's Picard's main concern was keeping the crew occupied and alert. Training exercises and practice drills were organised to fill their time. The old hands didn't mind as they enjoyed showing off their abilities to the trainees. Jack Crusher was assigned the task of teaching Anna Wright how to steer a shuttle craft back aboard a fast moving Stargazer without help of a tractor beam or other aids. His friendly jovial manner suited her perfectly and she was soon handling a shuttle with skill and confidence.

Crusher, however, was not handling the situation so well. One evening he moved nervously round Picard's quarters, fidgeting with objects and telling Jean-Luc things he already knew.

"Are you going to tell me what's wrong, Jack, or am I supposed to guess?"

"That obvious is it?"


"Well... " He decided to jump straight in. "Do you think Beverly trusts me?"

Picard stared at his friend. He hadn't anticipated this line of conversation.

"Have you given her reason not to?" He watched Jack's face carefully.

"Of course not! But it's not as simple as that. People make up stupid stories. Hardwick's been joking about Anna Wright being my 'girlfriend'. I know she's sort of attached herself to me but I did NOT encourage her. I was only doing my job, training her to fly. I couldn't bear for Beverly to hear any silly rumour."

Jean-Luc could see the fear in his eyes.

"Look Jack, Beverly might not have lived on a starship but she can imagine what it's like. She knows the shared dangers create strong friendships - look at us two. If you're really worried about this rumour then forewarn her, tell her about Anna in your next message home. Explain how you think she's become attached to you."

Jack looked a bit sheepish and none too happy with this suggestion.

"You do send messages home don't you Jack?"

"Yes! But mainly when we're near enough for two-way communications. I never was much of a letter writer. I can't think what to say. Now if I suddenly send her a message out of the blue talking about Anna then she WILL be suspicious." Jack hung his head in shame. "Please Jean-Luc! Help me out of this mess."

"And how do you suggest I do that?"

"Show an interest in Anna. When we get to the Cryack Nebula take her with you on some shuttle trips. Dazzle her. She'll soon lose interest in me once you're in the frame, all women do. Then Hardwick will forget the Jack's girlfriend jokes."

Jean-Luc was appalled; not at the suggestion he should charm Anna, he'd done that before to motivate a female crewmember. No, it was Jack's assertion that any woman would prefer him that was disturbing. Perhaps he was a greater threat to his friends' marriage than he'd realised.

"All right. If you think she's impressed by rank then I'll take her with me on a couple of shuttle trips, but I warn you she might consider me too old to be charming."

"She won't. Believe me Captain, she won't."

Jack was looking happier and Jean-Luc should have closed the subject but couldn't. Before his friend could leave the room he asked him one more question.

"Jack, do you trust Beverly?"

There was a pause before he replied in the affirmative.

"Why the hesitation?"

The young husband swallowed and started fidgeting again.

"I ... I don't understand why she married me. I'm not special, I'll never make captain, not even of a customs cutter. Beverly is special ... more than I ever realised when I proposed to her. She'll be head of a medical institute before she's 35. I know it and so do her colleagues. I've seen the way they look at her. Now why should a bright, talented, beautiful woman like that stick with me?"

"Because she likes your company."

Jack made a dismissive snort.

"I'm serious Jack. She wants you as a husband, as a father for her child. What's that got to do with making captain? Yes she's grown in the last few years but I don't see any change in her affection for you. She looks comfortable and happy in your company. Have some faith in yourself Jack or you will ruin your marriage."

The smile had returned to young man's face. He turned to leave for the second time. "Yes, Sir! And thank you."

"By the way, Jack, if you ever do give Beverly cause to distrust you I'll maim you so you're no use to any woman. Got that?"

"That's what I love about you Jean-Luc, you really know how to motivate people." The lieutenant ducked as a book narrowly missed his head.


Till now humans had only seen the Cryack Nebula as a distant image photographed by long-range probes. The Stargazer was the first vessel to go anywhere near it and the sight was more spectacular than Picard had ever hoped for. His daily logs for Beverly were filled with descriptions of the colours, shapes and textures of this strange formation. His inability to adequately describe what he saw led him to recorded pictures especially for her benefit. He wanted her to share in his experience, to understand his physical and emotional reaction to such a wondrous sight.

Two weeks of study couldn't do justice to the nebula but it would have to suffice. The ship's supplies were running down and they were a long, long way from support should anything go wrong. Picard ordered the helmsman to change course and reluctantly headed the Stargazer back to Earth.


Beverly borrowed a friend's house for the first week of Jack's shore leave. Her medical colleagues had got into the habit of calling at their own apartment and she feared her husband would resent their intrusion. The ploy worked well and after two days of his family's undivided attention Jack was again confident in his roles of husband and father.

Following the usual pattern they had invited Jean-Luc over on the third day. As he approached their house he stopped in the lane and watched while they sat chatting in the shade of a large tree. A pang of jealousy hit him. He'd always told himself he didn't need a family, that his ship was enough. But this last trip had disturbed things. It was the log for Beverly that had done it. He had got used to talking to her, to telling her things he never usually spoke of. When the monitoring device had been removed he'd felt terribly alone. There had been no legitimate excuse for continuing the log. Any future communication would have to be open, Jack would have to know about it and be expected to see it. Picard knew he wasn't interested in sending such messages.

The lieutenant greeted him with enthusiasm and Beverly hugged him briefly and kissed him on the cheek. Nothing odd in that but he relished the brief contact more than usual. Jack sat him down while Beverly disappeared to fetch their guest a drink. When she was out of earshot Jack laid his hand on Jean-Luc's arm.

"You remember that advice you gave me when I was worried about Hardwick's joke? Well ... it was good advice. Thank you."

He shut up as his wife returned.

"Grapefruit juice! Beverly you can't give a man this stuff. Let me get him a real drink."

"No Jack." Jean-Luc stopped him. "This will do fine, in fact more than fine. My grandmother used to give me this on hot afternoons when I walked over to see her. It's very refreshing and brings back happy memories." He nodded a thank you to Beverly who replied with a discrete smile. He now knew the score; she had already read his log and memorised a particular entry.

"Where's Wesley?"

"He's over at a friend's house." Jack explained." You'll see him later. Though I'd better warn you he's become totally obsessed by the Stargazer."

"We have something in common then." Picard joked but meant it.

"And a good thing too or you and I wouldn't be sitting here."

"Shut-up Jack, you're making me blush!"

"Darling, this man has an uncanny connection to his ship. He can sense problems the ship's monitors can't."

"That's not true Jack. It's just that after so many years on board I can spot unusual vibrations. The ship's sensors weren't positioned to detect those particular micro-fractures and that's something I should have anticipated."

"I don't care whether it's magic or familiarity, Jean-Luc, I'm just glad you're in charge. When we couldn't find a problem after sitting still for three days most of us wanted to get going. If you hadn't insisted we stick with the diagnostics then the Stargazer would have torn herself to bits in seconds. You won't get any arguments from this crew in future, however barmy the order."

A strained smile crossed Picard's face and Beverly guessed why. This man didn't want unthinking obedience. He wanted the crew to understand his reasoning for how else could they help him spot his errors?

"That seems a bit hard on Jean-Luc, Jack. What if he wants a second opinion. Are you just going to tell him he's infallible? "

Jack sat stroking his invisible beard unsure how to answer.

"Has Jack told you about the beard-growing competition?" said Picard, trying to lighten the mood. This was something he hadn't mentioned in his logs and he hoped it would amuse her.

"Some friend you are!" Jack squirmed. "OK, I'll tell her. A group of us had this beard growing competition for 6 weeks and I joined in, God knows why. As you can probably guess I could hardly produce a thing. All you could see was a hazy moustache and some down on my cheeks. Mike Hardwick grew this really magnificent full beard and Arto had a stylish goatee." He stopped there hoping to end the subject.

"Go on Jack, tell her the rest of it." Picard teased. The young man covered his face in embarrassment leaving Jean-Luc finished the story for him.

"What Jack seems reluctant to tell you was that he won the competition."

"How come?" Beverly was intrigued.

"The judges were three of the female lieutenants. Now nobody had dictated the criteria they should use to pick the winner so they made up their own rules. These three happen to like a boyish complexion and so .... Jack won hands down."

She reached over and stroked her husband's cheek.

"They obviously have good taste."

If he'd been a cat, Jack would have purred.


The afternoon passed with more tales from their journey. Jack did most of the talking, telling his wife things she already knew from a different source. Only occasionally did Jean-Luc butt in to cover missing points and give Beverly an excuse for knowing something Jack couldn't have told her. He was careful not to upstage his host's story telling but had already done so through his evocative logs.

When it came to describing the Cryack Nebula Jack just couldn't do it justice. His enthusiasm came through but none of the beauty or imagery. After patiently listening to him struggling to find the right words Beverly inadvertently let slip her foreknowledge of the nebula by quoting one of Jean-Luc's descriptions.

"I don't remember telling you that?" Jack stared at her in puzzlement. The normally fluent doctor was tongue-tied. She wanted to turn to Jean-Luc for help but knew she mustn't. An uneasy silence gripped the three of them before Picard came to her rescue.

"Must have been an earlier nebula you described" he said casually, "they all have features in common."

Jack seemed convinced. "There's so much to tell you but I can't remember it all."

"Why don't you keep a personal log or send me regular messages?" A hint of criticism sounded in her voice.

"You wouldn't enjoy it if I did. Even I'm bored by my own log. I can't talk to a blank screen, I need your presence to inspire me. If you want eloquent words you'd better ask Jean-Luc here."

Picard caught Beverly's eye for a moment before dismissing the ideas with a laugh and embarrassed wave of the hand. She quickly changed the subject.

"It's time to collect Wesley. Will you fetch him, Jack, or shall I?"

"I will. What clothes and toys did he take with him?"

As Jack memorised the list he absentmindedly slid his hand along his wife's thigh. The captain watched, captivated. All afternoon he'd been trying to keep his eyes of her shapely legs but now he couldn't resist then. He raised his hand to rub his temple and hide where his eyes were focused.

As soon as Jack had gone they stared at one another. They had been friends for years but such behaviour wasn't normal and they knew it. Beverly was the first to break the silence.

"Come and talk to me while I prepare supper."

"All right." Picard rose to his feet. "But show me round the garden first."

As they strolled about he took great care not to bump into her. He had already done enough harm to their marriage and didn't want to risk more. She might have lied to her husband just now because of his letters - and they were letters, no use pretending otherwise.

The conversation stayed on safe subjects such as Wesley and mutual friends as they moved into the kitchen. Picard leant against the doorframe while she chopped vegetables just an arm's length away. At last Jean-Luc felt brave enough mention her work.

"How's your job going."

"Challenging." She fingered the knife blade. "It's mainly surgery at the moment plus that research project. The surgery's pretty gruesome as it's in an emergency receiving hospital. ... The first couple of operations I had to leave the theatre to throw up. Then my supervisor took me aside 'Your patient doesn't need this now.' " She repeated his words." 'She doesn't want your tears, your sympathy or your shock. She wants an efficient, ice-cool surgeon who can look at the mess that was once her leg and reconstruct it. If you can't be that doctor then you had better run and hide in a nice cosy research lab.' ... I decided I'd feel guilty hiding in a lab."

The doctor chopped a few more vegetables with obvious expertise. Picard wasn't sure where this conversation was headed until Beverly continued. " You know Jack told me about Anna Wright's spacewalk. He admires the way you handled the whole incident. Doesn't think he could have done it himself - too soft."

Jean-Luc gave her a brief smile of thanks and whispered, "It's not easy being heartless, is it?"

"No." She whispered back. " But someone HAS to do it."

Her understanding of his life lifted a great weight from his shoulders. He might never be able to write to her again but she would understand. His whole body relaxed and he felt able to touch the subject they'd been avoiding.

"I'm sorry my daily logs were so long. It must have wasted your time ploughing through them."

"On the contrary," her looked showed no sign of guilt or embarrassment, "they were very useful and interesting. I've learnt more about Jack's life on the Stargazer from your logs than I ever have from him." Picard appreciated the careful phrasing - she had kept Jack the centre of events.

"Have you spotted anything useful from all the information you've gathered?"

Beverly hesitated.

"I need your opinion on something, Jean-Luc. My captains seem to fall into two distinct groups. It has nothing to do with gender, there are men and women in both camps. One group is coping well with the pressures of command the others are developing health problems that I'm sure are stress related. There seems to be one particular activity that helps the first group to cope."

"And that is?"

"They all enjoy ... how shall I put it? They enjoy a physical workout in the shower in the same way you do."

Picard froze and blushed deeply. But when Beverly smiled he burst out laughing.

"Are you serious doctor?"

"I'm quite serious. Now my problem is this - can I go to Starfleet HQ and tell them they should recommend to their captains that ...."

Jean-Luc laughed so hard he had to sit down; tears ran down his cheeks as he imagined how certain admirals would react to such a suggestion.

"No Beverly. You can't do that."

At that moment Jack put his head round the door.

"What are you two talking about?"

While Picard struggled to regain his composure Beverly nonchalantly bit the end off a carrot.

"Personal exercise routines" she replied innocently," I've found they're very important to a captain's well being."

The End
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