Back to Stories

Going Home

by Catherine Ellis

Summary : Do you remember the TNG Season One episode called 'Where No One Has Gone Before'? What would have happened if The Traveller hadn't been been able to jump the Enterprise back to Federation space?

This story takes them down that alternative time line with the Enterprise faced with a very long journey home. How would that new situation affect relationships? Would Picard and Crusher have remained just friends?

The story was first posted in separate scenes on the 'P/C Fanfic Archive Forum', where its name was then 'In the Office'.

Scene 1

For him her office had become a place of refuge. He slipped in quietly and sat himself down in the chair she'd acquired for his benefit. Relaxation wasn't possible anymore, but at least in here the burdens of his office seemed a little less daunting.

She looked up, flashed him a smile, then returned to the figures she was studying. If he felt like talking he would, if not it didn't matter; either way she was happy - happy that he wasn't brooding on his own, happy that it was her he came to and not anyone else.

"Data has worked out how to extend the life of our dilithium crystals," he announced casually. "It means we can travel for 3 years without having to take them off-line."

"That sounds encouraging," she replied.

He gave a wry smile. "Very! Only another 82 years and we'll be home for tea."

She gave an answering grin to his black humour then continued her work.

A minute passed in silence, then without looking up, she said "Nobody blames you, you know."

"I'm the Captain. Whatever happens to the ship is my responsibility."

"Agreed, but this didn't happen because you made a mistake. You weren't to know what the Traveller was capable of, that he could bring us here but couldn't take us back."

"Nevertheless, here is where we are - 85 years from Federation space."

"Yes, and we're coping. What's it been? Eight weeks? There are a few with young children or spouses back home who are finding it hard, but most have adjusted well enough. We're not alone out here, we have each other."

Her positive attitude was catching. "I'll try and see it that way."

"You do that." She teased, then returned to her work once again.

He wanted her full attention.

"What's that you're studying?" he asked, clearly indicating she should stop.

"I'm investigating a scarce resource that will need 'careful husbanding'."

"And that is?"

"Women who are capable of bearing children."

Her reply took him by surprise.

"Many of us will be dead," she continued, "by the time the ship reaches home. We need to breed a new crew."

"Of course. You're right. It's obvious when you think about it ...So how many are there?"

"Fertile women? If I include the 27 children then the number is 123."

"Is that all?"

"Afraid so. By quirk of fate we're low on females at present, we were due to gain another 53 next week through crew rotation."

"But surely there are far more than 96 adult women aboard?"

"There are," she replied, "but many of those are from species who lose the ability to breed at a younger age than humans."

"I see."

She ran another calculation. "Here's something else you ought to be aware of. Of those 96 women only 24 aren't married to someone aboard."

Picard gulped, then rose to his feet. "I can't order people to breed."

"I'm not expecting you to. In fact I intend to speak to the 24 women myself."

"Thank you Doctor." He looked relieved. "I'd appreciate that. Now, if there's nothing more, I should be going."

As he reached the doorway, Crusher called out to him, "Captain, one more thing."


"In case you were wondering - I'm one of the 24."

He froze, staring, not quite sure of her implication.

"Just something for you to think about, Jean-Luc."

She gave him another intoxicating smile, then waved him away.

Scene 2

It was four days since his last visit. She was starting to wonder if she had scared him away or if he had come and she hadn't been there. To avoid that possibility she began retreating to her office whenever she could.

When he finally appeared in the doorway her heart leapt. Careful Beverly, don't intimidate him. She waved in the direction of his chair, trying to keep things as normal as possible. He obeyed but she could tell he was nervous, rather than relaxing his posture remained stiff.

In an effort to help, she feigned interest in the contents of a pad. It seemed to be working. Soon he took a deep breath, opened his mouth and ...changed his mind. Frustrated by his own indecision he stood up but didn't know what to do next.

"Cramp?" she asked, giving him an excuse for his odd behaviour. "Walk around the room a bit, it should wear off."

He did as she suggested, putting on a good imitation of his supposed ailment. After two circuits he stopped. "It's better now, thank you." He sat down again, clearly more relaxed this time. Fortunately Beverly controlled her urge to laugh at his acting.

"Has Sickbay been busy?" he asked.

"This morning we were. Lieutenant Edwards went into labour. Unusually easy birth though - a little girl."

He nodded approvingly. "124! ... But don't tell the mother I said that!"

"Of course not. Our secret."

They exchanged a conspiratorial smile.

Feeling more confident, he at last found the nerve to ask his question. "There's a Bach concert tonight, Data is playing the violin. I was wondering if you'd care to join me?"

Her face lit up. "Yes. I'd like that."

He almost levitated with relief. Mission accomplished, he stood up and straightened his jacket. "19:25 your quarters?"

"Suits me," she replied.

He continued to stand there, unwilling to leave.

"Run along now Captain," she teased, "I've got work to do."

He made a mock salute, "Yes Ma'am."

Beverly watched him go; for the first time in weeks she noticed a spring in his step.

'Was tonight a date?', she asked herself.

'No, but half a date'. And two halves would make a whole.

Scene 3

"Sit down, while I get my med kit."

Picard did as instructed, still holding a blood stained towel to his head.

"Can you use a dermal regenerator?" he asked.

"I'm afraid not, the regenerator uses a compound I can't replicate. Your cut doesn't qualify as an emergency. Now this will hurt a bit but the stiller you are, the better the job I can do. Ready?"


What he wasn't ready for was quite how close she was going to stand. His wound was on the top front of his head. Beverly position herself with one leg either side of this left thigh which put her breasts level with his face. He gulped and closed his eyes. Try and think of something else.

"Ouch! That hurt."

"I said keep still."

"That isn't easy with nothing to hold on to."

She looked down and only then realised how provocative she was being. Her sports gear was far more revealing than her uniform. In her haste to treat him she hadn't meant to tease.

"Would you prefer to lie down in the treatment area?"

"No. I prefer it without an audience. Keep going." Their relative positions might be frustrating, but they were also enjoyable.

For Beverly 'keeping going' was proving somewhat difficult. Her body had now noticed his closeness and had ideas of its own. It took considerable effort to push aside the images it kept sending to her mind.

"How shall we explain your injury?" she asked.

"The truth would be best. That you hit me with a squash racket."

"Make that 'accidentally hit', please. I wasn't expecting you to be there."

"And I wasn't expecting you to make that stroke. It's what makes you such an interesting opponent - you're unpredictable."

"Why thank you. And I enjoy our games too, they're ... exhilarating."

It was the right word but the wrong moment to use it. Her inner thigh brushed against his leg, soon her whole body was aching with desire. She inched herself away in an effort to resist the magnetic pull.

"Ow! Are you sure you know what your doing up there?"

She bit her tongue in an effort to distract her thoughts.

"I'm gluing your skin together. I've done it several times already. Just this morning Richard McEvoy and Yuri Raznov needed patching."

"How come?"

Beverly hesitated, she hadn't intended to mention their names. However the words were out now, she couldn't take them back.

"They had a disagreement which got a bit out of hand."

"Those two? They've been friends for years. What would cause them ..." Picard halted - a disturbing possibility came to mind. "I hope Clare wasn't a factor?"

"I'm afraid she was. Yuri took exception to Richard's familiarity with his wife and a few punches were thrown." Beverly stood back to admire her handy work. "All done. Try not to touch it."

The news about Richard and Yuri had dampened Picard's playful mood. "The problem's starting, isn't it?"

"The unequal male-female numbers were bound to be obvious before long. It didn't matter so much in the first months, there was plenty to do learning how to live on minimum resources. Now that we're passing through this empty region there's not enough work to keep everyone occupied. You've been thinking up some good training exercises, however people's minds ..."

He finished her sentence, "... turn to other things."

"Yes." She looked at him intently. Mine turns there too Captain. Do you realise that?

"Anything I should do?"

She blushed slightly, imagining he was answering her thoughts. "You could speak to Deanna, see what she has to say."

He didn't look keen on the idea.

"She's good at her job, Jean-Luc, you should listen to her."

He stood up. "All right. I promise to 'listen'... So when can we play again?"

"Squash? Better leave it for a few days. I'll think of something else we can do in the meantime."

He gave her a mischievous smile. "Sounds intriguing."

Scene 4

Today he had waited until the computer told him there were no other women in Sickbay before heading for her office.

Beverly immediately noticed his unease. "Is something wrong Jean-Luc?"

"No," he lied, "I was just wondering what the reaction had been following yesterday's meeting."

"Haven't you asked Deanna?"

"If it's bad news I'd rather hear it from you."

"Well you can relax, everyone was very positive. Couldn't you tell?"

He sat down in favourite his chair and breathed more easily. "I guess I'm used to more instant reaction. It was somewhat unnerving looking out at hundreds of silent women packed into the shuttle bay. Are you sure it went well? Any aspects in particular?"

"Let me see ... " Beverly began to count the points on her fingers. "First they were impressed that you came alone without your senior officers."

"That was your idea."

"But it was yours to come in civilian dress, a good touch. They're used to you speaking to them as their captain, this time you came as just Jean-Luc Picard. If they were quiet it was because you gave them a lot to think about - that the Enterprise was no longer just a ship, it was now also a colony. And that the long-term fate of the colony was in their hands. I have to say I was very proud of you."

Picard's chest swelled with pride. He held her gaze until embarrassment forced him to look away.

"The true judge of my efforts will be what happens next."

"I think you will find Deanna is already gathering the names of women who are willing to be surrogate mothers. And Lieutenant Xion is coordinating contacts with men who want to play a paternal role. There are several children on the ship whose fathers aren't aboard. That was a very touching part of your speech, you know. When you said the men wanted to play a part in bringing up the next generation, that they may not all be able to become biological fathers but you hoped they could play the roles of uncles, brothers, teachers."

She paused and looked at him while wondering What role are you looking for Jean-Luc? Lover, husband, father ?

As Picard beamed back one particular thought came to mind 'Have you put yourself on the surrogacy list?' He shifted in his seat, it wasn't an idea he was comfortable with.

Laughter from outside the office brought them back from their reveries.

"I'd better be getting back to the bridge; there are some planetary systems not that far ahead." He stood up. "Are you free this evening?"

"What did you have on mind? A meal in Ten-Forward or a game of squash?"

"A meal, but first I'd like to look in on our plants. It's your fault," he teased, "ever since you took me to hydroponics I've become interested in growing things."

"You've a talent for it, perhaps it runs in your genes," she stood up too. "I'll walk with you, I need to see Deanna."

After she had left him, Picard halted the turbo lift. With luck the hydroponics area would be quiet that evening and he could broach the subject of their relationship. He tried to calm himself but couldn't. Had she gone to put her name on the list?

Scene 5

(Writer's note to readers: All the doctors on the ship are female.)

In his haste to reach her he ignored the shouted warning. The strength of the force field hit him like a punch, he reeled back. From inside her office Crusher signalled to the female security officer to let him through.

He rushed towards her and despite her willingness to see him she still recoiled slightly.

He noticed, understood the reason and slowed himself down.

"May I?" he asked gently.

She pointed to a spot on the floor at right-angles to herself. Picard sat himself down, back against the wall, his knees bent up in front like hers.

He wanted to reach out and touch her but feared her reaction.

She winced with pain and held her ribs. The bruising to her face was beginning to show. Her left cheek was swollen just below the eye and turning purple.

What should he say?

Beverly solved his problem by speaking first. "What did you do with Jonathan?"

"He's in the brig."

"Alive? I thought you were going to kill him."

His eyes watered that she could joke about it. "It did occur to me."

He dared to hold out his hand and was rewarded with a brief squeeze to his fingers.

"You mustn't blame him, it wasn't his fault."

"He attacked you! Who else should I blame!"

"You could start with the three male Grizelens. They should have been home by now in time for their 5-yearly mating season; instead they're stuck here without any suitable partners. They've been generating excessive amounts of their male hormone. We only realised this morning that the chemical is getting into the air via their sweat glands. It's possible it could increase testosterone production in human males."

Picard blushed. "Ah."

"You noticed! Then why the hell didn't you tell me!"

He tried to excuse himself. "I didn't realise it was abnormal ... Men have these periods when ... Didn't Deanna notice anything unusual."

"She's half Betazoid," Beverly snapped, "Who do you think has been satisfying all the single men around here? She assumed the touch of 'spring' about the place was due to the increase in sexual activity rather than the other way around."

Crusher let out a few irritated sighs, then closed her eyes and ran her fingers through her hair.

"I'm sorry, Jean-Luc, I shouldn't be blaming you. I didn't handle the situation too well myself either. When Jonathan told me he wanted a child by me I tried to let him down gently. That only served to encourage him, after that things quickly got out of hand. I should have told him I wasn't interested right from the start."

"That was no excuse for his behaviour."

"No. But if I'm willing to forgive ..."

"... It's not a matter of forgiveness!" He was almost shouting at her.

"Then what is it a matter of?"

He looked way and didn't respond.

She lent sideways trying to catch his eye. "Jean-Luc? Tell me?"

Picard covered his face and rubbed his temples. Jonathan Abbot's words were still ringing in his ears. After he had thrown him into the brig, his rival had taunted him over his own lack of action. 'A real dog-in-the-manger aren't you Captain? You haven't got the balls to get her pregnant yourself, yet you lead her on while all the time trying to scare off the other men. Where are your high-minded words now? Where's all that sharing you were talking about?'

It was fortunate there had been a force field between them, without it Picard feared he would have killed him. Abbot's words hurt the more because they were close to the truth. He did want her, yet was afraid to act. He did resent every man who looked her way.

If only! If only!

If only, he'd kept his nerve that evening in hydroponics.

If only the words he'd rehearsed a hundred times had been spoken.

"Jean-Luc?" she whispered. "Speak to me?"

He lowered his hands revealing a tear-stained face. He was too exhausted to care if he was doing the right thing or the wrong.

"I want you," he admitted. "I've always wanted you. I fell in love with you when you were engaged to my best friend. And when he died ... And when he died I promised myself that I would never tell you how I felt."

It seemed like an eternity before she responded.

Edging closer, she stretched out a hand and closed it over his. "I think it's time we had a good long talk. But not while you're under the influence of the Grizelens."

Scene 6

To his irritation, Crusher insisted it would take two weeks for the excess testosterone to leave his body. He tried persuading her to talk sooner but she would have none of it. "I want to talk to you, not your hormones."

He still saw her at senior staff meetings and in Ten-Forward but they were never alone. Occasionally she would flash him a smile but mainly she was frustratingly cool and professional.

It was a difficult period for all the human males on the ship. Publicly they supported the removal of the Grizelene chemicals from the air, privately they wished the 'high' would go on for longer. Riker helped Picard get through it with his bawdy jokes and his willingness to join him for long exhausting runs on the treadmills. Data unintentionally helped too by passing the time with his interminable ramblings. Or at least he was helping until a monologue on his sensory abilities revealed a bombshell which sent Picard rushing to Sickbay.

"Good afternoon Captain, what can we do for you?"

To their surprise his reply was cold and slightly intimidating. "I'd like a private word with you Doctor, in your office. Nurse Ogowa, please ensure we aren't disturbed."

Beverly preceded him into the room. "What's wrong?" she asked immediately.

"Is it true you're pregnant?"

She gulped. "Who told you?"

"Is it true?" he snapped back.

Her response was equally forceful, "Yes! I'm pregnant. Now please do me the courtesy of telling me how you came to know."

"From Data. He was telling me about his sensory abilities and how he could smell the hormone changes due to your pregnancy. What did you suspect? That I'd been reading your medical file or ordering your staff to break confidentiality?"

"I had to know " she responded not willing to back down.

"So, now that we've established your condition, would it be indelicate to ask who the father is?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact it would. It's none of your damn business!"

Her response stung badly. She could see a heavy sadness descend upon him.

"In that case I won't bother you any more." He turned to leave.


She rushed over and grabbed his arm. He shook her off.

"Jean-Luc let me explain."

"There's no need Doctor. As you said it's none of my business."

"But I want to tell you."

He refused to look at her. "Let me pass please."

Her next movement took him by surprise. She grabbed his jacket, swung him round and dumped him in 'his' chair.

"Now SIT THERE till I've finished speaking."

She at last had his attention.

"Four months ago you asked the women on this ship to take responsibility for producing our next generation. Well there are three couples who want more children but who aren't able to do so on their own. I and two other women volunteered to carry the pregnancies for them. This child," she patted her stomach, "isn't biologically mine. It's 100 percent theirs. Do you understand that?"

He nodded.

Relieved and exhausted by her tirade, she sat down at the desk and rested her head in her hands.

"What am I going to do with you Jean-Luc?"

His response was calmer this time. "Why didn't you tell me what you were trying to do?"

"When I went through with it I didn't think we had that kind of relationship, it was before the Jonathan incident. I didn't know you felt that way."

"Didn't you?"

"Well OK I knew there was a mutual attraction and we both like to flirt. However I thought that was as far as you wanted to go. Remember you said you'd 'promised yourself you would never tell me'. Well until then you'd kept that promise."

He gave an ironic smile. "Damn my masterful self-control. And now that you do know, what next?" And please, please don't suggest we remain flirtatious friends. "I can't believe you haven't thought about it."

"I have, it's just that ..." She stood up again and started to pace backwards and forwards in front of him, hands thrust deep into her lab-coat pockets. He would have laughed if he wasn't so nervous.

"Well?" he asked.

"It's difficult."


"You and I might have different ideas. I don't want to lose what we already have."

"I think I've destroyed that cosy little rut already."

She smiled. "True. Though you didn't know I was pregnant at the time."

"That makes no difference to my feelings. I'll admit I'm still ... uncomfortable with what you're doing, though logic tells me it is the right thing to do." He thought a moment then smiled. "Do you want to write down your hopes and I'll write mine. Then we can ask Deanna to read them and tell us if there is anything in common?"

His joke suggestion broke the tension. Beverly kept it going. "Good idea, and perhaps we should prioritise them as well. You know - mandatory, desirable and optional."

She hesitated, then took a deep breath and blurted out her list. "Lover, child, husband."

"Lover, child, husband." He repeated. "Just so there's no misunderstanding, are those are your requirements in priority order?"

"Yes! You know damn well they are."

Picard sucked in a long breath. "I may have to think about this. It could take me a couple of weeks."

For a horrible moment she thought he was serious, then the glint in his eye gave it away.

"You bastard!"

She stepped over and swung a slap at his head. Picard blocked the blow and caught her wrist. She tried with the other hand but with the same result. He had her trapped.

She fought him pushing herself closer so that soon her legs straddled his. They were both panting and laughing as her efforts got her within inches of his face. He changed tactics pulling her arms out to the sides and pushing her legs apart with his thighs. The increased restrictions had the desired effect of increasing her excitement.

"Say it." He commanded as she strained to kiss him.

"Say what?"

"Say it."

This time she guessed his meaning. "I want you."


"I WANT you Jean-Luc."

"You only had to ask."

He released her wrists and let her fall the final centimetre.

Her hands clutched his head as her mouth found his. Soon her body was rubbing rhythmically against him.

When they broke for air, their lips were swollen from the force of her kisses. Elsewhere something firm and straight had emerged between them. Beverly glanced down.

"Well what do you expect Doctor if you behave like that?"

"Did you hear me complaining?"

She started kissing him again but more gently this time.

Picard's hands were just making their way from her hips to her rear when Ogowa's voice came over the com-system.

"Sorry to interrupt Doctor Crusher but we need your help out here."

Picard let out anguished set of 'No's until Beverly covered his mouth with her hand and tapped her com-badge.

"I'll be with you in a moment." She tapped it off again. "Sorry about this but I have to."

"I know. Go, go."

She climbed off and moved away but still looked at him.

"Till later then."

"Till later," he replied. His eyes closed and his breathing still ragged. "Just promise me that 'later' doesn't mean in two weeks time."

Scene 7

"Would you join me in my office please Captain? There is an issue I would like to discuss."

Her cool professional manner was for the benefit of her staff. Two strides inside the room they both glanced back to see if anyone was watching, then clasped each other in a passionate embrace. Picard was the first to break apart when his state of his arousal was in danger of becoming evident. He took several deep breaths in an effort to calm himself. It was only ten days since they'd become lovers and he wasn't yet ready for everyone to know of their changed relationship; nor for that matter was she. Being lovers was very different from being friends; they were still getting used to each other and to sharing their more intimate thoughts and feelings.

"I was expecting Riker to interrupt us, again!"

She beamed back. "He does have a talent for calling you at the most inconvenient moments."

"Do you think Deanna might be telling him when we're ..."

" ... She wouldn't be so mean. Besides she's very protective of you, haven't you noticed?"

"No, I hadn't. Still, I didn't come here to talk about Deanna. Before we discuss your issue, there's one I'd like to resolve."

"What's that?"

He took a deep breath, "It's about Wesley."


"Does he know about us?"

"Not yet. I haven't found the right moment to tell him. When he's not in school, he's either on the bridge or with Data and Geordi trying to work out how the Traveller got us here. Why do you ask? Has he said something?"

"No, it's not that."

"What then?"

Picard hesitated.

"I'm concerned that our new relationship might be difficult for him. I wouldn't want him to find out by accident."

Beverly gave an exasperated little sigh - Why did everything have to be so complicated? - however she understood the cause of Jean-Luc's unease. There were times when Wesley was uncannily like his father. It wouldn't be easy for Picard being on the bridge with her acting-ensign son in the same way he had once been with her husband.

"How do you think he'll take it?" he asked.

"He's still a child in some respects but he's mature enough to realise his mother can love someone new without being disloyal to his father. When we first joined the ship he was nervous of you, but he's over that now. After all he spends several hours with you everyday on the bridge. I don't think he'll mind that it's you I've fallen for."

Picard felt elated that she'd used the word 'love', she had never expressed her feelings for him in that way before. His moment of pleasure was cut short when an alternative meaning for 'fallen' occurred to him.

"Wesley won't think I got you pregnant, will he?"

"No, you needn't worry over that account. He already knows about the surrogacy. Like you he wasn't too pleased, he wanted reassurance that he won't have to consider it as his brother or sister. Accepting you as someone special in his mother's life will be easy by comparison."

"You're sure?" he asked.

"How he reacts to our new relationship is partly up to you. If you're embarrassed then so will he be."

Picard went silent as he tried to imagine himself acting nonchalantly in front of an 'informed' Wesley.

"It'll be fine," she reassured him yet again. It's not as if we're going to flaunt our intimate behaviour in front of him."

Jean-Luc gave a snort of laughter. "Chance would be a fine thing with Riker playing gooseberry. Would you like me to assign Data and La Forge to other tasks tonight so you can speak to Wesley?"

"Yes please."

At last he could relax a little. "So, what's the matter you wanted to discuss, or was that just an excuse for a bit of close contact?"

She patted his chest, "The close contact was a welcome bonus, however I really do have an issue ... I think I should make it public that I'm a surrogate mother."

Picard managed to hide his disquiet as this announcement. "Already? It doesn't show yet."

"My uniform would dispute that. However there's a reason for doing it now. I've heard several pointed comments suggesting that the female senior officers aren't playing their part in producing the next generation. There's a women's meeting tonight and, if you've no objection, I'd like to tell them I'm pregnant. I was going to reveal it when there was less likelihood of a miscarriage, but because of the comments I'd rather do it now."

He could hardly say 'no', still he appreciated that she was informing him 'before' she acted this time. "I understand your reasoning, go ahead."

"Thank you." She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Actually there's an added bonus if people know it's a surrogate pregnancy, it means they won't be congratulating you on your imminent fatherhood should they guess about us."

"Whoa there! I thought we were being discreet. Telling Wesley is one thing, and you say Deanna can be trusted but are others likely to guess?"

She couldn't help smiling at him. "Jean-Luc would you notice if the vibration from the impulse engine was off by a small degree?"

"Of course! But what's that got to do with us?"

"There are people on this ship who are just as skilled at spotting small changes in their colleagues' behaviour or their appearance. You and I touch each other more than we used to; our major embraces may be in private but out in the corridors we 'accidently' brush hands on occasion, we smile at each other more often. I don't want to stop doing that, do you?"

He smiled back. "No, I enjoy it."

"Good. Then just accept that sometime soon someone's going to notice. We won't need to make an announcement they'll just know."

"All right, but you'll understand if I don't hurry it along."

"What? No more buttock fondling in the turbo lifts?"

Jean-Luc covered his face in embarrassment as he remembered what they'd been up to.

She didn't make him answer. "While were on the subject, there's something else I should tell you."

"Am I going to like it?"

"Probably not. You see over the last few weeks I've had approaches from several men all asking if I would consider them as partners." She was right about him not liking. "You can put your hackles down, they didn't behave like Jonathan Abbott. In fact they are all kind, honourable men and I'd have preferred to tell them I already have a partner rather than just saying 'no thank you'. At the moment, like you, I'd rather keep our relationship private but there will be some benefits from having it known."

"Just as long as our colony doesn't come to resemble the Mardinites. Once a year the husbands had to fight a rival for the right to retain their wives."

She moved closer and placed her hands on his shoulders.

"You're not regretting this are you?"

"No." He reassured her. "Definitely not. It's just I never realised our new relationship would involve so many other people."

"No man is an island."

"True, very true."

They stood holding one another for a few seconds.

"I'd better get back to the bridge. Will I see you this evening?"

"Assume not. I've Wesley to speak to and the women's group."

"Of course. Till tomorrow then."

"Till tomorrow."

He was half way out when an idea occurred to him.

"Beverly, do you have breakfast with Wesley?"

"Not recently. He's taken to eating in Ten-Forward with some of the younger ensigns. It's good for him socially."

"Then come and have breakfast with me."

"All right, if you like, though I don't eat much in the mornings."

"Good, neither do I," he replied, smothering a smile.

"Ah!" she caught on at last. "I don't often get called just before my shift."

"Neither do I. We should have time for a three course meal ..."

" ... And a shower." she added.

"Shall we say 06:00?"

"Six it is!"

Picard left her office beaming. He was several strides down the corridor before he remembered not to be so obvious about his changed circumstances.

Scene 8

She could have gone to his Ready Room for these work discussions, but since the change in their relationship they found her office the wiser choice - there was less temptation in a room with no door and temptation had been very distracting recently.

Picard sat down in his usual chair.

"What can I do for you today Doctor?"

"I'd like to give everyone the chance to breathe fresh air for a change, next time we stop to pick up resources can you make it an M-Class planet? "

He didn't look keen.

"What's wrong?" she asked. "Can't we spare the transporter or shuttle power to send people down?"

"That is a consideration."

"But there's something else?"

He studied his hands for a moment. "After a taste of fresh air some of them may not want to return. They may consider a life on the planet preferable to one aboard the Enterprise."

"I don't like the idea of us splitting up either, but if that's what they want ...?"

He rose to his feet energetically. "What if most of the engineers or your medical staff wanted to stay? Could we survive without them while we trained replacements? And what if they demanded a share of our resources to start a colony? What then?"

"I hadn't thought about it in that way; your right, if enough decided to stay then we'd all have to."

She watched him pacing back and forth. "Has anyone expressed an interest in leaving?"

"No, but they might and I'm just trying to be prepared." He sat down again and ran a hand over his head. "When we first got stranded out here my instinct was to set course for home, it was what captains do 'get you ship home'. It wasn't a issue because there wasn't an alternative, we were in a particularly barren area of space. It's different now, we've detected three habitable planets in the last month."

"Are you having second thoughts? Do you think we ought to stay here and colonise a planet?"

"No, I don't. But I'm having difficulty justifying that decision, my reasons seem emotional rather than logical. If someone comes to me and says 'why are we going home when most of us will be dead before then?' then how should I answer?"

She couldn't help smiling at him, his constant struggle to be a better captain was one of his attractions.

"Tell me truthfully Jean-Luc - can this ship make it to Federation space?"

"If we take care of her, then yes it's possible."

"Then let's go. I could have been a doctor anywhere but I instead joined Starfleet. I joined because I wanted to explore space and despite what happened with the Traveller, I'm not through exploring yet. I think the same could be said for most of the people on this ship and there's plenty to discover on our route home."

"The odds aren't in our favour."

"So what? At the moment we're doing fine." She patted her stomach. "I'd like this child to have the chance to meet other humans and to walk upon the Earth. If we have to give up and pick a planet then I'd rather it was closer to Federation space. I want to increase the chance that one day Federation explorers might find our descendants."

He was sitting there smiling at her.

"There's nothing wrong with emotion Jean-Luc, it's been the driving force behind much of human history."

He reached across the desk and closed his hand over hers. "What would I do without you?"

"I don't know, but I have no intention of letting you find out." As she spoke she let out a grunt of pain.

"Is the baby giving you problems?"

"Just a few," she withdrew her hand and stood up rubbing her side. "I'm finding I need to adjust my posture to take account of this growing bump. Even sitting at this desk I have to position myself slightly differently."

"If you'd like a personal masseur I'd be more than willing to oblige."

She flashed him a smile, "You're hired, you can start tonight."

Picard ran his eyes over her figure, enjoying the right to do so blatantly. "You're developing some very interesting new curves and not just the frontal bulge."

"I'm not the only one, there are now 34 pregnant women aboard."

"That many?" he replied. "I hope they don't all go into labour at the same time."

"Fortunately they should arrive over several months, but just in case we're training more people in ante-natal and paediatric care. Actually it's medical staff that I wanted to talk to you about - we could do with more men about the place."

"Men? I thought that was something we definitely weren't short of?"

"In Sickbay we are. All the doctors are female and we only have two male nurses."

"Does that matter?" he asked.

She hesitated. "Jean-Luc ... have there ever been times when you would rather have been treated by a man?"

He shifted in his chair. "Now that you mention it, when I was a young man there were a few ..."

"Exactly. And if I'm honest, there are times when I find it embarrassing to be dealing with certain male conditions."

He sat up straighter. "Beverly? What's been going on?"

She paused, considering whether she could tell him without revealing confidences. "Do you known about the Vulcan pon farr?"

"Yes, but I didn't think we had any male Vulcans aboard?"

She rolled her eyes. Why do men forget about female needs?

"We don't, but we have four Vulcan females and their urge to mate is just as strong. One of them has just entered the phase and she's already taken six human males to bed - with rather painful consequences. She's much stronger than they are."

Picard quickly put a protective hand into his lap.

"The men involved were too embarrassed to come to Sickbay. It was Deanna who sensed their pain. This morning I paid a set of house-calls to persuade them to let me treat their injuries. It's as a result of that experience that I'd like your permission to speak to Data."

"Why? Do you want him to ... 'help' the Vulcan woman?"

Crusher's mouth dropped open. "No, I was thinking of him as an additional 'male' nurse, but now that you mention it ... Yes! He could be her partner, he's strong enough and physically capable."

"Do you want me to ask him?"

"It might seem like an order coming from you. Maybe Deanna should explain to him what was needed."

"Dr Selar's Vulcan, wouldn't it be better if she did the asking?"

"Unfortunately Vulcan's have a strict taboo against discussing the pon farr. Apparently individuals are supposed to work it out for themselves."

Picard raised an eyebrow. "Thank God I wasn't born Vulcan."

A noise from the corridor heralded the arrival of Nurse Ogawa.

"Sorry to interrupt Captain but Lieutenant Mason would like a word with Dr Crusher."

Picard rose to his feet, "Thank you Doctor, I'll kept your suggestion about the planet in mind."

Lieutenant Mason entered just as Picard was leaving. The man was obviously upset, he gave his captain no more than a perfunctory nod. Picard continued out to the main Sickbay area, but for some reason chose not to go any further.

His instinct soon proved correct. Within 30 seconds Mason was shouting aggressively. With few quick strides had Picard back in her office.

"What's going on?" he demanded, positioning himself between them.

Neither spoke, they just glared at one another.

"Doctor, I'd like an explanation."

"It's a private matter Captain, I'm not at liberty to say."

"I'll tell you what the matter is Captain." Mason's voice had a sinister tone. "My wife and I are the parents of one of the surrogate babies. We were happy with the arrangement because we thought the volunteer mothers were all responsible respectable women. How wrong could we be. We've been hearing rumours for days, then just now I overheard a group of young men laughing about Dr Crusher's curvy new figure and how 'good' they felt after her private visits. Can you imagine what that news will do to my wife? Her child is being carried by a SLUT!"

The word was hardly out of his mouth before Picard grabbed him by the throat and slammed him against the wall. Mason's feet were barely touching the ground, he struggled to breath.

Beverly tried to calm them both. She laid a hand on Picard's shoulder, "Captain, please. Let him go."

He was breathing hard, nostrils flared, barely controlling his temper.

"Jean-Luc," she whispered, "please!"

Picard released his grip just a little. The two men continued to glare at one another.

"Do I have your attention Lieutenant?"

"Yes Sir," he spat back.

"Those young men you overheard were some very stupid patients. They'd injured themselves 'playing' with another woman, which was why they had good reason to be grateful to Dr Crusher."

Mason reluctantly conceded the point. "Okay, so maybe I got that wrong but there have been rumours about other men."

Turning to Beverly he said sarcastically, "Who else has been poking around down there, Doctor?"

Crusher's straight right would have hit Mason on the cheek if Picard hadn't deflected the blow. If anyone was going to inflict pain on Mason, it was going to be him. He tightened his grip again and saw his victim begin to gasp frantically. There was real fear in the man's eyes.

Picard stopped.

This wasn't what he wanted. It wasn't how he wanted to behave. Slowly he let Mason go and moved back a step. He was still annoyed by the accusations but he could understand the reason for the man's rage.

"I'll tell you who she's been lying with," Picard said calmly. "Me and only me, and I can assure you we have done nothing, absolutely nothing that might harm the baby. And we will continue to be just as careful for the rest of her pregnancy. So, Lieutenant, I think it would be a good idea if you reassured your wife on that point."

Mason studied their faces, assessing if he believed them. "All right, I'll tell her." He was calmer, if not totally content.

"Good, and before you leave there's one more thing."

"Yes Sir?"

"These surrogacy responsibilities work both ways. The biological parents want a woman who'll take care of herself and the baby. The woman needs to believe the child will be loved and cherished by honourable kind parents ..."

"... I understand Sir," Mason interrupted, wanting to leave as soon as possible.

"I'm glad to hear it. Dismissed."

Mason stepped out of the room and halted. Picard and Crusher could guess why. He would have come face to face with her staff who had been listening, ready to help if needed.

When the lieutenant disappeared from view, the pair of them held each other tightly.

"I never realised," he whispered into her ear, "how 'challenging' being your lover would be - first Abbot, now Mason, who next?"

"I'll have to update the job-description 'only noble warriors need apply'"

He pulled away so he could see her better. "The prize is definitely worth the risks."

He was on the point of kissing her when a sound from outside inhibited any further contact. Reluctantly they stepped apart.

"I'd better go" he said straightening his clothing. "You know, there's one thing that can be said for this 'incident'. If the crew didn't know about our relationship before today, then they certainly do now."

Scene 9

"Have you finished for the day?" he asked.

"Not yet. I need to stay until Rhion recovers consciousness. Someone has to tell her the bad news and I think it ought to be me."

He gave an understanding nod. "In that case, I'll go to the gym for an hour."

"Before you do, there are some things I need to tell you." She beckoned him closer and whispered. "Come and sit my side of the desk, we won't be overheard there."

Intrigued, Picard did as she requested, placing his chair so they were facing each other.

"So what have you got to tell me?"

"Carl Mason came to see me this morning - and before you get all riled up - it was to apologise for his language."

"I should damn well think so! Did he give you any further explanation for his outburst?"

She shook her head.

"What is that man's problem!" he continued irritatedly. "He should think himself lucky to have his wife and child aboard the ship!"

Beverly chose not to mention her own mixed feelings about her son being being stranded here with her. "I tried to get him to open up but he wouldn't; he just repeated his fears for the child if you and I .... Apparently he grew up in a colony with strict rules about what was considered safe and acceptable sexual behaviour. Intercourse during the last four months of pregnancy was strictly forbidden."

"Is there any scientific basis for that rule?"

"In a few circumstances it could he harmful, but for most couples it's perfectly safe. However belief systems and scientific probability aren't always aligned."

Picard wasn't so willing to forgive. "Even if he believes it's morally wrong, his language was inexcusable.

"Which is why I thought there must be more to it. With Deanna's help I've been finding out quite a bit about Carl Mason. ... Tell me, have you met his wife, Yiola?"

Jean-Luc scanned his memory of crew names and faces. "Yes. I think the last time was about five days ago, I sat in on an engineering class she was giving to some civilian passengers we're training to be crewmen; she was doing an excellent job. That surprised me, I'd remembered her as being studious but reserved."

"And how would you describe her now?"

"Outgoing, inspiring ... a woman with a mission."

"And as a man, how would you describe her?"

He was taken aback. "Beverly, I don't think ..."

"... it's all right. I'm not going to throw a fit because you notice other women."

Despite her assurance, Picard picked his words carefully. "I'd say she was intelligent, vivacious, athletic, ... and yes, attractive."

"One more question - have you heard anything to suggest Tasha has taken a few lovers?"

"Beverly!" He struggled to keep his voice down. "How on earth is Tasha's behaviour relevant to Mason's outburst?"

"It is, and you needn't answer. I can tell from your reaction that you know about Yar's recent social life."

He was getting annoyed. "Please, explain the relevance of these questions!"

"I will." She sat back and settled herself story into telling mode. "Imagine you're a young man who grew up in a small colony which had strict rules about behaviour. Rather than rebelling against them you feel comfortable in that environment. With your family's encouragement you study hard and are accepted into Starfleet Academy where you specialise in engineering.

"Two years after graduation you meet and marry another engineer. She's part Andorian and, like you, quiet and studious. You try for a family and after a few complications - because of your mixed ancestry - your daughter is born. You try for another child but your wife keeps having miscarriages. Meanwhile your career is going well, you are promoted to Lieutenant and you and your wife are assigned to the Enterprise - a family ship.

"Then disaster happens - your ship is stranded 85 years from home by a warp engine experiment that went drastically wrong. Your work routine is turned upside down as everyone tries to find out what happened. You had thought of yourself as a competent warp engine specialist but you can't keep up with what is going on.

"It's not just your work life that has changed for the worse. The number of men on the ship greatly outnumbers the women. Before long sexual behaviour aboard changes in ways that are distressingly at odds with your moral standards.

"One good thing does happen though - three women offer to be surrogate mothers and you and your wife are selected as parents. You have a child on the way! This is an anxious period for you. When you're not working you spend your time looking after your daughter or helping out in the ship's kindergarten. Your wife takes a different route, she volunteers for a teaching assignment and blossoms in that role. She's determined to have her students ready for duty by the time your next child is born. Till now your wife hasn't attracted much attention from other men, however since she started teaching things have changed. You notice them looking at her every time you're out together. You trust her, but all the same time you wish she wasn't so friendly with her male students, especially the young male civilians who don't know how to behave properly.

"Your safe orderly world is further undermined by rumours about the behaviour of some of the senior female officers. The ship's Counsellor! The Security Officer! Worse still rumours have started about the CMO who is also one of the surrogate mothers.

"Now comes a really bad day - you are in the mess hall. At the next table is a group of boisterous young men, two of them are your wife's students. You overhear bits of their conversation. They're boasting to one another about some recent sexual experience. Dr Crusher's name is mentioned along with some comments about her pregnant figure and the private visits she's been paying them. Someone at your table tactlessly suggests that you should get Dr Crusher to pay you a private visit."

Picard muttered an oath and covered his face with a hand.

"So Captain, what would you do if you were this man?"

He raised his head. "I think I'd snap and want to lash out at someone. The CMO seems a good target. Gossip suggests she's misbehaving and putting my child at risk. She's a senior officer, she ought to know better."

"Understandable, isn't it?"

"Yes." He sighed wearily.

"So does he deserve a punishment or a reprimand?"

"No. Why? Were you worried that was what I was going to do?"

"Mason is half-expecting some such consequence."

Picard blew out a long breath. "If I reprimand Carl then I ought to give myself a far greater punishment. He only threw a few insults; I grabbed him by the throat and I hurt him."

"Bruising to his windpipe," Beverly confirmed.

"In which case, 'Who lost more control?' Him or me?"

"Or me?" she added. "I tried to hit him."

"You had an excuse, it was you he insulted. I could claim I was just protecting you but, if I'm honest, that wasn't my only motivation."


Picard shifted in his seat, uncertain how she would react to his confession.

"... You see... I'm still not comfortable with you carrying another man's child. I know it's not biologically yours and I acknowledge that it's a good and generous thing that you are doing, but I can't change the way I feel... I guess Mason found himself on the receiving end of my resentment."

Beverly studied his face, then reached over and squeezed his hand. "Thank you for telling me, I need to understand ... And if it's any help - this may not be the Mason's child. The parents don't know who is carrying which child, neither do the surrogates. Some of my colleagues know, of course."

Picard couldn't help smiling at this revelation. He lent forward and spoke to the unborn child, "Do you hear that, little fellow? Good news, he may not be your papa after all."

"Now, now, Captain." She gave him a playful tap on the head. "No favouritism. I'm confident the Masons will be kind and loving parents..."

"... though Dad maybe a little dull."

"Jean-Luc, stop it!" He had her laughing too. These were serious issues, but the joking helped to relieve the tension.

He sat up and straightened his jacket, trying to recover his dignified-captain persona. "Actually, you weren't the only one to have an educational day. I've been helping out with an external inspection of the ship."

"Since when did hours spent looking at the hull come under the heading of 'educational'?"

He gave her a look that said 'Now who's fooling around?'

"It was my shuttle companion who made it interesting. I paired up with a crewman who was with me aboard the Stargazer. He's known me since I was a lieutenant. Deanna's empathic talents are all very useful; but I might have been relying on her too much lately. Mark Garvin was able to provide me with a few insights that I wasn't aware of."

"Such as?"

"That the stresses caused by our gender mismatch are getting worse. We have married men aboard whose wives are 85 years away. Most of them stayed faithful to start with, but now they're giving up on ever seeing them again and swelling the ranks of those looking for a female companion. Meanwhile most of the women have now got steady partners; which of course, has further reduced the possibilities for the unattached men... Garvin even admitted he was disappointed to learn you were now 'taken'."

"He tells me not everyone is prepared to tolerate their situation. It used to be generally accepted that you didn't make a play for other men's wives. That convention is breaking down now because the prospect of a life without sex is unbearable to some. He warned me to expect more fights and for marriages to start failing."

His report depressed her. "I'm sorry to say it may already be coming true. The number of injuries that are claimed to be 'sporting accidents' has gone up recently and I've also seen three cases of teenagers suffering from what could be the effects of narcotics. I wasn't going to tell you this - but two of my female staff, who are a 'couple', have told me they're getting hassled by resentful men. Their relationship had never caused any problems till recently."

Picard sighed and stroked a hand over his head. "Obviously Mason's not the only one who's struggling. When I was captain of the Stargazer we had some very long missions with fewer women than men aboard but it never became a severe problem because we all expected to get home one day. Also our journeys were in areas with inhabited planets and trading posts where we could meet other humanoids. Tempers would be noticeably better after I'd granted a few days shore leave."

"It's a pity there's no such option in this part of space."

"Maybe there is. Garvin suggested an interesting alternative - restart the holodecks."

"Could we spare the power they require?" she asked.

"Not without energy savings elsewhere. However, that's a trade-off people may be willing to pay. At the very least I should put it to them."

Beverly's thoughts turned to the first years of her widowhood, when male friends had treated her like holy ground they were forbidden to touch, when she'd longed for the warmth of another body, even if only fleetingly.

"I think it's a good idea," she said at last. "It may not be reality but it's better than nothing."

The pair of them stared at one another, then both rose and hugged each other fiercely. "I'm so lucky to have you," he whispered into her ear. "And don't ever think it's just because of our situation. Even if the women outnumbered the men ten-to-one it would still have been you I wanted."

"And I you. And I you." She buried her face into his neck, and hugged him closer.

A minute passed before they could bear to part, though Picard still held her hands. "Obviously emotions are running high. There maybe people who are jealous of what you and I have... I think we need to be careful we don't exacerbate any such feelings."

"What are you suggesting?"

"That we avoid any public displays of affection. Also that you carry one of the alarms Tasha will be issuing to all the woman." He could sense she was going to object. "Beverly listen! It's small, you can hide it and you can summon help without the other party knowing. And before you say it shows a lack of faith in your crewmates, remember Abbot and remember you promised Mason you'd take good care of the child you're carrying. That means taking care of yourself."

After a few fiery snorts she reluctantly conceded. "Very well, I'll carry it; as long as it's Worf who answers my alarm and not you. You've already been in enough fights on my behalf and besides people might take your rushing-to-my-defence as a display of affection. And we couldn't have that, could we?"

Scene 10

The bunk bed in her office had become a permanent fixture enabling her to take a nap whenever her body demanded it. She could have returned to their shared quarters, but as she explained to Picard getting there and back would have used up too much time.

"...I can relax here because I know I can be summoned in seconds if needed."

She didn't relax enough as far as he was concerned; somehow the advice she gave other women who were close to labour never seemed to apply to herself.

Today she was dozing when he arrived. He placed his chair next to her bunk and settled down to wait and watch. He liked it best when her hair fell away from her face, it allowed him to study her long graceful neck and her fine cheek bones. She looked peaceful in her sleep, he wished she would stay that way when awake. Lately a kind of melancholy often descended on her, leaving her silent and drained of energy. He suspected he knew the reason but hadn't dared raise the subject.

She stirred and opened her eyes.

"Jean-Luc?" she asked sleepily, "Have you been here long?"

"Less than a minute," he lied - it had been more like five.

"What time is it?"


"15:50! I've missed the seniors' meeting, why didn't you call me?"

"Your presence wasn't essential and I decided the ship would benefit more if its CMO had some more rest."

It was a point on which they'd argued many times; today she conceded without a fight.

"So what did you cover in the meeting?"

"The main item was confirming various staff reassignments. La Forge will become chief engineer as from tomorrow."

"Is the current Chief okay with that?"

"Yes. In fact it was Argyle who first suggested Geordi should take over. He could see La Forge was the better candidate. Argyle's asked if he can concentrate on the holodecks for a while; he has some ideas on how to reduce their power requirement. If he succeeds we can run the holdecks all day long - and Argyle will become the most popular man on the ship."

"Him and the author of the Risa holodeck programme."

Picard was relieved she was up to joking. "Yes," he quipped back, "that programme's does seem to be getting a lot of plays. I can't think why? Would you like to try it out with me?" As soon as the words were out, he immediately regretted the suggestion.

The thought of such frivolity was unbearable to her. She closed her eyes and covered her face with her hands.

"I'm sorry, bad joke," he whispered.

She didn't respond.

"Would you prefer to be alone?"

"No! Stay." With her eyes still shut, she moved a hand in his direction.

Picard took hold of it and gently stroked the inside of her arm. When she seemed calmer he tentatively approached the cause of her sadness.

"What is it now - ten days before the baby is due?"

She gave a slight nod.

"Are the other surrogate mothers due to give birth around the same time?"

She swallowed. "That's the plan." Her voiced sounded strained. "Labour will be induced, keyhole surgery will cut the umbilical cord and the child will be transported to another room. I won't even see it ..." She couldn't go on. Tears were on their way. She dug the base of her palms into her eyes in an effort to stop the flow. "How could I be so stupid?" It was almost a wail.

He moved closer; one hand stroked her head, the other - unwittingly - came to rest on her belly. From within he felt the child move; a lump formed in his throat - she wasn't the only one who would miss it. For the last two months Beverly had slept in his bed; this unseen child had been there with them - moving its growing limbs, listening to their choice of music, to their voices.

She opened her eyes and gripped his hand in a vice like hold. "Why did I think I'd be able to hand it over? Why didn't I remember what it was like to carry Wesley? Why didn't I remember how much I enjoyed feeding him?" Her body shook as she strained to suppress the sobs. "Look at me?" She cupped one of her swollen breasts. "That's what my body wants - to see and feel this child suckling. But that's not going to happen, is it? I'm never going to see him or hold him."

She gave up the fight and let the tears flow.

Picard bent over and wrapped his arms around her, rocking her gently. His cheeks were damp with his own tears and his throat hurt.

"Sssh, Sssh." He tried to calm her. He wanted to share her pain but knew he must help her escape its clutches.

"Beverly, listen to me. The child isn't going to die. You're going to see it, to touch it. You won't know which one he - or she - is but it will be one of only three. You'll see it grow and start to look like its parents. You'll see it learning to crawl, to walk, to talk."

His words were working, the tears gradually subsided into sniffs and hiccups. She reached for a tissue and wiped her face.

"I could express my milk for the parents to feed to it. The anti-bodies will help its immune system."

Jean-Luc wasn't keen on this idea but kept his thoughts to himself. "I'm sure Selar can arrange it."

Beverly brought his hand to her lips and kissed his fingers. "You're right, I should think about this child being with its real parents rather than with us. I'm sorry, I gave you a hard time there."

"I'm glad you told me. Sharing our sorrows and our joys, isn't that what being a couple is supposed to be about."

"Come here," she ordered softly.

Picard lent in closer, she hooked a hand round the back of his head and pulled him towards her till their lips met. The contact wasn't hard - rather gentle and exploring as though they were kissing for the first time.

They would have stayed like that for minutes if a sudden cramp hadn't affected his right leg. "Sorry about this. Not very romantic." He hobbled round the room till the limb came back to life.

Carefully she swung her legs over the side of the bed. "Do you want me to give it a rub?"

"No, I think it's better, but I'll take you up on that offer another time."

"You're on." She stretched out an arm so he could help her up, then engulfed him in a tight hug. Between them the child felt squashed and gave a kick. Picard feared she would descend into sadness again, but instead she spoke to it jokingly, "Hold on little fellow, you'll be out soon enough."

She looked back at Jean-Luc and saw his relieved face. "It's all right. I won't go down that dark hole again."

The second half of the story continues here ... Part 2