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Going Home

by Catherine Ellis

This is the second half of this story. The first half is here ... Part 1

... the story continues ...

Scene 11

He had been with her just two hours but couldn't resist the urge to touch her again. Their recent decision to try for a child had added a new urgency to their love making - every opportunity they found they took. As he strode down the corridor Picard's thoughts strayed from his duties. This time it will be our child she's carrying, this time I will be the proud father.

His cheery 'Good morning' as he walked through Sickbay took them all pleasantly by surprise, they greeted him back. At her office doorway he halted to enjoy the sight - His Beverly! His mate!

She looked his way and couldn't help smiling at his mischievous grin; at least not until she remembered what she had to tell him.

He spotted the change in her mood, "Beverly? What's happened?"

She hesitated, then came closer, assuming what he called her 'professional doctor' manner.

"I've been studying the results of the tests I gave you yester ..."

"...It's just a few aches and pains." He cut in. "I should expect a bit of cramp at my age."

"No you shouldn't," she corrected him firmly. Her look pleaded with him to 'Shut-up and listen'.

When he nodded compliance she continued in a gentler tone. "Your symptoms are caused by small fluctuations in your blood flow." She had intended to give him a detailed description but changed her mind; he would be annoyed by prevarication and; better to get straight to the point. She steeled herself to deliver the bad news.

"Your heart's developed an irregularity, it needs replacing."

An icy chill ran up his spine. "Oh!.. ... Oh."

He swallowed hard and stepped away and held his chest. He hadn't thought about his heart for years, now it was if he could feel the faulty device.

While Beverly described the next steps, Picard made a slow circuit of her office.

"We have a suitable replacement and Dr Selar has already performed two such operations."

He didn't need to ask why she wouldn't be taking the lead herself.

"Is the operation urgent? Can we leave it a while?"

A small twitch of her face betrayed the feelings she was suppressing.

"In about seven days time would be best. You need some treatment before hand to make your body more receptive to the new heart." This was the more encouraging way to phrase it. 'The tissue around your heart is showing signs of deterioration and needs stabilising' would have been the brutal truth.

Anyone watching would have assumed they were discussing some inconsequential machine. Beneath the surface Picard's emotions were ragging. Why now! Why the hell does it have to be now! He fought the urge to lash out at something.

Neither of them dared look the other in the eye - it would risk letting lose a torrent of fears and longings.

The tense silence was broken by a com-message. "Bridge to Captain Picard."

Jean-Luc grabbed at the interruption like a drowning man to a life raft.

"Picard here, what is it Mr Worf."

"Long range Sensors have picked up what appears to be a ship."

"A ship?" His face lit up. "Please summon Commander Riker, I'll be with you shortly."

Turning to Beverly he acted as if there had been no mention of his heart.

"Maybe we're not alone out here after all! I must get back to the bridge."

He was out the door before she could barely open her mouth, leaving her staring after him. " Jean-Luc .. "

She'd expected him to hide his fears, his self-control under-pressure was ingrained in his character. What she hadn't expected was him to escape into denial.

She covered her face with her hands. Was she cross with him for running away or because he hadn't stayed to comfort her?

Her chest gave a great heave. I'm being unfair. It is just his way of coping she told herself.

"Beverly?" a voice whispered.

She opened her eyes. He was standing in the doorway again. His face revealing all his anxieties.

"What are my chances?" he asked.

In two strides she was with him, holding him in her arms.

"About 75%."

He moved apart slightly so he could see her face.

"Those sound like reasonable odds, not great, but not bad either."

She smiled weakly at his courage.

"If it's 75%," he continued, "then why do you look so worried?"

Her throat went taught. "Because ... Because it'd be much better if I'd been paying attention to your symptoms, if I hadn't been so wrapped-up in feeding that surrogate child."

"Stop," he ordered, putting a finger on her lips. "I won't have that. You could as easily blame me for not telling you about all my symptoms. What's done is done. Let's concentrate on improving my chances?"

"Okay," she whispered back and rewarded him with a smile.

He brushed back the hairs that had fallen into her face.

"Now then Doctor, I really would like to go to the bridge, but if you say it's inadvisable ..."

"You can go. I'll join you later. You're not the only one who's interested in this other ship."

He held her gaze and squeezed her hand so it almost hurt. "Till later then."

He moved quickly to the door. "And no running," she called after him.

He turned and smiled, then his face saddened as the implication of that command sunk in - there would be no other strenuous activities before his operation.

Scene 12

Her staff had moved out of earshot to let them argue in private.

"No! I will not postpone your operation, it will take place tomorrow as planned."

"Really?" he snapped back. "So where are your medical ethics now and treatment by consent?"

He had her there, she backed off and changed tactics.

"Please Jean-Luc, don't do this. If you delay the operation you will increase the risk. The crew need you to survive. I need you."

"The crew need me now. If the 12 ships that are tracking us decide to attack then I need to be conscious. This crew hasn't faced a conflict before."

"Not on this ship perhaps, but many of them have in previous roles." She reeled off a long list of battle experienced officers. "Will Riker might be young but I'd trust him with command. It's why you chose him."

Picard looked away while Beverly continued with her case. "If they do attack then who's to say it won't be in 5 or 10 days? By then you'll be up and in better shape than you are now; whereas if you delay you could be ... "

This time it was her who looked away as she struggled to hold back the tears. His hand found hers and held it tight.

When both were under emotional control again she dared to speak. .

"It's not the alien ships, is it?"

"No," he admitted. "It's my fear of dying. I want to have as many days with you as possible - not to risk cutting those short."

She placed her hands on his arms then wrapped them tightly around him.

"I want that too, but do so by not spending any more time on the bridge. Spend the next 24 hours with me. Let's leave nothing unsaid."

When they pulled apart there were tears on his face. He let her wipe them away with no sign of embarrassment.

He tried to lighten the mood, "If I live, will we have anything left to talk about?"

"Oh I'm sure we'll find something."

Scene 13

Someone was talking, the sound was indistinct and from the other side of the room. Then another voice broke in, still muffled, but this one was recognisable - Beverly. He opened his eyes, the shapes around him were as indistinct as the sounds. A figure passed between him and the light source and sat down next to his bed.

"Hello there," she whispered, "it's good to have you back again."

Cool fingers brush across his forehead. He attempted to speak but his mouth was too dry. Soon a damp sponge was pressed against his lips.


"Yes," he croaked.

His eyes started to focus revealing her lovely face full of tender concern.

"Try moving your fingers."

He had to think before his right hand obeyed and gripped hers.

"Now a foot."

This was harder; it took him several attempts before the muscles obeyed his brain's commands.

"Keep practicing, you'll soon recover full control."

His memory was returning now - he'd been I'll, he'd had an operation to replace his heart. He moved a hand and felt his chest. "I'm alive!"

She beamed back, "Yes my love, you definitely are."

A tear started running down her cheek. With effort he moved a finger to brush it away. She leant over hand brushed her lips against his. His body was reassuringly positive in response. She was right - he was definitely better.

"How long have I been unconscious?"

"A while."

Picard tried to raise himself but found he didn't have the strength.

"Let me help."

Beverly adjusted the bed so he was sitting up a little. Now he could see where he was - her office. The location surprised him.

"It's all right, you're not dreaming. You really are in my office. Sickbay is a little full at present. And besides, I wanted to watch over you myself."

"What's happened? Have people been hurt?"

"No. It's nothing like that, just an allergic reaction to a plant we brought abroad three months back. They'll all be fine in a day or two."

He breathed easier.

"And the ships that are tracking us? Any changes there?"

"Yes, and for the better. Will told me to tell you that your idea of drawing pictures in space worked. It gave us the first spark of communication with these people. We may be able to understand their language by the end of the day."

"All that in a few hours? I'm impressed."

He shifted his position. The numbness in his body was beginning to wear off. His could now move his limbs at his bidding; only his chest felt sore, as though he'd been in a boxing match and lost. Beverly ran her scanner over his torso.

"How does your breathing feel? Any pain?"

"Some, I don't know how to describe it, it's as though my chest is more crowded than before. Is my new heart bigger than the last?"

"Yes. Slightly." - she checked his bio readings on her scanner - "Your blood pressure is good."

Something in her manner seemed strained. "Is there something you haven't told me?" he asked.

She had rehearsed this moment many times, but now that it was here she still found it difficult to find the right words.

"Your operation didn't go as smoothly as we'd hoped. We couldn't get your nervous system to control the new heart so we had to resort to a completely different solution. What you have in your body now is a 'real' heart."

"Real? You mean you managed to replicated a heart?"

"No, we transplanted a heart from a donor who had two."

Picard turned pale with shock.

"The donor is fine." She reassured him. "He's back at work already."

Jean-Luc was still breathing rapidly from the shock.

"It was the donor's idea. We didn't pressurise him."

"Nevertheless, a heart! Who was it?" He guessed before she could answer. "Worf!"

"Yes Worf volunteered. He felt the ship need it's captain more than he needed his second heart."

"And you let him do it!" his anger was obvious now. "Were you the one who cut him open? How could you do that!"

Crusher stood up, equally angry. She retreated to the other side of the room until she could bear to speak to him again.

"What would you have preferred? That we let you die or kept you alive but linked to an external machine? Would you have thanked me then?"

"You didn't give me the choice."

"Well tough! You weren't the captain in this situation."

They glared at one another till Beverly backed off a little. "Jean-Luc, what would you have done if our positions had been reversed? Would you have turned down Worf's offer."

He looked at her and imagined the scene - her body linked to a heart machine.

"I'd have let someone else make the decision."

"And so did I. They chose this; Worf chose this."

When he still didn't look reconciled to the idea she tapped her com-badge. "Crusher to bridge. Can you spare Mr Worf for 5 minutes, the captain would like to speak to him."

Riker's excited voice responded, "That's great news Doctor. The Lieutenant will join you shortly."

Crusher ended the call. "So - Captain - now's your chance to tell Worf that you don't want his gift."

"Can you help me sit up, I don't want to greet him lying down."

Beverly helped him to 'his' chair, but not without muttering 'ego' loud enough for him to hear.

"Beverly, when you replied earlier that I had been unconscious for 'a while', that was an understatement wasn't it?"

"That depends on your point of view. Considering how much we needed to do I think four days was quick."

"Four days!"

"Putting a Klingon heart into a human body isn't simple. The plumbing might be the same but ..."

Worf had appeared at the door. Crusher announced that she had something else to see to.

"It's good to see you up again Captain."

"I hear you had something to do with that?"

"Yes Sir."

The two proud men looked at one another, both felt uncomfortable with sentimentality.

"Lieutenant, although I value the consequence, I'm not sure I condone the risk you took."

"With respect Sir, you did not experience the situation we were faced with. This ship needs a leader and in my judgement you are currently the best person for that role. Besides my risk was not great - I have confidence in our doctors."

Picard let slip a smile at his inclusion of the word 'currently', then made the effort to stand.

"In that case Mr Worf, I shall endeavour to be worthy of your gift."

Worf gave him an acknowledging bow.

"Will that be all Sir."

"Yes Lieutenant."

Dr Crusher entered just as Worf was about to leave. The Klingon greeted her then turned briefly towards his captain. Picard caught the meaning of the glance - 'And I admire your choice of mate'.

For Beverly one quick glance at Jean-Luc was enough to reassured her that he was now more accepting of what had happened.

"So?" she asked. "Are you still angry?"

"I don't think I have the right to be. I wasn't the one facing that situation. And whatever the means you all used, I am very glad to be alive."

The effort of standing was getting too much for him. His legs began to shake. Beverly hurried over and caught him before he fell; then helped him back to the bed.

"Don't worry it will be like this for day or so. Just lie here for 15 minutes then you can get up again." As before she stroked his brow.

Picard looked up into her tired eyes.

"You've had a pretty tough few days, haven't you?"

"I've had better," she replied, her voice cracking with suppressed emotions.

"I'll do my best to give you only good ones from now on."

Unable to speak, she instead tapped his chin playfully, then said, "Does that mean you are going to be a model patient from now?"

Picard baulked at the idea, then capitulated. "All right, I guess I owe it to Worf to take care of myself."

"And me, my love. And me."

Scene 14

Picard stood aside to let Troi leave before himself entering her office.

"Why do I get the impression the pair of you were talking about me?"

"Probably because we were ... and Will and Worf." She held him by the arm. "Now come and lie down I need to check your resting heart rate."

Jean-Luc did as he was told, lying down on the bunk bed that still filled a corner of her office. "Am I allowed to talk?"

"Yes, but only if the topic isn't stimulating." She positioned a scanner near his chest then moved to the other side of the room. "I need to check through these test results, but I'm listening."

"Am I imagining things or was my First Officer's attention wandering at times this morning?"

"You mean he was more interested in Deanna than in Data's plans for recalibrating the lateral sensors. I don't blame him, I wasn't that fascinated myself."

"It was more than boredom on Will's part. I suspect the nature of his interest in Troi has changed to something more possessive."

Beverly looked in his direction, "Did I hear you correctly? Is Captain Jean-Luc Picard gossiping about his colleagues' love lives?"

"I am not gossiping, I am taking a professional interest. If those two are going to have problems working together then I may have to reassign certain responsibilities."

"You can relax on that front, Deanna's pleased by Will's renewed interest. The trouble is likely to come from other directions. She's been one of the more - how shall I put it? - one of the more 'generous' women aboard the ship. There are quite a few men who will miss her 'largess'."

Picard couldn't help smiling at her choice of words. "Thanks for the warning, I'll keep an eye out. Though I'm still puzzled by Will and Deanna. Why have things changed between them now? It's not as though Riker's been short of female company."

"Your heart problems may have been the catalyst for that. Life on this ship had settled into a safe routine for some of us. Your brush with death reminded people that they couldn't take anything for granted - Will included."

Beverly walked over to him and checked the scanner. "Have you been keeping to the exercise routine I set you?"

"Yes Ma'am, as has Worf."

"Good. Now lie still for another five minutes so I can get a proper reading."

Picard remained quiet, while Crusher returned to her test results. Minutes passed, his obedient silence was disturbing. She glanced his way and saw him staring at the ceiling, his cheerful expression now replaced by something far sadder.

"Jean-Luc? Are you all right?"

He turned her way. Something was obviously wrong. "Tell me," he said, "am I still human?"

"Why do you ask?"

"I've been reading up about transplants between species. It involves a lot more than joining up the plumbing. You had to alter my chemical make-up so it wouldn't reject Worf's heart."

"Yes, I did." She fetched her chair and sat down next to him. "Your brain chemistry is the same. The main difference you'll notice is in your muscles, you'll bulk up more easily than before. You need to avoid excessive growth as your skeletal system isn't strong enough to handle the strain. Don't go lifting heavy weights, stay on the treadmill."

"And other parts of me?"

"How do you mean?"

"Don't prevaricate. You took a sperm sample. Am I still a man?"

"Jean-Luc, I think it would be better if we continued this conversation this evening."

"And I think you've just answered my question."

The sadness in his eyes was unbearable. The plan she'd prepared on how to tell him was now worthless, she needed to answer him straight away.

Taking hold of his hand she gripped it firmly. "You've guessed right, the treatment has altered your sperm. There would now be a high risk of genetic defects." He turned away from her and she felt him shake with grief. "But listen to me, you can still have healthy children - your children."

He turned back to her, his eyes watery, "How?"

"Before I started the transplant treatment I took the liberty of taking more samples. I know I didn't have your permission ..."

He pulled her to him. The strength of his embrace was so strong she had to plead for release.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It's just I'm so relieved." There were still tears in his eyes but now they were of joy. He held her face in his hands and kissed her nose, her eyes, her forehead, her mouth. "Thank you, thank you."

"That day we talked, you said you wanted children so I assumed you'd want me to."

"You assumed right." He let out a long sigh of relief and closed his eyes.

Beverly beamed down at him, relieved that this difficult conversation was now over. "Jean-Luc, I still need to take your resting heart rate. Do you think you can relax now?"

He opened one eye. "I'll try. Just remind me - that day we talked - you did say you wanted my children, didn't you?"

Scene 15

Six weeks has passed.

Beverly looked up from her desk; she knew who was approaching even before they came into view. "Hello Deanna," she called out.

The Counsellor halted at the doorway. "Are you developing empathic powers?"

"No, just my good hearing. You have a very distinctive step."

Deanna clutched her chest theatrically. "I'm relieved. This ship isn't big enough for two empaths."

Crusher rewarded her act with a faint smile, "Come and sit down." She already knew how their conversation would go - first they would exchange a few items of gossip, then Troi would move them on to more personal matters and finally the Counsellor would attempt to discover what was troubling her. They had been through this routine three times already in the last ten days.

Beverly's attitude to these encounters was ambiguous - she was grateful for Deanna's desire to help yet at the same time reluctant to cooperate. Though she'd never have admitted it, she also felt a touch of jealously at Troi's happy relationship with Will and annoyance at the way the Counsellor wanted everyone else to be equally happy. Why shouldn't I feel miserable if I want to!

"So what's new today?" Beverly asked, starting the familiar game.

"Something very unusual happened this morning, I actually heard two people say positive things about Kosinski'"

"Kosinski? The one whose experiment got us stranded here? That is unusual."

"He should thank the Captain for his newfound popularity," Troi continued. "Ever since Picard made him responsible for getting more people through the Grade 2 Engineering Exam, he's had a reason to want other people to do well. It's done wonders for his behaviour."

"That wouldn't have been hard, there's plenty of room for improvement." Beverly couldn't resist the cutting remark; Kosinki's condescending manner towards Wesley had been irritating her for months. "Any other developments?"

"Mark Laidlaw and Stuart Zukov are now marketing themselves as a pair. If any of the women aboard would like two male partners and no rivalry then those two are willing and eager to oblige."

Crusher gave an amused snort. "Sounds like necessity is the mother of invention again. Speaking of mothers - have you noticed that my two lesbian staff members are now very popular? They've both agreed to become pregnant by men who are keen to become fathers."

"I hope it works ..." she stopped in mid-sentence.

"Deanna? What's wrong?"

The Counsellor's face broke into a smile. "It's all right now. I felt this sudden wave of shock from several people but that's turned into amusement."

"I think I know what you're sensing. In the gym down the corridor there's a group watching an old 2-D movie."

"It must be a good one, the emotional response was very strong." She leant towards Beverly and whispered, "Should I officially know about this? Did they get permission to use power for entertainment during this brown-out?"

"They're creating the power themselves. Wesley has hooked up several of the exercise machines to a dynamo he'd made as part of a school project. That's powering the show.

"So there are twenty people in there cycling away while they ..."

The two women collapsed into laughter at the thought of 'this' aboard a starship. It was a relief for Beverly to find something to laugh at, that hadn't happened often in the past few weeks.

"This temporary energy clamp down is tedious but at least there are a few good things have come from it - Wesley has had to stop working on those damn warp engines. He's been socialising more."

Troi restrained the temptation to say 'Pity his mother doesn't do the same', instead she replied, "And there eight teenage girls who are very pleased to see him out and about. In their age group there are more girls than boys."

"Life on this ship isn't easy for anyone, is it?"

Deanna sensed her friend's mood sink back into the depressed state that had now become her default. This was the point in their conversations when normally she tactfully try to get Beverly to open up. But that hadn't worked before and Troi was fed-up with being rebuffed. "Beverly, what is it? What's wrong? And please don't tell me it's just the effect of these temporary power restrictions, I won't buy that. Why are you choosing to spend your evenings alone in this gloomy office?"

"I have work to do."

"You've always had work to do, but you used to do other things as well."

"That's not so easy now."


"Deanna, you know damn well why - because Jean-Luc's incredibly busy and I don't want to socialise without him. I know what'll happen if I have supper in Ten-Forward on my own. I'll barely have sat down before there'll be a man asking if he can join me."

"I know, I've experienced that too; even recently since people learnt that Will and I are getting married. However most of those men aren't a problem, they're just looking for female companionship; they want a woman to smile at them, they want to pretend for half an hour that you could have been their partner if fate had been kinder. Is it so awful to help them in that way?"

Beverly leant back and let out an exasperated sigh. "No, it isn't, but Jean-Luc might not see it that way. I don't want to risk upsetting him. Since he recovered from his operation he's had a lot to deal with and I'm so proud of what he's achieved. I don't want to do anything do disrupt that."

Deanna knew these weren't empty words. Whatever Beverly's current problem with Picard she definitely still loved and admired him. And there was much to admire; many aboard had been scared when they feared the escorting ships were threatening to attack. It was Picard who'd realised their communications were a warning of a danger ahead rather than a threat. It was Picard who had led the study of how they could pass through this dangerous region on low power rather than take a three year detour. It was Picard who was keeping up morale as they crawled through the brownout zone with his inventive ideas on what people could do or learn. Beverly's admiration was understandable, what wasn't was her fear that Picard would doubt her loyalty. The man's trust in her was absolute.

"I understand that you want to protect him, but does that mean you have to hide away? Outside of your official duties we hardly see you. Why don't you ever tour the ship with the Captain?"

"I'd only get in the way. Jean-Luc and I agreed months back that we wouldn't flaunt our relationship, not with the rivalry for partners. Besides, people like to feel he belongs to them personally, they can't do that if I'm standing behind him."

"Take care or that position will be taken by Worf. Our Klingon Lieutenant would like to escort the Captain everywhere, he's so proud of the man he now considers his blood brother."

Troi was baffled, even this Worf quip didn't raise a response from Beverly. Whatever was wrong between them she knew it wasn't in bed. Picard's transplant had clearly improved his stamina. Nearly every night Deanna sensed their sexual exploits; these were so lengthy and vigorous she'd often wondered how they had the energy left to do anything else. Unable to find any words to help she reached out across the desk and squeezed Beverly's hand.

Crusher gripped back. "Thank you. I know you want to help but there are some things I have to solve for myself."

"I'll stop pressing then. However, if you ever want a companion for a meal in Ten-Forward ..."

"... I'll call you, I promise."

At the sound of footsteps approaching Beverly let go Deanna's hand. Picard appeared in the doorway and Troi immediately saw a cheerful expression on Crusher's face; her mood however didn't lighten, it was all an act for his benefit.

Deanna stood up.

"Don't let me drive you away Counsellor."

"You're not Sir, I was going anyway." She turned back to Beverly and mentally willed her to do something to end her torment. "Till tomorrow then."

Picard and Crusher waited for Troi to leave before looking at each other. Jean-Luc immediately felt uneasy, Beverly's gaze was more inscrutable than of late.

"I was planning to do a lap around decks 5 and 6. Would you care to join me?"

For a second or two she thought 'why not?', before the depression that had now become a habit took over. "I've still got a report to finish. Troi distracted me."

Jean-Luc hid his disappointment. "All right then, I'll see you later."


He turned away but didn't leave. Why wouldn't she come with him? Why was she so passionate and willing in their bedroom but strangely distant outside? What had changed? He told himself he didn't understand it, but that was a lie. He knew exactly what was wrong but just didn't want to face it.

Seconds passed before he turned to face her again.

"Beverly ... I've disappointed you haven't I?"

She didn't need to answer, he could see it in her face. "You've changed your mind and didn't have the guts to tell me."

"I'm sorry. It's just ..." Words failed him.

"Just what?" she snapped back. "Just that you were lying earlier, when you said you wanted children?"

"That wasn't a lie. I still do want them, it's just that now that I've had more time to think about it I'm not sure I should. I don't think I'll make a very good father."

From anyone else this explanation would have sounded ludicrous, for Picard however, Beverly guessed he saw parenthood and it's responsibilities as a sacred duty. She couldn't decide whether to hug, shake or slap him.

"You idiot," she said shaking him by his upper arms. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I was waiting for you to raise the subject."

"And I was afraid to ask." She rested her forehead against his. "We're a great pair aren't we?"

"We certainly haven't been talking much recently."

She gave a saucy smile. "We've had other things on our minds." Her hands moved to his shoulders. She appeared more relaxed but her head was trying to work out the strategy to change his mind. "You get on very well with Wesley, so explain to me why you'd be no good as a father. "

"Wesley doesn't count, he's almost adult and besides he's hardly a typical teenager. Who else his age is a master of warp theory? No, to start with I'm too old. I'd be in my 70s when the child would be a teenager. I won't be able to do the things a younger father could do."

"Jean-Luc despite your heart problems you've kept yourself in great shape, baring accidents and bad luck you'll be fit and active for at least another 25 years. What else is on your list?"

"I don't know how to relate to young children - for some reason I frighten them. I wouldn't want my child to be scared of his father."

"Are you afraid you'll end up behaving like your own father? Don't worry, that's not likely, you're too good a diplomat. All you've got to do is to imagine that young children belong to new species that you're still getting to know. Don't think of them as ensigns who should obey your every command instantly."

"Is that what you advise every new parent?"

"No, but I think it's the right approach for you. Parenthood isn't like being an engineer or a botanist, it's more like an adventure."

Picard still looked uneasy at the prospect. What is it with you Jean-Luc? Do you have to be sure you'll be brilliant at something before you even try it?

"You could get some practice with young children if you like. During these power restrictions many of their games aren't available. The nursery teacher needs helpers to read stories to five year olds. Would you care to join me there?"

He didn't respond, just stood there staring at her face.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

He had seen through the calm argument she was putting up to hide the anxious woman beneath. "Having another child is very important to you, isn't it?"

Beverly gave up the act. "Yes, it is. But I'm not going to bully or emotionally blackmail you into fatherhood. All I ask is that you consider it."

"And if I still say 'no', will you leave me?"

Beverly looked away for few seconds then turned to face him. "Yes, I'll leave. I know I said 'children were optional' when we first got together but that was before I had felt the Mason's child move within me. Ever since then the desire's always been there. I want your child Jean-Luc, but if you don't want to take on the burdens of fatherhood then I'll find someone else who does."

He stroked a finger slowly across her cheek. "Then that's all the more reason for me to work on my fears." He took a deep breath. "I think you should show me how to read stories to five year olds."

Scene 16

(Writer's note : This part contains a sexually explicit scene. If you prefer to skip such material then scroll ahead to scene 17 where I will tell you of the main plot development you have missed.)

6 weeks later

Picard didn't feel like talking, his mind was busy anticipating what he would do when they reached their quarters. From the way Beverly was playing with his hand her thoughts were clearly on the same subject. The slow dancing which had ended Will and Deanna's wedding party had put more than one couple 'in-the-mood'. Jean-Luc had noticed several other pairs slip away and was pleased when Beverly suggested they do the same. Now as they stepped into the lift, he was struggling not to gasp as her fingers encircled one of his.

"Deck 12" she ordered as the doors closed.

"12?" he questioned.

"I need to visit my office."

"Does that have to be now?"

"Indulge me, it won't take long." She gave him such an enchanting smile that he couldn't deny her.

"Very well, but please make it quick."

Her smile turned mischievous; was she teasing him deliberately? He pulled her to him intending to kiss her but was interrupted by the doors opening.

"Patience," she whispered and let go his hand.

In the corridor there were people about, a woman Picard vaguely recognised smiled broadly at him and murmured "Captain," as she went passed.

"Who is she?" Picard asked when she was out of earshot.

"Jake's mother."

Ah!" He nodded, now understanding why he'd merited the smile.

When they entered Sickbay the lights were low and an automated message told them that medical services had been temporally transferred to Cargo Bay 2 while cabling was upgraded. Jean-Luc halted at the unusual sight - in the glow of the emergency lighting the room looked strange and unfamiliar.

"This way," Beverly beckoned him into her office where the same low lighting gave it a mysterious air.

"I've been growing some cultures and I need to check on their condition. Sit down, I won't be long."

His irritation was rising, he was tempted to leave - but if he did the chances of sex this evening would be zero. Sighing softly he went and sat on 'his'' chair, this time it was positioned in the corner at right angles to her desk. Beverly turned on a torch and bent over to examine her specimens. The light shined through the material of her blouse revealing the outline of her breasts and her shapely legs were visible beneath her skirt. The pleasing view partly assuaged his annoyance at the delay.

He closed his eyes and settled into reliving memories of a recent night - him removing her clothing, her skilful caresses making him hard, her lying naked across his bed, hands gripping the bed-head, legs parted, sounds of pleasure escaping her mouth. When he'd agreed they should conceive a child he'd expected it to be a clinical event; something Beverly would do in private then tell him it was done. Instead she'd made it an intimate occasion with him performing something close to the normal male role. Sitting there in her office he shuddered as he remembered the final moments, the thrill as his hand movements slowly brought her to climax.

The intensity of the memory brought sweat to his brow, he opened his eyes and attempted to calm himself.

Beverly was still leaning over the desk in that provocative manner. The temptation to stroke his hand up her leg and under her skirt was almost irresistible. Didn't she realise what she was doing to him!

He gulped as a possibility occurred to him. Rising quietly he moved closer, still hesitant in case he had misunderstood. Cautiously he reached down and gently stroked three fingers up the inside of her thigh.

Beverly froze, then answered, "At last! What kept you!"

He leaned in closer and whispered, "My stupidity, in punishment for which I promise to make your wait worthwhile."

She quickly tapped her computer screen. Picard saw a message flash up - 'Sickbay Access Program Crusher A9: activated'.

He laughed, "You've thought of everything."

"Not quite, the next bit is up to your imagination." She moved the culture trays aside, "Now stop talking and get on with your punishment."

He didn't need any more instruction. While one hand firmly rubbed her left buttock the other returned to her thigh and made its way slowly up. On reaching the top of her stockings he paused and repositioned himself directly behind her, his feet edging hers apart. One hand found its way underneath her blouse and up to her breasts, the other made its way down the front of her lace panties. There he commenced slow firm circular movements which edged downwards on every circuit. Frustrated by his tardy progress Beverly guided his hand and pressed his fingers against her.

His mouth found its way to her neck causing her to lean her head back onto his shoulder. Soon he felt her buck as her arousal heightened. He lent her forward over the desk and moved his hands. His right now slipped between her legs from behind, his finger entering her easily and confirming her readiness. Moving the hand further forward he lifted her almost off her feet. The pleasure caused by her own weight caused her to groan in ecstasy. Fearing she would come too soon, he quickly released himself from his trousers then hooked his hands round her legs and held her in position as he found he found her entrance.

To start with he barely entered, only his tip penetrating before withdrawing again. Then gradually and inexorably he raised the tempo, inching deeper every beat. Beverly gripped the desk to better push back against his thrusts and intensify her pleasure.

When he was sure she was close, he paused - "Ask me," he ordered.

She tried to push herself onto to him but he stopped her. If she wanted to come, she must request his services. He moved ever so slightly pushing himself tantalisingly close to her sweet spot. Her control was gone, "Take me, please take me!" she begged.

He did as asked, penetrating her again and again with firm straight thrust until her cries of pleasure subsided and she lay across the desk panting and exhausted.

It was a full minute before she managed to speak again, "Jean-Luc, I think you've paid your punishment."

"Are you sure? Don't I deserve more than that?"

Only now did her brain register the fact that he was still hard. How he could control himself and not come when she did was something she would never understand. She knew what he was hoping for - that he could make her come again. "Turn me round," she ordered. He withdrew and turned her so she was sitting on the edge of desk before entering her again. His hands held her face and his lips explored hers, the pressure of his kisses becoming firmer and his tongue seeking admittance.

Beverly kissed him back but when her hands tried to get under his shirt he grabbed her wrists and forced her hands behind her back. "This is my punishment, remember?"

"Yes Captain."

He kissed her again, then placed her hands on the desk so she was leaning back. The light from the torch shone through her hair, he ran his fingers through it. She was still damp from the first time. His fingers drifted across her neck and down the space between her breasts. There he slowly un-fastened her blouse before lifting it open and off her shoulders. He cupped her breasts and rubbed his thumbs across her nipples till they became firm under the fabric of her bra. His eyes spotted the front fastening - had she anticipated everything!. He freed her breasts and needed them with the palms of his hands, remembering how big they had grown when she'd been carrying the surrogate child. How it was his child that was growing within her. His urgency grew at the thought, quickly one hand went to her abdomen pressing her firmly and rhythmically. His mouth found hers again, this time his tongue was welcomed in.

Self-control was getting more difficult. He moved her hands back further increasing her tilt then slipped his hands under her buttocks and lifting her slightly. Beverly spread her legs wider and gasped as his next thrust seemed to fill her completely. She arched her back, rewarding him with the sight she knew he wanted - her open breast and her beautiful neck bending away from him.

"May I?" he asked, keeping himself perfectly still.

She made him wait, readying herself for the coming moment, then answered "YES!"

This time they came together, the intensity of their orgasms heightening the other's. When they were spent Beverly collapsed onto the desk and Jean-Luc struggled to keep standing on shaking legs. He gave up trying, "I've got to sit down."

He slumped down, quickly joined by Beverly; the pair of them lying on the floor in the place where she normally sat. Both of them half smiling half laughing at the glorious absurdity of what they had just done.

"Wow!" was all Picard could manage to say. Beverly snuggled up, her body already missing the feel of him inside her, her hand lazily stroking his chest.

"Was that my reward," he asked sleepily, "for agreeing to start a family?"

"No, you had that the other night. This was my special treat. Ever since you told me of your fantasy about having sex in my office it's been my fantasy too. The temporary move to Cargo Bay 2 seemed too good an opportunity to miss."

"I hope this evening doesn't come to mind every time I need to visit you here in future. It could get embarrassing if I can't control myself. You need to provide me with another fantasy that will keep my thoughts off this one."

"Yes Sir, I'll start working on it straight away."

"You do that." Despite the hardness of the floor Jean-Luc was on the edge of asleep.

"Hey," she shook him, "not here. We need to get back to our own quarters."

She helped him to his feet, then the pair of them adjusted their clothing.

"Why are you smiling at me?" he asked.

"Oh, I was just thinking of you holding Jake. Who would have thought that Captain Picard had a talent for getting fretful young babies to fall asleep? Was it that what changed your mind?"

"It helped. The very young ones don't scare me anymore and I positively like holding them. I still haven't learnt how to outwit a temperamental three year old, that's the next challenge." He took her hand, "The main turning point came because I saw you were right - becoming a parent is a great adventure and I don't want to miss out on that."

She gave him a quick kiss, they were both too exhausted for anything more strenuous. "If you want a few tips on three year olds, I recommend watching Fredrick Ngong dealing with his daughter. That young madam is going through a difficult phase and Fred is a master at diverting her anger."

It was Picard who was smiling now, his thoughts lost in imagining what their own child would be like.

Scene 17

(Writer's note : If you opted to skip Scene 16, then you need to know that Beverly is now pregnant by Jean-Luc)

Picard's work-life had been tediously routine during the last few weeks; there had been no signs of intelligent life or unusual stellar phenomena that would have justified a diversion from their course. As a result he almost looked forward to a malfunction or a maintenance requirement that would disrupt the monotonous pattern of the days.

He wasn't the only one to be bored, with little to tax them professionally many of the crew had looked for other challenges, competitive sports being one of the favourites. As Beverly was now four months pregnant, and no longer playing squash, Picard had taken up wrestling - male opponents only - however he had given this up again when he came to suspect some of his sparing partners got inordinate enjoyment out of being pinned to the mat by their captain. After that he had switched to taking runs on a treadmill and was why he was attempting to hide a limp was he walked into Beverly's office.

She spotted his awkward gait immediately. "What happened?" she laughed, "Were you trying to beat your PB for 10k?"

"No, nothing so dignified. Ikito Ro and Charles Lang challenged me to a 400 metre race; I think I overdid it in my effort to win. My right calf has seized up."

"Serves you right, what on earth possessed you to accept a race against 13 year olds?"

"I was so pleased they'd asked me, I didn't want to turn them down."

"In that case, I'll forgive you." She knew how he'd been struggling to make himself more approachable to teenagers. "Roll up your trouser and sit on my desk."

Picard did as he was told and was soon feeling better as a result of her efforts.

"There you are, but if you do that again I'll treat you in the main Sickbay area, and you know how you'll love that. Worf's heart might have improved your muscle tone but it hasn't turned you into a sprinter. Next time you're challenged to a race make it a 3k or longer, you'll win easily."

"Yes ma'am." He got off her desk and carefully tested out the leg. "Of course what I'd really prefer is a little competition with you."

She grinned back. "I guess I could manage a handicapped race - I jog 2k while you have to complete 4k."

"Would that be safe?"

"Junior will be fine." She reassured him patting her stomach.

Jean-Luc was about to put his hand over hers when a worried looking Wesley entered the room. It was clear from the young man's reaction that he wished the captain wasn't there.

The feeling was mutual. "I'll see you later then Doctor." Picard was turning to leave when he caught Beverly's eye and saw her jerk her head towards Wesley. Clearly she wanted him to help her son with his problem.

Four days previously Picard would have complied without a second thought - Wesley was the nearest thing he had to a son and he was sure the boy thought of him as a substitute father. Then Beverly had told them both that the child she was carrying a boy and immediately things had changed. Things would have been simpler if it had been a girl. Picard's affection for Wesley hadn't altered but the unborn child was his own flesh and blood and would inevitably be closer to him. For Wesley things were different too, Picard had become a step-father figure rather than a substitute father, also he would now no longer be his mother's only son.

This new situation was one neither Picard or Wesley had adjusted to.

Jean-Luc hesitated. Maybe Beverly had noticed the strain between them? Maybe that was why she wanted him to be the one to help? Whatever the reason he decided to do as she asked - parenthood was a role with no off-duty periods as he had been learning.

"Is something bothering you Wes? Can I help?"

"It's nothing Sir, really."

Picard could have escaped at this point, instead he gave it one more attempt. "You know I could ... forget that I'm the captain, if that would make things easier."

Wesley looked at his mother and found her backing up Picard with a relaxed smile that said 'he's part of the family now, get used to it'.

"Well Sir," he started nervously, "you know I've been working on how the Traveller got us here. Well I think I've worked out how he did it."

"Go on."

"The trouble is my explanation is going to sound ridiculous; Kosinski has already told me it's childish rubbish."

Picard was about to say something rude about Kosinshi, but thought better of it. "A lot of good ideas sound stupid to start with, besides what the Traveller achieved was beyond our current scientific knowledge, so any explanation is bound to seem far fetched. Keep going Wesley and don't be afraid of sounding foolish."

Wesley took a deep breath, "I think he got us here by harnessing the power of thought with the warp drive."


"Yes Sir. I know it sounds crazy."

"Unexpected yes, but not totally unbelievable ... The pity is that we couldn't repeat it without the Traveller's presence."

"Ah, but maybe we can!" Picard's positive response had fuelled Wesley's enthusiasm. "I think we could manage it ourselves." He then went into a long explanation of how they should configure the warp drive.

Picard looked across at Beverly, "Sounds interesting, doesn't it?"

She wasn't sure if he meant it or was just humouring her son. "Yes, I'll give you that, but please remember what happened to the Traveller when he tried to get us home. He phased out of existence, for all we know he maybe dead."

Picard and Wesley put on more sober expressions but neither of them was going to let her caution dampen their excitement.

Scene 18

Four weeks later.

Crusher's office was unusually crowded - Picard, Riker, Kosinski and Karen Johansen were standing arguing in the centre, Wesley was lying on the bunk bed while his mother stood protectively in front of him.

The volume of everyone's voices was rising in line with their emotions.

"... But we have to try it again! We made tremendous progress yesterday - a year's distance in one minute! Even if we can only do that once a week we can be home in 18 months."

There was a touch of desperation in Karen's voice and the others knew why; through a cruel twist of fate this civilian had been aboard the Enterprise travelling to meet her husband and five young children at a starbase. After the initial shock of losing them she had thrown herself into helping the other civilians. For over a year she had been acting as their representative. Picard had come to appreciate her contribution, in particular the way she had helped him integrate the civilians into the ship's life.

Now, however, she was in no mood to compromise; like many of the civilians she was willing to take great risks for the chance of getting home.

Kosinski was supporting her plea. "It's true that the engines need an overhaul after that jump, however they could be ready in five days or so. We should plan for another attempt."

"A few weeks ago you were dismissing Wesley's ideas as 'rubbish', that's quite a volte face." The sarcasm in Riker comments was obvious. "Yes the engines can be repaired, but that will use up scarce resources. Unless we can replenish our stocks we shouldn't risk running down our reserves."

Karen spoke up again, "But if keep on making these jumps we won't need our reserves."

"There isn't going to be another jump." Beverly hadn't spoken in a while, her clear authoritative voice made them all stop and turn her way. She continued, "The last jump nearly killed Wesley. He maybe recovering now, but he is not doing it again."

Picard moved to stand by her side. "The Doctor is right. The risk to Wesley is too great."

Johansen opened her mouth to protest, but the look on Picard's face changed her mind.

"Sir?" Wesley's voice was still weak. "When I've recovered I'm willing to try again."

Picard looked down at him. "I know you are son, but I'm not prepared to take that risk. You are too important to us." Turning back to the others he continued. "This ship is not in danger at present and we are making steady progress towards home. I'm not prepared to risk someone's life or the safety of the ship just on the off-chance of getting home earlier."

Johansen looked from Picard to Riker to Beverly and saw no hope of support. The fight went out of her. "Then I will never see my children again." She left without saying more.

Beverly immediately tapped her com-badge. "Crusher to Counsellor Troi, Please visit Karen Johansen immediately".

Kosinski asked to leave and was willing dismissed by Picard.

"Will, there maybe further arguments on this matter. Please inform me immediately if there are any flair ups."

"Yes Sir." Riker wished Wesley well and left for the bridge.

It was just the three of them now.

"Did I make things worse?" Wesley asked.

"No, definitely not," Picard reassured him. "You made it possible for us to make the jump, but it was my decision to try out your idea. Any consequences are my responsibility. I want you to keep on having bright ideas." As Beverly looked on approvingly Picard gave Wesley's arm an affectionate touch.

The moment was interrupt by an alarm followed immediately by Worf's voice over the com-system. "Bridge to Captain Picard : Sensors have detected an intruder entering Sickbay."

Even as he spoke the uninvited guest entered the room.

"You!" Picard gasped.

"Yes Captain," the Traveller replied. "Your recent rapid movement enabled me to finally locate your ship. I have come to help you return to Federation space."

Scene 19

Three weeks later.

Picard stared at the wall as he contemplated the options once again. He had made his decision after yesterday's meeting, but lingering doubts still plagued his thoughts - the chosen option was not without risks.

In two days time the repairs and testing of the warp drive would complete and he would have to confirm or reverse his decision.

Beverly looked up from her work and watched him. She liked the way he used her office as a haven, it demonstrated his need for her, but at the same time his presence could be inconvenient; some of her staff were inhibited from entering while he was there.

"Want to talk about it?" she asked.

"Yes please, but only if I'm not distracting you from more important matters."

Beverly turned off her computer screen and sat back. "I'm all yours."

He flashed a smile at her double entendre. "Three weeks ago, in this very office, I said I wasn't prepared to undertake another jump because it was too risky; yet here I am preparing to do just that."

Beverly leaned forward and rested on folded arms. "So, Captain, explain to me how you justify that about-face."

"Well ..." he stood up, always preferring to argue on his feet. "The main reason, of course, is that the Traveller has returned."

"But he's the one who got us here in the first place, maybe he'll jump us another 85 years from home."

"In the last two jumps the direction of travel has corresponded to the helm setting, so I feel it reasonable to think we can do that again. As for length, I have to take the Traveller's word that he can control it. Troi can't sense his emotions, however I'm inclined to trust him when he says he wants to help us. Wesley certainly does."

"And the ship?" she asked, "Are you sure she can take it? That last jump was quite a rough ride."

Picard wasn't so confident of his ground this time. The vibration had been more than first realised so that they were only now finishing the repairs and testing. "I wish we could explain the damage - the Traveller can't". The only difference seems to be that Wesley was the mental focus on that occasion, maybe he's not as skilled at keeping her steady."

Beverly sat back again. "Do you understand how this jumping is achieved?"

Picard looked to see if they had an audience. "To be honest - No. Yet obviously it's possible because here we are decades from home! What's more since that Q entity has not re-appeared to claim the credit I have to conclude that the Traveller and Wesley have some extraordinary ability that is beyond our current understanding."

Beverly pursed her lips. "I've know for a long time that Wesley was unusually bright, however these new abilities are still a bit of a shock."

Picard hesitated, mouth part open, then decided to continue. "The Traveller told me something this morning. ... He said Wesley was 'special'."

"Special in what way?"

"He likened Wesley to Mozart only Wes's talents lie in the understanding of space and time and energy."

"Did you have to use Mozart as an analogy? If I remember rightly, he was exploited by his father and died young."

"Nobody is going to exploit Wesley while I'm around." Picard reassured her.

She smiled at him gratefully, but he could still see concern in her eyes. He sat down and reached a hand across the desk to touch hers.

"There's something else, isn't there?" he asked. When she was slow to answer he continued, "Are you worried that if Wesley is unusually gifted then he will move away from you quicker?"

"You know me well, don't you. Yes that is one of my fears; I can just imagine Starfleet or the Daystrum Institute wanting to take him. You'll think this silly but ... Oh. No never mind."

"What were you going to say?" He lowered his head so he could still see her eyes. "What is it?"

The answer came out in a rush. "There are some things about being out here that I positively like. One is the fact that I'm almost sure to have Wesley with me for the rest of my life - I would get to see his wife and children because they would be close by. The same goes for the surrogate children, while we remain here as this travelling colony I will never lose them or any of the people I feel close to ... I told you it was silly."

"Not at all. I've had my own doubts about this coming jump but I couldn't quite bring them into focus. Now, listening to you, I realise I've been having similar thoughts."

Beverly gripped his hand tightly as they stared into each other's eyes until Troi appeared in the doorway.

"Is this a bad moment? Should I come back later?"

Picard stood up, "It's fine, Counsellor come in. Was it Beverly or me you wanted?"


It was obvious something was worrying her.

"Go on." Picard encouraged her.

"I think you should know that there are a considerable number of people who don't want this next jump to happen."

"Why?" Picard asked. "Are thy afraid we'll die?"

"No, they're afraid the jump will succeed and they don't want to return to Federation Space so soon."

Jean-Luc and Beverly exchanged glances. So we were not the only ones!

"Deanna," Beverly asked, "did you detect these feelings before the last jump?"

"No, but then very few people expected it to succeed. However as it happened I felt a sudden rise in emotions across the whole ship - some of exhilaration others of dismay."

"Is it possible that the rough ride during the last jump was due to the conflicting desires abroad?" Picard voiced the question but didn't expect an answer. "Deanna I assume you've been talking to people about their fears, can you let me have a report of the reasons - I don't need to know who feels this way."

"I've almost finished Sir, it'll be ready within the hour."

When Troi left to get on with her work Picard let out a sigh. "I should have realised this myself, it's not hard to think of reasons why some wouldn't want to return."

"What are you going to do?" Beverly asked.

"I'm not willing to leave anyone behind and yet we can't not attempt this jump if there's a good chance of success ... Either I'll have to find a way to make everyone willing to go home or we may have to call it off as too risky."

Scene 20

Two days later.


Picard's hand hovered by her arm as he followed Beverly into her office.

"You can stop fussing Jean-Luc. I'm not going to fall."

"Sorry, but I couldn't help noticing you looked tired."

"You're not wrong on that point ... which is why I'm going to lie down." She headed straight for the day bed, immediately settling down with her hands on what was now a sizeable bump. "That's better," she sighed. "Sickbay has been pretty hectic. We've had lots of visitors complaining of odd aches and stomach upsets - psychosomatic mostly. It's what happens when people have nowhere else to put their worries."

"Wonderful!" he quipped. "A ship full of hypochondriacs. Do you think Starfleet will actually want us back?"

His words made her laugh. "That's an interesting scenario - we make it home and they tell us to 'get lost'. Now don't you dare mention that possibility to the crew, I don't have enough psychiatrists to deal with the neuroses that would follow."

He smiled back, the joking helped to relieve the tension he too was feeling; within the hour he was due to make an announcement to the crew.

Beverly held out a hand for him to hold. "Where are you going to speak from? The bridge?"

"No, I think my Ready Room would be best. I want to sound as if I speaking to each person individually rather than to a crowd, I'll find that easier from there."

"I understand. And I realise you need to be on your own to prepare, so you can leave now if you want to."

He leant over and kissed her forehead before deciding her mouth would be a better target. "Thank you," he whispered, "for everything."

She gripped his hand even tighter. "You'll do fine, Jean-Luc, you'll do fine."


Half an hour later Beverly was dozing peacefully when a sound drew her attention; turning she saw Troi standing in the doorway, her face drawn.

Crusher started to rise. "Deanna? What's wrong?"

"It's just the emotions from the crew, the tension level is very high at the moment. Normally I'd block them off when it's this strong, but today I need to leave myself open so I can report how they react to the Captain's announcement.

Beverly led her to a chair and reached for her scanner.

"I don't need medication," Troi assured her, "just someone to talk to till the Captain speaks."

"Of course," the doctor rested her hand on Deanna's shoulder for a moment. She was touched that Troi had chosen her to be with. It was only in these last few months that the counselor had sort her company, previously Tasha Yar had been Deanna's closest female friend. Marriage, however, had brought changes to her life so it was now Beverly with whom she had more in common.

"Can you feel the baby kicking?" Troi asked, grabbing at the first topic that came to mind.

"Yes, quiet often, he doesn't like it when I lie down; though come to think of it, he doesn't like it when I get up either."

"Sounds as if he doesn't like change." The two women exchange smiles, then went quiet again. Baby talk wasn't really Troi's favourite topic.

"How's Will?" Beverly asked, trying to make the question sound casual. "Is he excited at the possibility of returning home?"


"And you?"

Deanna flashed her a glance but didn't respond.

Beverly continued cautiously. "I imagine there are quite a few women aboard who are feeling a little 'uneasy' at present ...perhaps wondering how their relationships would fair if we return to Federation Space... "

Deanna took up the theme. "... Wondering if old ambitions will resurface or if their partner will regret his recent choices." The latter thought had crossed Beverly's mind more than once.

The pair of them retreated into their own thoughts - Beverly wondering if Jean-Luc might feel he had been forced into parenthood, Deanna remembering how Will's career ambitions had been the cause of their first break-up and wondering if it would happen again.

Troi checked the time, "The Captain's announcement is due in minutes; I can sense the tension rising." She massaged the sides of her head in an effort to ease the strain. "When we were first marooned out here I had concerns about how the he would cope; I needn't have worried. He's been remarkably adept at altering his leadership style to suit the moment. There aren't many captains who can judge when to employ democratic voting, when to dictate the choice and when to guide the crew through the evidence so they come to same conclusion. My previous captain would have stayed stuck to 'tell mode'. I think we would have left him on a passing planet by now."

Beverly laughed. "Him and a few others."

Just then a whistle over the com-system heralded an announcement. They both sat up straight and took a deep breath.


"All hands, all decks, this is the Captain speaking. With the exception of essential duties, I need you all to stop what you are doing and give me your full attention."

He paused for a few seconds to give people time to settle.

"As you know, the one we call The Traveller has returned and is offering to help us jump back home. Such a jump, however, is not without risks for, strange as it may seem, 'thought' is an element of the process. The thoughts of any of us could affect the jump, not just those of the Traveller or Wesley. If some of us have doubts or misgivings about returning home then the jump could fail and the ship be damaged.

"If you are one of those with no reservations about returning home then the idea that anyone might feel otherwise may come as a surprise. Few people have felt able to voice such doubts publicly, nevertheless they do exist and because of the serious affect they might have we need to examine their cause. So please bear with me as I describe how those doubts have arisen.

"It is two years since we started our journey home and I'm sure that most of us had given up on hope of a quick return; instead we had reconciled ourselves to the probability that this ship would be our life from now on. For those of us with husbands and wives back home that prospect was particularly painful, it meant accepting the end of relationships we cherished, it meant putting aside that past and making ourselves open to new possibilities. In the last year many new relationships have developed - some of a nature we would never have contemplated before, however in our unique situation they make perfect sense.

"Now, suddenly, the possibility of returning home has become a reality again. It's not hard to imagine the anxieties that could cause for colleagues who have taken new partners or for those who fear the spouse they left behind has assumed them dead and found someone new.

"Problems arising from personal relationships are not the only source of misgivings over the prospect of going home. For some of us the last two years have provided welcome opportunities and camaraderie they have never experienced before. I know this to be particularly so for the civilians aboard who have become as much a part of our crew as any Starfleet personnel. Despite the hardships of life here that new-found common purpose is something they don't willing want to lose.

"So, when you take all these points into consideration it is not surprising to find a broad range of emotions aboard the ship - there is excitement and anticipation but also anxiety and sadness. This unsettled state is obviously not a suitable condition from which to launch a jump. Additional mental preparation is needed first, which is why I now need you to consider what would happen if we didn't attempt to jump home." He paused again. "If we chose that option we would never see our families and friends again, nor see our home planets. The ship's children would grow up with no chance of the rich experiences we have known. Could we look them in the eye and honestly say we did our best for them? And what of our shipmates whose children are decades away, could we justify not jumping to them?

"I think we all know we have to jump home, it is the just thing to do. The question therefore is not whether to jump but when to do so and how to maximise the chances of success. We need to reduce that likelihood that stray anxieties with interfere, which is why I propose make a slight alteration to our target destination - rather than

jump directly to Federation Space I intend to set course for an area six months short of that point. From there we will be able to contact Starfleet over sub-space. Our families and friends will hear the news and be able to adjust to fact that we are alive - they too may appreciate a little warning. This final six months of our journey will give us the opportunity to work out how to cope with our new lives before full weight of that change comes upon us.

"I am setting our departure time at 14:00 hours tomorrow. Please sleep on these issues and when you are mentally ready indicate so via the computer.

"Tomorrow - together - we will take our next step home.

"Picard out."


Beverly turned to see Deanna's reaction. She didn't need to ask, the relaxed look on friend's face gave her the answer.

"It's wonderful!" Troi explained, I could feel the worries subsiding as people realised they were not alone in their doubts - that the captain understood what they were facing."

"And the six months delay in reaching home?"

"There was some disappointment at first, but then acceptance."

"And how about you?" Beverly asked. "How are you feeling?"

"Relief that there's now six months for Will and I to work out our future." She stood up energetically. "If you'll excuse me Beverly, I sense I'm needed elsewhere."

When Troi had gone Crusher lay down again on the day bed and thought over Jean-Luc's announcement. She was proud of how he handled it, how he had lead the crew to the right choice rather than order them to obey, but it wasn't at all how Starfleet expected its captains to behave.

Scene 21

The meeting had been going ten minutes and still he hadn't met her eye. An uneasy feeling was growing in the pit of Beverly's stomach, something was wrong and she didn't know what.

"Anything else?" Picard asked. There was a rumble of "No"s from around the table. "Good. Dismissed. Mr Riker would stay behind please."

Crusher got up hoping he would look in her direction, it didn't happen. Instead he was all brisk efficiency - polite but distant. Last night he'd been a little strange too. She had been climbing into bed when he'd returned to their quarters. An affectionate hug had quickly turned passionate with an intensity she hadn't experienced since their first couplings. It was though ... she searched for the right words ... as though he feared it would be their last! She shook her head wondering where that thought had come from. When their love-making had finished, sleep was all they had been capable of. In the morning they'd been woken by a call from Engineering, Picard had left immediately leaving her to breakfast alone. As a result, they hadn't spoken since his announcement to the crew.

One hour to go till we jump! Beverly headed back to her office wishing it was over. Surely everyone had prepared themselves by now? Who was she kidding, she wasn't ready herself yet.

On entering Sickbay she walked quickly through to her office carefully avoiding eye-contact. I'm behaving just like Jean-Luc! The thought didn't please her. Sitting at her desk she tried to get on with some work but couldn't concentrate. Exasperated she rose, stretched, then slowly circled the room three times before lying down. The child inside her kicked out.

Sorry Junior, but your mother has a problem and she needs to think it over.' You're a scientist Beverly, examine this rationally.


Picard knew he had spun out their conversation long enough, if he didn't let Riker go soon he would become suspicious.

"Thank you Number One. I'll join you on the bridge in 15 minutes."

When Riker had gone Picard stared out the Observation Lounge windows at the passing stars. With no distraction available he was forced to confront the issues that were troubling him.

Jumping back was the right decision, he was sure of that; it was his duty as captain to get them home and doing his duty always gave him satisfaction. It was what would follow their return that was worrying him. He couldn't rid himself of the thought that it would lead to the end of all he held most dear.

'Are you telling us Captain, that you deliberately placed your ship six months away from Federation Space?'. The Admirals on the Board of Enquiry would never understand his decision. How could he justify depriving Starfleet of the Enterprise's services for six months?

'Other ships are away for two years and their crew's don't need months to adjust!'

By the time he sat before the Board everyone would have adjusted to their return; how could he convey to them how things appeared now at his decision point? How could he explain how being stranded out here had changed them?

Dismissal from Starfleet was what he expected; the Board would have no other option. They couldn't have captains putting loyalty to their crews above admiralty orders. Two years ago he himself would never have contemplated such insubordination, but then two years ago he was a Starfleet officer, not leader of a colony.

If dismissal was the price he had to pay then so be it, but he wasn't going to let others share his fate. Before they reached home he would have the ship and crew ready to resume their role as the Federation Flagship, a role they were only just getting used to when The Traveller first came aboard. Picard straightened himself up as he imagined the task ahead. Did it mean reverting to the man he used to be? And if he did that then what would happen to his relationship with Beverly?

There was the rub!

If they hadn't been stranded out here he couldn't imagine they would ever have become lovers. Even with a mutual attraction, their positions and memories of Jack would have ensured a professional detachment. So how would it be when they jumped back? Could they maintain what they had now? When he was dismissed would she abandon her Starfleet career to go with him?


She was a scientist and scientists tackled problems by examining the facts. It wasn't jumping back that worried her, that was clearly the right thing to do. For sure she would miss aspects of their current life but that wasn't the problem either. Uncomfortable as it was to admit, fear of the future was the tender spot, but what exactly?

It wasn't an accident that she and Picard hadn't discussed the subject; conversations had drifted towards the topic and then been skilfully steered away. Was it her who had done the steering or him? It didn't matter which, either way she had been complicit and why was that? Had she been afraid of what he might say. Their current relationship would never have occurred if they hadn't been stranded. Professional detachment and memories of Jack would have restrained any attraction they felt. The Beta Quadrant wasn't just a long way from home, to her it felt like another universe; one where their lives were allowed to take another course. Jumping back wouldn't just be changing location, it would be like going back in time. That was the core of her fears. Her imagination immediately ran riot, conjuring up scenes of how Jean-Luc might behave.

"When we resume our Starfleet responsibilities, Doctor, I don't think it will be appropriate to continue our current 'relationship'. Also, there are decisions a Starfleet Captain has to make that shouldn't be influenced by the presence of his children aboard his ship. Consequently it would be better if you applied for a shore-based posting."

More worryingly, she could easily imagine the argument this Picard would use to justify his about-face - the sex would have been a necessary outlet for both of them, just two senior officers satisfying each other's needs. As for her pregnancy, he would explain that away as him being a willing donor given their duty to reproduce.

Beverly shuddered at the thought. Was that what she had glimpsed at the meeting? Jean-Luc reverting to previous behaviour?

It isn't going to happen! I won't let it! Even if he felt the need to revert she'd show him she needn't be an emotional burden or an embarrassment. She'd be the kind of independent, forceful woman she knew he admired. If she had to woo him all over again, she'd do it.


Picard headed for the bridge, then changed his mind. Perhaps if he saw her his anxiety would lessen? He'd call in at Sickbay, there was still time.

In the lift down he berated himself for this lack of self-control. Whatever she said or did he must not show fear - better to act as if he had no emotions at all than risk interfering with the jump. By the time he reached her deck his outward appearance was one of calm, competent authority.

As he entered her office Picard planned to open by saying something complementary about Wesley but the sight of her made him forget. Her beauty could still catch him by surprise. Right now she had an aura about her that was almost regal. He'd always been attracted by strong, independent women and Beverly was certainly that. He was drawn and a little afraid at the same time.

His throat tightened as he forced himself to speak. "Wesley's been doing a fine job in Engineering, the warp flow has never been smoother."

"I'm glad to here it. He's being talking about his hopes for the future. He wants to stay aboard the Enterprise as long as possible." Beverly expected Picard to say something encouraging in response, instead he didn't even seem to have heard. He had that confident commanding manner about him that she found attractive and intimidating at the same time.

They held each other's gaze in silence for several seconds.

"It's 13:40, Captain. We're due to jump in twenty minutes, if you've no objection, I'd like to join you on the bridge."

A smile threatened to destroy his stoical control. "Please do, Doctor." He stood aside so she could precede him out of the office.

As they walked to the turbo lift neither of them spoke; though each was minutely aware of the other's presence - of how they held themselves, of their exact distance apart. Jonathan Abbot passed them giving a friendly nod. Only Picard knew how important a role that man had played in his relationship with Beverly. If he hadn't taunted him, would it ever have happened?

"Bridge." Picard commanded as they entered the empty lift. Beverly moved to the opposite side where he couldn't avoid looking at her.

Both had the same thought. Strange how someone could be the source of your joy and your anxiety all at the same time.

He knew her so well and yet not at all. He knew her body intimately, the feel and shape of it, he knew how to satisfy her and how she sounded when he succeeded. But what he didn't know was how she'd behave when their situation changed. What would her priorities would be then? Would she still need him? He had to know. Despite his earlier resolve, he couldn't leave the question till later, he couldn't risk his thoughts disturbing their jump.

"Halt!" The lift stopped obediently.

Picard took a deep breath. "Beverly, there are some things I need to tell you."

She steeled herself for bad news. Whatever he had to say, she was determined to stay in control of her emotions. "Go ahead."

"When we return to Federation Space, Starfleet will hold a Board of Enquiry. I will have to tell them that I deliberately delayed our return by six months. I have no doubt that it's the right thing to do; this crew needs time to adjust, but the Admiralty won't see it like that. The Enterprise is - or at least she was - their Flag-Ship and I have no right to deprive the Federation of her services. As a result I expect to be dismissed from the service or at the very least never put in charge of a Starfleet ship again." He paused to observe her reaction.

Beverly was surprised by this possibility but kept her face impassive. It was what would happen afterwards that concerned her. What future was he planning? To become an archaeologist and travel the galaxy unencumbered by family responsibilities? As she studied his face his captain's façade dropped for a moment. The confident officer disappeared and for half a second he was just a scared man trying to act self-assured because that was what was expected of him.

Had she read the signs wrongly? Was he behaving remotely because, like her, he was afraid of the future? Afraid of how she'd behave if he was dismissed?

She wavered over her response.

"If Starfleet are foolish enough to reject your services, then they'll have to do without mine as well. I shall tell them my children, my husband and I are a family, either they post us all together or not at all."

"Your husband?" Jean-Luc wasn't sure he had heard her right.

"Yes, my husband. That's what you are, aren't you? And I'm your wife? We might not have gone through a formal ceremony, but that's the way I think of us."

A beam of relief crossed Picard's face. He tried to suppress it but it kept breaking out again. "Yes I'm definitely that, I'm your husband." Giving up his efforts to restrain his emotions, he grasped her in his arms. Beverly held him back tightly, patting his back and rocking him gently almost like a child.

Eventually, feeling calmer, he stepped back though still holding on to her hands.

"Jean-Luc?" she asked, "what did you think would happen? That I would leave you?"

"I didn't know. Life will be very different when we return home, I wasn't sure how you saw your future. When you were married to Jack the pair of you were apart much of the time, each pursuing your own careers. That might have been how you wanted it with us."

She squeezed his hands. "My priorities are a little different now. I still want to be a doctor, but it has to be somewhere I can be with you and our children."

Tasha Yar's voice came over the comm-system. "Bridge to Captain Picard, we are due to jump in ten minutes. Is there a problem with the turbo lift, Sir?"

"No problem Lieutenant, we'll be with you shortly."

When he didn't order 'resume', Beverly asked, "Anything else you want to say."

"Just that I'm glad our son will be born before we get home. I won't mind losing my ship if I have you, Wesley and him to share my life."

"We rate higher than the Enterprise?" she joked teasingly. "That's high praise indeed."

He gave her a quick kiss then resumed their journey.



"Did you really think six months readjustment is needed, or does our son's due date have a bearing on the matter?"

"If they head out to meet us, three months would be reduced by half. So yes, I think a full six months is needed to get us and the ship Starfleet ready. Junior's birthday before then is just a happy coincidence."

"I'll believe you. Just don't show the admirals your baby pictures at the Board of Enquiry."

By the time they reached the Bridge his involuntary smiles were almost under control; or rather they were until a quarter of second before the doors opened when Beverly gave his backside a playful smack.

The doors parted revealing their happy state to the entire bridge.

"Everything is ready for the jump." Riker reported, trying not to smile.

"Thank you, Number One." Picard pretended they had seen nothing, and even if they had he didn't mind. So he was happy? Was that a bad thing in a captain?

He ran his eye round the room; everyone looked as cheerful and excited as he felt , everyone expect Worf. The Klingon, who had till recently treated him like a brother, now looked away. Guessing what might be wrong, the captain gestured for Beverly to walk down the ramp while he crossed the back of bridge, his route taking him past where Worf was standing.

"I shall be going home a more complete man than when I left. I have you to thank for that, Mr Worf."

"Won't you be getting another artificial heart when we get home, Sir?"

"Not if I can possibly avoid it." He looked across to Beverly who nodded in agreement. "Artificial hearts are marvellous devices but they don't give you the feedback or the physical sensation of the real thing. The only reason I'll give up your gift is if you need it back."

Worf's chest swelled with pride.

"Carry on, Lieutenant."

Troi gave Picard an approving smile. He'd be taking over as ship's counselor if he kept this up!

"Helm, is the course set?"

"Yes, Sir, and checked several times."

Picard sat down next to Beverly and tapped his comm-badge. "All decks, all hands, this is the Captain speaking. We are about to make our jump. It is vitally important that you control your thoughts during this procedure. Either concentrate on your job or on The Traveller. Think of him as someone you care about deeply and who you want to succeed. Let us have no regrets. We've all shared a demanding adventure out here, it's time to share one more - going home. Picard out."

Riker sat down on the Captain's right. "Engineering report they are ready when you are."

Jean-Luc turned to Beverly and whispered "Ready?"

"For anything," she whispered back.

Damn decorum! If he wanted to hold her hand, he would. He reached out and felt her long fingers squeeze his back.

He was ready.

"Helm - Engage!"

The end.
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