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The Wrong Order

by Catherine Ellis

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

Summary : For readers familiar with the Star Trek Next Generation series, this story is set a year after the episodes 'Attached' and 'All Good Things'.

Day 1

If only Picard had let her talk a little longer he wouldn't have made that first mistake. But if he hadn't made the first he wouldn't have made the second or the third. It wasn't that Troi's talk was boring - far from it - it was just that they'd all had enough. For weeks the senior officers had been familiarising themselves with various aspects of Henoi culture, history, laws, technology and beliefs but without the opportunity for practical application, all this memorising was becoming dry and exhausting.

With the Federation under threat from the Borg and other hostile groups Starfleet was constantly on the look out for new allies. They had known about the existence of the Henoi for some time but it was only a year since they had been able to understand their language. Since then frequent sub-space messages had passed between the two civilisations culminating in a invitation for a Federation craft to visit Henoi space. This voyage by the Enterprise would bring the first face-to-face contact with this humanoid and potentially friendly race.

Captain Picard was used to such diplomatic responsibilities but still felt more than a little trepidation. First contacts were always hazardous however well briefed you thought you were.

Deanna didn't mind being interrupted, she sensed her audience had long past saturation point.

"I agree Captain, we need a rest. After all there is such a thing as being over prepared."

Picard smiled at this familiar phrase. The other officers rose and stretched their aching bodies. Riker and Troi left together to enjoy a leisurely meal while Worf went off to practice his unarmed combat - just in case the Henoi proved more violent than anticipated. Soon only Picard and Dr Crusher were left.

"Follow Deanna's advice, Captain, and take the evening off. Do something different for a change."

Jean-Luc looked at her while he contemplated this suggestion.

"My dancing is rather rusty, how about giving me a private lesson?"

"Are you serious?"


She was surprised but also very pleased. It had been weeks since they'd had time for any 'intimate' meetings.

"You're on! See you in holodeck 3 at 19:00."

- - - -

There was something about the holodecks that encouraged people to suppress their inhibitions. Beverly requested the computer to simulate a nightclub with a live band and other dancers. She guessed Jean-Luc would feel easier in this atmosphere than in an empty dance studio. At the appointed hour, he arrived dressed in casual clothes and obviously expecting some physical exercise. As the ship's Captain he naturally took command of most situations, but tonight he told Beverly she was in charge. She was both a good dancer and dance teacher so it didn't take long for Jean-Luc to get the hang of it again.

The dancing proved too energetic and the music too loud to permit much talking, nevertheless she enjoyed the opportunity to touch and be touched by him. After a particularly energetic dance, they were just about to rest with a slow one when their hour on the holodeck came to an end. Even as senior officers, ship's etiquette required them to make way for the next customers, in this case a young male nurse and his botanist girlfriend. In the doorway the young man observed their flushed state and gave the Captain a knowing wink. Picard was thrown, he'd intended to ask Beverly to have supper with him but now felt inhibited by the crew's observation of their relationship. He thanked the doctor and returned to his cabin irritated by the lack of privacy aboard this ship.

Day 2

The meeting with the Henoi was to take place on the border of what they considered their space. Though the Henoi were technologically advanced they didn't have transporters so Data took a shuttle craft to collect them from their ships while the Enterprise senior officers assembled in the main shuttle bay to greet their guest. There were six of them, all male, at least 2 metres tall and with the physiques of athletes. The greeting ceremony started with Picard reciting a welcome message on behalf of the Federation of Planets and then introducing the Enterprise officers. The Henoi replied by reading a long message they had already sent to Starfleet.

As the orator droned on both groups soon tired of listening and moved their attention to observing each other. While the Starfleet officers remained almost motionless, the Henoi twisted and turned to stare at the females amongst their hosts. The Henoi leader seemed particularly taken by Dr Crusher and stared at her persistently. Though she didn't mind a bit of male admiration, his continued gaze started to make her extemely annoyed. Normally she would have dealt with such behaviour with an acid remark but here protocol didn't allow it. She turned to the Captain for assistance. Jean-Luc felt the same dilemma - should he ignore her plea or risk a diplomatic blunder that might ruin the whole journey? He hesitated for a moment and then stepped across between them.

"She's mine!" he stated.

The Henoi leader looked down at him in surprise. Riker followed his Captain's lead and stepped in front of Troi. The assertiveness of these tiny humans caused much amusement amongst the lofty Henoi.

"I see you have been studying our customs, Captain. What else do you know about us?" Picard didn't understand his comment but didn't let it show.

"Not as much as we would like. We have arranged an informal gathering for you and your colleagues where you can try some of our food and talk to my crew. Would you care to join us?"

"That would be acceptable. And I promise not to stare at your female, though I'll admit she is very pleasing to the eye."

Before leaving the shuttle bay Picard managed to exchange glances with Dr Crusher but couldn't interpret the meaning behind her enigmatic smile.

- - - -

"Asserting ownership of Dr Crusher was a good ploy Captain. What made you think of it?" Riker asked when the two of them were alone.

"I don't know. It just seemed like a good idea at the time."

"Would you like me to provide an escort for the next time you meet her? That woman has an awesome temper."

"No thank you, Will. I'll just accept whatever admonition she thinks appropriate."

- - - -

The social gathering with the Henoi went remarkably well. It seemed the Henoi saw themselves as the protectors of the less advanced races in their sector of the galaxy. At first Picard was suspicious of this noble role but as he heard them list the virtues of these minor races he became less doubtful. The Henoi rhapsodised over the food of one race, the music of another, the medicines of a third and the female beauty of several of them.

"Does your admiration of their women cause any jealousy?" Troi enquired of the Henoi leader.

"No, we cannot conceive children with these other species so there is no reason for them to be jealous."

Deanna sensed the Henoi's sincerity but doubted the other males felt reassured by this fact.

"How about your own women, what do they look like?"

The Henoi chief produced a device that displayed a holographic image of a striking muscular looking woman.

"This is my wife."

Deanna worded her reply carefully. "She reminds me of a Klingon female. They're a warrior race from our part of the galaxy." The leader had heard of the Klingons and was pleased with Troi's comparison.

"Why isn't your own woman with us Captain?"

"She is the chief doctor and has other urgent duties to attend to."

"And children? How many do you have?"


"None! I have twelve! I think you have been busying yourself with this ship and neglecting your duties as a husband. I'd be careful some other male does not father her children."

Riker and Troi enjoyed watching Picard squirm with embarrassment and change the subject. The Henoi leader, Gerith, turned out to be a recently retired starship captain himself. He was now the chief administrator responsible for a collection of Henoi colonies in the first area they would pass through.

"My people realise it is not easy for a man to step down from command of a great starship. After years of having one's every order obeyed it is difficult to adapt to civilian life. Administrative posts like mine are used as stepping stones for old captains like myself."

Picard knew exactly what he meant and wished the Federation was so considerate. After years of commanding the Starfleet flagship, he wasn't looking forward to stepping down.

The Henoi departed 3 hours later in two scout ships that accelerated away at speeds the Enterprise crew both envied and feared.

- - - -

Beverly was checking samples in the sickbay laboratory when Picard came to talk to her. He motioned she should continue while he steered the conversation around to his 'She's mine!' declaration.

"The Henoi leader took my statement literally and assumed I was your husband. It seemed simpler to play along with the idea rather than give a complicated explanation. Though things got a bit embarrassing later when he found I had no children. He told me I'd been 'neglecting my duty by not providing you with a string of children'."

"What a perceptive man! So your assertion of ownership was a good ploy then?"

"It wasn't a ploy, it was less calculated than that. By our standards his behaviour wasn't acceptable and it was disturbing you. I just wanted to get that across to him."

"Well you did that all right, and more."

"I hope you weren't offended."

At that moment Dr Lederman walked in and requested Dr Crusher's assistance with a patient. She left immediately but Picard stood there for a while cursing his inability to find the right time for a personal conversation.

- - - -

Later that evening, the officers met to discuss their encounter with the Henoi and their impending visit to the nearest Henoi colony. Counsellor Troi was responsible for organising their first trip to the surface.

"I think we have a problem, Sir. I've been checking through the latest files the Henoi have sent us. These contain some fascinating reports on their first impressions of humans. They're based on what they could learn about us from the information Starfleet has been transmitting for the past year. It seems they seriously considered not meeting us at all because they thought us untrustworthy."

"What have we done to deserve that assessment?" asked Picard.

"Divorced. The Henoi, it seems, marry, or bond - as they call it - for life. They are truly shocked that so many of us discard our partners. If we can't be trusted to honour our personal obligations, then how can we be trusted to honour agreements with other races?"

"Gerith didn't mention any of these doubts at our meeting, so what makes you so concerned about them?"

"Because by Henoi standards your 'She's mine' declaration is the same as making a formal and binding engagement to a woman. You then followed this up by continuing to talk as though Dr Crusher was your wife. I think the Henoi would be very offended if they found out you were only pretending."

"All right, so I've made a mistake. How do you suggest I should deal with it?"

"The Henoi have already asked you and 'your wife' to a reception on the day we arrive so you can't just hope they'll just forget about your words. As I see it there are two possibilities. Either you explain the mistake to the Henoi and hope they understand your motives or you continue to pretend to be married."

Picard considered the options. Personally he'd rather enjoy playing the role of her husband, but would she want to play too? He glanced down the table and found her smiling back.

"Well, I'm game if you are Jean-Luc."

Picard hesitated. "Counsellor are there any possible further complications? Might the Henoi expect us to do anything .... "

"It's all right Captain, the Henoi will only expect you to behave like a human couple ... but preferably one that isn't heading for the divorce courts."

"I think we could manage that."

Day 3

The 'couple' needed to make up a marital history so Troi asked them to her office to sort out the kind of personal details the inquisitive Gerith was sure to ask about. She recommended they should only have been married a year as this would give them less to fabricate and would explain the absence of children.

"Now courtship! Gerith is sure to ask how the two of you came to be married after working together for so long. What were you doing a year ago that could have led to the change?"

They didn't need reminding, a year ago had been when they first admitted their attraction to one another. Picard had suggested they allow themselves to get a little closer but she'd been unwilling. Neither of them said anything but Troi could sense the emotional turmoil she'd caused. Unable to cope, the Captain thought up some urgent matter that needed his attention and left.

"I'm sorry Beverly, I didn't realise how difficult this would be. What happened a year ago? Did one of you propose?"

"Something like that but the other was hesitant. Since then we've never managed to spend enough time together. I thought this 'husband and wife' act might help but now I'm scared it'll do the opposite."

"You could back out."

"No, I can't. No more hesitations."

- - - -

Picard and Crusher didn't meet again that day until just before they were due to beam down. Beverly had expected the Captain to be in dress uniform but Troi had insisted that a diner jacket would be more appropriate and comfortable for what the Henoi had in mind. The Doctor, herself, was dressed in one of her smarter dance outfits with a tight top and a skirt that flared when she turned. Troi could tell how taken Picard was with her appearance and how much calmer he was than this morning.

Worf, however, was not happy. He considered it a mistake for them to beam down without an escort.

"Lieutenant, the Henoi were quite insistent that only the pair of us were invited."

"Yes, Sir, but don't you think that's suspicious?"

Picard was a little apprehensive himself but didn't want to say so.

"Doctor, do you want to back out of this? I could make some excuse."

"No, if you're going, I'm going. Besides I've never heard of anyone being killed during a formal first contact meeting."

Data corrected her, "In fact fourteen years ago three humans were beheaded.."

"Data! That's enough!"

"Sorry, Sir."

"We're going. And if we end up being slaughtered your instructions are to live to tell the tale. Now let's get on with it." He took Beverly's hand and stepped onto the transporter platform.

- - - -

They materialised at the pre-arranged site. Gerith was there to meet them with his wife and two other dignitaries plus a handful of security guards. The Captain was stepping forward offering his hand when the security guards started shouting and raising their weapons. For a horrid moment Picard feared they would be next on Data's list of notable first contacts. He stood perfectly still, hoping this would calm the obviously nervous Henoi.

"I don't understand, Gerith, why are your colleagues so alarmed?"

"Our scanners show some sort of device, they think you're hiding a weapon." Picard's jacket contained pockets but he was sure they were empty; his only device was his comm badge and that was clearly visible on his lapel. Beverly solved the problem for him.

"Your heart, Captain, they're registering your artificial heart."

The Henoi were very apologetic when they understood the explanation.

"I sense you are still concerned by our behaviour, Captain, is there anything we can do to reassure you?"

"I'm curious as to why you were so insistent that only my wife and I should beam down."

"That's easily explained, I thought the pair of you might like an evening off away from your crew. I know how little privacy a captain has on a starship." Beverly stepped close to Picard and linked her arm through his. "You see, your wife's got the idea already!"

It wasn't difficult for Jean-Luc and Beverly to put on a convincing performance as husband and wife. They'd first met over twenty years before and had been on the Enterprise together for years. They knew each other's stories and could set up jokes for the other to complete. The Henoi were inquisitive about many aspects of human life so it was easy to find things to talk about. Gerith's sister turned out to be a doctor and cornered Beverly for a long conversation on something Picard couldn't overhear.

With his wife out of earshot, Gerith raised one of his favourite subjects - women. This time it was Troi he wanted to know about. Picard explained how her mother was Betazoid and her father human and about the telepathic abilities of full Betazoids.

"Deanna's only an empath. She can sense strong emotions in others but rarely their thoughts."

"A very useful skill during diplomatic negotiations."

"Agreed, her first impressions of you were helpful to me. Though I'll admit her abilities can be a little embarrassing at times"

"Understood", replied Gerith as they both watched a striking Henoi woman cross the floor. Picard spent much of the evening in Gerith's company and came to realise how much they had in common, save for one thing - a family.

- - - -

After hours of talking, drinking and eating, Gerith had a request.

"We have been studying your culture and find we share a love of dancing. We have managed to reproduce some of your music but are having difficulty understanding how to perform the dances. Would you oblige us with a few demonstrations?"

Beverly switched into dance teacher mode and soon had the Henoi couples gliding around the floor. The pull of gravity was stronger on this planet than on Earth, making every action more strenuous than she and Jean-Luc were used to. After demonstrating several dances, they were very tired and thirsty so Gerith organised some drinks and insisted they rest on his private balcony until they felt better.

The view that evening was spectacular. A storm was brewing that periodically lit the sky with flashes of blue and green. Picard was pleased at the prospect of being alone with Beverly in this romantic setting but as soon as the door closed on their hosts she reverted to 'professional' mode.

"You must have done your homework, Captain, to have known you'd need dancing skills." It took him a few seconds to guess what had prompted this accusatory remark.

"I had no idea until tonight that the Henoi liked dancing."

"Then why did you ask for the refresher lesson?"

" About 2 months ago I watched you giving a lesson and was reminded how much I used to enjoy dancing. It just took me a long time to find the opportunity to ask you, that's all."

Beverly murmured something like "Sorry" and Picard regretted he hadn't sat closer to her on the bench. She might have touched him then if they'd been closer. Moving over wasn't an option now but he switched his drink into his other hand and rested the free one on the bench between. She could now reach him, if she wanted to.

"What did Gerith's sister want to talk to you about?"



"Yes. She's fascinated by your artificial heart. She wanted to know if you could perform adequately."

"Perform what?"

The look on Beverly's face answered his question. Even in the fading light his blush was evident.

"I told her you were fully functional." The same terminology Data used to describe himself.

"Oh, thank you! Not that you'd know." He immediately regretted that last remark but felt compelled to continue. "Why do doctors have to be so clinical about everything!"

Beverly realised the hurt and embarrassment she'd caused him.

"I'm sorry." She grasped his hand to emphasise the apology. It wasn't a proper hand hold but Jean-Luc grasped her fingers enough to make her leave her hand where it was.

A long silence followed during which both of them pretended to be engrossed with the lightning display. In reality Picard was paying more attention to trying to gently stroke her fingers while Beverly was aware of his movements and wondering if it was a conscious action on his part.

After a particularly vivid flash Picard spoke at last, "This is going to be a memorable evening and a very pleasant memory." Half a second later they were interrupted by their hosts and Picard let out a French expletive under his breath; there was no privacy here either.

"Your Enterprise colleagues have been trying to contact you. It seems your transporter does not work reliably during these storms. As the weather won't change until the morning you'll have to stay the night. I've arranged some suitable sleeping accommodation for you both."

A Henoi architectural historian had been studying Federation records and attempted to create several 'Earth' style hotel rooms. Gerith was obviously very proud of the man's efforts as showed his guests into one of the rooms. He asked them to tell him tomorrow whether they thought realistic. As soon as they were left alone Picard touched his comm badge to check if they really were stuck there for the night. There was no reply.

The room contained one double bed and a small wooden chair. Nightwear lay on the pillows. Feigning an interest in hotel history, the captain wandered into the bathroom remarking on how the plumbing seemed to be from the 21st century, the lighting from the 20th and the bedding from the 22nd. By contrast, Beverly got straight to the point.

"Who cares? The bed feels comfortable and it's a good size. We should be able to share it without disturbing each other." Picard was relieved that she'd suggested this sleeping arrangement - he was getting too old to enjoy lying on floors. Taking the initiative again, she grabbed the night-gown from the bed and disappeared into the bathroom. Meanwhile Jean-Luc sat on the chair and contemplated this ludicrous situation. Here he was about to share a bed with the woman he longed to share a bed with but because of how it had come about he couldn't do anything. It was as inhibiting as having a bunch of nosy young ensigns peering through his bedroom window. When Beverly returned to the bedroom, he felt too embarrassed to look at her until she spoke.

"Gerith's sister has invited me to visit some medical rehabilitation centres tomorrow; they're located in the hills south of here. Would it be all right if I go?"

"If you think it would be useful, then feel free. But let Worf know where you're going."

"Yes, Sir." She was definitely in 'professional' mode. Picard sat there watching as she let down her hair and climbed into bed.

"That chair doesn't look suitable for sleeping, Captain. Speaking as your 'doctor', I recommend you come to bed."

Picard took the shorts and T-Shirt into the bathroom and prepared to do as he was told. The lights were already off when he returned to the room and carefully got into bed. Though there were no Starfleet regulations covering such situations, he felt obliged to lie on his side facing away from her. This created a large hole between them and left his back feeling distinctly chilly.

- - - -

It was still dark when he woke but he was no longer cold. A warm body was lying only inches from his back. He could feel the radiant heat it generated and warm breath on the back of his neck. The weight on his hip wasn't the blankets but her hand. Picard lay perfectly still enjoying the moment. He guessed she'd moved closer in her sleep and was probably unaware of her actions or whose hip she was touching. However, when he shifted slightly she stopped breathing. He held his breath too, counting the seconds before her next intake - twenty seconds. She must be awake! Picard had to know for sure. Very gradually he moved his legs backwards towards her until he felt her knees touch the back of his thighs. She pushed back, he was certain she pushed back. Now what should he do? He lay still with his heart pounding and his breathing heavier than before.

The hand on his hip had started moving up and down in time with his breath. The movement was gentle but effective, each downward stroke was gradually lowering his shorts. Whatever the game they were now playing she was definitely in control. It took a while for his clothing to descend enough for the whole of her hand to be on his skin. Picard tightened his buttock muscles and felt her press herself against his backside. When she'd said he was "fully functional" she was definitely correct.

Her hand kept stroking his skin gently up and down. Only when it strayed slightly forwards towards his groin did he react. Turning rapidly towards her he was met by Beverly coming the other way.

Day 4

The Captain was rudely awoken from a deep sleep by Gerith shaking him and insisting he join him for some event. Picard grabbed his jacket and followed him out the door. The view was quite stunning, a grass like bank led down to the sea where waves were crashing against the rocks. A group of excited Henoi stood by the cliff edge. Gerith and Picard made their way quickly down towards them. There in the water 10 dolphin like creatures were playing in the waves, leaping and squeaking with delight.

"You are fortunate, Picard, they only do this on one or two mornings a year. This is their mating ground, they'll be gone soon."

The use of that word suddenly reminded Jean-Luc of last night's event. Gerith had dragged him so abruptly from the room that he'd only glanced at Beverly. He needed to get back to her, to talk to her. Nothing had been said last night, they'd been too intent on action and afterwards he'd soon fallen asleep. He was reliving the memory of last night and wishing things hadn't come to a conclusion so quickly when a nagging doubt entered his mind - was it real or was it a dream? He often had vivid dreams that he could remember in great detail. The content of last night's 'dream' wasn't very different from many others, nor was it unusual for him to be physically excited. A sensation he wouldn't have liked to call panic gripped his stomach. How he could distinguish a dream from reality? His shorts! He had his shorts on. In his dream he distinctly remembered kicking them off. His sigh of relief was heard by Gerith.

"Breathtaking isn't it. But you must he cold and hungry, let me get you some breakfast." Picard followed him back up the bank, relieved but also disappointed. They were nearing the top when one detail from last night returned to him. He'd woken and gone to the bathroom - he remembered putting his shorts back on. Jean-Luc hurried passed Gerith into the room only to find no one.

"Where is she?"

"It's all right, she's gone with my sister to the Southern Hills just as they arranged last night. Don't worry, we'll take good care of her. She'll be back in two days."

"Two days!" He couldn't wait two days.

Breakfast was an all male affair. Gerith explained that their traditional morning food did not suit female stomachs. Picard wasn't sure it suited his either. He found it hard to be talkative with his mind definitely elsewhere and was glad when it was time to return to his ship.

Back on the bridge he listened to Worf explain that they had only managed to get their sensors and communications working properly 30 minutes before. Dr Crusher had called in and she was now located 60 kilometres south of where they had beamed down.

"Where has she gone, Sir?" Riker inquired.

"To visit a medical centre in those hills. She'll be gone two days so can you inform Dr Lederman that he's in charge of medical matters until her return."

"Yes, Sir." Riker smiled at the Captain. "You were lucky there, that trip of hers saved you from having to spend the night together."

Picard didn't enlighten his First Officer as to how wrong he was.

At the invitation of the Henoi, the Enterprise spent the day surveying the planet. Though it was geologically interesting in many respects, both sides knew the main reason for this exercise. The Henoi wanted to judge the nature of the Enterprise sensors and vice versa. Communications with the locals remained friendly and by the end of the day Picard and Gerith felt happy to joke with one another about what they were both doing. Whatever the Henoi had learnt had obviously reassured them and they agreed to plan the Enterprise's journey to the Henoi homeworld.

That night Picard opted for an early sleep. He was tired after worrying all day over whether last night had been a dream or reality. He called Dr Crusher but held only a professional conversation, with the possibility of being overheard it didn't feel right to raise such a personal subject. Wishing her a good nights sleep was as a personal as he could get.

Day 5

When he walked into Sickbay, the main area was deserted and unusually quiet, only a faint sound came from the intensive care area. As he approached the doorway, he could see a woman lying on the biobed and the legs of a man sitting near her. Picard felt compelled to know who she was. As he drew nearer, the deathly pale face of Beverly appeared. He stood staring, rooted to the spot. Why had nobody told him?! Turning angrily to the man he saw himself.

Picard scrambled out of bed shaking with fear. It took him several seconds to be fully awake. To his relief the computer confirmed that Dr Crusher was not on the ship. As he tried to calm himself down the intercom broke the silence.

"Troi to Captain Picard."

"Yes counsellor."

"Are you all right, Captain?"

"Yes thank you, I just had a rather vivid bad dream. I'm all right now." Captains didn't admit to 'nightmares'. He was glad he wasn't an empath; it was bad enough having your own bad dreams without sensing other peoples.

His next nightmare was even worse, when Riker shook him he was sure the First Officer was a Cardasian jailer come to torment him. He lashed out and had to be physically restrained by Lieutenant Worf. The Klingon held on to him till they were certain he was fully awake and then left him to the gentler care of Troi and the First Officer.

"I'm sorry to have woken you", he croaked as his throat hurt from shouting.

"I wasn't sure if you were dreaming or really being attacked. You were screaming so loudly we could hear you in the corridor." The concern showed on Troi's face.

Picard was deeply embarrassed to have behaved like this in front of his crew. "What was I shouting about?"

"We couldn't tell", she lied, "most of it sounded like French. Look Captain, this is your second bad dream tonight. I think you should get checked over in case there's something wrong." Picard started to protest but Troi followed up with an argument he couldn't resist. "Sir, it may be the Henoi food that's causing the problem, in which case we need to warn Beverly." The counsellor allowed him the dignity of getting dressed and went ahead to Sickbay to warn them of his imminent arrival.

Picard found it difficult to like Dr Karl Lederman. Beverly had assured him of the man's medical competence but he had little tact and a bedside manner that was lacking in compassion. He ignored the Captain while he and 'winker' took various samples and ran scanners over him.

"What do your tests show Doctor?"

"I'll let you know when I've concluded my investigation. You may go now." Picard restrained an impulse to ball the man out, his throat hurt too much already. He just strolled back to his quarters accompanied by Troi.

"I don't think he means to be rude, Sir."

The Captain grunted in response, he wasn't so sure. He'd noticed Lederman was also interested in Beverly and thought there might be a little sexual rivalry in his manner.

"You still seem rather disturbed by your dream."

"It's a very vivid memory."

"But it was only a dream. Worf and Beverly were never captured by the Cardasians. Remember?" His screaming had been more understandable than he'd first thought.

The geologists amongst the Enterprise crew spent the morning interpreting yesterday's sensor sweeps and comparing their findings with what the Henoi already knew of the planet. Picard was none too pleased when he learnt Beverly was visiting an earthquake zone.

"Do you want me to beam her up, Sir?" Riker whispered.

"Better not, she'd just tell me off for interfering with her work and being over protective."

It took Sickbay several hours to be certain of their diagnosis of the Captain's condition. When Lederman contacted Picard over the intercom he was on the bridge.

"We've diagnosed your condition Sir."

"Good, I'll come and .."

Lederman interrupted him, "It's quite simple - you're high." Behind him Picard could hear a young ensign desperately trying to stifle his laughter. "Have you been taking anything that might produce that effect?"

"No, Doctor, surprisingly enough I'm not in the habit of taking such substances. Perhaps you had better ask the Henoi to give you samples of everything I ate and drank last night. And contact Dr Crusher, she had the same food as me. Picard out."

The bridge crew were all smiling at him.

"Perhaps I had better declare myself unfit for duty today. Number One, you have the bridge, and Data, remind me never to send Dr Lederman on a diplomatic mission."

It was midday before they had identified the cause of his 'high'. By that time Picard had reconciled himself to the idea that the pleasant dream was just that - a vivid but drug induced dream. It came as something of a shock therefore to learn that the harmful food was the mushroom like planet he'd eaten for breakfast. He began to feel someone was playing a spiteful game making him alternatively believe one thing and then another.

Preparation for the next stage of their journey progressed well. A route to the Henoi home-world was agreed and one of Gerith's colleagues would travel with them in a scout ship to act as liaison officer. Gerith himself would follow a day later. The Captain and a few of the senior officers were in the observation lounge finalising details when Dr Crusher returned to the ship. She joined them there immediately and sat in her usual place towards the end of the table. Picard noted the smile she gave him but then there was nothing out of the ordinary in that. He'd been hoping for an instant indication of whether they were lovers but maybe a public meeting wasn't the appropriate place for such revelations. As the conversation progressed Jean-Luc found it hard to keep his eyes and thoughts off her.

"You seem unusually quiet, Doctor. Are you feeling all right?"

"No, as it happens I'm not. I think two days in that gravity is about as much as I can take. If you don't mind, I'll retire early."

Data, who always acted like the perfect gentleman, helped Beverly to her feet.

Day 6

The android's gentlemanly services were also needed the next day, this time to deal with the Henoi liaison officer. His pedantic insistence on checking every course adjustment or sensor sweep before it was undertaken soon irritated the human crew members. As only Data could be relied upon to tolerate his nit-picking without complaining he was appointed the Henoi's full time minder.

On the Captain's orders nobody disturbed Dr Crusher's sleep so it was mid-morning before she called sickbay to apologise for over-sleeping. Jean-Luc seized the opportunity and arranged to see her in her quarters before she returned to work. On the way there he was practising how he should raise the subject of his 'dream' when a new possibility occurred to him. What if she was also unsure as to whether their lovemaking had been a dream or reality? Or again, maybe it had been part reality part dream. Maybe she had put her hand on his hip in her sleep but the end had been a concoction of his imagination. For a moment he considered cancelling their meeting - but no, he couldn't stand the uncertainty any longer.

The smile that greeted him was on the more affectionate end of her scale of smiles, but still within the boundaries of their normal relationship.

"Was your journey worthwhile?"

"Definitely. The Henoi have found ways of rehabilitating badly injured patients that are only theoretical possibilities back home." Her enthusiasm for her work was one of the things that endeared her to him.

"Sounds interesting." He paused. "I wasn't too happy about them taking you to an earthquake zone. I know it's silly of me but I always worry about you when you're away from the ship." She came and stood closer to him.

"I know, just as long as you don't try and wrap me in cotton wool. ... I hear you had a 'trip' of your own while I was away!"

"Ah! So the ship's grapevine is working as well as ever. It wasn't a journey I'd care to repeat." She put her hand on his arm in a gesture of sympathy that made him more than usually aware of that part of his body. "I don't often have such depressing dreams, in fact the night before I had an extremely pleasant one."

"Bridge to Captain Picard." interrupted the intercom.

Picard snapped back, "Not now, Data!"

"I am sorry Sir, but we have received a distress call. The Henoi would like our help."

"Duty calls, Captain." She kissed him on the cheek and led the way to the bridge.

The distress call was about a disaster at a small new Henoi colony on a planet not far off their route. A sudden flood had injured 100 people and destroyed several buildings including the colony's only hospital. Many of their own medical staff were amongst the injured. It would be a day before Gerith's starship could arrive but the Enterprise could be there in 6 hours. Picard agreed to Gerith's request that they treat the most seriously injured and build a temporary hospital. The Enterprise medical staff and engineers were used to dealing with such emergencies, the only complication in this case were whether the planet was suitable for humans and how would the locals react to members of an alien race materialising in their midst.

The Henoi liaison officer showed an unexpected ability for speed and flexibility so with his help the colonists were forewarned of these strange creatures and their role. Data checked out the environmental conditions on the surface. With its heavy gravity and harsh atmosphere it was no holiday resort but humans could tolerate it if they restricted their visits to four hours or less. As the Enterprise moved into orbit around the planet the officers gather in the Captain's ready room to finalise their plans. Dr Crusher would lead the first medical team while Lederman remained on the ship to handle patients beamed up for emergency treatment. Picard had got used to her habit of leading from the front but still wished she'd show more caution.

"Any final instructions Sir?"

"Only one, please remember the conditions down there are tough for humans, pace yourselves sensibly or you'll get sick and be no use to anyone. Now let's get on with it."

Everyone left except Data.

"Sir, I do not think you should let Dr Crusher go down to the planet. The conditions there could be detrimental to her health." When necessary the android could be direct and to the point. Picard caught the urgency of his statement and touched his comm badge.

"Picard to transporter room 3. On no account is Dr Crusher to beam down. Did you read that?"

"Yes Sir, Dr Crusher must not beam down."

"Now Data, if you could explain why I've given that order before the doctor chews my head off."

Data was about to ask what 'chew my head off' meant but thought better of it.

"There is myon gas in the atmosphere on this planet. This is not usually harmful to humans but it has been associated with miscarriages and birth defects when pregnant women are exposed to it. Since Dr Crusher is pregnant I believe she or at least her child is at risk."

Picard grabbed hold of Data to steady himself, even his artificial heart reacted to the shock.

"Are you all right Captain?"

"Explain to me why you think Dr Crusher is pregnant?"

"Yesterday evening I touched her hand when I helped her to her feet. As you know I can detect the chemical composition of substances through my skin. Human female chemistry changes as soon as they are pregnant. I have detected this in many other females over the years. I had reason to touch her skin today and sensed the same result. I am sure of my analysis."

"I believe you Data." Picard felt very strange, in all his wildest fantasies over the last two days this scenario had never occurred to him.

"Sir, may I ask a question?"

"Go ahead."

"Why would Dr Crusher volunteer to beam down to a planet that might injure her child?"

"I don't think she knows she's pregnant."

"Ah! And are you the father Sir?" Data hadn't learnt what questions not to ask humans. Jean-Luc was about to claim paternity when it occurred to him that this might be presumptuous.

"Data, can you estimate how long she's been pregnant?"

"Not precisely, Sir, but I know she was not pregnant 3 days ago."

"Then yes, I'm the father."

Having recovered from the initial shock Jean-Luc felt a moment of pure joy that Troi could sense two decks away. The comm system soon crackled into life.

"Crusher to Captain Picard, why aren't I allowed down on the planet Sir?" They could hear the anger in her voice.

"If you come to my ready room I'll explain. The rest of your party can beam down."

"If it's all right for the rest to go then why can't I?" Beverly suspected he was being over protective and wanted to put a stop to this behaviour immediately.

"If you'll come here I'll tell you."

"Why not now Sir?"

"God damn it woman, will you obey orders for once and remain on this ship!" Her audience was shocked by the ferocity of his voice. Beverly left them quickly to sort the matter out in private. One minute latter she stormed into Picard's room but wasn't given a chance to open her mouth.

"You're pregnant and the atmosphere down there might have harmed the child."


Jean-Luc repeated what Data had told him. Stunned, she stood staring at him and holding his arm for support. Picard got her to sit down on the sofa and perched there beside her. Still she stared at him and said nothing,

"This may sound like an odd question but am I the father?"

"Yes", she whispered.



"Yes, good, having a child with you is something I've often thought about."

"Then why didn't you say so?"

"You mean - I say, Dr Crusher, how about a child or two?"

"Well you could have started with asking me out more often."

"Courting? I'm not sure we're ready for that yet. We've got the breeding mastered but I'd like to practice the sex more while we're both fully awake. Do you think we could leave the courting till later?"

Beverly burst into laughter and lent her head against his chest.

"God I'm relieved you're happy about all this. You know until you said I was pregnant I wasn't sure I hadn't dreamt the other night."

"Well in my version of the dream you put your hand on my hip and I moved my legs back against yours, then after a while things sort of escalated. Sound familiar?"

"Very. .... Look this is all a considerable shock and I'm not ready to tell our colleagues yet. Do you mind if we keep this quiet for a while?"

Picard took his time replying. There was never much privacy on a starship. Anyone could ask the computer where a member of the crew was currently located, their comm badges gave this away. It would be difficult to spend much time together without drawing attention as 'winker' had demonstrated the other night.

"There's an alternative if you're willing to play along. At the moment we're pretending to be husband and wife in front of the Henoi. If I asked Gerith and his wife to join us on the Enterprise for a few days then we'd have the perfect excuse to share the same quarters and show some affection towards each other. The crew would think we were just continuing the 'married' routine and we'd get more privacy than we usually manage."

"So we just change the game to pretending to be single in front of the crew. ... I like it! "

The intercom interrupted, "Sickbay to Dr Crusher, we're receiving wounded from the surface and we need your assistance."

Crusher acknowledged the call, switched to professional mode and headed for the door, "But won't Data give the game away?"

"No, I asked him to keep silent until you made your condition public. Oh, and in future I expect a kiss before you go off to work"

"Yes, husband."

Day 7

By the time Gerith's ship arrived the Enterprise crew had erected a small temporary hospital and had it operating. They'd also remembered to increase the door and ceiling heights to accommodate the lofty locals. Though the colonists were grateful for their assistance, Picard suspected they were ashamed to take help from a smaller and inferior race.

Gerith however had no such inhibitions, he was used to the perils of space and the need to accept and give help to the strangest of fellow travellers. He also seemed genuinely pleased with the prospect of travelling aboard the Enterprise and arranged for he and his wife to come aboard that night.

Riker and Troi weren't certain this was a good idea.

"But Sir, how are you going to maintain the pretence of being married if Gerith is here on the ship? He'll expect you and Dr Crusher to share the same quarters."

"No problem, Number One, Beverly and I can move into the guest quarters that are linked by an internal door."

"Do you want me to ask her if she's agreeable?"

"No thank you counsellor, I'll tell her myself." And with that assertion he left to attend to other duties.

"He'll TELL her? This I would love to see, she'll hit him."

"It isn't funny Will. I'm really regretting suggesting this 'married' routine. The Captain's been going through unusually severe mood swings lately. On top of those awful nightmares and the effect of those mushrooms, I'm worried he may not be able to cope."

"How about the crew, will they be able to support this marriage pretence?"

"I think so, many of them have assumed those two are lovers already - if discreet ones."

"Are they?"

"I'd say no. The inclination's there but the emotional complications are too great. And don't tell the Captain about the crew's assumption they're lovers, he'd be extremely embarrassed."

Picard showed no sign of abuse when he welcomed Gerith and his wife aboard. Both guests found the lightweight gravity on the Enterprise a bit sick making so after a few brief introductions they opted for an early night. Strolling down the corridor towards their own quarters Jean-Luc brushed Beverly's hand in the hope of being able to hold it.

"Better not, husband, we have the wrong audience."

"Sickbay to Dr Crusher", came the inevitable interruption. "We have a crew member exhibiting sever breathing problems, it looks related to his spell on the planet."

"I'm coming. Crusher out."

"I do not believe it! Is Q playing some game on us?"

"No, he would have shown himself by now, this is just fate playing games. I shouldn't be long."

Back in his part of their quarters Picard paced around getting more nervous by the minute. Even if she returned that night he wasn't sure he could perform adequately. He'd expected to feel uninhibited within these walls but that wasn't the case. Still he could defend their privacy with the help of the computer. He checked it would not distinguish which part of these linked quarters Beverly or he was in should anyone request their location. Also he instructed it to warn him if a senior officer should enter the corridor outside. Not long after, Beverly called to say she would be hours, leaving him with no option but to go to bed alone

Day 8

Towards the end of the night shift the bridge staff spotted an unusual nebula. Normally they'd automatically stop to investigate such phenomena but their current instructions were to ask permission from the First Officer or Captain before such a deviation. Data woke Riker from his sleep; he too was interested in the nebula but wasn't certain a halt was justified. The Captain's opinion would be needed and besides he'd like the excuse to investigate Picard's new sleeping arrangements. A personal visit with no warning was in order.

"No Will, I know it's fascinating but I'm more concerned with reassuring the Henoi. I want to show them we'll obey instructions even if tempted to do otherwise. We already know they have doubts about our trustworthiness." Picard guessed why Riker had chosen to visit him and obliged by casually wandering into his bedroom area to collect some clothing, thus showing the First Officer the used but empty bed.

After Riker had gone the computer told him Dr. Crusher was somewhere in their joint quarters. Though the idea of getting into to bed with her was appealing he wasn't sure he'd be welcome. Sleep was probably what she craved at the moment so he went off to the gym to use up his energy with a different form of exercise.

The name of the Henoi home-world was unpronounceable to humans but fortunately the Henoi were used to this problem and didn't mind the Enterprise crew referring to it as HH. The journey there would take just over three Earth days during which time Gerith and his wife, Endor, needed entertaining. Both proved surprisingly easy to satisfy. Endor was a flying instructor and happy to spend hours discussing or learning about any aspect of this subject. The other thing that drew her attention was Worf. She'd heard of Klingons before now but had never met one in the flesh. With his height and muscular build he was the only person on the ship to approach Henoi male size. This combined with his warrior's assertiveness made him an impressive figure. After Gerith's statement about Henoi males not being a threat to other men, Troi and the others enjoyed watching his jealousy. Like any captain he would never admit to such feelings but they noticed how he watched his wife and tried not to leave her alone with Worf.

When not chaperoning Endor, Gerith spent his time shadowing first Picard and then other Enterprise officers. Unlike most visitors he asked remarkably few questions and seemed content to just watch and listen. This could have been unnerving for the crew - like having Starfleet inspectors on board - but the man had a knack for blending in and being unobtrusive. At the end of the first day, Picard checked he was learning all that he might wish.

"Yes, thank you, your crew have been most helpful."

"They wouldn't mind answering more questions."

"That's not necessary, Captain. These days I leave the science and technology to my starship colleagues. I'm more interested in how you behave to one another, it tells me more about you than your computer records ever could." Picard wondered whether pretending to be married in front of such a keen observer was such a good idea after all.

That evening Troi and Riker joined Picard, Dr Crusher and their guests for supper in the Captain's quarters. After the meal the three 'couples' sat around on couches talking about their lives and what had attracted them to space travel. Gerith and Endor were an affectionate pair, but not embarrassingly so. In this setting it seemed perfectly natural for Jean-Luc and Beverly to follow their lead and occasionally touch or tease one other. Will and Deanna weren't immune to atmosphere either, so when Riker put his arm along the couch behind Troi she leant into his shoulder without giving the movement a second thought. Her empathic abilities were also affected, she was so interested in Will's and her own emotions that she paid scant attention to those of her colleagues. At the end of the evening Gerith and Endor made their own way to their quarters just along the corridor leaving the other four together. While the Captain and Doctor managed to immediately revert to professional mode, the First Officer and Counsellor were reluctant to lose the mood. The two of them made their excuses and left soon, looking rather flustered.

"Do you think I should visit Will in the morning to see if he has company?"

"No Captain, you'll be far too busy entertaining me."

Day 9

The bridge crew didn't need to be empaths, next morning, to sense the Captain's happy mood.

"You certainly got out of bed on the right side this morning Sir!"

Picard was tempted to reply that it was whose bed you got out of that made the difference not which side but instead settled for a simple "Yes, Number One. Now how long before we reach the asteroid belt Gerith told us about?"

"In about an hour. In fact flying through it is going to be tricky, the composition of the rocks will play havoc with the sensors so the helm will need to be under manual control. Would you care to control her yourself, Sir?"

"I thought you'd never ask. Yes, I'd like to keep my hand in." The young man at the helm tried not to show his relief, though he felt confident of his skill in most situations he'd been dreading the responsibility of this particular challenge. He wasn't the only one to be relieved, the rest of the bridge crew were pleased the best helmsman was going to be in control.

During the passage through the belt Endor sat on the bridge to watch and offer advice, while Gerith and Riker went to the observation lounge for a better view of the spectacle. Gerith was curious about Picard's flying skills and questioned Riker for sometime on the subject.

"I'm relieved our exotic mushrooms haven't affected his hand to eye co-ordination, that's one of the side affects some races occasionally show. I must apologise for having given it to him. We carefully checked all the food served the pervious night with your science officer but had not anticipated the Captain would still be with us for breakfast."

"It's all right, we think he's recovered. He had some rather bad dreams the following night and was a bit distracted the next day but that's over now. Is there anything else we should watch out for?"

"The mushroom is illegal on some planets because of its hypnotic affect on the races there. It can be used to make someone believe something that isn't true, to plant a false memory in their minds. You can imagine how dangerous that could be in the wrong hands."

"Yes Sir I can." Riker made a mental note to warn Troi and Dr Crusher of this possible side affect at the first opportunity.

There was definitely nothing wrong with the Captain's hand to eye co-ordination. He made the journey through the asteroid belt look easy, so easy in fact that they had to wait for the accompanying Henoi vessel to catch them up. Endor was very impressed, she'd rarely seen anyone manoeuvre a large ship so smoothly through those conditions. However, despite this skill and his nicely proportioned figure she couldn't take him seriously as a male. He was just too small.

Captain Picard didn't often visit Ten Forward at lunchtime but the morning's activity had left him hungry. He invited Gerith to join him in this bar come restaurant, knowing his guest would enjoy the opportunity to watch crewmembers who were off duty. Amongst the floor show on display were Worf and Endor at one table and the Doctors Crusher and Lederman at another. Worf appeared to be introducing his guest to some Klingon delicacies but they couldn't tell what the doctors were discussing.

"An interesting experience, watching one's wife with another man. Don't you think so Captain?"

Picard wasn't sure 'interesting' was the word he would have chosen.

"You don't need to worry about your wife and the Klingon."

"What makes you so sure?"

"Because, though Mr Worf has many admirable qualities, a sense of humour is not one of them. I can't imagine your wife being attracted to a man who couldn't laugh at life or himself."

"I agree. Also, as a Klingon, Worf would consider it dishonourable to show an interest in another man's wife. Dr Lederman on the other hand has no such inhibitions, not even, it seems, if the woman is his captain's wife! Still, you needn't worry either, as she doesn't find him attractive."

"And what makes you so sure."

"I've seen them together a few times. She's irritated by the way he is rude and dismissive of most people."

"I don't find that reassuring - I suspect I'm often rude to people."

"Not in the same way. You're abrupt. You want people to get to the point and to say clearly what they think or feel, but you do want to hear them. Lederman doesn't. How ever do the crew tolerate him as their doctor?"

"With difficulty. He's new to the ship and my wife hasn't had the chance to rub the sharp edges off him yet.

"Do you think she'll have the nerve to do it, to confront him about his behaviour?"

Picard paused for a moment before answering.

"Yes, she'll do it."

"That's one of the things you find attractive about her, isn't it, her bravery?"

Jean-Luc couldn't help but laugh. "You're very astute, Gerith. Do you want a job as ship's counsellor? Yes, I am impressed by her bravery, though I wish she'd be more cautious when faced with physical dangers.

"And you like the fact that she challenges your decisions."

"Why do I get the impression this conversation is leading somewhere?"

"Probably because you are also astute and it is. There's an aspect of your marriage that puzzles me. I can see why you'd want to marry her but what I don't understand is why she'd agree to marry you." Picard was more shocked than offended by the question. "I don't mean to be offensive, Jean-Luc, but we both know how difficult it is for a ship's captain to admit to emotions and even harder to show them. Beverly strikes me as having no such inhibitions so why would a woman like that take the risk of marrying an emotional introvert with an artificial heart? How did you manage it?"

Jean-Luc didn't know, he and Beverly had never worked out a fake courtship history, nor had they discussed reality. A year ago she'd been reluctant to get closer. He had no idea why she'd changed her mind. Fate, luckily, saved him from having to concoct an answer. Dr Lederman had just then been rude to a waiter and Dr Crusher was obviously reprimanding him for his behaviour.

"That's my wife!", he whispered and changed the subject to something technical.

Though the Henoi ship had been close to the Enterprise for the last two days none of the Starfleet crew had yet visited the ship. Gerith decided it was time to rectify that situation and invited Riker and Troi to accompany him there that evening.

"I would ask you Captain but my colleagues are very rank conscious and I think they'll be more relaxed with less senior visitors."

Picard didn't mind in the least, he wanted the opportunity to talk to Beverly.

"I don't really believe they're rank conscious. I think the Henoi find Troi attractive and Riker has just been invited along as her chaperone." Beverly's comment elicited no response from Jean-Luc. She continued. "Are you going to tell me what's bothering you or am I supposed to guess?"

"Sorry, yes I have been thinking about something." He paused a moment to phrase his question carefully. " Gerith asked me a question today that I couldn't answer. He wanted to know how I managed to get you to marry 'an emotional introvert with an artificial heart'. A year ago you backed off when I suggested we get closer. I don't understand why you're willing now when you weren't then."

Beverly stretched across the table to hold his hand and reassure him that the answer he was about to hear would be pleasing.

"A year ago I wasn't sure you could cope with the emotional strain of such a relationship on top of being captain of the flagship. You don't exactly have a good track record on such matters. I was also afraid the strain would ruin our friendship. What's changed is you, not in a dramatic way just in a number of small things - you join in the poker games sometimes, you seem more comfortable with accepting the friendship of the officers, you're not so remote. Which is all to the good because having a wife and child on this ship is going to be pretty demanding, you'll need that bunch of friends to support you." Jean-Luc relaxed and started breathing again.

"Do you think we should tell them what's going on between us? It doesn't seem quiet right to be deceiving them."

"I don't want to tell the whole crew yet, I'm enjoying this few days privacy. How about if we stop acting 'single' in front of our close friends - that way they can have the fun of spotting for themselves what's happening."

Day 10

Dropping hints to their friends proved to be harder than they'd expected. After years of behaving in one manner it was difficult and embarrassing to change. With Gerith or Endor present it was easier but such scenes were seen by the crew as part of the 'married' act and only served to emphasis their normal professional detachment. Picard eventually managed to behave differently with the inadvertent help of Dr Karl Lederman. The Captain had entered a turbo lift already occupied by Riker, Troi and Karl. They acknowledged his arrival but continued with their conversation. The doctor was the next to speak.

"Actually I was thinking of asking Dr Crusher to give me a private dancing lesson this evening, I'm very out of practice."

Picard responded immediately, "Dr Crusher won't be available for dancing classes tonight."

Lederman stared back at him, irritated at how this stupid 'married' game was allowing the Captain to monopolise Beverly's free time. At the next lift stop he exited without bothering to say anything.

"You are getting very possessive towards Beverly, Sir." Riker commented.

"Isn't that what's expected of husbands?" he replied with no hint of a joke in his voice.

Alone in the lift Riker and Troi considered his statement and began to worry that he might be confusing play acting with reality.

Once having put this interpretation on his actions every subsequent example only went to further their concern. They spotted how he occasionally touched her or made assumptions about how she would spend her off duty time in a way he'd never done before. In a private moment Troi carefully questioned Beverly about the Captain's behaviour, so 'carefully' in fact that Beverly failed to comprehend Deanna's worries. The doctor reassured her friend that there was nothing wrong with Jean-Luc or his behaviour.- meaning that she liked his new affectionate and possessive manner. Troi interpreted 'nothing wrong' as implying that within their quarters he was as restrained and remote as usual.

"Thank God for that." Riker sighed when Troi reported her version of this conversation. "I don't want to have to cope with an unhinged Captain expecting to share the bed of his female CMO."

"You may have to yet, and I'm not sure she'd turn him down. You know how long she's been attracted to him."

Riker groaned, this was all getting horribly complicated. "We reach HH in three hours, once Gerith and his wife have left the ship we can move them back to their own quarters and keep them occupied and out of each other's way for the next few days. That should straighten him out."

But Picard wouldn't co-operate. He insisted that while they were orbiting HH, and expecting Henoi visitors on board, it made sense for Beverly and him to stay where they were. Riker was relieved the Captain's argument was based on logic but still wasn't confident of his grasp of reality. Fortunately work responsibilities kept Picard busy and away from his 'wife'. The Federation of Planets and the Henoi had now reached agreement about recognising each other's laws. Such agreements helped to facilitate trading between civilisations and were considered a key development. In order to ratify this process the Captain found himself embroiled in lengthy discussions down on HH. In evening after 14 hours in that heavy gravity Picard returned to the ship exhausted. He joined the officers in the middle of a meeting but was in no fit state to participate. Eventually he opened his mouth to speak to Beverly but couldn't remember how he should address her in this situation.

"What do I call you?"

"You call me 'Doctor' and I say you're exhausted Captain, you should go to bed."

"Do I do that by myself or do I get help?"

"I'll show you where bed is. If you'll excuse us." Beverly smiled at the others as she led Jean-Luc out of the room.

When they'd gone Riker was the first to speak, "His confusion would be amusing if it wasn't also so disturbing." In fact Data was the most confused being at the table. Knowing that Dr Crusher was pregnant and the Captain was the father, he considered Picard's husbandly behaviour to be appropriate; he just couldn't understand why the others had not been informed of these facts.

Later that night Riker and Troi were still discussing Picard's confusion.

"Deanna, I know you're supposed to be discrete about these things but can't you tell me if their sleeping together?"

"Honestly Will, I don't know. Sometimes it's hard for me to distinguish people's dreams, from conscious fantasies, from reality. Look, I sense that you have quite an erotic fantasy life. Would be right for me to discuss that with someone else?" Riker shook his head. "Then don't ask me about those two. All I'll promise is that if I sense someone is being pressurised into anything then I'll act. Right now they both seem very happy with the situation."

Beverly curled up to Jean-Luc's back the same way she had on that first night only now she wasn't at all inhibited as to where she put her hand.

"Do you think we're ready to start courting yet?" She asked.

After a pause a sleepy "No" was the only reply.

"What's the problem, does something else still need more practice or are you ashamed to be seen with me in public?"

"I think we ought to get married first."

"How are we going to do that without appearing in public?"

"I thought I'd arrange a Henoi style wedding. It would now be recognised under Federation laws. Any objection?"

"No, Sir."

"Good, then let's get some sleep."

"You unromantic sod! You've just proposed, been accepted and all you can say is 'let's go to sleep.'"

"Romantic words come in the courting phase, you'll have to wait until we reach that. Now do as you're told and go to sleep."

Day 11

"Captain, if I judge your body language correctly you want to ask me something."

"Correct, but I'm concerned that my request might shock or offend you." Gerith gestured that he should continue. " The Enterprise has been on a very long mission. The last time we visited Earth was over a year ago before Beverly and I decided to get married. Now on a Federation starship the only officers authorised to perform marriage ceremonies are the Captain and the Chief Medial Officer but they can't officiate at their own wedding. So you see we haven't had the opportunity to .."

" .. to go through an official marriage ceremony? It's all right Captain, I understand the realities of starship life but why are you telling me?"

"Well now that the Federation and the Henoi have recognised each others laws a marriage here would be considered legally binding in the Federation."

Gerith guessed what Picard was going to suggest. "Splendid Jean-Luc, that would be a marvellous demonstration of mutual recognition. Henoi weddings are fine occasions, we will have a grand party."

"No, no, a big party would draw attention to the fact that we haven't been married this last year. Would you mind if we just had a small quiet ceremony with just a couple of witnesses from the Enterprise, you, your family and whatever officials are necessary?"

The disappointment showed on Gerith's face but he agreed.

"When would you like it to take place?" Picard suggested the following afternoon and asked Gerith not to mention it to the Enterprise crew as he'd rather tell them himself.

Two Federation witnesses weren't strictly necessary for the wedding to be legal but Beverly wanted them there just in case the Enterprise crew thought they were imagining things. Data was one obvious choice, the other would be slightly more difficult.

That evening, as requested Guinan visited Picard's quarters where Beverly soon joined them via the connecting door. After some meaningless small talk about HH Guinan had had enough.

"Why did you invite me here Captain?" Jean-Luc and Beverly exchanged glances, "And you can stop pretending in front of me."

"How do you mean, pretending?"

"Pretending you two are single when you're really a couple." Relief spread across the Captain's face, this request was going to be easier than he'd thought.

Day 12

Riker wasn't suspicious of Data and Guinan beaming down with the Captain. The Henoi had expressed an interest in meeting members of all the races present on the Enterprise and those two were certainly amongst the more exotic.

Henoi wedding tradition required the bride and groom to enter the marriage building via different entrances so this gave Data the opportunity to question the Captain in private.

"Sir, I'm a little worried about my participation in this marriage ceremony."

"Why, you're a sentient being fully capable of being a legal witness?"

"It is not my capability I am worried about. It is yours. Command Riker has been concerned for some days about your ability to distinguish playacting from reality. He thinks those mushrooms you ate have confused you. For a marriage to be legal both parties must be fully aware of their actions. Are you aware of yours Sir?"

Picard pondered over how to demonstrate his grasp of reality. "Data, is Beverly pregnant?"

"Yes Sir."

"And I'm the father. Isn't it common for human couples who are producing children to be married?"

"Yes Sir, but the other day you were not sure you were the father."

"Well I'm now. You can run a DNA test in 9 months if you want confirmation. I know we were pretending to be married but Beverly and I decided we liked it that way. We've just changed the play and the audience."

Data took several seconds to comprehend this statement. "So the crew are now your audience rather than the Henoi. But why would you want to deceive your colleagues?"

Picard explained about wanting a bit of privacy and although Data didn't really understand he accepted that according to human logic their behaviour might make sense.

The marriage ceremony and the celebration afterwards were as low key as Picard had requested. Gerith was still feeling disappointed, he had hoped for a dance or two with Beverly who interested him more now than she had on that first 'she's mine' day. All he got was a vary short private conversation with her.

"Jean-Luc tells me you were asking how he got me to marry him. It was quite simple really, he ordered me to." Gerith wasn't sure how to take this. "Oh and that artificial heart of his is no problem, in fact it really does wonders for a man's stamina. Just let me know if you need one. Good bye." With that she left him to join the other three as they beamed back up to the Enterprise.

Picard whispered to her as they left, "What on earth did you say to Gerith, he looks stunned?"

"I just answered a couple of his questions. He might have had a little difficulty with the answers."

Routine duties grabbed them as soon as they returned to the ship but Picard was determined to spend his wedding night with his wife. As soon as the day's essential work was completed he headed for Ten Forward. There he found Beverly stuck at a table with Lederman. Her glance told him she wanted rescuing immediately so he strode over in assertive captain mode.

"Have you finished those reports I requested, Dr Crusher?"

She was already up and leaving. "Yes Sir, I'll bring them to your ready room in about 10 minutes." Picard was about to follow her when Lederman called after him,

"Captain, can I have a word?"

"Of course doctor."

"Don't you think you should let Dr Crusher have some time off occasionally?"

Picard was stunned. No one on the Enterprise had ever questioned his right to Beverly's attention.

"If Dr. Crusher has any complaints I'm sure she'll let me know."

"But it's not that easy to say no to your commanding officer."

"True, but it's a lot easier when your commanding officer is also your husband." Picard left before Karl had a chance to respond.

Lederman turned angrily on the First Officer who had overheard this whole conversation.

"Mr. Riker why is the Captain still pretending to be married to Dr Crusher?"

"I'm not sure doctor."

"I think you are Sir. I think we both know the effect those mushrooms have had. Are you going to let him bully Beverly into behaving as his wife?"

"I'll tackle this doctor."

"You do that Sir, or I'll declare them both unfit for duty!"

Day 13

Early next morning the Enterprise left orbit and headed off on its long journey to a distant part of the galaxy. With the chance of a Henoi visitor now remote the excuse for sharing quarters was gone and Riker was determined to confront the issue. He grabbed the opportunity to speak to the Captain before the other officers arrived for a meeting.

"I'll arrange for you and Dr Crusher to move back to your own quarters tonight."

"There's no need Will, we'll stay where we are."

"Sir, that would be ... inappropriate."

"Why? Would the crew think it unfair for us to share two bedrooms and two living rooms?"

"No Sir, it would be inappropriate for you to share linked quarters with a female member of your crew?"

"What! Even if we're married?"

Riker had had enough. "You are not married to Dr Crusher, that was a story we made up so as not to offend the Henoi. I'm afraid that mushroom drug of theirs has affected your ability to distinguish fact from fantasy." During this speech the other officers, including Beverly, entered the room and stood fascinated by what was unfolding.

"But Beverly also seems to be under the impression we're married. How do you explain her behaviour?" Riker was too embarrassed to say what he thought in front of the doctor.

"Sir, I ... " Riker wished he'd never opened his mouth.

"Didn't the obvious answer ever occur to you Will?" Riker's face showed he didn't understand.

"Data, please explain the solution to the First Officer."

"The Captain and Dr Crusher were married yesterday on HH. Guinan and I were witnesses."

After a few gasps of shock, the room was filled with the sound of the officers laughing at their own stupidity.

"We gave you all enough clues, didn't you get the hint?"

"You mean like last night's contretemps with Dr Lederman?"

"What contretemps with Lederman?" Beverly wanted to know.

"I'll explain later." It was Picard's turn to feel a little embarrassed.

"I'm afraid, Sir, that I interpreted your clues as further evidence of your confusion."

"But how did you explain Beverly's behaviour?"

Riker really didn't want to answer.

"Well Sir, I did wonder whether Dr Crusher felt compelled to co-operate but that didn't seem likely given her attitude to unreasonable orders. That only left the possibility that she was content to go along with your fantasy."

"So despite the fact that my CMO was taking advantage of me you let the situation continue?"

"That was my fault Captain." interrupted Troi, " I told Will that you both seemed very happy with the arrangement."

"Well you got that part right anyway. Tell me Number One, to avoid future confusion, do we have your permission to share the same quarters?"

"Permission granted."

"Thank you. Now let's get on with business."

Neither Jean-Luc nor Beverly felt ready to reveal what else they had achieved in the past 10 days.

The end.
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